Our friend Michael Spencer (also known as the Internet Monk) is dying of cancer. Michael Buckley, a Kansas City based artist that has worked with Michael, is offering original watercolors to help generate donations for Michael and his wife Denise. You can learn more about the auction here. You can learn more about iMonk’s diagnosis here. Take a moment and visit the auction site: this is a great opportunity to support Michael Spencer.
What is natural law? Is it consistent with Reformed theology? How about the Two Kingdoms approach to the relationship between Christianity and culture? Is this a Lutheran position, or has it also been held by advocates of the Reformed tradition as well? On this edition of the White Horse Inn, Dr. David VanDrunen joins the panel for a discussion of his new book, Natural Law & The Two Kingdoms: A Study in the Development of Reformed Social Thought.
Friend of the Inn, Allen Wolf, is an L.A.-based filmmaker who’s newest movie, In My Sleep, is set for release in Los Angeles on April 23rd. Allen is part of a growing cadre of filmmakers who are creating beautiful movies with Christian themes of truth and redemption, without falling into the “Christian movie” black hole of mediocrity and preachiness.
Allen recently contacted us with the news that In My Sleep has been generating great reviews and awards at various film-festivals around the world:
We first screened In My Sleep at the marketplace of the Cannes Film Festival last May, where The Hollywood Reporter gave us a rave review. Since then the movie won the Audience Award at the Ft. Lauderdale Film Festival, won the Golden Kahuna Award from the Honolulu Film Festival, picked up distribution and has now been sold to over 60 countries around the world, including Latin America, Russia, China, Australia, Germany, and the Middle East!
In My Sleep has been scheduled for limited release in Los Angeles and New York City this spring. The opening weekends are:
Los Angeles on April 23rd
New York City and Los Angeles on April 30th
New York City on May 7th
We want to help promote Allen’s film because the more people who attend its opening weekends, the broader it will be distributed in mainstream theaters. Make plans to attend one of the opening weekends and bring some friends along! For tickets, showtimes, behind the scenes videos, and the very latest updates visit www.inmysleep.com.
Can we discover truth about God outside of the Bible, or is Scripture the only true source of heavenly knowledge? On this edition of the program the hosts will outline the distinction between general and special revelation. In the former, God reveals himself through creation, and in the latter he reveals himself in the pages Scripture and in the person of Christ. Though we can know many things about God by the things he has made, only Scripture reveals his good will toward us in the Gospel.
I’m writing from Sao Paulo, Brazil. It’s my third trip down here, and I am told repeatedly that the White Horse Inn and Modern Reformation have had a healthy impact. Ten of my books have been translated into Portuguese.
This invitation came from the Presbyterian Church—specifically, Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie (Mackenzie Presbyterian University) founded in 1870 by an American Presbyterian missionary. I’ve known the circle of brothers who invited me for a while, since they were involved with one of the earlier trips. In fact, Augustus Nicodemus Lopez was my interpreter for a conference. Today, he’s the chancellor of Mackenzie, a 45,000-student university in the heart of an urban area roughly the size of New York City.
Although the missionaries that Calvin sent from Geneva to Rio (the first Protestant missionaries in the New World) were killed by Frenchmen who returned to the Roman Catholic Church, today Reformed theology is making a huge comeback. Lots of people—especially younger generations—are embracing the doctrines of grace.
The Presbyterian Church of Brazil is a confessional denomination: with over 700,000 members. That’s A LOT more members than all of the conservative Reformed and Presbyterian denominations in the US. There is a new Reformation spreading down here. In fact, the Presbyterian Church of Mexico, a sister church of Brazil’s, has 1.5 million members and growing. There is also something afoot in Africa (there more confessional Reformed Christians in Nigeria than North America), and Asia (especially South Korea). Many Pentecostals in these countries are becoming attracted to the Reformation.
Here in Brazil, I’m speaking at a pastors’ conference this week at the University, with about 700 people in attendance. The response could not be more encouraging. It is a privilege to be a part of the ministry of such courageous, generous, and clear-minded reformers. We have a lot to learn from our sister churches abroad!
In addition to Reformed and Presbyterian efforts, the doctrines of grace are spreading down here through groups like FIEL. I had the privilege of speaking at one of the early FIEL conferences and today they have over 1,000 in attendance regularly. It draws a lot of brothers and sisters from Baptist and other evangelical denominations. Since Angola and Mozambique are Portuguese-speaking, these groups and churches are having a huge impact on Africa as well.
Information about the conference I am speaking at is available online (see our previous blog entry for more information). We hope to work more closely with similar groups down here and make our resources available to Portuguese-speakers around the world.
Mike Horton is in Sao Paulo, Brazil this week speaking at the Congresso Internacional de Religião, Teologia e Igreja, which is being hosted by the Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie. If you’d like to watch a live webcast of his lectures, you can log into the University’s website and click where it says “ao vivo” (which means “live” in Portuguese). His next lectures are scheduled for 5:30 PST/8:30 EST and 2:30 PST/5:30 EST.
