- Christians should be personally sympathetic to the plight of those who are truly persecuted and traumatized by the effects of war, especially those who are innocent of and vulnerable to the atrocities of war. Further, Christians should personally extend benevolence, as they have opportunity, to such persons, giving priority to believers (Gal 6:10).
- The OT speaks well of kindness to disenfranchised “strangers” or foreigners (Exod 22:21; 23:9, etc.). Tempering this fact, however, are dispensational considerations relative to the theocratic state. While the OT surely cannot be used to forbid international benevolence by sovereign nations in the modern era, neither can we use Scripture to require it.
- The OT also speaks to the idea of caution in such situations, too, even approving of holistic ethical cleansing of persistently vicious people groups—including their women and infants (Deut 20:16–18, etc.). Part of the concern seems to be that the children of God’s enemies were likely to grow up to subvert the Jewish nation and scuttle its prevailing religion (Deut 7:1–5). This must of course be understood through a theocratic lens as well, however, and falls far short of a commendation of such action in the modern era. This consideration cannot, however, be wholly dismissed.
- Human governments have in every biblical era had as their foremost biblical obligation the bearing of the sword in the defense and policing of their own constituents (Gen 9:6; Rom 13:1–5), and cannot simply lower this sword in the face of suffering.
- Believers should have mixed sentiments about the current crisis. The situation is far too complex to resolve with hasty arguments ad baculum on the one hand or ad misericordiam on the other.
During two days in mid-October filled with preaching, teaching and fellowship, 175 people attended the 2015 Mid-America Conference on Preaching at Inter-City Baptist Church. The entire DBTS community and many guests enjoyed the ministry of four main session speakers:
- Dr. David Doran, pastor of Inter-City Baptist Church and president of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, spoke about church revitalization and the need for churches to explore church planting.
- Dr. Steve Pettit, president of Bob Jones University, preached about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the mystery of God’s sovereignty.
- Mr. Jim Tillotson, president of Faith Baptist Bible College, shared ways to serve God joyfully in ministry.
- Dr. Lukus Counterman, a church planter in Salt Lake City, defined what successful ministry looks like.
“I feel like so much of what is happening today in church planting is this cheapened form of religious niche marketing,” said Counterman. “We’re the hipster, cyclist, vegetarian, reduce-your-carbon-footprint ministry. We’re the home school, old red hymnal, fundamentalist, culottes ministry for people transplanted from the South. Or we’re the contemporvant, creedal arts, ancient-modern, subtle-yet-out-there ministry for thirty somethings.”
MACP workshop topics ranged from the practical to the academic:
- Church planting in cities
- A critique of Wayne Grudem’s two levels of New Testament prophecy
- A survey of the life of Arminius
- Being a man of character
- Caring for missionaries
As always, MACP encouraged and refreshed us through the Word and fellowship. If you missed the conference, make your plans to attend next year!
We’ve been hearing a lot of warnings these last few years about the coming persecution of Christians. And a look around the globe reveals that public sentiment really is turning perceptibly against Christians—chiefly abroad, but with fresh harbingers here on American soil. Unfortunately, these warnings have fostered a troubling response among some well-meaning believers. Rather than making “requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity,” because “this is good, and pleases God our Savior” (1 Tim 2:2–3), a rather sizable group of believers have begun, rather unquietly and unpeacefully, to incite persecution by saying and doing ungodly and undignified things. Which is to say they are doing something bad that displeases God.
The Starbucks Coffee Cup fiasco is just the latest in a whole string of these efforts by such Christians. Because Starbucks is no longer putting snowmen, Santa Claus, and Christmas ornaments on their coffee cups, it seems that some angry and belligerent fellow has posted a video tirade about the coffee shop’s participation in the “War against Christmas.” Now, to be fair, I’ve seen hardly any Christians join this cause, and for that I am grateful. Still, this season will see more than one frustrated blog post and Facebook blurb on this topic, and even a tense moment or two at the local department store between some “Christian” shopper and a clerk who, despite her weariness, cheerily says “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”
Dear Christian, please do not do this! Note the following:
- It is not civil society’s responsibility to acknowledge Christmas, and you cannot force them to do so. Christianity has already tried this more than once and it did not turn out well. Remember what happened when Rome baptized not only their own armies but also the Gauls and Goths and company under duress? Bad move. If a store or a clerk or a gas station attendant doesn’t like Christmas, you can’t compel him to do so! It will only make him hate Christ more, and with good reason. Please stop. You are hurting the Gospel.
- What the world celebrates as Christmas has almost nothing to do with Christ. We’re much better off extracting Christ from what the world does. You do realize, don’t you, that when stores use Jesus and Christmas in their advertising it’s just a marketing ploy, right? Same with Santa Claus and decorated trees and sparkly snowflakes. I am rather relieved that stores are gradually weaning themselves off the use of Jesus as cheap advertising. Seeing Christ associated with this selfish rumpus has long been grotesque to me, and I’m rather happy to see it end. So if you are agitating to keep Christ in that expression of Christmas, please stop. You are hurting Christ.
- When Christians start demanding privileged status for their faith, then whine about being “persecuted” when they don’t get it, this radically emboldens the antipathy that secular culture already harbors toward us, and accelerates the onset of true persecution (which is why I’ve labeled the war for Christmas an expression of Christian masochism). In 1 Timothy 2, Paul calls on believers to pray for tolerance, not for privilege. Christians who agitate for Christian privilege through a militant defense of Christmas in civil society are not only wrong; they also exhaust every shred of accumulated sympathy that they might otherwise receive when real persecution finally arrives in America. Please stop. You are hurting the Church.
I fully sympathize with those who worry about the secularization of society. It is in a way sad to see Christmas go the way of prayer and Scripture in school or the way of the Decalogue on the front lawn of the local courthouse. But the privileging of all things Christian in civil society has never been a right, and has historically been something of a bane for the Church. The war we ought to wage is not an belligerent war for Christmas, but an earnest struggle for the souls of men, the furtherance of the Church, and the glory of Christ.
As an instructor in Systematic Theology I sometimes have conversations (whether formal or informal) over the merits of some point of theology or biblical application that end rather oddly with an appeal to “convictions.” The idea seems to be that if a person holds “personally” to some position or practice with less tenacity than he holds to an essential doctrine of the faith, and cannot provide adequate warrant for his position, then he can classify that point as a matter of “conviction” and honorably withdraw from a discussion without censure.
For instance, someone will ask a ministerial candidate in an ordination council to defend his position, say, on sign gifts or the extent of the atonement or drinking alcohol. The candidate will fail to make his case, but then add something like, “But it’s only a personal conviction of mine,” with the apparent expectation that the interrogator must withdraw his question: “Oh, that’s just a conviction? Well in that case, I’ll let it go. So sorry to have asked.”
The idea of “convictions” as a theological category rises, it seems, from the conflation of two key terms for “convict/convince” used in the NT Scriptures (there are other terms too, most notably πείθω/πιστόω—to persuade, but the two below seem to be our culprits):
- The most common and technical term for conviction (ἐλέγχω and its derivatives) appears 17 times in the NT (Matt 18:15; Luke 3:19; John 3:20; 8:46; 16:8; 1 Cor 14:24; Eph 5:11, 13; 1 Tim 5:20; 2 Tim 4:2; Titus 1:9, 13; 2:15; Heb 12:5; Jas 2:9; Jude 15; Rev 3:19) and consistently means to convince someone of the objective truth of some claim or of the objective morality of some deed, usually in a negative sense (i.e., it communicates that a person has been convinced that he is wrong, and should change). The work of conviction is predicated of the Holy Spirit (esp. John 16:8, the locus classicus for the doctrine of conviction), but is usually mediated through another believer and/or the Christian Scriptures. But the idea is consistent: conviction, as communicated by this term, is an intensification of the objective, Christian warrant for some doctrinal or ethical reality.
- The second term for “conviction” that comes into play in our discussion derives from Paul’s puzzling use of the term πληροφορέω (which normally means to “fulfill”) in Romans 14:5. The context is one of believers who are “weak in faith,” and thus unwilling to believe what the Bible clearly teaches, viz., (1) that special holy days are no longer obligatory in view of the end of the Law, and (2) that eating meat is a wholesome activity in view of the highly publicized revelation received by the Apostle Peter in Acts 10:15. Paul pulls no punches in calling these believers “weak” and “faithless”; however, he also sees eating vegetables and observing holidays as innocuous of themselves and matters unworthy of schism. On this basis, he argues that each of his readers should be “fully convinced”(πληροφορείθω) in his own mind (v. 5) and act according to the dictates of his conscience—even, amazingly, if his conscience is demonstrably and objectively wrong (vv. 22–23).
Unfortunately, what Paul allows (and rather ambiguously) in this very narrow context has exploded into a whole separate category of theology: convictions. These elusive entities are somewhat hard to define, but usually carve out a shadowy existence between “doctrinal essentials” and “personal preferences.” They are non-essential beliefs and standards that I personally embrace and of which I have been personally convinced (1) by the Spirit (after all, he is the agent of conviction, so if I have a conviction it must be attributable to him) but (2) without sufficient warrant. As such, my “convictions” emerge as my own little block of personal truth (vis-à-vis public truth) comprised of things that matter a lot to me, but a defense for which is unnecessary and even impossible. And for this reason (harking back to my opening introduction), they are off limits in an ordination council.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I recognize that there are a great many “slots” into which one may insert doctrine and practice: essential doctrines/practices, important doctrines/practices, prudent doctrines/practices, disputed doctrines/practices, tentative doctrines/practices, dubious doctrines/practices, errant doctrines/practices, heretical doctrines/practices, blasphemous doctrines/practices, etc. Some are more defensible than others and some are more worthy of defense than others. We also have theological corollaries, theological applications, theological implications, theological principles, theological nuances, theological misgivings, theological concerns, theological hesitations, etc. But at the end of the day we have but two basic categories of Christian doctrine and practice: warranted Christian beliefs/practices and unwarranted Christian beliefs/practices. There is no valid tertium quid of “convictions” that get a free pass. This rogue set is unhelpful at best and more often a bit dangerous. It really has no meaningful place in theological discourse.
Most seminary students are involved in teaching children in some venue or another. Many are husbands and fathers, and so are responsible for training their own children on a daily basis. Others are not, but are still involved in teaching children within the context of their local church. Although sometimes viewed as something less than real “ministry,” teaching children is a significant ministry opportunity in and of itself. It’s also a great training ground for learning about ministering to people of all ages and backgrounds.
Several years ago I stumbled upon a wonderful series of books for teaching children about church history. To date, Reformation Heritage Books has published nine volumes in the “Christian Biographies for Young Readers” series by Simonetta Carr. This series is designed to introduce children to key figures in the history of the Christian church. So far, volumes have covered well-known Christian leaders including Augustine, John Knox, and Jonathan Edwards as well as several lesser-known figures like Lady Jane Grey and Marie Durand. According to the CBFYR website, a book on Martin Luther is currently in the works (due out in early 2016).
The CBFYR series is aimed at children ages 7–12. The books are clear, engaging, and substantive enough to communicate meaningful information about some remarkable people who stood for Christ in a variety of historical circumstances. My own children love these books, and on numerous occasions I’ve come downstairs in the morning to find an early riser stretched out on the family room floor reading about Athanasius or one of the others. They’ve received the books as Christmas presents and on other special occasions, and each time they’ve been excited to devour the new volume.
If you are wondering why believers should be concerned about teaching church history to children, the author of this series has written a helpful post on that subject. Assuming you are convinced of the value of teaching children about church history and are looking for a tool that will help you introduce children to Christian servants of the past, I can think of no better series of books to help you accomplish that goal.
Mid-America Conference on Preaching – October 15-16, 2015
“Church Planting & Revitalization”
Please mark your calendars for the 2015 MACP. We look forward to a profitable and encouraging time of fellowship in the Word. Our focus is on Church Planting and Revitalization. Our desire is to see the Word of God speed rapidly through the world via the establishment of healthy Scripture-centered churches (2 Thess 3:1). We trust you will make plans to join us.
– Brian Trainer, Dean
Steve Pettit, President, Bob Jones University
Jim Tillotson, President, Faith Baptist Bible College
Lukus Counterman, Pastor, Gospel Grace Church
David Doran, Pastor, Inter-City Baptist Church
Early registration for the conference is $65 and stardard registration is $75. Wives of registered attenders and students visiting DBTS may attend for free.
Please Note: To qualify for the early registration discount your payment must be received (paid online or postmarked) on or before Wednesday, October 7th. Payments made at the conference, even if registration was completed prior to October 7th, will be received at the standard registration rate ($75).
Thursday, October 15
8:00-8:45 a.m. Registration & Refreshments
9:00-10:15 a.m. General Session: Dave Doran
10:15-10:30 a.m. Fellowship Break
10:30-11:30 a.m. Workshop 1
11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Lunch Break
1:00-2:00 p.m. General Session: Steve Pettit
2:00-2:10 p.m. Fellowship Break
2:10-3:10 p.m. Workshop 2
3:10-3:30 p.m. Fellowship Break
3:30-4:30 p.m. General Session: Lukus Counterman
4:30-7:00 p.m. Dinner Break
7:00 p.m. Evening Service: Steve Pettit
Friday, October 16
8:00-8:45 a.m. Refreshments (Church Gym)
9:00-10:15 a.m. General Session: Dave Doran
10:15-10:30 a.m. Fellowship Break
10:30-11:30 a.m. Workshop 3
11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Lunch Break
1:00-2:00 p.m. Workshop 4
2:00-2:20 p.m. Fellowship Break
2:20-3:30 p.m. General Session: Jim Tillotson
Free housing with one of our church families is available for students visiting DBTS. If you need hotel accommodations, Best Western has a conference rate for all who register by the end of September. If they are full, we also recommend the Holiday Inn Express.
Best Western Greenfield Inn
3000 Enterprise Dr, Allen Park, MI 48101
Holiday Inn Express
3600 Enterprise Dr, Allen Park, MI 48101
Call to register 313.381.0111
With the busyness of life, prayer can often be neglected. That’s why DBTS has an annual Day of Prayer to help the students and faculty remember the importance of this spiritual discipline.
“A pastor must be a man of prayer,” said Brian Trainer, Dean of DBTS. “And we seek to instill this reality into the lives of all students.”
This fall, Pastor John Barnett, senior pastor of Calvary Bible Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan, came to speak about prayer. Over 40 students came to hear him speak about the importance of prayer in the believer’s life. He emphasized seven aspects of the Lord’s Prayer in our lives. He said we need to let God focus us on who he is, control, lead, supply, cleanse, protect, and empty us.
Besides Pastor Barnett’s exposition from the Word, there were three sessions of prayer focused on thanksgiving, confession, and revival in the church and the nation. It was an encouraging time for all who came.
“This year’s day of prayer provided a great opportunity for mutual encouragement in the Word and prayer,” said Mr. Trainer. “To see a full room of men before God was both energizing and humbling.”
The day was a good reminder of the words of Robert Murray McCheyne, “ What a man is on his knees before God, that he is, and nothing more.”
If you love to read what theologians write (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t?), you’ll soon have access to the full contents of the Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal on our website.
For twenty years, the DBSJ has made a significant contribution to conservative biblical scholarship. Under the leadership of founding editor Bill Combs, the Journal has also earned a reputation for substantive thinking on issues that matter.
We’re pleased that DBSJ will soon gain a wider audience on the web.
Once we complete the online launch in November, you can check out the current issue and browse the entire index of titles from the past two decades of publication. You’ll find everything from God’s Sovereignty and the Spread of the Gospel to The Integrative Role of the Spirit in the Ethics of Galatians.
If you like what you see, consider sharing this resource with other ministry colleagues. And while you’re at it, subscribe to the annual journal updates.
A comprehensive library of theological writings at your fingertips. All written by DBTS scholars and guest theologians. All free. Pass it on.
Look around and you’ll see plenty of financial rebirth in Detroit. But spiritual rebirth is far more important.
That’s why DBTS grad David Doran, Jr. is planting Resurrection Church in nearby Lincoln Park, a city that will soon mirror southwest Detroit in its racial diversity. “Sometimes the biggest needs are in your own backyard,” David says.
While completing a Th.M. at DBTS, David immersed himself in evangelism as the outreach pastor at Inter-City Baptist Church. Whether sharing the gospel with an unbeliever at a coffee shop or encouraging a believer to reach out to his lost friends, he saw how the gospel drew people to Jesus and emboldened Christians in their faith.
But soon God expanded David’s vision. During a mission trip to Morocco, he noticed throngs of Muslims leaving a mosque. On the way home, he pondered the fact that the largest Muslim population in America is located just 15 minutes away from the seminary in Dearborn, Michigan.
On another survey trip, he ministered to the homeless in one of the ghettos of LA. Returning to Detroit, he did an ethnography study of southwest Detroit and felt God leading him to plant a church in Lincoln Park. With a rapidly growing Hispanic population and an influx of Detroit natives, many people in that area need basic, foundational spiritual training.
Now, nearly 20 adults gather together as a core group for Resurrection Church. But for David, creating a congregation is much more important than conducting a weekly service. He personally disciples men on the team and encourages them to reach out to the lost.
He believes that evangelism is a lifestyle, and he wants to invest in people’s lives so they can minister to others. “Christianity is a vibrant faith that can radically transform a sinner’s life,” David says. “We want Resurrection Church to be a group of people following Jesus together, growing to embrace and experience his Lordship in their lives and advancing his vision in all that they do.”
As summer turns to fall, the weather begins to cool, and the leaves begin to change color. With the change in season comes another school year, and with it, some changes too.
This year, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary welcomed several new students to its student body. The new students represent multiple States and come from various stages in life. What they have in common is a desire to growth in their understanding of God and his word.
“I know that this place will help me prepare for future ministry,” said James Barragan, a new student from California. “Pastor Doran has a great philosophy of ministry that directs the seminary in how they train students. Knowing that I’m in good hands makes me excited to learn here.”
With the new students came new faculty also. Dr. Tim Miller joined the faculty as the Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics. With a doctorate in apologetics from Westminster Theological Seminary and experience teaching at a university, he is a welcome addition to the faculty.
Mr. Brian Trainer joined the administrative team as the Dean of the Seminary. With 25 years of experience as a church planter, pastor, university faculty member and administrator, he brings broad exposure to ministry. Trainer’s primary role will be to oversee the expansion of the seminary’s outreach regionally, nationally, and internationally. As Trainer assumes his new role, he states, “As DBTS moves into its 40th anniversary, it is it strongly positioned to make a significant impact for eternity. DBTS is marked by a fervent pursuit of the person of God through rigorous study of his word, and active service in the local church. This is a strategic place to be as God builds his church.”
The pope is finally gone and I am happier for it. He has practically no redeeming qualities and has left a trail of carnage from the moment he arrived until the moment he left. Make no mistake: he is the incarnation and personification of the worst sort of evil imaginable. And he’s worse than any pope in a long time. Shame on you if you said from your pulpit, “The pope has his problems but…”
So what are the Pope’s problems? Let me enumerate them:
First and most obviously, the pope effectively claims to be God. I choose my words carefully, because he does not announce that he is God; still, he accrues to himself more than is due even a proxy or vicar of God (which he does claim): he actually assumes attributes and prerogatives that belong only to God so routinely that there can be no other conclusion that commends itself to the rational mind. I sat in traffic last week and heard the Archbishop of Detroit call the faithful to “cast their hosannas” at the feet of “his holiness,” as the pope was on his way to a “canonization” event. This was followed by a few snippets from women like to swoon with giddy delirium over the “literal” wave of peace and holiness that had overwhelmed them in Mark 5:30 fashion as he rode past. All this in the time it took me to move fifty feet on Interstate 94. Reality Check: The pope is the greatest purveyor of idolatry alive today. He is a living, breathing affront to God in the very most rudimentary, uncomplicated, and intentional of senses. There is no room for a “yes, but…” To think in such terms is to have one’s Christian sensibilities occluded. He is an unrepentant leader in leading millions into what is, at least in God’s terms, the very first and worst of all possible sins.
But second, this particular pope doesn’t even do common grace well. In past papal administrations, hopeful evangelicals have pushed for “co-belligerence” of evangelical and Catholic churches in matters of social concern. Mercifully, these appeals were more than usually muted for the duration of his visit. And that is because the current pope is not only morally ambivalent (saying almost nothing, say, about the vices of abortion and homosexuality), he’s also naïve to the fact of human depravity and rather stupid (imagining that the Communist experiment of the twentieth century actually has a promising future). But because he speaks for God, we actually have sycophants on both sides of the aisle fawning over his divine words. Reality Check: The pope is using his self-aggrandizing power both to threaten our nation and to effectively suppress biblical ethics with his deafening silence.
Put these two problems together, and we arrive at the pope’s unique problem, viz., that he simultaneously threatens both the civic and spiritual governments of God in rather a comprehensive way. The true church is regularly threatened from within by heresy and from without by civic structures that actively assault the church or fail to restrain those who do. But the pope has the unique power to threaten the church in both ways. And, oddly, the evangelical church often stands poised to accommodate him. Of course it is true that there are incidental points of practical agreement between the Roman Catholic and Christian worldviews that can from time-to-time render individual Catholics and Christians odd but legitimate bedfellows (i.e., the kind of cooperation that can occur incidentally between believers and almost any fellow human), but there can be no formal, Christian, or ecclesiastical co-belligerence between us.
The pope simply has too many problems. Ἀνάθεμα ἔστω.
The scientific community is abuzz this week with the announcement that liquid water has been confirmed on Mars. Of course scientists have long known that water is abundant in our universe (including on Mars), but specific evidence of a stable supply of liquid water has been lacking. It seems that we now have evidence of recurring seeps involving liquid that has, at a minimum, a water base. Not exactly the Amazon River or Lake Superior, mind you, but water nonetheless.
The reason this discovery is important, it is argued, is that the presence of water allows for the possibility of sustainable, carbon-based life somewhere other than Earth. Furthermore, it suggests that the provincial theory of biological evolution on earth now has a clear path to acceptance as a universal law. And if that is true, we finally have the last nail for the coffin of the Genesis account of origins.
Let’s look at the scientific data on its own terms and see how big this discovery really is:
- We begin with the observation that the discovery of water is nothing more than that—the discovery that two inorganic substances quite common to our universe have combined to form the compound we call water. That’s it.
- That water is necessary to life means nothing more than that either. It certainly doesn’t mean that life is necessary to water. That’s called affirming the consequent, and it’s usually one of the very first fallacies covered in your basic class on logic. Water on Mars does not prove life on Mars.
- However, even if we eventually discover carbon-based life on Mars (or anywhere else in the universe), this does not prove that evolution is occurring. It simply means that there is carbon-based life somewhere other than on Earth. This bare discovery, of itself, says nothing about the origin or development of that life.
- Furthermore, if we eventually discover carbon-based life on Mars (or anywhere else in the universe), this does not prove that personhood exists anywhere else. This is an unwarranted extrapolation from woefully incomplete data.
Now let’s consider the pertinent biblical/theological data:
- The discovery of any sort of inorganic matter (including water) outside of Earth is, theologically speaking, a non-event. I offer no proof texts because there just aren’t any. I have no idea why this discovery would carry any theological significance at all.
- The discovery of carbon-based life outside of Earth, were it to occur, might be an eyebrow-raiser, but would also be a theological non-event. It is an eyebrow-raiser because the Bible says that the whole creation suffers as the result of Adam’s sin (Rom 8:18–22), recovers as a result of Adam’s redemption/resurrection (v. 23), and is ultimately replaced at the commencement of the eternal state (2 Pet 3:10–13; Rev 21:1). How Martian amoebas would suffer as a result of Adam’s fall is not readily apparent; still, the fact that the whole creation needs replacement due to Adam’s sin means that every atom in the whole universe (even the carbon ones) must be made new. As such, the idea of carbon-based life on other planets, while perhaps unlikely, offers no threat to the biblical system.
- The discovery of personal life—life in God’s image complete with self-consciousness, freedom, moral and religious sensibilities, etc.—on the other hand, would offer serious hurdles to the biblical system. Such a discovery would mean that sentient life on other planets would, without explanation, consciously suffer irreparable harm and annihilation due to Adam’s sin (see the point above) without any possibility of emancipation (Heb 2:14–17). There is no room in the biblical system for alternative redemptive plans for other species; mankind alone receives this honor. God supplies one and only one unified end for the whole universe, funneled through his singular purpose for man-in-his-image, and no exceptions are possible.
- This speaks, finally, to the revealed purpose of God for the universe. Mankind is not only the singular object of God’s redemptive plan, but also the pinnacle of his civil structures (Psalm 8:5), with the whole of God’s creation subjected to man for man’s own service (Gen 1:28–30). The idea of undiscovered and rival sentient life forms on other planets seems quite incompatible with God’s overarching decree.
In summary, then, I would suggest that the discovery of water on Mars is no cause of alarm at all for believers, and certainly offers us no reason to amend the biblical paradosis. Nothing has happened.
How do you answer the big questions people have about God?
Tim Miller couldn’t get that nagging thought out of his head during college. So he began sharing the gospel with students at a nearby state university on Friday nights.
Years later, Tim tackled the “big questions” head-on, earning his PhD in apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary. Now he enjoys helping seminary students discover biblically informed answers for a lifetime of ministry.
“We live in a world hostile to the Christian faith,” Dr. Miller says. “Our goal in apologetics is to remove barriers that prevent people from listening to the gospel and coming to faith. People who don’t believe in God have heard many reasons not to believe. But usually they haven’t considered the reasons to believe. In fact, I would argue that they don’t understand their own reasons for not believing!”
As Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at DBTS, Dr. Miller brings a breadth of educational and ministry experience, including replanting a church in the Philadelphia area. Previously, he taught classes at Maranatha Baptist University ranging from philosophy and ethics to book studies and Old Testament Survey.
“DBTS is an excellent training ground for ministry,” he says. “We offer a distinct theological position, a missional focus, a discipleship setting, and a unique connection to a healthy, vibrant local church. We’re also close to the largest Muslim population in America.”
“We want our students to understand the world through a biblical lens and share that worldview with others. At DBTS you can find answers to the big questions people have about God.”
With all of the hullabaloo this week over the visit of antichrist (not THE antichrist, mind you, but surely one who most overtly and offensively epitomizes John’s general description of the spirit of antichrist), it is a delight to point our readers to a free eCopy of one of the better treatments of this topic on the market today–R. C. Sproul’s Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism.
Hint: the answer to the question is a resounding NO. The pope is a capital enemy of the Gospel and of the Church of God on earth. We are not together.
Tolle Lege (or perhaps I should say “download and read.” What’s that in Latin?)
Have you ever noticed that the writer of Hebrews never directly quotes from Jesus? Of course, the New Testament epistles do not contain many quotations directly from Jesus. This is understandable in the case of Paul who probably never met the pre-resurrected Christ. Though even in Paul’s case, he does reference the words of Jesus (I Cor. 11:23-26). And we cannot really know how often Paul is directly quoting what the resurrected Christ said to Paul (2 Cor 12:9). Unsurprisingly, we do see more quotations from those who knew Jesus during his First Advent (e.g., Peter).
I am aware that we need to be careful about judging ancient literature by modern standards. Nevertheless, I want to make the argument that the lack of Jesus’ words in Hebrews is rather striking. Notice how Hebrews begins: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he created the world” (1:1-2, ESV). There is much to unpack here, but for our purposes we will focus on the implied contrast. The author of Hebrews (AH) compares the revelation of the prophets with the revelation of the Son. His point through the sermon/epistle is that the revelation through the Son is better revelation than the revelation through the prophets. But if so, why is there no direct verbal quotation of this revelation?
Let’s try to answer this question by starting with an examination of the comparisons made in Hebrews 1:1-2:Prophetic Revelation Son Revelation Timing of Revelation Given long ago Given in the last days Recipients of Revelation Our Fathers “Us”—1st century believers Channel of Revelation By the Prophets By the Son Mode of Revelation In many ways ———
You will notice that there is a clean, one to one comparison for the timing, recipients and channel of revelation. But did the AH forget to make a comparison between the mode of revelation? Clearly he makes the beginning of a comparison by mentioning the “many ways” Old Testament revelation was delivered. In my estimation, the AH did provide the second aspect of the comparison, and this fact provides the interpretive clue as to why the AH can claim to magnify the revelation of the Son even when he never directly quotes from Jesus’ verbal teaching. The mode of this last days “speaking” is not predominantly verbal; it is typological. Typological refers to the use of types. A type is like a shadow that hints at the reality of something similar to but greater than the shadow—the thing that is responsible for the shadow. In this case, the revelation of the Son is better than the revelation through the prophets (yes, even Moses Heb. 3:1-6) because it both fulfills and supersedes that prior revelation.
In what ways does Jesus fulfill the typology presented in the prophetic revelation? The chief example used in Hebrews concerns the priesthood (Heb. 7-10). Only Hebrews calls Jesus a (high) priest (though the concept of His sacrificial offering is present elsewhere in the NT). Using the Melchizedekian priesthood derived from Genesis 14, the AH shows how the OT prophesied (Ps. 110:1,6) about a coming king who would be a priest after the order of Melchizedek. Jesus’ priesthood is the full reality for which the Levitical priesthood was merely the shadow. Even the Melchizedekian priesthood was a shadow of Jesus’ ultimate priesthood, for Melchizedek himself is said to “resemble the Son of God” (Heb. 7:3).
Much more could be said about the use of typology in Hebrews, but the main point here is to suggest that the AH believed the mode of God’s revelation through the Son was not so much what the Son said as what the Son did. It also could be said that it is not what the Son said but who the Son is. In this light, it is no longer surprising that the AH does not quote Jesus’ verbal teaching directly. Following many in the early church and the majority of biblical scholars today, I assume non-Pauline authorship of Hebrews. Regardless of authorship, in the book of Hebrews, there are no direct quotations of Jesus.  I am thinking here of judging the Bible on the basis of modern copyright laws or, more particularly, on the basis of modern frequency of attribution.  Most interpreters agree that Hebrews was originally a sermon that was later transcribed for wider distribution.  Better (κρειττων) is used thirteen times in the New Testament. Hebrews is responsible for eleven of the occurrences.  This word refers to more than the AH’s lifetime. It has eschatological implications that we cannot develop here.
What is religion? Most of us think we know what it is, but when we actually try to define it we run into some difficulty. Perhaps the most common definitions focus on beliefs—a religion is belief in God or spiritual beings. But several systems typically considered religions either do not include belief in spiritual beings or place no significance on them, including Jainism, some forms of Buddhism, and Confucianism.
Thus many prefer functional definitions of religion. Religions offer explanations for ultimate reality, offer spiritual benefit, provide systems for navigating life, etc. Building off of this emphasis, it is common to define religions by starting with systems typically recognized as religions and looking for similarities with others systems to determine whether or not these other systems are religions. In other words, we know that Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism are religions, and so is anything closely related to them. In God is Not One, Stephen Prothero discusses the kinds of things religions do:
In the family of religions, kin tend to perform rituals. They tend to tell stories about how life and death began and to write down these stories in scriptures. They tend to cultivate techniques of ecstasy and devotion. They tend to organize themselves into institutions and to gather in sacred places at sacred times. They tend to instruct human beings how to act toward one another. They tend to profess this belief or that about the gods and the supernatural. They tend to invest objects and places with sacred import. Philosopher of religion Ninian Smart has referred to these tendencies as the seven “dimensions” of religion: the ritual, narrative, experiential, institutional, ethical, doctrinal, and material dimensions. (p. 13)
So, is atheism a religion? It’s not enough to reply that atheists do not believe in God, because belief in God is not a requirement for a religion. Does atheism have enough of a family resemblance to be considered a religion? In fact, the Supreme Court ruled in 1961 that secular humanism functions like a religion and, thus, merits the First Amendment rights of freedom of religion.
Prothero has an extended discussion on whether or not atheism is a religion. He highlights the New Atheists (who he calls “angry atheists”), since they have launched aggressive assaults against “religion.” Have they, under the guise of opposing religion, actually become involved in their own religion?
Do the works of Ayn Rand function like scripture for atheists? Do the various humanist manifestos function like creeds? According to one common formula, members of the family of religions typically exhibit Four Cs: creed, cultus, code, and community. In other words, they have statements of beliefs and values (creeds); ritual activities (cultus); standards for ethical conduct (codes); and institutions (communities). How does atheism stack up on this score? (p. 324)
New Atheists clearly have a creed—the denial of God’s existence. The cultus of atheism is minimal, though there are “holy days” like Bertrand Russell day, Thomas Paine day, and Darwin Day, and they functionally worship people like Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, or Christopher Hitchens. Though they have no basis for their morality, the New Atheists are adamant that their ethical standards are superior to traditional religions. And they have multiple communities, including American Atheists, United Coalition of Reason, and the Atheist Alliance International. For atheists like this, atheism is a religion.
[For some] atheism is, in the words of German theologian Paul Tillich, an “ultimate concern.” It stands at the center of their lives, defining who they are, how they think, and with whom they associate. The question of God is never far from their minds, and they would never even consider marrying someone outside of their fold. They are, in short, no more free from the clutches of religion than adherents of the Cult of Reason in eighteenth-century France. For these people at least, atheism may be the solution to the problem of religion. But that solution is religious nonetheless. (p. 326)
“In America, Baptists were once the ultimate religious outsiders. The Puritans called them ‘the troublers of churches in all places’ and banned them from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1645. Unwilling to submit to official state churches, or to baptize infants, Baptists found themselves reviled, fined, and sometimes brutalized by authorities in England and in the American colonies. …Fast forward three and a half centuries, and a remarkable change has come over Baptists, who command tens of millions of American adherents…. Baptists possess vast networks of cultural influence: publishing houses, missions organizations, disaster relief agencies, advocacy groups, phenomenally popular authors and speakers, and a good deal more. …In many ways, Baptist have become religious and cultural insiders” (Kidd and Hankins, Baptists in America, [ix]).
So begins a recent book on the history of Baptists in America.
This past summer was unusually good to students of Baptist history. In the last few months several excellent new books on Baptist history have been published. I want to highlight two of the most important ones.
At the beginning of the summer, a book titled Baptists in America: A History by Thomas Kidd and Barry Hankins was released by Oxford University Press.* The authors of this book both teach at Baylor University, both identify as evangelical Baptists, and both have published other top-shelf books on the history of evangelicalism. This volume is no exception to that pattern. In the preface, the authors summarize their goals for the book: “…we are seeking to tell the story of Baptist growth and battles through the centuries from the founding of England’s colonies to contemporary America. Baptists, of course, now have a fully global history. We focus here on Baptists’ part in the story of American religious and cultural history, using the great variety of Baptist experience to illuminate the tug of war between America’s intense religiosity and its pioneering secularism” (x).
The book begins with a short discussion of where Baptists came from. Then having briefly traced Baptist origins to early seventeenth-century England, the authors jump the Atlantic to talk about Roger Williams and Baptist beginnings in America. Subsequent chapters focus on the relationship of Baptists to the First Great Awakening (ch. 2), the American Revolution (ch. 3), and the Second Great Awakening (ch. 5). Several chapters discuss race relations among Baptists specifically addressing the issue of slavery (chs. 6 & 7) and the later civil rights movement (ch. 12). And then toward the end of the book a few chapters address important controversies that have taken place in Baptist life, such as the fundamentalist-modernist controversy (chs. 10 & 11) and the conservative resurgence within the Southern Baptist Convention (ch. 13). Overall, the discussions in these chapters are fair and consistently quite good.
Interestingly, Kidd and Hankins reserve the question of what it means to be a Baptist for the book’s final chapter. The authors note that Baptists have been a very diverse group. They rightly believe that recent attempts to tie Baptist identity primarily to soul freedom or religious liberty fall short because “such matters have never been near the top of the Baptist agenda” (249). They point out that if one looks at major Baptist confessions of faith the issue of orthodoxy inevitably rises to the fore (249–50). Indeed, many of the most important Baptists confessions were written in order to show what Baptists hold in common with other orthodox Protestants. Nevertheless, Kidd and Hankins note that Baptists have been and remain quite divided over the proper interpretation of the Bible on a whole host of issues. In the end, the authors suggest that three features have traditionally marked out the Baptists: (1) the practice of believer’s baptism, (2) the independence of their local congregations, and (3) a willingness to call themselves “Baptists” (251).**
The second volume I’d like to highlight was published by B&H just a few weeks ago (in mid-August). The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement was written by Anthony Chute, Nathan Finn, and Michael Haykin. As was true of the earlier book, these writers all identify as evangelical Baptists. However, in this case the authors teach at three different Baptist educational institutions, though each of the schools is in some way connected to the Southern Baptist Convention. As the title suggests, this book is of broader scope than the book by Kidd and Hankins.
At this point, I’ve only begun dipping into The Baptist Story, but here are a few of my initial impressions. The book very accessible. It is well-outlined, user-friendly, and written in a voice that will appeal to people who may be reading a Baptist history book for the first time. The text is also interspersed with an ample number of pictures and excerpts from primary sources. What is missing, or rather is intentionally omitted, is footnotes or endnotes. Instead, each chapter is followed by a list of resources for further study and questions for discussion.
In terms of organization and content, the book is divided into four main sections comprised of thirteen chapters altogether. The first three sections are arranged chronologically by centuries with the first section discussing the seventeenth and eighteen centuries, the second covering the nineteenth century, and the third discussing the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Highlighting the book’s recent vintage is a chapter on Baptists in the twenty-first century. This chapter mostly discusses Baptists outside of North America and recent trends within Baptist life. The fourth section of the book is somewhat different from the others in that it addresses the issue of Baptist beliefs. Interestingly, although the authors raised the question of Baptist identity in their introduction, like Kidd and Hankins, they saved their real discussion of Baptist identity for the final chapter of the book. I’m still not sure that order makes the most sense in terms of methodology, but I’m sure the authors had their reasons for putting it where they did. Although I’m not using it as a textbook this semester (partially due to its release date), I anticipate this book being used as such in many college and seminary courses in years to come and for good reason. It introduces nearly all of the key people, events, controversies, etc. that need to be discussed in a survey of Baptist history, and it does so in an interesting way. In short, I like this book. It’s readable. It’s reasonably comprehensive. And it’s clearly written by men who love their subject.
Both of these new books represent significant contributions to the literature on Baptist history. If you are interested in learning more about Baptist history, The Baptist Story would be a great place to start. And if you’re particularly interested in the role that Baptists have played in American history and culture, you’ll find Baptists in America to be a great resource.
*As an aside, I find the fact that OUP published this book rather amusing in light of the fact that Baptists were effectively unable to matriculate at Oxford for roughly the first two hundred years of their existence (from the mid-1600s to the mid-1800s).
**Perhaps a fourth distinguishing trait should be added to this list, namely, a tendency to have potlucks on a regular basis. Just checking to see if anyone actually reads these notes at the bottom of a post.
A couple of weeks ago Union University made news by practicing secondary separation (or at least what fundamentalists have been pummeled over the last 70 years for practicing under that label): they broke fellowship with an organization of professing believers—the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities [CCCU]—because the Council had failed to censure two member institutions—institutions that had capitulated to the prevailing Zeitgeist on the matter of homosexual marriage. Union president Dub Oliver explained: “Our faithfulness to the authority of Scripture takes precedence,” adding, “Our advocacy for Christ-centered higher education means that we must stand with institutions that share our commitments.” He concluded, “The reason we are passionate about this is because what we are talking about is not a secondary or tertiary theological issue—marriage is at the heart of the Gospel. To deny the Bible’s concept of marriage is to deny the authority of Scripture.” But here’s the thing: the CCCU has for years had as member institutions schools of various branches of the Churches of Christ, a Seventh Day Adventist School, at least one (very) Roman Catholic school, and a few other nominally “Christian” institutions that have given little thought to the details of the Christian Gospel and the authority of the Word of God for decades. These theological errors are not separation-worthy, but homosexuality is? Hmmm.
Example 2: Last week I stopped by a church blog that I frequent. Again, I applauded the author’s powerful argument regarding the use of Hillsong music in his church: due to Hillsong’s “normalization of immorality” (again, homosexuality), the author reckoned, “our music ministry will no longer use any material written by Hillsong.” But then came the curious caveat. The author admitted that Hillsong had long ago abandoned sound doctrine, but argued that “we were never concerned that using this song would lead our people into prosperity theology or wild charismaticism.” So his church had continued to use Hillsong music. But homosexuality? That went too far. Now it has become time, the author concluded, to “watch out for those who cause confusion regarding sound doctrine, and turn away from them.”
On the one hand I’m happy about these decisions—I rejoice in them as refreshing matters of biblical obedience. And maybe I should do nothing but offer a hearty “Amen” and applause to both. I agree with the willingness to part ways with disobedient brothers and appreciate their courageous stands in the face of stiff opposition. Overlooking or endorsing homosexuality IS a big deal. A really big deal. And I’m glad that these two men and the organizations they represent are refusing to shrug their shoulders and look the other way.
But I struggle with the implied suggestion that the error of homosexual marriage is a bigger deal and a greater affront to the Gospel than the denial of justification sola fide, or that advocating for homosexuality is a bigger threat to God’s people than advocating for a prosperity “gospel” that boasts no more of the Gospel than my pet rabbit. It seems that homosexuality has temporarily become more of a gospel issue than, well, the Gospel. Why is this the case?
Two responses to this trend have come to us from the confessional community (Carl Trueman and Scot McKnight). These argue convincingly that the bare evangelical model, despite all its talk of the Gospel, offers an insufficient basis for determining what constitutes a “big,” “important,” and therefore “gospel” issue, instead leaving the church to posture rather arbitrarily according to the prevailing winds of the day. At one time we pounded on smoking and drinking and rock music, but that’s much too 1970—the 21st century whipping boys are homosexuality and egalitarianism on the left and “legalism” in the right. That’s where the conservative evangelical will take a stand and practice “secondary separation.”
Now, admittedly, the 21st century evangelical watersheds do seem a bit more serious than those from 1970, so I must be charitable. Scripture itself tells us that homosexuality, especially, is a “bigger” or at least a more advanced sin problem than others (so Rom 1:24ff). Still, I think Trueman and McKnight are on to something: the bare evangelical model may be able to see that homosexuality is a big issue, but it has trouble offering a unified explanation as to why it is a big issue. To do that, one needs more than the Gospel and a few Bible verses. We need instead a holistic network of collocated theses that connect the doctrines of God, Scripture, creation, law (natural and biblical), the imago dei, the relationship of Church and culture, the state of man (both old and new), sin, atonement, sanctification, perseverance, pneumatology, apologetics, ecclesiology, the ordinances, and even eschatology. In short we need to take our stands within comprehensive traditions. Without them, we may experience the meager satisfaction and applause that comes from picking at the scabs of homosexuality and egalitarianism, but we risk ignoring the melanoma spreading beneath.
We cannot save the Christian faith merely by erecting a fortress around a few gospel loci and supplementing that defense with occasional sorties against ethical brigands. Instead, we must take our stand in the ontological and epistemological foundations from which the Gospel and its ethic flow.
Choosing Hats (an apologetics site) has a lengthy article pointing out the fallacies of four common arguments given in support of Planned Parenthood and some suggestions for how you can push back against these arguments. I thought I’d provide a brief summary of the responses given there (with a few additional thoughts sprinkled in) to give you a sense of what is being said, but would encourage you to take some time to familiarize yourself with the arguments and responses more fully as well.
It’s a Hoax
Calling it a “hoax” or “bogus” or “fraudulent” implies that the videos are forgeries. But not even Planned Parenthood has treated the videos as if they were not real people saying those things—as if it were the result of CGI. Rather, they have challenged the videos on the accusation that they were obtained illegally—which would be absurd if they were not real. They are not a “hoax.” But calling it a “hoax” is meant to intentionally mislead people into thinking the videos are not real, even when they know they are.
The Video Was Edited
The emphasis on “edited” videos is intended to make people think these videos are trying to hide the full truth and deceive those watching. But there are three problems with this argument. The full videos of the conversation have been released within minutes of the “edited” videos. Why would someone release the full videos in connection with the edited versions if they were trying to hide something? Further, almost every video used in documentaries, television, etc. is edited. So it’s not as though these videos are somehow different from every other video you watch in the news. But perhaps most importantly, the moral disgust and outrage is not a result of the editing. Jonathan Merritt notes in his article concerning the NYT editorial that the unedited versions are as bad if not worse than the edited versions:
The Times also claimed the video was unreliable because it was “edited.” They are correct that the full video was nearly three hours long while the edited version was only nine minutes. So what? These comments in the longer version do not invalidate those in the shorter version. While editorial board hopes to convince readers that The Center for Medical Progress was deliberately only telling part of the story, but they fail to mention that the full video was also posted online and available. So who is withholding information here? And, by the way, the full video is just as repulsive as the shorter version. In fact, it’s about two hours and 50 minutes more repulsive.
The Means Were Dishonest
This is an attempt to make Planned Parenthood the victim. Someone did something wrong to them, because those people lied to gain access to their staff and clinics. But are PP defenders really concerned about the morality of means? On one hand, they argue that taking organs from babies is acceptable because it furthers scientific research (i.e., the end justifies the means), while on the other hand they argue that the videos should be dismissed because someone lied in order to make them (i.e., the means matters more than the end).
But if they are really concerned about the morality of means, they must be appealing to some basis of objective morality by which we could determine whether or not particular actions are good and right. Where does that basis come from? And what does that basis of objective morality say about taking innocent life?
For a biblical and thoughtful defense of the means used to obtain the videos, see Douglas Wilson’s helpful post.
Planned Parenthood Does Good, And Only Bad People Would Try to Stop That Good
What good does Planned Parenthood actually do? Some state that they offer mammograms, but as the Washington Post pointed out years ago: “The problem here is that Planned Parenthood does not perform mammograms or even possess the necessary equipment to do so.” What they do provide (cancer screenings, birth control, pap smears) are all offered by other health care organizations that do not do abortions.
Even Slate noted a couple years ago that to claim that abortions only constitute 3% of Planned Parenthood’s services is “downright silly.” The reality is that at least 1/3 of their revenue comes from abortions, which means abortions are central to Planned Parenthood.
Even if Planned Parenthood did other good things and abortions only constituted 3% of their services, that should be enough to have a problem with them. As Rich Lowry at the National Review argues:
The 3 percent figure is an artifice and a dodge, but even taking it on its own terms, it’s not much of a defense. Only Planned Parenthood would think saying that they only kill babies 3 percent of the time is something to brag about. How much credit would we give someone for saying he only drives drunk 3 percent of the time, or only cheats on business trips 3 percent of the time, or only hits his wife during 3 percent of domestic disputes?
The choosing hats article concludes with the following takeaway:
Planned Parenthood, and their supporters, have precisely nothing in their defense right now. Nothing whatsoever. They have a whole lot of experience at making things look the way they want them to look – but the mask was ripped off. Keep them running, keep them on the defensive, and show their pack of lies to be precisely what it is. This is something we all have to keep at, have to keep momentum going on. The Big Lie only works if there is nobody to oppose it vigorously and comprehensively. We must understand that we are dealing with an entire nation of self-deceived people. An entire nation of people illiterate about the most basic fundamentals of the human condition. We must teach as much as we refute. We must strongly condemn this atrocity, while speaking that truth of condemnation in love. His grace is sufficient for us. He will give us the words to say, when the time comes. In the meantime, get ready, and always be ready to give a defense for the faith – and a defense for the defenseless.
You can see the full choosing hats article here.