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Jesus and the God of the Old Testament

Talbot School of Theology - Fri, 01/06/2017 - 12:00

Hello Dr. Craig,

I would first like to say thank you so much for being such an amazing resource for answers and perspectives on difficult questions. I have listened to you for years and have learned so much from your work.

I would like to explain, that I am a Christian. I believe in Jesus and that he died for my sins on the Cross. However, I must admit that I have not delved into scripture wholeheartedly.

I was so deeply affected by the Gospels that they struck a note with me. I believe in Jesus because I can completely relate to the message. It makes total sense for me. Man is depraved, we need a saviour, that saviour is God, God came to live as one of us to show us the only way to live and consequently died, all so that we may turn from our own self righteousness and follow him.

Jesus set the standard as has never been matched or could not be matched by man or gods.

My problem lies further back in the timeline ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

On “Conservative” Worship

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 01/06/2017 - 10:32
When a person self-describes as “conservative,” the meaning of the adjective can be elusive. Conservatism can be noble in one context and ignoble in another. What gives the word meaning, ultimately, is the explanation of what one is conserving and what one is allowing to progress. For a couple of decades now we have seen... Read More
Categories: Seminary Blog

Desiring the disciplines—A matter of the heart

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 01/06/2017 - 09:56

Often, when we come to spiritual disciplines we list them, plan for them, and then labor to perform them. In the best scenario, we realize—sooner rather than later—we can’t do them apart from the power of the Holy Spirit. And so we pray and ask God to help us.

Yet, such an approach may go wrong from the start. Why? Because we put the law (and its list) in front of the gospel (and its power). In other words, when we devote ourselves to discipline, we “covenant” with a bank of rules we trust to make us better—better people, better Christians, better (fill in the blank). But of course, the law never brings life and can only be a delight when God has written his law on our heart.

The problem with any law-ful approach to discipline, however, it not that it contains laws. The gospel is not antinomian—lawless. The third use of the law is a gift to the growing disciple. The problem is when we call upon the Spirit to assist us after our plan is put in place. Now granted, if you setting out to read the Bible, pray, and fast, you have already taken your cues from the Spirit’s inspired Word—especially, on that last discipline. But still the root cause of burnout remains. What is that? The problem of desire.

 

Spiritual Desire is the Key to Spiritual Discipline

In You Are What You Love, James K. A. Smith reminds us that we are not “thinking-things” (Descartes), but “loving-things” (Augustine), creatures who follow our passions and desires more than any well-reasoned directive. Smith illustrates the point with his transformation in eating. Leaving behind his “meat and potatoes” diet with no room for vegetables, he now craves Greek Yogurt and salads—so he says.

He recounts the process of transformation and how his mental beliefs outran his bodily appetites. (Rosaria Butterfield speaks of the same reality in her interview with Mark Dever). Reading Wendell Berry in a Costco food court—the height of hypocrisy, one might say—Smith explains how our spiritual appetites also lag behind our acquired knowledge. The point he makes about bodily appetites is the point I want to make about spiritual ones.

If our minds are convinced that we need to read the Bible, pray, go church, and stop watching so much TV, but our hearts (and bodies) still long to sleep in, browse the Internet, and go shopping, then the problem is less our thinking and more our desiring. Come up with the best plan, tether it to a dozen apps and reminders, and it will still fail.

The heart will pull us after its own desire.

As we know too well, there’s a gap between what we know and what we do. “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Rom. 7:15). Moreover, the habits of life given to us by the culture, “secular liturgies” as Smith calls them, train us to fill ourselves on other appetizers.

In such cases, the best laid plan for spiritual discipleship fails because it is not matched by spiritual hunger. But to make matters even worse, such a desire is cultivated by following a routine of spiritual disciplines. What will break the cycle of spiritual disinterest? What is the source of spiritual hunger that might impel our disciplines and result in true communion with God?

 

The Birth of a New Desire

The unsurprising but truthful answer is God. Only God can create, sustain, and increase our spiritual appetites. Only God can order our days such that we get the daily bread we need and the space and time and desire to commune with him. Indeed, just as God the Father sought us in salvation, when we lacked desire for him (Rom. 10:20); so we depend on God the Spirit to convict, agitate, implant, empower, and enlarge a new appetite in us.

