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Archive for September, 2009


In the past few years I’ve had far too many interviews.  Sadly, I’m not alone.  One of the things that I heard on the radio some time ago has stuck with me.  The talk radio host (sports radio no less) was talking about the book From Good to Great.  He mentioned that there is the guy who is good at getting the job, and the guy who is great at the job.  Often they are not the same guy.  Some people are really good at interviewing, but not very good at doing the job.  Some are not so good at interviewing, but quite good at the job.  I can identify with that thought.

I’ve often thought that looking for a new pastoral position was a lot like dating.  Some guys are good at getting girls, but not so good at being a husband.  Many guys are not good at getting girls, but good at keeping them and are good husbands.  This much is clear from the movie Swingers.  Mikey was not so good at getting the girls.  But he was much better at relationships than his friend who only knew how to pick them up.

I’ve come to believe there are a number of guys who are good at getting pastoral positions.  They are witty, charming and creating the illusion of intimacy.  But they are not wired for the long haul, of building true intimacy and pastoring a church.  I fear that too many search committees are not good at telling the difference.  This would explain, in part, why so many pastors don’t stay long at their positions.

Churches can often act like insecure women, wanting the guy who will gush over them rather than making an honest, balanced assessment.  It is as if they expect every applicant to “feel called” to be their pastor.  That expectation sets men up for emotional devastation each time they are rejected.  It is hard enough to deal with the rejection, but to build such an emotional attachment is unhealthy in the long run.

When I write my book to assist search committees, I’m going to mention this as an important factor to finding a new pastor.  References from people whom they have pastored and with whom they are served are possibly more important than the interview.  They will let you know if the applicant can build meaningful relationships, the relationships necessary to being a good pastor in most churches.

I was the guy who wasn’t good at getting the girl.  CavWife will probably tell you that I’m much better at being a husband than I was wooing her.  I often feel the same way with churches.  To spend 9 years someplace you have to have made relationships for the long haul.  I wonder if some of the churches I’ve applied to have passed on guys good at the job to call a guy who is merely good at getting the job.

Am I wrong about this (big picture, not Cavman-specific)?  What have you observed in pastoral searches?  I’d like to know, and you might even end up in my book.

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I could have sworn I covered the Calvin and Servetus situation in a post somewhere.  But aside from passing references, I have not.  This is one of the things people point to in an effort to discredit John Calvin and his theology.  Similarly, some people point to various American Calvinists who owned slaves.

Something people overlook is that all of these men, Calvin, Edwards, Dabney and more, were sinners.  Each time and culture has sinful practices to which their members, often godly in many other ways, can’t see.  We see their sin much more clearly than we see our own sin.  We, too, can be captive to cultural sins.  And we are!

Were I do have done a fully thought out post on the issue of Calvin & Servetus, it could be no better than the thoughts of J.I. Packer on the subject as posted by Justin Taylor.

The anti-Trinitarian campaigner Servetus was burned at Geneva in 1553, and this is often seen as a blot on Calvin’s reputation. But weigh these facts:

  1. The belief that denial of the Trinity and/or Incarnation should be viewed as a capital crime in a Christian state was part of Calvin’s and Geneva’s medieval inheritance; Calvin did not invent it.
  2. Anti-Trinitarian heretics were burned in other places beside Geneva in Calvin’s time, and indeed later–two in England, for instance, as late as 1612.
  3. The Roman Inquisition had already set a price on Servetus’ head.
  4. (more…)

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New cover means higher price

New cover means higher price

Just finished the first part of The Goldsworthy Trilogy, Gospel and the Kingdom.  In many ways this is an introduction covered in his books According to Plan and Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics. He works through how we should go about interpreting and applying the OT appropriately.  To do this he introduces biblical theology and hermeneutics (AtP & G-CH respectively).

“As Christians we will always be looking at the Old Testament from the standpoint of the New Testament- from the framework of the gospel which is the goal of the Old Testament.”

In many ways this is a great starting point for laypeople and young pastors unfamiliar with the ideas.  In so doing he also explores the objective reality of the gospel which must be grasped to subjectively experience it.  He points out some insufficient and woefully inadequate ways of handling OT texts.  Instead he stresses the unity of the Bible, and the cohesiveness of its message.

“… any supposition of unity in the given book means that knowledge of the whole and knowledge of the parts are inseparable. … Any given text is more meaningful when related not only to its immediate context, but also to the entire plan of redemption revealed in the whole Bible.”

