31 July 2007

This life, in brief

by Dan Phillips

Proverbic distillation:
For the Christian, all misery is temporary.
For the non-Christian, all pleasure is temporary.
More poetically:
The sorrows of the godly are fleeting,
As are the pleasures of the wicked.
Line A:
Psalm 16:11; 23:6; 73:23-26; Isaiah 25:1-9; Matthew 5:3-12; Luke 6:20-23; Romans 8:18, 28-39; 16:20; 2 Corinthians 4:16 — 5:10; James 1:2-3, 12; 1 Peter 1:5-6; 5:10; 1 John 2:17; Revelation 21:4; 22

Line B:
Psalm 1:4-6; 17:14a; 37:10; 73:16-20; Proverbs 10:28; 11:7; Matthew 16:26; Luke 6:24-26; 12:16-21; 16:19-31; Romans 2:5, 9; Colossians 3:5-6; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Hebrews 11:25b; James 5:1-6; 1 John 2:17; Revelation 20:10, 15; 21:8
Conclusion: Take heart, or fear — as appropriate.

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30 July 2007

Less Edifying, More Funny

by Frank Turk
Updated 9:50 PDT by Phil Johnson (see update box below)

Yeah, so I took a sort of hiatus last week (I only posted comments), but then our beloved Phil posted links to some podcasts which you have to listen to, really, to believe.

On the "good" side, Todd Friel did 5 minutes with Kirk Cameron about Blue Like Jazz and Donald Miller. I'm not sure that the segment was perfectly unbiased in dealing with Mr. Miller and his work, but I think the segment was right-brained rather than left-brain, so Kirk and Todd can have a pass.

On the other hand, the Relevant podcast. Wow. Where do you start? Maybe we could start with the urine jokes -- those were funny. Or maybe with the Seafood-flavored snack foods -- quite a chuckle that. Then there's the reference to a "fundamentalist blog" -- you know, the one which last week was posting "successories"-style Emergent-See posters.

The part I really liked -- I mean, I listened to it twice to make sure I heard it right -- was the part where the hosts of the podcast said that bloggers ought to have better things to do with their time, like ministry. Dude, when I heard that, all the "earn the right to speak into their life" stuff afterwards simply had me doubled over in stitches.

See: urine jokes are pointing people to Jesus. Mocking seafood-flavored chips: that's edgy podcast humor. But holding up a sign which says, for example, this:

That's tearing down the body; that's dishonoring to Jesus, or failing to mention Jesus. Calling some blog "fundamentalist" -- that's not critical or reductive or, frankly, mistaken and wrong. That's not dividing the body up. That's good and measured criticism, and clearly they have taken the time to earn the right to speak into our, um, I mean the lives of those who run that un-named blog.

Happy Monday. Maybe we can get Friel to podcast the Relevant podcast -- that'd be good.

OK, I was going to leave all this in the sidebar, but since Frank went and made a post of it, let me add my three cents:

For those not wanting to slog through the whole thing, the relevant part of the Relevant podcast starts at the 32-minute mark. They begin that segment by responding to the Emerging Glossary on Anton Hein's "Apologetics Index" (which I linked to last week). When they make the segue into talking about the motivational posters, they seem not to understand that the Pyromaniacs blog is a whole different site.

One gets the distinct impression that they have never bothered to read any of our substantive critiques of the Emerging Church. In their view we are just "hard-line fundamentalists" whose main problem with the Emerging mess is "generational." To put it bluntly, if we weren't such old geezers, we'd see that they are right.

And when (remember, now: a full half hour of tastelessness and triviality has already passed through our iPods) some guy in the group responds to the mention of the posters with, "What's going to bring people to Jesus? . . . Let's point to Jesus", I was actually hoping one of them might be on the verge of an epiphany. Hey! Perhaps a lucid thought was about to emerge.


"Maybe when all those people die off. . ." followed by peals of laughter all around, and then the obligatory, "It's a joke, people." And suddenly—now that the jokes are coming from them—they "get" the idea of hard-edged humor, and they stop decrying all satire as mean or unchristlike. (Even when it involves wishing for the deaths of one's critics.)

