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Archive for September, 2010

Hawking writes, “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing.  Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist.”

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It wasn’t an earth-shatteringly good discussion, but it did hold my attention.  Therefore, I’ll post it. 

Oxford mathematician and physicist Sir Roger Penrose, who isn’t a Christian, disagrees not only with Hawking’s M-Theory, but questions whether it should even be called a theory.  Adding some thoughts of his own, Alister McGrath, a well known Christian scholar, likewise disagrees with Hawking’s claim that God is not needed to create the universe… of course. 

The conversation is quite technical at points.  But else should we expect?  The two guests are interacting with Stephen Hawking.  He’s no intellectual slouch.  Anyway, if you like science, you’ll probably enjoy this show.

Must Listen Factor: Low to Moderate.  Now if you’re into cosmology, that changes everything.  You’ll probably love the discussion.  Otherwise, this is probably only for audio scavengers.

Difficulty: Advanced.

Length: 1 Hour.

To Download: Click picture.  It is the September 25th, 2010 episode.  You will see a small headphone symbol at the bottom of the Sept 25th episode.  Right click and save.

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TULIP – John Piper

[Today’s post is for a certain individual I know, but is relevant to all.]

Eric,

I’m excited to hear that you’re curious about the doctrines of sovereign grace (Or the five points of Calvinism, as they are also known).  I can still remember the first time I was confronted with these amazing truths.  My wife and I were eating dinner with her family, and I recounted to my father-in-law something a friend of mine attending college heard.  In one of his classes, they were wrestling with the sovereignty of God.  The teacher was arguing that God was completely sovereign- completely in control, down to the smallest of details.  This of course made some of the students cry out, “Then we are mere puppets!” 

As I recounted this to my Father-in-law, thinking he would disagree with such exhaustive sovereignty and side with me, who quite naturally frowned upon such control, he casually opened his Bible to Romans nine and handed it to me.  “Here, read this,” he said.  That was the beginning of a long and wonderful journey!  Now these many years later, I’m a convinced Calvinist (though one might as well say Biblicist, as Calvin was merely expounding what the Scriptures clearly teach).  Few doctrines are more precious and awe-inspiring and majestic and humbling and comforting, than the doctrines of sovereign grace.  So like I said, I’m excited for you.  But I think you should be prepared to be stretched, even perplexed a bit.  That being said, there is much to be gained.  Much to gained indeed!  My life hasn’t been the same, and I trust this will have the same impact on you as well.       

I mentioned that I would track something down for you to download.  Honestly, there are many good options out there.  Many able teachers have taught at length on this subject.  Countless volumes have been written as well.  So I’m going to fall back on one of my favorite biblical teachers, John Piper.  He has a 9 part series on the five points of Calvinism (entitled TULIP).  Tulip is an acronym.  Piper will explain further.  Anyway, I truly hope you enjoy. 

Difficulty: Moderate.  The teachings are clear, but the “weight” is profoundly heavy.

Must Listen Factor: High.  Every Christian should think through this issue.  If you haven’t, then I would say that this has a must listen factor.

Length: Each lesson is 45 minutes to1 hour and 10 minutes.

To Download: Click picture

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He’s influential, winsome, scholarly, and yes, controversial.  I’m referring of course to N.T. Wright, Bishop of Durham.  Back in April, he spoke at the 19th annual Wheaton Theology Conference.  The conference was something of a dialogue; a time of interaction with the Bishop’s views. 

Besides the nine other presentations, some of which disappointed me for various reasons, and some of which I haven’t yet downloaded, Bishop Wright delivered two central addresses, along with two panel discussions.  Both of the keynote addresses are good.  The one on Paul is particularly interesting.  Not only were there a number of tasty nuggets- some truly insightful thoughts- but the Bishop’s views are presented in a wide and sweeping fashion.  If I said “full orbed,” that would be too strong a statement, but it’s close.  Nevertheless, if you want to get a really good feel for his theological outlook, this is the place to camp out for an hour or two. 

Difficulty: Fairly advanced. 

Must Listen Factor: Moderate/Specialized.  Anyone interested in following the theology of Bishop Wright should really listen to these.  In fact, the whole conference is illuminating… though again, I haven’t yet listened to all of them.  But I’ve gotten a good feel for it thus far.

Length: Both lectures are about an hour and fifteen minutes.

To Download: Click Picture.  N.T. Wright’s messages are at the bottom of Friday and Saturday.  It’s obvious, don’t worry.

Additional Resources:  Note the exchange  between Piper and Wright.  Piper has written a volume (The Future of Justification) responding to and critiquing the Bishop’s views.  N.T. Wright has responded in his book, “Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision.”  You can listen to another critique of N.T. Wright here: SBTS Panel: N.T. Wright and Justification.

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My father-in-law pointed me to an article in Christianity Today entitled “Hipster Faith.”  It is well written, timely, and perceptive, and I commend it to you.  In the article, Mr. McCracken explores the phenomenon of evangelical relevance.  Think cool.  Think emergent.  Think right music.  Right lights.  Think hip presentation of truth.  And possibly most of all, think reaction.  Reaction to what?  Pop evangelicalism.   

Well, I really don’t need to say anything more.  Read the article.  It’s worth your time.  And if you’re curious to know a few of my thoughts, I’ll post the email (with some name changes to protect identity) I sent to my father-in-law.  It’s my basic assessment of the trend.   

Here is the article: Link

***

(To my father-in-law).

Thanks for dropping off the “Hipster” article.  Both Bek and I found it tremendously interesting.  Mr. McCracken articulated the phenomenon to near perfection!  And the funny thing is that we did see ourselves in parts of the description.  There were points where we said, “Wow, yup, that hit the nail on the head.”  The sad thing, in my estimation, is that the vast majority of those who are reacting against the failures and fads of a previous generation are merely creating their own faddish, nay, plastic construct that will, in the scales of time, fail to live up to the biblical vision of the body of Christ, in the sense that the world will be sitting a little too comfortably on the couch in the living room of their hearts.  I don’t think there will be perseverance.  And I don’t think holiness will feature prominently.  Where’s the antithesis?  Basically, I think the happy-go-smiley-WFRN-Doug and Vincy vision of Christianity has been traded in for a wine-tasting-jean-wearing-call-me cool model that often rediscovers important elements of the faith (like new creation, social justice and church history before the Reformation), but cheapens it by starting churches with a guitar and a wanna-be-hipster for a pastor.  Authentic Christianity, I have learned, simply doesn’t comport with this basic outlook and practice.  And I’m afraid that the very thing they have grown frustrated with is merely being reproduced in a different way.  I think it already has. 

Bek and I are seeing this time and time again.  We could name off a number of people who fall into this camp.  Most disappointing, perhaps, is the news that Larry Baker is moving towards Eastern Orthodoxy.  Why?  Well, I’m sure there are multiple reasons.  But I suspect that one of the main reasons is a gut-level reaction against the flimsy pop Evangelicalism of today.  He wants something deeper.  Something more profound.  That was my impression when I spoke with him.  And I think his impulse is right, but unfortunately he’s drifting towards a group with another gospel.

One of the paragraphs in the article that really struck me was this one (talking about the wannabe hipster churches trying to emulate the real ones), “These wannabe hip churches- largely of the suburban, megachurch, and ‘contemporary evening service’ variety- dress themselves in the accoutrements of hipsterdom not because they understand or value it, but because they are terrified of being excluded, left behind, or undesirable.  They are playing catch up, frantically maneuvering to be in the inner rings of culture and fashion rather than the dreaded periphery.”

It’s so, so true.  Sadly, all this is merely idolatry dressed in spiritual attire. 

The funny thing about genuine love is that it can’t be faked.  You know it when you see it/feel it.  And I’m afraid that much of this trend, while certainly yearning for authenticity, creates stumbling blocks that trip up the saints in their pursuit to live it out as a community.  Last time I checked, being cool was not a fruit of the Spirit.  In fact, if I recall my days in school accurately, the cool people didn’t end up being good friends.  “Coolness” seems to be the bedfellow of selfishness… or at least an unhealthy desire to play footsie with the world. 

My two cents,

Austin

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At the church I attend, we sing and memorize a Psalm each quarter during Sunday school.  It’s a great exercise, and I have sweetly benefited from it.  Here I am reminded of memorizing Psalm 67.  What a joy it is to sing about God’s great missionary plan to save people from all nations.  Or what about Psalm 121?  Etched onto my tongue are the words, “I lift up my eyes to the hills.  From where does my help come?  My help comes from the LORD.”  Or what about Psalm 103, when it compels me to imagine my sins being cast away as far as the east is from the west?

Great are the Psalms.  And blessed are those who meditate upon them.

But (and I think you know what I’m going to say) what about a Psalm like Psalm 137?  Or Psalm 69?  What are we to make of these divinely inspired songs that suddenly flare with the sparks of wrath and burn with the hot glow of intense emotion?  How can we take upon our lips, “Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones [O daughter of Babylon] and dashes them against the rock.” (Psalm 137:9)?  Doesn’t this run contrary to enlightened Western culture?  Or even more pointedly, doesn’t this run counter to Christ Jesus’ ethical imperatives?  How can a Christian sing this, let alone apply it?  Should we shrink back from singing them?  Should we feel embarrassed?  How should we interpret imprecatory Psalms?  And how should we understand them in the sweep of redemptive history?  What in the world do they teach us?

I have begun to wrestle with such Psalms more intensely as of late.  I guess you could say it’s only natural, given the fact that we are singing Psalm 137 during family worship.  How do I explain this to my children?  To my wife?  To myself?

Over the past week or so I’ve been hunting down lectures and sermons that touch on the subject.  So far, I have found three that are worthy of serious digestion.  They have helped me think more clearly about this subject.  And for that I’m exceedingly thankful.

Along the way, I’ve also jotted down some of my own thoughts on the matter.  I’d like to share them here.  But first, I need to explore them with my family.  Let me just say that while I still have some questions that need to be reflected on more fully, I am amazed at how fitting and theologically coherent these imprecations truly are, even when set next to Christ…correction, especially when set next to Christ.

In the meantime, feast on these messages.  If you had to skip one, skip the one by Dr. Philips Long (from Covenant Theological Seminary).

Difficulty: Easy to follow, but the subject matter is weighty. 

Must Listen Factor: Moderate to very high.  If you haven’t thought through this issue, I would urge you to wrestle with the subject.  The messages are arresting, and each speaker adds one or two interesting insights.

To Download:

Pour Our Your Indignation Upon Them – John Piper Link

The High Temperature of Faith – Dale Ralph Davis Link.

Imprecatory Psalms – Philips Long Link.  (Note: Skip to about the 12 minute mark.  The beginning is classroom/school stuff).

Length: 45 minutes to 1 hour and some.

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