B. B. Warfield and the Second Beatitude

warfieldNinety-three years ago today, Benjamin Breckenridge Warfield, a native of Kentucky and a world-renowned theologian went to be with the Lord. His death came six years after his wife’s, a woman who had spent years bedridden in their home in Princeton, New Jersey.

Nearly fifty years earlier (1876), Warfield had married Annie Pearce Kinkade. She was the descendent of Revolutionary War hero, George Rogers Clark. And when they wed, they were ready for a lifetime of happiness together. Presumably Warfield would teach; Annie would tend to the home and raise children.  I say presumably, because such were not the circumstances God gave them. Continue reading

Evangelism Then and Now: The Same Seed, A Different Soil

[This is the most recent "Feeding on the Word" article from our church newsletter]

Over the last few decades Americans have witnessed an unprecedented move away from traditional marriage toward a choose-your-own-adventure approach to sexuality. Influenced by academics, funded by political action groups, and promoted by entertainment personalities, our culture has bought into the notion that sex without limitations is the apex of American freedom.

It should not surprise us that the neighbors we are called to reach have enormous relational baggage. Their sordid stories break our hearts, confound our wisdom, and shut our mouths. Even if we believe—as we ought—that God can save the worst sinner, we see broken people and wonder what to do. Continue reading

Postmodernism and Evangelical Thought (4): A Wise and Selective Appropriation

After surveying many of the key figures and concepts that make up postmodern thought, the question becomes: Is postmodernism salubrious or toxic for evangelical theology?

The answer, not surprisingly, differs depending on who is speaking.  In what follows, I will list three postures to take towards postmodernism.  In today’s evangelicalism, some like Stanley Grenz, John Franke, and Roger Olson have gladly appropriated postmodern thought, others like Douglas Geivett and Scott Smith have rejected it. Still others, most sensibly, have selectively and wisely incorporated some but not all aspects of postmodernism.  We will consider these in turn as they explain how postmodernism has impacted evangelical theology. Continue reading

Postmodernity and Envangelical Thought (3): The Basic Tenets of Postmodernism

Yesterday, I outlined a number of the basic features of modernity. Today, I pick up by looking at the shift from modernity to postmodernity.

Postmodernism’s Progenitors: Jacques Derrida and Friedrich Nietzsche

It has been said that in the history of Western thought there have been two French Revolutions that gave birth to modernism and postmodernism.  In the Enlightenment, Frenchmen Rene Descartes brought about a new way of thinking when his Cogito turned Western thinking towards the subject.  Instead of keeping God at the center, now all centered on man.  This was the first French Revolution.  The second was the rise of Jacques Derrida, who not only questioned the Author of the universe, he questioned every single author who rose in his place.  Derrida has rightly been esteemed as the forefather of postmodern thought, and for good reason. Continue reading

Postmodernity and Evangelical Thought (2): Modernism’s Contribution to Postmodernity

If we are to understand Western thought, it is vital to have a handle on modernity and postmodernity. Today and for the rest of the week, I will outline a basic trajectory of Western thought from modernity to postmodernity and how Christians should engage these historically-related schools of thought. Continue reading

Postmodernity and Evangelical Thought (1): An Introduction

Postmodernism (PM) can be defined as a mood that questions authority, denies absolute truth, and locates meaning in the language of local communities.  While PM is the product of twentieth century thought, its precursors go back much further in history.  For instance, Friedrich Schleiermacher espoused a view of doctrine that was impermanent and always changing relative to the community in which it was experienced.  While situated more than a century before the likes of Derrida, Lyotard, and other philosophers of language, Schleiermacher’s liberal theology anticipates the postmodern turn.

Still, the question of authority, truth, and community predates Schleiermacher, too.  In John 18:38 Pilate, in a discussion about kingdoms, authority, and truth, asks Jesus, “What is truth?”  The relativism in his question comes not from a philosophical system of Western thought; it comes from the human condition that stands outside of the Garden.

Ever since Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, their offspring has sought to assert their own authority, to make up their own laws, and to live in their own cities of men.  Over time, as Western Civilization once again threw off the constraints of God’s Word and church tradition, the question of the hour is that of Pilate: What is truth?

