Stop Starving Yourself

“Are you indeed Christ’s sheep? Then beware of wandering from the pasture He has provided. The devil and the old Adam would often persuade you there is no need for this diligence in using means of grace: “Surely,” they will say, “you are not such a babe but you can leave these fields for a short season; surely you need not keep so closely in your Shepherd’s sight.” Christian, take heed and beware of the charmer, charm he uses ever so wisely. Diligent private prayer, diligent Scripture searching, diligent gospel hearing—these are the pastures in which Jesus feeds His flock, and if you turn aside, if you become slack in using them, be sure your soul will soon starve for lack of its accustomed nourishment, and you will return to the fold weak and lame and lean and diseased.”

-J.C. RyleTract: The Privileges of the True Christian

Ten Commandments for Evangelists

Ten Commandments for Evangelists

1. Thou shalt not engage in shameless self promotion, as if you deserve the glory that God alone deserves.2. Thou shalt not make an idol of evangelism. God deserves worship, not His work.

3. Thou shalt not give the enemies of God occasion to blaspheme. Reaping the results of being a jerk for Jesus is not persecution, it is defamation of God’s character by your actions.

4. Thou shalt keep the Sabbath holy by taking opportunity to rest, worship and serve in the local church. This means your local church, not someone else’s.

5. Submit to authority. This includes police officers, local church leadership, and the leadership of evangelism teams that you agree to submit yourself under by joining their outreaches, accepting their hospitality, etc. If you cannot submit, you cannot (and should not) lead.

6. Thou shalt not murder a heckler in your heart. He is not your enemy.

7. Thou shalt not preach against sexual sin while you are looking at internet pornography, having sex before marriage or cheating on your spouse. Yes, it needs to be said. In this case, hypocrite is spelled Y-O-U.

8. Thou shalt not steal time from your family to devote to evangelism. If you care more about the souls of strangers than you do for your family’s, you are worse than an infidel.

9. Thou shalt not lie about the size of your crowd, the work of your ministry, the number of conversions, or your time with the Lord.

10. Thou shalt not covet a full time evangelism ministry. If God wants you to have it, He will give it to you without sending you into debt.

Prayer for Prayer

Here are seven ways that you can pray about your prayer life. These are seven items you can add to your prayer list as you consider your own prayer life or another person’s.

1) Pray that your prayers would be the expressions of a humble heart.

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:5-6)

2) Pray that God would remind you that he doesn’t want or need your eloquent prayers.

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:7-8)

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26)

3) Pray that you would remember what the really important requests are.

Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.”
(Matthew 6:9-13)
 

4) Pray that you would remember biblical examples of answered prayer.

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. … Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. (James 5:13-14, 17-18)

5) Pray that God would give you confidence in his sovereign power.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

6) Pray that God would help you to persevere in your praying.

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.” (Luke 18:1-8)

7) Pray that God would encourage you that he is your loving Father and will give you only what is good.

Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:9-11)

-Tim Challies, http://www.challies.com/resources/seven-ways-to-pray-for-your-prayer-life

Bad Worship Leading

“I was recently watching a well-known worship leader lead worship at a church that was broadcasting its service online. His leadership was excellent, the band was playing well, and the songs were really good. There was one problem, though. The keys were all way too high.

I’ve written before about the art (it’s not really a science) of choosing the right key for your congregation, so I won’t go into all those details again. You can read this article if you’re wondering what guidelines to follow (generally) to choose congregation-friendly keys. But if you’re not convinced that it matters what key your songs are in, here are some effects that high keys have on a congregation.

They stop singing
They might not all stop singing at once, but they do start dropping off like flies pretty quickly. The brave and enthusiastic will keep on singing. But the people who are on the fence about singing (and you know that every church has them) will stop singing first. Then even the eager will start dropping out because their throats hurt.

They get confused
Here are the questions that start going through the congregation’s mind when the key is too high: Am I supposed to try to sing that note? Maybe I’m just supposed to listen to the worship leader sing it? I guess I’ll sing down an octave, but that feels really low, that can’t be right, can it? Am I just a really bad singer? Will the next song be more singable?

