Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Books

My wife raided my Amazon wishlist for Christmas this year!

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Up much too late (my explanation for watching CSPAN2), I just finished watching Christopher Hitchens mock a poor Catholic apologist for his inability to account for the Christian proposition that people are spiritually "dead" from the beginning and that God commands them, in that state, to "decide to make themselves well." What a ridiculous concept, says Hitchens, that dead men can resolve to raise themselves. I agree.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 2)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Nothing New Under the Sun?

Is there such a thing as creative theology?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Lying with the Elements

Sinfully, I am often taken off guard by passages in Paul that warn of real, earthly, temporal consequences of sin. For example, what exactly is meant by 1 Cor. 11:30? What exactly is the "sin behind the sin" of wrongly (without judging the body) eating the Lord's Supper? Is it just simply disobedience, which is, of course, sufficient? Those Corinthians who had died and those "weak and ill" folks who had taken the Supper wrongly were obviously being judged by God, but, for the sake of inquiry, what harm are they causing by just eating bread and drinking wine when they're not supposed to? Why did God choose this sin to punish in a special, more direct and temporal way?

I'm going to try to figure this out some, then I'll be back.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

New Students (like me)

Yesterday I heard a great line from a fellow new student that sums up pretty well the feeling of coming to a new school and not knowing many people:

(I walk past a guy I met in a class who's sitting next to another guy contentedly in a lawn chair, not saying anything, listening to the outdoor music.)

Me: Hey, we've got a class together!

Him: Yeah! It's Paul, right?

Me: Yeah- so, is this your roommate? (referring to his buddy)

(they laugh and jab each other in the ribs)

Him: Nah, we're just from the same state!

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Conundrum of the Church Search

It's not like shopping for a good pair of jeans, it's not like picking out the best onion at the grocery store, and it's not like interviewing for a job or interviewing someone for a job. It's more like a finger looking for the hand it belongs to. Wierd.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Birthday Books (from my wife and in-laws)

Thanks to my beautiful wife and generous in-laws, I've got some reading to do this weekend!

Monday, July 16, 2007

On Beginning the "Strange Life": Church Search

One of the things I dislike the most about moving away from one city to another one is finding a church. Someone told me that Louisville is both the northernmost southern city and the southernmost northern city. The fact that there is a church almost on every corner in the city is a testament to the truth of the former description (the scarcity of Cracker Barrel a testament to the latter).

When Ashley and I decided to move to the city to begin at SBTS, we immediately began looking up churches in the area, quickly confirming my suspicion that Louisville would have an abundance of apparently Bible-believing, even openly "Reformed," Baptist churches for us to visit.

I think we're now six weeks into the process and I hate it. It feels cold and wrong, like an audition, but I don't know any other way to do it than the way we are. The importance of active, meaningful membership in a true church demands that we be careful, thoughtful, and prayerful about finding the church that will shepherd us through the formative years of seminary training. I still don't like the process. There are so many churches to visit that it almost requires a double-elimination bracket. Summer Sunday after summer Sunday (when some churches are running a "reduced program schedule"), we Google the address of another church on our list and walk in, and, not knowing anyone, attend the worship service, wondering what the announcements are about and if this particular service is indicative of the regular practice of the church. Are we getting a fair picture of what the church is like on this one visit? Are we getting to know the community, how we can contribute? I doubt it.

Of course, the main priorities (biblical, Christocentric, expository preaching; orthodox doctrine; biblical ecclesiology; missional/evangelistic intentionality; and thoughtful, reverent, and evangelistic worship) are non-negotiable, but what now? We've found some great, biblical churches in our visiting and we've gotten to the point where we'll be making a decision based on secondary criteria like the distance of the church from our home, the size of the church, the diversity of the members, etc. Will we take the advice of some and avoid a church with lots of seminary folks? Will we take advantage of the opportunity to live and worship in a community with believers who are in a similar situation to ours? I'm glad that the Lord has this (and everything else) under His perfect control and will lead us to the local church where we will most glorify Him in worship and service. However, I still don't like the process, and it's definitely been the strangest part of our new "Strange Life."

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Beginning the "Strange Life": Look At All the Books!

Oh, no. It's turning into a "series."

In a phrase that my college roommate swore was coined by Edwin McCain, "There is honor among thieves." Well, having seen the libraries of a few of those with whom I will share a seminary campus, I must say that there is also honor among those covetous of books.

I'm a tools person. Ask my wife. I want the tools, man. Based on my present self-diagnosis that my personal library is severely anemic, I'm afraid that seminary life won't be any different. In Athens, GA, from whence I came to this land flowing with Owen and Goldsworthy, I could confidently count on that copy of the IVP Dictionary of Biblical Theology to be right where I left it in the local Borders, usually with my bookmark still in it. Not much demand. The (sing.) Athens, GA Christian bookstore was a place where the grips of Left Behind and Mr. Osteen were strong, stubborn, and choking.

