Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Virgin Birth Article

Al Mohler covers the (recent) historic reasons for the question being raised at all.

Al Mohler

Can a true Christian deny the virgin birth? The answer to that question must be a decisive No. Those who deny the virgin birth reject the authority of Scripture, deny the supernatural birth of the Savior, undermine the very foundations of the Gospel, and have no way of explaining the deity of Christ.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Day The Music Died

Oh wait, I forgot, rap isn't music.
Sorry, I couldn't resist! ;-)

The State of Evangelicalism

my buddy Ken has this posted over at his blog, from Whitehorse Inn. Amazing.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Christmas and Pagan traditions

I posted this last year, but it's good for another go around. I'm watching Rick Steve's "European Christmas" and growing weary of the assumptions that Christmas is nothing but pagan. See the series of articles at the link below for a festive corrective!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Once Again, Kemper Christmas!

Check your local PBS station listings, they may be playing on your station. Also, for more info, look here:

Monday, November 17, 2008

State of The Church

My friend Ken posted this on his blog. I thought is was important to post here.

Too sad!!!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What I'm listening to Today

In the first light of a new day
no one knew he had arrived
Things continued as they had been
while a newborn softly cried
But the heavens wrapped in wonder
knew the meaning of his birth
In the weakness of a baby
they knew God had come to earth

As his mother held him closely
it was hard to understand
That her baby, not yet speaking,
was the word of God to man
He would tell them of his kingdom
but their hearts would not believe
They would hate him and in anger
they would nail him to a tree

But the sadness would be broken
as the song of life arose
And the firstborn of creation
would ascend and take his throne
He had left it to redeem us
but before his life began
He knew he’d come back,
not as a baby,
but as the Lord of every man

Hear the angels
as they’re singing
on the morning of his birth
But how much greater
will our song be
when he comes again to earth

Hear the angels
as they’re singing
on the morning of his birth
But how much greater
will our song be
when he comes to rule the earth!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Trapped in Neverland

---by Carl Trueman

Growing up, I adored my grandfather. He was probably the funniest man I ever knew, with a razor sharp wit, absurdism and satire running through his veins, and an imagination that seemed to know no bounds. His letters to me were mini-masterpieces of surreal satire, and he knew how to have fun, how to puncture pomposity, and how to provoke people to think. Yet he was, by today's standards, uneducated. He had left school at thirteen to work in a factory; he was a union man; he lived through the General Strike and the Depression; he knew what it was like to tramp the streets, looking for work but knowing there was no work to be found; and, a psychological victim of the British class system, he never came to see my mum play sport for her school lest he cause her embarrassment. I loved him dearly and when he died, it was as if my own world came to an end.

I hated the system that had treated my grandfather like dirt and kept him tugging his forelock at those whose only virtue was to have been born to wealthier families; I hated the system that had worked him so hard and broken his health so that he could never really enjoy his retirement; and I hated the system that had made him believe all this was part of his proper place in the world and had even persuaded him that it would be less embarrassing for all if he did not come to the touchline to watch his daughter play sport for her school. Indeed, one of the reasons I wanted so desperately to get in to Cambridge was to show him, and myself, and the chinless public school (in the British sense) wonders who epitomized the system, that the system could be beaten, that someone from my family could push their way in to the very heart of the establishment by sheer hard work and natural talent, rather than by money, 'breeding,' and possession of no chin and an old school tie. The day I was accepted, he told my mum that he could not believe that the family had risen from being nothing to being represented at Cambridge. But in my eyes we hadn't risen at all, we had simply made a necessary point: we could do it too; we could get to where 'they' were. My grandfather was not nothing; he was -and still is -- one of the greatest men I have ever known. What could that great mind have done, if only it had been given the privilege and leisure of study?

Now, there's quite a contrast between the world in which my grandfather grew up and the world of today. By age fifteen, he had done two years of hard work; had he not done so, the result would have been simple - he would have starved. By age twenty, he knew what responsibility was; by age thirty he had spent over half his life in the workplace. Indeed, he did not become an adult when he married and had children; he had already been an adult since before he had really needed to shave.

Today is so different. If the poverty and hard work of my grandfather's era left men middle-aged at thirty, the ease and trivia of today's society seems to leave us trapped in a permanent Neverland where we all, like so many Peter (and Patty) Pans, live lives of eternal youth. Where my grandfather spent his day hard at work, trying - sometimes desperately - to make enough money to put bread on the table and shoes on his children's feet, today many have time to play X-Box and video games, or warble on and on incessantly in that narcissistic echo-chamber that is the blogosphere. The world of my grandfather was evil because it made him grow up too fast; the world of today is evil because it prevents many from ever growing up at all.

In some ways, today's world is the very antithesis of earlier ages. I always found sixteenth and seventeenth century paintings of children to be somewhat creepy: adult heads on tiny, immature bodies, as if the artists had no real concept of youth and childhood that allowed them to depict faces as such. Strange, isn't it, that the airbrushing techniques so often used in today's glossy magazines seem designed to have precisely the opposite effect: to place young heads on bodies that we know are much older. The concept of old age is perhaps slowly but surely being airbrushed out of representations in the popular media.

Numerous incidents over recent years have brought the sad effect of all this home to me. As a professor at university and seminary, I have had too many run-ins with students who act like five year olds and, when held to account, express all the pouting resentment that one comes to expect from a generation that demands respect but refuses to put in the time and effort to earn it. You see them on the blogs, screaming their abuse and demanding to be heard, carrying on their tirades long after the threshold of Godwin's Law and any semblance of decency or credibility has been passed for the umpteenth time. They have achieved nothing - but they demand that you respect them!

The inept Islamic suicide bombers in Britain are just the most extreme, pestiferous example of this immaturity: incompetent, spotty juveniles who make portentous suicide videos and then fail to blow anything up because they forgot their car keys, or bought the wrong ingredients for bomb making from the local store, or were amazed that putting in an order for two-hundred bottles of peroxide aroused suspicion at the local hair salon who contacted the local police: `I see, madam, and can I assume that Mr. Mohammed is not actually a natural blond.....?'. These thugs demand respect in the most extreme ways; but their behavior inspires less horror than it does simple derision and mockery.

But it gets more disturbing than simply finding people in their twenties and thirties acting like spoiled children. Parents are becoming increasingly involved as well. With two sons in travel football (that's soccer to any American readers), I have stood on too many touchlines where parents act like frustrated two years olds as the game does not develop as they would like; and, again, as a professor, I have had unpleasant experiences with parents too. Being told by a parent that their child is ‘young and immature’ works for my wife - she teaches at a church nursery, dealing with three year olds - but it wears a bit thin when the problem child is eighteen, nineteen, twenty....thirty.... And that this kind of stuff seems more common in the church than in the secular world is disturbing. It does not inspire much confidence about the future and, if anything, provides anecdotal confirmation to those who see religion in general and Christianity in particular, as a refuge for the emotionally retarded.

So what are we to do? I am tempted to say: “return to the world of my grandfather,” but that would be foolish. I hated that world for what it did to him. Yes, he grew up fast and took responsibility for himself and his family, but at what cost? Indeed, I hate that world as much as I despise the glib talk of ‘the dignity of manual labor’ that drips from the lips of the chardonnay-sipping chatterati for whom manual labor is not scrubbing floors to make ends meet, as it was for my grandmother, but pruning the roses and putting out the recycle bin once a week -- no doubt full of empty bottles of Bolly and Krug.

The answer, then, is not a naïve, nostalgic hankering for a return to an era of poverty and cruel hardship. Rather it is surely obvious: we need to put aside childish things and start acting like adults. Pascal put his finger on the problem of human life when he saw how entertainment had come to occupy a place, not as the necessary and momentary relief from a life of work, but as an end in itself. When entertainment becomes more than a pleasant and occasional distraction, when time and income become devoted to entertainment and to pleasure, when sports teams become more important to us than people - even the people to whom we are close - then something has gone badly wrong. The frothy entertainment culture in which we live is a narcotic: not only is it addictive, so that we always want more; it also eats away at us, skewing our priorities, rotting our values as surely as too much sugar rots our teeth. My grandfather was lucky in this one thing: he did not have time to be immature because he did not have the surplus income that would have granted him that luxury. That is not to exalt the virtue of poverty - poverty is an evil - but it is to underscore the dangers that come with wealth in abundance.

Second, we need to stop idolizing our children. At twenty seven, I had a wife, a child, a Ph.D. and a monograph from Oxford University Press. I looked for all the world like an adult. Then I got myself into a bit of financial difficulty, to the tune of about two-hundred pounds, a small sum but not when you are at the bottom of the British academic pay scale and a one-income family to boot. I phoned my father for help. He read me the riot act about financial irresponsibility, helped me get out of the immediate fix, and told me that he never, ever wanted me to call and tell him I was in such a fix again. He loved me but he did not idolize me; he knew it was time for me to stand on my own two feet. I loved my dad, but he scared the daylights out of me with that talk. Yet, looking back, that was one of the moments which was the making of me: look, son, you're big boy now; look after yourself and don't come crying to me every time you screw up. A sobering, critical moment in the relationship between father and son; but, in my dealings with others, it finds increasingly few parallels. Touch the child, even the one with the beard, the wisdom teeth, and the warm fuzzy memories of the time when “New Kids On The Block” were all the rage in High School, and you touch the sacred idol; you can expect the parents to come a-calling.

You are, of course, what you worship, as Psalm 115 reminds us, and thus, as long as we idolize our children and the culture of youth, we can expect to - well, be just like them: pouting, irresponsible, hormonal, unpleasant and, frankly, as creepy as those sixteenth century portraits of little children with adult faces. Trapped in Neverland - with no hope of escape.

Carl Trueman is a professor of Historical Theology and Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

In the American Church

--by Douglas Wilson

So then, how has American Christianity come to this spot. To answer the question, we have to remember what R.L. Dabney once said, ". . . it is essential to your own future that you shall learn the history of the past truly." As we seek to pass on a legacy to our children, we keep getting tripped up by what we think happened to our fathers. So as we finish this very short thumbnail sketch of the history of Christ's Church, we must always take care to remember that it is His church, and He will care for her throughout all history, as He has to this point.

"Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature" (1 Cor. 14:20).

We need to have tender hearts and tough minds. In the course of his discourse on spiritual gifts, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to grow up intellectually. He attaches one warning to this -- they were to remain child-like in the area of malice. Their demeanor was to be that of babes; their doctrinal understanding was to be grown up. We must take the caution completely to heart. We must treat one another with kindness, gentleness, and tender mercies. This is the true uniform of the elect of God -- tender mercies (Col. 3:12). In the next place, we must realize that we do not have to choose between gentleness and doctrinal maturity. The flesh wants to confuse and muddle them, but Paul tells us that we do not have to choose between the two. Indeed, he requires both. And third, as we come down to the present, seeking to understand where we are, we must remember this is impossible unless we understand where we have been. In that understanding, seek maturity. You must seek it before you will find it.

Although we addressed George Whitefield (1714-1770) in the previous post, a few more things should be said about him, and about the general impact of the Great Awakening. Whitefield preached for thirty years, and preached somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 sermons. He was consumed for the sake of the kingdom of God. He preached in a culture shaped by the Puritans -- both here and in England. Positively, he was used to bring many thousands of people into a vibrant relationship with God through Christ, and he did this in the years just prior to the War for Independence. Without the first GW (Whitefield), there would have been no place for the second GW (Washington). Negatively, one of the results of his catholic and open air proclamation was a general cultural disparagement of the role of the Church. We are still dealing with the results of that today. But though this was a negative consequence, we ought not to lay the central blame for it on the evangelical preachers. Whitefield and the Wesleys were Anglican priests who were denied the use of church pulpits. It is always a suspicious criticism when the establishment kicks you out and then blames you for being out. We should take a skeptical stance when the burst wineskins chide the wine for being there on the floor.
But negative consequences are still negative, and new wine on the floor doesn't stay new wine.

The Second Great Awakening, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, was markedly less doctrinal than the first had been, and the stage was set for revivalism to replace true revivals.

Charles Finney (1792-1875) was a lawyer who was suddenly converted in 1821, and then ordained in 1824. He labored for many years as a revival preacher. His impact historically was almost entirely negative. Doctrinally, he was a rationalist and a pragmatist, and he departed radically from the Reformed faith. His doctrine of the will had a practical impact also; he instituted "the anxious bench," which is where our common practice of "going forward" came from. Finney taught that revival was something we could necessarily bring about through utilizing the right "methods." This can-do pragmatism has thoroughly devastated the modern church.

The War Between the States (1861-1865) was a horrible conflict that was a judgment of God on our entire nation, North and South together, and we are still suffering under the consequences of this judgment today. For our purposes here it is important to note that it was also a clash between two cultures. Unitarian theology was very influential in the North; Southern leadership was dominated by orthodox Christianity. God used the forces of unbelief in the North to chastize and humble the more orthodox but no less disobedient South. As we consider this horrific time in our history, we should acknowledge this as a time of judgment -- our French Revolution.

J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937) was a champion of educated orthodoxy, and led the fight against the rising theological liberalism in the Presbyterian church. He was removed from the church, and was instrumental in founding the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. Machen also distinguished himself in his opposition to Prohibition. The latter distinguishes him as much as the former. The Bible is our authority, not wowserism.

Following defeat in the mainstream denominations, conservative theology became reactionary, and retreated from any significant interaction with American culture. Earning the label fundamentalism, it stayed this way until the early 70's, when they were roused by Francis Schaeffer. But when conservative Christians took up arms again for the culture wars, they found them badly rusted through lack of use.

Modern American evangelicalism can be identified with D.L. Moody in the last century ("I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it"), and Billy Graham (1918- ) in this century. Evangelicalism can be described as a theological attempt to split the difference between reactionary fundamentalism on the one hand, and Reformed orthodoxy on the other. For the most part, this attempt has been unsuccessful, though it has made some significant contributions to the Church generally. The modern ecclesiastical scene is a circus, and the only real cohesion evangelicalism has is found in individuals, not doctrine or liturgy. And this is our ailment; this is our disease. The Church must stand or fall by what she believes and does, and not by her personalities or, as they have now become, our celebrities.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Another Thumbnail Sketch of Church History

Consolidation, Expansion & Revival (1600-1800)

Recovering truth is one thing. Preserving it is quite another. In the Reformation, the great truths of justification by faith and a gospel of sovereign grace were wonderfully recovered. In the centuries that followed, these truths were consolidated, expanded, and, in many cases, set on fire. In other instances, unfortunately, they were dried like pressed flowers and put into a glass case.

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind . . . For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame -- who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself (Phil. 3:13-21).

The issue is always the gospel. The apostle Paul makes clear that as far as he is concerned, the issue is Christ and His cross. But as we shall see, enemies of this message are subtle -- like the serpent. As God grants us wisdom as individuals, an important part of our sanctification is to avoid regression. Sin can certainly be seen in going from righteousness to sin. But it can also be seen in going from maturity to immaturity. As Paul puts it here, we must live up to what we have attained.

The same thing is true of the Church. We can tell if we have unwittingly adopted evolutionary assumptions if we think that we are automatically "more advanced" than our fathers. This is quite simply false. In our culture as Christians, we have not lived up to what we have attained. Our fathers understood many things which we have forgotten. May God show us mercy once again.

Here are some important figures and events from this period. Jacob Arminius (1560-1609) was a Reformed pastor in the Netherlands who came to doubt certain key elements of the Reformed faith. He urged a national synod be called where he could articulate his views. In the midst of that controversy, he became ill and died. In the following year, his followers presented a five point remonstrance, asking to have their views accepted. The Synod of Dordt met and wound up condemning these views in 1618.

The five points of Arminianism were these: 1. Human ability (free will) -- The Fall affected human nature, but not so much that man is completely helpless. Every sinner has free will, and his salvation depends upon how he uses it. 2. Conditional Election -- God's choice of individuals to salvation was based upon His foresight of their response to His calling. 3. General Atonement -- Christ's work on the cross made it possible that anyone could be saved. 4. Resistible Grace -- The Holy Spirit does not regenerate a sinner until he believes, and if he refuses to believe the Spirit's work is thwarted. 5. Possible Loss of Salvation -- Disagreement exists between Arminians on this point, but the more consistent Arminians hold that a true Christian can fall away and be damned.

