Truth is the beginning of wisdom…

Archive for May, 2007


Posted by straight shooter on May 23, 2007 under Religion, Theological Concerns

According to the International Programs Center, U.S. Bureau of the Census, as of May 15, 2007, the total population of the world is 6,595,336,785.

Over two billion of them are Christians.

That’s one out of every three persons on the planet.

But according to the latest research from Todd M. Johnson, Research Fellow and Director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, most non-Christians have never met one.

The vast majority of the world’s non-Christians have relatively little contact with Christians. In fact, over 86% of all Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims do not even know a Christian. Globally, over 80% of all non-Christians do not personally know a Christian.

Read that again, slowly: Over 80% of all non-Christians do not personally know a Christian.

This exposes the heart of our cultural crisis. We have confused the command to not be of the world with not being in it. Western Christians in particular are isolated from the very people we say we long to reach. We have retreated into a subculture of our own making. We populate churches that cater exclusively to the already convinced so that we can be “fed” and “ministered to!”

As a result, we live in a gospel ghetto. We have become insular in not only our thinking, but our very lives. There is even a less-than-subtle hostility toward those who are not Christians among many who claim the Great Commission as their marching orders.

This was not the model of Jesus.

He went into the world; He spent time with those who were far apart from God. He reached out relationally, built friendships, went into their homes, attended their parties, broke bread at their tables.

He was called a friend of sinners.

And the world needs more friends just like Him.

But as a first-century apologist once wrote, “…how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it?”


Posted by straight shooter on May 16, 2007 under Quotes, Religion

“Until the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change, you won’t.” – Devi Titus


Posted by straight shooter on May 15, 2007 under Quotes, Religion

“When a church goes too long without seeing conversions, it turns on itself. If a church does not taste the nourishment of seeing souls saved, it will cannibalize itself as people turn on each other, trying to recapture a sense of purpose. People get worked up about their musical preferences, or frustrated by the church’s organizational weaknesses, or irate about financial decisions and personnel problems. These issues often yield disagreement, division, and strife.

Seeing the transformation of a new convert’s life brings unity. When people are converted, the church pulls together. It is not that these other things are unimportant. They do matter; but they are not central. This was the point of Jesus’ parables of the lost sheep, lost coin and lost son. When church members see dissension among themselves, they should always ask, ‘When was the last time we saw the conversion of a lost soul?'”

– From There is No “I” in Church by Keith Drury

THE CROSS: "Cosmic Child Abuse"?

Posted by straight shooter on May 14, 2007 under Religion, Theological Concerns

Dr. Paul Dean

From the more radical wing of the “Emerging Church” has emerged a phrase and/or concept that is not only fashionable in that camp but has been picked up by liberals and secularists alike. It is now in vogue to refer to the cross of Christ as “cosmic child abuse.” While Brian McClaren and Steve Chalke speak freely in such terms, Adrian Warnock has chronicled other examples including Philip Yancey in The Jesus I Never Knew, Eugene Rogers in Sexuality and the Christian Body: Their Way into the Triune God (Challenges in Contemporary Theology), Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore in Let the Children Come : Reimagining Childhood from a Christian Perspective (Families and Faith Series), and Haven Kimmel in The Solace of Leaving Early.

Further, Dr. Peter Jones, author of Spirit Wars: Pagan Renewal in Christian America , warns against the pagan agenda of radical feminism that has been embraced by much of the church and connects that agenda with environmental activism propelled by Gaia worship. Numerous so-called Christians in that society refer to the cross of Christ as “cosmic child abuse.”

Moreover, in his article highlighting the comments of the homosexual Anglican Priest, The Very Reverend Dr. Jeffrey Philip Hywel John, Dr. Albert Mohler not only points out the priest’s belief “that the church’s traditional understanding of the cross of Christ is both ‘repulsive and ‘insane,’ but also cites Giles Fraser, who “throws his lot in with Dr. John. In his words, ‘For, once again, what [John] has been saying is nothing other than a truth known by most people in the pews: that the idea of God murdering his son for the salvation of the world is barbaric and morally indefensible. It turns Christianity into ‘cosmic child abuse.’”

In our present context, we are left with two competing visions of the cross of Christ. Either the cross was insane and a form of cosmic child abuse, or, it was not only just, but appropriate for God to send His Son to die such death. Dr. Mohler is right when he notes, “On this question there is no middle ground.”

It is clear that Christ came into the world for a purpose. “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9). Now, this raises a massive question (particularly in the Jewish context): is it right or appropriate or even true that the Messiah should suffer and die? Of course, the Old Testament is filled with references to this particular reality. The problem lies in the fact that most Jews did not understand such nor did it comport with their understanding of the Messiah or the law.

It seems that contemporary minds have the same difficulty, though for different reasons. The first-century Jews thought the Messiah would be a military conqueror. Furthermore, the law declared that anyone who hung upon a tree was cursed of God. In the same way they could not stomach such a notion, neither can today’s liberals fathom God crucifying Christ for their salvation. The truth is that Christ was cursed of God for a time. Six reasons are here offered as to why this action had to be and that it was indeed fitting.

First, it was fitting for the Father to send Christ to taste death for His people because of who God is and the purpose He had in bringing many sons to glory. To put it simply, because all things are for and by God Himself, what He does is right. One of the things God determined to do was to adopt a family and then bring that family to glory; something that family could not do for itself.

The propriety of Christ’s death is set forth in Hebrews 2:10 . The writer simply declares, “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” It was fitting, right, and appropriate for God the Father to send Christ to die. The writer supports his assertion in subtle ways.

As noted, whatever God does is appropriate by virtue of who He is. He is God and all things are for Him and by Him. This reality is highlighted elsewhere in Scripture and is attributed equally and interchangeably to the Father and the Son (Romans 11:36; Colossians 1:16-17 ). Paul put it this way to the Corinthians: “yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live” (1 Corinthians 8:6).

Now, God’s purpose was to bring many sons to glory. His redemptive purpose is highlighted throughout Scripture and includes the adoption of a people for Himself. The adopted children of God are destined for glory and will be called, justified, sanctified, and glorified (Ephesians 1:5; Romans 8:29-30).

Second, because God purposed to bring many sons to glory, Christ had to taste death for His people in order to bring them to glory. Why? Because the stark reality is that sinful human beings cannot save themselves. They must have a Savior and the only sufficient Savior is Christ Himself. Thus, it is Christ who is the captain, author, leader, or trailblazer of salvation for His people. Christ is the One who accomplished salvation for His people.

Third, the question as to why Christ had to die in this context warrants further explanation. In order to bring His people to glory, Christ had to blaze a trail to glory. As noted, He is the author of their salvation. He is the One who leads them into salvation. He is their captain or leader. In that sense, He blazed a trail to and into salvation for His people as the Greek word for “captain” indicates.

But, the writer references the sufferings of Christ. The trail that Christ blazed to and into salvation was a trail that went through death. The collective testimony of Scripture is that He had to suffer and die in order to save His people. The wrath of God abided upon them by virtue of their sin. The wages of sin is death. Thus, Christ died as a substitute for His people in that He tasted death and took the wrath of the Father upon Himself for them. He atoned for their sins: something they could never do for themselves.

As the writer notes, Christ was made perfect through sufferings. The word “perfect” in the Greek speaks of perfection to be sure, but also carries the idea of maturity, end, or goal. Christ was certainly not imperfect, flawed, or sinful. He was and is perfect God. He was perfected in His role of Savior through suffering, death, and ultimately the defeat of death by virtue of His sinlessness. Because He had no sin of His own, death could not hold Him. He achieved His goal, the bringing of His people to glory, by suffering and dying for them.

Fourth, in order to blaze a trail to glory, Christ had to suffer and die as a man. It was appropriate for Messiah to die: “For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Hebrews 2:11). A few points may be gleaned here.

Christ is the One who sanctifies. That is, He sets His people apart by virtue of His atoning work for them. He sanctified His people or set apart His people from the rest of humanity for the Father. He accomplished this reality at the cross.

At the same time, Christ’s people are also being sanctified. This dynamic is progressive and occurs over a lifetime this side of glory. In justification, the work of Christ is applied to the believer. The believer is declared righteous in God’s sight by virtue of the imputed righteousness of Christ to his account. In sanctification, the righteousness of Christ is progressively imparted to the believer by the Spirit.

Finally, Christ, the One who sanctifies, and His people, those who are being sanctified, are all of one nature or family. The issue here is identification. Christ identified with His people in order to save them. But, the issue goes further. He became a partaker of their nature that He might actually save them by dying in their place as an acceptable substitute. Certainly Christ died as God to satisfy God but He also died as man to be a substitute for man. He had to add humanity to Himself to be an acceptable substitute for men.

Fifth, because Christ suffered and died as man, He is not ashamed to call His people brethren. Because Christ added humanity to His deity, identified with His people, and set them apart, He is not ashamed to call them brethren. They now share the same human nature. By virtue of that reality and His sanctifying work, Christ and His people are brothers.

Sixth, because Christ is not ashamed to call His people brethren, He points them to the Father. The writer quotes Psalm 22:22 to support the assertion that Christ is not ashamed to call His chosen ones brethren. Of course the Psalm is Messianic and speaks volumes to the questioning Jews. The simple statement is this: “saying: ‘I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You (Hebrews 2:12).’”

The Messiah will declare the Father’s name to His brethren. Three points may be gleaned here.

Firstly, the concept of Messiah having brethren supports the notion of his incarnation and the realities to which the author to the Hebrews has been pointing (Christ’s incarnation, suffering, and death).

Secondly, declaring the Father’s name to the brethren is more than mere verbal proclamation. It is Christ who reveals the Father to His people by virtue of who He is as God. In salvation, Christ reveals God to His people.

Thirdly, Christ reveals God through the Holy Spirit in a more in depth manner to His brethren. He does not reveal Him to the rest of humanity in the same way.

The Messiah will also sing praise to the Father in the midst of the assembly. The Greek word for assembly is ecclesia and refers to the believer or those called out of the world by the effectual working of the Spirit and is translated “church.” It is in the midst of the church that Christ will sing praise to the Father. Christ reveals the Father to the church and sings praise to Him in the church. He leads his brothers in the way of salvation.

In verse 13, the writer continues in the same vein as verse 12 by quoting from Isaiah 8:17-18: “And again: ‘I will put My trust in Him.’ And again: ‘Here am I and the children whom God has given me.’” Isaiah, in the midst of Israel (and here the faithful remnant), the Old Testament people of God, who typify the spiritual people of God, declares that he will trust God. Christ is in the midst of God’s true people, the children the Father has given Him, and declares to them that He will trust in God. In this way, Christ unites the church to the Father not only by virtue of His work, but also by constantly pointing to Him and declaring the way of faith.

Christ trusted the Father in the mission given to Him: the work of redemption. Christ is the elder brother who trusts the Father with the church and unites the Father to the church. It was appropriate that Christ taste death for His people that He might constantly point them to the Father.

Far from being cosmic child abuse, the cross is the only action a loving God could have taken to maintain His holy character and be lovingly gracious to guilty sinners at the same time. He is God and what He does is right. He graciously determined to save a people out of lost humanity. Therefore, Christ had to taste death in order to bring His people to glory. Because His people could not get to glory on their own, Christ had to blaze a trail for them to glory. That trail led through death, thus, Christ had to die. He had to die as a man in order to identify with man and become an acceptable substitute for man by virtue of His sinless humanity. As He identifies with man, His people, He is not ashamed to call them brethren and therefore constantly points them to the Father. How fitting…and how loving.


Posted by straight shooter on May 2, 2007 under Social Concerns

Christian researcher George Barna says the recent massacre at Virginia Tech should alert parents to take a hard look at how a culture that glamorizes sex and violence is impacting young adults.

In an article on his website, Barna said he is sympathetic toward the parents of Seung-Hui Cho, the 23-year-old Virginia Tech student who murdered 32 people at the Blacksburg campus on April 16 before killing himself. However, he says it is important to look at trends in child development and parenting to see how culture influences children.

Barna’s studies on parenting and child development led him to offer a series of facts and observations related to the Virginia Tech situation …

1. By the time an American child is 23 years old, as was the killer in Virginia, he will have seen countless murders among the more than 30,000 acts of violence to which he is exposed through television, movies and video games.

2. By the age of 23, the average American will have viewed thousands of hours of pornographic images, which diminish the dignity and value of human life.

3. After nearly a quarter century on earth, the typical American will have listened to hundreds of hours of music that fosters anger, hatred, disrespect for authority, selfishness, and radical independence.

4. The typical worldview of a person in their early twenties promotes self-centeredness, the right to happiness and fulfillment, the importance of personal expression in all forms, the necessity of tolerating aberrant or immoral points of views, allows for disrespect of other people and use of profanity, and advances forms of generic spirituality that dismiss the validity of the Judeo-Christian faith. Largely propelled by postmodern thought, the typical worldview of young people does not facilitate respect for life, acceptance of the rule of law, or the necessity of hard work, personal sacrifice, paying the dues or contributing to the common good. Barna noted that only about 2% of today’s teenagers possess a biblical worldview that acknowledges the existence of God, Satan and sin, the availability of forgiveness and grace through Jesus Christ, and the existence of absolute moral principles provided in the Bible.

5. The average adolescent spends more than 40 hours each week digesting media, and the typical teenager in America absorbs almost 60 hours of media content each week. For better or worse, the messages received from the media represent a series of unfiltered, unchaperoned worldview lessons.

6. It appears that as many as one out of every five young people is or has been under the influence of mood-altering medications, some of whose long-term side effects are not fully understood by the medical community. Drugging children has become one of the ways in which we have coped with other issues.

7. Stress levels have been steadily rising among young children over the past couple of decades. A variety of factors have contributed to such stress, including parental acrimony and divorce, household financial troubles, media-fed expectations regarding materialism, overscheduling of children, bullying, physical abuse within the home, and excessive peer pressure.

8. One-third of the nation’s teenagers report having been in a physical fight at least once in the last year. Nearly one out of every five 9th through 12th grade students has carried a gun, knife or club in the past month.

9. Education, both in the home and outside of it, provides diminishing emphasis upon the development of character, and increasing emphasis upon meeting academic performance standards, especially through standardized testing.

10. Growing numbers of children seek to make their way through an increasingly complex life without the traditional safety net comprised of a loving and supportive family, a stable circle of supportive peers, teachers who know and help nurture the child, and a community of faith that assists in giving meaning to life and a sense of belonging.

11. Most young people admit that they feel as if they do not receive sufficient attention from their parents; do not have enough good friends whom they can count on; are unsettled about their own future; have personal spiritual perspectives but not much of a sense of spiritual community; lack role models; and do not feel that they have intrinsic value.

In his article, Barna says the Virginia Tech shooting should spur society to look beyond issues such as gun control and see how such incidents can be avoided. It is easy, he says, to examine that tragedy and suggest such solutions as “Ah, there was a gun — let’s have gun control. Ah, he was having some mental health issues — let’s talk about drug medication regulation and so forth.”

But such a response is “superficial,” he continues. “Now in some ways [such reactions are] not surprising, because we also know that most parents think they’re doing a good job parenting,” Barna offers. “You know, other parents aren’t as good as they are, their own kids are doing just fine, there are no issues here.”

But the Christian researcher says his group’s work has made it clear that parents who are concerned about the culture’s influence must monitor their children’s use of various media.

“When we study parents who are really effective at raising great kids, we [have] found that one of the things that those parents had in common is that they did manage the media intake of their children very carefully,” he shares. “They would refuse to let them watch certain programs; [and] they allowed them to watch others, but they would talk about the content.”

Barna encourages parents to set high standards and expectations for their children. He also makes it clear that he is not implying that Cho’s parents neglected their responsibilities.