Monthly Archives: April 2008

Contemplate Heaven with Me for a Minute: Edward’s "Heaven Is a World of Love", Pt. 1

This sermon is an absolute masterpiece. Unfortunately, most Christians have not and never will encounter it. I encourage you to read this section and to check out the sermon. You’ll see why if you read it.

The Reality of God’s Unending Love for His People–“As the saints will love God with an inconceivable ardency of heart, and to the utmost of their capacity, so they will know that he has loved them from all eternity, and still loves them, and will continue to love them forever. And God will then gloriously manifest himself to them, and they shall know that all that happiness and glory which they are possessed of, are the fruits of his love. And with the same ardor and fervency will the saints love the Lord Jesus Christ; and their love will be accepted; and they shall know that he has loved them with a faithful, yea, even with a dying love. They shall then be more sensible than now they are, what great love it manifested in Christ that he should lay down his life for them; and then will Christ open to their view the great fountain of love in his heart for them, beyond all that they ever saw before. Hereby the love of the saints to God and Christ is seen to he reciprocated, and that declaration fulfilled, “I love them that love me;” and though the love of God to them cannot properly be called the return of love, because he loved them first, yet the sight of his love will, on that very account, the more fill them with joy and admiration, and love to him.”

–From “Heaven Is a World of Love,” The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards

I recently taught on this at a local church in the Chicago area and was absolutely transported by Edwards’s words. The central point of this passage is that God’s love in heaven is something like a rushing force that unstoppably flows into the hearts and souls of His people. Like a sea churning with fury, God’s love pours into the hearts of His people such that they are so full, so satiated with God’s love, that there is no room for any other emotion or feeling. I do not know, of course, is this is the way heaven is, exactly, but I do commend Edwards for taking a stab at comprehending the reality of an uninhibited divine love. How often do you and I honestly stop to consider what it is like to experience the rushing, surging, overwhelming force of God’s love as mediated through Christ in heaven? How much do we struggle to sense flickers of Christ’s love while on earth, so cold and sinful are our hearts? Heaven, I am confident, will be very different, and whether it is just like Edwards pictures it in this sermon or not, it is clear from the biblical text that Christians have a great rushing sea of love in which to swim in the next life. Edwards lifts our gazes to think about this coming reality, and it will be worth reflecting on these next few days in order that we might train ourselves to allow our doctrine of heaven to transcend mere abstraction, mere intellectual exercise, and to warm our hearts as the Bible so clearly intends it to.

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Contemplate Heaven with Me for a Minute: Edward’s "Heaven Is a World of Love", Pt. 1

This sermon is an absolute masterpiece. Unfortunately, most Christians have not and never will encounter it. I encourage you to read this section and to check out the sermon. You’ll see why if you read it.

The Reality of God’s Unending Love for His People–“As the saints will love God with an inconceivable ardency of heart, and to the utmost of their capacity, so they will know that he has loved them from all eternity, and still loves them, and will continue to love them forever. And God will then gloriously manifest himself to them, and they shall know that all that happiness and glory which they are possessed of, are the fruits of his love. And with the same ardor and fervency will the saints love the Lord Jesus Christ; and their love will be accepted; and they shall know that he has loved them with a faithful, yea, even with a dying love. They shall then be more sensible than now they are, what great love it manifested in Christ that he should lay down his life for them; and then will Christ open to their view the great fountain of love in his heart for them, beyond all that they ever saw before. Hereby the love of the saints to God and Christ is seen to he reciprocated, and that declaration fulfilled, “I love them that love me;” and though the love of God to them cannot properly be called the return of love, because he loved them first, yet the sight of his love will, on that very account, the more fill them with joy and admiration, and love to him.”

