Monthly Archives: October 2005

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Another Roman Catholic on the High Court?

With President Bush’s nomination of Judge Samuel Alito for confirmation to the Supreme Court, we have the potential of another Roman Catholic justice on the high court. This little known fact means there would be five Catholic justices on the high court if Alito is confirmed. This would be a staggering historical fact but will likely go almost unnoticed in the press. I find it worth considering for a number of important reasons.

1. Before the present generation this could never have happened. Protestant America would not have allowed this to occur prior to the past forty years. Rest assured, this unspoken prejudice still exists but it will have no bearing on the outcome of this debate.

2. Political "Know Nothingism" is thankfully dead. The reality that for generations this country would not have approved a Roman Catholic to such a position is a sad fact. One of our last great religious tests, and the prejudice that fostered it, is almost gone.

3. This nomination will bring, as I noted above, the number of Roman Catholic justices to five.

By |October 31st, 2005|Categories: Culture|

A Reformation Day in Detroit

I preached the Reformation Day services at Ward Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) in Northville, Michigan (Detroit area), today. My day was quite full, with four services in all. The music and services were all inspiring and well done. Jimmy McGuire, the senior pastor, has become a very good friend that I have come to love and respect. He has served Ward Church for ten years, after a solid twenty-three year pastorate in Jackson, Mississippi. Jimmy has done exceptional work in leading this megachurch into new faciities and then in paying off a thirty million dollar debt in only eight years! A lot of men would have wilted under these pressures and demands.

Simply put, large churches are not easy to pastor, especially if the pastor inherited the leadership of the church after a long and successful pastorate. What it takes is the love of a true shepherd, the skill of a very good preacher, and the adminsitrative ability of a forward thinker to guide a large institution wisely, for a senior pastor to succeed. Ward is an old church, with a good number

By |October 30th, 2005|Categories: Personal|

Chicago Has a Champion and Its Not the Cubs

Last night, at 10:42 p.m., fireworks were going off all over my community. Neighbors were celebrating the first World Series championship in Chicago in 88 years. Thats a long time to go without a champion. In fact, only the Chicago Cubs, those lovable losers, are now more desperate for a championship, having not won in 97 years! And the die-hard Cubs fan had his worst nightmare come true last evening.

For Chicago fans like me I am not sure if we know how to savor this moment. Most of us have lived an entire lifetime without knowing what it meant to win in this city at all. If ever a fan base had to learn to wait patiently in adversity it was us. Year after year we made runs at it. Sometimes we even made the post-season, only to go out all too quickly. The last AL pennant was 1959. I still remember rooting for the Go-Go Sox, all speed and no hitting, who lost 4 games to 2 to the LA Dodgers. Well, the misery is finally over. We have twelve

By |October 27th, 2005|Categories: Baseball|

Finding a Perfect Church

I suppose the most egregious denial of the need to be a vital part of a church is the commonly heard statement that "There is no such thing as a perfect church."

Of course there is no perfect church. The statement is so self-evident that it borders on the ridiculous. Where did anyone ever get the idea that a church might possibly be perfect anyway? Clearly not from the New Testament. Not one church in the New Testament seems to have been without major problems.

I still remember when I heard students in the 1960s suggest that what we really needed was a "New Testament Church." I once asked, "Which one? The one in Ephesus that had left its first love? The one in Laodicea that was lukewarm? Or how about the one in Corinth with all its specific problems enumerated in Paul’s two epistles?"

I have come to the simple conclusion that people today will find any reason possible for remaining neutral, or negative, toward becoming deeply involved in a local church. Idealism is the enemy

By |October 26th, 2005|Categories: The Church|

Rusell Crowe: Lessons from a Great Actor

I confess, Russell Crowe is my favorite contemporary film actor. His performance as John Nash, in "A Beautiful Mind," stole my allegiance from any others who were previously at the top of my list. And his most recent performance as James J. Braddick ("Cinderella Man"), the heavyweight boxing champion of the 1930s, was a role that seemed made specifically for Russell Crowe. And I have not even mentioned his leading role in the epics "Gladiator" and "Master, Commander." I think Russell Crowe can simply act, there is just no queston about it.

To my great pleasure Russell Crowe was featured on an NBC Inflight Interview on my United Airlines flight from Sacramento back to Chicago yesterday. The interview was almost as brilliant as the subject. Several lessons stand out to me that I think are worth your thought.

First, Russell Crowe (a native of New South Wales and New Zealand) was trained in the art of acting by doing it, not just by formal schooling. Most of us can use all the formal schooling possible to perfect any skills we

By |October 25th, 2005|Categories: Film|

What About the Word of Faith Movement?

I have very little interest in attacking various modern movements and sub-movements within evangelicalism. At one time I thought this was important. I reasoned that I should constantly warn people about all the "bad" movements that existed in our church cultures so the sheep would not be led astray. I found, quite candidly, that this kind of ministry fed my ego since it put me "in the know." You can really build a reputation on "knowing all that is wrong" with this and that group, person, or movement. It sells books and it generates donors for sure. But does it do what it promises? I seriously doubt it.

I was reminded of all this again when my good friend Andrew Sandlin was recently asked by an email correspondent to comment on the dangers of the Word of Faith movement. Andrew’s response, short and to the point, sums up the way I now answer such questions the older I get. The writer noted to Andrew that various well-known Reformed voices had spoken strongly on the issue of WOF and this was why he

By |October 19th, 2005|Categories: American Evangelicalism|

I Believe in Order to Know

All true knowing comes from faith. Augustine put it this way: "I believe in order to know." The modern age replaced this ancient wisdom with the words of Descartes, cogito ergo sum, or "I think therefore I am." (This is a blatant heresy!) The sad fact is this kind of thinking eventually permeated the Christian church. We still haven’t shaken it to this day. Evangelicals buy into it every day when they argue for a kind of certainity of faith in ways that seem more like the conclusions of a mathematical formula than an appeal to the Word and the Spirit. This almost unchallenged approach seeks to "prove" the faith. But faith can’t be proven. If it is then it is no longer faith (Hebrews 11:1).

Descartes’ error was originally designed to help strengthen the Christain faith in intellectual battles brought on by the Enlightenment. In this case the cure of Descartes was worse than the problem. It divided knowledge into categories and created a kind of dualism that still cripples Christian thinking to this day. Whenever we speak of the head

By |October 18th, 2005|Categories: Apologetics|

God's Way in Dealing with Those Outside the Signs of Christ's Church

I am working this week on finishing a volume for Zondervan on baptism. This is a book to appear in the Counterpoint Series, an excellent group of volumes designed to let Christians see different viewpoints on various issues that divide us. My book has four views which are represented by quite capable authors who are Lutheran, Reformed, Baptist, and Christian Church. I have prepared the introduction, conclusion, bibliography, and an extensive appendix with various confessional statements on the subject of baptism. While doing this reading and collecting of confessional material over the weekend I came across a wonderful and interesting statement, from one of the great Reformation statements of faith (The Second Helvetic Confession), that suggests the church should not be bound by its signs. It says, in part:

But as yet we do not so strictly shut up the Church within those marks before mentioned, as thereby to exclude all those out of the Church who either do not participate in the sacraments (not willingly, nor upon contempt; but who, being constrained by necessity, do against their will abstain from them,

By |October 17th, 2005|Categories: The Church|

The Apologetic of Love

Teaching apologetics in the A Quad (Fall Term) has been a real joy for me. My first quad class at Wheaton Graduate School ended yesterday. A new class, on spiritual formation, begins next Thursday (October 20). My seven students gave me their final papers yesterday, a written project in which they had to develop their own approach to apologetics and defend it.

Nothing brings more joy to a teacher than to know that his students have profited from a class he labored over. Reading the final papers for this class has shown me just how much this class transformed the lives of several of my students. I am a happy man today as I reflect upon this eight week course and what I have experienced afresh by such teaching.

One of my students graduated from a leading secular university (BA) where she became convinced, by trying to evangelize skeptical students, that apologetics was really all about the "skillful oratory and flawless logic" (her own words) of winning a debate. She wrote in her final paper that after our second class she

By |October 14th, 2005|Categories: Apologetics|

Do You Get What You Pay For?

All baseball fans tend to love, or hate, the New York Yankees. When they win some fans are filled with joy. Others, like me, relish the moment. I became a real fan, at age eight, in 1957. That was the year the Milwaukee Braves beat the New York Yankees in seven games in the World Series. I became a real fan of the late Eddie Matthews and Warren Spahn, and the legendary Hank Aaron, who hit all those home runs without steroids!

Last night I relished the recent failure of the hated Yankees (who lost in the first round of the playoffs this year) while I was on my way to see my hometown Chicago White Sox play the Los Angeles Angels in Game One of the ALCS series on Chicago’s south side. What a thrill the whole evening was, with great atmosphere and true fun.

For those who don’t know this fact, the Yankees have, by far and away, the largest payroll in baseball. They pay in excess of 200 million dollars for twenty-five players to perform for 162 games.

By |October 12th, 2005|Categories: Baseball|
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