Pragmatism: Trend or Trap?

My thanks to Dani for posting this piece from John MacArthur: By God’s grace, I have been the pastor of the same church now for nearly forty years. From that vantage point, I have witnessed the birth and growth of menacing trends within the church, several of which have converged under what I would call evangelical pragmatism — an approach to ministry that is endemic in contemporary Christianity. What is pragmatism? Basically it is a philosophy that says that results determine meaning, truth, and value — what will work becomes a more important question than what is true. As Christians, we are called to trust what the Lord says, preach that message to others, and leave the results to Him. But many have set that aside. Seeking relevancy and success, they have welcomed the pragmatic approach and have received the proverbial Trojan horse. Let me take a few minutes to explain a little of the history leading up to the

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True Spiritual Discernment

Biblical truth is timeless in its application. This is sound advice for our times from Horatius Bonar. Taken from ‘Follow the Lamb’. “…be discriminating. Do not call error truth for the sake of charity. Do not praise earnest men merely because they are earnest. To be earnest in truth is one thing; to be earnest in error is another. The first is blessed, not so much because of the earnestness, but because of the truth; the second is hateful to God, and ought to be shunned by you. Remember how the Lord Jesus from heaven spoke concerning error: ‘which thing I hate’ (Rev 2:6-15; 1 Tim 6:4,5). True spiritual discernment is much lost sight of as a real Christian grace; discernment between the evil and the good, the false and the true. ‘Beloved, believe not every spirit; but try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world’ (1 John 4:1). This

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Consumerism the Church and the abnormal Christian life

Here’s a great post from Martin Downes: The following is from an editorial written for the Evangelical Magazine: “The big theme of the story that follows is the defeat of politics by shopping…Consumerism has shouldered aside other ways of understanding the world—real political visions, organised religion, a pulsating sense of national identity.” So begins Andrew Marr’s bestseller A History of Modern Britain. It is this consumer mentality that is bleeding to death Christian service. Tragically much of this has been self-inflicted. No amount of exhortation to passionate, sacrificial service will alter the mess that we are in. In fact no amount of actual serving on camps, overseas mission trips, beach missions, or attending conferences will change it either. Instead it will simply mask over the problem. The real problem is that we have adopted a consumer mentality when it comes to thinking about the Church. There are some threats to the Christian faith that are unsubtle and obvious. You know

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Don Carson Talks About Culture

Derek Thomas interviews Don Carson: On the eve of the publication of Don Carson’s new and important book, Christ and Culture Revisited, Derek Thomas caught up with him in an airport somewhere in the far East…. DT:  Congratulations of the publication of Christ and Culture Revisited (Eerdmans, 2008). It obviously bears some link to the classic treatment by H. Richard Niebuhr, a volume I was asked to read at seminary thirty years ago, though it was published more than fifty years ago. Why did you feel it necessary to “Revisit” this book and its theme in 2008? DC:  Thank You. At one level, the tension between Christ and culture is perennial, and every generation must thoughtfully engage in the discussion. Moreover, the world has become much less North-Atlantic-centered than it was in Niebuhr’s day, especially the Christian world — and these changes require serious reflection. Would Kuyper have developed his gentle version of sphere sovereignty if he has been born

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Interview with Carson on Christ and Culture

From Justin Taylor: Derek Thomas recently chatted with D.A. Carson on the topic. Here are the last two exchanges, questioning the wisdom of the nomenclature “redeeming the culture” and how young pastors should think about “engaging the culture: DT: Why don’t you like the terminology of “redeeming the culture”? DC: Redemption terminology in the NT is so bound up with Christ’s work for and in the church that to extend it to whatever good we do in the broader world risks a shift in focus. Not for a moment do I want to deny that we are to serve as salt and light, that exiles may be called to do good in the pagan cities where Providence has appointed them to live (Jer 29), that every square foot of this world is under Christ’s universal reign (even though that reign is still being contested), that the nations of the world will bring their “goods” into the Jerusalem that comes down

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Gospel of Human Fulfillment

“As we talk about current trends in evangelicalism, this is one of the most tragic trends. This new kind of preaching that is all built around human fulfillment. This new kind of evangelizing where the whole appeal to the unconverted person is personal fulfillment, that the Lord will personally fulfill your life. Because when that’s the reason for you to come to Christ, then that becomes the reason you came to Christ, and then that becomes what you expect Christ to do for you, and you set people up for an utterly reverse process of sanctification. “Well here I am Jesus, fulfill me. Here I am Jesus, satisfy me. Here I am Jesus, plug up all the holes in my life. Give me perfect relationships, bring me happiness, success…” When in fact a proper attitude is- “Lord save me for Jesus sake, I am not worthy of anything and somehow make my life useful to you for the advance of

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Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World

By Tony Reinke Recently on the blog we posted seven consecutive sections from C.J.’s chapter “God, My Heart, and Clothes,” which will be published in the forthcoming book Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World (Crossway). The book was written by a team of C.J. and four other Sovereign Grace leaders—Dave Harvey, Bob Kauflin, Jeff Purswell, and Craig Cabaniss. John Piper added the foreword. Though books will not ship until late September, Crossway Books has extended to our blog readers a generous 35 percent discount on pre-orders. For the next two weeks simply go to the Worldliness product page, click “pre-order” and enter coupon code: 8SG1. And with the completion of the modesty blog series, we’ve created an index of the posts and added discussion questions below (which also appear in the printed book). For convenience, we’ve compiled the chapter (the full content of the blog posts) and the discussion questions into one PDF (download here). Modesty Series Index

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The Postmodern Gospel

“The postmodern individual may be the easiest sinner in 200 years to interest in the faith. Yet he is capable of living with contradictions. He can claim to have received Jesus but not believe in his historical existence. He can claim to believe in the inerrancy of Scripture but deny absolute truth. When the gospel is presented as a means of improving self-image, giving us a spiritual and thrilling experience, providing a source for success and fulfillment, or helping us overcome loneliness, we may be speaking the language of the age; however, we have trivialized and distorted the gospel message as to make it meaningless.” … “Perhaps there has never been a time when it has been more vital to present the gospel message clearly and without apology. That Christ died on the cross to save us from our sins and give us his righteousness is the good news, which the sinner must understand. The issue on the table is

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Shallow preaching and cultural adaptability behind baptist decline”[T]he shallow state of preaching has exacerbated the lethargy of the church and left the lost with no real Word from God,” said Paige Patterson, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, in a column in Baptist Press. “The pastor ought to be the major source of theological understanding and the most able teacher of the Bible,” he added. “Anemic pulpits create anemic churches and denominations.” Since the release last month of the latest data on Southern Baptist membership and baptisms, both of which declined, Southern Baptists have speculated why the largest Protestant denomination in the country has been seeing lower numbers. “Well, the time has come to identify the real problems,” said Patterson. Read the entire article here (HT: The Expositor)

The Emergent Church and the Gospel

This is a great piece from John Samson. I also recommend the book he quotes, ‘Why we’re not Emergent’. It is probably the best critique of the emerging church around at the moment. The gospel is not about any merit I have on my own, but is based upon Jesus’ merit alone. It is not what we have done for Jesus, but what Jesus has done for us (Rom 5:19, 2 Cor 5:21, Phil 2:8). In the covenant rainbow sign with Noah, God says He “remembers” never to flood the world this way again, so likewise in the covenant in Christ’s blood, God “remembers” not to treat us as we justly deserve for our sins. The mystery of God has been made manifest in the Person and work of the Son, who frees the prisoners, gives sight to the blind, breaks loose the chains and changes hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. We were taken captive to do Satan’s

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Amid The Dazzling Confusion

Can you believe Bonnar wrote this in 1883? He could be describing the 21st century Church. Why don’t we learn from Church history? My thanks to Darrin R. Brooker for this. The religious atmosphere of the present time is much changed from what it was in my younger days; and I may be allowed to note the difference. The theological crisis through which we are passing is a peculiar one, such as the men of fifty years ago would have thought very unlikely; and I wish to mark some of its more important characteristics. These are becoming more and more distinct in outline and pronounced in character every year. A quarter of a century ago, it was not quite evident what they meant or whither they were tending. Now there is less of reserve, and the repulsion between Revelation and much of modern thought is expressing itself in many ways, and through many channels. Man is now thinking out a

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Not far removed from idolatry

“Western evangelicalism tends to run through a cycle of fads. At the moment, books are pouring off the presses telling us how to plan for success, how ‘vision’ consists in clearly articulated ‘ministry goals,’ how the knowledge of detailed profiles of our communities constitutes the key to successful outreach. I am not for a moment suggesting that there is nothing to be learned from such studies. But after a while one may perhaps be excused for marveling how many churches were planted by Paul and Whitefield and Wesley and Stanway and Judson without enjoying these advantages. Of course all of us need to understand the people to whom we minister, and all of us can benefit from small doses of such literature. But massive doses sooner or later dilute the gospel. Ever so subtly, we start to think that success more critically depends on thoughtful sociological analysis than on the gospel; Barna becomes more important than the Bible. We depend

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McLaren Advocates “Rethinking” Second Coming

From Stand to Reason blog: At a recent youth ministry conference at Willow Creek Community Church, while discussing his latest book, Brian McLaren talked about the need to change our understanding of Jesus’ second coming because Simply put, if we believe that God will ultimately enforce his will by forceful domination, and will eternally torture all who resist that domination, then torture and domination become not only permissible but in some way godly. . . . [And from the book:] This eschatological understanding of a violent second coming leads us to believe (as we’ve said before) that in the end, even God finds it impossible to fix the world apart from violence and coercion; no one should be surprised when those shaped by this theology behave accordingly. First, this suggestion reflects a great misunderstanding of justice. Justice is not mere violence, coercion, and domination. The final judgment of all that we’ve done to hurt others is a desirable and good

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Courageous Protestants!

This book by David Wells is the most helpful I’ve read on the contemporary church scene in years. Wells writes with objectivity and a passion for the church to return to sola scriptura (as opposed to sola cultura) as its modus operandi. My thanks to Tony Reinke for this excellent review: Remaining faithfully protestant is no hobby for the spineless, David Wells argues in his new book, The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World (Eerdmans, 2008). Remaining faithfully protestant—simultaneously faithful to scripture and and firmly rooted historically—requires vigilant steadfastness. “The key to the future,” Wells writes, “is not the capitulation that we see in both the marketers and the emergents. It is courage. The courage to be faithful to what Christianity in its biblical forms has always stood for across the ages” (p. 21). The book title alone inspires me to tattoo Luther on my forearm (restrained by the bruising vanity of such an

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Shout to which Lord?

‘American Idol’s’ attempt to ‘give something back’ included the well known Christian song, ‘My Jesus, My Saviour’, by Darlene Zschech. Can you spot the deliberate mistake in the first line? Is this an infringement of copyright, I wonder? It’s certainly confirmation that religious sentiment is loved by the media (man), where as the name of Jesus, and all that that Name represents in the gospel, is despised and rejected. But we’re not surprised are we?