Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘soteriology’ Category

I recently discovered a great number of lectures by Francis Schaeffer.  Evidently these are the “L’Abri tapes” that I first saw mentioned in True Spirituality.

I haven’t listened to very many of these yet, but this includes lectures that appear to be the basis of several of his books. These include True Spirituality, No Little People, Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History, Genesis and Science, A Christian Manifesto, The Mark of the Christian and The Finished Work of Christ, among others. I must confess that I am less familiar with his well known apologetical works than I am with some of his others but I’m sure much of that material is there in embryonic form as well.

Overall, a wide variety of topics are covered, from cultural analysis, theology in general (including a series on the Westminster Confession of Faith), apologetics, the arts, etc.  There are also a good many lectures on eschatology, including an exposition of the book of Revelation.  It is well known that Schaeffer was premillennial, which was not uncommon among Presbyterians of his day, particularly among those of his background.  The titles of some of them seem to indicate that he was pretribulational as well.  But those lectures appear to be from the early 1960’s so I don’t know if he ever changed his views as did some others like James Montgomery Boice, for example.  I haven’t read that much of Schaeffer’s work, but I hope to remedy that soon.  However, I have noticed allusions to a future for Israel in some of his writings that were published in the 1970’s.  I do think it’s interesting that a leader who was known for teachings on cultural and other issues would have taught so much on prophetical themes. But most if not all of those lectures were from the early 1960’s, prior to him becoming a popular evangelical leader in the United States and beyond.

There is also a large amount of video material available online as well, perhaps most notably the film version of How Should We Then Live?

Read Full Post »

As noted here in a couple of previous posts, I am an alumnus of Louisiana College and a native of Alexandria. That being said, with the plethora of other issues on my plate, I had no plans to make any further comment on the situation at LC. However, it has come to my attention that an article has been published in the Baptist Message that reportedly focuses exclusively on Calvinism as being the source of the problems at LC. (One must pay to read the article in full, and I’m not a paying subscriber.)

No doubt Calvinism is a significant issue in the Louisiana Baptist Convention and it was the proximate cause for the latest controversy that has  resulted in LC once again appearing in the headlines of the local media and beyond. That being said, I wonder if those of you who are concerned about a perceived undue Calvinistic influence at LC could answer some questions for me.

As Dr. Aguillard noted in his statement regarding Calvinism and LC, he was chosen in part because he is not a Calvinist. As many of you know, another leading candidate for President at that time is a Calvinist and many on the Board of Trustees at that time did not want to see a strong Calvinistic influence at LC. Why then has Dr. Aguillard (until now) aided and abetted the Calvinistic influence at LC since 2005?  Since the liberals (or “moderates”) left the religion/theology department, (and I had long thought that that needed to happen) I’m not sure if there has ever been a time in which the majority of the full time Biblical Studies faculty have not been Calvinistic. If that is a bit of an overstatement, it certainly seems to me that there has always been a high percentage of Calvinists on the faculty since Dr. Aguillard assumed office and new faculty began to be appointed to fill vacancies in that department. Given their educational background and other factors, everybody knew or should have known that these men were Calvinists. Why is this only now becoming an issue? Are there no non-Calvinist faculty who could have been brought in instead? If a football coach is directed not to bring in certain kinds of players and he repeatedly does it anyway, what should be the result? If LC has indeed become “Geneva on the Red” as some Louisiana Baptists have alleged, who ultimately is to blame for this development?

