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Know what you believe and why you believe it

Modern Reformation Digital Issues now available as PDF downloads!

May/June 2011 MR

At the end of 2010 we began launching digital versions of Modern Reformation issues. This allows subscribers (both our print and on-line subscribers) the option of reading the magazine in its fully formatted form across a number of devices. However, we had heard from many subscribers that would like the option of downloading the issues in PDF form so they can read the digital issues of MR when they were not connected to the internet or on other e-reading devices (i.e. Kindle, Nook, etc. that can read imported PDFs). Now that option is available! In the menu bar of the digital issue there is a PDF icon that allows you to download select pages or the entire issue of Modern Reformation.

In order to access all of our digital issues (and now download PDFs), as well as access our entire on-line archive, you must be a current subscriber (print or on-line) to Modern Reformation or a partner of White Horse Inn. (If you currently are a subscriber or partner, but don’t think you have access to our MR site please contact the webmaster.)

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For a free digital preview edition of our current May/June 2011 issue click on the “mini-flip” version below (or click here if Flash is not enabled)

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WHI-1053 | Him We Proclaim

Though many churches claim to be Christ-centered, most Christian sermons continue to present Jesus as a divine therapist, a motivating coach or as a political activist. So how does one faithfully read and study the Bible with Christ at the center? What does it mean to preach the Christ from all the Scriptures? That’s the focus of this edition of the White Horse Inn as Michael Horton talks with Dennis Johnson, author of Him We Proclaim, Preaching Christ in All the Scriptures (originally broadcast July 1, 2007).

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

Him We Proclaim
Dennis Johnson
According to Plan
Graeme Goldsworthy
Preaching Christ in All of Scripture
Edmund Clowney

PROGRAM AUDIO

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Doug Powell

Mike on Office Hours

Mike Horton discusses his latest book The Gospel Commission on the latest edition of Office Hours from Westminster Seminary California. To listen to the episode click here.

Purchase The Gospel Commission from the White Horse Inn Store

Is Love Winning?

Dr. Horton was recently invited to speak about Rob Bell’s book Love Wins at the Richmond Center for Christian Study in Richmond, VA. His lecture and a time of Questions & Answers are available for free download on the Center’s website.

WHI-1052 | Dealing with Objections to the Resurrection

When telling others about the message of the gospel, objections of various kinds inevitably arise. So how are we to answer the person who claims that Jesus never really died on the cross, or that the miracle stories associated with Christ are complete fabrications? The hosts discuss these questions and more as they interact with some of the claims made by skeptic Michael Shermer in his recent WHI interview. Joining the panel for this discussion is Craig Parton, author of Religion on Trial and The Defense Never Rests.

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

Religion on Trial
Craig Parton
Holman QuickSource Guide to Apologetics
Doug Powell
Resurrection iWitness iPad App
Doug Powell

PROGRAM AUDIO

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Matthew Smith

Remember those who are in prison

We often tell subscribers that the price of their subscription helps us to circulate nearly twice as many magazines as we have subscribers. Many of the magazines that we give away go to prisoners across the US. Today, we received a letter (and a money order to pay for his own subscription) from a prisoner in the West. I wanted to share just a brief segment of the letter with you for your encouragement:

I am a prisoner in _______ with a life sentence and I can’t tell you how much of an impact your unashamed proclamation of the sovereign grace of our God has had on my theological understanding and consequently my everyday life. Thank you for your stand on the solas and the Reformed tradition as well. I am 28 years old and grew up in the _______ ______ church family. As well intentioned as most mainline Christianity is, young men like myself need guys like you to be the unpopular voice from the past that calls the church back to the doctrines of St. Paul, the apostle of Christ.

This prisoner was introduced to Modern Reformation through the back issues that another prisoner had kept and passed along. Your gifts to Modern Reformation and White Horse Inn do more than just keep the lights on, they help change people’s lives…sometimes in the most unexpected places.

We’re in the final stretch of our mid-year appeal and your gifts make a significant difference. If you haven’t already, would you please call us at 800-890-7556 and make a donation over the phone or you can give online or by mail (White Horse Inn, 1725 Bear Valley Pkwy., Escondido CA 92027). Thank you for your support of Modern Reformation, White Horse Inn, and prisoners like this young man.

