Monday, October 31, 2005

Land of the Free, Home of the Slave

America is known as the land of free. Too often this freedom, which is a staple of Americanism, is confused with Christianity. What you get is such cases is the understanding of Christianity that is declared by the likes of Cheryl Swoopes. You see, she believes in America that she has the right to be free as a lesbian. In this, she is right. However, she also believes that in Christ she has the right to be free as a lesbian. In this, she is wrong. You see, freedom in American is often a bondservant of sin. Yet, freedom in the Kingdom of God is always a bondservant to Jesus Christ. What is the difference between biblical freedom and Swoopes' freedom? Here's an illustration that aptly describes it:

Two women may jump from an airplane and experience the thrilling freedom of freefalling. But there is a difference: one is encumbered by a parachute on her back, the other is free from this burden. Which person is most free? The one without the parachute feels free, even freer, since she does not feel the constraints of the parachute straps. But she is not truly free. She is in bondage to the force of gravity and to the deception that all is well because she feels unencumbered. This false sense of freedom is in fact bondage to calamity which is sure to happen after a fleeting moment of pleasure. (John Piper, What is the Difference)

Ms. Swoopes should serve as a sobering reminder to all of us, that sin is deceitful. We are all prone to exchange the truth of God for a lie, and believe that true freedom is the throwing off of the restraints of God's law. Yet it is God's law that graciously serves as our comfort and security from the freefall of sin. We can only pray that Ms. Swoopes would come to realize her awful predicament and repent and cry out for God's mercy and forgiveness before she hits the ground.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Coming Out in Dishonor

Cheryl Swoopes is the greatest women's basketball player in the world. She is the unquestionable star of the WNBA, a three-time MVP, three-time Olympic Gold Medalist, and leader of the four-time championship team Houston Comets. But today, she is not known for her exploits on the court as much as she is known for her escapades off the court. You see, she has decided that it is time to "come out of the closet" and make it public knowledge that she is a lesbian. According to Ms. Swoopes, she is tired and desires to be free:

But I'm tired of being miserable. Not being free to be who I am, not being OK with other people knowing who I am -- it has been miserable. And it hurts. I'm a very affectionate person. Going out to the movies or dinner, seeing so-called normal couples show affection in public and knowing that I can't, that hurts. It's frustrating to keep everything inside and not be who I want to be. I'm sure life is not going to be easier for me just because I'm coming out. But at least I'll be free.

Surely it is disturbing that people can be so casual about sin and our society would applaud her for what they would call "her courage." Yet to me the most disturbing aspect Ms. Swoopes declaration is the effect it had and will have upon her mother. Interestingly, according to Ms. Swoopes, her and her mother are Christians:

I'm content with who I am and who I'm with. Whether people think that's right, whether they think it's wrong, I don't care. We shouldn't and can't judge each other. I am a Christian, and my biggest dilemma is when people start throwing in the whole religion thing: you're going to hell for this or that. I think that's the hardest thing for my mom to deal with, too. She's into the Bible and church, and I'm concerned about how she's going to deal with her church friends. What are they going to say? What are they going to do? Five years ago, when I told my mom I'm gay, her reaction wasn't any different than I expected. She just said, "I figured." I don't know exactly what that meant, but I could see the hurt and disappointment.
"Why?" she asked. "What did I do wrong?" I told her she didn't do anything wrong. This is who I am, and it's okay. I love my mom to death. I do. And I would never, ever, ever want to do anything to hurt her. I think she knows that.

Ms. Swoopes says she is a Christian. Apparently she has forgotten that she is responsible to bring honor to her mother. As the Bible so plainly says: "Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice" (Prov. 23:25). There is not much rejoicing in the heart of Cheryl's mom today. And why should there be. Her daughter has decided that her own happiness and freedom is more important that the honor and joy of her mother. Swoopes' coming out is not an expression of freedom. It is an expression of dishonor.

You can read the entire, disturbing article at "Outside the Arc."

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Church of the Mighty Dollar

Do you remember the song, "What a mighty dollar we serve...What a mighty dollar we serve..."? Well, you may not remember it exactly that way. But it appears that that is the rendition that thousands and thousands around the world are beginning to sing. You can read the words of the Dollar man, and judge for yourself in the article that appeared in BusinessWeek Online entitled: Church of the Mighty Dollar.

Pimps in the Pulpits?

Melvin Jones seems to think so. You can read is satirical yet insightful and uncompromising thoughts at Bro. Jones holds no punches. He has courage. I like courageous Christians.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Via Negativa (way of negation)

The current issue of TableTalk Magazine takes the via negativa approach to understanding Reformed Theology. The issue is entitled "No Strings Attached: What Reformed Theology is Not." In it you will find the following articles:

Burk Parsons (editor): "Why Not?"
RC Sproul: "The Fine Points of Calvinism"
Michael Horton: "Reformed Theology vs. Hyper-Calvinism"
D. James Kennedy: "Turning the World Right Side Up"
Phillip Graham Ryken: "Hearts Aflame: Reformed Piety"
(By the way, is it a prerequisite for the pastorate at Tenth Presbyterian Church that you use your middle name i.e. Donald Grey Barnhouse, James Montgomery Boice, Phillip Graham Ryken?)
Ken Jones: "Truly Reformed"
RC Sproul Jr.: "God in the Hands"
R. Albert Mohler: "Reforming Our Mission"

This is an excellent issue. If you have never subscribed to TableTalk, now is the time. If you have never received an issue of TableTalk, you can receive a free copy by calling 1-800-435-4343. This would be a good one to get.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Looking for Grimke?

Believe it or not, I am looking for a book. In 1970 Henry J. Ferry wrote his dissertation at Yale University entitled, "Francis James Grimke: Portrait of a Black Puritan." I have been trying to track down this dissertation for some time. Do you have any ideas?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Movie is not The Gospel

Apparently, the buzz around town is how well the movie The Gospel did over its opening weekend. I, myself, have not seen it. However, I have had several friends, including my wife, who have seen it and have only confirmed what I knew would be the story. Having read several reviews and watched the trailers, the movie is as billed, "sound and fury signifying nothing. "The Gospel" is a movie that tragically fails to live up to its name. It is called "the gospel" but you are left wondering what the gospel is. Then again, it does capture the essence of most churches today. When you attend churches reminiscent of the one portrayed in the movie, you leave those places wondering the same thing, "What is the gospel?" In light of this, I found the following review in the Atlanta Journal Constitution most revealing:
Shot on location in Atlanta, "The Gospel" is a preachy soap opera about Saturday night and Sunday morning. The movie's melodramatic musings about the line between the secular and the sacred are set to a soul-stirring soundtrack produced by contemporary gospel superstar Kirk Franklin and featuring performances by the likes of Donnie McClurkin, Yolanda Adams and Delores "Mom" Winans.
That's its greatest appeal, even for those who've never set foot inside an African-American church. But in his retelling of the story of the prodigal son, writer-director Rob Hardy ("Trois," "Pandora's Box") never gets to anything like the depths of the gospel moans and shouts he celebrates. In fact, when the music isn't pounding in sanctified syncopation, the look and the dialogue of "The Gospel" are a lot like what you might see and hear on daytime TV....Hardy has plenty of opportunities to examine the foibles of the current crop of theatrical "prosperity" preachers. But that's clearly not his purpose, as time and again he goes for easier, cliched images --- juxtaposing liquor bottles and leather-bound Bibles, hip-hop bump-and-grind and dancing in the spirit. And with all that, Hardy's sure to please his target audience, even if he's only preaching to the choir.
The key phrase in the review is "a preachy soap opera." The dialogue is trite, predictable, and unimpressive. This movie is nothing more than the unfortunate demonstration of what most of our churches have become, a frolic of entertaining, choreographed, human-centered performances. This movie is a glorified series of videos with the purpose of selling a sound track. If you like modern gospel music, you may overlook the poor theatrical elements and enjoy the video. If you are interested in a movie that delivers what this one promises, that is "the gospel," you will be sorely disappointed. But something tells me that most people go to this movie with the same hope they go to church every Sunday, to be entertained. More's to pity.

Theology in Jazz

I first became aware of the term "jazz theology" when I read Carl Ellis' book Beyond Liberation (now titled "Free At Last"). I found it provocative and enlightening (the way good jazz should be) as Carl distinquished theological methodologies along classical and jazz musical motifs. I can't go into a full explanation of Carl's analysis, for that you will need to read the book, which I recommend you do. However, I have recently learned and am glad to see that there is a brother online who is seeking to implement jazz, sort of an improvisational, approach to theology. He is blogging at Theomoments: Reflections of a Jazz Theologian. Carl would be proud. I am interested. Perhaps you will be too. I do warn you. Sometime jazz takes some listening to in order to appreciate. I'm listening JazzTheo. Let's listen and learn together.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Golfing Goddess

Recently I read an article in Golf Digest in which the author made reference to God as "she." I am pretty sure that most people who read Golf Digest never thought twice about it. The author's mailbox may be filled with many responses to his article, but few if any will make mention of his intentional reference to this goddess. However, it immediately caused me to pause and want to respond. I think I may send this small note to the editor:

I find it odd
those who refer to God
using the pronoun "she",
when it comes to Satan,
whom all are hatin',
they refer to him as "he."

Friday, October 07, 2005

Bible Answer Man

I have a secret to tell. Believe it or not I often get help with my answers and understanding to biblical and theological questions. Yeah, I know, most of you thought that I just came up with answers on my own through the intimate relationship I have with Holy Spirit and my vast knowledge of the Bible and Theology :-). Well, I hate to disappoint, but the brother puts on his pants one leg at a time, just like you. Therefore, I have no aversion to informing you of one of my favorite resources for biblical and theological answers, Ra McLaughlin. Ra is a friend and former classmate at RTS. He currently serves as Director of Curriculum and Webmaster for Third Millennium Ministries. I consider Ra to be one the finest, most acute, young theological minds of our time. I have benefitted greatly from his theological and biblical insight. His section on the Third Millennium website is called QandA Knowledgebase. If you have a question about theology, the Bible, or Christian living in general, you may want to see if Ra has answered it in his thorough and gracious way. If you are like me (strong-willed, and not easily convinced), you may not always agree with him, but if you are like me (reformed and reforming) you will find yourself agreeing far more often then not. By the way, lets keep this between you and me. I do have a reputation to uphold you know.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Sinclair Online

Until Sinclair is available weekly from the pulpit of First Presbyterian Church, you can listen to one of his fourteen messages at Do yourself a favor and listen to one of the best preachers going today.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Pastor's Theologian

The combination of pastor/theologian is rare these days. Yeah, I know many fancy themselves in that mold. But a true theologian in the theologically astute category who is also a passionate and compassionate pastor is rare. Nevertheless, there are those who do fulfill this lofty office and we are all the more grateful for it. One such man is Dr. Sinclair Ferguson. I consider Sinclair Ferguson a friend, but even more I know him as a teacher, having sat in class under his brilliant handling of scripture and theological issues. Then we knew him as the Pastor's Professor/Theologian. Today, I am pleased to hear that he is going back to what I believe is his first love, the pastorate. For the last few years he has been a professor of theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Dallas TX. Now apparently the Pastor's Theologian is going to be a pastor once again. Sinclair Ferguson to First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, SC is how the headline at Reformation 21 reads. Selfishly, I can't wait to be able to listen online weekly to sermons by Sinclair. I may even have to make a trip to Columbia every now and then.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Feminine Mistake

The so-called Feminine Mystique has given way to The Feminine Mistake. This is the contention of Mary Kassian in her book by the same name. Nancy Leigh DeMoss recently interviewed Mary Kassian and they shared insights from Mary's book. The show was appropriately entitled, "An Undelivered Promise." Human beings are insatiable in our desire to supplant the law and plan of God. Yet, He who created all things knows best how those things should be.