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Band of Bloggers 2012 Audio Available: Bethke, Elephant Room & Trayvon

Audio from the 2012 Band of Bloggers panel is now live and listenable.  Justin Taylor, Collin Hansen, Tim Challies, and Timmy Brister all contributed wisdom to a diverse array of topics.  I moderated the panel.  We had a blast.

Here was the event’s central topic:

Six years ago, two movements began to gain significant traction–blogging and the young, restless, and reformed. Additionally, 2006 was the inauguration of the Band of Bloggers fellowship, and since that time God has brought gospel rental in many ways to evangelical life, including the development of organizations like Together for the Gospel and The Gospel Coalition, the upsurge of gospel literature in publishing houses, the growth of church planting and revitalization networks, and continued reformation in local churches. Throughout this period, the role of the internet, blogging, and advances in technology have played no small role. At the 2012 Band of Bloggers gathering, we will take a look back at the past six years and consider the impact–good and bad–of blogging and technology in the Young, Restless, and Reformed movement.

Apparently there’s been some dustup over the panel’s discussion of the Elephant Room.  I’m not sure I see the point, but I’ll invite you to listen in and form your own opinion.  I thought there were many helpful takeaways from the four panelists.

 

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Reflecting on the Reformed Resurgence: Band of Bloggers 2012

Timmy Brister, the mastermind/head/visionary behind Band of Bloggers, recently made this announcement:

We are excited about this year’s Band of Bloggers (on April 10, 2012, just before Together for the Gospel starts).  Each panelist has played a pivotal role with Band of Bloggers and the Young, Restless, and Reformed Movement.  At our first Band of Bloggers (April 2006), we were thrilled to have Tim Challies, Justin Taylor, Albert Mohler, and Russell Moore as panel speakers, and six years later we are even more happy to see that Justin and Tim will be joining us again.  Collin Hansen who coined the phrase “young, restless, and reformed” and wrote a journalistic book about it will also be joining us.  And for the first time, Kevin DeYoung, perhaps the most prominent Reformed blogger online has agreed to contribute his thoughts as well.  And I’m grateful for my good friend and fellow moderator, Owen Strachan, will be helping me lead the discussion at this year’s gathering.

If you want to go to BoB, you need to register ASAP.  Last I heard, the event was 2/3 full a day or two after it was announced.

I’m looking especially forward to this year’s gathering, because we’re going to reflect on the reformed resurgence and how blogging has contributed to it.  It will be fun to do that with some young leaders, and I know that many who join us will have made meaningful contributions to the broader movement.  The whole point of this is that we’ve witnessed “a thousand points of light” come to life in the last 5-6 years, a development that has allowed the books, talks, sermons, and discussions of the reformed world to spread like wildfire all over the world.

That, my friends, is a beautiful thing, one worth celebrating in six weeks’ time.

By the way, I think Southern Seminary still has some spots open in the special Together for the Gospel class.  It’s led by Russell Moore, Dean of SBTS, and will allow students to hear some great material, attend some pre-conference panels with a range of Southern faculty, and then attend the full conference.  You get three credit hours from SBTS.  It’s a fantastic bargain and has people enrolled from all over the country.

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First Issue of Credo Magazine: John Frame, Bruce Ware, Tim Challies on Scripture

A few months back I made mention of a new magazine, Credo, which is reformed, credobaptistic, and focused on theology and history.  The first issue was published yesterday and it is a humdinger.

Click here to go to the main page of the magazine.  Credo is an online production, and you can read it either as a PDF or as a digital publication.  You’ll find stimulating resources like an interview with Bruce Ware, another with John Frame, an interview on the reformers with Timothy George, an article for the “reformed pastor” by Tim Challies, an article on B. B. Warfield by Fred Zaspel (author of this excellent resource on Warfield), an article on the King James Version by Michael Haykin, and much more.

Here’s a brief description of the issue’s contents:

Is Scripture inspired by God or is it merely the work of man? Peter writes, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet 1:21). The October issue of Credo seeks to affirm the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture as doctrines that are faithful to the testimony of Scripture itself. Contributors include: Gregg Allison, John Frame, Timothy George, Fred Zaspel, Michael A.G. Haykin, Tim Challies, Matthew Barrett, Thomas Schreiner, Tony Merida, Owen Strachan, J. V. Fesko, Robert Saucy, and many others.

