Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Theology of the Theoborg

Today's post will be brief. I want to share with you the following analysis of today's culture by Dr. James Eckman, Professor of Theology, Ethics and History at Grace University in Omaha, Nebraska (he's also the president of the university). In my view, it is spot on:

Today, the norm of human behavior is determined through statistical studies, like the highly dubious Kinsey Report on human sexuality. Behavior that the Bible condemns (e.g., homosexuality, adultery) is practiced widely, statistical analysis demonstrates. Therefore, since this behavior is widely practiced, that becomes society’s norm and therefore its ethical standard. Ethics becomes a relativistic, floating set of patterns which determines our duty and obligation. Nothing is absolute and nothing is forever. That which the culture thought was nailed down is not. It is as fluid as a changing river. The Bible will have none of this.

As a concluding note to this excellent summation by Dr. Eckman, isn't it sad that many in the church are adopting this unbiblical mindset and trying to put Christian clothes on it?

I am thinking that, from now on, I will have to find a different way of referencing the Emergent Church movement. How about the "Theoborgs?" If you are a Trekkie, you will know about the Borg, a machine/organic entity that assimilates, morphs and adapts with whatever it encounters in a never ending lust for technology. A Theoborg does the same thing with theology in a never ending lust for what it thinks is spirituality. (Generous Orthodoxy, anyone?)

"We are the Theoborg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile."

No it's not.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Open Letter to Fox News

This will be short and to the point.

I admire the way you all try to get both sides of the aisle in your hard news coverage. It's about time. But, as the Lord Jesus told a few churches in the book of Revelation...."I have something against you."

1. Your coverage has too much of a tabloid feel about it of late. Anna Nicole Smith 24x7. Enough. Please. She's dead. Her son is dead. Tragic, but they're both dead. Bury the story too. Now.

2. It does little good for your flagship programs to decry the increasing "sluttiness" of girls, Spring Break behavior and prurience in general, and then show in a running loop - over and over again - the sleazy footage of girls and guys wearing floss bikinis, doing pelvic thrusts, gyrations and grinds against each other, flashing their breasts (even though blurred) ad nauseum. You can get the point across without having to take the cap off the cesspool. It comes across as very hypocritical. Is it so much that you're trying to illustrate the story and show what's happening, or is the desire more prurient and envelope-pushing than that? You have your host/guests decry the sleaze while showing it in the background. Sex sells after all. Unfortunately, if we want to watch the news with our children to teach them about what's going on in news, you have to hand them a blindfold before the news comes on. The news shouldn't have to carry an R rating.

3. I used to watch all evening beginning with Brit Hume and ending with Greta. But more and more, you all pick a story like Anna Nicole (who gives a rip?) and stay on it like gum on your shoe. Over and over and over Over and over and over Over and over and over Over and over and over Over and over and over. It was said once that the shows cover the story through different perspectives, but in reality, nothing new is really said. Anna Nicole is a bottom story if even that. There is nothing to justify the coverage it got.

4. Please tell me why a shooting in Dallas, Texas, is news in Chicago? Why is a rape in San Francisco news in New York? Why is a kitchen fire in Tuscaloosa news in Minot? Why is a car chase on the 405 freeway national news? I'll never forget Shepard Smith taking almost the whole of the Fox Report for a stupid car chase. An entire newscast wasted when there were really important events going on around the world. I ended up turning the channel because I was tired of watching tail lights and the same, endless loop over and over and over again. (BTW..get new footage of the Iran nuclear lab, too. I've got the yellow fire and guy in the gas mask memorized)

You guys and gals at Fox have a great concept. You've become leaders for a reason, and the tabloidish aspect of your coverage only detracts from the things you all do right. Eliminate the sleaze and the irrelevant, and you'll have something of which to be truly proud.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Fosdick Fumble

While paging through Dr. Richard Holland's excellent article, Progressional Dialogue and Preaching: Are They the Same?, I read the following quote from the late Harry Emerson Fosdick, which was taken from an article he had published in Harper's Magazine in 1928. To put it mildly, it's a jawdropper:

Many preachers . . . indulge habitually in what they call expository sermons. They take a passage from Scripture and, proceeding on the assumption that the people attending church that morning are deeply concerned about what the passage means, they spend their half hour or more on historical exposition of the verse or chapter, ending with some appended practical application to the auditors. Could any procedure be more surely predestined to dullness or futility? Who seriously supposes that, as a matter of fact, one in a hundred of the congregations cares, to start with, what Moses, Isaiah, Paul, or John meant in those special verses, or came to church deeply concerned about it? Nobody else who talks to the public so assumes that the vital interests of the people are located in the meaning of words spoken 2,000 years ago.

Oh, my. Where to begin? I guess my first question is why are these beknighted people even sitting in church listening to a sermon? If they didn't come to worship God or to be taught from His Word, just why did they come? We can only imagine.

It's interesting that Fosdick (more than likely a resident of Hell at the moment) is a rather admired fellow in some Emergent Church circles. Perhaps the circles Fosdick frequented didn't much care for expositing Scripture. Judging from the quote above, it doesn't sound like they had much use for Scripture period. However, most Christians I have known in my life have cared very deeply about the Word of God, and yes, its meaning. The age of the words matters little. You don't argue against the truth of an idea based on how old it is. That's arguing by the clock and is fallacious. But that's a minor point.

Given that the Word of God contains information relating to the eternal destiny of every man, woman and child on the planet, I think I can safely say that's a vital interest. Whether they are interested or not is another question. Their interest, or lack of it, will not change their peril one iota. If they are not interested in God's Word, they are not interested in God Himself.

It's funny that Fosdick would use the term "predestined." If he actually had spent time reading and pondering the Scriptures he so disdains, he might have learned that the Holy Spirit acts through the proclamation of His Word. No one can come to God unless he or she is being drawn by the Holy Spirit. And all that the Father has given the Son will come to Him, and all who come to Him He will in no wise cast out. (I won't give you the Scripture references here. I'd rather you did the digging)

I'll tell you what I find most inspiring and moving. Contrast Fosdick's dismissive attitude of the Bible with that of King Josiah in 2 Kings 22:

Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan who read it. Shaphan the scribe came to the king and brought back word to the king and said, “Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the LORD.” Moreover, Shaphan the scribe told the king saying, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it in the presence of the king. When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes.

The Word of God had been long neglected in Israel at this point. When good King Josiah heard the words being read, he reacted as anyone who loved the Lord would have reacted at that time. Immediate sorrow, fear and repentance, knowing that the nation had abandoned the law that God had given them. Other Old Testament passages reveal the attitude God's people are to have toward His Word, both spoken and written. Isaiah 66 tells us that God looks toward people who tremble at His Word. The Lord told the prophet Jeremiah that He watches over His Word to perform it. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Now let's look at the New Testament. While there are numerous passages we could examine here as well, I think the example in Acts 17 of the Bereans is instructive:

Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.

