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Archive for March, 2009


Non-sermon related reading has fallen off the grid the last few months.  I feel like I’ve been reading this book for the better part of 6 months.  Not quite, but I have finally finished Graeme Goldsworthy’s Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation.  I already reviewed the first 2 sections which dealt with the basics of interpretation and his argument for a gospel-centered hermeneutic, and how various methods of Bible interpretation have eclipsed the gospel throughout church history.

The final section, Reconstructing Evangelical Hermeneutics, was the most difficult for me to read.  At times he covered areas of philosophy with which I was unfamilar.  So, I was occasionally thinking ‘huh?” (particularly speech-act theory).  But it was still profitable at times, just not as profitable as the previous 2 sections.

Among the areas that were helpful were his discussion of typology, and Dr. John Currid’s criteria for true typology.  This criteria is affirmed by Keller & Clowney in the DMin course available through RTS on I-Tunes.  He was also helpful in discussion contexting (his simpler term for contextualization).  The missionary mandate, as he argues, mandates this.  He also includes a chapter on the interaction and relationship between biblical and systematic theology.  He talks a great deal about how both Calvin and Luther viewed Bible interpretation, and the role of the Spirit (particularly Calvin on this front)

His Epilogue contains a few good quotes to sum all this up:

Hermeneutics is about reading God’s word with understanding so taht we might be conformed more and more to the image of Christ.

The purpose of God’s word is to bring us to God through the salvation that is in Christ.  It does this by revealing his plan and purpose, by conforming us more and more to the image of Christ, and by providing the shape of the presence of God with his people through the Spirit of Christ.

So, pastors and those who regularly teach God’s people should find Goldsworthy’s book helpful as we seek to fulfill our calling.  As the ancient children’s song says, “take up and read.”

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Keith Mathison and I have a fair amount of shared history.  We were at RTS Orlando together.  We spent lots of time talking books and theology together while we worked in the bookstore.  We worked together at Ligonier Ministries for a few years too, at one point sharing an office (sorry Keith).  He remains at Ligonier, and continues to write in his spare time.

While we were in seminary, he worked on his first book, Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God? which is the fruit of his journey from dispensationalism to covenant theology.  I was one of the people who gave him some feedback on the early drafts.  Some smarter and well-respected people looked at it too.

His book Given for You,  on the Lord’s Table is a very good study of Calvin’s view and its development within Reformed Theology.  I own, but have failed to read Post-Millennialism: an Eschatology of Hope.  It is one of the areas in which we disagree, but I should get to it eventually.

His latest book, From Age to Age: the Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology looks to be very interesting.  And probably more accessible than Vos’ Pauline Eschatology.  Just a hunch. Keith most likely put together another well-researched, meaningful book.  I only have one question: where is my review copy?

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On Nightline, there was a Face Off regarding the reality of Satan.  Mark Driscoll was one of the participants.  Mark did a great job integrating the reality of the Evil One with a presentation of the gospel.  He offered hope in the midst of our personal and societal struggles.

And then there was Deepok Chopra gave a bunch of ying & yang psycho-babble (quoting Freud, but in line with Jung’s work) about how “healthy people don’t need the devil.”   Bishop Pearson forsakes his calling based on a false stereo-type.  Nice.  Another “bishop” denying the teaching of Scripture.  I guess we solve the problem of evil by just not thinking about it.

Both of argue against the belief in the devil on the basis of wars- religious wars.  just because some nuts believe you can drop the bomb on the devil to destroy him does not make this a reason to deny personal evil.  It is a Straw Man argument, fallacious to the core.  The devil is not material, can’t be bombed, shot or drugged out of existence.  Only Jesus destroys the work of the devil (Hebrews 2, I think), which Pearson forgot to mention when saying Jesus would not be pleased by all that bomb dropping.  I’m pretty sure Jesus isn’t pleased with those who think dropping bombs (or flying planes into sky scrappers) is the way to defeat The Great Satan.  Now, legitimate governments bearing the sword against those who pose a threat against those they are charged to protect (Romans 13) is another story.  But the ultimate solution is only Christ and Him crucified to destroy, among other things, the hate in our hearts and the evils that flow from that.

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Polemical Theology, whether in written or verbal form, can quickly descend into some ungodly places.  Name calling, anger and refusing to listen to what another actually says are evidence of a lack of love.

Another form of “unfair” dispute is the use of the straw man argument.  Here is a good, quick definition:

A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position. To “attack a straw man” is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by substituting a superficially similar proposition (the “straw man”), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.

You can tell that Dr. Roger Nicole & J.I. Packer are such good friends.  At times their counsel is so similar.  How to engage in theological debate is one such area.  Dr. Nicole told us to read our opponents, not only second hand sources, so we might truly understand their arguments.

Dr. Packer inserts this wonderful little sentence in the midst of Keep In Step With the Spirit:

“But all positions should be judged by their best exponents.”

He applies this to the various proponents of the views of sanctification.  It is unfair to argue against something by using either a straw man (which doesn’t exist) or its worst example.  You may win the argument, but you defeated a foe that either didn’t exist or rarely exists.  It would be like beating the Bad News Bears, yet claiming to be MLB World Series champions.

I see these arguments regularly in books by authors who should know better.  Sometimes these arguments are used by men who place themselves in the bounds of either Reformed Theology or Calvinistic soteriology (they embrace the 5 points but not a covenantal view of Scripture or other distinctives of Reformed theology).

For instance, one book I read argued against contemporary worship songs.  It did this on the basis of the worst examples of contemporary worship songs.  It brought up the most pathetic, insipid, meaningless songs as if they were representative of contemporary worship songs.  This author may have convinced many people he was right, but he never dealt with the real deal.  Missing were interaction with the contemporary hymns of Townend and Getty, the songs of Matt Redman or Chris Tomlin or any other songs that seek to communicate biblical theology (Sovereign Grace or Indelible Grace would be other examples).

Another highly respected author attacked the charismatic movement on the basis of its worst excesses.  There was no interaction with sane, thoughtful charismatics who share his Calvinistic views like John Piper, Wayne Grudem or C.J. Mahaney.  All were lumped in the same heretical basket, ready to be tossed out &  burned up.

We who understand the doctrines of grace should be more humble & loving in our disputation.  We should argument against real people holding real positions.  And the best representatives of that position- not the Single A or college team.

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Football is a game for men- tough men.  Unlike many American males, I don’t lie to myself and others.  I could not play that game professionally.  It requires a physical toughness that I lack.  It also requires an emotional toughness that I am familiar with as a pastor.  In football, you have to deal with the emotional aspects of the game- remaining consistent when there are great hills and valleys.  Remaining stable in the face of constant obstacles.

Enter Jay Culter, the pouting All-Pro.  Jay can’t seem to understand that Pro Football is a business.  The goal is two-fold: compete to win the SuperBowl consistently, and make lots of money in the process.  The closer you are to the first, the easier it is for a team to accomplish the second.  As a result, the business-side, just like the game-side, is not easy on a person’s ego.  During the game, fans might boo you.  And during the off-season you might be linked with trade rumors.

Jay can’t imagine that the Broncos might entertain offers for a QB that 1. his new coach knows, and 2. had a better QB rating than he did.  Yes, Cutler had a record setting season.  But his team folded in the crunch (Cassel’s team when on a strong run that would have earned them a playoff spot in most divisions).  As QB, some of that falls on his shoulders.

But Cutler is pouting and demanding a trade- feeling so unwanted.  He’s is proving that they should have traded him.  First, he lacks the mental/emotional toughness required to flourish in professional football.  Trade possibilities have sent him into an epic, public freefall.  He just gave fans on other cities ammo with which to bait him and boo him.  Second, he is more concerned with himself than team.  This doesn’t sit well with any associated with the Patriots and their success over the course of this decade.  Individuals play, but only teams can win.  Teams are made of people who believe “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one” to quote the fictitious Spock from The Wrath of Kahn.  Cutler is focused on himself.  Not a good sign.  He demands his ego get stroked instead of submitting his ego to the needs of his team.  He also refuses to see that a few teams WERE really interested in him (I’m not sure why at this point).

Jay needs to take his meltdown where it belongs- behind closed doors- or no team will want him, including the one he’s on.  And while he’s there he may want to invest in some Daniel Goleman books on emotional intelligence.

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This Sunday I’ll be preaching on the Spirit’s work in sanctification out of Galatians 5.  I wish I had more time this week to thumb thru some of the great books I have on this work of the Spirit, and the Spirit of this gracious work.

Here are my favs:

  • Keep in Step with the Spirit by J.I. Packer.  The focus on this great book is sanctification, and the Spirit’s role.  I read this as a young Christian, and it was very helpful for me, grounding me in a biblical understanding of sanctification.
  • The Holy Spirit: His Gifts and His Power by John Owen.  I read this separately before owning it as part of his Works.  Great stuff!  It was one of the first books by Owen that I read, and helped me major on the majors instead of being caught in excess as a younger Christian.
  • The Holy Spirit by Sinclair Ferguson.  It is a bit more technical than most of his books.  But that is fine by me.  More people need to read this to avoid the abundance of confusion that is out there today.  There are so many ways in which the Spirit works in our lives, but we focus on the spectacular and extraordinary.  He’s heavily dependent on John Owen, who is one of his favorite theologians.

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My friend has been busy reading.  I am filled with envy and must repent.  She read another book by Joe Dallas.  This one was When Homosexuality Hits Home: What to Do when a Loved One Says They’re Gay.  Here’s what she says:

When Homosexuality Hits Home: What to Do When a Loved One Says they’re Gay was written by Joe Dallas, the author of Desires in Conflict.

In this book Joe Dallas speaks to parents or loved ones of someone who states they are gay. In the first chapter he likens finding out about the loved ones struggle to the process after a death or major traumatic event in our lives. We go through 5 general stages or phases of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. And in this case it is the death of assumptions.

[This is what I was thinking about a week before I picked up this book. I’m stuck in the anger phase and starting my depression.]

Assumptions of how I, as a loved one, expected his life to be.

There is a chapter for parents, one for other family members with varying ranges of relational contact with the SSA relative, and one for when homosexuality hits a marriage.

Joe Dallas uses the prodigal son from Luke 15:11-32 to show how family members may be feeling when one ‘comes out’. Also this verse from Jeremiah 31:16-17 hit home with me;

16 Thus says the Lord:
“Keep your voice from weeping,
and your eyes from tears,
for there is a reward for your work,
declares the Lord,
and they shall come back from the land of the enemy.
17 There is hope for your future,
declares the Lord,
and your children shall come back to their own country.

Joe says you can’t miss the three fold message here:

God sees. He sees both your beloved daughter and son, and He sees your tears.

God preserves. He continues His efforts long after human effort has exhausted itself.

God holds out hope, for both you and your children.

This book gives practical advice from the heart, Joe tells of the 3 most common arguments for the pro-gay position. And he also asks us to walk a mile in the shoes of the gay loved one. To see what the son or daughter has been thinking, for how long they have been thinking it and what they might have to endure in their lifetime.

You will discover what to say and not to say, how to handle family visits, maintain balance and how to strengthen not weaken your relationhip.

On a personal note: my son is struggling with SSA and he still lives at home, we home school and go to church. He is struggling with his faith, his identity, and his sexuality. Being so close constantly puts a strain on our relationship and I, as his mom, have a very hard time keeping my mouth shut. I need to be constantly reminded that God loves him much more than I and God is in control of his life, I’m not. I need to be constantly reminded he is and always has been my son, whom I love more than life itself.

My one piece of advice now to anyone reading this would be to watch your words. Think before you speak, try to see your loved one the way God does. Remember you need the same grace they do, the same grace God freely gives.

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