I’m either posting this cartoon because I think it could be used as a good discussion starter on predestination, total depravity, and evangelism, or because I just want to rile up the Calvinists. I’m not sure. Either way, here you go.
Kevin DeYoung put out a call recently for comments on what books have most influenced his readers. After 326 comments, he’s compiled a list of their 10 Most Influential Books. And, since his readership comprises mostly the Young, Restless, and Reformed crowd, it provides an interesting snapshot into which books are influencing this group. (DeYoung recognizes that this is far from a definitive list. But it’s interesting nonetheless.)
- John Piper, Desiring God
- Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology
- J.I. Packer, Knowing God
- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
- John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life
- R.C. Sproul, Holiness of God
- Jerry Bridges, Disciplines of Grace
- C.J. Mahaney, Cross-Centered Life
- Mark Driscoll and Gary Breshears, Doctrine
- (tie). R.C. Sproul, Chosen by God; John Piper, God is the Gospel; Joshua Harris, Dug Down Deep; Francis Chan, Crazy Love; David Platt, Radical
No real surprise to see John Piper, J.I. Packer, and R.C. Sproul well represented. And, it was nice to see that C.S. Lewis is still on the table despite the fact that he comes from a rather different perspective on quite a few issues. But, I was a bit surprised to see Doctrine by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Bresehars on the list since it really hasn’t been out all that long.
Of these books, the only ones that have really been all that influential for me are (in order) Lewis’ Mere Christianity, Packer’s Knowing God, and Piper’s Desiring God, which I read as a seminary student and was (I think) the first Piper book I ever read. I’ve read most of the others, but none of them have really left their mark in the same way.
- Roger Olson argues (lengthily) that Arminianism is legitimately evangelical.
Arminians affirm everything necessary for a fully evangelical soteriology; Calvinists require more. Why?
- Adam Neder has begun a series arguing that Calvin really was human.
I simply want to introduce you to a side of him that you may not know, and hopefully to persuade you that he does, after all, belong to the human race. And I want to do that by focusing on two of his close friendships.
- Brian LePort discusses Gadamer and biblical interpretation.
I have been taught the historical-grammatical approach to biblical hermeneutics both as an undergraduate student and as a graduate student. It has been useful, but it always left me wondering how this approach allows for the Scriptures to be the book of the church rather than merely an open source. It was not until this last semester when I encountered the philosophical hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer that my paradigm was shaken.
- Denny Burk offers a lengthy discussion of the textual problem in Luke 23:34 and why think thinks many experts are wrong when they conclude that Jesus’ prayer “Father, forgive them…” was not original.
- Derek Ouellette describes his first visit to an Eastern Orthodox church.
- Collin Hansen discusses the 10 most-searched-for Bible verses at Bible Gateway, and what he thinks is missing from the list.
- And, apparently it is possible to paralyze someone by giving them a hickey.
- David Fitch commented a few days back on why “leadership” is unbiblical. Yesterday, Bob Hyatt offered his “rebuttal.”
I’ve noticed in the last few years a real bandwagon of anti-leadership sentiment in some circles. I think it started as a push-back to the “CEO” model/mentality in some, and as such, I’m sympathetic. But from there, it has progressed to where we now have many arguing that any concept of leadership in the church should be avoided.
- Kevin Barney asks, Can Biblical Languages Unlock the Secrets of the Universe? (Hint: the answer is no)
I’ve noticed that people who do not read the original languages of the Bible sometimes think of those languages as somehow magical, as the key that can open any mystery and answer any question about the Bible. While reading the original languages is tremendously important and helpful and useful, such a reading by itself does not always magically result in clear and simple answers to controversial religious questions. There are limitations inherent in an appeal to an original language for determining the meaning of a text.
- Andrew Walker addresses The Plight of the Education Bubble.
As the article indicates, countless PhD students spend years dedicated towards research that will perhaps never posit an actual job in their field. Supply is greater than demand as the article suggets. The future seems depressingly bleak then for doctoral students: They are treated as indentured servants by their superiors. They spend meaningful years that could have been put towards savings, retirement, and even more important—nurturing families.
- Roger Olson and Michael Horton have had an interesting exchange on the nature of Arminianism (read the comments). In the process, Olson made a very good comment about fairly representing other perspectives:
I urge you, and all non-Arminians who describe our theology, to describe it as we describe it and then go on to explain why you disagree….Fairness is the issue here.
- Brian LePort discusses The Gospel according to Paul.
- Italian police think that they accidentally found Caligula’s lost tomb while chasing tomb raiders.
- Chris Armstrong points out that you can get a free copy of the 100th issue of Christian History to celebrate its relaunch.
- And, a University of Colorado student decided to pay his $14,000 tuition bill with a suitcase full of $1 bills. (If you’re a student at Western Seminary, please don’t do this. If you’re at a different school, go for it!)
- Roger Olson argues that Arminianism and Calvinism are “incommensurable” systems that should not be viewed as occupying different places on the same spectrum:
On the crucial issues of the nature of God’s election to salvation, the extent of the atonement and whether grace is resistible or irresistible (the three main ideas that divide Calvinism and Arminianism) the divide between any and every version of Calvinism and any and every version of Arminianism is deep and wide. So much so that it is really not possible to put them on the same spectrum.
- Cynthia Nielsen reflects on Foucault’s understanding of “biopower” and its significance for understanding (post)modern society and the (post)modern self.
With the transition from the ancient and medieval monarchical model of absolute power to the modern model of biopower, power is no longer centralized around the person of the king but is distributed in a net-like fashion operating, invading, and permeating the social body far more efficiently and effectively than the previous model.
- A couple of recent posts have discussed the relationship of Calvinism and universalism. Joel Watts comments on the argument that predestination and universalism undermine human responsibility. And Roger Olson argues that Calvinism leads to universalism.
Okay, maybe Calvinism doesn’t lead to universalism inexorably–as if every Calvinist must become a universalist. However, many leading universalist theologians are/were Reformed and believed that their Calvinist concepts of God’s sovereignty eventually compelled them to embrace universalism.
- Lifehacker explains why preparation is so important for a good interview.
- Trevin Wax explains why he didn’t like the theological vision in Voyage of the Dawn Treader. (Don’t read this if you don’t want to hear a few details about how the movie is different from the book.) He also shares a number of links to other reviews.
- And, here’s a list of the 50 Greatest Movie Monologues.
According to a new study from the Barna Group, the recent Calvinist resurgence may not be all that it’s cracked up to be. We’ve heard a lot recently about the “New Calvinism.” According to many, we are seeing a revival of Reformed theology, especially among younger Christians – i.e., the Young, Restless, and Reformed. So, the Barna Group decided to do some research on the issue to determine if there’s any actual data to support the conclusion that we are seeing a revival in Reformed theology. And their conclusion?
….there is no discernible evidence from this research that there is a Reformed shift among U.S. congregation leaders over the last decade. Whatever momentum surrounds Reformed churches and the related leaders, events and associations has not gone much outside traditional boundaries or affected the allegiances of most today’s church leaders.
In their research into the reformed movement in American churches, the Barna Group surveyed Protestant leaders around the country to determine whether they self-identify as Calvinist or Arminian in orientation. And, according to the study, 31% of Protestant pastors identify themselves and their churches as “Calvinist or Reformed” down from 32% in 2000. And, this number has been relatively stable for the last 10 years. So, rather than supporting the idea of a significant resurgence in Reformed theology, these numbers suggest that pastors, at least, self-identify with Reformed theology at the same rate as they did 10 years ago.
And, from the other perspective, 32% self-identify as Welseyan-Arminian, down from 37% in 2000. Representing a slight decline, this number has fluctuated more over the last ten years, though the researchers offer no suggestion as to why this might be the case.
On the basis of this evidence, the researchers conclude that we currently have insufficient evidence to support the conclusion that there is a resurgence of interest in Calvinist theology. They do acknowledge, however, that there may be factors they have not included in their research which might still validate the idea of a Reformed resurgence. Thus, despite the data, Ed Stetzer concludes,
All that to say, I think there IS a resurgence of Calvinism (particularly within evangelicalism), but since it is younger, and a subset of a very large pool of pastors (for polling purposes), it is not evident via the research.
But, contrary to Stetzer’s conclusion, the Barna data shows 34% of young pastors (ages 27 to 45) self-identifying as Wesleyan/Arminian and only 29% as Calvinist/Reformed. Thus, even if there is a renewed interest in Calvinist theology, it is not yet sufficient to offset the continuing support for Wesleyan/Arminian theology among young, Christian leaders.
I also found it very interesting that older, Christian leaders were the least likely to identify with either description, with only 26% identifying as Calvinist/Reformed and 27% as Wesleyan/Arminian. And, indeed, it seems worth noting that although 32% of the total population identified as Calvinist/Reformed, and 31% identified as Wesleyan/Arminian, that still means 37% chose not to identify with either description. If nothing else, this would seem t suggest that we need to recognize more diversity than can be captured with a simple Calvinist/Arminian spectrum.
So, is there a Calvinist resurgence today? I’m still inclined to think so. But, the Barna survey places this resurgence in context, demonstrating that it’s overall influence on the Christian community as a whole is still relatively minimal. Given the relative prominence of many New Calvinist leaders, that does not mean the movement is insignificant, only that it’s overall impact has yet to be determined.
Daniel Kirk commented today on the recent Gospel Coalition roundtable discussion of the New Calvinism, which we discussed here. In his post, Calvinism as “The Big Tent,” Kirk made an interesting point about Calvinism and the state of pauline studies today.
I do find it significant that few of the most important Paul scholars in our day and age are Calvinists in the sense outlined in the video. Richard Hays and Mike Gorman are Methodists. N. T. Wright is an Anglican with Reformed roots but with quite a different modern-day expression. John Barclay, Lou Martyn, Bruce Longenecker, Douglas Campbell… there’s not much serious Calvinism coming out of careful reading of Paul–and not much complementarianism either.
What do you think? Is it true that the best Paul scholars today are mostly non-Calvinist and egalitarian? If not, how would you respond to Kirk? Is he being overly selective in the people that he cites as being the “best” among the pauline scholars? Or, if you think he’s right, why do you think that this is the case? Do you just agree with Kirk that a careful reading of the text should eventually lead someone in this direction? Or, do you have another explanation entirely? Could it be that certain segments of the church are doing a better job in pauline studies today than those that are traditionally Calvinist? (Personally, I think it’s because the Illuminati control the publishing houses and have a secret conspiracy to rid the world of Calvinist pauline studies.)
- NYT has an interesting article on print vs. digital textbooks and why our technologically advanced students still prefer paper textbooks. HT
They text their friends all day long. At night, they do research for their term papers on laptops and commune with their parents on Skype. But as they walk the paths of Hamilton College, a poster-perfect liberal arts school in this upstate village, students are still hauling around bulky, old-fashioned textbooks — and loving it.
- Out of Ur has some great reflections on the recently concluded Lausanne Congress. Commenting on the many comments about some person or group feeling underrepresented at the congress, the author says:
Though I shared some of the frustrations, I came to a place on day five, when I finally realized: We all feel marginalized in some way. That’s the human condition. Extend grace. Move on. At the end of the day, it’s not about you or me. In the church and in ministry, we will all encounter moments when we feel marginalized and unintentionally marginalize others, but we must learning to work and serve together without resorting to the “It’s not fair!” refrain that can divide and undermine our reputation to the world around us. We must learn to display what it means to madly love God and one another in spite of our sense of inequality.
- Roger Olson answers the question, “What is an evangelical theologian?” offering his usual emphasis on evangelicalism as a sociological movement rather than some particular set of theological commitments.
Thus, my answer to whether Brian McLaren is an evangelical theologian is: “Of course he is. What else would he be?” Brian’s whole shtick (I don’t mean that in any demeaning way) is only of interest to evangelicals. His publishers are mostly evangelical publishers. He speaks mostly in evangelical institutions. He pastors an evangelical church. To a very large extent he has no constituency outside of evangelicalism. What does it even mean to declare him “not an evangelical theologian?”
- Tim Challies has a nice review of James K. A. Smith’s Letters to a Young Calvinist: An Invitation to the Reformed Community.
As I look back on this book I see both strengths and weaknesses. The epistolary form is a wonderful choice. The tone is humble and helpful. The majority of what Smith teaches lines up well with what I believe. But as a Baptist I had to disagree with, well, a good portion of it. And looking at the endorsements, I can see that others disagreed with him as well. Two of the book’s endorsers, Tullian Tchividjian and Michael Horton offer caveats within their blurbs (Tchividjian: “No one will agree with everything here, but what I appreciate…” Horton: “Most of the time I cheered ‘Amen!’ as I read these letters, but even when I disagreed, I appreciated…”). In fact, conspicuous by their absence from the list of endorsers are any of the Baptist leaders of this New Calvinism.
- Brian LePort has started a very interesting discussion on how cultural context impacts and shapes theological discourse.
Is Buddha really any worse than Aristotle? Why shouldn’t a theologian from Korea or Taiwan seek to use Buddha or Confucius where the language is suitable and doesn’t contradict the gospel? In this case Moore’s criticism may be spot on. I don’t know. But I do know that we need to realize our own hybridity is as much a concern as someone else’s.
- Daniel Kirk discusses “high” and “low” Christologies in the NT, arguing that we need to appreciate the “low” christological perspective of the Gospel writers.
And, much if not most of the New Testament, develops its theology of Jesus within a framework of low Christology. Low versus high Christology is one of the points of genuine theological diversity in the New Testament, with the Synoptic Gospels in particular (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) telling stories of Jesus as a specially empowered man whom they do not simultaneously depict as God incarnate.
- Richard Beck has an interesting discussion on a theology of monsters.
The monsters of the undead embody our fears of death. In agrarian eras we confronted death more directly. Nowadays we have to wait for the dead to come to our door once a year at Halloween. Or we can go to zombie movies. Either way, we feel a need to use monsters to confront our bodies, their gooshy vulnerabilities, and their ultimate demise. Monsters are existential.
- On a similar note, John Byron points out an important new scholarly work for understanding the Matthean tradition – a webcomic called Zombie Jesus. How is it that no one has written on this vital subject before?
The comic will tell the story of the 48 hours following the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, in which a horde of zombies attack Jerusalem in search of the messiah’s body.
- William Black explains why he thinks that predestination just doesn’t seem to work.
Predestination, as normally taught by all the venerable reformed divines, both past and present, is unstable and unhelpful. In the past, I and everybody else that I have read got around this by employing the very useful term ‘mystery’ to cover the internal contradictions that rip the doctrine apart.
- Michael Hyatt has an interview with Andy Stanley and is giving away 100 copies of his new book The Grace of God.
The church, or I should say, church people, must quit adding the word “but” to the end of our sentences about grace. Grace plus is no longer grace. Grace minus is no longer grace. We are afraid people will abuse grace if presented in its purest form. We need not fear that, we should assume that. Religious people crucified grace personified. Of course grace will be abused. But grace is a powerful dynamic. Grace wins out in the end. It is not our responsibility to qualify it. It is our responsibility to proclaim it and model it.
- And in the sad news of the day, Paul, the World Cup predicting octopus, died today at the ripe old age of 2 1/2.