The process he outlines goes like this: exegesis => hermeneutics => homiletics.  In other words, explaining the text to interpreting the text thru biblical theology to applying the text to the hearers.  This is pretty much Richard Pratt’s process in He Gave Us Stories.  The overarching story he uses to understand biblical is the kingdom.  I really like how he expands this:

God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule

He traces this from Creation beyond the Fall and into the various covenants which are ultimately fulfilled in Christ.  He focuses on the reality of the gospel in all of this.

“Nowhere are law and gospel more clearly related than they are in Deuteronomy 6:20-25.  The child asks, ‘What does the law mean, what is it all about?’, and the answer is given in terms of ‘gospel’, that is, in terms of what God did in history to save his people.”

Love that quote!  Interestingly I just heard a sermon on Deuteronomy 6 that kept the law in its proper context in just this way.  The Mosaic covenant understands the law following redemption, rather than issuing in salvation.

Goldsworthy concludes by first showing how the kingdom is revealed in Christ, and then showing some examples of how to interpret OT texts in light of biblical theology.  This is a very readable book that includes an appendix with study or group questions to help people work through the material together.  It would be a good book to study as a group since it is short (the chapters are not very long), understandable  and meaningful.

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In a recent interview I was asked about the influence of these times on ministry and life.  I talked about how people are over-committed and have very little free time in their schedules to pursue maturity in Christ and the concerns of the kingdom.

Then I got an e-mail about Not So Fast: Slow-Down Solutions for Frenzied Families by Ann Kroeker.  I thought I should give it a read.  I had never heard of her before, but I was pleasantly surprised by this book.  It was easy to read, but covered significant material in a meaningful way.  It’s short chapters were written with the overly-busy in mind.  Each chapter ends with Slow Notes which are suggestions for slowing down your life in keeping with the material covered in the chapter, and Live From the Slow Zone in which friends of hers share some of their stories about slowing down life.  Additionally, I found the book referring to Christ and the gospel often.  This is not a book about trying harder, or loading you with false guilt.  It is very gracious, honest and does not think this will look the same in every family’s life

” To live slower requires buy-in from the entire family.”

The basic premise is that we move too fast.  We commit ourselves to too many opportunities for ourselves and our kids.  We move from one event to another, stressed out in between, and somehow think that more is better. We are also saturating ourselves on entertainment & information as we sit in front of our TVs, video games and computers.

“To be safe, we need to anchor our choices in a person– Jesus Christ- and we need to weigh them against His Word.”

Little do we know the price we are paying for these hectic, over-stuffed lives we lead.  We suffer spiritually, having little to know time to delight in His Word, chewing on it (see Psalm 1, I’m preparing a sermon on it).  We suffer relationally, having little time to know each other.  As a result we suffer emotionally, having little/no resources to cope with the overload we experience.  We are also, as she covers in various chapters, too fast to care (for others), rest, to pray, to worship, enjoy creation, or create.  She draws on a number of studies to illustrate her points, providing some objectivity.  She also has a chapter which covers some of the “good” reasons we do this to ourselves, and helps you sort through your own reasons for pursuing this unsustainable life.

“When we understand the driving force(s) behind our current choices, we can go with humility to the Lord and seek His wisdom, direction, and instruction for how to live according to His principles and in obedience to His Word.”

(more…)

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Two years ago (June 2007), I began a series on “church killers” after someone asked me why churches close (lack of prayer, evangelism & love).  This morning I pondered such matters again.  Perhaps it is because a sister church is closing this month.  I was reminded of a number of seemingly unrelated situations that had a common thread.  That thread was fear- the great “what if?”

In many ways our congregation was in bondage to that question.  It blocked attempts at outreach.  It blocked attempts to “think big” and plan for the future.  People were often afraid we’d be sued because of this, that or the other thing.  Ideas were shut down, and no alternative ideas were offered.

The reasons were sometimes dressed up in spiritual garb- “we cannot test God”.  This was used to try to keep us from trusting and applying God’s Word to our particular context.

We often misunderstand what it means to test God.  The Israelites tested God through their sin- grumbling.  They essentially tested God’s unfailing love by denying He loved them to justify their sin.  Satan wanted Jesus to put Himself in mortal danger, and Jesus responded with this command from Deuteronomy.

We were not putting ourselves in mortal danger, or certain danger.  Expanding the budget is not the same as jumping off a cliff unless the increases are too great a percentage of the current budget.

