Friday, March 28, 2008

Titus 2 In Action

Nancy Wilson has a great post encouraging older women to consider the great service they can render to the church in the "post-children" years. Rather than filling up your time with a job, invest your time and talents in the church for the cause of Christ. I completely agree with her conclusion:

If all the older women began to minister in this way, the impact would startle us all. The older women in the church are a tremendous resource, and we need to get to work doing what we do best, which is caring for people. The side benefit is that then we won’t feel at loose ends. We’ll see that we have an important place in God’s design for the Christian community, and our usefulness didn’t end when the kids all left for college. Far from it! Actually, we are just now warmed up and ready to go.

Also, here is a testimony of what a wonderful ministry this can be in a young mother's life.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Second London Baptist Confession

Chapter 25 - Marriage

25.1 MARRIAGE is to be between one man and one woman. It is not lawful for any man to have more than one wife, nor for any woman to have more than one husband, at one and the same time. Gen. 2:24; Mal. 2:15; Matt. 19:5,6.

25.2 God instituted marriage for the mutual help of husband and wife, for the increase of mankind in accordance with His laws, and for the prevention of immorality. Gen. 1:28; 2:18; 1 Cor. 7:2,9.

25.3 It is lawful for all sorts of people to marry, provided that they are able to give their rational consent. But it is the duty of Christians to marry only 'in the Lord'. In consequence, those who profess the Christian faith should not contract marriages with infidels or idolaters. It is also quite unfitting for godly persons to become partners in marriage with persons who lead wicked lives or who maintain damnable heresies. Neh. 13:25-27; 1 Cor. 7:39; 1 Tim. 4:3; Heb. 13:4.

25.4 Marriage must not be contracted within the degrees of blood relationship or kinship forbidden in God's Word. Nor when such incestuous unions occur can they ever be made lawful, either by any law of man or by the consenting parties, and the persons concerned can never rightly live together as man and wife. Lev. 18; Mark 6: 18; 1 Cor. 5: 1.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Keswick Theology

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary recently hosted its annual Rice Lecture Series. This year the speaker was Andrew Naselli, and he delivered an excellent and accessible assessment of the theology of the Keswick movement. What is Keswick theology? Chances are pretty good that you have been exposed to it. For example, have you been taught (in your past; not at our church!) that there are two categories of Christians - carnal and spiritual? I would highly recommend that you listen to them, especially if you have a background of this kind of teaching.

You can download the lectures (here, here, and here), as well as the Powerpoint and an outline.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Birthday

Thank you all for the birthday cake and cards you gave me at our fellowship meal on Sunday. Yesterday we celebrated my birthday by building a snowman in the morning and eating ice cream in the evening. The activities may have been cold, but it was a warm family time!





Marriage vs. Cohabitation

Since I preached on the seventh commandment last Sunday, I thought you might be interested in these statistics about cohabitation given by Mike McManus in his article "Better Together?" published online by Christianity Today.

Decades of high divorce rates have given rise to a generation of young adults who fear marriage. In response, the statistics show that many now live together to test their compatibility. Since 1960, America has witnessed a 12-fold increase in cohabitation from 430,000 couples to 5.4 million couples. At the same time, there's been a 50 percent plunge in the marriage rate, along with rising numbers of out-of-wedlock births.

Many of those 5.4 million couples, along with their friends and neighbors, still believe the enduing myth that cohabitation works as a sort of trial marriage. In reality, cohabitation often becomes a trial divorce. The only question is whether couples will split before or after their wedding. About 45 percent of cohabitating couples undergo what we call a "premarital divorce," which can be as painful as the real thing. The half who make it to the altar are about 50 percent more likely to divorce than those who lived apart prior to marrying. In the end, as few as 15 of every 100 couples who cohabit go on to create a lasting marriage.

By contrast, a woman who lives with a man is three times more likely to be physically abused than a married woman. If a cohabitating couple breaks up, the woman is then 18 times more likely to be harmed than a married woman. In addition, infidelity for cohabiting men is four times that of married men; for cohabiting women, infidelity is eight times more likely.

God knew exactly what he was doing when he designed the marriage relationship to be an exclusive covenant relationship between one man and one woman for life.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Command to Love Marriage

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, he designed a beautiful physical landscape for humans to live in and work with. He also laid out a beautiful social landscape for human relationships. He prepared a rich, fertile seedbed for human societies called marriage which would produce abundant and luxurious fruit. But that heavenly landscape has been hacked, burned, and eroded by sin. In the seventh commandment, God graciously provided a some berms and ground cover and wind breaks to protect the garden of marriage. The seventh commandment tells us, very simply but very forcefully, "You shall not commit adultery."

The news this week was full of reports of an instance of the desecration of the marriage relationship. Sadly, this is not uncommon. Many of our neighbors and co-workers have so much pain and scarring from the desecration of marriage that they cannot even see God's beautiful design. As Christians, we need to cultivate fruitful marriage gardens, so that the world can see the goodness of God's plan for mankind. In so doing, we will be able to point to the ultimate husband, Jesus Christ, his bride, the church, and the highest relationship for which we were created. This Sunday we will worship the Lord by meditating on the seventh commandment together.

Songs
Holy, Holy, Holy (#3)
In the Cross of Christ I Glory (#142)
O Father, All-Creating (#727)
Give Ear unto God's Holy Word (#729)
O Lord, Behold Us at Thy Feet (#730)
Take My Life, and Let It Be (#560)

Scripture Reading
Godly marriage reflects Christ and his church - Ephesians 5:22-33

Sermon
The Command to Love Marriage - Deuteronomy 5:18

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Hostility toward Homeschooling

Dr. Albert Mohler blogged this morning about the overt hostility toward homeschooling by the education establishment that has been brought to the surface by the recent California appeals court ruling. Those who have been homeschooling for any length of time are already well aware of this antipathy, so I'm glad it is coming out into the open for all to see.

The website of the Home School Legal Defense Association is a good place to keep up to date with what is going in this arena of public policy.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Second London Baptist Confession

Chapter 24 - Civil Government

24.1 AS the world's supreme Lord and King, God has instituted civil government and has set up civil authorities, subject to Himself, to rule over communities for His own glory and the public good. For these purposes to be achieved He has given them the powers of life and death, both for the safety and encouragement of all men of good behavior, and for the punishment of the wicked. Rom. 13:1-4.

24.2 It is lawful for Christians to accept and carry out the duties of public office when called upon to do so, in which case it becomes their responsibility to maintain justice and peace in accordance with the sound laws of the kingdoms and states which they serve. New Testament teaching authorizes them to wage war when this is found to be just and necessary. 2 Sam. 23:3; Ps. 82:3,4; Luke 3:14.

24.3 As civil rulers are set up by God for the aforesaid purposes, Christians are to be subject to them in respect of all their lawful requirements, and that, for the Lord's sake and for conscience' sake, and not merely to avoid punishment. They should offer supplications and prayers for kings and all that are in authority, that under their rule they may live a 'quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty'. Rom. 13:5-7; 1 Tim. 2:1,2; 1 Pet. 2:17.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Graveyard for a Living Church

Russell Moore has posted a great meditation on what we can learn from church graveyards. Please take a moment to click on the link and read it. Here is an excerpt:

I still ponder how much more effective we would be in preaching the Gospel to our neighbors if we showed them--even with our landscape around us that we are more than a community group. We're a Kingdom--a Kingdom that spans the ages and includes the dead and the unborn, mighty as an army with banners....

I wonder if we might be able to speak more honestly to a people scared to death of death with a visible sign that we know what death is too. We hate it too.

But we haven't forgotten our dead. We're just waiting for them--and for us--to hear one last invitation hymn. And when those quiet little mounds begin bursting, with headstones flying about, and clap of thunder resounds across the sky.

Then we'll know what we're talking about when we say, "Man, this church is alive."

Saturday, March 08, 2008

A Primer on Just War

War is a reality of life in a sinful world. Human pride and passion provoke fighting (Prov 13:10; James 4:1-2), from an individual level all the way up to the international level. As Christians, we rightly deplore this state of affairs. We abhor the shedding of blood, and we must never become desensitized to the loss of human life. Yet we also see in Scripture that God is a warrior, and he sometimes commands wars. What are we to make of this? Christian thinkers have long wrestled with the Scriptural information regarding war and have developed a robust tradition of moral reasoning known as just war theory. Just war reasoning recognizes that not all wars are wrong, on the one hand, and that wars must be waged strictly within moral boundaries, on the other. Just war thinking is not a presumption against war, nor does it hold that war is always evil. In fact, it recognizes that failure to wage war in some situations can be sinful. The primary concern of just war theory is to promote peace and to defend against injustice. Just war thinking helps us to understand when and how to use force against wrongdoing.

As Christians, our primary concern is the glory of God. God is the standard who defines for us what is moral and immoral. We believe that the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. We believe that we will all give account to God. We are morally responsible beings. Thus, our personal concern is to act in a manner morally pleasing to God.[1] Christians also believe that legitimate authorities actually exercise God’s authority in the world when they act justly. Therefore, God is glorified when human governments wage just wars.

Just war theory is opposed to “realism” or “realpolitik” on the one hand (as exemplified by Machiavelli) and “pacifism” on the other. The former rejects moral constraints while the latter misconstrues them. Realism says that moral considerations are unnecessary; the only important thing is to win the war by whatever means necessary. Pacifism says that war is always evil. Both are biblically wrong.

The Classic Criteria[2]

Ius ad Bellum – “Justice toward war.” When is it just to enter into war?

  1. Just cause. We may engage in war primarily for the defense of the common good (order, justice, and peace), which would include self-defense (e.g. Num 21:21-30), recovery of what has been wrongly taken (e.g. Gen 14), and punishing evil (Rom 13:4).
  2. Proper authority. Public authorities have the responsibility to secure and protect the public good of a just and orderly society. It is this responsibility which gives them the authority to declare war (Rom 13:1-4). Private parties do not have the authority to enter into war (Rom 12:19).[3]
  3. Right intention. This has to do with both proper motive and with proper goals – the establishment of a just peace (Ps 34:14; Rom 12:18). Such concerns also extend to what happens after the war itself has ceased.

There are also some lesser criteria which are taken into consideration, such as reasonable hope of success, overall proportionality, and last resort. These are prudential judgments and are not primary moral criteria. In other words, they help to determine when it is wise to go to war, but they do not determine whether or not it is just to go to war.

As can be seen from these criteria, wars of aggrandizement and aggression are unjust. So are wars waged without proper authority. Wars which do not intend to establish or re-establish justice and peace but are waged because of anger, animosity, revenge, rebellion, greed, power-lust, and so forth, are unjust.

Ius in Bello – “Justice in war.” How can we fight a war in a just manner?

  1. Discrimination (noncombatant immunity). The force of war must be directed at combatants and not intentionally directed at noncombatants. The distinction between combatants and noncombatants is not always clear.
  2. Proportionality. The amount of force used in war should be proportionate to what is necessary to achieve the military aims with the least amount of bloodshed and destruction (e.g. Deut 20:10-15, 19-20).

In Christian perspective, these just war criteria proceed from love (Mark 12:29-31; Rom 13:8-10). The ultimate reason for a Christian to go to war is love for God and neighbor.[4] We love God, so we want his righteousness and justice to prevail. When we bring justice to the evil-doer, we are enforcing God’s righteousness. We love our neighbor, so we will defend life while trying to do so in a manner that minimizes death.

Important Concepts

Justice - Justice from a Christian perspective may be considered the application of God’s righteous judgment by God’s ordained authorities. It involves retribution and restitution.

Peace – Rightly ordered tranquility, not merely the absence of conflict

Love – Commitment to what is best for another.

Some Introductory Resources

Calvin, John. Institutes 4.20.10-12.

Charles, J. Daryl. Between Pacifism and Jihad: Just War and the Christian Tradition. Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005.

Cole, Darrell. “Good Wars,” First Things, October 2001.

Davis, John Jefferson. Evangelical Ethics. 2nd edition. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1993.

Elshtain, Jean Bethke. Just War Against Terror. New York: Basic Books, 2003.

Johnson, James Turner. “Just War, As It Was and Is,” First Things, January 2005.

Pavlischek, Keith. “Just and Unjust War in the Terrorist Age,” The Intercollegiate Review, Vol 37 No 2 (Spring 2002), 24-32.

Phillips, Richard D. “The Christian View of War.” Sermon preached 26 August, 2006. Available at SermonAudio.com. Accessed 6 March, 2008.

________. “The Christian Idea of Valor.” Sermon preached 26 August, 2006. Available at SermonAudio.com. Accessed 8 March, 2008.



[1] A common error among just war theorists is to claim that natural law apart from religious considerations is the basis of just war theory. This claim is inaccurate, if for no other reason than that no one ever thinks or operates apart from religious reasons. Religious neutrality is a myth. Theorists make this claim in order to bolster their point that just war applies to everyone, regardless of the religion they profess to believe. Just war does apply to everyone, but this argument is a wrong foundation. The true foundation, and the true reason that just war thinking applies to everyone, is that everyone is accountable to the one true and living God revealed in the Bible whether they believe it or not. Christians follow Jesus Christ as Lord and derive their just war principles from his authority. When unbelievers happen to get some of these principles right (because these principles are built into the nature of the universe that God made and governs), then believers and unbelievers become tactical partners in just war. But we are never strategic partners in just war, for we have different foundations and different goals.

[2] Note that these criteria are not the same thing as international laws or customs governing war. Just war criteria are moral criteria. Hopefully international laws based upon treaties and customs would reflect these moral principles, but they do not necessarily do so.

[3] “The service of private ends by private persons manifests cupiditas – wrongly directed, self-centered love or motivation – while efforts by those at the head of communities to serve the good of those communities show the effect of a concern for justice informed by caritas, rightly directed love” (James Turner Johnson, “Just War, As It Was and Is,” First Things (Jan 2005), available at http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=142, accessed 25 January 2008).

[4] “When Thomas Aquinas discusses just war in the Summa Theologiae (II-II.40), he does not do so in the section on justice, but rather in the section on charity-specifically, the love of God. He makes it clear that war is not a vice that is opposed to the love of God. On the contrary, war-making, when just, can be a form of love. Of course, war is always contrary to peace, but this is sometimes desirable, since peace is not always a just order that deserves to be preserved. Nazi Germany, for example, provided peace and order for most of those in conquered countries who were willing to accept Nazi rule. But no one wishes to argue that the peace provided by Nazis is the sort of peace we ought to preserve. War, for Aquinas, can be a means to a just peace as well as a means to destroy an unjust peace (such as one established by Nazis). We keep a just peace and fight just wars because these are acts of charity. Just soldiering, in other words, is something Christians ought to do out of love for God and neighbor, and thus it is the most “human” thing we can do in certain circumstances” (Darrell Cole, “Good Wars,” First Things (October 2001), available at http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=2243, accessed 4 March, 2008).

Friday, March 07, 2008

A War of Love, Not a Love of War

The sixth commandment leads us to love human life. Thus if at all possible we want to avoid shedding blood. Does this outlaw all war? Not at all. In fact, when we love our neighbor, we will defend his life against those who would take it unjustly. In a sinful world, it is sometimes necessary for us to love even to the point of laying down our lives for our friends. It is also sometimes necessary for us to take the lives of those who are intent on wrecking and destroying human life. That is why, for the Christian, war must be a function of love. Biblical love understands what true justice is and what godly peace is, and what is necessary to exercise justice in a wicked world. Biblical love also looks forward to the day when all swords will be beaten into plowshares because the loving ruler of the world, Jesus Christ, will be exercising his full dominion. Christians do not love war, but because of our faith and because of our God, we will wage a war of love.

Songs
Jesus Shall Reign (#51)
Crown Him with Many Crowns (#52)
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God (#588)
Who Would True Valor See (#508)
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (#137)
All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name (#36)

Scripture Reading
Psalm 144

Sermon
The Command to Love Human Life (Part 4): A War of Love, Not a Love of War

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Second London Baptist Confession

Chapter 23 - Lawful Oaths and Vows

23.3 Each and every person who takes an oath agreeably to the Word of God must well consider the seriousness of such a solemn act, and be extremely careful to assert nothing but what he knows to be truth; for by rash, false and empty oaths the Lord is provoked, and by reason of them a land is brought to misery. Lev. 19:12; Jer. 23:10.

23.4 An oath is to be taken in the plain and usual sense of the words used, without equivocation or mental reservation. Ps. 24:4.

23.5 Vows are to be made to God alone and not to any creature. Once made they are to be performed scrupulously and faithfully. But monastical vows of perpetual single life, professed poverty, and regular obedience, that pertain to the church of Rome, so far from representing superior sanctity, are merely superstitious and sinful snares in which no Christian ought to entangle himself. Gen. 28:20-22; Ps. 76:11; Matt. 19:11; 1 Cor. 7:2,9; Eph. 4:28.