Saturday, December 31, 2005

Making Resolutions? (Conclusion)

Two of the few remaining eighteenth century New England Puritan Meetinghouses. The top two photos are the Meetinghouse in Sandown, New Hampshire. The bottom photo is Rocky Hill Meetinghouse in Amesbury, Massachusetts. Notice how the shape of the building, the location of gallery (balcony), and the central "wineglass" pulpit serve to reinforce the centrality of the preached Word in Puritan worship.

Jonathan Edwards' "Resolutions" (53-70)

53. Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. July 8, 1723.

54. Whenever I hear anything spoken in conversation of any person, if I think it would be praiseworthy in me, Resolved to endeavor to imitate it. July 8, 1723.

55. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if, I had already seen the happiness of heaven, and hell torments. July 8, 1723.

56. Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.

57. Resolved, when I fear misfortunes and adversities, to examine whether I have done my duty, and resolve to do it, and let the event be just as providence orders it. I will as far as I can, be concerned about nothing but my duty, and my sin. June 9, and July 13 1723.

58. Resolved, not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness and benignity. May 27, and July 13, 1723.

59. Resolved, when I am most conscious of provocations to ill nature and anger, that I will strive most to feel and act good-naturedly; yea, at such times, to manifest good nature, though I think that in other respects it would be disadvantageous, and so as would be imprudent at other times. May 12, July 11, and July 13.

60. Resolved, whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination. July 4, and 13, 1723.

61. Resolved, that I will not give way to that listlessness which I find unbends and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on religion, whatever excuse I may have for it-that what my listlessness inclines me to do, is best to be done, etc. May 21, and July 13, 1723.

62. Resolved, never to do anything but duty, and then according to Ephesians 6:6-8, to do it willingly and cheerfully as unto the Lord, and not to man:‹knowing that whatever good thing any man doth, the same shall he receive of the Lord.Š June 25 and July 13, 1723.

63. On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true luster, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, to act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time. January 14 and July 13, 1723.

64. Resolved, when I find those "groanings which cannot be uttered" (Romans 8:26), of which the Apostle speaks, and those "breakings of soul for the longing it hath," of which the Psalmist speaks, Psalm 119:20, that I will promote them to the utmost of my power, and that I will not be weary of earnestly endeavoring to vent my desires, nor of the repetitions of such earnestness. July 23, and August 10, 1723.

65. Resolved, very much to exercise myself in this, all my life long, viz. with the greatest openness, of which I am capable of, to declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to him: all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires, and every thing, and every circumstance; according to Dr. Manton' s 27th Sermon on Psalm 119. July 26, and Aug.10 1723.

66. Resolved, that I will endeavor always to keep a benign aspect, and air of acting and speaking in all places, and in all companies, except it should so happen that duty requires otherwise.

67. Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what am I the better for them, and what I might have got by them.

68. Resolved, to confess frankly to myself all that which I find in myself, either infirmity or sin; and, if it be what concerns religion, also to confess the whole case to God, and implore needed help. July 23, and August 10, 1723.

69. Resolved, always to do that, which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. August 11, 1723.

70. Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak. August 17, 1723.

Happy New Year!


South Africa blues

I arrived in Pretoria, South Africa, last evening around midnight after a 30 hour trip (18 hours on board a plane in the back row!). I arrived minus my luggage! The problem lay in Amsterdam when I had barely 20 minutes to get off one plane and board another. I'm due to preach tomorrow three times and all I have are my jeans and running shoes (I travel in comfort). Today I had to go and buy shoes, socks a pair of trousers and a shirt. [In case you're wondering, my mother taught me to pack my underwear in a carry on, just in case, or just in another case if you see what I mean). They say the suitcases will arrive Tuesday (but my hosts are doubtful).

I'll keep you posted as the week proceeds.

Blessings on the Lord's Day to you all


Friday, December 30, 2005

Shopping Religious Supermarkets

As 2006 fast approaches, let’s not forget that we live in the context of what David Wells calls, “religious supermarkets.” Many people in the coming year will be browsing for the "right" inner spirituality. The following is just one illustration of what is, sadly, all too common. This interview was conducted by Marc Gunter and published in Fortune, June 26, 2001. Gunther writes,

“Not many courtroom lawyers can shut their mouths for an hour, let alone a day or a week. But Thomas Crisman, a patent attorney and litigator with Jenkens & Gilchrist, a big corporate-law firm in Dallas, leaves his business behind every winter to spend a month in silence at a meditation retreat in rural India. He does so to deepen his practice of an increasingly popular form of Buddhist meditation known as Vipassana.”

“Ordinarily a voluble man, the 59-year-old Crisman actually looks forward to his month of silence. ‘The transition can be difficult,’ he says. ‘You're coming out of a high-speed, high-energy, hard-driving world, and you're moving to a much quieter, more peaceful place.’ But the payoff is worth it, so much so that Crisman has taken a month-long retreat in India every year since 1980, when he met S.N. Goenka, a onetime Myanmar industrialist who is now among the world's leading meditation teachers. Back home, Crisman and his wife, Tina, operate a Vipassana Website and oversee a meditation center in Kaufman, Texas, that puts between 500 and 1,000 people a year through a ten-day introductory silent Vipassana course.”

“Buddhists believe that practicing meditation helps restore people to a natural state, filled with love and compassion. ‘I don't know anybody who has been through the full ten days who doesn't come out the other side of it, really, a different person,’ Crisman says. ‘It's like scrubbing the paint off the outside of the light bulb and letting the light shine through.’”

“Raised as a Baptist in West Texas, Crisman discovered meditation after experiencing a mix of career success and personal discontent. When a fellow patent lawyer named Jack Holder invited him to a retreat, Crisman figured he had nothing to lose. Holder, who recalls that Crisman cried for 45 minutes when the retreat ended, says, ‘I knew then that something had happened.’ Crisman was so taken with Vipassana that he arranged to spend several months in India and considered quitting the law. . . . Stan Moore, a law partner and friend, says, ‘Most attorneys look forward to the cocktail hour to go out and drown their stresses. Tom goes to meditate.’”

We must remember the words Jesus spoke to the woman of Samaria in John 4: [13] "Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again; [14] but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” [23] "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. [24] God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

Making Resolutions? (5)

Monument to Jonathan Edwards in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, erected by his family.

Jonathan Edwards' "Resolutions" (37-52)

37. Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent,- what sin I have committed,-and wherein I have denied myself;-also at the end of every week, month and year. Dec. 22 and 26, 1722.

38. Resolved, never to speak anything that is ridiculous, sportive, or matter of laughter on the Lord' s day. Sabbath evening, Dec. 23, 1722.

39. Resolved, never to do any thing of which I so much question the lawfulness of, as that I intend, at the same time, to consider and examine afterwards, whether it be lawful or not; unless I as much question the lawfulness of the omission.

40. Resolved, to inquire every night, before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking. Jan. 7, 1723.

41. Resolved, to ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better. Jan. 11, 1723.

42. Resolved, frequently to renew the dedication of myself to God, which was made at my baptism; which I solemnly renewed, when I was received into the communion of the church; and which I have solemnly re-made this twelfth day of January, 1722-23.

43. Resolved, never, henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God' s; agreeable to what is to be found in Saturday, January 12, 1723.

44. Resolved, that no other end but religion, shall have any influence at all on any of my actions; and that no action shall be, in the least circumstance, any otherwise than the religious end will carry it. January 12, 1723.

45. Resolved, never to allow any pleasure or grief, joy or sorrow, nor any affection at all, nor any degree of affection, nor any circumstance relating to it, but what helps religion. Jan. 12 and 13, 1723.

46. Resolved, never to allow the least measure of any fretting uneasiness at my father or mother. Resolved to suffer no effects of it, so much as in the least alteration of speech, or motion of my eye: and to be especially careful of it with respect to any of our family.

47. Resolved, to endeavor, to my utmost, to deny whatever is not most agreeable to a good, and universally sweet and benevolent, quiet, peaceable, contented and easy, compassionate and generous, humble and meek, submissive and obliging, diligent and industrious, charitable and even, patient, moderate, forgiving and sincere temper; and to do at all times, what such a temper would lead me to; and to examine strictly, at the end of every week, whether I have done so. Sabbath morning. May 5, 1723.

48. Resolved, constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or not; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of. May 26, 1723.

49. Resolved, that this never shall be, if I can help it.

50. Resolved, I will act so as I think I shall judge would have been best, and most prudent, when I come into the future world. July 5, 1723.

51. Resolved, that I will act so, in every respect, as I think I shall wish I had done, if I should at last be damned. July 8, 1723.

52. I frequently hear persons in old age, say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age. July 8, 1723.


Today is the anniversary of the ordination to the ministry of the gospel of Charles Grandison Finney. His influence upon evangelicalism in the twentieth century is incalculable. According to William McLoughlin: "The difference between [Jonathan] Edwards and Finney is essentially the difference between the medieval and modern temper. One saw God as the centre of the universe, the other saw man. One believed that revivals were 'prayed down' and the other that they were 'worked up'. "

Born in New England in 1792 and raised in Adams, New York State, Finney was reared in a Presbyterian environment. He was converted in 1821 and ordained in 1824. Following a time when he seems to have been used as an instrument in what appear to be genuine revivals, Finney began to suggest that the Edwardsian/first Great Awakening understanding of revival was fundamentally flawed. Rather than seeing revivals (like the rain) as something God sends in his sovereignty in answer to prayer, they should be thought of something that lies within the power of man to accomplish.

Calvinism of the "old school" rightly rejected Finneyism as an age old heresy.

Wikipedia, Relativism and the Process of Truth

Ruling Elder, Steve Rosenblatt, emailed me about this article a few days ago. It raises some important issues about our culture and our current tendencies of thought.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Philip Paul Bliss 1838-1876

The author of the hymns, “Man of Sorrows—What a Name!” and “Jesus Loves Even Me” and the music to “It is Well with My Soul” died on this day, December 29, 1876 in Ashtabula, Ohio. He and his wife were on board a train when a bridge collapsed on top of them. Apparently, he survived the ordeal but was killed when he returned into the train, now on fire, in an unsuccessful attempt to rescue his wife.

In his luggage, apparently on a different train, they discovered the words to another of his hymns: “I Will Sing of My Redeemer.”

Making Resolutions? (4)

My wife, Cindy, took these photographs of the "Misson House" in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. This is one of the few remaining buildings from the time that Edwards ministered here to a small congregation of English settlers and Native Americans.

Jonathan Edwards' "Resolutions" (19-36)

19. Resolved, never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump.

20. Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance, in eating and drinking.

21. Resolved, never to do any thing, which if I should see in another, I should count a just occasion to despise him for, or to think any way the more meanly of him. (Resolutions 1 through 21 written in one setting in New Haven in 1722)

22. Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.

23. Resolved, frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God' s glory, to repute it as a breach of the 4th Resolution.

24. Resolved, whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then, both carefully endeavor to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.

25. Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.

26. Resolved, to cast away such things, as I find do abate my assurance.

27. Resolved, never willfully to omit any thing, except the omission be for the glory of God; and frequently to examine my omissions.

28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

29. Resolved, never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession, which I cannot hope God will accept.

30. Resolved, to strive to my utmost every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.

31. Resolved, never to say any thing at all against any body, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honor, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule; often, when I have said anything against anyone, to bring it to, and try it strictly by the test of this Resolution.

32. Resolved, to be strictly and firmly faithful to my trust, that that, in Proverbs 20:6,"A faithful man who can find?" may not be partly fulfilled in me.

33. Resolved, to do always, what I can towards making, maintaining, and preserving peace, when it can be done without overbalancing detriment in other respects. Dec. 26, 1722.

34. Resolved, in narrations never to speak any thing but the pure and simple verity.

35. Resolved, whenever I so much question whether I have done my duty, as that my quiet and calm is thereby disturbed, to set it down, and also how the question was resolved. Dec. 18, 1722.

36. Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call for it. Dec. 19, 1722.


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Charles Hodge

Today is the anniversary of the birth of the Princeton theologian, Charles Hodge. Born on December 28, 1797, Hodge was ordained to the ministry in 1821 and spent most of his life teaching theology at Princeton Seminary.

He was as eminent an exegete as he was a theologian and his commentaries on Romans, Ephesians as well as 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians are still regarded as the some of finest available.

He was fond of saying that Princeton had never originated a new idea—a statement much seized upon by the growing liberal element of the nineteenth century; but this meant no more than that Princeton was the advocate of historical Calvinism in opposition to the modified and provincial Calvinism of a later day. He is rightly considered as one of America’s finest theologians and his 3-volumed Systematic Theology (recently abridged in one volume) is a seminary text to this day.

Making Resolutions? (3)

Jonathan Edwards' "Resolutions" (1-18)

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God's help, I do humbly entreat Him by His grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ's sake.

Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God' s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever.

2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new contrivance and invention to promote the aforementioned things.

3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.

4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.

5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

8. Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God. July 30.

9. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.

10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.

11. Resolved, when I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances do not hinder.

12. Resolved, if I take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by.

13. Resolved, to be endeavoring to find out fit objects of charity and liberality.

14. Resolved, never to do any thing out of revenge.

15. Resolved, never to suffer the least motions of anger towards irrational beings.

16. Resolved, never to speak evil of anyone, so that it shall tend to his dishonor, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.

17. Resolved, that I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.

18. Resolved, to live so, at all times, as I think is best in my devout frames, and when I have clearest notions of things of the gospel, and another world.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Making Resolutions? (2)

A Brief Introduction to Jonathan Edwards

On January 11, 1723, a nineteen year old pastor living in New York City wrote, “Resolved, to ask myself at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly in any respect have done better.” That young man was, of course, Jonathan Edwards. Like many of us, Edwards uses the occasion of a new year to reflect, take stock, take action, and make resolutions.

Edwards was extraordinary. B.B. Warfield calls Edwards “The one figure of real greatness in the intellectual life of colonial America.” Mark Noll says he “was responsible for the most God-centered as well as the most intellectually subtle reasoning in all of American Evangelical history. . . . [yet he is] virtually unknown among the hordes of evangelicals who are his religious descendents.”

Throughout his life, Edwards was consumed with this question: “What makes a person a Christian?” More specifically, how does a person become a Christian and what are the marks, or signs, of genuine Christianity? He wrestles with these questions in his personal resolutions. What he produces is a map, a map he will use to chart a course for his entire life.

Twenty years later we see the flowering of these reflections in one of his most popular books, the Treatise Concerning Religious Affections. The Affections was originally a series of sermons based upon 1 Peter 1:8, “and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” Edwards believed that this text should be a normative Christian experience. All Christians, walking by faith and fixing their eyes upon Christ, should be characterized by joy inexpressible and full of glory.

My hope is that Edwards' "map" will help give you direction and encouragement as you enter a New Year. First, a brief introduction.

Edwards was a son of Massachusetts Bay. His Great Grandfather, William, came to the colonies as part of the "Great Migration" from Old England to New England that began in the 1630s. Edwards was born in 1703 in East Windsor, Connecticut, the same year as John Wesley and three years before Benjamin Franklin. Of the eleven children born to Timothy and Esther Edwards, ten were female. Jonathan was the only male. Each one of the Edwards children was over six feet tall. One day Timothy Edwards quipped, “I have sixty feet of daughters!”

Edwards attended Yale College and graduated at 17 years old, first in his class. Following his graduation he filled the pulpit of a small Presbyterian church in New York City and was latter a tutor a Yale. In the late 1720s he was ordained and installed as assistant minister at the Congregational Church in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he served with his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard. He was married to Sara Pierrepont in 1727, who was quite an amazing person in her own right. When Stoddard died two years later, Edwards became the senior minister in Northampton.

In 1734-1735 he was one of the leading preachers in a revival that would eventually spread throughout the American colonies in 1740s. On September 18, 1740, George Whitefield preached to thirty thousand people on Boston Common. The population of Boston at the time was only ten thousand. During this time Edwards wrote a series of sermons and treatises defending the Great Awakening as a true revival. He argued that in spite of occasional excesses, the Awakening was a genuine work of the Holy Spirit.

As the Awakening subsided, three controversies arose in Edwards' church. First, the question arose about who was qualified to be admitted to communion. Second, Edwards argued that his salary was not keeping up with inflation. Third, an intense disagreement flared up regarding how to discipline a handful of young men engaged in unseemly actions toward young women. These controversies culminated in the dismissal of Edwards from his church. In 1751, he settled in the frontier town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts as pastor to settlers and missionary to Indians. It is here that he wrote many of his most profound theological works. These include Freedom of the Will, The End for Which God Created the World, Nature of True Virtue, and Original Sin.

Seven years later, following the death of his son-in-law, Aaron Burr, Sr., then President of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University), he accepted the call to serve as the new president. He only served for a few months. He died in 1758 at the age of fifty- four, the result of a reaction to a Small Pox inoculation. His twenty-six year old daughter, Esther, and his forty-eight year old wife, Sara, both died later that same year. Edwards is buried in Princeton Cemetery in the “President’s plot.”

For Further Reading

Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University:
Jonathan Edwards: A Life (Yale, 2003), George Marsden
Jonathan Edwards: A Biography (Banner of Truth, 1988), Iain Murray
Jonathan Edwards: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought (P&R, 2001), Stephen Nichols
Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions and Advice to Young Converts (P&R, 2001), Edited by Stephen Nichols


Monday, December 26, 2005

Making Resolutions?

It’s that time again: “I resolve” is ubiquitous. “I resolve to read the Bible from cover to cover in 2006.” “I resolve to go to South Beach with Mr. Atkins.” “I resolve to better understand the planet my spouse inhabits.” "I resolve to make no resolutions." Whether your New Year’s resolutions include reading through the Bible, losing weight, nurturing a better relationship with your spouse, or making no resolutions at all, there is no denying that the advent of a new year invites reflection.

I am still reflecting upon a sentence I read not long ago: “Edwards spent his whole life preparing to die.” This sobering statment is the first sentence from the final chapter of George Marsden’s magisterial biography, Jonathan Edwards: A Life. It introduces the chapter entitled, “The Transitory and the Enduring.” Marsden emphasizes that Jonathan Edwards often reminded his eighteenth century New England congregation that “those who were sitting comfortably one Sabbath might be in the grave the next.” For those who reject Jesus Christ, “life is like walking a rotten canvas” that will give way at any moment. Marsden continues,

"Edwards worked constantly to cultivate gratitude, praise, worship, and dependence upon his Savior. Whatever his failings, he attempted every day to see Christ’s love in all things, to walk according to God’s precepts, and to give up attachments to worldly pleasures in anticipation of that closer spiritual union that death would bring."

When Edwards was a young man he took the time to write down what we might call today a personal mission statement. Some of these “resolutions” date from his years at the fledgling Yale College. He was a teenager at the time. Others were written when he was pastor of a small Presbyterian Church in New York City. These goals would direct his thoughts and actions for the rest of his life. Recently, Edwards’ resolutions along with his “Advice to Young Converts” have been edited by Stephen Nichols and re-published in booklet form (P&R Publishing, 2001).

Drawing his conclusions from his encyclopedic grasp of the Scriptures, Edwards challenges himself to “live with all my might, while I do live.” Over the next few days we will look together at some of the resolutions of the man David Martyn-Loyd Jones called the “Mount Everest” of theologians. Edwards’ ideals are lofty, but they display insight, commitment, and urgency that are just as important today as they were almost 300 years ago.


Saturday, December 24, 2005

On one particular cold, dark December evening in the 1770's . . .

John Newton’s, “Praise for the Incarnation”

The life of John Newton is familiar to many. He was a slave-trading sea captain who was converted to Christ and appointed Vicar of the Parish Church in Olney, Buckinghamshire, England, in 1764. On one particular cold, dark December evening in 1770's, he introduced a new hymn to his flock. It was Christmas Day, and he was determined to lead his humble congregation in "Praise for the Incarnation."

Sweeter sounds than music knows
Charm me in Immanuel's name;
All her hopes my spirit owes
To his birth, and cross, and shame.

When he came, the angels sung,
"Glory be to God on high;"
Lord, unloose my stamm'ring tongue,
Who should louder sing than I?

Did the Lord a man become,
That he might the law fulfil,
Bleed and suffer in my room,
And canst thou, my tongue, be still?

No, I must my praises bring,
Though they worthless are and weak;
For should I refuse to sing,
Sure the very stones would speak.

O my Saviour, Shield, and Sun,
Shepherd, Brother, Husband, Friend,
Ev'ry precious name in one,
I will love thee without end.

Christina Rossetti’s, “Christmas Day”

Christina Rossetti was born in London, December 5, 1930, one of four children of Italian parents. Her father was the poet Gabriele Rossetti (1783-1854), professor of Italian at King's College from 1831. She was a devout member of the Church of England and a prolific poet. She is perhaps best known for “A Christmas Carol,” more commonly recognized as “In the Bleak Mid-Winter.” Her Christian poetry was influenced by Augustine, Thomas à Kempis, George Herbert, and John Donne. Although plagued for much of her life by ill-health and poverty, she produced hundreds of lines in praise of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

A baby is a harmless thing
And wins our hearts with one accord,
And Flower of Babies was their King,
Jesus Christ our Lord:
Lily of lilies He
Upon His Mother's knee;
Rose of roses, soon to be
Crowned with thorns on leafless tree.

A lamb is innocent and mild
And merry on the soft green sod;
And Jesus Christ, the Undefiled,
Is the Lamb of God:
Only spotless He
Upon his Mother's knee;
White and ruddy, soon to be
Sacrificed for you and me.

Nay, lamb is not so sweet a word,
Nor lily half so pure a name;
Another name our hearts hath stirred,
Kindling them to flame:
'Jesus' certainly
Is music and melody:
Heart with heart in harmony
Carol we and worship we.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2005

"Packing" for Christmas

J.I. Packer often refers to himself as a "Packer by name," and a "packer by trade." He has a gift for profound theological insight and expression. This section from Knowing God (IVP, 1973) has always been one of my favorite (and oft-quoted) Packer passages:

“The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity—hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory—because at the Father’s will Jesus Christ became poor, and was born in a stable so that thirty years later He might hang on a cross. It is the most wonderful message that the world has ever heard, or will hear. . . . And the Christmas spirit ought to be the mark of every Christian all the year round. . . . For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor—spending and being spent—to enrich their fellowmen, giving time, trouble, care and concern, to do good to others—and not just their friends—in whatever way there seems need.”

Thursday, December 22, 2005

This Kind of Stuff Scares Me to Death

But parents need to know about it, think about it and be ready to do somethings about it.

Check this article out, and then the stats and advice below from the NY and London Times:

Caught In A Web Of Porn: On Justin Berry, The London Times,,7-1952467,00.html

A survey last year by the London School of Economics showed that the internet presented both opportunities and dangers for young people.
· 75 per cent of 9 to 19-year-olds have accessed the internet from a computer at home
· 19 per cent have internet access in their bedrooms
· 17 per cent of weekly users aged 9 to 19 have sent pictures or stories to a website
· 57 per cent of daily and weekly users aged 9 to 19 have come into contact with online pornography
· 38 per cent have seen a pornographic pop-up advert while doing something else; 36 per cent have accidentally found themselves on a porn site when looking for something else; and 25 per cent have received pornographic junk mail
· one third of daily and weekly users aged 9 to 19 have received unwanted sexual (31 per cent) or nasty (33 per cent) comments online or by text message
· 46 per cent have given out personal information to someone they met online
· 40 per cent say they have made untrue claims about themselves online
· 30 per cent have made an online acquaintance, and 8 per cent say they have met face to face with someone they first met online
· 63 per cent of home internet users aged 12 to 19 have taken action to hide their online activities from their parents

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Puritans on Christmas? "Infinity and Finity Conjoined?"

