One of the packages awaiting my return from South Africa the other day was the just-published third and final volume in Walter Hooper’s edition of C. S. Lewis’ letters.  Interesting to read, these letters show that Lewis kept up an amazing amount of correspondence!  Correspondence seemed to have been a near daily discipline for Lewis.  There is a fine index, though, even from my skimming, it is, of course, incomplete.  Mr. Hooper (or whoever compiled it) had a tremendous task before him, and the index is large, and will certainly prove useful.  Nevertheless, in simply flipping through the volume, I found a very interesting letter touching on Calvinism which is not so referenced in the index.  Here’s just a brief excerpt of this remarkable letter.  Originally written to Mrs. Emily Mclay, Aug. 3, 1953 (on pages 354 & 355 of this volume).

“I take it as a first principle that we must not interpret any one part of Scripture so that it contradicts other parts . . . .  The real inter-relation between God’s omnipotence and Man’s freedom is something we can’t find out.  Looking at the Sheep & the Goats every man can be quite sure that every kind act he does will be accepted by Christ.  Yet, equally, we all do feel sure that all the good in us comes from Grace.  We have to leave it at that.  I find the best plan is to take the Calvinist view of my own virtues and other people’s vices; and the other view of my own vices and other peoples virtues.  But tho’ there is much to be puzzled about, there is nothing to be worried about.  It is plain from Scripture that, in whatever sense the Pauline doctrine is true, it is not true in any sense which excludes its (apparent) opposite.  You know what Luther said:  ‘Do you doubt if you are chosen?  Then say your prayers and you may conclude that you are.'”  (pp.354-355).

Hooper then in a footnote supposes that it is the Arminian view “that the divine sovereignty was compatible with a real human free will.”  I guess that means that Hooper has dismissed Jonathan Edwards’ careful work in “On the Freedom of the Will.”  With all respect to Hooper, I would have to go with Edwards on that one.  But I thought you might find this Lewis quotation interesting.

Al, we’ve all been praying for you, and are thankful that you are home safely.  Our time here passes quickly doesn’t it?  Praise God we have a loving sovereign who alone determines the measure of our days.

Posted on January 17, 2007 |

Al is out of the hospital!

by lduncan

This just in.

Dear Friends of Southern Seminary:

I am very pleased to share with you that a short while ago Dr. Albert Mohler was discharged from Baptist East Hospital in Louisville, KY. After a two week hospitalization that included extensive abdominal surgery and a four day stay in the Intensive Care Unit due to pulmonary emboli in the lungs, he and the family are overjoyed to be home. This, indeed, is welcome news and a much anticipated milestone in Dr. Mohler’s recovery.

Please now pray that Dr. Mohler will gain the rest and strength he needs while recuperating at home in the days ahead. As you may guess, he is eager to resume the full rigor of his Presidential and ministerial duties.

The Mohlers are deeply grateful for the many prayers that have been offered and the expressions of concern so many of you have shown over these past couple of weeks. On behalf of the Mohler family, thank you once again for the Christian love and support you have shown them.

Jason K. Allen Executive Assistant to the President The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary 2825 Lexington Rd. Louisville, KY 40280 (502) 897 4121 [email protected]

Posted on January 10, 2007 |

Russ Moore reports on Al Mohler’s Health

by lduncan

Our friend Al Mohler, was moved out of intensive care and into a private room at Baptist Hospital East this afternoon and continues to improve following complications from abdominal surgery that was performed Dec. 28.

Russell D. Moore, dean of the School of Theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern, and a good friend to the T4G team, said Mohler is in good spirits following a difficult weekend: “I am extremely encouraged after having just left his room. He is eating, he is in good spirits and it looks as though the situation is completely under control at this point. He looks strong, is in remarkably good spirits and is even cracking jokes.”

“[Al] is very appreciative of the prayers of God’s people and the outpouring of support from the churches and from the community.”

Al had been placed in intensive care Friday after developing blood clots in both lungs. After nearly a week of intense abdominal pain, he was admitted to the hospital on Dec. 27 and underwent surgery the following day. While physicians reported that the procedure went well and that Mohler’s abdominal issues were remedied, the development of blood clots led doctors to move Mohler to the hospital’s intensive care unit.

It is not yet known when Mohler will be released from the hospital, however Russ said the improvement in Mohler’s condition along with his high spirits were readily evident. “He has a stack of books and articles in his bed along with a massive number of highlighters, so the Albert Mohler I know is back.”

Posted on January 8, 2007 in

Update on Al

by the owner of ytmp3.page

A number of you have written in asking about Al, his surgery and his recovery. Thanks so much for your encouraging expressions of loving Christian concern. He’s a quick report from my friend Jason Allen, Al’s able assistant.

“Dr. Mohler continues to recuperate from abdominal surgery at Baptist East Hospital in Louisville, KY. Daily he is gaining strength and making progress, but he still has a good deal of recovery before him. Please continue to pray for his complete and expedient recovery and for the Lord to grant him abundant grace during this time of convalescence.

“Dr. Mohler has expressed deep appreciation for all the gestures of encouragement that have come from so many and looks forward to being back in action at Southern Seminary, and behind the microphone at the Albert Mohler program ().

“Thanks again for your prayers and support.

Jason K. Allen

Executive Assistant to the President

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Posted on January 4, 2007 |

Update on Mark in South Africa

by lduncan

Mark Dever has just emailed us this report from his ministry sojourn in South Africa.

“Here’s a quick summary of what’s going on in South Africa with me. It’s been great having Paul Curtis here with me.  I preached at 2 different churches on Sunday, in the same clothes I flew over in the 2 days before!  My luggage only joined me on Monday night!!  Anyway, here at the Grace Minister’s Conference, Don Carson is the other speaker.  I’m speaking on expositional preaching, church membership, church discipline and such things.  What you’d expect.  Q&A sessions in the evening.  The first conference ran from Tuesday until this morning.  The second began this afternoon.  I think we’ve sold out of 9marks books in the first conference (2 more to go) and we’ve gotten a good number of names & email addresses for 9marks.  Don Carson spoke on John 1:1-18 & I spoke on Expositional Preaching this afternoon, as the second in the series of 3 conferences got started.  Saturday it’s off to Cape Town, where I’m to preach at 2 different churches on Sunday.  We repeat all the teaching again in Cape Town next week!  And then I’m to do a separate conference that following Saturday (Jan. 13)!  Whew!”

Thanks Mark. We’re praying for you.

Posted on January 4, 2007 |

Let’s Talk

by lduncan

C.J. and Mark:

It’s a busy week for you, C.J. and Mark, you are in South Africa, right? But Happy New Year to you both dear friends! It was great to be with you in Louisville in December. I’m still laughing about the comedy video C.J.

I just got off the phone with Al and Mary. Al is hurting but healing. We thank God for the excellent medical care he’s received and we pray the Lord’s blessing on his recovery – it may take awhile. Meanwhile, since Al was supposed to get the conversation started, I’ll step in and try to shuffle along in his large and nigh-unto-unfillable shoes.

All four of us long to see churches that are faithful to the following: biblical expository preaching, biblical worship (both in all of life and in gathered praise), biblical doctrine, a biblical pursuit of godliness, a biblical approach to family life, a biblical understanding of the Gospel, a biblical understanding of conversion, a biblical understanding of evangelism, a biblical understanding of discipleship, a biblical understanding of church membership, a biblical understanding of church leadership, and a biblical view of how the church relates to the world. We are agreed, in the main, as to what this ought to look like. But what in our context militates against these things?

Here’s my question: what are the key factors afoot in the culture and in the evangelical churches that compromise the churches’ faithfulness in the practice of these things? Mark, you bravely touched on this in your post on “relevance or faithfulness” — but perhaps it would be helpful to ministers and members alike to reflect on the cultural and ecclesial trends and tendencies that are obstacles to biblical faithfulness.

Phil Ryken (in City on a Hill) suggests that narcissism and relativism share much of the blame. Mark, you have also made some suggestions on this issue in you Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. David Wells has offered a number of thoughts on these matters in the series that began with No Place for Truth. I recently started a topical-expository series called “Biblical Priorities for a Healthy Church” and suggested that individualism, relativism and consumerism have shaped our context and often influenced the churches unhelpfully (both in the expectations of members and the methods of ministers). However, there are certainly less high-flying but just as important factors that we could point to: ministerial professionalism, congregational affluence, the general cultural moral downgrade, etc.

I realize I’m swimming upstream by even posing such a question. Many will recoil from assuming a negative posture towards the culture, asserting that we ought to be more culture-affirming and less critical. However, in my experience, many who advocate the study of the culture in the pursuit of ministry end up confusing is with ought, and basically suggesting that the churches generally aim to sail with the prevailing winds.

I know you three brothers to be both astute observers and critics of culture, as well as faithful to biblical priorities for church life and Gospel ministry, so I value your insights. Feel free to take my question in other directions if you think another approach or angle would be more constructive for those attempting to be both faithful and relevant today. Or just suggest some reading to us.

