Archive for News
Just last month, we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. This month we celebrate Black History Month. At this point in the 2017 calendar, some may wonder why we need to keep talking about race. Ironically there are others, primarily people of color, who argue that we aren’t talking about it enough. If the recent presidential election showed us anything it’s the fact that we, as a nation, are far more fractured than many of us realized. Not only are we fractured among political lines, we are still severely fractured among ethnic lines. I used to think that we were simply talking past each other, but it now seems opinions and positions have become so hardened that we’re no longer even listening to one another. We must continue talking about racial issues because the racial fracture that remains in our nation is evidence of deeply rooted sin against God as the creator of humanity—in his image (Genesis 1:26-28)—and God as redeemer of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural people (Revelation 7:9-17). The existence of a fractured humanity is not new. Adam’s rebellion caused him to turn against Eve (Genesis 3:9-12). And because humanity inherited Adam’s sin, corruption, and guilt, a human race united in language and culture rebelled against God, resulting in human division among ethnic, language, and cultural lines (Genesis 11). Because of sin, brother turned against brother (Genesis 4; 27; 37); nations turned against nations (Genesis 14); and peoples discriminated against peoples based on ethnic identity (Exodus 1; Numbers 12:1). There is nothing new under the sun.
But, contrary to much of the public talk on race and ethnicity, I do not believe reconciliation occurs apart from the gospel. You see, as I spelled out above, the race issue is a sin problem that has been around long before us. And sin problems can only be dealt with by gospel solutions. In Ephesians, the apostle Paul explains that God’s eternal plan is to exalt Jesus as King and Lord over all things (1:21-22) and to unite all things, whether in heaven or on earth, in Christ (1:10). Specifically, in Ephesians 2, Paul argues that in Christ, God is uniting a fractured humanity—Jew and Gentile. As a result, this new humanity, united in Christ by his Spirit through the gospel, now displays the multi-faceted wisdom of God to the cosmic powers (3:10). In other words, as this new humanity lives together as a church in unified diversity (4:1-6), it displays how wise our God is in saving this multi-ethnic, multi-cultural people of God, and it causes the heavens to declare the glory of God (Revelation 7:11-12).
As the display of God’s glory and wisdom, the church reveals to the world what it’s like to live as God’s people under God’s rule. We are God’s ambassadors representing his kingdom to a world fractured by sin. Therefore, we are to show the world the transforming love of God that unites those who were formerly fractured and at war with one another. That is to say, we are to show the world the unified diversity of the kingdom of heaven. To be sure, we are not born again as “mature adults” in Christ. No! We are born again as “infants” in Christ, needing the milk of the word. But, we are not to remain infants in Christ! And Paul explains how we are to grow up into maturity (Ephesians 4). The ministers of the word are given to the church by the ascended Christ (4:11), and they, in turn, equip the church with the word of God (4:12). This preached/taught word is then spoken throughout the congregation—that’s discipleship: speaking the truth in love to one another so that we would all grow up and look more and more like Jesus (4:13).
So, yes, we need to keep talking about racial issues because these are gospel and discipleship issues, just like marriage, parenting, holiness, obedience, etc. Those who are mature need to help those who are still infants (discipleship). We need to encourage one another to represent well God and his rule over our lives while we’re still in this fractured world. We need to show the world true reconciliation and peace so that they may glorify our Father in heaven and embrace his Son as Lord.
How are we to keep talking about these issues? Let’s start by doing it in the proper context. Don’t carry this conversation on in social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)! It is a dangerous place because we can say things online we would never say to someone’s face. Second, avoid stereotypes. Generalizations describe a general truth about a population: i.e, people born in Puerto Rico generally speak Spanish. Stereotypes, on the other hand, are harmful, even sinful. Stereotypes apply a characteristic (usually negative one) of an individual or small group to an entire demographic: i.e., undocumented immigrants are rapists and murderers. When we classify people with stereotypes, we fail to see them as individuals created as God’s image. Thirdly, listen more than you speak. Learn from one another. Sit down and get to know people who are different than you; ask them lots of questions; hear their stories; and tell them yours. Finally, read! Read various authors on the topic of race, ethnicity. Read the Bible to see what it says; read biblical scholars who explain what the Bible says about race and ethnicity; read African-Americans and Latinos and Asians on race and ethnicity; and read the people who disagree with you to understand where they’re coming from. If you’re only reading the people who agree with you, then you will be stuck in an echo chamber, and you’ll never grow out of infancy. I’ll paraphrase Tim Keller here: “If you read only one person, you’ll become a clone; if you read only a couple of people, you’ll become confused; but if you read many authors, you’ll be able to form your own conclusions.”
