Kingdom People

July 19, 2009

Kingdom People Has Moved!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Trevin Wax @ 12:54 pm

Our new location is www.trevinwax.com.

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Thanks for reading!

June 30, 2009

A Blog Sabbatical

Filed under: Blogging — Trevin Wax @ 3:58 am

Tomorrow marks the beginning of a personal sabbatical from blogging. No new material will appear at Kingdom People during the month of July. On August 1, I will resume blogging here at Kingdom People.

I know that the short-term nature of the blogosphere makes an extended absence unwise from a blogger’s standpoint, but I took a month-long hiatus last year and found it to be good for my soul. Here are some reasons I am taking a break this month.

1. Need for Spiritual Refreshment
I look forward to directing some of the time I would have spent blogging to more prayer, Bible study, and devotional reading.

2. Other Important Responsibilities Vying for My Time

  • Things quiet down at church during the summer. It is a good time to think about the upcoming fall and what God envisions for our church in the upcoming year.
  • Our son, Timothy, enters kindergarten in August. We are about to enter the “school-year” schedule for the next dozen years or so. I want to enjoy this summer with Timothy before he begins a new chapter of his life.
  • I am taking two more summer classes this month. These classes will demand much of my reading time.

3. Blogging can be addictive.

I do not want to be constantly concerned about blog statistics, comments, and links. The best way to avoid the danger of caring too much about a blog is by taking a break from it for awhile.

4. Blogs are also inherently self-promoting.

My blog may have good and helpful content in the short-term, but if I ever view the blog as a way to promote myself before others, I will become a self-centered, self-absorbed person whose contributions to the Kingdom will be diminished in the long-term. Having blogged consistently for almost three years now, I think it would be wise to take a step back and evaluate the spiritual effects (both good and bad) that blogging has on me. Last July was spiritually beneficial for me.

I appreciate the readers who subscribe to Kingdom People and those who visit this site regularly. If you happen upon this site during the month of July, you might enjoy looking through the archives. I believe you will find some articles, interviews, or devotional thoughts that may be helpful.

So, until August 1… I pray you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.

June 29, 2009

My Book Now Available for Pre-Order

Filed under: Holy Subversion — Trevin Wax @ 3:46 am

Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of RivalsI am happy to announce that my new book, Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals (Crossway, 2010) is available for pre-order at Amazon.

Special thanks to the good folks at Crossway for their investment in this project. Thanks also to more than a dozen Christian leaders and authors who have endorsed the book. I hope to begin posting some of those endorsements in August.

Click here to pre-order Holy Subversion or here to read some excerpts (scroll down).

June 26, 2009

Piper vs. Wright on Justification: A Layman’s Guide

Filed under: Reformed Theology,Theology — Trevin Wax @ 12:20 pm

hp_justificationSome friends have encouraged me to explain “in a nutshell” and in easy-to-understand laymen’s terms what the big debate between John Piper and N.T. Wright is all about. Many who enjoy reading the works of these men have discovered they lack the time (or patience) to sift through all of the relevant material surrounding the New Perspective on Paul, and just how Wright’s version of this perspective is different from the traditional perspective maintained by men like John Piper.

“The Justification Debate: A Primer” (Christianity Today, June 2009) is my humble attempt at summarizing the two views as succintly and simply as possible. Please note that both John Piper and N.T. Wright looked over my work and made some slight revisions regarding their respective summaries. (To see the summary statements in the form of a helpful chart, download the pdf here.)

Together with the Piper/Wright summaries is an article written by myself and Ted Olsen entitled “Not An Academic Question.” This second article lets pastors sound off on how this theological debate is influencing their ministry.

In the Blogosphere

Filed under: In the Blogosphere — Trevin Wax @ 3:55 am

Want to win Desiring God’s Sunday School curriculum for kids?

Dan Kimball on Emerging Church memories

Some notable bloggers/authors commenting on N.T. Wright’s Justification. Here are Mike Wittmer‘s and Kevin DeYoung‘s initial thoughts.

An interview with the authors of How to Argue Like Jesus.

A special moment at Southern Seminary’s Sesquicentennial celebration. Dr. Mohler invited 95-year-old former president Duke McCall (president from 1950-81) to the platform.

Richard Nixon had mixed feelings on abortion.

Justin Taylor interviews David Dockery on the future of the Southern Baptist Convention.

7 basic knots every man should know.

M. Night Shyamalan launches an online interactive experience.

Top Post this Week: Gospel Confrontation and Gospel Comfort

June 25, 2009

Book Review: John Grisham’s The Associate

Filed under: Book Reviews — Trevin Wax @ 3:54 am

The AssociateI have been a John Grisham fan for about ten years now. The first Grisham book I read was A Time to Kill, which is still my favorite. Other Grisham books I have enjoyed are The Rainmaker, The Testament and A Painted House.

In recent years, I have been disappointed by Grisham’s output. Nevertheless, during a brief beach vacation earlier this summer, I picked up Grisham’s newest: The Associate (DoubleDay, 2009). The Associate proves that Grisham is still able to craft an interesting story.

(Warning: Spoilers Follow)

The Associate is about Kyle McAvoy, a promising law student who has a wild past. During his college years, he found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and almost was charged (falsely) with rape. Years later, a sinister group of lawyers show Kyle a video that places him at the scene of the crime, and then they blackmail him into becoming a spy in the firm in which he works.

If I could sum up this book with one Bible verse, it would be this: “Be sure your sins will find you out.” The sins of Kyle and his friends in their twenties cause a ripple effect. The girl who claims she was raped now hates men and has turned to lesbianism. The other guys involved are trying to get on with their lives, but several are haunted by guilt.

The Associate casts a negative light on frat house parties. Grisham exposes the lifestyle that many in America have come to see as innocent fun or the proverbial “sowing your wild oats.” Grisham’s book demonstrates that some actions have consequences years after we commit them.

Still, the book is ultimately unsatisfying. The end of the book shows how Kyle is able to gain his freedom, but the perpetrators of the blackmail are never brought to justice. The ending may make the book a little more realistic, but most readers will hunger to see the criminals brought to justice.

The Associate is not Grisham’s best, but it is probably one of his better books of late. You might enjoy the fast-paced narrative if you are planning a vacation this summer.

June 24, 2009

Frank Beckwith’s Journey Back to Roman Catholicism

Filed under: Book Reviews,Roman Catholicism — Trevin Wax @ 3:04 am

Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical CatholicIn 2007, Francis Beckwith, the president of the Evangelical Theological Society, announced that he was stepping down from his post after having converted back to the Catholic Church of his childhood. Beckwith’s announcement sent shock waves through the evangelical world. Even some of Beckwith’s closest friends did not see his conversion coming.

Why did Frank Beckwith, a well-respected evangelical scholar and author, return to the church of his childhood? Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic (2008, Brazos Press) is a personal memoir that tells the story of Beckwith’s decision to rejoin the Roman Catholic Church.

Return to Rome is primarily a narrative, although it is laced with Catholic apologetics, evangelical appreciation and criticism, as well as theological reflection. Speaking of his book, Beckwith states:

“It is not meant to be an apologetic for Catholicism or an autobiography in the strict sense.” (16)

Despite Beckwith’s stated intentions in writing this memoir, it is hard to see this book as something less than a Catholic apologetic, since he devotes a considerable amount of space to delineating the theological reasons for his movement back toward the Roman Catholic Church.

Beckwith begins his story with his departure from Roman Catholicism. Raised in the atmosphere of post-Vatican II Catholicism, Beckwith received little conservative and traditional teaching.

“My religion teachers often spoke of Catholicism as ‘our tradition’ rather than as a cluster of beliefs that were true. This relativizing of the faith did not engender confidence in the young students under their tutelage. Moreover, basic Catholic doctrine was often presented inadequately.” (36)

He writes honestly about the weaknesses of the Catholic environment of his childhood:

“I believe that the Catholic Church’s weakness was presenting the renewal movements like the charismatic movement as something new and not part of the Church’s theological traditions. For someone like me, interested in both the spiritual and intellectual grounding of the Christian faith, I didn’t need the ‘folk Mass’ with cute nuns and hip priests playing ‘Kumbaya’ with guitars, tambourines, and harmonicas.” (38)

Reading over the reasons for Beckwith’s departure from the Roman Catholic Church, I could not help but wonder if perhaps evangelicals are making the same mistakes he observed in the post-Vatican II era. What if evangelicals are watering down biblical truth in an effort to be “cool” and appeal to certain segments of our society? What if evangelicals are repeating the mistakes the Roman Catholics were making 30 years ago? Might such a development lead more people to Rome?

Beckwith recognizes that the Catholic Church’s intellectual tradition was also very attractive. He writes:

“My experience has been that most very intelligent Christians who had come to a deeper walk with Christ in independent Evangelical and/or non-liturgical churches often gravitate toward a theological and/or ecclesiastical tradition that has strong historical roots, such as Calvinism, Lutheranism, Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy.” (44)

Beckwith does not sugarcoat his experience as a young child in Catholicism. He asks tough questions of Catholicism:

“…The American Catholic Church has to ask itself a serious and painful question: is there anything that we did that helped facilitate the departure of these talented and devoted people from our communion?” (45)

Beckwith recounts the passion of his early years as an evangelical. He speaks fondly of Francis Schaeffer. He relates his enthusaism upon becoming convinced that certain creeds are authoritative renderings of Christian doctrine. He outlines the major steps in his education and his rise to prominence in evangelical scholarship.

Readers might be surprised to discover some charismatic tendencies in Beckwith’s memoir. He describes a vision of Jesus that his wife had. He interprets events in his life as signs of God’s approval of his departure from the evangelical faith back to Roman Catholicism.

Beckwith devotes considerable space to the doctrine of justification by faith, which is, of course, the defining difference between Protestants and Catholics. I found his exposition of the Protestant view to be somewhat reductionistic. For example, he writes:

“The grace one receives is legal or forensic. This means that grace is not real stuff that changes nature, but merely the name given to God’s graciousness by legally accounting to us Christ’s righteousness.” (85)

I do not know of any Protestant who argues that God’s grace is not transformative. Protestants take care to note that the basis of our justification is faith alone in Jesus Christ. But that does not exclude the transforming power of God’s grace. We simply do not call the moral transformation “justification.” Protestants are careful to avoid making our own righteousness the basis for our salvation.

The end of the book forcefully argues for inclusion of Catholics in the Evangelical Theological Society.

“I still believe that the ETS doctrinal statement is broad enough to allow Catholic members.” (119)

I actually agree with Beckwith on this issue. I do not classify Catholics as evangelicals in the classic sense, but if Beckwith is making a case for Catholic membership in ETS based solely upon the society’s doctrinal statement, then he is correct. There is nothing in this document that would explicitly exclude Catholic members.

Beckwith bolsters his case by bringing good evidence:

“Pastors and theologians like Boyd, Pinnock, and Sanders are constrained only by ‘inerrancy’ and ‘the Trinity,’ which means (at least theoretically) that they could embrace any one of a variety of heresies condemned by the ancient Church and yet still remain an ETS member in good standing: Nestorianism, Monophysitism, Pelagianism, semi-Pelagianism, or the denial of Christ’s eternal sonship. Yet oddly, Catholics who embrace the Church that claimed to have the ecclesiastical authority to condemn these heresies, and which provided to its separated progeny, including Evangelicals, the resources and creeds that provide the grounds for excluding these heresies, apparently have no place in ETS.” (126)

I find Beckwith’s case to be very persuasive. He goes on to write:

“Put in terms of specific traditions, if the term ‘Evangelical’ is broad enough to include high-church Anglicans, low-church anti-creedal Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, the Evangelical Free Church, Arminians, Calvinists, Disciples of Christ, Pentecostals, Seventh-Day Adventist, open theists, atemporal theists, social Trinitarians, substantial Trinitarians, nominalists, realists, eternal security supporters and opponents, temporal theists, dispensationalists, theonnmists, church-state separationists, church-state accomodationists, cessationists, non-cessationists, kenotic theorists, covenant theologians, paedo-Baptists, Anabaptists, and Dooyeweerdians, then there should be room for an Evangelical Catholic.” (128)

I agree with Beckwith that ETS should allow Catholics in its membership as long as it stands by its current doctrinal formulation. If ETS decides that Catholics should be excluded, then the official doctrinal statement needs to be adjusted in order to reflect what the society agrees is “true evangelical identity.” It might be time for a more robust confession of faith, and not the minimalist document that guides ETS today.

At the end of the book, Beckwith admits:

“…My return to the Catholic Church has as much to do with a yearning for a deeper spiritual life as it did with theological reasoning.” (128)

In the end, Beckwith confesses that a deep spiritual yearning ultimately led him back to Rome, not theological reasoning.  Return to Rome would have been better had Beckwith given us more insight into Rome’s satisfaction of his spiritual yearnings instead of the doctrinal issues that he admits were not the primary factor in his decision to return to Rome.

June 23, 2009

Gospel Confrontation and Gospel Comfort

Filed under: Church Issues — Trevin Wax @ 3:55 am

bible_hands_squareIn counseling, I often come across two kinds of people:

Some people think they are true Christians, but are probably not. They need a dose of gospel confrontation.

Other people doubt they are true Christians, but probably are. They need a dose of gospel comfort.

Sam’s Story

Sam is a twenty-something who is upset with God because of a recent downturn in his business profits. He waltzes into my office, mad at God and (by extension) the church.

I ask a few diagnostic questions, and I quickly discover that Sam is living with his girlfriend. He rarely attends church. His biggest goal in life is to make a lot of money.

In short, Sam is not living the life of a Christian. I fail to see any genuine fruit of repentance. The more I talk to him, the more I realize that he is not concerned about his lack of commitment to the Christian community; neither is he upset about his misplaced priorities or sexual immorality.

I ask him some questions about his spiritual condition. He tells me about a decision he made at a youth event ten years ago. He raised his hand, filled out a card, and got his “ticket to heaven.”  He insists that he is truly saved because of this experience.

What does Sam need? The gospel.

Sam needs to be confronted with the lack of fruit in his life. He needs to see his life compared to the holiness of God. He needs to hear that true salvation always leads to good works. The absence of fruit in his life indicates that Sam is not a true believer.

I urge him to examine his own life to see if he is in the faith. I urge him to see himself in light of God’s holiness. I urge him to repent of his sins and trust in Jesus. By pointing to the fruitlessness of his life, I confront him with the gospel truth that Jesus Christ transforms us into new people. Sam is comfortable in his sin and needs to be confronted with the gospel.

Jenny’s Story

Jenny is a twenty-something who meets me and my wife in my office. She has a sweet spirit and a naturally introspective personality. She tells us that she feels guilty about the sins she commits daily. She weeps about the ways she fails the Lord. Her constant struggles against sin are causing her to doubt if she is saved.

I ask a few diagnostic questions and discover that Jenny is very active in church. She sincerely wants to please the Lord. She is very aware of her sinfulness, and that is why she fears she doesn’t have enough fruit to show for her salvation. Looking at her life, I see fruits of repentance and faith everywhere.

What does Jenny need? The gospel.

But I take a different road with Jenny than I did with Sam. I challenged Sam to examine his life and see that the fruit of his life indicates a diseased tree. He needed to repent and trust in Jesus. I confronted Sam with the gospel that leads to a transformation of life.

But with Jenny, the last thing I want to do is say, “Look at your life! It’s obvious you love the Lord. You do good works. You repent of your sins.” Once I tell Jenny to examine her life, I’ve condemned her. “I haven’t done enough to prove my salvation,” she will say.

Instead, I take her back to the truth of Christ’s righteousness covering our sinfulness. Look to Christ, I tell her. Remember that your salvation is not dependent on you, not even on the works you do after you are a Christian. Christ is your redeemer. Christ is your righteousness. Jenny is conflicted about her salvation and needs to be comforted. So I point her to Christ.

Confrontation and Comfort

We all need the gospel.

Some people think they are Christians because of a one-time decision that never bore genuine fruit in life. They need gospel confrontation: the gospel changes us.

Others doubt they are Christians because they recognize their sinfulness. They need gospel comfort: the gospel saves us.

The gospel should comfort the conflicted and confront the comfortable.

June 22, 2009

Southern Baptists in the 21st Century

Filed under: Southern Baptist Convention — Trevin Wax @ 3:40 am

SBC-building-conf-159This week, I am in Louisville for the Southern Baptist Convention and the historic commemoration of Southern Seminary’s 150-year anniversary. In honor of the Convention meeting this week, I have decided to point my readers to some past material I have written about my denomination.

Also, you may like to take a (pictorial) tour through the famous Cave Hill Cemetery, where many prominent Southern Baptist leaders’ bodies are resting and awaiting resurrection. Enjoy!

Cloud of Witnesses: Cave Hill Cemetery

A tour of the grave sites of some famous Baptist forefathers…

Introduction: Southern Seminary

James P. Boyce (1827-88)

John A. Broadus (1827-95)

Basil Manly, Jr. (1825-92)

A.T. Robertson (1863-1934)

E.Y. Mullins (1860-1928)

John Sampey (1863-1946), Ellis Fuller (1891-1950), Roy Honeycutt (1926-2004)

Reflections

Personal Reflections on the Southern Baptist Convention

Screwtape on the Southern Baptist Convention (March 2009)

A Plea to the Current Leadership of the SBC (February 2009)

Unchurched or Unsaved? – Baptist Press (November 2008)

7 Types of Southern Baptists (June 2008)

Finger-pointing and the SBC Decline – Baptist Press (April 2008)

Celebration and Concern about the Reformed Resurgence (April 2008)

Southern Seminary and Calvinism (March 2008)

How Older Southern Baptists Can Mentor the Younger Generation (February 2008)

June 21, 2009

Spurgeon’s Prayer: The Wonders of Calvary

Filed under: Prayers — Trevin Wax @ 3:20 am

SpurgeonGreat God,
there was a time when we dreaded the thought of coming near to You,
for we were guilty and You were angry with us,
but now we will praise You
because Your anger is turned away and You comfort us.

Yes, and the very throne which once was a place of dread
has now become the place of shelter. I flee to You to hide me.

O bring us, we pray You, now near to Yourself.
Let us bathe ourselves in communion with our God.
Blessed be the love which chose us before the world began.
We can never sufficiently adore You for Your sovereignty,
the sovereignty of love which saw us in the ruins of the Fall,
yet loved us anyway.

We also bless You, O God, as the God of our redemption,
for You have so loved us as to give even Your dear Son for us.
He gave Himself, His very life for us
that He might redeem us from all iniquity and separate us unto Himself
to be His peculiar people, zealous for good works.

Never can we sufficiently adore free grace and undying love.
The wonders of Calvary never cease to be wonders,
they are growing more marvelous in our esteem
as we think of Him who washed us from our sins in His own blood.
Nor can we cease to praise the God of our regeneration
who found us dead and made us live,
found us at enmity and reconciled us,
found us loving the things of this world
and lifted us out of the muck and mire of selfishness and worldliness
in the love of divine everlasting things.

All our help must come from You.
Give back to the church its love, its confidence,
its holy daring, its consecration,
its generousness, its holiness.
Give back all it ever had and give it much more.
Take every member and wash his feet, sweet Lord, most tenderly,
and set us with clean feet in a clean road,
with a clean heart to guide them, and bless us as You will in a divine fashion.

Bless us, our Father,
and let all the churches of Jesus Christ partake of care and tenderness.
Walking among the golden candlesticks trim every lamp and make every light,
even though it burns feebly now, to shine out gloriously through Your care.

Now bless the sinners. Lord, convert them.
O God, save men, save this great city, this wicked city, this slumbering dead city.
Lord, arouse it, arouse it by any means, that it may turn to its God.
Lord save sinners all the world over, and let Your precious Word be fulfilled.
And now to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Charles Spurgeon, adapted

June 20, 2009

Arguing Ants

Filed under: Quotes of the Week — Trevin Wax @ 3:07 am

antsfighting“If we begin to get a glimpse of the vast glory of God, we will realize that many of our conflicts are like two ants arguing about which is taller while standing in front of Mount Everest.

“We quibble over some infinitesimal difference of opinion while the vastness of Almighty God soars into the heavens.

“We need to stop looking at one another relative to ourselves, or, better yet, stop looking in the mirror. And we need to turn our eyes to the loveliness of Christ in his Word.”

Chris Brauns, Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds

June 19, 2009

In the Blogosphere

Filed under: In the Blogosphere — Trevin Wax @ 3:55 am

Getting the most from your reading

10 Theology Books for your Beach Bag

Ed Stetzer interviews Tullian Tchividjian about Tullian’s book Unfashionable. This interview is definitely worth checking out. (And so is the book!)

5 ways that movies put forth a spiritual or moral message.

A diavlog between Justin Taylor and Russell Moore on adoption

“A mature Christian is easily edified.”

New history of Southern Seminary available.

The Washington Times reports on what the new North American Anglican province means for the Communion.

Top Post this Week at Kingdom People: The Current State of the Pro-Life Movement

June 18, 2009

The Need for Sticky Ideas

Filed under: Book Reviews — Trevin Wax @ 3:00 am

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others DieThink back to the most memorable sermon you have ever heard. Now think about what it was that made that sermon memorable. Chances are, it was an illustration. Some analogy or story gripped your attention.

I remember attending a youth event where the preacher delivered a message about the dangers of thinking you can control your sin. The illustration he used was so powerful and vivid that fifteen years later I still remember them both – the point of the sermon and the illustration he used to make his point.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (2008, Random House) is written by brothers Chip and Dan Heath. The Heath brothers believe they know why some ideas stick and why others don’t, and they are determined to help communicators figure out how to make their ideas “sticky.”

Made to Stick is not a Christian book. Anyone entrusted with the task of communicating concepts to others can benefit from the insights here. But having read Made to Stick, I cannot help but see the practicality of these principles for preachers and teachers of God’s Word. 

According to the Heath brothers, there are six principles for “stickiness” in communication:

  1. Simplicity
  2. Unexpectedness
  3. Concreteness
  4. Credibility
  5. Emotions
  6. Stories

In expounding upon each of these principles, Chip and Dan provide us with a wealth of stories and examples. They show the difference between an “un-sticky” and a “sticky” idea. Most of the time, the packaging of a concept or idea is what makes it sticky, not the idea itself.

Chip and Dan also warn against some of the dangers in communication. One villain is what they call “The Curse of Knowledge.”

“This is the Curse of Knowledge. Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has ‘cursed’ us. And it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can’t readily re-create our listeners’ state of mind.” (20)

Many pastors and teachers struggle here. We know the biblical text and the context, but many of our listeners do not. We must take great care to avoid the Curse of Knowledge as we preach, and Made to Stick helps us figure out ways to circumvent this natural tendency.

There is much food for thought in this book:

“An accurate but useless idea is still useless.” (57)

“Common sense is the enemy of sticky messages. When messages sound like common sense, they float gently in on ear and out the other.” (72)

Chip and Dan also tell stories of people who have succeeded at making sticky messages. I love the story about the Subway guy – the man who lost weight from eating sub sandwiches. This personal story helped boost Subway’s sales by giving them a new advertising campaign.

The Heath brothers believe we should be concrete and specific in our communication. Church leaders need to heed this challenge. As a discipleship pastor, I have seen mission statements that are hopelessly broad. Take this one for example: “We exist to make full fledged disciples of Jesus.” Sounds great, right?  But what does it mean? What does a full-fledged disciple of Jesus look like?

If we are truly passionate for seeing lives changed by the power of God’s Word, delivered through our sermons and teaching, then we should desire that our messages to be remembered. We want our teaching to “stick,” not because our teaching is our own, but because we are setting before our hearers the Word of God.

If there are ways to faithfully present the truth of God’s Word memorably, then we should benefit from them. Made to Stick is a book that helps us fulfill our calling.

June 17, 2009

The Gospel of Adoption

Filed under: Book Reviews — Trevin Wax @ 3:21 am

Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches

Evangelicals are at the forefront of a grassroots movement of families adopting children from other countries. Christian celebrities like Steven Curtis Chapman and Clay Crosse have helped to publicize the joys and trials of adoption. Christian preachers have begun teaching others how the gospel is put on display by families who minister to orphans in this way. I personally know of a number of couples who are involved in cross-cultural adoption.

Russell Moore’s new book, Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches (Crossway, 2009) provides a theological foundation for the adoption movement. In this book, Moore successfully weaves together three strands of material:

First, he tells the story of his involvement in international adoption.

Then, he sets forth a biblical theology of adoption.

Finally, he offers practical suggestions for those considering adoption or those interested in supporting others who want to adopt.

Rarely do I read a book that seeks to accomplish three different purposes and yet manages to succeed at each one. But Adopted for Life delivers what it promises at every level.

Let’s begin with the personal testimony. Russ Moore tells the story of how he and his wife, Maria, traveled to Russia to adopt two young boys, Benjamin and Timothy. He describes the emotional pain of infertility and the tragedy of miscarriage. He treats the desire for offspring as God-given, and yet he recognizes the selfishness that can take root even in this desire.

Moore exposes his own faults throughout the adoption process. His vulnerability adds weight to the narrative. He recounts careless words that he later came to regret. Moore’s authenticity helps readers see themselves in his story.

The book also contains some heart-wrenching scenes in the orphanage. Moore describes the horror of walking into a room lined with baby beds, and yet not hearing the cries of children. The children had long discovered that tears were useless. No one was coming. Moore also describes his children’s adjustment to American life:

“We knew the boys had acclimated to our home, that they trusted us, when they stopped hiding food in their high chairs. They knew there would be another meal coming, and they wouldn’t have to fight for the scraps. This was the new normal.” (44)

Later on, Moore relates how God blessed him and his wife with biological chidren as well. But readers quickly discover that the Moore household does not distinguish between biological and adopted children. Adopted is a past-tense verb, not an adjective for the present.

In addition to recounting his personal narrative, Moore sets forth a biblical theology of adoption. The theological portion of this book truly surprised me. Before picking up Adopted for Life, I thought I knew how the metaphor of adoption serves as one way of speaking of salvation. What surprised me was just how incredibly practical the doctrine of adoption is. Having been through these experiences and having reflected upon them deeply, Russ Moore is able to tease out implications from the doctrine of adoption that I had never considered.

Moore believes our churches should be more like households, and he calls the church to foster an atmosphere of adoption. The gospel truth that we are orphans, adopted by God, is put on display by churches that encourage adoption. Adoption brings us into the worldwide family of God. Jew and Gentile alike are brothers in Christ.

“Our adoption is about more than just belonging. Our adoption is about the day when the graves of this planet will be emptied, when the great assembly of Christ’s church will be gathered before the Judgment Seat. On that day, the accusing principalities and powers will probably look once more at us – former murderers and fornicators and idolaters, formerly uncircumcised in flesh or in heart – and they may ask one more time, ‘So are they brothers?’ The hope of adopted children like my sons – and like me – is that the voice that once thundered over the Jordan will respond, one last time, ‘They are now.’” (57)

Moore is not content to leave the theology of adoption at merely the level of individual salvation. He shines a spotlight upon the implications of this doctrine for the church – the community of the adopted.

“When we adopt – and when we encourage a culture of adoption in our churches and communities – we’re picturing something that’s true about our God. We, like Jesus, see what our Father is doing and do likewise. And what our Father is doing, it turns out, is fighting for orphans, making them sons and daughters.” (73)

The theological sections of this book are woven into the narrative. Do not expect narrative in one chapter and then theology in another. The narrative informs the theology, and the theology informs the narrative.

Moore also offers many practical suggestions. He gives good advice to those who are considering adoption, those facing infertility, and those who would like to be foster parents. He asks very pointed questions that go to the heart of people’s motivations for wanting to adopt. He helps parents understand how to treat their children after adoption. His insights here are valuable because he has been through the process.

The book ends by tying everything to the gospel:

“The gospel welcomes us and receives us as loved children. The gospel disciplines us and prepares us for eternity as heirs. The gospel speaks truth to us and shows us our misery in Adam and our glory in Christ. The gospel shows us that we were born into death and then shows us, by free grace, that we’re adopted for life.” (214)

Well said. Adopted for Life is one of the best books I have read this year. It combines robust theology with personal experience. It serves as a powerful pro-life apologetic, and it demonstrates the power of the gospel when acted out by a faithful community of believers.

June 16, 2009

The Current State of the Pro-Life Movement: Interview with Scott Klusendorf

Filed under: Politics,Pro-Life Witness — Trevin Wax @ 3:53 am

scottToday, I am interviewing Scott Klusendorf, founder of Life Training Institute and author of the new book, The Case for Life. We will be talking about some recent developments in the USA that influence the abortion debate (including the murder of George Tiller, the recent polls showing pro-life gains, and President Obama’s speech at Notre Dame).

Trevin Wax: Some people who advocate abortion rights are blaming the death of Dr. Tiller on anyone who is pro-life. How should pro-life Christians respond to this development?

Scott Klusendorf: While pro-lifers should condemn the killing of Dr. Tiller, they must not shrink back from proclaiming their fundamental message—namely, that elective abortion unjustly takes the life of a defenseless human being.

Of course, our critics will say that by calling abortion killing, we are inciting violence against abortionists. This is nonsense.

As Andrew Coyne points out, suppose I’m an animal rights activist opposed to the sale of fur. If a deranged environmentalist firebombs a local clothing store, am I responsible?

Seriously, if people like Frank Schaeffer truly think that pro-life speech incites people to violence, they should step up and lead a campaign to ban all pro-life speech. Moreover, it does not follow that because a lone extremist kills an abortionist, the pro-life cause itself is unjust.

Dr. Martin Luther King, for example, used strong language to condemn the evil of racism during the 1960s. In response to his peaceful but confrontational tactics, racists unjustly blamed him for the violent unrest that sometimes followed his public demonstrations.

Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago argued that if Dr. King would stop exposing racial injustice, black people would be less likely to riot. The Mayor’s remarks were an outrage.

Are we to believe that a handful of rioters made Dr. King’s crusade for civil rights entirely unjust? In his Letter from the Birmingham Jail, King rebuts this dishonest attempt to change the subject:

“In your statement you asserted that our actions, though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence….[I]t is immoral to urge an individual to withdraw his efforts to gain…basic constitutional rights because the quest precipitates violence….Non-violent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such a creative tension that a community…is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to dramatize the issue so it can be no longer ignored.”

Finally, if it’s extreme to call elective abortion killing, then abortion-choice advocates bear partial responsibility for the stabbing of Dr. Tiller.

The fact is that pro-lifers aren’t the only ones who call abortion killing. Abortionists and their supporters have been saying so themselves for years.

For example, late-term abortionist Warren Hern, author of the book Abortion Practice, stated in a 1978 conference:

“We have reached a point in this particular technology [D&E abortion] where there is no possibility of denial of an act of destruction by the operator. It is before one’s eyes. The sensations of dismemberment flow through the forceps like an electric current.”

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, generally a supporter of abortion-rights, describes dismemberment abortion this way:

“The fetus, in many cases, dies just as a human adult or child would: it bleeds to death as it is torn from limb to limb. . . . The fetus can be alive at the beginning of the dismemberment process and can survive for a time while its limbs are being torn off. . . . Dr. [Leroy] Carhart [the abortionist who challenged Nebraska’s partial–birth ban] has observed fetal heartbeat . . . with “extensive parts of the fetus removed,” . . . and testified that mere dismemberment of a limb does not always cause death because he knows of a physician who removed the arm of a fetus only to have the fetus go on to be born “as a living child with one arm.” . . . At the conclusion of a D&E abortion . . . the abortionist is left with “a tray full of pieces.”

Trevin Wax: Recent polls show that, for the first time since Roe v. Wade, a majority of Americans claim the label “pro-life.” What does this mean for the pro-life movement? How do you interpret these statistics?

Scott Klusendorf: First, the bad news: I’m skeptical that there’s been much real movement toward the pro-life view. In fact, if you look at a summary of polling data over the last 30 years, the numbers really haven’t changed that much. I think pro-lifers like to pick and choose the polls they site.

True, support for late-term abortion has dropped thanks largely to the debate over partial-birth abortion, but a majority of Americans still support first-trimester abortion.

Now for the good news: Based on my experience in the field (not on any empirical data I’ve compiled), people are more willing to give us a hearing. Fifteen years ago, crowds on college campuses were more hostile, even nasty at times, but not so much now. In fact, my recent debates with Nadine Strossen (President of the ACLU from the mid-1980s until last Fall) solicited insightful questions from those attending, but never nasty remarks.

Of course, you still get your occasional abortion crusader bent on shutting-up pro-lifers (rather than refuting their arguments), but they are fewer in number than they were during the late 80s and early 90s.

Thus, the objective for pro-life advocates is clear: We must become very skilled at making a gracious, yet persuasive, case for life in the public square. That is not all we must do, but it’s certainly essential if we are to win. That’s precisely why wrote my book The Case for Life.

obama-speech-Notre-Dame-20090517200353Trevin Wax: President Obama recently made remarks at Notre Dame about abortion. What were your impressions of his speech?

Scott Klusendorf: Rhetorically, it was excellent. I also appreciated his observation that finding middle ground on abortion is difficult. He’s right about that.

Look, either you believe that each and every human being in virtue of his humanity has an equal right to life or you don’t. Sadly, the President does not believe that, as evidenced by his refusal to protect not only unborn humans, but those born alive as well.

However, what surprised me most was his complete refusal to present any argument whatsoever justifying his pro-abortion choice views. There’s not one mention of his preference for tax-funded abortions both here and abroad, his votes to keep partial-birth abortion legal, and his promise to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which would undo virtually all limits on abortion. Indeed, many of his statements were question-begging regarding the status of the unborn.

Speaking of the abortion controversy, he used the nouns “we” and “our” when referencing our duty to understand our fellow humans but never once said whether “we” and “our” also included “them,” meaning the unborn. On embryonic stem-cell research, the President said that “those who speak out against research may be rooted in an admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their son’s or daughter’s hardship can be relieved.”

Question: Would the President argue this way if the proposal on the table was killing two-year olds to relieve the suffering of five-year olds? Never in a million years. Only by assuming the embryos in question were not human could he argue this way.But that is precisely the point he refused to address in his speech.

If I were a thoughtful defender of abortion, Obama’s speech would leave me worried that my side had truly run out of arguments. And that, rather than inconsistent polling data, is what gives me the most hope for the future.

Trevin Wax: How does President Obama’s admission there are moral and ethical aspects of the abortion debate help the pro-life cause?

Scott Klusendorf: It exposes the vacuous logic in the President’s position. He says abortion is a “heart-wrenching decision” and we should seek to reduce it.

But why is it heart-wrenching? And why seek to reduce it? If elective abortion does not take the life of a defenseless human being, why worry about the number of abortions each year?

This is liberal doublespeak: You implicitly condemn abortion with your words, but make sure there’s not one shred of legal protection granted to unborn human beings.

True, the President did speak of moral aspects to the abortion debate, but he did so with a faulty appeal to moral equivalency. He said we should “honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health-care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women.”

Let’s be clear: For Obama, women can only achieve equality by trampling on the rights of their unborn offspring. That’s what he means by equality. But never once did he say why treating the unborn human this way is morally and legally permissible.

And if the President truly cares about “sound science,” how about starting with the undeniable scientific truth that from the earliest stages of development, the unborn are distinct, living, and whole human beings? In short, Obama is adept at saying one thing and doing another.

Trevin Wax: You’ve said before there are “facist” themes that sometimes come out in the way liberals address abortion. Did you detect any such themes in the President’s speech?

Scott Klusendorf: Possibly. I define fascism in this case as an attempt by government to shut down legitimate debate on important public policy matters.

Consider Obama’s call for a “sensible conscience clause” policy for doctors opposed to abortion. The key word, of course, is “sensible.”

We already have policies leftover from the Bush Administration that protect doctors from performing or referring for abortion procedures. All indications are that Obama does not want to revise these policies; he want to revoke them, forcing pro-life doctors to either participate in abortion or go out of business. What else is that but an attempt to silence legitimate debate on abortion?

Trevin Wax: What do you hope to accomplish with your book The Case for Life?

Scott Klusendorf: In a sentence, I hope to give pro-life Christians the tools of thought needed to make a gracious and persuasive case for their views in the marketplace of ideas.

As I state in the introduction to the book, I do not pretend to have written an exhaustive defense of the pro-life view. That’s been done already by selected authors I cite throughout the text.

My purpose is different. This book will take those sophisticated pro-life defenses and put them in a form that hopefully equips and inspires lay Christians (with or without academic sophistication) to engage the debate with friends, coworkers, and fellow believers.

Admittedly, a book about pro-life apologetics may not appeal to some lay Christians. It seems many believers would rather focus on end times rather than these times. That’s a mistake. Humans who ignore questions about truth and human value may soon learn what it really means to be left behind.

For more information about Scott Klusendorf, check out his book, The Case for Life (reviewed here) and his website.

June 15, 2009

What Are You Seeking?

Filed under: Red Letters — Trevin Wax @ 3:56 am

jesus_callThe two disciples heard him say this and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?”
John 1:37-38

How would you answer Jesus’ question? “What are you seeking?” It’s a question so profound that it shakes us to the core. Some are seeking money, more wealth and assets. Others are seeking success and a good reputation. Some look to anything that will provide them security and comfort. Others seek for happiness, often in all the wrong places.

The disciples don’t answer Jesus’ question quite right. They don’t answer Jesus’ question by saying “what” they are seeking. They answer it by saying who they are seeking. In other words, they’re not seeking something, they’re seeking someone. They’re looking for the Messiah.

If you are seeking for the happiness that comes from success, you’re going to miss it. If you’re seeking for the happiness that comes from money, that fleeting feeling will always elude you. If you’re seeking for security, you’ll always feel afraid. If you’re seeking Jesus, then true joy will be yours.

True happiness does not come from seeking things; it comes from seeking Jesus. This means that you seek Jesus for who he is, not for what he can give you.

True disciples are those who follow Jesus because we love him for who he is.

The amazing thing we discover in this passage, though, is that the disciples aren’t the only ones who are seeking. Jesus himself is the Seeker. He’s looking for disciples. The Messiah was looking for them, even as they were looking for the messiah! It’s awesome to discover that as you go looking for Jesus, you realize that he is looking for you.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for seeking me and finding me and bringing me to you. Help me to love you for who you are, not for what you can give me. Amen.

written by Trevin Wax  © 2009 Kingdom People blog

June 14, 2009

Keep the Church, O Lord

Filed under: Prayers — Trevin Wax @ 3:15 am

churchKeep, O Lord, your household the Church
in your steadfast faith and love,
that through your grace
we may proclaim your truth with boldness,
and minister your justice with compassion;
for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.

June 13, 2009

Schaeffer on the Need for Divine Power

Filed under: Quotes of the Week — Trevin Wax @ 3:26 am

“Because the world is hard, confronting it without the Lord’s power is an overwhelming prospect.”

“If we think we can operate on our own, if we do not comprehend the need for a power beyond our own, we will never get started.”

– Francis Schaeffer, The Lord’s Work in the Lord’s Way (thanks James!)

June 12, 2009

In the Blogosphere

Filed under: In the Blogosphere — Trevin Wax @ 3:12 am

Dave Zimmerman turns the tables on all the Twitter naysayers… says that the critics can be just as narcissistic.

The Attractional versus Affectional Church

Spurgeon’s former church sees the rise of the new Calvinism as a new version of worldliness.

John Piper on the difference between hero worship and hero emulation.

Michael Spencer reflects on Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”

A 4-D ultrasound, a potential diagnosis of Down Syndrome, a recommended abortion.

Kevin DeYoung writes about the “Jesuses” in our culture today.

Al Mohler on the need for silence

Top Posts this Week at Kingdom People: My 4-Part Interview with Dr. Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Seminary
On Akin’s Vision for Missionary Theologians
On Turning Around the SBC

On the Great Commission Resurgence

On SBC Calvinism and Evangelical Cooperation

June 11, 2009

SBC Calvinism and Evangelical Cooperation: An Interview with Dr. Danny Akin (4)

Filed under: Interviews,Southern Baptist Convention — Trevin Wax @ 3:46 am

southeasternThis is the final installment of a 4-part interview with Dr. Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. Click here for Parts 1, 2, and 3.

Trevin Wax: Within the SBC there is much talk about the resurgence of Reformed theology. What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of this recent development?

Daniel Akin: The strength in Reformed theology is the healthy biblical perspective on the sovereignty of God. Reformed theology has a high view of the glory of God as the driving principle of all things.

Take the Westminster Catechism, the shorter version: the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Within the Reformed tradition, there tends to be a strong emphasis on confessional theology and understanding what you believe.

The Reformed tradition also has had, historically, a strong focus upon biblical doctrinal preaching. Of course, I would prefer it to be of an expository nature. But it has always had a strong emphasis on biblical and doctrinal preaching.

In its healthier strand, Reformed theology gave way to the modern missionary movement. I don’t hesitate to point out that the father of the modern missionary movement was William Carey, who happened to be a 5-point Calvinist. The father of Baptist missions in America was Adoniram Judson. He was a 5-point Calvinist. You can trace both Carey and Judson’s inspiration for missions back to David Brainerd, who was a 5-point Calvinist. And of course, the most famous Baptist preacher ever, in any context, was Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a wonderful gospel preacher who built the largest church in the world at the particular time that he was alive. All of that is something that should be applauded.

What’s the negative? The negative is that there has always been in Reformed theology a strand that unfortunately moves toward fatalism. It also sometimes moves toward antinomianism.

But I’m more concerned about the fatalism strand, because that particular strand then unfortunately devolves into being anti-missionary and anti-evangelistic.

Even today before we talked, I was talking to a friend about two different churches that were looking for student ministers. One church interviewed two young men, and the other interviewed one – all three of whom made it very clear in their interview that they held to Reformed theology.

In one instance, the young man basically said that he did not believe that it would be his responsibility to either teach his student to do evangelism, nor would it be his responsibility to seek to evangelize lost teens and lost young adults. He said that bringing the lost into the body of Christ had at times, in his experience, been problematic and even detrimental. The other two basically just said, “Well, you know evangelism is not a high priority for what we believe we need to be doing in terms of doing student ministry.”

Trevin, not only would I not hire any of the three, to be honest with you, I don’t think any of the three are qualified to be in ministry.

I don’t see how you can have the heart of Jesus who said, “I came to seek and to save that which is lost.” I don’t see how you can have the heart of Jesus who in his final word to his disciples gave his Great Commission found in Matthew 28 and Acts 1. I just find that mindset insane.

So I do recognize that there is that strand within Calvinism that can be very detrimental to the propagation of the gospel.

In fact, when I was at Southern and Jimmy Scroggins was teaching over at Boyce, Jimmy had some students in his personal evangelism class who said they would not fulfill the class assignment of seeking out ways to share their faith on a weekly basis during the semester because, somehow, in their warped way of thinking, they found this to be inconsistent and incompatible with the doctrine of the sovereignty of God. To which Dr. Scroggins said, “That is fine. Just recognize that you will fail the class.”

That’s just crazy. That’s Calvinism run amuck. That is really not worth the name of Calvinism. There is that strand within Reformed theology that has been detrimental.

I will quote Dr. Mohler here who says, I never met personally a hyper-Calvinist but I have met some Calvinist who are hyper, and they are more interested in evangelizing for Calvinism than they are the gospel. Those persons tend to not be of much good to anybody.

Trevin Wax: How do you see the relationship between the Southern Baptist Convention and the wider world of evangelicalism?

Daniel Akin: Contentious.

Unfortunately, I fear that the greater world of evangelicalism is shifting and drifting to the left.

I give one example of this. Greg Beale’s most recent book, The Erosion of Inerrancy is basically a critique of those who still claim to be Inerrantists but who, through hermeneutical gymnastics, have basically explained the word away and emptied it of its meaning.

I am gravely concerned about what I see happening in the greater evangelical world. Because Southern Baptists have staked out their claim as to where they are, there is a sense in which we are in a contentious kind of relationship with one aspect of evangelicalism.

On the other hand, do I feel good about the fact that Southern Baptist can participate with and engage movements and conferences like Together for the Gospel? Yes, I think that’s a good thing.

Do I think it is good to have interaction and dialogue with the Resurgence and Acts 29? I’m speaking for this Southern Baptist. Yes, I do.

Some people think this interaction is just horrible. There is still a strand of Southern Baptists that is very parochial and very narrow, a strand that says we need to just bunker down and realize that we don’t need anybody else. We don’t need to interact with anybody else. I think that is an unhealthy strand of SBC life.

I do not think we have to, in any way, surrender our Baptist distinctives, to which I am adamantly committed. I do not think we have to surrender those at all while we engage with like-minded evangelicals who are with us on the gospel, who are with us on penal substitution, who are with us on inerrancy, who are with us on exclusivity.

I received a lot of criticism for my friendship with Mark Driscoll, and for inviting him onto our campus. Do I endorse everything that Mark does? No.

Picking up from his past, would I affirm or applaud the use of profanity in the pulpit? Absolutely not. There is no place for profanity or coarse jesting or crude language in the pulpit. I would never affirm or support that.

I still hold very strongly to total abstinence when it comes to the use of alcohol. I cannot say that alcohol use is a sin, but I can build a pretty good argument in a 21st century American context for the lack of wisdom in supporting an industry that has brought so much sorrow and pain and heartache to so many people. So I do not agree with Mark on that issue.

But am I grateful that Mark has a passion for church planting in the hard places of America? Yes.

Am I grateful for his commitment to inerrancy? Yes.

Penal substitution? Yes.

Exclusivity of the gospel? Yes.

Complimentarianism in terms of gender role and assignment? Yes.

I can think of a number of other persons. People from a Presbyterian background. Others in the Evangelical Free church. Northern evangelicals like John Piper, who is a Baptist though not a Southern Baptist. These are people that I can learn from and be influenced by. So I am grateful for the partnerships that we can have with those individuals.

Even though I am just one Southern Baptist, I believe I represent a fairly large and healthy number, especially generationally.

How much criticism did I get for having Mark Driscoll on my campus from those 40 and under? Almost none.

How much criticism did I get from those 50 and over? Quite a bit.

So some of the controversy might be generational. Again, that does not mean that the older men were wrong, because I do think those that contacted me raised some legitimate concerns. It does not mean that the younger guys are always right, because youthful exuberance just by its very nature lacks a track record of experience and growth and wisdom that comes from living life.

I am not trying to make a value judgment as to who was right or who was wrong. I am just making an empirical observation that most of the younger men are very enthusiastic about some of these partnerships, including those with like Together for the Gospel and others.

A lot of folks over 50 are not only unhappy with my interaction with Mark Driscoll, they are unhappy with my interaction with men like John Piper, Ligon Duncan, or Tim Keller.

June 10, 2009

Great Commission Resurgence: An Interview with Dr. Danny Akin (3)

Filed under: Interviews,Southern Baptist Convention — Trevin Wax @ 3:42 am

akin-300x204This week, I am interviewing Dr. Danny Akin – president of Southeastern Seminary. Click here for parts 1 and 2.

Trevin Wax: Your Great Commission Resurgence document has a number of points related to the gospel. The document itself does not define the gospel. How you would define the gospel?

Daniel Akin: I define the gospel in my Axioms message as being the good news that Jesus Christ came from heaven, died on the cross having lived a perfect sinless life, bore then in His body the full penalty of our sins, was raised from the dead. Those who repent of sin and place their faith in the perfect work of Christ can and will be saved. There’s the gospel.

Trevin Wax: There has been a lot of discussion regarding the axiom that calls for a denominational restructuring. What specific areas do you think can be streamlined for maximum effectiveness?

Daniel Akin: Church planting.

If you, for example, wanted to be a church planter right now, and you wanted to work through the system, you would be interviewed and would seek funding from your local association, from the state convention where you want to go and plant a church, and from the North American Mission Board where you want to go and plant a church.

There is a three-tiered – not duplication – but triplication in this system that is only going to provide nominal funding for you to actually accomplish what you need to do. There are also strings attached to those funds that limit what you can do to earn additional income. You can’t be a tentmaker like the apostle Paul, working to compliment and supplement what you would need to live on.

Classic example. We just sent a student from here up into the Washington D.C. area to plant a church. He went through the three avenues I just described, and it took months to pull everything together. He was able to put together $36,000 for his first year. Try and live in Washington D.C. You can’t pay rent and utilities for $36,000 a year.

But he is informed by NAMB that if he received funding from them, he can do nothing more than occupy a part-time job. That’s insane. So he will have to do what everybody else does: raise funds outside our structure.

This is why a lot of people are getting frustrated. Let’s take a large church like Highview Baptist in Louisville. If they were to give 10% of their monies through the Cooperative Program, they would probably be giving somewhere around $400,000 a year. I’m not even counting Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong or anything else they do. Let’s just say they give around $400,000 a year.

First and foremost, 60% of that money is going to stay in Kentucky. That money is never even going to get out of the state.

Then, let’s say they send Trevin Wax from Highview to be a church planter. You appeal to the Kentucky Baptist Convention for funding. Even though Highview has been giving around $260,000 to $280,000 a year for a number of years to that state convention, when you go to get funding, you’ll be lucky to get $12,000 a year from them for three years. After three years, they’re not going to give you another dime.

Suddenly Highview says, “What are we doing? What are we doing? Why should we give $280,000 a year to the Kentucky Baptist Convention when we try to plant a church? Why should we work through the system that we are funding if, because of the overhead and the bureaucracy and other things, we are only going to be able to get back from them maybe $25,000 to $30,000 over three years? That doesn’t sound like a good deal.” So all of a sudden, you have people saying, “We can do it better without partnering with a state convention.”

What part of Article 9 of the Great Commission Resurgence document is trying to say to our state conventions is: Look, we actually are your friend. We are on your side. Danny Akin and Johnny Hunt are not your enemies. But you cannot keep doing things the way you’ve been doing then, because these young guys are not like an older generation.

My parents came through World War II and Korea. They came through a period of time where you simply support the structures that are in place.

If you go to a church, for example, and your church goes through a split, do you leave? No, you don’t leave.

If you have to fire a pastor, do you leave? No, you don’t leave. You just stay because that’s your church.

You give to the government because you give to the government.

You give to the church because you give to the church.

You give to the Cooperative Program because you give to the Cooperative Program.

My generation (I’m 52 now) was less inclined to just give and trust that the folks you give money to will be good stewards of it. Your generation is not at all inclined to do that.

Your generation – and this is both good and bad – has very little loyalty to anything. I hope you have (and I do believe you have) a loyalty to the gospel. But your level of loyalty is very thin.

Therefore, if you do not believe in these various entities, if you have an option, then you are not going to give. That is what Article 9 is trying to help those who are in a position of leadership right now understand.

We can’t keep doing it like this because these guys aren’t going to participate. They are not going to buy into this. They are not going to support this, and this is not going to work.

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss the rise of Reformed theology in the Southern Baptist Convention and the relationship between Southern Baptists and the wider world of evangelicalism.

June 9, 2009

Turning around the SBC: An Interview with Dr. Danny Akin (2)

Filed under: Interviews,Southern Baptist Convention — Trevin Wax @ 3:48 am

church-isleThis week, I am interviewing Dr. Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Seminary. Check out part one of our conversation here.

Trevin Wax: When you look our over the horizon of the Southern Baptist Convention, what do you see as the biggest challenge we are facing?

Daniel Akin: Apathy.

I think that Southern Baptists have lost their first love, and therefore, we are apathetic in too many areas when it comes to the Great Commission and the glory of God in seeing the nations brought to Christ for his fame.

With the younger generation, I observe apathy in that they do not see why they should buy into the vision of the SBC. They are not too excited about the mechanics of the SBC. They resonate with the fact that the SBC says we exist to take the gospel to the nations, plant churches across North America, and provide good healthy theological education. My observation is that people in their twenties, thirties, and even forties resonate with this vision.

The problem is that they do not see the SBC pursuing those three agendas with laser-beam passion and the kind of focus that they themselves aspire to have. As a result, there are many guys your age that are asking the question, “Why should I be a part of this big behemoth that I feel is wasting way too much money and seems too top heavy and bureaucratic to be worth expending effort and energy. We can just simply take our money, and we can do church planting and missions on our own apart from the SBC.”

I understand that unhappiness, and I understand that dissatisfaction. That is why I, along with a number of others, and in particular the current president of the SBC – that is why we are working very hard to try to steer the SBC in a new fresh direction that would cause young men like yourself and like my own sons to say, “It’s not perfect (of course nothing perfect exists this side of heaven), but it’s the best thing going. I can see why I would be a wise and good steward to invest in what the SBC is trying to accomplish.”

Trevin Wax: What do you think are the major reasons for the declining number of baptisms and our shrinking membership?

Daniel Akin: First, we have become practical inclusivists. Even though, in theory, we will say that we believe that heaven and hell are real, and that Jesus makes all the difference, we have emotionally disengaged ourselves from that theological proposition, and we are convinced that if someone is a good person, somehow God is going to let them get into heaven. So we do not have the sense of urgency about the plight of the lost.

Secondly, Dr. Mohler has pointed out a fact that is kind of funny and sad at the same time. You can almost document the stagnation and decline of baptisms within the Southern Baptist Convention as the decline in the number of children that Baptist have.

The truth is, (and I said this in my Axioms sermon that’s either famous or infamous depending on your perspective) we have bought into the mindset of the modern world in that we think that less children is best or at least better. Because we have less children, we have less family members coming to faith in Christ.

Of course, I am not for baptizing children at a very young age. We have made a huge mistake there. So let’s just go ahead and recognize the elephant in the room: many of the baptisms we record every year are re-baptisms. People that are baptized as children come to be convinced that they had not understood the gospel, had not been converted, and therefore went through baptism again.

Every so often, when I am doing a forum here at Southeastern, I will raise this question. (I used to do this at Southern too and I always got the same result.) I ask the students, “How many of you went under the waters of baptism more than once?” It was never less than 40% and almost always about half.

About half of the adult baptisms we report each year are re-baptisms. The other majority of them are among children ages 5 to 12. That number has been shrinking because we have less children in our churches now.

You put all that together with the fact that we are less passionate about the plight of the lost and you see why there is a significant decline and stagnation in baptisms. We have not been keeping up with the population growth in America for thirty to forty year now. Even though we saw modest increases in the number of churches, and modest increases in terms of total membership, we were losing ground every step of the way.

We have been very deficient on the doctrine of regenerate church membership. We have baptized far too many at a young tender age when they were not capable of grasping the truth of the gospel.

On any given Sunday, we do not have 16 million Southern Baptists in worship. More likely, we have around 8 million present. And if you use as a criteria for “faithful church attender” someone who comes just once a month, we might have 10.5 to 11 million true Southern Baptists, not 16 million. You put all that in a pot and you can see that we have some serious issues.

Trevin Wax: Some have said that one of the best ways to evangelize the next generation is to give birth to it and to raise it up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. What should pastors do to encourage people to embrace that vision of having children or adopting children all for the glory of God?

Daniel Akin: They should teach the Scriptures and point out that Psalm 128 talks about the beautiful gift that children are from the Lord. God blesses the one who has a large number of them. The psalmist uses different analogies of the quiver full or the olive plants around the home.

Pastors should acknowledge that we do have a culture mandate to be fruitful and multiply and that the Scriptures consistently witness to the fact that children are a good gift from a great God. They are a prime avenue and a prime mission field. In fact, in my Axioms message, I said that our first line of doing missions is our own families. Of course, if you have one child as opposed to four, five or six, then you have a much smaller initial mission field.

You may have seen a YouTube video that’s being widely disseminated right now. I was watching a clip of it again this morning. The video is about the declining birth rate among white Europeans. According to some statisticians, Europe is now beyond recovery, and their particular culture is doomed and destined to die or at least to fade into insignificance. Many of the countries have a birth replacement of 1.1 or 1.3. Among Muslims, the rate is 8.1.

Europe is probably going to fall to Islam without a military conquest. Muslims will simply, by a natural process, outnumber the white Europeans (who are no longer truly Christian anyway).

We certainly do not want to say, “The way we need to evangelize the world is to have more children…period.” No, we do need to have more children and faithfully teach them the gospel and the Christian Scriptures.

But at the same time, there are 1.6 billion people on the planet who have never heard the name of Jesus, and 3.5 billion who have a nominal witness or no witness at all. It’s not an either/or. It’s a both/and. We should have more children, and we should also give away more money and send more people.

I’m convinced that God is calling out a lot more than are going. I believe that is especially true among men. Men have an absolutely pathetic track record in terms of missionary service in comparison to our sisters in the Lord.

Tomorrow, we will discuss Dr. Akin and Johnny Hunt’s Great Commission Resurgence document, including some of the controversial aspects of the document.

June 8, 2009

A Vision for Missionary Theologians: Interview with Dr. Danny Akin (Part 1)

Filed under: Interviews,Southern Baptist Convention — Trevin Wax @ 3:36 am

Akin_DanielThe following is a the first part of a transcribed interview with Dr. Daniel Akin, recorded over the phone on Tuesday, June 2, 2009. Dr. Akin is the president of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and one of the initial signatories of the Great Commission Resurgence document. Dr. Akin is the author of numerous books, 1, 2, 3 John (New American Commentary) and the editor of A Theology for the Church. For clarity purposes, I have edited portions of this interview.

Trevin Wax: What are your day-to-day responsibilities as president of Southeastern Seminary?

Daniel Akin: I oversee the total operations and administration of the school. I give guidance, direction, and (hopefully) vision to what Southeastern ought to be.

Southeastern has a very clear purpose statement: “We exist to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve our churches and fulfill the Great Commission.” We are very passionate about being a Great Commission seminary, and this passion colors and even dictates how we attempt to do theological education.

Trevin Wax: What are your responsibilities at the annual Southern Baptist Convention meeting?

Daniel Akin: I provide a report from the seminary. All the boards, agencies and entities are responsible for making a report. I have a fifteen-minute time slot in which to fulfill this responsibility.

In addition, all the seminaries have a luncheon for alumni. I oversee that luncheon and also speak there. This year, we are blessed to have both Johnny Hunt, the current president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board, coming to speak at our alumni gathering.

I also take part in the workings of the Southern Baptist Convention, and I represent Southeastern at our booth and through my interaction with others. This year, I have additional responsibilities because I am the chairman of the Resolutions Committee. I will arrive in Louisville the Thursday before Convention week in order to lead that particular group.

I have also been asked to bring one of the messages at the Convention on Tuesday afternoon. Outside of that, I am speaking at the Founder’s Breakfast on Tuesday morning, a Baptist21 event at Tuesday during lunch, and a 9Marks meeting on Tuesday night. You can see I have a very busy Tuesday at this year’s convention. I will take my vitamins and eat my Wheaties before I get going that morning!

Trevin Wax: There are six Southern Baptist seminaries, all of which, thankfully, are now conservative. What is unique about Southeastern Seminary? What are you excited about when you look at the present state of the institution that you serve as president?

Daniel Akin: We are passionate about the Great Commission, and we believe every Christian should be a Great Commission Christian. We believe every church should be a Great Commission church. We believe every church should be a church planting church. We believe our churches should be about wedding both the mind and the heart in terms of bringing glory to God.

I often tell people who visit Southeastern that our goal for our students is that they would follow in the path of the apostle Paul. Paul was the greatest Christian theologian as well as the greatest Christian missionary who ever lived. Therefore, there should be no dichotomy between the mind and the heart. The two should be beautifully wed together in terms of service to the Lord.

We believe that you really cannot be a good theologian unless you are also a passionate missionary at heart. This does not mean you have to go to the nations full-time, but you certainly should be going some. You should be praying and sending. At the same time, you cannot be a good missionary unless you also have the passion of a theologian. The two should not be separated. The two need to be kept together.

I know we don’t do it perfectly, but if you were to ask, “What is the sign we hang outside our door?” it is this: We want to be a Great Commission seminary.

As a result of that, we have a lot of students that are in the 2+2 program here. We have a lot of students that go to a national mission field as career missionaries. We do a massive number of mission trips every year – three or four every summer and two or three every winter.

Unlike the other seminaries, we give two full weeks off in each semester. We have a fall break and a Thanksgiving break. We have a spring break and an Easter break. Always, those four weeks during the semester are occupied with mission trips for our students and faculty.

Of course, the other seminaries are also involved in fulfilling the Great Commission. But this passion is what we want to be known for. This is what we really try to emphasize.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about some of the bigger challenges facing the Southern Baptist Convention.

June 7, 2009

Help Me Cling to the Cross

Filed under: Prayers — Trevin Wax @ 3:28 am

crossloveHelp me to cling to the cross,
be crucified to the world by it,
and in it find deepest humiliation,
motives to patience and self-denial,
grace for active benevolence,
faith to grasp eternal life,
hope to lift up my head,
love to bind me for ever
to him who died and rose for me.
May Christ’s shed blood make me
more thankful for your mercies,
more humble under your correction,
more zealous in your service,
more watchful against temptation,
more contented in my circumstances,
more useful to others.

– Puritan Prayer (adapted) from Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, pg. 46

June 6, 2009

Mohler on the Murder of George Tiller

Filed under: Quotes of the Week — Trevin Wax @ 3:24 am

almohler“The pro-life movement in America must not wage war against abortion by following the example of John Brown. Nor can we allow ourselves the luxury of the logic of defending the indefensible along the lines of Thoreau. We must confront this great evil of abortion from a higher plane, and know that the battle is ultimately in God’s hands.

“Murder is murder. The law rightly affirms that the killing of Dr. George Tiller is murder. In this we must agree. We cannot rest until the law also recognizes the killing of the unborn as murder. The killing of Dr. George Tiller makes that challenge all the more difficult.”

– R. Albert Mohler, Jr., from “A Wicked Deed in Wichita

June 5, 2009

In the Blogosphere

Filed under: In the Blogosphere — Trevin Wax @ 3:03 am

I am excited about the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville. One of the highlights of the Convention for me will be attending the Baptist21 panel discussion. The Baptist21 guys have two video interviews with current SBC President Johnny Hunt. (Part 1, Part 2)

The recession is hurting Contemporary Christian Music. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Tim Challies has some thoughtful posts on entertainment (Part 1, Part 2)

Justin Taylor on having a teachable spirit.

Doug Wilson cracks me up. Here are his ten reasons to be glad that President Obama has declared June to be LGBT month.

Embryo adoption.

Luke Hinton takes a look at N.T. Wright’s view of justification, taking care to avoid misleading rhetoric, but also showing his willingness to express his concerns.

Nick Mitchell on the “really really old perspective on Paul.” Some truths from the “really old” perspective look a lot like some aspects of what is being called the “new” perspective.

Ben Witherington has a Q&A with N.T. Wright on justification.

June 4, 2009

Evaluating “Total Church”

Filed under: Audio Resources,Book Reviews — Trevin Wax @ 3:29 am

Lit)TWR Today out of the United Kingdom has recently done a radio show that focuses on the book Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis (Crossway, 2008). I am one of the guests on this program, discussing my thoughts on this book.

You can download the program or listen online here. Also, check out my review of Total Church.

Many thanks to Phil Walker and the other guests for contributing to the ongoing conversation… and to Steve and Tim for writing such a compelling book.

June 3, 2009

The Man Behind Charlie Brown

Filed under: Book Reviews,Culture / Entertainment — Trevin Wax @ 3:10 am

Schulz and Peanuts: A BiographyRussell Moore’s review of David Michaelis’ book, Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography (Harper Collins, 2007) is one of the best book reviews I’ve read in a long time. His recommendation is what initially prompted me to pick up a copy of this book. So let me point you to Moore’s excellent review first, and then to a few thoughts of my own about this fascinating biography of Charles Schulz, the creator of Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang.

According to Michaelis, Charles Schulz was ambitious from his childhood. Not only was he artistically gifted, Schulz was aware of his gifts. Growing up, he longed for a way to use his gifts, but his family did not support his artistic endeavors. 

Later in life, Charles Schulz repeated the mistakes he saw in his own parents. His parents were distant and somewhat cold to him. But instead of growing close to his own children, Schulz showered his fatherly affection on his comic strip characters. At one point, his abdication of parental responsibility leads him to help his daughter travel to a different country in order to obtain an abortion.

Despite the fact that Schulz’s life story turns out to be sad, this book is fascinating. Michaelis believes that Schulz wrote his life story into the Peanuts comic strips. So throughout this biography, readers are treated to various Peanuts strips inserted into the narrative at crucial moments. These strips help us see what was going on in Charles Schulz’s mind at any given stage in his life.

For example, consider the fascinating example of Peanuts character Lucy Van Pelt before Schulz’s divorce and her subsequent personality after Schulz’s remarriage. Before the divorce, Lucy is a loud-mouthed selfish girl. After the divorce and in the later years of the strip, Lucy mellows out. Michaelis believes that the early Lucy was patterned after Schulz’s first wife. The later Lucy reflected his second wife.

Michaelis also exposes Schulz’s insecurity, even after his stunning success. Schulz felt threatened by the creator of Garfield and worried that Garfield might somehow usurp Peanuts. Even as Schulz is at the top of his game he is still insecure.

The saddest aspect of this book for Christians is watching Charles Schulz, who at one time embraced the Christian faith, slowly abandon his Christian convictions. By the time he dies, he seems to have lost all hope.

Schulz and Peanuts is a brilliant book. The childhood sections might be too long, and the narrative could have used a bit more editing. But overall, this is a terrific biography for anyone who is interested in the life of the man behind the comic strip that is still cherished by readers all throughout the world.

June 2, 2009

Who’s Who on the Kingdom People Blogroll

Filed under: Blogging — Trevin Wax @ 3:24 am

I have more than a hundred blogs represented in my RSS feed through Google Reader. But only twenty-one receive a spot on my side-bar. I thought today might be a good day to explain who’s who on the blogroll, and why I recommend you frequent these blogs as well.

PASTORS AND SCHOLARS

Tullian Tchividjian
Tullian’s pastoral blog often contains excerpts from his books and sermons. I love the passion he has for the gospel and for preaching truth.

Scot McKnight
A world-class New Testament scholar who is  unafraid to pose hard questions, tackle controversial topics, and engage those who may disagree. JesusCreed is one of the most popular Christian blogs on the web.

Ben Witherington
A seasoned scholar at Asbury Seminary who writes about a wide range of topics (including movies).

Mark D. Roberts
Mark is a blogger with a pastor’s heart. Plenty of food for thought. Even when I disagree with Mark, I admire his charitable spirit and the wisdom that comes from his experience.

Michael Kelley
Michael Kelley works as an editor for LifeWay’s young adult curriculum, Threads. He is also a great Sunday School teacher and an insightful writer. Wise beyond his years and well worth reading.

Children’s Ministry Blog
Tony Kummer’s terrific resource for children’s ministers. Lots of good give-aways, and good commentary on Sunday School and VBS curriculum.

BLOGS THAT MAKE ME THINK

Darryl Dash
Darryl specializes in giving his readers brief posts that get you thinking. (Not to mention he was able to interview Tim Keller.)

Gospel-Driven Church
Jared Wilson excels at pointing his readers to the gospel. His posts are fueled by gospel-driven passion and skillful writing. Look for his new book soon.

Internet Monk
The curmudgeon of the evangelical blogosphere, excuse me – “post-evangelical” blogosphere. Michael Spencer’s posts are often uncomfortably personal. Love him or hate him, he always leaves you with food for thought. Regardless… you can’t ignore him.

BLOGS THAT CONNECT ME TO GOOD CONTENT (AND BOOKS)

Justin Taylor
If I was stranded on a deserted island and only had one blog, this would be the one. Not primarily because of Justin’s own writing (which is itself terrific), but because of the great content he points me to daily. Truly, one of the best of the best.

Zach Nielsen
Zach is the first person to give me the nickname “T-Wax.” No wonder. The name of his blog is one of the most creative on the web: Take Your Vitamin Z. In your “daily dose of z blogorrhea,” Zach passes along interesting quotes and links, together with good commentary.

Tim Challies
Known as the world’s foremost Christian blogger, Tim excels in reviewing books, writing online essays (that people actually read!) and linking to other interesting sites on the web.

Tony Reinke
An avid reader like myself, Tony is a humble blogger who wishes to share the truths he is discovering as he reads and writes and seeks to serve the Lord.

CULTURAL COMMENTARY

Albert Mohler
Great commentary on current events. Mohler stays on top of cultural developments in the United States and then speaks to the issues with Christian concern. (I wonder if he ever sleeps.)

Scriptorium Daily
A mix of politics, culture and religion. Always great commentary and interesting perspectives.

SOUTHERN BAPTIST BLOGGERS

SBC Voices
Begun by my friend Tony Kummer and now hosted by another friend, Matt Svoboda, SBC Voices is a blog aggregator that connects Southern Baptists in the blogosphere.

Baptist21
A collaborative effort among several young Southern Baptists, this blog is about being distinctively Baptist in the 21st century. Always good insights and lots of truth to chew on. 

Bart Barber
Bart is a rare voice within the world of SBC politics. A voice of sanity in the midst of heated rhetoric that keeps the differing perspectives of SBC life from truly communicating. He asks good questions and does so in a civil manner.

Between the Times
Put Danny Akin, Bruce Ashford, Nathan Finn, J.D. Greear, Ken Keathley, David Nelson and Alvin Reid in a room together, and this is the blog you get. Terrific insights from these Southeastern faculty, as well as pastoral application.

Russ Moore
Our “Fundamissional Dean” at Southern Seminary. Dr. Moore asks great questions and gives biblical answers. Furthermore, I am convinced that Russ Moore has no rival when it comes to creative titles for blog posts, sermons, and lectures. 

Ed Stetzer
Ed is the big, lovable fuzzball of the SBC. Firm in his convictions, yet open to changing methodologies. His blog is like a monthly magazine that you read over the course of the month. Terrific insights, interviews, and commentary.

So there they are… the blogs on my sidebar. Take some time to check out the content. If you have some favorite blogs you believe I should add to this list, leave a comment to let me know.

June 1, 2009

Piper/Wright Summaries in Christianity Today

Filed under: Christianity,Reformed Theology — Trevin Wax @ 8:30 am

439269133_96e26ce1a1.jpg  wright018_19a1.jpg

In the current (June) issue of Christianity Today, I have two articles detailing the current debate over the doctrine of justification between John Piper and N.T. Wright.

The first article is a summary of Wright and Piper’s positions. Many laypeople have heard about this debate, but are not familiar with the actual arguments employed by the authors. I wrote the summaries as a way of helping people see the two positions “in a nutshell.” Both Piper and Wright looked over their respective summaries and made slight revisions for the final version.

The second article is entitled “Not an Academic Question,” and features quotes from a variety of pastors and teachers on both sides of this debate, indicating how the discussion has influenced the way they preach and teach. I compiled the responses, and Ted Olsen (managing editor for CT) put together the article.

Both of these articles will probably be online within the next few weeks, and I will link to them when they are available. In the meantime, I encourage you to pick up a print copy of Christianity Today’s June edition in order to take a look at the two articles. (The cover story is on Tim Keller’s ministry in Manhattan – and that alone is worth the price of the magazine.)

I look forward to your thoughts!

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