White Horse Inn Blog

Know what you believe and why you believe it

WHI-1196 | The Book of Job, Part 2

Continuing the overview of Job, we’ll consider the various claims to health, wealth, and happiness made by Job’s counselors. What’s wrong with this approach and how should this influence the way we think about suffering in the Christian life? How do we deal with the fact that there is so much pain and misery in the world-and perhaps even in our own lives? What happens to our faith when having “our best life now” seems to elude us at every turn?

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PROGRAM AUDIO


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RECOMMENDED BOOKS

A Place for Weakness
Michael Horton
Job
Tremper Longman
Glorious Ruin
Tullian Tchividjian

RECOMMENDED AUDIO

Al Mohler on Horton’s “Pilgrim Theology”

Al Mohler wrote up a series of reviews on books that were released in 2013 for Preaching.com and included Michael Horton’s Pilgrim Theology:

MichaelHorton, Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples (Zondervan, 2013)

In this new book, Michael Horton provides a unique service that should be appreciated by every preacher. He previously wrote a massive and worthy systematic theology, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way (Zondervan, 2011). Two years later, he has come out with Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples. Why two books? The answer presents us with a dilemma. Would we really want to read the shorter version of a massively important book?

Oddly enough, the answer is often an honest yes. Actually, this two-book project by Horton represents the kind of gift to the church that should serve as a model for others. Preachers are aware of the temptation to start a massive and worthy volume only to discover the demands and interruptions of ministry often make the completion of that book very difficult. Many preachers have expressed the need for a more accessible approach that could fit within the actual reading practices of a disciplined preaching minister.

So, here’s good news: Every preacher should have the time and opportunity to read Pilgrim Theology and benefit from this powerful distillation of Horton’s very important theological work.

More good news in this volume: Horton not only believes theology is anything but a dry and abstract intellectual discipline, but he proves the vitality and relevance of theology for the Christian life. After all, he has written these works as guides for pilgrims, not as literary monuments.

The readers of this volume will find it to be a very helpful and well-organized approach to Christian doctrine—and to be an ongoing discussion with so many of the people and issues driving our contemporary conversations. Furthermore, Horton demonstrates a very substantial engagement with Scripture and the biblical narrative. Every preacher—every pilgrim—will find much health in this volume.

To read his reviews of other great books that were released in 2013, click here.

The End Times Are Finally Here!

Kim Riddlebarger responds to the latest end times nuttiness over at the Riddleblog. Here’s a preview:

But there are two significant problems with this approach to Ezekiel 38-39.  First, as Edwin Yamauchi (a noted evangelical archaeologist and historian) has pointed out in his book, Foes from the Northern Frontier:  Invading Hordes from the Russian Steppes (Baker, 1983), this identification is based upon a number of unsubstantiated assumptions.  For one thing, Gog and Magog cannot be directly tied to the Scythians.  Yamauchi believes that their identity is not certain at all.  Furthermore, he contends that Meshech and Tubal cannot be tied to Moscow or Tobolsk in any sense.  He believes these are references to ancient Assyria which did invade Israel from the north.  This means that Ezekiel is speaking of Israel’s immediate future when writing his prophecy (an Assyrian invasion from the north), which also prefigures an end-time event.

How do we know that to be the case?  If you follow the basic hermeneutical principle that the New Testament interprets the Old Testament (something dispensationalists are not willing to admit when it comes to interpreting biblical prophecy), then in Revelation 20:8-9, John speaks of Gog and Magog as symbolic of the nations of the earth, gathering together to make war on the saints (the church).

Read the rest here.

The Week That Changed History

It’s a week that changed history: the week that began with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and ended with the birthday of the new creation.  Our Lord’s entire life—indeed, the whole Bible—is riveted to the events that unfold in these days.  A new book by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Justin Taylor walks us through this week with terrific effect.  The title is The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived.

The authors’ combined skills of New Testament scholarship and faithful story-telling are put to great use in this riveting account.   It is a great resource for personal or family devotions, but it also makes a terrific gift for friends and family who need to hear the greatest story ever told.  At a time of the year when the historical details of the Gospels’ accounts are subjected to critique by the media, this book is a rare gem.

Repent of Lent? No!

Over at The Federalist, Todd Peperkorn, a Lutheran minister, is engaged in a point/counterpoint discussion on Lent with Reformed pastor, Brian Lee. Rev. Peperkorn’s main point is that in an age of information inundation, we need the opportunity to focus less on many things in order to focus more on one thing: the person and work of Christ. Here’s a preview:

Historically, there are three practices associated with Lent: Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving or works of mercy. It is a time when Christians mourn over their sin (called repentance) and learn again to trust in their Savior, Jesus Christ. Just like you don’t only go to a doctor once, in the same way a Christian can benefit from a “checkup” on their faith, to remind them who they are as baptized children of God.

