April “Tabletalk”: “Our Shameless World” – Andrew Davis

Our Shameless World by Andrew Davis | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-April 2015You will recall from our previous Monday posts this month that the April issue of Tabletalk is devoted to the theme of “shame.” The third main featured article on this subject is the one linked above, written by Dr. Andrew David, pastor of First Baptist Church in Durham, NC.

His article treats the shame that we find in the world about us, due to the fall – a shame we participate in also, but a shame we are also called to respond to properly as Christians. Davis uncovers “three ways our world displays corruption in the matter of shame”. These are “delighting in what is shameful”, “suppressing true shame”, and “seeking to shame the righteous.”

I will pull a few paragraphs from Davis’ article, encouraging you to read the full article at the Ligonier link above. There is good reading here for us, relating to how we handle the shame found in the world – and in ourselves.

The world delights in bold sinners who flout God’s Word and expect no punishment whatsoever. Our culture celebrates the skillful cold-blooded assassin, bold thief, self-righteous vigilante, foul-mouthed recording artist, creative rebel, blasphemous stand-up comedian, naked actress, fornicating “glamour couple,” self-worshiping athlete, occultic mystic, and the like. Perhaps the clearest example in our day has been the movement of homosexuality from something almost universally seen as shameful to something that ought to be delighted in. The gay rights movement is seeking not merely tolerance of what God calls sinful, but society-wide celebration.

…Conversely, our world also heaps abuse on those who stand up for righteousness in our corrupt age. Isaiah 5:20 captures the defective moral compass of our age: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness!” So our culture delights in what is shameful and is ashamed of what God finds delightful. I recently saw a T-shirt that proclaimed, “Homosexuality isn’t shameful; homophobia is.” The new term homophobia (c. 1969) implies that biblical conviction on that sin is itself a form of mental illness. When University of Missouri football player Michael Sam declared himself to be gay, his fellow students gave him a standing ovation at a basketball game. Anyone who refused to stand and cheer certainly would have been made to feel ashamed.

…Christians should display humility in the matter of shame and set an example to the world. We should own that our sin is a shameful thing, and that feelings of shame are reasonable responses to the conviction of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 6:21). In our evangelism, it is essential to proclaim the law of God to bring about that conviction and the corresponding feelings of shame in our hearers. But we should also display and proclaim the joy of full forgiveness that the cross of Jesus Christ lavishes on anyone who believes in Him alone. As Romans 10:11 says, “Everyone who believes in him [Christ] will not be put to shame.”

Heaven Tourism Books Pulled from Nearly 200 Christian Bookstores – ChristianityToday.com

Heaven Tourism Books Pulled from Nearly 200 Christian Booksto… | Gleanings | ChristianityToday.com.

90-minutes-in-heaven-9780800759490Here is a healthy development in the world of Christian books: removing from shelves and stores books purporting to relate one’s experiences of going to heaven – a wildly popular form of writing, publishing, and reading these days. And part of the reason for doing so is also good – the sufficiency of Scripture to tell us about the afterlife.

“CT” carries this story from Baptist Press in this week’s summary of Christian news (“Gleanings”). I post the first part of the story here; find all of it at the “CT” link above.

NASHVILLE (BP) — LifeWay Christian Resources has stopped selling all “experiential testimonies about heaven” following consideration of a 2014 Southern Baptist Convention resolution on “the sufficiency of Scripture regarding the afterlife.”

LifeWay told Baptist Press about its decision to halt sales of heaven visitation resources today (March 24) in response to an inquiry about the book 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper, which is being made into a movie slated for release this fall. The book recounts Piper’s supposed experience of heaven following a severe auto accident and has sold 6.5 million copies in 46 languages.

…Though LifeWay “was not mentioned in the SBC resolution affirming the sufficiency of biblical revelation and affirming the truth about heaven and hell,” King told BP in an interview, “the resolution was approved overwhelmingly and was considered during our process.”

