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The State of Theology survey reveals evangelicals are unorthodox

The State of Theology survey reveals evangelicals are unorthodox

“The State of Theology” survey published by Ligonier Ministries in the last couple of days focused on evangelical responses to various theological questions.

The statement “Everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature,” received over 50% agreement from evangelical Christians. And the statement: “Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God,” which was espoused by the heretic Arius received 78% agreement from the same group of evangelicals surveyed.

To what do we owe this vast chasm between basic Christian doctrine and widespread confusion?

The Dealer’s Prayer

The Dealer’s Prayer

Recently I had my first experience in a car dealership. The gentleman, kind enough, took us on a tour through the vast array of used cars. We had a budget in mind and we also had a fine mechanic whom we called if we had any questions (Thanks Eddie Hobbs in Pace) Our budget was conspicuously low in comparison to the 20-50K priced vehicles in the lot. But we were firm. We don’t believe in debt and we weren’t going to compromise our principle. Yet, the dealer was persistent. At one time when he pointed us to a vehicle with low mileage and in fine shape and ideal price. We called our mechanic and put the dealer on the phone with him. I couldn’t hear what the mechanic was saying to the dealer, but I could tell by the dealer’s face that we would run from the offer. And run we did.

The experienced wordsmith kept hinting at a certain car that may or may not have been sold. It was as if he was saying there is a hidden treasure in this cornfield and for the sake of the car gods I will find it just for you. And there it was. It was clean and charming. As the morning began to heat up so did his arguments; he wanted to close the deal. We were pleased with the hidden treasure–though wished he had revealed it an hour earlier. It was a fine car to suit our needs but we were not willing to pay for what he offered.

Still, my wife and I drove the vehicle while the dealer kept up with his well-tested pitches. “This is the vehicle for you. I know it.” “I’d buy this car if I could.” “This will fly out of this dealership in the next hour if you don’t buy it.” We walked into the dealership; happy with the vehicle, but still unhappy with the price and unwilling to compromise. So, the manager joins us. He doesn’t argue for the same vehicle. Maybe he sensed our unwillingness. “Would you all be comfortable with this car?” pointing to another vehicle in his inventory. It was in our price range. The dealer jumped up and acted rather surprised: “I had no idea this car was available.” It’s likely he didn’t–benefit of the doubt and all. We took a look at the offer, but when we sat inside the vehicle there were several immediate faults with the car. The dealer looked at us with evangelistic zeal and said: “All you have to do is say yes and this will be yours.” I’ve heard that line before somewhere. “Are you ready to take this home?” “Give us a few minutes to think,” I said. But at that stage, it didn’t take us long to conclude we were both exhausted from the three-hour altar call. We couldn’t go up and sign the dotted line. We couldn’t say the dealer’s prayer. I needed several hours to recover emotionally from that experience.

The Glorious Reformation

The Glorious Reformation

It has been a long time since I have been actively engaged in debates over TULIP–commonly known as the Five Points of Calvinism. I came to these convictions in college. In fact, I remember when the very mention of the word “Calvinism” was seen as a violation of all that is sacred. I remember a friend indignantly asking me: “What kind of God would violate my will to do His will?” I still remember my calm response: “The kind of God who is gracious enough to love you.” Unfortunately, I can’t say all my responses were with such dignity. Some of you reading this may even remember a time or ten that I opined with excessive zeal.

I recall my roommate’s mom sending him books with bold warnings on the front page: “Danger: This book is written by a Calvinist.” I often wondered why the book wasn’t burnt if it posed such great danger. The answer was/is that these Calvinists were actually producing great material on behalf of the Pro-Life movement (Francis Schaeffer), in favor of inerrancy (R.C. Sproul), biblical apologetics (Greg Bahnsen), etc. They were the leading voices of everything evangelicals thought noble, yet they had this supposed intellectual disability when it came to the doctrines of grace.

Many years later, I continue to find the inestimable value in these Calvinist writers. They continue to shape modern exegesis, hermeneutics, cultural ethics, the role of the Church in society, and more. And since those early days in college, the so-called Calvinist population has increased dramatically due to the popularity of well-known preachers. As a friend recently observed to me: “Uri, when I saw the Bible through the lens of God’s sovereign grace everything began to make sense.”

As Reformation Day approaches, I believe the entire evangelical Church owes a great debt to the Reformation. I am not naive to the critiques and some even right ones, but still, we live these days in the glorious overflow of benefits brought by the labors of our Reformed forefathers.

Soli Deo Gloria.
“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”

― Abraham Kuyper

Calvin on Psalm 46

Explaining the significance of the psalmists’ first words in Psalm 46, Calvin writes:

…the faithful have no reason to be afraid, since God is always ready to deliver them, nay, is also armed with invincible power. He shows in this that the true and proper proof of our hope consists in this, that, when things are so confused, that the heavens seem as it were to fall with great violence, the earth to remove out of its place, and the mountains to be torn up from their very foundations, we nevertheless continue to preserve and maintain calmness and tranquility of heart.

 

Tyranny of the Unknown

Our tendency to isolate ourselves is grounded in several factors. One reason we usually avoid the company of fellow brothers and sisters stems from a stream of endless hypothetical situations about what might happen should I actively pursue community.

“But what if they see me as I really am?”
“What if they perceive me to not be as strong as they envisioned?”
“What if people’s examples challenge the way I do things?”

You see, fear leads to over-protectiveness/preservation of one’s aloneness, which means living together is crushed by the tyranny of the unknown. But you see, God wants you to jump into the sea of uncertainty when it comes to church life. It is good and right to allow yourself to be known; to taste and experience the mysteries of fellowship.

New Mercies: Communion Meditation

New Mercies: Communion Meditation

Long ago in a small little village, far away, there was a great fire. The residents frantically ran to fill up buckets of water attempting to minimize the damage to their little village. But the fire was all consuming. It spared nothing. The next day the villagers—exhausted from their labors—wept as they saw what remained from their belongings. “Everything we have is gone.”

The children, however, continued to play like every morning. The Father looked at them and said, “Don’t you know son that all your toys were burned down in last night’s fire?” The son looked at his father and said, “Father, you taught us that the Lord’s mercies are new each morning. Our toys may be gone, but the Lord’s mercies are not.” The father hugged his son and even as he wept he remembered God’s mercies.

The Supper is a new mercy for us each time we partake. It’s God’s gift when life is not what we expected it to be. At this table, mercy is offered. So, let us eat and drink.

Savoring the Savior: Communion Meditation

Exhortation:  It was G.K. Chesterton who once wrote that “One of the great disadvantages of hurry is that it takes such a long time.” There are clear places where the Scriptures invite us to do our task speedily. The task of worship, however, is not a grab and hurry and eat sort of invitation, it’s an invitation to stop and savor the salvation God offers us in call, confession, consecration, communion and commission. So, don’t expect a roller coaster experience in worship, but an intentional tour guide through the heavenly city.

Jim Carrey, Venezuela, and the Myth of Nordic Socialism

Jim Carrey, Venezuela, and the Myth of Nordic Socialism

While Jim Carrey (net worth $150 million) proudly proclaims the virtues of socialism, I am reminded that only a few years ago Sean Penn, Michael Moore, and Bernie Sanders were proclaiming the virtues of Venezuela and her deceased leader, Hugo Chavez. Now, everyone–including Carrey–wants to distance themselves from Venezuela. The very policies praised and adored by Hollywood Chavistas are now decried as not a legitimate example of true socialism. “We will now praise the socialism of Nordic countries,” they say. But as it has been proven elsewhere the so-called Nordic socialism is a myth.

But the countries where socialism has been tried and tested and experimented with whether Argentina or Portugal, Ecuador or Bolivia (Evo Morales), Brazil or China the results are undeniable: the people continue to suffer and embolden the same tyrants who enrich themselves and fool the populace under the banner of “fairness,” “equality,” “distributionism” and the “common good.” Socialism as a system is a defeatist ideology. It ravishes populations and takes away their moral dignity.

A Genesis 3 Kind of Parenting

A Genesis 3 Kind of Parenting

The entire premise of parenting is an anthropological truth: we are all fallen. However you parse it out, we are fallen from feet to forebrain; belly-button to bones. Since this is the truth, we have a whole lot of work to do; not the kind of meritorious work, but the kind of work with grace-saturated breathing. What this theological reality means is that the way to raise healthy children is by having a clear picture of their unhealthy natures as sons and daughters of Adam. While we should have a robust picture of Psalm 127-128 (more of this in another post), we also need to have a robust picture of Genesis 3. The entire narrative of fall and blessing make up the full parental picture.

If our parenting forgets Genesis 3 we will certainly idolize our children overlooking their little deceits as acts of cuteness, treating their good grades as acts of godliness, and their disrespect as acts of self-confidence. Therefore, we need to be ever aware that they are prone to fallen acts at home and outside. They need a constant exercise in remembrance: remember you are dust and to dust you shall return; remember you are sinful and you need a Savior; remember you are prone to wander and you need to be found in Christ.

Tough Parenting?

Tough Parenting?

It’s not that we are self-consciously crushing our children’s spirit, it’s that we have deceived ourselves into thinking it’s good parenting. We may call it “tough parenting” to make it more justifiable. But it’s wrong on many levels. An example of this takes place in the midst of discipline. Discipline is a crucial moment in the relationship between child/parent. When we think that discipline, for example, is a one-dimensional exercise, we’ve forgotten how our Father in heaven deals with us (Heb. 12:6). All discipline is characterized by dialogue. When we discipline without engaging, we are acting as if we are unapproachable precisely when our children need to approach us the most.
 
(After discipline, hugging the child): “Son, I love you and want the best for you. What you did was wrong, and it’s my responsibility to protect you from loving the wrong. Do you understand what daddy is saying?”
 
Redemption from wrong-doing does not come through a series of one-sided acts but through a series of relational actions that bind parent and child together in the journey of redemption.