In connection with this, Lent can be a time of great focus for the Christian. Our culture is inundated with input. As I sit here writing this on my iPad, I am watching my son do his homework, listening to another child crying, checking Facebook on my phone, all while drinking a Diet Coke at McDonald’s. Sometimes it’s a wonder we can think at all!

But in order to focus more on one thing, one must also learn to focus less on other things. In our secular culture, we can see this with the rise of minimalism in everything from apps on our phone to architectural design to how we lay out our kitchens. Great design leads to simplicity, not complexity. And because our lives are increasingly complex, something has to change in order for us to get out of the continual spin cycle of life. While these ideas are often held up as Buddist in our day, they really belong to the Christian tradition just as much.

 Read the rest here. Read the counterpoint here.

Repent of Lent? Yes!

Over at The Federalist, Reformed pastor Brian Lee (longtime contributor to Modern Reformation) is engaged in a conversation with Todd Peperkorn, a Lutheran minister, over the propriety of Lent. Dr. Lee’s article says that some “spiritual disciples” (especially those not commanded in Scripture) can cause more damage than good. Here’s a preview:

Lost amid the ashes and sausages, King cakes and shrove pancakes — can’t forget about the pancakes — is Zwingli’s deeper concern about the nature of Christian sanctification. As a cradle Catholic whose done the ashes, and a former evangelical whose fasted to the point of fainting, at this point in my life I find myself increasingly concerned that Lenten abstinence, obligatory or not, can in fact be bad for one’s soul.

Note that I am not a Puritan who is opposed to all observance of the church calendar, nor do I deny the value of learning practical piety from Christian tradition. With Zwingli, I affirm the Christian’s freedom to fast, or not to fast, and thus obligatory observance of Rome and the East remains beyond the Protestant pale. Yet I believe that this tradition — the spiritual discipline of seasonal fasting and abstinence — is more often than not detrimental to our faith.

Read the rest here. Read the counterpoint argument here.

WHI-1195 | The Book of Job, Part 1

We are beginning a new series on Suffering & the Christian Life and will start with a three-part miniseries on the book of Job. What is the meaning and purpose of this book? What does it teach us about suffering? How does Job deal with his many trials, and how should we think about the advice he gets from his friends? That’s the focus of this edition of White Horse Inn.

RELATED ARTICLES

RELATED STUDY AIDS

PROGRAM AUDIO


Click here to access the audio file directly

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

A Place for Weakness
Michael Horton
Job
Francis Anderson

RECOMMENDED AUDIO

Even Rod Dreher Gets It

From Rod Dreher at the American Conservative:

We Orthodox, Catholics, and Reformed Christians can look down our noses all we like at charismatics and Evangelicals for not having a strong and systematic theology, but what good does our theological depth do us if we don’t teach our young people how to think as Christians, and how to discipline their feelings with reason?

The issue? The rising tide of ex-evangelicals who are losing a faith built on emotions over the issue of gay rights and same sex marriage. Read the letter from an ex-evangelical and Rod’s poignant observations after them. Then, do what he says: forward it to every Christian leader you know.

WHI-1194 | An Interview with Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

How can we discern between helpful and unhelpful ways to reach out to our non-Christian neighbors? More particularly, how should we deal with the thorny subject of homosexuality or interact with those in our lives who deal with same-sex attraction? To help us navigate these waters, in this edition of White Horse Inn we talk with Rosaria Champagne Butterfield. She describes her previous life as a “lesbian feminist professor” in recently published book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.

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My Train Wreck Conversion
Rosaria Butterfield
Such Were Some of You
Russell Mathews

RELATED STUDY AIDS

PROGRAM AUDIO


Click here to access the audio file directly

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

Beyond Culture Wars
Michael Horton
Tactics
Greg Koukl

RECOMMENDED AUDIO

The Ministry IS A Gospel Issue

My friend Kevin De Young wrote a helpful post addressing the question, “Who can baptize?” It’s succinct. His position is standard practice for Reformed churches as well as others. Laypeople are not to baptize, he argued.

But what surprised me were some of the comments. Wow, did it open up the floodgates! Kevin’s post was seen as advocating sacerdotalism, denying the priesthood of all believers, majoring on minors, and other notorious evils of our age. It’s hardly a gospel issue, said one brother.