This is our hope. It comes from God and is born in the new birth. In conversion, the seed of the Word produces life, but it also produces a new spiritual appetite. This is what Ezekiel 36 means when it says,

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (26–27)

What a glorious gift, the new birth is. Not only does God justify us when he gives us faith; he also empowers us to begin a life of sanctification. The spiritual disciplines are the “free weights,” if you will, that enable the child of God to grow in spiritual strength. And while at the start we may not feel any pleasure in a spiritual regimen, the new life presses us forward.

In You Are What You Love, Smith rightly addresses the power of habit, but he overlooks the new birth. He explains how bodily habits and spiritual disciplines transform us, but he forgets (I trust, he assumes) the power that comes from the spiritual life within. This desire for God as given in the new birth is the source of strength for every spiritual discipline. And then, and only then, in cooperation with the Spirit, do we have power to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and walk in new ways.

Perseverance, therefore, is not (ultimately) attributable to the choices of an individual. It, like everything else, is a gift of grace. Reading the Bible, understanding the Bible, and desiring the Bible are all fruit of the Spirit. And thus, the child of God who wants God but doesn’t want him enough, is led to cry out like the man in Mark 9:24: “I desire, help me desire.”

To be clear, this emphasis on the affections does not undermine truth. It is a humanity-affirming, appetite-embracing truth in itself. We are not saved by knowing truth but by loving truth and thereby abiding in it (see John 8:32; 2 Thess. 2:10). Such desire for God is what ultimately overcomes the difficulties associated with the spiritual disciplines.

 

Discipline begins with desire

As you make plans for the New Year, let me encourage you to take seriously Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 4:7, “Discipline yourself for godliness” (NASB). Only, in all your well-laid plans, do not forget self-discipline is both given by the Spirit (Gal. 5:23) and sustained by desire. Therefore, the first spiritual discipline is not just establishing a list of improved habits. It is the prayer-full cry for God to enflame your desires for him.

Indeed, the whole point of Bible reading, journaling, service, etc. is for our affections for the Lord—and the affections of others in the Lord—to increase. Yes, this comes through regular exercise of the spiritual disciplines, but the underlying endurance comes from a hungering and thirsting for righteousness. Therefore, as we enter into 2017, let us do so praying for God to give us more of himself—first by awakening a desire within us and then by cultivating habits of Scripture and prayer centered around him.

__________________ 

David Schrock (Ph.D., SBTS) serves as preaching pastor at Occoquan Bible Churchin Woodbridge, VA. David and wife, Wendy, have three sons, Titus, Silas, and Cohen. He blogs at Via Emmaus.

The post Desiring the disciplines—A matter of the heart appeared first on Southern Blog.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Top 10 Apologetics "Tips" of 2016

Talbot School of Theology - Thu, 01/05/2017 - 12:00

During 2016, I began tweeting an “Apologetics Tip of the Day.” Some have to do with apologetics content, while others are tips for doing apologetics more effectively. Many of these were taken from my book A New Kind of Apologist or simply my own experience. And of course, some generated much more interest than others. Here’s the top 10 “Apologetics Tips” from 2016 in descending order ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

3 Theses About Regeneration, Part Three

Talbot School of Theology - Wed, 01/04/2017 - 12:00

The meaning of regeneration features in one of the ongoing disagreements between dispensational theology and covenant theology when we compare the experience of salvation before and after Pentecost. Covenant theology typically reasons that regeneration is necessary for saving faith (as in effectual calling and grace), so anyone experiencing saving faith was regenerate (e.g., Abraham, other OT saints). This reasoning is part of the assertions about the continuity of the people of God, the continuity of experience of salvation, and the combination of Israel with the church across history (resulting in the church’s replacement of Israel) ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Why do We Sing in our Worship Service?

Talbot School of Theology - Tue, 01/03/2017 - 12:39

I started the New Year by worshiping, fellowshipping, and preaching at Taft Avenue Community Church in Orange, California.  At one point in the service, Pastor Bob Burris read aloud a short explanation of why Christians sing during times of worship.  I appreciated what he read and want to share it with you today.  The reading was adapted from a blog post by Kevin DeYoung, cut down to a length that could be used in a worship service.  Why do we sing when we worship together?