They get tired more quickly
When the songs are in unsingable keys, people will get worn out more quickly. After just one song in the stratosphere, people are going to want a break. Why? Because it feels like exercise. And it is, in a sense. If you’re singing songs in really high keys, you’re asking people to do a vocal work out. And it’s tiring.

They focus on (and blame) you
People don’t like feeling uncomfortable. That’s a basic fact of life. And when people feel uncomfortable, they look for someone to blame. So if I’m Joe the Plumber and I come to church on Sunday and the songs are all really high and unsingable, I’m going to blame the guy/girl who’s leading them. Now the worship leader is the focus and Joe the Plumber isn’t singing along. Not good.

They get conditioned to be spectators
After several too-high songs, or after several weeks/months/years of unsingable songs, your congregation will be conditioned to not sing along. They will have learned that it’s much more comfortable for them to listen to/watch you sing. At this point, you’ll really to have work to get them to sing along with you. Shouldn’t it be the opposite in the churches? I’d rather my congregation be so accustomed to singing along in church that it feels foreign to them to just listen/watch.

I can’t overemphasize the importance of choosing keys wisely for congregational songs. If the Psalmist said “let us exalt his name together” (Psalm 34:3) then surely our number one priority is unified singing. Good keys are the basic building blocks of unified singing.”

-Jamie Brown, http://worthilymagnify.com/2012/04/16/what-happens-when-the-songs-are-too-high/

A Regenerated Politician

“I suppose I should see some irony in some of the more vindictive journalistic pieces slinking out since the death of Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson. It’s not that I mind these articles focusing on Colson’s Watergate crimes and his rather nasty political persona prior to conversion; Colson emphasized that too. More problematic is the smug undercurrent that somehow Colson’s life in ministry to criminals was somehow just some sort of “cover-up” for who he “really” was: a dirty trickster for whom everything was politics. Even as they bury the hatchet-man, some journalists just can’t bury the hatchet. And, as they center everything on Watergate, they demonstrate that Nixon wasn’t the only one with an Enemies List.

I found myself reflecting this morning on my own hypocrisy in my irritation with these cynical secular editorials and news pieces. After all, I’m the one who rolls my eyes at an evangelical victim mentality that cries “media bias” whenever we aren’t represented fairly. In my anger at these writings, I evidenced a spirit closer to Watergate-era Richard Nixon than to the post-Watergate Chuck Colson. Nixon’s downfall, after all, was at least partly due to his consuming desire to be accepted by the media and culture mavens of American society. President Nixon’s rage was because he really cared what the New York Times and the Washington Post wrote about him.

It’s just bad journalism to portray Chuck Colson as some sort of born-again Machiavelli of the Religious Right. After his conversion, Colson was discipled in the Christian faith by a progressive Republican (Sen. Mark Hatfield ofOregon) and a liberal Democrat (Sen. Harold Hughes ofIowa). Colson did engage political issues, but he consistently warned against the entanglements of evangelical Christianity with the Republican Party, recalling how he and the Nixon team had used some Christian leaders for their own purposes. And Colson clearly wasn’t some sort of activist, transferring his political ambitions from the West Wing to the sawdust trail. If he were to do that, he wouldn’t have chosen issues clearly outside the Religious Right playlist: prison reform, prison rape, injustice in application of the death penalty, and so on.

Still, we shouldn’t be angered by journalists who don’t get the full measure of the man. We should instead hear in some of this cynicism the cry of every human heart, a disbelief that there can be any such thing as final and total forgiveness of sin. There’s a reason, after all, why President Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon prompted such initial outrage. It seemed that Nixon escaped justice. He wasn’t held accountable for what everyone knew to be evil: lying, conspiracy, obstruction of justice. For some, Colson’s transformation from disgraced hatchet-man to beloved religious statesman was from the same cloth.

The gospel of Jesus Christ, however, isn’t a Gerald Ford-like pardon. It doesn’t simply promise freedom from consequences. The gospel deals honestly and soberly with what the conscience knows to be true: human guilt. Colson understood this kind of tactic while in the Nixon White House. If you can find some “dirt” on an opponent, you can silence them. You can hurt George McGovern by planting his campaign materials in the home of George Wallace’s would-be assassin Arthur Bremer. You can compromise the “Pentagon Papers” by releasing the psychiatric records of their author. You can win against the Democrats if, by phone taps, you can prove they’re getting Cuban money. And so on.

These tactics weren’t pioneered by the Nixon White House, or by the Johnson machine before it. These tactics of accusation are as old as the human race; in fact, older. The satanic powers hold humanity in captivity, the Bible teaches, through accusation and fear of death (Heb. 2:15; Rev. 12:10). The gospel doesn’t just “pardon.” The gospel gets at the root of the accusation, and brings about justice by uniting the sinner to an arrested, indicted, and executed Humanity, in the cross of Jesus, and by uniting that sinner to a righteous, sinless, and vindicated Humanity, in the resurrected Christ. That’s why Colson didn’t hide in an apartment somewhere, but spoke so openly of his sin, and identified himself with broken men and women with guilty consciences and criminal records.

Colson had every reason to be ashamed. Virtually every word he spoke in the Nixon White House was recorded and transcribed, and laid open for everyone from the House Judiciary Committee to his next-door neighbors to see. His own words proved him to be ruthless, manipulative, and, at times, craven. But all of our words are transcribed, the Bible tells us. They are embedded in a conscience that points us toward a Judgment Day in which every idle word and thought is revealed, and all is laid bare (Rom. 2:15-16). Like Nixon and his cronies, we want to obstruct that justice. If only we could erase the “tapes,” and sear over our consciences, we reason, everything will be okay. In trying to win the campaign of our own attempts at self-justification, we’ve rebelled against a higher authority than the United States Constitution. We’ve broken into temples more sacred than the Watergate Hotel.

A generation ago, the southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd sang back to a culture basking in the glory of a repudiated and humiliated Nixon White House. They sang, “Now Watergate does not bother me; Does your conscience bother you? Tell the truth.” That’s still the question.

When you read those who smirk and dismiss the Chuck Colson conversion, the Chuck Colson life, don’t get angry and don’t be outraged. Read a subtext that belongs to all of us: the fear that the criminal conspiracy we’ve all been a part of will be exposed, and just can’t be forgiven. Read the undercurrent of those who find it hard to believe that one can be not just pardoned, but “born again.” That’s indeed hard to believe. An empty grave inJerusalemis all we have on which to base that claim, a claim that speaks louder than our own accusing hearts.

I have to believe that when Chuck Colson opened his eyes in the moments after death that he didn’t hear anything about break-ins or dirty tricks or guilty consciences.

I have to believe Mr. Colson heard a Galilean voice saying, “I was in prison and you visited me” (Matt. 25:36).

I have to believe that he stood before his Creator with a new record, a new life transcript, one that belonged not to himself but to a Judean day-laborer who is now the ruler of the cosmos. And in that Lamb’s Book of Life there are no eighteen minute gaps.

That’s good news for guilty consciences, good news for recovering hatchet men and women like us.

-Russell Moore, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/aprilweb-only/colson-cynical-media.html

Secret Rapture?

“It bugs me when people refer to a ‘secret rapture.’ The use of the term is outmoded and ambiguous.  It stands like a scarecrow with a target painted on his chest, inviting straw man attacks. The secret rapture moniker is used by some Premillennialists who reckon that only believers will be aware of the return of Christ. Unbelievers will be left perplexed at where their ‘religious’ neighbor and bus driver suddenly went.

The secret rapture idea posits that Christ returns with a shout of an angel that only believers can hear (and maybe dogs), an appearance in the sky that only believers can see, a physical resurrection of deceased Christians, which only believers can witness, and then a sudden catching up of all believers into the sky, to accompany Jesus back to Heaven while the seven year tribulation ensues. The image in Premill pulp fiction views the “left behind” world as utterly confused as to the ‘mysterious disappearances’ of a goodly slice of earth’s mostly amiable and cheerful population.

This ‘secret’ concept of the return of Christ is not based on the descriptions in the NT, but rather it is an odd way of envisioning the rapture event in a way that explains the persistent unbelief spoken of in Revelation. (To be fair, some do cite 2 Thess 9-10 which states that Christ’s return will cause him “to be marveled at by those who have believed.” But this text could easily be taken simply to mean that it is only believers who will truly marvel, though others will also see and still not capitulate in their stubbornness).

I suppose the rationale of Premills who call it a secret rapture is to try and make sense of why the appearing of Christ doesn’t result in the belief and repentance of the whole world. We who believe in Jesus without having seen him, cannot fathom how a person could not believe in him after seeing him come in the clouds while simultaneously proving the Bible’s prophecies to be true.

But this attempt to explain the unbelief, I believe actually does a disservice to the cause. It opens up the accusation that we are exegeting the white spaces. I agree with my Amill friends (yes, we are actually friends), that if the rapture were to be secret, then Paul certainly did a poor job at articulating that notion when he wrote, in 1 Thess 4:16-17,

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

Sounds pretty unmissable to me.

A better way to understand how there can be pervasive unbelief in light of such incontrovertible evidence, is by noting that the NT demonstrates over and over how it is neither sight nor proof that convinces people, but always requires the intervention of God’s grace on man’s willfully darkened mind.

Some reasons I believe that seeing is not always believing…

  • John 12:37 says as much.
  • Luke 16:31 reminds us that “Even if one is raised from the dead they will still not believe.”
  • The prophecies of Christ’s resurrection which were fulfilled fully did not convince all the Pharisees, but they instead paid the Roman guard to fabricate a tale of bodysnatching.
  • Judas and many others witnessed the miracles of Jesus and were convinced of his claims, and yet did not place saving trust in him.
  • In John 12: 42 we are told of Jews who believed in Jesus but feared the religious authorities and loved acceptance enough to opt out of confessing him as their Lord.
  • As did the parents of the newly healed man born blind, in John 9.
  • We also see in the Millennial Kingdom, a physical reign on earth with unbelievers still present (Rev 20:7-10).

The human heart is too dark to convince by sight, evidence, and reason. It is a supernatural work wrought in the heart of the elect by God’s sovereign grace, so that he gets all the glory.

So, no, the rapture will not be secret. According to 1 Thess 4:16-17 it will be a very conspicuous event. It will be loud, visible, and undeniable. There will be widespread repentance and belief, but the majority of the population will still reject Christ. And just like everyone else who ever rejected him, they will have no excuse (Rom 1:18-21).

And if you disagree with me, one day one of us will be vindicated in a twinkling of an eye.”

-Clint Archer, http://thecripplegate.com/secret-disservice-problem-with-the-term-secret-rapture/

Pastoral Reflections on Homophobia

Great Post from Michael Bird:

“In my next response to James Crossley’s allegations of “homophobia,” I thought I would narrate two stories, two experiences with gay men and women, which have shaped my perceptions and pastoral approach to homosexuality.

Story One: Violent Homophobia.

In a previous life time, I was a soldier in the Australian Army. One evening my section was on a boys night out on the town in Sydney, doing bit of a pub crawl. I was not a heavy drinker, so I was the only sober one in the group by 9. 00 p.m. In one of our excursions across a park, several of us walked passed a couple of gay men innocuously holding hands as they strolled through the park. As they walked by, however, one of my group (the highest ranked member in fact) began yelling all sorts of hateful things interspersed with vicious expletives at them. He pushed his way over towards them as the couple quickly hurried their pace. Sensing the potential for fruitless violence at two innocent citizens, I grabbed my superior (and let it be known that this guy was built like Sylvester Stallone in his 80s physique) and dragged him back towards the group, fortunately a few other guys stepped in to help me. Eventually the drunken aggressive man desisted from his attempted attack and rejoined us on our walk.

It was a vivid experience, one I’ve never forgotten. I felt sorry for that couple who could not even walk down a public park after dark without fear of physical attack due to no more than holding hands. From that experience I can say that I believe homophobia exists, it is real, it is based on nothing more than prejudice without reason, and it is morally wrong … and I say this as a Christian, one who tries to follow Jesus by loving my neighbor, even my gay neighbors walking down the street.

Story Two: The Ultimate Homophobia.

Back in 2002, just after it was announced that Rowan Williams was going to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury, I led an ecumenical Bible study among a group of Christians from the Army. I remember vividly the small group in question: A fiery Lutheran warrant officer, a meek Pentecostal girl from transport corps, a liberal Catholic logistics Captain, and a softly spoken nominal Anglican lady working for the DoD. When we got to the subject of Rowan Williams and his views of sexuality, well, the conversation heated up, like a furnace. The Lutheran warrant officer earnestly made the point that the Bible condemns homosexuality, the liberal Catholic rebutted that sexuality is genetically innate and cannot be helped so one should not oppose it, the nominal Anglican lady said that gay people make great friends and are great at helping you decorate your house, while the Pentecostal girl just sat there quietly not saying anything. Well, the conversation, now argument, got hotter and hotter. Despite my best efforts to moderate the tone and change the subject, it just got worse. It turned into a yelling match with the Bible-bashing Lutheran trying to shout down the liberal Catholic on the one side and the nominal Anglican lady adding her two-cents every so often. The poor Pentecostal girl sat their very quiet, staring catatonically at the floor, wisely avoiding the melee.

Right before I was gonna yell “time out children, time to go home,” all of a sudden the Pentecostal girl loudly interjected with these words, “I used to be a Lesbian but Jesus saved me.” Right after that there was a silence you could cut with a knife. The Lutheran, the Catholic, the Anglican, and the poor Bible study leader, had nothing to say. What do you say to that? How do you follow that up? The young girl was engaged and a few months later was married and last I heard she was living a joyous heterosexual marriage with her new husband. In her story, homosexuality was something that she needed to be saved from, Jesus saved her from it, and she remained grateful for the transformation that had taken place in her life.

But I want to say that her story is the greatest homophobic epic that can ever be told. In her story, it is possible, indeed actual, for some (note the qualifier) gay men and women to be changed and transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed, homosexual men and women can be liberated, rescued, and saved from homosexualilty … that is their testimony, not mine. Now I know that the reasons why people have same-sex desires are complex and range from biology to upbringing to sociology to psychology. I do not believe that the Pentecostal girl’s story would necessarily be true of all homosexual men and women. I don’t think homosexuality is a disease much less something that can be cured. Some Christians with same-sex desires struggle with it for all their lives (just as heterosexuals can struggle with certain desires and behaviors). I know that there are many ex-gays, but I also know that there are many ex-ex-gays too.

My point is that I have heard the testimony of men and women who consider themselves saved from homosexuality. Moreover, their words constitute the greatest act of betrayal of the gay-cause, the greatest act of treachery in gay-rights, and the greatest attack on efforts to deny that same-sex desires can change in people. In our secular and pansexual culture, ex-gay Christians are the worst and most vile homophobes in the universe because they announce that Jesus saved them from homosexuality and the Holy Spirit transformed them and empowered them to live a holy life without it.

Though society may call them homophobes, I am not ashamed to call them my brother or sister.”

-Michael F. Bird, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/euangelion/2012/04/pastoral-reflections-on-homophobia/

Attractive Idolatry

Most Westerners have struggled at one time or another to understand the attraction of idolatry in the ancient world. What could be so compelling about an inanimate block of wood or chunk of stone? Hard core idolatry feels as tempting as beet juice. It’s likely someone out there loves a frothy glass of obscure vegetable extract, but the temptation doesn’t weigh heavily on our souls.

But idolatry made a lot of sense in the ancient world. And, had we lived two or three millennia ago, it almost certainly would have been tempting to each one of us. In his commentary on Exodus, Doug Stuart explains idolatry’s attraction with nine points. You’ll likely want to save this list and file it for future sermons or Bible studies.

1. Idolatry was guaranteed. The formula was simple. Carve a god out of wood or stone and the god would enter the icon. Now that you have a god in your midst, you can get his (or her) attention quickly. Your incantations, oaths, and offerings will always be noticed.

2. Idolatry was selfish. Scratch the gods backs and they’ll scratch yours. They need food and sacrifices; you need blessings. Do your stuff and they’ll be obliged to get you stuff.

3. Idolatry was easy. Ancient idolatry encouraged vain religious activity. Do what you like with your life. So long as you show up consistently with your sacrifices, you’ll be in good shape.

4. Idolatry was convenient. Gods in the ancient world were not hard to come by. Access was almost everywhere. Statues can be used in the home or on the go.

5. Idolatry was normal. Everyone did it. It’s how woman got pregnant, how crops grew, how armies conquered. Idolatry was like oil: nothing ran in the ancient world without it.

6. Idolatry was logical. Nations are different. People are different. Their needs and desires are different. Obviously, there must be different deities for different strokes. How could one god cover all of life? You don’t eat at one restaurant do you? The more options the better. They can all be right some of the time.

7. Idolatry was pleasing to the senses. If you are going to be especially religious, it helps to be able to see your god. It’s harder to impress people with an invisible deity.

8. Idolatry was indulgent. Sacrificing to the gods did not often require sacrifice for the worshiper. Leftover food could be eaten. Drink could be drunk. Generosity to the gods leads to feasting for you.

9. Idolatry was sensual. The whole system was marked by eroticism. Rituals could turn into orgies. Sex on earth often meant sex in heaven, and sex in heaven meant big rain, big harvests and multiplying herds.

Can you see the attraction of idolatry? “Let’s see I want a spirituality that gets me lots, costs me little, is easy to see, easy to do, has few ethical or doctrinal boundaries, guarantees me success, feels good, and doesn’t offend those around me.” That’ll preach. We want the same things they wanted. We just go after them in different ways. We want a faith that gets us stuff and guarantees success (prosperity gospel). We want discipleship that is always convenient (virtual church). We want a religion that is ritualistic (nominal Christianity). Or a spirituality that no matter what encourages sexual expression (GLBTQ). We all want to follow God in a way that makes sense to others, feels good to us, and is easy to see and understand. From the garden to the Asherah pole to the imperial feasts, idolatry was the greatest temptation for God’s people in both testaments.

A look around and a look inside will tell you it still is.

-Kevin DeYoung
http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2012/04/18/why-idolatry-was-and-is-attractive/

O Christ, what burdens bow’d Thy head

O Christ, what burdens bow’d Thy head!
Our load was laid on Thee;
Thou stoodest in the sinner’s stead,
Didst bear all ill for me.
A victim led; Thy blood was shed;
Now there’s no load for me.
 
Death and the curse were in our cup,
O Christ, ’twas full for Thee!
But Thou hast drained the last dark drop—
‘Tis empty now for me.
That bitter cup—love drank it up;
Now blessings’ draught for me.
 
Jehovah lifted up His rod,
O Christ, it fell on Thee!
Thou wast sore stricken of Thy God;
There’s not one stroke for me.
Thy tears, Thy blood, beneath it flowed;
Thy bruising healeth me.
 
The tempest’s awful voice was heard,
O Christ, it broke on Thee!
Thy open bosom was my ward,
It braved the storm for me.
Thy form was scarred, Thy visage marred;
Now cloudless peace for me.
 
Jehovah bade His sword awake,
O Christ, it woke ‘gainst Thee!
Thy blood the flaming blade must slake;
Thy heart its sheath must be—
All for my sake, my peace to make;
Now sleeps that sword for me.
 
For me, Lord Jesus, Thou hast died,
And I have died in Thee;
Thou’rt ris’n: my bands are all untied,
And now Thou liv’st in me.
When purified, made white, and tried,
Thy glory then for me!
 

-Anne R. Cou­sin (1824-1906), http://www.hymnal.net/hymn.php/h/94#ixzz1saZ82yDa

What’s Wrong with Theistic Evolution?

Theistic evolution, generally defined, is the belief that natural processes sustained by God’s ordinary providence were the means by which he brought about life and humanity. It often entails a common ancestry for all living things, macro-evolution, and some version of polygenesis.

William Dembski explains:

For young-earth and old-earth creationists, humans bearing the divine image were created from scratch. In other words, God did something radically new when he created us–we didn’t emerge from pre-existing organisms. On this view, fully functioning hominids having fully human bodies but lacking the divine image never existed. For most theistic evolutions, by contrast, primate ancestors evolved over several million years into hominids with fully human bodies. (God and Evolution, 91)

According to some proponents of theistic evolution Genesis 2:7 is a reference to God’s work in history whereby he made Adam into a spiritual being in the image of God, instead of the lesser sort of being he was before. This approach still insists on the historicity of Adam and Eve and their real fall in the Garden. But, on this view, Adam may not have been the first human:

According to [Denis] Alexander’s preferred model, anatomically modern humans emerged some 200,000 years ago, with language in place by 50,000 years ago. Then, around 6,000-8,000 years ago, God chose a couple of Neolithic farmers, and then he revealed himself for the first time, so constituting them as Homo divinus, the first humans to know God and be spiritually alive. (Should Christians Embrace Evolution?, 47)

And what’s wrong with this approach? Why can’t we say Adam was a real person and the first person to know God, but not the only human on the planet? Aren’t we still in the realm of historic orthodoxy even if Adam evolved from other beings and may not have been the physical father of all living persons? I am raising these questions not to suggest a single blog post and a few quotations obliterates evolution. The point rather is to examine whether full-blown evolution can be reconciled with complete allegiance to biblical authority.

Listed below are eight problems Wayne Grudem finds with theistic evolution. I realize he may not be an authority on these matters, but in typical fashion he distills the main points nicely and explain succinctly what unbiblical conclusions we must reach for theistic evolution to be true.

(1) Adam and Eve were not the first human beings, but they were just two Neolithic farmers among about ten million other human beings on earth at that time, and God just chose to reveal himself to them in a personal way.

(2) Those other human beings had already been seeking to worship and serve God or gods in their own ways.

(3) Adam was not specially formed by God of ‘dust from the ground’ (Gen. 2:7) but had two human parents.

(4) Eve was not directly made by God of a ‘rib that the Lord God had taken from the man’ (Gen. 2:22), but she also had two human parents.

(5) Many human beings both then and now are not descended from Adam and Eve.

(6) Adam and Eve’s sin was not the first sin.

(7) Human physical death had occurred for thousands of years before Adam and Eve’s sin–it was part of the way living things had always existed.

(8) God did not impose any alteration in the natural world when he cursed the ground because of Adam’s sin. (Should Christians Embrace Evolution?, 9)

These are other questions theistic evolution raises for the Bible believing Christian. How can we uphold the special dignity and majesty the Bible accords human beings when we are only qualitatively different from other life forms and continuous with the rest of the animal world? How can God impute sin and guilt to all humans along the lines of federal headship when some of us have no physical connection with Adam? Likewise, if we are not all descended literally from one pair, how can we all have an ontological connection with Christ who only assumed the flesh of Adam’s race?

Of course, these problems are no problems at all (conceptually) without the Bible to account for. But theistic evolution purports to bring together the evolutionary consensus and a faithful doctrine of creation. That’s the whole appeal. And yet, I don’t see how the two are compatible, whether Adam really existed or not.

-Kevin DeYoung
http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2012/04/19/whats-wrong-with-theistic-evolution-2/