In contrast, once I arrived in Louisville to reconnoiter the seminary this spring, I felt what it must feel like to see a real Picasso after studying a print (or a thumbnail) for a while. "Whoa," I would say to myself sometime during the third browsing hour at the SBTS LifeWay store, "Ladd's NT theology is a lot thicker than I imagined!" My wife, fellow book-lover, realist, lovingly convinced me that the tour of campus would be much more helpful with the guide and that Warfield was not a necessity that particular afternoon, so we left with very little damage (just a copy of The Bruised Reed, not bad).

Not that this is anywhere close to the most important unanswered question I have about starting seminary, but: how is one supposed to read all these great (and, to me, newly available) books with so little time and without neglect of that Primary One?

Seriously, I'm sure that handling the budgetary gymnastics of affording required books for class (not to mention those little extra ones) is difficult, as is managing one's reading time, family time, prayer time, play time, and work time. So, what am I going to do with all these books baiting me here in Louisville? I should probably read more of the ones that I already have, to be honest, but where's the "honor" in that?

Saturday, June 30, 2007

On Beginning the "Strange Life"

About a week ago, Owen Strachan of consumed wrote an interesting and helpful series of posts called "The Strange Lives of Seminarians." I read these with special interest and, at times, a feeling of growing trepidation, because I 'm about two months away from officially being "oriented" to this "Strange Life." The internet is surprising pregnant with advice for incoming seminarians, ranging from which churches to visit, and which professors to take and which to avoid, to what to wear to class and how many questions to ask per semester without getting annoying. (Most of) these are things I need to know. Keep it coming, please, thank you!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Some questions, pt.4

Since the craziness of Ashley's and my moving to Louisville, KY, getting jobs, registering for class, and finding the nearest grocery store is over, it's time to post another question I've been thinking about. That is, if I haven't already lost my modest readership...

6. In what way has, per Mark 9:1 (and Matthew 16:28, Luke 9:27) the Kingdom already come in power? I highlight the Mark verse because it adds "in power," making it more difficult to offer an interpretation that there will be a future, more powerful or more glorious state of the Kingdom. Fire away.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Some questions, pt. 3

5. If we hold to Sola Fide, that people are saved only through faith in Jesus, apart from but evidenced by good works, can we also hold, as credo-baptists, that those who die in infancy are saved in every case? This is, of course, rightly an emotional issue, but it addresses important implications of our doctrines of salvation and original sin.

It's my understanding that credo-baptists (of which I am one) don't recognize the ability of infants to exercise saving faith. Yet, the most common evangelical response (that I've heard) to the question of infant salvation is that all babies are saved who die in infancy, sometimes with reference to an "age of accountability," sometimes without such a reference. The problem I see with both of those answers, (which are really the same answer, as far as I've heard), is that they both neglect to explain how such an infant, who is clearly affected by and is guilty of sin in Adam (Gen. 6:5, Rom. 5:12), is made right with God in the absence of the exercise of saving faith.

I've made a point of emphasizing the exercise of saving faith as that which we understand not to be present in infants. I did this because we are told to use the fruits of a professed or assumed believer to judge the validity of their profession (or, in this case, our assumption) of faith.

So, will we assume that all (or some, elect) infants have faith (albeit apart from the hearing and understanding of the Word?) and are just unable to give evidence, all being elect and therefore recipients of the gift of saving faith? Or, will we hold a doctrine of an "age of accountability" that effectively negates the effects of the fall on infants, or provides a way to redemption apart from saving faith?

Some things are simply beyond what God has chosen to reveal to us. This question may fall into that category. I'm just asking in case it doesn't, and in order to get us thinking about the consequences of our ideas. Please, fire away!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Living Theologically

My pastor, David King, who gives generously of his time to meet with me for breakfast on the occasional Thursday morning, once remarked that, when attempting to prepare a sermon, the hardest part is often not the interpretation of the text or discerning its main point. Often, he said, the hardest part is the presentation of clear application of the text to the lives of the hearers, to help them know how to also be doers. In my limited experience with preparing and preaching sermons, I've especially experienced this when dealing with texts that present complicated theological arguments without offering any immediate practical application.
Reading a sermon by John Piper on one of these passages, Galatians 3:15-18, I was struck by his response to the lack of immediate practical or moral application in the text. Before even jumping into the exposition, he warns his congregation not to expect a spiritual or moral "pep pill" from the text, but to expect an opportunity to correct and hone the "theological foundation" of their lives. "That is, if we even have such a foundation in the first place," I thought.

Is our system of practice and morality based only on the portions of the Bible to which we feel an immediate emotional response or on those that give specific, step-by-step instructions about how to handle a given situation, neglecting all others? Or do we live our lives based on what the whole of scripture leads us to believe about God and all that he says about his relationship to us? Is this the basis for our behavior and decision making? If we don't have such a "theological foundation" for living our lives, much of the Bible will seem unapplicable to us. If pastors don't work to encourage their people to live theologically, they'll have a hard time bringing out the true application of rich texts like the above one.

As Christians who have recieved a great inheritance in Christ, we should make an attempt at understanding the biblical texts that explain how God saved us. Of course, this isn't to say that everyone must be a theology expert or fluent in Biblical languages, but we shouldn't be afraid to expect our hearers to dig into the technical passages of scripture, to really think about what it means to be an heir of the Abrahamic promise, to be justified by faith alone on the basis of Christ's merit. If we only look to the Bible for a just quick spiritual pick-me-up, or to our pulpits for a practical self-help lecture, we will be dissappointed with much of what the Bible actually offers us for life application, which is a rich understanding of the relationship we have been granted with God through Jesus, in whom we do live and move and exist.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Some questions, pt. 2

3. Romans 11 confuses me. Specifically, the words "all Israel" and "fullness."

4. The nature of the covenant made at Sinai is also something I wonder about. It certainly seems like a conditional covenant to me, with, in part, Canaan as the covenant blessing, exile as the curse. Of course, it's not that simple, and, in places, the covenant seems to be cut in terms of life and death, not just land or no land. Is this law covenant, which, though Piper doesn't seem to agree, seems to me to be very much conditional, an administration of the overarching construct of God's relationship to his chosen people known as the covenant of grace? If so, how can it be conditional if it deals with more than just Israel's inheritance of the Promised Land?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Some questions pt. 1

As I've been reading others' blogs lately, I've realized a few things, mainly my gross underqualification to have anyone seriously reading my reflections, theological or otherwise. There's nothing right now that I can say about theology that would contribute anything original to the conversation, so I've resigned myself mostly to shut up and read for a while. That said, I'll just be posting lots of questions for the next bit of time. I've got my opinions about the answers to these questions, but they are comparitively uneducated ones. Please feel free to answer if you are so inclined.
1. Into what covenant (or covenant administration, if you prefer) are we baptizing people? Is baptism an initiation into the covenant of grace in general or into a specific administration of that covenant? Both?
2. Who holds the majority view as it concerns the landscape and nature of bibical covenants, M.G. Kline or O.P. Robertson? They seem to diverge at important points, though they are both quoted approvingly in some of the same books.
More on the way... get excited!

Sunday, February 04, 2007


"The church is catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does, belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated. God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another.

As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all; but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness...

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promentory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

-John Donne (Meditation XVII)

Friday, February 02, 2007

When in Rome

Last weekend my wife and I went on a retreat to Pigeon Forge with our church's college/singles group, even though we're not in college; we like the people. The theme of the weekend was Christ and Culture, which led us to discuss the definition of culture, the moral neutrality or non-neutrality of culture, and our role as the body of Christ living and being influenced by our culture.
Since then, I've been thinking about trying to apply some of the great discussion we had on the retreat to my everday life, and I've run up against a problem that I can't figure out: How do we live the "radical" Christian lifestyle that's demanded of us in a culture (Southern, bible-belt, nominally Christian) that already intellectually knows the gospel and, to an extent, even the radically other-worldly (holy) lifestyle that Jesus demands from us and, yet, doesn't care? It seems to me that, in many important ways, our southern culture is still very much a "churched" culture. For that reason, it's hard for our culture to distinguish between a life that preaches the authentic gospel and a life that preaches the almost-authentic gospel that has so saturated Southern culture.
For example: the normal response of the average southerner to a confrontation with a "radical" Christian life as described on our retreat would not, I'm afraid, be "Wow- s/he really loves Jesus!" Rather, I'm afraid it would be more like "Wow- look who just got back from a church retreat!" or " Wow- look who thinks s/he's a super-Christian." I know that's cynical, but the fact is that, in the South, being "Christian" is, first, almost automatically assumed, and second, is a social virtue. So, because being "Christian" is looked upon so positively by most of society, someone who's genuinely changed by the gospel and is excited about meeting Jesus will often be seen as simply making a social move or just "cleaning up their act." The persecution and resistance doesn't come from those who are overtly hostile to the gospel, but from a culture that sees Christianity as mainly a social thing, a culture that's been on the retreats, a culture that knows when we're being "witnessed to", therefore supiciously condemning as "self-righteous" any disturbingly radical expressions of Christ we see. After all, we live in the Christendom of the South, right? We're all okay.