Categories: Seminary Blog

Once a student, now a shepherd: Life after seminary

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 01/03/2017 - 10:51

You are about to take your last few classes. You are ordering the gown and inviting your friends and family to graduation. You are freshening up your resume in hopes of landing in ministry somewhere.

Before you launch into this next phase of your life, stop and thank the Lord for the rare privilege of studying at one of the finest seminaries in the world, for the concentrated time of studying with world-renowned professors and wrestling with the Scripture and with important theological texts. Many of your brothers and sisters around the world would give anything to simply own a few books besides the Bible, yet you have been granted, by God, the opportunity to study and learn from the best and with the best. You’ve plunged head-first into the glorious riches of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What’s next?

But now you are entering your ministry life and while your learning is just beginning, your season of concentrated theological study is coming to a close (until you come back for your PhD!). Now the bulk of your time will be spent putting into practice what you have absorbed over the last few years. As you enter your mission field, chapel sermons, formative books, and favorite phrases from your professors will ring in your ears.

What does ministry after school look like? Truth is, now that you’ve been a student, you are now, most likely, on the path to something that requires an even deeper level of commitment and dependence on the Spirit of God. You are called to be a shepherd of souls.

Whether you become a full-time senior pastor, a youth pastor, an associate pastor, a counselor, a women’s ministry leader, small group leader, camp counselor, or some other role, you will be tasked, by God, with the care of souls.

Called to shepherd hearts

You’ve been a student. Now must become a shepherd. What does that look like? Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:

1.Shepherding is a theological task.

One of the ways you can most love the people you serve is to teach the Word of God faithfully, to feed those in your care the rich meat of his Word. First and foremost, shepherds must lead their sheep to good food. If you are a senior pastor this is particularly important. The main focus of your role is to stand in the pulpit and declare, with power and authority, what God has already said.

2. Shepherding is a patient task.

Every pastor must be, by calling, a preacher. But not every preacher is a pastor. You will understand quickly that leading involves patience and care, providing on-ramps for your people to get from where they are, spiritually, to where they need to be. This means you will have to set aside the notions and illusions of an “ideal church” and serve the people God has actually put in front of you. Shepherds know intuitively how to gently guide their people along, not browbeating with theological condescension. You must see your people, not as masses to be moved, but as individual disciples, people made in God’s image and objects of his saving love in Christ.

3. Shepherding is a long-term, habitual task.

 Spiritual change rarely happens overnight, but over a process of many years. Your people will not be moved by one big sermon, but by a steady diet of God’s Word over a long period of time. Weekly rituals of worship and teaching will help form habits that shape the heart over a lifetime.

4. Shepherding is people work.

Shepherds are in and among their people. Regardless of your role, resist the urge to stay in a theological ivory tower. Instead, you must live in and among your people. Know their deepest struggles and greatest triumphs. Visit their workplaces. Attend their children’s ballgames. Sit down for coffee. This is not only part of your role as a pastor, it will endear you to your people and will show up in your preaching. When they listen to you on Sunday, they will know if you’ve been among the people or if you’ve been cloistered in your office.

5. Shepherding is hard and messy warfare.

Sanctification, the process by which the Spirit of God peels away the layers of sin and decay and reforms us into the image of Christ, isn’t formulaic. You will encounter people with deeply layered sin problems—just as you are deeply layered with sin problems. Even as we progress, we see how much more progress there is to be made. You will have some great and visible victories, but most often you will see slow progress and much of God’s work of restoration will happen on the other side of his second coming. But you are called to serve, not the people you wish you had but the people as they are. It will be messy and will look nothing like the easy formulas you discussed in your hair-splitting theological bull sessions in seminary. That’s ok.

6. Shepherding involves a lifetime of learning.

You may be finishing seminary, but your time as a student is just beginning. Enter ministry, not as the theologically trained know-it-all, but as a humble servant. Find a good pastor, who has long labored in the trenches, and ask him to mentor you. If you can, try to serve in an internship or associate role before you assume a primary teaching and leading role. Study and learn the craft of pastoring. This will not only help you move forward with confidence, but will help shape your future ministry.

_________________________

Daniel Darling serves as vice president for communications at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He is currently a student at Southern Seminary. You can follow him on Twitter at @DanDarling.