Déjà Vu All Over Again? Confessions and the Modern Spirit

John WitherspoonAfter declining several invitations, John Witherspoon (1723-94) finally accepted a call as the first pastor of Nassau Presbyterian Church and president of Princeton College. At Princeton he also taught theology, history, and philosophy to many of the new nation’s leaders, including James Madison, Aaron Burr, and a host of supreme court justices and members of Congress. Besides being the only clergyman (and college president) to sign the Declaration of Independence, Witherspoon also drafted the Articles of Confederation and gave input on the U.S. Constitution. However, his lesser-known ministry in the Church of Scotland was just as active and controversial. Before emigrating, Witherspoon wrote a Ecclesiastical Maxims, a collection of maxims that employed satire as a way of illustrating the feeble sentiments of the Kirk’s “Moderate” wing. This one is too relevant to our own day to overlook. The views he targets here are often repeated in our day and this satire reminds us that in spite of the “postmodern” advertisements, anti-confessional arguments have varied little from their “modern” script:

John Witherspoon (Ecclesiastical Characteristics, Maxim III):

“It is a necessary part of the character of a moderate man, never to speak of the Confession of Faith but with a sneer; to give sly hints, that he does not thoroughly believe it; and to make the word orthodoxy a term of contempt and reproach.

“The Confession of Faith, which we are now all laid under a disagreeable necessity to subscribe, was framed in times of hot religious zeal; and therefore it can hardly be supposed to contain any thing agreeable to our sentiments in these cool and refreshing days of moderation. So true is this, that I do not remember to have heard any moderate man speak well of it, or recommend it, in a sermon, or private discourse, in my time, And, indeed, nothing can be more ridiculous, than to make a fixed standard for opinions, which change just as the fashions of clothes and dress. No complete system can be settled for all ages, except the maxims I am now compiling and illustrating, and their great perfection lies in their being ambulatory, so that they may be applied differently, with the change of times.

“…There is one very strong particular reason why moderate men cannot love the Confession of Faith; moderation evidently implies a large share of charity, and consequently a good and favorable opinion of those that differ from our church; but a rigid adherence to the Confession of Faith, and high esteem of it, nearly borders upon, or gives great suspicion of harsh opinions of those that differ from us: and does not experience rise up and ratify this observation? Who are the narrow-minded, bigotted, uncharitable persons among us? Who are the severe censurers of those that differ in judgment? Who are the damners of the adorable Heathens, Socrates, Plato, Marcus Antonius, &c.? In fine, who are the persecutors of the inimitable heretics among ourselves? Who but the admirers of this antiquated composition, who pin their faith to other men’s sleeves, and will not endure one jot less or different belief from what their fathers had before them! It is therefore plain, that the moderate man, who desires to inclose all intelligent beings in one benevolent embrace, must have an utter abhorrence at that vile hedge of distinction, the Confession of Faith…”

WHI-1051 | The Implications of Skepticism

On this edition of the White Horse Inn, Michael Horton talks with Greg Koukl from Stand To Reason and author of Faith is Not Wishing about the implications of the arguments put forth by skeptic Michael Shermer in last week’s broadcast. Is Christianity based on mythology; are multi-verses the best explanation for the fine-tuning that we observe in the universe; is it possible to believe in objective good and evil without believing in God? Mike and Greg will discuss these questions and more on this edition of the White Horse Inn.

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

Faith Is Not Wishing
Greg Koukl
Tactics
Greg Koukl
The Reason for God
Tim Keller

PROGRAM AUDIO

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Updated Cruise Schedule

This is the last weekend for the “early bird” rates for the first ever White Horse Inn conference at sea, “Conversations for a Modern Reformation.” Many of you have already registered or indicated that you planned to attend. In a few weeks we’ll begin sending advance packets to those who have registered to help them get ready for the conversations that we hope will help lead to the transformation of the church.

Some of you have asked for more detail about the cruise schedule. So, here’s an updated schedule with a few more details about the time that we’ll spend together:

Sunday, January 29th
If you arrived on Saturday, be sure to worship in one of the local churches. Our good friend, Tullian Tchividjian, is the pastor of Coral Ridge PCA in Ft. Lauderdale. And, of course, Ken Jones (co-host of the WHI) is just down the road at Glendale Missionary Baptist Church in Miami.

After a day spent in worship and rest, we’ll gather back at the hotel for a special White Horse Inn taping to help kick things off.

Monday, January 30th
Let’s do breakfast before we head off to the port together. This will be a great opportunity to get to know some of the folks with whom you’ll spend the next week. The WHI hosts and staff will also introduce themselves.