True Christians (by that I mean those who have believed that Jesus Christ died on the cross for their sins and rose again from the dead for their justification, and who are regenerate by the power of the Holy Spirit) love the Word of God. True Christians long to have the Word of God hidden in their hearts that they might not sin against the Lord. True Christians revere Scripture as God's written revelation to mankind.

I think those in the Emergent movement who are drinking on Fosdick's dime are drinking from a poisoned well. Rest assured, Fosdick himself knows that quite well now.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Legendary Stupidity of PETA

It looks like the radical animal-rights group, PETA, is at it again with one of their offensive stunts. The link below will take you to the story, and while I am sure some will be incensed, I am afraid I have to take the tack of the Lord Himself in Psalm 2, and laugh in derision at these clowns. Their ignorance if not stupidity - as well as outright hypocrisy - is quickly approaching mythic status.

They are trying to convince us all that the Lord Jesus would be a vegetarian, ergo, so should the rest of humanity. They're using a creche-like display of the Last Supper, and joining the Lord for his vegan meal are Sir Paul McCartney and a host of other famous veggie chompers (You'd think Sir Paul would have learned something the last time the late John Lennon waxed eloquent about Jesus). Narrating the PETA lecture is Alec Baldwin (who else?)

First, Jesus was never, EVER, a vegetarian. Even a cursory read of the New Testament will reveal that little fact. Aside from Him broiling (and eating) fish after His resurrection, the Passover itself involves eating meat. Any observant Jew (as Jesus was) would participate. Any historian worth his matzoh would tell you that, and you don't even need a doctorate in biblical studies to find it out.

Really, PETA has already taken a pretty good shot in the jaw in the credibility department. It was recently revealed how many animals they kill in the name of being "humane." Did you hear the one about the cute little polar bear in Germany? Animal "rights' wackos similar to the PETA crowd wanted to kill the fluffy little cub rather than allow him to suffer the disgrace of being lovingly raised by his human keepers. Thankfully, the German public had more humanity and better sense.

PETA really ought to begin to wake up and smell the prime rib. These infantile little stunts are offensive at their core, and do nothing to advance their cause despite the propaganda and the quotes from the gullible. In fact, even writing this post has given me a pretty powerful hankering for a Porterhouse.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Calling All Contributors - A "Sola" Contest

Ok, my fellow evangelicals. How about a bit of creative fun?

This blog is called "The Seventh Sola." (Please don't ask me to explain it again. You can hunt for it in the archives.) While telling a colleague about my blog, we began ruminating on the actual five Solas, which are the clarion calls of the Reformation. For review, they are:

1. Sola Fide (Faith Alone)

2. Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)

3. Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)

4. Solus Christus (Christ Alone)

5. Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone be the Glory)

Here's the quasi-contest. If you were going to add two "Solas" to the list to make a total of seven, what would you choose? My friend suggested "Sola Veritas," or "Truth Alone," for one of them, which I think is a distinct, strong possibility. But I am open to suggestions. All suggestions need to keep in with the running theme of the original five, and in the spirit of the Reformation. I'll leave this open for a few days just to see what you can come up with.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Global Warming and a President

It's not often when I will post an article written by a head of state, but this piece by Czech president Vaclav Klaus is worth reading. It was written in response to Algore's "the sky is falling" hysteria, which gets all the media attention. I think he is spot on in his analysis of how this is the new "crisis" to further the aims of globalism. Thanks to WorldNetDaily for posting it.


Concerning mankind's contribution to climate change and in keeping with obligations towards the welfare of our citizens: what, in your view, should policymakers consider when addressing climate change?

The – so called – climate change and especially man-made climate change has become one of the most dangerous arguments aimed at distorting human efforts and public policies in the whole world.

My ambition is not to bring additional arguments to the scientific climatological debate about this phenomenon. I am convinced, however, that up to now this scientific debate has not been deep and serious enough and has not provided sufficient basis for the policymakers' reaction. What I am really concerned about is the way the environmental topics have been misused by certain political pressure groups to attack fundamental principles underlying free society. It becomes evident that while discussing climate we are not witnessing a clash of views about the environment but a clash of views about human freedom.

As someone who lived under communism for most of my life I feel obliged to say that the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity at the beginning of the 21st century is not communism or its various softer variants. Communism was replaced by the threat of ambitious environmentalism. This ideology preaches earth and nature and under the slogans of their protection – similarly to the old Marxists – wants to replace the free and spontaneous evolution of mankind by a sort of central (now global) planning of the whole world.

The environmentalists consider their ideas and arguments to be an undisputable truth and use sophisticated methods of media manipulation and PR campaigns to exert pressure on policymakers to achieve their goals. Their argumentation is based on the spreading of fear and panic by declaring the future of the world to be under serious threat. In such an atmosphere they continue pushing policymakers to adopt illiberal measures, impose arbitrary limits, regulations, prohibitions, and restrictions on everyday human activities and make people subject to omnipotent bureaucratic decision-making. To use the words of Friedrich Hayek, they try to stop free, spontaneous human action and replace it by their own, very doubtful human design.

The environmentalist paradigm of thinking is absolutely static. They neglect the fact that both nature and human society are in a process of permanent change, that there is and has been no ideal state of the world as regards natural conditions, climate, distribution of species on earth, etc. They neglect the fact that the climate has been changing fundamentally throughout the existence of our planet and that there are proofs of substantial climate fluctuations even in known and documented history. Their reasoning is based on historically short and incomplete observations and data series which cannot justify the catastrophic conclusions they draw. They neglect the complexity of factors that determine the evolution of the climate and blame contemporary mankind and the whole industrial civilization for being the decisive factors responsible for climate change and other environmental risks.

By concentrating on the human contribution to the climate change the environmentalists ask for immediate political action based on limiting economic growth, consumption, or human behavior they consider hazardous. They do not believe in the future economic expansion of the society, they ignore the technological progress the future generations will enjoy, and they ignore the proven fact that the higher the wealth of society is, the higher is the quality of the environment.

The policymakers are pushed to follow this media-driven hysteria based on speculative and hard evidence lacking theories, and to adopt enormously costly programs which would waste scarce resources in order to stop the probably unstoppable climate changes, caused not by human behavior but by various exogenous and endogenous natural processes (such as fluctuating solar activity).

My answer to your first question, i.e. what should policymakers consider when addressing climate change, is that policymakers should under all circumstances stick to the principles free society is based on, that they should not transfer the right to choose and decide from the people to any advocacy group claiming that it knows better than the rest of the people what is good for them. Policymakers should protect taxpayers' money and avoid wasting it on doubtful projects which cannot bring positive results.

How should policies address the rate and consequences of climate change and to what extent should regulation of emissions of greenhouse gases be a focus of any such policies?

Policies should realistically evaluate the potential our civilization has, as compared with the power of natural forces influencing climate. It is an evident waste of society's resources to try to combat an increase of solar activity or the movement of ocean currents. No government action can stop the world and nature from changing. Therefore, I disagree with plans such as the Kyoto Protocol or similar initiatives, which set arbitrary targets requiring enormous costs without realistic prospects for the success of these measures.