The post Once a student, now a shepherd: Life after seminary appeared first on Southern Blog.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Bible-Reading Plans for 2017

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 01/03/2017 - 10:42
This year marks the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther, a seminal figure in this religious renewal, posted his 95 theses in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. Years later, in a sermon reflecting on the power behind the movement, Luther acknowledged the supremacy of the Word of God: “I opposed... Read More
Categories: Seminary Blog

Seasoned and Shining: A call to a resilient faith in Christ

Southwestern Seminary - Tue, 01/03/2017 - 09:30

It’s hard to believe that another year has come and gone. As I reflect on last year, I am amazed at the events that took place throughout the world. While I am saddened by many of the things I have seen and heard, I am aware that the Lord is still at work. The condition of marriages, families and communities; the increasing hostility and division between people of differing ethnicities; and the continual disregard for the value of human life, born and unborn, are all things that I will remember from last year. While sad, I remain encouraged that the Lord knows, cares and expects His followers to have an impact on this world for His glory.

In Matthew 5:13-16, Jesus speaks of the role that His followers would play in the world. He tells the disciples and anyone else that would follow Him,

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

What does it mean for those who follow Jesus to be salt and light in a world of decay and darkness? Jesus understood that His followers would need both character to influence a world in decay and an outward witness that points to the Father. Pure lives will act to hold back corruption, while dedication to spreading the Gospel and meeting needs with love will bring the love of God to the forefront.

In light of the times in which we live, I have three thoughts that I hope will be helpful as we move through the new year and engage the decay and darkness around us:

1. The truth of any matter is a matter of truth.

It is vital that we understand the source of the decay that we see and experience daily. It comes from the fall of man, and the fall was set in motion by a lie. The account can be found in Genesis 3. It is amazing that the enemy begins his attack by calling into question the Word of God: “Indeed, has God said…?” By doing this, Satan also calls into question the character and nature of God. Once God’s Word is questioned, the next step is to reject it. As we engage the issues dealing with ethnicity, marriage and life, let us remember that the main issue is an issue of truth. We must engage with truth; a lie has speed, but the truth has endurance. Indeed, God has said that from one man came all men; that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world; that marriage is God’s idea, a holy covenant that He established; and that human life is precious.

2. The Word is not only free from error but sufficient for life.

As we engage the decay and shine in the darkness, we must rely on the Word as the source of our message and director of our lives. There is a trend to view the Bible as holy and good, but not sufficient. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” The Word is sufficient and will provide the wisdom, training and help that is needed to make an impact for the Kingdom of God. We must be committed to conforming our lives to the Word of God.

3. It is not the truth you know, but the truth you obey that makes a difference.

To be effective for the Kingdom, it is vital that hearing the Word results in godly action. James 1:22 says, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” Whenever an area of our life is in contradiction with the Word, we must quickly conform our life to the Word. As we conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel, we reflect the light of Christ in the dark world in which we live and point others to the only source of hope for humanity. Let us exercise our faith with our feet so that the watching world can see and glorify our God.

The Lord does some of His best work in dark and dirty times, seeds grow best in fertile soil, and lights are most visible in the darkest night. Our disappointments many times will be opportunities for His divine appointments. As you move through the new year and engage tough life issues, my encouragement is that you look at and engage the issues through a biblical lens and framework.

Categories: Seminary Blog

3 Theses About Regeneration, Part Two

Talbot School of Theology - Mon, 01/02/2017 - 12:00

Regeneration (gennao anothen, “born again” or, “born from above”) is most clearly stated in John 1:12-13 and 3:3-8. While Nicodemus thinks Jesus is talking about a second birth (“He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” John 3:4, all quotations are from nasb), the alternate possible meaning of birth from above is better since the source of the birth of God that makes one a child of God is more important than the idea of simply being alive again. Perhaps best is to hold both ideas of enlivening spiritual renewal and birth from God (as the new source for one’s existence) ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Red Letter Gospels

Talbot School of Theology - Fri, 12/30/2016 - 12:00

Dr. Craig,

How do we know that the red letters in the New Testament are what Jesus actually claimed and taught? ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Popular articles of 2016

Southwestern Seminary - Thu, 12/29/2016 - 09:30

TheologicalMatters.com provides a range of helpful articles written by Southwestern faculty addressing topics such as preaching, ethics, apologetics, current events, church history, marriage, family, ministry and more. Below, you’ll find excerpts from some of our most popular articles within the year 2016. Search the blog to read the full articles and share them with friends, family and church members.

