Quick Hits (3/11/08)

Lots and lots of little bits to pass on, some of which is important. The first one? Not so much. But it’s funny.

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Timing Is Everything

I’ve driven for 20 years without getting a speeding ticket. Twenty years! Well, I picked a doozy of a time to get my first. The car? A borrowed Lexus. The passenger? Stephen Jones, following a day of preaching at TCBC. The witnesses? My little girls. Mommy thoughtfully pulled over to give the girls a clear view of their father getting accosted by a police officer. Nice.

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Mahaney on the Pastor and Reading

C.J. Mahaney’s take on the importance of the pastor’s reading is worth the read:

“And I would want to encourage pastors who I think might be tempted to view reading and study as selfish. I view reading and study as one of the most important ways I can serve the church. So it is not a selfish act for me to set aside this time. It is really the most effective way I can serve this church, by tending to my soul and by preparing for the various forms and expressions of ministry. The best way I can serve a church is by responding to the command to watch your life and watch your doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16). It is the example of a pastor over a period of years and decades that will make a difference in the life of a congregation. And therefore I want to guard my heart from growing familiar with the pastoral world, growing familiar with God’s Word, growing familiar with corporate worship, growing familiar when I am listening to preaching, growing familiar when I am taking communion, growing familiar with God. I want to guard my heart from that. And the best way I can do that is by attending to his Word and applying his Word to my heart on a daily basis. I think that is the most effective way I can serve those I care for and those I have been called to serve and lead.”

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Home Schooling Under Fire

Speaking as a home school dad and the pastor of many home school families, this is alarming.

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SI Discussion 

The SI discussion of Matthew Hoskinson’s 9Marks article “A Christian Fundamentalist Travel Guide” (discussed at MTC here) is interesting. Though it gives me no joy to admit it, I think Joseph’s comment about the failure of fundamentalists to publish scholarly materials biting them in the long run is insightful.
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Piper on Machen and Separation

I’ve noted a number of times that I’m appreciative of Piper’s biographical sketches. Today, jogging and driving, I got to take in his lecture on J. Gresham Machen. I enjoyed the first 60 minutes, as they familiarized me with Machen, a man I need to learn more of. (Suggested reading, anyone?) The last 30 minutes contain Piper’s conclusions, then a Q&A time that includes his discussion of separation and his take on staying in the BGC. Frankly, those comments lack the typical clarity and sharpness I’ve come to expect from Piper, and (not surprisingly) I disagree with his take on separation and the way to determine when one is polishing brass on a sinking ship. It’s fascinating to hear him work through it, though.

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“He’s a machine.”

Turns out that the “he” of this video is Zach Hamilton, my friend and the son of my friend, Paul Hamilton who pastors Westerville Bible Church near Columbus, Ohio and serves as the current President of the OBF.

Typical Bible-thumping fundamentalist. :)

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Ryle’s Holiness

I finally finished up Ryle’s Holiness last night. I’ve been reading it with a friend from TCBC, and it’s been a very profitable study. It ends on a high note: chapters 18 (Unsearchable Riches) and 20 (Christ Is All) exalt Christ as the center of biblical Christianity, and indeed of all that exists. Thrilling stuff.

Parts of chapter 19 (Wants of the Times) could have been written as a modern polemic against postmodernism. I’ll close this post by quoting several chapters from it because it is so timely. If I didn’t know better, I’d assume the following was taken from Carl Trueman’s The Wages of Spin. There’s nothing new under the sun:

I cannot withhold my conviction that the professing church is as much damaged by laxity and indistinctness about matters of doctrine within, as it is by skeptics and unbelievers without. Myriads of professing Christians nowadays seem utterly unable to distinguish things that differ. Like people afflicted with color blindness, they are incapable of discerning what is true and what is false, what is sound and what is unsound. If a preacher of religion is only clever and eloquent and earnest, they appear to think he is all right, however strange and heterogeneous his sermons may be. They are destitute of spiritual sense, apparently, and cannot detect error. Popery or Protestantism, an atonement or no atonement, a personal Holy Spirit or no Holy Spirit, future punishment or no future punishment, “high” church or “low” church or “broad” church, Trinitarianism, Arianism, or Unitarianism, nothing comes amiss to them: they can swallow all, if they cannot digest it! Carried away by a fancied liberality and charity, they seem to think everybody is right and nobody is wrong, every clergyman is sound and none are unsound, everybody is going to be saved and nobody is going to be lost. Their religion is made up of negatives; and the only positive thing about them is, that they dislike distinctness, and think all extreme and decided and positive views are very naughty and very wrong!

These people live in a kind of mist or fog. They see nothing clearly, and do not know what they believe. They have not made up their minds about any great point in the gospel, and seem content to be honorary members of all schools of thought. For their lives they could not tell you what they think is truth about justification or regeneration or sanctification or the Lord’s Supper or baptism or faith or conversion or inspiration or the future state. They are eaten up with a morbid dread of controversy and an ignorant dislike of “party spirit,” and yet they really cannot define what they mean by these phrases. The only point you can make out is that they admire earnestness and cleverness and charity, and cannot believe that any clever, earnest, charitable man can ever be in the wrong! And so they live on undecided; and too often undecided they drift down to the grave, without comfort in their religion and, I am afraid, often without hope.

The explanation of this boneless, nerveless, jellyfish condition of soul is not difficult to find. To begin with, the heart of man is naturally in the dark about religion, has no intuitive sense of truth and really needs instruction and illumination. Beside this, the natural heart in most men hates exertion in religion and cordially dislikes patient painstaking inquiry. Above all, the natural heart generally likes the praise of others, shrinks from collision and loves to be thought charitable and liberal. The whole result is that a kind of broad religious “agnosticism” just suits an immense number of people, and specially suits young people. They are content to shovel aside all disputed points as rubbish, and if you charge them with indecision, they will tell you, “I do not pretend to understand controversy; I decline to examine controverted points. I dare say it is all the same in the long run.” Who does not know that such people swarm and abound everywhere?

Now I do beseech all who read this message to beware of this undecided state of mind in religion. It is a pestilence which walks in darkness, and a destruction that kills in noonday. It is a lazy, idle frame of soul which, doubtless, saves men the trouble of thought and investigation; but it is a frame of soul for which there is no warrant in the Bible, nor yet in the Articles or Prayer Book of the Church of England. For your own soul’s sake dare to make up your mind what you believe, and dare to have positive distinct views of truth and error. Never, never be afraid to hold decided doctrinal opinions; and let no fear of man and no morbid dread of being thought party–spirited, narrow or controversial, make you rest contented with a bloodless, boneless, tasteless, colorless, lukewarm, undogmatic Christianity.

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22 Responses

  1. I loved the line from the guy in the green shirt concerning Zach: “you know Scripture better than Andrew and I combined, and I think you are misinterpreting Scripture.”

    That was great. Praise the Lord, Zach! 1 Pet 3:15!

  2. Concerning Machen, I found this book to be a pretty interesting read.

  3. I have a Jones III story for you in much the same vein, but WORSE, oh so much worse. I don’t have time to write it out now, but you aren’t the first!

  4. Somehow I don’t think of Lexuses when thinking of Bob Jones. After Bob Jones was in the news, day after day after day in the 2000 election season for their stance on the Confederate flag, the only car I associate with Bob Jones is the General Lee because it had the Confederate flag on it.

  5. Chris,
    you may want to read Machen’s book, Education, Christianity and the State, available from one of these sites: http://www.bestbookdeal.com/book/compare/0940931893

  6. That is so weak, MJ.

    As for the Lexus, a family in our church has lent us their Lexus while we’re getting by with one car of our own. They could have given us something different, but we’ve enjoyed the Lexus for a few months. “Living large.” :) We’ll be back to reality soon, I think.

  7. Here’s a good quote from the homeschooling link:

    “This is a controversy that demands the attention of all parents. After all, if parents have no constitutional right to educate their own children, what other aspects of the parent’s choices for their own children lack protection? This question reaches far beyond educational decisions.”

    I still am flummoxed as to why Christians have completely written off Ron Paul as a nutjob when one of the highlights of his platform was the rights of individuals and would be against this ruling.

    http://homeschooltoday.com/articles/articles/sowingliberty.php

  8. Machen made this statement in 1926 when testifying before Congress against the establishment of a federal Bureau (or Department) of Education: “I think that when it comes to the training of human beings, you have to be a great deal more careful than you do in other spheres about preservation of the right of individual liberty and the principle of individual responsibility; and I think we ought to be plain about this–that unless we preserve the principles of liberty in this department there is no use in trying to preserve them anywhere else. If you give the bureaucrats the children, you might as well give them everything else.”

  9. Mike Harding’s take regarding Joseph’s scholarship/book comment is worth giving a look. I do agree that it’s not so simple as equating writing with scholarship.

  10. Defending the Faith by D. G. Hart (bio of Machen; incredible book for many reasons)
    Top three books by Machen (must reads in my opinion, which really means nothing I guess): 1. Christianity and Liberalism 2. What is Faith and 3. The Christian Faith in the Modern World

  11. Thanks, all, for the book recommendations!

  12. The question concerning Fundamentalism’s lack of scholarship and book output is constantly raised. I believe we’re seeing a lot more come out through BJUP and Ambassador-Emerald. The biggest issue is the lack of resources. It costs a lot of money to allow the scholars in Fundamentalism time away from their ministry in order to write. I’d like to see local church leadership allow senior pastors time to write on a regular basis. Also, the numbers will always keep Fundamentalism behind the curve.

    One thing is for sure, if you load up Fundamental bookstores with Piper, MacArthur, etc. because that’s what the students want …well, you’ll continue to get the problems that exist now. Guys will head to new evangelical seminaries like Masters, Trinity, etc.

  13. I know Zach from his days here at BJU and at our church. What a fine young man with a heart for God! It was a joy to watch that video clip. Go Zach!

  14. Mr Oesterwind: I’m looking forward to a great scholarly read once Brother Chris finalizes it! I, for one, think he is indeed a rising star for scholarship in the fundie circles. I’m hoping for a signed copy of his future book. Sincerely.

    Dan Greenfield: I couldn’t agree more. It’s like the guy in green was saying “I don’t know anything specifics about Scripture, espec the passages you’re citing, but I can sure tell you’re misinterpreting them”. To which I say, “Huh?”

  15. Oh, one other issue, Chris. Are we going to see photos of the police stop? I mean, your wife did get photos of this didn’t she? :)

  16. Jim,

    It’s been a while! I too am encouraged by the publication of several excellent books by fundamentalists in recent years. I hope the trend will continue and increase. And I agree that schools and churches are going to need to prioritize it for that to happen—finding a “Phil Johnson” for a Minnick or Doran would be a great start.

    However, I don’t agree that fundamentalists are pushing books by MacArthur or Piper or Carson because “that’s what the students want.” Rather, I think those guys are being read because they’re writing excellent things. I think it’s a matter of the product earning influence. I think the best approach of fundamentalists is not to try to limit that or blackball the writers (as happened in the past, and which hurt fundamentalism’s credibility when people actually read the books and discovered that the warnings were inaccurate), but to express the strengths and weaknesses of the writers (much like the FBF did with Piper a few years back via Michael Riley’s paper) and teach people how to be discerning.

    Dale, I appreciate the kind words, even if your credibility has taken a well-earned hit by making them. And no, there are no pictures forthcoming.

  17. Perhaps, Chris. I think bookstores need to sell books. I couldn’t prove it, but I wonder how many young, impressionable seminarians bought Future Grace and never read it. It was a peer-pressure buy. It reminds me of the Cambridge Bible run at BJ after Principles of Christian Growth.

    I don’t want to censor a student’s reading list. But I do think that these authors (Mac, Piper, etc.) have a powerful influence. Let guys find this influence on their own. Why sell it in a Fundamental bookstore? It doesn’t make sense.

    Btw, I read Wisdom’s Royal Destiny recently and profited greatly from it. I wonder how many young seminarians thoughtfully read that work when it came out.

    Anyhow, I think we all read about the Bible too much. I’d like an honest survey that would indicate how much time pastors read about the Bible and how much time they actually read the Bible.

    I appreciate your stand. I’ve always respected guys from the OBF. That’s a pretty good admission from an FBF guy, huh?

  18. I like the drumbeat and the veiled, shadowing figure of Mary (?) at the end of the AE video.

  19. I’m sure the police camera caught everything, and some day, we will be able to see it on C.O.P.S.!

  20. Quick comments…

    Lexus? Next time borrow a 4 cylinder Honda…Fewer tickets.

    Homeschooling – Very scary, but let me give you all some hope. The 9th Circuit (mainly California) is the most overturned circuit in the country. That issue will be in front of the U.S.Supreme Ct. eventually, and historically the USSC has held parental rights in high regard.

    Zach Hamilton – How awesome is that! I attened Westerville Bible Church when Pastor Hamilton and his wonderful family arrived. Zach’s always been a great kid (and has a beautiful tenor voice), Only way that video clip gets better is if he broke out in song and the other boys realized how misguided they are.

  21. So do you have any idea what that video of Zach was taken from? It looked like a Catholic version of Big Brother!

    I would have loved to have seen the parts of that conversation that were edited out…

  22. Here’s the show info, Nathan: “God or the Girl.”

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