Wednesday, August 24, 2011

C.S. Lewis Roundup

I have been immersed in C.S. Lewis lately. Many of his writings have been invaluable to me in recent days. George Sayer's 'Jack' is a bit too adoring, but has proved to be an excellent introduction to his life in which both the romantic and rationalistic sides of Lewis are drawn out, and in which the real man and his environment are well portrayed.

I have also recently found re-listening to John Piper's biographical message on Lewis very helpful. His introduction, with which I agree with every word, sets the stage for a very helpful biography:

My approach in this talk is personal. I am going to talk about what has meant the most to me in C. S. Lewis—how he has helped me the most. And as I raise this question, as I have many times over the years, the backdrop of the question becomes increasingly urgent: Why has he been so significant for me, even though he is not Reformed in his doctrine, and could barely be called an evangelical by typical American uses of that word?

He doesn’t believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, 1 and defaults to logical arguments more naturally than to biblical exegesis. He doesn’t treat the Reformation with respect, but thinks it could have been avoided, and calls aspects of if farcical. 2 He steadfastly refused in public or in letters to explain why he was not a Roman Catholic but remained in the Church of England. 3 He makes room for at least some people to be saved through imperfect representations of Christ in other religions. 4 He made a strong logical, but I think unbiblical, case for free will to explain why there is suffering in the world. 5 He speaks of the atonement with reverence, but puts little significance on any of the explanations for how it actually saves sinners. 6

In other words, Lewis is not a writer to which we should turn for growth in a careful biblical understanding of Christian doctrine. There is almost no passage of Scripture on which I would turn to Lewis for exegetical illumination. A few, but not many. He doesn’t deal with many. If we follow him in the kinds of mistakes that he made (the ones listed above), it will hurt the church and dishonor Christ. His value is not in his biblical exegesis. Lewis is not the kind of writer who provides substance for a pastor’s sermons. If a pastor treats Lewis as a resource for doctrinal substance, he will find his messages growing thin, interesting perhaps, but not with much rich biblical content.

I have also been listening to Dr. Knox Chamblin's class on C.S. Lewis, taught at Reformed Theological Seminary. While Chamblin is not as in touch with the 'Romantic' side of Lewis 'The Romantic Rationalist' as would seem warranted, and while his lecture style suggests that he was reading from a manuscript, his content is still excellent.

And then tonight I listened to the following two YouTube clips of the radio addresses behind 'Mere Christianity'. Most of those addresses were lost when, in a war-starved country, the tapes were re-used for other purposes. But these survive, and it was amazing to get to hear his actual voice, not to mention the truth he relates:

How Books Are Made

My kids love this video...


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Russell Moore on "Hurt", by Johnny Cash

I appreciated the following from Russel Moore:

Cash’s haunting music video for the song features faded film shots of his youthful glory days—complete with the images of friends and colleagues, once at the height of their fame, who are now dead. As the camera pans Cash’s wizened, wrinkled face, he sings about the awful reality of death and the vanity of fame: “What have I become? My sweetest friend / Everyone I know goes away in the end / You could have it all / My empire of dirt / I will let you down, I will make you hurt.”

Whereas, the Nine Inch Nails delivered “Hurt” as straight nihilism, Cash gives it a twist—ending the video with the scenes of crucifixion, which, for Cash, was (and still is) the only answer to the inevitability of suffering and pain.

The video of “Hurt” communicated exactly what the dying Cash seemed to understand, echoing Solomon of old: wealth, celebrity, fame, all of it is vanity in the maw of the grave. By contrasting images of the young celebrated Cash with images of the old, gasping, arthritic Cash, his “House of Cash” closed down and boarded over, the video turned then to what Cash saw as the only real alternative to his empire of dirt: the cross of Christ Jesus.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Clint Humfrey - Freezing in the Dark: First World Debt & The New Mega-Church Experience

My multi-talented buddy Clint can talk Bible, Church, evangelistic strategy, and politics, and in this article, he does it all at the same time. If times get lean, what will happen to slick church-planting movements? Will the face of evangelicalism change? Clint's case for the future of locality and the necessity of other-worldly self-denial is well worth the read.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tim Keller: Four Kinds of People in the World

From Vitamin Z....