The resolution, adopted by messengers to the SBC annual meeting in June, warned Christians not to allow “the numerous books and movies purporting to explain or describe the afterlife experience” to “become their source and basis for an understanding of the afterlife.”

…The resolution affirmed “the sufficiency of biblical revelation over subjective experiential explanations to guide one’s understanding of the truth about heaven and hell.”

PCUSA Makes Marriage a ‘Unique Commitment’ – ChristianityToday.com

PCUSA Makes Marriage a ‘Unique Commitment’ | Gleanings | ChristianityToday.com.

marriagepic-1Christianity Today’s latest “Gleanings” feature (March 18, 2015) carried this note of further apostasy from the teaching of God’s Word about marriage on the part of the mainline Presbyterian church in this country.

Below is the first part of that story; for the full news item, visit the “CT” link above. The report includes a map showing how the various states have voted to this point (Michigan has not yet decided.)

May the Lord call out of this apostate denomination those who are truly His and who desire to be faithful to His Word and the true Presbyterian heritage (Rev.18:4).

The Presbyterian Church (USA) will now define marriage as a “unique commitment between two people,” rather than a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman as an act of Christian discipleship.

Last June, the PC(USA) general assembly voted to change the language in its Book of Order, the denomination’s governing constitution. Following the vote, a majority of the PC(USA)’s 171 presbyteries also had to approve the measure for it to go into effect. On Tuesday, this number (86) was reached.

The conservative Presbyterian Lay Committee (PLC) criticized the denomination’s shift.

“In terms of the PCUSA’s witness to the world, this vote demonstrates a complete accommodation to the prevailing winds of our culture,” said Carmen Fowler LaBerge, PLC president, in a statement. “Any prophetic voice that the denomination may have once had to speak truth and call people to repentance is now lost.”

Help Yourself Read Slowly and Attentively – A.Jacobs

PleasureofReadingBkThis is a situation… which seems to lend itself to advice, to recommendations [Jacobs is referring here to the distractions our modern technology forces on us daily with regard to good reading.]. But what would be the point? We all already know what we need to do if we want to get back to reading slowly and attentively. Shut down the computer; put aside the cellphone. If the temptation to check email or texts or Twitter is too strong, then take yourself somewhere where the gadgets aren’t. Lock them in the car before you enter the coffee shop with your book; give them to your spouse or partner and request that they be hidden, and then go into a room with a comfortable chair and close the door behind you. It’s not hard to come up with handy-dandy practical suggestions; what’s hard is following them – or rather, even wanting to follow them. What’s hard is imagining, fully and vividly, the good things that happen when we follow through.

Alan Jacobs in The Pleasures of Reading in a Age of Distraction (Oxford, 2011), 84.

Genesis 2-3, Adam and Eve, and John H. Walton: An Explosive New Book

So they are back in the news (yet again): Adam and Eve and all that — GetReligion.

One of the most heated and significant debates taking place in the church at present is that centering on the historicity and authority of Genesis 1-3 in the light of the ever-dogmatic claims of evolutionary science and the unceasing pressures of its professing Christian adherents. That debate includes, of course, the reality and accuracy of the account of the creation and of our first parents, Adam and Eve.

One professing Christian professor/teacher after another continues to fall for these evolutionary claims and to cave in to these pressures, which means that they tinker and tamper with the sacred Scriptures in its early chapters. And this is happening at even the most historically conservative Evangelical colleges, universities, and seminaries.

Lost World of Genesis 1 - JWaltonMore recently John H. Walton, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL (and formerly of Moody Bible Institute), has “progressed” from a traditional Christian understanding of Gen.1-3 to a view that makes room for an evolutionary understanding of the origins of the world and man.

Richard Ostling carried this report of a new book by Walton set to be released by InterVarsity Press this month which, in his words, has the nature of “an incendiary device about to explode.” This will be a book to watch, as well as to read and critique carefully, from the Bible and the historic creeds of the church. I plan to ask for a review copy, so if any of you are interested, let me know.

