Between Irrelevance and Inspiration: Rob Bell’s “What is the Bible?”

I imagine it was a paradisiacal day—whatever happy, joyful, and blissful picture that gives your imagination—when the serpent slithered to the woman in the Garden of Eden. He did not come armed with bow or sword but only with his tongue and a simple but provocative question: “Did God actually say?” There was the starting point of humanity’s tragic descent into sin and misery. Its origin was doubt, disbelief, and misinterpretation of God’s word. I cannot help but hear an echo of that fateful question in Rob Bell’s new book, What is the Bible?

For many evangelicals and Reformed folk Rob Bell is, perhaps, a relic of the past. His departure from some of the main tenants of Christianity have made him all but irrelevant. So why should we care that he has written a new book? Well, if there is any value in this book it is simply that it offers a popular representation—without big vocabulary or complex hermeneutical rules—on where many people place the Bible in their understanding of Christianity. Rob Bell doesn’t write without knowing exactly to what audience he is writing, and he has learned well to connect with that audience in a captivating way. This book […]


Browse Worthy: Tim Challies’ Visual Theology

Little by little over the past few years, Tim Challies, with the assistance of a graphic artist, has been building an impressive array of visually sharp diagrams, charts, and displays of Biblical truth. Called Visual Theology, these products range from quotes by famous Christians to lists of the Kings of Israel to a blueprint for the Old Testament tabernacle. These graphics are great for teaching or placing on a wall to remind others of God’s truth. They are available for downloads and he also has a book he published last year with many of them in it.

Tim caught my attention recently with a new one called The Order and Causes of Salvation and Damnation: An Infographic. As you can see below, It is a beautiful reproduction (the chart is offered in much higher resolution in different formats at the website) of John Bunyan’s original “ocular catechism” that traces the decrees of election and reprobation out in believers and unbelievers’ lives with Bunyan’s typical rich use of Scripture. I first learned of Bunyan’s drawing a few years ago while sitting under Derek Thomas, who led us through this work in an approach similar to the one found here. (I also learned that William Perkins had […]


Bigger Thoughts

“Shorter! Simpler! More punchy!” Whether you’re a journalist or a teacher or a pastor, there is a constant pressure to consolidate our communication. Pastors are taught that our sermons need to have a theme that can be easily expressed in one, simple sentence. Many people don’t read past headlines, so we strive to make those headlines catchy and clear. Twitter’s 140-character limit protects us from rambling.

While these are not negative things in and of themselves (most pastors still need to work on simplicity and clarity in their preaching!), it is part of a bigger cultural force making deep thought and deep communication more difficult and foreign. The technological and societal pressures to communicate simply often lead to simplicity and facileness. By and large, we don’t read deeply, so we don’t think deeply and cannot communicate deeply. And the cycle continues. As someone who favors brevity over profundity, I freely acknowledge that I write as a culprit more than a solver.

Thankfully, Scripture shows a better way.


3GT Episode 53: Plants & Pillars

In this episode, 3GT becomes 3DT – Three Dads Theologizing!

For Aaron read Psalm 144 and, boy, is he full of questions! First, he wants to know why daughters are described as palace pillars and sons as productive plants in Psalm 144. Then he wants to know how to raise them this way. Then he wants to know whether this description speaks to gender issues. Then he really wants to know how to see the blessing of this psalm in his children’s lives. Simply put, Aaron wants to know!

Do you? Then listen along as the 3DTers meditate together on this psalm!

https://threeguystheologizing.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/3gt-episode-53.mp3

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The Half-Way Covenant & Whole-Hearted Youth Ministry

Baptists and Presbyterians can agree regarding one application of child baptism in church history. What was known as the Half-way Covenant was a bad idea. Yet from it we can gain a valuable lesson regarding the church’s gospel duty to young people.

Jonathan Edwards was the pastor during colonial America to the Congregational church in Northampton, Massachusetts. His preaching in the mid-1700’s was one of the means God used to create the Great Awakening, where multitudes of people turned to the Lord. Yet in the midst of this great fruitfulness, a difficulty arose prompted by a practice in the church established by Edwards’ grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, who preceded Edwards as the minister in Northampton.

Children had been baptized in the Northampton congregation, grown up, and had not clearly professed Christ. Yet their names were left on the roll as baptized members. Then they began to have children. Stodddard, in the hope of influencing this later generation with the gospel, allowed the grandchildren of believing members to be baptized. In response, since church membership at the time was socially desirable, many parents who did not have saving faith in Christ readily agreed to have their children baptized. This Half-way Covenant, as it came […]


The language of tears

I came across a set of photographs of tears taken using a microscope. They are fascinating to look at; vastly different in their detail and patterns, like looking down at changing landscapes from an aeroplane.

The photographer, Rose-Lynn Fisher, has pictures of tears from all sorts of circumstances: tears of happiness, grief, pain, reminiscing, tears caused by irritation or for lubrication, and many other sorts—each like a unique work of art. Some are jagged and angular, some are densely detailed, like an aerial view of the Amazon rainforest. Others pictures are sparse in their detail, yet others square and block-like like a city plan. I love how she describes them as “aerial views of emotion terrain.”

Our tears are mostly salt water but contain a variety of substances—including enzymes, oils, antibodies, hormones, and even natural painkillers the body releases under stress. Each of these seems to impact the detail. (Although another photographer seems to think these additives are less of a factor.)

All this came to mind because I was preaching last Sunday on Psalm 6. The songwriter is at the end of his tether, he says his “I flood my bed with weeping… my eyes grow weak with sorrow”. Perhaps you know that […]


Boy or Girl? How do we relate to Transgender People?

The decision this week by English parents Nigel and Sally Rowe to remove their 6-year old son from primary school and homeschool him instead has started a media storm. Why the fuss? Because their reason for doing so was the confusion their son experienced when a boy in his class came to school dressed as a girl and was treated as a girl by all the staff. Pupils at this school are free to ‘change’ their gender from day to day as they wish.

This comes just a week after one of the UK’s leading department stores, John Lewis, made the controversial decision to remove signs identifying children’s clothes in their stores as either ‘boys’’ or ‘girls’’. They now sell dresses for boys and ‘gender neutral’ clothing.

There is no doubt that an extreme transgender agenda is being pushed and rapidly accepted by our culture. How should we respond as Christians? Al Mohler describes the transgender revolution as ‘…one of the most difficult pastoral challenges this generation of Christians will face.’

How should we relate as Christians to those who genuinely feel they are trapped in the wrong body? I’m not thinking here of those who have a passing sense of ‘gender incongruence’. […]


Fallen Towers, Risen Savior

Another September 11th has passed, a date of national and global significance ever since the terrifying events which darkened that bright morning back in 2001.  Sadly and predictably, as the years have gone by, many of us are having a harder time remembering that day in a way that honors its significance, despite our heart-felt promises to “never forget.”  More and more, the day has become a sadly but briefly recalled fact of history, and with each anniversary, we’re dedicating fewer and fewer moments to a fading, wistful contemplation of where we were and what we were doing the morning it felt like the sky was not only falling on us, but attacking us.  But for people who had friends or family right there in the midst of the blood and fire of that nightmare of a day, the memories stay fresh and vital. Every September 11th anniversary makes that day in 2001 feel like it was yesterday.  They are the ones who are keeping the promise to never forget.  We should learn from their example.  


An Abundance of Counselors

In an abundance of counselors there is safety and victory (Proverbs 11:14 & 24:5-6). The Lord himself is our great Counselor. In addition to his word and the work of his Spirit within us, he uses people to aid us in making wise decisions. There are at least two ways in which the “abundance of counselors” principle should be applied in our lives:

Seek counsel from many people for one particular decision. This is perhaps the most obvious application of the principle.

When we have a particular decision to make, perhaps we are considering a job offer, we go and get counsel from a number of friends and mentors to aid us.

One potential abuse of inquiring of many advisers for a decision is seeking counsel from different people until we find someone who agrees with our preconceived desire. A second potential abuse is asking too many people for help for the sake of tallying their votes and failing to take responsibility before God for making a timely and conclusive decision.

Keep many friends who are wise in particular aspects of life. Know which one or two to go to depending on the particular challenge we face. This is perhaps a less obvious application […]


3GT Episode 52: Food Fads & Diabolical Diets

Kyle the husband was served white rice and he wants to know why. Aaron the science teacher rants about scientific food studies. Barry the absent-minded struggles to remember videos and movies. It’s a red meat episode as the guys tackle those who associate gluten (and the lack thereof) with godliness!

In this age where the church potluck comes with dozens of warning signs, what’s a believer to do? Tune into this rollicking conversation as the guys discuss how “food will not commend us to God.”

https://threeguystheologizing.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/3gt-episode-52.mp3

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Notes:

Time Traveling Dietician Video

Temple Grandin