Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

We've got our inerrant Bible, but... oops! we forgot Jesus; or, how the liberals were partly right (part 2)

The gospel.

Now that the battle for the affirmation of biblical inerrancy has been officially won at the institutional level, a common question to hear within Southern Baptist circles is, 'what do you think is the biggest challenge within the SBC today?' or some variation thereof. In a few places, I have read where Tom Ascol, the director of Founders Ministries, answered this question with concern that the SBC may be in danger of losing the gospel. When I first this kind of response coming from Ascol, I (quite frankly) disagreed. I believed that he was using hyperbole or that he was making too strong a connection between gospel proclamation and a particular doctrine of predestination. Certainly, I've heard gospel presentations from the Southern Baptist Convention that were not clear as they should be, and certainly, we should recover doctrines that undergird sound gospel proclamation, but how could the SBC, which is all about proclaiming the gospel- the Good News of who Jesus is and what He has done- how could this Convention, having affirmed the inerrancy of the Scriptures, which are focused on the gospel- how could the Southern Baptist Convention now lose the gospel?

But recent events have convinced me that Ascol's concerns are, indeed, well-founded.

[Next: Chapel]


Monday, April 28, 2008

We've got our inerrant Bible, but... oops! we forgot Jesus; or, how the liberals were partly right (part 1)


I thought the word was a canard: a red herring used by liberal theologians who didn't want to deal with the fact that they hold to a lower view of Scripture than the Jesus they claim to follow (see, for example, Matt. 5:18). And, I maintain, this is (to some degree) the case. But in the Southern Baptist Convention we may be guilty of pride- triumphing in the battle to affirm God's written Word, we failed to take warning from the words of our critics. In rightly arguing that the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is the only acceptable position for the Convention and that this doctrine is not, in itself, a form of idolatry, we failed to recognize the tendency of the human heart, as yet tainted by sin in this world, to take good things and use them to obscure the Best thing.

[Next: The gospel]


Monday, April 21, 2008

Band of Bloggers Photos

The following are photos I had taken with various bloggers I met at this year's Band of Bloggers Conference.

Here I am with event organizer (and Southern Seminary bad-boy) Timmy Brister.

With "The World's Most Famous Christian Blogger" [not a title he uses for himself], Tim Challies. While walking with Tim from the Band of Bloggers Conference at the Galt House Hotel up to the Together for the Gospel Conference at the Kentucky International Convention Center, I asked, "Mr. Challies, as you are not an ordained pastor nor seminary graduate, do you really think that you were institutionally qualified to speak on the Band of Bloggers panel?" Challies admitted, "I'm not really qualified for much of anything."

With Young, Restless, Reformed Collin Hansen. ("Ground Zero," Collin? Really?)

With Founders Ministries Director Tom Ascol. Ascol recognized me as "the guy that published that prayer."

With "the Pyromaniac" Phil Johnson. ("So, Mr. Johnson, what do you really think of the Emergent Church Movement?")

With Frank "centuri0n" Turk. (He doesn't do that eye-brow twitch nearly as much in person.)

With Dan Phillips. ("Mr. Phillips, what is a '+/-' dispensation?")

With Said at Southern's Tony Kummer. Collin Hansen is taking this picture and making us laugh.

With Jay Collyer. Jay does not blog. He is the Director of Publishing for Reformation Heritage Books, and there is nothing funny about that.


Friday, April 18, 2008

Expelled movie opens today!

Expelled opens today in theaters across the nation. I encourage everyone reading this post to go see this thought-provoking movie sometime this weekend, as box office receipts from opening weekend are a major way that Hollywood determines whether a film is successful. If this film is a success, the producers of Expelled will be able to raise money to make the next film they are planning, which will view the abortion debate from a pro-life perspective.

For those reading this in Louisville, Expelled is opening today at Cinema de Lux 20: Stonybrook, Showcase Cinema de Lux 16 on Preston, and Cinema Tinseltown USA.

For friends and family back in GA, the movie is opening today at Movies 278 in Hiram, Regal 22 in Austell, Regal Town 16 (on Town Center Dr.) in Kennesaw, and Regal Arbor Place 18 in Douglasville.


Monday, April 14, 2008

“I’m done with American Idol.”

[The following was written by my wife Abby at my request concerning her response to the American Idol performance of "Shout to the Lord" last week.]

I think it’s great that so much money was raised to combat malaria in Africa & give to different children’s & medical programs in the US. My husband & I prefer to give money to ministries that do those things in Jesus’ name, but it’s great that so many other folks gave to Idol Gives Back. I enjoyed all of the program that I saw in between caring for my 6 month old. And then the finale happened. Ryan announced that the competitors would be singing “Shout to the Lord.”

I did a double take at the screen. “What did he say? There must be some other song called ‘Shout to the Lord.’ They’re not about to sing one of the most beautiful praise songs ever.”

Then the familiar music started. “No way.” My mouth hung open in disbelief. “What did they just sing? ‘My Shepherd?’ They changed the lyrics?” It sounded awesome. I was enraged. Steam started coming out of my ears. “No they’re not. Who picked that? What idiot at CCLI let them do this? No they’re not. I don’t believe this. Why on earth? I wish I could see Simon’s face. David? David Cook, who last night declared in his song choice that ‘we are all innocent’ is now singing ‘Shout to the Lord,’ to my God? Do they have any idea who they’re singing to? Does anyone in the audience know who they’re singing about? Do any of the judges, anyone backstage, know that that is the God of the universe they’re referring to & will cast them into the lake of fire for all eternity if they do not repent of sin & confess Jesus Christ as Lord? Maybe some of them know that. But I’m also sure some of them don’t know that, & they’re singing & approving this beautiful song about my God anyway.”

And then Ben Stiller closed the show with 3-4 bleeps for using the F-word. What a way to close! I couldn’t wait for Andrew to come home & share my shock & anger. To my dismay, my usually laid back husband remained just that, laid back…& academic. “I understand what you’re saying. You know, there’s been a debate about this for a long time. One side says the exact thing you’re saying, that for nonChristians to say (or sing) something like that without acknowledging Christ as Lord or living like Christ is Lord, is blasphemous, honoring with lips & not with hearts. Others refer to Old Testament passages where God caused heathen men to praise Him such as Belshazzar praising the Lord as God after seeing the writing on the wall & yet we don’t have any proof from Scripture that those men were truly converted, those instances seemed to be a one time thing.”

“Oh,” I replied. “Well…those are good arguments.” As a result, I’m not really sure where I stand & I haven’t taken the time to examine this more in the Bible. Andrew & I have talked about it some & listened to Todd Friel’s take on it on Way of the Master Radio. He really focused on the fact that they took Jesus’ name out of the song. I was more angry that they sang it at all, with or without Jesus’ name. I took sort of a possessive stance: “How can they sing about MY God that they don’t know?”
All of my days I want to praise
The wonders of Your mighty love…
Let every breath, and all that I am
Never cease to worship You
“Empty promises to MY God!” my mind screamed. “I long to mean those words with all my being & they sing them without repentant hearts!”

Please note that I’m not singling out the contestants, I took this show & the song to represent all of American Idol, especially those who had a say so in the order of that episode. I remember Simon criticizing Mendesa (sp?) 2 years ago when she sang a Christian song. Now he’s part of a show that just performed “Shout to the Lord?” Why can’t they keep it secular!?! I also must remind myself that I don’t know anyone’s heart, I barely know my own. Maybe some of the contestants are Christians & could really sing those lyrics from the heart. Maybe it caused some to question their sinful state & will one day repent of their sin & turn to Christ. As Paul states in Philippians 1:18, “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” Granted, the Gospel was not proclaimed & Jesus’ name was omitted, but the rest of the song is in line with Gospel teaching.

I didn’t watch Thursday night’s episode when they sang the song again with Jesus’ name included. I’m told that no explanation was given about the song. The whole thing really leaves me scratching my head & I think I’ll skip the rest of the season to be on the safe side. I read some of the comments on Idol’s website. Most were rejoicing that this song aired. I caution anyone before they jump for joy or scream in anger to really think about this issue & not just go with an emotional reaction.

[For another insightful post on this subject, click HERE.]


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Biblical theological preaching

If asked to define "Biblical Theology," most members of evangelical churches would respond that biblical theology is the study of God and His work that is in agreement with what the Holy Bible teaches. This is a fine definition, as far as it goes, but it does have at least one major weakness in that every group that claims to accept the Bible as an authority also claims to be engaged in biblical theology; so that the Roman Catholic who denies justification by faith alone claims to be doing biblical theology, the Jehovah's Witness who denies the Trinity claims to be doing biblical theology, and the Mormon who denies monotheism claims to be doing biblical theology even as the Baptist who affirms all these doctrines claims to be doing biblical theology.

Biblical Theology as an academic discipline has a somewhat more specific definition. Biblical Theology is the study of God and His work from the Bible, with particular attention given to the historical storyline of the Bible as it is focused on who Jesus is and what He has done; Biblical Theology seeks to explore each passage of Scripture in relationship to the historical storyline of how God has worked to redeem sinners to Himself, and, in doing so, to examine how each passage of Scripture relates to the Lord Jesus Christ. In this regard, Biblical Theology is a complimentary discipline along with Exegetical Theology, which seeks to study God through examination of specific passages in Scripture and words within those passages, and with Systematic Theology, which seeks to study God through examination of various doctrines taught in Scripture.

In a recent sermon at Southern Seminary, Dr. Stephen J. Wellum provided an excellent example of how the discipline of Biblical Theology should affect the proclamation of God's Word. [The sermon can be heard HERE.] Other examples of preachers who are specifically seeking to apply Biblical Theology to their preaching are Dr. Russell D. Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at Southern Seminary [some of his sermons can be heard HERE], and Rev. David Prince, Pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church [listen to his sermons HERE].

I would recommend these men as an example of Christ-centered preaching, and would urge anyone to listen to some of the sermons linked above, especially if you are a preacher or Bible teacher.


Saturday, April 05, 2008

Expelled movie critique

Expelled is a fine piece of artistic craftsmanship. The creators of this movie certainly understand the power of visual media and how to utilize this power to its fullest potential. The integration of interviews with historical footage, old movie clips, and animation is accomplished to great effect. When speaking of the connection, for example, between Darwinism and Nazism, footage from Hitler's Third Reich is shown. When speaking of academic oppression by neo-Darwinists against scientists who promote Intelligent Design, a clip from The Planet of the Apes is shown in which a highly evolved ape turns a high-pressure water hose on Charlton Heston's character and yells, "Shut up, freak!" When speaking of the bankruptcy of the neo-Darwinist position, the classic scene from The Wizard of Oz in which Dorothy discovers Oz to be a fraud is shown. Information is illustrated through the use of animation at 2 crucial moments: When a scientist in the film asserts that at least 250 proteins would need to evolve in order for the simplest form of life to occur, viewers see a cartoon made for the movie, which demonstrates this to be a statistical impossibility; When the complexity of cellular processes is discussed, a 3D computer model of the inner working of the cell is presented, which demonstrates the lunacy of asserting such processes could have arisen from non-organic material through natural selection. [An example of a similar, yet less intricate computer model can be seen below.]

Again, this is a high-quality production. The preview version of this film shown at Southern Seminary was not the final edit; the sound and lighting levels were not always perfectly consistent and viewers were told that some of the soundtrack would be changed. Even these minor flaws may not have been noticed if they had not been mentioned beforehand, and once they are corrected, this film will be on par with anything coming from Hollywood.

This film is propaganda. It strongly advocates a particular position, primarily through an emotional appeal. The film is highly successful as propaganda, but there are some inherent negative aspects to this kind of film: Information is, at times, subliminated to emotion, so that it is easy for viewers to lose track of who is being interviewed and some of the best arguments for Intelligent Design are either not mentioned or not explored in any great detail. Also (and this is my one negative critique of the film), this film may well be open to the charge of dishonesty in presentation. Not that the information concerning neo-Darwinism or Intelligent Design is in any way false, but Stein's narration tends to present the idea that what is being presented to the viewers is an open-minded exploration of academic freedom, whereas what is actually presented from the beginning is an argument in favor of Intelligent Design in education. It is easy to understand why Richard Dawkins and the other neo-Darwinists are upset by this film: They were apparently told that they were being interviewed for a film exploring the controversy between neo-Darwinism and Intelligent Design, and instead they appeared in a film in which Darwinism is ridiculed and vilified (though rightly so, in the opinion of this author) and Intelligent Design is promoted.

Overall, I highly recommend this film and would urge readers to see it on opening weekend, beginning on April 18 so that more movies like this will be made. (If this movie is successful, the producers plan to do a film on the abortion debate- Ben Stein has been known as a pro-life advocate.)


Thursday, April 03, 2008

Expelled movie summary

Expelled begins with archive footage showing the construction of the Berlin Wall while an excellent violin rendition of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2" is being played. (Though no lyrics accompany the music, anyone familiar with the song will immediately begin to think, "We don't need no education– we don't need no thought control; No dark sarcasm in the classroom– teachers leave them kids alone. Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone! All in all it's just another brick in the wall.") The Berlin Wall becomes a metaphor in this film for the activities of the neo-Darwinist establishment in keeping discussion of Intelligent Design [ID] out of university classrooms and other academic settings.

The first words spoken in the film come from the neo-Darwinist proponent Richard Dawkins, who says, "The battle over evolution is one skirmish in a much larger war." (Dawkins has the interesting idiosyncrasy of pronouncing "evolution" as "evil-ution.") This becomes a theme that is developed in the film as connections are made between neo-Darwinism and questions concerning the larger world-view of materialism.

The first words spoken by Ben Stein are, "Freedom is the essence of America." These words form another theme in the film- that of protest against the loss of academic freedom to explore ID and how this loss signifies an imposition of a certain philosophy upon the American people.

Cases of scientists who have faced oppression for allowing discussion of ID are presented: The movie focuses on Richard Sternberg, who lost his position at the Smithsonian for publishing a peer-reviewed article in favor of ID, and Caroline Crocker, who lost her job at George Mason University for mentioning ID on 2 slides in a presentation. Following discussion of these 2 cases, a quick sketch in given of several scientists who have lost their jobs or have been denied tenure for allowing discussion of ID.

The question is posed concerning the question of whether these scientists deserved the treatment they received from academia: Are these scientists engaged in promoting religion? Is ID science at all? To answer these questions, Stein speaks with Bruce Chapman, president of the Discovery Institute, who makes the point that the ID movement includes Jews, Christians, Muslims and agnostics, so the promotion of a particular religious viewpoint is not a part of ID. Other interviews (including one of William Dembski of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) makes the point that many scientists question the assertion that naturalistic processes can account for the complexity apparent in the universe. This information is contrasted to a quote from Richard Dawkins: "Evolution is a fact."

The claims made by neo-Darwinist proponents for the origin of life are explored through examination of the video Cosmic Origins: From Big Bang to Humankind. Two evolutionary theories are mentioned: The crystal theory (that the intricate development of crystals led to development of life) and directed panspermia (that highly advanced extraterrestrials intervened to direct evolution on this planet). These are explored to demonstrate what outrageous theories are accepted by neo-Darwinists while ID is rejected.

The complexity of life is demonstrated by means such as a 3D computer model of cellular processes. That this complexity could have arisen through naturalistic processes is obviously false.

The film returns to the theme of oppression, this time focusing on oppression of journalists. The case of Pamela Winnick- a non-religious Jew who refused to take a position on ID when reporting the debate- is presented. Winnick has come under the scrutiny of neo-Darwinist watchdog groups.

Philosophical consequences of neo-Darwinism are then demonstrated through a presentation of William Provine, a professor at Cornell University, who argues that acceptance of Darwinism leads to a denial of any deity, the afterlife, morality, and free-will. These philosophical consequences lead to political and social consequences, as seen when the connection between radical Darwinism and Nazism is demonstrated. This prompts Ben Stein to ask, "What can I do?" The response comes from David Berlinski and another scientist, who tell Stein that he must make it apparent to the world that a wall exists to keep ID from being discussed in academia. This leads to a final interview with Richard Dawkins, in which the philosophical bankruptcy of neo-Darwinism is exposed.

The film ends with footage of the Berlin Wall coming down and with Stein lecturing an auditorium of college students on academic freedom.

[Tomorrow I hope to offer a critique of the film.]