For those who are interested, my review of Jeff Straub's book, The Making of a Battle Royal: The Rise of Liberalism in Northern Baptist Life was posted on SharperIron this morning. You can view the article and discussion HERE.
Just finished reading my review copy of Scientism and Secularism by Christian philosopher J. P. Moreland. In the book he confronts the philosophy of "scientism," which is, in his words, "the view that the hard sciences alone have the intellectual authority to give us knowledge of reality." And in another place, the belief that "science and its methods provide the only valid route to gaining knowledge and for answering questions, to the exclusion of other methods and disciplines." We see this philosophy all around us. You are witnessing it any time you hear someone speak of a scientific conclusion as "fact" while relegating nonscientific matters (like matters of metaphysics, morality, etc.) to the realm of "personal opinion"--as if true knowledge of nonmaterial things is not possible.
Moreland does a masterful job of dismantling this philosophy. First, he shows how scientism is self-refuting. Think about it: Scientism is a philosophical belief that dismisses the value of philosophy! He then demonstrates the logical priority of philosophy/theology over science by demonstrating that the scientific enterprise is itself based on philosophical beliefs. Before science can even be done, one must first work out a philosophy of science. Toward the end of the book, he discusses the limitations of science. Contra the teachings of scientism, there are five things which science cannot explain (but Theism can):
1. The origin of the universe
2. The fundamental laws of nature
3. The fine-tuning of the universe
4. The origin of consciousness
5. The existence of moral, rational, and aesthetic objective laws and intrinsically valuable properties.
The book will be difficult reading for many, but it is still well worth the effort. I would encourage you to pick up a copy at your earliest convenience.
The following paragraphs come from an essay I recently composed in answer to the question, "what is historical theology?"
In considering the term “historical theology,” the first matter one must confront is the question of whether we are primarily dealing with a historical or a theological discipline. If the discipline is primarily historical, then it ought to be approached as a branch of intellectual history, with the aim being to explain what individuals of the past said, and what they meant by what they said, but no more. The goal would be to gain a good understanding of the past, without “theologizing” about it in the present.
One immediately encounters a difficulty with this perspective, however. In looking at the term “historical theology,” we notice that the word “historical” is being used as an adjective, while “theology” is the noun. The discipline is not called “theological history” but “historical theology.” Therefore, I am inclined to view historical theology primarily as a theological discipline with a historical emphasis, and the historical theologian as just that: a theologian. While historical investigation is inseparable from the historical theologian’s discipline, his main business is to do theology.
Geoffrey Bromiley defines theology this way: It is “the church’s word about God in responsive transmission of the Word of God to the church.” In other words, theology is the contemplation and communication of the message of Sacred Scripture by the church, and for the church. But it is also more than that. Bromiley goes on to say that theology is also “the investigation of the church’s word about God with the intent of testing and achieving its purity and faithfulness as the responsive transmission of God’s Word in changing languages, vocabularies, and intellectual and cultural contexts.” So theology is the contemplation and communication of the message of Sacred Scripture, but it is also the study and analysis of the church’s contemplations of those Scriptures for the purpose of improving and refining her doctrines in the present.
Thus, the true historical theologian is no mere recounter of history, but is an active participant in “the church’s theological enterprise.” When he does his job well, he “shows how the church and its word, moving across centuries and continents, have come from there to here with an ongoing continuity in spite of every discontinuity…[he] offers examples of the ways in which, and the reasons why, the conformity of the church’s word to God’s Word has been achieved or compromised in the different centuries and settings…[and, he]…brings to the church of today a valuable accumulation of enduring insights as well as relevant hints and warnings.”
I would therefore suggest the following definition for historical theology: Historical theology is that branch of Christian theology which serves the church of Christ by investigating the church’s word about God’s Word as it has been expressed through time, so that she might be better equipped to develop a biblically pure and faithful system of doctrine in the present.
 Bromiley, XXVI
 Bromiley, XXVI
 Bromiley, XXVI
This morning I took part in a remarkable roundtable discussion lead by a representative of a major political party. At the table were 3 white evangelical pastors, 4 black evangelical pastors, and representatives of a couple other organizations. The discussion was dominated by the black pastors, who wanted the party leader and the rest of us to understand the challenges facing the black community. Their primary message was that they lack the financial resources they need. We discussed the causes of this problem, which has persisted for decades, and possible ways to solve it. It was a real education for me, and I appreciated so much their willingness to speak honesty and frankly about the issue. A couple of key thoughts: "White churches will spend thousands of dollars to travel to Africa on missions trips, but they do nothing for the struggling African American families and children and churches just a few miles from them. Why?" And, "Our kids are already behind before they even enter school, and then their teachers don't know how to teach/lead them, so they get our kids on medication. So our kids are undereducated, overmedicated, and trapped in the cycle of poverty." And, most interestingly, "The black church is the most important institution in America for African Americans. If you are going to help the black community, you will have to go through the black church." [NOTE: These are only paraphrases, but they capture the concepts discussed]
Battleground Actions Sports is an indoor skate park in the Lakeview Square Mall in Battle Creek. On Tuesdays they offer free admission to anyone who participates in their Bible study from 6-6:30. This past Tuesday, I was invited by the organizers to come and share my testimony with the teens and tell them a bit about my church's youth ministry. About 25 BMX enthusiasts were present. Afterwards, they broke into small groups based on age and gender. I joined one of the groups and participated in a Bible study on the Beatitudes. Here are some of my reflections from the event:
1. The leaders of this skate park are amazing. They are Christians who are using their skate park as a platform for ministry. What a novel idea! I wish we had a thousand more just like them.
2. The needs in our community are great. During the prayer request time, half the kids in my group asked for prayer for protection from bullies at school. One asked for prayer that she wouldn't instigate any fights. So many of the kids coming to this skate park are growing up in difficult circumstances. They, and so many others, need the love and support of the Body of Christ. If you have time to volunteer, I'm sure the organizers would accept your help.
3. I want to go back there again. The opportunity to address unchurched kids on their own turf is a great privilege. I hope I get the opportunity to go back soon!
To my fellow lovers of church history: thought you would be interested to know that Christian History Magazine, published four times per year, offers annual subscriptions for FREE with no strings attached. If you would like to sign up, just click HERE.
I was born in 1983. So it was with great interest that I picked up the newly released book, 1983: Reagan, Andropov, and a World on the Brink by Taylor Downing. The book argues that the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 was not the most dangerous point in the Cold War. It was November 1983, when the Western powers were conducting their "Able Archer" military exercise. The Soviet leadership was convinced that the exercise was a pretext for a surprise nuclear attack. In response, the Soviet Union placed its entire nuclear arsenal on the highest level of alert--locking each missile on a specific target, moving nuclear submarines into position, placing bombers onto the ends of runways with engines running and cargo bays fully loaded. Looking back, it's a wonder that Andropov did not push the button.
If you want to know why the Soviets believed this was "it," and how the tensions were finally defused, you need to get the book. It is a well-researched work of history but it advances like a thriller. You will enjoy the read. As I worked through it, I couldn't help but picture myself as an infant in Detroit, Michigan, completely oblivious to the fact that the whole world was resting on a "hair-trigger" (to use one Soviet's analogy). In fact, most of the world didn't know how close we were, as the story didn't become public until a bit later.
The Cold War is over now, but the world remains a dangerous place. In fact, the present world is in some ways even more dangerous. More nations that ever possess these hideous weapons, and some of them could easily fall into the hands of non-state actors. How close are we to another World War? What don't we know right now? The world is a scary place, and it will remain so until the Prince of Peace has taken his throne.
The Marshall Area Farmer's Market is a weekly event during the summer months drawing hundreds of people into town to buy fresh local produce, baked goods, and more. And once again, our church ministry tent was there! We had games for kids and literature for adults. Our volunteers report numerous profitable conversations with members of our community. Many thanks to Jack, Margaret, Rebecca, Austin, Matt, Karen, Brandi, Serena, Peg, and Joyce for your desire to spread the word to the residents of our city.
Every year, the Calhoun County chapter of Relay for Life holds a major fundraiser in Marshall. Volunteers set up booths, donations are collected, cancer survivors are honored, and loved ones are remembered. Our church had a booth up as well. Here are some stats:
This past Thursday I was at the national conference of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC). The highlights of the conference include the following: