Joe, Scott, and Daisy join Barry to chat about texting while walking, trade with other nations, and literacy.http://barrycreamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/CWC-2016_05_03.mp3
Reflections on Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Part Two: The Long Defeat and the Old Testament of Middle-Earth
This post continues the study of the long defeat of Tolkien by looking at the foundational work for the Lord of the Rings, the Silmarillion. As noted in the previous post, the long defeat was Tolkien’s phrase for the idea that no matter how many times one defeated evil, it continued to (apparently effortlessly) return to full strength. The motif is connected with the elves primarily, who are immortal and experience the long defeat over the long millennia of their lives. Since we are talking about the long defeat, it is good to slow down and look at more history!
Early Christians suffered for their faith in Christ. Some were incarcerated. Some were beaten and whipped. Some were stoned. Others were crucified or beheaded. Still others later were fed to the lions. Suffering, however, is not limited to New Testament times. Christians today will also suffer for their faith—whether it be facing disdain, rejection or ridicule; being called bigoted or intolerant; or perhaps even being jailed, tortured or killed—if they are preaching Jesus and living godly, Christ-crucified lives. Suffering for Christ and the Gospel is just as much a part of the Christian life as is love (cf. Luke 21:7; John 15:18–25, 16:1–4; Luke 21:12, 16–17; James 1:2; 2 Tim 3:12; etc.), but unfortunately, we hear little today from the nation’s pulpits about suffering in the lives of Christ’s followers and its purpose.
Second Corinthians 1:3–11 provides an answer to the question, “Why do Christians suffer for their faith?” Paul’s response in this doxology is not exhaustive, but it does give great encouragement. The affliction mentioned in this text is specifically suffering for the Gospel and presumes that believers in Jesus will take some knocks for their faith.
Paul writes 2 Corinthians from Macedonia about A.D. 56 to the church at Corinth, and in this church, a group of individuals is denouncing Paul’s apostleship while magnifying their own authority. They are saying that Paul is not qualified to do New Covenant ministry. So, in 2 Corinthians, Paul defends his apostolic ministry and authority. In 2 Corinthians 1:3–11, he praises God and speaks of his suffering for Christ’s sake—for the Gospel—and he has much to say about the affliction’s purpose in his life. We too can know that suffering for our faith serves a purpose.
Why do Christians suffer for their faith in Christ? First, Christians suffer for their faith so that they might comfort others who are suffering for their faith (vv. 3-7). In v. 4, Paul explains one purpose (εἰς τὸ δύνασθαι ἡμᾶς παρακαλεῖν) of suffering in his life. He notes it is possible to share with another sufferer the encouragement received in the midst of one’s own affliction. The picture here is one of Paul undergoing affliction for his faith, and he goes to God, and the Lord comforts him in the midst of his affliction. With the comfort that he has received from God, Paul is able to go to another person and share the same comfort with that person who is suffering for his faith. God is a God of comfort. Paul describes Him as “the Father of mercies” and “the God of all comfort” (v. 3). Comfort is an important word used several times in this context. The term comes from the same word-group from which we get the word “Helper” (παράκλητος) used in reference to the Holy Spirit (John 14:26). God’s comfort in the midst of affliction enables us to bear up under suffering for our faith. Paul explains that while he has suffered abundantly on behalf of Christ, so also is Christ’s comfort abundant (v. 5). He points out that the Corinthians benefit from his suffering, and that they would experience this kind of comfort as they endure the same sufferings he suffered (vv. 6–7).
Nikolai Kolbantsev, a father of seven, wrote to his family in February 1985 while serving a 30-month sentence in a Soviet prison for preaching the Gospel. Through his indomitable spirit and letters written to family members on the outside who were also suffering for following Christ, Kolbantsev, while imprisoned, was able to use the grace and comfort of God that he had received to provide solace and encouragement to his family.
Second, Christians suffer for their faith so that they might depend upon God (vv. 8–10). In v. 9, Paul again gives a purpose (ἵνα) for why he suffers for his faith in Christ. The tribulation made him depend upon God. He does not specifically identify the problem of affliction that he was having in Asia, but he does mention its severity (vv. 8–9). He was “excessively burdened”— tremendous pressure was placed on him; he had a load too heavy for him to bear. Moreover, he mentions that the situation was “beyond our strength with the result that we despaired even of life.” He and his colleagues were in a position from which they could see no escape and perhaps anticipated death. He further says, “Indeed, we ourselves had the sentence of death within ourselves.” In the mind of Paul, an apostle who was always carrying about in his body the dying of the Lord Jesus, it seemed as though a death verdict had been adjudicated against them. Suffering for Christ reminded him much of the inadequacy of his own resources, but also pointed him to the great sufficiency of Christ’s resources. Paul placed his trust and hope in God, who raises the dead, and he was confident that the Lord would deliver him as He had delivered him in the past (v. 9b–10).
In February 1951, Southern Baptist missionary Bill Wallace, incarcerated on false charges and languishing in a brutal Chinese prison, was asked, “Bill, how are you holding out?” He weakly replied, “Trusting in the Lord.” He was not relying on his own strength but depending upon God’s as he suffered for Christ.
When we take some shots for our faith, opportunity abounds to rely upon God. It causes us to pray and spend more time in His Word. The way that we respond to tribulation for our faith is a witness to those around us and indeed shows whether we believe that God’s grace is sufficient. Only in this life will we have the opportunity to demonstrate that God’s grace is truly sufficient because, in the next life, everyone will know that it is.
Third, Christians suffer for their faith so that others might thank God when He answers their prayers of deliverance for those who are suffering (v. 11). Paul gives a third purpose (ἵνα), or result, of suffering in his life. He explains that his suffering offered others the opportunity to partner with him in intercessory prayer and thank God for the answer to those prayers. Confident of God’s deliverance from his affliction, Paul encouraged the church to help in prayer. When deliverance took place—however it might come—Paul’s concern was that everyone especially thank God for the favor He showed that was bestowed through many prayers.
In 2001, Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer were held hostage in Afghanistan by Taliban forces. They were apprehended for spreading the Christian faith. To complicate matters further, the 9/11 events occurred while they were in custody. When these young ladies were taken hostage, Christians all over the world, especially in the U.S., partnered in prayer, asking God for their release from captivity. In His mercy, God answered those prayers, and Dayna and Heather were released. When that event took place, churches all over the world gave an upheaval of praise and thanksgiving to God, seemingly like never before.
We are obligated to pray for believers in Jesus who are being persecuted. God hears intercessory prayer. Though many venues are appropriate for praying, corporate prayer meetings in your local church are especially fitting for this kind of prayer. Please pray for those you know who are suffering for their faith. Persist in praying, and when the Lord answers, give thanks to Him for the way that He has responded. We have a faithful God who deserves our praise, trust and thanksgiving.
God truly is the best source of comfort in the midst of affliction for our faith. Use the comfort He gives you when you are suffering for your faith in Christ to encourage others who are suffering for their faith. Let your affliction teach you to depend upon God. Pray for those who are being persecuted for their faith in Jesus, and thank God when He answers those prayers.
Thank you, Lord, for the privilege of suffering for Jesus and experiencing some of what He did. Thank you for conforming us into Christ’s image (cf. Phil 3:10). Thank you for being with us in the midst of our affliction “even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20).
 James and Marti Hefley, By Their Blood: Christian Martyrs of the Twentieth Century. 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 264.
 Ibid., 72. See also Jesse C. Fletcher, Bill Wallace of China (Bloomington, IN: CrossBooks, 2009), originally published by Broadman Press in 1963.
 See Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer, Prisoners of Hope: The Story of Our Captivity and Freedom in Afghanistan (New York: WaterBrook Press, 2003).
Podcasts are on the rise. When Serial took the world by storm at the end of 2014, many were exposed to this medium for the first time. Since then it seems like new podcasts are appearing every week. As many have discovered, podcasts are an especially accessible way to consume content. For pastors and other leaders who spend much of their time on the go, podcasts can be a game-changer. With that in mind, we asked several evangelical leaders who are also podcast aficionados for their recommendations:
Dan Dumas, @DanDumas
Senior Vice President for Institutional Administration, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Make sure to check out Exemplary Exposition, one exemplary sermon published a week for your progressive sanctification.
What are 3-5 podcasts you would recommend for pastors or other Christian leaders?
- The Briefing: A daily news and cultural commentary by Dr. R. Albert Mohler.
- Serial: A fascinating listen about true stories and plots as they unfold week after week.
- Five Leadership Questions: Barnabas Piper and Todd Atkins ask 5 questions of various guest leaders. This is insightful and light-hearted.
- Five Minutes in Church History: This is five minutes you will want to spend as Dr. Stephen Nichols travels back in time, condenses the history and makes it a digestible experience.
Trevin Wax, @TrevinWax
Managing editor of The Gospel Project, a gospel-centered small group curriculum for all ages, published by LifeWay Christian Resources.
What is your routine for listening to podcasts?
I listen to podcasts when I’m driving to the office, walking in the neighborhood, or when doing chores around the house. I usually set the podcast to 1 1/2 speed, to benefit from Apple’s “skipping” technique that speeds the podcast up without making everyone sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks.
I use Apple’s podcast app.
What are 3-5 podcasts you would recommend for pastors or other Christian leaders?
- The best place to start is still The World and Everything In It, a half hour newsmagazine that summarizes the day’s top news and features commentary from a conservative Christian perspective. The quality is excellent, and you can forward to the next segment in case you’re not interested in what’s being discussed.
- NPR is still king when it comes to masterful storytelling in an audio format. My three favorites in this genre are released weekly or twice a month. This American Life, long a staple of public radio, carries over well as a podcast. I don’t listen to every episode, but I rarely go a month without dipping into this series.
- The Five Leadership Questions podcast hosted by Barnabas Piper and Todd Adkins comes out twice a week and features great topics and guests.
- Thom Rainer’s podcast is also worth downloading. Rainer talks about different trends he observes in the landscape of churches and ministries in North America. Always food for thought here.
- For more in depth conversations about religion, theology and public life, I recommend the weekly Research on Religion from Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion, and the monthly-released Thinking in Public.
Daniel Darling, @DanDarling
Vice President for Communications, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Dan is also the host of The Way Home, a weekly conversation with Christian leaders on church, community, and culture.
What is your routine for listening to podcasts?
My routine is that I listen whenever I can. I always, always have a podcast going while driving, unless my kids are in the car and torture me with their music requests. I have a half-hour commute, so this is fertile listening time. I don’t take phone calls in the car. I don’t listen to the radio in the car. This is time for podcasts (unless I’m listening to an audiobook, which I’ve been doing lately). I also listen while I’m walking in the morning. I typically take about a 2 mile walk in my neighborhood and listen. Then I also try to listen to podcasts while I’m doing some kind of mundane chore or other such things around the house.
I’m still pretty sold on the Podcasts app by Apple. This was a game-changer. Back in the day, it was a bit more cumbersome and involved syncing the phone to the computer and finding the “podcasts” tab in iTunes. Now that podcasts have their own app and update “over the air,” listening is a breeze. In the car, I hook the up via audio cable. Otherwise its either headphones (while walking) or Boze portable bluetooth speaker at home.
What are 3-5 podcasts you would recommend for pastors or other Christian leaders?
- Signposts with Russell Moore (I’m biased, of course): Dr. Moore is very interesting and eclectic. He will talk difficult cultural issues one day and break down a movie or artist another day. Sometimes he’ll talk about his personal devotional life. Other times he will discuss a recent book he’s read. Whatever he’s talking about, it is must-listening.
- Longform: If you enjoy good, longform journalism and storytelling, this podcast interviews the leading practitioners. Pastors need to read and understand about their world in order to bring God’s truth to bear upon it. This podcast features interviews with a wide variety of journalists and storytellers and offers a window into the human condition in a way that few do.
- 9Marks Interviews: Great discussions on discipleship, church polity, and other important matters. Some are more compelling than others, but if you do nothing else, you should listen to the three part interview with Mark Dever and Tim Keller.
- Rainer on Leadership: Hosted by Jonathan Howe and LIfeway CEO, Thom Rainer. This podcast digs into practical church matters like few do and is helpful for both large-church pastors or pastors of small, country churches.
- The World and Everything In It: Produced by World Magazine. Perhaps the best-produced 30 minute audio newscast out there. Features explanation of headlines, interviews, and opinion on what is happening in the world.
- The Axe Files: Interviews with leading newsmakers by David Axelrod, President Obama’s former chief campaign strategist. I know what you are thinking: why listen to a guy we agree with on virtually nothing? Because a) he is one of the best interviewers and b) it is good to hear the perspective of people on the other side of the issues.
- Conversations with Bill Kristol: For the above reasons
Bonus recommendations: Presidential by Washington Post and Whistlestop by John Dickerson (if you are a presidential history nerd like me), Help Me Teach the Bible with Nancy Guthrie (The Gospel Coalition), Imago Dei Church (Pastor Tony Merida).
Bryan Baise, @BryanBaise
Assistant professor of worldview and apologetics, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
What is your routine for listening to podcasts?
I listen to podcasts on my commute to work. It gives me close to an hour a day (to work and back home). I’ll also listen to them when I’m running. I use the basic Apple podcast app.
What are 3-5 podcasts you would recommend for pastors or other Christian leaders?
- Whistlestop: A podcast of presidential campaign history, told by John Dickerson of Face the Nation. It’s really well done and informative. It gives a window into presidential history that is unique and really enjoyable.
- Signposts with Russell Moore: This is a podcast where Dr. Moore has conversations about gospel ministry, politics, books, culture, etc. I’ve found it really helpful.
- Conversations with Bill Kristol: In-depth conversations with leading figures and thinkers. It’s really well done.
- Note to Self: A podcast about the relationship between our humanity and technology. As a self-professed lover of most things technology, it’s helpful for me to hear other perspectives on the promises and dangers of tech. They don’t always do exactly that, but it’s really excellent. And they’re relatively short episodes.
- Longform: it’s an hour long podcast with writers, journalists, and the like about their careers, stories, etc. But it’s especially a podcast on writing as a craft. I’m not a gifted writer so I’m always looking for tips, advice, or stories from writers about how they were, once upon a time, the same as me!
- Limetown: a fictional investigation into how the residents of Limetown — home to a mysterious research facility — vanished. All of them. At the same time. It’s riveting.
Colby Adams is the Director of Media Relations and Digital Communications at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he is also completing a Master of Divinity degree. He and his wife Amanda have been married since 2014 and have one child.
Barry discusses with Mary Jayne Fogerty a women’s options in the midst of an unplanned pregnancy. For more information about Thrive Women’s Clinic go to http://www.thrivewomensclinic.comhttp://barrycreamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/CWC-2016_05_02.mp3
My entire family went to see The Jungle Book this past weekend. From my 3 ½-year old son, to my mother-in-law, we all thoroughly enjoyed it. Disney is to be commended for making an engaging, creative, and faithful “live” version of this classic story.
Like all fictional movies, The Jungle Book offers a story, which has worldview implications. Two questions lie at the heart of the movie: What does it mean to be human? And secondarily: How does man relate to nature? Specifically, these questions are explored through the life of Mowgli—a young boy whom wolves raise in the jungle ...
A while ago, I got a letter from a friend (whom I’ll call “Mary”) struggling with why God allows evil. Some people had told her that God was working through terrible tragedies to produce a greater good (Rom. 8:28). Others had told her that Satan was the cause of evil and that greater faith and use of her authority in Christ would deliver her from difficulties. Mary found little comfort in these well-meaning professions, and in fact was beginning to think that God was either cruel, impotent, or worse, non-existent, a classic case of the problem of evil ...
Jeff, Kirk, and Daisy join Barry to chat about a pencil that turns into a plant, a global warming con job, and the ruling on the Christian cross.http://barrycreamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/CWC-2016_04_29.mp3
My question is based on your formulation of the argument from contingency, specifically, your restricted version of the PSR.
Restricted PSR: everything that exists has an explanation for its existence, whether in the nature of its own necessity or an external cause.
There are good reasons to prefer a restricted PSR over the strong version - it avoids the famous objection by Peter Van Inwagen, which argues that the PSR is false because it has the absurd consequence on making all facts necessary. I am aware that you have of Alexander Pruss's work on defending the strong version and am on the fence at the moment as to whether Inwagen's objection succeeds ...
Recently a friend in his first year of seminary asked me what kinds of classes he should take and what he should do while in school to prepare for church planting. This question was not on my mind during my time at SBTS in the early 2000’s, but in God’s providence I planted a church six years after graduation. As I reflect on the disciplines, gifts, and knowledge needed to plant a church, this is what I would do if I were a seminarian who hoped to plant a church.
1. Develop a close walk with Jesus
God doesn’t call a man to church planting so he can ignore him while trying to build his church. Take what you are learning in your classes and meditate on them deeply. Learning Greek, Hebrew, and reading theology are not merely academic exercises, but should drive you deeper into God’s truth so you can know more of him, his glory, and his ways.“Let a devotional passion drive all of your studies so you don’t become a theological bobblehead, but a man who has a deeper knowledge of the God who made and redeemed you.”
Let a devotional passion drive all of your studies so you don’t become a theological bobblehead, but a man who has a deeper knowledge of the God who made and redeemed you. Read, study, and pray as a Christian who needs the gospel as much now as you did the day you believed.
2. Be an active member of a healthy church
During my time at SBTS I was often astonished at how many cars stayed in the parking lot on Sunday mornings. You cannot learn how to lead a church effectively if you don’t know how to be part of a church led by someone other than yourself. Become an active member at a healthy church which is either a church plant or a church that plants churches.
Gather with the church each week, serve in ministries, and get to know people. Ask an older man or one of the elders—and not necessarily the pastor—to disciple you so you continue to grow into godliness. Taking part in a healthy church in this way will help you understand what kind of church you need to plant.
3. Cultivate friendships with non-Christians
One of seminary’s greatest dangers is the temptation to spend all your time with Christians who are studying theology for a living. You spend four years around a specific kind of people, who speak a specific kind of lingo, and when you graduate, you may have lost the ability to have normal conversations with people who don’t share your interests. Because of this, you have strong theoretical opinions about evangelism but you don’t have experience actually sharing the gospel.“One of seminary’s greatest dangers is the temptation to spend all your time with Christians who are studying theology for a living.”
Unless you plan on planting a church that steals people from other churches, in which case you shouldn’t plant, you need to grow as an evangelist. To do this, you must work and hobby outside of the seminary community so you develop friendships with people who don’t follow Jesus. Don’t treat them as evangelistic projects, but as friends. Hear their stories, know their difficulties, and learn how to speak the gospel to them with clarity and compassion.
4. Cultivate discipling relationships
When you plant, what are you going to do with the new Christians who become part of your church? If you don’t have experience discipling other believers, you will be paralyzed as you think about what to do to help these new babes in the faith. Since teaching others who will be able to teach others will be central in your plant, you should initiate these relationships now.
Start meeting with a couple of other men to work through a book of the Bible or a good Christian book together. Talk together about where you are struggling and seeing evidences of grace. Do this informally as part of your everyday life and later as part of leading a group at your church.
5. Focus on classes in apologetics
Everything you learn in seminary will be important for church planting. You need theology, languages, and church history for your preaching and teaching ministry. Preaching and pastoral ministry classes will help you develop needed for the pastoral aspects of planting.
If you want to be a church planter who actually reaches non-Christians in your community, you need to spend as much time as you can growing in your understanding of apologetics. The veneer of superficial Christianity in America fades every day and more people voice their real objections to the gospel message.“Know how to talk through the doubts of your non-Christian friends with compassion and provide clear answers to their questions”
If you have friends who aren’t Christians, know how to talk through their doubts with compassion, and provide clear answers to their questions you will see some of them come to faith. In addition, they will tell their other non-Christian friends that you are the kind of person they can talk to about their questions. This will provide you with even more opportunities to speak the good news of the gospel.
6. Do your supervised ministry experience with a church planter
Taking church planting classes will be helpful. You would be exposed to church planting models and become familiar with the literature in the field. Your instructor for the class will likely be a man who has planted a church who can share experiences and best practices. You would likely walk away with a better understanding of how to plant a church. For this knowledge to become real to you it will be necessary to see how church planting works up close.
Students can be tempted to treat supervised ministry experience as a necessary evil and do as little as possible to fulfill the requirements. Resist this impulse and see it as an opportunity to grow in areas where you have no experience. Find a church planter to work with and complete a project which will help him while also being a learning experience for you.
Use the weekly meetings with him to learn about his weekly schedule, struggles, regrets, and wins. Ask what he would do differently and what he thinks he did right. Put your all into this experience and it will be a benefit to you and the church planter.
7. Find a good residency program after graduation
One of the best developments for future church planters to come about in the last decade has been the establishment of residency programs. Many of these programs take place in healthy church plants who are working at planting other churches as well.
Take a year or 18 months after graduation and learn from one of these churches who know how to plant churches. Learn what the life of a church planter looks like up close. Gain the greatest understanding you can of church administration and the development of healthy church systems as these are likely to be the areas where you have the least experience.
Have the pastors over the program speak into where they believe you are strong and where you need to grow. Have them assess your gifting and seek their input on what your next steps need to be in preparing to plant.
8. Work hard, for the need is great
If everything I just laid out sounds like a lot of work, it is. Church planting demands much time, energy, self-discipline, and organization. You will wake up early, work all day, spend time with your kids, connect with your wife, meet with people, and fall into bed tired at the end of the day.
Seminary helps you prepare for this as you are working on projects for multiple classes and working a job. Put your hand to the plow in everything you do now and you will not have to develop this discipline later.
With the number of unchurched people in the United States on the rise and the billions of people who have not heard the Gospel around the globe, we need new churches everywhere. More opportunities and resources are at our disposal now than we have ever had, but none of these guarantee your plant will be effective. Grow as a Christian, an evangelist, and disciple maker while learning the nuts and bolts of church planting. These disciplines will prepare you to be an effective church planter in the future.
Scott Slayton, a 2002 graduate of SBTS, serves as Lead Pastor at Chelsea Village Baptist Church in Chelsea, AL and writes regularly at his site One Degree to Another. He has been married to Beth since 2003 and they have four children. You can follow him on Twitter.
Barry talks about a recent study that points out an interesting connection between terrorism and the hard sciences.
For more information, click here.http://barrycreamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/CWC-2016_04_28.mp3
DBTS is offering four courses this summer in a module format. The courses taught residentially include Introduction to Missions, Church Polity, and Greek Exegesis of 2 Peter and Jude. Each course can be taken for credit for either the M.Div. or Th.M.
First Session: May 17-27 (8:00–11:50 a.m.)
515 Introduction to Missions (2 hours), Missions Director, D.Min.
An introductory survey of the theology, history, and methods of the missionary enterprise, with special emphasis on recent developments, crucial issues, and future trends.
Introduction to Missions will be taught by a missionary with experience in three different continents. He will be assisted by others who are currently serving on the field.
246 Greek Exegesis of II Peter and Jude (2 hours), Dr. Compton
This course will involve the student in translation, syntactical study, and other exegetical procedures. Prerequisites: Greek Syntax and Reading and Greek Exegetical Methods.
Second Session: May 31-June 10 (8:00–11:50 a.m.)
345 Church Polity (2 hours), Dr. Snoeberger
A survey and biblical analysis of ecclesiastical polity as practiced broadly within the Christian church, with particular attention given to variations of the congregational model. Specific topics discussed include the relationships of the local church, the number and description of ecclesiastical offices, the interchange between pastoral oversight and congregational rule, as well as church order and discipline.
An additional summer course will be offered at First Baptist Church in Wixom, MI from July 30-August 6. The course will be a study of the Life and Letters of the Apostle Paul. Dr. Tim Miller will lead the study for the week-long module. It will be held in the evenings from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm on August 1-5, plus additional class time on Saturday morning, July 31 and August 6.
Also, the fall class schedule is available at http://www.dbts.edu/class-schedule/.
If you have any questions about these courses, please feel free to contact the DBTS office at 313.381.0111 or email@example.com.
In Jesus’ Shepherd Discourse in John 10, Jesus contrasts himself with “the thief.” “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it in abundance.” If you hear this verse quoted in a sermon, or see how people use this verse online, you will usually hear that the thief is Satan. But is that what Jesus meant?
Barry talks with Larry Alex Taunton about his friendship with Hitchens and his suggestions on how to care fir those whom you disagree. For more information about the book The Faith of Christopher Hitchens, please go to larryalextaunton.comhttp://barrycreamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/CWC-2016_04_27.mp3
Since writing my book on Same-Sex Marriage, I have been reading almost every book I can get my hands on related to homosexuality and the church. While there are some great books, there has been a huge need for a book that addresses the “plausibility” problem. I recently came across the book Same-Sex Attraction and the Church by Ed Shaw, and was pleasantly surprised that it dealt with this exact issue with clarity and insight. In my view, this book is one of the top five most important books for Christians to read on the subject. Pastor Ed was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. Enjoy! ...
Barry is joined by Joe, Daisy, and Kevin to chat about a battle over future films, the use of kidnapped girls as bombers, and a teachers commentary on home schooling.http://barrycreamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/CWC-2016_04_26.mp3
Paul’s discussion of the Old Testament law in Romans and Galatians connects well with a practical life concern: How do we effectively parent our children? In particular, one question parents regularly face has to do with what part rules play in raising children. Since Paul actually uses the raising of children as an analogy to explain the role of the law (Galatians 3:24-26; 4:1-7; Romans 8:14-17), perhaps we should turn the analogy on its head and ask if there is anything we can learn about raising children from Paul’s teaching about the law ...
This month (April 2016) I attended a conference in Hungary that both shared and explored initiatives by evangelicals in Europe regarding the integration of faith and the workplace. There were some fascinating stories of how believing business people are intentionally planning ways to share their faith in their working lives. One of these stories came from a discussion I had with a group of believers in Norway who started a company that, in essence, runs a Christian school on a ship. It is only for 11th and 12th graders and is by application only. The students live on the ship and have various responsibilities, all within a Christian environment. The believers in the company decided that they could impact the world through reaching and training young people in a creative way.
One of the significant topics discussed was the role of the church in all of this, and while there were some encouraging examples, the conclusion by most was that the church has lost its voice in most European contexts. It has become irrelevant! Or, at best, it is therapeutic so that it is available in times of crisis such as funerals or illnesses. After the reasons for this were discussed and debated, there was general consensus on a few causes, and in particular, what was called “a fortress mentality” stood out. This refers to the idea that the church has dwindled down to the faithful few who need to preserve and defend themselves in a world that is hostile to their existence.
The idea of being “salt” and “light” in Matthew 5, as well as other passages, was discussed, and the conclusion drawn was that the church in Europe no longer pays much attention to these types of passages. The point must be made that there are exceptions to this, and some churches are making a significant impact. However, we were discussing the church as a whole and especially as perceived by the secular world around it. Enter the believing business community! If the church is irrelevant, then there are Christian business people who have decided to step into the gap and make the Gospel relevant.
I returned to the U.S. feeling both depressed and encouraged about the presence of Christianity in Europe. Surely plan A in the Bible is for the church to continually influence and transform society with the Gospel. When plan A falls apart, then we seem to have the plan B’s and C’s that come into play where those Christians who want to make a difference in society go outside of the church. Where, then, are we in America? Is the church intentional about being continually relevant? “Relevant” can be a dangerous term if used in a general, uncritical way. Used critically, it must always be understood that being relevant means firstly being so to the correct understanding of the Bible. Second, then, is being as relevant as possible to culture and society. If we begin with the Bible, we soon find that there are times when being relevant actually means going against the trends and belief systems of society, leaving us with a sense that this world is not our true home; that we are pilgrims passing through. The church is in the world but not of the world.
If we are in the world, then the church has to be relevant to our culture and society; otherwise, the Lord may as well take us up to heaven to do and be church there. This relevancy must hold in balance, and even tension, the need to be part of society and yet separate from society. May the church in America take up this challenge proactively so that we do not find ourselves wearing the label “irrelevant.”
Last night I watched Pastor Pete Briscoe give his rationale for leading his church to welcome female elders to their leadership structure. Briscoe pastors Bent Tree Bible Fellowship, a large congregation in the metro area of Dallas, Texas. His sermon amounts to a recitation of long-standing egalitarian readings of Scripture.
I admire that Briscoe and the elders made a public presentation of the decision and their justification for it. They have laid their cards on the table, and that is a good thing. But I still think their reasoning is flawed on many points. I am not going to give a point-by-point rebuttal. That would go beyond what is feasible in a single blog post. I would simply highlight three concerns that I think are salient in this particular case.
1. Briscoe and the elders say that they intend to be a “conservative” church that maintains a tenacious commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture. That is something to be thankful for. There are many who join feminist readings of Scripture to a more explicit repudiation of the Bible’s integrity and authority. Briscoe and the elders do not wish to do that. Still, whether they realize this or not, the theological rationale for their decision is at odds with a commitment to the Bible’s authority. On this point, I think Lig Duncan has well said:
The denial of complementarianism undermines the church’s practical embrace of the authority of Scripture (thus eventually and inevitably harming the church’s witness to the Gospel). The gymnastics required to get from “I do not allow a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man,” in the Bible, to “I do allow a woman to teach and to exercise authority over a man” in the actual practice of the local church, are devastating to the functional authority of the Scripture in the life of the people of God.
By the way, this is one reason why I think we just don’t see many strongly inerrantist-egalitarians (meaning: those who hold unwaveringly to inerrancy and also to egalitarianism) in the younger generation of evangelicalism. Many if not most evangelical egalitarians today have significant qualms about inerrancy, and are embracing things like trajectory hermeneutics, etc. to justify their positions. Inerrancy or egalitarianism, one or the other, eventually wins out.
Obviously, I am thankful for anyone who expresses a clear commitment to inerrancy. But that does not negate the very real concern about the hermeneutical principles that they have embraced.“Inerrancy or egalitarianism, one or the other, eventually wins out.”
2. Briscoe and the elders rely heavily upon William Webb’s trajectory hermeneutic. If you are unfamiliar with this, here it is in a nutshell. Webb argues that the Bible’s ethical position is often one of development, moving from an inferior ethic to an ultimate ethic. On this view, our goal is not merely to discern the ethical position of Scripture but the ethical trajectory of it.
That trajectory suggests that we might reach an ethical ideal that is better than what is reflected in Scripture itself. An example of this would be slavery. The Bible endorses slavery, but we now know that was wrong. So we reject slavery even though the Bible endorses it. Likewise, the Bible may teach male headship in marriage and church leadership, but we now know that was wrong. So we reject male headship even though the Bible clearly teaches it.
This way of reading Scripture is precisely the kind of thing that Duncan warns about. It is a hermeneutic that teaches readers to treat their own notions about justice and fairness as more advanced and developed than that of Scripture. In short, it teaches readers to stand in judgment over Scripture. It’s a hermeneutical approach that militates against the Bible’s integrity and authority. For a more extensive treatment of Webb’s work, you should read the reviews by Tom Schreiner and Wayne Grudem. Grudem concludes his review this way:
I believe [Webb’s work] is a deeply flawed book that fundamentally contradicts the Reformation principle of sola Scriptura because it nullifies in principle the moral authority of the entire NT and replaces it with the moral authority of a “better ethic,” an ethic that Webb claims to be able to discover through a complex hermeneutical process entirely foreign to the way God intended the Bible to be read, understood, believed, and obeyed. Because a denial in principle of the moral authority of the NT commands is at the heart of the whole system, and because the system denies the historical accuracy of the creation account, I do not believe Webb’s “redemptive-movement hermeneutic” should be accepted as a valid system for evangelicals today.
Many evangelicals sounded the alarm about Webb’s work 15 years ago. Those concerns have not diminished at all after these many years. No church is served well by a hermeneutical approach that undermines the authority of Scripture, and that’s what Webb’s work does.
3. Briscoe says that he wants Bent Tree to be a place where people can agree to disagree over this issue. He even cites a conversation with Darrell Bock, a member who disagrees with the elders but who also says it is not an issue worth dividing over. I think this point of view is mistaken. At the end of the day, a church will either ordain women pastors or they won’t. There’s no middle ground on that question. You may have people in the church who hold a complementarian position, but their views on the issue have no standing at all where male headship is denied in practice. Furthermore, if the hermeneutical issues are as serious as I have indicated above, then it would be a matter of faithfulness for Christians to contend against such teaching. Mark Dever has written prophetically on this point:
It seems to me and others (many who are younger than myself) that this issue of egalitarianism and complementarianism is increasingly acting as the watershed distinguishing those who will accommodate Scripture to culture, and those who will attempt to shape culture by Scripture. You may disagree, but this is our honest concern before God. It is no lack of charity, nor honesty. It is no desire for power or tradition for tradition’s sake. It is our sober conclusion from observing the last 50 years. . . .“Egalitarianism and complementarianism is increasingly acting as the watershed distinguishing those who will accommodate Scripture to culture, and those who will attempt to shape culture by Scripture.”
Of course there are issues more central to the gospel than gender issues. However, there may be no way the authority of Scripture is being undermined more quickly or more thoroughly in our day than through the hermeneutics of egalitarian readings of the Bible. And when the authority of Scripture is undermined, the gospel will not long be acknowledged. Therefore, love for God, the gospel, and future generations, demands the careful presentation and pressing of the complementarian position.
If these concerns are valid (and I believe they are), then the issue would definitely be one worth dividing over.
There is much more that can and should be said about this, but I will end here. I’m glad that the elders at Bent Tree have stated their views so clearly and have opened up a public conversation. Although I disagree with them, I hope and pray the best for Bent Tree. I think the elders are mistaken on this one and would do well to reconsider what the Bible teaches. If all sides are committed to the authority of Scripture, then perhaps we have some common ground upon which to persuade one another. The issue is certainly important enough for us to try.
Denny Burk is a professor of biblical studies and director of The Center for Gospel and Culture at Boyce College. He is the author of a book on sexual ethics titled What Is the Meaning of Sex? as well as a book on Greek grammar entitled Articular Infinitives in the Greek of the New Testament. He blogs regularly at DennyBurk.com.
Our favorite theologian, Dr. Everett Berry, drops by to talk with Barry about churches and the chaning neighborhoods around them.http://barrycreamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/CWC-2016_04_25.mp3