Now, we do have to give the Relevant podcasters credit for the one brief shining moment when one of them recognized the irony of pleading "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater"—even though that is precisely the dominant Emerging methodology for dealing with the deficiencies of 20th-century evangelicalism.

But despite that one flash of insight, the level of hubris reflected in this podcast is breathtaking—especially their stunned blindness to the glaring reality that practically everything they said in the podcast bolstered the dead-on accuracy of the Emergent-See posters.

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29 July 2007

Same Lesson, Reinforced

So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, "Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink" (1 Kings 17:10).
y God's providence, just as Elijah arrived at Zarephath, this poor woman was going out to perform the sad task of collecting sticks for fuel to make what she was convinced would be her last meal. The same providence that led Elijah to Zarephath moved the widow to be out gathering sticks for her last meal. So she was the first person he saw. God's sovereignty is written all over this passage.

Notice also that even though this woman was in a hopeless situation, her despair had not yet caused her to lie down and give up. She remained occupied and busy, gathering fuel even for one last meal. A lot of people would have given up to depression and dejection and simply lay down to die. But this woman would continue to cook for her son until she had nothing left to cook. And it was her devotion to that duty that brought her across Elijah's path, and into the pathway of God's blessing.

Try to imagine the heaviness of her heart, as she gathered sticks with the full expectation that she would soon see the grim spectacle of her little boy starving to death. Assuming she had enough strength left, she was probably weeping while she gathered those sticks. Her countenance was somber. Her energy was almost gone.

And yet notice how Elijah approaches her. He asks for water. What a bold thing to ask!

And yet she immediately complied with his request. So when she turns to get the water, he adds a request for some bread. Only then did she tell him of her desperate situation.

Elijah's response at first might seem a bit calloused and presumptuous, but look again and you will realize that everything he told this woman was meant to encourage faith in her. "Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth."

Elijah didn't ask for all of her final measure of flour—only enough to make a very small cake—a token that would demonstrate a spark of faith in her. And God graciously moved her heart to obey. "She went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days. And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah" (vv. 15-16).

In other words, there was a daily miracle of multiplication, exactly like the miracle Christ performed on a larger scale when He fed the five thousand. Each day the oil and meal were multiplied, so that they never ran dry.

Incidentally, this woman reminds me of another poor widow in Scripture: "[Jesus] looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, 'Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had'" (Luke 21:1-4). Little is much, when God is in it.

Why did God multiply the flour a handful at a time, rather than giving them a bushel at once? Why not fill the cruse of oil to the brim, rather than merely keeping the last bit from running dry?

You know why: It's the same reason God parked Elijah beside a drying brook, rather than giving him a spring-fed reservoir. This was one more object lesson about the sufficiency of divine grace. James 4:6 says "he giveth more grace." But he gives it when needed, and not ahead of time. That is the very lesson Jesus was teaching in Matthew 6:34, where He says, "Take . . . no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." God gives grace that is sufficient for today's trials today. Tomorrow we can trust Him to provide sufficient grace for that day's troubles, too.

That's what the life of faith is supposed to be like. If you succumb to the temptation to worry, what you are really doing is borrowing tomorrow's troubles without access to tomorrow's grace. Each day's supply is sufficient for that day. And if we learn to live that way, we will discover that God's grace truly is sufficient.

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28 July 2007


by Phil Johnson

ere's an odd collection of five mostly-unrelated ideas that are floating around in my head today. We don't have enough blogspace in a normal week for me to post about all five of these topics in discrete blogposts. Four of them are fairly trivial anyway. (The first item is the only one that's truly important.) So I'll just cover them all as briefly as possible in one weekend post:

