The man who sings funny “O Holy Night” revealed!

Many of you will be familiar with the hilarious internet meme that comes around every Christmas involving a truly horrid rendition of “O Holy Night.” I have posted the song on this site in the past. If somehow you haven’t managed to hear it yet, here’s your chance:

For years, this piece of Christmas candy has floated around the internet without attribution or provenance. Nobody knew where it came from, although there were some pretenders who took credit for it. Continue Reading →

Charles Ryrie’s rare Bible collection sells for $7.3 million dollars at Sotheby’s auction

When Dr. Charles Ryrie passed away earlier this year, I mentioned that he had owned a vast collection of rare Bibles, including an assortment of ancient Greek manuscripts. Dr. Ryrie had invested significant resources in amassing his private collection. For example, one of the Bibles that I once saw in person was a first edition King James Bible published in 1611. This particular edition is one of only nine copies in the world. Dr. Ryrie purchased this Bible at an auction where he outbid the University of Texas Library to obtain it. Like I said, significant resources.

Dan Wallace has just written that Ryrie’s collection was sold at auction this week by Sotheby’s. Wallace attended the auction hoping to obtain something from the collection. But there were deep pockets in the room who outbid him, and he came away empty handed. In any case, Wallace’s account of the auction is fascinating, and you can read it here. My unconfirmed hunch is that a lot of these items will end up on display at the forthcoming Museum of the Bible.

Sotheby’s has the entire collection posted on their website and what each piece ended up selling for. Some of the items sold in the tens of thousands of dollars, others in the hundreds of thousands, and at least one sold for over a million dollars. Ryrie’s Wycliffe New Testament sold for $1.7 million dollars. There were 195 items up for auction, and together they sold for $7,341,818. It’s incredible that such a valuable collection was owned by an evangelical theologian.

It’s an impressive library, and you can see the collection with hi-def images here.

Ten Reasons You Should Not Indulge in “Solo Sex”

Many Christians are confused about what the Bible says (if anything) about masturbation. Is it always a sin? Or is it sometimes morally acceptable? In my book on sexual ethics, I survey the landscape in this way:

Dennis Hollinger relates the following statistic in his book on sexual ethics: “90 percent of adolescent boys masturbate; the other 10 percent are liars.” Hollinger delivers this factoid tongue-in-cheek, but his point is well-taken. This kind of activity is in fact ubiquitous among the male population, and not just among adolescents. Surveys indicate that over 60% of males ages 18-59 have masturbated in the last 90 days. Male solo sex rates are highest—at 95%—among men ages 25-39 who are single and dating. Surveys also indicate that a sizeable percentage of women participate in solo sexual activity. Over half of women ages 18-49 report having masturbated in the last 90 days. The highest rates—at 94%—are among women ages 25-29 who are single and dating. Unmarried persons are not the only ones facing this temptation. The same surveys show that married persons are struggling with it too. This issue is too common to be ignored and can hardly be avoided in articulating a faithful Christian sexual ethic.
Continue Reading →

Seven Reasons You Should Not Indulge in Pornography

Andy Naselli has a really helpful article in the new issue of Themelios titled “Seven Reasons You Should Not Indulge in Pornography.” Naselli explains why he writes:

My burden in this article is to motivate you not to indulge in pornography. I am particularly burdened to motivate people who habitually indulge in pornography and who are not killing their sin of lust. If that describes you, then this article is a way of metaphorically taking you firmly by the shoulders, looking you directly in the eyes, and soberly warning you, “Wake up! Do you realize what the consequences are for indulging in pornography?!”

Here are the seven reasons:

  1. It will send you to hell.
  2. It does not glorify God with your body.
  3. It is a poisonous, fleeting pleasure.
  4. It foolishly wastes your life.
  5. It betrays your wife and children.
  6. It ruins your mind and conscience.
  7. It participates in sex slavery.

