March2011Archive for

Ask RC: Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?

Ask R.C.

No. The god they worship is, in reality, a demon. In terms of their own theology, however, he is a single person, transcendent. The God we worship, on the other hand, is the maker of heaven and earth. He is one being and transcendent, who exists in three persons, which are also immanent. Neither the one-ness nor the three-ness of God are tangential attributes. They are instead essential attributes; they define who He is. Move away from that definition and you move away from the true and living God. That same God has spoken in His Word, the Bible. He has not spoken again in the Koran. The God we worship did not send his most important prophet hundreds of years after the ascension of Jesus. The differences are too many to list. The overlap is here- in both instances we have a creator, a unity, a judge, one who…

Ask RC: In worship: Isn’t God concerned only with our heart?

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Is it true that the outward trappings of our worship and our lives matter not at all? Isn’t God concerned only with our hearts? God is indeed principally concerned about where our hearts are. The woman at the well (John 4: 1-15) was concerned about the proper location for worshipping God, while Jesus was more concerned about the proper mind and heart, that we would worship in spirit and in truth. Jesus reiterated this same truth when He spoke of the publican and the Pharisee (Luke 18). The unkempt, unwashed publican cried out “Lord be merciful to me, a sinner” and went home justified. The proper, dignified Pharisee, on the other hand, full of pride, left the temple still under God’s judgment. That said, it is precisely because God is concerned about our hearts that we dare not utterly write off issues of decorum. In The Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis…

Ask RC: Are there still prophets in our day?

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Yes, and no. Too often we in the evangelical church see the prophet as a sort of white witch, a godly soothsayer that can see into the future and tell us what is going to happen. Not only do we not have anyone filling such an office in our day, there was never anyone filling such an office. Foretelling the future never was and never will be the calling of the prophet. The prophet, instead, is called to speak God’s Word to God’s people. The beginning of that Word from God always looked back rather than forward. That is, the prophet served as a kind of lawyer bringing suit for failure to keep covenant. Thus the beginning of the message was “You agreed to this covenant. You said you would honor it.” It moved from this glance backward to an assessment of the present, “You are not keeping the covenant….

Five Things I’m Not Surprised I Don’t Find in the Bible

The Kingdom Notes

In a previous piece I listed five things I am surprised I do not find in the Bible. I introduced the list by affirming the sufficiency of Scripture and the perspicuity of Scripture. I affirmed that my surprise is not evidence that Scripture fails us, but that we fail it. I affirmed as well that in the end we sometimes find answers to difficult questions through the necessary consequences of what is clear in the Bible, rather than what is clear in itself. What follows are some things that are part and parcel of at least some portions of the evangelical church that are not explicitly taught in the Bible. The Reformation did not cure our propensity for elevating our traditions to the level of Scripture. Thus we are always reforming. First, I don’t see programs in the Bible. No Sunday school, no youth group, no Christian schools, no men’s…

The Smell of Death Surrounds You

The Kingdom Notes

I found myself, when a recent graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary persuaded of two truths. First, I understood and believed the Reformed faith. Second, I wasn’t much different from my unbelieving neighbors. The problem wasn’t that my theology was wrong. The problem was that is was stuck. My head was crammed full of sound Reformed doctrine, but it wasn’t getting to my heart, and out my fingers. I suffered from theological constipation. Because the Reformed faith is true, which is to say Biblical, the problem wasn’t, I determined, with my theology. The solution wasn’t to believe it less, but to believe it more. Since then that has been my goal, and could arguably be said to be the focus of my public ministry. I would never want to change the Reformed faith. I’m not the best at explaining it. (But I know who is.) My calling is to hold it…

Ask RC: Can a person be evangelical and not believe in hell?

Ask R.C.

The difficult truth of the matter is that language, while actually having the ability to communicate, is not static. Words have real meanings, but those meanings are grounded both in history and in usage. Sometimes those two come apart, and a word is caught in the tension. “Evangelical” is just one of those words. Historically speaking evangelical was a redundant term for Protestant. In both cases the term referred to those who affirmed the binding authority of the Bible alone and that one could have peace with God only by trusting in the finished work of Christ alone. Contra Rome then the term affirmed sola scriptura and sola fide. Three hundred years after the Reformation, however, the term took a small turn, a tiny nuance was added by the beginnings of theological liberalism. Institutionally theological liberalism was found within Protestant churches. Its defining qualities, however, were a denial of the…

Cooling the Fires of Hell

The Kingdom Notes

Bad theology is rather easy to see. We have been given a true and trustworthy Book. When our convictions clash with rather than flow from that Book, we are wrong, and it is right. What is slightly harder to discern is how, given the clarity and truth of that Word, and our purported commitment to it, we can end up so wrong so often. The Word, however, gives us wisdom even on this question. Consider Peter, the poster child for heroes of the faith who end up doing and saying some pretty stupid things. While Paul was certainly the Apostle to the Gentiles, it was Peter who first opened that door. Acts records His proclamation of the gospel to the Gentiles, and his insistence that they be welcomed in. It includes the story of the Jerusalem Council that publicly codified the glorious truth that Israel and the church are one….

Juicy Nuggets In the Valley of Death

The Kingdom Notes

One of the hardships that comes with walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death is what you are expected to carry out. We tend to think that in that valley there grows a very special sort of tree, a wisdom, or insight tree. We think that this rarest of trees is perpetually heavy laden with low hanging, choice, juicy morsels of brilliance. You’re supposed to bring these precious nuggets out the other side to share with your friends. Understandably, though they should know better, some who trek this valley think they’ve found this precious fruit. The quiet whispers of death on the prowl beget therefore footprints-in-the-sand poems and too often, whole therapeutic books of lessons learned. It is my habit to write one or two pieces a week for the internet. I write columns for two nationally distributed magazines. I publish, six times a year, my own magazine,…