Wednesday Stuff: T4G

I would like to say I am somewhat amazed at the controversy this statement has caused. I was particularly struck by the words of David Warnock in his post in which he takes issue with the statement:

But it reinforces my views about how inappropriate the whole statement is. You cannot redefine the gospel to be the things that four friends agree on, ignoring the areas where you disagree and then tell everyone else that these things are now foundational requirements to be faithful to the gospel. This starts to move in the direction of the heresy of changing the canon, of deciding that the Bible should not include certain books because you can't agree on them.

I doubt seriously if the T4G folks seriously intended to write a new doctrinal statement for Christians. What it seems to be instead is to do what the conference itself did - issue a call back to the foundations on which historical, orthodox Christianity has stood for centuries. Personally, I rejoiced to read it. Reading my posts of two weeks ago will indicate why. The T4G statement focuses largely on doctrinal and practical issues that have been attacked or compromised in our day. By the response at the conference, there were 2800 church leaders who were glad to see it, and I suspect thousands more who are weary of the shifting doctrinal sands that exist within "evangelicalism" today.

I agree wholeheartedly with Adrian Warnock (no relation to David, if I am not mistaken), who wrote:

What keeps the gospel safe? I would argue two things predominantly- firstly an appropriate humble attitude to the bible itself, and secondly the presence within the church of men like Mahaney, Dever, Mohler and Duncan and many others today who preserve the apostolic foundation of doctrine through their teaching and direction of their own churches and those in relationship with them.

It would be of value to note Mark Dever's posting on today's T4G blog on the issue of complementarianism. While taking on a tough issue, he nevertheless (and I think correctly) identifies the problems that this generation faces.

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Why address the DaVinci Code? It appears that once again the Christian media has jumped all over the bandwagon. Books, videos, study materials are appearing almost daily. But this time I think there is good reason.
I'm not so much interested in countering the claims of a novel. That serves no good purpose. Rather I feel it is an opportunity to teach our people some things that they might not know. I saw a video clip by Josh McDowell in which he said that the issues of the DaVinci Code are not answerable by Scripture, but by Church history. I am sure he did not mean that in the absolute sense. But I think he is right in the main. So taking the time to teach our people about things such as the formation of the canon, the Council of Nicea and Gnosticism can have a productive, faith-building/affirming result.
I was thinking of doing a parody called the Kinkade Code, but someone beat me to it (thanks to Tim Challies for the heads up).
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One of the benefits I received from the T4G conference was being introduced to some wonderful cross-centered hymns. I had not heard The Gospel Song, I Will Glory in My Redeemer, or How Deep the Father's Love for Us. We've already introduced one of them to our people, and will introduce I Will Glory in My Redeemer this week, Lord willing.

The Evangelical Identity, Part 4

I would assert that there is a new liberalism that has invaded the traditional, historic, orthodox Christian faith. Like its predecessor a century go, it wants to be considered Christian even while denying or redefining the very essentials of that faith. And that cannot be allowed to happen.

There is no question that the split between theological liberals and conservatives in the early 1900’s led to some excess. We’re all familiar with those who have taken separation – and the basis for it – to excessive extremes. But the church I am part of – and I suspect the churches that many are a part of – were birthed out of a desire to remain faithful to orthodoxy and have done so without being, well, nutty. So it can be done. How it can be done, I’m not sure. But I look back eight years ago and see that men from diverse backgrounds drew their lines in the sand and God prospered the movement. Like the true Church, without a visible hierarchy, evangelicalism was able to be self-policing.

There are no doubt those who want to keep the evangelical pool very broad. It is evident that those who have denied belief in the essentials of the Christian faith, either explicitly or by redefinition, still consider themselves to be evangelicals. But they are not. Those men and women who fought the influx of liberalism in their denominations, churches and schools would not consider that departures from what the church has commonly regarded as orthodoxy should be tolerated. So why should I?

How judgmental! And how can one obscure pastor with a Bible college education dare to decide who is and is not evangelical? What give me the “right” to do that? Who do I think I am?

I am a shepherd charged with guarding my sheep. So I’ll do that in my own little corner. And my prayer is that there will be many, many, many more pastors who will recognize the problem and be willing to say, “This is an error. It is outside of the bounds of historic, orthodox Christian faith.” Brother pastors, we must do this, for the sake of the Gospel.

I began writing this because of some negative remarks I read about the Together for the Gospel Statement. Personally, I applaud it. I hope that it is a rallying point for those who want to be faithful to the Scriptures and to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I like what Ligon Duncan wrote shortly after the conference had concluded:

What do we want to see come out of this extraordinary international gathering of (predominantly young) pastors and churchmen?

We want to see a strong coalition of Bible-saturated, truth-driven, God-entranced, prayer-soaked, aggressively evangelistic, Christ-treasuring, Christ-exalting, Spirit-filled, sovereign grace-loving, missions-advancing, hell-robbing, strong-thinking, real-need-exposing, soul-winning, mind-engaging, vagueness-rejecting, wartime-life-style-pursuing, risk-taking, justice-advancing, Scripture-expounding, cross-cherishing, homosexuality-opposing, abortion-denouncing, racism-resisting, heaven-desiring, imputation-of-an-alien righteousness-proclaiming, justification-by-faith-alone-apart-from-doing preaching, error-exposing, complementarian, joyful, humble, courageous, happy pastors working together for the Gospel. (thanks to John Piper for much of this language)

And we want to see them leading a strong coalition of evangelical churches who, while they hold as faithfully and biblically as they know how to certain doctrinal distinctives not shared by all other biblical evangelical churches, band together for the Gospel on a robustly doctrinal, historic, orthodox, reformational, world-opposing-while-at-the-same-time-world-loving, Bible-preaching, Scriptural-theology-inculcating, real-conversion-prizing, deep biblical evangelism-practicing, New Testament church-membership-implementing, church-discipline-applying, healthy and growing Disciple-making, biblically led basis – for the display of God’s glory in the churches.

The Evangelical Identity, Part 3

There have always been differences of opinion among evangelicals about doctrine. Churches tend to be gathered around their viewpoints on what I call "the major minors": issues of doctrine that tend to be distinctives of a particular group or church. Among those are mode of baptism, millennial issues, and spiritual gifts. These kinds of doctrinal differences had nothing to do with the essence of Christianity. Believers with different persuasions on these issues still had the fundamental doctrines of Christianity in common.

But not today.


  • We have an ongoing discussion about the nature of Scripture, including lines like "we need to be careful not to elevate the [printed] word above the [living] Word." If you have any familiarity with the liberal-fundamentalist debates of the early 1900's, that sounds like, as Yogi Berra is alleged to have said, "Deja vu all over again."
  • There is a growing acceptance of the idea that salvation can be found apart from personal faith in Christ. The subtle, deadly form of this argument is that while there is no salvation outside of Christ, a person need not embrace Christianity to be redeemed. The more "pop" expression is found in the TD Jakes quote that was floated this week.
  • N.T. Wright, whose views on justification depart from what the church has understood for centuries, recently had no problems embracing a brother scholar who denied the bodily resurrection of Christ.
  • Mark Dever wrote an excellent piece in Christianity Today about the atonement. Because he wanted to help all of evangelicalism to defend this crucial doctrine against liberal rejection? No! Because, as the lead-in line for the CT article says, "More and more evangelicals believe Christ's atoning death is merely a grotesque creation of the medieval imagination." Dever [correctly] says that "At stake is nothing less than the essence of Christianity."

I could go on. In fact, I could go on for quite awhile.

Sounds a lot different than debating over baptism or when Jesus is coming back, doesn't it?

I'm writing this in very small chunks. I'll finish up with some comments about what I think needs to be happening in light of these serious, crucial denials of the heart of the Christian faith by those who still consider themselves to not only be Christians, but evangelical Christians.

T4G Book Give-aways That the Committee Rejected

1. Rappin' the 'Fess - the Westminster Confession in Street Verse by the Duncan Boyz
2. Fun Ways to Tie a Tie by CJ Mahaney
3. The John Piper Encyclopedia of Jokes for Preachers.
4. Justification for Kids - featuring RC Sproul and Larry the Cucumber.
5. Holy Honking Noses: Using A Clown Ministry to Grow Your Church by the 9Marks Staff
6. Father of Blogging by Tim Challies


On a more serious note, Tim Challies linked to a sermon on the DaVinci Code by Al Mohler that was given at Covenant Life Church in MD. Everyone and their grandmother is getting in on the act with responding to the DaVinci code. I am sure that some resources will be better than others. But DR. Mohler's sermon would be a good resource for someone who might not read a book.

Thanks to Carolyn McCully for posting the link to the sermon. Carolyn's blog has some great stuff.

The Evangelical Identity, Part 2

In the first part of this series, I wrote about how there was, as recently as forty years ago, a general consensus about what was and was not evangelical doctrine. I don’t believe that such a consensus exists today. We are certainly moving away from such a consensus.

Before I go on, I need to speak to the issue of the changing nature of theology. Theology has been called a science, and I suppose like all areas of scientific investigation there are going to be refinements in our understanding. While theology is based on divine revelation, its formulations are the product of finite minds. Given that, there is always room to grow in our understanding of God and Scripture. I hope that as I continue to study, I will learn more, have my thinking refined, and be more aware of what God’s Word teaches.

Refined is a key word here. Refined does not mean the denial of what the church (presumably under the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit) has affirmed for centuries. What arrogance to assume that the body of Christ, possessing the Scriptures, has been misled on so many key points of Christian belief! Yet that is what is happening today.

We’re no longer talking about Calvinism vs. Arminianism. We’re not debating Dispensational and Covenant Theology. The issue is not charismatic vs. cessationist thinking. We’re talking about the heart of historic, orthodox Christian faith. And in this writer’s opinion, the evangelical pond is getting too wide. Is it time to redraw the lines?

Granted, there will always be differing views on some things. But in our day we see people proposing different ideas on the essence of the Gospel. If we identify evangelicals as those who believe and affirm the traditional evangel, does that leave room for the inclusion of others who in one way or another deny the traditional understanding of those views?

What’s at stake? I’ll write more about this in part 3.

A "Self-Absorbed" Blogger Responds to Tim Challies

"Humor: Peter, who was at the T4G conference but was too self-absorbed to come over and say "hi" to me, has posted a list of missed giveaway opportunities at the conference. Among them are "RC Sproul, John Piper and John Macarthur Bobble head dolls." Tim Challies

Unfortunately I missed the Band of Bloggers meeting due to missing my ride. But I did see Tim in the hallway twice. But Tim considers me too self-absorbed to say hi? Let's shed some truth on this issue. Who feels comfortable approaching a guy who 1) is wearing a shirt that says, "I was chosen to blog this conference and you were not" and 2) has a posse of blogger wannabees keeping autograph seekers and paparazzi away from him?

I carried a sign that I unfolded on a few occasions that said, "Hey Tim Challies - Hi." But Tim ignored it and one of his "guardians" told me to move on or I'd never blog again, "if you know what I mean."

The Evangelical Identity - Part 1

Some things that I have read over the last few days have led me to begin what will be a two- or three-part series on the issue of what comprises evangelicalism.

Twenty years ago I wrote this paragraph for our church’s 50th anniversary:

Because of a commitment to the Bible as the inspired and unerring Word of God, 99 believers made the decision in 1936 to withdraw from the [denomination name], and establish an independent Bible-preaching congregation in Roslyn.

There is no paper trail from 1936 that will permit me to navigate through the issues that led the pastor and 98 other Christian people to leave their church property (this amounted to most of the congregation) and begin meeting in the local fire hall. But from all that I have read and heard, the issues that led to this split were not unlike what was happening in other places in our country during the “fundamentalist-modernist controversy” of those early decades.

This controversy is reflected in the doctrinal statement that was adopted by our congregation in its infancy. There are actually two of them. There is a general statement of belief that was apparently standard fare for most Christian churches. But then there is a second in which the points mentioned in the first are clarified. The reason for the inclusion of a set of clarifying statements was due to the fact that while some were using similar terms they did not represent the same ideas that orthodox, historic, biblical Christianity meant when believers used them. Thus terms like “the inspiration of the Bible” came to mean that the Bible contained inspired material, or even that the Bible was inspirational.

Through the intervening decades, especially the 40’s through the 60’s and maybe into the 1970’s, evangelicalism had a clear identity. With few exceptions, an evangelical was identified by certain non-negotiable beliefs.

At my ordination in 1977, I was asked to provide a statement of faith, defend it, and then was questioned regarding different matters of theology. Because evangelicals largely had consensus on most doctrinal points, those who examined me, in addition to being sure that I could articulate evangelical doctrine, questioned me on my doctrinal distinctives. Recognizing that there were differences of opinion among Christians in some areas, they wanted to know my views on eschatology, baptism, election, and church government. The two “hot” issues of the day were the charismatic movement that had burst on the scene (and at that time was minimizing doctrine, embracing anyone who had a so-called “experience” of the Holy Spirit, and shattering congregations) and the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture. Harold Lindsell had written The Battle for the Bible and John Warwick Montgomery had edited God’s Inerrant Word. Both books sought to articulate a high view of Scripture. While the issue over inerrancy was significant, there were few other areas – if any – over which evangelicals could not have consensus.

Fast forward to the early 1990’s. Due to a problem in our Christian School, I had been asked to add the role of school administrator to my associate pastor duties. I had served in that role for a number of years when I was invited to participate in an ordination examination for a brother from another congregation. Because of the hours that filling two staff positions involved, I had not been able to attend an ordination council, nor had I been able to maintain an active awareness of what was happening theologically within evangelicalism. As I sat with the other examiners, I was stunned to listen to questions that showed that within almost every traditionally accepted area of theology, some professing evangelicals had begun to “question” what had long been held by professing Christians. I wish I had made a list at the time of new viewpoints and variants (some obviously more significant than others).

Missed Opportunity Giveaways at T4G

The giveaway books were fantastic. Macarthur Study Bible (NASB) topped the list, but the other books were very well chosen and very worthwhile.

That being said, the founders of the T4G should realize that they missed the boat by not providing the following:

1. RC Sproul, John Piper and John Macarthur Bobble head dolls.
2. A DVD of the Star Trek: the Next Generation episode where Captain Picard finds his long-lost separated-at-birth twin, CJ Mahaney.
3. "DJ Ligon" t-shirts.
4. Crystal Cathedral Lego sets
5. VeggieTales Study Bibles to take home to our children and grandchildren.
6. "Reformed By My Own Choice" bumper stickers.
7. "I Bash If You Flash" RC Sproul collector buttons.
8. Unisex tote bag, courtesy of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
9. Special "Whoops I Saw An Angel" Depends (1 in every 100 autographed by Al Mohler)
10. Coupons for the Sovereign Grace Barbershop and Styling Salon: one style fits all.

Try harder in 2008, guys.