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.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Outline of "Pilgrim's Progress," Chapter 8

This spring, the 5th and 6th grade boys Writing & Literature class I am tutoring will be reading John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. In preparation for this class, I am re-re-reading the book and constructing a detailed outline for each chapter as I read. The following outline is for Chapter 8 (in the 1991 Tyndale House Edition).

I. Faithful and Talkative

A. Description of Talkative, walking at some distance beside Christian and Faithful:
1. tall;
2. "somewhat more handsome from a distance than up close."

B. Faithful invites Talkative to walk with him and Christian, and they begin to talk.

C. Faithful and Talkative discuss the virtue of talking about spiritual things.

II. Christian and Faithful Discuss Talkative's Walk

A. Further information about Talkative from Christian, who knew Talkative from the City of Destruction:
1. Talkative is the son of Mr. Say-well;
2. Talkative is from Prating-Row;
3. "In spite of his fine tongue, [Talkative] is a very sorry fellow."

B. Talkative, through his hypocrisy, has destroyed his own reputation and the reputation of religion in general within his corner of the City of Destruction.

C. Christian and Faithful discuss how people will be judged, on the Day of Judgment, not by their talk, but by their changed lives, and that true faith must be accompanied by good deeds.


III. Faithful Confronts Talkative's Error

A. Faithful speaks to Talkative about true evidences of God's saving grace in a person's heart.
1. The first evidence of God's saving grace in one's heart: abhorrence of one's own sin.
2. Another evidence of God's saving grace in one's heart: knowledge of Gospel mysteries, along with appropriate actions.
3. The first witness to the work of grace in the believer's life that is available for observers' inspection is a confession of faith in Christ.

B. Faithful solemnly charges Talkative to say whether his life truly contains evidences of saving faith.

C. Talkative refuses to answer Faithful.

IV. Talkative Chooses to Part Company

A. Talkative accuses Faithful of being "a faultfinding, unpleasant, and depressed person, not worthy of [his] conversation."

B. Talkative departs from Faithful and Christian.

C. Christian and Faithful discuss Talkative's departure.
1. Christian says that they are better off without Talkative, and that he would have stained their fellowship.
2. Faithful replies that he is glad to have talked with Talkative, as Talkative may remember the conversation again, and, in any case, now Faithful's conscience is clear concerning Talkative.
3. Christian says that such straight-forward talk is rare, and that it is beneficial to the Church for separating true from false disciples.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Outline of "Pilgrim's Progress," Chapter 7

This spring, the 5th and 6th grade boys Writing & Literature class I am tutoring will be reading John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. In preparation for this class, I am re-re-reading the book and constructing a detailed outline for each chapter as I read. The following outline is for Chapter 7 (in the 1991 Tyndale House Edition).

I. Christian and Faithful Meet in the Way

A. Christian ascends a little Hill, which has been placed on the Way for the purpose of allowing pilgrims to see the path before them, and, from the Hill, he sees Faithful journeying ahead of him.

B. Christian calls out to Faithful to wait for him, but Faithful replies that he is running for his life from one pursuing him, so Christian runs to catch up with Faithful, and he even passes by Faithful on the Way.

C. Once Christian passes by Faithful, he begins to gloat, but then he stumbles, and Faithful must help him up.

D. Christian and Faithful continue on the Way together in fellowship, talking about their pilgrimages.

II. News from Home

A. Faithful says he has desired Christian's company since he [Faithful] left the City of Destruction, but since Christian had left ahead of him, Faithful had to travel alone.

B. Faithful says that many people in the City of Destruction had been talking about its impending doom since Christian left, but no one seemed to truly believe that the City of Destruction would fall.

C. Faithful, however, had believed that the City was doomed, and so he made his escape.

D. Christian asks about Pliable; Faithful says that Pliable had returned to the City covered in mud from the Slough of Despond.

E. Though the townspeople had no intention of leaving the City, they mocked, persecuted, and refused to employ Pliable, despising him as a turncoat.

F. Christian and Faithful mourn the apparent self-destruction of Pliable.

III. Faithful's Confrontations with Temptation

A. Wanton

1. Faithful tells Christian that he had escaped the Slough reached the Gate "without much danger."

2. Wanton-- the woman who had "severely tested" Joseph-- attempted to seduce Faithful with "all kinds of pleasure and contentment" coming "from the gratification of carnal and fleshly desires."

3. Faithful closes his eyes to avoid temptation and walks by Wanton, who curses at him.

B. The Old Man

1. An Old Man at the foot of the Hill of Difficulty asks Faithful if he will work for him, offering him his entire inheritance as a reward.

2. The Old Man says that he has three daughters-- the Lust of the Flesh, the Lust of the Eyes, and the Pride of Life-- and that Faithful may marry them if he desires to do so.

3. Faithful sees a verse written on the forehead of the Old Man-- "put off, concerning your former conduct, the Old Man"-- and he rejects the Old Man's offer.

4. The Old Man curses Faithful and says he will send someone to cause him bitterness of soul on his journey.

5. The Old Man takes hold of Faithful's flesh and sharply pulls him backwards; Faithful cries out, "What a wretched man I am!" then he continues up the Hill.

C. Moses

1. Faithful meets Moses at the Arbor; Moses beats Faithful, repeatedly knocking him out cold.

2. Moses says he is beating Faithful because Faithful is secretly inclined toward serving the Old Man; Moses says that he knows no mercy.

3. One comes by and orders Moses to stop; Faithful sees wounds in the hands and sides of the One and realizes it is his lord.

4. Faithful says he had previously encountered Moses in the City of Destruction, and that Moses had threatened to burn down his house if he did not escape the City.

D. Discontent

1. Faithful tells how Discontent had met him in the Valley of Humility and had tried to persuade Faithful to go back with him.

2. Discontent had said that Faithful's friends-- Pride, Arrogance, Self-conceit, Worldly glory, and others-- would be ashamed of him for being so foolish as to wade through the Valley.

3. Faithful had told Discontent that his former friends and family had already disowned him, and that "humility comes before honor," and, "a haughty spirit before a fall."

E. Shame

1. Faithful tells how Shame had tried to make him ashamed to be a pilgrim, by calling pilgrims anti-intellectual and speaking of how pilgrims are usually poor and despised people.

2. Faithful had realized that Shame was speaking worldly, rather than godly, wisdom, and that those who make themselves fools for the Kingdom of Heaven are wisest.

3. Faithful and Christian rejoice and resolve to continue resisting Shame.

IV. Christian Recounts His Troubles

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Monday, December 26, 2011

Outline of "Pilgrim's Progress," Chapter 6

This spring, the 5th and 6th grade boys Writing & Literature class I am tutoring will be reading John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. In preparation for this class, I am re-re-reading the book and constructing a detailed outline for each chapter as I read. The following outline is for Chapter 6 (in the 1991 Tyndale House Edition).

I. Christian's Encounter With Apollyon
A. Christian sees Apollyon in the Valley of Humiliation, and is tempted to flee, but remembers that he has no armor on his back.
B. Description of Apollyon: scales like a fish, wings like a dragon, feet like a bear, fire and smoke belching up from within his belly, mouth like a lion.
C. Apollyon demands that Christian tell him where he is from and where he is going; Christian answers.
D. Apollyon says he is lord of the City of Destruction, and that Christian was his subject, which Christian admits; Apollyon says Christian is a traitor for leaving him, and invites Christian to return with him, using seemingly gracious words.
E. Christian answers that he loves his new lord and that his lord has the power to free him from all claims made by Apollyon.
F. Apollyon attempts to discourage Christian by recounting Christian's sins since beginning his journey; Christian pleads the mercy of his new lord, and he says that now he regrets his sins, whereas previously he was captive to them.

II. The Inevitable Conflict
A. Apollyon drops all pretense of civility, rails against Christian's new Prince, and fiercely attacks Christian.
B. Apollyon battles Christian for half a day, Christian blocks Apollyon's blows with his shield, but is severely wounded in the battle; Christian is beaten to the ground and drops his sword.
C. Christian recovers his sword and gives Apollyon a deadly thrust; Christian strikes him again, and Apollyon flees.
D. Christian praises God, and a hand gives Christian leaves from the Tree of Life [perhaps the hand belongs to the archangel Michael, who Christian had just mentioned in a hymn: the text is unclear], which heal all of Christian's wounds; Christian eats some bread and drinks from the bottle that he had previously received.

III. The Valley of the Shadow of Death
A. Description of the Valley of the Shadow of Death: located on the only way to the Celestial City, the Valley is a solitary wilderness made up of deserts, pits, and shadows.
B. Additional description of the Valley of the Shadow of Death from two unfaithful spies fleeing the Valley: the Valley is populated by hobgoblins, sartyrs, and dragons of the Pit, death hovers over the valley, and there is continual howling and screaming in the Valley.
C. The path through the Valley of the Shadow of Death: a narrow, dark path with a quagmire on one side and a deadly ditch on the other; halfway though the Valley, the mouth of Hell stood open beside the path, continually belching out fire and smoke.
D. As the fire and smoke did not heed Christian's sword, he put the sword away and used a weapon called "All-prayer."
E. A band of Fiends approached Christian and greatly frightened him, but he called out, "I will walk in the strength of the Lord God!" and they fell back.
F. Christian became so confused that he could not discern his own voice; a wicked creature came out from the mouth of Hell and began whispering blasphemies in his ear, and he was sorely vexed because he thought that the thoughts originated in his own mind.

IV. Christian Is Encouraged
A. Christian hears a voice call out, "Even though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me;" this encourages Christian for three reasons:
1. It lets Christian know that other faithful ones are enduring the same trial he is facing;
2. It reminds Christian that God is with him;
3. It gives Christian hope that he may meet up with the other traveler, so that they can keep each other company (as it turns out, Christian never sees the other traveler).
B. The sun rises:
1. Christian turns, and he clearly sees the dangers through which he has passed, giving praise to God for his deliverance;
2. Christian sees that the way ahead is even more dangerous than the first part of his journey-- with traps, holes, cliffs, etc.-- but he is able to navigate to the end of the Valley due to the gracious light.

V. Christian Passes the Place of Martyrs
A. Christian passes by a place of bodies, bones, and ashes: all of pilgrims who had previously traveled the path to the Celestial City.
B. The martyrs had been killed by two giants, Pope and Pagan, but Christian does not fear them, because:
1. Pagan had been slain long ago;
2. Pope had become too old and feeble to be a threat.
C. Christian sings a hymn to Jesus.

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

When Christmas falls on the first day, Lord's Day worship takes precedent.

Every few years (depending, I think, on leap year) Christmas falls on the first day of the week. Recently, at least, many churches in America have chosen to cancel their Lord's Day worship services, or move them to a different day, in order that families may stay home and celebrate Christmas. This year it seems that fewer churches have taken this option than the last time Christmas fell on Sunday-- in 2005-- because of the outcry at that time. Still, as Keith Whitney reports, "as many as one in 10 churches by some estimates will be empty this Christmas."

The common critique aimed at churches closing for Christmas is that, for Christians at least, Christmas is supposed to be centered on the celebration of Christ's birth, so failing to meet together with the body of Christ (Col 1:24), is a direct capitulation of the interests of the Church to the interests of pragmatism and convenience. This critique is on point, but I think that Christians may overlook another facet regarding this issue: to wit, Lord's Day worship takes precedence over Christmas celebration.

As mentioned in yesterday's post, the birth of Jesus was not celebrated on a particular day by the earliest Church: when the Church did begin setting aside a day of the year to reflect on Jesus' birth, the date for Christmas celebration was originally January 6, and some communions still celebrate Christmas on January 6. Furthermore, virtually no New Testament scholar today believes that Jesus was actually born on December 25 (it is clear that December 25 was established as Christmas for other historical reasons). And so celebrating the birth of Christ on December 25 is fairly arbitrary.

On the other hand, the worship of the Church on the Lord's Day was established directly by Christ and His apostles. As the Baptist Faith & Message confesses:

The first day of the week is the Lord's Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private. Activities on the Lord's Day should be commensurate with the Christian's conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Exodus 20:8-11; Matthew 12:1-12; 28:1ff.; Mark 2:27-28; 16:1-7; Luke 24:1-3,33-36; John 4:21-24; 20:1,19-28; Acts 20:7; Romans 14:5-10; I Corinthians 16:1-2; Colossians 2:16; 3:16; Revelation 1:10.

And so, I would argue, it is entirely appropriate to set aside a day, or a season, to specially focus on the Incarnation and birth of Jesus. It is entirely appropriate to give gifts and enjoy time with family during this season. But it is idolatry if we set aside worship on the Lord's Day, instituted by the resurrection of Christ Himself, in order to honor the arbitrary traditions of men.

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

R.C. Sproul on the History of Christmas Celebration

This past Thursday (on December 22) the Renewing Your Mind radio broadcast aired a presentation from R.C. Sproul on the history of Christmas. I found this presentation to be very informative.

A few notes from the presentation:

  • In the first few centuries A.D., the Church established the celebration of Christ's birth on January 6th, a date which is still honored as Christmas in some Eastern communions. January 6th was originally celebrated to commemorate the day of Jesus' baptism, but the Church began to honor His birth on this day as well, and over time the celebration of His birth took precedence.
  • December 25th was established as the day to celebrate Christmas by a decree of Emperor Constantine, and he set Christmas on this day for the specific purpose of replacing existing pagan celebrations on the same day.
  • Sproul seems to view Christmas celebration not as an example of syncretism (a blending of pagan and Christian practices), but as an appropriate repudiation of the original pagan celebrations, based on mythology, in favor of honoring Christ, based on the saving work of God in history.

The entire presentation may be heard HERE.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Open Letter to Nathan White

Nathan,

(I was going to just message you through Facebook, but was inspired by centuri0n's recent open letters on Pyromaniacs to encourage you publicly.) This past weekend, I finally listened to your sermon on Psalm 1. [Anyone may listen to the sermon HERE.] (Since going on Christmas break, I finally had time to listen to and focus on the entire presentation.)

I was certainly blessed by your sermon, and plan to listen to it again. This is not meant to slight previous sermons I've heard from you, but I've heard definite improvement in your preaching, especially in terms of the confidence of your delivery. It is obvious that you meditated on this text and on the gospel, and so you are able to describe the details and implications of Psalm 1 in a natural manner and using such straightforward eloquence as one might employ in describing a beloved family member.

I suppose that anyone who does any amount of preaching at all has the experience of hearing sermons from others-- even very well-preached sermons-- and thinking about how the sermon could be preached somewhat differently: how various points could be better emphasized or illustrated, how different connections with other Scriptures could be explored, etc.

Your teaching on Psalm 1 was one of those rare sermons in which my only thought regarding your preaching was that-- if I could be as skillful in preaching as I could want-- I would want to preach the text in the exact same way. This is all the more remarkable since I am so familiar with this Psalm that I was tempted to think that little edification could come from a sermon on it.  I certainly learned facts from your sermon-- because your exegesis of the terms in the Psalm was excellent-- but I was also encouraged in the gospel by your sermon. It is rather obvious to make an application of this Psalm to Christ, as He is the only righteous Man, but even acknowledging this, it would be easy to tack on a discussion of Christ to the end of a sermon as if it were an appendix. But when you speak of Christ in this sermon, it does not seem an imposition on the text; rather, you show how a consideration of our Lord Jesus organically flows from a consideration of the text.

Anyway, I thank you for your gospel-work for the kingdom and hope this is truly an encouragement to you.

Your friend,
-Andrew

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Prayer and Providence: A Quote from Charles Spurgeon

From the sermon "True Prayer = True Power."

Oh! to think of this; that you a puny man may stand here and speak to God, and through God may move all the worlds. Yet when your prayer is heard, creation will not be disturbed; though the grandest ends be answered, providence will not be disarranged for a single moment. Not a leaf will fall earlier from the tree, not a star will stay in its course, nor one drop of water trickle more slowly from its fount, all will go on the same, and yet your prayer will have effected everything. It will speak to the decrees and purposes of God, as they are being daily fulfilled; and they will all shout to your prayer, and cry, "Thou art our brother; we are decrees, and thou a prayer; but thou art thyself a decree, as old, as sure, as ancient as we are." Our prayers are God's decrees in another shape. The prayers of God's people are but God's promises breathed out of living hearts, and those promises are the decrees, only put into another form and fashion.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Outline of "Pilgrim's Progress," Chapter 5

This fall, the 5th and 6th grade boys Writing & Literature class I am tutoring will be reading John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. In preparation for this class, I am re-re-reading the book and constructing a detailed outline for each chapter as I read. The following outline is for Chapter 5 (in the 1991 Tyndale House Edition).

I. Received at the Palace Beautiful

A. Christian arrives at a gate and encounters Watchful; Christian asks Watchful:
1. "[W]hat is this place?"
2. "May I sleep here tonight?"

B. Watchful explains that the place was built by the Lord of the Hill for the relief and security of pilgrims.

C. Watchful asks Christian why he is arriving at so late an hour, and Christian recounts his tale; the reader learns:
1. Christian's original name was Graceless.
2. He is from the family of Japheth, "whom God will persuade to dwell in the tents of Shem."

D. Christian encounters Discretion, to whom Watchful says he must recount his tale; Christian speaks with Discretion and, upon her acceptance of his tale, she introduces him to her sisters-- Piety, Prudence, and Charity-- and they invite Christian to dine with their family.

II. Conversation with Piety (Christian recounts his tale in more detail than previously in this chapter.)

III. Conversation with Prudence (Prudence asks Christian a series of questions about his present experience.)

A. Q: Do you think about the country from which you came? A: Yes, but with "much shame and abhorrence;" "now I desire a better Country."

B. Q: Do you "still waver sometimes when you think of the things you were accustomed to? A: Carnal thoughts are still a struggle, but they provide grief.

C. Q: "Do you find that sometimes it seems as though [carnal thoughts] have been subdued, but that at other times they are your greatest entanglement?" A: "Yes, but the former is seldom the case. The hours when I feel free are like gold to me."

D. Q: "Can you remember how at times these agitating thoughts seem to be conquered? A: Yes:
1. Remembering the Cross;
2. Gazing at the Coat [symbolic of imputed righteousness];
3. Reading the Scroll;
4. Meditating about the Mt. Zion.

E. Q: "What makes you so eager to reach Mt. Zion?" A: Longing:
1. To "see the One who hung dead on the Cross alive again;"
2. To be free of sin;
3. To have fellowship with "wonderful companions."

IV. Conversation with Charity

A. Charity asks Christian a series of questions about his family.

B. The purpose of these questions is to determine whether Christian gave proper consideration to his family before leaving them behind.

C. On learning the details of Christian's family rejecting him simply on the basis of his faith, Charity declares that he is not responsible for their blood.

V. Conversation at Dinner

A. Over dinner, the chief subject for discussion is the Lord of the Hill.

B. The members of the household speak to Christian concerning the great love and sacrifice of the Lord of the Hill.

C. The members of the household speak to Christian concerning the humiliation and redeeming work of the Lord of the Hill.

VI. The Room Called Peace (Christian sleeps peacefully, and awakens singing about Jesus.)

VII. The Study and the Armory

A. The Study
1. The Genealogy of the Lord of the Hill
2. Mighty Deeds of the Lord's Servants
3. Invitation, etc.

B. The Armory
1. Armor to Equip Pilgrims
2. Armor Used in the Past by the Lord's Servants

VIII. A Look at the Delectable Mountains
A. Emmanuel's Land
B. To Be Shared by All Pilgrims
C. Offering a View of the Gate of the Celestial City

IX. Resuming the Journey in the Valley of Humiliation
A. Christian Receives Armor from the Armory
B. The Sisters Accompany Christian to the Foot of the Hill
C. The Sisters Review Their Conversation With Christian

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Friday, December 09, 2011

Christmas Wish List

A couple of family members have, I think, asked Abby about what I would like for Christmas. I may be too late getting this posted, but any one of the following books would be great!

God's Wisdom in Proverbs by Dan Phillips


Biblical Theology by John Owen




The Forgotten Trinity by James White


The Cross of Christ by John Stott




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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Religion and Attraction of John Shelby Spong


As demonstrated above, the religion of John Shelby Spong is based neither on revelation, nor on reason.

Spong's religion is not based on revelation, because he denies special revelation, asserting that God is not personal.

Spong's religion is not based on reason, because reasoning requires assertions with evidence. Spong offers no evidence for his assertions; instead he merely spouts opinions.

And what is the content of the opinions offered by Spong? Each of his opinions follows a simple formula; whenever the Bible says "a," Spong asserts "non-a."

So, as seen in the video above:
  • The Bible records Jesus as saying, "You must be born again" (John 3:3,7). Spong opines, "People don't need to be born again."
  • The Apostle Paul writes, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23). Spong opines, "You and I are emerging people, not fallen people."
  • King David writes, "Surely, I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me" (Psa 51:5). Spong opines, "Our problem is not that we are born in sin."
  • Again, the Bible records Jesus as saying, "The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost" (Luke 19:10). And again Spong opines, "The function of the Christ is not to rescue the sinners."
  • Jesus consistently called God "Father in heaven," and taught His followers to do the same (for example, Matt 6:9), whereas Spong opines, "God is... not a parent-figure up in the sky."
The type of discourse in which Spong engages is not argument, but simple contradiction, and it takes no more intellectual capability to assert such contradictions than that exercised by a precocious kindergartner who says, "Nah-uh," to everything his teacher tells him.

And so why do so many find Spong's opinions persuasive? I would argue that it is because his religious views feed into our pride. We do not like to think of ourselves as less than God, fallen, sinful, lost, and in need of salvation. But until we recognize our true condition, we will not see the Savior nor submit to Him.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

John Shelby Spong on Prayer


Spong's presentation concerning prayer in the above video is nonsensical both in his critique of the traditional Christian understanding of prayer and in his proposed solution for how people should understand prayer.

As to Spong's critique:
I suppose it is possible that those who were friends with Spong or under his influence could have really believed that Mrs. Spong's life was extended merely "because lots of people prayed for her." But this understanding of prayer is sub-Christian both in terms of how the Bible presents prayer and how Christian theologians have explained prayer.

The biblical presentation of prayer. The Bible NEVER intimates that the amount of people praying impacts the effectiveness of prayer. From Moses interceding on behalf of Israel, to King Hezekiah's prayer for himself, to Jairus pleading to Jesus on behalf of his daughter, the Bible consistently presents God as willing and able to answer the prayer of a single faithful individual. However, from these examples, we also see that God does indeed answer prayer; this is a teaching that is meant to encourage the faithful, but it may also be troubling to the theologian who wonders, "What if no one prayed?"

The theological explanation of prayer. God is not "wringing His hands," waiting to see whether or not someone will pray so that He may act. Rather, God says, "I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: 'My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please'" (Isa 46:10 NIV). Likewise, Jesus says, "Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him" (Matt 6:8b NIV). And the Apostle Paul writes that God "works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will" (Eph 1:11b NIV). So, from our perspective, we pray because we want to and then God acts on the basis of our prayers; since this is the case, we are held accountable for whether or not we pray. But from God's perspective, the prayers as well as the answers are part of His eternal plan. Additionally, believers in Christ are indwelled by the Holy Spirit so that God can move His people to pray in accordance with His will.

As to Spong's proposed solution:
Based on his critique of Christian prayer-- a critique that I argue is invalid, on the basis of the evidence above-- Spong asserts "a whole new understanding" of prayer. For Spong, prayer involves people 'channeling God energy.' But notice that Spong's hypothetical Newarkian garbage collector fares no better under this "new understanding." Since the garbage collector only knows "one or two" people, there are only one or two people 'channeling God energy' to him. The garbage collector, then, is actually much worse off than Mrs. Spong in this view, because, unlike the garbage collector, the bishop's wife has multitudes 'channeling God energy' toward her. In the proper Christian view, the "one or two people" are potentially in communication with a personal, infinite, omnipotent God who can more than balance the scales of influence and who can effectively work healing. Spong's philosophy has nothing to compare with this.

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Saturday, December 03, 2011

Excerpts from "The Audacity of Hope" by Barack Obama

I recently had the opportunity to listen to The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama on audiobook. (Yes, the book is now several years old, but I finally found it at Half Price Books!) Below are a few of the quotes that stuck out to me, and my initial thoughts re: these quotes, which I will place under the quotes in bold.

"[Clinton's vision of politics] tapped into the pragmatic, non-ideological attitude of the majority of Americans." (Chapter 1: Republicans and Democrats)
-But isn't pragmatism itself an ideology?

“[T]his New Conservative leadership was eerily reminiscent of some of the New Left’s leadership during the ‘60s. As with their left-wing counterparts, this new vanguard of the Right viewed politics as a contest, not between competing policy visions, but between Good and Evil: you had to choose sides. It was Bill Clinton’s singular contribution that he tried to transcend this ideological deadlock.” (Chapter 1: Republicans and Democrats)
-It seems that Mr. Obama makes a good point about Congress elevating every instance of "competing policy visions" to a battle "between Good and Evil." On the other hand, I think that he would be forced to admit that there are some "competing policy visions" that do, indeed, amount to a battle "between Good and Evil." Debates in Congress about slavery, "Indian removal," anti-lynching laws, and civil rights, to name a few-- debates that centered around the commitment of Congress to either protect or repress the people's rights to life and liberty-- were battles "between Good and Evil." Similarly, I would argue, there are certain "policy visions"-- his denial of the right to life for the unborn being the chief example-- held by Mr. Obama that do ascend to the level of being a battle "between Good and Evil."

"[American] values are rooted in a basic optimism about life, and a faith in free-will: a confidence that through pluck and sweat and smarts each of us can rise above the circumstances of our birth." (Chapter 2: Values)
-This statement does, indeed, seem accurate re: American values, but it is sub-biblical re: Christian values, though the mentality expressed by Mr. Obama is certainly present within the current American church scene [see R.C. Sproul's essay, "The Pelagian Captivity of the Church"].

"I wasn't sure what happens when we die, anymore than I was sure where the soul resides or what existed before the Big Bang. Walking up the stairs, though, I knew what I hoped for: that my mother was somewhere, together in some way with those four little girls [killed in the 1963 church bombing in Birmingham], capable in some fashion of embracing them, of finding joy in their spirits." (Chapter 6: Faith)
-This agnosticism re: the state of the soul after death and affirmation of "the Big Bang" are extremely odd coming from someone claiming Christian faith.

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Friday, December 02, 2011

"Limitless" and the Limit of Human Potential

[This post is not necessarily a recommendation for the movie Limitless; as you may glean from the following reflection, there are some pretty rough elements in the film. SPOILERS FOLLOW.]

In the movie Limitless, a man takes pills that allow him to access the full potential of his mind; he is given a much sharper awareness of the world around him, he has photographic memory of anything he encounters (so that he can remember anything he has ever read, learn languages simply by hearing them, etc.), and he is able to analyze problems and find solutions immediately.

If you were given such mental abilities, what would you do with them?

For the main character in Limitless, the answer to the above question quickly becomes obvious; he seeks to seduce as many women as he can, gain as much money as he can, and eventually win as much power as he can by seeking election as the President of the United States. Even with super-smarts, the very best goals people can think of-- apart from God-- boil down to sex, money, and power. The bad news is that these can never satisfy. The good news is that there is One who can.

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Thursday, December 01, 2011

A Quick Note of NO - Thanks!

Mark Lamprecht of Here I Blog did not win the Blogging Scholarship. He did not come in second or third place. He came in sixth. Mark has graciously written "A Quick Note of Thanks" on his blog to those who voted for him and those- like James White, Frank Turk, and Tim Challies- who helped promote his cause on their respected, high-traffic blogs. This post is a corresponding NO - thanks, because I am disappointed that the Christian blog-o-sphere couldn't (or wouldn't) more effectively pull together to help a brother out. So NO thank you to those who did not take a couple of seconds out of your day to vote for Mark, and NO thank you to those who ignored my e-mail requests to place a link for Mark on your websites/blogs. Your verses for the day are: Luke 6:31 and James 2:16.

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