Albert Mohler – Performing Abortion is “God’s Work?” The Real Story of Christianity and Abortion

To the utter consternation of the abortion rights movement, the issue simply will not go away. Decades after they thought they had put the matter to rest with the Roe v. Wade decision, America’s conscience is more troubled than ever, and near panic appears regularly to break out among abortion activists. Such a panic is now underway, and the defenders of abortion are trotting out some of their most dishonest arguments. One of the worst is the claim that Christians have only quite recently become concerned about the sanctity of human life and the evil of abortion.

In fact, one of America’s most infamous abortion doctors, Dr. Willie Parker of Mississippi, has made such a claim in his new book, Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice. Parker, who refers to himself as a Christian, writes: “If you take anti-abortion rhetoric at face value, without knowing much about the Bible, you might assume that the antis have Scripture on their side. That’s how dominant and pervasive their righteous rhetoric has become. but they do not. The Bible does not contain the word ‘abortion’ anywhere in it.”

This is the same argument we so often confront on sexuality issues. We are told that Jesus never said anything against same-sex marriage. The disingenuous nature of this argument is fully apparent when we look to a text like Matthew 19:3-6. Jesus makes abundantly clear that God’s intention “from the beginning” is that humanity, made male and female, should united in marriage and “the two shall become one flesh.” As Jesus continued, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” That should settle the matter.

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D. A. Carson – When Did the Church Begin?

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When Did the Church Begin? This question is not uncommon, especially among theological students. Sometimes people ask it because they have been exposed to dispensational teaching. In that case, the answer one gives becomes a kind of litmus test to a nest of other questions that dispensationalists pose. People from a dispensational heritage emphasize discontinuity between the covenants, and therefore commonly argue that the church begins at Pentecost; people from a covenant-theology heritage emphasize the continuity of the covenant of grace, think in terms of fulfillment of what was promised, and therefore argue that the “assembly” of the people of God is one, and that therefore it is a mistake to argue that the church begins at Pentecost. Others ask the question in our title because for them the answer is a way of distinguishing between Reformed Presbyterians and Reformed Baptists. Still others ask the question without a theological agenda, but for no other reason than that it deserves to be asked precisely because the answer seems ambiguous in the biblical texts.

It may be helpful to organize the relevant material in several steps.

(1) As for the terminology, although “church” is commonly a NT expression, both the word and the idea surface in the OT too. For example, a not atypical passage pictures God instructing Moses, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children” (Deut 4:10): the verb is קהל in Hebrew and ἐκκλησιάζειν (cognate with ἐκκλησία, “church” or “assembly”) in the Septuagint. Not less important is the fact that NT writers can refer to the OT people of God as the “church”: Stephen speaks of the gathered Israelites in the wilderness as “the assembly [ἐκκλησία] in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38). The writer to the Hebrews uses OT language to depict Jesus saying that he will sing praise to God: “in the assembly [ἐκκλησία] I will sing your praise” (2:12, citing Ps 22:22). When Christians gather together, the language the writer to the Hebrews uses to describe their assembly bursts with fulfilled typological references to the OT: the writer tells them, “[Y]ou have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church [ἐκκλησία] of the firstborn … to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (12:22–24). The reference to Abel inevitably reminds the reader that Christians are “surrounded by … a great cloud of witnesses” (12:1)—namely, the faithful heroes from Abel through Enoch, Abraham, Sarah, Gideon, David, and all the rest of the OT figures (ch. 11). One cannot help but see some kind of profound continuity in the people of God.

(2) The issue is broader than merely terminological. When Jesus declares, in a thoroughly Jewish context, that he will build his church (ἐκκλησία, Matt 16:18), what he has in mind, according to this Gospel, includes Gentiles too (28:18–20). His instructions on how to exercise church [ἐκκλησία] discipline (18:15–20) show how he is willing to blur distinctions we tend to make: the local church (which must be in view in ch. 18) is the outcropping of the entire church (ch. 16), and clearly includes both Jews and Gentiles. They constitute Messiah’s assembly, Messiah’s church. Nowhere is the one-ness of Messiah’s people, Messiah’s church, more powerfully worked out than in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Jewish believers and Gentile believers have been made “one” by Jesus, who is our peace (Eph 2:14). At one time the Gentiles were alienated from God, “excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise” (2:12), but now the two groups constitute “one new humanity” (2:15). Gentiles are “no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household” (2:19). This is the church (ἐκκλησία) that Christ loved and for which he died (5:25). One recalls that in the olive tree metaphor (Romans 11), there is but one vine, with branches being broken off from that vine or grafted onto it.