Fear actually does test God by thinking He won’t help us to obey Him or protect us when we obey Him (Jesus would have been obeying Satan, not the Father had He jumped).  We tested God by thinking He’s sustain us in our disobedience to the Great Commission (among other things).

Fear kills churches by stifling faith.  This lack of faith limits giving & budgets, outreach & evangelism, discipleship, church discipline and more.  The congregation in bondage to fear doesn’t do anything because of the “what if” (what if someone gets hurt, what if someone gets mad, what if someone leaves the church, ….).

In some ways, I also lived in fear- the fear of losing my job if I ticked off enough people by challenging their lack of faith and exposing their fear for what it was.  See, there was a silent conspiracy of fear operating to slowly, silently kill the church.

Fear is one of the leading causes of church deaths in America today.

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I was puzzled when Coral Ridge decided to call Tully Tchividjian to be their new pastor.  The merger of the 2 congregations didn’t make sense to me- they were far too different.

Additionally, Coral Ridge just lost its long-time pastor, the only Sr. pastor they’d every had.  Often the replacement gets pummeled for not being just like the long-time pastor.  The congregation needs to grieve and adjust, but they are so focused on getting a pastor now(!) that they are amazingly surprised that the new guy isn’t the old guy.  More than that, they are actually mad he isn’t.

I’ve been there.  I replaced a founding pastor.  Though he was essentially removed from ministry, some people were frustrated that I wasn’t more like him.  They had to decide whether or not to embrace me and labor with me instead of against me.

It didn’t take too long at Coral Ridge.  Tully is not D. James Kennedy (nor is he his famous grandfather, as some narrow-minded people think).  There were some traditions that Tully didn’t embrace, and this has drawn the ire of a group of long-time congregants including one of D. James’ daughters.

There are 2 sides of this that should be examined.

First, in keeping with 1 Corinthians 9 there are some traditions that Tully should have considered keeping.  To Coral Ridge he should have become like Coral Ridge to win some of Coral Ridge.  There are things he could have done to at least initially gain an opening to preach the gospel to them.  If he had to wear robes to do that … so what.

Second, have the people of Coral Ridge substituted the traditions of men for the commands of God?  Tully also had to see which of their traditions got in the way of the gospel and break with them.  One example I can think of is the political sermons.  This was one issue I had with Dr. Kennedy- the gospel was often obscured by his political & cultural concern sermons.  Those issues can be addressed, but should be in light of the gospel- in connection with the gospel.  Tully was godly & wise to not keep this tradition.

Any errors Tully may have made do not excuse the actions of the infamous 6.  To employ worldly weapons against your pastor, duly called and installed, is a great wickedness.  They attacked him via mass mailings and eventually the media for the great non-sin of failing to meet their expectations.

And now there will be a congregational meeting to determine whether or not Tully still has the confidence of enough of the congregation.  Perhaps he won over enough hearts with the gospel.  Perhaps he was too great a shock to the system for most of Coral Ridge.  We will see Sunday.

But this I do know, this hampers the cause of Christ in many ways.  It will clarify things for some, but for many outside (and inside) it is just another reason not to go to church with all those unruly people who can’t pursue peace together.  It also may have destroyed 2 congregations.  Afterall, they merged.  Do they go their separate ways?  Do they split and start over again?  That will be incredibly painful at this point.  It will be like a divorce (which is why I would have said, “Tully, don’t go!”  Like Tonto, he got the snot kicked out of him).

Or do they stay together with Tully and his staff moving on to new fields of service?

See, there is no good outcome apart from the repentance of those who have unmet expectations and some minor adjustments on the staff’s part.  I long for God to restore peace through repentance, mutual respect and love.  All for the honor the King Jesus and the praise of His glorious grace.

You can read Tully’s very good op-ed piece about this.

Updated: Coral Ridge voted down the motion to remove Tully as Sr. Pastor.

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Heading into this season, many people were worried about the Red Sox offense.  I was not one of them.  While watching the game on ESPN, I decided to see how they were doing with 19 games left in the season.

Runs Scored- 757, 3rd in baseball.  The Yankees have an amazing 838.

Hits- 1309 for 10th in baseball.  Not impressive, but you see they haven’t wasted hits, but have been productive.  The Yankees & Angels remained 1st & 2nd.  So 7 teams had more hits and fewer runs than the Red Sox.

