Me with my lovely wife, Kathy:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Evil, A Demonstration of God's Love:

Last Sunday I presented the first message in a three part series on John 3:16.  I found my thoughts stimulated by J. Sidlow Baxter.  In the opening pages of his book he raises some objections to the concept of God’s love.  One of the problems he and others raise has to do with the horrendous evil in this world. 
The following few paragraphs, taken from my sermon notes, are some of my thoughts on the matter.

How can you talk about a God who loves when you look around at the mess this world is in?  Read the newspaper, or if you are more up to date, surf the web.  Either way you will find this world is a mess.
Disasters manmade and natural abound. 
In a 15 minute span the other day I personally—not via any public media--heard of two, one an utter display of depravity, the other a severe blow to a family.  I have no doubt that some research would have revealed thousands of instances of injustice, tragedy, and mayhem that took place in that quarter of an hour.  
God’s plan is not thwarted by this evil around us.  The fact of the matter is that God’s glory—and that is the grand purpose of creation—will ultimately be enhanced by God’s redeeming a group of people for His very own, from out of this suffering, perishing world, to live with Him in harmony  for all eternity.  (See  Romans 8:16-39)
The concept of God having people who would love Him and the possibility of evil in the world are not incompatible at all, in fact they are more related than you might think. 
Love, by its nature, involves a choice.  As any person who has tried and failed at love knows, you can’t make someone love you.   God did not create a race of automatons who are programed to act like they love Him--a world full of Stepford Christians.
Rather He created humans, who have the capacity to love.  The same abilities that enable us to love, also make possible sin and rebellion, and all the ugly results that brings. 
It will likely make your head hurt for a while as you try to wrap your mind around it, but there is evil in this world because God is a loving God.  God is so committed to the concept of love that He made the world so that people—the pinnacle of God’s creation in this world—could choose to love Him.  In making them with that ability to choose, it was necessary that we also have the ability to choose not to love, to not relate to God as we should.
In the end having the new heaven and the new earth populated with people who genuinely love Him will bring the greatest  glory to God and greatest good to all creation.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Why some (too many) teens leave church:

This article (link at end) has some overlap with the last one I posted.  Here is a quotation that strikes way too close to home:  ""I felt so badly about what I had done. The last place I felt I could turn was to God and the church." Rebecca ran away from God and from the church just when she needed them most."
I have to wonder how many "Rebecca"s I have known, and how many times I have let them down.

I'm not placing all the blame on the church or my church, but I know we can't escape all guilt.  

Let's be looking for ways to reach out in meaningful ways.  

Here is a place for we oldsters to start.  Let's make sure that we let young people know we care.

Young and old, I would appreciate hearing your thoughts on this.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Parental Blindspots:

Josh Harris, you remember the guy who became well known for kissing dating good bye, is now a respected pastor.
He recently published a piece, Homeschool Blindspots, written by Reb Bradley, on his blog.  The article was also published in the Virginia Home Educator Magazine.

The article is intended to make home-schoolers think, but all parents, and those of us who promote sound family living need to consider what the article has to say.  
It is one of those articles that appeals for balance and profitable conversation.  The emphasis rings true with me.

Here is the link to Harris's posting:  

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Leave their car alone:

Every old black and white movie that had a wedding in it, featured the car leaving the church with a "Just Married" sign and a string of cans tied to the back.  It was a good-natured way of having some fun and wishing the new couple well.  I can remember different times when I saw cars similarly adorned going down the road.  My wife and I would honk and wish them a happy wedding day.
I've been doing weddings since 1975.  Things have gone way beyond a few tin-cans.

  • I've seen cars jacked up and put on stands so when the couple gets in the wheels turn but they don't go anywhere.
  • When my younger son got married it took me about four hours to clean up his car.  I think it took my daughter-in-law's dad even longer to clean her hers up.  The newly weds had wisely planned to leave in a borrowed vehicle, which arrived at the church at just the right time.
  • When that son was just a kid, he was offered an impressive bribe to let the "buzzardly friends" into my garage where the grooms pickup truck was hidden.  It turned out that it was only a decoy anyhow.
  • I've heard of paint jobs on cars being ruined.
  • Some folk's cars are essentially undriveable for a few weeks, while the stench from whatever wears off.  Sometimes it doesn't.
  • I could say more, but I don't want to give the buzzardly crowd any new ideas.
Trust me, I know more about this than the average buzzardly friend.  Wedding days are stressful, especially for brides.  Let's not add to it.

Granted many a groom shows up at a wedding having built up an incredible debt of bad matrimonial Karma.  He has messed up many a car.  He is one of the buzzardly friends that I warn couples about.  To all the other buzzardly friends, figure out some other way to get even with him, leave the young lady out of it.  If she married a guy who did all that to other people, she probably already has enough issues to deal with.
Or, here is a really novel thought.  Show some mercy.

To all of those who do not fall in the buzzardly friend category.  Thanks.  Don't join their ranks.  Dare I say it?  Do what you can to curb their enthusiasm for automotive mayhem.

I figure this has as much of chance of gaining a following as my campaign for President on the Curmudgeon ticket, but I feel better.

If you must do something to the new couple's car, put a $100 in the console.  Believe it or not, it is fun to be nice.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Centrality of the Gospel:

My associate, Pastor Doug Williams, and I were privileged to attend the Centrality of the Gospel Conference held in Charleston WV, last Friday and Saturday.
I wish to the Thank Randolph Street Church, the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, the musicians--I presume from RSC--and the two speakers, Burk Parsons and Phil Johnson for their ministry to Doug and I.  As the pastor of a small church I was incredibly impressed with the fine job the folk at Randolph did in hosting this conference.
Prior to the conference my only real point of reference with the conference was Phil. Johnson--he is an integral part of John MacArthur's ministry.  I have benefited immensely from Dr. MacArthur's ministry.  I know that Phil has been the editor of most of his books, and I have read some of Phil's postings on various issues of our day and found them to be helpful.  Phil also had the good fortune to marry a friend of mine, Darlene.  So, since the conference was relatively close, I had friends in the Charleston area where I could spend the night (Thanks Marty & Lee), the registration was cheap (The food I ate was worth far more than the price of admission.) and the conference came along at a time when my spirit was thirsty for some preaching on the Gospel of Christ, I attended.  I wasn't disappointed.  On several levels I found it to be a refreshing time.  Thanks to all who made it possible.
As any of you know who follow this blog, my attendance at this conference also intersected with some searching in regard to Fundamentalism, Evangelicalism, and my identity.  (For those who may rightly observe that I'm way to old for an "Identity Crisis," let me say I think I know who I am.  I'm just trying to figure out where that puts me in the nomenclature of Christianity in the 21st Century.  (Note the end of my October 22 post on this blog.)