Every one of these seven items is crucial, and I encourage you to read the exposition supporting each one. This is solid biblical wisdom expounded by a skilled teacher of the word. Take up and read!

Does the congregation have a role in “appointing” elders?

There are many evangelical churches who view their elders as a self-appointing, self-perpetuating leadership body in the church. They do not view the congregation as having much of a role in the selection and ordination of pastors. For them, congregational votes and involvement in the process are American cultural artifacts read into the biblical text, not norms emerging from the witness of scripture.

One of the texts often cited as evidence for this view is Titus 1:5, a text in which the apostle Paul gives some very specific instructions to the lead pastor in Crete—Titus. It says this:

5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you.

At first blush, the situation looks straightforward. An apostle instructs a pastor to appoint other pastors. The pattern for installing church leadership, therefore, should be the same for us. Pastors identify and install other pastors. This biblical case was once compelling to me, and it used to be my view.

I am now convinced, however, that this view is incorrect. I won’t rehash all the reasons for this in a single blog post, but I do want to explain how Titus 1:5 fits in with a congregational approach to appointing church leaders. I just delivered a sermon about this to my church yesterday, and here’s what I told them.1

The book of Acts reveals that Paul had a certain pattern that he followed in planting churches during his mission to the Gentiles. That pattern is described succinctly in Acts 14:21-23:

21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. 23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

Paul’s pattern involves at least three items:

  • Converting Sinners: He makes converts through preaching the gospel.
  • Strengthening Believers: He strengthens new believers through discipleship and instruction.
  • Appointing Leadership: He appoints pastors/elders in every church to carry on the work after he is gone. (Notice that it’s plural elders in every single church, which means each church should welcome a plurality of elders, cf. Phil. 1:1; Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Thes. 5:12, 13; 1 Tim. 5:17).

When Paul says that he left Titus in Crete to “set in order what remains,” he means that he left him there to set in order what was still undone. They still hadn’t finished the third and final item in Paul’s church-planting pattern—appointing pastors/elders. And so Paul leaves it to Titus to get this done.

Yes, Paul tells Titus to appoint elders, but he doesn’t specify in this text how this appointment process was supposed to unfold. This single term “appoint” does not by itself reveal the entire picture. Paul is silent about such details in this text (as is Luke in Acts 14), but there are other texts which help us to see more clearly the apostolic pattern for appointing qualified candidates to official church office.

In Acts 6:3, the apostles are discussing how they will appoint qualified men to serve the church in Jerusalem. It is widely believed that the office of deacon is grounded in what unfolds in this text. As such, the Apostles are establishing a pattern for appointment to official church office. What do the apostles model for us? They turn to the whole “congregation” and say this:

3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint
[same word as Titus 1:5] to this duty.

The word for “appoint” is the same one that we find in Titus 1:5. But the apostolic “appointing” is the end of a process that includes the congregation. The Bible says that the “whole congregation” chose the Seven and brought them to the apostles (Acts 6:5-6). And then the apostles laid hands on them (Acts 6:6). So the process unfolds like this:

  • Church leadership recognizes a need for an office to be filled.
  • Church leadership calls on the congregation to recognize and select qualified candidates.
  • Church leadership prays and lays hands on the candidates to install them into office.

I think we should read Paul’s words to Titus in Titus 1:5 in light of this apostolic pattern for “appointment” to church office. The congregation’s role in recognizing and appointing church leadership has warrant in scripture—indeed direct apostolic warrant. Thus there is a role both for the elders and for the congregation in appointing church officers. Congregational votes, therefore, aren’t a vestige of American cultural expectations. They are simply one way of discerning who the congregation recognizes as qualified office-holders in the church.

It is important to remember, however, that congregational rule does not mean congregational willfulness. In congregational churches like my own, we aren’t voting on things because we want to carry out the will of the congregation. We vote on things because we want to carry out the will of God. This polity only works if every member is a born again disciple of King Jesus—that is, if every member is walking under the Lordship of Jesus. We are not trying to follow our own will but God’s will, and that should be reflected in what we agree together to do.

That means that every single member has a responsibility to know the qualifications for church leadership and only select those that meet the qualifications. If the congregation ever forsakes that responsibility, the church risks drifting into weakness and perhaps even into false teaching. So every single church member has a special responsibility to know and follow the will of God in their role as a member of the church. And that role includes the appointment of elders.


1 For many of these insights, see George W. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text, NIGTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 287-88.

Our Advent Calendar Tradition

Like many of you, my wife and I are trying to cultivate Christ-centered traditions in our household. And that is no less true during the Christmas season. I thought I would share one thing that we do that some of you readers might wish to incorporate into your family traditions—an advent calendar.

We like the advent calendars because they are about advent—the first coming of Christ in fulfillment of God’s promises. Advent calendars are a way to mark every day of the Christmas season with that singular focus. In our house, the tradition is very simple. Beginning on December 1, we read a daily verse of scripture pertaining to advent season. I will say a few words of instruction about the verse (very short!). After the reading, the children take turns opening that day’s door on the calendar. Our calendar is a manger scene. For every figure in the manger scene, my wife and I briefly explain who they are and why they are important. Continue Reading →

Deep in the Weeds on MONOGENES and Eternal Generation

Last summer, I did something that I had never taken the time to do before. I read the Nicene Creed in Greek. Of course I was very familiar with the English version of the Creed before then, but not so much the Greek. One thing that is clear in the Greek is that the Nicene fathers were interpreting scriptural terms in saying that Jesus is the “only begotten” (MONOGENES) and “begotten not made” (GENNAO). These terms derive from John’s writings, and the Creed clearly interprets MONOGENES to denote “generation” or “begottenness.”

That the Son is “begotten not made” and “begotten before all ages” means that the Son’s “only-begottenness” is eternal. Thus the doctrine of eternal generation emerges in the Creed not only as the church’s confession but also as an interpretation of specific biblical texts (John 1:14; 1:18; 3:16; 1 John 4:9). To be sure, the doctrine of eternal generation has a broad biblical basis and does not rely solely on MONOGENES. Nevertheless, the Nicene Fathers feature MONOGENES in the Creed as an exegetical linchpin for the doctrine. Continue Reading →

Why churches might need to excommunicate “affirming” members of the congregation

Andrew Wilson has a really good article this morning about non-affirming Christians who affirm the Christian bona fides of affirming Christians. Wilson is interacting with Steve Holmes and Alan Jacobs on this point. Both Holmes and Jacobs claim that affirming homosexual relationships is an error, but not one that should call into question the authenticity of someone’s Christian faith. Andrew makes a number of good points in response to this claim, and I would like to add some more here.

The question before us is whether gay-affirming sexual ethics are a first order issue or a second order issue. Is it an issue that distinguishes Christian from Christian (like baptism)? Or is it an issue that distinguishes Christian from non-Christian (like the deity of Christ)? Holmes and Jacobs are both arguing that the “affirming” position is an error but not one that sets someone outside of Christianity. In other words, it’s more like a difference over baptism than a difference over the deity of Christ. Holmes writes: Continue Reading →

Lee Irons has posted a summary of his unpublished paper on MONOGENES

Just a quick follow-up on my last post. Lee Irons has posted a summary of his unpublished paper at The Gospel Coalition website. Obviously, there is much more to his argument than what is included in a single blog post. Still, you can see the broad outlines of his work there.

I should also mention that the paper that convinced Grudem to change his view is nearly two years old. Lee has collected even more evidence and data since 2014, and the case for “only-begotten” has gotten even more compelling as a result. The results of that research will appear in a forthcoming volume edited by Fred Sanders and Scott Swain, Retrieving Eternal Generation (Zondervan, 2017). Continue Reading →

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