Wednesday, 27 January 2010


One of my favourite blogs, frequently linked in the sidebar here, is Matt Perman's What's best next. It's great for organized people, and even better for disorganized people like me, especially at this 'getting organized' time of year. Matt is senior director of strategy at Desiring God ministries (led by John Piper), so when he talks about organization, you know it is going to be worth sitting up and taking notice.

A couple of days ago he blogged Studs Terkel's 1972 book Work, including this quote:

Work is about daily meaning as well as daily bread. For recognition as well as cash; for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying. We have a right to ask of work that it include meaning, recognition, astonishment, and life.

I commented on the post that Terkel's view was attractive but idolatrous, expecting from work what we ought rather expect from God. Here's my elaboration on the notion that work (in this world) ought to be meaningful or astonishing, as opposed to meaningless and boring:

To work and find satisfaction is a gift of God. But work is afflicted with meaninglessness and boredom, unavoidably so. This problem will be fixed in the new creation and not before.

Those who can find satisfaction in work should thank God for his unexpected kindness, neither taking it for granted nor treating it as a right.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Evangelicals who undercut hell?

Al Mohler gives a portrait of what it looks like:

“I regret to tell you that the doctrine of hell is taught in the Bible. I believe it. I believe it because it is revealed in the Bible. It is not up for renegotiation. We just have to receive it and believe it. I do believe it. I wish it could be otherwise but it is not.”

Statements like this reveal a very great deal. The authority of the Bible is clearly affirmed. The speaker affirms what the Bible reveals and rejects accommodation. So far, so good. The problem is in how the affirmation is introduced and explained. In an apologetic gesture, the doctrine is essentially lamented.

What does this say about God? What does this imply about God’s truth? Can a truth clearly revealed in the Bible be anything less than good for us?

Yes, I linked this essay before but it repays another look. Let's pray and preach the reality of hell with sober joy in God's righteousness.

Firing up for 2010

Here's a post I wrote that reminds me why I keep doing what I'm doing, namely, telling people at the campus I'm working at something they don't want to hear.

Andrew Moody made this comment on the post:

the major problem with teens is that they are stuffed full of guilt feelings over stuff that is either secondary (pleasing parents, relationships with friends) or just stupid (weight-issues, popularity). ISTM that the trick is to preach a gospel that resists the gospel of the devil (=“you are worthless”) and replaces it with the gospel of Christ (=“you are incredibly valuable - AND a sinner in utter need of redemption”).

Thanks Andrew for the reminder!

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Racism and Indians

A fine letter in today's SMH, and a reminder to pray for Christians in India:

I was born in India and still love that country, but its attitude is puzzling (''India could warn students to avoid Australia'', January 21).

Indians in a particular minority group are regularly beaten up in their own country without any furore in the media. In fact, last year Indian churchgoers suffered three violent attacks a week.

December was a particularly bad time for Indian Christians and there is a real sense of fear among this minority group in India.

This is a very good time for the media in India to look back and remember the response of the Australian missionary Gladys Staines to the Indian nation after her husband, Graham, and their two young sons were burnt alive by extremist Indians on January 22, 1999.

Graham's sacrificial work among India's poorest, especially those with leprosy, and Gladys's outstanding example of forgiveness after the loss of her husband and sons stand for all time as a monument to tolerance and forgiveness between nations.

India, please remember.

I don't recall our then prime minister asking for a guarantee that all Australians would be protected or tourism to India would cease. We've just seen the opposite of this with the Sydney Festival highlighting Indian culture and cuisine.

Irene Voysey, Saratoga

The public reporting of racism against Indians in Australia has been disappointing. It's not that there is no racism, because at heart all people are racist. It's rather that there has been so little analysis of a broader, wider picture.

This letter brings in two quite different dimensions. One is that Christians in India are currently living in fear of attack by other Indians, and the matter goes unremarked. The other is that Australian Christians, under attack, have shown grace, mercy and forgiveness.

Mugged by ultrasound

Hern and Harris chose to stay in the abortion business; one of the first doctors to change his allegiance was Paul Jarrett, who quit after only 23 abortions. His turning point came in 1974, when he performed an abortion on a fetus at 14 weeks’ gestation: “As I brought out the rib cage, I looked and saw a tiny, beating heart,” he would recall. “And when I found the head of the baby, I looked squarely in the face of another human being—a human being that I just killed.”

From an article by David Daleiden and John A. Shields.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Reducing hell

Al Mohler writes about hell and how it slowly disappears:

First, a doctrine simply falls from mention. Over time, it is simply never discussed or presented from the pulpit. Most congregants do not even miss the mention of the doctrine. Those who do become fewer over time. The doctrine is not so much denied as ignored and kept at a distance. Yes, it is admitted, that doctrine has been believed by Christians, but it is no longer a necessary matter of emphasis.

Actually I think there is a prior step, which is for some to begin to complain that we do too much preaching about it, and do so in excessive and lurid and manipulative terms. It's the beginning of the downgrade.

Beware 'evangelical' theologians

Carl Trueman tells it like it is:

Finally, too few evangelical academics seem to have much ambition. Perhaps this sounds strange: the desire to hold a tenured university position, to publish with certain presses, to speak at certain scholarly conferences, to be in conversation with the movers and shakers of the guild—these seem like ambitions that are all too common. Yet true ambition, true Christian ambition, is surely based in and directed towards the upbuilding of the church, towards serving the people of God, and this is where evangelical academics often fail so signally. The impact evangelical scholars have had on the academy is, by and large, paltry, and often (as noted) confined to those areas where their contributions have been negligibly evangelical. Had the same time and energy been devoted to the building up of the saints, imagine how the church might have been transformed.

The whole article, from the 9 Marks blog, is here.

Whenever I pray for my favourite theological college, I ask God that he would cause the repentance or the removal of theologians and lecturers who are being tempted in this direction.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Seen so far

Rainbow lorikeets.

Despondency, but not without hope!

Luke's gospel.
Michael Palin's diaries.
police procedurals.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Christians may call God 'Allah'

This has upset some people in Malaysia. Read the SMH report on the High Court case here.

We might pray that Christians in that country would boldly teach that the Lord Jesus is the only true Allah.

Monday, 4 January 2010

OK so we're off to the S Coast

of NSW, during which time we will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, DV, and I will read lots including Luke's gospel, in Greek where possible and in ESV where not, a biography of Don Carson's dad Tom, the second instalment of Michael Palin's diaries, and who knows what else. Apart from spending time with the most beautiful wife in the world and the 3 most delightful girls under the age of 12.

For all you members of Cumbo ECU reading this, don't forget that the person who has read Luke's gospel 10 times by the time kick-on camp happens (Feb 19-21) gets a gold star.

And if you are not in Cumbo ECU, but still want the gold star, then befriend me on facebook and read Luke's gospel 10 times between now and Feb 18 (my birthday by the way) and we'll see what we can do.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Making resolutions for the new year? Bah! Humbug!

Can't stand 'em. Never make 'em. But this is the time of the year when all sorts of people come out in favour of the idea.

Over on the most excellent Pyromaniacs blog, Dan Phillips appeals to Proverbs 16:1 and Proverbs 16:9 to argue that God lays on us the duty to plan ahead.

The plans of the heart belong to man,
but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. (Prov 16:1)

The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps. (Prov 16:9)

But I wouldn't have thought that either verse places any imperative on us to make plans. Yes, both proverbs observe that we make plans; that can't be denied and is a natural and inescapable function of being human. But whether this is a good, bad or indifferent thing is not stated anywhere in either proverb—only (in the second half of each verse) that God causes to happen whatever he wants to happen anyway.

Both verses actually seem, if anything, somewhat discouraging of the making of grand plans. So I'm not yet persuaded away from my view that making resolutions are anything more than a slightly misleading waste of time.

And when I turn to the New Testament and read these words in James 4:13-17:

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

why then, I'm simply strengthened in my resolve never to have anything to do with making resolutions ever again.

US security

In the wake of that guy who tried to blow up his underpants on Flight 253, a former CIA intelligence operative writes about how terrorist tip-offs are processed within the CIA:

Ultimately, there are simply so many managers and administrators, in so many separate and loosely organized chains of command, that acquiring the intelligence is a stroke of luck, and getting it to where it needs to go, on time, is almost impossible.

Maureen Dowd complains:

We seemed to still be behind the curve and reactive, patting down grannies and 5-year-olds, confiscating snow globes and lip glosses.

Instead of modernity, we have airports where security is so retro that taking away pillows and blankies and bathroom breaks counts as a great leap forward.

If we can’t catch a Nigerian with a powerful explosive powder in his oddly feminine-looking underpants and a syringe full of acid, a man whose own father had alerted the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, a traveler whose ticket was paid for in cash and who didn’t check bags, whose visa renewal had been denied by the British, who had studied Arabic in Al Qaeda sanctuary Yemen, whose name was on a counterterrorism watch list, who can we catch?

We are headed toward the moment when screeners will watch watch-listers sashay through while we have to come to the airport in hospital gowns, flapping open in the back.

Thanks to Justin Taylor for both links.