If we accept global warming as a real phenomenon, I believe we should address it in an absolutely different way. Instead of hopeless attempts to fight it, we should prepare ourselves for its consequences. If the atmosphere warms up, the effects do not have to be predominantly negative. While some deserts may get larger and some ocean shores flooded, enormous parts of the earth – up until now empty because of their severe, cold climate – may become fertile areas able to accommodate millions of people. It is also important to realize that no planetary change comes overnight.

Therefore, I warn against adopting regulations based on the so- called precautionary principle which the environmentalists use to justify their recommendations, the clear benefit of which they are not able to prove. Responsible politics should take into account the opportunity costs of such proposals and be aware of the fact that the wasteful environmentalist policies are adopted to the detriment of other policies, thus neglecting many other important needs of millions of people all over the world. Each policy measure must be based on a cost- benefit analysis.

Mankind has already accumulated tragic experience with one very proud intellectual stream that claimed that it knew how to manage society better that spontaneous market forces. It was communism and it failed, leaving behind millions of victims. Now, a new -ism has emerged that claims to be able to manage even nature and, through it, people. This excessive human pride – just as the previous attempts – cannot but fail. The world is a complex and complicated system that cannot be organized according to an environmentalist human design, without repeating the tragic experience of wasting resources, suppressing people's freedom, and destroying the prosperity of the whole human society.

My recommendation, therefore, is to pay attention to the thousands of small things that negatively influence the quality of the environment. And to protect and foster fundamental systemic factors without which the economy and society cannot operate efficiently – i.e. to guarantee human freedom and basic economic principles such as the free market, a functioning price system and clearly defined ownership rights. They motivate economic agents to behave rationally. Without them, no policies can protect either the citizens or the environment.

Policymakers should resist environmentalist calls for new policies because there are too many uncertainties in scientific debates on climate change. It is impossible to control natural factors causing climate change. The negative impact of the proposed regulation on economic growth is to the detriment of all other possible risks, including the environmental ones.

What will be the effect on national economies, consumer well-being, job creation, and future innovation under various climate change policy scenarios that have come to your attention?

If the policymakers accept the maximalistic environmental demands, the effects on national economies will be devastating. It would stimulate some, very small parts of the economy while leaving a bigger part of it choked by artificial limits, regulations, and restrictions. The rate of growth would decline and the competitiveness of the firms on international markets would be seriously affected. It would have a negative impact on employment and job creation. Only rational policies, making spontaneous adjustments possible, can justify government intervention.

What impact and effectiveness will so-called cap-and-trade policies have upon the reduction of climate change threats and our ability to address these threats in the future?

Cap-and-trade policies are a technical tool to achieve pollution reduction goals by more market compatible means. They can help if the general idea behind the scheme is rational. I do not believe the whole idea to combat climate change by emission limits is rational and I, therefore, consider the technicalities of its eventual implementation to be of secondary importance.

What is the moral obligation of developed countries to the developing countries of the world? Should developed countries embark on large emissions reduction schemes while developing countries are allowed to continue to increase emissions unabated?

The moral obligation of developed countries to the developing countries is to create such an environment which guarantees free exchange of goods, services, and capital flows, enables utilization of comparative advantages of individual countries and thus stimulates economic development of the less developed countries. Artificial administrative barriers, limits and regulations imposed by developed countries discriminate the developing world, affect its economic growth, and prolong poverty and underdevelopment. The environmentalist proposals are an exact example of such illiberal policies that are so harmful for the developing countries. They will not be able to cope with the limits and standards imposed on the world by irrational environmental policies, they will not be able to absorb new technological standards required by the anti-greenhouse religion, their products will have difficult access to the developed markets, and as a result the gap between them and the developed world will widen.

It is an illusion to believe that severe anti-climate change policies could be limited to developed countries only. If the policies of the environmentalists are adopted by developed countries, sooner or later their ambitions to control and manage the whole planet will spread the emissions reduction requirements worldwide. The developing countries will be forced to accept irrational targets and limitations because "earth is first" and their needs are secondary. The environmentalist argumentation gives ammunition to protectionists of all colors who try to eliminate competition coming from newly industrialized countries. Therefore, the moral obligation of the developed countries is not to introduce large emissions reduction schemes.

Václav Klaus, March 19th, 2007

Monday, March 19, 2007

Shepherd's Conference Journal - Dr. Steven Lawson

This entry will conclude my notes from the 2007 Shepherd's Conference at Grace Community Church in California (March 7-11). The speaker at this session was Dr. Steven Lawson, and his subject was the recovery of apostolic-type preaching in the church.

In explanation, Dr. Lawson shared how there was once "thunder" as expositors preached from the Word of God. He sees two dangers going on today. First, there has been a wholesale devaluation of preaching in the church. Rather than solid exposition of God’s Word and biblical theology, we have entertainment and theatrics. The second danger is that preaching can be doctrinally or biblically correct, yet lifeless. A lecture with precision, but without power. Light without heat. Dead preaching toward dead sinners. And that danger can be even more subtle. It ranks up there with a congregation (and pastor) who believe yet have become listless.

Steve pointed out that there are 19 sermons or defenses in the book of Acts. Twenty-five percent of them are devoted to recording apostolic preaching. How important it is – apostolic expository preaching, and bringing back the thunder! There are four marks of it:

1. Bold, authoritative preaching.

When you examine Peter’s first sermon in Acts, it mentions that he “took his stand” with the other apostles. Look at the Greek interpretation of “taking stand.” Each word shows the manner of Peter’s sermon. You need to show that you really believe what you are preaching, demanding to be heard. (Dr. Lawson was quick to point out that this didn’t necessarily mean screaming) Preachers need to quit hedging and saying that Scripture “seems” to say something. What does God say it IS? (Sola’s aside – that is certainly anathema to the Emergent Church. They don’t like authoritative anything. It’s not conversational)

Dr. Lawson went on to encourage the pastors to “stand firm, act like men, be strong!” He said there are too many pastors out there who are tripping over their pantyhose, beaten down by the feminization of the church and of society. He cited the late Dr. Adrian Rogers who said, “No one wants to kill preachers anymore.”

2. Text-driven preaching.

It’s the authority of Scripture of which we are preaching and upholding. Being expositors. Examine anew how the New Testament writers cite Old Testament Scripture repeatedly. Peter, James, the Lord Jesus, Paul etc. In the Old Testament, look at how Ezra handled the long-neglected Word of God. Exposition begins with reading the Word, recognizing that it is God Himself who is speaking through it.

The final two marks are Christ centered preaching and heart piercing preaching, but for time's sake I (Solameanie) must abridge. The need to center on Christ ought to be a given, and the piercing of the heart is done by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Dr. Lawson then went into the practice of exposition itself, again looking at Peter’s sermon. Acts 2:21 speaks of how “all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” It’s the result of Scripture being proclaimed. After Scripture is read, explain it. That is the meaning of exposition. In verse 22, Peter begins to explain and he points right back to Christ. You consider the context, the language, the meaning to the original hearers. Communicating the Gospel and preaching with precision. Leaving NO room for any misunderstanding. You support your text by cross references. Peter shows us a pattern, and shows the counsel of God has clarity and authority. (Sola’s aside - Yes, my postmodern friends..CLARITY AND AUTHORITY) Verse 27 shows an intertrinitarian conversation. A good expositor will then follow up by expressing his own conviction forcefully. He will synthesize the text, boiling it down and driving home the bottom line conclusion.

