Unity in the truth of the gospel

Justin Taylor:

Someone said, disparagingly, that T4G was “like a club patting each other on the back for their mutual buttressing of the ‘unadjusted gospel’ against threats from various corners.”

I suppose that’s one way to look at it.

But here’s the lasting image that will stay in my mind from the conference: a diverse group of men, united in their love for the Savior and the gospel, praying with tears for healing of a brother with stage 3 brain cancer.

Of course, the “someone” Justin references is CT’s Brett McCracken, who wrote this article last week comparing T4G with the Wheaton Conference featuring N.T. Wright. Justin provides good thoughts as always — humble in disagreement, but firm nonetheless. This picture is from my favorite memory from T4G, four men laying hands on Matt Chandler and fervently praying for him, then singing It is Well with the 7,000 pastors and students in attendance. This all after Sproul, Mohler, MacArthur and of course Piper all laid out the truth in full clarity, each refusing to give it up. But was the conference all about pompous upturned noses and prudish back-patting?

As this picture shows — hardly.

Throwback

I just figured out how to import posts from other blogs, so I’ve brought in my posts from my semester in Israel last year. Go back to January-April 2009 to read them. I enjoy going back through them periodically to remind myself of the experience. I hope you enjoy them too.

Morning Press 4.26

Since the two items here are semi-Lutheran, I include a picture of the man himself.

Bonhoeffer. Justin Taylor interviews Eric Metaxas (author of Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery) on his most recent book, another biography, this time a 600-page tome on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I’m looking forward to reading it.

N.T Wright visits Wheaton. While I was enjoying myself at T4G two weeks ago (or as CT’s Brett McCracken might say, patting others on the back about how we haven’t adjusted the gospel), a large group of Wrightians and “New Perspectives” gathered at Wheaton College to discuss N.T. Wright’s theology of justification. Reformation21 (I think you could probably guess where they are in the New Pauline Perspective debate) provides a nice, concise summary of what happened there. I’ve listened to Vanhoozer’s talk already, and while I was disappointed to hear that he’s perhaps moved over to the New Perspective side, I thoroughly enjoyed his address. (if you haven’t read Vanhoozer’s book about Derrida and postmodern literary criticism, Is There a Meaning in This Text?, I encourage you to find the time to wade through it).

As for the CT article by McCracken (“Wrightians and the Neo-Reformed: All One in Christ Jesus“), I will address it later.

Overemphasize the Cross?

I had an interesting conversation with a friend here at Cedarville recently. It was primarily focused on the doctrine of imputation, and whether we reformed folk are faithfully interpreting Phillipians 4, Romans 5 and especially Romans 4.

The conversation drifted a bit (as they often do in college), and we started talking about the Gospels, and Luke’s Gospel in particular. I was trying to point out the implications of Jesus’ doctrine of justification in Luke 18 (the parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector), and demonstrate that this passage was clearly alluding to the cross…and Jesus did so intentionally.

At that point, my friend said to me, “I’m don’t like how you always make Jesus’ ministry about the cross. Sure it’s a big part, but that’s hardly the main point of Jesus’ life on earth.” Knowing what I know about him, I assume my friend would have said Jesus’ purpose was to “bring in the new kingdom” or “declare Jesus as Lord over all.” He actually said it was to “oppose Rome,” but that’s a pretty easy one to refute so I’ll let it go.

Is this true? Is the cross “hardly the main point of Jesus’ life on earth”? Gordon Cheng of the Sola Panel provides some good thoughts on this. He quotes John Stott to say while we can’t overemphazise the cross, we can jump to it too quickly. Read a part for yourself:

Translated into English from the English, Stott is saying, “Preach the cross as much as you like. But it is just a piece of stupidity in a distant historical context unless we understand why it is there. It’s as ridiculous as taking a pill the doctor offers, without understanding that I’m sick—no, really sick.”

Until I understand that I am a sinner, that God really hates me for it, and that I really am going to the place where the fire burns without being extinguished and the worm does not die, I can’t begin understand the love he showed me when his Son died in my place for my sins, bearing the full weight of his Father’s wrath against me.

This is an important lesson for we reformed people. The cross absolutely cannot be overemphasized, but if we get to the cross without encountering our sinfulness, it’s bad news. Personally, I think this is one of the weaknesses of N.T. Wright and the New Perspective on Paul. If the main point of Jesus’ ministry, and of the cross itself, is to “declare Jesus as Lord over all,” that doesn’t mean it’s good news for us. In fact, considering that God is holy and righteous, the cross could then become terrible news. But we do well to remember I Tim. 1:15, that “Christ died to save sinners.” This is good news…primarily for sinners. According to Rom. 5:6, Christ died for the ungodly. This is critical. Our depravity should drive us to the forgiveness found in the cross.

Now, it’s true that the Gospels do find their center at the cross–and more than just thematically but exegetically too. Half of the book of Mark is the Passion narrative. Jesus foretells his death and resurrection three different times in Matthew. And then there’s John 2, when Mary asks Jesus during a Cana wedding if he can do something about the wine shortage. Jesus’ reply is interesting: “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” This important phrase, “my hour,” pretty much exclusively refers to Jesus’ crucifixion in the Gospels. The cross is at the center, not just for Paul (countless passages can be used as evidence–> Rom. 3:24-26; Eph. 2:13-16; Col. 2:13-14; Heb. 9; Rev. 5:9), but especially for Jesus.

So, back to my friend. First, I thank the Lord for the grace to engage this question with care, and not respond (as I often do) with incredulity: “what do you mean the cross isn’t the center of Jesus’ ministry?!?!”

Second, I thank Him for the clarity of His Word, and the gift of the Spirit to help us study it and know it. And third, I pray for the humility to submit to the text in every sense. In this case, as I stand on the shoulders of brilliant but humble interpreters and Greek experts, I think traditional reformed readings still stand as accurate.

And do we emphasize the cross too much? Only if we don’t biblically lead people to its shadow. There’s a reason Rom. 1-3:20 come before Rom. 3:21, and there is a reason Eph. 2:1-3 come before verse 4. There is always a before story, and we need to know that before we come and cling to the cross. Ultimately, that perspective will help us love it all the more.

Morning Press 4.19

The Emerging Church is dead. Anthony Bradley announces that the short-lived Emerging Church movement has died.

From Brian McLaren to Erwin McManus to Rob Bell to Tony Jones to Mark Driscoll and others, the theological lines have been drawn and are settled. We have all moved on. We know who fits into evangelicalism, post-liberalism, Anabaptism, Calvinism, and so on.

Why should pastors read? Aaron Menikoff quotes T. David Gordon’s book Why Johnny Can’t Preach to answer.

Here’s a quote from Gordon’s book:

There is a profound difference between reading information and reading texts. The former permits a disinterest in the question of how the matter is composed; its interest is only in the content. Indeed, the skill of rapid reading was designed precisely to achieve better efficiency when reading for information, by actually training the mind to ignore most of the articles, prepositions, adjectives, and adverbs. But reading a text is a laboriously slow process; when one reads a text, one is reading a piece of literature that survives beyond its initial generation largely because of its manner, irrespective of its matter . . . [How Shakespeare] talks about friendship is so profoundly artful that one is often stunned by the achievement. Yet how many people (including ministers) in our culture today are capable of reading Shakespeare’s sonnets with appreciation and pleasure?

A note on all the weird content over the weekend. I’m doing this program called the World Journalism Institute in New York City this summer. The course is designed to get young journalists familiar with all different type of media, produced from a Christian worldview. All the stuff labeled “Convergence Project” are part of a pre-class assignment which was to be posted on our blogs. So, you’ll see a lot of this stuff over the next two months. Hopefully, I can maintain some other content too. Hope you enjoy it either way.

Stoney Creek Roasters

Local Comfort: Cedarville’s Stoney Creek Roasters

By: Andrew Smith

Taylor Minor has the perfect Cedarville pedigree. He went to the local high school, helped his family start the popular diner “Beans ‘n Cream” and went to nearby Cedarville University for a year after seven years in the Marine corps. So he would be the perfect candidate to start one of the village’s most popular attractions.

Stoney Creek Roasters opened Fall, 2007. (Photo: Andrew Smith)

Stoney Creek Roasters was started just a year-and-a-half ago, but the modest coffee shop is already building a favorable national reputation. Minor said that along with making coffee for the local area, Stoney Creek has sold its roasted coffee to other shops across the country. But Minor says that the local opportunities–such as selling coffee to Rinnova, Cedarville University’s student coffee shop–are closer to Stoney Creek’s heart.

“Our philosophy was really to specialize in coffee and drinks,” Minor said. “To have a food element, but really just to focus on the social part of coffee drinking an really building an environment that was really inviting for people.”

The coffee shop is owned and operated by Minor and virtually every member of his family. His mother, father, wife, brother and grandparents all put hours into SCR. The remaining hours needed are filled by six college student workers from Cedarville University.
Stoney Creek’s success has enabled Minor to start expanding the shop. An extra room, more basement seating and most recently a patio have been added. The brand new patio overlooks the small creek that runs through Cedarville.

“[We want to] take everything up a notch in terms of quality.”

Taylor Minor, on his vision for SCR:

Taylor Minor interview

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