Here is the opening paragraph’s of Ostling’s story; to read the rest, visit the link above.

On the religion beat, the news often consists of new books about old texts with old stories, and the oldest old story of them all is the Genesis portrayal of Adam and Eve. Their status as the first humans and parents of the entire human race is a big biblical deal, especially for evangelical Protestants.

Since no evangelical school outranks Wheaton College (Illinois) in prestige and influence, journalists should get ready for an incendiary device about to explode in March.

A book by Wheaton Old Testament Professor John H. Walton will upend many traditional – or certainly “evangelical” – ideas about Adam and Eve. Moreover, “The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate” comes from the certifiably evangelical InterVarsity Press. Click here for the online press kit (.pdf).

The author’s views have been evolving (so to speak) since 1998, when he decided Genesis, like other ancient writings, offers a “functional” rather than biological depiction of God’s creation process. He explained this in “The Lost World of Genesis One” (2009, also from InterVarsity), and a more scholarly version, “Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology” (2011, Eisenbrauns). He then depicted an historical but “archetypal” Adam in “Four Views on the Historical Adam” (2013, Zondervan).

Why digital natives prefer reading in print. Yes, you read that right. – The Washington Post

Why digital natives prefer reading in print. Yes, you read that right. – The Washington Post.

YP reading-1Here is another striking report (posted Feb.22, 2015) on the reading preferences of those who have grown up with digital content (young people known as “digital natives”). Once again, reading printed material is the choice for such college-age young people who read for “pleasure and learning.”

Warms my heart – and I do a fair amount of digital reading during the course of a day too. But when I can grab that printed book or magazine or newspaper in hand and feel the pages between my fingers and read the content on real paper – ah, I am a happy man. And I haven’t even mentioned the smells! :)

What’s your preference for reading – digital or print? What would you say is the percentage breakdown for your reading on any given day?

Here’s the first part of the news item as it was carried by the Washington Post; find the rest at the link above.

Frank Schembari loves books — printed books. He loves how they smell. He loves scribbling in the margins, underlining interesting sentences, folding a page corner to mark his place.

Schembari is not a retiree who sips tea at Politics and Prose or some other bookstore. He is 20, a junior at American University, and paging through a thick history of Israel between classes, he is evidence of a peculiar irony of the Internet age: Digital natives prefer reading in print.

“I like the feeling of it,” Schembari said, reading under natural light in a campus atrium, his smartphone next to him. “I like holding it. It’s not going off. It’s not making sounds.”

Textbook makers, bookstore owners and college student surveys all say millennials still strongly prefer print for pleasure and learning, a bias that surprises reading experts given the same group’s proclivity to consume most other content digitally. A University of Washington pilot study of digital textbooks found that a quarter of students still bought print versions of e-textbooks that they were given for free.

“These are people who aren’t supposed to remember what it’s like to even smell books,” said Naomi S. Baron, an American University linguist who studies digital communication. “It’s quite astounding.”

Ash Wednesday: Picking and Choosing our Piety – Reformation21

Ash Wednesday: Picking and Choosing our Piety – Reformation21.

Ash WednesdayToday is Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent on the church’s calendar – at least if you are Roman Catholic (preceded by “Fat Tuesday” and Mardi Gras, those paragons of piety!), Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican (especially later).

But of late it has also become fashionable for Protestant groups (“evangelicals”) and even Reformed folk to get excited about Lent and start practicing its customs, from fasting and fish-feasting to having ashes put on one’s forehead.

That’s why I appreciated Carl Trueman’s forthrightness in addressing this evangelical trendiness in this online article posted at Reformation21. He makes some excellent points about why Reformed Christians do not need Lent – with or without its ashes.

I give a few paragraphs here, encouraging you to read the full article at the “Ref21″ link above.