OPS- .804 second only to … the Yankees.

HR-186 for 4th behind …. the Yankees, Rangers and Phillies.

Hits- 2223 for 3rd behind the Yankees & Rangers.  The Phillies had 2222.

BA- .268 for 8th in baseball.  Proof, again, that while their hitting hasn’t been great, it has been productive.

In other words, the offense did what it is supposed to do- score runs.

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Considering Daniel Amos


They’ve gone by a variety of names: Daniel Amos, DA, Da.  They played a variety of musical styles.  They started by sounding like the Eagles, moved into New Wave and excursions into experimental music like Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes, and into post-punk.  They were the leaders of Christian music’s alternative movement.

I was introduced to them by a new friend in 1986, shortly after my conversion.  He let me borrow Fearful Symmetry.  I was not sure what to make of it, and it took awhile.  But soon I realized I had met one of my favorite bands.

They had edgy music, a similar sense of humor and attacked the hypocrisy of the church.  They were honest about life.  I never saw them live, much to my disappointment.

Terry Scott Taylor was the lead vocalist, guitarist and principle songwriter.  He was also the genius behind the Swirling Eddies.  In the late 80’s he produced a number of new bands like Poor Old Lu, Jacob’s Trouble and DOX.  He would join forces with Gene Eugene, Derri Daugherty & Mike Roe to form The Lost Dogs.  This band would become his primary musical outlet, though the occasional DA or Swirling Eddies release would arise.  He also wrote the music for the Neverhood game, as well as releasing a number of solo albums.  But I digress….

The other night I enjoyed watching some DA videos (most of my collection is in boxes awaiting the move that we hope is to come).  Here is an interview with Terry from the ’80s.

One of my favorite songs of theirs is Sanctuary, off of Vox Humana.  It is mentioned in the interview.  Here they are live in Anaheim in 1985 in all of their New Wave wonder.  Catch the outfits including Terry in earrings.

(more…)

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We pick up my dialogue with Keith Mathison about his book Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope.

Cavman: I guess this is where my defensiveness arises, to a degree.  I see spiritual change as real change.  If someone is really regenerate then they are being sanctified and having a positive influence in their family and community.  As the church in a region or nation grows, there are material benefits that overflow into the region and nation.  Many of these things may be common grace benefits, but are still an outflowing of the work of Christ.
For instance, where Christianity has become the dominant religion, there is usually an increase in material prosperity, health care, technological development and moral standards.  There also seems to be a decrease in things like political corruption.  As I ponder the influence of Islam on cultures, I see very advanced cultures being suffocated, increases in poverty etc.  It was Christians, for instance that put an end to slavery in the Western world.  Hopefully Christians will put an end to it in other parts of the world.

I don’t see this as making me postmillennialist.  Like Gary DeMarr, I suspect we think things are worse now because we know more about other parts of the world.  Worse things happened before, but people didn’t know about them and most things didn’t make the history books.

I get the impression that there is a similarity in the hermeneutics of premillennialism and postmillennialism toward literalism.  Many of the prophecies are in poetic sections of the prophets.  I don’t think I’m trying to spiritualize the texts away, but understand them properly rather then think they must be fulfilled in a particular way like the Pharisees did, thereby missing Messiah, and some premillennialists do.  “All the nations” for instance.  I believe all nations will be represented among the elect (thinking temporally), but I don’t think this means there has to be a worldwide revival so that all the nations are coming at the same time.  I’d love to see a worldwide revival, and the conversion of most Jews- but I don’t see Scripture necessitating that.

I’d better think of a question, huh?  Sorry about the digressions.  You mentioned theonomy.  Perhaps some are uncomfortable with postmillennialism due to its connection with theonomy.  Not all postmillennialists are theonomists, but all theonomists are postmillennialists.  You’ve spent more time studying this than me, and have more relationships with theonomists than I do.  What is the bridge from your understanding of postmillennialism and yours?

KM: I don’t think there’s any need for defensiveness since I’m not arguing against what seems to be your main point here.  I heartily agree that spiritual change is real change.  The contrast I am drawing is not between spiritual and real.  That’s a false contrast that assumes or implies that the spiritual is not real.  Instead, I’m drawing a contrast between visible and invisible.  As I mentioned in the previous response: “What I object to is the idea that the growth of Christ’s kingdom is entirely invisible and confined to the spiritual dimension of existence and will have no visible manifestations in history.”  The words “entirely” and “confined” and “no” are key.  There are aspects to the growth of Christ’s kingdom that are invisible, that occur in the spiritual dimension of existence.  These are very real.  Regeneration is invisible but very real.  My point is that the effects of the growth of Christ’s kingdom should not be confined to only the invisible spiritual dimension of reality.  The effects of sin, of Satan’s kingdom, are not thus confined, and neither are the effects of redemption and the growth of Christ’s kingdom.

