Monday, October 31, 2005

It's an Object Lesson, Charlie Brown

If there was ever a clear example of the fallacy of notion of "sincere faith," it must be Linus and the Great Pumpkin. Linus is convinced that the Great Pumpkin will rise out of his pumpkin patch, because it is sincere, and the Great Pumpkin "respects sincerity." He continues his reasoning like this: "I don't see how a pumpkin patch could be more sincere than this one. You can look all around and there's not a sign of hypocrisy. Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see." There's no reason to doubt his veracity.

Nevertheless, he has a problem. Sincerity of belief doesn't make something true, and poor Linus is left in the pumpkin patch again, finally succombing to fatigue, and must be rescued by his sister who, because she has been through this before, sets the alarm for the middle of the night and comes to get him.

It's hard to ignore the irony of this situation. Everyone knows he's wrong. His own sister calls him a "blockhead." But it isn't only because the Great Pumpkin doesn't exist, but because Linus has the Great Pumpkin confused with Santa Claus. Charlie Brown sums up the problem by saying, "we're obviously separated by denominational differences."

Thankfully, we don't really live in a world where truth is so subjective. Yet, there are many today who in effect validate the "Great Pumpkin" approach to belief, particularly as it relates to salvation. The thinking goes something like this: anyone can get to heaven, as long as he is sincere about his belief. But does God really honor sincerity of belief?

The story of Jesus' discussion with the Samaritan woman in John 4 is instructive on this point. After Jesus points out that her statement about not having a husband is true, because she has previously had five husbands, and the man she is living with now is not her husband, she tries to change the subject. She sidesteps his discussion about her husband by bringing up essentially a denominational dispute. "The woman said to him, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship" (John 4:19-20). But Jesus refuses to be drawn into her conflict. Or it could be, as John Piper puts it in Desiring God that the great Soul Hunter "he circled around and is waiting there for her as she brings up the subject of worship?"

In any case, look at Jesus' answer. "The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, . . .God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:23-24). And here Jesus outlines what is required for true worship. We must worship in spirit (which includes, but is not limited to sincerity), but we must also worship Him in truth. The clear implication here is that if we don't worship Him truly, our worship is not true. Worshiping a vague notion of God is not sufficient (see Paul's address to the men of Athens in Acts 17:22-31).

Now, someone may rightly point out that I started out talking about salvation, and then moved to worship. But the fact of the matter is this: to worship, one must be a follower; to follow God, one must be saved by God (through Christ); to be saved, one must believe; and to believe, one must know Him. Or, as Scripture puts it "But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?" (Rom 10:13).

Faith is only as good as its object. Faith in the One of supreme value is supremely valuable; faith in a worthless lie is of no value whatsoever.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Weekly Wrapup

Here are some links, news, and favorite reads of the week.

JIBBS links to me, and poof, I'm an amphibian.

For Brian M. and Don R., go here for the instrux on how to use Google Maps with a Biblical places overlay. (These two guys are going to be part of my new homegroup.)

Doxoblogology writes about the need for the church to reform. He reminded me about a series I need to write on Christian idolatry.

Steve Camp wrote awhile back about the need for Christian community. "The Sledgehammer" hammers it home by making much of his post just verses from the Bible.

The Buzz is out about the upcoming DaVinci Code movie. James White writes several entries about it (haven't had time to read them yet). Alan K gives us the Davinci Code Top 10 List. (HT-Centuri0n.)

Jonathan Moorehead invokes Dogbert to help him pass his exams. Apparently, he didn't read Centuri0n's link to the article about demons only responding to Latin.

Since I can't get Blogger to upload pictures right now, my last item will have to wait.

Friday, October 28, 2005

On Reading the Bible--John Newton

You may know John Newton from his prolific hymn writing, and in particular as the author of Amazing Grace. What you may not know is that he was also a prolific letter writer.

