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For you reading pleasure:

Thomas Kidd asks where did the phrase “ask Jesus into your heart” come from? Very interesting

He writes, “It turns out that Anglo-American Puritans and evangelicals in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries used the phrase “receive Christ into your heart,” or something like it, with some regularity. . . . Then there was a major uptick in the use of the actual phrase “ask Jesus into your heart” in the 1970s, perhaps as children’s ministry became more formalized and leaders looked for very simple ways to explain to children what a decision for Christ would entail. (And it may be in children’s ministries and vacation Bible schools that one most commonly sees suspect “decisions” for Christ.)

We’re in the middle of Lent so it is interesting to see a point/counterpoint on whether Christians should observe Lent. See Todd A. Peperkorn’s post on Why Lent Should Matter to Everyone. Todd is a Lutheran pastor. For the counterpoint side see Brian Lee’s post Repent of Lent: How Spiritual Disciplines Can Be Bad for Your Soul. Brian is a reformed pastor.

Roger Olson has one of the best discussions of the “emerging churches” emphasis on “Belong, Believe, Behave” as opposed to “Believe, Behave, Belong.” In part he says,

“While I sympathize with the impulse behind “belong, believe, behave,” which is, I assume, inclusion over exclusion, I also have some qualms about the policy. I fear it can and often does lead to one of two problems. First, the church may drop belief altogether and permit doctrinal pluralism so that everyone believes differently and there is no real cognitive content to the church’s Christianity. In that case, the church would seem to be little more than a cozy club of people who like each other or, at the most, together look fondly upon a cross without any agreement about what it stands for. Second, insofar as the church holds onto some semblance of orthodox doctrine (however defined), it may relegate full belonging to a small coterie of leaders who must believe and behave first and then belong.”

Who hasn’t heard about World Vision’s decision to hire same-sex married couples. Kevin DeYoung offers some of his thoughts. He writes,

“Before we get embroiled in a throw down about whether Jesus would love to take coffee breaks with World Vision employees, before we allow the issue to be reframed as ‘Jesus was nice; the Pharisees were mean; you are mean and not nice; so you are a Pharisee and not like Jesus,’ before we accept that calling someone a bigot is the same as making an argument, before we write off every opponent of this policy as a Calvinist fundie inhabiting a hermetically sealed little house on a Christian prairie somewhere in flyover country, let us establish if the following is true . . .”

And, just like that World Vision changes their decision! See here.

The field of physics is reeling from observations by a telescope at the South Pole (BICEP2) which detected “faint echoes of the so-called ‘Big Bang.’” According to an article by Steve Bradt this “provides the first strong evidence of ‘cosmic inflation’ at the birth of the universe.” See his interview with Alan Guth here. Guth says the “significance of these new findings is enormous.” William Lane Craig chimes in here with his thoughts.

Craig opens with these words: “The recent news from the BICEP collaboration is reminiscent of the news last year concerning the discovery of the Higgs boson: the evidence confirmed what almost everyone already believed. The story is once again a wonderful illustration of the experimentalists’ discovering what the theorists had hypothesized. So there’s nothing revolutionary about this discovery (which is not to diminish in any way its significance!).”

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I found some fascinating posts which I’d like to draw your attention to. I hope you find some of them helpful.

Again, Terrance Tiessen has a remarkably interesting post where he interacts with a work by Denny Burk on Is Homosexual Orientation Sinful? Burk says he thinks it is and the reasoning has persuaded Terrance to say “my way of thinking and speaking about this matter needs to change.” Burk writes,

A common objection to the foregoing goes like this: “If a person cannot control whether they have same-sex attraction, how can that attraction be considered sinful?” This objection bases moral accountability upon whether one has the ability to choose his proclivities. But this is not how the Bible speaks of sin and judgment. There are all manner of predispositions that we are born with that the Bible nevertheless characterizes as sin: pride, anger, anxiousness, just to name a few. Why would we put same-sex attraction in a different category than those other predispositions that we groan to be delivered from and that we are morally accountable for?

The entire article is fascinating and will certainly generate a lot of conversation.

Kevin DeYoung offers a critical review of Austin Fischer’s new book Young, Restless and No Longer Reformed.

He says, “Although I disagree with Fischer on a lot of things, I agree with his insistence that what we make of Reformed theology is tremendously important.” Again, let the conversation continue.

Paul Adams stole my thunder in announcing a new book from Zondervan edited by Michael Bird entitled How God Became Jesus that will respond to Bart Ehrman’s new book How Jesus Became God. Both are due out in April.

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For your reading pleasure

Justin Taylor5 Quotes that Luther Didn’t Say  # 1 = “If I believed the world were to end tomorrow, I would still plant a tree today.” I’ve heard this many times.

Kevin DeYoung asks “Who Can Baptize?” – He opts for only ordained pastors.

Tim Gombis has an interesting post on “Meals in Luke’s Gospel.” Did you know Luke records 19 meals? 13 are unique to Luke.  Not to be missed is his other post on “The Impossibility of the Ideal Church” with an outstanding passage from Bonheoffer.

Craig Blomberg offers some refreshing thoughts in answer to “Why Go to Church?” He writes, “Hear me, too, please, when I say that “church” as the New Testament defines it can be a house-church, it can be independent of all denominational affiliation, and it can take many creative forms and gather at many different times. I’m not saying all believers have to gather on Sunday morning, in a distinctive church building, with one prescribed liturgy or order of service. Not by a long shot. But consider the implied hubris (a fancy Greek word for “arrogance”) implied by the person who claims to be a Christian, claims to be in submission in Scripture, and yet also claims that no existing expressions of Christianity anywhere close to them are sufficiently God-pleasing for them to favor those gatherings with their presence!” (HT: Paul Adams)

Blomberg’s post is all the more important in light of Donald Miller’s post on why he rarely goes to church. Bottom line is that he doesn’t connect with God by singing and doesn’t learn by hearing (hence, no need for a sermon). See here for a follow-up post from Miller on the reactions he received. See also his post on “Church Anywhere and Everywhere.”  There he writes, “Still the motives are pure. Letting just anybody perform the sacrements (sic) could create chaos. And yet I see an awful lot of organized chaos in the book of Acts. I wonder if we’ve not lost the stomach for that kind of adventure?”

In the Blomberg post he responds to one of his commenters with the following:  “But when we put the whole range of things Scripture says believers should do when they congregate, a discussion group with fellow students about theology doesn’t qualify.  From Acts 2:42 we learn that there needs to be prayer, instruction, fellowship (which is subsequently defined as including the sharing of material possessions with the needy, and the Lord’s Supper.  From Eph. 5:18-20 we add in worship, including through singing.  From Matt. 18:15-18 we know there need to be mechanisms for accountability and discipline, when needed.  From 28:18-20 and numerous other texts we learn of our need for mission and for baptism.  From 1 Timothy 3:1-13 come the need for elders and deacons in a leadership structure (or their functional equivalent).  Get a group of your friends together and implement all of that and you have a church, whether you call it that or not.  Do anything short of that and you’re not fulfilling all of the God-designed desires for this people as a gathered community.”

Jeff from the Scripture Zealot has some good thoughts on the appreciation of good commentaries and other scholarly materials. See “My, Myself and the Holy Spirit.” “It’s very arrogant (as Spurgeon says) and dangerous for people to think that they can interpret and apply Scripture just by themselves and with the Holy Spirit.”

With all this discussion about going/not going to church watch for the forthcoming book How To be A Christian Without Going to Church by Kelly Bean. (July 2014, Baker Books)

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Here are some items of interest I’ve found.

Pride of place must go to a post from Terrance Tiessen. The title of the post is Authentic Christian faith: individual but not individualistic. This post made me think hard and was a source of great encouragement. I have read it several times now–not something I do very often.

Roger Olson asks How to Solve a Theological Dilemma when Scripture Doesn’t Clearly Solve It: An Exercise in Theological Method.

Sam Storms writes about Why I Am a Continuationist. Thomas Schreiner writes about Why I Am a Cessationist.

Kevin DeYoung talks about John Calvin on Sleeping in Church.

Paul Adams gives a link to a lecture by Graham Cole “On the [Eternal ?] Subordination of the Son.”

Tim Challies offers a inforgraphic on John MacArthur. (HT: Scripture Zealot)

J.W. Wartick gives The Case for Christianity in 15 Minutes (or less).

Did Luther Believe in Consubstantiation? Good question in light of Wednesday’s post. A more definitive post is found here: Lutherans Deny Consubstantiation. While we’re on the topic this is another good post: The Myth of Consubstantiation.

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I haven’t done one of these in a while. Primarily because I don’t read near as many blogs as I used to. I simply don’t have the time anymore. But I did find some of these posts interesting.

Peter Liethart calls for the End of Protestantism. He writes, “Protestantism ought to give way to Reformational catholicism. Like a Protestant, a Reformational catholic rejects papal claims, refuses to venerate the Host, and doesn’t pray to Mary or the saints; he insists that salvation is a sheer gift of God received by faith and confesses that all tradition must be judged by Scripture, the Spirit’s voice in the conversation that is the Church.”

Roger Olson weighed in on John MacArthur’s “Strange Fire” conference. He notes with stinging irony: “MacArthur talks about the danger of offending the Holy Spirit with ‘counterfeit worship.’ I agree that there is that danger. However, I wonder if MacArthur and others (like R. C. Sproul) who spoke at his conference have considered the danger of offending the Holy Spirit by opposing a worldwide renewal movement that, for all its flaws, has brought millions of people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? And by attributing the Holy Spirit’s gifts to unholy passions and imagination (if not to Satan)?”

Along these same lines Terrance Tiessen asks “What is a Charismatic?”  He says, “. . . I’m wondering if my own definition of ‘charismatic’ is accurate these days. I see a spectrum of four positions: Pentecostal – charismatic – continuationist – cessationist. Pentecostals identify baptism by Christ with the Spirit as a  distinct (and usually subsequent) experience of the baptism by the Spirit into Christ. Tongues is the sign that one has received that “second blessing” of baptism with the Spirit, it is a repetition of the original Pentecost event in that person’s life.”

Tim Challies did a two-part interview with John MacArthur where he responds to his critics regarding the Strange Fire conference and book. See part one here and part two here.

Canadian journalist and TV host Michael Coheen has an interesting post of the future of Catholicism. I had to laugh at this paragraph:

“The Future of Catholicism was commissioned specifically to respond to the hysteria that greeted the election of Pope Francis. The moment the conclave ended, numerous journalists approached me for interviews – desperately so, since there are so few Catholics in media in Canada. The questions repeated themselves with a dulling predictability: will the new pope change Church teaching on same-sex marriage; will he ordain women; will he allow abortion and birth control? After the fourth or fifth such interview I responded with, ‘Yes, and he’s going to become a Muslim too!’ A bit of advice: Don’t use satire or sarcasm on a journalist.”

Kevin DeYoung asks “Is John Piper Reformed?”

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Daniel Wallace addresses the authenticity of the Gospel of Thomas

My coworker Dean has started a blog called Re(-)petitions. Dean is a lover of philosophy in general and Kierkegaard in particular. To sample the fomer see his post on “Philosophy, huh? So…like…what do you do with philosophy?” and for the later you can begin with his series on Kierkegaard. Part one, here, is a short bio. I read a little of Kierkegaard while in seminary. I never could quite understand him. Dean has done a lot to help me understand him a little better.

Brian LePort is doing a series of posts on ecumenical dialogue. A friend of his, JohnDave Medina, is doing a series of posts on why he is Catholic. You can find the introduction here. Brian’s first post is “Why I am Evangelical.” JohnDave’s first post is “Why I am Catholic.” Brian’s other post is “Why I am not Catholic.”  Another post you may find interesting on his blog is by Joshua Paul Smith, “Why I am a Mennonite.”

Peter Enns ask “Is Evangelicalism a 6th Grade Version of Mature Christianity?”  His post is a reflection on blog post by Peter Traben Haas called “Seven Steps to Leaving “Evangelical Christianity” without Loosing Your Faith.”

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Mike Wittmer on Evangelical Funerals. Wittmer comments on the balance of celebration and grief at funerals.

Russell D. Moore on Why Christians Should Read Fiction. He begins his post:

I’ve found that most people who tell me that fiction is a waste of  time are folks who seem to hold to a kind of sola cerebra vision of the  Christian life that just doesn’t square with the Bible. The Bible  doesn’t simply address man as a cognitive process but as a complex  image-bearer who recognizes truth not only through categorizing  syllogisms but through imagination, beauty, wonder, awe. Fiction helps  to shape and hone what Russell Kirk called the moral imagination.

How wealthy is the Vatican? John Allen answers.

To put it bluntly, the Vatican is not rich. It has an annual operating budget of $260 million, which would not place it on any top 500 list of social institutions. To draw a comparison to the nonprofit sector, Harvard University has an annual operating budget of a little over $1.3 billion, which means it could run the equivalent of five Vaticans.

Ronald Knox on Bible translation: “If you translate, say the Summa of St. Thomas, you expect to be cross-examined by people who understand philosophy and by people who know Latin; no one else. If you translate the Bible, you are liable to be cross-examined by anybody, because everybody thinks he already knows what the Bible means.” (HT: Catholic Bibles)

Is Sanctification synergistic or monergistic? Terrance Tiessen explores the issue.

” . . . very notable Calvinist theologians have spoken in terms that are synergistic, and I confess that I was misled by their language. For about 20 years, I taught that justification is monergistic but sanctification is synergistic.”

Depression and Suicide from a Christian Perspective from the Scripture Zealot. Jeff writes not as simply an observer but as one who often has depression as a companion. God has used his experiences to encourage many.

Finally, I don’t watch football but this video brought tears to my eyes. If you need a little background see here.