Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Jesus Tomb?

For those who are wondering how to reply to the 'news' of the 'Jesus tomb' Ben Witherington has a
good initial response.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Parachurch: A parasite?

John Stackhouse (Professor of Theology at Regent College, Vancover) has blogged here on the relationship between church and parachurch.

He says some of the things that I've said below in support of parachurch organisation.

However, he makes an interesting comment that I must disagree with.

These groups are usually, but mistakenly, called “parachurch” as if they are not the Church (that is, the worldwide Body of Christ), but instead occupy a shadowy zone “beside” the Church. I use the term “shadowy” to allude to the suspicion and even outright hostility with which they are viewed by some Christians—not least by many clergy and denominational leaders. For such groups often are seen as distractions and diffusions of the Church’s resources, not least its money.
Thus we hear pastors urging congregations to tithe first to the local—which is to say, the “true”—church, and then (perhaps) to other ministries. I respond that such groups are not churches (that is, congregations or denominations), but they are certainly part of the Church. Indeed, I see them as the Church of Jesus Christ eployed in particular modes to accomplish particular purposes.

Yet such groups clearly are Christ’s Church mobilized and active in worthy pursuits. Thus the term “parachurch” really won’t do. I suggest instead the term paracongregational.”

By making the comment that these are not ‘para-church’ but ‘church’ though not ‘a church’ I think that this needs a little more fleshing out.
‘Church’ in the New Testament is used either of ‘A church’ or the universal church. It is not used of a subset of the universal church that is not ‘A church’. This leads him to strange conclusions, particularly regarding giving and the ordinances.

Grey areas do exist in some special purpose groups, to be sure, particularly around the sacraments: Should they be administered, and, if so, by whom? But most do not ever consider baptizing or serving communion. And their utterly voluntary nature means that church discipline is not exerted (although one must allow that church discipline is hard to find anywhere on the ecclesial landscape today).

Well, I would disagree that administration of the ordinances outside of the local congregation are 'grey areas'. The ordinances were given to the church. The church is expressed locally in churches. Churches may partner together in parachurch ministries but that does not make those ministries churches.

This also affects Stackhouse's view of Christian giving.

...such groups often are seen as distractions and diffusions of the Church’s resources, not least its money. Thus we hear pastors urging congregations to tithe first to the local—which is to say, the “true”—church, and then (perhaps) to other ministries....

Why not support both, therefore, with glad hearts, open wallets, and ready hands?For the New Testament churches supported and benefited from the apostle Paul then he was resident in their congregations, and they supported him in his independent, organized ministry to benefit others when he was away. Maybe I’m just an old-fashioned and simplistic Bible believer, but this idea doesn’t seem all that difficult to me.

I have no problem with giving to parachurch organisations. But the very passage that Stackhouse quotes shows that this should primarily be the local church that is giving to the parachurch, not the individual Christian. I don't want to lay down a law here (I don't think there even are laws on 'giving' except that of generosity & no compulsion). There may be personal opportunities and friendships that would mean we would want to support particular ministries and individuals with needs we know about.

However, to suggest that the individual should have no priority of giving to the local chruch rather than the parachurch is to give in to the individualistic spirit of the day, which suggests that my personal wisdom as to what to do with the funds is higher than the combined wisdom of those that I have covenanted with, and my responsibility to my own personal portfolio is higher than my responsibility to the body to which I belong.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Dawkins Delusion

So, this video may not win any arguments, but it is very amusing on a number of levels, and is actually a more convincing rebuttal of Dawkins than Dawkins is of God.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

How not to loose your faith at College

Great article on this here

HT: Thabiti Anyabwile

Top tips for College Students 5: Use your vacations well

I know that as College Students vacations seem all too short. But realise that you will NEVER have so much vacation time again in your life. Don't just let them happen... plan them well.

1) You may well need to get a job. If you get the chance try to get a job where you think you will have the most evangelistic opportunities. As an student I worked as a sales assistant, a barman, a statistician, and an office junior. (I had 6 years as a student) All of these were good environments for good conversations with colleagues and/or clients.

2) Your time as an undergraduate may well be your best ever chance to go on a slightly longer short term missions project. If you possibly can, I would suggest that it is a great idea to dedicate a substantial part of at least one of your vacations to an opportunity where you will be able to spend time with missionaries on the ground in a place where the gospel is little known. I had the privilege to spend a month in North Africa as an undergrad. This opened my eyes to the Muslim world, the life of missionaries and the power of the gospel in ways that have certainly shaped me and my ministry even 15 years later.

3) Read good books. When you are away from your studies, read good books.