(more…)

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I’m not a big Leadership Journal guy.  I find much of what they put out less than helpful.  But they have an interview with Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village.  Matt is one of the new generation of church leaders who embraces conservative, Reformed theology but recognizes this isn’t the 1500’s or 1950 either.

They discuss sanctification, and its connection with discipleship.  I really appreciated one of the phrases that he used.

“It’s okay to not be okay, but it’s not okay to stay there.”

Sanctification is a process, and a difficult, long often exasperating one.  The other day I was screaming “I hate me” because I cannot separate my sin from me (another good point Chandler discovered one day after a friend admonished him).  All the bad things I do flow from a tainted, ugly heart.  At times this is more clear than others.

“Some people are meant to wrestle with their sin a long time before God brings them to freedom, but let’s wrestle. Let’s fight. Let’s do something besides just complain.”

But we are not to do this alone, but together.  Discipleship, according to Jesus, includes teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (Mt. 28).   He and Darren Patrick, pastor of The Journey, put together what they call Greenhouse which tried to balance the relational/organic with the structure/system.

(more…)

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Chimera– 4.  (from genetics) an organism composed of 2 or more genetically distinct tissues….

What He Must Be … if He Wants to Marry My Daughter by Voddie Baucham is like a chimera.  Not a grotesque monster, by any means.  It is a few parts I Kissed Dating Goodbye (Joshua Harris) & Her Hand in Marriage: Biblical Courtship in the Modern World (Doug Wilson), a few parts Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart (John Ensor) and a few parts Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (John Piper & Wayne Grudem, editors).  It is the natural follow up to his book Family Driven Faith.

Voddie grew up in a single family home with an extended family marred by fatherlessness.  He sees many of his cousins and siblings caught in the vicious cycle.  But, by the grace of God he and his wife have escaped it and his ministry is marked by a focus on biblical manhood and womanhood.  In this case he is applying that to courtship and marriage.

“First, I want to lay out a clear, balanced, realistic, biblical picture of what moms and dads should be looking for on behalf of their daughters and seeking to produce in their sons. … In addition, I want to provide a road map for men who have a desire to lead their families biblically but simply do not know how.”

I think Voddie accomplishes his goals.  The “trouble” (and I use that term tongue in cheek) is that his message is utterly counter-cultural.  He very much goes against the stream, not in reaction to culture but in response to Scripture.  So Voddie builds the case for complementarianism, and argues for courtship.  He sets the stage with a vision for multigenerationalism.  It is here that he shares most of his story that is sadly too common in the African-American community but is becoming common in American culture.

(more…)

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The new Switchfoot album, Hello Hurricane (sorry, brings memories of 2004) will be released just before my birthday in November.  The first single is Mess of Me, a return to a more aggressive style and lyrics lamenting our sinful condition.  Have a look, and listen.

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The changes for the Patriots’ defense have been astounding this off season and pre-season.  Changes needed to be made, the defense was old, slow and not quite ready for a championship run.  But no one could have predicted all that has gone down this so far.

First was the draft day trade of Ellis Hobbs.  Hobbs had a lot of heart, playing hurt much of the time.  No one can question that, but he was the cornerstone of a Patriots’ secondary that gave up too many big passes.

Second was the surprising trade of Mike Vrabel to the Chiefs.  Yeah, his production declined last year but he was one of the leaders in the locker room and the field.  Best friends with Tedy Bruschi, his sense of humor helped many a player through the difficulties of training camp and a long season.

Third was the surprising retirement of Tedy Bruschi.  One has to wonder if the trade of his friend was part of the difficulty for him.  But after Tedy’s stroke we weren’t sure if he’d even play again.  He did, and gave a few more years of memories.

The problem is the 2 most experienced defenders, both linebackers and keys to the Patriots’ defense for years are suddenly gone.  Mayo, coming off an incredible rookie year, is now the defensive leader of a less impressive linebacker corps.