It’s that time of year again: the ancient tradition of Lent, kick-started by Ash Wednesday. It is also the time of year when us confessional types brace ourselves for the annual onslaught of a more recent tradition: that of evangelical pundits, with no affiliation to such branches of the church, writing articles extolling Lent’s virtues to their own eclectic constituency.

… The imposition of ashes is intended as a means of reminding us that we are dust and forms part of a liturgical moment when sins are ‘shriven’ or forgiven. In fact, a well-constructed worship service should do that anyway. Precisely the same thing can be conveyed by the reading of God’s Word, particularly the Law, followed by a corporate prayer of confession and then some words of gospel forgiveness drawn from an appropriate passage and read out loud to the congregation by the minister.

An appropriately rich Reformed sacramentalism also renders Ash Wednesday irrelevant. Infant baptism emphasizes better than anything else outside of the preached Word the priority of God’s grace and the helplessness of sinless humanity in the face of God. The Lord’s Supper, both in its symbolism (humble elements of bread and wine) and its meaning (the feeding on Christ by faith) indicates our continuing weakness, fragility and utter dependence upon Christ.

…Finally, it also puzzles me that time and energy is spent each year on extolling the virtues of Lent when comparatively little is spent on extolling the virtues of the Lord’s Day. Presbyterianism has its liturgical calendar, its way of marking time: Six days of earthly pursuits and one day of rest and gathered worship. Of course, that is rather boring. Boring, that is, unless you understand the rich theology which underlies the Lord’s Day and gathered worship, and realize that every week one meets together with fellow believers to taste a little bit of heaven on earth.

The Boy Who Went to Heaven and Other Hoaxes: Repentance Needed!

Tyndale Pulls Book, But Should Repent Along With the Church.

Boy to Heaven - MalarkeyBy now you probably have heard the reports about the popular Tyndale book telling the story of a boy dying and going to heaven before coming back to life to tell about it (yes, another one of those books!) – the story that was a complete fabrication! And it took the boy to finally get the truth out, not the publisher, not the promoters.

Numerous Christian blogs and websites have reported this now, including the Aquila Report, which I reference here. The “AR” has had several posts on this, but I refer you to this one, because it is such a great commentary. This is actually a blog post by Timothy Hammons, a teaching elder in the PCA.

I post the first part here, encouraging you to read all of it – an to avoid such books for the theological plague they carry!

I don’t know if you heard of the book The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven. It is the book about a boy who died and went to heaven. Only he didn’t really die, and he didn’t really go to heaven. He made the story up and then someone published it and it sold millions like every other worthless book of its type.

What makes this one interesting is that the boy, Alex Malarkey, came out recently after actually reading the Bible and recanted the entire story. He said it was a hoax. Really? You see, that is the real rub. Alex, a boy, actually had to come out and tell us the story was a hoax before we (the wider church audience) could actually discern that the story was a hoax. Every single story like this is a hoax. In fact, let me try to be clear as possible: if someone has a story of dying and going to heaven, and they have published a book about it, then they didn’t die and go to heaven. It is a hoax.

The reason I say this is that we have a standard that we can use to test such stories. It’s called… (and I wish the people at Tyndale Publishing would actually get one of these books and read it), it’s called the Bible. By reading it with eyes of faith, we can actually discern between what is real and what is a hoax, like the book written by Malarkey and the other popular book Heaven is For Real.

Is Evolution Biblically Acceptable? The Question of Genesis 1 – Reformation21

Is Evolution Biblically Acceptable? The Question of Genesis 1 – Reformation21.

One of the main articles last month at the Reformation 21 website (December 2014) is this significant one by Dr. (PCA pastor) Richard D.Phillips. By it he begins a series in which he does and will argue that evolution is incompatible with the Bible’s teaching.

This first installment focuses on the issue of how Genesis 1 is to be read (he defends its full authority and historicity).