Moreover, why was a Oneness Pentecostal on the LC faculty for several years? He was not on the religion faculty but he hosted a campus radio program that addressed spiritual topics and thus had a spiritual influence on the students. Getting rid of liberals and replacing them with those who are associated with heretical ministries isn’t quite the kind of change I can believe in. That’s the case for me even if it has only happened once. In addition, the Oneness group Phillips Craig and Dean performed at LC in 2005 (also on Dr. Aguillard’s watch) and ordained Oneness minister Randy Phillips reportedly spoke in chapel.  This cooperation with Oneness Pentecostals calls into question the level of commitment to the stated goal of returning LC to its Biblical and Baptist roots. Would M.E. Dodd or Edwin O. Ware have approved of such? Are we to infer from this that having a faculty member who is affiliated with a non-Trinitarian ministry and who had a spiritual influence on the campus is not seen as a serious issue by Louisiana Baptists?  I can assure you that some impressionable students as well as others will draw that conclusion, sadly.  This too was no secret as the man in question had a regular column in the Town Talk that noted his affiliation with a Pineville congregation that is affiliated with the United Pentecostals. I wonder what other involvement (especially with regard to spiritual influence) these non-evangelicals and non-Trinitarians have had at Louisiana College since 2005. The fact that they are not in the SBC aside, do any of you  believe that Oneness Pentecostal theology and practice is less problematic than that of Calvinistic Baptists?

While a significant Calvinist presence is naturally an issue at Louisiana College in a state where the convention is overwhelmingly non-Calvinist, it seems to me that there are more pressing issues with regard to the core curriculum, infrastructure, accreditation, etc. While the Christian Studies division is of obvious concern to pastors and those with an interest in what kind of religious teaching is going on there, the majority of students are not in that program. For years LC has had a quality nursing program and has also done very well in having students accepted to professional schools such as medical school and law school.  A good many students are likely to leave if the cloud of fear and uncertainty over LC doesn’t clear soon.

Read Full Post »

“If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God”  1 Pet. 4:14-17a

[I have included my preface to Dr. Culpepper’s letter in blue below. Dr. Culpepper’s letter follows.]

This writer is a 1996 alumnus of Louisiana College and also a native of Alexandria, LA. While at LC, after having been raised in a theologically liberal environment, I had become a blasphemer who denied the deity of Christ.  (That’s not something that I blame on the LC faculty of that time.) Within a few years, the Lord graciously drew me to Himself and I repented of my unbelief.

Louisiana College is the only accredited college in Louisiana that is affiliated with an evangelical Bible-believing denomination.  After commencing my pilgrimage to the Celestial City in 1999, I had longed for a Louisiana College that would provide a more distinctively Christian education while also maintaining (and hopefully exceeding) the quality of the education that was currently being provided there.

I was hopeful when Dr. Malcolm Yarnell was announced as the choice for President of Louisiana College in 2004.  He eventually withdrew, notably citing “governance issues which would significantly impact my ability to lead the school” as the reason for his withdrawal.  While much good has been accomplished at LC since then, mostly due to certain faculty who were brought in, from an administrative standpoint things at Louisiana College have steadily gone downhill. For every step forward, it has seemed to me that LC has taken two steps backward.   The school has continually given the world occasion to scoff, and not for the sake of the gospel. And by no stretch of the imagination are all of the critics of LC “liberal” or “Calvinist.”  Dr. Yarnell’s conservative credentials are impeccable and he is one of the more prominent non-Calvinist Southern Baptist academicians. Yet he cited problems with the Board of Trustees and perhaps other issues back in 2004.

It is my prayer that Louisiana Baptists in general, and the Louisiana College Board of Trustees in particular, will act before it is too late and will appoint leadership at LC that is capable of administering the college in a way that glorifies God.

Former Louisiana College faculty member and alumnus Dr. Scott Culpepper has written an open letter to the Louisiana College Board of Trustees. His letter is irenic while also presenting information about the state of LC over the past several years to which many Louisiana Baptists and other interested parties have not been previously exposed. It was first posted on Facebook and he has kindly given me permission to share it here.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Louisiana College Board of Trustees,

As an alumnus (1996) and a former faculty member (2007-2012) of Louisiana College, I urge you to take decisive action to restore the academic and spiritual integrity of our college by immediately terminating the employment of Joe Aguillard as president of Louisiana College and dismissing all charges against Joshua Breland and all other students involved in this recent fiasco.  I do not make either of these requests lightly or without good reason.  There are many who would attest to my conservative credentials, but I found that I could no longer serve under Joe Aguillard in good conscience because his leadership contradicts the very core of the scripture he claims to defend.  Public and private dishonesty, spiritual manipulation and intimidation, irresponsible anti-intellectualism, and presumptuous attempts to implement poorly conceived pipe dreams rather than responsible planning has characterized life at Louisiana College during Joe Aguillard’s tenure.  His recent attempt to penalize students for exercising their First Amendment rights is only the latest in a long series of poor decisions that have compromised the academic and spiritual integrity of Louisiana College.

