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An Article I Wrote For The Local Newspaper

Each week there’s a spot in our local newspaper, The Border Watch, for an article by one of the local ministers.
They call it ‘Keeping The Faith’.
One of my colleagues writes most of them, but he’s in Papua New Guinea at the moment, so he’s lined a few of us up to write pieces while he’s away.
I don’t mind writing, and should probably not avoid doing it.

Anyway, currently there’s a bit of controversy that the local politicians and media are part of which flows from the decision of the State Government to sell three forward rotations of the wood from our local forests. This would mean, in effect that our local timber would be effectively under the control of the purchasers for the next one hundred years. There are fears for the viability of our local processing industries if the new purchasers decided to just remove all the timber in an unprocessed state to other places for processing.
Here’s more detail if you’re really interested

So, I wrote a piece that tried to use the controversy to open broader issues.
I put a label on it that said “Decisions Today And Consequences Tomorrow”.
The paper decided on the far catchier title “Would Jesus Sell Our Pines?”
I generally try to reference aspects of the Gospel obliquely in these pieces, instead of finishing each one with a Gospel appeal.

The decision to sell forward rotations of local plantation timber has provoked a lot of concern in our local community. Doubts abound about a decision made by those hundreds of kilometers away, which will realise a financial benefit that many suspect will primarily serve the interests of Adelaide. Next time you visit the city take a tram ride so you too can enjoy the fruit of the financial prosperity of our State.
While positions for and against the plan fire back and forth it is interesting to note that many are troubled by the notion of a sale that takes place now, but will still be a day-to-day reality for the grand-children and great grand-children of our current generation. One hundred years ago the local timber industry would have barely entered a second of these rotations. Who can argue confidently about what the nature of the forestry industry will be in one hundred and five years?
Yet we all know that whatever decision is taken in 2011 will leave a legacy for future generations. Our children, and their children after them, will live in the consequences of our decisions.
This dimension of thought is to be encouraged. And it should not be confined to issues such as forestry rotations and other aspects of the environment. What a wonderful message our new library provides to future generations about our community’s love for learning and knowledge. Our main corner development will leave a similar legacy of commitment to culture and art.
But what if we also applied this perspective to our personal lives? What if we made our decisions mindful of that which we are passing on to future generations? I’ve yet to conduct a funeral at which the deceased was lauded for their commitment to working overtime, or owning the biggest home theatre, or always driving a new car. The qualities which succeeding generations admire and value are love, encouragement, hospitality and time spent together.
What qualities do we encourage in our children? Often you’ll hear parents talk about their children’s grades, sporting achievements or trophies. You don’t often hear them brag about their child’s humility, thoughtfulness toward others or the way they go out of their way to be caring.
We can criticize a government which seems to value millions or billions of dollars today at the expense of tomorrow. But if we do so, consistency would invite us to think of the future when we make decisions today. Are we making choices that simply meet our current desires? Or are we making choices that build relationships and encourage those who follow us to also build their lives for the future?
In the Biblical book of Hebrews we are told that the people we read about in the Old Testament all made their current decisions based on a future certainty of trust in God’s promises provision of a Saviour. God’s people don’t just think about the effect of their decisions a century later. They make decisions in the light of eternity.



Blolestones – Blog Milestones, get it?

Nathan hits 4000 posts.
Alastair hits 1000 posts.
Izaac marks 500 days.

Good reading and interacting with you.

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Bringing The Reformation Back To Protestantism (via Gene Veith)

In an era when ‘Reformation Day’ (October 31) sounds as slightly anachronistic as the word ‘Protestant’ it is vitally important to remember that the centrality of the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone as the essence of the Gospel is a truth which can be lost, or diluted to the extent that it is functionally lost.
When you can watch television programs that exhort viewers to send a suggested amount of money in order to obtain pieces of cloth that will bring them miracles, when you listen to the phrase ‘by His stripes we are healed’ quoted over and over again as the ground for recovery from physical sickness, when you hear of folk from Protestant churches cancelling their own Sunday worship Services so they can join the massed throng celebrating a Roman Catholic sainthood you can believe that if the Gospel is not absent it is, at the very least, sitting in the departure lounge with its ticket stamped “no longer central to our mission”.
Gene Veith writes a thoughtful post on “Bringing The Reformation To Protestantism” and briefly surveys the need for a return to the reformational emphasis on the Gospel, the Bible and Vocation.

The original Reformation, whose anniversary we mark on October 31, began in 1517 as an attempt to bring medieval Catholicism back to the Gospel, the Bible, and Vocation. It has occurred to me that today the various Protestant churches need that same Reformation.
Read the rest of the post here.

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Hearing Worldly Music With Kingdom Ears (via Russell Moore)

Russell Moore introduces a thoughtful post about how the subjects that are sung about by people outside the Christian faith should be thought about and considered from a Biblical perspective.
I think it is a balanced and well-considered approach that does not slide into prohibition or permissiveness.

A few weeks back I posted a question from Coal Miner’s Daughter, a mother who asked whether she, like her parents did before her, should play country music in front of her child. (Her question can be read here.) Y’all gave your responses. Here are my thoughts on the question.

It’s amusing:

When I was a very young boy, I came under the fiery chastisement of my grandmother because I was singing Conway Twitty songs. I think the song in question contained the lyrics, “I can tell you’ve never been this far before.” Or maybe it was the Twitty classic, “Darlin’, how I love to lay you down.” Whichever it was, she told me it was “nasty.” I can remember wondering how on earth songs about geography or napping could be “nasty.”
Sometime in my teens, I was humming along with Mr. Twitty and stopped to think: “Oh. Wait. I get it now.” And then I didn’t want to see my grandmother for at least six months or until I had completely forgotten about Conway Twitty, whichever came first.