His main points are these:
  • The Bible is the fountain from which all other reading flows; a human book may be beneficial from time to time, but the water is always best from the source.
  • The Bible is of such depth that a single sentence, should we try to express it in our own words, might take an entire book for us to express.
  • Most of the errors we see in the world & the church are due to neglect of some part of Scripture or addition of something not in Scripture.
  • The best way to know the Bible is to read it, again and again.

Now, continue on and see why he is pastor & hymnwriter, and I am just a blogger.


My dear Madam;

I am farther to thank you for your letter of the 23d of last month. The subject of my former, to which it principally relates, needs no further prosecution, as you express yourself satisfied with what I offered in answer to your question. I would, therefore, now offer something a little different. But the points of experimental religion are so nearly related, and so readily run into each other, that I cannot promise, at this distance of time, to avoid all repetition. Indeed, the truths essential to the peace of our souls are so simple, and may be reduced to so few heads, that while each of them singly may furnish a volume drawn out at length, they may all be comprised in small compass. Books and letters written in a proper spirit, may, if the Lord is pleased to smile upon them, have their use; but an awakened mind that thirsts after the Savior, and seeks wisdom by reading and praying over the scripture, has little occasion for a library of human writings. The Bible is the fountain from whence every stream that deserves our notice is drawn; and, though we may occasionally pay some attention to the streams, we have personally an equal right with others to apply immediately to the fountain-head, and draw the water of life for ourselves. The purest streams are not wholly freed from the gout de terroir,--a twang of the soil through which they run; a mixture of human infirmity is inseparable from the best human composition; but in the fountain the truth is unmixed.

Again, men teach us by many words; and if they would give us their full views of the subject, require us to read a whole volume, the life and substance of which is perhaps expressed with greater force and greater advantage in the scripture by a single sentence, which is rather diluted than explained by our feeble expositions. A volume may be easily written upon the grace of humility, and to show the evil and folly of a self-seeking spirit. But if the author should introduce this subject with our Savior’s words, "Even the Son of Man came not into the world to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many;" whoever was duly impressed with that short introduction, would have no great occasion to read the rest of the book.

The preaching of the gospel being an instituted means of grace, ought to be thankfully and frequently improved. And books that have a savoir and unction may likewise be helpful, provided we read them with caution, compare them with the scripture, and do not give ourselves implicitly to the rules or decisions of any man or set of men, but remember that one is our Master and infallible Teacher, even Christ. But the chief and grand means of edification, without which all other helps will disappoint us, and prove like clouds without water, are the Bible and prayer, the word of grace and the throne of grace. A frequent perusal of the Bible will give us an enlarged and comprehensive view of the whole of religion, its origin, nature, genius, and tendency, and preserve us from an over-attachment to any system of man's compilation. The fault of the several systems, under which, as under so many banners, the different denominations of Christians are ranged, is, that there is usually something left out which ought to have been taken in, and something admitted, of supposed advantage, not authorized by the scriptural standard. A Bible Christian, therefore, will see much to approve in a variety of forms and parties; the providence of God may lead or fix him in a more immediate connection with some one of them, but his spirit and affection will not be confined within these narrow enclosures. He insensibly borrows and unites that which is excellent in each, perhaps without knowing how far he agrees with them, because he finds all in the written word.

I know not a better rule of reading the Scripture, than to read it through from beginning to end; and, when we have finished it once, to begin it again. We shall meet with many passages which we can make little improvement of, but not so many in the second reading as in the first, and fewer in the third than in the second: provided we pray to him who has the keys to open our understandings, and to anoint our eyes with his spiritual ointment. The course of reading to-day will prepare some lights for what we shall read to-morrow, and throw a farther light upon what we read yesterday. Experience only can prove the advantage of this method, if steadily persevered in. To make a few efforts and then give over, is like making a few steps and then standing still, which would do little towards completing a long journey. But, though a person walked slowly, and but a little way in a day, if he walked every day, and with his face always in the same direction, year after year, he might in time encompass the globe. By thus travelling patiently and steadily through the Scripture, and repeating our progress, we should increase in knowledge to the end of life. The Old and New Testament, the doctrines, precepts, and promises, the history, the examples, admonitions, and warnings, &c. would mutually illustrate and strengthen each other, and nothing that is written for our instruction would be overlooked. Happy should I be, could I fully follow the advice I am now offering to you. I wish you may profit by my experience. Alas, how much time have I lost and wasted, which, had I been wise, I should have devoted to reading and studying the Bible! But my evil heart obstructs the dictates of my judgment, I often feel a reluctance to read this book of books, and a disposition to hew out broken cisterns which afford me no water, while the fountain of living waters are close within my reach.