Tim Keller:
...There are four kinds of persons in the world:
#1 Law-obeying, Law-relying: These people are under the law, and are usually very smug, self-righteous and pharisaical. Externally, they are very sure they are right with God, but deep down, they have a lot of insecurity, since no one can truly be assured they are living up to standards. This makes them touchy, sensitive to criticism and devastated when their prayers aren’t answered. [This includes members of other religions but here I am thinking mainly of people who go to church.]

#2 Law-disobeying, Law-relying: These people have a religious conscience of strong works-righteousness, but they are not living consistently with it. As a result, they are more humble and more tolerant of others than the Pharisees above, but they are also much more guilt-ridden, subject to mood swings and sometimes very afraid of religious topics. [Some of these people may go to church but stay on the periphery because of their low spiritual self-esteem.]

#3 Law-disobeying, Not Law-relying: These are the people who have thrown off the concept of the Law of God. They are intellectually secular or rather relativistic, or have a very vague spirituality. They largely choose their own moral standards and insist they are meeting them. But Paul in Romans 1 says that at a sub-conscious level, they know there is a God who they should be obeying. [Such people are usually happier and more tolerant than either of the above groups. But usually there is a strong liberal self-righteousness They are definitely earning their own salvation by feeling superior to others. It is usually a less overt kind of self-righteousness.]

#4 Law-obeying, Not Law-relying: These are Christians who understand the gospel and are living out of the freedom of it. They obey the law of God out of grateful joy that comes from the knowledge of their sonship and out of the freedom from the fear and selfishness that false idols had generated. They are more tolerant than #3, more sympathetic than #2, and more confident than #1. [Most real Christians tend toward the errors of #1, #2, and even #3. But to the degree that they do, they are impoverished spiritually.]

HT: Challies

Friday, August 12, 2011

Bill Hybels Speaks About Homosexuality with Grace and Truth

I have learned a lot from Bill Hybels over the years. He is a man with home I disagree about many things, and he is a man from whom I can (and have) learned many things. He is a brother in Christ and I thank God for him. Both in Bible College and as a pastor, his 'Reading Your Gauges' article was extremely helpful to me. A few years ago, his 'Courageous Leadership' book was very helpful too. And just now, I watched the following seven minute YouTube clip of him speaking about Homosexuality, and I learned again. My heart was warmed as I heard words spoken with gospel-gracious open-arms, while at the same time being gospel-faithful without-compromise. Watch and learn how to speak on this very sensitive topic; watch and fall in love with this gospel all over again!


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Greidanus: Six Ways to See Christ in the Old Testament

Over at Justin Taylor's blog, guest blogger Dane Ortland has pointed us to a book that I've long been saying has been the most helpful to me on the topic of preaching Christ from every page of the Bible. Ortland puts it well, and I can't improve on it, so here is a copy/paste of his excellent post:

Today there is a blessed proliferation of books and articles, blogs and conferences exploring what Jesus meant when he said that “everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). Not so a generation ago, when Edmund Clowney and Sidney Greidanus, with one or two others, were more isolated voices advocating a Christ-as-the-key hermeneutic.

Greidanus’ main book is Preaching Christ from the Old Testament: A Contemporary Hermeneutical Method (Eerdmans, 1999), the rich fruit of many years’ teaching at Calvin Seminary. It is a bit quote-heavy, and at times the structure is not easy to follow. But the book is a real gift to the church. It is well worth a slow, careful read for those who want not only to preach but also to read the Bible as Christ encourages us in Luke 24.

The heart of the book, and its most significant contribution, is six ways in which the New Testament writers see Christ in the Old Testament (pp. 203-77). These are overlapping and interconnected, but it is helpful nevertheless to see how Greidanus treats each distinctly. They are:

1. The Way of Redemptive-Historical Progression. This interpretive strategy connects Christ to events of redemptive significance in the OT which now find their true home in Jesus–Adam’s garden testing, exodus, return from exile, and so on. Luke is perhaps the NT writer who emphasizes this the most, though it is present throughout the NT. Greidanus says this first way is “the bedrock which supports all the other ways that lead to Christ in the New Testament” (234).

2. The Way of Promise-Fulfillment. The promises of the OT, according to the NT writers, all find satisfying fulfillment only in Jesus. This includes, but is far broader than, mere one-to-one identity correspondence (Micah 5:2 speaks of a coming ruler to be born in Bethlehem; Jesus fulfills the promise of Micah 5:2). When Matt. 13:35 quotes Ps. 78:2, for example, there is seemingly no “promise” in this OT text, yet Matthew tells us that Jesus is “fulfilling” it.

3. The Way of Typology. God sovereignly acts in observable, historically-embedded patterns. For this reason the NT writers see Jesus as the final and ultimate instance (antitype) of earlier repeated patterns (types). For example, the sacrificial system anticipates a final sacrifice (cf. 1 Cor. 5:7). Hebrews is perhaps the most typologically-loaded book in the NT.

4. The Way of Analogy. By this Greidanus means the application of OT categories to describe NT realities. The main example here is the way the NT speaks of the church using language that applies to Israel in the OT. (Dispensational readers will understand the use of such language differently from Greidanus.) For example, OT Israel is called the bride of Yahweh (Jer. 2:2; Hos. 2:14-20), and this language is picked up by the NT to speak of Christ’s relationship to the church.

5. The Way of Longitudinal Themes. By “longitudinal themes” Greidanus means motifs that develop as God gradually reveals more of himself and his ways over the course of history. Big ones include covenant, God’s kingdom, law, mediation, or the presence of God. This is the strategy most closely bound up with the discipline of biblical theology.

6. The Way of Contrast. This final strategy for seeing Christ in the OT, unlike the previous five, focuses on how Christ is different from what has come before. Greidanus suggests as an example the way God called Israel out in the OT as a single nation, destroying other nations, whereas Jesus sends out his disciples to all the nations, to win them (Matt. 28:19-20).

Greidanus’s good work is not the final word on how a Christ-illuminated hermeneutic works, but for those wishing to grow in their understanding of how the OT finds its climactic Yes in Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20) Greidanus’ sixfold framework is a good place to start.

See also Collin Hansen’s good interview with Greidanus this past February.

The Hardest Sermons

Speaking of J.I. Packer's 'easy' task of preaching for his godly friend's funeral, I saw last week that a book about hard sermons is coming out soon. The following is Dane Ortland's overview of the book, followed by my thoughts on both its potential usefulness and possible dangers:

This looks like a very helpful resource for pastors: The Hardest Sermons You’ll Ever Have to Preach: Help from Trusted Preachers for Tragic Times, edited by Bryan Chapell, out from Zondervan later this month.

Part of the publisher’s description reads:

Cancer. Suicide. The death of a child. As much as we wish we could avoid tragedies like these, eventually they will strike your church community. When they do, pastors must be ready to offer help by communicating the life-changing message of the gospel in a way that offers hope, truth, and encouragement during these difficult circumstances. Those asked to preach in the midst of tragedy know the anxiety of trying to say appropriate things from God’s Word that will comfort and strengthen God’s people when emotions and faith are stretched thin. This indispensable resource helps pastors prepare sermons in the face of tragedies by providing suggestions for how to approach different kinds of tragedy, as well as insight into how to handle the theological challenges of human suffering.

Contributors include Jerram Barrs, Wilson Benton, Jack Collins, Dan Doriani, Bob Flayhart, Michael Horton, Tim Keller, Mike Khandjian, John Piper, Robert Rayburn, and George Robertson.

I think this book is great…and dangerous. Great because it gives (especially young) pastors an idea of what other men in other contexts have said when their people were grieving. Great if it is read before the tragedy, as a tool that shapes the pastor and gives him an idea of what might happen and what he might say. But it is dangerous too. As a young solo pastor of a small church, tragedy drove me to my knees. In my brokenness and weakness as a pastor in the face of the suicide of an unbeliever related to people in our church, and in the face of the sudden death of the most beloved church member, I was more needy than ever. I prayed through those sermons more than any others, and God provided a particular message for the particular hurting people in my particular context each time. If this book is used as a general model, to add to the pastor’s wisdom before the tragedy, it might be awesome. It’s contributors certainly are! But if this book is overly leaned-on in the moment of tragedy, it might be too much of a crutch. I’ve heard Keller say that the problem with radio preaching is that its application is too general because the preachers are speaking to a general audience. I think that the same applies to books of sermons. They can be great wisdom-inducing tools, but they should not be one’s only resource, and in this case, not the primary one at the moment of tragedy.

J.I. Packer's Funeral Sermon For John Stott

Over lunch today I listened to/watched J.I. Packer preach for/eulogize his friend, John Stott. Both the Biblical exposition and the eulogy were very edifying. What a joy it must have been to serve his friend in this way. Watch and be encouraged to live for Christ!