  1. I saw a teaser this morning for an upcoming feature on Fox News about the shocking decline in the number of Christians in the Middle East over the past decade. Ten years ago, some 12 million Christians lived in various Middle Eastern countries. They constituted a small and beleaguered minority even then, but today they number fewer than two million. Statistics show, for example, that in Bethlehem (whose population was 85 percent Christian just a few years ago) only 20 percent of the community are now Christians. Half of Iraq's Christian community has either left the country or been killed since the start of the war there. Martyrdoms, such as last April's slayings of three employees of a Turkish Bible publisher, are becoming increasingly common in Muslim-dominated places but are getting little coverage in the American press.
  2. As of this posting, even Fox's Web site has no articles featuring those data, so we'll watch Fox's Web space. But on the way to looking it up, I found this. Note to the criminal element: I've started carrying a frozen Costco meat chub in my briefcase.
  3. Have you seen the controversy about Bear Grylls? He's the dude on "Man vs. Wild" who has shown us how to survive in virtually every kind of hostile wilderness. He's a former member of the elite British SAS, adventurer, youngest Brit to conquer Everest, and an Eton alumnus.
         I've heard that Bear makes a profession of faith in Christ. Plus, he blogs.
         Now, everyone has always known that he has a camera crew with him in the wilderness, because (after all) that's how they make the program. But he solemnly assures us at the start of each episode that the camera crew cannot touch him, help him, or feed him—and they supposedly leave him alone in the wilderness at night.
         Turns out that might not be completely true.
         See: I have watched this guy literally get on his hands and knees and eat the back end out of a dead zebra, drink the moisture from elephant dung, bite the head off a live snake, and munch on maggots from a rotting animal corpse, so I'm duly impressed with his will to survive.
         But I'm hugely disappointed to learn that he has sometimes cheated. The scandal gives us a good lesson about the importance of integrity, and how even the smallest of white lies can undermine the cause of truth. If you want a sample of what I am talking about, Google Bear's name and take note of the amazing level of scorn he is receiving for having fudged.
         Postmodern society may profess to believe that everything is relative and what's "factual" depends completely on your point of view. But people still won't stand being fooled by someone who deliberately bends the truth. Something in all of us rightly resents that.
  4. I've read some books lately about the Lincoln assassination, and as I was reading about the conspiracy trial, I came across an eyewitness record of the proceedings by "General Lew Wallace." Something there struck me as familiar, and as I thought about it, it occurred to me where I had heard that name: Wasn't Lew Wallace the guy who wrote Ben Hur? So I looked it up to see if it was the same Lew Wallace. Sure enough. Turns out he was a kind of upscale Forrest Gump. He was a Union general in the War Between the States. He was a participant in the military tribunal that condemned the Lincoln conspirators. He was also a fine amateur artist, and he drew pictures of the defendants during the conspiracy trial. His drawings are on page 96 of James L. Swanson and Daniel L. Weinberg, Lincoln's Assassins: Their Trial and Execution, and they are excellent likenesses.
         Later, Wallace served as a secret agent; governor of New Mexico; and US Minister to the Ottoman Empire. During his stint as New Mexico's governor, he met personally with Billy the Kid. (Don't know if he sketched the outlaw's likeness, though.) His life is full of interesting details. If I was still doing the old "Monday Menagerie" posts, he'd make a brilliant subject.
  5. Speaking of people with multiple claims to fame, I probably need to mention Frank Pastore. Several days ago, Pastore created a furor in the blogosphere (and beyond) with an article critical of "evangelical" postmodernism, which was infelicitously titled "Why Al Qaeda Supports the Emergent Church." The article itself (and the title in particular) is a classic example of the kind of critique that isn't really helpful to anyone. It's the sort of thing that gives angry post-evangelicals a big hammer with which to smash the toes of anyone and everyone who is critical of the Emerging Church movement. It also gives people who ought to listen to their best critics an excuse to blow them off. ("See? This is so typical of what the critics of Emergent are doing.) So let's be clear: It's an article that shouldn't have been written, much less posted online.
         That said (and while we're on the subject of post-evangelicals and their hammers), I listened to the iMonk's podcast where he addressed the Pastore article. Of course, iMonk's giddy eagerness to get in on the "dogpile" against Pastore came as no surprise whatsoever. Here's what did amaze me: iMonk didn't seem to have any clue about who Pastore is. After all, iMonk is well-known for being a Cincinnati Reds' fan. Frank Pastore was a Reds pitcher for several years. In fact, Pastore was an ace before Steve Sax hit a hard line drive right into his throwing elbow in 1984. After that, Pastore didn't have the hard stuff anymore, and he was sometimes accused of throwing a spitter.
         That's not all. Pastore also holds the world speed record for downing the famous 72-ounce steak at the Big Texan Restaurant in Amarillo. He inhaled the entire meal in nine and a half minutes. (I'm curious about what technique one would use to stuff down 5 pounds of steak in less than ten minutes. Even Bear Grylls hasn't shown us that yet. My guess: spend five minutes using a very sharp fillet knife to cut the steak into the thinnest, smallest strips possible, then 4.5 minutes eating without chewing.)
         Anyway, Pastore is now a talk-show host on a Los Angeles Christian radio station (KKLA). I don't get to listen, because the show intersects with the busiest part of my work day, but I have to say, Frank seems like a spunky and likable fellow, even if he did write an article I really didn't appreciate. Here's his testimony. And here is another version in audio.
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Encouragement for the "Narrow-Minded Bigot"

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is taken from "Holding Fast the Faith," a sermon Spurgeon preached at height of the conflict known as the "Down Grade Controversy." This message was delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London, on Sunday morning, February 5, 1888.
efore I could quit my faith in the substitutionary work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and my confidence in the everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure, I should have to be ground to powder, and every separate atom transformed.

What would they give us in exchange for the faith? That is a question which it is easy to ask, but impossible to answer. Suppose the doctrines of grace could be obliterated, and our hope could be taken away, what would they give us in the place of them, either for this life or the next? I have never seen anything proposed in the place of the gospel that was worth considering for a second. Have you?

Uncertainty, doubt, glitter, mockery, darkness—all these; but who wants them? They offer us either bubbles or filth, according to the different shade of the speculator's character; but we are not enamoured of either. We prefer gold to dross. We must defend the faith; for what would have become of us if our fathers had not maintained it? If confessors, reformers, martyrs, and covenanters had been recreant to the name and faith of Jesus, where would have been the churches of to-day? Must we not play the man as they did? If we do not, are we not censuring our fathers?

It is very pretty, is it not, to read of Luther and his brave deeds? Of course, everybody admires Luther! Yes, yes; but you do not want any one else to do the same to-day. When you go to the Zoological Gardens you all admire the bear; but how would you like a bear at home, or a bear wandering loose about the street? You tell me that it would be unbearable, and no doubt you are right.

So, we admire a man who was firm in the faith, say four hundred years ago; the past ages are a sort of bear-pit or iron cage for him; but such a man to-day is a nuisance, and must be put down. Call him a narrow-minded bigot, or give him a worse name if you can think of one. Yet imagine that in those ages past, Luther, Zwingle, Calvin, and their compeers had said, "The world is out of order; but if we try to set it right we shall only make a great row, and get ourselves into disgrace. Let us go to our chambers, put on our night-caps, and sleep over the bad times, and perhaps when we wake up things will have grown better." Such conduct on their part would have entailed upon us a heritage of error. Age after age would have gone down into the infernal deeps, and the pestiferous bogs of error would have swallowed all. These men loved the faith and the name of Jesus too well to see them trampled on.

Note what we owe them, and let us pay to our sons the debt we owe our fathers. It is to-day as it was in the Reformers' days. Decision is needed. Here is the day for the man, where is the man for the day? We who have had the gospel passed to us by martyr hands dare not trifle with it, nor sit by and hear it denied by traitors, who pretend to love it, but inwardly abhor every line of it. The faith I hold bears upon it marks of the blood of my ancestors. Shall I deny their faith, for which they left their native land to sojourn here? Shall we cast away the treasure which was handed to us through the bars of prisons, or came to us charred with the flames of Smithfield?

Personally, when my bones have been tortured with rheumatism, I have remembered Job Spurgeon, doubtless of my own stock, who in Chelmsford Jail was allowed a chair, because he could not lie down by reason of rheumatic pain. That Quaker's broad-brim overshadows my brow. Perhaps I inherit his rheumatism; but that I do not regret if I have his stubborn faith, which will not let me yield a syllable of the truth of God.

When I think of how others have suffered for the faith, a little scorn or unkindness seems a mere trifle, not worthy of mention. An ancestry of lovers of the faith ought to be a great plea with us to abide by the Lord God of our fathers, and the faith in which they lived. As for me, I must hold the old gospel: I can do no other.

God helping me, I will endure the consequences of what men think obstinacy.

Look you, sirs, there are ages yet to come. If the Lord does not speedily appear, there will come another generation, and another, and all these generations will be tainted and injured if we are not faithful to God and to his truth to-day.

We have come to a turning-point in the road. If we turn to the right, mayhap our children and our children's children will go that way; but if we turn to the left, generations yet unborn will curse our names for having been unfaithful to God and to his Word. I charge you, not only by your ancestry, but by your posterity, that you seek to win the commendation of your Master, that though you dwell where Satan's seat is, you yet hold fast his name, and do not deny his faith.

God grant us faithfulness, for the sake of the souls around us! How is the world to be saved if the church is false to her Lord? How are we to lift the masses if our fulcrum is removed? If our gospel is uncertain, what remains but increasing misery and despair? Stand fast, my beloved, in the name of God! I, your brother in Christ, entreat you to abide in the truth. Quit yourselves like men, be strong. The Lord sustain you for Jesus' sake. Amen.

C. H. Spurgeon

27 July 2007

Why Did God Let that Brook Go Dry in the First Place?

by Phil Johnson
"Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you" (1 Kings 17:9).

hy did God send Elijah to the home of a Gentile widow?

There's much in these circumstances that is surprising and unexpected. In the first place, this woman was a Sidonian, a Gentile—not even a member of the covenant nation. In the second place, she was in dire straits herself. She was on the verge of starvation. When Elijah met her, she was preparing a meal with the expectation that this would be the last morsel of food she would ever taste before she and her little boy starved to death.

Now, in normal circumstances, it would have been quite wrong and unreasonable for Elijah to seek refuge in this woman's home. She was a widow living in poverty, on the very brink of starvation. She was more a candidate for Elijah's help than he was for hers. If the Word of the Lord had not expressly come to Elijah telling him to seek food and shelter from this woman, it would have been a violation of principles set forth in Old Testament law for him to show up at her doorstep demanding food.

Exodus 22:22-24 says, "You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry; and My wrath will become hot, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless."

Remember that most widows and orphans without means in that society were dependent on food they gleaned from other people's fields after harvest-time. There was no government-sponsored welfare in Sidon. Under normal circumstances, it would have been considered heartless and merciless for a foreign beggar to seek food and shelter from a widow—especially a woman facing such formidable needs in her own household.

But I'm convinced Elijah knew God's design was to show this woman mercy as well as him.

When we understand this, lots of things that were mysterious suddenly make sense. Here is why God uprooted Elijah from his safe haven by the brook and directed him into the heart of enemy territory in the midst of such famine: It was God's sovereign purpose to show grace and mercy to this one widow and her son (Luke 4:25-26).

In other words, when Elijah's provision at Cherith dried up, that did not signify that God's grace had dried up. Rather, it meant God was ready to multiply His grace for the sake of this woman and her son. Elijah's want led to the supply of their need.

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26 July 2007

Brothers, sisters — don't drop the ball

by Dan Phillips

Back at the turn of the year I posted Four faces: gaining perspective for the new year. Among the gracious responses was a particularly humbling email from a sister in the Lord who opted to write me rather than go through the Blogger gauntlet and make a comment.

These emails remind us of the thousands who see our posts and do not comment, but may be touched in one way or another by what we share. It's humbling and sobering, especially when one looks at a map of our visitors and see how international our audience is.

This email was particularly humbling. The sister, who I intend to keep quite anonymous, shared that she had recently lost a child, very sadly. She wanted to share that the post had been encouraging to her.

A father of four, my heart went out to her. I don't know anything that hits harder or more bitterly than a tragedy befalling one of our children. The thought of something happening to one of ours was what I called The Unthinkable Thought, in that my soul simply recoils at the notion. But here was a sister whose The Unthinkable Thought had become a harsh, uninvited, and unwelcome visitor.

So I corresponded with her a bit, tried to share what I had to give. She said her church was being wonderful, she knew folks were praying for them, but it was nowhere they'd ever wanted to be.

I thought of her off and on through the months, and prayed for her and her family. I formed the notion of writing her, to check on her.

With a few notable exceptions, I'm a horrendously bad correspondent, with far more guilt than accomplishments in that arena. But here's what was moving me: knowledge of folks' tendency to drop the ball when it most matters.

Here's what I mean. When a death, or other tragedy, strikes, one's emotions are all a-jangle. There are many quick decisions and adjustments. That's when an even-half-alive church is there, with meals and notes and comfort and encouragement, and hugs and prayers and tears.

But a tragedy isn't always something you can just shake off. You don't tell someone who's just lost a loved one, "Walk it off, get back in the game." As the sage says,
Like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar on soda,
Is he who sings songs to a troubled heart.
(Proverbs 25:20 NAS)
Rather emphatically we are told not to lecture nor scold, but to "weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15b). It should be the aim in a local body that, "if one member suffers, all suffer together" (1 Corinthians 12:25a). Righteous Job wept for the person whose day was hard (Job 30:25), as did David (Psalm 35:13-14). None of these verses gives a particular time frame.

And this is what was in the back of my mind. Often, many folks show up when the need is critical. But — and let's be blunt and specific — the dead person doesn't come back in a month, three months, a year. The pain and the loss stay. The mourner (whether of death or another catastrophe) explores a dark landscape that shifts with each holiday, each birthday, each event that would (should!) have been shared with the loved one.

And unfortunately, he or she can be forgotten by his church or friends, who assume that he has moved on. As they have done.

And so I was sad but unsurprised when my Christian sister wrote back,
I guess you could say we are doing well. We are all learning that grief is a like a journey, only you don’t know where you are going to end up each day.

...I am beginning to realize that I’m starting to feel a little resentment (that word may be a little too strong) toward the people in our church and even in our own families. Our church family was so THERE for us [when it happened] and now, for the most part, they have just moved on and it seems they think we should too. I really don’t think people know how to handle these bad situations. Our pastor has not said anything to me since [the time of loss] about [my child]. I know that most people just don’t know what to say, and frankly, I sometimes don’t really know what I expect them to say. I’m not expecting condolences every time, but some acknowledgement would be nice. The thing is, I know I was like this before. I hesitate to mention it to the pastor he’ll want me to start up a grief recovery group or some such thing.
"Ouch," no?

Her words make me want to re-examine my own ministry in that area. I think she expresses herself absolutely fairly and in a measured way... and I think we're fools if we don't learn from her candid perspective.

So here are my three "takeaways" to share:
  1. Life isn't like a sitcom or a TV drama. Catastrophes don't necessarily get "fixed" in 30 or 60 minutes. It's a long, long haul.
  2. "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a difficult time" (Proverbs 17:17 CSB).
  3. Just being there and showing care is a lot. No need to try to be "deep." Job's friends served him best when they wept with him, and sat silent with him for seven days (Job 2:12-13). When they opened their mouths, they started getting into trouble.

To develop that last point just a bit: when my first pastor lost his dad, he said that the person who did him the most good was a man who simply walked up, put his arm around his shoulders, and stood with him for a bit. Whether it's "I'm thinking of you and praying for you," or asking, "How are you doing?", we needn't rewrite Calvin's Institutes. Remember, Paul said "weep with those who weep," not "give an extended discourse to those who weep."

Ask how they're doing, and expect to hear an answer that's not fun. Grief gnaws. A well-meaning friend suggested to my correspondent that dealing with death is like a bad cut that heals, but eventually goes away, leaving a painless scar. She shared that with her children later.
My ...daughter immediately said, “No, it’s like your hand is cut off. It may heal but you still don’t have your hand.” ...Actually, I think she hit the nail right on the head. How can you really “recover” from losing a [child]?
There will be a time to share encouraging words about God's love, goodness, sovereignty. Nobody reasonably expects you to be able to explain everything. But don't assume that it's out of place simply to affirm the basics: God's love, the message of Calvary, our eternal hope. I recall a dark time decades ago, when one good friend felt I was too "deep" (or whatever) to be told something so basic... but that's exactly what I needed to hear. Grief can jar one's grip on the fundamentals; a loving affirmation can be very heartening.

But affirming the eternal fundamentals is very different from trying to explain God's providence.

First, I think we do best to show God's love and goodness. Show now, talk later. Show later, too.

So pastors, elders, deacons; brothers, sisters, let us remember. Let's not drop the ball.

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25 July 2007

OK, let's wrap this up (for now)

by Phil Johnson

ere's the last entry in this series. It doesn't exhaust the full collection of posters (there are 20 so far), but you can see them all if you follow the link at the bottom of this post.

Again: These are caricatures, not scholarly definitions. If you click on the images, however, your browser will point you to some random samples of the kind of rhetoric that inspired these posters.

For an amusing glossary of more ECM jargon, see this entry at Anton Hein's "Apologetics Index."

The entire collection, complete with links to hi-res images, can be reached by clicking on the graphic to the right. Feel free to print these out, post them on other blogs, or subject them to critical scrutiny. If you follow the link, you'll see the entries we haven't even posted here yet, but we gotta get back to the regular content of the blog. We hope these have helped unpack some of the jargon of post-evangelicalism for some who are groping for ways to explain it succinctly.

We may add a few more posters in the days to come, so watch this site. We'd love to add posters as fast as the Emerging movement proliferates jargon, but we just can't keep up that pace.

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24 July 2007

Some More

by Phil Johnson

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Getting by on Christian vapors: a rant

by Dan Phillips

[If I wasn't trying to swear off of starting open-ended series, I'd make this #1 of "Things I Will Die, Still Not Understanding."]
Think for a moment, if you will, Gentle Reader, of the distinctives of Christianity.

Ponder the Christian explanation for why man is such a mess, of how everything began and why, of what God has done to address the whole.

Or, think more specifically of who God is, of His oneness, of the Trinity, of His character, acts, decrees, will, and plan for the future.

Think of Jesus, of His divine nature and eternal goings-forth, of His incarnation and life and teachings, of His penal, substitutionary sacrifice, His bodily death, resurrection, and assumption into Heaven, His present activities from the right hand of God, and His future return.

Think of the Gospel plan in its eternal conception and historical fulfillment; think of God's terms for reconciliation to Himself, and His expressed will for how we think, make decisions, and live our lives.

Now, assuming you know any truth about any of those things — where did you get that?

Were you born knowing it? Did it simply come to you, through breast or bottle? Did you receive it by prayer and meditation, reflecting on a sunset, gazing at tea leaves? Did an emotional state communicate it to you?

No. If you know any truth about any of those things, you know it from the Bible. Period.

Now, maybe you've heard wonderful pastors preach, are blessed with marvelous godly friends, have read pithy and deep books, and are a lover of classical confessions. But insofar as any of those sources are worth anything to you, they are passing along truths gleaned straight from the Bible.

And yet....

How many Christians couldn't demonstrate some of their most cherished notions directly from the Bible to save their lives — and don't care?

The first part of that statement troubles me some, of course. But it's the second part that absolutely thunderstruck slackjawed brain-itchingly baffles me.

We say God is the most important person in our life, and....

Well, wait. Should I even assume that much? Am I justified in assuming, today, that someone knows that when he identifies himself as a "Christian," he is, at the very least, saying that he believes, and believes in, Christ? And that he has some muzzy notion that Christ said (among many other things) that the command to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength is the most important thing in the universe (Matthew 22:36-37)?

Okay, so reason it through with me here:
  1. Christ says that we are supposed to love the Lord our God with everything we've got.
  2. If we say we're Christians, we necessarily say we believe that to be true.
  3. The only way we are going to know anything about who this God is who we're supposed to love, or what it means to love Him, or how He wishes to be loved, is by personally studying the Bible.
  4. ...but we don't...
  5. ...and we don't care...
  6. ...and we revile, despise, and destroy the character and name of anyone who tries to provoke us to care.
See, I just don't get it. I honestly do not. Americans aren't required to be any particular religion at all. No one has to say he's a Christian. It isn't hereditary, it isn't a genetic trait. So why say you're a Christian, voluntarily, and then just live like the claim is a big joke and you're a whopping great liar?

I wasn't a Christian. I hated Christians, I despised them. Then, by an act of God's sovereign grace, I became one. I wasn't all that bright, but I did know that I didn't know much. And I knew I needed to know. And I knew that the only way I could know was by (hel-lo?) studying the Bible.

Well, actually and honestly, no one needed to tell me. I wanted to. I believed because, well, I believed. So I wanted to know.

Now, I can understand some reasons why people who have been Christians for some time not knowing much. Maybe they're under pathetic teaching, or even positively discouraging teaching, and don't know any better. But not wanting to know? You start trying to talk to them about the Bible, and they shut you down? And then they're angry when challenged to know more?

I see myself saying, "Wait, wait — you're telling me you don't want to know God better? You don't want to know more of His person, His will, His plans? That if you're believing and telling lies about Him, you'd rather not know?"

Once, a fellow in a church I pastored got the idea of asking Christians to name the four Gospels. You know, just the four Gospels. Not the Minor Prophets or anything hard; just Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

He asked dozens of Christians. They were mostly mainstream Charismatics, but they included worship leaders, lay, all sorts, and all had been Christians for years.

His informal survey yielded two startling results:
  1. Either none, or only one, could name all four Gospels.
  2. They were, to a person, not upset with themselves for being so appallingly ignorant, but were upset with him for asking.
Then there is the related phenomenon of scores of Christians who actually seem to believe that a position without a fragment of direct Biblical substantiation is actually superior to one that has a rich Scriptural basis.

I've run into this countless times. Here's a man who wanted to do something. I showed him from Scripture that it was a course of action that was expressly forbidden in Scripture. What was his answering case, from Scripture? None, not even a try. No, his answer was, "I don't want to hear any more of that Bible stuff." (As far as I recall, that's an exact quotation.)

Was he saying he wasn't a Christian anymore? Nope, not to his mind. He thought, and as far as I know still thinks, that he's a Christian. He'd simply joined the thronging masses of Christians-who-don't-care-what-the-Bible-says.

"But that's a contradiction in terms," you say.

Should be, I respond.

Pyro readers probably could contribute horror stories of their own.

So how do these people get by? Well, I think most would tell you they "just know." The feel the truth in their hearts, and they follow their hearts. Christian vapors.

Now it really doesn't take a PhD in Bible to say, emphatically and pointedly, that while this is a religious position, it is not a Christian position. From Testament (Genesis 18:19) to Testament (John 8:31-32) God makes it plain that His people must be taught, instructed, informed. That is Christianity. Anything else is a fake.

What it actually is, is the Gospel of Hollywood. "Follow your heart." What scares and appalls me about that is not merely how many people believe it, but how many professedly evangelical Christians believe it.

But an actual, card-carrying, practicing Christian should be able to tell you that anyone who follows his heart, who believes that his deep and certain feelings communicated divine truth to him, is a FOOL. Period. Why?

Because God said so (Proverbs 28:26; Jeremiah 17:9).

And if we got our religion from the Bible instead of our culture, we'd know that — and a whole lot more.

< /rant >

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23 July 2007

A Triple Bonus for our Friends Coming over from Way of the Master Radio

by Phil Johnson


Stay tuned for more.

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