I am, Madam, yours, &c.



Thursday, October 27, 2005

I finally figured out why Frank has been so quiet

This must be why it's been so quiet on Centuri0n's blog...

McDonald's to offer more nutrition information on wrapper...

In an attempt to help them with their new campaign, I've designed a graphic which visually summarizes the information, for the benefit those who are unable to read or otherwise understand it.

7:30 am update: Is this good fun, or just plain mean? What do you think? Feel free to leave comments.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

This Just In--The Spirit of Spurgeon Speaks

Breaking news...

Responding to the question of what he really believed about the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, the spirit of Spurgeon is said to have replied:

"The doctrine of Holy Scripture is this, that inasmuch as man could not keep God's law, having fallen in Adam, Christ came and fulfilled the law on the behalf of his people; and that inasmuch as man had already broken the divine law and incurred the penalty of the wrath of God, Christ came and suffered in the room, place, and stead of his elect ones, that so by his enduring the full vials of wrath, they might be emptied out and not a drop might ever fall upon the heads of his blood-bought people."

Read the full transcript here.

Now Here's Something You Don't See Every Day!

And you probably wouldn't care if you did.

But I almost had a heart attack yesterday at work when I pulled up the ESV Bible Blog and the current entry started with my name.

Monday, October 24, 2005

An Unsolicited Link-Digital Puritan

Want to give a big shout-out to the Digital Puritan, who (to the best of my knowledge) has never commented on my blog, yet I found out he has me on his blogroll. (HT to Blogshares--they really are good for something).

He doesn't have a lot of posts, but there is a definite focus on quality. Also, he's recently given the site a makeover. Looks outstanding! (I wonder if he freelances for those who are too busy & inept to change their default template...)

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Weekly Wrapup

Here are some blog highlights from this week. Kind of like Blogspotting, only not as cool. And definitely not as cool as Blogwatching.

The guys over at TMS Alumni wonder if the new Chronicles of Narnia movies is just another way of exploiting the church for cash. I'll admit, I've been wondering the same thing.

Carla Rolfe has an interesting post on Halloween. She tells about the different extremes she has gone through during the course of her life, and how her family handles it now. She ends by saying that we shouldn't judge others salvation based on whether they agree with us about trick-or-treating. I say, "Amen to that!" BTW, her blog is filled with some of the most beatiful pictures on the web.

Tim Challies also talks about "the inevitable Halloween discussion." Frankly, I think I'd rather talk about Petra.

Adrian Warnock does research about what Bible translations are used by bloggers. He finds the results interesting. Given his methodology, I question some of his conclusions (as did others in the comments section). Nevertheless, I will state categorically that the ESV is by far the easiest translation to use for the internet & blogging. One of my favorite reasons for using it on the blog is the Firefox search box extension. (The ESV blog also has info on Wordpress Plugins, and a cool javascript thingamajig that gives you popups for webpages). Warnock also surprises everyone, including apparently himself, by quoting the NLT.

Al Mohler talks about the scandal of Biblical illiteracy. It's as scandalous in 2005 as it was in September 2003, when he originally posted it. This is one of the reasons for my comments about the 100 Minute Bible--the need is out there, even if their proposed solution is flawed.

The Black Calvinist, Kerry Gilliard, makes a rather straightforward statement about the Roman Catholic church's rejection of Biblical authority (specifically the idea of justification by faith alone) that turns into a full-blown discussion. (I had to jump in--near the bottom of comments, if you care).