It is important to emphasize that what many people have come to understand as the ultimate characteristic of the Reformed faith (the five points of Calvinism) were actually a particular response in a particular controversy to the five points of Arminianism. The Reformed faith extends far beyond all this -- but though it is more than this, it is certainly not less than this.

Over against the Arminians, the Reformed affirmed: 1. Total Inability -- The fall of mankind in Adam made it impossible for men to save themselves, prepare themselves to be saved, or cooperate in being saved. They must be regenerated by God first. 2. Unconditional Election -- Before the foundation of the world, God chose His elect and passed by the others, and the reasons for this are to be found in His good pleasure, and not in us. 3. Particular Redemption -- Christ's work on the cross made it certain that the elect would be saved. 4. Resurrecting Grace -- When the Holy Spirit regenerates a man, He moves in a sovereign way, brings the man to life, and then as a result he believes. 5. Preservation & Perseverance of the Saints -- One who is numbered among the elect cannot fall under the final condemnation of God.

One of the apparent ironies of history is that wherever this "grim" and "predestinarian" creed has gone, it has brought civil liberties in its train. This is because if God is ultimately sovereign, no human agency is. And if God has left any gaps in His sovereignty, certain human rulers (civil or ecclesiastical) take it as an invitation to try to fill that gap. This history of how this worked out over the centuries is quite fascinating.

Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) was one key figure in the English-speaking world. Because of the struggle between the Puritans and Anglo-Catholics, England was plunged into Civil War. A young parliamentarian named Cromwell excelled as a military man, and eventually became Lord Protector. Cromwell reluctantly agreed to the execution of Charles I. Cromwell was sincere and incorruptible -- and at the same time misguided and destructive. The saints have often found themselves ruling before they were quite ready for prime time. This happened in the time of Constantine, and also in the time of Cromwell. Nevertheless, the results were good in both instances. The three major factions in England at this time were Independents, Presbyterians, and Anglicans. The most common mistake that is made is that of lumping the Presbyterians and the Independents since both were Calvinistic. But the Presbyterians were Puritans who objected strongly to the execution of the king.

The Westminster Assembly (1643-1647) met during this time. Convened by Parliament, this assembly of theologians has had a monumental impact on the history of the evangelical church -- all denominations -- since that time. The Westminster teaching on baptism, for example, is ignored by evangelical Presbyterians down to the present.

Another important figure was George Whitefield (1714-1770). As a result of the turmoil of the previous century, the state of religion in England was at a low ebb in the 18th century. The "nonconformist" churches were dying. The God who raises the dead moved in an unlikely place -- the Church of England -- by converting a young priest named Whitefield and making him one of the greatest evangelistic preachers the world has ever known. He was a thorough-going Calvinist -- in 1743 John Wesley broke with him over the issue. He was the force behind the Great Awakening in America, and the Evangelical Awakening in England

Whitefield persuaded another priest to join him in open-air preaching, a young man named John Wesley (1703-1791). Wesley was an untiring worker, organizing genius, not too scrupulous, and the organizer of modern day Methodism. The founder of the "Methodist" club at Oxford was Charles Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement was Whitefield, and the founder of the denomination was John. Breaking with Whitefield on Calvinism, the Wesleys developed a position which we may call "evangelical Arminianism." Most evangelicalism today is descended in some fashion or other from the Wesleyan revivals.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Cruelest of All Delusions

---by George Grant

"People will be lovers of SELF" -- 2 Timothy 3:2

The passions of discontent, pride, and envy--exert themselves in each of us. We are fallen into a state of gross idolatry--and SELF is the idol we worship! The principle of SELF is deep-rooted in every heart, and is the spring of every action--until grace infuses a new principle, and SELF, like Dagon, falls before the Lord Almighty! --John Newton

We are prone to think of God--when we think of Him at all--as wonderful. We are less likely to see Him as willful. Certainly He is both, but the overwhelming emphasis of Scripture is upon the will rather than the wonder. It is upon the exercise of God's prerogative rather than the expiation of our pleasure. The difference is probably a matter of slights rather than slanders. Nevertheless, it is a difference that makes for rather dramatic consequences.

Thus, to some of us God is little more than a cosmic vending machine in the sky, designed to dispense our every want and whim. To others of us He is a grandfatherly sage who lives to patiently offer us certain therapeutic benefits and baubles from His largess. To still others He is a kind of Santa figure--jolly, unflappable, and determined to bestow goodies upon incognizant masses. Invariably though, we moderns tend to see God in terms of ourselves--in terms of our wants, our needs, our preferences, and our desires. We have apparently, as Voltaire accused, "made God in our own image."

But, according to psychologist Paul Vitz, such a conception is not knowledge of God at all, but a form of "self-worship." According to J.C. Ryle, it is "the cruelest of all delusions" because "by it men think they have come to a knowledge God when in fact they have done nothing of the sort." Thus, Joseph Aulen has argued that "the vast proportion of modern Christians have a vastly mistaken knowledge of the person and work of the Almighty."

According to D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, "because men do not know God or the nature of God--particularly those who claim to be Christians--all of the problems of life and culture are amplified even more." Andrew Murray asserts that it is due to the fact that Christians do not "properly entertain a knowledge of God" that "societies fall into such disarray as we have in the modern world." And A.W. Tozer has said that "a lack of a true knowledge of God's attributes and character" is the "root of the indecisiveness, imbalance, and ineffectiveness" of the contemporary church.”

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

All Hallows Eve

All Hallows Eve--- by Steve Wilkins, October 31, 2008

It was on this date that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenburg Church and historically, Protestants have pointed to this action as the spark which ignited the great Reformation of the 16th century. It was not, of course, the spark, if you mean by that the first action to call the church to reform. This had been done numerous times for over two hundred years prior to Luther’s action. But it was the spark in that Luther’s act brought everything that had been done previously to a head and the Reformation came like a flood after it.

But it was no accident that Luther did what he did on “Halloween” — “all saints eve.” The word “hallow” means to “sanctify” (thus we pray “hallowed be Thy name” when we desire God to glorify and exalt His name in the earth). October 31 is the evening prior to All Saints’ Day, which is tomorrow, November 1.

All Saints Day is the celebration of the victory of the all the saints (i.e. all believers) who, because of their union with Christ have triumphed over the world, the flesh, and the devil. The celebration of All Saints Day and All Saints Eve in European Christianity had nothing to do with Celtic paganism or the Church’s opposition to the pagan Druids.

With the coming of Christ and the completion of His work, we no longer fight against flesh and blood, but are told that our primary battle is against principalities and powers, against fallen angels who blind the hearts and minds of men in ignorance and fear. His work purchased our victory and made it certain, but the war is not yet over. Jesus stuck the decisive blow and we have the privilege of carrying out the mopping up operation.

And we do battle against these evil spirits with the weapons given to us by the Spirit, the weapons of faith, prayer, and faithful obedience. It is through our faithful worship, prayer, and obedience that we are victorious in Christ. So, century by century the Christian faith has rolled back the demonic realm of ignorance, fear, and superstition.

The feast of All Saints reminds us of this glorious victory of the Church over Satan and his hosts. In the first centuries, the church followed the Jewish practice of beginning the day at sundown of the preceding evening. Thus, in the Church calendar, the eve of a feast day is the actual beginning of the feast. Sundown on December 24, Christmas Eve, was the official beginning of the Feast of the Nativity. In the same way, All Saints’ Eve (“Halloween”) is the official beginning of the feast of All Saints.

In a sense, the Christian calendar turns the entire year into a drama. Beginning with the Feast of the Incarnation, the world moves progressively from darkness to light. The death of Winter is turned into the resurrection of Spring which corresponds to the Feast of the Resurrection (Easter). Then comes Pentecost and the time of grow and maturity. We do battle with the effects of sin and the curse upon the ground — we fight the weeds and the bugs to protect the seed until the harvest. Now the harvest is coming in and Satan, seeing the defeat of his efforts to destroy us again, seeks one last time to achieve victory before the year’s end. October 31 came to signify that day. Satan seeks to destroy the saints, but he is banished again by the victory of Christ and the joy and gladness that now has filled the earth through the Church.

The Church vanquishes the demonic realm by its joyful worship of the risen and conquering Savior. Because Christ has overcome, we are able to laugh and make merry in the face of evil.
Indeed, this is the place for holy mockery. Satan’s great sin (and our’s as well) is pride. He has been brought down by the Son of God and has suffered a spectacular fall. By the cross and resurrection, Thus, we read that Jesus make a public spectacle of him by virtue of his work on the cross Satan has been exposed as a ridiculous pretender and impostor and has been publicly humiliated (Col 2:15 “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”).

Thus, to drive Satan from us, we ridicule him. This is why the custom arose of portraying Satan as being dressed in a red suit with horns and a tail. No one actually thought that he really looked like this (in fact, the Bible teaches that he appears as an angel of light) but the idea was to make fun of him because he has been defeated by the victorious Son and he no longer has power over us. He is not to be feared any longer but resisted steadfast and mocked.

This was the original purpose of placing gargoyles on the cathedrals. They symbolized the Church ridiculing the enemy. They are ridiculous statues who make faces and stick out their tongues at those who would assault the Church. Gargoyles were not demonic symbols but rather they depict the attitude of the Church toward Satan and his angels. They were no longer any threat to us. They cannot do us harm while we abide in Christ Jesus. The church is invincible against the threats and attacks of the evil one. And thus, we who were once slaves of Satan are now able to laugh at and make fun of him.

So, October 31, the eve of All Saints, came to be associated with the defeat of evil and of all demonic powers by Christ and through Christ, by all His people. And it was for this reason, that Martin Luther chose October 31 to post his 95 theses against indulgences and the wicked practices of the Church on the door of the castle church in Wittenburg. He chose this day intentionally, to connect it with the defeat of all things which exalt themselves against Christ and His glorious saving work. And ever since, Halloween has also been the day we mark as the beginning of the Reformation.

All Saints Day (and eve) ought to be celebrated by the Church. And celebrated not as a “harvest festival” (how ironic is it that we attempt to avoid the “paganism” of Halloween by reviving a an ancient pagan form of celebration?) but as a distinctively Christian celebration of the victory of our Savior over the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

First Piper, now MacArthur

There's some great news coming from Grace to You, the ministry ministry of John MacArthur. Starting next Wednesday, November 5 (the day after the election), Grace to You will announce a new policy, effective immediately, that all of their mp3 downloads of John MacArthur's sermons will be completely free. That's 3500 sermons for free--with no strings (like required registration) attached. Hats off to Grace to You for this generous move! Make sure to visit the site next Wednesday.

Interesting that the prosperity teachers who purport that they are so generous and teach others to be the same, have not done this...hmmm.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

It All Starts With Worship

Pomosexuality---by Douglas Wilson

As we look around us, we see nations and cultures in disarray. There are so many things going wrong, that it would be quite easy to despair. Where to start? What battles should we fight, and what should we let alone? This is itself quite an important issue, as Martin Luther once wisely noted:

"If I profess, with the loudest voice and clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battle fields besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point."


"Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat. They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them" (Ps. 115:4-8).

"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18).

We have noted this principle from Scripture before, but it is necessary to state it again in order to make a particular application. We are seeking to understand the disintegration of the culture around us, and in order to do this rightly we have to keep coming back to the foundational principle. Worship drives and shapes all of human existence, and it does so according to this principle: you become like what you worship. Note this principle in our texts. The idolaters in Psalm 115 are worshipping idols that have mouths, but no ability to speak (v. 5). They have eyes, but are blind (v. 5). They have ears, but they are deaf (v. 6). Their noses don’t enable them to smell (v. 6). Their hands cannot handle, and their feet cannot walk (v. 7). Those who make these idols are just like these idols (v. 8). You become like what you worship.

In the other direction, with regard to salvation, we see the same thing. As we behold the glory of the Lord (which we do in worship), we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory. We become increasingly like what we worship (v. 18). Because we worship Jesus Christ, the true and final man, we are growing back up into our full humanity. The image of God is being restored in us by this means. At the coming of the Lord, the capstone of this process will be placed at the top of the living temple. We will become like Him, and why? Because we will see Him as He is (1 Jn. 3:2).

Now what does this mean for the materialistic atheist, or for the new age neo-pagans? Both of these groups believe that ultimate reality is infinitely malleable. The materialist believes that matter is eternal and that, given enough time, anything can turn into anything else. In the beginning was an enormous amount of hydrogen, with lots of potential. This is what evolution is all about. Anything can morph into anything else. And for the neo-pagans (and the ancient ones too , the same basic process is occuring, just with a different explanatory mechanism. For Ovid, chaos gave birth to the gods, and they in turn shaped other stuff. And for the rest of his book Metamorphoses, shape shifting was the order of the day. This is basic to the unbelieving mind. And it is the theological/religious explanation for all forms of gender bending, not to mention Michael Jackson’s face. People today genuinely believe that it is possible to "reinvent oneself."

Sexual boundaries follow the same kind of pattern. The revolt of our current generation against the triune God (who made heaven and earth) is a revolt in the direction of a pagan polytheism—multiple gods, multiple voices, multiple laws, and a general clamor out of which it is possible to select whatever suits him at the time. The political name for this is pluralism, and the philosophical and cultural name for it is postmodernism. Radically relativistic (whether it means to be or not), it has fallen off the cliff and cannot be prevented from eventually hitting the craggy rocks below—nihilism and despair. But while falling, a number of people have the temporary sensation of absolute freedom, and they seek to use that freedom in the creation and pursuit of various sexualities. And that is why we are now dealing with metrosexuals, sodomites, catamites, lesbians, virtual perverts, bisexuals, and transgendered individuals—not to mention the ecclesiastical variants, the lesbyterians. Sometime in the next ten years, look for more to push to the front of the line, all demanding societial respectability—pederasty and bestiality included. But because all this is a function of sexual postmodernism, we should simply call all of it pomosexuality. You cannot believe that ultimate reality is ultimately malleable, and yet not believe the world we live in is equally malleable.

But in the world created by the triune God of Scripture, the boundaries don’t blur—like a watercolor left out in the rain. God divides, and He loves to call those divisions good. God created heaven and earth, which created the fundamental division between that which is God and that which is not God. The gulf there is an infinite one, and God called what was on the other side of the divide from Him good (Gen. ). Having done this much, God was on a roll, and He divided the sun and moon, the sea and dry land, the earth and sky, and He kept calling all of it good (Gen. 1:4,10, 18). And then, at the pinnacle of creation, male and female He created them, in the image of God He created them (Gen. 1:27). God made Adam into two, so that He could bring Adam and Eve back into one—with a richer unity this time, one that presupposes genuine division.

If you want to be healthy, you should eat three good meals a day. This is generally true. But if you apply the rule when you are in the grip of the flu, all you are doing is giving yourself something to throw up. In this fallen world, should the laws reject pomosexual marriages, liasons, and perverse unions? Of course. But should we fight the battle there when the general pattern of worship is given over to pagan assumptions? You are only giving the culture something to throw up. This does not mean that there is no Savior for our culture; it simply means that our culture is not that savior. It means further that our culture is the skid row bum needing to be saved. And so what should we do? Worship the Father in the power of the Spirit in the name of the Son.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Good Ol' Hockey Game

---by Tim Challies

"Hey, Drew! What's happening?"

That's Darryl talking. He's the guy who does second-level technical support in the office. If his minions can't get the job done, they call on him. He's the big gun. But he's known around the office primarily for being a hockey fan, and not just a guy who dabbles in the game either. This guy is hardcore. He has had season tickets for as long as he can remember, and those things aren't cheap in Toronto. He spends thousands of dollars every year and goes to every home game. If the Leafs are on the road, he's in his living room, watching the game. Sometimes he even travels to Buffalo or Ottawa to cheer on the team. Every year he buys a new team jersey. Not the imitations, mind you, but the genuine jersey endorsed by the team - the one with the draw strings and the little vents under the armpits. The ones that cost $350.

"Oh, hey man. Not much," said Drew. Drew is in the sales team and has an office down the hall from Darryl.

"Doing anything exciting this weekend?"

"Not really. I was just going to hang around with the family. Maybe mow the lawn."

"I've got an extra ticket to the game on Saturday. Do you want to go?"

Darryl is always giving away tickets to the game. Hockey is not nearly as enjoyable when a fan watches the game alone. And his wife had long since tired of going to the games with him.

"I don't know. I'm not a big hockey fan."

"Dude! These are eighty dollar tickets! People wait in line for hours for these things."

Drew looked around the room. He looked everywhere but at Darryl. A bit sheepishly he replied, "Problem is, I don't really understand the game. You know, it's all good for you, but for me it's kind of embarrassing sitting in a room with 20,000 people who all know what's going on when I don't have a clue."

Drew had grown up in England and had just moved to Canada a few years earlier. Like all Brits he had a fascination with soccer (well, football, actually), and also enjoyed watching some rugby. He had never really caught on to cricket, though he had had to play it all the way through school.

Darryl lowered his voice a little bit. "This game will be perfect for you. There are so many people in the country that don't understand the game anymore that the league has decided to make Saturday night games Inquirer Games."

"What's an Inquirer Game?"

"It's a lot like the regular game, but it's designed specifically for people who just aren't comfortable stepping into an arena. Some people have had bad experiences with arenas in the past, and some just don't understand what's going on. So these games try to bridge that gap."

"But I just wouldn't enjoy it! I don't know when to sit down, when to stand up, when to cheer, when to boo!"

"Drew! It's an Inquirer Game! It doesn't matter if you stand or sit. You can boo or cheer whenever you want. Heck, you can do the wave all on your own if you want."

"Have you seen the rule book for hockey? It has to be 300 pages. At least! I'll have no idea what's going on!"

"You don't need to know the rules to have a good time. Just go, be yourself and have fun. It's going to be a great night!"

Drew sighed. He felt defeated. "Alright, I'll go."

Saturday night rolled around and precisely two hours before game time, Darryl pulled up in front of Drew's house. Drew was waiting anxiously inside the door. He gave his wife a quick kiss and walked out to the car.

"This is going to be great," Darryl said. He was wearing jeans and a t-shirt.

"I thought you'd be wearing your jersey."

"I usually do, but not for the Inquirer Games. They ask us not to in case they make other people feel like there is some kind of dress code. It can also offend out-of-towners if they're cheering for the other team."

As they drove Darryl chatted, rambling on about the Maple Leafs - his favorite players, the strength of the organization and the growth in the popularity of the sport. Drew nodded politely when appropriate and answered questions when required. But mostly he sat in silence.

Finally they pulled into a lot near the stadium that was prominently marked with a sign emblazoned with the word "Inquirers."

"Lots of parking," Drew remarked as he watched a man in a blue vest cleaning up bits of paper and trash from the ground. Other men in blue blazers were directing traffic.

"Yup. A stadium can't survive if there isn't lots of parking, can it?" said Darryl cheerfully.

They walked towards the arena. As they approached the door, another man in a blue vest smiled warmly a took a step towards them. Plastered to his vest was a printed sticker that read, "Hello My Name Is STAN." "Hi! My name's Stan. Is this your first time here?" He seemed genuinely friendly.

Darryl replied for both of them. "Not for me, but it is for him. I'm Darryl and this is Drew."

"Welcome! Welcome! We're glad to have you here today. Tonight we're hoping that everyone will wear name tags. Is it okay if I make one for you?"

Darryl nodded. Stan walked over to a table that had stacks of stickers and a few Sharpies lying on it. He returned a moment later with stickers for each of them. After putting the stickers on their chests and handing them a few pieces of paper they shook hands with Stan and walked into the stadium.

"You know," Darryl said. "They usually call this the 'Air Canada Centre.' But for Inquirer Games they prefer to call it an activity centre."

A table laden with coffee and donuts stood inside the front door. "Grab something to eat. They know that some people don't have time to eat before they get here, so they always have lots of donuts and coffee at these Inquirer Games." Drew mumbled something he thought sounded polite. But by this time his eyes were wide. He looked around the activity centre, taking in the thousands of seats, quickly filling with other people, most of whom were wearing name tags.

"24E and 24F. Here we are!"

They sat down. Their seats were red and padded. Quite comfortable, especially in comparison to the hard benches that pass for seating in the stadium back in London. Drew took the opportunity to look through the papers Stan had given him.

"What's with the suggestion card?," he asked Darryl.

"If you think of some things that would make the game better, jot them down and turn the card in at the end of the game. They're always looking to make the game better."

"But I don't know anything about the game. I don't even like the game!"

"But that's what makes your input valuable. Just tell them what would make you like the game."

Drew shook his head.

"Is that a band down there?" he asked, pointing to a group of guys hastily arranging their instruments just beyond the glass on the far side of the activity centre.

"Yup. They're called The Forwards. They play during the Inquirer Games. There's still an organ that plays during other games, but they know that it's an old-school instrument and people don't really relate to it anymore. So they brought in a band. These guys rock!"

A few minutes later the band began to play, "Take Me Out To The BallGame," substituting a few words here and there to make it appropriate to hockey. The words flashed up on the video screens overhead and a few people joined in the music. Most just talked amongst themselves, biding their time. A few minutes later they launched into a rocking version of "The Good Old Hockey Game." They bypassed the verses and chose instead to simply repeat the chorus.

Oh! The good old hockey game,
Is the best game you can name;
And the best game you can name,
Is the good old Hockey game!

Five minutes after the game was supposed to have started the announcer sounded over the loudspeakers. Drew glanced to Darryl and whispered, "Aren't they going to sing the national anthem?"

Darryl smiled. "No, some people don't like it. Especially Americans. So they don't sing it at these games. I mean, come on! Nobody ever sings the anthem anymore excepting at sporting events, so they leave it out."

The announcer spoke up. "Ladies and gentlemen. We'd like to welcome you to tonight's game featuring the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Ottawa Senators."

Drew quickly tuned him out. Or he did until the announcer began to introduce people.

"Tonight's facilitator for the Toronto Maple Leafs is Roooonnnnnn Wilson!"

"What's a facilitator?"

"They used to call them coaches, but people associate that with hierarchy. So at these games, instead of telling the players what to do, they facilitate a game plan where all of the players contribute. Quinn's job tonight is to help all of the players understand how they can be better players and better people."

Players began to file onto the ice.

"Hey Darryl, why aren't they wearing uniforms?"

"It's an Inquirer Game. If they wore uniforms they wouldn't fit in, would they?"

"So how do we tell them apart? They're all wearing jeans and t-shirts."

"That's the point, man. We're here for them as much as they're here for us. We don't need to be able to tell them apart."

"Aren't there usually lines on the ice? A red one and two blues?"

"You'd see them if you came back next week, but they take them off for these games. They confuse people too much."


The game began with a bang. The Leafs won the faceoff and their forwards sped down the ice. It was then that Drew noticed the net was undefended. "What happened to the tender?"

"You call him a goalie in hockey. We don't need 'em. This is a celebration! No goalies means more goals and that means more celebrating!" Darryl stood up and did a spontaneous, solo wave. No one seemed to disapprove.

The puck found its way into the opposing team's net and the crowd went wild. The band struck up a rousing chorus repeating the words, "Go Leafs Go" just a few times too many.

The referee waved his semaphore (whistles being far too obnoxious, outdated and difficult to understand) and the action began again.

Drew was beginning to enjoy himself. This wasn't so bad, was it? No one cared if he knew the game or not. No one cared if he didn't know when to cheer or boo or even if he despised the game itself. They were just glad that he was here to celebrate with them.

Two hours later the game wrapped up with the home team winning 86 to 73. Drew's face was positively glowing. His eyes were bright and his hands were red from clapping.

"So did you have a good time," asked Darryl as he headed towards the parking lot, his voice hoarse from shouting and cheering.

"I did! It was great."

For a moment Drew looked pensive. A little quieter he said, "But it wasn't really hockey was it? I mean...I still don't know anything about the game."

Darryl smirked. "Not if you mean hockey the way your grandpa played it. And not if you mean hockey the way the rule book tells you to play it. But you had a good time, right?"

"Yeah, it was great!"

"Then that's what matters, right? You had a good time."

"I guess so. Do you have an extra ticket for next Saturday?"

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

And the next Doug Wilson post

from his "Thumbnail Church History" series

Back to Historical "stuff"

A friend posted this on his blog and I've adapted to fit here...

In contention for the truth of Christianity, both Irenaeus and his opponents referred to the Scriptures to justify their claims to truth. But Irenaeus referred to more than just the Scripture to make his stand; he referenced his lineage of faith. In essence, he argued that his view of Christ was true because he could trace his beliefs back to the Apostles’ teaching. He did not simply use the Scriptures, but he also referred to those who have gone before him and traced their teaching back to the Apostles. His opponents, on the other hand, could not boast of such a lineage. They devised doctrine of their own imagination, disregarding the fact that their beliefs were never held by any before them. If it is new, according to Irenaeus, then it is, by virtue of its novelty, not admissible as a viable option for belief. The Holy Spirit works in and with the church and the church is made up of those living (ecclesia militans) and dead (ecclesia triumphans). Therefore, those who have gone before us create an accountability structure and we cannot separate ourselves from their testimony, even if we believe the Bible is on our side. In other words, the Holy Spirit is not going to teach something essentially different to the present church than he did to those who have gone before us—no matter how special you think you are.

Orthodox theologian Bradley Nassif says that the biggest problem he sees in Evangelicalism is that we have “historic amnesia.” We need to be able to trace our faith, teaching, and doctrine back to the Apostles, finding harmony with those who have gone before us.

When we ordain ministers, we are not simply advocating their kindness, usefulness, and general likability. Neither are we ordaining them because they are good preachers, counselors, or encouragers. We are first ordaining them because they are representatives of the historic Christian faith. They are successors to the Apostles in that their beliefs and teachings find historical continuity and biblical integrity—the two of which should not be separated.

If we had this type of assumed accountability, to be Evangelical would mean something again. As well, a whole lot of self-proclaimed Evangelicals would fall off the roster due to disqualification. They can then call themselves whatever they please, but “Evangelical” would be mistaken. So then, I call myself a “Historic Evangelical,” in line with the historic Christian faith on all issues that have defined Christianity everywhere, always, by all (ubique, semper, omnibus).

A good place to start would be the Historic, Ecumenical Creeds, i.e. the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed and the Definition of Chalcedon.

Couldn't say it better myself!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Barack Hussein Obama's Abortion Extremism

Obama's Abortion Extremism---by Robert George

Sen. Barack Obama's views on life issues ranging from abortion to embryonic stem cell research mark him as not merely a pro-choice politician, but rather as the most extreme pro-abortion candidate to have ever run on a major party ticket.

Barack Obama is the most extreme pro-abortion candidate ever to seek the office of President of the United States. He is the most extreme pro-abortion member of the United States Senate. Indeed, he is the most extreme pro-abortion legislator ever to serve in either house of the United States Congress.

Yet there are Catholics and Evangelicals-even self-identified pro-life Catholics and Evangelicals - who aggressively promote Obama's candidacy and even declare him the preferred candidate from the pro-life point of view.

What is going on here?

I have examined the arguments advanced by Obama's self-identified pro-life supporters, and they are spectacularly weak. It is nearly unfathomable to me that those advancing them can honestly believe what they are saying. But before proving my claims about Obama's abortion extremism, let me explain why I have described Obama as ''pro-abortion'' rather than ''pro-choice.''

According to the standard argument for the distinction between these labels, nobody is pro-abortion. Everybody would prefer a world without abortions. After all, what woman would deliberately get pregnant just to have an abortion? But given the world as it is, sometimes women find themselves with unplanned pregnancies at times in their lives when having a baby would present significant problems for them. So even if abortion is not medically required, it should be permitted, made as widely available as possible and, when necessary, paid for with taxpayers' money.

The defect in this argument can easily be brought into focus if we shift to the moral question that vexed an earlier generation of Americans: slavery. Many people at the time of the American founding would have preferred a world without slavery but nonetheless opposed abolition. Such people - Thomas Jefferson was one - reasoned that, given the world as it was, with slavery woven into the fabric of society just as it had often been throughout history, the economic consequences of abolition for society as a whole and for owners of plantations and other businesses that relied on slave labor would be dire. Many people who argued in this way were not monsters but honest and sincere, albeit profoundly mistaken. Some (though not Jefferson) showed their personal opposition to slavery by declining to own slaves themselves or freeing slaves whom they had purchased or inherited. They certainly didn't think anyone should be forced to own slaves. Still, they maintained that slavery should remain a legally permitted option and be given constitutional protection.

Would we describe such people, not as pro-slavery, but as ''pro-choice''? Of course we would not. It wouldn't matter to us that they were ''personally opposed'' to slavery, or that they wished that slavery were ''unnecessary,'' or that they wouldn't dream of forcing anyone to own slaves. We would hoot at the faux sophistication of a placard that said ''Against slavery? Don't own one.'' We would observe that the fundamental divide is between people who believe that law and public power should permit slavery, and those who think that owning slaves is an unjust choice that should be prohibited.

Just for the sake of argument, though, let us assume that there could be a morally meaningful distinction between being ''pro-abortion'' and being ''pro-choice.'' Who would qualify for the latter description? Barack Obama certainly would not. For, unlike his running mate Joe Biden, Obama does not think that abortion is a purely private choice that public authority should refrain from getting involved in. Now, Senator Biden is hardly pro-life. He believes that the killing of the unborn should be legally permitted and relatively unencumbered. But unlike Obama, at least Biden has sometimes opposed using taxpayer dollars to fund abortion, thereby leaving Americans free to choose not to implicate themselves in it. If we stretch things to create a meaningful category called ''pro-choice,'' then Biden might be a plausible candidate for the label; at least on occasions when he respects your choice or mine not to facilitate deliberate feticide.

The same cannot be said for Barack Obama. For starters, he supports legislation that would repeal the Hyde Amendment, which protects pro-life citizens from having to pay for abortions that are not necessary to save the life of the mother and are not the result of rape or incest. The abortion industry laments that this longstanding federal law, according to the pro-abortion group NARAL, ''forces about half the women who would otherwise have abortions to carry unintended pregnancies to term and bear children against their wishes instead.'' In other words, a whole lot of people who are alive today would have been exterminated in utero were it not for the Hyde Amendment. Obama has promised to reverse the situation so that abortions that the industry complains are not happening (because the federal government is not subsidizing them) would happen. That is why people who profit from abortion love Obama even more than they do his running mate.

But this barely scratches the surface of Obama's extremism. He has promised that ''the first thing I'd do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act'' (known as FOCA). This proposed legislation would create a federally guaranteed ''fundamental right'' to abortion through all nine months of pregnancy, including, as Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia has noted in a statement condemning the proposed Act, ''a right to abort a fully developed child in the final weeks for undefined 'health' reasons.'' In essence, FOCA would abolish virtually every existing state and federal limitation on abortion, including parental consent and notification laws for minors, state and federal funding restrictions on abortion, and conscience protections for pro-life citizens working in the health-care industry-protections against being forced to participate in the practice of abortion or else lose their jobs. The pro-abortion National Organization for Women has proclaimed with approval that FOCA would ''sweep away hundreds of anti-abortion laws [and] policies.''

It gets worse. Obama, unlike even many ''pro-choice'' legislators, opposed the ban on partial-birth abortions when he served in the Illinois legislature and condemned the Supreme Court decision that upheld legislation banning this heinous practice. He has referred to a baby conceived inadvertently by a young woman as a ''punishment'' that she should not endure. He has stated that women's equality requires access to abortion on demand. Appallingly, he wishes to strip federal funding from pro-life crisis pregnancy centers that provide alternatives to abortion for pregnant women in need. There is certainly nothing ''pro-choice'' about that.

But it gets even worse. Senator Obama, despite the urging of pro-life members of his own party, has not endorsed or offered support for the Pregnant Women Support Act, the signature bill of Democrats for Life, meant to reduce abortions by providing assistance for women facing crisis pregnancies. In fact, Obama has opposed key provisions of the Act, including providing coverage of unborn children in the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), and informed consent for women about the effects of abortion and the gestational age of their child. This legislation would not make a single abortion illegal. It simply seeks to make it easier for pregnant women to make the choice not to abort their babies. Here is a concrete test of whether Obama is ''pro-choice'' rather than pro-abortion. He flunked. Even Senator Edward Kennedy voted to include coverage of unborn children in S-CHIP. But Barack Obama stood resolutely with the most stalwart abortion advocates in opposing it.

It gets worse yet. In an act of breathtaking injustice which the Obama campaign lied about until critics produced documentary proof of what he had done, as an Illinois state senator Obama opposed legislation to protect children who are born alive, either as a result of an abortionist's unsuccessful effort to kill them in the womb, or by the deliberate delivery of the baby prior to viability. This legislation would not have banned any abortions. Indeed, it included a specific provision ensuring that it did not affect abortion laws. (This is one of the points Obama and his campaign lied about until they were caught.) The federal version of the bill passed unanimously in the United States Senate, winning the support of such ardent advocates of legal abortion as John Kerry and Barbara Boxer. But Barack Obama opposed it and worked to defeat it. For him, a child marked for abortion gets no protection-even ordinary medical or comfort care-even if she is born alive and entirely separated from her mother. So Obama has favored protecting what is literally a form of infanticide.

You may be thinking, it can't get worse than that. But it does.

For several years, Americans have been debating the use for biomedical research of embryos produced by in vitro fertilization (originally for reproductive purposes) but now left in a frozen condition in cryopreservation units. President Bush has restricted the use of federal funds for stem-cell research of the type that makes use of these embryos and destroys them in the process. I support the President's restriction, but some legislators with excellent pro-life records, including John McCain, argue that the use of federal money should be permitted where the embryos are going to be discarded or die anyway as the result of the parents' decision. Senator Obama, too, wants to lift the restriction.

But Obama would not stop there. He has co-sponsored a bill-strongly opposed by McCain-that would authorize the large-scale industrial production of human embryos for use in biomedical research in which they would be killed. In fact, the bill Obama co-sponsored would effectively require the killing of human beings in the embryonic stage that were produced by cloning. It would make it a federal crime for a woman to save an embryo by agreeing to have the tiny developing human being implanted in her womb so that he or she could be brought to term. This ''clone and kill'' bill would, if enacted, bring something to America that has heretofore existed only in China-the equivalent of legally mandated abortion. In an audacious act of deceit, Obama and his co-sponsors misleadingly call this an anti-cloning bill. But it is nothing of the kind. What it bans is not cloning, but allowing the embryonic children produced by cloning to survive.

Can it get still worse? Yes.

Decent people of every persuasion hold out the increasingly realistic hope of resolving the moral issue surrounding embryonic stem-cell research by developing methods to produce the exact equivalent of embryonic stem cells without using (or producing) embryos. But when a bill was introduced in the United States Senate to put a modest amount of federal money into research to develop these methods, Barack Obama was one of the few senators who opposed it. From any rational vantage point, this is unconscionable. Why would someone not wish to find a method of producing the pluripotent cells scientists want that all Americans could enthusiastically endorse? Why create and kill human embryos when there are alternatives that do not require the taking of nascent human lives? It is as if Obama is opposed to stem-cell research unless it involves killing human embryos.

This ultimate manifestation of Obama's extremism brings us back to the puzzle of his pro-life Catholic and Evangelical apologists.

They typically do not deny the facts I have reported. They could not; each one is a matter of public record. But despite Obama's injustices against the most vulnerable human beings, and despite the extraordinary support he receives from the industry that profits from killing the unborn (which should be a good indicator of where he stands), some Obama supporters insist that he is the better candidate from the pro-life point of view.

They say that his economic and social policies would so diminish the demand for abortion that the overall number would actually go down-despite the federal subsidizing of abortion and the elimination of hundreds of pro-life laws. The way to save lots of unborn babies, they say, is to vote for the pro-abortion-oops! ''pro-choice''-candidate. They tell us not to worry that Obama opposes the Hyde Amendment, the Mexico City Policy (against funding abortion abroad), parental consent and notification laws, conscience protections, and the funding of alternatives to embryo-destructive research. They ask us to look past his support for Roe v. Wade, the Freedom of Choice Act, partial-birth abortion, and human cloning and embryo-killing. An Obama presidency, they insist, means less killing of the unborn.

This is delusional.

We know that the federal and state pro-life laws and policies that Obama has promised to sweep away (and that John McCain would protect) save thousands of lives every year. Studies conducted by Professor Michael New and other social scientists have removed any doubt. Often enough, the abortion lobby itself confirms the truth of what these scholars have determined. Tom McClusky has observed that Planned Parenthood's own statistics show that in each of the seven states that have FOCA-type legislation on the books, ''abortion rates have increased while the national rate has decreased.'' In Maryland, where a bill similar to the one favored by Obama was enacted in 1991, he notes that ''abortion rates have increased by 8 percent while the overall national abortion rate decreased by 9 percent.'' No one is really surprised. After all, the message clearly conveyed by policies such as those Obama favors is that abortion is a legitimate solution to the problem of unwanted pregnancies - so clearly legitimate that taxpayers should be forced to pay for it.

But for a moment let's suppose, against all the evidence, that Obama's proposals would reduce the number of abortions, even while subsidizing the killing with taxpayer dollars. Even so, many more unborn human beings would likely be killed under Obama than under McCain. A Congress controlled by strong Democratic majorities under Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi would enact the bill authorizing the mass industrial production of human embryos by cloning for research in which they are killed. As president, Obama would sign it. The number of tiny humans created and killed under this legislation (assuming that an efficient human cloning technique is soon perfected) could dwarf the number of lives saved as a result of the reduced demand for abortion-even if we take a delusionally optimistic view of what that number would be.

Barack Obama and John McCain differ on many important issues about which reasonable people of goodwill, including pro-life Americans of every faith, disagree: how best to fight international terrorism, how to restore economic growth and prosperity, how to distribute the tax burden and reduce poverty, etc.

But on abortion and the industrial creation of embryos for destructive research, there is a profound difference of moral principle, not just prudence. These questions reveal the character and judgment of each man. Barack Obama is deeply committed to the belief that members of an entire class of human beings have no rights that others must respect. Across the spectrum of pro-life concerns for the unborn, he would deny these small and vulnerable members of the human family the basic protection of the laws. Over the next four to eight years, as many as five or even six U.S. Supreme Court justices could retire. Obama enthusiastically supports Roe v. Wade and would appoint judges who would protect that morally and constitutionally disastrous decision and even expand its scope. Indeed, in an interview in Glamour magazine, he made it clear that he would apply a litmus test for Supreme Court nominations: jurists who do not support Roe will not be considered for appointment by Obama. John McCain, by contrast, opposes Roe and would appoint judges likely to overturn it. This would not make abortion illegal, but it would return the issue to the forums of democratic deliberation, where pro-life Americans could engage in a fair debate to persuade fellow citizens that killing the unborn is no way to address the problems of pregnant women in need.

What kind of America do we want our beloved nation to be? Barack Obama's America is one in which being human just isn't enough to warrant care and protection. It is an America where the unborn may legitimately be killed without legal restriction, even by the grisly practice of partial-birth abortion. It is an America where a baby who survives abortion is not even entitled to comfort care as she dies on a stainless steel table or in a soiled linen bin. It is a nation in which some members of the human family are regarded as inferior and others superior in fundamental dignity and rights. In Obama's America, public policy would make a mockery of the great constitutional principle of the equal protection of the law. In perhaps the most telling comment made by any candidate in either party in this election year, Senator Obama, when asked by Rick Warren when a baby gets human rights, replied: ''that question is above my pay grade.'' It was a profoundly disingenuous answer: For even at a state senator's pay grade, Obama presumed to answer that question with blind certainty. His unspoken answer then, as now, is chilling: human beings have no rights until infancy - and if they are unwanted survivors of attempted abortions, not even then.

In the end, the efforts of Obama's apologists to depict their man as the true pro-life candidate that Catholics and Evangelicals may and even should vote for, doesn't even amount to a nice try. Voting for the most extreme pro-abortion political candidate in American history is not the way to save unborn babies.

Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. He is a member of the President's Council on Bioethics and previously served on the United States Commission on Civil Rights. He sits on the editorial board of Public Discourse. One of the great moral philosophers and public intellectuals of our time, Dr. George holds a law degree and a theology degree from Harvard, and a doctorate from Oxford.

Copyright 2008 The Witherspoon Institute. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sadly, Many Pastors Deem It Unnecessary

9 Ways to Continue Theological Development
October 10th, 2008 by JHG

From the 9 Marks blog:
On Tuesday, Mark Dever, Michael Lawrence, and I spoke to a group of church planters at the invitation of the SBC’s Embrace Baltimore initiative. The theme of the day was the role that theology and theological development plays in the life of a church planter, and Michael gave some very helpful advice on how busy church planters can work theological development into their schedules.

Here are some notes that summarize his suggestions:

1. Build it into the things you’re already doing. (QT, sermon prep, discipling, etc.)

2. Stop wasting so much time on the internet. (pick just 2 or 3 blogs to read, and look at them once a week; stop wasting time updating your Facebook, Linkedin, and MySpcae pages, etc.)

3. Always have a book nearby. (capture the spare moments)

4. Build time for reading and reflection into your schedule. (you’ll be amazed how much time is freed up if you do #2! But beware, a pastor’s schedule abhors a vacuum, so if you don’t block out the time, somethingelse will fill it in.)

5. Have a plan. (if you aim at nothing you’re sure to hit it.)

6. Read primary sources, not commentary. (you don’t have time to waste on the commentators. Read the Bible and the people who have written important theology. You can do it. You don’t need a PhD to read Luther, Calvin, Augustine, Edwards, Grudem, Frame, etc)

7. Don’t do it alone. (cultivate a theological conversation among your leaders. They will correct your idiosyncrasies and keep you accountable. It will also create a culture of theological seriousness in your church, which will benefit everyone.)

8. Let the Scriptures, not our culture, set the agenda. (Trying to keep up with our culture’s agenda is a chasing after the wind. On the other hand, if the Scriptures set the agenda, you’ll be ready for anything thecultures blows at you.)

9. Church History and Historical Theology are the pastors Cliff Notes to theology. (Other people, smarter than me, have already faced the stuff I face and have figured a lot of things out. I can stand on theirshoulders and look like a genius! The cultural package may have changed, but there’s nothing new under the sun.)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

From an ancient wisdom

"Our future hope
Is bought with a price
Of a present vision
From an ancient wisdom."

--Tristan Gylberd

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I believe in...the communion of saints...

Michael Horton: "The best way to guard a true interpretation of Scripture, the Reformers insisted, was neither to naively embrace the infallibility of tradition, or the infallibility of the individual, but to recognize the communal interpretation of Scripture. The best way to ensure faithfulness to the text is to read it together, not only with the churches of our own time and place, but with the wider 'communion of saints' down through the age."

Larry Woiwode: "There is rugged terrain ahead for those who are constitutionally incapable of referring to the paths marked out by wise and spirit-filled cartographers over the centuries."

The Medieval Church

Arrogantly mis-labelled "the Dark Ages" by liberals, surely it was a time of decline, but compared to today's barbarism, those days look fairly decent. Anyway, here is the next part to Pastor Wilson's primer on Church History:

Frequent and Habitual

My good friend Ken Mattson is commenting on the Spiritual Gifts in Reformed Expression over on his blog. I recommend you join him on his journey! I loved this quote he referenced:

"Many of our errors where spiritual gifts are concerned arise when we want the extraordinary and exceptional to be made the frequent and habitual." ~ Donald Gee

That's a huge problem in much of charismania today...spontaneity & individualism is king and routine and community is almost considered demonic or at least "quenching the Spirit," until the spontaneity becomes routine, that is. Funny how the Holy Spirit can only speak at the time of the service and not days in advance and if He did, He corrects Himself on Sunday morning.

But enough of my rant, you can follow Ken here:

Monday, October 6, 2008

Church History

...for those who neglect, belittle and are otherwise ignorant of the subject...

The First Five Centuries---by Doug Wilson
Topic: Thumbnail Church History

Most Christians today do not have a good grasp of the history of what they believe. They have no real idea of the "old paths," and this is the source of many errors among us. When you don't know where you have been, and where you are going, any road will get you there. "Thus says the Lord: 'Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it''" (Jer. 6:16).

read the rest here:

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Why Sexual Issues Are To Be Front and CenterTopic: Sex and Culture---by Douglas Wilson

Our culture's wholesale abandonment of biblical ethics in matters of sexuality -- what I have recently called pomosexuality -- is the direct and immediate result of a failure of the Church to proclaim and live out life in Christ, life in the gospel, life in the triune God. So the way out of this impasse in our culture wars cannot be to pass this law or that one, but rather to restore the cultural preconditions (through gospel preaching, and only through gospel preaching) which alone make it possible for a society to reflect a biblical understanding of sexuality. Good laws are obviously not bad, but neither are they they gospel. The gospel is the only answer to our cultural crisis.

Given the truth of this, at the same time, it would be a mistake of the first order to treat sexual issues as somehow peripheral, or not a big deal. When an understanding of the gospel fades, the very first place where the new darkness will manifest itself is in our sexual practices. Sexuality is the canary in the mine -- the rise of pomosexuality shows us immediately that something is desperately wrong. It should never be relegated to a third-order symptom. Rather, it is a first-order symptom of our estrangement from God.

The Christian faith proclaims a basic dualism between that which is God and that which is not God. This is the Creator/creature distinction. This means that the Creator God, when He places things on this side of the divide, means for them to stay put. Male is male, and female is female, and what a lot of fun that turned out to be.

But if there is no God, as in atheism, or all is God, as in pagan pantheism, there is nothing in the world but rawa material that can, in principle, meld, blend, turn into, or copulate with, anything or anyone else. All is one. The pagan mentality is one of metamorphism and change, no limits, no boundaries. Paganism is protean, and insists on this. When professing Christians are attracted to this, it is because of a failure on the part of pastors, elders, and fathers in living out the joy of accepting what the Creator unilaterally and authoritatively did.

And this is why, when we preach the gospel, both within the Church and outside it, sexual issues have to be front and center. We are preaching repentance and faith. When we preach repentance, this is followed immediately with a declaration of the Christ who alone makes such repentance coherent. When the Christian faith first came to the Roman Empire, they confronted a culture that was steeped in the sexual no-boundaries-paganism that we are now seeing again.

And the apostles did not say, "Well, let's preach Christ and the Trinity, and these sexual issues will eventually sort themselves out." No, they confronted the sexual distortions at every turn. And this is quite striking because the Christian sexual ethic made no sense to the pagans. But sexual ethics is the place where we can clearly see the antithesis between biblical Christianity and paganism. And this is why "social Trinitarians" and group hug communitarians who are not hostile to sodomy, for just one example, clearly do not know what they are talking about.

As he proclaims the lordship of Christ, what does Paul lead with in his cultural engagement with Rome? He preaches Christ and Him crucified, certainly, but what does every new convert have to take into account before being baptized? What does a potential Christian have to read through, and not in the fine print either? Paul addresses this virtually every time he turns around. Allow me to string some passages together for effect.

"Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers" (Rom. 1:29).

"It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife" (1 Cor. 5:1).

"I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators"(1 Cor. 5:9).

"But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat" (1 Cor. 5:11).

"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind" (1 Cor. 6:9).

"Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body" (1 Cor. 6:13).

"Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body" (1 Cor. 6:18).

"Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand" (1 Cor. 10:8).

"And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed"(2 Cor. 12:21).

"Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness"(Gal. 5:19).

"But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints" (Eph. 5:3).

"Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry" (Col. 3:5).

"For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: (1 Thess. 4:3).

Talk about Johnny One Note. And this was Rome. Talk about a hard sell.

Now my point is not that Paul believed, somewhere in his heart, that fornication and sodomy were wrong. He did, and even this is disputed in these perverse times. My point is that the out-in-front proclamation of sexual purity was a strategic decision on Paul's part. This was a strategic issue, and not just a moral one. And I believe that he did this because there is no better way to rebuke the theology of paganism than by assaulting the lusts of paganism. And there are few more glorious ways to preach life in Christ, and the liberating power of the gospel given us by the triune God, than to set Christian marriage and sexual purity before an astounded and lust-racked world. As we do this, we exhibit the life of the Trinity in glorious ways. And if we do not exhibit a fierce and open hostility to every form of pomosexuality, we do not understand the Trinity.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Holy! Holy! Holy!

Great post by Doug Wilson over at his blog...

The seraphim who constantly adore Him do not worship before the throne, saying, "Love, love, love." Nor do they say, "Just, just, just." They do not cry out, "Good, good, good." Although these are all attributes of God, His attribute that fulfills and permeates all the others is His Holiness. The seraphim cry, "Holy, Holy, Holy" (Is. 6:3; cf. Rev. 4:8).

Certain attributes of God, like His omniscience, are called incommunicable attributes. This is because creatures cannot partake of them. But holiness, for all its ultimacy, is not in this category. There is such a thing as communicated holiness. This attribute is shared to us by the grace of God. We are called to be saints (1 Pet. 1:13-16).

read the rest here: