What I Read Online – 10/05/2011 (a.m.)

    • For the Christian, work provides the daily challenge and opportunity to honour God through what we do, the way we do it, and through the way we interact with people. Work is a crucial part of our worship of God (honouring him) and our witnessing to the reality of God and to the good news of Jesus Christ.
    • For the Christian, work is no longer just a way of earning money, a necessary evil or a path to personal fulfilment and achievement. Our work is to be done for God. He has a purpose for our lives.
    • The Westminster Shorter Catechism has this wonderfully direct statement: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever”. If the purpose of our life is to glorify God and to enjoy our relationship with him, then we need to ask ourselves how we do that in and through our daily work.
    • According to Scripture, work is good
    • Carson’s Rule: You don’t have to follow Matthew 18 before publishing polemics
    • Carson points to Titus 1:9 that says that the godly elder must “encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” In short, if someone is publicly presenting theological views that are opposed to sound doctrine, and you are not in the same ecclesiastical body with this person (that is, there is no body of elders over you both, as when, for example, both of you are ministers in the same denomination) then you may indeed publicly oppose those without going privately to the author of them.
    • Murray’s Rule: You must take full responsibility for even unwitting misrepresentation of someone’s views.
    • Don Carson says that if you have strong concerns about Mr. A’s views, and you are considering publishing a critique, it may be wise to go to Mr. A first, but “not out of obedience to Matthew 18, which really does not pertain, but to determine just what the views of the [other person] really are.”
    • In other words, to misrepresent reality to others is always wrong.
    • Alexander’s Rule: Never attribute an opinion to your opponent that he himself does not own.
    • He also urged them to not go public with criticism unless the error was very dangerous and important. Like Lloyd-Jones and (as we will see) John Calvin, Alexander taught that the ultimate purpose of controversy was to persuade and win over people in error.
    • “Attribute to an antagonist no opinion he does not own, though it be a necessary consequence”
    • Doug Wilson describes as “a cessaionist who believes strange things happen.” A sovereign God is free to fulfill his purposes as he pleases. As God, the Holy Spirit is not on a leash.
    • However, this misses the point. No Calvinist would believe that the Spirit is not free or that he cannot speak directly to people today as he did in the days of the prophets and apostles. Nor are Reformed Christians deists for believing that, as a rule, he doesn’t. In fact, the church was not guided by anti-supernaturalism when it rejected the claims of the Montanists in the late second century. Nor were Luther and Calvin under the spell of the Enlightenment when they challenged the “enthusiasts” for pitting the Word against the Spirit.
    • The Spirit is not bound by anything, but he freely binds himself to his Word. The question is not where the Spirit may work, but where he has promised to work. If strange things happen—similar to events in the era of the prophets and apostles, praise the Lord! However, one doesn’t have a right to expect the Spirit to work except where he has promised to work and through the means that the Triune God has ordained.
    • Like older charismatic-cessationist debates in evangelicalism, this newer discussion therefore has the wrong categories. The real issue isn’t whether the sign-gifts have ceased; it’s whether the Spirit works through ordinary means that Christ ordained explicitly or whether he works through extraordinary means that were identified with the extraordinary ministry of the apostles.
    • In this interview, my friend Mark Driscoll expresses his worry that cessationists believe in the “Father, Son, and Holy Bible.” That may well be. In fact, one of the things that I’ve emphasized especially in recent years is the richness of the Spirit’s person and work that is actually far more evident in classic Reformed as well as patristic faith and practice than today. The temptation to celebrate the Spirit over the Word in our day is in part a reaction against a conservative tendency to separate the Word from the Spirit. He has also said elsewhere that where Reformed people attribute God’s work to the gospel, charismatics attribute it to the Spirit. We talk past each other, he says. I’m not so sure. Rather, I think we’re operating with quite different paradigms. When we attribute God’s work to the gospel, it’s actually attributing it to the Spirit who works through the gospel.
    • When Reformed people (and others) speak of preaching, baptism, Communion, covenantal nurture in the home, church discipline, diaconal ministry and so forth, our charismatic brothers and sisters wonder, “Where is the Holy Spirit?” Why? Because they have come to see the Spirit’s work as separate from—even antithetical to—the external ministry of the church and ordinary means of grace.
    • Every time you speak at a conference you are given a kind introduction. You walk to the platform and return to your seat to the sound of applause. You look out at hundreds of people, or thousands. You are met with admirers who are eager to speak to you or to express gratitude for one of your books or articles. You are asked for an autograph. You are given a check as you leave, and often quite a generous one.
    • Don’t think I’m bitter. Not at all. I know that I am loved at Grace Fellowship Church, but it’s a very different kind of love. It’s a more mature love, a more realistic and sustainable love. It’s a deeper love. It’s a love that is affirmed in other ways. Truly, it’s better this way. But it may not always feel like it.
    • I remember R.C. Sproul proclaiming that he would leave the pulpit when someone pried the Bible out of his cold, dead hands. John MacArthur has said that he will stay there until he dies or until he stops making sense. I admire statements like these because it makes a proclamation that there is no higher calling and no better calling than pastoring a local church. Conference ministry and book writing and parachurch ministries have their place, but all pale in comparison to the ministry of the local church. This is true whether that church draws 1,000 people or 100 people.
    • Most of all, I want someone to talk theologically about church buildings (this is a good place to start). I want this person to be an evangelical who understands the culture of evangelical congregations. I want the author to understand that church buildings are not ultimate, that “sacred space” is wherever Jesus dwells. But I also want this person to understand that church buildings don’t have to be ugly. They don’t have to be strictly utilitarian. They don’t have to look like factories or office buildings. I want this person to help readers and churches think about how a church building can reflect good theology. Whether you worship in a crowded storefront or a downtown landmark there are ways to think theologically about your church.
    • For example, Albert Mohler proposes distinguishing between first-order doctrines (a denial of which represents the eventual denial of Christianity itself), second-order doctrines (upon which Bible-believing Christians may disagree, but they create significant boundaries between believers, whether as distinct congregations or denominations), and third-order doctrines (upon which Christians may disagree, but yet remain in close fellowship, even within local congregations.
      • The ability to discern the relative importance of theological beliefs is vital for effective Christian life and ministry. Both the purity and unity of the church are at stake in this matter. The relative importance of theological issues can fall within four categories:

         

           
        1. absolutes define the core beliefs of the Christian faith;
        2. convictions, while not core beliefs, may have significant impact on the health and effectiveness of the church;
        3. opinions are less-clear issues that generally are not worth dividing over; and
        4. questions are currently unsettled issues.
      • Where an issue falls within these categories should be determined by weighing the cumulative force of at least seven considerations:

         

           
        1. biblical clarity;
        2. relevance to the character of God;
        3. relevance to the essence of the gospel;
        4. biblical frequency and significance (how often in Scripture it is taught, and what weight Scripture places upon it);
        5. effect on other doctrines;
        6. consensus among Christians (past and present); and
        7. effect on personal and church life.
    • Michael Wittmer’s Don’t Stop Believing: Why Living Like Jesus Is Not Enough classifies Christian beliefs into three categories: (1) what you must believe, (2) what you must not reject, and (3) what you should believe.
    • Don’t overlook Europe as a place where God still has some significant work to do. In my experience, the relative difficulty of mission in Western Europe, coupled with a desire to engage the 10/40 window, often cause American churches to slight countries like Italy, France, and Germany. Isn’t our God the Lord of Ezekiel 37, the One who looked upon the valley of dry bones and saw a potential dance floor? Yes! And I believe that God is not only capable but also desiring to do the same again.
    • In my observation, sport has an incredible capacity to make otherwise clear-thinking, rational human beings turn superstitious
    • This is the Bible’s consistent picture: God is completely sovereign, no event is beyond his control (eg: Deut 32:39; Prov 21:1; Isa 45:7; Psalm 33:11; Psalm 104; Matt 10:29-30), and no superstition can manipulate him or threaten his plans.
    • But genuine unity must be grounded in the truth
    • We must root the tree of unity in the soil of truth. Being sanctified by the truth of God’s word could not be more important than in matters of theology, in words about God, our only, loving, saving, coming, sovereign God.
    • Unity is precious in proportion to the truth on which it’s based.  Truth is precious even where there is no unity.  Even when truth divides it remains precious.   We habitually forget what divine favors flow from locking arms in the truth.
    • Happiness.  Theological unity leads to happiness
    • rust.  Where theological unity exists, trust reigns
    • Disagreement.  Here’s a hidden benefit.  When a group rejoices in the same theological truths–especially on the main matters–it enables them to retain trust and love for one another <i>while they disagree on other matters</i>.  Groups bound together by sound theology find themselves able to go to “war” with each other over a host of secondary matters and still leave the table knowing they’d rather be in the foxhole with the very men they just “battled” with.  When truth is held by all, disagreement almost never threatens unity but strengthens it.  It’s counter-intuitive, but disagreement where men and women hold the same view of God actually leads to greater love for one another.
    • Focus.  You don’t know how precious focus is until you’re pulled away into theological controversy.  The controversy can clarify our focus on the theological issues at hand.
    • In the final analysis, there is no knowing God without theology.  
    • Here’s one significant problem with our tendency toward ingenuity, know how, and getting things done: It prompts us to ask the wrong starting question. We begin by asking “How?” and very seldom ask “Why?”
    • Therefore, the most necessary first-order question for pastors and people to ask and answer when it comes to living out the faith is “Why?” Why do we do this? Why don’t we do that? Why does the Bible instruct us to think this way and not that? Why does this example inform our practice or this precept prohibit that practice?  Why do we believe certain teachings and reject others?
    • Not asking the why question and delving for a rock solid answer, leaves us open to pragmatism.  Pragmatism is that philosophy, crudely stated, that says “Do what works.”  It is an answer to the “why” question, but it comes in the form of a “how.”
    • Pragmatists assume that a satisfactory answer to “how” provides a self-evident reason for “why.”  That’s the problem.
    • Here’s how the “why” questions help us: They root us to the text of the Bible (assuming one uses the Scripture to answer the questions) and drive us toward faithfulness.
    • Nothing wrong with that.  But the primary principle for evaluating Christian ministry and Christian life is not effectiveness; it’s faithfulness
    • Asking tough why questions and pursuing rich biblical answers keeps us from becoming unfaithful to our Lord.  And asking “Why” also has this happy benefit: It then informs the “how.”  It’s possible to get effective how answers while completely missing the why; but it’s more difficult to miss good how strategies when we’ve nailed the biblical why.
    • But what’s the real problem?  It wasn’t their earlier purpose statement.  The real problem was asking the “who” question before really taking heed to their original “why”–to foster unity among Christian leaders who differ methodologically.  Had the organizers of the event stuck firmly to that why, rooted in a careful articulation of biblical command and precept, the “who” would have been dictated by the “why.”  Jakes would never have appeared on the short list because a historically orthodox definition of “Christian” would have required clear adherence to the Trinity.  But the pragmatic “who” superseded the foundational “why” with the resulting controversy that followed.  We might also argue, as others have (here, here, here, and here), that a robust biblical answer to the why’s of pastoral ministry might have pre-empted the invitation of Noble and Furtick, whose ministry philosophies appear to depart significantly from biblical pastoral practice.
    • Why invite a man to share your platform who could not be an elder at a biblical church?
    • In his contribution to the book in Two Views of Hell, Robert Peterson sets forth ten passages that as part of the “overwhelming evidence” to support the historical interpretation of hell as everlasting punishment.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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About Joe Fleener

Lover of Christ & His Gospel, Husband to Mandy, Father to three wonderful children, Servant to the Local Church, Bible College Lecturer
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