True Pleasure in True Religion

"A holy heavenly life spent in the service of God, and in communion with Him, is, without doubt, the most pleasant and comfortable life any man can live in this world." - Matthew Henry

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Location: California, United States

Hello to the blogging world. I hope that this page can turn into a forum that facilitates spiritual growth. By the Grace of God, I trust that we can participate in reasonable disputations and learn from our misunderstandings of eachother and varied viewpoints. I hope that this blog will be a safe-haven for the pursuit of truth in a world that often denies the existence of certitude.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

What Would Charles Spurgeon Say?

Do you ever wonder how certain godly saints of the past would react to life, thought, practice, and in particular Christianity, today? Well here is an excerpt from an excerpt of an excellent Charles Spurgeon sermon that might shed some light on such a question:

We are often told by some ministers in their drawing rooms, that God will not ask in the day of judgment what a man believed, for if his life has been correct, it will not much matter what doctrines he held.

I am at a loss for the authority on which they base such laxness. I wonder who told them that was the truth. I have read my Bible through, and I have never found a text that could absolve my judgment from its allegiance to my Maker.

I hold, that to believe wrongly is equally as great a sin in the sight of heaven as to act wrongly. Error is a crime before God, and though there is liberty of conscience, so far as man and man are concerned, there is no liberty of conscience with God. You are not free to believe truth, or to believe error just as you like. You are bound to believe what God says is truth, and on your soul's peril be it, that you believe two things that are contrary, or confound the positive and the negative, where faith is the evidence of justification, and unbelief the seal of a sinner's doom.

The rest of the post can be found here.

The whole sermon can be found here.

HT: Pyromaniacs

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Casting Crowns

I really like this song:

"If We Are The Body"

It's crowded in worship today
As she slips in trying to fade into the faces
The girls teasing laughter is carrying farther than they know
Farther than they know

But if we are the body
Why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren't His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?
There is a way

A traveler is far away from home
He sheds his coat and quietly sinks into the back row
The weight of their judgmental glances
Tells him that his chances are better out on the road

Jesus paid much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come
And we are the body of Christ

Jesus is the way

Here is the band's website.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Five English Reformers by J.C. Ryle

Well, I have once again been blessed with being able to read a fantastic book. This biography covers the lives, deaths, and teachings of five of the Maryian Martyrs: John Hooper, John Bradford, Rowland Taylor, Hugh Latimer, and Nicholas Ridley, as well as a brief overview of a few others.

The boldness and faith that drove these men, even into the fires, is something to admire.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A Survey of Christianity Today

Slander. This is a word that cuts right to the heart. If a person is being slanderous, this implies a sort of willful attempt to harm a person or a group by misrepresenting beliefs, values, practices, ideas, and other cultural aspects. Far too often have I been guilty of this sin (see Ps 15:3, Prov 10:18, Mark 7:22, Eph 4:31, Col 3:8; NASB).

Often times, I am guilty of what I like to call "ignorant slander." Ignorant slander is a term that describes a person who speaks about a person or group or belief system when he or she really hasn't studied the issue at hand. But rather than admit ignorance, this person commits slander by speaking negatively (often times passionately) about something that he or she is relatively ignorant. Lately, I have felt an abnormal amount of guilt in my own life with regard to being slanderous. I don't think that I often commit willful slander, as I try to be as honest as possible. But far too often I am guilty of speaking out of ignorance. And this is one of the [many] things that I really would like to improve upon.

So, how does one guard his or her heart against slander? Read. Study. Ask questions. Listen to interviews. Etc. And this is the key: don't always rely upon secondary sources. Go right to the source. So many times I have been in a discussion and I have heard a person tell me facts about my pastor, my religion, my city, my friends, even myself that are completely off-base. When I attempt to correct the person, he or she will look at me like I'm an idiot. I'm the idiot because this person has received "reliable information" from a "reliable source." Man! This really peeves me! Can you relate? Isn't this a frustrating occurrence? Well, this is exactly what we do as Christians when we speak about others out of ignorance or bad scholarship (exclusively researching secondary sources).

What I hope to do in this post is to set forth a few facts that I have learned about Evangelicalism in today's world (primarily in the west, since this is what I have been studying). My hope is that I might be able to add some clarity in areas that are relatively fuzzy, and that a discussion might ensue, whereby we might learn more accurate information about each other and Christianity today, resulting in clarity for all - myself included - and to help guard us from future slander (if nothing else, this will be a good reminder for myself). Of course, this will not be a comprehensive essay. Unfortunately, I'm not as informed as I would like to be. But I do hope that I, as well as any reader, may grow in some degree through this rudimentary analysis.

