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Desiring God Conference on C.S. Lewis (Videos)

Desiring God Conference on C.S. Lewis (Videos)

I am currently working my way through these. This conference provides a wonderful introduction to the man who opened the wardrobe to all readers.

N.T. Wright, Paul, and Mike Bird

N.T. Wright, Paul, and Mike Bird

Two of my favorite theologians talk about Paul. Mike Bird interviews Wright on his latest work.

 

Celebrating Communion by Myself

Celebrating Communion by Myself

There is a trend in the evangelical world today. It has gone for far too long unchallenged. It is the personalized and individualized practice of solo communion. As the words of the Eucharist are being said, evangelicals immediately curl up and enter into a mystical state of self-analysis. This continual introspection follows the common theme of most evangelical churches. It follows a form of worm theology. One feels “unworthy”–to use Paul’s words– of partaking of the Eucharist. a

This is manifested when the recipients contemplate their sins or manufacture images of the crucified Jesus in their mind during the passing of the elements. By interpreting Jesus’ words “remembering the Lord’s death” as a reference to silent meditation and contemplation of one’s sinfulness, evangelicals have by and large returned to 16th practice of private mass. As Jeff Meyers rightly observed:

But there’s another problem with the way modern Christians celebrate the Lord’s Supper that might be labeled as “private mass” or maybe just “private communion.”  The word “communion” refers not only to our communion with the resurrected Jesus through the bread and wine at the Supper.  There’s also a horizontal dimension to the Table that flows from union with Jesus.  We are united with one another.  We commune with Jesus and with one another.  “Because there is one loaf, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of one loaf” (1 Cor. 10:17).

A proper evangelical liturgy will do well to include occasions for confession during the service, but the Lord’s Supper is not that place. If there is something that needs to be dealt with may it be done before the Supper or before the service (preferably). But do not let the Lord’s Supper become a time to catch up on your confessional account.

The Lord’s Supper, then, is to be a time of great enjoyment and relaxation. Jesus gives His Bride rest from her labors, so too we are to enjoy the rest given by our Lord. The Church needs to enjoy the company of one another; they need to one another one another with words of comfort and joy, rather than somber individualized contemplation.

The Table is for our enjoyment. The God of joy broke His Son, so that we might be one, and then He gave us His joy in wine that we might give thanks and embody that joy in the communion of saints. “Celebrating communion by myself” cannot exist in a community. Community exists so that we might esteem others better than ourselves. In the Lord’s Supper, introspection is not desired; rather, incarnational theology is lived out together.

  1. There is a theology of unworthiness at the Table, but this is certainly not it  (back)
Imitation Theology

Imitation Theology

Paul’s theology of imitation is a profound theme in his writings. For Paul, Jesus is the way to glory and following that way means we are to become like Jesus. In Philippians, Paul exalts Jesus as the light of the world in the midst of a “crooked and twisted generation” (Phil. 2:15). Imitation begins when we are able to see that light as desirable. Paul’s context speaks to the allurement of the Old World. The Old World appealed to the flesh. It was a world of darkness and void. The Old World imitated the dark world of Genesis one before God spoke light into it.

Paul’s theology is offered in the middle of darkness. The Philippians, though consistent in faith (Phil. 2:12), needed to be exhorted to pursue it without fear and trembling, lest their light began to fade. But Paul’s imitation theology was not a theology of perfection it was a theology of inspection; a theology that called us to guard our hearts against the attractions that came our way. These attractions pushed the Philippians to other sources for imitation. Imitation demands seeing the light, cutting off the darkness, and replacing it with life in the Spirit. Imitation is spiritual surgery. To become like Jesus we must do away with selfish ambitions and become like our self-giving Messiah.

Paul’s portrait of the suffering Messiah and the exalted King was meant as an evangelical allurement to the Philippians. “If you want someone to imitate, here’s a suffering Servant who abandoned His heavenly glory, and then gave up His earthly body for our sake.”  “Imitate Him!” is Paul’s plea as he writes from prison.

Hold fast to His words of light. He is the light of the world. The Psalmist prayed for guidance when he said: “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light into my path,” but that prayer was fulfilled in Jesus who became the lamp to guide our feet to the nations and a light to guide our paths to righteousness.

Baptismal Joy

Baptismal Joy

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The Crucifixion of Marriage

The Crucifixion of Marriage

“A marriage which does not constantly crucify its own selfishness and self-sufficiency, which does not “die to itself” that it may point beyond itself, is not a Christian marriage. The real sin of marriage today is not adultery or lack of “adjustment” or “mental cruelty.” It is the idolization of the family itself, the refusal to understand marriage as directed toward the Kingdom of God. This is expressed in the sentiment that one would “do anything” for his family, even steal. The family has here ceased to be for the glory of God; it has ceased to be a sacramental entrance into his presence. It is not the lack of respect for the family, it is the idolization of the family that breaks the modern family so easily, making divorce its almost natural shadow. It is the identification of marriage with happiness and the refusal to accept the cross in it. In a Christian marriage, in fact, three are married; and the united loyalty of the two toward the third, who is God, keeps the two in an active unity with each other as well as with God. Yet it is the presence of God which is the death of the marriage as something only “natural.” It is the cross of Christ that brings the self-sufficiency of nature to its end. But “by the cross, joy entered the whole world.” Its presence is thus the real joy of marriage. It is the joyful certitude that the marriage vow, in the perspective of the eternal Kingdom, is not taken “until death parts,” but until death unites us completely.” – Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World

Auburn Avenue Conference 2014!

Auburn Avenue Conference 2014!

Without a doubt this is one of my favorite conferences of the year. First, because the saints of Auburn are hospitable people. Secondly, because the speakers are usually insightful and encouraging. Finally, because we roar the Psalms and hymns. I am looking forward to it.

Dr. Robert L. Reymond is with Christ

Dr. Robert L. Reymond is with Christ

The very meticulous systematician, Robert L. Reymond, is now with the Lord. I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Reymond briefly during a lunch break at a Ligonier Conference in Orlando, Fl. He was best known for his New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (1998).  I have used it continually over the years for my studies. His detailed references a

Reymond was an ordained minister in Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Find a list of available resources by Dr. Reymond at The Gospel Coalition. Also, check out his Sermon Audio page for .mp3s of his sermons and lectures. Amazon.com has a list of several of his books.

  1. His Clarkian styled logic was evident in every page of his labors. ((See http://theaquilareport.com/breaking-news-dr-robert-l-reymond-has-died/  (back)
The Role of Preaching in Reformed Theology

The Role of Preaching in Reformed Theology

Over at Theologia, one of the best kept secrets in the Reformed world, Duane Garner wrote a piece in 2003 where he elaborated on the place of preaching in the service. It is a well worth read. It will place preaching in its proper place and show its place in the totality of the worship service. Garner writes:

Today, the great majority of Reformed preaching is not too far from the basic Puritan model. The entire Lord’s Day gathering in many Reformed churches is driven by and centered around the sermon, which is ordinarily marked by its academic language, arcane theology and tedious delivery [12]. This present reality is a world away from Calvin’s original intent when he endeavored to place the preaching of the Word back in its proper place in worship.
Calvin wrote, “No assembly of the Church should be held without the word being preached, prayers being offered, the Lord’s supper administered and alms given” [13], indicating that the weekly meeting should be a balanced celebration of Word and Sacrament. Calvin did not intend to obliterate the mass, but simply to rid it of those things which were distractions and not helpful to the ministry of the Word and Sacrament. Throughout his time in Strasbourg and Geneva, he appealed to the patristic pattern of worship and sought to present Communion every single Lord’s day [14]. Such was the importance of proper liturgy to Calvin. He desired to have truly “Word-centered” worship by not simply preaching the Word, but obeying the Word in renewing covenant and eating with the Lord every week.

Read the entire article here.

NANC no more? The Future of Nouthetic Counseling

NANC no more? The Future of Nouthetic Counseling

In my earlier years (the cage stage, as one wise author puts it), I supported the NCN, which stands for No Counseling Necessary. Why don’t people just get their act together and get on with it? My senior year in high-school was filled with empty zeal. I was zealous about many things, but knew little of anything.

In college as I pursued my degree in Pastoral Studies I noticed a strange bunch of people pursuing a degree in counseling. They did not look particularly different from anyone else in the school, but their vocabulary was foreign to me. I would often hear of Rogerian and Jungian methods. These were considered distinct from the truly Christian view referred to as Nouthetic Counseling. NANC, as it is known, was founded by Dr. Jay Adams. My father was reading Jay Adams early on in his pastoral career. There were Portuguese copies of Adams’ books on my father’s shelf. When he came to the United States, the university he attended was fully engaged in the NANC world bringing Dr. Adams to speak numerous times.

I attended a small Christian college. The school was essentially a mini-version of Bob Jones University. The counseling professors, though committed to Baptist theology, were quite fond of Jay Adams, a Presbyterian. a I don’t know what attracted them to Adams, but I have my suspicions. Adams’ straightforward, no non-sense style was certainly an attractive picture.

I have the deepest respect for Jay Adams. I have called him on numerous occasions to help me with specific counseling issues. I remember his advice being very helpful. The caricature of Adams, however, is certainly not a pleasant one. As I have said many times, Adams can be extremely helpful, but put him in the hands of a theologically illiterate pastor or parishioner and he can be dangerous; almost abusive. This may be in itself a problem with the system, and I have argued to many that Nouthetic Counseling is not the end all of Christian counseling.

Adams’ labors continues on through the Institute of Nouthetic Studies. Donn Arms seems to have taken on the role of continuing to provide Jay Adams’ titanic labors (over 100 books and hundreds of lectures) to a new technological audience.

Recently, however, I discovered that there is turmoil in the camp. The debate centers around whether the word “nouthetic” should continue to be used. The NANC board had originally asserted that the change to the term “biblical” instead of “nouthetic” would be more reflective of the diversity within NANC. And they also affirmed that the change is not meant as a repudiation of Jay Adams’ teaching. At this stage, Donn Arms, noting that NANC is no longer what it once was when it started in 1975 said that he would favor the change. If NANC is headed where he sees it heading then the name change is necessary. He elaborated on how NANC has changed over the years:

The orthodox doctrine of progressive sanctification, a cornerstone of nouthetic counseling, is no longer essential. Many NANC members have replaced it with a doctrine commonly labeled as Gospel Sanctification which teaches that loving Christ and contemplating all that He has done for us on the cross is sufficient for our sanctification.

NANC membership now includes counselors who are members of churches in charismatic and liberal denominations.

NANC has held “On the Road” training conferences in charismatic churches.

The training requirement for NANC certification has become insignificant. Several years ago John Street, the NANC president speaking at a Shepherd’s Conference, taught that pastors should require a minimumof 115 hours of training before allowing people to counsel in their churches. Yet all NANC now requires is attendance at three weekends of classes or a one week conference.

The NANC board gave $30,000 to help establish a coalition of biblical counselors whose stated goal is to “foster collaborative relationships” among all who call themselves biblical counselors.

Donn Arms sees a wide split in the NANC movement. He is a purist when it comes to NANC’s original intent, and to see these “compromises” take place in the name of NANC seems disingenuous.

But to strengthen Arms’ resolve, the NANC board further explained why using “nouthetic” is not helpful:

First, the word nouthetic is a perfectly good Greek word, which most people simply do not understand.  Most of us in NANC spend more time explaining the meaning of a Greek word than we intend to when we mention the name of our organization. Once people understand the meaning of the term it does not help us that much.  The term means “to confront or admonish,” and this only describes a narrow slice of the kind of counseling endorsed by NANC.  Of course biblical counselors admonish people in their sin, but at NANC we also encourage our counselors to comfort the fainthearted, help the weak, pray, encourage, instruct, take care of their physical bodies, and 101 other things the Bible says to do.  In its precise meaning the word nouthetic is a truncated expression of the many and varied counseling styles that God communicates in Scripture.

Donn Arms responded to each line. b But the question of the future of NANC remains. Will NANC and its forefathers, Wayne Mack and Jay Adams, lose their footing in the movement they started or will a new generation of counselors take that vision in a new direction?

  1. I asked Adams this question when I interviewed him – download information forthcoming for the interview  (back)
  2. You can read the response here: http://www.nouthetic.org/blog/?p=6220  (back)