Monthly Archives: June 2005

Certitude Can Be Idolatrous

The most dangerous directions taken in history were undertaken by people who had a high level of certitude for both their views and choices. This is true of dictators and tyrants, as well as religious zealots, including some Christians.

There are several ways that we seek to justify what we believe. One is by using what we think is a reliable process. Another way is to show that the world is a more coherent place because of what I believe than it is without the truths that I believe. A third way, and the one I often question in my teaching, is to argue that what I believe is inferred from previous beliefs about how things seem to be right now. This is the approach of classic foundationalism. Foundationalism seeks to build one’s beliefs upon a basic stucture that is foundational for everything else. It understands that there are indubitable beliefs from which further propositions can be inferred to produce a superstructure of known truths. Traditionally foundationalism forms beliefs about our sensory experience and then these beliefs are used to provide the

By |June 30th, 2005|Categories: Postmodernity|

Knowing What You Believe in the Light of Postmodenrnity

During my college years the late InterVarsity staff member Paul Little wrote his little classic book, Know Why You Believe. It was a vintage, simple, and basic apologetic for the time. The idea was that there were a few (seven as I recall now) questions that any Christian should (and could) have a grasp of and through that grasp be equipped to respond to common objections made against the faith. This very simple approach freed many of us to feel confident that we could talk about the Lord openly, and with much more confidence, on the college campus.

Paul Little later wrote a book, far less well-known, titled Know What You Believe. The same idea prevailed. All of us should know the simple basics that Christians must believe if they are to understand and defend the faith.

Christians who truly believe the faith should plainly know what they believe. They should know what they believe about God, about Jesus, and about the Holy Spirit. They should know what they believe bout faith, about heaven and hell, and about the Bible.

By |June 29th, 2005|Categories: Postmodernity|

Strategic Laziness

There are a host of new terms and motivational sayings that regularly get created in, and passed through, the world of business. I do not spend a lot of time in that world. When I do converse with business leaders I often learn something that is quite useful to the world that I do live in, a world of theology, philosophy, culture and writing. Today was such a day.

My nephew is a first-rate businessman, who conducts his work and life with real integrity for the glory of God. He also knows the literature and thought of his vocation very well. He meets with me periodically to offer counsel about the business and development side of this ministry. Today was such a day. Toward the end of our time together Brad said to me, "You need to write this down. Put it on a sticky note and look at it every day until it sticks and then works its way into your planning and living." I dutifully followed orders.

The counsel was that I should plan to be more "strategically

By |June 28th, 2005|Categories: Personal|

Thinking Evangelically About Postmodernity

I spent several hours, over the past two days, writing my next two Weekly Messengers, for June 27 and July 4. (You can subscribe at The subject of postmodernism (PM), and how ordinary Christians should think about this often overused, and even more often misunderstood, word is my subject. I hope I have said something that is fairly simple and practically useful. That is my goal in most such articles.

Kevin Vanhoozer, a prolific evangelical theologian at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL), has recently written of the four ways we might respond to PM. He says we can:

1. Deny it, or ignore it. We can thus refuse to recognize that it has any importance or has any right to exist. He writes that, "Not a few Christians are in denial over postmodernity."

2. We can defy it, thereby seeking to show how it is a threat to our security and way of life. Vanhoozer adds, "Not a few Christians have (in my judgment) overreacted in this direction. To describe postmodernity as ‘the

By |June 24th, 2005|Categories: Postmodernity|

The End for Billy Graham? A Legacy for Good

Billy Graham is preaching what will likely be his last evangelistic city-wide campaign this weekend in New York. He has repeatedly said that this three day event (June 24-26) "will be my last [evangelistic crusade] in America, I’m sure." Dr. Graham is 86 years old, suffering from fluid on the brain, and prostate cancer. Earlier this week he said, "I look forward to seeing God face to face."

This prompts me to personally reflect about the life and legacy of this good man. I have admired Billy Graham since I first saw and heard him in the 1950s. His strong and clear voice, joined with a striking presence that simply sparkled, and his clear exposition of the gospel joined with a courageous declaration of Christ’s Lordship, all impressed me then. They still do now. After watching his life on the public stage for over fifty years, and hearing scores (maybe hundreds) of his sermons and interviews, I remain impressed that this is a man who lived a humble, Christ-centered life. I never personally met Dr. Graham, so my personal impressions are second-hand. I do have friendships