First of all, I will try to describe the three major constituencies (not denominations) in the Evangelical world: Traditional, Seeker, and Emerging, followed by a few notes and random thoughts. Also, as I continue try to keep in mind that it is important to understand why something is believed, not just what the belief is - both are essential if we are to guard ourselves from slander.


This group is generally what we could call reformational. They are, for the most part, reformed (not necessarily Calvinist); some Lutherans and also others groups that are fairly conservative with regard to doctrine and practice (Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, etc.).

However, this designation isn't so much a denominational term as it is an ideological and practical term that can vary within a given denomination. For example, it is possible to have a Baptist church in a particular city that might fit this mold, and then two miles down the road a Baptist church might exist that would not be considered traditional. What gives a church this designation is an alignment with the older/traditional views of the Evangelical world. Some people might call this constituency "fundamentalist", generally following after the thoughts and beliefs of Carl Henry and others that would fit that theological mold.


This constituency is the one for whom Bill Hybels and Willow Creek was the original standard bearer (although they have since changed); and now we know of Rick Warren and Saddleback Church, among many others. Originally, this group aimed for the boomers. But since then, other seeker sensitive churches that followed have aimed at other generational niches (Gen x, Millenial).

This constituency is very market oriented. They use a lot of consumerism and pragmatism to draw "seekers" into the church and make them feel welcome. They tend to be low on doctrine and Biblical preaching. And often times, the main criticism from the Traditional side is that the Seeker Movement is more of a "moralistic therapy" than true Biblical Christianity. But if you ask a Seeker Sensitive pastor, he or she will most likely tell you that the goal of this movement is to draw in individuals who have been turned off by traditional Evangelicalism and expose them to the Gospel in a pragmatic, "friendlier" way.


This movement, which prefers to be called a "conversation" or a "community of friends", is a very difficult movement to nail down. There are many facets of this movement that are liquid and ever-changing - progressional. The idea behind this conversation seems to have begun in the late '90s as Christian leaders were trying to figure out how to act as missionaries and churches in a postmodern context. They aimed and still aim primarily at younger persons, whose lives have been shaped dramatically by the postmodern shift; but no person is directly excluded, in theory. The postmodern person thinks and acts in ways that are very contrary to that of the modernistic individual.

The Emerging Church has distinguished itself from both of the groups mentioned above. They sort of see themselves as the mean between two extremes. The Emerging Church sees the traditional constituency as "dead orthodoxy." They (the traditional churches) are too certain about the truth that they have; and often times very exclusionary, intolerant, and oppressive.

On the other hand, the Seeker Sensitive movement it too empty. There is nothing that grips anybody. There is no depth. So in an attempt to regain the life-changing power of Christianity, the Emerging Church has tried to increase the existential aspect of religious praxis.

Most of us know about the movement's views on relativistic idealism, the denial of meta-narrative, and the emphasis on praxis as opposed to scientific doctrine. While these things are true, they are generalizations. And what I hope to do, through study and interaction, is eliminate my tendency to generalize, and instead become more specific in my critiques and commendations. As we shall see, not all Emerging churches fit the general mold.

Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill in Seattle, explains that there are actually four groups/teams within the broader heading of the Emerging Church.

1. Emergent:

According to Driscoll, this group tends to be a little bit more liberal theologically (with regards to Substitutionary Atonement, exclusivity of Christ, Original Sin, Authority of Scripture, etc.) - a bit more progressive and open. As I have been able to listen to the Emergent Podcast over the past few weeks, I too have noticed the sweeping liberalism (mainly I have listened to Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones, but others as well).

Another thing I have noticed is that these individuals seem to be very hostile (albeit passive-aggressive) toward modernity and conservative Evangelicalism (which they see as corollary terms). And the constant accusation of intolerance, against the "Christian right", really seems to be more of a smoke-shield for their own intolerance of Christian conservatism. But this is always the case with blanket neutrality, it ends up refuting itself. While the hearts of these men and women are often in the right place, it seems that their conclusions aren't.

Christianity is an all-encompassing belief: praxis follows doctrine, both of which ought to reflect an internal disposition of the heart that is immersed in the love and glory of our Triune God; all are necessary and interrelated, which is something that seems to be lacking in this group.

This is the group (of the four) that tends to get the most attention and criticism.

2. House Churches - "New Monastic Communities":

This group is for the most part theologically moderate, seeking to devise new church forms. Not easy to describe, as they tend to be fairly low-key.

3. Church 2.0:

This group is, for the most part, conservative, Evangelical. They are basically trying to upgrade the style of the church service to make it more appealing to the younger generation (many of the once named "Seeker churches" would fit this mold as they have progressed over the past few years): power point displays, hip music, etc. seem to be norms in the services.

4. New Reformed Stream:

This group is theologically reformed (Calvinistic). They hold to very conservative views, but they are themselves young, postmodern X'ers and have hearts for the young postmodern culture. One of their main goals is to function as a "Missional" church in the postmodern age, reaching the youth of their surrounding areas. They are "closed" theologically, but flexible with regard to practice.

Now, I realize that I haven't even given justice to the complexity of thought that is swirling around in today's Christianity. And if you believe that I have in any way misrepresented a particular group that you might know about, please let me know. My desire is to grow, to learn. And I welcome any correction or other dialogue that this post may cause. Again, the main reason that I am posting this is because I have been studying these issues and am very interested in them. Please help me become a better student, and person, for Jesus' sake.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Seven Sayings of the Savior on the Cross, by A.W. Pink

In fellowship we reach the climax of grace and the sum of Christian privilege. Higher than fellowship we cannot go. God has called us "unto the fellowship of his Son" (1 Cor 1:9). We are often told that we are "saved to serve," and this is true, but it is only a part of the truth and by no means the most wondrous and blessed part of it. We are saved for fellowship... Christ came not primarily to secure servants but those who should enter into fellowship with Himself.

That which makes heaven superlatively attractive to the heart of the saint is not that heaven is a place where we shall be delivered from all sorrow and suffering, nor is it that heaven is the place where we shall meet again those we loved in the Lord, nor is it that heaven is the place of golden streets and pearly gates and jasper walls - no; blessed as these things are, heaven without Christ would not be heaven. It is Christ the heart of the believer longs for and pants after - "Whom have I in heaven by thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee" (Ps 73:25). [53]

This book is fantastic! I recommend it to all. It will definitely be a piece in my repertoire for some time to come.

Arthur Walkington Pink is one of my favorite expositors/pastors of all time. The very first book that I read as a Christian was his The Attributes of God. It provided me with a clear and powerful look into the unsearchable riches of the Triune God that I had, at that time, just come to know - something for which I am eternally indebted to him.

This book is another of Pink's attempts to bring the reader to Everest.

John Piper uses the analogy of a telescope when he describes the Christian's response to God's grace as we glorify Him with our lives. There are two types of magnification. One that magnifies like a microscope. This type of magnification takes something that is extremely small and makes it look bigger. If persons take this approach with God, they blaspheme. The other type of magnification is similar to that of using a telescope. A telescope makes an object that is far too distant to see with our eyes to look more as it really is. In Astronomy, this is often called the difference between apparent and absolute magnitude. This is how we ought to approach magnifying God. He is infinitely transcendent. And His "apparent magnitude" in the eyes of the world is far less than it is in reality. So we must "telescopically" magnify Him; make Him look great; make Him look more like He really is - His absolute magnitude. And this book by Pink is one way that God has enabled me to see a more "telescopically" accurate view of God and His Christ.

The Seven sayings of Jesus on the Cross are,

1. Forgiveness - "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34)

2. Salvation - "And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:42-43)

3. Affection - "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother... When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, behold thy mother." (John 19:25-27)

4. Anguish - "And about the ninth hour Jesus cries with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46)

5. Suffering - "Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, saith I thirst." (John 19:28)

6. Victory - "When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, it is finished." (John 19:30)

7. Contentment - "And when Jesus had cries with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my Spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost." (Luke 23:46)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Cultural Repercussions of a Paradigm Shift

Without doubt, the west is undergoing a change. Certain philosophers are identifying this change as a major paradigm shift, from modern to post-modern thinking; while others see this change simply as the necessary consummation of modernity. Regardless of the exact terminology one would employ, it is no doubt that an all-encompassing change is just over the horizon for the west, and the world as a whole.

Change isn't something about which we should be surprised. By nature, culture is dynamic. Change is inevitable, as humans learn from past mistakes; grow from those experiences; adapt to new cultural and ideological tides; and adopt new beliefs, values, and symbols from the international community. However, even though culture is dynamic, it hasn't always been so quick to change, as it is now.

So, can stability be maintained in a fast-paced dynamic community (world-wide or local)?

