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.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Great Commission Task Force Progress Report

At the 2009 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, over 95% of messengers voted to pass the following motion:
That the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting June 23-24, 2009 in Louisville, Kentucky, authorize the President of the Southern Baptist Convention to appoint a Great Commission Task Force charged to bring a report and any recommendations to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Orlando, Florida, June 15-16, 2010, concerning how Southern Baptists can work more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.
Tonight, the Great Commission Task Force gave a progress report in which they unveiled six recommendations for how the Southern Baptist Convention can be more faithful in working to fulfill the Great Commission:

The first recommendation is basically for a mission statement and set of core values to be adopted by the Convention.

MISSION STATEMENT:

As a convention of churches, our missional vision is to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.

CORE VALUES:

1. CHRIST-LIKENESS
We depend on the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and prayer to make us more like Jesus Christ.
2. TRUTH
We stand together in the truth of God’s inerrant Word, celebrating the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
3. UNITY
We work together in love for the sake of the Gospel.
4. RELATIONSHIPS
We consider others more important than ourselves.
5. TRUST
We tell each other the truth in love and do what we say we will do.
6. FUTURE
We value Southern Baptists of all generations and embrace our responsibility to pass this charge to a rising generation of every age, faithful until Jesus comes.
7. LOCAL CHURCH
We believe the local church is given the authority, power, and responsibility to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world.
8. KINGDOM
We join other Christ-followers for the Gospel, the Kingdom of Christ, and the glory of God.

The second recommendation involves a re-organization of the North American Mission Board to re-focus the Board on church planting and equipping churches in evangelism and discipleship.

The third recommendation involves utilizing the International Mission Board within the United States and Canada in evangelism and church planting among the 586 people groups who do not speak English.

The fourth recommendation involves returning responsibility for ministry assignments concerning promotion of the Cooperative Program and stewardship education to the various state conventions rather than the Executive Committee of the Convention.

The fifth recommendation involves calling on Southern Baptists to re-affirm and celebrate the Cooperative Program as the chief means of financial support for Great Commission ministry within the Convention, but to also recognize designated gifts given the to Southern Baptist Convention, the state conventions, or local associations.

[For any reader unfamiliar with the Cooperative Program: the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention is "Southern Baptists’ unified plan of giving through which cooperating Southern Baptist churches give a percentile of their undesignated receipts in support of their respective state conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministries." Under current practices, only undesignated money given through the state conventions "counts" in the sense of being recorded as a Cooperative Program gift from a specific church, and thus being taken into consideration in the formula to determine how many messengers a church may send to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting- the Great Commission Task Force's fifth recommendation would, it seems, let other kinds of giving be considered in official Southern Baptist records.]

The sixth recommendation is that 51% of Southern Baptist funds received into the Cooperative Program budget should go to the International Mission Board (while reducing the percentage allocated to the Facilitating Ministries- the Executive Committee ministries responsible, at least in part, for ministry assignments concerning promotion of the Cooperative Program and stewardship education- by 1%): for the first time, over half of all money received into the Cooperative Program will thus go to International Missions.

[I encourage all Southern Baptists reading this to listen to the entire Great Commission Task Force Progress Report HERE, and/or to read it HERE.]

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Avatar

For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? (1 Cor 14:8 KJV)

And he only sees what his eyes allow him. He doesn't see with his soul. (from the song "Horizons" by MICAH)
A few weeks ago while my parents were visiting, I went with my mom to see Avatar. Recently, I've been listening to some reviews/conversations about the film, especially from Russell Moore [HERE], from the Reformed Forum [HERE], and from a panel discussion at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary [HERE].

For the few out there that haven't seen the film: I wouldn't necessarily suggest you see it, despite the stunning 3D special effects, and I would especially caution parents to take the PG-13 rating seriously, as the movie raises complex issues involving fornication and idolatry, which less mature viewers will not be prepared to address.

The consensus about the movie is that the action/effects are great, but the story-line is weak/cliched. The consensus is correct in these regards, but in this post I would like to address two particular weaknesses of the story-line that I haven't heard explored in much detail.

First, the metaphors in the film are very much confused. [This is something that my mom and I discussed at length.] James Cameron [the writer/director of the film] wants to make a story like Dances With Wolves, and throughout the film there are obvious parallels to the abuse of Native Americans by the U.S. military. But Cameron also wants the film to be relevant to issues in the news today, and so he tries to create a parallel between the actions of the military force on Pandora and the actions of the U.S. military in fighting against terrorist forces in the Middle East. This creates confusion, because it is easy for viewers to sympathize with the alien race if they are analogous to the Sioux or the Cherokee, but do we really want to equate Native Americans with al-Qaeda? Cameron may answer that the aliens are not supposed to represent the 9/11 terrorists, but Middle Eastern people in general, but since terms like "terrorist" and "shock-and awe" are specifically used in the film, Cameron would be better served in his analogy concerning current events if there was a terroristic group within the alien culture, and then he could address more complex issues of just war and collateral damage to the non-combatants. But such complexities run counter to the simple action film Cameron wishes to make (in order to ensure maximum box-office receipts) and, more importantly, it would contradict the myth of the "noble savage," which Cameron wishes to perpetuate. (In other words, if there were terrorists in the primitive alien culture Cameron invented, then it would not be as effective an attack against the doctrine of Original Sin.)

Second, the spirituality in this film is even more confused than the societal metaphors. Cameron wants to give the alien people a mystical religion, but then he decides to explain this religion in entirely naturalistic terms. (I blame The Phantom Menace, which explained the Force, which seemed to be a mystical reality in the original Star Wars movies, as being a function of- basically- germs.) In other words, Cameron- selling his movie to an audience that is, by and large, non-atheist- wants to have his religion and his atheism too. Such a religion, which posits a goddess that is really no more personal than the Internet, will never satisfy the longings of the human heart, which yearns for something more than that which can be seen.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The 'Chain of Revelation' in Revelation 1:1-3. Part 3: "His angel"

[Continuing a review of some notes taken during my M.Div. Greek Syntax and Exegesis class over Revelation 1-3, and some thoughts I've had while meditating over the passage since then.]

The 'Chain of Revelation' in Revelation 1:1-3.

1. God-> 2. Jesus Christ-> 3. His angel-> 4. John-> 5. The one reading-> 6. Those hearing

3. "His angel"

John writes in Revelation 10:9 and 17:1ff. that particular angels spoke to him, and John overhears angels (and other heavenly beings) speaking throughout the book, but as Revelation 1:1 and 22:6,8,16 make clear, everything that John saw and heard was revealed to him by a specific angel. Though the risen Christ certainly spoke directly to His apostles (as He did to John in Revelation 1-3 or to Saul in Acts 9:4-6; 26:14-18, calling Saul to be an apostle), God usually delights in honoring His created servants by employing them to minister to others. This general principle is especially true in God's giving of Scripture, and so even when it is not clear that a specific passage was given through angels, it is often the case that they were employed, as seen when Paul in Galatians 3:19 writes that the Law was given through angels; when reading the Law, it is not obvious that angels administered it, but God reveals this 'chain of revelation' through the Apostle.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Justice and an Eternal Perspective


Last night after work I watched the end of a police-suspense film [I'll leave the movie nameless as I talk about a big 'spoiler' for the movie below]. One reason I enjoy such crime dramas is because they prompt the viewer to think through issues of justice.

Near the end of the movie I watched last night, it was revealed that- previous to the story-line depicted in the movie- the chief protagonist of the film had planted evidence to make sure that a suspect who had tortured and killed a young child was found guilty for his crimes. The policeman was absolutely certain that the suspect was a child molester/murderer, but could not find enough forensic evidence to make sure that a jury would convict the suspect, so he took some blood from the child's corpse and put it in the suspect's home.

Crimes against children like the one just mentioned have (of course) always been disturbing to me, but now that I have a child of my own, I can barely stand to hear about them. Even though the crime mentioned above was fictional, I almost cried when thinking about the suffering of the boy, which the policeman described in graphic detail in order to make his friend understand why he was willing to plant the evidence.

After the movie I began to think of what I would do if I were in the policeman's shoes. At first, his actions seemed justified to me; if he was sure that the suspect was guilty of so heinous a crime, why not do everything possible to make sure that the criminal paid for his crime?

The question is: is planting evidence ever justified?

The answer is: NO.

The fact that we may sometimes tend to think "YES" points to the innate sense of justice within each of our hearts; this, I would argue, is part of the "image of God" within us (Gen 1:26), which has been radically corrupted by sin, but not entirely destroyed. We all know, deep down, that the guilty should pay for their crimes, and we may tend to think, on occasion, that those who are charged with seeing that they pay- the police and prosecutors- are justified in bending or breaking the rules to see that criminals are taken off the streets. 'If rules are not occasionally broken,' we may think, 'then no one will pay for the crime.'

But this line of thinking fails to take into account the justice of God. By faith, we know that God, the just judge of all the earth, will leave no crime unpunished. If a person escapes punishment in this life, then he or she will yet face the judgment of God. If a person is wrongfully punished in this life, then he or she will be vindicated before God.

In fact, there is a sense in which no one faces true justice before he or she faces God. For what is the just payment for a crime like the one mentioned above: child molestation and murder? What human court can administer a punishment that will fulfill justice in such a case? Will a lifetime in jail or a quick death truly make payment for such a crime? Only God has the wisdom and power to properly judge and punish lawbreakers; human justice, though absolutely necessary, is but a pale reflection of God's ultimate justice.

It is only when those who are responsible for justice in our society are firmly convinced of God's justice that they have the freedom to follow the rules in pursuing justice. A policeman never needs to plant evidence, and thus take a risk (however unlikely he deems it) of punishing an innocent suspect, because he will be sure that there is no chance that the guilty will escape punishment.

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Monday, February 08, 2010

The 'Chain of Revelation' in Revelation 1:1-3. Part 2: "Jesus Christ"

[Continuing a review of some notes taken during my M.Div. Greek Syntax and Exegesis class over Revelation 1-3, and some thoughts I've had while meditating over the passage since then.]

The 'Chain of Revelation' in Revelation 1:1-3.

1. God-> 2. Jesus Christ-> 3. His angel-> 4. John-> 5. The one reading-> 6. Those hearing


2. "Jesus Christ."


To adapt a statement from 9Marks: God has always been known by His Word. From creation in Genesis 1 to the call of Abram in Genesis 12, from the vision of the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37 to the coming of the Word in flesh, God has always been known by His Word.


Knowledge of God, who is spirit (John 4:24), is always mediated to His creation by His Word. This is one reason why the New Testament identification of Jesus Christ as the "Word," who is with God and who is God (John 1:1), is so fundamental to a right understanding of who God is. Again, that our knowledge of God is a mediated knowledge is one reason why it is so important for us to acknowledge and proclaim that there is "one Mediator between God and Man" (1 Timothy 2:5b), that is, Christ Jesus, who is both fully God and fully Man.


In Revelation 1:1, God gives the "revelation"- the "words of prophecy" (v. 3)- to Jesus Christ, His primary agent of revelation, in order "to show His servants [the things] that must happen quickly." What the author makes explicit in Revelation 1:1- God giving revelation to Jesus Christ for the benefit of His servants- is not an unusual process, but it is how God has always revealed spiritual truths.

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

The 'Chain of Revelation' in Revelation 1:1-3 and Calvin's Distinction Between The Father, Son, and Spirit

I haven't posted anything here for awhile since our house hasn't had Internet until yesterday, but I have been continuing to review my notes on Revelation 1-3. I've also been listening to Camden Bucey's reading of Calvin's Institutes, which can be heard HERE.

In Book 1, Chapter 13 of the Institutes [which may be read HERE], Calvin discusses the Trinity and distinguishes the biblical doctrine of the Trinity from a number of heresies. In considering what the Bible has to say concerning the distinction between the Persons of the Trinity, Calvin writes:

This distinction is, that to the Father is attributed the beginning of action, the fountain and source of all things; to the Son, wisdom, counsel, and arrangement in action, while the energy and efficacy of action is assigned to the Spirit. Moreover, though the eternity of the Father is also the eternity of the Son and Spirit, since God never could be without his own wisdom and energy; and though in eternity there can be no room for first or last, still the distinction of order is not unmeaning or superfluous, the Father being considered first, next the Son from him, and then the Spirit from both.

I believe that the above quote is relevant to the 'chain of revelation' I have been exploring from Revelation 1:1-3. The Father is "the fountain and source" of the revelation, and the revelation comes through the Son, with whom there is "arrangement in action" [the Spirit is mentioned in subsequent verses as the "sevenfold Spirit," etc., but His presence is here assumed in the blessing that comes to the one reading and those hearing]. And so we have God, who is ever One in nature, eternity, and will, but who is also revealed to His people in three distinct Persons with distinct roles.

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