–From “Heaven Is a World of Love,” The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards

I recently taught on this at a local church in the Chicago area and was absolutely transported by Edwards’s words. The central point of this passage is that God’s love in heaven is something like a rushing force that unstoppably flows into the hearts and souls of His people. Like a sea churning with fury, God’s love pours into the hearts of His people such that they are so full, so satiated with God’s love, that there is no room for any other emotion or feeling. I do not know, of course, is this is the way heaven is, exactly, but I do commend Edwards for taking a stab at comprehending the reality of an uninhibited divine love. How often do you and I honestly stop to consider what it is like to experience the rushing, surging, overwhelming force of God’s love as mediated through Christ in heaven? How much do we struggle to sense flickers of Christ’s love while on earth, so cold and sinful are our hearts? Heaven, I am confident, will be very different, and whether it is just like Edwards pictures it in this sermon or not, it is clear from the biblical text that Christians have a great rushing sea of love in which to swim in the next life. Edwards lifts our gazes to think about this coming reality, and it will be worth reflecting on these next few days in order that we might train ourselves to allow our doctrine of heaven to transcend mere abstraction, mere intellectual exercise, and to warm our hearts as the Bible so clearly intends it to.

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Contemplate Heaven with Me for a Minute: Edward’s "Heaven Is a World of Love", Pt. 1

This sermon is an absolute masterpiece. Unfortunately, most Christians have not and never will encounter it. I encourage you to read this section and to check out the sermon. You’ll see why if you read it.

The Reality of God’s Unending Love for His People–“As the saints will love God with an inconceivable ardency of heart, and to the utmost of their capacity, so they will know that he has loved them from all eternity, and still loves them, and will continue to love them forever. And God will then gloriously manifest himself to them, and they shall know that all that happiness and glory which they are possessed of, are the fruits of his love. And with the same ardor and fervency will the saints love the Lord Jesus Christ; and their love will be accepted; and they shall know that he has loved them with a faithful, yea, even with a dying love. They shall then be more sensible than now they are, what great love it manifested in Christ that he should lay down his life for them; and then will Christ open to their view the great fountain of love in his heart for them, beyond all that they ever saw before. Hereby the love of the saints to God and Christ is seen to he reciprocated, and that declaration fulfilled, “I love them that love me;” and though the love of God to them cannot properly be called the return of love, because he loved them first, yet the sight of his love will, on that very account, the more fill them with joy and admiration, and love to him.”

–From “Heaven Is a World of Love,” The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards

I recently taught on this at a local church in the Chicago area and was absolutely transported by Edwards’s words. The central point of this passage is that God’s love in heaven is something like a rushing force that unstoppably flows into the hearts and souls of His people. Like a sea churning with fury, God’s love pours into the hearts of His people such that they are so full, so satiated with God’s love, that there is no room for any other emotion or feeling. I do not know, of course, is this is the way heaven is, exactly, but I do commend Edwards for taking a stab at comprehending the reality of an uninhibited divine love. How often do you and I honestly stop to consider what it is like to experience the rushing, surging, overwhelming force of God’s love as mediated through Christ in heaven? How much do we struggle to sense flickers of Christ’s love while on earth, so cold and sinful are our hearts? Heaven, I am confident, will be very different, and whether it is just like Edwards pictures it in this sermon or not, it is clear from the biblical text that Christians have a great rushing sea of love in which to swim in the next life. Edwards lifts our gazes to think about this coming reality, and it will be worth reflecting on these next few days in order that we might train ourselves to allow our doctrine of heaven to transcend mere abstraction, mere intellectual exercise, and to warm our hearts as the Bible so clearly intends it to.

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Jonathan Edwards on the Pastor’s Chief Responsibility

The following is from a paper I just wrote on the subject.

Edwards’s “Farewell Sermon”, delivered in June 1750 on 2 Corinthians 1:14, presents Edwards’s most extended treatment of the theology of Christian ministry, specifically, the theology of the pastorate. The following quotation captures nicely Edwards’s view of his call.

Ministers are set as guides and teachers, and are represented in Scripture as lights set up in the churches; and in the present state meet their people from time to time in order to instruct and enlighten them, to correct their mistakes, and to be a voice behind them, saying, “This is the way, walk in it” [Is. 30:21]; to evince and confirm the truth by exhibiting the proper evidences of it, and to refute errors and corrupt opinions, to convince the erroneous and establish the doubting.[1]

For all of Edwards’s abilities and proclivities, these words are immensely instructive to the one seeking an abbreviated conception of Edwards’s understanding of his life’s work. A minister is a “light” who leads his people on the narrow path of textual faithfulness. Pastors are both “guides” and “teachers.” Though Edwards’s capacities for preaching and theological instruction are so often bifurcated, in his own mind they were united.[2] The master pastor-theologian saw the Word as calling him to be just that: a pastor-theologian, one called to feed his people truth and to keep them from ingesting theological teaching that would poison and corrupt them.
This life-passion did not produce a thinly moralistic, intellectually simplistic body of work. No, Edwards’s sermons show that his quest to defend truth and refute error resulted in doctrinal and exegetical theology of the richest kind. Theology was not incidental to the life of the local church—it was central. Without a meaty, steady diet of it, the saints would suffer. The road to heaven would grow dark, and the people would wander off, Satan and a thousand dark angels waiting for them. But with it—with preaching of the stoutest kind, the stuff smacking of God, His character, His work, His dealings with men and all creation—the light would shine, and the people would live.
For Edwards, being a pastor-theologian was not a matter of choice, a pastoral flavor neatly tailored to his intellect and gifts. For Edwards, to be a pastor was only to be a pastor-theologian, one who devoted the full strength of his energy and ability to train his people in the way of truth. Though in the future these dual callings would split off from one another, in Edwards and his predecessors they were necessarily and beneficially joined.


[1] Jonathan Edwards, “Farewell Sermon” in Kimnach, Sermons of Jonathan Edwards, 217.

[2] Edwards offered equally helpful meditations on the pastorate in his “Notes on Scripture”: “When men read the Holy Scripture, they there may see Christ’s glory, as men see images of things by looking in a glass; so we see Christ’s glory in ordinances. Ministers are burning and shining lights, but then they don’t shine by their own light, but only reflect the light of Christ.” Jonathan Edwards, Notes on Scripture, ed. Stephen Stein, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 15 (New Haven: Yale, 1998), 320.

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Jonathan Edwards on the Pastor’s Chief Responsibility

The following is from a paper I just wrote on the subject.

Edwards’s “Farewell Sermon”, delivered in June 1750 on 2 Corinthians 1:14, presents Edwards’s most extended treatment of the theology of Christian ministry, specifically, the theology of the pastorate. The following quotation captures nicely Edwards’s view of his call.

Ministers are set as guides and teachers, and are represented in Scripture as lights set up in the churches; and in the present state meet their people from time to time in order to instruct and enlighten them, to correct their mistakes, and to be a voice behind them, saying, “This is the way, walk in it” [Is. 30:21]; to evince and confirm the truth by exhibiting the proper evidences of it, and to refute errors and corrupt opinions, to convince the erroneous and establish the doubting.[1]

For all of Edwards’s abilities and proclivities, these words are immensely instructive to the one seeking an abbreviated conception of Edwards’s understanding of his life’s work. A minister is a “light” who leads his people on the narrow path of textual faithfulness. Pastors are both “guides” and “teachers.” Though Edwards’s capacities for preaching and theological instruction are so often bifurcated, in his own mind they were united.[2] The master pastor-theologian saw the Word as calling him to be just that: a pastor-theologian, one called to feed his people truth and to keep them from ingesting theological teaching that would poison and corrupt them.
This life-passion did not produce a thinly moralistic, intellectually simplistic body of work. No, Edwards’s sermons show that his quest to defend truth and refute error resulted in doctrinal and exegetical theology of the richest kind. Theology was not incidental to the life of the local church—it was central. Without a meaty, steady diet of it, the saints would suffer. The road to heaven would grow dark, and the people would wander off, Satan and a thousand dark angels waiting for them. But with it—with preaching of the stoutest kind, the stuff smacking of God, His character, His work, His dealings with men and all creation—the light would shine, and the people would live.
For Edwards, being a pastor-theologian was not a matter of choice, a pastoral flavor neatly tailored to his intellect and gifts. For Edwards, to be a pastor was only to be a pastor-theologian, one who devoted the full strength of his energy and ability to train his people in the way of truth. Though in the future these dual callings would split off from one another, in Edwards and his predecessors they were necessarily and beneficially joined.


[1] Jonathan Edwards, “Farewell Sermon” in Kimnach, Sermons of Jonathan Edwards, 217.

[2] Edwards offered equally helpful meditations on the pastorate in his “Notes on Scripture”: “When men read the Holy Scripture, they there may see Christ’s glory, as men see images of things by looking in a glass; so we see Christ’s glory in ordinances. Ministers are burning and shining lights, but then they don’t shine by their own light, but only reflect the light of Christ.” Jonathan Edwards, Notes on Scripture, ed. Stephen Stein, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 15 (New Haven: Yale, 1998), 320.

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Filed under jonathan edwards, ministry, pastor-theologian, pastoral ministry, pastors

Jonathan Edwards on the Pastor’s Chief Responsibility

The following is from a paper I just wrote on the subject.

Edwards’s “Farewell Sermon”, delivered in June 1750 on 2 Corinthians 1:14, presents Edwards’s most extended treatment of the theology of Christian ministry, specifically, the theology of the pastorate. The following quotation captures nicely Edwards’s view of his call.

Ministers are set as guides and teachers, and are represented in Scripture as lights set up in the churches; and in the present state meet their people from time to time in order to instruct and enlighten them, to correct their mistakes, and to be a voice behind them, saying, “This is the way, walk in it” [Is. 30:21]; to evince and confirm the truth by exhibiting the proper evidences of it, and to refute errors and corrupt opinions, to convince the erroneous and establish the doubting.[1]

For all of Edwards’s abilities and proclivities, these words are immensely instructive to the one seeking an abbreviated conception of Edwards’s understanding of his life’s work. A minister is a “light” who leads his people on the narrow path of textual faithfulness. Pastors are both “guides” and “teachers.” Though Edwards’s capacities for preaching and theological instruction are so often bifurcated, in his own mind they were united.[2] The master pastor-theologian saw the Word as calling him to be just that: a pastor-theologian, one called to feed his people truth and to keep them from ingesting theological teaching that would poison and corrupt them.
This life-passion did not produce a thinly moralistic, intellectually simplistic body of work. No, Edwards’s sermons show that his quest to defend truth and refute error resulted in doctrinal and exegetical theology of the richest kind. Theology was not incidental to the life of the local church—it was central. Without a meaty, steady diet of it, the saints would suffer. The road to heaven would grow dark, and the people would wander off, Satan and a thousand dark angels waiting for them. But with it—with preaching of the stoutest kind, the stuff smacking of God, His character, His work, His dealings with men and all creation—the light would shine, and the people would live.
For Edwards, being a pastor-theologian was not a matter of choice, a pastoral flavor neatly tailored to his intellect and gifts. For Edwards, to be a pastor was only to be a pastor-theologian, one who devoted the full strength of his energy and ability to train his people in the way of truth. Though in the future these dual callings would split off from one another, in Edwards and his predecessors they were necessarily and beneficially joined.


[1] Jonathan Edwards, “Farewell Sermon” in Kimnach, Sermons of Jonathan Edwards, 217.

[2] Edwards offered equally helpful meditations on the pastorate in his “Notes on Scripture”: “When men read the Holy Scripture, they there may see Christ’s glory, as men see images of things by looking in a glass; so we see Christ’s glory in ordinances. Ministers are burning and shining lights, but then they don’t shine by their own light, but only reflect the light of Christ.” Jonathan Edwards, Notes on Scripture, ed. Stephen Stein, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 15 (New Haven: Yale, 1998), 320.

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The Week-est Link, April 25, 2008: Craig Blomberg, T4G Videos, Doing Hard Things

1. The Henry Center of TEDS in Deerfield, IL recently hosted a great lecture by eminent New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminary. Click here to go the Center’s website and click on the links under “Recent Media” to hear the talk and also an insightful interview with Dr. Blomberg on the topic of a biblical, pastoral approach to wealth. I happen to be slightly partial to this website, of course, as I manage it in my daily work!

2. Check out a fun video showing the “bookstore” at the T4G conference. Click on the video at the bottom of the page to see the so-called “store” which stretched all prior conceptions of the word. Also, look for an appearance by yours truly at the video’s end–I’m in the yellow shirt, meekly handing out Henry Center booklets. In fact, when I first appear in the frame, I’m having one of my booklets handed back to me. Impressive marketing, indeed.

3. Check out Tim Challies’s new review of the book Do Hard Things by the younger brothers of Covenant Life pastor Josh Harris. Great book to give to a parent of a teen or a teen himself to encourage a spirit of godly industriousness.

Have a great weekend, all.

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Real Life Sanctification: The Century-Old Dilemma of Guys and Sports

As I said a few days ago, I think that when we’re talking about sanctification, the progressive growth in grace of the Christian, we need to start with the deeper, higher truths and then carefully but energetically proceed to the workings of everyday life. After all, it is in the cracks of life, the details, the nitty-gritty, that our sanctification is worked out. Much as we might think otherwise, our growth in grace centers not so much in Sunday School, but in how we apply the teachings of Sunday School (or preaching, or our theological reading) to everyday life. We spend way, way more time practically applying our views on sanctification than we do thinking about them.

Am I denigrating theology and the study of it? Not in the least. I’m merely trying to point out to an audience who shades reformed and theologically concerned that while we must richly feed ourselves rich Christian teaching, we must work very hard to break that teaching down and allow it to shape the hum and drum of daily living. Armed with such a mindset, we’ll be far less quick to categorize thoughtful reflection on life as “legalism” and far quicker to examine our everyday decisions in the light of higher theology. So with all this said, what should we do about the problem–and I think it is one–of guys and sports? How are we to handle the sports culture and its effect on the church? How can we extricate even thoughtful Christian men (and women, to some extent, but the burden here is on men) from athletic idolatry?

We need first to square with this problem. For young men like myself, for the twenty- and thirtysomething age bracket, we’ve got to recognize that we grew up in an era in which sports and the celebration of sports figures exploded in the popular media. Boys like myself who grew up in the age of Jordan, Sampras, and Gretzky were exposed to nothing less than glorification of these athletes and many like them. In a society drifting from the port of Judeo-Christian belief and accompanying emphasis on traditional principles like masculine responsibility, traditional commitments to family, church, and society, and important pursuits, sports filled a waiting vacuum. It didn’t rise out of nothing. No, it mixed with celebrity culture, entertainment frenzy, and image-driven personhood to shape the modern mind and life. Match these factors with an economy fairly bursting with life and you end up with the sociological marvel that is modern sport. No longer played merely for fun, mostly among friends, and without transcendence, athletics in the last thirty years have become, in the minds of many men, the highest end of life.

Perhaps someone out there scoffs at that rather bold assertion. Well, then, conduct this little experiment: go to a grammar school and ask the little boys what they want to be. Then get back to me. I’m pretty confident that you’ll find that the psyche of these little boys has already absorbed on a breathtaking level the transcendence, the importance, of sport. For these boys, and for the men they become, there is almost nothing greater than leading one’s team to glory, and than etching one’s name in the record books while doing it. Were the Greek poet-historians alive today, they would not celebrate and eulogize the warrior, but the athlete. Of course, we don’t need the Greeks–we’ve got Nike commercials to do this for us. Honestly, some of the most moving moments of my recent life have been had while watching commercials about silly little games and the people who play them. It’s not that I wanted to feel moved by these paens to commercialism and the people who fuel it, it’s that it’s nearly impossible not to feel moved while Nike matches gorgeous slow motion shots with orchestral music. In these little 30-second spots, one discovers the story, the power, the pathos, of modern sport.

Okay, so what does all this mean for we who claim Christ? It means that, if we’re men and thereby generally (not, of course, exclusively) inclined to competition and the pursuit of glory, then we’re going to feel the pull of modern sports. Furthermore, it means that they’re going to tempt us to sacrifice our families, our work, our societies, our sleep patterns, our bodies, our vacations, our conversations, for athletics. Can there be any positive value in sports for men? Surely. It can help men to bond, for example, and relax, and have fun, all things that are good within limits. But can sports get way out of hand for the average Christian guy? Can he–despite what he might think in his mind–fall prey to the cultural obsession with sports, and so compromise in varied ways his walk with Christ? I think that he can. I think that he, on a major scale, does.

I’m not presenting myself as immune to this problem. I’m not. I play basketball a couple of times a week and love it. But I often come home conflicted and sometimes bruised. I sometimes struggle to damp down my competitive streak when the game stops, and I’m aware that continual damage to my body will harm my ability to enjoy such blessings as grandchildren, Lord willing, in the future. So I don’t have this all figured out, either in theory or in practice. However, I can see at the very least that I have caught the cultural bug. Left to my own devices, bereft of the Holy Spirit, I could easily go head-over-heels in pursuit of sports. This propensity allows me to see this tendency not only in myself but in other men of God. How many of us stay up too late to watch games, thereby compromising our care of our families? How many of us bruise our bodies week after week, thinking little about the unimportance of such activity (however much we might think differently in the moment) and its long-term effect? How many of us think about how much sports sap our care for our wife, our attention to our children, our hunger for the Word? I’m convinced that many of us struggle in these ways and many more, and that one of the single greatest temptations of your average Christian guy today is to properly balance athletics in a sports-obsessed world.

What do we need, then, if we can see that we are imbalanced? We need accountability. We need the church. We need people asking us hard questions and perhaps giving us direct rebuke for our bad habits. We need to talk about sports with other guys in our churches and to see if we share common struggles. Then, we need to take action. We need our pastors to remember that sanctification is almost never a 30,000 foot issue in the Scripture, but is routinely brought to the ground level of behavior. Therefore, we need pastors who keep in mind the fact that many men (and some women) are obsessed with sports, and need to extricate themselves from sin in this respect. We need to bring up our boys in homes where sports are nothing more than games, things that we can and may well engage in, but that are never, ever construed as being transcendently or even moderately important. They simply aren’t. We need fathers to model such a mindset in their own lives by making lots and lots of small, hard choices–to turn the tv off, to resist glorifying an athlete merely for talent, to wax endlessly about mere games.

There is nothing wrong with enjoying sports. It can be a good gift of God. It can bring men together, it can create and deepen friendships, it can bring health to bodies. But we must never let the gift become transcendent. It is not. Instead, we must devote ourselves to God, to healthy fellowship in His church, to devoted care for our wives and children, and allow sports to rest in their proper place, alongside other diversions. We may enjoy them, but we must not let them master us, as they do so many other men. The good of so many around is at stake on issues just like this–men, how will we respond?

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Teens, Television, and the Befuddling Mix of the Two

A thoughtful anonymous reader posted this in response to my Monday piece on television watching by evangelicals:

“We don’t miss it, but our teenage son is somewhat of a prodigal and resents us for “imposing” our beliefs on him. Of course, we have explained the obvious to him and he is refusing to see reason in the true fashion of teenage rebellion. What would you do in that situation? Just curious. We are not budging, since we have 5younger children, but wonder if we are missing some form of reasonable compromise.”

I always read comments to my posts, which is not usually terribly taxing. But that should encourage some of you fence-sitters out there to write in with your thoughts. At any rate, I thought that this was a great question, and so I decided to give it a hack. Let me first say that I am not a parent of children who exist in physical form outside of their mother’s womb. I do in fact have a child, but it is presently hanging out in its mother’s womb, learning to punch her in all sorts of interesting ways. I am not a parenting authority, then, and do not present myself as one. With that said, I think on a personal level that parents have to set a tone in their home in which they are recognized as the authority. They do not need to apologize for being such and should in fact claim the role of leader as a God-given station in life. They should seek to set a tone for the home, though, in which authority is mixed with grace and love. In other words, children in Christian homes should be happy, inasmuch as parents can make this happen. They should experience life in happy, joyful terms. They should not grow up with a view of the Christian home that sees it only in terms of what it is against, but rather that sees it as being clearly rooted in joy that flows forth from a rich understanding of the doctrines of election, atonement, and providence.

This means that we strive to make our homes happy, that we give our children that happiest childhood we can, and that we root all our parenting in a vision of the Christian life that is not legalistic or stingy. However, we will also have to make difficult choices that our children, particularly our teens, may disagree with. Hopefully, when this happens, we can look back and see that we have trained our teens to trust our authority and follow our leadership, even if they disagree with certain decisions we make. Without such a foundation, I really don’t know what one would do in the situation described above. With it, though, we can point our children to the duty to obey their parents, clearly and graciously articulate the reasons for our decision, and instruct them to seek to live joyfully under our rule.

In this particular instance, it sounds like this young person could have a hard heart. I don’t think it’s the parent’s duty to give in here, as it often is not. Way more often, it’s going to be the child’s duty to follow their parents. Were I in the above situation, I would do what I’ve already written and stand my ground. Of course, I’m not sure that I would necessarily outlaw all tv, and that’s not what I stated in my post. If you have made that decision, however, I would stick to your guns, love your son boldly, and attempt to show him that you’re not making this decision to stick it to him but to usher him to holiness. If he rebels against you, that shows that his heart is hard. Again, he can well choose to watch tv when he’s on his own, but as long as he’s in your house, it is his biblical responsibility to joyfully submit to your leadership and follow you as his God-given authority, one put there for his own health and flourishing. It will naturally only help if this response is given in the context of a home in which a full, happy, rich Christian life is celebrated.

But even still, your son may reject your wisdom, and rebel against you. In such a case, you must not relinquish your authority as a parent and bend to his will, but stand firm and seek to love him.

Those are my thoughts–do other readers have their own? This is a sticky question, I must admit. I gave it my best shot, but as I said, I’m no authority here!

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A Sweet Work of God’s Spirit: A Reflective Review of Collin Hansen’s New Book Young, Restless, Reformed

One of the more shocking developments in the evangelical bubble the last few years was the sudden appearance of a number of very thoughtful journalistic pieces on the reformed movement and its figures in the mainstream evangelical magazine Christianity Today. CT, as it is known in the evangelical world, is well-known for its international focus, centrist theology, and high-quality writing. Until Collin Hansen’s groundbreaking article, “Young, Restless, Reformed“, though, it had not given a great amount of attention to the surging reformed movement among evangelical Christians.

That article, which expertly combined fresh writing with high-level observation, led to several other profiles of reformed thinkers and events, including one of Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll that is eminently worth reading. These various pieces eventually found their way into Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists, a book hot off the presses from Crossway Books. Crossway is putting out many of the best books nowadays, and I am excited to see what the Lord continues to do with this publishing house. They have a clear winner in YRR (as I will refer to the book from now on) as Hansen has succeeded in giving the reader a fascinating on-the-ground account of the reformed movement among the young evangelicals.

The “New Calvinists”, as Hansen terms them, often happened upon reformed theology by accident. Raised in Arminian or mainline churches, many young people gravitated to the Passion conferences staged by Louie Giglio throughout the South in the 1990s and the early years of this decade. Seeking the fresh, loud, zesty music of the conferences, many of these attendees were struck nearly numb by the preaching of a slight, bespectacled 60-year-old man named John Piper, who delivered messages calling for radical self-sacrifice for the glory of a transcendent, majestic God who personally loved His people enough to give them joy forever through the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Many of these students walked away from Passion profoundly changed, their theology transformed, their minds blown, their hearts inflamed to pour their lives out for the glory of God. Minds humming, many of these young people went back to their campuses, their local churches, their youth groups, and transformed them. The movement was afoot.

Hansen was not far behind. It is this group of people whose scent he tracks in YRR. He himself is one of their number, and thus the book reads with the same wide-eyed, excited, theologically captured kind of tone one finds among countless students today at places like Southern Seminary (which Hansen aptly terms the “Ground Zero” of the new calvinism), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Master’s Seminary, Gordon-Conwell (to some extent), Reformed Theological Seminary, and many others. Hansen’s chief assertion–that this movement exists at all, which some might question–is indeed indubitably proven by these campus communities, and by the energy of institutions connected formally or informally to the New Calvinism. Beyond the seminaries, think about organizations like Acts 29 (church planting network spreading like wildfire), Together for the Gospel (5000 strong), and The Gospel Coalition (scheduled for thousands in May 09). Each of these groups count twenty- and thirty-somethings as their key demographic. There is tremendous energy in this movement, as one can readily see.

Hansen’s book is an on-the-ground account of the Calvinist Convergence, and so it does not offer statistics or factual data which would anchor its claims in irrefutable numbers. It does quote some studies, including the controversial Lifeway study of SBC Calvinism from a few years back, but it eschews in-depth numerical work for the telling of stories of the young people who populate this movement. If one wishes for a bit of background on what other theological movements are drawing young people, and how their draw compares to the New Calvinism, one will have to turn elsewhere. One cannot strongly fault Hansen for this matter, though–it’s quite clear throughout the book that he has his capable hands full trying to track the fast-moving reformed crowd.

The book is nicely written, with an admixture of crisp, clean reporting and pithy comments. Hansen alternates between personal profiles, abstract observations, and theological commentary, and the combination works well. This is theological journalism, albeit fresh, passionate theological journalism that fits the subject it profiles. How boring it would have been to read a cold, rote account of the movement. Hansen succeeds in giving each of the title’s elements flesh and bone. One feels the youth of the reformed movement, the restlessness of its participants, the strength of its commitment to the doctrines of grace. To be a part of this group is to be a part of a profoundly exciting, dynamic work of God, as my own life attests and this book reflects.

For many young reformed types, discovering true biblical theology is not an exercise in doctrinal calculation or scholastic argumentation. It is all about discovering a big, massive, breathtaking view of God that fundamentally reorients one’s life and views, that displaces the self from its throne and that frees the soul to gaze at a majestic, mysterious, and incredibly generous God as He works out His plan and calls His people to labor with Him to blast His glory all through this earth. This vision, for most New Calvinists, does not stifle evangelism, or squelch Christian love, but fuels it, shapes it, funnels it into dynamic and even radical acts of service to God. More than any other piece of journalistic sociology I know of, YRR captures these realities.

Buy the book. Buy it. It reads very quickly–160 pages of lucid, engaging prose–and it will give you a place from which to evaluate and understand the reformed movement that is sweeping through churches and organizations of all types and denominations. I would have liked Hansen to give a bit more explanation on how the popularity of hip-hop relates to the reformed resurgence, and I would have liked more contemporary context, but these are mere drops on the duck’s back. Collin Hansen is an excellent profiler, but he is also a shrewd commentator, and his book will not fail to educate and entertain you. I count Collin a good friend, and I am excited to see what the Lord does with his gifts. But let’s not jump ahead of ourselves–order Young, Restless, Reformed and see firsthand what the Lord is already doing through Collin and his gifts.

The fundamental take-away of YRR? God is great, and He is good! He is doing incredible things among His younger people. Where they could be wasting their lives, pursuing their own interests and glory, and falling away from the faith due to doctrinal malaise, they are vibrant, happy, hungry for biblical truth, and zealous for God. Read the book and see if you’re not challenged while reading it to spontaneously give praise to God for this sweet work of His Spirit, this fresh stroke from His painter’s brush, that is reshaping an entire generation to give their hearts, their hands, their voices for the spread of his awesome renown.

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Filed under calvinism, collin hansen, crossway books, john piper, louie giglio, Mark Driscoll, southern seminary, the gospel coalition, Together for the Gospel, trinity evangelical divinity school