And thoughtful:

But this prudence doesn’t mean sheltering your child from the dark side of life and from the consequences of sin, even in lyrical form. Quite the contrary. Part of the power of temptation, after all, is to mystify sin as that which is forbidden and thus desirable (see the serpent’s line of questioning in Genesis 3). The sin is then presented as being free from future consequences (again, listen to the snake’s words).
The Bible takes the opposite tack. God never glorifies sin. He tells us about it honestly, including the fact that it is often temporarily pleasurable (Heb. 11:25), and then he shows us the wages sin demands.
Think, for instance, of the father’s counsel to his son in Proverbs 7 about sexual immorality. The father describes, in poetic detail, what leads up to such an encounter, why it would seem to be so desirable. But he gives the telescopic view of the sin, including the deadly end (Prov. 7:22-23).

Read the whole post here.


The Biologos Foundation And Marcionism Revisited

Marcionism is an ancient heresy which asserted that God as revealed in the New and Old Testament are two distinct beings, with the latter being much inferior.
It rejected Old Testament Scripture.

Karl Giberson, vice-president of the Biologos Forum, in an essay: “Exposing the Straw Men of New Atheism: Part Five”.
To provide context Giberson points out that both science and religion have advanced in their understanding and practice through the ages and it is wrong to claim that religion alone rejects progress.

Theology and biblical studies move forward as well in dramatic and revolutionary ways but New Atheist critics dismiss this progress because it is not acknowledged by lay people on Main Street or in intellectual backwaters like those where Al Mohler and Ken Ham paddle about. This is a gigantic blind spot for people like Richard Dawkins, on par with failing to acknowledge that electricity has changed the world in some important ways just because there are some villages in Tibet go without it.

The point is reasonable made, but then Giberson decides to dispose of baby along with bath-water:

In The God Delusion Dawkins eloquently skewers the tyrannical anthropomorphic deity of the Old Testament—the God that supposedly commanded the Jews to go on genocidal rampages and who occasionally went on his own rampages, flooding the planet or raining fire and brimstone on wicked cities. But who believes in this deity any more, besides those same fundamentalists who think the earth is 10,000 years old? Modern theology has moved past this view of God.

Don’t worry about the New Testament though, because:

Christianity is rooted in unique historical events that were recorded by the early church as they tried to make sense of their encounters with the risen Christ. This was a unique and mysterious event that will never be “understood” within the explanatory framework of science.

The irony here is that it is true that the New Testament Christians did not turn to science or philosophy to make sense of their encounters with the risen Christ. The only witness that could allow them to make sense of their encounters with the risen Christ were the Scriptures of the Old Testament.

(As an aside, note how the essay is titled ‘Exposing the Straw Men of the New Atheism’ but the most condescending denigrations are directed towards Christians. Read it carefully, if you’re a Christian who doesn’t understand things about origins the way Biologos does you’re on a spiritual par with the folk who are doing without electricity in Tibet. Or living in a back-water. Poor you.)

Surely theistic evolutionists can do better than to run with this crowd.
HT: Al Mohler.


Reformation Day 2010 – October 31

Reformation Day 2010 actually falls on October 31 providing an opportunity to recall the anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing of his 95 theses on the church door at Wittenburg in 1517.
Although Presbyterians don’t go in for special days, it’s worth some sort of mention.
The ecumenical spirit of the age seems a trifle embarrassed about marking the occasion these days.
Folk want to back-pedal on the claim that the substantive body claiming to be the Christian church in the west had so confused the doctrine of justification that they had effectively forsaken the Gospel itself.
Even the Lutheran church, in some areas, seems prepared to concede that the whole situation can be explained as differing emphases.
It is true that justification by faith was not the primary motivation for Luther’s actions. That understanding would soon come as he scoured the Scriptures in order to bring peace to his own mind about how a sinner like him could be received as righteous by a just and holy God.

Here are a couple of popular level resources if you want background information Luther’s formative role in the Reformation.
Carl Trueman, in Church History lecturer mode, answers basic questions about the actions of October 31, 1517 for Justin Taylor.
Chris Castaldi offers a short essay that deals with Luther’s declaration at the Diet of Worms in April 18, 1521.

Carl Trueman, this time on the Reformation 21 blog, suggests an alternate origin point for the Reformation:

In the week when the Protestant church looks back to the advertising of a public debate by a professor, Martin Luther, at Wittenberg University on October 31, 1517, and celebrates that event as the start of the Reformation, Derek and I head to Heidelberg.  In fact, Heidelberg is a more likely candidate for the real, public start of the theological reformation as, on April 26, 1518, the Saxon Chapter of the Augustinian Order gathered to hear one Leonhard Beier defend a series of theses composed by Martin Luther, who presided over the proceedings.   On that day, Luther’s famous distinction between theologians of glory and theologians of the cross received its first public airing.   The full set of theological theses, with Luther’s explanations, can be found here; but I give the final thesis below.  It is worth meditating on, given that the first sentence captures the essence of biblical teaching about God, in contrast with human beings, and is one of the most profound and beautiful statements found outside of the biblical canon:

The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it.

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A Profound Theological Blunder (via Theology In Verse)

From M. Justin Wainscott’s blog, Theology In Verse:

The following was said by Martyn Lloyd-Jones in 1972. In 2010, this profound theological blunder has become the preferred method of much of American evangelicalism.

Our Lord attracted sinners because He was different. They drew near to Him because they felt that there was something different about Him….And the world always expects us to be different. This idea that you are going to win people to the Christian faith by showing them that after all you are remarkably like them, is theologically and psychologically a profound blunder.

–Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers