Monthly Archives: July 2005

A Kairos Moment?

When John Paul II died a few months ago a number of Catholic and non-Catholic theologians and commentators wondered out loud if this was a "kairos" moment for the church. These writers understand a "kairos" moment to be a specific time that becomes decisive in church history. Anthony Figueiredo, former special assistant to the pontiff, believes Rome is in fact going through such a moment. I am personally not convinced but remain open and prayerful.

But what about Protestantism, especially the historic European and North American variety? "Mainline, historic Protestantism seems spiritually and morally almost finished," wrote religion observer Uwe Siemon-Netto in April. And, added the popular Catholic journal New Oxford Review, "Mainline . . . denominations are slowly dying. Let them die a natural death."

Siemon-Netto asks: "Is this true? Will only Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Islam survive the current crisis of faith, as a senior religious affairs adviser to the European Commission predicted some years ago?"

Protestant minister Albrecht Immanuel Herzog argues that the answer is a resolute "No." He believes "the Spirit who is Lord

By |July 29th, 2005|Categories: The Church|

Beware the Ideologues

The ideologues are out in full force these days. These ideologues are visionary theorists who embrace a range of narrowly defined positions with considerable passion. And they are both conservative and liberal. You will see more and more of them as the Senate begins its confirmation hearings on Supreme Court nominee John Roberts in coming weeks. Their rhetoric will be strong, their emotions very high, and their knives carefully sharpened. But they will contribute very little of substance to an important civic discussion that such an event actually warrants.

Ann Coulter, one conservative voice I can personally do without most days, has already suggested that John Roberts is another "stealth nominee," likening him to present Supreme Court judges David Souter, Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day O’Connor. And liberals on the far left have also begun their expected attacks on Roberts’ views on abortion. I am convinced John Roberts will rise above this partisan din and be confirmed, maybe quite easily. I hope so.

What fascinates me in this is how much the far left and far right are alike

By |July 27th, 2005|Categories: Politics|

A Little Internet Humor

It is said that a little humor is good for the soul. And nothing in the modern genre of humor may be better for the soul of Internet readers than fast-spreading Internet humor. My wife was sent as email yesterday that made me laugh out loud. I thought many of my readers would enjoy this as well so I provide it via today’s blog. If I could attribute the piece properly I would gladly do so but I feel sure the writer would be happy just to make a few more people smile.

I want to thank all of those who have taken the time and trouble to send so many email advisories over the past year.

Thank you for making me feel safe, secure, blessed, and wealthy. ( I think)

Because of your concern, I no longer can drink Coca Cola because it can remove toilet stains. I no longer drink Pepsi or Dr. Pepper since the people who make these products are atheists who refuse to put "Under God" on their cans. In fact, I no longer

By |July 26th, 2005|Categories: Humor|

When Christian Ethics Are Not Christian

A great deal of ethical discussion today comes to us from Christian writers and ministries. Much of it  is not really Christian at all. It may be advanced by Christians. And it may be supported by Christians. It may even be given in settings that appear to be Christian (churches, missions, radio and TV broadcasts by Christians, etc.) but in the end these arguments are not distinctly Christian at all.

Look, if an ethical argument can be made without any specific reference to Christ and the gospel then the argument being made is not Christian. It may be a solid moral argument. And it may well be right. But Christian ethics are Christian.

Oliver M. O’Donovan, Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology at Oxford University, wrote in 1994, that "The foundations of Christain ethics must be evangelical foundations, or, to put it more simply Christian ethics must arise from the gospel of Jesus Christ. Otherwise it could not be Christian ethics."

I think O’Donovan is quite right. I wish popular treatments of ethics by American conservatives would become

By |July 24th, 2005|Categories: Culture|

A Few More Thoughts on Imputation

When I have commented on imputation in the past few years I am sometimes asked if my position is "a classic Protestant position" on these matters. The answer is, in itself, a point for considerable discussion. The Lutherans clearly had a nuance on the matter. Calvin had yet another nuance and Bucer had yet a different one from Calvin. (They agreed on the main points, at least as I read them, but differed on minor ones.) I do believe that I am personally within the general framework of confessional Reformed theology, which I do affirm as the best system for understanding the trajectories of Scripture on these particular matters. (I do not, however, think that the Reformed confessions are the only important and necessary words of the Church on grace, faith, and union with Christ. Since salvation includes "sharing in the divine nature." Frankly, I think there is a great deal more to be said that is not included in these words of sixteenth century confessions).

I am further asked: "Is the gift of righteousness in salvation ‘the righteousness of Christ?’" Yes, it

By |July 19th, 2005|Categories: Biblical Theology|


I am sometimes asked, due to the heated debates surrounding the so-called New Perspective on Paul, if I truly believe in imputation. To put it very simply, "What is my understanding of the relationship of Christ’s righteousness and his work of imputation?" I always answer this question as plainly as I know how.

No one will be saved without the imputed righteousness of Christ alone (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:30, the only text that specifically refers to the idea of imputation by direct reference). I understand imputation to be the reckoning of our sins to Christ and the reckoning of his death (a righteous payment in the courtroom of divine justice, to use one Pauline metaphor) to us. He takes our sin and we receive his gift (forgiveness). What I do not see so plainly revealed in Scripture is the idea that Christ kept the law for us and by this action "merited" salvation for all who believe. In this thinking we are saved by merit, Christ’s merit. This kind of merit is what I do not see plainly revealed by Scripture. By

By |July 18th, 2005|Categories: Biblical Theology|

Its All About Relationships

Most American evangelicals give little or no thought to the role that Christian faith has in creating a vision for society. We have privatized our faith to great excess. We have, to put it another way, focused on the first commandment, that is to love God, but failed the second, to love our neighbor.

A wideranging reformation is spreading, in various parts of the world, that aims to change this pattern. Many bright, and often young, Christians believe that there is a distinctive Christian vision for society, a vision that challenges socialism, capitalism and all other fallen ideologies. This vision generally begins with a careful reading of the Book of Deuteronomy. When you realize that these laws were not an arbitrary collection of regulations and merely human ideas, but a pattern for how an ancient society should be organized so that it would flourish, you have a solid starting point. Indeed, you have much more than a negative critique of the modern ills of society, Western or otherwise.

Simply put, I believe that how we apply biblical social teaching to

By |July 13th, 2005|Categories: Culture|

Teacher or Reproducer?

My dear friend and pastor, Wilbur Ellsworth, cited a marvelous quote on July 3 that I had never previously heard. He didn’t tell us where it came from originally so I can’t give you the proper credit for the quote. It does sum up a great deal of what I have learned through considering carefully the ancient-future dimensions of Christian faith.

The saying is this: "We can teach what we know, we can reproduce who we are."

I have taught a great deal for nearly forty years now. I wonder at times how much I have reproduced. I remain deeply committed to teaching. I am even more committed to reproducing with every passing year.

By |July 12th, 2005|Categories: Personal|

David Bahnsen on the New Perspective, N. T Wright and Auburn Avenue

I wrote a blog several days ago about the resolution of the Mississippi Valley Presbytery (PCA) presented to the General Assembly in their June meeting (“The New Perspective and the PCA, July 2, 2005). This resolution sought to put the entire denomination on record as opposed to the "heresies" of the New Perspective on Paul and related matters. I expressed my joy that this measure failed. Last week my friend David Bahnsen, the son of the late theologian Greg Bahnsen, wrote a piece that summed up a great number of my own thoughts on this controversy quite well. With David’s permission I share his comments as follows (you can reach David’s web site directly at

(1)  I affirm justification by faith alone in the most traditional and historical way possible.  I believe I am saved by "Christ, plus nothing".  I feel no need to "update" my position, alter its vocabulary, or confuse those who are listening/reading.  My position on justification is

By |July 11th, 2005|Categories: Biblical Theology|

The Gospel and Culture

The proper balance between evangelism and social concern has troubled the church for centuries. The very existence of such a problem should make anyone who advances a particular partisan cause humble. The sad fact is that it does not in most cases. It seems that we have never been more divided as Christians than we are right now about the proper role of the kingdom of God in its relationship to the kingdom of man.

How, for example, do economics and politics relate to the gospel? How is the kingdom realized through these spheres? A privatistic evangelicalism (with its stress on personal piety as the end of all Christian faith in this world) and an acculturated liberalism (where everything is reduced to existential experience) are both guilty of divorcing the kingdom of God from the messy business of life in the economic and political realms. This is the kind of emphasis I grew up with as a Christian in the South. This emphasis told me to not get involved in the Civil Rights struggle, to give but one example.


By |July 8th, 2005|Categories: Culture|

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