Posted on January 2, 2007 |

Packer and Swinnock on Preparation for Public Worship

by lduncan

Is his important chapter on “The Puritan Approach to Worship” in his book “A Quest for Godliness” (the British title is “Among God’s Giants”), J.I. Packer, after lamenting our shallowness in worship in comparison to the practice of our evangelical forebears the Puritans, asks:

“How do we begin to get from where we are to where the Puritans show us that we ought to be in our own practice of worship? How can we, cold-hearted and formal as we so often are –to our shame– in church services, advance closer to the Puritan ideal? The Puritans would have met our question by asking us another. How do we prepare for worship? What do we do to rouse ourselves to seek God?

“Here, perhaps, is our own chief weakness. The Puritans inculcated specific preparation for worship–not merely for the Lord’s Supper, but for all services– as a regular part of the Christian’s inner discipline of prayer and communion with God.  … What we need at the present time to deepen our worship is not new liturgical forms or formulae, nor new hymns and tunes, but more preparatory ‘heart-work’ before we use the old ones. There is nothing wrong with new hymns, tunes, and worship styles–there may be very good reasons for them–but without ‘heart-work’ they will not make our worship more fruitful and God-honouring; they will only strengthen the syndrome that C.S. Lewis called ‘the liturgical fidgets’. ‘Heart-work’ must have priority or spiritually our worship will get nowhere.”

Then Packer quotes George Swinnock:

“Prepare to meet they God, O Christian! betake thyself to thy chamber on this Saturday night, confess and bewail thine unfaithfulness under the ordinances of God; shame and condemn thyself for thy sins, entreat God to prepare thy heart for, and assist it in, thy religious performances; spend some time in consideration of the infinite majesty, holiness, jealousy, and goodness, of that God, with whom thou art to have to do in sacred duties; ponder the weight and importance of his holy ordinances …; meditate on the shortness of the time thous hast to enjoy Sabbaths in; and continue musing … till the fire burneth; thou canst not think the good thou mayest gain by such forethoughts, how pleasant and profitable a Lord’s day would be to thee after such preparation. The oven of thine heart thus baked in, as it were, overnight, would be easily heated the next morning; the fire so well raked up when thou wentest to bed, would be the sooner kindled when thou shouldst rise. If thou wouldst thus leave thy heart with God on the Saturday night, thou shouldst find it with him in the Lord’s Day morning.”

Packer comments that the style of this admonition is “quaint” and so it is, but he also says that he believes that this is “a word in season for very many of us.” Amen.

Posted on December 31, 2006 in

Merry Christmas, and the Year to Come

by lduncan

Watch this blog in 2007!

We are planning to come out of the blocks strong come January 1, 2007. Here’s the plan. Al Mohler is going to get us rolling the first week of the New Year – posing a question that we’ll all reflect and comment on. The week following, C.J. will follow suit. The third week, I’ll prompt the discussion and the fourth week, Mark Dever will lead the cross examination. We’ll endeavor follow this rota each month.

Meanwhile, fifth weeks will provide time for special posts, and our occasional topical posting will continue, and perhaps even increase.

Hope your Christmas was filled with Gospel thanks and joy.

Oh, by the way, be on the lookout for a blow-you-away Packer/Goodwin quote on preparing for worship, here on the T4G blog, by the end of the week.

Posted on December 25, 2006 in

Charismatic Questions Spontaneity!

by mdever

Bob Kauflin, tall, humble & happy, classicly-trained worship czar of Sovereign Grace ministries has been behind much good for Christ’s church.  (Get and listen to Sovereign Grace’s new CD’s Valley of Vision and Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man.)  Bob is now in the process of writing a new book on worship which promises to be good, readable, helpful, even by the standards of this regulative-principle, Calvinistic, hymn-loving Baptist reader.   Bob is one of the best, most well-read, most pastorally-senstive conversation partners on the whole topic of worship that God has ever given me.  I have learned and do continue to try to learn from him.

Here’s one good quotation in which Bob is typically clear-headed and carefully reasoned:  “I’m a spontaneous guy and love to hear people share freely from their hearts.  However, I’ve learned that in most cases having people read their testimonies is preferable to having them speak without notes.  The drawback is that people can sound a little impersonal or stiff.  But the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.  People don’t head down rabbit trails, they stay within their allotted time, their thoughts can be edited in advance for clarity and content, and they are less anxious.  Written notes also allow them to deviate briefly when appropriate, but give them something to return to.”

Bob goes on to give cautions about being too planned.  His logic is ours at Capitol Hill Baptist Church for asking our baptismal candidates to write out their testimonies before they are baptized, and really for me writing out my sermons ahead of time! 

In these comments, as elsewhere, Bob shows himself to be my kind of “decently-and-in-order” charismatic brother!

Posted on December 19, 2006 |

Thankful for elders

by mdever

Yesterday morning we had a wonderful time together as a congregation.  One of the high points was a moment that is fairly rare in our church’s life–all our elders came up front in the service.  Our new elders were taking vows, as was the congregation, and we were praying for them.  Having the elders there together, with the congregation pledging their prayers and support was moving.  A number of members commented to me afterwards about how much they appreciated the ministry of the elders in our congregation.  They were encouraged to see all these men standing there, from diverse backgrounds, committed to Christ and to our congregation.

Some readers may think this is strange stuff for a Baptist to write, but here’s what the faithful London pastor John Gill wrote in his commentary on III John 10:  “the pastor, and though there is a pre-eminence, which of right belongs to such an officer, as to preside over the church, to govern, guide, and direct, according to the laws of Christ, he being set over the church, as a ruler, governor, and guide; yet this may be carried too far, as it was by this man, who coveted more than was his due, and lorded it over God’s heritage, ruled the flock with force and cruelty, and usurped a tyrannical power over them; whereas every thing in a church ought to be done, by pastor and people, in love, meekness, and with mutual consent.  And it may be also, that he sought to have the pre-eminence over the rest of the elders of the church, for in those large churches there were oftentimes more elders and pastors than one (see Acts 20:17, 28; Phil. 1:1).”

Posted on December 18, 2006 |

Deceptive Prosperity

by mdever

It can be true of us as individuals.  It can be true of our churches.  It is the danger of deception, deception which comes with evident prosperity.  What if there is prosperity in our life, but also sin?  What if there is prosperity in our life right now, but sin God hates?  What if there is prosperity in our life, but the sin–hateful to God–is practically invisible to us?  We’ve become accustomed to it.  We don’t want to “see” it. 

And yet sin’s invisibility to us only increases its danger for us.  As Edmund Calamy said to his congregation in his final sermon, when some of them may have been pitying Calamy for his ejection from his pastorate, Calamy, acting even as a shepherd in his last sermon to his flock, was alerting them to the dangers inherent in their own prosperity.  A timely word for us.

“May be some will say, I have committed many . . . sins, but am not brought into any strait.  Remember, it was nine months after David had numbered the people before he was in this strait; but as sure as God is in heaven, sin will bring straits sooner or later; though one sin a hundred years, yet shall he be accursed; may be thy prosperity makes way for thy damnation; and this is thy greatest distress, that thou goest on in sin and prosperity.”
Edmund Calamy in his “Farewell Sermon,” [Farewell Sermons, p. 11].

Posted on December 11, 2006 |

Confront or Adapt

by mdever

Reading through recent mailouts of upcoming pastors conferences, knowing some of the speakers’ books and churches, reading the topics to be addressed, I’m struck again by the carefulness with which a faithful pastor must consider the issue of adapting the unchanging Gospel to his current context.  Of course contextualization always takes place, whether acknowledged or unacknowledged.  To acknowledge it is better, because then we are more self-aware of choices we’re making, and we are also better able to be examined by others on those choices.  Such awareness of our contextualizing also encourages humility, and hinders us from claiming alone to be the “I am of Christ” kind of party that Paul warned the Corinthians about.

And yet, contextualization presumes either positive or at least neutral cultural images or ways of communication which can be used by the Gospel.  Are there any cultural images or ways of communicating that can’t be used for Gospel purposes?  The answer would have to be “Yes”, (though we might disagree about what those are). 

And what happens when a certain image or mode of communicating is inextricably linked with an anti-Christian worldview?  David Wells summarizes the issue:  “To put the matter succinctly:  those who see only the contemporaneity of this spirituality—and who, typically, yearn to be seen as being contemporary—usually make tactical maneuvers to win a hearing for their Christian views; those who see its underlying worldview will not. . . . When rival worldviews are in play, it is not adaptation that is called for but confrontation.” David Wells, Above All Earthly Pow’rs (2005), pp. 155-156.

To find out more of what David specifically uses as an example, you’ll need to turn to that section of his book.  But in all our concern for evangelism and contextualization (excellent, Christ-like concerns) we should not be blind to implications of our decisions.

In a decision you’re making right now about your own congregation, could you imagine a situation in which your intention is simply to adapt becoming a situation in which you would have no option but to confront?  It’s worth thinking about.

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