– Less traditional student ministry might mean more disciples

By Richard Ross | Professor of Student Ministry

If student pastors were to stop doing about two-thirds of what they are doing, we might begin producing more disciples. Why? Because if they stop doing some things, then they will have time to do other things that offer even more promise. I have much confidence in the student pastors as leaders, but the time has come for their workweeks to change. Read more here.

– What if this is the end of freedom in America?

By Malcolm Yarnell  | Research Professor of Systematic Theology

A quick review of recent news headlines in the United States reveals an increasing number of incidents where governmental executives, legislators and judges have borrowed from the intolerant presuppositions of secular progressivism to restrict the religious liberties of believers. These incidents are strong signs of not just a lack of respect for the “first freedom,” but of an insidious, incipient hostility toward believers in traditional religion.

… The evidence indicates something has shifted in American culture: intolerance toward religious believers, and in particular toward evangelical Christians, is on the rise. And this intolerance is being manifested in all three branches of government and at the local, state and federal levels. One need not be a prophet to read a cultural swell building against believers in Jesus Christ. Read more here.

– Is extending an invitation really relevant for today?

Denny Autrey | Dean, J. Dalton Havard School for Theological Studies

The contemporary pulpit of the 21st century has become silent. Not in regard to story-telling, pithy sayings, anecdotes, and illustrative pictures of everyday life, but with regard to any concrete explanation of the text of Scripture. In some cases, the use of Scripture in the preaching event has become non-existent. Thus, is there really a need for extending an invitation at the conclusion of the contemporary sermon?

… What the contemporary pulpit requires is a return to the semantic understanding of the biblical text communicated in a relevant fashion that engages the hearer. The proper approach to text-driven preaching mandates a response that cannot be avoided. Read more here.

– The Bible, the preacher, and the presenting issue

Steven Smith | Vice President for Student Services

As any counselor will tell you, the real issue is most often not the presenting issue. The presenting issue seems to be strategies for preaching and evangelism in the local church setting. But the real issue is a global confidence in the Word of God.

Should we assume that believers trust Scripture when we preach? Of course not. We, therefore, reason with them. We argue for the text. However, in assuming they do not believe it, should we concede that is it unbelievable? Of course not. Read more here.

– An appeal to pastors—Please call out the called

Charles Patrick | Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Communications

Pastor, you are the greatest influencer for a man or woman who is sensitive to God’s call. There are approximately 7,300 students in the six seminaries from 46,500 churches. This is roughly one student per six churches being sent to be equipped. Imagine the cohort of church planters, missionaries, pastors, children’s ministers, music ministers, etc. that could be raised and equipped if each of the 46,500 churches committed to sending at least one student. We’d instantly have a sixfold increase in students being equipped and deployed around the globe. The harvest is there if churches will send the laborers. Read more here.

To stay up to date on Theological Matters articles, click here to subscribe and receive the newest content.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Most viewed videos of 2016

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Thu, 12/29/2016 - 03:00

One of the top trends of 2016 was the continued growth of online video. This trend held true with videos captured and produced by our talented Southern Productions team. In the past year we saw unprecedented growth in video views whether they were for live events, music videos, or other types of content. Below we have pulled together a sampling of our most popular videos (measured by YouTube views) produced in the past year. If you haven’t already, make sure to subscribe to the Southern Seminary YouTube channel.

 

“He Will Hold Me Fast” — Norton Hall Band

 

God & Politics: A Conversation with Cal Thomas and Albert Mohler

 

“My Hope Is Built” — Norton Hall Band

 

If the World Hates You — Albert Mohler

 

There is Nobody Like Jesus — Charlie Dates

 

A Conversation with Astronaut, Col. Jeff Williams

 

“Come Ye Sinners” — Norton Hall Band

 

A New Humanity: Racial Reconciliation among Southern Baptists

 

“How Firm a Foundation” — Norton Hall Band

 

Ask Anything Live with Albert Mohler

 

 

The post Most viewed videos of 2016 appeared first on Southern Blog.

Categories: Seminary Blog

A Good List of OT Commentaries

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 12/28/2016 - 13:19
Bill Barrick, long-time professor at The Master’s Seminary and friend of DBTS, just wrapped up a list of his most highly recommended commentaries on the Old Testament. This is an outstanding list that is hard to improve upon. Highly recommended.
Categories: Seminary Blog

3 Theses About Regeneration, Part One

Talbot School of Theology - Wed, 12/28/2016 - 12:00

Regeneration seems to be one of those topics that theologians argue about while non-experts give little thought to it. Since this is a biblical topic that appears in nearly every book of the New Testament, we should consider this major theme closely and repeatedly. Regeneration is implicated not only in the term “born again,” but also in the many references to Christians as children of God, sons of God, the new self, new creation, having been made alive, and the new Christian familial identity as brothers and sisters to each other. I offer three controversial theses about regeneration to provoke consideration of this important doctrine ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Free For All: Bingeing, Diversity, and Fake News

Criswell College: For Christ and Culture - Tue, 12/27/2016 - 20:05

Daisy, Winston, and Kirk join Barry to chat about the binge breaker, progressive homogenization, and fake news.

Daisy’s Article

Winston’s Article

Kirk’s Article

http://barrycreamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/CWC-2016_12_27.mp3
Categories: Seminary Blog

Church Planting: Should We Buy a Building?

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 12/27/2016 - 11:10
Jesus is our King–His mission is our mission. That means that proclaiming the gospel, making disciples, and planting churches are the goals we need to focus on and strive toward. The priority of the Great Commission should affect every choice you make, including where you gather. Any potential meeting place needs to be vetted by how it... Read More
Categories: Seminary Blog

Fake news, false ideas, and the knowledge of God

Southwestern Seminary - Tue, 12/27/2016 - 09:30

The latest buzz word since the 2016 election is “fake news.” Just what is fake news? Well, like a lot of words in pop culture, there’s no precise definition. Here’s what we know. Fake news is, according to most, a bad thing. Sometimes it is even used to say, “Well, you know what? You are fake news, and your mother smells like one too.” I realize that makes no sense, but neither do many who talk about fake news in the media!

I think that there are at least three different uses of the term “fake news,” and I argue that it is not always bad. There is some fake news that is actually quite interesting, and of course, some that is morally wrong. There are also false opinions, and we need to approach these differently than we would fake news.

Fake News

Let’s look at three different kinds of fake news.

The first is what we will call satirically fake news. Satirically fake news includes publications like The Onion and the Christian satirical site The Babylon Bee. These are sites that intentionally, and in clear view, write stories that are false, but they do so for a point—sometimes a very powerful point. People are occasionally duped by these stories (let’s be honest, we’ve all been there), but fooling people doesn’t seem to be the primary point of these publications. The point seems to be to help people have ears to hear and eyes to see a critical point. What I mean is that we don’t typically welcome criticism, especially criticism of our sacred cows. The Babylon Bee is able to criticize, say, how we do worship music in many of our churches. One article is entitled, “Worship Leaders With Ripped Jeans Show Significantly Higher Levels Of Authenticity, Study Finds,” and another, “Hillsong United Renegotiates Contract, Will Now Split Glory With God Fifty-Fifty.” These are fake, and yet they sting us a bit. But, we kind of can’t help but smile all at the same time.

Though I enjoy satire, there is satire that takes it too far. When satire is downright cruel, perverse or damaging, it fails at its intended purpose of critique. We just come away offended. There can be a fine line between satire as an interesting form of criticism and satire as cruel mockery.

Secondly, there is entertainingly fake news. These are publications that are found in most supermarket checkout lines, and they are meant simply, I think, to be entertaining. You’ve probably seen publications that, with a straight face, announce the discovery of Bat Boy or that space aliens have endorsed the Republican candidate for president. Who knows what the precise point of these publications is, except to make us smile at the outlandish. But (let’s hope) everyone knows these are fake stories and may be worth a chuckle or two. I wouldn’t myself ever subscribe or even peruse most of these magazines beyond glancing at their covers. But this isn’t because I think it would be morally wrong to do so. It’s more that I don’t find them all that interesting and I just don’t have that kind of free time.

Third, there is what may be called deceptively fake news. These are stories that are written in order to deceive readers. Typically, these are intentionally false stories that aim at damaging someone’s reputation.