This conference perhaps made the question more pointed.
The two speakers, in question and answer sessions both kinda seemed to back away from Gospel-Centered as a definition of what the church ought to be.  If I remember correctly, there were suggestions that "Gospel-Centered" is too narrow a focus.  If I understood, I tend to agree with that.
My thoughts/questions were also piqued by a statement in the conferences handout, "The Appalachia region has been long neglected by God-centered, gospel-saturated movements."  If they mean by that there is a need for more, I'll give a hearty "Amen!"  I don't think that is what they meant, though.  It appeared to me that a great deal of ministry that I would regard as Gospel saturated, and God-centered was being ignored or rejected in that comment.  I know a great many ministries in that region which I would regard as God-centered and Gospel-saturated.  Many of these ministries have withstood the inroads of gimmickery that has marked way too much of Evangelicalism.
The same handout contains one of the great old God-centered, Gospel-saturated songs.  "And can it be that I should gain . . ."  I found myself wondering, based on what I saw to be the general ethos of the conference, if the author of that hymn, Charles Wesley, would be considered to be conducting a God-centered, Gospel-saturated ministry?  (Were it only a matter of one 2 day conference I would not raise the question.  This conference is one expression of a considerable movement.)

Let me finish by asking the same question several ways:

  • Is Calvinism an integral part of the Gospel?  (One passage from Spurgeon that was shared from the platform would lend me to think that the answer is yes.  Though, the reading of that passage was accompanied with a statement to the effect that in general Spurgeon did not make a big deal of his Calvinism, put Arminians down, etc.
  • Did John and Charles Wesley conduct a God-centered, Gospel saturated ministry?
  • Is Calvinistic purity a requirement for conducting a God-centered, Gospel saturated ministry?
  • Does the kind of statement made in the conference program create a needless and unhelpful division within the body of Christ?
Again I thank all who made the Centrality of the Gospel conference possible.  My heart was blessed.  These folk were incredibly kind and giving.  Thank you.
My questions are sincere. Should anyone enter into dialog, I hope to learn from the exchange.

To God be the glory!

Friday, November 4, 2011

A definition of Fundamentalism?

I am doing my reading in a Kindle reader on my computer, so I don't have page numbers, but what I'm writing about is toward the end of the book, Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology)
It is near the beginning of John Stackhouses response to Al Mohler's chapter--neither of these guys regards himself as a Fundamentalist, yet it appears to me that in essence Stackhouse is accusing Mohler of being one.  (Elsewhere in the book, Kevin Bauder, the Fundamentalist representative, tongue in cheek, tries to protect his friend, "Brother Al," from such a fate.)

Anyhow, it looks like Stackhouse's accusation makes a definition that sounds pretty good to me:

I respectfully suggest that his position is not “confessional” so much as it is “conservative,” and in exactly the way American fundamentalists understand “conservative”: conserving what they understand to be the basics of the Christian faith, regardless of when or by whom in church history they might have been formulated. As far as they are concerned, what they defend is simply what true Christians have always affirmed—and it comes right out of the Bible.  (emphasis mine)

Hansen, Collin; Naselli, Andrew David (2011-09-20). Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) (Kindle Locations 1795-1798). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fundamentalism, Fundamentally understood, may be more correct than some of us have been willing to admit:

I've been doing some thinking/reading/even a bit of writing, about my Fundamentalist roots.
Maybe I've just started paying attention, but it looks to me like some people have been writing some really good stuff on Fundamentalism recently.  The fact that Fundamentalism was given one of the four places at the table in Zondervan's recent book, Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism, is significant in itself.  That some thoughtful Fundamentalists are presenting their position with scholarly sensibility, and that thoughtful leaders from outside the movement are taking these Fundamentalists seriously is highly significant.
I was saved and grew up in a church aligned with the Independent Fundamental Churches of America.  My pastor, who liked me so much that he became my father-in-law, knew William McCarrell, founding father of that movement, on a first name basis.  I attended 2 Fundamentalist Bible Colleges, and later received a Masters from Liberty Seminary--back before it had broken into the big time.  For some reason I never received the Sword of the Lord; you card-carrying types will have to forgive me.
For all of my adult life I have pastored a church that is firmly rooted in the "come out from among them" mentality that marks Fundamentalism.
I have great respects for the battles that my Fundamentalist forebears fought.  I am incredibly thankful for what I received from that heritage--a rock solid respect for the Bible, a believe in the power of the Gospel, the commitment to Christian living that is distinct, in Biblically defined ways, from the life of the world, that sort of thing.  Yet, I've never been all together comfortable with the title, or with what I regarded as some of the more troubling realities of Fundamentalism.  While I think I have continued in the road on which my early church and college training set me,  I'm not sure I can call myself a Fundamentalist.  That's not a big deal, but it would be nice to know what box to check.