In America, the celebration of Christmas did not become broadly popular until the nineteenth century. In the seventeenth century, Colonial New Englanders banned it. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was outlawed in Boston. Anyone apprehended celebrating Christmas was fined five shillings.

In the eighteenth century, congress often ignored Christmas. They sat in legislative session on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America's new constitution. Christmas was too British! Christmas wasn't declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.

But during the seventeenth century, Anne Bradstreet (America's first English poet) and Edward Taylor (a New England minister and poet sometimes referred to as "America's George Herbert") poetically pointed to the glory of the Incarnation. The following is one of Taylor's many beautiful "Meditations."

"What Love is This"

What Love is this of thine, that Cannot be
In thine Infinity, O Lord, Confined,
Unless it in thy very Person see,
Infinity, and Finity Conjoined?
What hath thy Godhead, as not satisfied,
Married our Manhood, making it its Bride?

Oh, Matchless Love! filling Heaven to the brim!
O're running it: all running o're beside
This World! Nay Overflowing Hell; wherein
For thine Elect, there rose a mighty Tide!
That there our Veins might through thy Person bleed,
To quench those flames, that else would on us feed.

Oh! that thy Love might overflow my Heart!
To fire the same with Love: for Love I would.
But oh! my straightened Breast! my Lifeless Spark!
My Fireless Flame! What Chilly Love, and Cold?
In measure small! In Manner Chilly! See.
Lord blow the Coal: Thy Love inflame in me.


John Donne: "Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb"

Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb
Now leaves His well-beloved imprisonment,
There He hath made Himself to His intent
Weak enough now into our world to come.
But, oh, for thee, for Him, hath the inn no room?
Yet lay Him in this stall, and from the Orient
Stars and wise men will travel to prevent
The effect of Herod's jealous general doom.
Seest thou, my soul, with thy faith's eyes, how He
Which fills all place (yet none holds Him) doth lie?
Was not His pity towards thee wondrous high,
That would have need to be pitied by thee?
Kiss Him, and with Him into Egypt go,
With His kind mother, who partakes thy woe.

[Note, Donne renounced his Roman Catholic upbringing and the final line affirms Mary's part in Adam's transgression rather than the Catholic assertion of an Immaculate Conception--a view declared as late as 1854]

Neo-Narnian Ethics

In his recently published book, Above All Earthly Pow'rs (Eerdmans, 2005), David Wells observes that the "blessing" of modern technology is a "two edged sword" that contributes to the disappearance of human nature:

"On the one hand, it has allowed us to transcend our world, to achieve what was unimaginable only a short time ago, to effect an unparalleled degree of efficiency in the production of goods which fill our malls and showrooms, an elevation in their quality, a new array of medical procedures, more information, and more information spread more rapidly."

"On the other hand, what began as the physical conquest of our world by technology, the annihilation of apace and time, the control some of nature's forces, and the exploitation of its resources has now become a profoundly psychological reality. The benefits of technology all come packaged in values which are naturalist and materialist. These fill the air, quite literally, all the time. We find no solitude, no escape."

Nigel M. de S. Cameron echoes this insight in his article on C.S. Lewis's, The Abolition of Man, in this month's edition of Christianity Today:

"Lewis's key idea is that technology gives us power, power to do good or to do evil and modern technologies give us more and more power. But such power is not simply 'power over nature,' as we tend to say. It is the power some people exercise over other people, with 'nature' as their instrument."

"Lewis foresees that the result of the use and abuse of our 'power over nature' could be the end of human nature itself. Decades later, others saw that same truth, including Bill Joy, the techie pioneer who emerged as a secular prophet in our time with his April 2000 essay in Wired magazine 'Why the Future Doesn't Need Us' (another piece of essential reading for anyone interested in 21st century technology)."

See Cameron's article in Christianity Today at:

Chesterton On Christmas: "The Child that played with moon and sun/Is playing with a little hay"

Two Christmas poems by G.K. Chesterton.

Notice the simple beauty of the first and how those "who know all things but truth" are confronted in the second.

"A Christmas Carol"

The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world's desire.)

The Christ-child stood on Mary's knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down

"The Wise Men"

Step softly, under snow or rain,
To find the place where men can pray;
The way is all so very plain
That we may lose the way.

Oh, we have learnt to peer and pore
On tortured puzzles from our youth,
We know all the labyrinthine lore,
We are the three wise men of yore,
And we know all things but truth.

We have gone round and round the hill
And lost the wood among the trees,
And learnt long names for every ill,
And serve the made gods, naming still
The furies the Eumenides.

The gods of violence took the veil
Of vision and philosophy,
The Serpent that brought all men bale,
He bites his own accursed tail,
And calls himself Eternity.

Go humbly ... it has hailed and snowed...
With voices low and lanterns lit;
So very simple is the road,
That we may stray from it.

The world grows terrible and white,
And blinding white the breaking day;
We walk bewildered in the light,
For something is too large for sight,
And something much too plain to say.

The Child that was ere worlds begun
(... We need but walk a little way,
We need but see a latch undone...)
The Child that played with moon and sun
Is playing with a little hay.

The house from which the heavens are fed,
The old strange house that is our own,
Where trick of words are never said,
And Mercy is as plain as bread,
And Honour is as hard as stone.

Go humbly, humble are the skies,
And low and large and fierce the Star;
So very near the Manger lies
That we may travel far.

Hark! Laughter like a lion wakes
To roar to the resounding plain.
And the whole heaven shouts and shakes,
For God Himself is born again,
And we are little children walking
Through the snow and rain.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

It's even in the News in Derek's beloved Belfast

'Gay Weddings' First For Belfast, BBC News

David Meredith and David Robertson Update Us on the "Same-Sex Marriage" Debate in Scotland

Our good friend, David Meredith (our upcoming 2006 Missions Conference preacher!), emailed me this afternoon to give a good report of David Robertson's TV appearance relating to the current Scottish controversy on so-called "gay marriage." David Meredith said: "David Robertson gave a great response on Radio Scotland - it's about 20 mins into the programme."

David Robertson (PCA MTW Scotland team leader, Free Church Minister and recent FPCJ Missions Conference speaker) also emailed me and said "Just thought you brothers might like to hear what is going on in Scotland just now. We have just had our first gay ‘marriages’ today. Yours truly managed to get on the BBC today – of you go to the following link you will see the kind of thing we are having to face. By the way if you want to avoid the whole debate I am on about 20 minutes in."

George Herbert on Christmas

The shepherds sing; and shall I silent be?
My God, no hymn for Thee?
My soul's a shepherd too;a flock it feeds
Of thoughts, and words, and deeds.
The pasture is Thy word: the streams, Thy grace,
Enriching all the place.
Shepherd and flock shall sing, and all my powers
Outsing the daylight hours.
Then will we chide the sun for letting night
Take up his place and right:
We sing one common Lord; wherefore he should
Himself the candle hold.
I will go searching, till I find a sun
Shall stay, till we have done;
A willing shiner, that shall shine as gladly,
As frost-nipped suns look sadly.
Then will we sing, and shine all our own day,
And one another pay:
His beams shall cheer my breast, and both so twine,
Till ev'n His beams sing, and my music shine.

Rossetti on Christmas: "Jesus, brought for us so low."

Christina Rossetti's, "Christmas Eve"

Christmas hath a darkness
Brighter than the blazing noon,
Christmas hath a chillness
Warmer than the heat of June,
Christmas hath a beauty
Lovelier than the world can show:
For Christmas bringeth Jesus,
Brought for us so low.

Earth, strike up your music,
Birds that sing and bells that ring;
Heaven hath answering music
For all Angels soon to sing:
Earth, put on your whitest
Bridal robe of spotless snow:
For Christmas bringeth Jesus,
Brought for us so low.

David Cross on Same-Sex Marriage in Britain

Several of you have indicated that you are eager for a report on the appearance of Dr Peter Naylor last night on the ITV 24-hour cable/satellite News Channel. The issue was that legislation allowing for same-sex unions came into effect yesterday and the first ceremony under that legislation occurred in Belfast between 2 lesbians.

I should explain that this was a program called “News Extra” in which an interviewer has two people on opposing sides of a current issue and puts questions, some of which are called in by viewers. Both people are given the opportunity to answer. The Lesbian (who has been a media representative for their view for some time) was in the London studio while Dr Naylor was in a small room at the Cardiff studio and connected by video link. Peter was at a distinct disadvantage, with no human face to interact with and with the media clearly against everything he had to say. (One of the reporters of the news leading up to the interview went to Canada earlier this year to “marry” his homosexual partner). About 15 minutes (half of the program) was given to this issue.

The points Dr Naylor was able to present included:
1. To the challenge that Religion is all about love; he said that the Bible does teach us to love our neighbour but it also tells us that there are right and wrong expressions of love, for example people who have an attraction to children or who want to marry two women.
2. To the challenge that these are private affairs, he said that moral action has public consequences and the Bible says that righteousness exalts a nation. He said that the present government has been leading the nation down an immoral path and that we cannot expect blessing and things to go well for us as a nation if we disobey God.
3. To the challenge that Homosexuals can/should be allowed to raise children, he said that God created the human race and marriage between male and female and that is the proper context in which children should be brought up.

We have no naïve expectations that this appearance will transform the direction of British life – even though our goal is to see the gospel transform society. What we do hope is that some who saw it, and were glad to see an expression of biblical moral commitment, might look for Peter Naylor or the Presbyterian Church on the internet and find or

We also hope for additional opportunity to present a biblical world-view. In fact, this interview opened the door for Peter to do a taped radio interview this afternoon for a station that covers much of South Wales.

Getting this opportunity reminds us of how little we know about making effective use of the media. We will need to “debrief” the experience for the future opportunities that may come our way.

Thank you for praying.

Let me also take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas and a fruitful New Year.

David L Cross
Team Leader
MTW – Team Britain

Men of The Covenant Luncheon Spring Schedule Set

Spring 2006

The First Thursday of the Month in Miller Hall
11:45 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Series Title: “The Character of a Christian Leader”

February 2
The Reverend Joseph Wheat

Senior Minister of Highlands Presbyterian Church, Ridgeland, MS
Joseph began his pastoral minister as an assistant pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Augusta, GA before moving to Tuscaloosa, AL where he founded Trinity Presbyterian Church. Rev. Wheat has been faithfully preaching at Highlands since July, 2005. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board of New Geneva Theological Seminary in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

March 2
The Reverend Guy Richard
Senior Minister of First Presbyterian Church, Gulfport, MS
Guy studied at Reformed Theological Seminary and the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. He was recently moved, along with with his wife, Jennifer, and their two children, Schyler and Jane Barton, to the hurricane ravaged Mississippi Gulf Coast region to minister to the First Presbyterian Church congregation.

April 6
Dr. David Elkin

Psychologist at the University of Mississippi
Medical Center
Dr. Elkin currently works as a psychologist and Associate Professor in the department of psychiatry at UMC. He is the Director of the Psychology Training Program at UMC and the VA. Additionally, Dr. Elkin serves as Acting Chief of the Division of Psychology at UMC, the Vice Chairman of the Institutional Review Board which oversees ethics of all human-subject research at UMC, and is the father of four wonderful girls.

May 4
Dr. Bill Harper

Cardiologist with Hinds Cardiology Clinic
Dr. Harper is a Ruling Elder at First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, and he has served in numerous leadership positions throughout the church and community. He has a passion for the knowledge and application of God’s Word to all of life.

The cost of lunch is $5.00 and no reservations are required. Please call the Discipleship Office at 973-9118 if you have any further questions.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Luther on Christmas: "No joy but in this Boy"

"If you will have joy, bend yourself down to this place. There you will find that boy given for you who is your Creator lying in a manger. I will stay with that boy as he sucks, is washed, and dies. . . . There is no joy but in this boy. Take him away and you face the Majesty which terrifies."

"I know of no God but this one in the manger. . . . That person lying in the manger is both man and God essentially, not seperated one from the other but as born of a virgin. If you separate them, the joy is gone. O Thou boy, lying in the manger, thou art truly God who hast created me, and thou wilt not be wrathful with me because thou comest to me in this loving way-- more loving cannot be imagined."

Sunday, December 18, 2005

CSL: Translator and Smuggler

The timing is right to remind ourselves that C.S. Lewis was far from perfect. I have serious disagreements with Lewis about several vital theological doctrines. But, to be fair, we must remember how Lewis viewed his evangelistic task.

Position: Christian Layman

Lewis was not a theologian by vocation. He never claimed to be. He was a college tutor, university lecturer, and literary historian, first at Oxford, then at Cambridge. He made his living in the fields of philosophy, medieval and renaissance literature, and English language and literature. In sharp contrast to his popular Christian books, the themes of his university lectures include, “The Good, and its position among the values,” “Some Eighteenth-Century Precursors of the Romantic Movement,” “The Prolegomena to Medieval and Renaissance Studies,” and “Elyot, Ascham, Hooker, and Bacon.” From his position as Christian layman he does not hesitate to criticize clergy and purposefully teach what he considers to be the ancient, orthodox doctrines of Christianity. Lewis sees dire consequences for the future of the church should these clergy continue to mislead their flocks. He says, “Missionary to priests of one’s own church is an embarrassing role; though I have a horrid feeling if such mission work is not soon undertaken the future history of the Church of England is likely to be short.” Although Lewis was never ordained, his commitment to “mere Christianity” compels him to reluctantly enter the mid-twentieth century theological fray.

Method: Praeparatio Evangelica

After his conversion to Christianity in 1931, Lewis made his commitment to evangelism unequivocal. He tells his audience at Westcott House: “woe to you if you do not evangelize.” He did not approach lightly his personal responsibility to evangelize: “My feeling about the people in whose conversion I have been allowed to play a part is always mixed with awe and fear.”

Lewis sees himself primarily as a pre-evangelist. He works to prepare the way for the proclamation of the Gospel. He attempts to remove doubts, reveal contradictions, and “undermine . . . intellectual prejudices.” He maintains,

Mine are praeparatio evangelica rather than evangelism, an attempt to convince people that there is a moral law, that we disobey it, and that the existence of a Lawgiver is at least very probable and also (unless you add the Christian doctrine of the Atonement) that this imparts despair rather than comfort.

Lewis pursues his evangelistic goals through methods best described as “smuggling” and “translating.” When he realizes that reviewers did not recognize the subtle Christian imagery in his first science fiction novel, Out of the Silent Planet, he writes,

But if only there were someone with a richer talent and more leisure, I believe this great ignorance might be a help to the evangelization of England: any amount of theology can now be smuggled into people’s minds under cover of romance [romantic, imaginative literature] without their knowing it.

Reflecting upon the importance of imaginative writing for apologetics and evangelism, he says, “I thought I saw how stories of this kind [fairy stories] could steal past a certain inhibition which had paralyzed much of my own religion in childhood. . . . Could one not thus steal past watchful dragons? I thought I could.” He adopts this subtle “smuggling” as one way to pre-evangelize. Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Till We Have Faces evidence this approach.

Lewis argues that the typical individual living in post-Christian England does not understand the traditional language of Christianity. The content of the Faith needs to be made understandable. To Christian apologists he charges, you “must translate every bit of your theology into the vernacular.”

Speaking to a church in which theological liberalism and apostasy were rampant, Lewis stresses that Christianity must be preached primarily because it is true, not because it is good for marriages, families, culture, or any other pragmatic purpose. When a man is preaching the Gospel, he is preaching “objective fact.” The historic, orthodox Christian Faith must not be altered just because certain doctrines do not comport well with contemporary scientific opinion. Being “slaves of fashion” is especially dangerous for clergy. Lewis charges that both liberal and orthodox theologians of his time make basic Christian doctrine obscure:

Our business today is to present that which is timeless (the same yesterday, today, and forever) in the particular language of our own age. The bad preacher does exactly the opposite: he takes the ideas of our own age and tricks them out in the traditional language of Christianity.

“Any fool,” Lewis writes, “can write learned language. The vernacular is the real test. If you can’t turn your faith into it, then either you don’t understand it or you don’t believe it.” The Problem of Pain and Mere Christianity are examples of this approach.

Audience: Those Outside

Because Lewis sees himself as a layman working to communicate common Christianity through methods best described as apologetic and pre-evangelistic, he is often at pains to emphasize the importance of keeping theological controversy behind the closed doors of the church. He makes no attempt to hide his own theological convictions, and he believes doctrinal disputation to be important for clarification and defense of the faith.

He is writing primarily to those outside of the church. “Our divisions should never be discussed except in the presence of those who have already come to believe that there is one God and that Jesus Christ is His only Son,” he argues. So, he continues, “I think we must admit that the discussion of these disputed points has no tendency at all to bring an outsider into the Christian fold.” Outsiders must be presented with the basic Gospel and challenged to make decisions and take actions based upon this information.

In 1958, Dr. Norman Pittenger wrote “A Critique of C.S. Lewis” for the Christian Century. In this article he accuses Lewis of writing in Miracles that miracles violate the laws of nature. He criticizes Lewis’s interpretation of Jesus’s claims of deity in the Gospel of John, his emphasis on the transcendence of God, his claim that men are sinners, and not “caring for” the Sermon on the Mount.

Lewis’s response, “Rejoinder to Dr. Pittenger,” serves to further illustrate Lewis’s design for his Christian writings. Lewis charges Pittenger with misunderstanding why, and to whom, he is writing his Christian books: “He [Pittenger] judges my books in vacuo, with no consideration of the audience to whom they were addressed or the prevalent errors they were trying to combat. . . . But I was writing ad populum, not ad clerum.” Lewis writes to materialists, naturalists, and atheists. He directs his efforts toward those who reject supernaturalism and misunderstand traditional Christian terminology. “I was writing for people who wanted to know whether the things could have happened rather than what they should be called; whether we could, without absurdity, believe that Christ rose from the emptied tomb.” If an unbeliever responds to plain language, then “vulgarity must be endured.” Lewis admits that he may not always be completely accurate theologically, and his style of communication may not be perfect, but he is working for the conversion of “storekeepers, lawyers, realtors, morticians, policemen and artisans.”