This may explain the shift to the 4-3 rather than the 3-4 defense that has been the staple of the Patriots’ under Coach Belichik.  Perhaps it was this shift in philosophy that led to the next “out of the blue” move- the trade of Richard Seymour to the Raiders.  There were probably other reasons including the knowledge that they probably not be able to re-sign him and needed to build for the future.

But some people have come in.  Tully Banta-Cain returns to put some pressure on the QB, and Burgess came over in a trade from the Raiders to accomplish the same task.  They have some new, experienced CBs, Springs and Bodden, to defend the pass better.  Rookies like Brace, Butler and Chung look to help the defense too.

The Patriots will put lots of points on the board with a deep offense (aside from QB, where if Brady goes down again we are in big trouble).  They have protected themselves should Maroney not pan out by bringing in Freddy Taylor and keeping “The Law Firm”.  They have a great receiving corps, and added some youth to the line to keep Brady on his 2 feet.  The questions is, will they be able to keep points off the board?  Only time will tell if Coach called this one correctly.  For the fans, we’ll miss some of the old familiar faces.  But if the wins keep coming, we’ll move on.  Sentimentality is the death of a sports franchise, just as much as a church.

PS: I forgot the retirement of Rodney Harrison, another emotional leader of the defense.  His intensity, and Bruschi’s, will be greatly missed.  But retirement is unavoidable in any sport.

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John Farrell has a reputation of being a top-notch pitching coach.  This season might be challenging that reputation.  The Red Sox have had some difficulties with the starting rotation.  Diva-K is to blame for his own problems.  What I’m thinking about is John Smoltz, Brad Penny and Josh Beckett’s recent woes.

Smoltz and Penny were horrendous for the Red Sox.  Penny had a few good starts, but his season totals on 24 starts were: 131.2 innings (less than 6/start!), 5.61 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, .299 BAA.  Slightly better than last year when he was injured while pitching for the Dodgers.  Supposedly healthy, he still pitched poorly.  He is one of the reasons the Red Sox are barely leading the Wild Card race.

But in his first start with the Giants (against the formidable Phillies’ line up) in the NL he  went 8 innings, gave up no (as in zero) runs, a WHIP of 0.75 and a BAA of .185.  Yes, a small sample size but the Red Sox saw no Penny start that even remotely resembled this gem.

Take John Smoltz, whose last game in a Red Sox uniform was also against the Yankees who went medieval on him, with his 8 starts, 40 innings (5 per start), 8.32 ERA, 1.7o WHIP and .343 BAA.  But in 3 starts for the Cards, he’s got 17 innings (almost 6 innings), 2.65 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, .213 BAA which is a remarkable improvement over his performance with the Red Sox.  Put Clay Buchholz in there and we have a few more wins and space in the Wild Card and perhaps even a chance to catch the Yankees.

The word is Chris Carpenter told Smoltz he was tipping pitches.  He hadn’t even pitched for the Cards yet.  Farrell couldn’t spot this?  ‘Tek couldn’t spot this?  No one in a Red Sox uniform could spot this in 8 starts, but Carpenter could?

Yes, he pitched against the Padres, Nationals and Brewers which don’t have lineups like the AL East.  But this, and Beckett’s sudden home run issues make me wonder.  Is Farrell distracted by the personal issues that caused him to miss a game earlier?  Is the reputation a farce?  Is the NL just that much worse?  A combination of 2 or  3 of those things?

I really don’t know, but what I’m seeing concerns me.  Farrell was hired, in part, to help develop the many good, young arms in the Red Sox system.  I think he has done that as we’ve seen Lester put it together, Buchholz move past pure talent, and Bard make a big splash.  But the prolonged problems, apparently solved quickly in other places, trouble me.  You begin to wonder, is Beckett’s issue mechanical or medical?  Does he really just need to skip a start or two?  And we haven’t even mentioned Papelbon’s season-long control issues.  It is time for John Farrell to live up to his reputation and get this rotation, and bull pen ready for another playoff run.  Unlike last year, I don’t think offense will be a problem.

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Here is the first part of my internet dialogue with Dr. Keith Mathison about his book Postmillennialism: An Eschatatology of Hope.  Keith and I worked together at the RTS Orlando Bookstore, and then at Ligonier Ministries.  After graduating from RTS, he received his Ph.D. from Whitefield Seminary.  He is the author of numerous books, including Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God? which he wrote while in seminary.  I did such a great job proofing the book that I haven’t worked on one since.

KM:  Thanks for reviewing the book.  I saw it yesterday.  You didn’t say anything about the most persuasive part of the book – the yellow cover.  What’s up with that?!?

Cavman: It is a fine cover.  Kudos to the art department.  I only bought the book for the cover.  Okay …. At times the amillennialism you describe doesn’t seem to be the amillenialism I hold to.  Part of that may be because you were interchangeable arguing against both forms of premillennialism and amillennialism.  I put your book down thinking our differences are more about a matter of degree: how much the gospel will prosper as it covers the earth and converts the nations.  What would you say is the main distinction between these sibling eschatologies?

KM: I think you are correct to observe that at least some of the differences are a matter of degree.  I see the various expositions of amillennialism and postmillennialism lying along a spectrum.  There are extremely spiritualized and pessimistic forms of amillennialism that would be at one end and very this-worldly, perhaps naively optimistic forms of postmillennialism at the other end.  Closer to the middle would be more balanced (i.e. biblical) forms of amillennialism and postmillennialism.  I think, for example, that Cornelis Venema’s expression of amillennialism is closer to some forms of postmillennialism than the amillennialism of someone like David Engelsma.  And my expression of postmillennialism is closer to some forms of amillennialism than the postmillennialism of someone like Loraine Boettner.  I think things get a bit fuzzier the closer you get to the middle of the spectrum.

Unlike some older postmillennialists, who believed that the millennium would be the last 1000 or so years of the present age, I believe the millennium represents the entire present age between the first and second coming of Jesus.  So there’s no disagreement there.  Both amillennialists and postmillennialists say they believe that Christ’s kingdom is growing during this present age.  I think the main difference between the views boils down to how confident we are that the growth of Christ’s kingdom will manifest itself in some visible, tangible ways during this age and what it might look like.  In short, is this kingdom growth more or less behind the scenes?  I’m slightly more optimistic than most amillennialists I’ve read that the growth of Christ’s kingdom will have visible manifestations.  Unlike some theonomic postmillennialists, however, I am less confident about saying exactly what they might look like.

I also believe that the growth/advance of Christ’s kingdom will involve a bloody, difficult battle for the people of God.  Going back to the old D-Day/V-Day analogy, the decisive battle has been won, but the progress will not be easy.  It will involve awful, street to street fighting all the way to the final day.  But the victory is assured.

Cavman: As I read the book, a few things came to mind for me.  On a continuum (Pratt would be proud) I see premillennialism and postmillennial as the 2 extremes.  One pessimistic and under-realized, and the other overly optimistic and over-realized.  The dispensational premillennial position was born in persecution and pessimism, and puts some of the “already” into the “not yet”.  The posmillennial position, I think, sticks too much of the “not yet” into the already.  Obviously I’m biased toward amillennialism as having the best balance.  I have a point here, really.  “Visible manifestations” is a phrase that you used.  I think I see such things now.  Please, spell out what you mean a little bit.  What “visible manifestations” do you have in mind?

KM: I see postmillennialism and amillennialism existing on a continuum because they share similar features.  Premillennialism seems to me to be in a separate category altogether.  Regarding “visible manifestations,” like I said, I’m hesitant to offer specifics.  When Scripture speaks of the growth of the kingdom it tends to use figurative language.  What specifically in the real world corresponds to the permeation of a lump of dough by leaven?  Or to the growth of a mustard seed?  The first type of growth is not particularly visible.  The second is.  In short, it isn’t as simple or as cut-and-dried as some would say.  We can’t, for example, measure the growth of the kingdom of Christ by watching the fortunes of our favorite political party or our own nation.  The kingdom of Christ is bigger than that.

What I object to is the idea that the growth of Christ’s kingdom is entirely invisible and confined to the spiritual dimension of existence and will have no visible manifestations in history.  That idea implies that there was nothing noticeably different about the world after the Fall.  Satan’s kingdom, however, has had clearly visible manifestations in the world throughout history beginning with the Fall.  Why would the redemptive kingdom of Christ not have any visible manifestations?  It involves the same world that was cursed as a result of our sin.  Sin did not affect merely the spiritual realm.  It affected the visible and physical as well.  Redemption also affects both.  What might it look like?  I think we have a fairly good idea of what the visible manifestations of Satan’s kingdom look like.  I expect that the growth of Christ’s kingdom will look a lot like the opposite of that.

more to come….

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