This phenomenon did not suddenly arise in our latest election. Deceptive fake news has been around for a long time. Deceptive fake news includes tabloid magazines (also found in supermarket checkout lines) that dish on the latest Hollywood gossip, much of which is untrue. But there are also political stories that are put out there and sometimes referenced by political candidates and other news agencies since they score political points. So what if Hillary Clinton is not actually dying from some disease, or Donald Trump hasn’t owned slaves? If people believe it, even if momentarily, then this can impact an election or provide some small political advantage. It seems to me that the Christian should have nothing to do with deceptively fake news.

Is this a big problem worthy of all the current airtime that it is getting? No, not in my view! Again, this is nothing new. Politicians have been scoring political points with fake news stories since ancient times. The internet, of course, enables these stories to disseminate more quickly. But the internet also allows us to take 30 seconds to make sure the news article is reputable. If the site is one you have never heard of, or no one else is running the story, then it is probably not credible. Disaster averted! To be sure, it is sometimes difficult to tell, but this is the very rare exception.

False ideas

What is sometimes confused with fake news is just simply (what we take to be) false ideas. In fact, fake news, as a term, is sometimes used as a pejorative to slam a view with which one disagrees. So, a more liberal individual might claim that FoxNews trades in fake news. The conservative will say that MSNBC is often faking the truth. But using the term this way is a mistake. What people are labeling “fake news” is often political commentary. But this can’t be fake news since it is not even news to begin with. Now, there is no question that pundits are often wrong about what they claim. Just think about how many media figures expected to be talking about President Hillary Clinton right about now. But it is not fake news when a commentator makes a mistake, even when it is an egregious mistake.

The real problem with labeling something with which we disagree as “fake news” is that this seems to be nothing more than name-calling. Using “fake news” as a slam strikes me as an attempt to shut down another person’s perspective. But, beyond being morally inappropriate, this is rarely effective. One reason that we should value the freedom of speech is that a bad idea is not typically stopped by calling it (or the person) a name. Trying to stifle a view often emboldens proponents of that view, since there are now emotions standing guard around the view. Thoughtful and careful discussion rarely happens in this case.

Now, there are clearly false ideas out there. I’ve claimed that we shouldn’t merely disparage these views, but what should we do? Should we just accept these ideas as equally valid? Certainly not! We need to be biblical and demolish these ideas. Paul says we are to destroy speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Paul uses battle language here to describe the fact that, in one sense, the Christian’s engagement in the world is a war of ideas. We need to destroy the arguments (imagine the walls of a fortress) and then take captive the thoughts (the inhabitants of the fortress). Part of engaging the world, it seems, is to point people intellectually to the knowledge of God. This is, of course, not all that is involved in coming to or being a disciple of Christ, but surely it is part of it. Paul is saying that we need to dismantle, destroy and demolish the arguments and ideas (not the people who hold these ideas) that stand in the way of this knowledge. This requires us, among other things, to refute those ideas.

I think that Christianity is true. So, if an idea runs contrary to this truth, then it follows there is a refutation for the idea. Now, I don’t think this is all about what’s sometimes called “pure reason.” After all, Paul is clear that the weapons we use in this endeavor are ones with divine power. The point, however, is that, given the truth of Christianity, ideas set up against the knowledge of God are false and need to be shown as such.

In sum, fake news, in its many manifestations, has been around for a long time, and it seems it is here to stay. But let’s be careful what we call fake news. Let’s not disparage others by calling them fakes. Let’s, instead, engage those ideas and show them false in contrast to the surpassing value of knowing Christ.

Categories: Seminary Blog

A Theological Relationship: Part 2

Criswell College: For Christ and Culture - Mon, 12/26/2016 - 20:05

Barry talks about the ultimate place of sovereignty in Christianity: a place perfectly shared with mercy.

http://barrycreamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/CWC-2016_12_26.mp3
Categories: Seminary Blog

Christian Millennials and the Lure of Socialism, Part Two: How Biblical Concern for the Poor Can Turn to an Unbiblical Understanding of People

Talbot School of Theology - Mon, 12/26/2016 - 12:00

In Part 1 we examined how a biblical concern for the poor can be syncretistically mixed with socialist economic ideology in a way that undermines a biblical view of people and thereby hurts image-bearers of God. In Part 2 I clarify three specific bad ideas about people that have had very bad effects on people in hopes of breaking the spell that socialist ideologies increasingly hold on younger evangelicals ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

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