Logic is Divine

If an argument is indeed valid, its validity holds for all times and all places. That is, its validity is omnipresent (in all places) and eternal (for all times).

Vern Poythress, Logic: A God-Centered Approach to the Foundation of Western Thought

He goes on to observe that the divine attributes of immutability, spirituality, truthfulness, transcendence, immanence, and omnipotence also apply to logical conclusions. And just for fun, logic is impossible without rationality and language which makes it personal as well.

In the end, there is no logic without the Son of God. Great job, Vern.

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African Funeral Music

On a chilly morning yesterday, I went to a funeral for the father of a pastor who has been my longest standing African friend. This man was converted while the remainder of his extended family have shown no interest in the gospel or even organized religion past the basic commitment and fears inherent in African traditional culture. As is customary at parties and other social events, the “services” of a DJ were procured for him to play 20-30 second clips of songs between speakers for the funeral as well as music before and after. The style of choice was a variety of pop music with an evident—sometimes driving—beat and a general taste that could put it in the subcategory of “gospel” music.

Several of the songs featured religious words and god talk, but one in particular was a chanting narration of the fiery furnace from Daniel 3. This track included noticeable syncopation underneath the speaker’s rhythmic voice bouncing along with the cadence.

I pondered this artistic expression as I sat in the tent yesterday morning. Why did the DJ choose this song? Would anyone who did not believe in Jehovah be offended? Would offense be taken if we changed the words with a sermon by Spurgeon while the music remained the same? Was anyone listening to the words? Or the music? If we kept the words the same and changed the musical style to something in the Western classical tradition, would that song have reached the air waves?

With the same certainty that we knew it was a cold morning, we also knew what the song was meant to communicate because it was sending a clear message. Not many people in the audience could probably have been skilled enough to interpret the message of the song in words, but that doesn’t change the fact that the DJ chose the music he did because of the messages it sent. He rejected some CD’s and some tracks for that occasion because he recognized what everyone except some highly educated evangelicals knows: Musical styles communicates. They are not neutral, valueless, indiscriminate pieces of art. No, they carry values that people immediately identify like a South African black can tell if a white still harbors apartheid in his heart.

Would the DJ have been satisfied; would the crowd have been pleased; would the non-Christian family paying for these services have recommended his work; if the DJ had played the same words set to Handel’s “Water Music”? In case there are any credentialed evangelicals reading this, No to all those questions. Neither would the DJ have passed over any of his choice tracks if they still had the same bounce, but the words were now changed to something like this stanza from Watts:

My crimes, though great, can not surpass
The power and glory of thy grace:
Great God, thy nature hath no bound;
So let thy pardoning love be found.

In a word, propositions had nothing to do with the music selections at the funeral, and they don’t have much to do with any of our music selections. You can change the words, leave the words out, or write the words on a screen, but what you can’t do without a big discussion is change the style of the music. Because, after all, that’s the dominant message of the song, and we all know that.

The battle comes on two fronts then. First, we must honestly admit that the issue at hand is the message of the art form, not the message of the lyrics sometimes arbitrarily attached to the music. (Just compare the words and music for the revivalistic hymn “Coming Again.”) This should not be a difficult first step since there are so many lines of reasoning that can lead to it. The real difficulty should be the second front which is grappling with how to determine the meaning of a musical form by studying Scripture, music history and theory, relevant sections of philosophy, and culture. For some reason though, we can’t get to the second front.

Is one side afraid of looking carefully at the message of artistic forms? Probably so, because studying those fields would not produce a commodious environment for either pop culture or multiculturalism—the Balrog and Saruman of the 21st century.

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Expect Our Children to Know the Lord

After Bible class today, Colin (age 5) told me with fear that he wants to be a Christian.

Today we learned two questions:
Q 58: Can you be saved if you have no desire to follow Jesus?
A: A believer must be willing to follow Jesus Christ. Luke 9:23

Q 59: How should you act before you are saved?
A: Before I am saved, I must strive to enter in at the narrow gate. Luke 13:24

I drew a picture of a path going to Heaven with a gate in the shape of a cross on the road. Before the gate is another road leading to Hell. I had put numbers on the road marking four positions:
1. On the road from the city of destruction, but not near the narrow gate;
2. Very near the narrow gate (the Cross) at the junction of the broad road leading to Hell;
3. Just inside the narrow gate and past the broad road;
4. Further down the road past the gate and leading to Heaven.

Colin said he was at position #2 just outside the gate. Then Caleb, Colin, and I prayed that we would all enter the gate. After prayer, Colin came to me in tears saying he really wants to enter the narrow gate. He then asked God for a new heart and for strength to love and follow Jesus.

“We will receive none who fail to yield evidence of the new birth, however old they may be; but we will shut out no believers, however young they may be. God forbid that we should condemn our cautious brethren, but at the same time we wish their caution would show itself where it is required. Jesus will not be dishonored by children: we have far more cause to fear the adults.” Spurgeon

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The Pastor Who Preached in Boxer Shorts

A parable for all those missional types

Once upon a timeUntitled1 there was a pastor of a church somewhere just above smallish. Living and preaching outside the city of Coolumbus for over a decade had given him plenty of time to adjust to life and culture in this growing metropolitan area. Restaurants sported fair-trade ingredients and interior design patterns without straight lines. In a century where “new” was the greatest virtue, Coolumbus society around him was desperately scrabbling for the latest of everything—fashions, music, and sensibilities. And if they weren’t winning the race, they were certainly holding a steady pace somewhere near the front.

Scott Keruso really wanted to make a difference. His sermons could be downloaded as well as live-streamed; the praise band was fresh and well-practiced, and only mildly edgy; the church talked a lot about social justice; the youth group took an annual mission trip to drill a well for some needy village in a third-world setting. What more could they do to reach out to their community? How could they break out of this 150-200 attendance barrier? How could the church people experience God in a fresher, deeper way?

These questions returned so often to the fervent pastor that his closest friends knew he was both sincere and focused. But sincerity wasn’t enough. Was he really gifted? If we could have seen into his heart, we would have seen that he thought he was—at least on most days. And even though he could hold his own in a discussion about God’s sovereignty, he also knew the lines about man’s efforts. Church growth commonly requires a pastor to do something. Haven’t thoughtful, clever men always found ways to—in the metaphor of one popular author—surf the latest wave that the Holy Spirit brought along?

But his generation was relational. They wanted conversations around a table, not superiors lecturing inferiors. He had heard more than once that since the Bible says we are all sinners, then doesn’t that include the pastor? And the spate of pastors who had fallen morally confirmed that, at heart, we are all weak, frail sinners.

In deference to these concerns, Pastor Keruso (or should we just say, Scott?) had tried to adjust some of the church services to have a more friendly, family feel while still maintaining high standards for professionalism.

From the beginning of his ministry, Scott’s sport coat only worked one day a week, and the people followed suit. Or, possibly, he followed them. Either way, he eventually reduced his Wednesday night uniform because as he reminded his wife, “Where does the Bible say that we have to wear silk sashes around our necks?”

Most of his people brought devices to the services. Technology accented the services, and the church’s Facebook pages were active throughout the week. More than once, a picture surfaced and was reposted of the pastor in shorts on vacation or his day off. He wasn’t bothered for the same reasons that you or I wouldn’t be bothered. He was just a man living with his wife and kids. In fact, he liked the rapport that his online banter and presence built between him and his people.

In time, they were coming to view him as a real person, a friend.

He wasn’t a two-book-per-week man, but he tried to read. And in reading, he frequently ran across the word “missional.” Before long, that term began to fit in his repertoire like an old tool. Christ was missional when he wore Jewish and Hellenistic clothing. Paul was missional when he went to a new city. And now God had called Scott to Coolumbus in 2014. It was his mission. He had to relate to these people, know these people, and be like these people.

Of course, he would never break a Biblical command to be missional, but to be like the people was to obey Biblical commands like loving your neighbor.

So it was, that the mix-up happened. The small group meeting was supposed to be on Tuesday night at the Chandler’s house. Or so Scott thought. But somehow he had missed the recent buzz on FB that moved the Bible study to the pastor’s home. He had been planning to attend another small group that met on Thursday, and so he and his wife Ashlyn, were enjoying a movie that evening at 6:45 when the bell rang.

Having just showered after dinner, he wore a white undershirt and a pair of sleeping pants. When the door opened to reveal the first four participants for the cell group, he had a fast decision to make: How can I get changed before they see me? “Wait,” his inner voice spoke. “This is who you are. This is what you do. You worked all day like they did, and now you are relaxing. You know the Bible cares more about the heart than the externals, right?”

Scott’s inner debate didn’t matter because two of the church members had already seen and greeted him from the door. “Oh, well.” He thought as he made space for an unexpected Bible study in his living room.

Everything went smoothly that evening, and Scott felt like they could really relate to him. New sensations of being raw and open came to him. This was Pastor Unedited.

“Ashlyn, we need more people to open up,” Scott said later that night. “Our people—Christians in general—need to stop hiding behind fake masks, and let people see them for who they really are.”

Ashlyn who had some bad experiences with hypocrisy growing up agreed as Scott thought she would, “I have thought that for a long time. But everything about us, like, how we are at church just closes that kind of spirit of openness.”

“Well, we need more of it.” And they both agreed again. “What do you think about this idea?” Scott asked. “When am I most relaxed, open, and unguarded?”

Ashlyn didn’t need long to reply, “In the evenings with the family, on your day off, or maybe on vacation.”

“And aren’t those good dynamics to have in a church? Wouldn’t you like to be in a meeting of Christians like that?”

“Sure,” she said.

“Then,” Scott prepared as he thought out his conclusion, “at our next evening church service, I am going to lead the people by example. Whatever I wear the week before on my day off at that time, I am going to wear to church that evening.”

A little pushback followed, but eventually the pastor, overcome by missional desire, committed to this new exercise.

The following Sunday night as he prepared for the evening service, he realized that last week on his day off, he and his boy had gone biking. Owing to the mud, that evening he was dressed in boxer shorts and a sweatshirt. How could he keep his commitment? An internal debate followed 45 minutes before he had to leave for church.

“I’ll just wear jeans a sweatshirt to church. People will still see that I am trying to relate to them.” Thus said the first voice.

But another voice was there, “Scott, what are you trying to hide? You really are trapped.”

“Trapped?” shot back the first voice.

“Isn’t it obvious? You made a commitment to do a good thing: be real to your people. And now that it comes time to pay, you are afraid that they will laugh. This is just the fear of man. And on top of that you made a promise to God. Isn’t there a verse in Ecclesiastes about that?” The second voice spoke with authority and Bible.

“But it’s not right to go to church—to preach—in boxer shorts!” the first voice rejoined.

“You really are a case, aren’t you? Saved by faith, justified freely, and now bound to the law. Afraid to let people see that you really are just a mere man. Now you are adding pride to your lack of courage. How many sins can this simple matter unearth in your heart? There really is no discussion: You vowed before God. There is no verse in the Bible that says you cannot preach in boxer shorts, and yet you feel guilty about it. Bound, bound, bound by the law.”

The debate went on, but, as our story goes, the hero decided to bear the shame and bare his legs in the pulpit that evening. Pastor Keruso even went further, and preached about the spiritual victory that he had gained that day over his own pride. After all, the Bible doesn’t forbid preaching in boxer shorts.

An elderly man in the service, a Mr. Rich Baxter, wrote a letter to the pastor expressing his shock at seeing someone in his underwear speak purportedly as the mouthpiece of God, but this was laughed off in the church staff meeting as someone who needs to focus on the gospel. “The older generation doesn’t understand much about grace.” The senior pastor said shaking his head.

The next week, Scott got a tattoo, arranged a rapper for Sunday worship, and showed Noah the Movie to the church on Sunday night because there’s no verse for these either.

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The 20th Century Artistic Famine

I have a rule that I will never buy paintings that I could have painted better myself. That rules out virtually all modern art. The last great painter in my view was John Singer Sargent, who died in 1925. After that, the 20th century was a dismal century in the history of art. When future generations look back on it, they’ll think we were all mad.

Paul Johnson

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The Average Church in Southern Africa

Even though the speaker is using Venda, you can figure out the gist of the message pretty easily. This happened at a village in our district. On the ground at everyone’s feet are South African Rands. The pastrix (Thanks Ken Silva for that term) tells us about how we need money (listen at :17) and by 1:12 she has the people start naming the amounts of money that they are decreeing will appear in their bank accounts. You can hear them start with meager numbers like R3,000 ($300) and at 1:23 a bold woman wants R11,000 for which she is cheered. At 2:33 a man calls out for R200,000 ($20,000) and they cheer for him.

They are told that they must phone their banks in the morning to see the money.

Gathered supposedly in the name of Jesus Christ, they cheer, dance, sing, and warm their hearts by the fire of money. In the past, they had spirits to whom they bowed hoping to get health and blessing. But now they have a Great Spirit who will give them what they really love. One of the commenters writes, “Money for freeeeeeee!!!!!!”

When scholarly books and lecturers talk about the growing Christianity of Africa, let them see this. And anyone who has lived in the rural areas of Africa, who can speak their language, and who has visited their churches, will know that this is the vast majority of the churches here. The “Christianity” of Africa is largely prosperity gospel wickedness. They have a god and his name is money.

And before anyone objects that “Its like that in America too,” remember, I’ve lived in America and in Africa. I wouldn’t be posting this if I could have seen this in the US. Developed have their share of sins, but this particular form of ecclesiastical carnival is far more common in Africa.

The content itself should move a believer to anger, but the prevalence of this kind of voodoo-Christianity materialistic mix causes us to look doubtfully on nearly everyone who calls themselves a Christian or a pastor.

Thus, the fruit of charismaticism in Africa.

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Is Fiction Necessary?

Many parents, however, have little taste for fiction, though they allow it for the “little kids.” Some parents disdain fiction because they are bony pragmatists, not having the time, but others even claim that it is unspiritual (“I just want Scripture”). Though I couldn’t prove it in an ecclesiastical court, I’m beginning to suspect that parents who don’t enjoy fiction must have some serious spiritual problem lurking about, either in a very distorted view of spirituality or in a rejection of beauty. They are like the person who ungratefully refuses to delight in God’s handiwork in nature. Time will tell in the lives of their children.

Doug Jones, Angels in the Architecture

And for years I entertained such views. Thankfully, no longer.

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Six Evidences that Fundamentalists Are Sinfully Dismissive of Theology

Recently a friend passed on to me a little cluster of four sermons on “Theology Matters” by fundamentalism’s Lloyd-Jones’, Mark Minnick. His first message summarized the following list, except that he included an “if” at the beginning of each one so as not to indict the entire group.

1. A dislike for reading.

2. Suspicious of careful theologians.

3. Consistently handle theology inaccurately. (Knowing the definitions of terms, the position of their opponents, and historical arguments)

4. Unwilling or unable to face and defeat doctrinal aberrations within the movement.

5. Emphasis on counseling, management, and music instead of a Bible teaching ministry.

6. A man-centered preaching focus.

While not every fundamentalist fits this list, neither is every woman a bad boxer; but in general these traits are far too common. How shall we repent if we cannot even admit the problem? At the time he preached these (2003) I think I would have been a good bad example of most of the list. Why didn’t anyone have the guts to tell me?

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Who Are the Enemies?

Yet as an evangelical academic myself, I find it interesting to note the way in which, with some writers, the perceived faults of more conservative authors are denounced with bombastic rhetoric, while the blasphemies and heresies of those on the left are dismissed with a casual wave of the academic hand. …

In addition, what does such behavior say about who such evangelical academics perceive as true enemies of the faith?

Carl Trueman, The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind

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Multiculturalism Emasculates

Since liberalism became a kind of offical party line, we have been enjoined against saying things about races, religions, or national groups, for, after all, there is no categorical statement without its implication of value, and values begin divisions among men. We must not define, subsume, or judge; we must rather rest on the periphery and display “sensibility toward the cultural expression of all lands and peoples.” This is a process of emasculation.

Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences

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