I thank God for High Pointe! We are striving to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ in all areas of our Christian lives, including what the Bible says about race and ethnicity. To be sure, some of us are just getting started in this journey, while others are more mature. But, let us speak the truth in love to one another, and let us grow up together in Christ until we all attain a mature manhood that reflects the image of Christ.
On Sunday, September 11, 2016, we tackled the weighty issue of religion and politics. In the morning service, I preached from 1 Peter 2:13-17, in order to help us think biblically about how Christians should relate to governing authorities and how to think about the upcoming presidential elections. If you would like to listen to that message, you can find it here: Thinking Biblically About Government and Politics (1 Peter 2:13-17).
On Sunday evening, we had the privilege of hosting a forum on God and Politics. You can find it here: High Pointe Forum on Christianity & Politics. Pastor Ben Wright’s 35 points were so helpful that I asked his permission to provide them to you in full. Here they are below. Please carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully work through each one.
9/11/16 God & Politics Forum | 35 principles Christians can agree on
Why do we need to talk about this?
- We have to because Jesus Christ reigns over all. As his ambassadors, our job is to live as his representatives and declare his message.
What’s government for?
- Government’s mission to punish evil and reward good (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17).
Should we be favorably inclined toward government?
- Almost any government is better than no government.
- Because we are a representative or constitutional democracy, the responsibilities delegated to government in Scripture fall ultimately to American citizens.
- We owe government prayer, taxes, respect, and honor.
- You are not in sin if you oppose elected officials or their policies. You are in sin if you do not honor them and pray for them.
- Christians should be engaged in politics and government.
- Opportunities abound at local levels to engage influentially.
- It is right to be grateful for how our government has fought evil and promoted good.
- It is easy for white middle class people to believe our government did a great job fighting evil and promoting good throughout our history.
- Whatever era of American history you look back to as the ideal certainly wasn’t ideal for everyone. In every era, people have suffered under injustice that was tolerated, if not propagated, by our government and our culture.
- It is possible to be both compassionate & treat people with the dignity of divine image-bearers, and at the same time to favor enforcing the law & supporting law enforcement.
- Government is neither the fundamental problem nor the fundamental solution.
- Politicians often identify real problems but propose terrible solutions.
- We should be grateful but realistic, knowing government officials are fallen humans, just as we are.
How might we be thinking poorly about Christianity & politics?
- Our membership in a church and our citizenship in Jesus’ Kingdom are more fundamental to our identity than our American citizenship (When we forget this, we are thinking poorly about Christianity & politics).
- It is possible, if not common, for Christians to prioritize political convictions over the Church’s mission.
- What happens in elections has zero impact on Jesus’ promise to build his Church and the Holy Spirit’s work to make that happen.
- Our political opponents are our neighbors, not our enemies. They are people we are sent on a mission to reach, not to war against.
- Religious freedom is good and desirable.
- God doesn’t need religious freedom in America to accomplish his plan.
- It is possible to possess righteous anger over government’s failure to fulfill its God-given mission.
- Other people may perceive real failures of government that are invisible to us, and we should learn from them.
- Unrighteous anger reveals how shallow is our trust in God.
- It is dangerous, if not common, to treasure American laws and freedom more than souls being set free from the penalty of sin and power of the devil.
- It is possible, if not likely, to cast a morally justifiable vote while possessing immoral motivations.
- People who argue there’s only one choice for Christians to make in this election year are placing a constraint on the Christian conscience that Scripture does not permit.
- Disagreements among Christians over how to vote often emerge less from disagreements over principles, and more from disagreements over how we weigh our principles.
- We need to figure out what principles we really stand on. Until then, we should guard our pronouncements.
- It is possible, if not likely, that in this election Satan is executing a strategy designed to divide the Church & distract it from its mission.
- From an eternal perspective, we should be far more concerned about the disunity of the Church and distraction from our mission than the disintegration of historic American political principles.
- Christians need to be people who are committed to work through these issues without allowing them to divide us.
- The normal standing of Christians is on the margins of society. We should expect opposition and suffering.
- Anger, fear, and despair over the loss of a privileged standing are not marks of people who understand what it means to follow Christ. They may be marks of people who treasure American citizenship more than citizenship in the kingdom of God.
- If this election season drives American Christians to dislodge our hope in political parties and presidential candidates and to fix our hope on the gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, then this election season will be God’s grace to his Church.
Sadly, all the violence around us and in our world no longer shocks us. But that is not to deny that the current violence is evil and leaves behind a sea of suffering and grief. In this midst of such evil, questions abound as a nation attempts to make sense of these tragedies. Unfortunately, many will be left wanting because their worldviews cannot account for such evil. How can a worldview that has such a high view of man and holds that man is basically good provide answers when man commits such horrific evils?
As Christians, when we face such evil and grief and suffering, we must face it with several biblical assumptions. (1) There is such a thing as evil. (2) Because of Adam’s sin, we are all born sinful and capable of great evil. (3) God is absolutely sovereign. (4) God is always good, no matter how bad things seem. (5) God Himself has addressed evil and sin at the cross of His one and only Son, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 2:14-18). With such a biblical foundation, we can face evil and suffering and grief with hope. What might grief look like from a Christian perspective? Let’s look at just one example from Psalm 6.
In Psalm 6, David has fallen into deep depression for some reason that is not immediately apparent to us. Perhaps David’s depression is a direct result of a personal sin; perhaps it is a result of his adversaries (6:8, 10). Whatever the source of David’s dismay, we hear him cry out to God in utter desperation.
First we hear the cry for mercy and grace. He pleads with God to withhold His wrath. God’s wrath is what all sin deserves. If David had sinned, He is asking God to be merciful to him in judging sin. If David had not sinned, then he is merely pleading with God because his suffering seems unbearable. His suffering is such that he feels he is “pining away” (6:2) and wonders how long it will be before God delivers him (6:3).
It is at this point that we hear David’s second cry: the cry for deliverance. David is at a point where he no longer senses God’s presence, so he asks God to “return” so that He would rescue him. David knows he does not deserve such salvation, but he knows that God is a covenant God, so he pleads for salvation based on God’s promise to love His covenant people; this is the lovingkindness of God (6:4).
Next we hear David’s cry of grief. His suffering is so great that he is weary of weeping; he has shed so many tears that his bed is ready to float away (6:6); David is so overwhelmed by suffering that his physical strength has left him (6:7). If you have ever been in such a state of depression then you know what David experienced. You know how difficult it is to get out of bed because you do not have enough strength. You have cried to the point where you think you have no more tears left inside of you, and you wonder if there is anyone to hear your cries; is there anyone who can come to your rescue?
The good news is that there is. David understood this, so he offered a final cry of assurance. He recognized that just like every other time in the past that this time also, the Lord heard his weeping; the Lord heard his prayer. He had confidence that the Lord would answer his prayers (6:8-9) and would make all things right (6:10). Friends, do you have such assurance? Do you have such confidence? You can if you turn to the God who is our ever-present help in time of trouble. God works all His children’s circumstances and sufferings for His ultimate glory and our complete joy and eternal good (Romans 8:28). In the midst of tragedy and grief and suffering put your hope in God!
Unlike many Roman Catholics, I grew up very devout. I remember a kind, retired priest taking me under his wing and showing me the ways of the Catholic church. Much of what drew me in as a young teen was the mystery of God and the reverence with which this particular priest approached God. With time, however, the more questions I had, the more the mysteries began to dissipate in the light of God’s Word. I don’t want to rehearse my personal journey out of the Catholic church here; what’s important to note is that theological mystery is good for the Catholic church and many Catholics are content to live “in the dark” about what the Catholic church explicitly teaches in many areas.
I, for one, am glad the Pope said what he said concerning atheists and eternal life. To many in the secular media, the Pope’s admission that atheists who follow their conscience are heaven-bound will sound like a new and welcome break from the dogma of conservative Catholicism, represented most recently in Benedict. The media elites will celebrate Pope Francis as a liberal breath of fresh air in the stuffy halls of the Vatican. Others within evangelicalism will be aghast at such an “admission” and rebuke the Pope for diverging from Catholic dogma. However, this Pope has duped both the secular media and conservative evangelicals if they think the Pope has said anything new or controversial. In fact, what Pope Francis stated has been the normative teaching of the Roman Catholic Church since Vatican II.
In Lumen Gentium, Chapter 2-On the People of God, Canon 16, the Catholic Church teaches:
Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God.(18*) In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh.(125) On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues.(126); But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohamedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things,(127) and as Saviour wills that all men be saved.(128) Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.(19*) Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.(20*) She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator.(129) Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, “Preach the Gospel to every creature”,(130) the Church fosters the missions with care and attention.
So yes, since Vatican II the Catholic Church has taught that anyone who has “not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God” may be saved. So long as those who know not, deny or are ignorant of God “strive to live a good life,” they will merit eternal life because the church sees this “goodness” as “given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life.” When Pope Francis admitted that atheists who follow the dictates of their conscience go to heaven, he was merely quoting Catholic dogma. Here is the pertinent statement:
Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.
However, it’s not just atheists who go to heaven according to the Catholic Church; it is also Jews, Muslims (Mohamedans), those acknowledging their creator and those seeking an “unknown god.” Anyone, anywhere who sincerely seeks truth, light will find life according to the Catholic Church.
To be sure, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that salvation is only through Christ’s sacrificial and atoning work on the cross. So the Catholic Church teaches that salvation is through Christ and no other. However, the Church would say that one does not need to express explicit faith in Christ to be saved. This is the official position of the Catholic Church: inclusivism. Evangelicals have argued that the Bible teaches that salvation is only through Christ’s sacrificial and atoning work on the cross AND that one must believe in Christ, receiving his cross work on their behalf and turning away from a life of sin: exclusivism or particularism.
Recently, some “evangelicals”, like the Catholic Church, have also embraced inclusivism: i.e., John Sanders (1991), Clark Pinnock (1995), Terrance Tiessen (2004). Unfortunately, their influence has grown. However, it’s not hard to understand why. You only have ask a number of people in your church the age-old question about the man on the deserted island who’s never heard of Christ and never will. What happens to him? What happens to those who never hear the gospel? It is an emotional question, and we are inclined to give an emotional answer.
Nevertheless, we must work through the difficult topics and teach what the Bible says rather than shrouding difficult doctrines in mystery. Mystery only works when people ask no questions. Even hard questions deserve answers. When we think carefully about the difficult question concerning the fate of those who have never heard the gospel, we should be moved to feel the urgency of the church’s mission. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. However, if it doesn’t matter whether or not people hear the gospel and place explicit faith in Christ for salvation, then we will do more harm than good when we go on mission, for if we go and they reject Christ, then their fate will be sealed.
A Couple of Resources for Thinking Through Pluralism, Universalism, Inclusivism & Particularism
Faith Comes by Hearing: A Response to Inclusivism, edited by Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson.
Is Jesus the Only Savior? by Ronald H. Nash
There is much discussion right now about what evangelicals should do this presidential election. Some beloved brothers and sisters argue that the two party political system has provided two “evil” or at least undesirable choices. Therefore, they ask, why should one have to vote for the lesser of two evils. This is a principled stance.
Other beloved brothers and sisters argue that not to vote is to vote for the greater of two evils, or at the very least not to stand up for, for example, the rights of the unborn.
