Thursday, January 28, 2010
Thursday, January 21, 2010
"The Church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.
. . . Let the Church remember this: that every maker and worker is called to serve God in his profession or trade—not outside of it. The Apostles complained rightly when they said it was not meant they should leave the word of God and serve tables; their vocation was to preach the word. But the person whose vocation it is to prepare the meals beautifully might with equal justice protest: It is not meant for us to leave the service of our tables to preach the word.
The official Church wastes time and energy, and moreover, commits sacrilege, in demanding that secular workers should neglect their proper vocation in order to do Christian work—by which she means ecclesiastical work. The only Christian work is good work well done. Let the Church see to it that the workers are Christian people and do their work well, as to God: then all the work will be Christian work, whether it is Church embroidery or sewage-farming." (Dorothy Sayers, Chaos or Creed)
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Recently, a sister-in-the-Lord asked for comments on a sermon preached by Mark Driscoll directly before he baptized his son (and some others) in the River Jordan. Before I weigh in on the sermon I would like to make a couple of prefatory comments.
Firstly, I realize that to disagree with Pastor Driscoll publically is roughly the equivalent of painting a bull’s-eye on my chest and giving the raspberry to an army of English longbow-men. But, as they say, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”
Secondly, under the heading of “giving honor where honor is due,” I am greatly indebted to Pastor Driscoll for the many helpful insights that I have gleaned from his books and online sermons. Personally and pastorally Mark has been a huge blessing to “me and mine”, and I praise God for him and for Mars Hill Church.
And now, with that said, on to the comments!
I have to admit that I was a bit envious when I figured out that Pastor Mark was preaching a sermon on baptism, while standing on the shore of (or in) the River Jordan about to baptize his son, mother and father and others who were assembled for that purpose. I mean really. How cool is that? You could even hear some Palestinian geese heckling Mark as he preached (probably Muslim or Jewish birds!)
The bulk of the sermon was very good, especially his comments on repentance and confession. Driscoll’s gift for taking theological concepts and making them understandable and practicable for Joe Average Christian was gloriously evident as he preached on the necessity and practice of true reconciliation. Amen, and amen brother Mark!
My disagreements would fall under two headings: Religion and the proper recipients of baptism.
Pastor Mark regularly disparages “religion” without qualification. If Driscoll would have included the modifier “false” before every usage of “religion” then I could’ve happily agreed with just about everything that he preached. The antithesis in the Bible is between true religion and false religion, not no-religion and religion. For example, we are exhorted to the practice of “pure” religion in James 1:27. James doesn’t insist that the faithful abandon religion. Rather, he calls the faithful to practice religion in humble submission to God’s Word. The Oxford Dictionary defines religion as, “a particular system of faith and worship.” Therefore, religion is inescapable. Mars Hill Church is religious and so is its pastor. The only question is: “What system of faith and practice?” For the record, I agree with Driscoll that we ought to refute, revile and reject all forms of religion that depend, even to the slightest degree, upon man’s supposed goodness, effort and/or merit. But I would also contend that we should embrace the religion (the “particular system of faith and worship”) that insists that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
To illustrate: If someone painted a mustache on the Mona Lisa, it wouldn’t make sense to revile the painting itself. But it would make sense to lovingly and carefully remove whatever paint the vandals had put there, in order to restore, preserve and enjoy the original beauty of DaVinci’s masterpiece.
All this may seem rather petty and picayunish, but God has very strict prohibitions against calling evil that which He has declared to be good (see Isaiah 5:20).
To be continued…
Friday, January 15, 2010
Monday, January 11, 2010
Robin Knox-Johnston aboard the Suhaili
There is nothing quite like a real life adventure book to stir the soul and put present distresses in their proper perspective. If you enjoy this genre too, then I would highly recommend two books for your reading pleasure: Endurance, by Alfred Lansing and A Voyage for Madmen, by Peter Nichols.
Endurance (subtitle: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage) is an account of the Ernest Shackleton's failed attempt to cross the Antarctic in 1914. A Voyage for Madmen (subtitle: Nine men set out to race each other around the world. Only one made it back.) is the account of the impromptu race sponsored by the London Globe in 1968 to see who could be the first to circumnavigate the globe alone, without stopping or re-provisioning. Both tales portray the lives of men taken to the utter limits of deprivation, fear, physical exhaustion and mental stamina. A-mazing.
Drop me a line if you read either one. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Biblical Theology must always drive Systematic Theology. We Christians must be committed to let the Bible say what it says, even (or especially) when a plain reading of a text messes up the neatly coiffed hair of our systematized formulations of doctrine. The parable of the sower in the fourth chapter of Mark's Gospel is a good test of a Reformed Christian's interpretive priorities.