4) Read the whole bible. vacations can be a time when devotions lapse due to a lack of routine. They are actually the best time for getting substantial bible reading done. It takes about 70 hours to read the entire bible. Block out a reading plan to get through in a vacation. Make notes, summarising the message of each book. A loose leaf bible (On special offer here) is a great resource for making notes.

5) Pray for quality time with old friends. It's easy to drift back into old patterns of behaviour with old friends. The Lord may have changed you dramatically in a semester. Do let that change be invisible to your friends and family. Talk openly about what the Lord has been doing in your life, both with Christians and non-Christians. It is as we let our light shine before men that they will praise our Father in heaven. (Matt 5:16)

6) Note that all this takes planning. Start planning the use of your vacations 6 months in advance.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

CHBC Students Favorite quotes from The SBTS conference

I asked the students who attended the conference the most helpful quotes they'd heard. Here's some people's favourites...

"Flee from temptation: why keep it like a pet?" Dr Plummer

"Clothing proves our need for salvation. Lack of clothing shows a lack of need for salvation."
Dr Wise.

"Marriage happened before the fall. Marriage is a more primary relationship than that between father and child." Dr Mohler

"In the curse authority becomes domination, submission becomes usurpation. (Genesis 3) In redemption the created order is restored. (Ephesians 5)" Dr Wise.

"Home is not your castle - it is your cross where you learn daily to die to self and learn to serve you wife and children." Dr Beougher

"We need to love homosexuals more than homosexuals love homosexuality" Mohler

"In Glory it will be better than if sin had never happened and therefore redemption had never occured" Mohler.

"Our culture reduces sex merely to the act" Wellum

"Everything finds completion in the Son" Wellum

Saturday, February 10, 2007

General Session 3: Mohler

In the final talk of the weekend, Dr Mohler Outlined 8 principles of how Christians should / shouldn't address homosexuality in such a way as to speak clearly, biblically and graciously.

1) We can’t start a conversation about homosexual marriage by talking about homosexual marriage. We need to talk about a biblical view of what is good, beautiful & true.

2) We cannot talk about sex without talking about marriage.

3) We cannot talk about sex without talking about the bible.

4) We cannot talk about homosexuality as if it is the problem, rather than a symptom of a deeper problem of idolatry, which is a problem we ALL share.

5) We need to be ready to give significant support to those with ongoing struggles with homosexuality.

6) We need to be those who take out the power of the gospel as the only hope for sexual sinners. There is NO sexual sin that cannot be forgiven.

7) We must be the people who love homosexuals more than homosexuals love homosexuality. Sinners grow to love their sin. The only way that we ever got saved was that someone loved us more than we loved our sin.

8) We need to be the people who believe God’s truth about homosexuality. We can lose the battle on the law of the land – but we cannot compromise our witness.

Elective Session 2: Parenting

How do you raise children in an age of confusion? …Mr. & Mrs. Clark Logan

It was great to have a talk on parenthood at a Collegiate conference. It would be a great idea for College students to have a clear idea of a biblical model of parenthood before they consider marrying someone. Mrs. Logan made the great suggestion of pointing out to the person you are dating marriages and parents within your church that you think are doing a great job. Great way to see if you are on the same page.

Other than that is was a talk along the lines of Shepherding a Child's Heart

It was a good gentle clear introduction to parenting.

Biblical foundations.

1) Nurture relationship with the Lord

2) Nurture relationship with spouse

  • The marriage is a family before there are children, and will be when they have left.
  • Security of parenthood comes from security of marriage.

3) Set biblical goals

  • Not behaviour, or politeness, but that children glorify God and enjoy him forever.

4) What’s your plan?

  • No Plan?
  • Follow my Parents’ plan
  • Do the opposite of my parents’ plan
  • Be a buddy?
  • Be authoritarian?


1) Build healthy relationships

  • Love them
  • Make memories
  • Maintain integrity
  • Create a family identity
  • Communicate “talking to your children when they are 3 & 4 will mean that they want to talk to you when they are 13 & 14”

2) Model a godly life

3) Teach appropriate behaviours

  • Affirming good behaviour especially where they struggle
  • Warning ahead of time what behaviour will be expected.

4) Weaken inappropriate behaviour.

  • Communication, correction, appeal to conscience all needed. This is because the heart is the issue, not merely behaviour.
Natural consequences to actions are sometimes enough. The child who breaks a toy when he has been told how to use it. A boastful child will find that they have few friends.

General Session 2: Al Mohler

In the second plenary session, Al Mohler outlined

2 opposite wrong approaches to sexuality.

1) Denial – don’t talk about it, ignore it, assume it is not there

2) Deification. We are living in a culture today that is re-deifying & sacramentalising sex. We cannot combat this by any kind of denial. All this means is that our children will be educated into a pagan understanding of sex. If we don’t educate the culture will.

Only 2 possible callings for Adult Christians

1) Marriage: this is the normal call. Adulthood normally means marriage biblically. Adulthood comes with adult responsibility.

2) Celibacy: this is not for self, but it is so that you could be deployed in KINGDOM MINISTRY without fetters. It is accompanied by a gift from God not to burn with passion.

4 Purposes for Sex in Marriage:

a. Partnership

b. Protection

c. Pleasure

d. Procreation

4 Enemies of Sex & Marriage:

  1. Divorce
  2. Abstinence
  3. Defilement
  4. Delay

Mohler was certainly his most provocative when talking about Delay: 100 years ago the average delay between puberty & marriage was 4-7 years. People reached puberty later and got married younger. Now 1o-15 years between puberty & marriage is often the case. God gave us a powerful sex-drive, because he intends something more powerful.

As young people struggle with lust the ‘denial’ approach would ask God to remove the sex drive. The ‘deification’ approach would say that the sex drive must be satisfied NOW. The biblical approach for those not called to life-long celibacy is to seek to marry a godly spouse and enjoy God’s wonderful gift of sex in the safety of His covenantal framework.

I hope that young men were given a vision of adulthood with responsibility. I hope that young women were not discouraged into thinking of a ‘left on the shelf’ mentality.

SBTS Collegiate conference: Elective Session 1

The Conference has an incredible choice of 22 elective sessions, of which each delegate gets to choose only two. This makes the $10 mp3 of all the sessions incredibly good value.

This morning I attended Steve Wellum's introduction to a biblical theology of sex. As well as presenting a good brief biblical theology of sex (much of which was going over the ground that Mohler went over last night, and I guess pre-empting the other Geneneral Sessions) there was also an excellent & clear introduction to biblical theology more generally.

Elective Session 1: Steve Wellum – A Biblical Theology of Sex.

1) What is Biblical Theology?
Biblical Theology is an entire discipline asking what the whole of the bible teaches, attempting to do justice to the unfolding plan of God, and particularly how the biblical revelation finds its fulfillment in the coming of Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:9, Hebrews 1:1-4)

2) How do we do Biblical Theology?

a. Follow the Bible’s own internal grid:
Creation – Fall – Redemption – New Creation
These are the key themes in any biblical worldview and must be applied to any biblical theology.

b. Observe the 3 horizons of biblical interpretation

i. Textual (What does it say in its immediate context)

ii. Ephochal (How does it relate to what has previously been revealed)

iii. Canonical (How does this relate to what is revealed later)

3) What is a Biblical Theology of Sex?

Steve then applied this method of biblical theology to the area of sex & marriage.

a) Creation: Genesis 1-2

  • Male and female are created equal but with role differences. Gender distinctions are not accidental (as evolutionism might teach us). They are intended.
  • Headship doesn’t imply superiority but a role difference.
  • Wherever the New Testament considers authority implications of gender, creation order is what is referred to (1 Tim 2:10-13)
  • Whole purpose of male-female creation is marriage. Leave-cleave-weave.
    Our society reduces everything to do with sex to a mere act. One flesh is certainly about the sex act it is more than that: One in terms of aim, goals – together they carry on the purposes of dominion.
  • Only a creation order understanding of marriage will inform us as to why homosexuality, polygamy, divorce are so terribly wrong and bring such disaster on their lives.

b. Genesis 3: Fall

  • All that is good is now distorted.
  • Our relationships with God, the earth & significantly the marriage relationship are distorted. Genesis 3:16. The woman tries to usurp the man’s role. The man abuses his role.

c. Redemption

  • Redemption restores the creation order: now submission and love, not rebellion and abuse.
  • Ephesians 5: marriage is not merely restored to the creation order, it is revealed to point beyond itself to the relationship between Christ and the church.

d. New Creation

  • The marriage will fulfil and replace human marriage.
  • The new creation relativists our sexuality. The reality is more important than the model in marriage. The end of all our creation is to know God. Thus, just as marriage is prophetic of the marriage to Jesus in heaven.
  • Singleness is also prophetic because it points beyond itself to the fact that nobody in heaven will be given in marriage.

SBTS Collegiate Conference: General Session 1 (Al Mohler)

In the First Session, Al Mohler laid the biblical foundations of a Christian worldview, and in particular the relationship between creation, sex & marriage. I summarise:

Unless we are engaging on the level of worldview, we remain unready to give a reason for the hope that we have.

We can’t just say “you are wrong about sex, because the preacher, my mother and I say so.” This claiming of the moral high ground is ineffective, firstly, because those with radically different worldviews are claiming moral high ground over and against a Christian worldview. So, for example it is now those who hold homosexuality to be wrong are seen as morally deficient, not those who are practicing it. but, More significantly, by merely engaging at the level of morality rather than worldview, we fail to present the beauty of a Christian morality that results from its display of the gospel.
He went on to outline five areas which any worldview must be able to account for.

1) How did we all get here?
2) How did the world get broken?
3) How can it be fixed?
4) Where is it all going?

To these central questions, we must also be able to add,

5) What is the significance of sex?

In each of these we must not only assert the Christian perspective, but argue how the Christian worldview's response to each of these questions makes the most sense of the world in which we live. The Christian worldview is robustly ready to talk about sex. The Christian worldview doesn’t begin with the act of sex, but with the significance of humanity: part of what it means is that we are the only creature consciously able to know, worship, obey him. We are also the only creature to be capable of understanding the meaning of sex.

In Genesis 2 Adam realises that he has a need. It is the natural state of a man even before the fall, that he needs a bond even closer than the parental bond in order to fulfil the mandate to live for the glory of God.

Thus, even now, God’s plan for sex is so perfect that keeping ourselves for marriage & in marriage is as close as it gets in this world to being naked & not ashamed: they were not just naked in front of each other & not ashamed they were naked before God, and not ashamed.

I appreciated the talk. Genesis 1-2 are clearly foundational for an understaning of marriage (hence Jesus goes straight there in Matthew 19).
The only thing that I was a little concerned with was the response of the audience to a time when Mohler was ridiculing an explanation of the existence of music from the perspective of natural selection. I agreed with Al's analysis. I was uncomfortable with ridiculing as a good approach to model in a conference on apologetics.
Other than that it was an excellent exploration of the sexual implications of creation. I recommend getting hold of a copy of the talk. It was also announced that MP3s of the talks are available for $10, including all the elective sessions. $35 gets you all the sessions from the last 7 years. This isn't quite as good a deal as it first sounds. (a) the conference themes repeat frequently. (b) You can download 2001-2004 for free here

SBTS Collegiate Conference: Worship Concert

After a quick pizza supper we have just had what was referred to as a ‘worship concert’. A praise band from Boyce College joyfully led the singing. One place where I particularly noticed careful thought going into the time was how, on the one song where they had sung to us rather than encouraged us to join in, there was no pause at the end of the song, allowing no time for the possible distracting applause that might have resulted.

It was encouraging to be singing God's praises with several hundred College students who had travelled hundreds of miles to hear God's word.

Friday, February 9, 2007

2007 SBTS Collegiate Conference. Live Blog 1

1. Road Trip from DC to Louisville

Well, Here I am at the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Ky for the 2007 Give me an answer Collegiate Conference, “Does God care about Sex.”

I thought that since this the first conference I’m attending since I entered the blogosphere, I might attempt to live blog. Well, I’m writing this live, but I don’t have web access, so I shall probably upload a couple of posts at a time later this evening.

We (9 college students & 4 'leaders') left Capitol Hill Baptist Church this morning at 5:30am. It is an extraordinary drive. Hundreds of miles of mountains and trees. One understands why Americans seem less concerned about deforestation than us Europeans. It seems almost endless… After a great donut breakfast from the awesome Lorenzo's Bakery in Frostburg, and Cracker Barrel near Charlotesville, we eventually arrived in Louisville about 5:30pm. the Sun hadn't risen when we set off. It had before we arrived.
Long road trips are great for good conversations with students.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Top Tips for College Students 4: Seek accountibility in a local church

The opportunities for evangelism and discipleship as a College student are amazing. As an undergraduate it could have been a full time job. It was those opportunities that first made me consider whether the Lord might have me make evangelism and discipleship a 'full time job'. But at the time I was also only 19, 20, 21. I was even younger and even less mature than I am now!

I was certainly not qualified to be an elder of a local church at that time. That is why it was a huge privilege to be well involved in a local church where I had people that I met with regularly to discuss challenges that I faced, and to help me when I got out of my depth. Pretty much throughout my time as an undergrad I met weekly with at least one more mature Christian. (At times I think it was at least 3!) I am so grateful to God for Orlando, Mark, Mark, Pete, and others for the patience they showed in helping me in the opportunities I was given to make a difference in the lives of other students.

Seek out godly older Christians (of the same gender). Don't get out of your depth. If you have positions of leadership on Campus, don't even dream of making any major decisions as to what you are going to do without humbly and prayerfully seeking the counsel of those who are wiser than you are. Even what you might think are minor decisions will be a great opportunity to gain wisdom.

You are not alone! Those who throw themselves into ministry on Campus are those who are most in need of the collective wisdom and accountability of a local church.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Top Tips for College Students 3: love students from other churches

3) Love and encourage Christian students who attend other churches.
The kingdom of God & its expression on campus is far more important than the reputation of one individual church. So, you are sure that you attend the best church in the city! Great! The teaching and love you receive there will give you an opportunity to share the good things that the Lord is doing in your life with those who might attend what you consider to be a less healthy church, or no church at all. If you are receiving great teaching and deep fellowship, then you should have a reputation for humility. Sure, you will have compassion upon those who seem to be like sheep without a shepherd, but you will love and encourage your brothers and sisters on Campus, even if they do not share your opinion as to what would be the best church in the area to attend!

Partner for the gospel with other gospel believing students.

Having said this, love other students enough that, if they are not clearly involved in a gospel teaching church, encourage them to be so. Particularly, don't look to students who are not well plugged into a healthy church to have any kind of leadership responsibility on Campus. that is a recipe for disaster, not only for them (they will have a burden with no accountability) but also for the ministry on campus (a discipleship outside the context of the local church will be modelled to other less mature Christian students)

Top Tips for College Students 2: Practice hospitality

2) Practise hospitality with church members who are not students
I hope that whatever church you join will love you and give you free food. Students being invivted into family's homes & churchces putting on lunches for students are a great way to serve students.

But students are not commanded to receive hospitality. They are commanded to practice it. You have a huge opportunity as students to practice hospitality as well as to receive it. Even you are just cooking instant noodles, invite someone who isn't a student to come and join you from time to time. Don't hide your relationships with people in the congregation who are really different from you.

If you are a 19 year old African American Political Science Major, your friends might find it wierd that you have a great relationship with a 55 year old white bus driver, or with a 67 year old retired Asian, particularly if it is you the 19 year old is going out of your way to provide for them.

This wierdness will hugely help your evangelistic ministry: as people see the very unusual love that you have for people who are not even students, this will display the reality that you follow Jesus. John 13:34-35

Don't just meet up with Non-students. Invite them into your life. invite them into your friendships with those who don't know Jesus. Let your (plural) light shine before men.

Top Tips for College Students 1: Join a church


Having surveyed different models of College ministry, their strengths and challenges, I'll summarise by giving suggestions for how students can make the most of their opportunities on Campus, while being faithful to Jesus in the local church.

1) Find a gospel church you can join, and join it.
Students too often think of their 'home church' as being their church, and that they just visit a church where they are students. Wake up and smell the roses! If you are not living with your parents during term time, you have left home. You are now a (very welcome) visitor where you grew up.
The attitude towards church held in the years as a college student will be the pattern laid down for the rest of life. If someone just hangs out on campus ministry, when they graduate they will look for a church that is full of young professionals. When they get married & have kids, they'll look for a church with lots of young families. When their kids become teenagers, they'll change to a church that has a teenage ministry that looks like a church for teenagers. What will happen to the witness of the people of God is Christian have a consumeristic self-serving attitude to church like this?
Set a pattern as a College Student to join a church with old people, families with young children, middle aged people, as well as other College students. You may be surpirsed that as you think about how to commit to and love these people you will be served better in being shaped to look like Jesus.
Great thing to read on this: Josh Harris, Stop Dating the Church.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Model 5: Gospel Partnership of several local churches

5) Gospel Partnership of several local churches. This is the model that we have adopted here in Washington DC not actually for our campus ministry, but for an evangelistic ministry that we have started to reach people in the workplace with the gospel. I know of several places where this model is used of workers in primary & secondary education, but don't know of this model being adopted anywhere for ministry to College Students.

a) this would be great for the witness of the gospel on campus - churches from different denominations who agree on the gospel working together for the gospel is a huge testimony to the unity of the gospel message. There isn't a baptist / Presbyterian/ Anglican gospel. There is just the biblical gospel.

b) This would help students to know a series of bible teaching churches in the area which they could trust.

c) It would have accountability of the ministry to many of the churches that the students in the ministry belong to. Not none. Not just one.

a) It might be more difficult to get things done if things would need agreement of all the churches.
b) I'm not sure it's been tried before, so new ground would need to be worked out.
c) There might be issues of getting on campus etc. I have not thought through quite how this might be constituted as a student organisation, but I'm sure it would be possible.