By |June 23rd, 2005|Categories: Evangelism|

Roman Catholic Special Pleading

I listen quite often to snippets of Relevant Radio while I drive about Chicago. Relevant Radio is the conservative Roman Catholic network for those who do not recognize the name. (I often go from talk radio, to Moody Broadcast Network, to Relevant Radio and back again in ten minutes of drive time!). I am frequently encouraged by things I hear on Relevant Radio that are clearly mainstream Christian, thus catholic and apostolic. I am also amazed at some of the Scripture twisting I hear from earnest and sincere Catholic apologists. These guys seem to "shadow box" stereotypical evangelical ideas with glee. Like fundamentalists, these folks often go to unusual extremes to "prove" a point of controversial, non-mainstream, non-apostolic theology. Such was the case on Monday, June 20. Here is the text that was cited:

Then the man brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, the one facing east, and it was shut. The Lord said to me, "This gate is to remain shut. It must not be opened; no one may enter through it. It is to remain shut because

By |June 22nd, 2005|Categories: The Church|

The Great Commission is About More Than Winning Individuals

Jesus says that making disciples means "going" into the whole world and "baptizing and teaching them to obey" (Matthew 28:18-20). This means the mission of Christ is for every people group, every nook and cranny of every cultrue if you please. As some of you know he literally says "as you are going" into the world this is what you are to do. This clearly means his followers will be going if they are following faithfully, so when they do go what they must be sure to do, as his people, is "make disciples." Churches have failed this task for centuries. Even the most evangelical churches are often content to hold services, care for their own, and in many cases simply buy and develop real estate and build institutions to be preserved. Intentionally penetrating culture appears to me to have been a clear hallmark of Jesus’ ministry. He was so involved in his own culture that the religious elite called him a glutton, a drunkard, and a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19). Jesus transformed lives by directly engaging with, and in, culture. He met

By |June 21st, 2005|Categories: Emergent Church|

Escaping a Bad Church

Thousands of small congregations dot the spiritual landscape of American Christianity. They are still the backbone of much serious, faithful Christian faith and practice. It has been said that the average church has 65 people in attendance on Sunday morning. I like small churches. They can do things relationally that are missed by almost all larger churches. I pastored a church of 75-100 people for sixteen years. I am now, very happily, a member of a church of 100 or less people on Sunday morning. My wife and I know and love the flock and feel the warmth of God’s love in our church.

But small churches can be easily tyannized in rather unique ways. One such tyranny that I have witnessed over the past twenty-five years or so occurs in small Reformed churches. These congregations are always male dominated. Accordingly, they crush female spirituality by turning women into what one brother has appropriately called, "Stepford wives." These churches almost always adopt a strong "elder rule" pattern of leadership. The elders, who answer to no one else, control the life of the

By |June 20th, 2005|Categories: The Church|

An Acton Institute Forum in Grand Rapids

I wrote last year (Weekly Messenger) on the valuable work of the Acton Insitute. I attended an Acton Conference on the theme: "Toward a Free and Virtuous Society." This event was held in Connecticut last August. I deeply appreciated it and thus I decided to attend another Acton event in Grand Rapids this week (June 14-18). This current event is a symposium made up of different tracks of study and fellowship on subjects like globalization, effective compassion, and business, faith and ethics.

The group I am attending is titled, "Business, Faith and Ethics." It is part of Acton’s Center for Entrepreneurial Stewardship. I have been in a room with twenty-five successful business entrepreneurs and one other mission related person, a leader in the Christian Reformed Church. This is not my normal venue so it has been fun to sit back, say very little, and seek to better understand a world quite apart from my own Christian non-profit mission.

Yesterday we discusssed questions like, "Who am I?" and "What is my work?" Work is a source of satisfaction or frustation for all

By |June 17th, 2005|Categories: Culture|

More on Fundamentalism

I have received several comments re: my three-part Weekly Messenger series on fundamentalism (May 23, 30 and June 6). Here is another response, sent to me second-hand.

Armstrong’s articles on fundamentalism were disappointing. It was all over the map, i.e. unclear. It also seemed to conclude that our belief in the truth rests in seeing the events of Christ as being factual and the only way this happens is when the Spirit works in our hearts. Where does this leave us when people claim to be moved by the Spirit to contradictory interpretations of thefacts of Christ?  This is surely another form of irrational emotionalism. It is also very dangerous for him to say that there is a difference between divine revelation and the Bible. I guess he is fighting against a narrow biblicism, i.e. worship of the Bible. But who does that? It is a straw man.

What about what Josiah required in 2 Kings 22 and 23. All the people were to listen to the Lord as he spoke to them in the book of the covenant. This was the

By |June 16th, 2005|Categories: American Evangelicalism|

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