Thinking Out Loud

September 26, 2015

Some People Want Their Gospel Served A Certain Way

So it all started when our friends at Flagrant Regard posted this graphic image on Facebook.

Ligon Duncan on Preaching the Gospel

At first, I kinda tensed up because Ligon Duncan is very highly revered among traditional Reformers and New Calvinists alike. You’re very likely to see him speaking at things like the Together for the Gospel Conference. So my immediate reaction was, if he hates it, I’m probably for it.

So I was pleased when some people I know immediately weighed in, the first being my wife:

There are a few places in the Bible where God says he reveals himself, wordlessly, through creation. If he can do that, he can certainly show who he is through our grace and love and giving. It’s our job to then answer when asked, and to speak when the opportunities arise. Maybe the problem is the word ‘preach’, which can be narrowly interpreted by some. It might be better to ‘live’ the gospel. This quote strikes me as being a melodramatic over-correction to people who never speak Jesus at all.

The next was our friend Carol:

It seems, understanding the Biblical intent initiated by St.Francis d’Assisi in the top statement, one would see the incongruity of the the second. When Jesus said to Peter “Feed my sheep”, he did not expect Peter to run out and give hay to a flock of sheep. His intention was more inclining to nurture persons to learn of God’s love through actions and example. “Nurture” and “Nourish” come from the same Latin verb root “nutrire” so actual giving of food is not excluded But St.Francis seemed to be alluding to the spiritual side. We can “preach” the Gospel without words by our actions and attitudes toward others. Matt.5:16 “Let your light so shine……..”. Mark 12:31 “Love thy neighbor…..”. Matt. 6:14-15 “For if you forgive…..”. + many many more examples. These, to me, seem to portray the concept to which St. Francis was alluding.

These 2 statements do not belong together !!!

To that, I say a hearty “Amen.” (We’re not sure if St. Francis of Assisi gets the credit for this, though; but that detail is trivial.)

But on the FB page from which my friends at FR obtained the graphic, there was some support.

I’ve heard the above-the-plate nonsense spewed by evangelicals. You have to wonder just how this anti-biblical Pabulum made it into the mainstream?

Notice the difference in the tone of that remark versus the two above. But even there, this comment:

…The meaning though isn’t that you should never preach, but that your actions toward others should be consistent with the Gospel. It’s a paradoxical statement meant to make a deeper point.

For my part, the quotation appeared in my Twitter feed:

Ligon Duncan quote exchange with Eric Carpenter
I suggested reading the two responses at Flagrant Regard, and got the answer you see above. I looked up the person with whom I found myself in this rather heated exchange (that’s not my usual style) and noted that they seemed to have an affinity to other writers that would tend to want to support Ligon Duncan at all costs. We have an earlier blog post here devoted to the fact it is in the nature of people within a certain doctrinal strand to protect the brand at all costs.

But alas, the doctrinal strand to which I refer is a version of Christianity that is all about words, and words only. To their credit, these are the people who founded many Christian publishing companies. To their detriment, these are the people who dominate the Christian internet with their cheering for the home team and endless re-blogging of articles written by their heroes in that movement.

For me it always comes back to the rhetorical question, “Why are there no Salvation Army bloggers?” (Actually there are a small few.) The answer to the question is, “While everybody else is writing about it, they’re out doing it.” I raised that point in this post, where I also noted that those on one particular side of the fence seem to have a militant wing that doesn’t exist on the other side. Worse, this internet domination and barrage of words often becomes the only thing people see.

I guess the thing that ticked me off the most, was the guy in the above exchange on Twitter saying, “Sorry, but I don’t have time to read rebuttals.” Reminds me of the number of bloggers in that same doctrinal system who no longer accept comments.

I just fail to see anyone would be attracted to that brand of Christianity.

Ligon Duncan is not one of my spiritual heroes. I’m not part of that movement, he doesn’t speak for me, though I did take some time to listen to him in one of the T4G live feeds in the interest of open-mindedness. His remark may make for a nice Twitter or Facebook graphic, but it’s a great adventure in missing the point. It has an air of logic and spirituality but is actually a giant put-down of people who don’t fit his extremely narrow view of who God is and what God can use.

To which I say, “Preach the gospel, and then if necessary, know when to shut up.”

October 17, 2013

Attributes of God

Filed under: God — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:20 am

A W TozerAll In Cover“God is above, but He’s not pushed up. He’s beneath, but He’s not pressed down. He’s outside, but He’s not excluded. He’s inside, but He’s not confined. God is above all things presiding, beneath all things sustaining, outside of all things embracing, and inside of all things filling.”

~A. W. Tozer in The Attributes of God, as quoted by Mark Batterson in All In.

February 18, 2013

Rob Bell Returns With A Spring Book Release

Rob Bell - What We Talk About When We Talk About GodHe’s back. But among readers here — who I feel are representative of the larger Christian community — what will be the interest in What We Talk about When We Talk about God?  The book releases March 12th from HarperCollins.

At his blog, Denny Burk doesn’t mince words:

I’m personally of the opinion that Rob Bell is no longer relevant to the larger evangelical theological conversation. Yes, his book will probably sell a lot of copies. No, evangelicals by and large won’t mistake him for one of their own like they used to.

The Christian Post reports that the book is one “in which the Christian author and minister does for God ‘what he did for heaven and hell in Love Wins,’ according to the publisher.”  Yes, I know; I just heard a couple of you shudder. Love Wins was not without its detractors. The Post article adds,

..[T]he controversy surrounding Bell’s book resulted in 3,000 members leaving Mars Hill Bible Church. The tension eventually forced Bell and his wife to split from the congregation. The couple moved to California last year, where the former church leader has since been holding seminars, working on producing a “faith-inflected talk show” and searching “for a more forgiving faith…”

Frank Viola hails Bell as a “marketing genius” and you already figured out that the new book will include a book tour.

Here’s the publisher’s (HarperOne) marketing blurb:

How God is described today strikes many as mean, primitive, backward, illogical, tribal, and at odds with the frontiers of science. At the same time, many intuitively feel a sense of reverence and awe in the world. Can we find a new way to talk about God?

Pastor and New York Times bestselling author Rob Bell does here for God what he did for heaven and hell in Love Wins he shows how traditional ideas have grown stale and dysfunctional and reveals a new path for how to return vitality and vibrancy to how we understand God. Bell reveals how we got stuck, why culture resists certain ways of talking about God, and how we can reconnect with the God who is with us, for us, and ahead of us, pulling us forward into a better future–and ready to help us live life to the fullest.

Rob’s Bell’s writing process comes through in this made-at-home video trailer, which involves 3X5 cards inscribed with words like boombox, snail, volume, further, closer. Is it just me or do they sound like potential NOOMA titles?

July 6, 2012

God’s Will But Not God’s Desire

Several days ago at Christianity 201, I shared an audio clip of someone reading  C.S. Lewis on the subject of free will. Lewis talks about that are freedom actually is God’s will, but within that freedom we can choose wrongly, or choose the thing that God would not necessarily desire.

Rob Bell approached this subject in a chapter titled, ‘Does God Get What God Wants?’ in his controversial 2011 book, Love Wins:

In the Bible, God is not helpless, God is not powerless,

and God is not impotent. Paul writes to the Philippians that “it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

Once again, God has a purpose. A desire. A goal. And God never stops pursuing it…

…God in the end doesn’t get what God wants, it’s declared, because some will turn, repent, and believe, and others won’t. To explain this perspective, it’s rightly point out that love, by it’s very nature, is freedom. For there to be love there has to be the option, both now and then, to not love. To turn the other way. To reject the love extended. To say no. This perspective allows that while God is powerful and mighty, when it comes to the human heart God has to play by the same rules we do. God has to respect our freedom to choose to the very end, even at the risk of relationship itself. If at any point God overrides or co-opts or hijacks the human heart, robbing it, and us, of our freedom to choose, then God has violated the fundamental essence of what love even is.

So here, with all its British flavor, is the 3-minute C. S. Lewis reading.  As I stated to C201 readers, this was posted on YouTube on the ‘Islamic Worldview’ channel. I’ll leave it for you to ponder that one.  (For those of you reading on mobile devices or dial-up or limited data plans, this takes mere seconds to upload.)

I’ve watched this several times now, and would love to memorize this so that I could present it others.

The version of this at C201 also contains a full video clip from Ravi Zacharias.

October 14, 2011

Solving the Arminian / Calvinist Maze

Bruxy Cavey -- Here in Canada we grow our pastors a little different

Bruxy Cavey is a Canadian pastor of The Meeting House, Canada’s largest multi-site church.  After growing up Pentecostal (Arminian) for years he pastored a Baptist church that was more or less Calvinist, and was really drawn to the academics of the systematic theology.  But then, he discovered the Anabaptists (Arminian again.) 

If Cavey sounds like a theological chameleon, I’m sure he’ll forgive you for that accusation.  But now he wants to help his church understand the difference and has launched a series, Chosen and Choosing.  As I type this, the video for week one is up, but only the audio for week two has been uploaded.  I’ve decided to wait for the video for that one, but enjoyed his approach to week one, and regardless of which side of the doctrinal fence you lean to, you have to admire the way he turned the whole debate around in the last 3-4 minutes of week one.  I never thought you could give an invitation after a doctrinal debate, but he did!

Catch the series here.  And don’t forget the series, One Church, which we mentioned in the summer is also online. Bruxy invited people from various Christian denominations to ‘make their pitch’ over the summer with some interesting results. [Click further down the 2011 series tabs.]

…For those of you who weary of this particular debate, there’s always this.

Appendix [from the notes from Week One]:

AUGUSTINIAN (CALVINIST): We will not choose God unless he chooses to make us choose him. Without me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

PALAGIAN (FUNCTIONAL): We are free to choose God or not. Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

SEMI-PALAGIAN (ARMINIAN): God frees everyone to choose. When I am lifted up, I will draw everyone to myself. (John 12:32)

ANABAPTIST (BRETHREN IN CHRIST): God works with our infirmed will to help us ask, seek, and knock. I believe; help my unbelief. (Mark 9:24)


He chose us, not because we believed, but that we might believe.
— Augustine, Predestination of the Saints

By free will one shapes one’s own life.
— Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994)

Free-will without God’s grace is not free at all, but is the permanent prisoner and bondslave of evil, since it cannot turn itself to good.
— Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will

If it is not in the power of every man to keep what is commanded, all the exhortations in the Scriptures… are of necessity useless.
— Erasmus, Diatribe Concerning Free Will

When the will is enchained as the slave of sin, it cannot make a movement towards goodness, far less steadily pursue it.
— John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion

All unregenerate persons have freedom of will, and a capability of resisting the Holy Spirit… and of not opening to Him who knocks at the door of the heart; and these things they can actually do.
— Jacob Arminius, Certain Articles to Be Diligently Examined and Weighed: Because some Controversy Has Arisen Concerning Them among Even Those Who Profess the Reformed Religion

God having placed good and evil in our power, has given us full freedom of choice.
— Chrysostom, De proditione Judaeorum

God is the initiator and principal actor in salvation, and we should never think salvation originated with us. God, however, has given humanity a sense of freedom and requires us to make a choice.
— Gerald Borchert, New American Commentary on John

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life.
— Jesus

June 20, 2011

Master of Apologetics

After putting this together for Saturday’s Christianity 201, I decided that it was worthy of more exposure…

Ravi Zacharias is one of the leading voices in the field of Christian apologetics, and an author of many significant books on the subject. RZIM, his organization is based in Atlanta, Georgia; and he has a daily radio program heard throughout Canada and the United States. These are in somewhat random order; so take a minute to pause between them; feel free to comment if one especially strikes you.

“We experience emptiness not when we are wearied by our trials, but when we are wearied by our happiness.”

“A man rejects God neither because of intellectual demands nor because of the scarcity of evidence. A man rejects God because of a moral resistance that refuses to admit his need for God.”

“One of the most staggering truths of the Scriptures is to understand that we do not earn our way to heaven. …works have a place–but as a demonstration of having received God’s forgiveness, not as a badge of merit of having earned it.”

“I do not believe that one can earnestly seek and find the priceless treasure of God’s call without a devout prayer life. That is where God speaks. The purpose of prayer and of God’s call in your life is not to make you number one in the world’s eyes, but to make him number one in your life. We must be willing to be outshone while shining for God. We hear very little about being smaller in our own self-estimate.”

“Philosophically, you can believe anything, so long as you do not claim it to be true.
Morally you can practice anything, so long as you do not claim that it is a ‘better’ way.
Religiously, you can hold to anything, so long as you do not bring Jesus Christ in to it.”

“There is no greater discovery than seeing God as the author of your destiny.”

“These days its not just that the line between right and wrong has been made unclear, today Christians are being asked by our culture today to erase the lines and move the fences, and if that were not bad enough, we are being asked to join in the celebration cry by those who have thrown off the restraints religion had imposed upon them. It is not just that they ask we accept, but they now demand of us to celebrate it too.”

“I think the reason we sometimes have the false sense that God is so far away is because that is where we have put him. We have kept him at a distance, and then when we are in need and call on him in prayer, we wonder where he is. He is exactly where we left him.”

“You cannot really have the world and hold on to it. It is all too temporary and the more you try to hold on to it, the more it actually holds you. By contrast, the more you hold on to the true and the good, the more you are free to really live.”

“Where the eye is focused, there the imagination finds its raw material. The right focus must be won at immense cost and discipline. Train the eye to see the good, and the imagination will follow suit.”

“It is theoretically and practically impossible to build any community apart from love and justice. If only one of these two is focused upon, an inevitable extremism and perversion follow.”

“It is a mindless philosophy that assumes that one’s private beliefs have nothing to do with public office. Does it make sense to entrust those who are immoral in private with the power to determine the nation’s moral issues and, indeed, its destiny? …. The duplicitous soul of a leader can only make a nation more sophisticated in evil.”

“Anyone who claims that all religions are the same betrays not only an ignorance of all religions but also a caricatured view of even the best-known ones. Every religion at its core is exclusive.”

“God is the shaper of your heart. God does not display his work in abstract terms. He prefers the concrete, and this means that at the end of your life one of three things will happen to your heart: it will grow hard, it will be broken, or it will be tender. Nobody escapes.”

“The tragedy is that just when we need to remember the most because we have climbed some pinnacle of blessing and success- that’s when the tendency is to turn our back upon God.


Good Quotes, Quotation Collection, Christian Quotes, Liberty Tree, Christian Apologetics Forum, Just My Thoughts, Simply Quotastic

This is an awesome exercise to do. If there are any authors or speakers you’d like me to research, let me know, but I encourage you to do this sort of thing yourselves as well.

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