Archive by Author

R.C. Sproul – A Man of the Book

As we exited the double doors at the back of the church the pastor was there to greet us and shake our hands. He had a warm smile and a twinkle in his eyes as I filed by exchanging quick pleasantries. I thanked him for his message which — though it wasn’t impressive or remarkable by any metric — was preached with simplicity and authority telling of the glory of Jesus Christ. In that moment I was fascinated by how ordinary it all was especially because just the day before this pastor, R.C. Sproul, had spoken to a conference attended by thousands of people from all over the world.

R.C. Sproul was a titan of the Christian faith. He was uncompromising on the doctrine of justification by faith alone, a strident defender of the Bible, and perhaps did more to raise an awareness of the holiness of God than any other in the last century. In the coming days I’m quite certain we’ll begin to see in part how big of a footprint this man left, but its fullness will only be measured in its breadth and depth when we all stand in the presence of God. Men and women, young […]

The Liberty and Limitations of Conscience

In a wood shop in Italy a little cricket emerged and seated himself on a box of matches. As firelight danced on the walls the cricket drew near to a wooden puppet and asked if he wanted to be a real boy. Eager to learn, he and the cricket had a heart-to-heart, and singing a little ditty that is chiseled on the memories of many, the would-be boy is taught a simple motto: “Always let your conscience be your guide.” While that isn’t perhaps a perfect piece of advice to live by – mostly because of a lack of qualifications – it does have a nugget of truth: the importance of one’s own conscience.

The conscience is given a significant place in Christianity as a capacity that God himself has given to us. Simply defined and to paraphrase Thomas Aquinas, the conscience is the capacity to judge one’s self according to God’s own judgment. You might say that the conscience is an internal witness that compares our thoughts, words, and deeds to God’s standard. As it does it either accuses or approves what we think, say, and do. To live in harmony with that judgment – approving what God approves and […]

What Then Shall We Sing About?

One of the most powerful influences in creation is music. Music has the ability to impress the mind, provoke the emotions of the heart, and activate the deepest recesses of our memories. In a real sense, music can achieve what no other medium can – prose, poetry, or drama. That is why music has become a means of communicating, interpreting, and expressing those things for which no other language seems sufficient. Given the powerful influence that music has, it’s not surprising that it has a prominent place in the worshipful expression of the Christian faith. Martin Luther once wrote: “The good news of Christ’s great deliverance tunes the heart to sing.”

I think this is why God has united his message with music. The Apostle Paul wrote: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16). You see, it’s in the singing of the church that heavenly wisdom, gentle warnings, and doctrinal truth are harmonized for the building up and edifying of one another. Not to go on a pessimistic tangent but there’s probably enough in those words to chastise much of what passes […]

What C.S. Lewis Taught Me

On November 22, 1963 the death of C.S. Lewis was eclipsed by the tragic assassination of John F. Kennedy. However, fifty-four years after his death Lewis remains in the mind of many one of the most successful and influential thinkers of the twentieth century. Indeed, few if any have left such a legacy on the evangelical church, the secular academy, and even children’s literature. Today, I remain thankful for C.S. Lewis.

Now, that may sound strange to some. I’m not overly interested in developing the differences only to say that there are a number of extremely important subjects on which Lewis and I would part ways. While I think he was brilliant his brilliance isn’t always biblically satisfying. I won’t make him something he wasn’t, nor would I offer a ready defense for the things I disagree with him on. Nevertheless, his writings have had a profound effect on me and were very formative in shaping the way I think. Here are five things I learned from C.S. Lewis.

C.S. Lewis taught me that Christianity doesn’t have to be mindless. I grew up in the broad streams of evangelicalism in the 1990s which, not to be overly critical, probably won’t be remembered […]

The Crosses of Peace, Purity, and Progress

In his famous biography Roland Bainton paints a captivating (if perhaps not altogether honest) portrait of one of Martin Luther’s most famous moments. Attending an imperial assembly in the city of Worms, Luther was called upon to give answer to his writings. He entered the town in a two wheeled cart with a processional of two thousand people. He was ushered into the presence of the emperor where when asked to recant of the many things he had written, he apparently replied: “Since then Your Majesty and your lordship desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by the Scripture and plain reason–I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other–my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.”

Centuries later it’s easy to romanticize the moment — the resolve, courage, confidence, and conviction that seems to define and almost overwhelm the scene. Luther is, so to speak, an iron pillar against whom the waves of this […]

Pipe Up Pastor: Justification, Sanctification, Good Works, and Judgment

Hold up! Someone on the internet is wrong. I think. Maybe. Perhaps. At least that’s what I was told. She says it’s him. He says it’s her. He says its him. Him says its he. They say it’s them. And…them say it’s they. Confusing, right? I have to admit that’s a bit how I’ve been feeling in this last week as I’ve tried to follow a dust-up caused by some comments that John Piper made in an article entitled “Does God Really Save Us By Faith Alone?” Many are thinking through justification, sanctification, good works, and final judgment. Those are important topics and the way Piper has interwoven them has caused some push back.

What do we make of this dust-up? Well, in one way I’m hesitant to draw unnecessary attention to it. In at least a couple of the rejoinders that have been made the authors – neither of whom are unintelligent or poorly read, and both who have been immensely helpful to me personally – have entered into a rather complex and nuanced disagreement with a lot of prepositions that is, to be honest, a little confusing if not a little discouraging. I’m not opposed to complex or nuanced […]

Hatred in Las Vegas: What if…?

Many of us woke up this morning to the absolutely tragic news of a mass shooting on the Las Vegas strip. Videos show the fear and horror as gunshots can be heard breaking through the noise of the crowd. So far, reports indicate a lone gunman opened fire from the 32nd floor of a hotel into a crowd. The initial numbers are nothing short of devastating. Fifty-eight dead and more than five hundred injured. Fifty-eight people. Fathers. Mothers. Sons. Daughters. Brothers. Sisters. Friends. Almost sixty people who will not walk past the threshold of their homes today because their lives have been snuffed out by an act of violence. Events like these trigger our collective memory—Pulse nightclub, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, and the list goes on. My heart is broken and so is the heart of this nation.

Hatred. Yes, that’s what it is. Hatred. There’s no other word for it. We can see it. We can feel it. We can hear it. To deny its presence or pretend it’s something less is to willingly ignore the obvious. It would be like closing your eyes and insisting that the sun—bright and warm as it is—doesn’t exist. To admit hatred […]

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 tenets 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 […]

Rethinking Christian Calling

Many well-meaning Christians often want to baptize their aspirations and decisions with divine approval. It’s not uncommon to hear young people encouraged to figure out who, where, and what God might be “calling” them to. Consider three little anecdotal stories. John is talking with some friends when he confidently announces that he has met the girl he will marry. When asked how he can be certain he says God has called him to take her as his wife. Susie is getting ready to graduate high school and decides to go to a particular university. When asked why, she says God has called her to go to that school. Ben works as a plumber. When asked why he chose that profession he says God has called him to that work. Do you see the pattern?

While it may not gain me popularity points I want to rethink this common idea of God’s calling. Biblically, the call of God is used in reference to our salvation and to Apostolic office (see e.g. Romans 1:1 and 1 Corinthians 1:1). Foregoing the second of these, the Bible says we have been “called to belong to Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:6) and “called according to his purpose” […]