If we examine the civilizations that lasted long periods of time, one thing is evident: they remained fairly static, usually under the leadership of a dynastic line (I am not advocating dynastic rule). Yes, there were changes. But the changes that the Ming and Ching dynasties faced were slight, subtle, and for the most part very similar to China's past cultural structures. The Ottoman Empire lasted for about 600 years, give-or-take a few (14th century to early 20th), while undergoing many changes in leadership. But it wasn't until the 19th century when things began to fall apart (because of massive cultural changes) for the Ottomans; and things fell fast and hard, leading ultimately to the demise of the empire around the end of WWI. The Byzantine Empire, whom the Ottomans eventually conquered in the mid 15th century by conquering Constantinople, also remained as a relatively stable empire for many centuries, while undergoing very little change up until the end, when they faced drastic cultural changes. Of course there are many other examples throughout history that follow this same trend (and of course there are always a few exceptions to the majority rule).

Now let's turn our focus to the "proudly-boasting" dynamic communities of the modern period (specifically the west); because, I think I have begun to notice something fascinating. As cultural anthropologist Conrad Phillip Kottak points out in his book Mirror for Humanity, culture is not only dynamic, but it is also integrated.

Cultures are not haphazard collections of customs and beliefs. Cultures are integrated, patterned systems. If one part of the system (the overall economy [religion, ideology, value systems, etc.], for instance) changes, other parts change as well (45).

And when these changes confront us, there are two results: adaptive behavior or maladaptive behavior. As Kottak goes on to explain, adaptive behavior very often produces negative repercussions, maladaptive behavior.

Sometimes, adaptive behavior that offers short-term benefits to particular subgroups or individuals may harm the environment and threaten the group's long-term survival. Economic growth may benefit some people while it depletes resources needed for society at large or for future generations... [And] by-products of... "beneficial" technology [automobiles, air conditioners, etc] often create new problems [air pollution, depleted ozone layer, global warming] (48).

So before I go any further, let me organize my thoughts into a syllogism:


- Cultures exist, and

- The West is considered a culture, and

- Existing cultures are necessarily dynamic, and

- Existing dynamic cultures face negative repercussions, due to changes


- The West - an existing culture - is necessarily a dynamic culture that faces negative repercussions due to change.

Now this may not seem like anything to write home about. But really it is fascinating. For all the vaunted talk about the "positive" aspects of post-modernism in academia (relativism, moral neutrality, open-mindedness, free-thought, etc.), it seems as though the west is running headlong into a ditch. Let me try to explain. Modern "western" culture has never faced a paradigm shift such as the one that it now faces. Ever since the Enlightenment, certain beliefs, values, "laws", and rules governed, were fixed. But now, these once standard truths/realities that were so essential to modern life are losing importance, and soon may fall out of existence. Granted, there have been many subtle societal shifts, with substantial effects; but nothing that sweeps across the board in the same way that this paradigm shift, based on post-modern relativistic thought, could. A whole new way of thinking is now surfacing, not just in theory but practically. Just imagine what could happen. Are we ready to deal with such changes? Can we as a culture survive a major shift? Or will the ensuing reactions be so maladaptive that we crumble into the annuls like the Ottomans?

I really have no definitive closing thoughts, since this is just something that I was thinking about while I was at Starbucks and had to put to paper before I forgot. But let me run for a minute in closing.

One more syllogism:


- The West is facing a major paradigm shift, such as has never been seen before.

- Any shift in any aspect of culture will produce an integrated effect.

- Maladaptive results are to be expected from a shift in a single aspect of any given culture.

- The current shift in the West directly affects multiple areas of our culture.


- The West is staring at possible repercussions, stemmed from an integrated paradigm shift, that could produce undesirable effects, with great magnitude in every area of our culture, due to the fact that each individual aspect of culture is necessarily linked with the integrated whole.

Should We Abandon the Imputation of Christ's Righteousness?

Far too often today the line between justification and sanctification are blurred, leading to "Romish" type of dogma. Should we abandon the historical Reformed view of salvation in favor of more modern approaches? In his book Counted Righteous in Christ, John Piper provides a very thorough exegetical response to this very issue. With the same passion that permeates his preaching, Dr. Piper contends earnestly for the imputation of Christ's Righteousness to believers by exegeting texts, not relying upon historical precedence. Even if a you disagree from the outset with his conclusion, I would still challenge you to read this stimulating book, for the glory of God and the joy of all peoples, as the triumphant love of Christ is declared among the nations.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Time for Truth - Great Read

Time for Truth by Os Guinness is a great read for all persons who are fascinated by the theoretical discussion of postmodernity and its effects on society. In this book, Guinness breaks through the barrier of academic theory and moves into the world of practicality. Drawing from such events as the demise of the U.S.S.R to the controversy surrounding the former Nobel Peace Prize recipient Rigoberta Menchu, Guinness attempts to explain, or more appropriately show, the effects of postmodern thinking in and on the west, and subsequently its impact on the world as a whole.