Author Archive | Denny Burk

Hearing God’s word on the first Sunday after September 11, 2001

I’ll never forget where I was on September 11, 2001. My wife and I were in our second year of marriage, and we were living in Louisville, Kentucky while I was working on my Ph.D. On the morning of the attacks, I was in our apartment, and she called me from work to tell me to turn the television on. I think both buildings had already been struck by the time I tuned in, but I was watching live television as the towers eventually crumbled to the ground.

The emotion of that day has left an indelible mark on me. The uncertainty. The questions. The very real concern that more attacks were imminent. The threat of a larger war. The horror of watching all those people die. The specter of gas shortages and economic collapse. I think everyone felt something like that, and that is why the churches across America were filled on Sunday September 16.

If you want to know something about a preacher’s theology, go and listen to what he preached on September 16, 2001. The two most memorable September 16th sermons that I heard were preached by John Piper (audio, transcript), pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota and by Tommy Nelson (audio), pastor of Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas. In some ways, these sermons were very similar. They both built on the theological foundation of the sovereignty of God over all things, which includes His sovereignty over calamities like the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Both sermons also expressed the grief appropriate for the occasion.

Yet in many other ways, the sermons were very different. On the one hand, Tommy Nelson exuded a sense that America would rise up in its righteous might to settle accounts with its terrorist enemies. Nelson is a dispensationalist and offered the assurance that America would prevail in the coming military conflict because God supports nations that support Israel.

On the other hand, John Piper called his listeners to turn away from their implicit trust in American military might and national prosperity. Americans by and large had taken for granted their own security in the world. Piper said 9-11 proves what the Bible already teaches—that such security is an illusory fiction. Our hope is not in the military and its ability to protect from all danger. Our hope is in Christ, and nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35-39).

As I remember the tragedy of 9-11 this week, I also remember these messages. I am thankful for the reminder that I serve a God who is sovereign over all things, that I serve a Christ who once looked into the cold eyes of at a heartless Roman governor and said, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above.” I am thankful that while we have no basis for confidence in military might (Psalm 20:7), we have every reason to be confident in King Jesus who has promised to come again and to make all things new (Revelation 21:5). I am thankful for a Christ who loves sinners and who will one day banish evil from the new heavens and the new earth.

Calamities will come, and calamities will go. But God’s word will never pass away. In some ways these sermons are a study in contrasts, but they are nevertheless the same in the most important ways. I encourage you to take some time to listen to both of them and to set your hope completely on Christ.

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“9-11” by Tommy Nelson

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“A Service of Sorrow, Self-Humbling, and Steady Hope in Our Savior and King, Jesus Christ” by John Piper

How feminism treats heterosexuality as a problem

If you’ve ever wondered about the connection between feminism and LGBT identities, a recent article by Marcie Bianco at NBC News clears things up. Among other things, Bianco says this:

Men need heterosexuality to maintain their societal dominance over women. Women, on the other hand, are increasingly realizing not only that they don’t need heterosexuality, but that it also is often the bedrock of their global oppression.

Patriarchy is at its most potent when oppression doesn’t feel like oppression, or when it is packaged in terms of biology, religion or basic social needs like security comfort, acceptance and success. Heterosexuality offers women all these things as selling points to their consensual subjection.

Historically, women have been conditioned to believe that heterosexuality is natural or innate, just as they have been conditioned to believe that their main purpose is to make babies — and if they fail to do so, they are condemned as not “real,” or as bad, women.

Bianco goes on to tell the stories of two female celebrities—Miley Cyrus and Julianne Hough—who have recently turned from heterosexuality to LGBT identities. Bianco contends that Cyrus and Hough are in the vanguard of feminist liberation. Continue Reading →

Apostasy and Pastoral Preparation for the Conflict Ahead

David French has an insightful column analyzing the apostasy of yet another Christian celebrity. French writes:

As our culture changes, secularizes, and grows less tolerant of Christian orthodoxy, I’m noticing a pattern in many of the people who fall away (again, only Sampson knows his heart): They’re retreating from faith not because they’re ignorant of its key tenets and lack the necessary intellectual, theological depth but rather because the adversity of adherence to increasingly countercultural doctrine grows too great.

Put another way, the failure of the church isn’t so much of catechesis but of fortification — of building the pure moral courage and resolve to live your faith in the face of cultural headwinds.

French is certainly correct that people are falling away in large part due to a failure of moral courage. There is no question about that. Nevertheless, I would take exception with one part of his analysis. When it comes to “catechesis” versus “fortification,” it’s actually not an either/or but a both/and. There are lots of churches failing at catechesis, and there are lots that are failing at preparing people for the cost of discipleship. Both of these things are happening all at once all across evangelicalism. Continue Reading →

The Will of the Father and the Will of the Son in the Covenant of Redemption

A couple months ago, I wrote “A Clarification about a New Book on the Trinity” in which I addressed criticism of an article I wrote back in 2004. In my article, I had argued that the Son’s submission to the Father is a feature of the economy not of the immanent trinity. I based this conclusion on a certain reading of Philippians 2:6, which gives us a Pauline depiction of the preincarnate Christ.

Paul says that “although [Christ] existed in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God as a thing to be grasped for” (Phil. 2:6, my translation). The point was not that the Son’s essence or will had become separate from the Father’s. The Son’s submission was “functional,” which I understood to refer to the Son’s mission in the economy. I believed that the economy in some sense commenced in eternity with this agreement between the Father and the Son. Continue Reading →

I have no hot-take, only grief

Last week Joshua Harris announced that he is divorcing his wife, is no longer a Christian, and has embraced LGBTQ+ views on sexuality.

I don’t have a hot-take on this. Only grief. I am not surprised that apostasy exists in the world. Jesus warned us that it would happen (Matt. 13:20-22) and so did the apostles (Acts 20:30). And yet it is so painful and heartbreaking to witness. I resonate deeply with what Heath Lambert has written:

The author of Hebrews warns, “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God” (Heb 3:12). Think about this verse, and consider that Joshua Harris—the man who summoned an entire generation to purity—has now left his wife, publicly rejected Christianity, and embraced the LGBTQ+ agenda.

Let that sink in.

Let that sink in, and be sobered. If this can happen to Joshua Harris, how much more do I need to heed the warning of Hebrews, and take care to avoid an evil, unbelieving heart? How much more care do you need to take?

No one plans on apostatizing when they come to Christ. Life happens. Troubles come. Faith is tested. The soil is eventually revealed for what it is (Matt. 13:20-22). What will time and trouble reveal about you? About me?

God, be merciful to me, the sinner! (Luke 18:13).

Keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me… Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Thy sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer (Psalm. 19:13-14).

Do not cast me away from Thy presence, And do not take Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, And sustain me with a willing spirit (Psalm 51:11-12).

Apostasy is real. And there is nothing in our flesh to keep us from it. We are just as dependent upon God’s grace today as we were the first day we tasted it. If we stand, it will be by the power of God alone.  Apart from grace, we would all be careening to our own destruction.

Perhaps this story isn’t over yet. I hope it isn’t. I hope that there is a renewal to repentance. In meantime, we should pray and look to ourselves, lest we also be tempted (Gal. 6:1).

A. T. Robertson on Women Preaching

A. T. Robertson is without question the greatest scholar of New Testament Greek that the Southern Baptist Convention has ever produced. Indeed, he is one of the greatest scholars of New Testament Greek that has ever lived. In 1906, Robertson wrote a sharp critique of the practice of women preaching in “mixed public assemblies.” His brief remarks appear in the introduction to W. P. Harvey’s booklet Shall Women Preach (Louisville, KY: Baptist Book Concern, 1906). I recently came across this short essay and thought it worth highlighting here. See below. Continue Reading →

Ten Thoughts about the “Billy Graham Rule”

Earlier today, I saw an interview on CNN about a Christian politician who practices the “Billy Graham Rule” (watch above). It is an awkward interview to watch, but it illustrates the cost to men and women who are making a good-faith effort to avoid compromising situations. This is by no means everything that can or should be said about the so-called “Billy Graham Rule.” Nevertheless, I thought I would update something I wrote previously on this topic. I personally believe that the rule is wise and ought to be pursued with rigor by Christians who are serious about holiness and witness. So in that spirit, here are ten brief reflections on this particular discipline: Continue Reading →

Beware of a “Test the Fruit” Hermeneutic

When Matthew Vines’ book God and the Gay Christian came out in 2014, I could hardly have imagined how much of an impact it would have among evangelicals. Nevertheless, it has had an impact. Some of the high-profile evangelicals (e.g. Jen Hatmaker) who have come out affirming gay marriage have done so on the basis of arguments found in Vines’ book.

Among the ideas from Vines’ book that I still see gaining purchase among evangelicals is a particular hermeneutical oddity that Vines draws from Jesus’ teaching about “trees” and “fruit” in Matthew 7:15-20, where Jesus says,

Every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.

Whereas Jesus applies this to false teachers, Vines applies the principle in a way that goes against the way Jesus intended it. Vines writes, Continue Reading →

The Anti-Science Propaganda of Transgender Activists

Dr. Allan Josephson is a research psychiatrist who led the department at the University of Louisville from 2003 onward. In 2017, Dr. Josephson appeared on a panel about gender dysphoria in which he warned against the rush to diagnose children with gender dysphoria and then to prescribe hormones and surgeries as treatment.

As a result of this, the University of Louisville demoted and then fired him. Why? Not for scientific reasons. His scientific credentials and research are impeccable. They fired him because his research did not support the rush to diagnose and to prescribe mutilating surgeries for children.

Madeleine Kearns has an interview with Dr. Josephson that explains the whole shameful ordeal. Dr. Josephson explains why he has chosen to speak up about what mental health professionals are doing to gender confused children with these treatments: Continue Reading →

There is no death of sin without the death of Christ

“Unless a man be a believer,–that is, one that is truly ingrafted into Christ,–he can never mortify any one sin… Seneca, Tully, Epictetus; what affectionate discourses they have of contempt of the world and self, of regulating and conquering all exorbitant affections and passions! The lives of most of them manifested that their maxims differed as much from true mortification as the sun painted on a sign-post from the sun in the firmament; they had neither light nor heat… There is no death of sin without the death of Christ.”

John Owen, “Mortification of Sin in Believers” in Temptation and Sin, The Works of John Owen, vol. 6 (Edinburgh, UK/Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1967), 33.

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