I was initially a supporter of Joe Aguillard and excited about the new direction of Louisiana College.  I had been concerned about issues at Louisiana College as a student and was hopeful that the new direction of the college would provide a fresh start in a positive direction.  Even when I started to hear disturbing stories about how the transition had been engineered, I hoped that reconciliation could be achieved and that the college would move forward.  None of that happened.  As my first year at LC continued, I began to be concerned about the grandiose announcements that were being made regarding the establishment of a law school with no clear plan for funding the venture.  I also became aware that many of my colleagues were struggling financially and yet vast amounts were being funneled for the building of a new football stadium.  Only the first phase of that project is completed nearly four years later.  I told myself that maybe the administration was just operating with the hope that athletics would make money to support academics, but it became increasingly obvious that little fundraising was going on to support the undergraduate program.  In fact, the undergraduate program, the traditional core of Louisiana College’s liberal arts program, seemed to be taking a back seat to the dizzying array of proposed graduate ventures that were being advanced by the administration.

I thought I was alone in my concerns for a while and possibly overreacting.  As evidence began to accumulate that my impressions were accurate, I started to compare notes with colleagues.  I discovered that several of them had similar concerns and also new information to add to what I had observed myself.  It also became obvious that there was no forum for faculty to safely speak to the administration about these issues.  Conversations I had with Dr. Aguillard about them generally degenerated into attempts on his part to find out who I had been talking with and reminders that we need to be careful of idle gossip.  We were told that anyone who went directly to the Board of Trustees without first speaking with Aguillard would be immediately terminated for insubordination.

My first direct encounter with Aguillard’s style of managing subordinates came in the spring of 2009 when I voiced concern, first through a series of e-mail messages and then through a letter sent to leading administrators as well as select faculty members, about comments made by David Barton at the spring commencement.  Mr. Barton made several comments at the ceremony that were erroneous.  Not only students but faculty members seemed to be taking his false assertions as fact.  I had already communicated to the administration before the event Barton’s well known reputation for distorting facts and his nearly universal repudiation by Christian academics.  I requested that Aguillard allow us to present the other side of the argument for students and faculty who might be aware of Barton’s factual distortions.  The response was bizarre.  Dr. Chuck Quarles had also written a letter in which he echoed some of my concerns about Barton’s presentation.  Aguillard requested that his personal assistant, Joseph Cole, vet my letter and Dr. Quarles’ for factual accuracy because we probably “misunderstood Bro. Barton.”  Cole was a music major with no background in history who had not even completed his undergraduate degree.  Aguillard finally called me in for a rather strange conversation in which I tried to convince him with historical evidence that Barton was incorrect, and he responded by continually asserting that I would believe otherwise if I felt the spiritual vibe at Barton’s headquarters in Aledo, TX.  The meeting ended with Aguillard saying that he forgave me for my letter.  When I tried to diplomatically say that I stood by the letter and was not apologizing for its content, Aguillard said it would be best for my long term future at Louisiana College to forget about Barton.  I am still convinced that if Dr. Quarles had not been involved as well and I had not just been selected as Professor of the Year by the student body that spring that my treatment at  this time might have mirrored the ordeal that Rondall Reynoso endured two years later.

My second direct encounter occurred in the early summer of 2010.  I had become increasingly aware of the deteriorating infrastructure on campus.  The information technology services were and continue to be an embarrassment.  The dorms and library were rotting even then.  I had just returned to my office after teaching a May term class.  My students in the class were upset because they had not been able to access e-mail for days; they were unable to read primary sources for the class that day because the blackboard server was down; several of them had major registration issues, and the classroom computers did not function that day.  As I sat contemplating all these frustrations, the melodic strains of “Home on the Range” wafted over Alexandria Hall from the sparkling new chimes that had been installed in our dilapidated headquarters through the generosity of an anonymous donor.  Sick and tired of the complete cloak of silence imposed by the administration on any hint of a statement that sounded like a critique or criticism, I placed a statement on my Facebook page expressing my frustration that we had money to install bells to play American folk anthems on the hour, but none to provide an adequate infrastructure for our students.  Several students and faculty members responded with their own frustrations.  Joe’s response was immediate.  He called me and two other faculty members to his office with no warning.

In my meeting with him, he claimed that the donor was very upset and that the donor had specified which songs he wanted played.  “Home on the Range” was supposedly one of them.  I am guessing he liked “The Wizard of Oz” as well because we often heard other triumphant songs to advance the Kingdom of God such as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  I was very open and honest with Aguillard at this meeting.  I told him that I wanted to trust him but that I had serious questions about the direction of the college and his leadership.  He responded by giving me a trite illustrative story on gossip printed from one of those web sites that provides cribbed illustrations for sermons.  When I said that there were others who shared my concerns, Aguillard responded, “Who?  I want to know all their names!”  When I refused to provide him with names, he accused me of lying about there being other concerned parties.  When he asked why I did not think that the administration was working to raise money to care for the campus, I indicated that the library roof was in disrepair, the dorms were falling apart, and the information technology infrastructure was shot.  When I mentioned the library roof, Aguillard shouted, “That is a lie!  You have been a pastor and you are lying about the state of our campus!” I later learned that a crew was brought in just a few weeks later to examine the roof.  Two years later, I learned from a student that both a donor and the Board of Trustees were going around campus asking questions but not about the condition of the campus.  They were asking questions about me.  To this day none of them, including the donor, has ever approached me or asked me anything about my reasons for expressing those concerns.  I am convinced again that it was only my good record and the verbal support of many students that protected me.  I am also convinced that this was the moment that the administration decided to make Rondall Reynoso the scapegoat for faculty dissent.  Rondall was only one individual involved in the Facebook posts, but as an Art professor with a small cohort who was unknown to many students on campus, he was easier to slander than the rest of us.  He also was known to challenge the administration on ethical issues when they were in the wrong.  Aguillard directly called Rondall poison in our meeting that day and said I needed to “pray about the influences on my life.”

While these two encounters represent occasions when I attempted to express concerns directly to Dr. Aguillard, we daily lived in an atmosphere of tension and paranoia.  Aguillard and many of his associates routinely acted in ways that were spiritually immature.  They made a regular practice of shunning people who displeased them by refusing to acknowledge their presence when they passed them in the hallway.  There was an expectation that, in the words of an administrator, “You must love everyone Joe loves and hate everyone Joe hates.”  My department chair increasingly put pressure on me to stop allowing people to come to my office who were considered critical of the administration.  Information technology personnel who could not keep the campus network operating in the best of circumstances spent an inordinate amount of time monitoring faculty e-mail and Facebook to look for “subversive” activities.  A spirit of fear and paranoia pervaded the campus.

We hung our heads in embarrassment as Joe launched a crusade against the “Satanic” Town Talk which dared to print the truth about his administration.  I listened to hateful diatribes in chapel and faculty meetings that contradicted everything we were trying to teach our students about developing the mind for God’s glory.  We watched as Joe ate worms twice, hired an actor to play a mentally retarded person to make a point about how we needed to be open to admitting people with mental handicaps, listened as he slandered Baylor University as a godless and secular school, and chuckled at the great bat infestation which the administration would never admit happened.  I listened to Joe lie repeatedly about the extent of our problems with SACS when I knew the truth and was threatened for sharing it.  The entire time my heart broke for my students, some of whom had no idea what they were not getting at Louisiana College and others who endured threats and intimidation because they knew exactly what was happening and would not stand for it.  In fact, those who are rightly expressing concern for the students now being repressed should know that there were many before them who were quietly dealt with by the administration and whose cause was not taken up simply because they were not ministerial students.  In fact, the Christian Studies department often warned their students to stay away from these students because they were “troublemakers.”

The tactics of the administration reached a new low with the Rondall Reynoso prosecution.  I will not retell the entire story because Rondall has told it well himself on several forums.  For my part, I was walking a very thin line because of my friendship with Rondall and my obvious agreement with his critique.  I was “asked” to recuse myself from his case, the only faculty case ever to reach the Faculty Advisory Committee during my tenure of service, because evidence would be presented about situations in which I had been involved.  This directive was sent down despite the fact that Carolyn Spears, a fervent supporter of Aguillard, was allowed to serve on the committee even though she was implicated in evidence that Rondall was presenting in his defense.  Aguillard’s “request” was delivered to me by Joseph Cole.  Cole walked into an upper-level class and interrupted me mid-lecture to hand-deliver me the document in front of a room full of startled students.  In addition to Rondall’s dismissal, another of my colleagues, Beth Overhauser was released from her contract despite the fact that she had been given a promissory notice that her contract would be renewed a month earlier.  Beth had testified on Rondall’s behalf, a practice that was permitted by the faculty handbook, and she also dared to suggest to Aguillard that she was concerned that his rhetoric in chapel regarding homosexuality might be tempered with more references to God’s willingness to forgive anyone who would repent.  Several faculty members assisted the administration in branding Beth a radical because we had read George Orwell’s 1984 in a faculty reading group.  They also said she was disparaging Louisiana because we read John Kennedy Toole’s Confederacy of Dunces. This book had been chosen by another member of the group.  All other books we read were chosen from a list of acknowledged classics by group consensus.  It did not matter.  She was given no contract while other faculty members received ours in our boxes during commencement exercises.  She had to request a meeting to get face-to-face confirmation from acting president Tim Johnson and Vice President of Academic Affairs Tim Searcy that she was not being renewed..

I could write an entire book chronicling the issues at Louisiana College.  Since this document is already longer than I planned, I will close by saying that the examples here could be supported by a ream of other incidents.  By God’s grace, He delivered my family from these circumstances last year when we received a call to teach at another private Christian college.  While I will not chronicle all of our personal issues due to our LC experience, suffice it to say that it was unbelievably stressful for our entire family.  Louisiana College administrators often brought up our families when reminding us that we needed to toe the party line, regardless of the truth.  They constantly displayed callousness towards concerns about the welfare of families and other innocents that stood in direct contrast to the compassion Jesus commands us to have for even our enemies.

For these reasons and many others that I have not had time to record, I state once again my impassioned request that you begin the rebuilding of Louisiana College by removing Joe Aguillard from power, rescuing the Christian Studies students he is persecuting currently, and dismantling the network of supports who have enabled his ruthless leadership.  This task will not be easy.  There are many who would still be at Louisiana College who have been willing instruments in implementing Aguillard’s reign of terror.  Others have enabled him through their silence or by reporting on other faculty and students who sought to bring change.  Anyone who takes the helm will have to deal with these remaining corrupt elements as well as with a Louisiana Baptist constituency that has no understanding of how to foster a quality conservative Christian education.  In other words, you and the future president of Louisiana College have your work cut out for you.  But I am praying that you have been sent for this time, to this place, in this role, for such a time as this.  May God bless you and Louisiana College!

Sincerely,

Dr. Scott Culpepper

LC Class of 1996

Read Full Post »

RobertWright-obit-11-29-12I had written this back in November  but for some reason neglected to publish it at that time.  I post it now in case any  for whom it may be of interest had perhaps missed this news.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

I was saddened to see today that R.K. McGregor Wright has gone to be with the Lord.  I only knew him from the internet, but some of his unpublished essays were a great help to me a few years ago, as they have been to many others. He was an ardent premillennialist, Calvinist, and presuppositionalist. (He was also an egalitarian on gender issues.) He may be best known as the author of No Place for Sovereignty, a response to Open Theism.  I know that he was working on some writings with a view toward publication, one of which is mentioned below.

Here is the obituary that appeared in the Johnson City Press:

Dr. Robert Keith McGregor Wright, a 15-year resident of Johnson City, died Tuesday [Nov. 27 2012] at Johnson City Medical Center.

Born in Adelaide, South Australia, in 1940, Bob, as he was known to friends and family, was a high school English teacher before leaving Australia to study at the University of London in the United Kingdom. Bob earned a Bachelor of Divinity from London University, a Master’s of Theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield Illinois, and a Ph.D. from the Iliff School of Theology and University of Denver in Denver Colorado.

Dr. Wright was a Bible teacher, theologian, writer and scholar. He is the author of “No Place for Sovereignty” (InterVarsity Press) and “The Perfections of Scripture” (forthcoming in 2013). Bob’s ministry stretched from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Romania, but his influence went far beyond that via those whom he influenced through his ministry.

Bob was founding and co-director of Friendship International, an outreach ministry to international students and visiting scholars. He was also founder and co-director of the Aquila and Priscilla Study Center, whose ministry continues to reach out to others through the Internet.

Dr. Wright’s ministry of friendship, hospitality, teaching and scholarship touched everyone he met. A friend and former student recently said of Bob, “he lived his faith so vividly that people were inspired to live deeper, richer lives of Christian faith.” He lived well what he taught so well, and so helped shape the lives and faith of many people whose paths intersected with his.

Bob is survived by his wife, Julia Castle; brother, Barry James McGregor Wright; 25 nieces and nephews, including Lisa Duffy and Scott Castle; as well as countless brothers and sisters in Christ whose lives he touched so richly.
The family will receive friends on Friday, November 30th, from 4-7:00 p.m. at Hamlett-Dobson Funeral Home, Kingsport.

Funeral services will follow at 7:00 p.m. with Rev. Charlie Scalf and Dr. Alan Myatt officiating.
Graveside services will be conducted on Saturday, December 1st, at 11:00 am at Herman Cemetery in Gate City, VA.
Please visit http://www.hamlettdobson.com to leave an online condolence for the family.
Hamlett-Dobson Funeral Homes, Kingsport, is serving the family of Robert Keith McGregor Wright. (423) 378-3134

 

Read Full Post »

I’ve recently become aware of Pastor Mike Fabarez and his upcoming Aggressive Sanctification conference.  If you click the link, there are several meaty posts that articulate some of the concerns many of us who lean toward the “Old Calvinist” or Puritan view of sanctification have with the New Calvinist/Gospel-Centered/Sonship approach.

Donn Arms (Dr. Jay Adams’ colleague at the Institute of Nouthetic Studies) recently posted Gospel Indicatives/Gospel Imperatives, which sets forth the question in a helpful way. The INS blog is a good one to keep your eye on.

As Donn notes, this is a controversy in the Biblical Counseling arena. But it’s a controversy that is impacting evangelicalism as a whole via the “New Calvinism” (which is by no means without its good points compared to the standard evangelical fare of the recent past.)   Whether one takes more of a Grammatical Historical or Redemptive Historical approach to hermeneutics is a factor here as well.

Based on the reading I’ve done, it seems to me that the Puritans and their successors like J.C. Ryle, C.H. Spurgeon and Horatius Bonar (just to name a few) have achieved perhaps the best balance between the extremes of legalism and antinomianism.  But the “New Calvinism” appears to be jettisoning that wholesale for a largely quietist model of sanctification that is foreign to historic Reformed and Calvinistic theology, whether Reformed/Presbyterian or Baptist.   Unfortunately, it’s increasingly what passes for “Reformed” today, especially among those who know little of Reformed theology beyond the Five Points.

Read Full Post »

Dan Phillips. The World-Tilting Gospel: Embracing a Biblical Worldview and Holding on Tight. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2011, 320 pages.

Dan Phillips will likely be known to most readers of this humble blog.  For years he’s been writing at Pyromaniacs as well as at his own blog, Biblical Christianity. He earned the M.Div. at Talbot Theological Seminary and has served as a pastor, teacher, seminar speaker, newspaper columnist, and radio talk show host.  The World-Tilting Gospel (hereafter TWTG) is his first book.

As those with a passing familiarity with the New Testament will (hopefully) be aware, the title of TWTG is a reference to Acts 17:6-7:  “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king—Jesus.

Could this be said of professing Christianity as a whole today?  Specifically, can this be said of evangelical Christianity, particularly in the United States?  (Overwrought left-wing commentators might think so, but what they usually have in mind isn’t what the text has in view here.)  No, the sad fact is that most professing Christians don’t live much differently than those who do not profess Christ. In a day in which “Christianity” is still dominant in culture, the truth in this verse and passage should be reckoned with more soberly than it often is.

On page 164 Phillips diagnoses the problem:

Frankly, it boggles my mind how many…won’t even admit that Jesus in fact taught differently than what they believe, or that the Bible doesn’t go where they want to go. They’ve made up a Cheerleader Jesus, or a Bobblehead Buddy Jesus, who’s okay with their pet sin or perversion. They have yet to come to Square A–and that’s the square where we realize what Jesus actually taught and was, and how radically different that is from where we’ve been.

TWTG isn’t merely a meditation or an exposition of one passage. Instead, Phillips gives us a summary of  Biblical teaching about the Gospel in a clear, comprehensive and succinct way. In the preface he writes “I love compressed truth.” In TWTG he has given us a gem of compressed truth.

Phillips begins by stating that we must grasp:

  • who we really are
  • what kind of world we are really living in
  • how the world really operates and where it is really going
  • who God really is
  • what His eternal plan really was
  • why we really needed Him and His plan so desperately
  • what His terms—the Gospel—really were
  • what difference the Gospel will really make on every day of our lives

These vital questions are answered here better than in any other recent book that I am aware of. Here we find thorough explanations of creation, the fall, and man’s inherited sinful condition. Then Phillips provides us with an overview of God’s attributes, how the Gospel meets our need and how it was executed in space and time. Next are a couple of chapters on imputed righteousness and regeneration. This is followed by some very helpful chapters on sanctification and living the Christian life, including examination of several harmful yet widely popular views of the Christian life.  The Bible’s teaching on the flesh is also helpfully expounded upon, something that the author had previously blogged about under the title of Sarkicophobia! I found this section to be very helpful as I labored under a similar malady for many years. (Maybe I’ll come up with a fancy name for it one day.)

However, despite covering all of these monumental topics, this is no dry academic treatise. Phillips explains deep truths in a way that can be understood by many who are not used to reading weighty theological tomes.

There is nothing really new here, as I’m sure the author would gladly admit. As Dr. Jay Adams noted in his review of the book, TWTG sets forth the standard Calvinistic view of the Gospel. But this fresh restatement is vitally needed in a day in which there seems to be some confusion even in the Calvinistic camp over the relationship between justification and sanctification, spiritual growth, and other issues.

While there have been many excellent books in recent years, I know of no better gospel handbook or primer that is this thorough yet accessible. It will prove to be very useful for use in discipleship. It will reinforce and clarify things for the believer. It is also a good book to hand to an unbeliever, as it sets forth a whole-Bible worldview. TWTG will bear periodic re-reading.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Here’s hoping that this is only the first of many books from the pen (or keyboard) of Dan Phillips!

For a limited time, the Kindle edition of TWTG is available at no charge.

Disclaimer:  Kregel Publications graciously provided this book for review purposes. I was under no obligation to provide a positive review.

Read Full Post »

Lately I’ve been doing some thinking about what is sometimes called Gospel-Driven Sanctification (or some similar terminology.*) This has come after reading the recent back and forth on the Gospel Coalition site between Tullian Tchividjian and Kevin DeYoung (among other posts) on the subject of effort in the Christian life.  This issue was also alluded to in Frank Turk’s Open Letter to Michael Horton earlier this year. Jay E. Adams has recently made several posts on the issue as well. By no means have I studied the issue exhaustively, but I’ve been somewhat troubled by some of what I’ve heard and read so far. (To my recollection, what caused me to focus on this question to begin with was this post, which raised so many questions in my mind that it would likely require an entire post in response.)

Today, I was directed to this article by William B. Evans on the Reformation 21 blog.   It is the best recent presentation I have seen of the Biblical teaching on this issue and the current controversy in Reformed and Calvinistic circles over it. To a considerable degree, it seems to be a continuation of the controversy over the Sonship teaching of Jack Miller of World Harvest Mission a few decades ago. In other cases, it appears to be the result of a sharp distinction being made between law and grace, which is a feature of Lutheranism as well as dispensationalism.  The emphasis on “Gospel driven” with reference to sanctification often seems to indicate a kind of passivity (or a passive or quietistic tendency) with regard to growing in grace. Some have summarized the issue as being a question of whether sanctification is monergistic or synergistic. (All of those in the debate acknowledge that justification is monergistic.)

When reading the material I noted in the first paragraph, perhaps expecially the blog comments that have followed, I’ve witnessed what appears to be a visceral reaction against the idea of any kind of Biblical imperative, even though the Scriptures, including the New Testament, are filled with them. In particular, it is a disagreement with the idea that we should strive to obey these imperatives (or commands.)

The pattern of Gospel indicatives followed by imperatives is perhaps most clearly seen in Paul’s epistles. The Gospel is expounded upon in the first part of letters like Romans, Galatians and Ephesians, with the implications of the Gospel (including numerous commands) typically making up the last several chapters. If all we have to do is “preach the Gospel to ourselves” and meditate upon Christ, then why would Paul and the other apostles have seen the need to include these commands?

Dr. Evans’ mention of post-fundamentalism may be spot on. I too have wondered how many people who are attracted to this teaching have come from some kind of legalistic background. Similarly, it’s not uncommon to encounter folks who have been under some kind of unbiblical overbearing “shepherding” ministry who overreact to the point of rejecting practically any pastoral shepherding or oversight whatsoever.

It’s quite ironic (and perhaps troubling) to see some of the “Gospel-driven” types  link approvingly to the kind of posts that are questioned in Dr. Evans’ article, only to turn around the next day and tout J.C. Ryle’s Holiness on their blog or Twitter.  Ryle’s Holiness is a classic work which basically teaches the polar opposite! One wonders what thought process would lead someone to promote works from such opposing perspectives and evidently not see the contradiction. Confusion and overreaction to false teaching may be at the root.

For example, the other day I saw a woman quote Horatius Bonar’s God’s Way of Holiness in an attempt to rebut criticism of “Gospel-driven” views of sanctification by those who had cited Bonar as opposing that kind of teaching. This was despite the fact that Bonar, like Ryle, has a strong emphasis on striving for holiness. Maybe the fact that Bonar clearly and powerfully taught justification by grace alone by faith alone through Christ alone leads some who haven’t read him closely to assume that he must also agree with those who appear to emphasize nothing but the indicatives of the Gospel message. This may particularly be the case for those who were fed a steady diet of moralism prior to coming to their current understanding.  It may be that some automatically equate any reference to effort or striving for holiness with legalism or moralism.

I am thankful for the Gospel-driven movement to the extent to which it has helped to deliver people from the bondage of real legalism and moralism. But at this point I’m not convinced that it accurately represents biblical teaching as a whole.

One thing is for sure, if the Lord tarries, this is an issue that is not going away any time soon.

(HT: Benjamin Glaser)

J.C. Ryle’s Holiness and Horatius Bonar’s God’s Way of Holiness are both available online:

Holiness 

God’s Way of Holiness (.pdf)

*Other terms include Christ-centered, Gospel-centered and other similar phrases. It seems to me that these terms are being repeated so often that there is a risk of a mantra being created, one that is basically a slogan that is repeated so often and used in reference to so many things that it essentially becomes devoid of meaning. 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »