Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

More good words from the good reverend Spurgeon (Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats? -- C. H. Spurgeon). It's amazing. There is nothing new under the sun.

Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

Jim at Old Truth has posted this passage from John MacArthur's book Ashamed of the Gospel (Paying Homage To The Great god Entertainment). The lines between entertainment and worship are becoming hopelessly blurred.

Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

As I studied for last Sunday’s sermon on Luke 8:1-3 I was both convicted and challenged. I was convicted because of my own lack of impact when it comes to advancing the Gospel deeper into Wichita. Luke’s words are so simple. Jesus went to the cities and villages preaching the good news of the kingdom. The twelve followed Jesus in this vocation. As Luke continues his gospel narrative on into the book of Acts he traces the apostle’s work of bringing the Gospel of Jesus to bear upon the various communities to which they traveled. It is not a complicated model. Cultures, on the other hand, can be and often are complicated. But what Jesus has called us to do is not. We are to make the Gospel known. We are called to go where the people are.

Luke’s words challenge me to think intentionally about how Metro East can better introduce the Gospel into our surrounding culture. As a pastor I receive a lot of advice from “experts” who tell me if I will just jazz up the worship and tone down the preaching then we will reach “seekers.” This perspective flows from the faulty premise that theater lighting, expensive stage props, and slick videos will somehow be the key to reaching our culture: “Sing songs about human longing and preach to felt needs. Quit boring people with the Bible. That’s the key!” The problem is, the more our worship and preaching mirrors the culture the more we disguise the radical alternative that the Gospel represents. It becomes a kind of bait and switch: “See how cool we are? Being a Christian is fun and impressive! Come to our church, sit back and relax. Oh, by the way, Jesus demands and deserves total allegiance.”

The gospel is not advanced by removing the other-worldly nature of our worship and preaching so that lost people can comprehend every aspect. Indeed, when the church is fortunate enough to host lost persons in their services, they ought to observe the worship of a God who is awesome and holy and they ought to be confronted with preaching that clearly declares the Gospel and the radically counter-cultural claims of Christ. The Gospel does not move into the culture by “worshiptainment.” The Gospel is advanced into the culture when, through transcendent worship, Christian’s hearts and minds have been captivated by a grand vision of a great God and, through careful instruction in the Scriptures, have been equipped for ministry.

So I am asking myself a lot of questions these days. Are our current programs and schedule advancing that end or hindering it? Are our times of worship and instruction in God’s Word making us ready to effectively engage the culture with the Gospel? Is our fellowship charged with a level of encouragement and accountability that helps make each of us grateful ministers of Christ’s Gospel in the city where God has planted us? Will Metro East be a Christian ghetto offering a trivial sub-culture or a true church (a community of called out ones) calling people to God’s transformative counter-culture?

Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan knows a thing or two about the gospel and about how it advances into the culture. Redeemer Presbyterian has planted over 75 churches with a plan to start 200 in the next 20 years. Resources from Dr. Keller and Redeemer are available through this blog site. I would encourage you to check them out.

In one article entitled “Preaching in a Post-Modern City” Keller contrasts the Gospel and ‘Religion.’ I found his words very helpful as I considered the reality that one of the reasons we are not very effective at advancing the Gospel is because we don’t much believe it ourselves. Keller writes:

“The gospel is ‘I am accepted through Christ, therefore I obey’ while every other religion operates on the principle of ‘I obey, therefore I am accepted.’ Martin Luther’s fundamental insight was that this latter principle, the principle of ‘religion’ is the deep default mode of the human heart. The heart continues to work in that way even after conversion to Christ. Though we recognize and embrace the principle of the gospel, our hearts will always be trying to return to the mode of self-salvation, which leads to spiritual deadness, pride and strife and ministry ineffectiveness.
“For example, ministers derive more of their joy and a sense of personal significance from the success of their ministries than from the fact they are loved by God in Christ. Why? Their hearts are still operating on the principle – ‘If I do and accomplish all these things – then I will be accepted.’ In other words, on one level, we believe the Gospel but on another we don’t believe.
“So why do we over-work in ministry and burn out? Yes, we are not practicing the Sabbath principle, but the deeper cause is unbelief in the Gospel! Why are we so devastated by criticism? The person whose self-worth is mainly in his or her ministry performance will be devastated by criticism of the ministry record because that record is our very self and identity. The fundamental problem is unbelief in the Gospel.
“At the root then, of all Christian failures to live right – i.e. not give their money generously, not tell the truth, not care for the poor, not handle worry anxiety – is the sin under all sins, the sin of unbelief, of not rejoicing deeply in God’s grace in Christ, not living out of our new identity in Christ. This means that every week in a different way the minister must apply the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith through Christ’s work. Thus every week the non-Christians get exposed to the Gospel, and in its most practical and varied forms not just in a repetitious ‘Four Spiritual Law’ way. That’s what pragmatic post-moderns need.”

Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

The folks at Fide-O have posted a great reminder (FIDE-O) that the church is awash with false teachers. We must call them what they are. Jeremiah did. The apostle Paul did. Jesus certainly did. These men lead untold thousands into tragic error and harden the hearts of many others who are harmed by their antics. May God purge his church of these charlatans.

Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
Protestants preach because God uses His Word as the means by which He calls together His people under the saving work of Christ. Preaching is the means by which God’s unfolding plan of redemption is declared to all those who have ears to hear. Preaching is a community conditioned activity. That is, it helps avoid the chaos of private interpretation. Preaching helps us remember that Scripture is interpreted in the context of the gathered people of God. There are no lone rangers when it comes to a right interpretation of God’s Word. Faithful preachers will spend hours each week reading good commentaries and researching what the church has historically affirmed about a given text of Scripture. This helps both preacher and hearers to have confidence that what is being preached is not the latest fad or the result of a “newly enlightened” interpretation.

In an article in the March/April issue of Modern Reformation magazine Michael Horton writes:

“The Word of God is not only a canon that regulates our beliefs and practices, but…it is actually alive, accomplishing everything God intends. While upholding the reliability and authority of Scripture, conservative Evangelicalism has tended to reduce God’s Word to a sourcebook for timeless doctrinal and ethical laws, missing the crucial point that the Bible itself underscores from Genesis to Revelation: namely, that God’s speaking is acting, and this acting is not only descriptive but creative. God’s Word is authoritative not only because of what it is (God’s utterance), but because of what it does (God’s utterance).
“The Word of God written and preached is not simply legally authoritative and binding, but is the primary means of grace, through which the Spirit ordinarily creates communion with Christ and therefore the communion of saints: ekklesia. In other words, in this conception, the Word is not merely something that stands over us us. It is also “the implanted word” (James 1:21) that “abides in you” (I John 2:14), and is to “dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16). “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:16).”

Protestants preach because we still believe I Peter 1:23-25:
“You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable see, through the living and enduring Word of God. For ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower fails, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.’ That word is the good news that was announced to you.”

That Word above all earthly pow’rs, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still;
His kingdom is forever.

Posted on Monday, July 30, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

Baptist Press recently reported on an important messgae delivered by Dr. Tom Ascol at the Southern Baptist Founders Conference in late June (Baptist Press - Gospel is focus of SBC unity, Ascol says - News with a Christian Perspective). I would hope all Southern Baptists, indeed all those who call themselves evangelicals would take Dr. Ascol's words to heart.

Posted on Monday, July 30, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

Thank God for the good reverend Spurgeon. Check this out (Pyromaniacs: Encouragement for the "Narrow-Minded Bigot").

Posted on Monday, July 30, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

I have been asked my opinion both on this blog and in other conversations about the recent announcement by Frank Beckwith.

Dr. Francis Beckwith’s conversion, better yet, reversion to Rome was very interesting to me. For those of you who don’t know, Francis Beckwith is a well-known scholar, professor, and president of the Evangelical Theological Society. He resigned his position as president of ETS a few months ago when he declared that he had become a communicant in the Roman Catholic Church, the religion of his childhood.

In the letter explaining his return to the Roman Church Dr. Beckwith writes:
“During the last week of March 2007, after much prayer, counsel and consideration, my wife and I decided to seek full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. My wife, a baptized Presbyterian, is going through the process of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). This will culminate with her receiving the sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation. For me, because I had received the sacraments of Baptism, Communion, and Confirmation all before the age of 14, I need only go to confession, request forgiveness for my sins, ask to be received back into the Church, and receive absolution.”

I am saddened by the language of Dr. Beckwith's letter. This goes to show that smart men can make large errors. How sad it is for a man who once affirmed Sola Scriptura to now embrace a religious system that rejects the sole sufficiency and unique authority of the Bible. What is also tragic is that he has rejected Jesus Christ as the one mediator between God and man and now seeks forgiveness of sins and “absolution” from the Roman Church.

Further on in his letter Beckwith writes:
“The past four months have moved quickly for me and my wife. As you probably know, my work in philosophy, ethics, and theology has always been Catholic friendly, but I would have never predicted that I would return to the Church, for there seemed to me too many theological and ecclesiastical issues that appeared insurmountable. However, in January, at the suggestion of a dear friend, I began reading the Early Church Fathers as well as some of the more sophisticated works on justification by Catholic authors. I became convinced that the Early Church is more Catholic than Protestant and that the Catholic view of justification, correctly understood, is biblically and historically defensible. Even though I also believe that the Reformed view is biblically and historically defensible, I think the Catholic view has more explanatory power to account for both all the biblical texts on justification as well as the church’s historical understanding of salvation prior to the Reformation all the way back to the ancient church of the first few centuries. Moreover, much of what I have taken for granted as a Protestant—e.g., the catholic creeds, the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation, the Christian understanding of man, and the canon of Scripture—is the result of a Church that made judgments about these matters and on which non-Catholics, including Evangelicals, have declared and grounded their Christian orthodoxy in a world hostile to it. Given these considerations, I thought it wise for me to err on the side of the Church with historical and theological continuity with the first generations of Christians that followed Christ’s Apostles.”

Well, we could argue all day about whether or not Rome is a more faithful interpreter of the early church fathers. For now I will say that it is my conviction that the Protestant Reformers were far more faithful to the likes of Athanasius and Augustine than were leaders of the Roman Church during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. However, what is most important is that the Protestant Reformers were faithful to the Scriptures. As much as they respected Augustine, for instance, the Reformers would always side with Scripture over any man, or council, or tradition. This is one of the most, if not THE most important dividing line between Protestants and Catholics. If we cannot agree on the sole authority and sufficiency of Scripture then we can agree on little else. I am also astonished by his language that he has chosen “to err” on the side of Rome.

Dr. Beckwith posted some 300 email responses to his reversion on his webpage. One, from Dr. Dale Davis said:
Dr. Beckwith,
I find it very sad you've chosen to "err on the side of the Church with historical and theological continuity with the first generations of Christians" instead of staying with the Christians who are the most faithful to the very first generation of Christians, the authors of the New Testament.
The more I've studied the history of the Reformation, the more I am thankful for the work of the Reformers--rejected, excommunicated and utterly repudiated by your Church, if not burned alive.
May you influence the Church of the Bishop of Rome for the Gospel--and help reform that body.
Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus, Sola Gracia, Sola Fide, Soli Deo Gloria!

I am glad that Dr. Beckwith stepped down from his position with the ETS. With the blurring of lines these days it would not have shocked me if he and others saw no problem with a Roman Catholic leading an evangelical organization. Anyway, in that case at least, he did the right thing.

Posted on Friday, July 27, 2007 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

I agree with Bernard Goldberg who named Paris Hilton’s parents among the people who are ruining America. His point is that the impact of parents upon their children is beyond calculation. Where were they when young Paris needed to learn that life was about more than money and Gucci and parties? It makes one wonder how parents who had the means to raise their daughter with the best advantages could produce, and continue to finance a young woman who is so inconsequential and narcissistic. Nevertheless, the continuing media saga that is Paris Hilton can give us a moment to ponder our lives and what kind of legacy we are leaving to the world.

The following is a letter to the editor in this month’s National Review magazine:

“If [Paris] does slide alone into the dark night like Willy Loman, it is worth remembering that all but a few of us will find our rest in relative obscurity, without a Nobel prize or world-changing company to our name. It isn’t how Paris will die, but how she can afford to be “utterly pointless” during her life, that so fascinates us. In a broader sense, because she represents a cultural evolution affecting a growing portion of America, she is very instructive.
“The affluence of American society has shifted more and more people away from a ‘work is life, life is work’ ethos. Some choose pointlessness: drugs, liquor, and sex. Others adopt ‘religions,’ be they health and dieting, global warming, Darfur, etc. Some, out of boredom, contrive crazy adventures full of risk. Is this all there is to life, we ask?
“At the heart of it all remains our uncertainty about meaning in life. Are there things that possess meaning and purpose external to our assigning them meaning and purpose? In other words, are there things assigned meaning and order by God?
“In an age when Americans are rightfully fascinated by Paris Hilton – though they may not know why – the meaning of meaning is obscure. It is the frustrating yet beautiful question we all must ask and hope to answer. I am inclined more often than not to believe that only God could have created a being who asks such questions.”