We’ll leave together in buses arranged for transportation to the ship. We’ll be some of the first guests on the ship. Get settled into your rooms, head to the pool, or stop off at one of the restaurants for lunch. The ship gets underway at 4:00 p.m. Be sure to stand at a railing and wave goodbye!

We’ll eat dinner together around 6:00 p.m. and then gather together for a formal welcome reception.

Tuesday, January 31st
This is a full day at sea, nothing but ocean for miles around. It will also be our first full day together, engaged in that conversation that we  hope will make a difference in our lives and in our churches. We’ll kick things off with a White Horse Inn live taping, a model of the kinds of conversations that we hope to have through the rest of the week.

Then, you’ll become a cohost of a WHI conversation! We’ll break up into groups to begin our discussion that will lead to theses for a modern reformation. You and several other conference guests will break away from other members of the group for a time of guided discussion that will help us identify the areas where we need to see reformation take place.

We’ll have a working lunch with our group members and then go right back to a time of discussion: After having identified some of the big ideas, we’ll begin breaking them down into workable theses that we’ll consider together as a large group later on in the week.

We are on a cruise ship, however, so after an early afternoon spent at work, we’ll spend the rest of the day enjoying the amenities of the cruise ship. About every ten minutes you’ll need to remind yourself that it is January!

After dinner with one of the WHI hosts, we’ll gather together one more time that night for a special presentation from Dr. Rod Rosenbladt, “What Drove Luther’s Hammer?” We’ll also have time for questions and answers, so don’t rush off to bed!

Wednesday, February 1st
Today is a “port day,” so enjoy the time in Falmouth and we’ll see you back in time for dinner and our evening presentation: Dr. Kim Riddlebarger on “A Reformation Pilgrimage.”

Thursday, February 2nd
Another port day. Enjoy Labadee and then gather together again for dinner and a presentation that night from the Rev. Ken Jones, “Reforming a Local Church: A Case Study.”

Friday, February 3rd
We’ll spend most of today together since we’ll be at sea on our way back to Ft. Lauderdale. First up is another live taping of the White Horse Inn. The hosts will be interacting with the work you’ve already done on theses for a modern Reformation.

Then, we’ll reconvene our small groups to get ready for an afternoon presentation on our theses. We don’t want our time to be spent in wishful thinking. We want to consider together what might really happen if the theses that we are considering together was actually adopted by a church: what would change? why would it matter? These are the questions that we’ll consider after lunch.

Again, we’ll break early enough that we can enjoy our last full day on the ship. After dinner together, Dr. Mike Horton will wrap things up with the evening presentation, “For a Modern Reformation.” Stick around for our farewell reception. Enjoy a few last moments on deck with the new friends you’ve made.

Saturday, February 4th
We’re back to Ft. Lauderdale today. We’ll disembark and head home. Our prayer is that the time we spent together will be refreshing and invigorating as you pursue and spread reformation in your lives and your circles of influence.

Biblical Foreign Policy?

Last week (May 19, 2011), President Obama created controversy with his statement that any Israeli-Palestinian accord “must begin with a return to the 1967 borders.”  Besides Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, many evangelical leaders have been criticizing the statement over the last several days.

Foreign policy experts have been discussing and debating the conditions for a lasting accord, offering thoughtful analysis on complicated questions.  However, they are often drowned out by the background voices of those who insist, on biblical grounds, that any pressure put on Israel to keep its past pledges is tantamount to heresy.

Lacking both the qualifications and the authority to pronounce on the policy questions, my focus here is on the argument that many evangelicals have made over the years since dispensational premillennialism gained ascendence.

In a recent post for Charisma Magazine Online, Jack Hayford, pastor of Church on the Way (Van Nuys, California),  called President Obama’s announcement “a trumpet call from God’s Spirit: ‘Beware – Take Action!’”  He adds, “We are living in a sobering moment in history that calls us, as believers in Jesus Christ, to take a stand with Israel. We could be people of the last hour.”

To his credit, Mr. Hayford warned against disrespectful or violent responses.  However, he reiterated a familiar defense for a policy that would basically recognize Israel’s privileges as a “holy nation” and not simply as a secular nation that is one of the US’s closest friends.  Inasmuch as it has been embraced (at least publicly) by several recent presidents, the “Bible-based” argument that Mr. Hayford offers has had some influence on foreign policy.  But is it, in fact, biblical?

Like most dispensationalist brothers and sisters, Mr. Hayford’s main argument is the unconditional nature of God’s promise to Israel of an earthly land and kingdom.  “Israel is a land about which God says uniquely, prophetically, redemptively and repeatedly in the Bible This is Mine. God refers to Israel as He does to no other land on Earth. Israel was raised up to be a light to the Gentiles.”  He makes other arguments in favor of the special relationship of Christians and Jews.  “Salvation comes from the Jews,” the first church was Jewish, and Gentiles are the “wild branches” grafted onto the tree.  All of this is important to remember when we are thinking about the relationship between Christians and Jews.  However, does it have anything to do with the nation of Israel and Palestine or the United States?

The deeper problem in the argument supporting Mr. Hayford’s urgent call concerns the nature of the promise that God made to Abraham.  He writes, “The Lord selected a people … He began by selecting a man named Abraham. The Lord said that through the seed of Abraham (in relationship with his wife, Sarah, giving birth to the promised child, Isaac) all the nations of the Earth will be blessed … every human being having access to the divine blessing of Almighty God. In Genesis 12:3, the Lord says in the covenant He makes with Abraham: ‘I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’”

I can agree with the point that “This relates not only to a people (the Jews), but it also relates to a land (Israel),” and that God did in fact judge Israel’s enemies.  Nevertheless, God’s covenant with Israel was itself conditional.  It is not Israel’s land, but God’s, and if Israel breaks the covenant, then the land will “vomit out” Israel as well (Lev 20:22).  God himself will lay the nation waste through other nations and send his people into exile “east of Eden.” The land will no longer be holy, but common, even though God continues to work through the holy line—the “stump of Jesse,” from whom David and eventually the greater David (the Messiah) would come.  Throughout the law (especially in Deuteronomy), the temporal promise of “long life in the land” is conditioned on Israel’s faithfulness to the covenant it swore at Mount Sinai.  It is distinct from the unconditional promise of everlasting life and peace through Abraham’s Seed, through whom all families of the earth will be blessed.

The way the Gospels, but especially Hebrews and Galatians, interpret these passages is to recognize that the Sinai covenant was temporary, conditional, and typological.  It was a shadow of the things to come—namely, Christ and his kingdom.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus announces a “regime change” from the civil laws of the theocracy.  Instead of driving out the enemies of God, the True Israel—those united to Christ—are to endure suffering for the gospel and to pray for their persecutors. God’s common grace is shed on the just and the unjust alike in this age.  Having fulfilled its job, like a trailer for a movie, the old covenant is now “obsolete” (Heb 8:13).  Christ’s ministry, far greater than that of Moses, fulfills the everlasting promise that God made to Abraham.  Now, blessing has come from the Jews to the ends of the earth in Jesus Christ, the true Israel, the true and faithful Son of David, the true Temple.

The church has therefore not replaced Israel; rather, the borders of Israel have now been extended.  No longer a geo-political nation, limited to one people, it is an international remnant “from every tribe, kindred, and nation” (Rev 5:9).  So while I do believe that Paul’s teaching in Romans 9-11 leads us to expect a great outpouring of God’s Spirit on ethnic Jews in the last days, this has nothing to do with the state of Israel.

A lot more could be—and should be—said (I treat this at length in The Christian Faith [535-47, 729-33, 919-90] and elsewhere). However, it’s worth concluding this brief response by mentioning that not even Orthodox Jews believe that the modern state of Israel is holy.  The messianic kingdom for which they long is strictly “from above.”  It comes with the Messiah and cannot be a secular democracy.  So they too realize that the state of Israel is not in any way a revival of the Mosaic theocracy.  They are still living in exile, even in Israel.

To conclude: God’s promise to Abraham included (1) and earthly land and (2) a heavenly land.  The central claim of the New Testament, anticipated by the prophets, is that although Israel (like Adam—Hosea 6:7) has thoroughly violated the conditions for inheriting the first, God has been faithful to keep history moving beyond the sinfulness of his human partner—including us.  Through Christ, he has fulfilled this promise, bringing blessing to all the families of the earth. All heirs of this kingdom are “a holy nation,” living in the common nations of this age.

Especially given the legacy of Christian persecution of Jews throughout the medieval and modern periods, there is a special obligation of Christians to defend the common rights of the Jewish people to a flourishing existence.  Yet, by acknowledging that God’s promise of a temporal, geo-political theocracy and land were conditional and that this covenant now lies in the past, we are free to support our friends in Israel and Palestine in their pursuit of a stable peace that will doubtless require trust and negotiation on both sides.

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