Yes, he was far from perfect, but we can still learn much from CSL.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Dr. Albert Mohler on "post" American culture.

Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the speaker at FPC's upcoming Mid-South Men's Rally (Jan. 27, 2006) recently said, "The most basic contours of American culture have been radically altered. The so-called Judeo-Christian consensus of the last millennium has given way to a postmodern, post-Christian, post-western cultural crisis, which threatens the very heart of our culture."

Mohler's concerns are reinforced by Barna and Gallup research:

85% of Americans represent themselves as "Christians" (90% in 1996).
72% have formal membership in churches, synagogues, or temples
40% attend regularly (almost weekly), 31% in 1996.
Regular Sunday school attendance dropped from 23% in 1991 to 19% in 1998 (17% in 1996).
67% reject belief that absolute truth exists.
68% believe that all religions are equally valid and that their faithful adherents will make it to heaven or its equivalent.
60% believe that people in all religions pray to the same God.
30% believe in reincarnation, up from 25% in 1992.
36% read horoscopes regularly and 26% believe that they are scientifically accurate.
20% identify themselves as New Age practitioners.
34% believe in a New Age form of God.
Adult atheist = male 5%, female 2%, teenagers 7%.
70 % of Americans have a high view of the Bible.
11% claim to be conscious atheists or agnostics (cf.8% in 1992).
31% are unchurched (@60 million), cf. 27% in 1997; 20% in the South, 1:5 ratio.
39% of Baby Busters are unchurched (cf. 31% in 1997).
40% of those 18-29 are unchurched.
Born Again Christians
40% of Americans make this claim.
Yet 37% of them reject the infallibility of the Bible.
41% believe in pluralism (cf. 68% of population).
53% reject the belief in holding absolute truth (cf. 67% nationally).
58% said they definitely would not attend a weekly Bible study.
28% believe that Jesus sinned.
35% deny Jesus raised from the dead (cf. 39% general population).
7% are solid evangelicals (1998), down from 8% (1996), and 12% in 1992.
27% have been divorced.
23% buy a lottery ticket in a typical week.
6% define success in relation to spirituality.
Only 66% say they are "absolutely committed to the Christian faith.
32% said that they have never experienced God’s presence.
50% believe Satan is only a symbol of evil rather than a real being (cf. 62% national).
55% believe the Holy Spirit is only a symbol of God’s presence and not a living being (cf. 61% nationally).

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Churches Closing on Christmas Sunday

Collin Hansen of Christianity Today has it right when he queries the logic of closing churches on Sunday because Christmas happen to fall on that day of the week this year. Here are his comments:

"With Christmas landing on a Sunday this year, some trendsetting churches have decided to stay closed that day.

"At first glance it does sound contrarian," said Gene Appel, senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, which will close. He told the Chicago Tribune, "We don't see it as not having church on Christmas. We see it as decentralizing the church on Christmas—hundreds of thousands of experiences going on around Christmas trees. The best way to honor the birth of Jesus is for families to have a more personal experience on that day."

Indeed, churches designed for people who don't go to church will not attract many on Christmas morning. And Willow needs a lot of money and volunteers to pull off their Sunday services. Why not just shift those resources to another day?

Well, because thousands of family experiences around Christmas trees cannot replace worship with the family of God. This family gathers around the center of the gospel. "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3-4). Worship with the body of Christ is the best way to remember the meaning of Christmas.

Well said Collin. We agree.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Aslan provokes enmity in England

Polly Toynbee rages against grace when she argues that "Narnia represents everything that is most hateful about religion.",5673,1657942,00.html

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Brad Mercer Reports on Gene Veith's take on the Narnia Movie and kids

Brad quotes Gene Edward Veith of World Magazine fame as follows: "I saw the Narnia movie last night at an advanced screening. Reviews are supposed to be embargoed until the movie comes out, so I shouldn't say too much. Suffice it to say that, yes, the Christian theme of Redemption comes across loud and clear. The movie changes some things in the book--leaving out and adding in--and while some of the changes detract from the message, others actually add to it. You will definitely want to see this movie. You can take the kids, unless you have a child who is unusually affected by scary stuff. (There are "gotcha" surprises, some ugly monsters, and sadness at Aslan's death, but the latter is quickly turned to joy when he rises again and there is no gore or bad language.) Once you see it, there will be LOTS to talk about. Let's plan on doing that here. On Friday, for the weekend blog, I'll post some discussion threads and we can talk it through."

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Nine Lessons and Carols

In December, the Sunday and Wednesday services will reflect the texts used by the famous Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols broadcast annually from King’s College, Cambridge. This year’s service was broadcast on the BBC a week ago.

History of the service

THE Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols was first held on Christmas Eve 1918 at King’s College, Cambridge. A revision of the Order of Service was made in 1919, involving rearrangement of the lessons, and from that date the service has always begun with the hymn ‘Once in royal David’s city’. The original service was, in fact, adapted from an Order drawn up by E.W. Benson, later Archbishop of Canterbury, for use in the wooden shed, which then served as his cathedral in Truro, at 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve 1880.

Almost immediately other churches adapted the service for their own use. A wider frame began to grow when the service was first broadcast in 1928 and, with the exception of 1930, it has been broadcast annually, even during the Second World War, when the ancient glass (and also all heat) had been removed from the Chapel and the name of King’s could not be broadcast for security reasons. Sometime in the early 1930s the BBC began broadcasting the service on overseas programs.

Today, the service has become a quintessential portent of Christmas—one of those things that signal what Christmas is about. The texts reflect a belief that the Old Testament is to be viewed as signaling the coming of Jesus Christ, our Mediator. It begins with Genesis 3:15, the so-called protoevangelium—the first gospel promise, and ends in Bethlehem, with the birth of Messiah.
Let us go even unto Bethlehem to see this thing which has come to pass…