Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Are the 4 Gospels historical documents?

Aside from the confidence a Christian has in the divine inspiration of the New Testament there is also good historical evidence that can be trusted in as well

Jesus Made Me Puke:Matt Taibbi Undercover with the Christian Right


Rolling Stone magazine does a sad undercover expose @

Irreverent Wrongs

Thabiti Anyabwile @ discusses the brewing scandal regarding Rev. Jeremiah Wright's recent comments during the Bill Moyers interview, at the Detroit NAACP meeting, and at the National Press Club. He presents some helpful lessons for pastors:

1. Feed the sheep, feed the sheep, feed the sheep.

2. Be willing to suffer reproach for doing good.

3. Think carefully about a separation of church and state principle in my own ministry and public comments on public issues.

4. Seek counsel before speaking.

5. Pray and war against pride.

In providing a helpful example, he concludes with what he would have said if he were forced to do a Press Club event in Wright's situation.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Pursuit of Happiness

A Primer on Men and Women—the Gender Issue

Arguments for Complementarianism:

1. The Bible illustrates male leadership from the beginning of creation.

  • Adam named the animals (Genesis 2:20).
  • Adam named Eve (Genesis 2:23).
  • God approached Adam first after the fall (Genesis 2:9).
  • There were no women priests.
  • The God-ordained rulers of Israel were male.
  • Jesus’ apostles were all male.
  • The bishops/presbyters/pastors were all male (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus. 1:6).
2. Eve was created as a completer. In order for one to be incomplete, he or she must lack something.

3. Paul constantly had to address women who were failing to understand the importance of their role as women or who were in outright rebellion against it.

4. The New Testament writers constantly had to address men who abused their role as leaders.

5. The curse involves women failing to appreciate their role (”you will want to control”) and men failing to dignify the role of women (”he will rule over you”—word “rule” speaks of rule by oppressive force).

Arguments for Egalitarianism

1. Patriarchalism (male domination) is a cultural phenomenon that God chose not to deal with, but to regulate as he also did with slavery.

2. Male leadership and domination is a result of the Fall that is reversed when we are restored in Christ.

3. The Bible has many examples of women who were leaders, teachers, and prophetesses who exercised authority over men. T

4. History has conclusively demonstrated that women have been very effective spiritual leaders and pastors.

5. Despite claims to the contrary, it is hard to see how stating that women are denied the opportunity of exercising spiritual headship over men does not demean the ontological value of women.

Bible Software Review

has a Bible Software Review with A survey of five major Bible software programs. He compares (among others:
  • Biblesoft's PC Study Bible Version 5 (Professional Reference Library)
  • BibleWorks 7
  • Logos Bible Software 3 (Scholar's Library: Gold)
  • QuickVerse 2008 (Platinum Edition)
  • Zondervan's The Teacher's and Pastor's Library 6.0 for Windows (Pradis-based)

The Argument from Consciousness

J.P. Moreland @ presents the apologetics method of the appeal to consciousness. He notes:

The Nature of the Mental

(a) there is a raw qualitative feel or a “what it is like” to have a mental state such as a pain;

(b) at least many mental states have intentionality—ofness or aboutness–directed towards an object;

(c) mental states are inner, private and immediate to the subject having them;

(d) they require a subjective ontology—namely, mental states are necessarily owned by the first person sentient subjects who have them;

(e) mental states fail to have crucial features (e.g., spatial extension, location) that characterize physical states and, in general, cannot be described using physical language.

The Argument from Consciousness

(a) The uniformity of nature.

(b) Contingency of the mind/body correlation.

(c) Epiphenomenalism and causal closure.

(d) The inadequacy of evolutionary explanations. Naturalist

The Rapture: Did Paul Teach This Doctrine In 1 Thessalonians? reviews the prevalent dispensational position with a critique:

The RaptureSummary of Walvoord’s Rapture Doctrine from 1 Thessalonians

Critique of Walvoord’s Rapture View

The 2nd coming of Christ in 1 Thess. & Matt.24[17]

Christ returns - 1 Thess. 4:16; Matt. 24:30
from heaven - 1 Thess. 4:16; Matt. 24:30
accompanied by angels - 1 Thess. 4:16; Matt. 24:31
with a trumpet of God - 1 Thess. 4:16; Matt. 24:31
believers gathered to Christ - 1 Thess. 4:17; Matt. 24:31; 40-41
in clouds - 1 Thess. 4:17; Matt. 24:30
time unknown - 1 Thess. 5:1-2; Matt. 24:36
coming like a thief - 1 Thess. 5:2, 4; Matt. 24:43
unbelievers unaware of coming judgment - 1 Thess. 5:3; Matt. 24:37-39
judgment like a mother’s birth pangs - 1 Thess. 5:3; Matt. 24:8
believers not deceived - 1 Thess. 5:4-5; Matt. 24:43
believers to be watchful - 1 Thess. 5:6; Matt. 24:37-39
warning v. drunkenness - 1 Thess. 5:7; Matt. 24:49

Conclusions and Observations

"It seems that Walvoord may have believed that his view of a separate coming of Christ to rapture living saints distinct from “the second coming of Christ” is obvious enough in passages such as 1 Thess. 4:17 that it was enough to assert or assume that this is so without providing sufficient exegetical evidence. For example, Walvoord states, “When some of the Thessalonians died, it raised the question of what would happen to them when the living were raptured. They apparently had the idea that the resurrection of the dead in Christ would not occur at the Rapture but would be sometime later. How much they understood about the coming Tribulation and the second coming of Christ is not clear in Thessalonians. When they asked Timothy to clear up this difficulty, he was unable to do so and brought this question, along with other theological questions, to Paul, and Paul answers them in 1 Thessalonians. The experience of the Thessalonian Christians make quite clear that they were expecting Christ to come at any time but did not anticipate going through the Tribulation because no mention is made of it.”[20]

Walvoord seems to write this section as if the Thessalonians presupposed his understanding of the pre-tribulational Rapture. He claims in the above-mentioned quote that the Thessalonians were probably wondering what would happen to those who will be “raptured” and may have wondered if the resurrection of the dead in Christ would occur separately from “the Rapture” as if the Rapture were a commonly held belief of the believers at Thessalonica. He even seems to indicate that questions concerning the Rapture were part of the reason why Paul wrote this letter to the Thessalonians.

It does not appear to me that the Rapture can be found in the text of 1 Thessalonians apart from presupposing the existence of such a doctrine. If it is indeed impossible to discern the reality of the Rapture from this text then it appears that Walvoord, among many others, may have read his understanding of the Rapture into the passage as he attempted to explain the occasion of Paul’s teachings in 1 Thess. 4:13-18. This would be highly problematic for his view since it is this verse that Dr. Walvoord points to for clear teaching on the subject.

My study of the Rapture and the second coming of Christ is certainly not as extensive as that of a longtime Bible teacher such as Dr. Walvoord. However, based upon my study of the matter to date, it is my humble opinion that there is little to no evidence in Scripture for a coming of Christ to rapture believers from the earth that precedes and is distinct from the second coming of Christ. It is my understanding that Paul’s reference to the coming of Christ in 1 Thess. 4 is concerning the second coming of Christ".

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Justification-Don't Waste Your Life

John Piper talks about the importance of justification in this life and the one to come.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Sermon Outline: Do this in Remembrance of Me- Baptize Disciples & Eat the Lord’s Supper:

Acts 2:37-42.

1) The Conviction: Acts 2:37–40

Psalm 51:1-4

Romans 5:6-14

2) The Commands: Acts 2:38–39

1 Thessalonians 1:9

Acts 10:47

Ephesians 2:8-13

3) The Challenge: Acts 2:40

Psalm 78:8

4) The Conversions: Acts 2:41

Romans 6:3-4

5) The Communion: Acts 2:42

Acts 20:7

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Life that Images God

All people are image bearers of God. Because of this, we value human life from the unborn to those who are crippled and those who are comatose. Our world says that if you are a certain way then your value changes, but God made you so if you're not beautiful or if you're an invalid you don't have less worth. Pastor Mark Driscoll preaches on the practicality of living a life that images God in this clip from the Image sermon in our series Doctrine. The full sermon is available at

Expelled, Evolution & Naturalism

Expelled Movie PosterJesse Johnson @ presents a series on evolution and the recent "Expelled" move. He notes: “Expelled” is a documentary where comedian/actor/presidential speech-writer Ben Stein makes the case that scientists are suppressing evidence that shows that life has an intelligent designer. The point of the movie, which is now in theatres, is that evolution is a theory with more problems than answers, and is too unclear to be helpful anyway. Nevertheless, the scientific community is so defensive of evolution that any evidence to the contrary is simply not allowed to be heard. Instead, those that dare do research that support intelligent design (ID) are expelled from the academic community".

In outlining the format of the movie, he notes:

"The circular argument made by the scientific community and exposed by the movie is simple. ID is not science because no evidence in peer-reviewed journals exists. Moreover, no scientist can do research pointing to ID or publish any articles defending it because it is not science. The circle is both complete and impenetrable.

Stein compares it to the Berlin Wall; American scientists have freedom to explore anything they want, as long as they stay on one side of the wall and ID stays on the other. Anyone that violates this rule is fired, figuratively tarred and feathered, and driven into the wilderness. Meanwhile, scientists themselves have real questions about evolution that they are unable to ask for fear of reprisals. While our country was founded on freedom, this freedom is under attack by the scientific community (picture Stein walking through Arlington Cemetery asking if these men died in vain, and you get the picture)".

His first section concludes with a warning and an encouragement:

"This is not a Christian movie. Stein’s foundation is not the deity of Christ, and his push for theism is not a push to bow the knee to the creator of the universe. This is also not a fair movie. Stein acts like Michael Moore with interviews spliced together and simplified issues being dismissed with sound bite phrases.

Yet this is a helpful movie. Any Christian who has attended any public school at any level, be it kindergarten or grad school, can attest to the truth of what Stein exposes. Evidence for macro-evolution is practically concocted, and substantial evidence for ID is dismissed. Some of the best scenes in the movie have different evolutionists presenting Crystals and Aliens as possible sources for life on earth. This is more reasonable than ID, we are told, as long as the aliens themselves could have come from some Darwinian mechanism".

The second article in the series deals with: Evolution: Science or Faith?

naturalism's iconFollowed by Naturalism’s Missionary Zeal

Sowing Seeds of Love Into Your Community

Gary Rohrmayer presents an interesting post on NorthBridge Church in Antioch, IL. He notes that at their one year anniversary banquet, raised $17,000.00 to give into their community and cast the vision for three other churches to simply love a local struggling school district by turning a useless, old school building into a functional classroom. Here is the newspaper article on the project: Download NorthBridge School Article.pdf

A few take aways:

1) There are hurting organizations in your community. Open your eyes and ears to see and hear the hurting.

2) Ask people how you can help them. Don't tell them what you want to do.

3) Don't do it alone. Involve the larger body of Christ.

4) Love them unconditionally in the name of Jesus.

5) New churches can make a big difference!

Engaging the Culture with the Gospel

Brian Hedges @ deals with the topic of engaging the culture with the Gospel. From Acts 17:16-34 notes:
1. We must be gripped with a passion for the glory of God.

2. We must learn the language of the culture.

3. We must dismantle false worldviews and construct a distinctively Christian worldview in our sharing of the gospel.

Worldviews are formed by answers to certain basic questions:

*Where did I come from? (origins, human nature)
*Why am I here? (meaning, purpose in life)
*What time is it? (history)
*What’s wrong? (evil, suffering)
*What’s the solution? (hope, redemption)
*Where am I going? (future, afterlife)

Notice how Paul addresses several of these basic worldview questions as he describes:

*God’s nature as the transcendent Creator of all;
*Man’s nature as created in God’s image (“his offspring”);
*A linear view of history (rather than cyclical) with definite beginning and ending points;
*The human problem as ignorance (of God) and divine judgment (for sin);
*The divine solution in Christ’s resurrection from the dead (implying the cross) and repentance from sin.

Criterion for Successful Evangelism

Homosexual Marriage as a Challenge to the Church: Biblical and Cultural Reflections”

Dr. Mohler’s chapter “Homosexual Marriage as a Challenge to the Church: Biblical and Cultural Reflections” from the volume Sex & The Supremacy of Christ is outlined at

Sex and the Supremacy of Christ

From the chapter introduction:

As Christians, we are charged with the difficult task of compassionate truth-telling. This has never been easy—just ask the apostles—but it is particularly difficult in a time of cultural ferment and sexual revolution. Compassionate truth-telling requires the church to speak from its deepest convictions while demonstrating the love of Christ—speaking truth that will be heard as a hard message while demonstrating the love of Christ through the very act of telling the truth. Compassionate truth-telling means, not only the accurate presentation of biblical truth, but the prayerful and urgent hope that the individuals to whom we speak will be transformed by that truth and respond to the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

The challenge of compassionate truth-telling means that we must think strategically and carefully about how these issues should be addressed, both in terms of individual conversations and in the larger context of public debate. We must ensure not only that we think rightly about these things as ordered by Scripture, but that we speak rightly
about controversial issues as well. We cannot address homosexual marriage as an isolated issue but must place it in the larger context of the Christian worldview and of the great story of God’s purpose in creation and redemption.

The Christian worldview affirms the unity of the good, the beautiful, and the true—known as the “transcendentals”—in the transcendent, self-revealing God. Thus, the Christian worldview understands the good, the beautiful, and the true as being established in the very character of God. At the same time, these transcendentals—the good, the beautiful, and the true—are, in reality, the same thing. Each is rooted in the beauty of God, in the reality of his character, and in the glory of his holiness.

In its confusion, the world wants to separate the good from the true, the true from the beautiful, and the beautiful from the good. In isolating and separating the transcendentals, the secular picture of the world becomes fractured and disoriented. Thus, this confusion can produce tragically problematic arguments for why the false may be beautiful, the ugly may be true, and evil may be good.

We understand the source of this confusion, of course. The Christian doctrine of sin, rooted directly in the Genesis account of the Fall, explains that the consequences of sin lead directly to this kind of disorientation and confusion.

Christians must resist the temptation to speak the truth in a manner that falls short of the good, the beautiful, and the true. We betray the truth when we speak of it with an ugly spirit, or attach it to base arguments or mean-spirited impulses. We must reunite what the secular world has divided and present Christian truth in all of its power, its beauty, and its goodness.

With all that in mind, how shall we approach issues related to homosexual marriage? I have grown increasingly convinced that most of our approaches focus on what homosexuals would have to rethink in order to see this issue with clarity and understand the error of their lifestyle and social agenda. We often assume that the real issue is what kind of people homosexuals would have to be in order to hear our message and receive its truth. While this is an important consideration, I am convinced that the more urgent challenge for the church is to clarify our own self-identity and our understanding of the gospel. What kind of people must we be, if we are to address the challenge of homosexual marriage with faithfulness and Christian love?

I would suggest seven principles that can serve as a framework for a Christian response to the challenge of homosexual marriage. Each of these is deeply rooted in biblical truth, and each is pointed to the challenge of addressing homosexuals with compassionate truth-telling.


From the chapter:

2. We must be the people who cannot ever talk about sex without talking about marriage.

The moment Christians accept that we can talk about sex without talking about marriage, we abandon the high ground of the Christian worldview and surrender the question at stake. From the very beginning of every conversation about sex, we must emphasize that Christians cannot talk about sex without making clear its connection to marriage.

The moral credibility of the Christian church is very much at stake in the debate over homosexual marriage. If Christians allow a low estimation of marriage, and if we accept the breaking of marital vows and the violation of marital covenants, we destroy the very foundation of our moral capital in the debate over homosexual marriage.

We must hold to a culture of marriage because we know that God’s glory is displayed in this institution and because we know the power of human sexuality. Sex is so powerful, and sexual desire is so easily corrupted, that we must point to marriage as the institution God has designed in order for sexuality to be enjoyed, appreciated, and fulfilled.

According to the Christian worldview, sex makes sense only within the context of marriage. Sex outside of marriage is an insult to the Creator’s design and a display of human arrogance. Unsatisfied with God’s provision for us in marriage, human sinfulness is displayed in our demand for autonomy—for our “rights” as creatures—and in our rejection of the Creator’s purpose.

Marriage becomes the touchstone for our understanding of why sexual sins areso inherently sinful. We understand that adultery is sinful precisely because it robs God of his glory by desecrating a covenant made in his name. Marriage is intended to be a display of covenant fidelity, which points to the faithfulness of the Creator and the character of the covenant-making God. The New Testament goes so far as to present the relationship between Christ and his church in the metaphor of the bride and the bridegroom. Adultery is so abhorrent precisely because it lies about what covenant faithfulness is supposed to be. Similarly, fornication (premarital sex) is understood to be sin precisely because, in this practice, the creature is demanding a partof what marriage represents while rejecting the entirety of the marital covenant. But God will not allow his good gifts to be separated.

Throughout the Bible, sexual sins are revealed in their inherent sinfulness precisely because each of these sins—whether incest, or bestiality, or homosexuality, or lust—is a desire for something less than God’s completion in the covenant of marriage, and for something less than purity in our reception of God’s gift.

Christians simply cannot talk about sex without talking about marriage. We are the people who have to talk about covenant faithfulness because we serve the covenant-making God. We must talk about male and female with constant reference to marriage. We must talk about the relationship between Christ and his church, the gifts of intimacy and fidelity,and the reality of order within the institution of marriage, simply because the Bible so clearly puts marriage at the center of human existence. A genuinely Christian response to the challenge of homosexual marriage would go back to marriage itself and to the gift of gender, demonstrating the rightness and the perfection of marriage as a picture in miniature of the kingdom of God. Every marriage, every domestic household, is to be a little picture of the kingdom of God in the right ordering of all things and in the creatures’ grateful reception of the Creator’s gifts. This little picture—this little domestic portrait that centers in the covenant of marriage—presents a picture more powerful than anything the world can ever distort. The existence of just one faithful marriage demonstrates the fatal falsity of any other ordering for human sexuality.


Here are Dr. Mohler’s remaining points in the chapter:

1. We, as Christians, must be the people who cannot start a conversation about homosexual marriage by talking about homosexual marriage.
2. We must be the people who cannot ever talk about sex without talking about marriage.
3. We must be the people who cannot talk about anything of significance without acknowledging our absolute dependence upon God’s revelation—the Bible.
4. We must be the people with a theology adequate to explain the deadly deception of sexual sin.
5. We must be the people with a theology adequate to explain Christ’s victory over sin.
6. We must be the people who love homosexuals more than homosexuals love homosexuality.
7.We must be the people who tell the truth about homosexual marriage and thus refuse to accept even its possibility because we love and seek the glory of God for all.

Download the full chapter(right click and select “save as”).

Praying Like Paul

Rachel Starr Thomson@ reviews the prayers of Paul. She notes:

May You Be Strong Within

In Ephesians 3:14-16, Paul began one of his most beautiful prayers for the church.

"For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man."
May Your Love Abound

Paul prayed, "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God" (Eph. 3:17-19).

The Lord Be With You

Ephesians 3:18, "that we might be filled with all the fullness of God."

Daniel B. Wallace & Recent Biblical Manuscripts is reviewing the controversial conclusions from on segments of the Gospel of John from manuscripts he has recently studied in Albania.

The background: "Daniel B. Wallace of Dallas Theological Seminary started the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts in 2002 because he saw an opportunity to record, duplicate, and transmit New Testament manuscripts with greater ease and fidelity as digital photo technologies improved. The Center's ambitious goal is to photograph and transfer into print all 1.3 million pages of Greek New Testament manuscripts, early translations of the New Testament, and patristic commentaries on the New Testament.

This past June a four-member CSNTM team of graduate students and technicians traveled to Tirana, Albania, to photograph the manuscripts stored in the National Archive, the first group of Western scholars to be granted access to the collection in several decades. Working long hours in 100-degree heat, the crew discovered there was far more in the National Archive than any Western scholar realized — and more than they had time to photograph. Early review of their manuscript 'finds' have cast further doubt on the authenticity of a much loved passage from the Gospel of John."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day to you. Happy Earth Day to you.

Since today is "Earth Day", Gene Edward Veith @ considers:" what would be a good Christian appropriation of Earth Day? Christians in the past have co-opted pagan holidays to give them a Christian meaning. What could Christians do with Earth Day? How about turning it into a Creation Day, a festival to commemorate God’s creation of the universe. (Or would we need six days for that?) I don’t recall the church ever celebrating that little event!

It seems to me that a successful holiday has to be inspiring and, if possible, fun. Merely hitting people with guilt about not recycling or scaring them to death with global warming scenarios will not make for a happy holiday. Can you think of ways to actually turn this day into a Christian celebration?"

Mommy's Got a Brand New Belly


Josh Harris @ reviews excerpts from a Newsweek features of a children's book about cosmetic surgery.

In his responses he notes:
  • "can you imagine if Dr. Seuss had done a book based on this concept? I will refrain from any rhymes at this point.
  • a book like this points to the fact that cosmetic surgery is fast becoming the modern day equivalent of getting your hair colored. (Will do-it-yourself kits that come in a box at the grocery store soon follow?)
  • if kids have this kind of bedtime reading, is there any doubt that cosmetic surgery will only become more and more "normal" in the future?
  • We need to teach from a young age the truth of Proverbs 11:22 that says, "Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman without discretion" (ESV). This is true even if the pig has had a "snout job."

Nicole Whitacre writes some insightful thoughts on this subject:

Because of the gospel, we can be free from this fruitless and rebellious search to find satisfaction in receiving admiration for our physical beauty. We can live for Christ instead. And thus our hearts can "be fixed, where true joys are to be found" (Book of Common Prayer, 1662).

So what difference should the gospel make in how we think about beauty today?

First, instead of complaining to the mirror about our imperfect body, let's consider how we can live for Christ by trusting Him and serving others. True joy will inevitably follow.

And secondly, if we're tempted to envy (or self-righteously judge) the beautiful, immodestly dressed co-worker, classmate, or fellow mom, for the attention they receive, let's pray for them instead--that they too would find true joy in Christ.

For helpful resources he closes: "Moms and daughters can also find valuable guidance in the book Girltalk: Mother to Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood written by Nicole and her mom, Carolyn Mahaney".

Heresy 101

Martin @ deals with:

What is heresy?

Where do heresies come from?

  • "Paul warned Timothy about “deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1), and of false teachers who are caught in the snare of the devil (2 Tim. 2:24-25). After all the devil is the father of lies (John 8:44)".
  • Paul warned the Colossians about “plausible arguments” and those who were trying to take them captive by “philosophy and empty deceit according to human tradition,” (Col. 2:4, 8). Heretics often use the words of the Bible, change their meaning, and hide false ideas under them".
Why would anyone embrace heresy?

"Consider all the major heresies and you will find that they appeal, directly or indirectly, to our sinful reason, affections and will. Heresy appears to be beneficial, posing as good news and proclaiming Jesus (2 Cor. 11:4), but in reality like gangrene it destroys spiritual life (2 Tim. 2:17)".

What are the effects of heresy?

"Heresy also brings trouble for the Church. Unless false teachers are silenced, as Paul tells Titus that they should be, they will ruin households and upset the faith of some (Titus 1:11). Genuine believers can be unsettled by the teaching of these men (2 Tim. 2:18). In addition to this damage, false teachers also drain the time, energy, and resources of churches when they are not dealt with. Drawn out conflicts with false teachers can divert and distract gospel churches from evangelism and the planting and nurturing of new congregations".

  • "Paul makes it clear that whether the “false brothers,” an angel from heaven, or even the apostles themselves preached another gospel than the one that Paul had preached then they should be accursed (Gal. 1:6-9)".

Why do heresies persist?

He lists three reasons:

1. The devil still deceives people into believing heresies by using human instruments to promote attractive and plausible teaching. He will continue to do this until Christ returns in glory.

2. The warnings and lessons from history are ignored or unknown. If we are ignorant of the past we will fail to see that heresies that today appear new, innovative and interesting are as old as dirt. Many of the errors finding a home in evangelicalism today were tried and found wanting by our great-great-grandfathers in the faith at the bar of Scripture.

3. Throughout history those who deny the truth and choose a different gospel are limited in the options available to them. In his study of heresies Harold Brown concluded that “over and over again, in widely separated cultures, in different centuries, the same basic misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the person and work of Christ and his message reappear. The persistence of the same stimulus, so to speak, repeatedly produces the same or similar reactions.”

What Do You Mean by “Free Will”?

C Michael Patton@ deals with the concept of "free will". He considers:

Do you mean:
  1. That a person is not forced from the outside to make a choice?
  2. That a person is responsible for his or her choices?
  3. That a person is the active agent in a choice made?
  4. That a person is free to do whatever they desire?
  5. That a person has the ability to choose contrary to their nature (who they are)?
Does a person have the ability to choose against their nature?

Notice all these factors that you did not choose that go into the set up for any given “free will” decision made:

  • You did not choose when you were to be born.
  • You did not choose where you were to be born.
  • You did not choose you parents.
  • You did not choose your influences early in your life.
  • You did not choose whether you were to be male of female.
  • You did not choose your genetics.
  • You did not choose your temperament.
  • You did not choose your looks.
  • You did not choose your body type.
  • You did not choose your physical abilities.
However, we still have some massive difficulties. Here are a few:
  • A neutralized will amounts to your absence from the choice itself.
  • A neutralized will amounts to perpetual indecision.
  • A neutralized will amounts to arbitrary decisions, which one cannot be held responsible for.
“From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’” Acts 17:26

In his conclusion, he suggests: "I encourage you to read J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig in their book Philosophical Foundations for a Biblical Worldview. They disagree with my thesis here, but they present a strong case for the other side".

Monday, April 21, 2008

Holy Mazola! Silly Things Christians Do

Holy_mazolaThere is an interesting account of "healing with oil" @ they note:

"If you ask one of these ecclesiastical oilmen why they perform this greasy little exercise, they will undoubtedly tell you that the Bible instructs them to do so in James 5:14&15.

"Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick and the Lord will make you well."

The Biblical use of oil is then explained: "The oil most often referenced in scripture is olive oil. And it was used for a variety of purposes, most of them having nothing to do with anything "spiritual." Olive oil was used in the ceremony of anointing a king. But most often you find olive oil being used as fuel for lamps, to cook with, for cleansing and refreshing the body, and for medicinal purposes.

Other passages are then examines to better understand the common uses of oil and hopefully put the James passage into a more common-sense context.

16When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. ~Matthew 6:16-18

7"Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out. 9" 'No,' they replied, 'there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves
.' ~Matthew 25:7-9

45You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume. 47“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” ~Luke 7:45-47

33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins[a] and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.' ~Luke 10:33-35

12They went out and preached that people should repent. 13They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them. ~Mark 6:12-14

The theological point is summarized: "Nowhere in scripture do we find that oil is used as some magical potion to accompany and empower prayer. But we find plenty of scriptures explaining the very practical uses of oil in every day life, including use as a cleansing, refreshing, and medicinal compound".

A practical example is the conclusion: "Remember when you were a child and you had one of those golden opportunities to stay home from school because you were too sick to get out of bed? And do you remember how good it felt to have mom come in and rub some Vicks Vapo-Rub on your chest and throat? Could it be that what James was suggesting in verse 14 of chapter 5 was the simple, kind, and thoughtful act of using oil to soothe, comfort, and relieve the symptoms of illness while prayers were being offered for their healing? And if so, then could it be that we have, in our religious fervor, perverted the simplicity of prayer with silly superstition?"

How To Find A Good Church

From Mike Smith @ "Here's a great little list of priorities in looking for a new church from Mark Dever's book, "What is a healthy church"

How To Find A Good Church

1. Pray.

2. Seek counsel from a godly pastor (or from elders).

3. Keep your priorities straight.
• The gospel must be truly affirmed, clearly preached, and faithfully lived out. A serious lack in any of these expressions of the gospel
is very dangerous.
• The preaching must be faithful to Scripture, personally challenging, and central to the congregation’s life. You will only grow spiritually
where Scripture is treated as the highest authority.
• Also very important is to consider how the church regulates baptism, the Lord’s Supper, church membership, church discipline, and
who has the final say in decision making.
• In short, read chapters 5 to 13 in this book!

4. Ask yourself diagnostic questions such as:
• Would I want to find a spouse who has been brought up under this church’s teaching?
• What picture of Christianity will my children see in this church—something distinct or something a lot like the world?
• Would I be happy to invite non-Christians to this church? That is, would they clearly hear the gospel and see lives consistent with
it? Does the church have a heart for welcoming and reaching non-Christians?
• Is this church a place where I can minister and serve?

5. Consider geography. Would the church’s physical proximity to your home encourage or discourage frequent involvement and service? If
you’re moving to a new area, try to locate a good church home before you buy a house.

If you had one last day

A short eye opener reminding us how life is so short and unpredictable, and how we should live each day for Christ.

Expelled: Evolution vs. Intelligent Design - A Review

There were a few things that stood out to him the most:

  • The ability of the movie to illustrate the importance of educational freedom and the valid place that the ID movement has within the university setting (or at least the market-place of ideas).
  • Their ability to link the outcome of naturalistic evolution to the Holocaust.
  • I found the minor implicit questioning of evolution in general surprising and fascinating.
  • I loved the simplicity of this movie.

The Gospel & Relationships for Guys

Joseph Stigora @ notes some things to think about in relating the gospel to romantic relationships.

Before the Relationship

During the Courtship

What Do You Mean “God is Sovereign”? Four Options

C Michael Patton @ presents a fascinating look at the doctrine of the sovereignty of God. He notes: "Believing in the sovereignty of God is not an option of yes, no, or maybe within the Christian context. If the Bible is our authoritative guide, one must believe that God is sovereign. It is not unlike the issue of predestination. That God predestines people to salvation is not up for debate, what is up for debate is what it means that God predestines. Both Calvinists and Arminians agree that God is sovereign, but they will often disagree as to what this means.

Here are the four primary options:

1. Meticulous sovereignty:

This position holds little or no tension with regards to the human will and the divine will.

God is actively controlling everything.

Adherents: Hyper-Calvinists and some Calvinists

2. Providential sovereignty:

This position holds much tension with regards to human will and divine will.

God is in control of everything.

Adherents: Calvinists and some Arminians

3. Providential oversight:

This position holds much tension with regards to human will and divine will.

God could control everything, but only controls some things.

Adherents: Arminians and some Calvinists

4. Influential oversight:

This position holds little or no tension with regards to the human will and the divine will.

God could control everything, but decides only to influence.

Adherents: Open Theist Arminians and some Arminians

How To Master A Book

Books Stephen Altrogge @ reviews how to master a book.

He notes:

Interact With The Book

Apply The Book

Talk About The Book

Re-read a Book

Christians and Euthanasia


Euthanasia and the Christian

They list some key definitions:
  • Euthanasia consists of any act or deliberate omission taken by oneself and/or others with the specific intention of causing the death of a person and actually causing that death. It is believed by proponents of euthanasia that the death being caused is for the good of the person who is being killed.
  • Active euthanasia” consists of the effort of a person to cause his own death or the death of another. With active euthanasia, the medical cause of death is not disease or injury, but rather the act taken to cause death.
  • Passive euthanasia” is the withholding, withdrawal or refusal of available medical treatment that could clearly enable a person to live significantly longer. The intent of passive euthanasia is to cause a person’s death at a time when death is not imminent.
  • Letting die” (which is distinct from euthanasia) consists of the withholding or withdrawing of all life-prolonging and life-sustaining medications and technologies from a terminally or irreversibly ill patient with whom death is imminent even with treatment. The intention of “letting die” is not to choose or intend death but to enhance the well-being of the patient by avoiding useless prolonging of the dying process.

(Note: These definitions are from Keith H. Essex, “Euthanasia,” The Master’s Seminary Journal 11/2 (2000): 191-212.)

They then provide a Biblical Response: "Death is inevitable and its timing ultimately rests in the hand of God (Deut. 32:39; 1 Sam. 2:6; Heb. 9:27). Life is a gift from God, and everyone has an obligation to value his own life and the life of others regardless of the circumstances. Because Scripture prohibits murder and suicide (Gen. 9:6; Exod. 20:13; Deut. 5:17), euthanasia is never an acceptable option for the believer. In addition to violating the prohibition of suicide, the act of killing oneself is the ultimate expression of selfishness. In the case that the patient is irreversibly terminal and death is imminent regardless of the treatment provided, it is acceptable for the patient or—if the patient is unconscious—a legally authorized third party (e.g., a spouse or family member) to choose to withhold any of the following forms of treatment:

- life-sustaining medication
- life-sustaining, medically-administered nourishment
- life-sustaining support systems

In other words, although Scripture forbids all forms of euthanasia, we believe that “letting die” is an acceptable option in the circumstances described above.

Their summary has some good practical advice: " You and your loved ones may want to consider creating a living will that indicates your wishes regarding medical treatment in order to guide medical personnel in a situation when you are unable to make decisions or choose treatment options".

What You Owe Your Creator

In developing the implications of the doctrine of God as Creator, I have spent some time in Romans 1:18-25 this week. I was seeking to demonstrate a proper response to the truth of Genesis 1:1. In this text, Paul traces the downward spiral of idolatry which begins with the suppression of the truth about God revealed in creation. The suppression of this truth darkens the understanding of man and opens the door for all kinds of foolish speculation. This nosedive continues with the exchange of the truth of God for the lie of idolatry in which the creature is worshiped rather than the blessed Creator. This exchange results in all manner of moral and spiritual chaos expressed in a catalog of sinful behaviors".

"In the midst of this passage, there are three things pinpointed which man owes the Creator but which man did not render to Him. In v. 21 we read that thought they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or give thanks. In v. 25 we read that they exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator. Consider these three things which all of us owe to God as our Creator".

Acclaim: We should glorify God as our Creator.

Appreciation: We should be thankful to God as our Creator.

Adoration: We should worship God as our Creator.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Healthy Tensions

Bob Kauflin explains how understanding the healthy tensions of worship can help a church avoid the "worship wars." This video introduces the 3rd section of his book, Worship Matters. For more info, visit

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Is it WRONG for Christians to be fans of the UFC?

@ reviews the implications for Christians and Mixed Martial Arts.

Think about it:
Is all violence sinful? Is all killing sinful? Is all war sinful?

Lets consider a few more questions:
Should no Christian physically defend himself or his family?

Re-defining concepts to fit one's own agenda:
I think there is a huge misunderstanding concerning the definition of "violence" and the nature of the UFC and MMA contests.

Just having fun:

Competition is not sinful violence:

Psalm 11:5 says, "The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth." But don't waste your time. That verse is not talking about MMA or the UFC. That verse is talking about criminal violence.

The UFC competitors are individuals who are willingly participating in a sport.

Athletic boxing is not sinful. Athletic wrestling is not sinful. Athletic martial arts are not sinful. The UFC is sanctioned by the State Athletic Commission in such major states as California, New Jersey, Nevada, Florida & Louisiana. T

Biblically speaking:
I had one commenter use Genesis 6:11 as a proof-text that the UFC is "violent and God hates it." But I ask, did God really flood the earth in the days of Noah because everyone was playing sports?

Paul says that an elder should not be violent in 1 Timothy 3:3. Does anyone think that Paul has athletics in mind?

In fact, the Apostle Paul was very fond of using athletic terms to illustrate the Christian walk. (1 Cor 9:24-27; Galatians 2:1-2; Galatians 5:7; 2 Timothy 4:7-8)

Critics or Hypocrites?

Why not?

Hoping against hope:


My Response:

Matthew Kratz said...

As a pastor who trains at a local martial arts dojo (Premier Martial Arts) I have found that MMA training has greatly helped me get back into shape. It has enabled me to have more stamina for all things, greater concentration, less stress and a general improved disposition. While not for everyone, the physical activity has been a perfect match for me and enabled me to be a better pastor.

Some might argue that I could have taken up other sports, which is possible. Some may think that this is free for all fighting, which it certainly is not. This is very controlled and disciplined athletic training.

After watching my kids participate, I took up the sport and it has been a great family activity.


Other interesting thoughts on Ultimate Fighting Championship:

Have we returned to the days of the gladiator?

Video: UFC Explained
MMA Primer
Portrait of a fighter: Georges St. Pierre
Video: A debate about mixed martial arts versus boxing
Report (PDF): This study says MMA fighters are less likely than boxers to suffer from brain injuries.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Piper on Do Muslims and Christians Have Common Ground on the Love of God?

John Piper Responds to "A Common Word Between Us and You"

God is Not a Magic 8 Ball

Ricky Alcantar @ reviews some thoughts on decision making and discerning God's will. He covers:

Love What God Loves
Psalm 37. Verse 23 said, "The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hands."

Do my desires in this decision line up with God's desires? Do I love what God loves?

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, "You are not your own; for you were bought with a price."

(Jer 17:9).

Search Scripture

"The thing is, in Psalm 37 David paints a radically different picture of someone seeking God: "The law of God is in his heart; his steps do not slip" (31).

1. Things Scripture specifically commands us to do.
2. Things scripture specifically commands us not to do.

Trust God

"David says in Psalm 37, "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him" (vs 7). This is not a passive waiting. It's active. Derek Kidner's excellent commentary on the Psalms points out that David actively redirects his emotions ("delight yourself in the Lord," vs 4), actively entrusts his life ("commit your way," vs 5) and reputation ("He will bring forth your righteousness," vs 6) to God".

Ask For Help

Jesus Is Not a Vending Machine

Kelly Randolph @ reviews Paul Tripp and Timothy Lane's How People Change.

He notes: "It is a wonderfully gospel-centered book about how God transforms lives. One of the things that grips me as I am working my way through this book is how seriously the authors take the gospel. Like the gospel, they locate the real problems with our lives not outside of us but inside of us - our sin. In addition, they locate the solution to our problems (sin) not as something we generate from the inside, but something that comes from outside of us - redemption through Christ. It is refreshing to read a book about life change that views sin as a radical problem and salvation and as a radical solution".

From the

Jesus is not a vending machine that dispenses what we want to feel good about ourselves. He is the Holy One who comes to cleanse us, fill us, and change us. He does not do this according to our agendas. He will not serve our wayward needs. He loves us too much to merely make us happy. He comes to make us holy. There will be many occasions when he will not give us what we think we need, but rather, he will give us what he knows we need.

Proverbs and Parenting

John MacArthur @ discusses the nature of the book of Proverbs and its impact on parenting. He notes: "Proverbs on ParentingThe book of Proverbs is a wonderful, intensely practical guide that contains much wisdom you can impart to your children as you train them in godly living. For your benefit, we’ve compiled ten lessons from Proverbs you should teach to your children. We’re convinced that, in the process of teaching those ten lessons, you’ll unearth many more principles from Proverbs that will serve your children well their entire lives".

Teach your children:

1. To have a healthy fear of God (1:7; 9:10; 10:27; 14:26-27; 15:16; 16:6; 19:23)

2. To guard their minds (4:23; 23:7)

3. To obey you (1:8; 4:1-4; 6:20-23; 30:17)

4. To carefully select their companions (1:11-18; 2:10-15; 13:20)

5. To control their sinful desires (2:16-19; 5:3-5; 6:23-33; 7:6-27)

6. To enjoy sexual fidelity (5:15-20)

7. To watch their words (4:24; 10:11, 19-21, 32; 12:18, 22; 15:1-2; 16:23; 20:15)

8. To pursue their work (6:6-11; 10:4-5; 22:29)

9. To manage their money (3:9-10; 11:24-26; 19:17; 22:9)

10. To love their neighbors (3:27-29; 25:21-22)

10 Signs It’s Time to Confront

image David Forster @ lists 10 signs it's time to confront:

1. It’s time to confront when things aren’t working out even after you’ve given them sufficient time to do so.

2. When you’re avoiding each other.

3. When your silence is more about fear than the truth.

4. When allowing the contact to go on is hurting the other person.

5. When the contact is hurting other people.

6. When you see there is still time to redeem the relationship, the job, the person, or the potential future.

7. When you’re responsible for the health and well-being of the people involved in the situation. You have the power to do something, therefore you have the obligation.

8. When you’re able to separate the behavior from the person. You love the person always, even though you can’t support the behavior.

9. When your integrity and reputation as a friend, manager, leader, or business owner is on the line, it’s time to confront.

10. When you understand that sometimes love must be tough if it’s truly love. Love that is based on a lie is indulgence. Love that is based on truth and applied with mercy and grace is truly a gift from God.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Buddhist Monks Turn to Christ

Phil Ryken notes: "In a March 18 report, Christian Aid reports that nearly 5000 Buddhist monks (location undisclosed) have recently turned to Christ. A worker reports: "It appears that the Holy Spirit had urged these monks and nuns to call our evangelists to come and share the gospel of hope and love. After several intense discussions, close to 80 percent of the monks present in each of the monasteries raised their hands to accept Christ, and then kneeled down to pray and receive Christ as their Lord and Savior."

Christian Aid reports that baptisms are being quietly performed, for the safety of both the monks and the evangelists.

Expelled: No Intelligence alowed

EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed, is an upcoming feature film in which host Ben Stein (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) goes on a quest to expose the suppression by science’s anti-theist elite, and unveils new scientific facts that may suggest evidence of intelligent design in the universe.

Also see:
Baptist Press

Culture & Christianity

Jonathan Dodson @ deals with the controversial topic of Christianity interacting with the culture. He considers:

Are We Critical or Theological Enough?

He offers six ways to redemptively engage culture:

1. Engage culture prayerfully. (1 Thess. 5:17). (Js. 1:17).

(1 Cor. 2:10)

2. Engage culture carefully. (Js. 1:19).

3. Engage culture biblically-theologically.

4. Engage culture redemptively.

5. Engage culture humbly.

6. Engage culture selectively.

He then concludes by summarizing the six ways:

"When engaging culture prayerfully, we depend on the wisdom that comes from the Spirit who searches out all cultures, who can enable us to recognize and rejoice in what is true, beautiful and good, and reject or redeem what is false, ugly and immoral. As a result, engaging culture can become an act of communion with God.

Relying on the wisdom of the Spirit will also mean careful investigation of cultural issues, being critical of our own biases while maintaining an open ear to the arguments of others. However, we're not left to navigate the turbulent waters of our culture with prayer and reason. God has given us his Word, a divine and authoritative Text from which we can glean wisdom and theological principles to engage culture.

When wrestling with issues, we must be careful to bring questions, not assumptions, from our culture to the Word, following a pattern of Text-Theology-Culture. This biblical-theological engagement with culture should always lead to redemptive action, restoring what is ugly and immoral from our position as accepted children of God, citizens of Zion. In turn, we can engage culture humbly and selectively, recognizing our limitations and rejoicing in our unique opportunities to engage the world around us.

Finally, try to practice these six ways of engaging culture, not just as an individual but in community. To put a spin on Rufus Wainwright's words: Only when the Church in this country becomes obsessed with glorifying God in all things, will we critically and redemptively engage our culture on all kinds of subjects".

Evangelizing Your Children (Part 2) continues their series on Evangelism and Children. They note:

Evangelizing Children (2)Foundational Keys to Evangelizing Children

It is not enough for parents simply to avoid these common pitfalls (see yesterday’s post)—they must also seek to put into practice the following keys to child evangelism.

1. Setting a Consistent Example of Godliness

(Eph. 5:22–33)

2. Proclaiming the Complete Gospel of Christ

"The heart of evangelism is the gospel, “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). If a child is to repent and believe in Christ, then, it will be through the proclamation of the message of the cross (1 Cor. 1:18–25; 2 Tim. 3:15; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23–25). Children will not be saved apart from the gospel".

(Deut. 6:6–7) (Eph. 6:4)

3. Understanding the Biblical Evidences of Salvation

"The evidence that someone has genuinely repented of his sin and believed in Christ is the same in a child as it is in an adult—spiritual transformation. According to Scripture, true believers follow Christ (John 10:27), confess their sins (1 John 1:9), love their brothers (1 John 3:14), obey God’s commandments (1 John 2:3; John 15:14), do the will of God (Matt. 12:50), abide in God’s Word (John 8:31), keep God’s Word (John 17:6), and do good works (Eph. 2:10)".

4. Encouraging Possible Signs of Conversion

5. Trusting the Absolute Sovereignty of God

(John 3:8).

Passover Sacrifice

Justin Taylor noted the links to a Passover Sacrifice video where Todd Bolen explains:
Recently I noted an article about a planned animal sacrifice in Jerusalem. This event was controversial because 1) there is no temple or altar in Jerusalem today; 2) killing an animal makes some people mad.

Friends in Jerusalem went to the Old City that day and saw a guy they suspected of carrying a ritual knife in his briefcase and followed the guy through a wild maze of streets in pursuit. It turned out they followed the right guy. They filmed the service.

We talked about the appropriateness of putting this online. The 5-minute video is as graphic as it gets. More and more people today don't realize that meat doesn't originate at a grocery store. They have little concept of an animal being raised and then slaughtered. Furthermore, almost no one in the Western world has ever sacrificed an animal for religious purposes.

I think, however, that is precisely why this *graphic* video should be shown. We read about sacrifice in the Bible but we don't really understand what that means. We read passages that talk about the "life being in the blood," but those are just words that we don't really consider. We "know" that the wages of sin are high, but we don't get the life lesson that the ancient Israelites received every year.

The point of sacrifice was simply this: you deserve to die because of your sin. This animal is dying in your place. Watching the priest slice his throat and watching the blood drain out drove the point home much better than reading a chapter of Leviticus.

Today New Testament believers know that the blood of bulls and goats is not enough to take away sin. But I think that we can often just take for granted Jesus' death in our place. We don't think about his innocent blood draining away because we can't conceptualize it. We don't always appropriate the idea of substitute because we've never seen a living object die in our place. But our loss can be this: sin is easy because forgiveness (we think) is cheap.

The video was made by SourceFlix Productions. Instead of dubbing over the scene with English commentary, they chose to include some explanatory text below. Don't watch this video while eating, and if you're thinking about showing your children, watch it yourself first.

You can watch the video here.

Who Needs A Creed?

@ goes over the usefulness of Creeds. He notes:

It Helps us Wrestle with the Challenge of Articulating the Faith
"From the simplest article of faith found in the Great Shema - 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.' (Dt 6.4) - right through to the Carmen Christi of Philippians, the Bible has multiple examples of its teachings being summarised and confessed. Its teaching has to be systemised if it is to make sense".

It Provides a Tool for Teaching the Faith

It Makes us Focus on the Heart of the Faith

'What I received I passed on to you as of first importance...' (1Co 15.3)

It Guards the Gospel against Distortions of the Faith

His conclusion:

It Shows the Need for Personal Faith
"Perhaps the greatest threat of all to the church and the teachings on which she stands in every generation is that of sliding into nominalism. Paul warns Timothy that the Last Days will be characterised by those (in the church) who have a 'form of godliness' but who deny its power (2Ti 3.5). He warns against them in the strongest possible terms.

It's a danger that lurks most subtly in the Reformed community where we are inclined to lay great store on scholarship and precision. It can be paradise for the kind of people who Paul is warning about - especially those who delight in controversy. The essence of Christianity that is authentically Reformed is its concern for authentic experience. The experiential Calvinism of the Reformation and Puritan eras was driven by the conviction that all truth leads to godliness. The study of theology can never be merely academic.

The first three words of the Creed embed that conviction at the very centre of the truths it goes on to confess. It is only as we declare our belief in this God and all that he has done that we can actually know him along with all the benefits he promises in the gospel. There is a piety reflected in the Creed that is the key to understanding its truths and making them live for the church and all its members. The piety of genuine personal faith".

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Riots, instability spread as food prices skyrocket

From CNN-- Riots from Haiti to Bangladesh to Egypt over the soaring costs of basic foods have brought the issue to a boiling point and catapulted it to the forefront of the world's attention, the head of an agency focused on global development said Monday.

Bangladeshi demonstrators chant slogans against high food prices during weekend protests.

"This is the world's big story," said Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University's Earth Institute.

"The finance ministers were in shock, almost in panic this weekend," he said on CNN's "American Morning," in a reference to top economic officials who gathered in Washington. "There are riots all over the world in the poor countries ... and, of course, our own poor are feeling it in the United States."

World Bank President Robert Zoellick has said the surging costs could mean "seven lost years" in the fight against worldwide poverty.

"While many are worrying about filling their gas tanks, many others around the world are struggling to fill their stomachs, and it is getting more and more difficult every day," Zoellick said late last week in a speech opening meetings with finance ministers.

Video Watch what world leaders are doing to solve the problem »

"The international community must fill the at least $500 million food gap identified by the U.N.'s World Food Programme to meet emergency needs," he said. "Governments should be able to come up with this assistance and come up with it now."

The White House announced Monday evening that an estimated $200 million in emergency food aid would be made available through the U.S. Agency for International Development.

"This additional food aid will address the impact of rising commodity prices on U.S. emergency food aid programs, and be used to meet unanticipated food aid needs in Africa and elsewhere," the White House said in a news release.

"In just two months," Zoellick said in his speech, "rice prices have skyrocketed to near historical levels, rising by around 75 percent globally and more in some markets, with more likely to come. In Bangladesh, a 2-kilogram bag of rice ... now consumes about half of the daily income of a poor family."

The price of wheat has jumped 120 percent in the past year, he said -- meaning that the price of a loaf of bread has more than doubled in places where the poor spend as much as 75 percent of their income on food.

"This is not just about meals forgone today or about increasing social unrest. This is about lost learning potential for children and adults in the future, stunted intellectual and physical growth," Zoellick said.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, also spoke at the joint IMF-World Bank spring meeting.

"If food prices go on as they are today, then the consequences on the population in a large set of countries ... will be terrible," he said.

He added that "disruptions may occur in the economic environment ... so that at the end of the day most governments, having done well during the last five or 10 years, will see what they have done totally destroyed, and their legitimacy facing the population destroyed also."

In Haiti, the prime minister was kicked out of office Saturday, and hospital beds are filled with wounded following riots sparked by food prices. Video Watch Haitians riot over food prices »

The World Bank announced a $10 million grant from the United States for Haiti to help the government assist poor families.

In Egypt, rioters have burned cars and destroyed windows of numerous buildings as police in riot gear have tried to quell protests.

Images from Bangladesh and Mozambique tell a similar story.

In the United States and other Western nations, more and more poor families are feeling the pinch. In recent days, presidential candidates have paid increasing attention to the cost of food, often citing it on the stump.

The issue is also fueling a rising debate over how much the rising prices can be blamed on ethanol production. The basic argument is that because ethanol comes from corn, the push to replace some traditional fuels with ethanol has created a new demand for corn that has thrown off world food prices.

Jean Ziegler, U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, has called using food crops to create ethanol "a crime against humanity."

"We've been putting our food into the gas tank -- this corn-to-ethanol subsidy which our government is doing really makes little sense," said Columbia University's Sachs.

Former President Clinton, at a campaign stop for his wife in Pennsylvania over the weekend, said, "Corn is the single most inefficient way to produce ethanol because it uses a lot of energy and because it drives up the price of food."

Some environmental groups reject the focus on ethanol in examining food prices.

"The contrived food vs. fuel debate has reared its ugly head once again," the Renewable Fuels Association says on its Web site, adding that "numerous statistical analyses have demonstrated that the price of oil -- not corn prices or ethanol production -- has the greatest impact on consumer food prices because it is integral to virtually every phase of food production, from processing to packaging to transportation."

Analysts agree the cost of fuel is among the reasons for the skyrocketing prices.

Another major reason is rising demand, particularly in places in the midst of a population boom, such as China and India.

Also, said Sachs, "climate shocks" are damaging food supply in parts of the world. "You add it all together: Demand is soaring, supply has been cut back, food has been diverted into the gas tank. It's added up to a price explosion."