White Horse Inn Blog

Know what you believe and why you believe it

WHI-1206 | Keeping Our Kids, Part 1

On this edition of White Horse Inn, I’ll talk with Greg Koukl and Brett Kunkle from Stand to Reason about various strategies of passing the faith on to the next generation. In particular, Brett discusses his own crisis of faith during his first semester of college and how that crisis affects his unique approach toward youth ministry.

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Tactics
Greg Koukl

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The Gospel and “Brown vs Board of Education”

Today marks the 60th anniversary of “Brown vs Board of Education,” the U.S. Supreme Court decision which struck down state-sanctioned segregation in U.S. public schools and marked a significant turning point in the Civil Rights movement. In many ways, the 60th anniversary of Brown highlights a curious contradiction in American society. It reveals both our knowledge of what we ought to be, and our consistent inability to become it. Although we need just laws to restrain the sin of racism, laws can’t heal the sin of racism. Although this ruling is so many years old, our public and private school systems are more segregated now than they have been in four decades.

But here’s the good news. The gospel heals the sin of racism. The gospel alone gives us power to see one another in a way that the world cannot, and to love one another in a way that the world cannot. Thousands of years before the supreme court ever decided that segregation was unconstitutional, the Church already knew that segregation was unbiblical. And thousands of years before our government ever attempted to unify diverse people by the letter of the law, the Lord had already unified diverse people in Christ by the power of the Spirit. Even the Civil Rights movement, which helped champion desegregation (at a time when it was unpopular do to so) found its fundamental root, support, and guiding orientation within the Church.

During this time, let’s remember that desegregation is not the U.S. Supreme Court’s idea, it is our God’s idea! So let’s thank our God for revealing his intention that people from every ethnicity should “dwell together in unity,” to the glory of His name. (Ps. 133) Let’s thank Him that in Christ He has “torn down the dividing wall of hostility” between the races (Eph. 2:14),  uniquely making this unity a glorious reality. Let’s thank Him that we as the church have access to something that the world does not, a redemptive power that is not from this world.

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Mika Edmondson serves as the pastor of New City Fellowship OPC, a cross-cultural church plant in inner city Grand Rapids.

Fire on the Mountain

This past week has been eventful. On Wednesday, I was returning from a trip out of state and as my plane landed, I saw plumes of smoke across San Diego County. One fire came within a few blocks of our home and Westminster Seminary California. My family, cat, and I left as quickly as we could, checking the news for the safest route and location to evacuate. Courageous firefighters put out the threatening blaze within an hour, so we returned home and stayed alert to the news.

Our hearts go out to those who lost their homes and who are still displaced. Nevertheless, like most preachers, I saw in the event a good sermon illustration.

God’s “two words” of command and promise are evidence of his love for us. His law is like the news reports informing our family that the routes we thought first of taking were closed to us because of fires. It’s always hazardous to flee “home base” with so many fires around. You can literally leap from the frying pan into the fire.

Our first response to God’s law is to flee, but we look for safe routes apart from the gospel. Ironically, we flee to some version of the law: observant Jews to Torah and Gentiles to the law written on their conscience. Nevertheless, both fail. There is no passable route.

The righteousness of God, it turns out, is not a safe haven. That’s Paul’s argument in Romans 1-3, concluding in 3:20, “Therefore, no one will be justified by the works of the law, since by the law we become conscious of sin.” The law simply reports the dangerous news. It reveals God’s essential righteousness, by which he must condemn us all, Jew and Gentile alike.

Then the good news: “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction (Rom 3:21-22). Apart from Christ, the righteousness of God terrifies us, but the righteousness from God—the gift of justification—is the best news in the world. “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all” (Rom 11:32).

The law reveals God’s just sentence and the gospel reveals the same God as “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Christ” (Rom 3:26). God’s law sends everyone fleeing, but only his gospel announces the safe haven. As it turns out, that safe haven is home, but it is Christ who has quenched Mount Sinai’s flame.

And now the law does something else. It not only announces the threat; it guides us in safety.  There are still “dangers, toils, and snares.” After we fled our San Diego fire, we were glued to our TV set for ongoing reports of danger. We were also reminded to prepare for loss of power and to stock up on water and provisions. Instead of announcing a threat, these reports gave us important information. It was still different from good news (“The fire is out!”), but it was also different from pure threat (“Evacuate!”).

To change the illustration, we are no longer “under the law” in terms of its judgment. Our relation to the law has changed, because we’ve been relocated from Adam to Christ. And now we hear God’s law not from the mountain that burns with fire, but from Mount Zion, the safe haven where no flame can reach because Christ has extinguished it for us. In Christ, we discover a Father instead of a Judge. It’s the love of God that tells us to flee, and it’s the love of God that keeps us informed on what we need to do. Even correction is the discipline of a Father who loves us too much to leave us to ourselves.

From this safe place, we can hear the law as the good and wise commands of a Father instead of the sentence of a judge.

For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest…. But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect…. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire (Heb 12:18, 22-23, 28-29).

Dropouts and Disciples

Ed Stetzer expands on his recent Modern Reformation article in Christianity Today. Here’s a preview:

LifeWay Research data shows that about 70% of young adults who indicated they attended church regularly for at least one year in high school do, in fact, drop out—but don’t miss the details. Of those who left, almost two-thirds return and currently attend church (in the timeframe of our study). Also, that dropout rate is from all Protestant churches—evangelical and mainline.

Read the rest here.

WHI-1205 | The State of Youth Ministry

Is your church’s youth group part of the problem or part of the solution? That’s the question Kim and I will be discussing on this program as we explore some of the strengths and weaknesses of contemporary models of youth ministry. We’ll have help from Alex Chediak, author of Preparing Your Teens for College, and Ryan Roach, a youth pastor in San Diego and creator of a blog titled Youth Ministry Reformation.

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The “Jesus’ Wife” Fragment Is a Hoax

When it comes to Jesus, the gullibility of the religious academy and its media know no bounds.

This past Easter, the U.S. media buzzed with excitement over the announcement of an ancient Coptic (Egyptian) papyrus fragment with the phrase, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife….’” One more footnote for the story of how a powerful ecclesiastical elite suppressed the diversity of Christian voices and made its own variation “orthodoxy.”

Harvard Divinity School has long been a place where “alternative Christianities”—especially Gnosticism—are defended with “fundamentalist” zeal. Karen L. King, Hollis Professor of Divinity, has been a distinguished evangelist for this “other Christianity.” Properly skeptical journalists might have paused before rushing to the keyboards and cameras. Not with this story. I saw headlines with words like “Certain,” “Confident,” and “Proved.” No question about it: the fragment is authentic and demonstrates that Jesus had a wife, the public was assured.

The New York Times ran with it, although with slight reserve: “…More Likely Ancient Than Fake.”  This story included the doubts of Leo Depuydt, Egyptologist at Brown University, who said that the forgery was so obvious that it “seems ripe for a Monty Python sketch.” Nevertheless, the Harvard Divinity School press team was burning the midnight oil to stir popular interest for a salacious religion story on the verge of Easter.

“Too convenient for some,” the Times article added, the fragment “also contained the words, ‘She will be able to be my disciple,’ a clause that inflamed the debate in some churches over whether women should be allowed to be priests.” There wasn’t any supporting example of inflamed debate in churches over Easter weekend, but I suspect that an example wasn’t needed. For a culture—and especially a liberal academy—that is more inclined to believe ancient Gnostics and Dan Brown than Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, even if there isn’t an inflamed debate in the churches, there should be.

Well, none of this matters now, because the fragment has been proved a forgery. On April 24, Coptic scholar Christian Askeland demonstrated that it was “a match for a papyrus fragment that is clearly a forgery.”
On May 2, the Wall Street Journal reported “How the ‘Jesus’ Wife’ Hoax Fell Apart.”  I’m waiting to see the media frenzy over this one—especially since it’s far more conclusive than the press releases of Harvard Divinity School. But I’m not holding my breath.

WHI-1204 | Youth Ministry in Crisis

According to the most conservative estimates, over 60 percent of those raised in evangelical homes end up leaving church at age 18. In some cases the estimates range as high as 90 percent. So what are we doing wrong? Why are we failing to pass the faith on the next generation, and what should churches and parents do to address this crisis? To help answer these questions, I’ll talk with J.I. Packer, Christian Smith, Thomas Bergler, Kenda Creasy Dean, and others as we introduce our new series on Youth Ministry.

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Questions of Faith
Shane Rosenthal

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Soul Searching
Christian Smith & Melinda Denton
Grounded in the Gospel
Packer & Parrett

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Pope Francis, TMZ, and Sainthood

Yesterday, Pope Francis celebrated a canonization mass for John Paul II and John XXIII. There was and will be a flood of glowing accounts of all three, a celebration of their humanity and accomplishments. But behind it all is the unseemly matter of celebrity sainthood in the church, and the doctrine says that some select few are guaranteed to be in heaven because of their good works, and pass along our prayers to Jesus.

It’s important to grasp this: Saints are baptized, not canonized. We are all made holy by faith alone.

Read more from Dr. Brian Lee’s article in The Federalist here

WHI-1203 | Jesus & Modern Scholarship

Can we trust the New Testament portrait of Jesus, or is the Jesus of history radically different from the Jesus of faith? What are we to think of scholars like Bart Ehrman who suggest that Jesus has been “misquoted,” and that the Bible has significantly changed over time? Joining the panel for this discussion is New Testament scholar Craig A. Evans, author of Reinventing Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels, and the Holman QuickSource Guide to the Dead Sea Scrolls (original air date: June 10, 2010).

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Textual Criticism
Michael Kruger
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Shane Rosenthal

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WHI Discussion Group Questions
Coming Soon

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Heavenly Days

“Heaven Is For Real,” a movie about a child’s visit to heaven, reportedly grossed $21.5 million at its opening this past Easter weekend. A spate of similar books regularly climb to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List. Judging by the continuing popularity of Jesus Calling (America’s #1 devotional), the nation—and especially evangelical publishers and readers—are craving revelation about the things that matter most. Yet it’s revelation apart from—or at least beyond—the Word of God.

How do we know that God exists and heaven is for real? The apostles answer with one voice: “We heard, saw, and touched him with our hands… and he is risen!”  It’s amazing that at the time when Christians celebrate Christ’s bodily resurrection as “the first-fruits of those who sleep,” a completely different gospel, with entirely different sources of “revelation,” is broadcast in the name of Christ.

When it comes to heaven, particularly to the presence of the Triune God who makes it “heaven” in the first place, are we playing with fire?

Remarkably, one of the best critiques of this genre I’ve come across is a post on the CNN website. It’s by Drew Dyck, editor of Leadership Journal.  “Yes, the Bible teaches that heaven is a place of ultimate comfort, with ‘no more death or mourning or crying or pain’ (Revelation 21:4),” he notes.  “But it is also a place where the reality of God’s unbridled majesty reigns supreme and that’s scary.”  He adds, “We can’t truly appreciate God’s grace until we glimpse his greatness. We won’t be lifted by his love until we’re humbled by his holiness.” In conclusion, he states, “The affection of a cosmic buddy is one thing. But the love of the Lord of heaven and earth, the one who Isaiah says ‘dwells in unapproachable light,’ means something else entirely.”

Another very helpful resource is a video by David Platt.  After pointing to the problem in pop culture over “trips to heaven,” Pastor Platt offers wise biblical counsel for “discerning the spirits.” And isn’t the safest ground to stay close to the words of the one who said, “No one has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father… I am the bread of life” (John 6:46, 48)?

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