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Michael Boling – Major Themes of John’s Gospel and Their Application

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John provides the reader of his gospel with six major themes which, when understood within their context, have multifarious applications for the modern reader and to the body of Christ at large. The six major themes of the Gospel of John are God, the Christ, salvation, the Spirit, the new covenant community, and last things. Each has subsumed within it thematic elements which transcend John’s Gospel and which, perhaps more importantly, can be related to the holistic message revealed throughout Scripture.

Andreas Kostenberger avers that God as outlined in John is chiefly characterized by two overarching concepts: “the one who sent Jesus and as the Father of the Son” [1]. These conceptualizations of God are important to understand as the focus of John’s Gospel is relayed through the modality by which John presents God. The focus of John’s Gospel is not on God Himself, but instead on His Son. The Jewish people were cognizant of and had a devout belief in a monotheistic God. This is evidenced by the Shema, the chief prayer of Judaism and an “affirmation of Judaism and a declaration of faith in one God” [2]. The purpose of John’s writing was not to develop additional theology concerning God. His purpose was to reveal, initially to the Diaspora Jews and Jewish proselytes and eventually to the world, that Jesus was the Messiah; a belief which unfortunately has largely not taken root among many Jews. Modern believers can take heart that Jesus took the form of man, experienced all the issues that humanity has to deal with on a daily basis and yet was still without sin. He was the perfect sacrifice for our sins and thus has provided us with a modality by which we can have a relationship with God the Father. This is a message which the church today needs to explicate more than ever not only to the members of the congregation but to the world at large. Continue reading “Michael Boling – Major Themes of John’s Gospel and Their Application”

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Chuck Lawless – 7 Steps to Teach Theology in the Local Church

Evangelicals know that theology matters, and we’re quick to remind others of this fact. What we’re not so quick to acknowledge is the focus of this blogpost: we do a poor job of teaching the very theology we claim is so important. We think that our church members understand and believe our basic doctrine, even while those same members are learning their theology from TV talk show hosts, popular television preachers, or the latest religious novel. Do an anonymous survey of your congregation’s beliefs, and see what you learn. If the majority knows and believes basic biblical doctrine, your church is more an exception than the norm.

Consider these steps for teaching theology in your church:

1. Don’t assume that your church members don’t care about beliefs. Too many church leaders give up on teaching theology before they even try. “Nobody cares about theology any more,” they think. Not only does this thinking ultimately question the power of the Word, but it also denies reality. It is precisely because people do care about beliefs that they turn to places and people other than the church for their belief system. Where the church fails, somebody else fills the void.

2. Realize that attending worship and small groups does not automatically lead to doctrinal fidelity. Here, I am NOT suggesting that preaching and Bible study are unimportant to teaching doctrine; indeed, good doctrinal training does not happen apart from preaching and teaching the Word. I am simply arguing that our church members don’t typically hear our teaching and automatically connect the dots to form a biblical theology. Teaching good theology must happen intentionally.

3. Include basic theology in a required membership class. In some ways, the best time to teach the basics is when a person first follows Christ or first joins the church—when he or she is most focused on a Christian commitment. Capitalize on that enthusiasm by teaching early the inerrancy and authority of the Bible. Show why the exclusivity of Christ is non-negotiable. Talk about the necessity of the death of Christ. Build the theological foundation early, and build it well.

4. Take advantage of doctrine studies. Churches don’t need to “reinvent the wheel” to teach theology. Case in point, Lifeway Christian Resources has developed The Gospel Project (a journey through the basics of biblical and systematic theology over a three-year period), The God Who Speaks (a study of the doctrine of revelation), and Read the Bible for Life (a 9-session study that equips individuals and churches to understand the Bible better). If we believe that theology matters, why not take advantage of already-prepared material and teach a current study? Plan extensively, promote well, and prioritize this type of study.

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Dr. R. C. Sproul – The Voice of the Church

When Planned Parenthood adopted a strategy to win the debate on abortion and establish the legal right for women to have abortions on demand, it asked a strategic question: “From where will our strongest opposition come?” The organization anticipated that opposition would come most fiercely from the Roman Catholic Church. In order to offset the impact of the Roman community, Planned Parenthood adopted a strategy to encourage Protestant churches to support a woman’s right to abortion on demand. It encouraged the use of the mantras “A woman’s right to choose” and “A woman’s right over her own body.” A further part of the strategy was to use the slogan “prochoice” rather than “pro-abortion.” In other words, the effort to legalize abortion on demand was wrapped in the flag of personal liberty.

The Planned Parenthood strategy was eminently successful. For the most part, the mainline liberal churches backed the feminist crusade in favor of “choice.” What was most distressing was the silence of evangelical churches, churches committed to the authority of the Bible and the classical Christian faith. It took many years for the evangelical church to come to a consensus on the evil of abortion but, more tragically, many evangelical churches still refuse to speak out against the destruction of babies made in the image of God.

Several years ago, I produced a series of video lectures, out of which emerged my book on abortion. We made an effort to get these educational materials to evangelical churches, to help them instruct their members concerning this profoundly serious ethical issue. I was saddened to receive the same response over and over again. Innumerable evangelical pastors told me they could not use our materials in their churches because the issue of abortion is so controversial. If they took a stand against abortion on demand, they said, they would divide their churches. What? Divide these churches? What could be a greater evil than such a division? The answer is this: Remaining silent on the most serious ethical issue that the United States has ever faced.

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Book Review – Bound Together by Chris Brauns

Pastor and author Chris Brauns, in his latest book Bound Together, tackles an important theological and practical concept that is often misunderstood by most believers, namely that of original sin and union with Christ and how those two important doctrines weave their way through everyone’s life from cradle to grave. The very idea all of humanity suffers under the weight of the original sin of Adam and Eve, truly boggles the minds of both believers and unbelievers. Why should we be impacted by the actions of someone we have never met? How can that be fair? These questions and many more are what Brauns addresses in his excellent and timely book.

In a societal milieu where individualism is increasingly the rage, the idea of community has become all but lost. The closest people come to being connected is clicking the “connect” button on LinkedIn.com in order to expand their network of associates, many of whom are people they have never met. While that is a reality of the digital age, it demonstrates a lack of understanding of what Brauns presents as the biblical principle of the rope. He rightly notes “the choices, words, and actions of one person represent many others. Solidarity has always existed among groups of people, from the beginning of the world.”

To a large degree, the flow of Scripture supports the principle of the rope. We see throughout the biblical drama the importance of community. God provided the Torah as the guidelines for how Israel and NT believers for that matter as noted by Jesus, was to relate to God and to their fellow man. In the historical books of Scripture, it is evident that when a righteous king of Israel or Judah reigned, the people followed God and were blessed. Conversely, when a wicked king reigned, the people subsequently followed his lead down the path of destruction. This demonstrates the validity of the principle of the rope.

In presenting this principle of the rope, Brauns notes both the negative and positive side of this principle, the negative being the entrance of sin into the world through Adam and the positive being the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross. Such an approach rightly compares the first and second Adam and the impact of their actions on all of mankind. Due to Adam’s sin, all of creation now groans under the weight of sin also impacting our relationship with our Creator. As noted in Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” The second Adam, the Messiah, died to be the atonement for sin, an action that provided a remedy to the sin nature inherited by us all from the first Adam. This remedy is the shed blood of Christ that restores our relationship with our Creator. But wait, there’s more!

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Jim Daly – Ten Reasons Kids Leave the Church

As much fun as Trent, Troy, and I have together, whether it’s camping or just throwing the ball around, not a day goes by that I don’t give serious thought to how my wife, Jean, and I are leading them spiritually. In the grand scheme of things, we only a have a short window to help them build a solid biblical foundation before they launch out on their own.

If you’re a parent, I’m guessing you’re well aware of how challenging that can be. Even the statistics bear out the struggle we face. The exact percentages are up for debate, but we know that a significant number of kids walk out the church doors after high school graduation and never return.

Why?

Well, the specific reasons depend on which study you read, but most of them point out how adults fail to connect teenagers to God’s redemptive work in meaningful ways. A recent example of this comes from a website designed for workers in church leadership. The article’s author , Marc5Solas, lives in a college town. He interviewed a large number of twenty-somethings to get their take on why Christianity is no longer important to them and boiled down what he learned into ten reasons you might find interesting.

Take a look and see what you think.

10. The church is “relevant.”

Normally, “relevant” is a positive term. In this case, it labels the problem. We’ve couched our faith in modern trappings to the point that 2,000 years of history and rich tradition have been diminished. As the article suggests: “What we’re packaging is a cheap knockoff of the world we’re called to evangelize to. In our effort to be ‘like them,’ we’ve become less of who we actually are.”

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W. Robert Godfrey – The Word-less “Church”

Many American churches are in a mess. Theologically they are indifferent, confused, or dangerously wrong. Liturgically they are the captives of superficial fads. Morally they live lives indistinguishable from the world. They often have a lot of people, money, and activities. But are they really churches, or have they degenerated into peculiar clubs?

What has gone wrong? At the heart of the mess is a simple phenomenon: the churches seem to have lost a love for and confidence in the Word of God. They still carry Bibles and declare the authority of the Scriptures. They still have sermons based on Bible verses and still have Bible study classes. But not much of the Bible is actually read in their services. Their sermons and studies usually do not examine the Bible to see what it thinks is important for the people of God. Increasingly they treat the Bible as tidbits of poetic inspiration, of pop psychology, and of self-help advice. Congregations where the Bible is ignored or abused are in the gravest peril. Churches that depart from the Word will soon find that God has departed from them.

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Book Review – Connecting Church 2.0 by Randy Frazee

Pastor and author Randy Frazee, in his latest book The Connecting Church 2.0 addresses an issue that faces many of us, namely that of developing meaningful relationships within a local community of believers. Far too many Christians either become disillusioned with church resulting in non-attendance or they attend church on a regular basis yet fail to engage in conversation with or develop lasting relationships with others who attend their church. Many churches encourage their members to join and become active in small groups. With that said, with the hustle and bustle that constitutes the daily life of many American families, consistently attending church let alone a small group or other church activity often falls prey to the daily grind.

Frazee rightly notes from the outset that “We were designed by God physically, emotionally, and spiritually to require community for our health and well-being.” He reminds us that scientific studies have even revealed our very physical makeup is wired for relationships and community. Even animals thrive far better when they are around and when they interact in meaningful ways with members of their species. Fundamentally, community is an essential part of life and to reject that as somehow unimportant is a tragic mistake.

Scripture makes it clear one way that community can be enjoyed in a healthy way outside the family structure is through the church, the body of Christ. Frazee reminds us of Hebrews 10:25, a passage clearly exhorting Christians to not forsake “the assembling of ourselves together, as [is] the manner of some, but exhorting [one another], and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” We see the pattern of community in the early Church in the opening chapters of Acts where Frazee appropriately comments “The first Christians understood that a decision to follow Christ also included a decision to make the church the hub of their world, even when it required the abandonment of existing social structures.” Since Gallup polls demonstrate that many Americans suffer from a sense of loneliness that begs the question as to what has caused a country of people who have access to all manner of entertainment to feel they are lonely. Frazee tackles a number of reasons in this book to include individualism, isolation, and consumerism.

Unlike many books that talk about societal barriers to Christian community yet fail to provide salient biblical solutions to this important issue, Frazee cogently addresses the issues of individualism, isolation, and consumerism to include the root problems and how these issues have taken hold in society. Furthermore, and arguably more importantly than simply discussing the problem at hand, Frazee takes the reader straight to where solutions to these issues can be found, namely God’s word. But wait, there’s more!

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Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones – Effectual Calling and Regeneration

Effectual Calling

As we now proceed to consider in detail what exactly it is the Holy Spirit does to us in the application of redemption, I would remind you that I am not insisting that the order which I shall follow is of necessity the right one, and certainly not of necessity the chronological one.

‘So how do you arrive at your order?’ asks someone. My answer is that I mainly try to conceive of this work going on within us from the standpoint of God in eternity looking down upon men and women in sin. That is the way that appeals to me most of all; it is the way that I find most helpful. That is not to detract in any way from experience or the experiential standpoint. Some would emphasise that and would have their order according to experience, but I happen to be one of those people who is not content merely with experience. I want to know something about that experience; I want to know what I am experiencing and I want to know why I am experiencing it and how it has come about. It is the child who is content merely with enjoying the experience. If we are to grow in grace and to go forward and exercise our senses, as the author of the epistle to the Hebrews puts it ( Heb. 5:14 ), then we must of necessity ask certain questions and be anxious to know how the things that have happened to us really have come to take place.

My approach therefore is this: there is the truth of the gospel, and we have seen already that it is a part of the work of the Holy Spirit to see that that truth is proclaimed to all and sundry. That is what we called the general call — a kind of universal offer of the gospel. Then we saw that though the external or general call comes to all, to those who will remain unsaved as well as to those who are saved, obviously some new distinction comes in, because some are saved by it. So the question we must now consider is: What is it that establishes the difference between the two groups?

And the way to answer that question, it seems to me, is to say that the call of the gospel, which has been given to all, is effectual only in some. Now there is a portion of Scripture which is a perfect illustration of this. The followers of Christ who were even described as ‘disciples’ were divided up into two groups. One group decided that they would never listen to Him again. They left Him and went home. And when He turned to the others and said, ‘Will ye also go away?’ Peter said, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the word of eternal life’ ( John 6:67–68 ). The one group disbelieved and went home, the others, who had heard exactly the same things, stayed with Him, wanted to hear more, and rejoiced in it. What makes the difference? It is that the word was effectual in the case of the saved in a way that it was not effectual in the case of the unsaved who refused it.

This, then, is something that is quite obvious. We can say that in addition to the external call there is this effectual call, and that what makes anybody a saved person and a true Christian is that the call of the gospel has come effectually. Let me give you some scriptures that establish that. The first, Romans 8:28–39 , is a great statement of this very thing. ‘We know,’ says Paul, ‘that all things work together for good to them that love God … ’ Not to everybody but ‘ to them that love God ’. Who are they? ‘To them who are called according to his purpose,’ and Paul goes on: ‘For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.’ The saved are described as those who are called . And they have been called in a way that the others have not. That is, therefore, a scriptural statement of this effectual call.

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