Dr. Lawson concluded by adding a fifth mark- that of application. It’s vital and is the crescendo of the sermon, given in the imperative voice. Verse 37 of Acts 2 asks the question, “What shall we do?” Preaching must be directional for both the sinner and the saint. “This is what God requires of you.”

As I wrap up this series of posts, let me say again how much I enjoyed my time among these fine pastors and Bible scholars. And a big thank-you in the Lord to Dr. John MacArthur and the congregation of Grace Community Church. I trust more than 3,500 pastors, teachers, and layleaders went home as blessed and encouraged as I did. And remember, be sure to visit the Shepherd's Conference website, where you can actually get CDs or MP3s of all messages given there. Here is a link:

Shepherd's Conference

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Abortion and the Antichrist

I haven't seen the movie "The Omen" in 25 years, at least. It was, to put it kindly, a butchering of the prophecies of the End Times. However, watching it tonight gave me a bit of an insight into how diabolical the enemy is.

You wouldn't think that The Omen would be a pro-abortion movie, three years after the 1973 Roe Vs. Wade ruling of the Supreme Court that legalized abortion. But it is. When Lee Remick's character became pregnant by movie husband Gregory Peck, the idea was that the Antichrist child - played by Harvey Stephens - would kill his adoptive mother and the unborn child who would stand in the way of his unholy rule in the future. So, Gregory Peck's character was advised to have his wife abort the child, and Remick's character actually asked for the abortion. The unspoken thing was..let's kill this unborn child for the greater good.

Sick. Really sick. All the more so as it used end-times prophecy to try and justify an evil.

Think about it.

Friday, March 16, 2007

An Interview with Pat Boone

For a brief break from my Shepherd's Conference Journal, I am posting this interview with Pat Boone done by the Interim Newspaper and Look especially at what Pat says about the state of entertainment, especially in the United States. I think he is spot on in his assessment.


Pat Boone: Still letting his light shine defending life and family
Says, "We have a lot of educated fools in important positions, particularly in education, media and some in government"
ByTony Gosgnach
Assistant Editor, The Interim Newspaper
As published in the March 2007 edition of The Interim

March 15, 2007 ( - Pat Boone is a descendant of the legendary U.S. pioneer Daniel Boone. He has been a top-selling recording artist, the star of his own hit TV series, a movie star, a Broadway headliner and a best-selling author in a career that has spanned half a century. During the classic rock and roll era of the 1950s, he sold more records than any artist except Elvis Presley.

Now 72, Boone continues to be a beacon for moral values in the entertainment industry. He is also a regular columnist for the leading internet news site, commenting on important issues such as marriage, evolution, the de-Christianization of Christmas and more.

The Interim recently arranged for this exclusive interview with Boone by telephone, in which we asked him about his latest endeavours, his thoughts on the moral decline in North America and what he believes the role of the arts should be in fostering a healthy society.

More information on Boone can be found at his websites:, and

The Interim: What are your latest projects; what have you been up to lately?

Pat Boone: I’ve got a brand new book called Pat Boone’s America: 50 Years. It’s a memoir, a big table-top kind of book with pictures, a lot of surprises, a whole account of my career, life and interaction with kings, presidents, Presleys and Eldridge Cleaver (laughs) and all kinds of people. It’s also a look at our society, our culture, and the way it has changed in the last 50 years – technologically, in some ways, very good, promising, helpful. In other ways, not good. I talk about the spiritual, moral climate that we’re all living in and that has changed so dramatically in the last 50 years, maybe more than many people realize.

And then there’s two or three new albums – one is of R and B classics with the original performers; new versions of their classics that we do together. Like James Brown and Earth, Wind and Fire. Smokey Robinson and the Four Tops. Sister Sledge and Kool and the Gang. And on and on. Great songs and very good new versions of those hits. I’ve written a song about our National Guard, For My Country, the ballad of the National Guard (for) the volunteer men and women who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and stationed in Korea and other places around the world. Because we face an enemy who does not wear uniforms and isn’t restricted by national boundaries. There’s a plethora of stuff I had the opportunity and felt the need to do.

The Interim: I wanted to hone in especially on what you said about what’s been happening the past 50 years. We’re certainly seeing a huge moral decline in the West and, as you might know, in Canada we’ve already legalized same-sex “marriage.” I’m wondering why you think we’ve descended to this point and what can we do to try to turn things around.

Pat Boone: That’s a great question and one I ponder all the time. The main thing is – I read through the Bible every year from beginning to end in a programmed way … Today, I read in Proverbs, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” We have a lot of educated fools in important positions, particularly in education, media and some in government. They think they are so wise and they are determined to be “progressive” and to liberate society from these notions of there being a God to whom we are responsible. To a great extent, they’re succeeding.

As you take God out of school in our country, forbid children to have even a voluntary general-type prayer at the beginning of the day, take the 10 Commandments off any type of public display, keep on removing any mention or notion of God and responsibility, then of course we find ourselves living in a society where there aren’t any hard and fast rules, no absolutes, everything relative and changing, one man’s opinion is as good as anyone else’s … It becomes sort of a moral anarchy. That’s what we’re seeing …

I think there is only one answer … “Read the directions” … We won’t ask directions … We just keep coasting along, doing what we think we want to do, what we think will gratify us, getting worse and more and more lost and messed up. The only answer is to get out the manufacturer’s handbook and read the directions. The Creator who put it all together and knows how it works will instruct us. But if we think we can muddy along on our own, we’ll just get more and more lost.

The Interim: You’re known for having refused music and movie roles in the past that conflicted with your morals and principles. What role do you think the arts can play in terms of a revival?

Pat Boone: With every freedom comes a responsibility. Unless those freedoms are exercised with a sense of responsibility, they becomes licences – the illicit freedom to do whatever you want and feel like … That’s what’s happening with so much of entertainment, music and everything else. It becomes more and more depraved, debauched, violent, sordid, dark, hedonistic … I think any healthy society must censor to survive … Art should be limited in the same ways. We’ve had decency and obscenity laws in the past … Now, all the limits and all of that are just disappearing. We’re letting it happen. I’m not sure the citizenry will ever gather the gumption to say, “Wait a minute. We’re going to impose some limitations. We don’t want our kids buried under profanity, obscenity, filth, immorality. We’re insisting that we have some guidelines.” That may sound prudish to some; okay, let it be.

Our great American philosopher Ben Franklin said a long time ago … “Only a moral and virtuous people are capable of freedom.” The more corrupt and vicious a society becomes, the more it has need of masters. I chew on that and think about it a lot … Otherwise, freedom becomes licence, anarchy and eventually the society collapses.

The Interim: The Christian music market has grown exponentially in recent years. Do you see that as a positive development?

Pat Boone: Yes, of course. I’ve been involved in Christian, gospel music for my whole career. I had the first million-selling gospel album. It’s called Hymns We Love … I’m now in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame … I do it because I enjoy it and because it is a positive influence and reflection of a vibrant and real spiritual life and recognition, acknowledgement and gratitude to a God who cares about us. You sure don’t get much of that in the pop world.

It bugs me no end when, at awards shows, some rapper whose records are filled with sexual innuendo and even admonitions to violence and sexual braggadocio, gets an award and thanks “my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” They wear a cross and are thanking God. I can almost hear God from heaven saying, “Look, I had nothing to do with that. Don’t attach my name to that filth and decadence …”

I want to let people know about a place where people can sort of link arms and say, “Wait a minute. We are concerned.” We do recognize what’s going on here and if we’re going to retain a society we inherited and try to pass it on to our kids and grandkids, we’re going to have to defend it. We’re going to have to make some personal insistences and demands on behaviour. That’s not easy. It’s not easy. It’s unpopular.

For an entertainer like me, you can be labelled a prude, a religious whacko or whatever. But I’m not. I’m a Columbia University graduate and know what’s going on in the world. But I don’t like a lot of what I see because I care about my kids’, grandkids’ and our two nations’ futures.

The Interim: We appreciate your being a positive influence in the entertainment industry and wish you all the best in the coming years as you continue.

Pat Boone: I thank you and I’m sure glad you’re where you are, shining a little light!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Shepherd's Conference Journal - Dr. Ligon Duncan Pt 2

Dr. Duncan's message on the book of Numbers was really thought provoking. As with the earlier entries, this is a skim-summary, and I recommend getting the CD or MP3 of the message to help tie it all together.

Beginning in Numbers 5, he illustrated how tensions and infidelity, or fear of it, defiled the camp of God's people. Physical impurity required removal from the camp. Failure to do so calls into question God's holiness and character. Impurity was a potential danger to the camp and to their lives. There is also a lesson that can be drawn from physical infections when considering this subject.

There is also a great lesson in teaching what God is like, holy and present. There are requirements to dwell near Him i.e. holiness and purity. Also great foreshadowings of the grace and mercy we have in Christ. Verses 11-31 have lessons in the marital example. There was an adultery test, from which several things can be drawn (Ligon said that he preached a sermon about this on Valentine's Day!).

1. Other cultures had "trials of ordeal." The trial in this passage of Scripture was nothing like these other cultures, and shows that God's ways are just and wise, even when they're strange. Other cultures were cruel and perverted this concept. Here, there was no "magic" involved - but God's Word was effective. The test was physically safe, controlled and public. Adultery defiles the camp. Belief and behavior go together. God insists that we cannot love Him and live like pagans. We need to live like disciples.

2. Sexual purity matters to the whole people of God. There is an echo of this in Matthew 18 as far as sin is concerned. "Tell it to the church" if there is no repentance.

3. There is a pictured, self-maladictory oath here. You call down judgment on yourself. The dust of the tabernacle floor was considered holy ground - compare with the presence of Christ. In Sinai, they drank the dust of the golden calf - a reminder of the judgment of God. Hypocrisy is condemned. Look at Genesis 15 and the dead animals. The slaughter represented consequences of broken covenant. Facing barrenness, etc. Truthfulness and repentance of the guilty required.

4. Learning the sacredness of marriage. Infidelity is incompatable with being in the camp. The marriage picture is a picture of the relationship between God and His people. The Gospel is lived out in marriage, and marriage is a picture of the Gospel.

5. Pastors should NEVER neglect their marriage problems. If they do, nothing else they do matters. This principle can be seen in the New Testament as well. The only way out is tangible repentance that results in a changed life.

Verses 23-24 point to the atoning work of Christ. Luke picks up on Numbers 5, with the examples of the leper, the woman with the issue of blood, the dead girl, etc.

Dr. Duncan also spoke of communion and the example we have there in discerning the body rightly. If we do not discern the body rightly and partake of communion in the proper manner, we eat and drink judgment. Jesus drank our cup down to the dregs, and we must keep that foremost in mind.

Next to come . . . Dr. Steven Lawson and the power of apostolic preaching.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Shepherd's Conference Journal - Dr. Ligon Duncan

In beginning his keynote address to the 3,000-plus in attendance, Dr. Duncan said at the outset that preaching from the book of Numbers might seem an odd choice. However, Numbers is in the Bible for a reason, and there are riches to be mined there.

On the surface, Numbers is a difficult book. Not only lots of history and lists, but also lots of grumbling and sadness. Despite this, there are blessings galore in Numbers. If you need history, this is like none you've ever read. God in essence saying to Moses, "These are your people. Learn." We see people behaving very badly with pride at the root of it all. Our lives are spent dealing with people behaving very badly. In Numbers, there is an underlying logic to all its sections - all has a purpose for being recorded. Moses drives home the truth. For comparison, look at 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 and know that this is recorded in Exodus or Numbers. Paul's points are drawn from Numbers. There are nine things to note from Numbers:

1. Events that took place in the wilderness were examples for us.

2. Events recorded are moral warnings to us.

3. All of the events recorded with Israel are examples for us, and it ought to be sobering.

4. Numbers' events provide exhortations for Christians.

5. Paul specifically shows how things apply to New Testament believers in four areas - don't engage in idolatry, don't be immoral, don't presume to test God, and don't grumble. Ligon expounded a bit on each of these areas, not recorded here for time purposes. Showing APPLICATION.

6. Written down for Christians' instruction.

7. Don't think you can't fall in sin like Israel did.

8. Learn from Israel's temptation and failure to escape our own.

9. Paul makes it clear that Christ is in the middle of the story. It's all ultimately about Him.

Dr. Duncan then recalled the Welsh poet William Williams, whose hymn "Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah" is a meditation on the book of Numbers.

The next post will conclude Dr. Duncan's message and will illustrate the grand themes that can be extracted from numbers. Hint - sin in the camp causes all sorts of problems. Nasty ones.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Educating Hugh Hewitt about Christianity and Mitt Romney

I haven't forgotten about finishing my Shepherd's Conference posts, but this little news item begs comment. Since returning home, I've seen commentator Hugh Hewitt cheerleading for Mitt Romney on Fox News. He's taken to defending Romney's candidacy, saying that Romney's Mormonism shouldn't be a factor in people's vote. Well, that might be all well and good, but Hewitt doesn't stop there. He has taken to slamming evangelicals for their stance on Mormonism, calling it "bigoted." He especially doesn't like it that evangelicals consider Mormonism a cult. Mr. Hewitt obviously needs a refresher course on Mormonism AND biblical Christianity. He admits that some Mormon beliefs are not compatable with mainstream Christianity. That is putting it mildly.

The Bible does not teach, nor do biblical Christians believe, that Jesus is the spirit brother of Lucifer. The Bible does not teach, nor do biblical Christians believe, that we will become gods and create our own planets. The Bible does not teach, nor do biblical Christians believe (not to mention archeology and history) that Jesus came to the Western Hemisphere to preach the Gospel. Mormonism is NOT Christianity. It is indeed a cult, albeit a big one. The Jesus of Mormonism is not the biblical Jesus, and believing Mormon theology will ensure your separation from God in eternity. That is not bigoted, Mr. Hewitt. That is biblical truth, and it is orthodox Christian theology.

I think it's high time that evangelicals stop being so lily-livered and begin responding to these increasing attempts to marginalize us and redefine our faith for us.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Shepherds' Conference Journal - Phil Johnson Part 2

Well, I have to head for home tomorrow. But that will not be the end of entries from the Shepherd's Conference. Simply too much material to post in one sitting. This is part two of my notes from Phil Johnson's seminar on the impact of postmodernism on the culture and the church.

We left off where Phil was discussing Scot McKnight's review of a book by Spencer Burke, "A Heretic's Guide to Eternity." (Sola's aside - now THAT"s a title. Unfortunately, it's quite accurate.) Phil aptly described Burke as a heretic, and it's no accident that his book has Emergent guru Brian McLaren as the writer of the forward. Burke, it seems, denies the personality of God and takes a universalist position. Might as well deny the Gospel as well. Phil points out that it is important to see how dangerous the so-called "fringe" of the EC is. Scot McKnight is sympathetic to the aims of the EC, and while he expresses concern for Burke's radical departures from orthodoxy, he needs to deal with the serious errors of the movement rather than deconstructing the movement's critics. The problems with Emergent theology are softpedalled while the strengths are grossly exaggerated. McKnight defines five tributaries of the movement, with McLaren and Burke at its radical end, and people like Mark Driscoll and Dan Kimball on the other more conservative end. Of those historically involved with the EC, Driscoll is considered the most doctrinally conservative, and in fact Driscoll has distanced himself from the McLaren stream of the movement. Phil expressed appreciation for this, but also rightly said that Driscoll needs to stop identifying with them completely. Cleaning up his language wouldn't hurt either.

In the rest of his comments, Phil nailed something that I think has bothered all of us who have expressed concerns about the influence of the Emergent Church. So many of them wear worldliness on their sleeves and cultivate a "bad boy" image as if somehow that's supposed to be appealing to non-believers. This approach affects your witness and ignores Scriptural admonitions toward pursuing sanctification. The EC philosophy is a misguided attempt to contextualize Christianity to the Seattle-type grunge crowd. Phil mentioned Dan Kimball briefly, saying that Kimball doesn't seem to want to deal with doctrine very much, not wanting to go beyond the Nicene Creed. He then went into a bit of church history, showing that the Nicene Creed came into being about 325 A.D. in response to the Arian heresy and some of the other controversies going on then. Later on came the issue of the hypostatic union and related creeds, but in Kimball's mind (Phil's comments) nothing post Nicene is worth fighting over. (Sola's aside - if this is indeed Dan Kimball's view, it is surprising because he has expressed to me his love of apologetics. You can't love apologetics and duck doctrinal issues)

Phil then discussed how the EC movement seemed to be praxis-oriented - right behavior over right doctrine. There also seems to be a significant affinity for the political left in the EC movement. They don't like the evangelical alignment with the GOP at all. In summation, Phil stated that:

1. We need to remember why we are not modernists.

2. We need to recover the teaching role of the church with priority to Scripture.

3. We need to insist on the certainty of revealed truth.

4. We need to reinstate holiness as a priority.

5. Regain a true missionary emphasis as opposed to "missional." (Sola's aside - the term "missional" is not necessarily bad in and of itself. However, the EC loves a certain twist to it, and that is what must be drawn out i.e. what do people who use this term mean by it)

I enjoyed Phil's seminar as always, and it was good to hear this one in person for a change. Thanks, Phil, for time well spent and for all your hard work. And thanks for the time you spent with Kevin and I on the radio program.

More entries from the Shepherd's Conference 2007 later. You can get all of the seminars at the Shepherd's Conference website for a reasonable cost, and I recommend it highly.
Shepherd's Conference Journal - Phil Johnson and "Theory of Relativity"

This is the second attempt to post this as I am safely back at my hotel room. Phil's previous seminars on the subject of postmodernism and the Emergent/Emerging Church issue have dealt with the basics, but this one was intended more to look at the impact of the postmodern mindset on society and the church of today. As previously, this is a summary of Phil's comments and not an exhaustive recount of them. I am also going to dispense with the disclaimers you usually have to insert to ward off the pomos' usual protests, diversions, vaporings and attempts at deconstructing your comments.

Phil began by positing the central idea inherent in this mindset - "a nagging suspicion that no one can know with certainty what's true or not. Reality is a socially constructed concept. The pomos call it "epistemological humility." (Sola's aside - I call it arrogance in humble clothes) The Christian position is quite different. We believe that Scripture is God-breathed truth. We believe in divine revelation. God cannot lie and He holds us responsible for believing His revelation to us and trusting in Him.

The Protestant Reformation unleashed Scriptural truth again. The medieval church lost it in tradition, ritual, popery etc. (Sola's aside - I wonder if that is why the EC is so enamored of labyrinths, lava lamps, Gregorian chant, incense, Jefferson Airplane records [okay, not the second and last items - I'm being semi-tongue in cheek] and mystery? Plain truth scares the bejeebers out of them) The reliability and trustworthiness of Scripture is always the first under attack. The perspecuity of Scripture is thrown into question. Church history itself shows us how to deal with the errors of the EC. It is interesting to see how postmodernism is an attack on modernism before it. Both modernism and postmodernism are errors. But the evangelical church seems to be caught off guard by the paradigm shifts.

As is his wont (and I think a good thing always), Phil referenced the Downgrade Controversy in England that bedeviled Charles Spurgeon, the prince of preachers. The way modernism infiltrated the church has significant parallels to today. Evangelicals made the same mistake as modernists by abandoning their solid stance for various reasons. Sometimes even political influence. Now objective truth is discarded. Don't claim that you're right and others are wrong. Head toward narrative theology and preaching, not propositional truth. (Sola's aside - this one always leaves me knotting my eyebrows. For a pomo to throw such philosophy around, they have to assert propositions themselves. That seems to escape them)

Phil then mentioned something that has always amazed me about liberals (political ones especially, although Phil was largely talking about theology). The Emergent folks have an uncanny knack for embracing almost every aspect of modern culture that needs to be confronted instead. Phil added that some EC criticisms of the modern evangelical church are valid, and I certainly agree with him. Entertainment driven, neo-evangelical, mega churches will largely die out if changes are not made. But the solution offered by the pomo/EC is a disaster. Their strategy is flawed, muddleheaded and unbiblical. Phil then went into a discussion of theologian Scot McKnight, who is sympathetic to the Emergent Church, but not without some concern. He also discussed a bit of Spencer Burke, whose book Scot was writing about in a recent review. As the hour is getting late, I will have to post part two of this tomorrow, Lord willing. My schedule is a bit up in the air.

To come, my notes on presentations by Dr. Ligon Duncan, Dr. Al Mohler and Dr. Steven Lawson. It might take me a few days, but I will get there. Their presentations were true gold and to the glory of Christ.

Friday, March 09, 2007

There Just Had To Be A GRRRRR!

I wanted to badly to get in a second post today between all the activities, so I quickly keyed in Phil Johnson's seminar on the effect of postmodernism on the church and society. Well, wouldn't you know, but while typing, my finger hit one of those stupid, useless keys I NEVER use and it sent my web browser (Safari) into one of those endless "sit and spin" modes. I couldn't make it quit, go back, escape..anything. I couldn't even "force quit." I had to force shut down..and lost the whole shaboo.

I am glad I was where I am, or I otherwise would have been tempted to say something I ought not to say. Okay, I was still tempted to say it. But I didn't. GRRRRR. I hate computers.

I will try again either late tonight or tomorrow. Lord, Safari and Mac willing.
Shepherds' Conference Journal - Dr. Mark Dever

I have several more keynotes and seminars to enter here (and as I write this, I am sitting in TeamPyro leader Phil Johnson's seminar on Calvinism and Arminian assumptions). However, I wanted to post these notes on the keynote by Dr. Mark Dever this morning, because I think it's perhaps the most important one delivered thus far for American pastors and church leaders. In fact, one of his closing statements led off with this question..."How do you prepare for prison?" Mark's message was on the changing cultural climate in America in terms of its tolerance of Christianity, and how we as pastors/leaders/teachers need to deal with it. How to deal with hard times and even persecution. Quite honestly, many of us are not prepared for it.

We are now in a culture that is increasingly hostile to Christianity. As a society - even as Christians - we are addicted to comfort. We are facing coming legal intolerance of Christian positions on morality, as they view it as "hate speech" and disruptive to society. What do we do under pressure? What will we do when speaking out against homosexuality or other moral sins is criminalized? What happens when we confront false religions and cults? Calling them "false" is considered evil in this new mindset. It's not tolerance.

As his example of facing tough times, Dr. Dever used the example of the Old Testament major prophet, Daniel. And he took a bit of a different tack than most in approaching this very important book. On the street when Nebuchadnezzar's invasion of Israel happened, the appearance was that the God of the Jews seemed defeated. His people were led off in chains. But that wasn't what happened at all. The God of Judah had arranged for what happened. It was part of his plan. Daniel was there in Babylon for almost 70 years, and not only did God protect Daniel, but God also prospered Daniel. He survived several rulers and empires, and God used him mightily. The key for Daniel is not so much Daniel's example..but what GOD did through Daniel and His faithful people. Daniel's faith is a great example and great application, but there is more going on there. God causes his faithful to survive in the most ultimate sense. Mark then exposed several myths of the world we live in. Myths that have always been there.

1. God is our only hope. The myth believed by the world is that the world is godless. There is no higher authority other than man himself. Nihilism is the worst extreme. But as God demonstrated through Nebuchadnezzar, He and He alone is sovereign in His creation. We are not at the mercy of legislation, court rulings or absolute human rulers. The fiery furnace was the worst that Nebuchadnezzar could do to Daniel and his friends, but God the Son was seen walking in the midst of the flames, and Daniel etc. left the furnace unsinged. Nebuchadnezzar learned this but quickly forgot the lesson. It took seven years of eating grass for it to finally sink in. Daniel's testimony was that God is able to save..but EVEN IF HE DOESN'T..we will still not bow before your false gods. Again, pride is the ultimate human failing. God hates it and will deal with it - harshly if need be. We need as teachers and pastors to deconstruct the false hopes of our hearers no matter what they are. Emancipate them from error. God alone is what our hope should be in, not our possessions, our "freedoms" in America etc.

(As an aside, Mark then did something most of us would never expect at a pastors' conference. He directly challenged any pastors who were present to examine their own standing in the faith, recognizing that there are pastors out there who aren't even saved. Mark Dever then gave the Gospel, and urged any unsaved pastor in the audience to repent and be saved. WOW! I respect him immensely for doing this. He went on to compare some pastors' attitude with that of Nebuchadnezzar, proud in their power and huge followings. God can bring proud pastors to their knees also)

2. You can survive in persecution. Myth of the world - the world is hopeless. Not true as God is in charge and our hope is only in Him. Look how many kings Daniel survived. Belteshazzar (sp) fell that very night after Daniel refused his offered rewards for interpreting the king's vision. Darius of the Medes and Persians took over, and Daniel went on to leadership under him - survived the lions' den and prospered. Darius recognized God's hand on Daniel. (Sola's aside..note how the king's underlings used Darius' pride in the decree they hoped would bring Daniel down. Darius fell for it, but quickly recognized what they were up to and told Daniel, "Your God will bring you safely through." Darius fasted all night and Daniel indeed survived. The opponents ended up as lunch for the lions.

3. You will face opposition in this world. The myth - the "moral" world. The world is an enemy of God. Believers facing opposition is a normal state in this world. Don't be deceived by our American experience of freedom. It's the exception and not the rule. WAKE UP evangelicals! Our situation here in America could change more quickly than we know it. And if it does, how many - even some pastors - will remain true to their faith because their faith was misplaced in a "Christian America?" We need to get over our nostalgia for "Christian America" and get biblical in our thinking. Our material blessing has crippled us in many ways. Foreign pastors are often bemused by our naivete about persecution and oppression. We need to look at the suffering that goes on around us, even what appears to be mundane suffering. All of it is an opportunity to give God glory in the midst of it.

It was here that Mark's challenge about getting ready for prison came in. It was sobering. His answer..fall in love with Jesus and follow His example. Grow in love for Christ. As we love Him more, that becomes the most precious thing in our lives and something that lasts when we have lost everything else. We need to be living testimonies to those around us, especially if the world and/or country we have known falls apart around us. Praise God for this very timely exhortation.

More later.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Dr. MacArthur Part Two

One of the key parts of Dr. John MacArthur's keynote message on defending a premillennial interpretation/hermeneutic dealt with the covenants of Scripture i.e. the Abrahamic, the Davidic, and the New Covenant. John stressed that understanding these covenants is key to dealing with prophecy. Amillennials tend to deal with end time prophecy by spiritualizing the text or treating it as allegorical. They look at the nation of Israel in terms of replacement theology or supercessionism (sp?). They view the Jews as apostate and not under divine protection. The church has replaced Israel in God's economy.

Is the Old Testament amil? Look at Genesis 12 and the Abrahamic covenant. That covenant is unconditional and perpetual. It is also by divine sovereignty. Chapters 13, 15, 17, and a host of other Scriptures underscore Gods' sovereign, divine election of Israel as a nation. There are numerous references to God's unilateralism. (Sola's aside - it has always interested me how spiritual unfaithfulness to God is compared with sexual immorality in Scripture. Terminology such as "playing the harlot" is used often by God in describing Israel's dalliances with idolatry.

In looking at how God set these covenants up, Dr. MacArthur stressed how many times you'll find the term "I will" being spoken by God. Examine Jeremiah 31. The new covenant for Israel. The blessings of the Old Covenant can't come apart from salvation. There will be salvation of ethnic Israel on a national level. (Sola's aside - I like reading Romans 9 and after on this also) Amillennials err in applying to the church what is so CLEARLY talking of Israel.

Ezekiel 36 parallels..the theme of God's sovereignty shouts throughout it all. Israel's apostasy does not change God's promises or His sovereign plan. There is no "Plan B" as some amils have said. You know, the idea that God wanted Israel as a people for Himself, but when Israel spurned him, God came up with "Plan B." (Sola's aside - why am I thinking of the old Ed Wood film "Plan 9 From Outer Space?")

John rightly said that anyone who thinks there is a "Plan B" is a fool. He went on to ask rhetorically whether Jesus, the Apostle Peter, the Apostle Paul, James etc. were amil, and then answered the question by looking at what Scripture specifically says.

Dr. MacArthur concluded with a very important point - one that all of us ought to consider. He believes - and I agree - that an amillennial position hinders Jewish evangelism. Since amils believe that Israel is finished in God's economy, beginning to witness to them from an amil position is often a non-starter. However, if one approaches from a premillennial aspect - recognizing that God is not finished with Israel, and that Messiah will return physically to earth to take up the throne of His father David, you get an entirely different opening to speak. With that, he concluded.

Again, this is a skim over a very detailed message. The conference recordings are available at the Shepherds' Conference website. My next post will be a review of C.J. Mahaney's message on the need for pastoral humility.
Shepherd's Conference Diary - Dr. John MacArthur - Part One

(Sola's note: Dr. John Piper was not able to attend the conference due to the death this week of his father. Please be in prayer for the Piper family as they go through this difficult time.

Due to short time and the amount of material, I will have to do this in sections with each presenter that I personally heard.

Wednesday's morning keynote address was by Dr. John MacArthur, and it dealt with something that is a rather controversial topic these days among evangelicals — eschatology. I agreed with what he had to say, but let me state at the outset that I have dear friends who are solid evangelicals, yet they disagree with me in this one area of doctrine. Core orthodoxy requires belief that a physical return of Jesus to earth will take place, which amillennialism recognizes. However, I do believe that eschatology is an important issue, and that an amillennial approach to the end times is inconsistent with sound hermeneutics. But to Dr. MacArthur's message we go....

More specifically, as John put it, "Sovereign Election, Israel, and Eschatology." For time's sake, I won't exhaustively detail his message, but instead will give highlights. He began with a pretty funny - yet astute - question. "When was the last time you were at an amillennial prophecy conference?" After the chuckle went round the packed auditorium at Grace Community Church, John went on with the following observations.

When you listen to prophecy being discussed in some circles today, you have to wonder if the end matters any longer to them. Yet at least 1/4 of Scripture deals with the end times. The perspecuity of Scripture is on the line. To adopt an amillennial (and although John didn't say it, I think preterists also fit here) line, one must set aside standard hermeneutic approaches whenever prophetic texts are encountered. When you encounter some amillennials of yesteryear, they readily admit that one will come to a premillennial interpretation of Scripture if it is taken literally.

Dr. MacArthur then noted that it pleases God when His Word is taken at face value. It's important to be consistent in how you handle Scripture. He added (I must say that Rev. Kevin Johnson and I have frequently observed this on our radio program) that it's odd how many otherwise solid Bible and Reformed scholars part company on the subject of eschatology. They confuse the elect i.e. Israel and the elect i.e. the Church. "If you get Israel right, you'll get eschatology right." It's all in understanding the Old Testament covenants and promises. It's in upholding God's integrity through a consistent hermeneutic. I couldn't agree more!

A few more points, and please understand that I am quickly skimming over an hour-long message. It was wonderful to hear a key Bible teacher deal forcefully with this all too neglected issue. He stressed the difference between biblical premillennial theology and what he called the popular "newspaper exegesis and cartoon eschatology" that is often mocked today. He then pointed out that amillennialism's eisegesis reading everything into 70 A.D. is just as bad.

Amillennials read the Old Testament through a New Testament filter, and that helps lead to a spiritualized, allegorical interpretation of prophetic texts. It is important to understand the connections between God's sovereignty, along with God's election of both His people Israel and His people the Church. There are parallels between the election of Israel and our own election - God doing for His elect what they could not do for themselves, and doing it unilaterally. As it's getting late and I have to be up and at 'em early, I will try to finish this tomorrow in between sessions.

In concluding today's post, let me say that all of today's speakers that I heard were excellent. I attended Phil Johnson's heavily attended seminar on the impact of postmodernism on the church, and he did a great job as always. I'll jot some of the highlights later. We heard Dr. Steven Lawson on the necessity of pastors recovering the power and thunder of apostolic preaching. He nailed this generation's weak preaching right between the eyes - the results of devaluing the proclamation of God's Word in favor of entertainment. And an even greater danger lies in preaching that might be accurate biblically, but there is no fire or passion in the preacher, making one wonder if he really believes what he's preaching. That was a stunning point and I think it had all of us thinking deeply about it at the conclusion. Finally, Pastor C. J. Mahaney delivered a powerful message on the need for preachers, pastors and teachers to avoid the deadly sin of pride, taking his key text from Isaiah 66:1-2. I'll want to devote a whole post to that as it was truly a wonderful, spot-on message. C.J. took the place of Dr. Piper at the last minute, and the Lord really anointed his message.

More later!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Shepherd's Conference Journal

From the Solameanie, greetings in Jesus' name from sunny southern California and Dr. John MacArthur's Shepherd's Conference. Yes, I know it's not March 12 yet, but today I happily discovered that the place where I am staying has wireless Internet access. Because of this, I am going to try to keep my blog updated from here in a manner that I hope will be a blessing to you.

Tim Challies did us all a noble service last year by live blogging the Shepherd's Conference. I won't attempt to do that, but I will endeavor to end each day by filing a report containing the key highlights of the sessions I attend, along with my impressions and/or reactions to the things shared by the key presenters. With keynote speakers such as Dr. MacArthur, Dr. Al Mohler and John Piper opening God's Word each day, plus a plethora of stellar presenters including Phil Johnson of Pyromaniacs fame, I am sure this will be a very rich, encouraging week.

Please lift this event, its speakers and attendees in prayer. Most of the 3,000-plus attending are pastors and church leaders, and they urgently need the encouragement and fellowship that the Shepherd's Conference provides. There are some who are dealing with very difficult situations in their home congregations, and this week will be like an oasis in the desert for them. I am thankful to the Lord for raising up Christian leaders like John MacArthur, and for a congregation like Grace Community Church that is willing to do whatever it takes to serve fellow servants of Christ. Their efforts here remind me a bit of the account told in Exodus 17, where Aaron and Hur supported Moses' weary hands - hands lifted high so Israel would continue to win the battle. In like manner, the pastors, elders and staff of Grace Community are holding the weary hands of these pastors high as the Word is proclaimed, sometimes in the faces of the enemies of Christ.

So stay tuned. More to come later.