Before I continue I would like to reaffirm my love and admiration for what is known as the Reformed, or Calvinistic way of interpreting the Bible. If you cut me I bleed Westminster and Three Forms of Unity. If there were (as a pastor friend of mine once noted) six points of Calvinism I would happily believe and preach all six. I believe in what the Canons of Dordt called "The Perseverance of the Saints"; the doctrine that the elect of God will persevere in their faith and consequently in their salvation. Yes, and amen.
However, we go too far if we maintain that is is impossible for someone to have the word of God sown in their hearts, for them to receive that word with gladness and then to fall away. For that is exactly what Jesus warns of in verses 14-17.
Some Reformed types, in an effort to protect their system of doctrine maintain that the word was never really sown in, nor received by, the one who falls away. But the problem is that the exact same words (sown and received) are used to describe the person who bears the godly fruit of saving faith in verse 20. It would be more accurate to say that all the sowing/receiving in Mark 4 is genuine sowing/receiving, but not all the sowing/receiving in Mark 4 is unto salvation. I'm just sayin'...
Saturday, January 09, 2010
Family is important. Very important. But we go too far if we maintain that "Blood is thicker than water." When Jesus was asked to acknowledge his mother and brothers who had come to see him, he seized the opportunity to establish heaven's hierarchy: "Whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and my mother." In other words, when determining ultimate loyalties, the water of baptism always trumps the blood of physical descent. Or, to put it more simply, "Water is thicker than blood."
Thursday, January 07, 2010
(Matthew 24:37-41) For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and took them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.
In sermons and songs about "The Rapture" it is always good to be "taken" and horrible to be "left behind." But according to Jesus, to be "taken" is to be swept away in flood-like judgment. And to be "left behind" is to be spared the wrath of God. I'm just sayin'...
As Joseph notes in verse nine, his master Potiphar had given him everything in his house, except for his wife. This statement reminds us of the first Adam who was told that he could eat of every tree except for one. Joseph, unlike the first Adam, chose gratitude and obedince over ingratitude and rebellion, and having done so, pointed every faithful reader of the Bible to the last Adam (Jesus) who, in the wilderness and on the cross, would do the very same.
Having begun the story of Joseph, the Holy Spirit turns us abruptly back to what really matters: The line of "the seed" that would eventually produce Messiah, the Savior of the world. I often feel like taking a shower after reading about the gross sins of Er, Onan, Tamar and Judah. But ultimately I am reminded to delight in the knowledge that Jesus came to, through and for a race of fallen sinners. Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Monday, January 04, 2010
Sunday, January 03, 2010
“Suppose, in the encounter between doctor and child [in an abortion], the child won half of the time, and killed the doctor in self-defense—something he would have every right to do. Very few doctors would perform abortions. They perform them now only because of their absolute power over a small, fragile, helpless victim.” - Stephen D. Schwarz (HT: Justin Taylor)
Saturday, January 02, 2010
"Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation." (Matthew 23:36)
Christians who insist that the horrific events described by Jesus in Matthew 24 have yet to occur have a difficult time explaining Matthew 23:36 and Matthew 24:34. The Jews of Jesus' day reckoned a generation to be about forty years. So the plain interpretation of Jesus' words is that the famines, wars, persecutions and distresses detailed in Matthew 23:35-24:34 would all occur by around AD 73.
In order to preserve the futuristic interpretation of Matthew 24 some Christians have contended that the "generation" that Jesus referred to was "the Jews considered as a race of people." This interpretation has at least two serious flaws:
1) In Matthew 23:36 Jesus declared that end times judgments would "come upon this generation" not upon other races/peoples scattered around the globe (e.g. Romans or Russians, Arabs or Americans.)
2) In Matthew 23:29-33 Jesus carefully distinguished "this generation" (the generation of Jews to whom he was speaking) from the Jews of bygone eras. So when Jesus said "this generation" four verses later, he was still referring specifically to the generation of Jews whom he was addressing.
Jesus is the Great Prophet to whom all lesser prophets pointed. His words are true. Just as he predicted, the catastrophic events of Matthew 24 were visited upon the Jews within forty years of Jesus' prophecy, and culminated with the destruction of the Jerusalem in AD 70.
A good lectionary (a systematized way to read through the Bible) serves two purposes: to edify the reader, and to increase the unity of the saints as they read through the Scriptures together. As time allows, I will be commenting on the chapters of the lectionary readings which you can find here.