Thoughts on Trump

An open letter to the GOP

This has gone on long enough.

Seeing Trump speak at Liberty University, compared to Jesus by its politically pandering president, was the last straw.  Trump actually said his book was the best book ever written, except for the Bible.  And no one boo-ed him.  He wasn’t run out of town on a rail.

I guess we’ve just gotten used to demagoguery and spectacle and bald-faced lies, exaggerations and braggadocio in our political discourse.  Trump is the logical outcome of talk radio's extreme rhetoric and straw-man arguments, on either side of the aisle.

But we have a country to run.  It’s a serious job.  Trump was entertaining for a while, but are we seriously considering this?  Just because he has enough money to buy an audience?

His moral convictions are non-existent.
His brash talk makes “the bombing starts in 5 minutes” look like child’s play.

Some folks are starting to reconcile themselves to the real possibility of Trump as the GOP candidate.  I never will.

This day has been coming for a while.

With our culture sliding farther from its Biblical anchor, the day was on its way when no major presidential contender supports Biblical values.  Trump pretends to, at Liberty, but its weak and a transparent pander.  It’s obvious he doesn’t believe what he’s saying, as he says it.  It would do Christians well to pause and consider, apart from the Trumpery, how do we lobby and vote when the major parties and polls refuse to advance candidates with biblical values?  I understand the argument to vote (in the hypothetical or future situation) for the pro-choice guy instead of the forced sterilization guy, but I'm not sure I buy it.  Does the Bible obligate us to cast a defensive vote for the “lesser of two evils,” if that candidate won’t do anything to act for the unborn and other biblical values?  The difference between Romney and Trump is stark.

In the past I have been very strong against voting third party, because it just throws support to the Democrat.  But in the case of Trump, at this point, I WILL “throw my vote away” rather than give it to the GOP.  If Trump is actually the nominee, I’m sure a decent third-party conservative candidate will emerge outside the GOP, if the rules allow it.  As Doug Wilson said, I think I'll vote for Donald Duck before Donald Trump.  The GOP should notice that wing of the base, and not just the big audiences and bank of cash Trump displays.

At this point I’m hoping for a Cruz-Fiorina ticket, or something like it.

Wake up, GOP rulers, and give us a serious candidate.
Don’t let money do all the talking.

One thing I’ve noticed.  The GOP usually has a hard time communicating a clear and winsome message in their national campaigns.  With Trump it’s even worse.  Almost makes me wonder if he’s doing his friend Hillary Clinton a favor, sucking all the oxygen out of the GOP’s room, into his narcissistic big head.  Jamming our communications so the other side has free reign.

Loving Talk // Worship Shapes You // Nikabrik's Man, Trump

Joel Beeke writes well about how we should lovingly communicate as parents to children.
It applies in many other relationships, too.

John Witvliet gives an excellent overview of how worship shapes your life with God.
" Just as the people of Israel met in solemn assembly to renew their covenantal vows to God (see, for example, Joshua 24 and Ezra 8–9), so too, we meet in public worship to renew the covenant God has established with the church in Christ."
"I say all of this because of the temptation we musicians face to engineer holy moments....   On the other hand, we also can be tempted to squelch holy moments, to lead liturgy in such a way that communicates that we expect nothing will really happen there. It is as if we plan ahead of time not to be inspired, comforted, or challenged."

Trump is the candidate for Nikabrik.  Any power to beat the liberals?  No!!
"This is how some who have professed faith in Jesus Christ are lured by a man who openly puts all his faith in power and money, the very things Christ warned us against prizing too highly. As one wag on Twitter pointed out, “If elected, Donald Trump will be the first US president to own a strip club,” and yet he has the support of Christians who fervently believe that this country needs to clean up its morals."


Wilson on Islam, Covenant Renewal Worship, and Encouraging Pastors

Here are some gems from Doug Wilson's blog.

On Islam: back on 12/7/15
"Allah is a false god, but he is a hard one. The gods of the West are just as false, and soft. In the realm of the gods, hard cuts through soft, just as in nature. The jihadists are flint-hearted, while the solons of the West are as fine a collection of butterhearts as you might find anywhere.

Faced with this scenario, the residents of the West have three options. We can retain our commitment to our soft gods, in which case we will go down like grass before the scythe. We can turn to a different kind of idol, hard Western idols, and then there will be a real war. I don’t know enough about French politics to say, but we might be seeing the beginning of this in the rapid rise of Le Pen.

The last option is to come to Jesus Christ, confess our sins, repenting of them, and to return, with chastened gladness, to common sense, natural law, right reason, and Scripture."

On Covenant Renewal Worship:
Here's a good article for anyone with second thoughts about Covenant Renewal Worship.  He strikes the balance right between valuing this form of worship, and not being a gnat-strangling purist about it.

On Encouraging Pastors
I profited greatly from this, personally.

If My People // Trumping Liberty // Sing Psalms

Russell Moore reminds you that 2 Chronicles 7:14 isn't about national revival.
There's a great section on Genesis 12:1-3, which I just preached on, too...

Moore on Liberty hosting Donald Trump to speak.

Rosaria Butterfield, on what singing the Psalms does for your relationship with God.


Begetting and Bolstering Faith

Sermon text: Genesis 12:10-20

1 John 4:17-19
Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us.

The release by Iran of Christian pastor Saeed Abedini highlights the ways in which kings and cultures can continue to threaten Christians.  Fear of the world’s hurt led Abraham away from faith in God.  It can lead us to a variety of poor responses, too.

But at the Word and Table we find a better way.

The Word and Table beget and bolster faith, by God’s design.  You come to faith in response to the Word, the message of Jesus Christ crucified for you.  That is the message of this Table.  The frequency, the physical elements, the receiving from a representative of Christ, the partaking together, all this bolsters our faith, in ways our Creator knows best.

So when fears crowd in, look to the Word and the Table, where you will find Christ.  Through Him we are more than conquerors.  1 John 4:17 is very striking: just as Jesus is, so are we in this world – perfectly free from feeling threatened.  Swords may rattle, lawsuits intimidate, but we are safe, seated around the Table of Jesus Christ.

Receive Him, rest on Him alone today. 


Words of Worship - 1/17/16

Call to Worship - Psalm 105:1-15
Opening Hymn:  O Worship the King

Great and Mighty King, Heavenly Father, we worship You with all our might today.  We ask You to be present as we gather in the name of Your Son, by the power of Your holy Spirit.  You are all glorious above, and we call upon Your name.  We sing to You and tell of Your might.  We are the children of Abraham you are gathering from east and west into your kingdom, by faith in Christ Jesus.  You remember Your covenant with Ab to bless the nations through His seed.  Though we stumble and fail you often, you keep your promises to save, for Christ’s sake, and we praise You for this.

We draw near to You in the name of the Radiant Lord Jesus Christ, who shines on us by the power of the Holy Spirit, who lives and reigns in glory with You, one God, now and forever.  Amen.


What Is Apologetics?

Greg Bahnsen liked to say that the task of Christian apologetics is to "shut the mouths" of unbelievers.  He points to Titus 1:10-11 - "there are many insubordinate... whose mouths must be stopped."  I agree with the pre-suppositional approach to apologetics in that we need to expose inconsistent assumptions that unbelievers have.  Tearing down arguments is an important means of getting people to re-think their beliefs (1 Corinthians 10:5).

But there is a way to run with this that is very unhelpful.  First, the Titus connection isn't exactly an apologetic context.  Paul is dealing with false teachers in the church, whom Titus needs to deal firmly with.  This isn't the same situation as talking with your friend on campus about Christianity.  Some pre-suppositional ideologues can see only the "tearing down" and "shutting up" aspect of apologetics.

But 1 Peter 3:15 shows us another important angle:
"always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,"
The word "defense" is the Greek apologia, so no fair limiting apologetics to tearing down unbelief.  Apologetics also gives a positive answer.  I have hope and joy in my life because God is real, He spoke in His Word, His Son died for me and is alive.

And constructive apologetics gives an answer with meekness or gentleness, with respect or fear.  We are not allowed to be hostile or disrespectful to the unbeliever who is also made in the image of God.  Their stubborn unbelief may disgust us at times, but we cannot give in to that, but must always be ready to show them why we have hope and faith.

So two cheers for Bahnsen.  He shows us very well what's going on under the surface and how to debate formally.  But I wouldn't try taking his method to the street or with your friends, as Sye Ten Bruggencate does.  Bad ju-ju.  Sye's pugnacious method is better suited to the Titus 1, false teacher context.  With a world that sees Christians as judgmental, wouldn't it be better to focus on a positive answer for our own faith first?  Then, if they are willing to keep listening, show them the holes in their reasoning, and the great leap of faith every secularist makes.

Things I Never Noticed in the Bible

Isaiah 11:1, 10
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse....
In that day the root of Jesse...

I never noticed the "root of Jesse" name in vs 10 before.  The shoot from Jesse's stump is well-known Advent Scripture.  But in close connection, just 10 verses later, the same Person (Messiah) is called the root, as well as the shoot.  We see this same metaphor in Psalm 80 and John 15, where Jesus is the vine or branch; Revelation 5:5 tells us He is the root.  He is both root of David there, and the offspring/Son of David (Rev. 22:16).  The ruler of Israel will come forth, but His goings forth are from eternity (Micah 5:2).

All these get at the same truth:  Jesus is both the source of the tree's life, and He is grafted into the tree itself to restore it.


The Autobiography of Charles Finney

The Autobiography of Charles G. Finney: The Life Story of America's Great Evangelist-In His Own WordsThe Autobiography of Charles G. Finney: The Life Story of America's Great Evangelist-In His Own Words by Charles Grandison Finney

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

"God never laid it upon thee to convert those he sends thee to. No; to publish the gospel is thy duty."
William Gurnall (1616-1679) in Puritan Theology, pg 970

Finney contradicts this at every point of his ministry, and by his own account.

Finney was against hyper-Calvinism, that only God can regenerate the heart. (This was and is standard Calvinism, not an aberrant hyper-version of Calvin.) WE should decide to obey Christ, and that will change heart. We can make a new heart for ourselves, since we do not have a sinful nature, according to Finney. “The foundation of the error of which I speak, is the dogma that human nature is sinful in itself; and that, therefore, sinners are entirely unable to become Christians” (238). “The peculiarities of hyper-Calvinism have been a great stumbling block, both of the church and of the world. A nature sinful in itself, a total inability to accept Christ, and to obey God, condemnation to eternal death for the sin of Adam, and for a sinful nature, and all the kindred and resultant dogmas of that peculiar school, have been the stumbling block of believers and the ruin of sinners” (333). Finney went beyond Arminian thought (that we have a free will to choose for or resist salvation in Christ) to Pelagius’ position, condemned by the whole church centuries ago.

New measures

Finney advocated new measures. Not just telling people to pray for a new heart and use the means of grace, but calling for people to stand up on the spot, come to a special row for those anxious for their souls, come to a separate meeting afterward. His focus was on man’s will, more than on God.
He “talked to the people as I would have talked to a jury.” He didn’t realize this direct, confrontational, do-it-now-in-front-of-everyone approach could cause short-term or false commitments. As J.I. Packer observes, these "devices... to precipitate decisions must be eschewed.... Such pressures may even be harmful... for 'when the decisions wear off those who registered them will be found 'gospel-hardened' and antagonistic.' (Puritan Theology, pg. 970).

Emotions were the bell-weather for a real movement of the soul, for Finney. “She struggled and groaned out her prayers, in a manner that immediately indicated to me that C—— must be converted.” “The burden of his soul would frequently be so great that he was unable to stand, and he would writhe and groan in agony” (272).


This got results, and Finney knew it. He often notes the effects with false modesty, comparing to the ministers who wouldn’t come, and were surprised by how many attended his revivals. “The results justify my methods,” he said.

Opposed to established churches:

Finney was ordained by the Presbyterian church, not having studied the Westminster confession. The church accepted him because he got results, with little regard for his fidelity to Scripture. They didn’t connect Calvinistic doctrine to the Bible in their churches, but just quoted the catechism as an authority in itself. This left Finney an opening to persuade the people of another perspective from the Bible.
“They had their Thirty-nine Articles in the Established church, and their Westminster Confession of faith; and these they regarded as authority. They were not at all in the habit of trying to prove the positions taken in these “standards,” as they were called; but dealt them out as dogmas. When I began to preach they were surprised that I reasoned with the people” (404).

He even gives hints that he used the buildings and ready audience of churches, while working an agenda at cross-purposes with them. “I continued to labor in the different churches, until the Second Presbyterian church was left without a pastor; after which we concentrated our meetings there in a great measure" (378).


Having never read anything by Finney before, I found him quite full of himself. Anyone opposed to him misunderstood him, poor things. Anywhere he went, revivals broke out. He was so far ahead of others spiritually, according to his own testimony. All they needed was a 5 minute interview with him to have their anxiety come to the breaking point of conversion. Finney never stopped to think that maybe his new measures were such novelties, or so manipulative, that HE was creating a phenomenon, not the Holy Spirit. He really gives this away in the last chapter of his autobiography. When he returns to headquarters at Oberlin College, Ohio, from England, revivals break out in his own bastion and home turf, among people already very much of his own revivalistic mindset. Then, revivals don’t come when others preach, but only at HIS preaching. He had become a celebrity, but doesn’t seem willing to realize or admit it. It must be the Holy Spirit at work.

For further reading, I’d recommend Finney’s “Lectures on Revivals of Religion.” This may be a more systematic laying-out of his views. And also Iain Murray’s “Revival and Revivalism” for an analysis and comparison of the first great awakening of Whitefield with Finney’s type of work.

May God revive His church by His Spirit, according to His Word, to glorify Jesus Christ in our generation.

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Puritan Theology

A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for LifeA Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life by Joel R. Beeke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this 1,000 page work, authors Joel Beeke and Mark Jones survey a Puritan take on each area of classic systematic theology. They do an excellent job of conveying the Puritan piety, Christ-centered-ness, and concern for the conscience and eternal destiny of sinners.

Sometimes an even survey of theology was sacrificed for examining the particular views of a certain person. Perhaps this isn't bad. It must have been a challenge to select what to feature, out of the vast literature the Puritans produced.

Puritans suffered a bit from theological myopia and introspection. Although they could list 60 uses (applications) of a biblical text in a sermon, the emphasis was usually the same. (1) Your guilt and danger of hell, (2) the atonement of Christ for you, and (3) your obligation to repent, put to death the sin remaining in you, and use the means of grace (Word, sacrament, prayer, worship) to help clear your guilty conscience. Perhaps they tended to focus more on 1 and 3. The authors don't give much criticism to this. Instead of pointing out that they were more focused on the subjective sinner's experience in his conscience than on the objective work of Christ, they would say the Puritans struck a good balance between the objective and subjective. I'm not so sure. Raising the question for the reader's consideration would have been good, instead of just defending and commending the Puritans.

I'd recommend this to anyone with a basic knowledge of theology looking to go a little deeper, and at the same time be challenged in your piety and sanctification.

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39 Steps

The 39 Steps (Richard Hannay, #1)The 39 Steps by John Buchan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Pretty good for a mystery. My first Buchan read.

Buchan points out that disguise is about more than physical appearance. The surroundings, playing the part well, and continuing in it sincerely when you are suspected - those are more critical.

If I compare to Sayers or even Christie, I'd read them before Buchan again, I think.
His writing is tighter, perhaps, but doesn't leave as much time to wonder what's going on.

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Gulliver's Travel's

Gulliver's TravelsGulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Irony and satire abound in this critique of human nature from 1727.

As the novel was being born Jonathan Swift gave the world a new thing with his outlandish tales told as truth, and with his obvious and onerous criticism using satire. He was a man disgusted and disillusioned with human behavior. He suffered at man’s manipulations himself, and became a misanthrope.

With the Lilliputians, Gulliver sees mankind as small, petty, self-absorbed with their own kingdoms and gaining dominance over others. With the giants, he sees mankind as crass and vulgar, thoughtless and taken up with trivial novelties – like himself. With the horse-race, he sees mankind as bestial and filthy, probably only fit for extermination though they make adequate servants for the horses in the meantime.

Swift’s satire goes too far, forgetting that God created man good. While we should critique our sins, and satire is a fine instrument to do it, we may not become disgusted with ourselves to the point of despair, disgust and reclusivity. Redemption is possible.

But apart from Christ all men swerve from pride to despair and back again. Swift followed Nebuchadnezzar’s path. God punished his pride with insanity. Swift, cured of pride, got a touch of the bestial and mad as a result.

Gulliver is a dead end, offering nothing but disgust with humanity. In the last few sentences the author wishes he never even tried to reform mankind. Along the way, he wrote an entertaining and enlightening tale that sheds light on the folly and sinfulness of human behavior.

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Moby Dick

Moby Dick /Billy BuddMoby Dick /Billy Budd by Herman Melville

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“I have written an evil book” Melville wrote Nathaniel Hawthorne after he finished Moby Dick.

Filled with symbolism about God and evil, this long tale shows what happens to men when their hearts get warped and twisted with vengeance over some wound in the past.

“He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down” (142). “He was intent on an audacious, immitigable, and supernatural revenge” (143). “From hell’s heart I stab at thee” (390).

Moby Dick is a white whale, and Melville takes an important chapter to consider the whiteness: “this whiteness, and learned why it appeals with such power to the soul; and more strange and far more portentous—why, as we have seen, it is at once the most meaning symbol of spiritual things, nay, the very veil of the Christian’s Deity” (149). As an “object of trembling reverence and awe” He “command[s] worship, at the same time enforce[s] a certain nameless terror” (146).

The pacing is insanely slow, as Melville takes us on an encyclopedic biological tour of the whale. Since the whale represents God throughout the book (white, divine, august, etc.), this shows man’s inevitable obsession with his Creator. But the end is worth it. I think every chapter, maybe every paragraph, alludes to some aspect of theological truth. Predestination and fate are a recurring theme. The main characters hear a sermon on Jonah before embarking on their voyage with Captain Ahab. There is an anti-Communion at the beginning, when Ahab calls his crew to drink and swear death to Moby Dick (130), and an anti-baptism of his harpoon in blood near the end: “I baptize you not in the name of the Father, but in the name of the devil [translated from Latin]” (338).

Ahab’s first mate questions his quest. Why destroy yourself and us with this vengeful quest? Even at the very end he calls him to turn back. But it is far too little, too late.

“All of us are Ahabs” (353). In the end, as with all good books, we stare ourselves in the mirror image of Ahab. The whale took his leg. What has God taken from you, that tempts you to hate Him? How have you pursued God with hostility?

The symbolism in the book isn’t all sound or biblical. The whale is malicious, vengeful, unfair in his predestinating, fating power. Melville called the book evil. I don’t know his personal story, but I get the sense that he identified with Ahab and had a grudge against God. He knew it would only destroy him to fight God, but it seems all he knows to do in retaliation for the wounds he has faced.

The name of Jesus makes one appearance that I could tell, near the end when the mate calls Ahab off from his quest. It goes unheeded as before. Jesus and His atoning redemption of our wounds are utterly absent from the book. Either God will win as you submit to His power, or God will win as you fight Him.

Evil, indeed. Yet a supremely compelling depiction of the human heart before its Maker. I give it a rare 5 out of 5 stars.

This is R.C. Sproul’s favorite work of literature. See his short article on Moby Dick here.

As an aside, I read this out loud to my kids, and it took a long time!

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C.S. Lewis Does Sci-Fi: Out of the Silent Planet

Out of the Silent Planet (Space Trilogy, #1)Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Did you know C.S. Lewis wrote science fiction?

Apparently he and J.R.R. Tolkien agreed once, since fiction was in such a sorry state, that Lewis would write a space travel book, and Tolkien would write a time travel story. As usual, Tolkien never finished his, but Lewis did.

Dr. Ransom is kidnapped (not by aliens!) and taken to another planet, which is NOT the silent planet. What happens there is humbling and convicting to him, while his captors remain proud and condescending. This is because they are captive themselves to assumptions that man has surpassed the primitive stage of evolution, and that anyone else man may meet must be below them. They wreak havoc while Ransom learns and seeks to understand the aliens, mankind, and himself.

- Greed isn’t as bad as idolizing the human race. Men tend to justify all kinds of wicked deeds in the name of continuing the species and progress. Lewis asserts instead in this tale that all worlds and races must have their beginning and end.

- The Eldila show the spiritual ineptness of man. There are truths and beings we are blind to, yet we think we’re hot stuff. Space is chock full of beings, not an empty void. Knowing Lewis’ thought a bit, this goes for earth, too. We are so full of ourselves, we can’t even see what’s going on around us.

- Having multiple sentient species on one planet shows the human desire for dominance. Not just to take dominion in a godly way, but the “bent” impulse to be in charge.

- Lewis weaves a biblical cosmology into the story, posing a possible scenario for life on other worlds integrated with biblical truth. If you wonder how this could work, your hint is in Daniel 10:13-14 and Revelation 12:7.

I don’t want to give too much away, though. Aside from some off-base mechanics of space travel (and a bit too much on the flora and fauna for my taste), this is an excellent read. In the great tradition of science fiction, it’s really an exploration of the human heart more than of space. This trilogy has far more biblical truth in it than Star Trek, Star Wars and other sci-fi writings combined.

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How to Walk into Church

How to Walk into ChurchHow to Walk into Church by Tony Payne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Written for the average church-goer, Payne gives biblical and practical advice on keeping church attendance an act of deliberate discipleship.

What is church?
Why go?
What should I be thinking about when I go?

I'll give away the main idea: we should go to church expecting to help someone else with our encouraging words, loving presence or acts of service.

Payne does a good job in 64 short pages keeping church God-oriented, while also asserting this main idea. It is a practical and edifying challenge for both new and seasoned believers.

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New Year Questions // Buying the Bible // Head, not Body?

What a great list of questions improving my sanctification here, by Kevin DeYoung!

The family that owns Hobby Lobby has bought up lots of ancient biblical texts in the last few years, planning to open a major Bible museum in the heart of D.C.  Read a long-ish article about it here in The Atlantic.  Conservative Bible scholarship (maybe even KJV-only, sadly) interviewed by a secular Bart-Ehrman advocating magazine!

Saying: "I love Jesus, but not the Church" is like saying: "I love your head but not your body."
Pawel Bartosik, CREC pastor in Poland.