Centuri0n has some great posts this week, but I think my favorite thing of all he wrote was this comment on another blog: "I'm completely spent writing, btw. Trying to keep up with Doug Wilson has been like taking a joy ride with Lance Armstrong one random saturday." I can't even keep up with reading those two (much less writing...). I keep wondering if he's gonna delink me (or worse--move me down to the Num 22:9 section) after a couple of comments I've made. On the plus side, I did ask for an instant replay on his alleged yellow-flag penalty. Still, here's hoping he really doesn't have a three strikes rule.

Hemsch wonders about the message in Sci-Fi, specifically, why do heroes who aren't Christians have moral values? He and I share a passion for the stuff (Thomas Watson would call this our "besetting sin"). I've been trying to write a response, but both the topic and the genre are so big, it's hard to know where to begin. As an opening volley, I'll just say that all forms of non-Christian belief believe there is some goodness in man (how it manifests itself varies). This is not unique to Sci-Fi at all. What is unique about Sci-Fi is its ability transport us and force us to think about things that, if they were presented in their current context, we might never consider. This is Sci-Fi at its best (and worst). I hope to write a post soon about the worldview of Star Wars, where I will probably cover this topic at greater length.

Oh, and Phil Johnson is back.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

William Dicks--thanks for stopping by!

William Dicks stopped by my blog today, to leave me a note updating my Phil Johnson Blog Star post. He invited me to stop by his blog, which I did.


But don't take my word for it. Check out this post about the Reformation. Very timely, given the upcoming Reformation Day (Oct. 31), and also the current church climate where everyone seems eager to undo all the gains that took place as a result of the Reformation.

Now--regarding the Reformation, the online Catholic Encyclopedia has this to say:
The Reformation destroyed the unity of faith and ecclesiastical organization of the Christian peoples of Europe, cut many millions off from the true Catholic Church, and robbed them of the greatest portion of the salutary means for the cultivation and maintenance of the supernatural life. Incalculable harm was thereby wrought from the religious standpoint.
What a sad blindness to the truth! The Reformation resulted in the recovery of the Doctrines of Grace, not incalculable harm. True, it cut many off from the Catholic Church; but it brought them instead into the true catholic church: not the Pope's church, or Mary's church, but Christ's church.

Anyway, thanks to Bill for stopping by. Hope you'll come visit again soon. I'll definitely be heading over to your blog again in the near future.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Quotable Christian--Cool link of the Day

Are you the kind of person who poors over books (or your poor, overworked memory banks) trying to lay your hands on that perfect quote? You may even Google--when no one is looking.

Take heart. Here's a place to start. This site quotes different authors on many topics. Here are a couple of examples on Grace (the rest you'll have to check out for yourself).

Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that 'the just shall live by his faith.' Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise.
Martin Luther

The man who has nothing more than a kind of Sunday religion--whose Christianity is like his Sunday clothes put on once a week, and then laid aside--such a man cannot, of course, be expected to care about growth in grace.
J.C. Ryle

My Own Self Portrait

As you can see, artistic talent runs in the family. Or not.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Speaking of pictures

Now that I finally figured out how to post pictures to the blog, I've added a portrait of myself, drawn by my oldest daughter. If you look closely, you'll be able to see the beard. In case you can't see it in my profile, here it is:

Some days you're the fox...

There's probably a good punchline here, but I think I'll just let the image speak for itself. If you think of one, put it in my comments.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Six Degrees of Blogspotting

Hemsch got his first snow. Too early, but it didn't hang around too long. I'm sure he's moping watching his newly adopted Buffs get slaughtered by the Horns. Sorry, dude. There's always the Devils (in baseball, that is). Hemsch has never read...

Tim Challies, who could only find one person to go to Petra with him. Tim, I would have gone with you had I been in the Great White North. I may be the only person alive with copies of their first two albums (on cassette, of course--I'm not that old). Also, he provides an incredibly tempting tidbit about having lunch with Richard Abanes. He moves up two spots on my blogroll just so I won't miss this upcoming post--well, that and because of...