I’ve offered exegetical arguments for the importance of church office—and how it serves rather than undermines the priesthood of all believers. (If you’re interested, it’s in The Christian Faith, 190-221, and People & Place, 872-905.) It is remarkable to me that evangelical pastors and even theologians can regard as “sacerdotal” the view that some believers are called to the public ministry as pastors who administer the Word and sacraments, others as elders who govern the spiritual life of the flock, and others as deacons who serve their temporal needs. It is especially odd that for “Bible Christians,” the culture of egalitarian individualism could trump clear biblical passages.

Sacerdotal? This term refers to the idea that the minister is a priest like the Old Testament priests who continue to offer propitiatory sacrifices on behalf of the people. It is clear in the New Testament that Christ is the only mediator (1 Tim 2:5, for instance). So “sacerdotal” is a pretty serious charge.

Kevin offered some of the relevant passages on church office.  I’ll add my own comment on Ephesians 4, because contemporary translations of verses 5-16 have become the basis for “every-member-a-minister.” While the New Testament affirms that every believer is united to Christ and shares in “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” by “one Spirit” (Eph 4:5-6), it just as clearly teaches that the ascended Christ “gave gifts” and that these gifts are specially-called leaders: “he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers” (v. 11). According to newer translations, these leaders have been given for the purpose of equipping everyone for the work of ministry.  Even if one took that view (and there are plenty of solid exegetes who do!), the rejection of special office is hardly justified.  After all, pastor-teachers are still preparing them for service! In my view, older translations are more reliable in translating the following verses (11-16). For example, according to the King James Version, these offices are given “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”  There’s no reason to imagine that these three purpose-clauses have in view someone other than the officers he mentions.

The gift-offices that Christ gives in verse 11 are for the purpose of building up and edifying the whole body by the work of the ministry. When this happens, the whole church is brought into “the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” and into maturity—“the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” “no longer children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” Through the ministry that Christ carries out by his Word and Spirit through these ministers, every member has what he or she needs for “speaking the truth in love,” so that “the whole body fitly joined together” will “grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” When we see this passage in the light of others, especially in the Pastoral Epistles, it becomes clear that these officers are special gifts to the whole church. Their calling is not to lord it over the sheep but to shepherd them under Christ so that they will all truly be “a kingdom of priests” (Rev 5:9).

When pastors preach and teach and elders govern, there is no autocratic leadership. It is hardly “clericalism” when the governors of the church are elders rather than pastors. The New Testament teaches a mutual accountability with checks and balances. Ironically, movements and churches that downplay or even denounce biblical teaching and advertise themselves as freewheeling and egalitarian, with an every-member-a-minister philosophy, usually end up being far more totalitarian.

Take just one example. In the past few days, an exposé of Elevation Church in North Carolina revealed that the group’s “spontaneous baptisms” are manipulated by having “plants” in the audience rush forward for baptism even though they are baptized members of the church already. But if you check out their website, you’ll find what the church calls “The Code.”  Number 9 partly explains the Finney-esque methods: “We are all about the numbers.”  But number 4 is even more sinister: “We are united under one vision.  Elevation is built on the vision God gave Pastor Steven. We will aggressively defend our unity and that vision.” Indeed, they do defend it aggressively. One of the Sunday school booklets for youth sports a drawing of Pastor Steven on the cover. The book instructs the children of the church to “support the vision” of Pastor Steven by being “united under the visionary.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Throughout the history of American revivalism (and its historical precedents), the clever and successful evangelist proclaims traditional churches ineffective or apostate. There are the usual declamations against “clericalism”—in other words, a trained and ordained ministry. And then, eventually, the movement becomes a sect and the leader becomes a lord.

Even in “Young, Restless, Reformed” circles, crucial teachings in Scripture are put on the back burner or even silenced by the line, “It’s not a gospel issue.” But in the Great Commission our Lord called the apostles not only to preach the gospel but to baptize and to “teach them everything that I have commanded you.” And that “everything” includes what he taught through the apostles concerning the ordained ministry.There are many things that may not be “gospel issues” that we are nevertheless commanded in Scripture to embrace and practice. Furthermore, how can one say that baptism and the public offices are not gospel issues, when Christ applies his gospel to us in Word and Sacrament?

I miss the good old days when paedobaptists and Baptists used to hold baptism and the Supper as well as the offices seriously enough to disagree about them. Today it seems that they have become silly trifles. If that’s what unity in the gospel means, then it is a far cry from the gospel according to Jesus.

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