Below are a few paragraphs from it (follow the link above to find the full article). I believe this is must reading (and understanding!) for Reformed Christians, as it focuses on the issue facing us at the present time.

Given what World Magazine has called a “major, well-funded push” to promote the acceptance of evolution among evangelical Christians, the case must be persuasively made against the compatibility of evolution and the Bible.  In answer to this pro-evolutionary stance, I am one of those Bible teachers who believe that the implications of evolution involve sweeping changes to the Christian faith and life.

While I appreciate the moderate spirit of many who want to find a way to accept evolution alongside the Bible, I find that the more radical voices are here more helpful.  For instance, I share the view of Peter Enns in the conclusion to his book The Evolution of Adam, writing that “evolution… cannot simply be grafted onto evangelical Christian faith as an add-on,”[1] but requires a fundamental rethinking of doctrines pertaining to creation, humanity, sin, death, and salvation.  But Christian ethics must also be revised.  Enns writes that under evolution “some characteristics that Christians have thought of as sinful,” including “sexual promiscuity to perpetuate one’s gene pool,” should now be thought of as beneficial.  Even so foundational an issue as the Christian view of death must be remolded by evolution.  An evolution-embracing Christian faith must now see death as an ally: “the means that promotes the continued evolution of life on this planet.”[2]

I am not a qualified scientist and have virtually nothing to contribute to the science involved in evolution.  As a Bible teacher and theologian, my concern is the necessary beliefs that flow from the Word of God.  For the ultimate issue involved with evolution is biblical authority: must the Bible submit to the superior authority of secularist dogma? Or may the believer still confess together with Paul: “Let God be true though everyone were a liar” (Rom. 3:4).  From this perspective, I plan a short series of articles arguing against the idea that evolution is biblically acceptable.

…One of the grand motives, I believe, for accommodating evolution in Genesis 1 is so that evangelicals can stop arguing about science and start teaching about Jesus.  But do we fail to note that Jesus’ story begins in Genesis 1?  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God…” (Jn. 1:1).  In fact, when the interpretive approach used to neutralize Genesis 1 as history is necessarily extended by evolution, then the reason for Jesus’ coming is lost?  After all, without a biblical Adam as the first man and covenant head of the human race, then what is the problem for which the Son of God came?  Here we see just how right Peter Enns is: evolution is not an add-on to the Bible, it is a replacement.

Dr. Richard D. Phillips is the senior minister of Second Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Greenville, SC and the chairman of the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology

See more at: http://www.reformation21.org/articles/is-evolution-biblically-acceptable-the-question-of-genesis-1.php#sthash.h5cWQw5t.dpuf

In this connection, a great resource to read is this one by Prof.David J. Engelsma: “Genesis 1-11: Myth or History.”

The Top 20 Most-Read Gleanings of 2014 – ChristianityToday.com

The Top 20 Most-Read Gleanings of 2014 | Gleanings | ChristianityToday.com.

Every year at this time Christianity Today posts the top stories in the world of Christian news based on what its readers visited the most on the “Gleanings” section of its website (“important developments in the church and the world”).

MIbrahim-2014At the link above is this year’s list of twenty (20) most read stories – with a brief introduction from “CT”. When you see their list, you will understand why these were indeed the stories people were most interested in.

What do Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, Meriam Ibrahim, and the KJV have in common? All were subjects of the most-read Gleanings posts of 2014.

This one goes with the picture above, as reported by “CT”:

As advocates for the Sudanese mother sentenced to death for not renouncing her Christian faith topped more than 1 million, Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag gave birth early this morning to a baby girl in a Khartoum prison hospital wing.

So reports Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), as well as her lawyer Elshareef Ali to the BBC. The 27-year-old mother sentenced to death for apostasy named her little girl Maya, according to The Telegraph.

Sudanese authorities are allowing Ibrahim two years to nurse her daughter before they will carry out the death sentence. Ibrahim’s lawyers lodged an appeal last week, according to CSW.

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