White Horse Inn Blog

Know what you believe and why you believe it

White Horse Inn Cruise

I’m so excited to share this news with you: on January 30, 2012, the White Horse Inn is setting sail on our very first conference at sea! This Caribbean cruise will be unlike anything you have ever experienced and now is your chance to join us for what we’re calling “Conversations for a Modern Reformation.”

On October 15, 1517, a German monk named Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany, and started the Protestant Reformation. As we look forward to the 500th anniversary of that great event, we want to present the world with 95 Theses for a Modern Reformation. Will you help us write them?

The cruise will be part vacation and part conference with equal time given to receiving and participating: live White Horse Inn tapings and teaching sessions from our hosts will be paired with some exciting group activities designed to help us think more deeply about the issues facing our churches.

There’s so much to share that we’ve created a special webpage with all the details.  I hope that you’ll make plans to join us in January 2012. There’s a special “kick off rate” that is as low a fare as I have seen for this cruise (even on the discount cruise websites). We’d love to have you come along…in fact, we need to have you join this conversation.

Special Online Only Article

Frequent Modern Reformation contributor, Dr. Korey Maas (assistant professor of theology and church history at Concordia University in Irvine, California) has given us permission to post an article he wrote entitled Natural Law, Lutheranism, and the Public Good.

In this article he explains the important connection between natural law and God’s revealed will. Too often in contemporary discussions of the place of natural law, some opponents to natural law assume that natural law is somehow opposed to God’s revealed will. Dr. Maas shows how they are connected.

“Where [Moses] gives the commandments, we are not to follow him except so far as he agrees with the natural law.”~ Martin Luther (AE 35:173)

Martin Luther’s penchant for provocative exclamations is well known. It may nevertheless seem especially shocking that the great champion of “Scripture alone” could appear so blatantly to qualify the authority of the biblical commandments. Perhaps equally puzzling, though, is his qualification’s appeal to “natural law,” a phrase likely unfamiliar to many readers because it has all but disappeared from contemporary Lutheran discourse.

That it is so infrequently discussed, or even mentioned, might give the impression that there is something inherently un-Lutheran about this concept. As even the above quotation suggests, however, neither an acknowledgment of nor appeals to natural law are foreign to Lutheranism. Moreover, the case for embracing natural law, especially in civic life, may be stronger today than it has been throughout the history of Lutheranism, or even most of the history of Christianity.

What, though, is this natural law? While details differ among its theorists—diversely represented not only by two millennia of Christian theologians, but even by pre-Christian pagans and modern agnostics—certain commonalities emerge. The natural law consists of an objective and universal moral code, the fundamental precepts of which are embedded in human nature, and which are discernible by the natural reason common to humanity.

Read the rest.


WHI-1041 | Christ Centered Proclamation

In the second chapter of Acts we find the apostles gathered together at the Feast of Pentecost, receiving the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. But what did the Spirit enable them to do? What was the result of this supernatural outpouring? The result was a sermon. Peter, a man who had recently denied even knowing Jesus, began to proclaim Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Testament with boldness and conviction. The hosts are continuing their series through the Book of Acts on this edition of White Horse Inn.

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

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

PROGRAM AUDIO

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MUSIC SELECTION

Andrew Osenga

Uwe Siemon-Netto on Rumors of the Apocalypse

Friend of the Inn Uwe Siemon-Netto is an award-winning journalist and confessional Lutheran. His most recent column for the website Freepressers.com takes up the many disasters (natural and otherwise) that are dominating the news. How have apocalyptic-minded people thought about the end of the world in previous periods of church history? How should we think bout it when our own newspapers are filled with “it’s the end of the world as we know it” language?

The Bible cautions believers against speculating about the date and time of the Apocalypse, although current world events and calamities seem to invite such conjecture. There are the uprisings in the Middle East. In Japan, the tsunami and earthquake disasters are fueling  nuclear fears. And then the nuttiness of clergymen fitting Luther’s definition of “false clerics and schismatic spirits” reminds us that Christ listed some signs of the looming end of times, for example the appearance of many bogus prophets.

Read the rest of the article here.

New Audio from Kim Riddlebarger

Kim Riddlebarger, cohost of the White Horse Inn broadcast, recently sat down with Westminster Seminary California’s podcast, Office Hours, to talk about eschatology and the identity of the anti-Christ.

WHI-Bonus | Heaven & Hell

Are heaven and hell subjective states of mind or real objective places? That’s the focus of this special BONUS edition of the White Horse Inn as the hosts talk with Kevin DeYoung, author of The Good News We Almost Forgot, and What is the Mission of the Church? The interview primarily centers on Kevin’s recent review of the controversial new release, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell.

UPDATE: Given the renewed controversy over heaven and hell, Zondervan has given us permission to give away “The Last Battle and Life Everlasting” (chapter 29 from Michael Horton’s new book, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way). Feel free to download this PDF and forward! For more information about this new release visit Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com.

RELATED ARTICLES

The Last Battle & The Life Everlasting
Michael Horton
Bell’s Hell: A Review by Michael Horton
Michael Horton
God is Still Holy
Kevin DeYoung (offsite)
Hell: The Very Idea of It
Michael Horton
Heaven Came Down
Michael Horton

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

What is the Mission of the Church?
Kevin DeYoung & Greg Gilbert (forthcoming from Crossway)
Why We’re Not Emergent
Kevin DeYoung & Ted Kluck
The Good News We Almost Forgot
Kevin DeYoung
The Christian Faith
Michael Horton

PROGRAM AUDIO

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MUSIC SELECTION

None

Heaven, Hell & The Theology of Rob Bell

Not having read Rob Bell’s book yet (it’s on the way), I can only respond to what I have seen and heard: his own statements in interviews and the quotes from pre-publication copies carefully and thoughtfully reviewed by Tim Challies and Kevin DeYoung. [UPDATE: Mike has received his copy of Love Wins and has written a more in depth review here].

On the merits of the case so far (as much as I’ve heard), I’m inclined to dismiss this latest critique of hell as warmed-over liberalism.  I’m not being mean and sweepingly judgmental here.  Seriously, read Schleiermacher’s The Christian Faith, Albrecht Ritschl’s The Christian Doctrine of Justification and Reconciliation, not to mention other works by Wilhelm Herrmann, Adolf Harnack, Harry Emerson Fosdick, Bishop John Spong, or Brian McLaren, and you have the basic gist.  

That basic scheme goes like this: God’s only attribute is love; his holiness, righteousness, and justice have to be adjusted to this central dogma.  Human beings are not deserving of God’s wrath, but only of his encouragement and empowerment to improve.  Jesus Christ is primarily a moral teacher, who invites us to share in his vision of creating “a kingdom of ethical righteousness” (Ritschl’s phrase, basically from Immanuel Kant). Since there is no divine justice to satisfy or wrath to propitiate, the cross cannot be represented as a vicarious substitution of “the Lamb of God” for sinners.  Since there is no objective condemnation, there can be no objective justification.  Since everyone is a child of God, there can be no adoption.  The church is merely the community of volunteers for the kingdom-building enterprise.  Heaven and hell are as subjective as sin and redemption: it all depends on what you make of your life right now. Yale’s H.Richard Niebuhr captured the essence of liberal religion in this fine description: “A God without wrath brought people without sin into a kingdom without judgment through a Christ without a cross.”  

However, the initial impulse to pass over Rob Bell’s book is thwarted by the fact that he is a professing evangelical and his views are indicative of a growing trend.  He is not a professor at Harvard Divinity School, but senior pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church.  No doubt, he’s reacting to popular images of heaven and hell that have little connection or analogy to our world as we know it.  Where Jesus and Paul speak of “two ages”: “this age” (under the reign of sin and death) versus “the age to come” (under the reign of righteousness and life), the popular imagination of many Christians for over a millennium has been closer to Plato’s “two worlds”: the upper realm of disembodied souls and the lower realm of embodied and historical existence.  In this view, salvation is ultimately the release of the soul from the prison-house of the body, while in the biblical view salvation is completed when we are raised bodily unto everlasting life.  In that day, the vertical boundaries between heaven and earth disappear, as is evident in the Apocalypse.  There are many issues that conservative evangelicals need to address in order to weed the garden of low-grade paganism, but they are far less serious than the high-grade paganism that drives moderns to fashion a deity who is other than the one we actually encounter in the pages of Scripture. The biggest issue that the latest controversy reveals is not really whether hell exists.  To be sure, we need to challenge the latest examples of Scripture-twisting with respect to the clear teaching of Jesus himself on hell.  However, there are even larger questions that denials of hell such as Bell’s raise.  Who is God?  Who are we?  What is our relationship to God? For what can we hope?  What do words like “sin,” “redemption,” “Jesus Christ,” “kingdom” mean in the biblical drama?  It’s not just a matter of tinkering with a traditional doctrine, but with the very meaning of God’s grace and justice in the cross of Christ.  Everything is at stake in this question, especially given the underlying dogmas that Rob Bell, from what I’ve already seen, allows to control his thinking on this subject.

Listen to a special BONUS edition of the White Horse Inn featuring a discussion of the Rob Bell controversy and featuring special guest Kevin DeYoung:

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WHI-1040 | Word & Spirit

In the Great Commission, Jesus told his followers to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” But what did this commission look like on the ground? What kinds of things did the apostles actually do in order make disciples of all nations? That’s what’s on tap this week on White Horse Inn as the hosts begin a new mini-series through the Book of Acts.

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

The Gospel Commission
Michael Horton
Lets Study Acts
Dennis Johnson
The Message of Acts
John W. Stott
Poeple and Place
Michael Horton

PROGRAM AUDIO

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MUSIC SELECTION

TBA

Incarnational Ministry

J. Todd Billings, who wrote an appreciative critique of the idea of incarnational ministry for our March/April 2009 issue, has recently given a lecture on the same at Fuller Seminary and Westmont College.

For more, see this article and podcast from Fuller and this video and podcast (number 23) from Westmont.

Update – 10.25.11: Prof. Billings discusses his assessment of incarnational ministry further in the September/October 2011 issue of Modern Reformation.

Biting The Hand That Feeds Us?

Comedic web blog, Cracked.com, posted an interesting piece on the limitations of web for religion.

It’s safe to say that God doesn’t live on the Internet. Where cathedrals, temples, and houses of worship succeed in providing the sensation that God might feasibly hang out there, websites fail miserably. The translation from stone and stained glass to ones and zeros is clumsy at best, partially because so many of the websites are built by volunteer designers and partially because those designers insist on building websites as though no website has ever existed in the history of the Internet. To their credit, most of them seem to grasp importance of holding on to the short attention spans of accidental visitors, but they don’t have a really solid plan for applying that information.

At a time when some evangelical leaders are talking about ditching the local church altogether in favor of on-line spirituality, it’s refreshing.  Ironically, it’s people like Sherry Turkle, a professor at no less than MIT, who warn about how the Internet is changing the way we exist as human beings—even throwing out the term “Gnostic.”  By contrast, in The New Christians, Emergent leader Tony Jones relates how his best friend is an “uber-blogger” he’s never actually met in person.

Some Christians surf the net not only for vitamin supplements but for their meals.  All of this makes sense in an evangelicalism that is already disposed toward treating the physical aspects of reality as merely “external” (like a coat you can put on or take off) in contrast to the inner realm of the Spirit.  But as Christians we believe that the Word became flesh.  We aren’t looking for out-of-body experiences, but for the God who still descends to us, binding us to his Son through such mundane matter as preaching, water, bread and wine. And like these means of grace, the communion of saints is also a tangible, earthly, embodied reality.  They are my brothers and sisters: not ideas, resources, or bloggers. It’s a family dinner, not a drive-thru meal.

But does that mean that there’s no place for the web?  Not at all, as long as we know its limits.  I’m glad there are highways when I want to get downtown, but I don’t take Sunday strolls along it.

Imagine concentric circles.  At the widest, you have the rapid exchange of ideas and information.  Of course, there’s nothing better than the Internet for that one.  I often go to Wikipedia for quick data on a person or date in history, but I’d never allow my students to cite Wikipedia as a source in their research papers.  That’s because a research paper is more than information.  The next ring in on my concentric circles is for informal get-togethers with brothers and sisters in Christ, including conferences.  But the bulls-eye is the Lord’s Day gathering of the covenant family, beneath the pulpit, at the font, and at the table.

All of this reminds me of that stanza in T. S. Eliot’s “The Rock”: “Where is all the wisdom we have lost in knowledge and all the knowledge we have lost in information?”  Information is good.  Resources can set us on a wonderfully new track.  But what we’ll always need most—in spiritual as well as domestic terms—is a good bath, a good meal, and a good word from our Father, in his Son, by his Spirit.  Nothing beats that.

[Correction: the title of Tony Jones’ book in this post was corrected at 11:30 a.m. on March 9th]

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