Phil Johnson, who is still on a break. As I mentioned in a previous post, even his non-posts get comments--up to 114 now. A strange picture did appear on the blog on the 11th, but nothing since then. He did find time to express his affection for Frank Turk, however...

Speaking of whom, Centuri0n hits a new high point for humor this week with the introduction of the "Shatner tag." I actually tried to reproduce the tag on this blog, but Blogger composer thought it was a real tag, and made it disappear.

Centuri0n's sidekick, Jibbs, tries his hand at funny, with mixed results. His Five Signs you are Truly Regenerate was truly funny, while the sequel Five Signs you are Probably Unregenerate was, unfortunately, just mediocre (with a hint of insulting for good measure).

And finally, Daniel of Doulogos (who is truly regnerate because Jibbs links to him), cuts his hair.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Salvation of Infants

It started like this. C said:
If there are actually more saved than lost people in All of history, either history is going to be a lot longer than we expect, or to date we Christians really have no idea what we are talking about.
My response:
There's another possibility. I'm sure it will be controversial, but I'll throw it out there anyway. The reason there will be more saved than unsaved is that those who die in infancy are saved.

What follows is taken from a message I heard from Phil Johnson. He said that the reason he thinks there will be more people in heaven is because he thinks all infants who die are elect. I won't try to replicate all of the support he provides for his position (you can find that by pulling up his message from GraceLife at ministry_id=9 ), but I would like to highlight a couple of points.

*Infants are not saved because they are innocent, because it's clear from Scripture that they aren't. But it is conceivable that they are saved by God's grace--just like all men are saved by God's grace.
*Infants may actually be spared by dying, because they don't have to come into a sin-cursed world and deal with sinning willfully themselves.
*Calvinism is superior to an Arminian understanding in this regard, because if a man must choose, how can any infants be saved.
*If this is so, why doesn't the Bible deal with this explicitly? This is a key point, and one on which many of my own doubts rested. But his answer to this question proved to be the lynchpin (in my mind) for the whole argument. It is both logical and Biblical. Knowing man's great propensity for evil, God chose purposely not to reveal this part of His plan, because humans would twist it into some sort of sick "sacrificial evangelism," where children would be killed precisely because they would go to heaven.

Now think about this for a minute. Haven't you heard this exact argument from some who are pro-abortion? If infants are automatically saved, why would we want to stop abortion? The answer is because it is an abomination to God and to His character, and He would never want to have something like this done in His name (I'm paraphrasing here, and Phil, please forgive me if I'm not as precise as I should be on this point).

Now I recognize that it's tricky to make an argument like this when the Bible is not explicit (which is why I'm glad I'm just picking up the threads of the tapestry woven by PJ). Is it possible this what's written above is incorrect--that God would choose to deal with infants in a different way? Absolutely!

But I ask you, as you read the Bible, and as you observe God's character--how He cares for the poor and the oppressed; how He cares for the helpless; how He cares for the honor of His name--what greater picture of a loving, gracious God could there be than to extend His grace to those little ones in a special way? I'm not trying to be pie-in-the-sky or borderline universalist here; I'm saying that infants are really a picture of all of us--we were all that helpless, and without God's intervention in our lives we would also be hopeless.

Is it reasonable to conclude that a God like that might have in His redemptive plan a part that would include these helpless ones? Does it take away from God to believe this? I don't think so--PRECISELY BECAUSE THEY ARE STILL SAVED BY GOD'S GRACE.

Cent's response:
I hope to have 5 minutes to scrape together something about this before the weekend.

Now when he came back, he had decided to write the post linked above, and not to write about the subject, for the reasons he mentions (both in the post, and in the comments there). Unfortunately, even his non-post has generated loads of comments, which have required responses. And all because of me.

My original purpose was simply to present a possibility, not to argue dogmatically for a certain view (I might do that in the future, but not now). I presented some highlights of the argument that were most convincing to me, not the whole argument, all with the goal of simply saying it's possible that there are more saved people than lost people.

So Cent, I'm sorry, and to make it up to you, I'm putting this post up for all who might wish to discuss further. Come over to my blog--I am interested in discussing.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Faith in Numbers

"The trouble still in the church is a matter of foundation. There are those that would have us believe that it is a good and right thing to form great unions. To have a great ecumenical church. And that then we shall be a great body of people confronting the world. But the question is, what is this great ecumenical church to stand for? What is she to believe? What is her foundation? We are not concerned primarily about numbers. For however great a body the ecumenical church may be, she will have no influence upon the world unless she has a truth to present; unless she has a solid and firm foundation on which to stand. Surely that is the great emphasis of the Bible."

"What the Bible is concerned about is truth. And in a very extraordinary manner, it ridicules our pathetic faith in big battalions and in great numbers."--Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

This quote speaks for itself. Ask yourself, where is your church's foundation?

I would only add that whether big or small, churches have a tendency to focus on numbers. But true revival doesn't start with the masses. True revival, when it happens, starts with just a few.

Be one of those few.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Praying for Persecution

This is a haunting article from World Magazine (and particularly interesting if read in light of this previous article).

Here's a quote. I encourage you to go read the rest.

How should American Christians pray for the church in China? So asked the reporter from the Baptist mission board, ending his interview with a leader of the Chinese house-church movement.

His subject answered, "Stop praying for persecution in China to end." He added, "It is through persecution that the church has grown."

The leader of the underground church then added something else: "We, in fact, are praying that the American church might taste the same persecution so revival would come to the American church like we have seen in China."

I wonder if the modern-day American evangelical church (and I'm preaching to myself when I say this) doesn't need a little persecution to wake up. Where are those in the States who are joyfully accepting plundering of their property for the sake of a better possession (Heb 10:34)?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Rookie Mistake

You'll notice yesterday my prolific blog turnout (at least by my standards). But I realized something last night as I was going to sleep--in the "what-have-you-done-for-me-lately?" world of blogs, if I had posted 50 things, people would still be coming back today looking for another post.

Oh, well. Live and learn.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Terrible Translation

I present this as part of an occasional ongoing series on translation. Great article on the perils of Bible translation according to someone's agenda.

I want to be clear here. I am not making a direct comparison between the TNIV and any of these other "translations" (and I use this term loosely, especially as you get closer to the bottom of the article). My purpose now is not to weigh in on the TNIV (Lord-willing I will one day).

I just think it is worth noting that as translators move further and further away from the original words of the text to its ideas, they can more easily allow their agenda to dominate the text, and so distort it beyond recognition.

I echo the thoughts of Gene Edward Vieth, with the exception of the TNIV (& to a lesser extent the NRSV), that "These translations are not the Word of God. Just the Word of Man."

Phil Johnson-Blog Star

You gotta hand it to Phil Johnson (I've always wanted to say that, BTW). Here's a guy that says "I'm not gonna post for the next two weeks", and he generates 31 comments (at last count). Probably many more times that many hits (& I'll confess, I'm one of them, thinking that there's got to be something in the can he can just throw out there).

He's like the band that comes out for a couple of encores after the show, and then they are finished. In the meantime, here's his audience, chanting "Phil, Phil, Phil," and waiting for the next post. The guy is a rock star!

"God is not boring"--John Piper

I liked this article from John Piper. I especially love this quote: "The other reason imagination is a Christian duty is that presenting breathtaking truth in boring ways is a sin. "

Paul is never boring; his writing is filled with such emotion. Neither should we buy into the lie of the world that says that our lives are boring, or that God is boring. He isn't.

I suppose it's only in an affluent society where our rights are so protected that we could even think such a thing--try to imagine a first century Christian hiding in the catecombs or facing the lions saying such a thing. Think of Augustine or any of the other church fathers describing God as boring. And surely Luther, Calvin, Tyndale, and other Reformers would have given us an earful if we'd said such a thing within their hearing.

Even the Puritans, the very embodiment of "boring"--is it possible we consider them dry as dust because we are the ones who are dry and parched, lacking even a hint of the depth of their spirituality? (For the record, I don't consider them "dry as dust," but I do wonder this about myself quite often...)

The 100 Minute Bible--Decent Premise, Poor Execution

The 100 Minute Bible

Much has been made of the 100 Minute Bible recently. It's not really my intent to review that product (if you want to learn more, you can just follow the link). Instead, I want to use that as a jumping off point to address what I do see as an important issue.

The makers of the 100 Minute Bible may be faulted for many things, but one thing that is not faulty is their premise. People describe themselves as weak in Biblical knowledge, but also desire to improve. (I use Barna because he's easy to link to--take an informal poll at any church, and I'd bet that the results would be substantially the same). Society at large, and (even worse) many Christians, are Biblically illiterate. Feel free to quibble with the best way to deal with these issues, but give them credit for identifying the issues and trying to do something to help.

Nevertheless, there are better ways. Here are some that address these problems without compromising the text of the Bible.

1. Read the Gospel of John. John is a great place to start. John himself says that he writes "so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believeing you may have life in his name." (John 20:31)

2. Read the book of Romans. Described by some as the world's first and best Gospel tract, Romans is probably the single greatest explanation of the gospel that exists, and it certainly represents the fullest explanation of the gospel in Scripture. One pastor I had said if he had to pick one book of the Bible to be stranded on a desert island with, it would be Romans.

3. Read the New Testament. Here is an intriguing method I came across from John MacArthur, who got it in turn from James M. Grey (a past president of The Moody Bible Institute). MacArthur has a whole sermon series on the Bible over at the Bible Bulletin Board--very helpful (topic=Bible).

Read through a section of the New Testament every day for 30 days. It will take a little longer, about 2 years, but at the end, you'll have read through the New Testament the equivalent of 30 times. Divide larger books into smaller sections (7-10 chapters), combine a couple of the smaller books. He also recommends making a note card of the theme of each chapter, so you'll have better memory.

Some great advantages to this:
  • Use the same Bible for the whole time, and you'll actually start to see the words on the page in your mind when you remember
  • Helps minimize loss if you miss a day
  • Easier to keep track of--you only change once a month
  • Flexible--you can make this fit what you need--read in smaller chunks (& just extend the time), read passages longer than 30 days if you are really digging in deep, schedule reading to coincide with your church's teaching (if expository).
For the Old Testament, MacArthur recommends reading straight through--this traditional method works better in the OT because of its narrative nature.

4. Bible in a Year--the page method. Turn to Revelation 22:21 and note the page number. Divide that number by 360, and round up to the nearest whole number. Read that number of pages every day for a year (360 is so you can miss a couple of days if you need to).

5. One-Year Bible Products (incl RSS, software). In the beginning, there was paper. Now, you can have the Bible e-mailed to you or subscribe to an RSS feed (ESV, for example). If you have Bible software, chances are it comes with some option for a year's worth of readings. If you don't have software yet, and have a Windows computer, try e-Sword.

The goal of all of this is to fix firmly in your mind a knowledge of the Bible. This is important for all Christians, and remember, all theology flows from the Bible. If you will just focus on this piece, no doubt you will pick up much theology just by virtue of studying. On the other hand, it's hard to make a case that your really understand theology (even if you know it) without a knowledge of the Bible. For example--can you really know about God's justice just by reading a description of it in theology books? It needs to be learned by reading the Bible, by seeing how God's justice works in all 66 books of His revelation.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Studying Theology at Home

Monergismbooks has some advice on studying theology at home. They recommend going through The Westminster Shorter & Longer Catechisms and Confession; from Thomas Watson's works-- Body of Divinity, Ten Commandments, & The Lord's Prayer; A.A. Hodge's Outlines of Theology; and Biblical Theology by Geerhardus Vos (H.T. Justin Taylor on the Reformation21 Blog). From there, they have other suggestions. You can read it for yourself.

This brought me back to something I've been thinking about, and so I'm going to make a suggestion that is more modest, and probably more mundane, but which I hope will be just as valuable. Before you go study any of these works, go to your church's website and pull up the Doctrinal Statement, Statement of Faith, and/or anything else that talks about 1) what the church believes or 2) why the church does things a certain way. It should include verses (this is all for naught if it doesn't). If the website doesn't include these things, call the office and ask for a copy, and while you're at it, ask them why it isn't posted on the site.

Now, grab your Bible, plus a notebook and pen, and get ready to work your way through it. Before you start, it's a good idea to pray and ask God to open up the Scriptures to you. He is the author, and He will teach you if you ask (cf. Ps 119:12,26,29,33).

Once you've asked God for His help in studying His word, start working your way through the verses. This is not a race, so take it slow--it may take some time, perhaps even a few hours or days. The goal is to learn more about what God's Word says and also what your church believes. Jot down any questions you have, so you can ask someone about them later. Also jot down any thoughts the Lord puts in your mind--this will help you engage your mind.

I'm not trying to slight the list on Monergism, or anything else people have done. I'm just a firm believer in starting with what's right in front of us. I also think this is a valuable exercise because I'm willing to bet many people are attending churches without knowing where those churches stand on theological topics. While everyone may not want to study theology, everyone should know not only where they stand on important Bible topics, but where their church stands as well.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Piper's "God is the Gospel"--Free online

This latest book is causing a bit of a controversy. I found some positive reviews (although it seemed many had not read the book, but were just noting that it was out there), and one very negative review.

I haven't read the book, so I have no opinion yet. But because of the controversy, because we are doing Desiring God in our men's small group, and because Piper has been a big part of my formation of a theology of suffering (through his messages on Katrina and previous natural disasters), I provide this link for those who might be interested.

Read with discernment. This is true of all books written by man. There is only one Gospel, and I love the way Paul puts it in Galatians 1:6-9:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Paul was so sure of the Gospel he had preached that he wanted to make it clear that there was no other, and he uses the strongest language against those who would teach any other. Any man (even John Piper) runs the risk of getting it wrong--we must be Bereans and always examine every work of man through the lense of Scripture.

10 Rules for Christian Bloggers

I just discovered the blog of David Alan Black--that name will be familiar to you if you've done much study of the Greek New Testament, as he's written several books on the subject. But his blog covers a whole range of topics, including homeschooling, parenting, patriotism, and immigration (don't but him in a room with Steve "Sledgehammer" Camp). He is even an artist.

Anway, I appreciated this post on rules for Christian Blogging, so I present it as food for thought.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Struggling with Conception

I've been reading the interesting line of discussion over on Centuri0n's blog regarding a Biblical view of children, conception, and contraception. Four parts altogether (1,2,3,4).

Here's a sampling:

So in that same way, when we marry, and we allow sex to be only about the satiation of passion, we have missed out on the rest of the blessing. It is easy to say that we have the liberty to have no children. . . The question, really, is why we would choose such a thing? Why choose to let God's blessing - the material blessing, not the high-brow theoretical blessing which cannot be seen until we have run the race and fought the fight and receive the crown - slip through our fingers?
I am attempting to point out that we are purposefully limiting the number of children that we have for purely selfish, economic reasons.
...for most of the world, the paradigm is this: life in poverty is worse than death.
What I am saying is this: in spite of the active right to life movement in sociologically-Christian circles, the view that children are a burden rather than a blessing is pandemic.
Now, if you haven't already done so, read section 4, then come back for my meager comments.
My interest is actually very personal--my wife and I just found out that we are pregnant with #5, and so I can resonate with his statements and others' comments.

Much of what is said here is true, I'm afraid. This is not to say there isn't a balanced position on this issue, but just to say that too many people who call themselves Christians fail to see children as a blessing from the Lord. As a result, I expect that as we disseminate the news about #5, we will see some who have joy with us, but others who will make jokes, take pity, and a few who might even consider us fundamentalists or legalists. But I can't get away from this, so I say to all, (myself included),"Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord..." (Ps. 127:3)

P.S. On a lighter note--Pixley, if you read this, Hollie says that if we're having a boy, maybe we could swap with you. Let me know what Christy says.