Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Economy Threatens Seminaries

January 13, 2009

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An article in Christianity Today came out yesterday declaring many seminaries in a financial bind.  We should commit to praying for these flag-ship schools, that they might continue to carry on the message of Jesus Christ.  For the year of 2008:

†Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary: Lost $600,000 in endowment income

†Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: Lost 1 million in endowment income; will need to make cuts and lay offs.

†Trinity Evangelical School did not suffer as much, but enrollment is down much further than usual.

Read the rest of the article here

Guarding the Wall

December 31, 2008

Recently one of our pastors found himself engaged in a theological discussion in a public forum. It all started after he had written a letter to local pastors encouraging them to attend an event that our church was hosting. The letter soon appeared in a local online publication with a response from another pastor. What came next was a heated online discussion of the fundamentals of the faith.

It has caused me to think about the importance of actively defending the faith. One of the qualifications for an elder is that he is able to recognize and refute false doctrine, “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it,” (Titus 1:9).

The teaching of false doctrine is deserving of being cast into hell: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed,” (Galatians 1:8) Let him be accursed (eternally condemned NIV) (condemned to hell NET). The gravity of teaching what is false can be sensed on this passage. It is not something that can be dealt with lightly. It is cause to stand on the wall and warn the teacher of the danger he is putting himself in. It is cause to also warn those who are under his care and teaching.

A false teacher should not be welcomed into your home: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works,” (2 John 10-11). They are teachers of myths and factions. To invite them into your home to have tea and cookies is endorsing what they are doing.

We need pastors to be willing to stand in the face of adversity and defend the faith. We need good men that aren’t afraid of being called a fundamentalist, or intolerant, or arrogant. Seems to me it is better than being called a backslider, or a heretic, or a wolf.

Some have raised the question of whether or not our pastor was justified in engaging others in the arena that he did. But we can’t always choose the arena. Sometimes we can hold forums and public discussions and address theological error. But sometimes the fight comes right to us and we have to decide whether we are going to flee or fight. I would argue that it is the place of the elder to fight, to call false teaching what it is and to protect the sanctity of the faith.

I am thankful for my pastor who is willing be on the wall guarding the flock.

A Day With Don (Carson); Don’t Miss It

December 5, 2008

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Tonight I’m heading up Seattle way to attend a conference by D.A. Carson at Mars Hill. Mark Driscoll is hosting Dr. Carson for a full “day of Don.” The price of admission? 5 bucks for seminary students. 5 bucks?? That won’t get you a mocha anymore, and now it will get you a whole day with the man whose written more books than I’ve read! Unbelievable.

If you are a Timothy near the Seattle or Portland area, don’t miss out on this. Come hang out with Don (and me).

Hope to see you there! (I’ll be towards the front)


General Admission: $15

Students: $5


To see the schedule, click here

What to Do When Your College Goes Liberal: Some Thoughts Regarding the Issue

November 20, 2008

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Approaching storms


On November 11, 2008, Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota, launched a website for the purpose of refuting so called “attacks” the school was receiving regarding it’s theology and practice . . . but the attacks weren’t coming from non-believers. Instead, questions and opposition were coming from concerned students and alumni. The reason? Theological drift. Students and former students were becoming increasingly concerned over the fact that the school was drifting from its conservative roots that once steered the school’s course. The College was originally founded by Baptist Fundamentalist William Riley in 1902. Now, a century later, there is only a remnant that remains, wondering exactly why the school has left the foundation from which it was built. The full article can be read here at Christianity Today (November 11, 2008)

While I am concerned about the outcome at Northwestern College, I’m not interested in addressing the issues surrounding it here. I rather want to address a topic that seems to be rampant in our Bible Colleges, Universities and Seminaries, and that is a continual, gradual slide into Liberalism.

This is nothing new. Gresham Machen experience the same disappointment and slandering when his beloved Princeton Seminary fell to Liberal tenets in the early 20th Century. The signs aren’t new either. Below are common occurrences that have historically marked shifts from Bible-saturated, culture-engaging schools to the graveyard of Liberalism and what to do about it.

Evidence a Christian University Slipping Into Liberalism

a. The authority of the Bible is waning.

This is no surprise here. Whenever there are heretics and heresies it can always be traced back to their view of Scripture.

It is incredibly surprising but true that those who affirm the Bible as only source of authority, that biblical authors intended what they meant and we can derive truth from what they wrote, that God is sovereign over salvation, that men should be elders in Churches, that husbands should lead their home, that women should be a helpmate to husbands . . . you are considered an out-dated, culturally-irrelevant, people-hating, close-minded, world-rejecting Fundamentalist who doesn’t understand Jesus’ call to “Kingdom Relationship”. Sad. Who would have thought that one who thinks the Bible actually means what it says would be mocked first by professing believers? But it’s true. This is the first sign, and it always begins here.

b. Substitutionary Atonement is Questioned

Whenever the idea is put forth that God isn’t mad at sinners, that crucifixion was divine child abuse, the Bible itself is being relegated and our salvation is in jeopardy. Richard Niebuhr of Machen’s day summarized it clearly: Liberalism is:

“A God without wrath bringing men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

Without the cross, without substitutionary atonement, there is no forgiveness of sins, no reconciliation with God, no peace with humanity. There’s nothing. The very thing that can save our souls and save us from ourselves is rejected. When the authority and efficiency of Scripture is question, the very next doctrine that will be question is the nature of Christ and the cross. Look for it. Don’t be fooled by loose terminology veiled as relevancy.

c. Universalism is Entertained as a Possibility

It seems very popular now to think the Bible only speaks in metaphors and never in physical terms (regarding an eternal, physical hell). It is also and always will be popular to make the gospel sound as least offensive and as non-confrontational as possible. If that becomes the goal, God actually sending people to a physical hell is out. If the center of God’s attributes is love, then a loving God could not possibly do that. That’s too mean. That’s not the way to win friends and influence people.

That’s why Paul said to discern what the Scripture has taught and what you have learned; hold tightly to sound doctrine “So that you might save both yourself and your hearers” (2 Timothy 4:16). Sin is real; God is offended; hell brings justice. If God does not punish sin, He is not a God worth serving because He is not true to Himself and He ignores justice. Even if a professor propounds an over-glorified position of purgatory (God will soak up all the evil in Himself and empty heaven), then I would question whether it is then possible to eventually go from heaven to hell. If God can’t keep people out of hell, how do I know He will keep me in heaven? Don’t let professors entertain that idea. Snuff it out.

Historically, these are the tell-tale signs of coming heresy. It would not be surprising, then, that Machen composed a list of “Fundamentals” that closely resemble the above:

* Scripture’s Inspiration and Trustworthiness
* Christ’s Virgin Birth
* Christ’s Substitutionary Atonement
* Christ’s Bodily Resurrection (As an Historic Event)
* Christ’s Peformance of Miracles during his earthly Ministry

These five componants are what the Fundamentalists held to with the coming onslaught of Darwinism, Arianism, and relativism in the Church. Come to think of it, looking at this list, I’m not sure I mind being called a Fundalmentalist (it’s almost . . . like . . . biblical).

1. Hold Your Classmates and Professors Accountable to the Word of God

If your professor’s theological zipper is down, call him on it. Hold everything he says to the light of God’s Word. It is common that when a person goes to Bible college, he does not know much about the Bible (hey, that’s why he went, right?). But this can be dangerous because he could easily take as gospel truth whatever is being propounded from the front of the class room. Ask questions in order to understand the position. If something does not sound right, speak up.

A shocking and humbling reality is to realize that even at Christan Universities and Bible Colleges there are broken people who regularly engage in stealing, sexual immorality and drunkeness. Most students could care less about what they are learning; most desire to play video games rather than wrestle with the Word of God; most write their doctrinal statements of the Holy Spirit at midnight the night before it was due, because they decided to play rather than actually wrestle with what they believed about the Holy Spirit.

All that to say: I would encourage you to encourage your classmates. Correct them when necessary. Challenge them and remind them that whether or not they become a “vocational” minister of the Word, people will naturally hold them with high regards merely because they graduated from a Bible College. It is your God-given responsibility to hold accountable those who are part of the flock (Matthew 18; 2 Corinthians 5; 2 Thessalonians 3; Hebrews 2)

2. Resolve to Encourage Students in your Sphere of Influence

There are many opportunities you have to influence students.  At Multnomah, there are opportunities for students to teach freshmen Bible Study Methods. This is a unique opportunity not only to be in a mentoring relationship with the professor who oversees it, but also to encourage fellow students.  This may be unique to Multnomah, but if you have that opportunity at your school, take it.

Rally a group of fellow enthusiasts around for prayer; hold a Bible study. Host a weekly time of worship and Bible read-through. Promote what you want on the campus. If there is a particular class that you question the theology, gather the students for an extra session and facilitate a discussion centered on the areas of disagreement.

If you can and are able, join student government and rally for the change you see needed. Talk to the academic dean. Express your concerns that the school is not adhering to the word of God. Be a reformer in your own generation, in your own family, in your own school.

3. Reform is Always Needed

Often institutes and universities are started precisely because there was a need for reform. This was the case for Gresham Machen, who founded Westminster Theological Seminary because of Princeton’s ever-increasing slide into liberalism. Multnomah University was started by John G. Mitchell for the same reason. The point is, there will always be need for reform.  As excellent as Multnomah University is, it will inevitably need reform some day, simply because it is run by humans. And it will need competent, Bible-saturated, culturally relevant theologians to rise up and again hold the banner of Christ and the truth of the gospel . . . and next generation will need to then reform us.  It is a process necessary until the coming of our Lord.

Reformation never comes without a cost. For some of you, it may mean you move schools. For professors, it may mean they lose their job, much like Machen, R.A. Torrey and B.B. Warfield. But being right never has been poplular, and it shouldn’t surprise us that it never will be.

For an excellent article on Fundamentalism click here for Piper’s article


Is formal theological education good or bad? PART 2

November 18, 2008

I have always had difficulty when academic institutions acknowledge that they are not a local church (no church polity, no church discipline, etc. ) yet claim to be accomplishing a task that only the church is given the authority to do; namely, the work of preparing the saints for the work of the ministry. As I understand it, the Church is the only institution that is given the authority to prepare the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). However, it is difficult to undergo the necessary theological studies in a local church context. As a result of this, there have been some attempts to integrate rigorous theological study done at a seminary, with practical apprenticeship done at a local church. Almost all of these experiments fail to properly integrate the two. These programs often end up lacking a genuine apprenticeship or fail to offer a theological education that is academically rigorous.  However, there are a few churches/schools/apprenticeships that have made significant contributions to the reform of ministerial training.  Here are three: 

1.  Bethlehem Seminary (www.thebethleheminstitute.org) is currently the only Seminary of its kind because both the apprenticeship and the theological study are governed by a local church, in which they can be properly integrated.  The new M.Div. program is a 4 year commitment and involves rigorous theological studies, including extensive Greek and Hebrew studies.  Bethlehem Seminary will only accept 12-14 M.Div “apprentices” every year into their program.  Each of these students is mentored by a Pastor and progressively becomes more involved in ministry at the local Church level throughout the 4 years of the program. 

2.  Sovereign Grace Pastor’s College (www.sovereigngraceministries.org/PC/Overview.aspx) is a one year program, ranges from 15-25 students at a time, and is restricted to those who are commited to ministering within the Sovereign Grace network of churches.  It is only one year, and because of this, it is not academically as rigorous as a typical seminary.  It does include a limited amount of Greek study and there is a special focus on the spiritual life of the potential pastor.  The goal of this Pastor’s college is not only to impart a general theological framework and practical study skills, but to give opportunity for hands on ministry within a local church context and to promote growth in Christ like character.  This is a great opportunity for those who can fit into the ministry ethos of Sovereign Grace, and are in a season of life where a 3 or 4 year seminary commitment is not reasonable. 

3.  Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church has an internship (www.capitolhillbaptist.org/we-provide/internships/description/) is 5 months long, and is for those who sense a call to the pastorate.  It is not intended to be a seminary replacement, but rather to compliment a seminary education with an internship experience.  Throughout the program, an intern writes about 100 papers and reads over 5000 pages of text.  The 6 interns attend elders meetings, are involved in ministry at the local church, and spend weekly time with one of the elders at Capitol Hill Baptist Church.  If you are currently are planning to attend a run-of-the-mill seminary, or have already attended one, I would highly recommend taking a look into this program as a supplement to those studies.


This might be a good time to pitch an interactive web forum we attempted to launch some time ago, and are hoping to resurrect.  It is our desire that it would be an effective tool for those seeking to be trained for the ministry.  www.bibleschooldiscussion.com  Write anything you know about a school, post questions about a school you are considering, add a school to the discussion.  Our goal is that it would be a place where potential students can see what is available for those looking to train for the ministry, and can have an idea of what is really being taught at various institutions.

 


PART 1


 

Media and The Glory of God–Why I Have Facebook

November 12, 2008

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I have always been skeptical about technology. Some have compared it to the young tiger that is very cute and cuddly, but when it grows up, it turns and eats you. While this certainly can be true about anything, I have come to reject this idea for several reasons. I would like to try and convince you that all sources of media use can be used for the glory of God, as well as to show you that men you and I admire and want to be like used the media of their day to spread the gospel. I guess you could call this “my defense of why I joined the static noise of Facebook”. Whenever I get a new gadget (an ipod), join a social network (facebook), I always make sure there is precision and purpose for what I do. Below are some thoughts for you to think about.

1. All Things are Under the Lordship of Christ

It is my theological conviction that all things are under the lordship of Christ. As Abraham Kuyper has said,

“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”

Therefore, everything that is created is good, because it comes from a good Father; it is what man does with those resources that are bad. Christ rules over all things. That is the logical argument and conclusion Paul makes in Ephesians and Colossians. Not only is Christ Lord over everything, but as His ambassadors in His Kingdom under His rule, we have the authority and the calling to redeem and take back that which has been used for evil. Don’t despise the technology that is being polluted. Instead, show how to properly use them for the glory of God. You should be thinking Kingdom governance and oversight. Show how a citizen of God’s Kingdom stewards and manages properly resources He has made available. You are a manager of many resources that can be used as a tool. Redeem technology. If your excuse is, “Well, so many people have used it for ill” then for Christ’s and the gospel’s sake get out there and use it for good. Don’t let pagans use for evil the things your King has created. Show them how to use it properly.

2. Every Media Tool is a Vehicle to Spread the Gospel of Christ

Your main objection and the responsibility you have as a steward of God’s gifts is to use it for the purpose of spreading the gospel. To be honest, I am technologically illiterate . . . but I’m learning. More honestly, I used to be a puritan/fundamentalist (. . . well, I still am in many ways) when it came to anything new in technology. I only saw the evil in it. I saw ipods were only used to waste time listening to music that mushed your brain. And Facebook? Well, don’t get me started on Facebook.

But I have been convicted that we as believers have a unique opportunity to reach and evangelize the world . . . from our desk. Don’t get me wrong, this is not negating or excusing you from the responsibility to physically get in the presence of non-believers and preach the gospel. But while you are preaching, evangelizing, fellowshipping and spreading the gospel to your sphere of influence, you can also be impacting those around the world. You should be active in all types of media . . . no matter what your eschatology. Blogs. Facebook. Websites. The gospel of Christ can be used in any media. Picture these as an extension of your voice. When I use a microphone, it is acting as merely an extension of my voice to reach a larger group of people. Blogs, Facebook, ipods and websites can all be tools in which God uses as an extension of spreading the gospel. So the only question that remains is, “Why aren’t you involved?”

3. Everything You Own is for One Purpose Only . . .

Why have I chosen to spend X amount of dollars on a car? To spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. That car is an extension of my legs. It takes me to Western Seminary where I listen to influential men who prepare me to prepare. Why do I own a home? To house my family and other weary sojourners who need refreshment. Why do I own an ipod? To listen to men that are present day Spurgeons. If I lived in Spurgeon’s day and was even 100 miles from him, I might not even know he exists. And how many people didn’t! Now, I can listen to Piper, Macarthur and Mark Driscoll all because of the gracious, good gift from God expressed in an ipod.

4. Spread the Gospel, Not Yourself

I can’t tell you how sick I am of updates on Facebook that tell me how great my friend’s mocha was, or what euphoric experience they had the other day. As Christians, our primary task is to spread the vision of Jesus Christ and His glory. Take a look at your facebook and answer this question:


Do your posts, updates, links, pictures and videos reflect the aroma of the spreading of Christ, or do you contribute to the world’s static chatter that numbs our minds to thinking after Christ?


Answer the question. Make the changes.

5. Those Before Us . . .

If Paul would have shunned the stadium, men of Athens would not have heard him. If Luther would have despised the printing press, no Reformation. Period. Because he took advantage of the media of the time, there was a Reformation that exploded throughout the world. If Billy Graham would have despised the microphone, the some odd million people would never have heard him. If Piper would have neglected the tape recorder, we would not have any of his sermons from the past.

6. Final Exhortations And Some Ideas

  • Redeem your ipod. Don’t just fill your 80 gig ipod with music, fill it with sermons! We live in a unique day and age where we can listen to a sermon given thousands of miles away, all while jogging! Redeem your ipod.
  • Start a blog. There is no greater way to influence a great amount of people than by blogging your opinions . . . but blog the opinions of the Apostles. Pick something you are passionate about in regards to the gospel—a need you see not being fulfilled—and begin to rally around you fellow enthusiasts for the cause of Christ
  • Start a Facebook. Spread the message of Jesus Christ. Don’t just tell your friends pointless updates, encourage them in the faith, challenge them in their beliefs, and call them to join you in the spreading of the gospel, not yourself.

What do you think? How and what do you see is the purpose of social networks like Facebook? According to what you’ve heard me say, how do you think they should be used and why.


Spread the gospel. Preach the Word. Get Facebook.

Focusing Bible College and Seminaries

October 29, 2008


ReLit, a ministry of Mars Hill church, has recently pumped out some great resources. Their series of books, books you’ll actually read, are great for newer Christians seeking to get an overview of some specific doctrinal issues.

One of ReLit’s books is by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis called Total Church. In it, they address the issue of theological education with the following excerpt:

“We are not against theological colleges, but we need a big switch of focus from the isolation of residential theological colleges to apprenticeships in the context of ministry. This is how Jesus trained people. This is how Paul trained people. In residential colleges the academy sets the agenda. With on-the-job training, ministry and mission set the agenda.”

Theological education, outside the context of the local church, can become very “heady” and not practical. Studying theology becomes an academic affair rather than light unto our paths.

I feel for Bible College and Seminaries, many are caught in this “middle ground.” In Systematic Theology Wayne Grudem points out that the church has three main purposes (Grudem 867-868):

1. Ministry to God: Worship (Schools have weekly chapel)

2. Ministry to Believers: Nurture (Schools are building up the body for the work of the ministry)

3. Ministry to the World: Evangelism and Mercy (Schools have days of outreach and evangelism campaigns)

They aren’t a local church, yet they are often doing many things that the local church has been commissioned to do. Anytime a school engages in an activity of the church, they must follow the Scriptural mandate for such activity, i.e. communion, teaching the Bible. Schools even practice a form of discipline by means of expulsion. I guess the only thing I haven’t seen a Bible College or Seminary do is baptize someone.

The point is the lines are way too blurry. Bible Colleges and Seminaries shouldn’t be acting like rogue institutions, they should be arms of the local church. Leave the roles of the church in the church. Stop doing communion, stop counseling, stop requiring ministry, and other tasks they have been commissioned for the local church. If the church is missing the mark somewhere (lacking in counseling or ministry), we need to fix the problem not commission a whole new group of people to do it.

Bible Colleges and Seminaries should keep their role in view: they are teaching Bible and theology. That’s all that the local church needs for assistance. Bible Colleges and Seminaries should be filled with elder qualified men, preparing young pastors to do the work of the ministry. Bible Colleges and Seminaries should have professors doing what the local church doesn’t seem to have time to do, which is devoting their time to teaching new pastors intensive Bible and theology. Bible Colleges and Seminaries are a great gift, their lives have been freed up to devote themselves to studying the Bible and theology and teaching new pastors.

We need a sharper and more focused view of Bible Colleges and Seminaries. Denominational schools are a lot closer to where I am advocating (schools like Southern Seminary and Westminster Theological Seminary are a great example). At Westminster all of the professors are teaching elders in their local churches.

Christian liberal arts colleges are great, training Christian school teachers is a wonderful pursuit, but men are coming to Bible Colleges and Seminaries for something different.

Another concern is that men feel that just because they have an MDiv., they are now qualified to be a pastor. Seminaries are poppin’ out thousands of 25 year old “pastors” every year. These men become ordained office holding pastors because of their degrees. Theological education is vital, but we need life experience to go along with it. We need time “walking with the wise.” We need to be ordained, or elected, or asked into church leadership because of the evidence of God’s grace in our lives, not because of our master’s degrees.

There are two skills to become an overseer–many characters qualities–but two skills. A man must be able to teach and he must be able to manage his household well. God help us to not raise one above the other. Too many pastors are chosen from resumes.

I encourage young Timothy’s to pursue theological training and seek out your training with some of these things in mind.

Revival Hymn

October 27, 2008

Below is a compilation of sermons put to music.  If you haven’t heard this yet, you need to see it.  Some of the preachers here include the 20th Century’s greatest revivalists: Leonard Ravenhill, Duncan Campbell, Paris Readhead and A.W. Tozer.

Leonard Ravenhill was a revivalist preacher in Great Britan as well as America.  He had a tremendous influence on men like Keith Green and Paul Washer.  Tozer once said of Ravenhill:

“To such men as this, the church owes a debt too heavy to pay. The curious thing is that she seldom tries to pay him while he lives. Rather, the next generation builds his sepulcher and writes his biography – as if instinctively and awkwardly to discharge an obligation the previous generation to a large extent ignored.”

Duncan Campbell was a Scottish born-minister and president of a Bible College in Edinburgh Scotland.
Paris Reidhead was an American preacher whose famous sermon “Ten Shekels and a Shirt” stands with “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”.

And A.W. Tozer . . . well . . . everybody knows what he’s done.

All these men prayed for revival in the pulpit and in the hearts of people, and most of them died without seeing the fruit of their labors.  Check it out.