On Monday, Mike sent the following message:
The service went well last night and they’re expecting over 500 pastors and others for the conference. Great dinner with the leaders last night, and again (with others) for lunch. These folks are really making a huge impact here. The Presbyterian Church of Brazil has 700,000 members and the University has 45,000 students. This group has been given theological leadership of the whole denomination and they’re really solid folks. They want to keep working on how to have a closer relationship with WHI/MR and the 10 books in Portuguese, they say, have really made an impact … a new Reformation is spreading around the world.
Today, he said that the number of registrants for the conference is rapidly increasing so the organizers moved the sessions to the main auditorium on campus, which seats 700 people. Continue to pray for Dr. Horton and for Reformation in Brazil!
The newest issue of Modern Reformation is now available online. In this year that we’re dedicating to “Recovering Scripture,” we’ve turned in this issue to the topics of inspiration and inerrancy. You won’t want to miss the articles by Michael Horton, Michael Allen, Rick Ritchie, David Wells, Michael Kruger, and Paul Helm. We’re also pleased to feature in this issue a roundtable discussion between Michael Horton, Donald Richmond, and Michael Spencer on some of the problems that evangelicals have with the doctrine of inerrancy. Please remember to pray for Michael Spencer (aka “the Internet Monk“) who is battling cancer and undergoing treatment.
You’ll also notice a new name near the top of our masthead. Dr. Ryan Glomsrud has taken over as the executive editor. For the last three years, I was honored to serve as the executive editor (having previously served as managing editor since 2002). In many way this was a dream come true for me: I began reading Modern Reformation shortly after it began in 1992, and it has been a constant companion on my Reformation journey ever since. But late last year, Michael Horton asked me to help lead the new parent organization of both White Horse Inn and Modern Reformation. So, as of January 1, 2010, I stepped down as executive editor of the magazine and we’ve welcomed Dr. Ryan Glomsrud to the helm.
Dr. Glomsrud is a familiar name to regular readers of the magazine. He has previously served as the book reviews editor and has also contributed several articles to the magazine over the last several years. A graduate of Wheaton College and Westminster Seminary California, Dr. Glomsrud received his D.Phil from Oxford University and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University. Dr. Glomsrud joins a distinguished cadre of former executive editors:
- Dr. Benjamin Sasse (former U.S. assistant secretary of health and human services, currently president of Midland Lutheran College in Fremont, Nebraska)
- Dr. Darryl Hart (former director of academic programs at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, currently writing a global history of Calvinism)
- Dr. Mark Talbot (associate professor of Philosophy at Wheaton College)
We’re pleased that Dr. Glomsrud is joining our team and we know that under his guidance Modern Reformation will continue to develop as the voice for confessional Protestants in American Christianity.
Throughout the history of the church, young believers and new converts to the faith went through a process called “catechism.” What are the roots of this ancient practice, and why has it fallen out of use in contemporary Christianity? On this edition of the program Michael Horton talks with J.I. Packer and Gary Parrett, authors of an important new book on this subject titled, Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old Fashioned Way.
It is remarkable that debates about sexual morality (i.e., contraception, gay marriage, gay ordination, etc.) have so climaxed that some Anglicans are now considering mass conversion to Roman Catholicism. All they’ve needed is an invitation, that and the promise to be able to worship as their custom dictates, which is not insignificant thing for many so-called conservative Episcopalians. The offer came last November at the peak (thus far) of Anglican debates over homosexuality when the Pope removed the last apparent barrier to conscience and made it clear that aspiring Anglican converts no longer need to “do as the Romans do” even though they would come over to Rome.
To us, this seems like a strange but potent use of the “culture wars” and the “worship wars” uniquely combined for sheep-stealing purposes. And in today’s WSJ online “what are they doing now” article, we see that this is precisely the case. Those helping converts swim to shore on the Roman side of the Tiber river are quick to point out that being “angry about Gene Robinson” is not a sufficient reason for converting, but that seems to be the key factor nonetheless, especially when taking into account that “Anglican Use” Books of Common Prayer have now been officially revised by the Vatican and approved for special use. The upshot is that “conservatives” can now have their ethics and keep their worship too.
While this is certainly not “the end of the Reformation,” or even the end of Anglicanism, it is one more sad testimony that Gospel-doctrine is far from many Christians’ minds and that the direction- and pace-setting agenda of modern Christianity (even of the Roman Catholic stripe) continues to be morality and worship-style.
-Ryan Glomsrud, Executive Editor, Modern Reformation
[What is the relationship between the Great Commandment (to love God and neighbor) and the Great Commission (to make and baptize disciples)? In this preview of Mike Horton’s newest book, he lays out the challenge our churches are facing.]
A while back I asked the general secretary of the World Council of Churches if his organization still holds to its old slogan, “Doctrine divides; service unites.” Chuckling, he said, “Good grief, no.” He went on to relate that the group has learned over the decades that service divides. Some think capitalism is the way forward, while others insist on socialism. The pie cuts a thousand ways. “But then we’ve found that when we go back to talking about the Nicene Creed or some such thing, there is at least a sense of people coming back into the room and sitting down with each other to talk again.”
