A Brief History of and Apologetic for Reading the Psalms Canonically

psalmsShould we read the Psalms as 150 individual hymns of praise, thanksgiving, and lament? Or should we read it as one unified hymnbook, written with purposeful arrangement? Or both?

Throughout the history of the church, the Psalter has played a central role in shaping the church at worship. Publicly and privately, these inspired words have fueled faith, directed praise, and expressed lament. Some have used the Psalms as the sole hymnbook for their song services. Others have employed them for counseling and meditation and theological devotion. All who swim in their waters find a glorious taste for God, expressed with the deepest emotions of the human soul. Therefore, like honey, its sweetness is self-evident.

Yet, the question remains: how should we read the Psalms?

Importantly, the answer to that question has shifted over the last one hundred years. And it is worth learning a little bit about the history of Psalm studies to understand why most Christians—of various stripes—read each psalm in isolation for the others. And why that kind of reading should be complemented by an approach that reads the Psalms as one, Spirit-inspired soundtrack to redemptive history.

But to do that, we need to go over oceans and back to the 19th Century. Continue reading

Marriage Convenient or Marriage Covenant: Six Truths About and Six Threats Toward Marriage (Genesis — Revelation)

worldview.pngThe Bible begins with a marriage, and it ends with a marriage. In fact, the goal of all humanity is a spiritual union between Christ and his bride the Church. In between, we must decide if we will abide by God’s design for marriage or design our own.

To be completely honest, every single one of us has sinned and fallen short of God’s ideal for sex and marriage. Born outside the Garden of Eden, we cannot experience marriage as it was created to be. Sin has tainted every part of life, including the desires that move us towards love, romance, and sexual relationships.

Thankfully, the goal is not to rebuild what we have torn down. As Galatians 2:18 indicates: this only proves we are lawbreakers. Rather, the Bible gives su a vision of coming marriage that is offered to all who look to God for redemption. Hope, therefore, is found in embracing the gospel  and seeking the marriage he offers through faith in him. By entrance into this covenant, we find renewed grace to pursue a path of holiness and wisdom with our sexuality.

God’s grace, then, is the singular answer to our sin. And a future marriage is the singular source solution to a host of threats against marriage today. In yesterday’s sermon I outlined six threats to God’s design for marriage. You can listen to the message online or read the notes. Discussion questions and resources for further study below. Continue reading

God’s Design for Marriage: A Story and a Song

marraige

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
— Revelation 19:6–9 —

What is marriage supposed to look like? What is its design? Who gets to set the standard? And how do we test whether one’s marriage is a good or not, let alone pleasing to God?

These, and dozens of other questions, haunt us today. They haunt us because marriage has been redefined and repackaged into a million different Do-It-Yourself romantic projects. Yet, the original still remains—one man and woman woman united by covenant until death.

The reason the original design remains intact is because the shifting shadows of marriage on earth cannot alter the substance in heaven. And it is the heavenly marriage to which all history lunged toward—namely, the blessed union of Christ and his Bride.

On Sunday, I will preach on the good design of marriage and how the future vision of marriage protects us from the erasure of marriage in our day. To help prepare my heart and yours for that message, I share a story and a song that should fire our moral imaginations for what marriage lived in light of eternity should be—indeed, can be when we let Scripture shape our affections. Continue reading

Camille Paglia on the Transgender Movement: “Liberals who posture as defenders of science when it comes to global warming . . . flee all reference to biology when it comes to gender”

camilleCamille Paglia is right.

As a former editor for JBMW, the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, I have not cited too many feminists on my blog. Nor have I unconditionally quoted many. But when it comes to the topic of transgender, I believe Camille Paglia is right and worthy of quotation.

Now, it goes without saying I disagree with Paglia on a host of things, but in a world that keeps buying the next philosophical and cultural fad, I deeply appreciate the way she is willing to expose contradictions and oppose false beliefs. And with regards to the “current transgender wave” (her words), I believe her comments expose something many others are unwilling to say, or unwilling to see.

In an interview with Jonathan V. Last at The Weekly Standard, here is what she said.

JVL:I keep waiting for the showdown between feminism and transgenderism, but it always keeps slipping beneath the horizon. I’ve been looking at how the La Leche League—which stood at the crossroads of feminism once upon a time—has in the last couple years bowed completely to the transgender project. Their central text is (for now)The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding,but they’ve officially changed their stance to include men and fathers who breastfeed. The actual wording of their policy is wonderful: “It is now recognized that some men are able to breastfeed.” Left unsaid is the corollary that some women are biologically unable to breastfeed. Though this would go against the League’s founding principles, one supposes. What does one make of all of this?

CP: Feminists have clashed with transgender activists much more publicly in the United Kingdom than here. For example, two years ago there was an acrimonious organized campaign, including a petition with 3,000 claimed signatures, to cancel a lecture by Germaine Greer at Cardiff University because of her “offensive” views of transgenderism. Greer, a literary scholar who was one of the great pioneers of second-wave feminism, has always denied that men who have undergone sex-reassignment surgery are actually “women.” Her Cardiff lecture (on “Women and Power” in the twentieth century) eventually went forward, under heavy security.

And in 2014, Gender Hurts, a book by radical Australian feminist Sheila Jeffreys, created a heated controversy in the United Kingdom. Jeffreys identifies transsexualism with misogyny and describes it as a form of “mutilation.” She and her feminist allies encountered prolonged difficulties in securing a London speaking venue because of threats and agitation by transgender activists. Finally, Conway Hall was made available: Jeffrey’s forceful, detailed lecture there in July of last year is fully available on YouTube. In it she argues among other things, that the pharmaceutical industry, having lost income when routine estrogen therapy for menopausal women was abandoned because of its health risks, has been promoting the relatively new idea of transgenderism in order to create a permanent class of customers who will need to take prescribed hormones for life.

Although I describe myself as transgender (I was donning flamboyant male costumes from early childhood on), I am highly skeptical about the current transgender wave, which I think has been produced by far more complicated psychological and sociological factors than current gender discourse allows. Furthermore, I condemn the escalating prescription of puberty blockers (whose long-term effects are unknown) for children. I regard this practice as a criminal violation of human rights.

It is certainly ironic how liberals who posture as defenders of science when it comes to global warming (a sentimental myth unsupported by evidence) flee all reference to biology when it comes to gender. Biology has been programmatically excluded from women’s studies and gender studies programs for almost 50 years now. Thus very few current gender studies professors and theorists, here and abroad, are intellectually or scientifically prepared to teach their subjects.

The cold biological truth is that sex changes are impossible. Every single cell of the human body remains coded with one’s birth gender for life. Intersex ambiguities can occur, but they are developmental anomalies that represent a tiny proportion of all human births.

In a democracy, everyone, no matter how nonconformist or eccentric, should be free from harassment and abuse. But at the same time, no one deserves special rights, protections, or privileges on the basis of their eccentricity. The categories “trans-man” and “trans-woman” are highly accurate and deserving of respect. But like Germaine Greer and Sheila Jeffreys, I reject state-sponsored coercion to call someone a “woman” or a “man” simply on the basis of his or her subjective feeling about it. We may well take the path of good will and defer to courtesy on such occasions, but it is our choice alone.

As for the La Leche League, they are hardly prepared to take up the cudgels in the bruising culture wars. Awash with the milk of human kindness, they are probably stuck in nurturance mode. Naturally, they snap to attention at the sound of squalling babies, no matter what their age. It’s up to literature professors and writers to defend the integrity of English, which like all languages changes slowly and organically over time. But with so many humanities departments swallowed up in the poststructuralist tar pit, the glorious medium of English may have to fight the gender commissars on its own.

I am not sure I could say it better. And I certainly could not say it from the position of this erudite feminist. Therefore, I leave her answer without comment, save one.

Her insights are a reminder that it is not only Christians and conservatives who take issue with the inconsistencies of modern gender studies. Feminists who take science and grammar seriously do as well. Therefore, let us consider well her words and seek to press for common sense in the public square. 

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

What Does It Mean to Be Human? A Biblical Response to (the Spirit of) Transhumanism

rainbowWhat does it mean to be human?

This is a question with increasing complexity. And the future doesn’t look like it will make the answer any easier. For instance consider just a few challenges facing us today. Recently a baby sheep was grown in a synthetic womb, raising the specter of human hatcheries, something out of Alduous Huxley’s Brave New World. Prior to this experiment, two chimpanzees were momentarily granted human rights by a court in New York, before reversing course. Before that cloning has been a much-debated topic since the name Dolly became a household name—she was the first sheep animal cloned in 1996.

In such a world, where designer babies and decoding death are part of an increasing cultural conversation, and lawyers and policy-makers chalk up new ways to define gender, sexuality, and humanity, Christians need wisdom to think biblically about what it means to be human.

book

Thankfully, there is help. For instance, in their book Christian Bioethics: A Guide for Pastors, Health Care Professionals, and Families, C. Ben Mitchell and D. Joy Riley give us eight coversations about various topics in biomedical ethics. Organized under the taxonomy of taking, making, and faking life, they consider topics like abortion, euthanasia, infertility, cloning, and transhumanism. As the subtitle suggests, they write for more than medical professionals, and their conversational style helps the reader digest complex subjects.

On the whole, therefore, I commend this book. It should be required reading for anyone in ministry or medicine, and should probably be on the shelf in any family raising children in this complex world. But the reason I point to this book today is to consider the topic of transhumanism—a subject they report on in chapter 8 and one Christians will likely face just after the transgender movement runs its course. Continue reading

Hospitality is Not Optional: Five Ways to Pursue Other People

welcome

Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
— Romans 15:7 —

A few months ago I wrote about the importance of hospitality and five ways to show hospitality in the church. Today, I want to offer five more.

While much hospitality focuses on individuals or families opening their homes to others, a vital practice which enables “house churches” to meet (e.g., Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19), I am focusing attention on churches gathering outside of the home. Thus, spring-boarding from 1 Corinthians 16, a passage overflowing with gospel labor, here are five more ways we can pursue hospitality in the church.

Five Ways to Pursue Hospitality

Continue reading

Playing Your Part in the Gospel (pt. 1): Planning, Giving, Going, Hosting, Helping (1 Corinthians 16:1–11)

sermon photo

Playing Your Part in the Gospel (pt. 1): Planning, Giving, Going, Hosting, and Helping (1 Corinthians 16:1–11)

When Paul finishes his doctrinal defense of the resurrection, he says, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (15:58). Clearly, in his mind the resurrection is not an esoteric point of doctrine; rather, it fuels ministry and missions. Indeed, in 1 Corinthians 16 we find a flurry of gospel activity that prompts us to consider how we are living in light of the resurrection.

In this Sunday’s message, I suggested that we play our part in (proclaiming) the gospel through planning, going, giving, hosting, and helping. You can listen to this call to action or read the sermon notes. Discussion questions are below, as are a cadre of resources on these actions of ministry. Continue reading

Pierced ‘That I Might’ Praise: The Worship Only Penal Substitution Creates

altar

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin,
so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
— 2 Corinthians 5:21 —

For Christ also suffered once for sins,
the righteous for the unrighteous,
that he might bring us to God,
being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.
— 1 Peter 3:18 —

In and around the church, there has always been a group of theologians and pastors willing to question or deny penal substitution—the evangelical doctrine that affirms Christ’s death as a payment of penalty for sinners who trust in Jesus. Like Peter objecting to Christ’s prediction of suffering and death (Matthew 16:21–23), liberal theologians like Friedrich Schleiermacher, Albert Schweitzer, and Adolph Von Harnack, along with modern authors like Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, and William Paul Young (author of The Shack) have maligned the blood of the cross.

Unfortunately, such denial of penal substitution depends upon a denial of Scripture, a defamation of biblical authors, and twisting of biblical words. At the same time, making Christ a mere model, teacher, or prophet, follows the lie of Satan (Matthew 16:23); it effectively denies the deity of Christ and God’s plan of salvation, foretold in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New. But aside from the theological considerations—which are considerable—denying penal substitution  steals glory from God’s work and praise from the believer’s heart. Continue reading

What Does the Resurrection Mean? (1 Corinthians 15:50–58)

sermon photo

What does the Resurrection Mean? (1 Corinthians 15:50–58) (Sermon Audio)

This week marks the sixth and final message on 1 Corinthians 15. Since Easter, I have preached 6 messages on the glories of this chapter. Whether the sermons are any good is debatable, but the chapter is indisputably glorious. So, take time to read it, and if interested you can listen to one (or a few) of the six messages below.

Discussion questions and resources for further study can also be found below. Continue reading

Glorifying God with Our Technology: Four Questions to Ask

 

Discipleship in Digital AgeIn one sense, discipleship in any age concerns certain common disciplines in order to become like Christ so that we no longer live to ourselves (2 Corinthians 5:14), but to Christ (Galatians 2:20). If we want to grow into Christ, we must discipline ourselves for godliness (1 Timothy 4:7). But the question remains: In light of our increasing, whirling (digital) technology what additional disciplines might we need to embrace to walk by faith amidst pings, apps, and notifications?

Too often, we know Christ should be our focus and that we become like what we worship (Psalm 115, 135), but still technology pushes back on us—retraining, rewiring, and reshaping us in the process. And this is not unintentional, apps are designed by programmers to encourage certain behaviors. We recognize that there are certain beneficial, helpful, and fitting uses of technology that help us in our spiritual walk and in spreading the Gospel. Yet, there are also ways in which our hearts and habits are being reshaped by the devices we hold. So how do we take the principles found in Scripture and apply them to an ever-changing digital age?

For five weeks our church, in Sunday School, has considered Discipleship in a Digital Age. We have given attention to biblical, theological, and practical truths to help us think about technology, but now we need to put truth into action. We need to think practically about the way smart phones and social media, apps and artificial intelligence impact us, and better how we can use them to the glory of God.

And so, this Sunday we will consider a couple of “case studies,” where we can think about how our technology impacts us and how we can best use technology. We will look at smart phones and Facebook to consider how we engage technology with discernment and discipline. If we do not consider such applications, we will not be able to spur one another on towards love and good deeds with our technology. By default we will only  find ourselves following the patterns given to us by the inventers of the technology.

Four Questions to Ask About Any ‘Tool’

Continue reading