This series of blog posts aims to give an answer to the postmodern mood that undergirds our ambient culture.  To answer the question about postmodernism we must first consider modernism, as post-modernism stands in direct relationship to his period of time and thought.  Second, I will survey postmodernism and its major contributing voices.  And third, this series will consider the effect postmodernism has had on evangelical theology, and what evangelicals must do to wisely and selectively appropriate the tenets of postmodernity.

As we go along, let me know what you think.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Albert Mohler and Southern Seminary: A Word of Thanksgiving

I know Thanksgiving is a month away, but I cannot help but give thanks today for the impact Southern Seminary and Albert Mohler have had on me. This week marks President Mohler’s twentieth anniversary at Southern Seminary, and the folks there have put together an excellent twenty-five minute video chronicling the journey of this great school.

I cannot begin to express how much Southern Seminary and its president, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, have had on me. For the last nine years, Southern has invested pearls of wisdom and truckloads of biblical gold into my heart and life. So great is Southern’s impact on me, there’s not a day that goes by which I do not think of Southern, its faculty, my peers, and the truths I learned there.  Continue reading

The Gospel Perfectly and Proportionately Humbles and Exalts

Why is the Gospel of Jesus Christ so vital to the restoration of mankind?

Simply put, there is no other message or medium, person or power that is able to elevate a man without making him an arrogant ogre. The gospel humbles a man to dust, and raises him to glory. Through its life-giving message of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, sinners are forgiven and given the very life of God.

This balanced work of the gospel was observed centuries ago by Blaise Pascal (1623-62).  In his Pensées (208)he observes.

Without this divine knowledge, how could we help feeling either exalted or dejected? The Christian religion alone has been able to cure these twin vices, not by using the one to expel the other according to worldly wisdom, but by expelling both through the simplicity of the Gospel. For it teaches the righteous that they still bear the source of all corruption which exposes them throughout their lives to error, misery, death, and sin; and [yet] it cries out to the most ungodly that they are capable of the grace of the Redeemer. Thus, making those whom it justifies to tremble, yet consoling those whom it condemns, it so nicely tempers fear with hope through this dual capacity…. Grace and sin! It causes infinitely more dejection than mere reason—but without despair, and infinitely more exaltation than natural pride—but without puffing us up! (cited by Tim Keller in his foreword to J. D. Greear’s book Gospel).

Pascal was followed by Charles Hodge (1797-1878), who said of the finer points of the gospel, “the doctrines of grace humble man without degrading him and exalt him without inflating him.” Indeed, this is the reason why Christians must never leave the gospel behind; it simultaneously humbles and exalts.

The gospel restores men wrecked by the Fall to reflect the glorious image of God, but it also forces them to confront the ugliness of their sin and the immensity of God’s holiness. The result? Men are most glorious when they fall face down before the King of Glory. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can effect that.

May we endlessly delight ourselves in the perfect, proportionate gospel of Jesus Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Fifteen Years of Manual Labor: How Much Is Your Bible Worth?

In Genesis, Moses records the way that Jacob spent fourteen years winning (read: paying for) the love of his life, Rachel.  In those days, it cost men a pretty penny to win the hand of their brides.  Yet, because of his love for Rachel, Genesis 29:20 says that the first seven years “seemed to him but a few days.” Likewise, Jacob agreed to the next seven years of manual labor, even after they were deceptively thrown upon him.

How long would you be willing to serve for the love of your life?  Or to turn the question from marriage to God’s mercy, how long would you work in order to have in your hands a copy of God’s word?

The Inestimable Value of God’s Word

This is a question that the English-speaking world cannot even begin to understand.  We pawn off Bibles at Goodwill’s and have no fear or remorse when a Bible is lost or left in the rain.  I know that the Bible in its inscripturated form is not sacrosanct, but I do think the commonality of the Bible blinds us to the ravishing truth of Psalm 19:10-11.

More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

God’s word is priceless.  It is more valuable than the crown jewels; it is an infinite investment whose value never plummets and always promises to deliver. Yet, existentially, we still struggle to feel this value because the pages of God’s word are everywhere. Where can we go for help?

How Missionary History Reappraises Our Value of the Bible

One place we can find help for properly valuing the Bible is church history and the stories of missionaries bringing the Bible into foreign lands who do not have the priceless word of God.  This week I came across such a story in John Paton’s autobiography, John G. Paton: Missionary to the New Hebrides.

I hope you will take the time to read the following anecdote and marvel at the how the people of Aneityum (in the South Pacific) labored fifteen years to raise the necessary funds for the Bible.  Surely, these earnest men and women were spurred on by the same joy and anticipation that gripped Jacob.  In that time, many who endeavored to see the Bible printed in their languaged perished in the pursuit, but oh the joy for those who labored for a decade and a half to get the Bible in their own hands.

These poor Aneityumese, having glimpses of this Word of God, determined to have a Holy Bible in their own mother tongue, wherein before no book or page ever had been written in the history of their race. The consecrated brain and hand of the Missionaries kept toiling day and night in translating the book of God; and the willing hands and feet of the Natives kept toiling through fifteen long but unwearying years, planting and preparing arrowroot to pay the £1,200 required to be laid out in the printing and publishing of the book.

Year after year the arrowroot, too sacred to be used for their daily food, was set apart as the Lord’s portion; the Missionaries sent it to Australia and Scotland, where it was sold by private friends, and the whole proceeds consecrated to this purpose. On the completion of the great undertaking by the Bible Society, it was found that the Natives had earned so much as to pay every penny of the outlay; and their first Bibles went out to them, purchased with the consecrated toils of fifteen years!

Some of our friends may think that the sum was large; but I know, from experience, that if such a difficult job had been carried through the press and so bound by any other printing establishment, the expense would have been greater far. One book of Scripture, printed by me in Melbourne for the Aniwans at a later day, under the auspices of the Bible Society too, cost eight shillings per leaf, and that was the cheapest style; and this the Aniwans also paid for by dedicating their arrowroot to God.

Fifteen years.  Utterly astounding.  It should inspire us to reconsider the value of our Bibles.  Here is Paton’s pastoral charge:

Let those who lightly esteem their Bibles think on those things. Eight shillings for every leaf, or the labour and proceeds of fifteen years for the Bible entire, did not appear to these poor converted Savages too much to pay for that Word of God, which had sent to them the Missionaries, which had revealed to them the grace of God in Christ, and which had opened their eyes to the wonders and glories of redeeming love! (77-78)

Father, may we who are surrounded by your word never forget how priceless each page is.  May we invest our lives in the Scriptures and labor to make them know to the ends of the earth, so that those who do not have them would not have to wait decades before receiving them.  God gives us heart that love your word more than life itself (Ps 63:3).

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Evangelicals Redeeming St. Patrick from Rome

Maybe it is just me, but I don’t remember a year where Saint Patty’s Day has elicited such a response by evangelicals.

Previous years have collected a few blog posts.  See Russell Moore’s “What evangelicals can learn from Saint Patrick” and Kevin DeYoung’s “Who was Saint Patrick?”  But this year evangelicals have sought to deliver Patrick from the clutches of the Catholic Church, and have produced dozens of blog posts. (Okay, maybe not dozens, but in the spirit of exaggerated legends, like those of St. Patrick, we’ll say dozens).

Why?  Maybe it is the coordination of St. Patrick’s Day and the Lord’s Day; maybe it is the recent election of Pope Francis I; or maybe it is the fact that the paganization of America and (Western Europe) has stimulated evangelicals to find a new hero.  For all those reasons, Patrick is worthy of our consideration and imitation.  The following posts will give you a good introduction to Patrick and will spur you on to tell the lost about Christ.

David Mathis, “The Mission of Saint Patrick

Mark Driscoll, “Get to Know Saint Patrick

John Downey, “Get to know the REAL ‘Saint’ Patrick

Philip Jenson, “Saint Patrick the Irish Evangelist

Timothy Paul Jones, Church History Made Easy DVD

If you know of other evangelical blogs highlighting Patrick, let me know and I will update.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, dss