White Horse Inn Blog

Know what you believe and why you believe it

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.

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PROGRAM AUDIO


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A Place for Weakness
Michael Horton
Job
Francis Anderson

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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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PROGRAM AUDIO


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Beyond Culture Wars
Michael Horton
Tactics
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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.

God Builds His Church In India

This is the next installment of our senior staff member’s report on his international travel. He has moved out of several closed countries and into India, where the opportunities to help Christians know what they believe and why they believe it are endless! Please continue to pray for us and with us as we continue to work out a long-term international strategy for White Horse Inn.

India. It is a land of contrasting beliefs and mind-numbing contradictions. Claiming birthrights of Hinduism and Buddhism, it also is home to approximately 200 million Muslims and 25-30 million Christians.  Though India enjoys purchasing power ranked third in the world, poverty still stalks millions every day.

How does the church of Jesus Christ serve such a country with the message of salvation found in Christ alone? Colonialism came and went along with hundreds of other approaches, including things as ludicrous as dressing the church in Hindu garb and offering Jesus as the true guru.

If we look to Scriptural examples, we see that Paul and the apostles also faced pluralism and secularism every day in their era. They followed a simple pattern: preach Christ, baptize those God calls to himself, and establish local churches.  There is no end to new ideas tantalizing with the promise of a breakthrough.  But God builds his church. God identifies himself with his people. He is not ashamed of them.  No evil or persecution befalls the church that is not within God’s plan.

I have listened to the stories of local pastors, educators, and evangelists in India for the past 20 years. We have rejoiced together at the triumphs and we have wept together at the cost of individual lives. As I watch them do their work faithfully every day, I am humbled and challenged to see that the God of the nations is building his church.

How can White Horse Inn serve the believers in India? How can we encourage Christians to know what they believe and why? What format best serves pastors and those doing the work of the church here? Our WHI team will tackle these questions as we evaluate the many conversations I have enjoyed during the time here. Pray that God would give us wisdom. He is building his church.

Finally, thank you for your support that allows us me to leave WHI materials with these brothers, a small demonstration of our love and admiration for the work they do.

WHI-1193 | Covenant Renewal

At the conclusion of the book of Joshua, the people renew their commitment to the Mosaic covenant, saying, “We will serve the Lord.” But Joshua’s reply is discouraging: “You are not able to serve the Lord,” he says, “for he is a holy God [and] he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins.” Once again, we see that the Mosaic covenant is not a gracious covenant, but instead is pure law. This is why, in order to have any hope of salvation, we must look away from the Law of Moses to a new and better covenant where we can find mercy and grace. We will delve into these key distinctions as we wrap up The Gospel According to Joshua.

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PROGRAM AUDIO


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God of the Nations

An update from our senior staff member who is on the road for White Horse Inn in several closed countries in the Middle East. Thank you for praying for him. Please continue to do so! We’ll post updates as he is able to send them to us.

Imagine Middle Eastern countries that are closed to the gospel.  Imagine that 25% of each country is comprised of immigrants, often there as laborers and domestic servants.   Imagine also that the Lord uses some of these non-nationals to spread the gospel not only in their country but also in other neighboring countries.

As U.S. citizens, we rarely have the opportunity to work side-by-side with Middle Eastern nationals and talk about Christ in providentially appointed conversations.  But in the two countries I visited a few days ago, this is exactly what happened.  On Friday, the day Christians are allowed to worship, 30,000 non-nationals gathered to hear the Word preached and taught in the Middle East.  Some of the teaching is good and the rest, well, perhaps not so much.

How can White Horse Inn help the pastors and teachers in these countries?  I spent time with several pastors last week, listening to their heart for Christ, for the lost, and for the need to teach people accurately about Christ.  I have listened to international pastors talk about these same concerns for over 25 years.

This week confirmed again that WHI materials can play a crucial role in serving these pastors and their churches by providing free resources that are accurate, accessible and articulated at a level that they can use and appreciate.  We want to do that at WHI.  God has provided almost 25 years of WHI materials, and the WHI team wants to make them available—at no cost—to pastors and churches around the world.

When I return, we will share with you some of the recordings of these pastors talking about their heart for their congregations.  It will warm your heart, as it did mine!  Until then, pray for us at WHI that the God of the nations will show us how we might expand our services.  And pray for me as I go to five more countries in the region and ask these same questions to pastors that are serving Christ, laying down their lives every day so that they might be faithful to the God who called them.  I am very grateful for the time with them and to share their stores of God’s faithfulness.

As an expression of our thanks and because of your support, I am able to leave WHI materials with every pastor I encounter on this trip.  Our prayer is that this is only the start of serving these servants of Christ around the world.

Calvin on the Christian Life

Our friends at Desiring God have posted an abridged excerpt from Mike Horton’s forthcoming book, Calvin on the Christian Life.  If you missed his small talk at their recent Pastor’s Conference, this is a great recap.

Calvin hits shelves at the end of March–for more information, go to the series page at Crossway.

 

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