By the way, I have a piece on sola Scriptura, the Reformational idea that Scripture alone is the church’s final authority (contra historic Roman Catholic Christianity).  Here’s a snatch from it:

As Luther affirmed the objective nature of Scripture’s authority, he felt the existential weight of this truth keenly, as both Roland Bainton’s Here I Stand and Erik Erikson’s Luther make clear. Scripture was the creator of the church, and Scripture was the guardian of the soul. He was captive to the Word, and could do nothing but affirm this reality. Sola Scriptura, we see, is not a doctrine that we hold lightly. It is an explosive idea, one that asserts precedence over all other systems and that destroys our natural sinful claim to self-rule. To affirm this great Reformational idea is to affirm in simple biblical terms that God is true, and every man is a liar.

Go here to start digging into this excellent magazine.  In coming days, Credo will be releasing individual pieces of content on its blog, which will make it easy to “Tweet” or “Like” the material.

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Introducing Credo Magazine: Reformed, Baptistic, Evangelical

My friend Matthew Barrett, a May 2011 graduate of the SBTS PhD program in Systematic Theology (PhD under Bruce Ware), has just unveiled an exciting new online magazine called Credo.  Those of you who are like me and love Reformation 21 will find this a similar venture, albeit from a Baptist perspective.

I’m thrilled to see this magazine launching in October 2011 (the blog is already going full steam).  Contributors include Michael Haykin, Tim Challies, Gregg Allison, Todd Miles, and many others.  Here’s the description for the magazine:

Credo is Latin for “I believe.” From the early Church Fathers to the sixteenth-century Reformers to present-day Evangelicals, Christians have faithfully confessed the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3), over against error and heresy. Credo magazine seeks to situate itself in this biblical tradition by teaching “what accords with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1).

Credo magazine is self-consciously Evangelical, Reformational, and Baptistic: Evangelical since it aims at being supremely Gospel-centered, exalting in the substitutionary death and historical resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ; Reformational as the gospel it promotes is defined by the solas of the Reformation; and while Credo magazine welcomes contributors from diverse ecclesial backgrounds, it seeks to especially celebrate those doctrines that mark the Baptist tradition.

Credo is a free, full-color, digital magazine that is published quarterly and includes:

• Articles by some of the best pastors and scholars today on the most vital and pertinent issues in Christianity.

• Columns engaging pastoral issues in the church and monumental figures in church history.

• Interviews with important pastors and scholars on both their ministries and their new books.

• Reviews of some of the most recent books in Christian theology and literature.

I’m excited to contribute an essay on the doctrine of Sola Scriptura in the first issue.  I’m hoping for and expecting great things from this venture.  Baptists need a magazine like this, and Matthew will do an excellent job with it.

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Is the Bible Blind to Womanly Beauty?

Don’t know if you’ve followed this, but Tim Challies kicked up a bit of an Internet storm recently when he helpfully suggested that it was a good thing for Christian wives to give attention to their appearances for the betterment of their husbands.  He was responding to a post a few months ago by blogger Rachel Held Evans, who registered disagreement with Challies’s post.  In response to Evans, Southern Seminary professor Mary Kassian suggested something of a middle way in which womanly attractiveness matters but only as a reflection of God’s far more lustrous beauty.

I found the discussion interesting and worthwhile not because this is a matter of outsized theological importance but because it relates closely to issues surrounding men, marriage, and beauty, all topics that interest me.  Kassian’s theocentric rendering of womanly beauty jibes with material I published with Douglas Sweeney in the book Jonathan Edwards on Beauty (Moody, 2010), part of the five-volume Essential Edwards Collection.  Edwards was an aesthetician if there ever was one.  Wherever he saw earthly beauty he saw a reflection of God, who was not only beautiful but was beauty himself.

Here’s a snatch from the book which quotes Edwards’s notebook on “types” (page 49-50 of JEOB):

There are some types of divine things, both in Scripture and also in the works of nature and constitution of the world, that are much more lively than others. Everything seems to aim that way; and in some things the image is very lively, in others less lively, in others the image but faint and the resemblance in but few particulars with many things wherein there is a dissimilitude. God has ordered things in this respect much as he has in the natural world. He hath made man the head and end of this lower creation; and there are innumerable creatures that have some image of what is in men, but in an infinite variety of degrees. Animals have much more of a resemblance of what is in men than plants, plants much more than things inanimate. (Works 11, 114)

One day, the pastor took a walk that unfolded the way natural beauty reflects spiritual beauty (pp. 41-42 of JEOB):

God’s excellency, his wisdom, his purity and love, seemed to appear in everything; in the sun, moon and stars; in the clouds, and blue sky; in the grass, flowers, trees; in the water, and all nature; which used greatly to fix my mind. I often used to sit and view the moon, for a long time; and so in the daytime, spent much time in viewing the clouds and sky, to behold the sweet glory of God in these things: in the meantime, singing forth with a low voice, my contemplations of the Creator and Redeemer. And scarce anything, among all the works of nature, was so sweet to me as thunder and lightning. Formerly, nothing had been so terrible to me. I used to be a person uncommonly terrified with thunder: and it used to strike me with terror, when I saw a thunderstorm rising. But now, on the contrary, it rejoiced me. I felt God at the first appearance of a thunderstorm. And used to take the opportunity at such times, to fix myself to view the clouds, and see the lightnings play, and hear the majestic and awful voice of God’s thunder: which often times was exceeding entertaining, leading me to sweet contemplations of my great and glorious God. And while I viewed, used to spend my time, as it always seemed natural to me, to sing or chant forth my meditations; to speak my thoughts in soliloquies, and speak with a singing voice. (Works 16, 794)

This material reveals that Edwards felt free to find resonances of a much greater beauty in the eye-catching things of this world.  In fact, the pastor-theologian made the case for finding “types” in this world.  If we buy Edwards’s argument–and I think we should–then surely we can find images of a greater luster in a flower, a sunset, and the face of a loved one.

I love Edwards’s aesthetics.  He has a major place for beauty in his theological-philosophical system, so much so that some view him as the theologian par excellence of beauty.  By the way, this is part of why he is so relevant for today.  We live in an image-obsessed culture (part of the problem Evans rightly decries), and we can use Edwards to point people to a better way, a far more fulsome and healthy vision of attractiveness than one can find in the ambient culture.

The Bible, by the way, has much to say about physical beauty, contrary to what many think.  Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was beautiful (Gen. 12:11); Rachel was beautiful “in form and appearance” (Genesis 29:17); David “had beautiful eyes and was handsome” (1 Samuel 16:12); Esther had “a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at” (Esther 2:7!); Job’s daughters were the most beautiful of their day (Job 42:15); the man speaking in the Song of Solomon finds his wife “beautiful” to say nothing but the very least; Moses was beautiful as a child (Hebrews 11:23).  Beyond all these realities, the Lord, as Edwards knew, is pictured in Scripture as very beauty himself.  David wished only to “to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD,” Psalm 27:4.  We could go on.

What does this mean?  Well, for starters, the biblical authors and figures are not blind to physical beauty.  Far from it.  They don’t suggest that it is of great importance in itself.  That’s clear.  Neither, however, do they ignore it, just as we do not ignore it, try or not.  We’re all quite conscious of physical beauty.  One could say this is because of our genetic wiring, or our consciousness, or perhaps most satisfyingly, our natural understanding of the way earthly attractiveness prefigures God’s magnificence.  All of these reasons have credence.

In the context of marriage, this means that it is no bad thing to celebrate one’s attraction to one’s husband or wife.  It is in fact a good thing.  We should not make the cultural mistake of grounding our spousal love in physical beauty.  Anyone who has ever heard a pop song knows how common this is, and how laughable.  Those who think that a relationship can stand firm by physical attraction alone clearly have precious little practical experience in actual relationships.  Those who are married know that attraction is an important part of marriage–perhaps very important–but that like any covenantal relationship, marriage requires a continual exercise of the will for its flourishing.  It is the Christocentric and Christotelic dimensions of marriage that are most significant.  Husbands loving wives as Christ sacrificially loved the church, and wives submitting to their husbands as the church submits to Christ in love are the transcendent, indeed transforming, realities of marriage.

But in landing this plane let’s bring our altitude down a bit.  Physical attraction matters in a marriage.  The Song of Solomon makes this abundantly clear, as any red-faced teen knows in hearing it read in church.  No one is suggesting that Christian women should hold themselves up to the (relentlessly airbrushed and digitally edited) cover-girl.  It is, however, a good thing for both husband and wife to take the physical dimension of marriage seriously.  Men shouldn’t nurse a gut, and women shouldn’t let themselves go.  Both should care for the other by devoting a reasonable–and the world’s standards are often unreasonable!–amount of attention to their bodies.

We are not Platonists.  We live in bodies.  The body is good.  God designed the body, manly and womanly, for his glory.  He gave sex and attraction and passion to couples for their good and his renown.  Marriage in its fullness is to provide the world with a picture of a far greater reality, the devoted loving union of Jesus Christ and his blood-bought church.  We do not obsess over our appearances; we do not worry about physical changes over time; we do not obsess over our frames and forms.  But we do love one another by caring well for the bodies God has given us.  Whatever we do, we seek God’s glory–whether praying in church, church-planting in an unreached land, fixing a leaky faucet, comforting a crying infant, teaching philosophy in a secular college, or running another mile to keep the pounds off (1 Cor. 10:31).

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Is President Obama the First Female President?

Don’t ask me.  Ask Kathleen Parker.  She just suggested so–in the Post, no less.  However you answer this question, it seems incontrovertible that men have adapted womanly traits and habits in just about every category–dress, speaking, physicality, you name it.  You have to hand it to Parker–she speaks her mind, with no quarter given to anyone.  I admire that.

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Stephen Witmer, a Massachusetts pastor with a PhD from Cambridge, writes on a “God-Centered Understanding of Sin” at Ref21.  An excellent piece worth the extensive reading.

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Kevin DeYoung “witticisms,” including the immortal term “squishitude.”  That is a neologism worth passing on.

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Old media?  New media?  David Brooks and Gail Collins discuss.

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How has John Roberts changed the culture of the Supreme Court?  Here’s how.

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James Boice, remembered. (HT: Challies)

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By the way, I don’t know if you get Christianity Today, but the new issue has a noteworthy piece by Russ Moore on adoption (not yet online).  Here’s one memorable line: “The adoption movement is challenging the impoverished hegemony of our carnal sameness, as more and more families in the church are starting to show fellow believers the meaning of unity in diversity.”  That’s a heavy-hitter.

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Thom Rainer: Suffering and Sanctification in Nashville

Thom Rainer, President and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources in Nashville, has a noteworthy post up about his experiences in the recent flood in Tennessee.  With many others, my heart goes out to Rainer and his fellow southerners who have suffered.

He wrote the following in the wake of discovering much damage to his home and property:

I am now looking at the television. I am seeing the stunning shots of the ongoing devastation of Nashville. I am seeing hundreds, if not thousands, of homes and businesses completely underwater. I am hearing of numbers of deaths in the area.

And now I have new emotions.

Why were we spared the massive devastation when others were not? Why were our losses in the tens of thousands when others lost everything?

I never asked, “Why me Lord?” when I thought we had lost all of our material possessions. I knew I had already been blessed so far beyond anything I deserved. But I was having trouble reconciling why we were spared the most devastation when others were not. I do find myself asking, “Why not me Lord?”

Read the whole thing.

I found this a convicting thought, one worthy of pondering, even as many of us aren’t going through nearly the earthly suffering that Rainer and many others are.  To see more pictures of the devastation that can inform our prayers, go here (HT: Challies).

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Words from the Fire: Mohler’s Latest Challenges Church and Culture

wordsfromfireAl Mohler has word out about his latest book, Words from the Fire: Hearing the Voice of God in the 10 Commandments (Moody, 2009).  On his website, he gives a teaser from the book’s introduction that caught my attention:

The great philosophical crisis of our day is an epistemological crisis – a crisis of knowing and a crisis of knowledge. It is a challenge for the Christian thinker, the Christian theologian, the Christian minister, the Christian preacher, and the Christian institution – the whole of Christianity. The crisis can be summed up in one question: How do we know and teach what we claim to know and teach?

Mohler continues in this vein:

The claim to know anything, certainly in terms of empirical and scientific observation and study and phenomenology, is audacious enough. But then to speak of the “immortal invisible God only wise”—that is a new leap of audacity altogether.

He concludes with reference to another theologian who took on the challenge of epistemology in his own day, Francis Schaeffer:

Dr. Schaeffer understood the epistemological problem that is silence – the claim and the implication that we can know nothing. And he understood that there is only one epistemological answer—revelation. Christianity depends upon a Christian epistemology, a Christian theory of knowledge based in revelation alone. There is no greater challenge than this—to make certain we know on what authority we speak, and know, and teach.

This a strong introduction for what looks like an excellent book.  I encourage you to make your way over to Amazon and buy it. Great to see Moody Publishers turning out another great title that simultaneously illumines the world and address the culture.  It’s short, readable, and, according to Tim Challies, perhaps Dr. Mohler’s best book yet.  Unlike many handlings of the Ten Words, it’s Christ-centered.  This one will work for a wide audience.

Words from the Fire will help you to understand one of the most important sections of scriptural content, the Ten Commandments, and it will also equip you to handle the challenging question, “How do we know what we know?”  The answer: look to the fire–and listen.

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The Link 8.14.09: Awkward Family Photos, Pastor-Theologians, and People Growth

awkwardfamily1. One of the single funniest websites I’ve come across is Awkward Family Photos.  The title tells the story.  Your life will be more complete by visiting this site.

2. Gerald Hiestand of Harvest Bible Chapel (home of renowned preacher James MacDonald) has the best single piece I’ve seen on the pastor-theologian.  Seminarians and pastors, this is a must-read.  If you have a good mind, do not assume that you should teach.  Maybe that’s what the Lord has for you, but the church very much needs gifted pastors who can serve as theologians in some capacity.  It’s so good I’m linking to it twice.

3. Some good quotations from writers on writing.  In my opinion, too many evangelicals, particularly reformed evangelicals, write solely to communicate.  We need people to write for that reason, absolutely, but we should also value writing as an end, not merely a means to an end.  We’ll talk more about this some other time.

4. Tim Challies has done a great series with Burk Parsons of Ligonier Ministries (R.C. Sproul’s ministry) that is nothing less than engrossing. (I give you part four of four cause it has all the links.)  Parsons was asked to be a member of both the Backstreet Boys and N*Sync (did I do that right?).  Precious few of us in the evangelical world, particularly the reformed slice of it, can claim that…

5. Thong underwear for a seven-year-old?  Methinks not.  Dannah Gresh of the excellent Girls Gone Wise website writes a thoughtful piece on the matter.  She makes two great points that I noted: 1) Real change comes when Christians weigh in on these matters (see what happened with Abercrombie, detailed in the article) and 2) Christians need not be solely negative in such campaigns (as shown in her drive to support stores that refuse to sexualize youth).

6. For those of you who enjoy watching people getting dunked on, here’s a nasty one courtesy of superfrosh John Wall of UK over Jerry Stackhouse.  Thanks, Z–is this what you do in men’s league in Albuquerque?

7.  And here’s Stackhouse with his own vintage “cram.” Wow.  Over fifteen years later, you still have to recoil at that one…particularly over Dukies…

8. Found this blog from Denny Burk’s excellent site.  Looks very good.

9. Have you heard about the upcoming People Growth conference at TEDS (October 13-16)?  It looks terrific: Carson, Dever, Jensen, Payne, Helm.  It’s cheap ($100) and it offers a great perspective on ministry: ministry is about people, not numbers. Co-sponsored by the Henry Center.

–Have a great weekend, all.  Drink some good coffee.

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The Link 5.15.09: Star Trek’s Power, Carson on TGC, and the Millionaire Tire-Changer

startrek1. Caught a great cultural insight in Anthony Lane’s hilarious New Yorker review of the new Star Trek movie:

“[J. J. Abrams] is the perfect purveyor of fictions to a generation so easily and instinctively jaded that what it craves, above all, is a storteller who—with or without artistic personality, and regardless of any urge to provoke our thoughts or trouble our easy dreams—will never jade.”  Now if that’s not a call to Christians to promote the “non-jading” gospel, tell me what is.

2. Don Carson identifies what so many young Christians want today in an interview with CT (HT: Challies):

“I do think that there is a hunger in the land for a vision of confessional Christianity that is robust, God-centered, tough-minded, able to address today and tomorrow and the next day, and comprehensive.”  Exactly.  Young people want rugged, grand, glorious Christianity, Christianity that drives you to do meaningful things with the life that God has given you.

3. ESPN’s superb Outside the Lines program (a website featuring some of the best sportswriting you can find) profiles a man who walked away from millions as a pitcher to change tires at CostCo.  I also enjoyed a story about basketball player Chauncey Billups, who has beat all kinds of odds to be the “disposable superstar”.  If you’re a sucker for great, lengthy sportswriting that tells a story (like I am), you’ll love OTL.

4. Tim Challies linked to a website featuring the story of a young mother, Rachel, who contracted cancer and has battled it for years.  It looks powerful.  I”m hoping to watch the video myself.  Update: read a letter where Rachel discusses the process of dying.  Heartbreaking, but by God’s grace, her faith is strong.

5. I said this last week, but if you aren’t listening to LeCrae’s “Don’t Waste Your Life”, you are missing out.  You’ll walk faster, you’ll pump more iron, and you’ll be edified all the while.

–Have a great weekend, all.

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