In light of the fact that we evangelical are sometimes gullible and may be tempted to listen to fringe voices, I thought I would simply list a few links from more thoughtful persons representing the various positions.
Albert Mohler, others – panel: The Mormon Moment? Religious Convictions and the 2012 Election
John Piper – I Am Going to Vote
By now, you’ve likely read that a fourth century text fragment has been found which purportedly proves that Jesus had a wife – likely, Mary Magdalene. Of course, this story line is nothing new. Remember Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code?
Just in case there is any confusion, here are a couple of good responses to all the hoopla:
“The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife? When Sensationalism Masquerades as Scholarship”
by R. Albert Mohler
“The Far Less Sensational Truth about Jesus’ Wife”
by Michael Kruger
Jesus does in fact have a wife – the church: the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-33).
During an economic crisis when everyone is trying to pinch pennies to make ends meet, how much do you think that daily $4.00 Starbuck’s is costing you at the end of the year when you tally it all up?
If you were to brew your own instead of buying a cup of coffee on your way to work, your savings could be about $700 per year, and that doesn’t even factor in the savings associated with not picking up that blueberry muffin on the side.
What could you do with an extra $700.00?
Evidently, the younger generations are a little smarter? They are foregoing that $4.00 latte and instead spending only $2.00 per can for energy drinks. But as Coleman notes:
Energy drinks are far from cheap to purchase, with a typical price tag of $2 or more for a can. If you drink several cans throughout the day while at work, you’ll put a serious dent in your wallet – on the order of $1000-$1500/year.
Of course, if you add cigarettes to the “vice” list, the costs really add up, according to Coleman:
A pack of cigarettes can cost $4-$5 (or more!) depending on where you live. So someone who has a two pack a day habit could easily be spending $240 per month, or $2,880 per year. Even cutting back to one pack per day can significantly increase your cash flow. If you were to quit smoking completely and invest that $2,880 per year and it grew at 8% annually for 20 years, you could amass over $104,000.
Of course, we haven’t even talked about drinks – I’m not just talking about alcoholic beverages, either. With five daughters, whenever we go out to a restaurant, if each of us ordered a soft drink or tea, that would add about $14.00 to our total tab: $2.00/drink X seven people (we’ve all learned to drink water at restaurants).
I wonder if we were to take a careful look at our expenditures, what we would find – what savings we might find. What can we do with such savings? Imagine how many more gospel ministries and missionaries all of us coffee drinking, energy boost needing evangelicals might support if we stopped and counted the cost.
Oklahoma State women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna have died in a plane crash along with two others, just 10 months after the school commemorated the 10th anniversary of a crash that killed 10 men associated with the men’s program.
Jen Floyd Engel, in a Fox Sports Exclusive, asks “Why the heck we hate Tim Tebow?” In part she says:
His religious fervor is an easy target for the vitriol spewed from those who dislike him, but the reasons are much deeper than that. From his advocacy of abstinence to his infamous “You will never see another team play this hard” speech at Florida, it is like he is too good to be true. He is too nice, and thereby we want him to trip up so we can feel better. We want him to be revealed as a hypocrite, and when that fails to happen, we settle for gleefully celebrating his failures on the football field. And why? Because he dares to say thanks?
Redeemer Seminary is the new name for the Westminster Texas Campus
Since 1929 Westminster Theological Seminary has been training “specialists in the Bible” who minister the gospel worldwide. In 1999 Westminster began a Texas Campus to extend the knowledge of the glory of God in Christ through offering theological education grounded in the seminary’s core values and serving churches and communities in the Southwestern United States. By God’s grace, the Texas Campus has graduated students who now serve churches and ministries across the United States. In 2009 Westminster Theological Seminary launched its Texas Campus as Redeemer Seminary, an independent institution which shares the core values and theological commitments upon which Westminster was founded. Westminster concludes its M.Div. and M.A.R. programs in Texas in cooperation with Redeemer during the transition. New students enroll as Redeemer Seminary students. For more of our story, read about Redeemer