In a recent issue of Christianity Today, Fuller Seminary president Richard Mouw relates the story of his article submission to the flagship evangelical magazine, then under the leadership of Carl Henry. Henry himself had challenged evangelicalism to engage with social concerns in his book, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism (1947). However, he told the young graduate student that he needed to tweak some of the arguments in his article.
Though grateful that Henry was considering the article, Mouw recalls, “I was also troubled by the change he was proposing. This was a period in my life when I had often felt alienated from evangelicalism because of what I saw as its failure to properly address issues raised by the civil rights struggle and the war in Southeast Asia. As a corrective, I wanted the church, as church, to acknowledge its obligation to speak to such matters.”
Henry wouldn’t budge. Where Mouw insisted it was the church’s duty to address these issues directly, Henry wanted him to say it was the Christian’s duty. The church has a responsibility to proclaim God’s Word, even with specific application, wherever it speaks. It has the authority from God to announce a final judgment of oppression, wanton violence, and injustice and to call all people (including Christians) to repentance and faith in Christ in the light of this ultimate assize. However, “The institutional church,” said Henry, “has no mandate, jurisdiction, or competence to endorse political legislation or military tactics or economic specifics in the name of Christ.”
Henry quoted Princeton University ethicist Paul Ramsey: “Identification of Christian social ethics with specific partisan proposals that clearly are not the only ones that may be characterized as Christian and as morally acceptable comes close to the original New Testament meaning of heresy.’” At the same time, Henry argued that evangelicals are not only authorized but commanded to proclaim God’s clear “No!” to excessive violence, racial injustice, and other serious moral crises. God’s Word shapes the moral conscience of its hearers, but where it does not offer specific policy prescriptions, the church has no authority to speak.
Drawing on his Reformed heritage, especially the legacy of Abraham Kuyper, Mouw points out that there is an important place for Christians thinking and working together to apply biblical teaching to such issues, he concludes, “Henry was right, and I was wrong.”
Today, “Deeds, not creeds,” is likely to be heard most frequently from the quarters of evangelical Protestantism as it has been now for a century in mainline Protestantism. In part, this is an understandable reaction to an apparent lack of concern for bodies, and not only for human bodies but for the creation itself. If salvation is all about the soul’s escape from the body and this earth will be destroyed (both ideas being explicitly rejected in Scripture), what’s the point of getting all worked up over social injustice?
As we become more aware of global warming and its attendant threats to our whole planet, it is theologically erroneous and spiritually irresponsible for churches to remain silent on God’s command for stewardship. Anchored not only in the past work of God (creation) and his ever-vigilant providence, the church’s hope is oriented toward the restoration of the whole creation (Ro 8:20-25). However, is the church competent to deliver pronouncements on specific policies? And in doing so, is it possible that the church loses its legitimate authority by over-reaching, rather than encouraging its members to pursue their own research and form their own personal and public policy agendas on the specifics?
We easily underestimate the impact of the church’s theology—its preaching and practice—on the wider culture, thinking that if the church is really going to make a mark, it has to be as a political action committee. A lot of times it is bad theology that underwrites evil practices or at least encourages passive toleration. Slavery in Europe and the United States and apartheid in South Africa were defended in pulpits through grave distortions of God’s Word. Yet it was by recovering sound biblical teaching that churches were able to repent. In the case of apartheid, it was when the South African church—excommunicated from its sister Reformed churches in the world—finally confessed apartheid to be heresy that the practice lost its moral legitimacy. Without a civil war, the nation was able to face itself and dismantle the oppressive system in courts, congresses, and commissions. The church did what only the church can do: that is, declare its perverted exegesis to be heretical. Yet Christians, together with non-Christians, fulfilled their vocations in the world by changing the laws and customs of their society.
I went through this reaction myself. I felt challenged and liberated by Reformed theology, resonating with J. I. Packer’s description I heard at a conference: “Fundamentalism is world-denying and Reformed theology is world-affirming.” In college, I began delving into liberation theologians and found much there that resonated with what I had learned from Reformed theology about the problem of soul-body dualism. Material-spiritual reality forms a unity. United in its creation, in its corruption, and in its redemption, the whole world is God’s domain. Then I spent a summer at the International Institute of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. Staying up late nights with human rights advocates from all over the world, my naivete crumbled as I heard eye-witness accounts of the most flagrant violations, often by regimes supported by my nation’s government. Why had I—and so many of my American brothers and sisters—not spoken up? In fact, why were we committed to a “My America, right or wrong!” kind of philosophy?
But now evangelicalism risks merely changing its political affiliation, tying the gospel to a different political agenda. Many evangelicals have come to see that the movement was largely co-opted by the Republican Party, but this repentance seems somewhat superficial when the alternative is simply to switch parties and to broaden political agendas.
[This is an excerpt from a chapter of Mike Horton’s newest book (still untitled), set to published by Baker as part of his Christless Christianity and Gospel Driven Life series. We’ll post more information as it becomes available. Stay tuned to the WHI blog for more excerpts like this one.]