One of the problems I had with the movement is, it just seemed like Fundamentalists were mean.  Apparently I'm not alone.  Kevin Bauder, the capable writer who capably gives the Fundamentalist position in the book mentioned above, talks about some of his early observations here.  The ones that were held up as heroes didn't seem like the kind of folk one would want to spend time with.  I remember reading back in the old days (for me) the innuendo filled articles.  They dripped with the syrupy sweetness of avoiding "naming names," yet were loaded with coded certainty as to just who was being talked about and put down.  The authors professed great sadness at having to say what they said, but there often appeared a clear element of self-promotion in the process.  Thankfully, I can't remember any specifics.  I just remember the repeated impression.
I often wondered if Bob Jones University offered a class on creating a stink.  It seemed that many of those who claimed BJ as their Alma Mater were good at it.  I remember one time when a delegation connected with BJ publicly boycotted a Billy Graham rally.  (Years before, the old original Dr. Bob had told Billy he wouldn't amount to anything when he left BJ.)  Anyhow, I remember how cool I thought it was when Billy quoted the old Fundamentalist war-horse.  "If a hound dog is howling for Jesus I'm on the hound dog's side."    I agreed with, and still do agree with much of the rationale behind the boycott, but I thought the protest was utterly wrong..  In making a decision about what to do about a local Billy Graham Evangelistic Association meeting, I remember siding with the hound.  I didn't get involved, prayed that folk would get saved, and mostly kept quiet.  I lacked the mean-gene that seemed to be in the DNA of the big-gun Fundamentalists.
I remember sitting in my living room talking to one of the finest--maybe the finest--men of God I ever knew.  One of the Fundamentalists watchdogs who ruled a domain that overlapped with the sphere of ministry of my friend was trying to pressure  my friend into conformity with the "truth."  My friend resisted, hung in there, and survived.  It wasn't pretty.  It was mean.  In more recent years I watched as Fundamentalist enforcer "A" exerted pressure on Fundamentalist leader "B" to exclude leader "C" from some of the perks that come with belonging to the "club."  There is always an unfortunate cost to be paid if one stands up to these strong-arm tactics.  I've been fortunate enough to have ministered in a place that is off the radar.  I'm sure that the apologists for "Taking a stand,"  (For any non initiates who might read this, that is an old Fundamentalist code word.) can give another, more spiritual explanation, but it sure came off as mean to me.
When Fundamentalism began to be popularly associated with extremes like King James Only-ism, the easiest thing for many of us to do--this is still pretty much my position-- is to just note use the title.  A former card-carrying Fundamentalist, Charles Wood--his Woodchuck's Den emails are well worth reading (Write & tell him I sent you.).  The Woodchuck now calls himself a Conservative-Evangelical.  You can find out more here and here.  Pastor Wood says there is a group of Evangelicals and Fundamentalists who could be described as "conservative" who have much more in common with each other than they do with their brethren to the left (Evangelicals) or to the right (Fundamentalists).  Another recent blog post takes this thought further.

Bauder affirms what confessional evangelical, Mark Dever, recently said: “There is nothing wrong with our having fences. But let us keep our fences low and shake hands often.” I concur with Bauder’s response: “That remark nicely summarizes the sense of a growing number of fundamentalists” (Ibid., p. 103).  (, "Moving Toward Authenticity: Musings on Fundamentalism, parts 1 & 2)

 I find this conversation refreshing.

Let me close with a question.  Bauder talks about what he calls "indifferentism."   It appears to me to be a distinction between Evangelicals who hold to all the Fundamentals, and even act Fundamental, and true Fundamentalists.  I don't feel I am indifferent to the errors of others, but when those faults are of a secondary nature, and they don't impact on my ministry, I don't feel nearly as much motivation to take a stand as the Fundamentalists I grew up with did.  I would rather say that I hold to "Leave-them-alone-sim."  I find Rodney King's Theology to be somewhat attractive, "Can't we just get along?"
So, who am I?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011



If the word looks utterly strange to you, let me encourage you to stay with me for a few minutes.  I think you might find this interesting and useful.

Polemics has nothing to do with a long piece of wood or a basic system for erecting a building.  It is, according to Mirriam Webster: "an aggressive attack on or refutation of the opinions or principles of another." or "the art or practice of disputation or controversy."

If I am engaged in trying to prove myself right, and therefore someone who holds a differing view wrong, especially if I do so with some enthusiasm, I am involved in polemics.

For a guy like me, who grew up as a Fundamentalist, polemics is almost second nature, though for a long time I was totally unfamiliar with the term, and even yet almost never use the word.

My message this Sunday morning will be somewhat of a polemic--as is the book from which I draw my text.  Paul wants to show that the Gospel he shared with the Galatians is true, worth holding onto, and in every way superior to the works-oriented, wrongly Old-Testament tainted version that was being offered to these churches in Turkey.  He is arguing his case.  Since teachers that I regard as false are still offering a similar substitute gospel, I will argue mine.

It is one thing to engage opponents who have been dead for two millennia in argument.  It becomes much more difficult and fraught with danger when our opponents are alive, well, and someone's brother-in-law.  Many today identify with Rodney King who pleaded, "Can't we just get along?"  To which I answer, "No. sometimes we can't."  Ideas have consequences.  Truth needs to be argued for and defended, but--and this is a big "BUT"--it needs to be defended in the most winsome way possible.

Here is where a fellow preacher/pastor Tim Keller helps us out.
He recently published a three-part series he called Gospel Polemics.  (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)  I encourage you to read Pastor Keller's thoughts.  Some of you, however, may find the New York preacher's article a bit long or challenging, so I hope you will at least stay with me to the end of my much shorter, simpler summary and thoughts.

Another online distiller captured Keller's six rules of engagement here.  You could fit his summary on a business card, and it would be good to remember these six guidelines before we give somebody the business.

I would simply summarize Keller's counsel as, Fight Fair.

The first part of my statement is is simply to fight.  As I have already said, truth has consequences and so does error.  If we believe that God is a God of truth, then we have to believe that we are better off living lives based on truth than on falsehood.  I fear that in this post-whatever-is-the-current-thing-we-are-supposed-to-be-coming-after world we have gotten too comfortable with the idea that truth doesn't matter or that it needs to be redefined, and often after the redefinition process we find ourselves sincerely, and pathetically asking Pilate's question, "What is truth?" or we become so humble in our hermeneutic that we end up vigorously defending a truth-claim that we just as vigorously claim we can't be sure about.  Listen it is incontrovertibly true that what I just wrote is a horrible example of a run-on sentence.  English teachers everywhere ought to engage in polemics against that kind of writing.  By the way shop-teachers, if there are any left, ought to vigorously argue that following safety rules when using power tools is the way to go.  I'll send a picture of my thumb on request.  It can serve as exhibit A.  There is truth.  It is consequential.  It ought to be argued for, but it ought to be done fairly.

Don't misrepresent your opponent.
  • I see this most often when people assign motives.  I saw it not long ago in a letter to the editor.  The writer fairly accurately described what his opponents wanted to do.  When he began to tell why they wanted to do it one could hear the thin-ice cracking.
    If I listen to you carefully, I may--notice I leave the clear possibility that I may not--understand what you want to do.  However, when I get to the level of your motives I am generally without any real data with which to work.  I offer as evidence the fact that I frequently can't even clearly identify my own motives.  I'm often left with this lame answer when asked why I did something or the other: "At the time, it seemed like the thing to do."  If that is the best I can do when explaining my own actions--and often it is--then I better be a whole lot more humble in my claims to know why you are doing what you do.
    This is a caution that is found in 1 Corinthians 4:5.  BTW, just because Jesus addressed motives doesn't give me license.  See John 2:24-25.   
  • I also see this when one person saddles another with his logical conclusions.  Let me see if I can explain it like this:
    Mr. A says "I believe X." or, "I have concluded that X is true."
    Mrs. B says, "It is impossible to hold that X is true without also believing Y"
    Y is a much more damning, more easily argued against position than X so Mrs. B jumps on Y when arguing against X.
    She may very well be right.  It may be logically impossible to hold to X without therefore upholding the truth of Y.  However,
    Mr. A says I believe X.  I reject Y.
    If the opportunity is right it is perfectly OK to point out the logical fallacy of holding to X while denying Y.  However, illogical though it may be, I can't blame poor illogical Mr. A for promoting whatever wrong is represented by Y.  I can, and often should, point out that one leads to the other, but in my argument I need to honor what Mr. A is saying.  "My friends, Mr. A, here, has said that he holds to X.  I believe and think I can conclusively demonstrate that X leads inevitably to Y, but, in fairness, I must say that Mr. A does not hold to Y.
    Again I offer my own thinking as evidence.  It is a swamp of contradictions.
    And, using myself as exhibit A, again, following this guideline can save embarrassment.  I may be sure that X leads to Y until someone points out the exception.  It might be just the exception that applies.
Be nice:
  • Maybe my opponent is wrong, but she or he (not to mention the other folk listening) is a child of God and ought to be treated as such.  (James 3:9-10)
  •  Everyone says dumb, stupid, or wrong stuff.  It is wrong and unkind to jump on that, while ignoring the general tenor of this person's life and work.  It is one of the reasons so many people hate political campaigns.
Keep the goal straight:
It is to establish truth, not to win an argument.  Read First and Second Timothy and I think you'll see people hanging around who were taking shots at the wrong goal.

I'd like to hear from you.  Especially those who read Keller's articles.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A couple of resources on the 10/9 message:

The message in our morning worship services for 10/9 is the second, and last for now, message from Song of Solomon.  The focus is on married people.
"Johnny Lingo and His Eight Cow Wife" is one of my favorite stories about building up your mate.
You can find it here:  , or a movie version here:  

The song I used at the close of the message, "A Daisy A Day":

Monday, October 3, 2011

Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism:

I'm reading the book, Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism.  It is one of the Zondervan Counterpoint books.
Thus far I have read the first view by Kevin Bauder. Before I even read his chapter, just the inclusion of Fundamentalism as one view of Evangelicalism was informative.  The fact that a serious Fundamentalist (Though in good Fundamental fashion some Fundamentalists will likely criticize Bauder of doing so) leader would be a part of the project provided further insight, light and encouragement.  I also read the first response to Bauder's position, a  CONFESSIONAL EVANGELICAL RESPONSE R. ALBERT MOHLER JR..

I have come to appreciate both of these men in the past couple of years.  Their contribution to this book--what I have thus far read--is encouraging.  I look forward to reading more.  I welcome conversation with others who are reading the book.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Superficial study?

Some of you get the local paper, here in Covington VA.  Some of you even read it.  I am a regular reader.  If you are, then you know there has been a lot of news and comment about the upcoming vote on consolidation.  A ministerial colleague wrote a letter to the editor, on Sept. 23, about truth-telling and fact-checking in regard to public discourse.
A good word of caution.
I'm not commenting on whether I agree or disagree with Rev. Caperton.
I would not have written a letter in reply to his letter to the editor if his comments had only been political.  However, as you will see in my letter, in getting to his main point, he made an unfortunate comment about the authorship of the New Testament.
I'm not sure if my letter will make it to the pages of the Virginian Review, and for those of you who don't get the paper, I post it here.

A letter to the editor, September 23, sounds an important warning.  Be sure of our facts, when entering into public discourse.  It is counsel that the writer should heed.  He states, ". . . a superficial study [of the New Testament] would indicate that we do not really know who was responsible for writing letters and books identified as by someone, for example, like Paul."  [sic] If he means there is not universal agreement among scholars, he is right.  To imply that confidently holding that the authors named in New Testament books were, indeed, the human authors of those books, indicates inadequate study, is simply incorrect.
A few examples will suffice to show the fallacy of this contention.  One might disagree with these scholars, but that they have done more than superficial study is beyond doubt.  
  • A. R. Fausset (of Jamison Fausset and Brown) The . . . evidence for Paul’s authorship [Galatians] is conclusive."  He references Irenaeus, Polycarp, and Jusin Martyr.
  • Everett F. Harrison, Senior Professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary calls the Pauline authorship of 1 Thessalonians the "accepted view."  He likewise holds that Paul is the author of 2 Thessalonians.
  • Concerning 1 Corinthians 1:12, Clement of Rome wrote, "Take up the epistle of the blessed Paul the Apostle."  (First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians. c. 100 AD)
  • William Hendriksen, Th.D., Princeton Theological Seminary professor of New Testament literature at Calvin Theological Seminary, said “the attempt to disprove their [1&2 Timothy & Titus] Pauline authorship must be considered a failure.”
    “[T]he [early] church . . . with one accord named Paul as the author [of Ephesians] . . . There was no doubt or dissent. . . .There is no reason to depart from these traditional convictions.
  • Leon Morris, Principle, Ridley College, Melbourne, said about his commentary on John, that for a period of ten years it "has been constantly in my thoughts."  Well beyond superficial.  After 20 pages discussing pro and con as to John's authorship of the Gospel.  (John is not named as author in the book, but early tradition, including Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian, considered John to be the author.)  Morris concludes: "I accept the view that John the Apostle was the author."  
Similar statements can be found concerning the authorship of the other books of the New Testament.  There is no doubt that substantial evidence has been raised that would oppose the references I offer.  It is not my purpose here to argue the matter.  I do hope that I have made the point that some of us who claim with confidence to know the identity of most of the human authors of the New Testament are not guilty of holding those views because our study has not achieved the level of superficiality.
As to the other points in the 9/23 letter, I make no comment and none should be inferred.  
I thank the writer for his appeal for careful, truthful consideration of the consolidation decision.

Rev. Howard Merrell

Friday, September 16, 2011

Finding God's Will For My Life:

One of the most difficult matters to understand in regard to basic Christian living is, "How do I discern God's will?"
Intuitively, we know that decisions related to schooling, vocation, marriage, and finance have great impact on the course of our lives, so making right choices in these areas, and others, is incredibly important.  God desires that my life be lived in a way that is pleasing to Him, so He must care how I make these choices.  How do I know what He wants me to do?

Being sensitive to the Lord and desirous of living life in a way that is pleasing to Him is highly virtuous.  The Bible is clear that everything I do ought to demonstrate a life of surrender to God.  I am to be a "living sacrifice."  (Romans 12:1-2)  All that I do is to be done to His glory. (1 Corinthians 10:31) The reality of life is that even the smallest of decisions can have major impact on my life and others.  (See "Other Stuff #3, Three Little Things with Large Impact" )

The Bible gives solid guidance on a great many matters, but it doesn't speak to what school I should attend, job I should take, or woman I should marry, much less what car I should purchase--or even if I should purchase one, or whether I should take the expressway, or the back roads to work.  

I was raised on what Gary Friesen and J. Robin Maxson call the "Traditional Approach."  I was encouraged to seek the" perfect will of God."  My goal was to be "in the center of God's will."  As I considered the decisions above, I really did want to do God's will.   The problem, or one of the problems, was I was using a very imprecise means to attempt to arrive at a perfectly precise goal.  The counsel of other Godly people was supposed to help, but they often didn't agree, and observation indicated that they were frequently wrong.  Circumstances were offered as indicators.  Was the door opened or closed?  Yet my observation of the door-ajar-or-closed-fast system of guidance was not very encouraging.  Two well-motivated, seemingly Godly people would approach the same open door.  One would conclude it was opened by God and was a divine directive to proceed, while the other would conclude it was a temptation from Satan to distract from the real objective.  Likewise there was no unanimity on how hard one ought to push on a closed door before concluding God was directing one elsewhere.  The same uncertainty existed in regard to other "indicators of God's will,"  the desires of my heart, my abilities and inclinations, the need, the call, etc. etc.

The book Decision Making and the Will of God . . . , linked above, as well as a message by Cary Perdue, pretty well sealed the deal in my thinking that the approach I had been raised with didn't work.  You can read Friesen and Maxson's book, as well as find abundant material about it, so I won't comment on it.  Perdue, a pastor, educator, and first rate student of the Word, arrested the attention of those who heard him speak at a Bible college alumni event when he said something like this:  "You can be absolutely sure of the will of God for your life."   (speaking of the kind of decisions I have described)  Here Dr. Perdue inserted a pregnant pause.  "After the fact."  
I don't want to do an injustice to my colleague, but if I remember correctly what he went on to explain in the rest of the message is that we should be living  a life of practical faith.  I saved a copy of the handout that Dr. Perdue gave out that day.  On the last page of his notes he said:
Act in confidence.Check the discussion in James 1:5-8 about wisdom, faith and lack of double-mindedness.  Having followed the six previous steps [Be willing to do God's will.  Obey what God has already told you.  Pray about it. Study the Bible.  Get counsel.  Think.] make a decision being confident of God's guidance.  It will be a step of faith . . .  [Emphasis mine]
If Cary gives me permission, I'll scan and post his article.  It is no less relevant today than it was nineteen years ago.

My interest about the ongoing issue of the will of God was piqued anew by an article by Steve Cornell.  His thoughts are mainly expressed in a series of brief quotations from sound Biblical thinkers like Friesen, Maxson, J. I. Packer, D. A. Carson, and John MacArthur.

I forwarded the article to several colleagues.  
My son told me it was very timely.  He had just taught a group of potential missionaries on this subject.  He used the article as a follow-up.  

An associate told me, tongue in cheek, I think, that it was a good article.  "God told him so."
Another, David Owen, who works with college-aged folk--the group for whom these questions are most important--commented after expressing agreement with the gist of the article:
Most times the “voice in the head” is our own.  I am a little nervous however with going too far the other direction by completely dismissing the voice of the Spirit which we see operating in the Bible from beginning to end. The Spirit spoke and acted occasionally in scripture in some strange ways and there is nothing definitive in scripture that says that this has stopped. I would see it as being rare in Bible times and it would probably still be rare today. Of course the Spirit of God will always lead within the framework and boundaries of scripture. In 30+ years of ministry I would say that I have heard what I know is the voice of God leading me three times – and it was always within the boundaries of scripture.
Before Al Gore invented the internet, Cary expressed agreement via a mimeograph with Dave. 
 Does God ever reveal specific parts of His plan for our lives?  Yes, probably not very often, but occasionally.  Can we expect Him to.  Probably not if we expect Him to give us some special, direct revelation.  Should we ever seek such direction?  Yes, but we cannot demand it [and] we should not become indecisive it we have no clear direction from God.

For what they are worth I shared the following in response to Dave's thoughts.

I think you expressed the matter well.
The way I try to deal with it is to admit the subjectivity of this kind of "leadership" or "direction." Call it what it is.  "I have an inner impression that this is what I should do.  I think this is where the Lord is leading."--even more-so when it is what "we should do." That leaves the matter open for discussion and counsel.  When I begin with some variation of  "God told me" about the only rejoinder is, "No He didn't."  Not the stuff from which profitable conversations are built.  To paraphrase our former president from your home state, "Heed, but verify." Yes, God does lead through inner impressions.  I think generally in ways that I don't even recognize.  I end up where I am because included in God's sovereign oversight is His access to my mind.  When I consciously enter the conversation on that level I am liable to mess it up. I know you agree that it must be stated that any disagreement between the clear teaching of scripture and God's word, must be decided in favor of God's word.Inner voices, when they are valid, are not the only guidance mechanism God has given.  Already stated is the Bible.  The Body of Christ, and the gifted individuals in the church cannot be ignorred either.  I am wise to run inner impressions that I think are Divine by such resources.  In the day in which we live, I would consider those resources to include print and internet options--what I am doing right now.  (two guys on different sides of the world sharpening one another.)Any action I take whether guided by inner impression or not ought to be taken with faith in God's sovereignty.  It is too cold to call it a contract (at least it seems so to me) but there is nearly a contract in passages like Prov. 3:5-6, Psalm 37:4, & Rom. 12:1-2.  If we do ____, God will be out front preparing the way, give us the desires of our heart (context) & allow us to live in such a way that we will prove like an assayer the worth of His good and perfct will.  Or as Phillips put it, "so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good"God is so great that He is even soveriegn over my mind.  Talk about order out of chaos.  Keep in mind, however, that I still live in the "not yet."  I still need a lot of mental cosmetics."

Then today I read a follow-up post from Cornell, "Ten Principles for Godly Decisions."

Hopefully all of this will provide some profitable grist leading to confident, Godly living.

I welcome your comments.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Law, Grace, Harmony:

Sunday we start a consideration of the Book of Galatians, so I was vary glad to see a couple of online articles on the subject of law and grace come my way.

The first one
contains a summary of Luther's teachings on the matter.  Here are a couple of quotes:
"when Paul sums up the salvation-logic of the Law he quotes Leviticus 18.5b: “the one who does [the commandments] will live by them” (Gal 3.12). Here, there is a promise of life linked to the condition of doing the commandments and a corresponding threat: “cursed is everyone who does not abide in all the things written in the Book of the Law, to do them” (Gal 3.10 citing Deut 27.26). When this conditional word encounters the sinful human, the outcome is inevitable: “the whole world is guilty before God” (Rom 3.19)."

"In other words, once a person is liberated from the commonsense delusion that acting righteously makes us righteous before God, and in faith believes the counter-intuitive reality that being made righteous by God’s forgiving and resurrecting word precedes and produces righteous action, then the justified person is unlocked to love."

The second post was (I think) encouraged by the first one.
Both are worth reading, and rereading, which I intend to do.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Thank God for Little Things


That wisest of men, Solomon, often spoke of the power and importance of little things. He encouraged the lazy man to consider the ant (Prov. 6:6). He admired the little conies (Prov. 20:26) for their tenacity. He warned about the moment that could ruin a life (Prov. 7:22).

A recent biking accident has left me with a lot of time to think. I’ve spent a good bit of that time thinking about three little things. One involved a tiny amount of time, another a rather insignificant amount of space, and a third that in comparison to so much more that was going on just doesn’t seem so big, but it was, and is:

#1: If I had only looked over my shoulder before making that left hand turn into the path of a pickup truck that was passing me, none of this would have happened. A split second of neglect has affected me for the rest of my life.

#2: If the pickup truck had been six inches the right, I would be dead.

#3: We’ll wait on that one for a while.

Too many of us assume that life is made up of a sequence of big events: birth, graduation, marriage, having children of one’s own, death. To be sure these, and other events like them, are seismic happenings that leave the landscape of our lives changed, but the bulk of our life is not lived there. If we picture our life as a container filled with various sized rocks, from quite large down to grains of sand, we would find that the most volume is taken up with sand and pebbles--little stuff. I’m not saying we ought to ignore the boulders, but I fear too many of us live life in an attempt to jump from one big rock to the next. In the process of only living our life looking back to the last great happening, or ahead to the next big event, we fail to appreciate the cumulative power and weight of the little things in our lives. Furthermore, as my experience demonstrates, one never knows which little thing will swell up to instantly life-altering dimensions.

On the lovely fall day when I smashed my hip and collarbone on the side of a pickup truck, my heart, with the rest of my country was heavy. A few days before terrorists had attacked New York, and Washington DC, killing thousands of men, women, and children. Others had died in Pennsylvania, apparently able, at the last moment, to prevent the hijackers from crashing this plane into yet another public building, but unable to save their own lives.

When a little girl at my church heard about my wreck, her response was, “Didn’t he look?” No, I didn’t. I’ve been biking for years. I always look. Such a little thing, yet on this occasion, as the sound of the approaching truck was masked by the noise of a departing car, that failure to look was a near-deadly, certainly costly oversight.

In the time since the accident, I’ve thought numerous times of the perversity of me being laid up by such a small matter, when all around me events that will fill the pages of history were transpiring. I even felt guilty that my little-thing-inspired calamity would sidetrack others from praying about, and showing concern over the big one that was going on all around us. I’m coming more and more to realize as I contemplate the whole matter, that I just have to leave that with the Lord. He was not busy in conference with President Bush, when I was distracted just at the moment I needed to be paying attention. He was not wringing His hands over the whereabouts of terrorist leaders, when flesh met steel on that country road. He was there. He is here. I think “little” and “big” are concoctions of my mind, not His. He keeps a running total of the sparrow population. He knows the number of hairs on my head. He can tell you how many times I get up and lie down (For a while now, that number has been zero.). He is intimately acquainted with all my ways, not just the “big” ones.

Perhaps there is another way of putting it. It humbles me to even type the words. Anything that has to do with one of His children is a big thing.

One of the first questions most of us learn to ask is, “Why?”

So why did this happen? I mean, I was out there trying to get some exercise. Numerous health-care workers have commented on my “good veins,” no doubt the result of years of aerobic activity. But look where it has gotten me now. Lots of folk with cholesterol laden blood, and waistlines that done-lapped a long time ago are up and about and doing their thing, while I huffed and pumped and dieted, and now am stuck in a space about the size of a baby’s playpen. Why?

I pastor a great church. We had just entered what I think is the greatest time of potential growth in our history. Plans were in motion. Things were beginning to happen. It’s fun to get up and go to church at Covington Bible. I didn’t even want to go on vacation, though I was planning to visit some missionaries in a couple of months. Day after tomorrow will be the third Sunday I haven’t even been able to be at church. I figure there will be at least that many more before I get to roll or hobble in. My participation in the mission trip is cancelled. The disappointment compounds—the ticket is nontransferable and for me to use it later will cost a considerable amount of money. Why?

I could go on about the incredible inconvenience it is for my wife to have an invalid husband, about how all the kindness being directed toward me could be funneled in much more profitable directions, if only I hadn’t . . .

I find many reasons to ask, “Why?”

So, Why did this happen?

It happened because, in the words of the little girl, I didn’t look. I’m not being flip when I say that. God has so constructed His universe that the choices we make, the actions we take or neglect to take, the words we say, or withhold, have real consequences. Yet, in the light of Romans 8:28, from another perspective, I have to say that this bed represents God’s will for me. I can be sure that God watches over and cares about the little things. Often those little things bear such incredible consequences. Could God have prevented this accident? Not only do I answer, “Yes,” but I am inclined to believe that on other occasions God has sovreignly, providentially, guided me away from disaster. Not only was God in control in relation to my failure to look at its critical timing, He likewise gave the six inches that saved my life.

God has so made His universe that my actions and yours are truly significant—they matter—yet He is not wringing hands in worry over how it will all come out. If there is one little thing in this world over which God’s sovereignty does not extend, then He is not truly Lord. To follow the logic of the old poem, if God is not sovereign over the horseshoe nail, then He cannot be in control of the battle, the nation, or the world.

I figure on that Saturday afternoon I was about six inches from dying. I was making a left hand turn off of the blacktop onto a dirt road. I slowed to allow the car that was behind me pass, then I quickly stuck out my arm for a signal and started to turn. The little pickup’s noise, must have been covered up by the sound of the car that had just passed. When I signaled a turn he was probably already in the left lane passing me. He almost succeeded in his attempt to miss me. If he had gotten the truck six inches further left, I would have been badly scared, upset at myself for not looking, not much more. If he had failed to get as far to the left as he did, by just six inches, I’d almost certainly be dead.

I love the Lord, and I’m looking forward to heaven, but I’m glad to say that I’m still here. Call me carnal if you wish, but I have a wife to love, work to do, sons to watch continue in their growth, grandkids to love and spoil. I’m very glad for that six inches that spared my life. I enjoy my food. I’m incredibly impressed at the kindness of my wife and others. I guess you could say I’ve gained a new appreciation for little things.

Really, though, that day is no different than any other. God is not like the airbag in the steering wheel of an automobile—the only time it comes out is in time of real danger. Rather it is just that God’s care for me was clearly evident that day. Paul told the Athenians that “in [God] we live, and move, and exist.” (Acts 17:28) Jesus taught that our life is not maintained by the food we consume, but by the word of God. (Matt. 4:4) David pointed out that his times are in the Lord’s hand. (Psalm 31:15) Amid the twin-tower like destruction of ancient Jerusalem, Jeremiah saw that it was God’s mercy, God’s mercy renewed each day, that kept us all from being consumed.. (Lamentations 3:22-23) Indeed, Paul points out that not just we, but all the creation is held together by the power of God. (Colossians 1:17) Not only in the sense of my creation, but moment by moment, I am because God in His providence makes it so. It was not only that day that he gave space to live. He does so everyday.

In a morphine fog I was talking to my physician. He had in his hand the paper that would give him permission to operate on my bashed-up hip. There were all kinds of really discouraging “could happen”s on that sheet: You could develop a rupture at the site of the incision. It might not work, we might have to do a total hip replacement, etc., etc. I thought about a man I know who recently came to this point concerning a surgical procedure, and just said, “No.” I understood perfectly.

More than anything else on my Doctor’s list of horrors, a statement about a little nerve grabbed my attention. Sometimes the nerve that allows one to pick up his foot (pull your toes up) is damaged, and one has a “drop foot.” I was told if that happened I’d have to wear a brace. Somehow that one really got to me. Visions of special shoes and walking sticks and me walking “funny,” filled my mind. “I’m not sure I can bear that.” I thought. But it was clear, even in my less than alert state, that this was what I ought to do, so I signed.

“Mr. Merrell, I’m going to give you the drug to put you to sleep now. The next thing you know you’ll be in the post-op.” I nodded and for all practical purposes died.

I blinked my eyelids closed and opened them to an intensity of awareness that I had never known. It was as if a pure white strobe light was firing at a million times a second. One flash was the ceiling of the post-op, the next some image from my memory, then to a dream scene, back to post-op, more rapidly than I can possible explain. “Where am I?” “Am I dead?” “Is this heaven?”

“Pastor Merrell,”

I looked at the foot of my bed and saw Laura. She’s a nurse, a friend of my son. I don’t know what else she said, but her presence pulled me back to reality. My focus lowered to my left foot. My brain sent the signal and I watched the toe wag up and down.

Thank God for little things.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Doctrine of the Depravity of Man:

The STTA I am sending out/posting today is about the Biblical doctrine of the Depravity of Man.

It occurred to me that this is a teaching from the Scripture on which we are not very conversant.  In fact it is a concept that we ignore.  Here are some statements and thoughts on the matter I've collected.

Genesis 3, Romans 1-3, Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 7:14-25

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Ins and Outs of Christians living in an ungodly world:

This is rough.  It is merely a cut-and-paste from some old sermon notes.
I'm posting this as a follow-up or further explanation of the STTA for August 30, 2011.
As followers of Christ, our relationship with the world is complex.  Perhaps these bones from a past sermon will be of help to you.

Christians in an Ungodly World.
#1 The "In"s and "Out"s of Christian Living in an Ungodly World, John 17

Read John 17.

Do a worldliness quiz:
How many of you use
      wear neckties?
      have ever held public office, school board, etc.?
      are involved in public institutions, work for   government, kids in public school, etc.?
      watch movies?
      read non-christian magazines?
      swim or go to the beach where both sexes are    present?

All of these are regarded as worldly activities by various groups. 
Give a few examples.

While I reject the position that would characterize all or any of these activities as necessarily worldly I think that most of you would agree with me that each of them and a great many other things and activities can become negative in a person's life.

Consider another aspect of the problem:

Multitude of problems in the world:
How to solve?
Government agencies?
Is a particular view of politics "Christian"?
What should be the Christians involvement in these secular agencies?

As followers of Christ what should be our relationship to the world in which we find ourselves?

Explore this issue over the next several weeks.  It will be an exploration together, because I am still very much a learner on these matters.

H. Richard Niebuhr, in his book Christ and Culture, summarizes 5 ways that Christians have typically responded to the culture around them, the world.

1)  The first view is (move to one side of stage) is characterized by monks and present day Amish.
Our own heritage is a modification of this.  There is nothing in common.

2)  The second move to the other end.  Is represented by classical liberals and many polyannaish type people that we meet everyday (move to other end of stage) We can work together totally, denial of any fundamental differences.

In between these Christ is creator of world, Christ is redeemer of church  therefore there is some commonality.

3)  These three positions that lie between the poles are a little tough to grasp.  They may be artificial distictions, so let me simply summarize them this way.
there are those who recognixe the difference but see that the church and culture have similar goals.  We can agree with the world and work together.  We can fine tune and adjust the world so that it will work for us.

4)  There are those who see the world here and the church here in constant tension.  The relationship of the church to the world is confrontational.

5)  Finally there are those who see the mission of the church as to recreate culture.  I think that this is the reason for the fear expressed by many about the so called, "Christian Right."  Rightly or wrongly they have seen this goal and they fear it.

OK,  where should we be.

It is fairly easy to cut off the ends.  I think our look at the words of the Lord this AM will do that. 

Since the question is bound to come up.  As I read Niebuhr's book I found myself saying yes and then later saying no to the three other positions.  I find the most agreement with the position expressed by tension and confrontation.

My plan at this point is to center our thoughts around the prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ just bfore He went to the cross, John 17.

Our relationship to the world, expressed in the prepositions used by John.

"Out of" ek (6):  Eph. 2:1-2

"in" en (11):  Acts 1:8
(note, en, is used again in 17.)

"not of" ek (14,16):  I John 2:15-17

"out of" ek (15):  I Cor.5:10

Note the purposes for all of this in 1-5 & 19-26

That we might be His witnesses in the world and bring glory to God.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dealing with Discouragement:

I regularly read Pastor Charles Wood's thoughts.  I often find him helpful.

After nearly four decades of ministry in church that is smaller than I wish it were, and much larger than I have any right to expect, I have concluded that periodic discouragement is inevitable.  Unless it is dealt with effectively, it will lead to ineffectiveness.  Here are some thoughts on dealing with down-times that "Woodchuck" recently shared.

 1.  Luke 24:13-35.  God is there: The problem of the disciples was depression resulting from disappointment (sound familiar?).  A sense of the presence of Christ in the midst of our turmoil should bring relief, and I know of no other way to tangibly achieve that divine reality than through time spent in the Word and in prayer.
 2.  Mark 6:45-52.  God knows where you are:  Although the disciples were on the sea, Jesus saw them and was aware of their problem.  Remember: God always knows where you are and is aware of your situation.
 3.  John 11:1-45.  God’s timing is perfect:  Mary thought Christ’s arrival was too late, but He had greater purposes in mind.  As this is an area of struggle for my impatient soul, I have to keep reminding myself that God’s timing is always right in the light of His knowledge of His perfect plans and purposes.
 4.  Matthew 9:35-38.  God is genuinely concerned about you and your situation:  Life was even tougher then than it is now.  Common people were used and abused.  Jesus is always moved with compassion when His people are in trouble (particularly that caused by other people, saved or unsaved).
 5.  Mark 5:25-34.  God’s power is always unlimited:  The woman’s problem was physical.  She had found no relief in spite of spending all she had in quest for it.  Never forget that God is always able to do anything He chooses to do.  There is more help in spending time praying for His intervention than there is in wasting it in whining and complaining.
 6.  Matthew 19:16-26.  God’s wisdom is supreme:  Jesus knew this man’s real problem and dealt with it..  God always knows what we really need; we usually know what we want but seldom what we really need.
 These suggestions are neither profound or “sure fire.”  They are an attempt to drive us back to Scripture and to remind us that facts must always trump feelings.  I would also offer this suggestion contained in the chorus of an old Gospel song: 
O cling to the promises,
They never will fail;
O cling to the promises of God;
In Christ are the promises Yea and Amen!
Then cling, O cling to the promises of God.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Preach the Word to the world:

Al Mohler just republished an interview he did with John R. W. Stott. 

Especially for you fellow preachers it is well worth the read.  Anyone interested in understanding and applying the Bible will find the article interesting.  Here is a quote.
". . . when a man of God stands before the people of God with the Word of God in his hand and the Spirit of God in his heart, you have a unique opportunity for communication."

Friday, July 29, 2011

Follow-up on last week's message--"husband of one wife"

Last Sunday, 7/24, I dealt with the lists of qualifications for leaders in 1 Timothy 3 & Titus 1.  Obviously, it was an overview.  You can listen to the message & get the accompanying note sheet at

I just received an article by Steve Cornell in which he deals with one of the more contrversial qualifications, "the husband of one wife."
It is worth the read.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


John Stott Anglican Pastor and prolific writer just died.
Stott's influence reached far beyond the Anglican fellowship.  His books and articles have been a help to many.
In particular I found his commentary of 1 John of great help in understanding--to the extent I do--and preaching from that book.

Christianity reposted an interview with Stott from 15 years ago.  It is wide-ranging and thought-provoking. 
Below is a  quote that I especially like.
"If we can recover true expository preaching as being not only exegesis but an exposition and application of the Word of God, then congregations will learn it from us preachers and go and do the same thing themselves. We need to help our congregations to grasp and use the hermeneutical principles that we are using ourselves. We need to be so careful in the development of our evangelical hermeneutic that the congregation says, "Yes, I see it. That is what the text means, and it couldn't mean anything else."
The worst kind of preaching allows people to say, "Well, I'm sorry, I don't agree with you. I think you're twisting the Scripture.""

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Watch where you are going!

I often read Charles Wood's, Woodchuck's several-times-a-week email.
He describes himself as "Retired pastor and educator, current husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, Bible teacher, writer and contrarian."  Charles is in his retirement years.  You can write him at, and request to be put on his mailing list.

Part of today's Woodchuck's Den jumped out at me.


     Every time I hear the words vision and drive, I am reminded of an amusing exchange I had with my eye doctor some time ago. I asked him if it was really safe for me to drive.  He answered with a question, “Do you see the cars before you hit them?”  I replied, “I haven’t even come close to hitting a car.”  He said, “Then you are perfectly capable of driving safely.”  He then paused for a moment and said, “In fact, your vision is as good as 75% of the people your age currently driving.”  My response?  “I think maybe I’ll just stay here in the office for good; it’s dangerous out there.”

     This is just an introduction to some things that increasingly bother me in the conservative evangelical and fundamentalist movements.  There are a lot of people who are driving while looking in their rearview mirrors when they should be looking through the windshield.  What do I mean?  Now the past in Christianity was pretty good for most of us, but it was never the golden age that some would make it.  Even if it were, however, there is no way we are going to go back to it or even replicate it in any meaningful way.  Our world - including the evangelical portion of it - is changing at such a rapid pace that I think it resembles a carousel on speed, Where change contradicts or seeks to attack the basics of Scripture (think Love Wins, BioLogos, and the numerous attacks on inerrancy), I will continue to resist it and insist that we must look at the rearview mirror of historical theology from time to time.  Where there is no genuinely Biblical issue involved, however, I think we have to keep our focus on the windshield, or we will quickly become irrelevant.
     Change that doesn’t challenge the unchanging God and His infallible Word is an absolute given.  Our reaction to it is not.  We can resent it, resist it or deny it, but we can’t stop it.  It seems far wiser to evaluate it, respond intelligently to it and manage it.
Tradition probably has more to teach us than some of us are willing to learn, but a life focused on the past is going to cause us problems and keep us from ministering to anyone other than those who already believe as we do.  Your church has changed?  So has the world to which it is trying to minister.  If all church is about is giving us more information and making us feel good, I guess it is ok to drive by the rear view mirror.  If we are going to reach people that live in the world of today, however, we had better get our eyes off what is behind us and start looking to the future.  The rearview mirror has its purposes, but safe and successful driving depends on looking ahead, through the windshield, to the future.