Archive | Christianity

Mama Xue: The woman from Wuhan who received Christ on her deathbed

“Zhang Ru Zhen, affectionately known as Mama Xue, was the first novel coronavirus casualty in Sichuan province. Before the 80-year-old took her last breath on January 29, Pastor Peng Qiang of Chengdu’s Blessings Reformed Presbyterian Church was able to share the gospel with her. The following is an excerpt of Pastor Peng Qiang’s message at a special memorial service for Mama Xue and is reproduced from their church’s WeChat account. Her son’s eulogy has also been published on our site.”

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Pulling the lever for pro-abortion candidates is no option for prolifers

It seems to me that Michael Gerson has almost entirely misread the argument that Andrew Walker makes in a recent National Review column. Gerson writes: “Walker is making the following claim: If you think abortion is a matter of life or death, then you must support whoever opposes it most vigorously, even if he or she is an immoral lout.” Walker actually makes no such claim anywhere in his article. Walker is not offering an argument for voting for Trump. He’s offering a defense of religious pro-life voters who plan to vote for Trump.

Walker defends them because Trump-opponents like Gerson are often treating all Trump voters as if they are unreasonable moral retrogrades for their Trump support. If you don’t believe me, here is Gerson in his own words in another recent column: “Loyalty to Trump is making an older generation of evangelical Christians look like crude hypocrites in the eyes of their own children, who are fleeing the tradition in droves.” This undifferentiated condemnation is what Walker is trying to defend against. And let’s be honest, this condemnation is a regular refrain among progressives and the media. Continue Reading →

What does it mean to “act like a man” in 1 Corinthians 16:13?

I’ve been preaching through 1 Corinthians at our church for the last couple years, and in my most recent message we came to a little phrase in 1 Corinthians 16:13 that has become a stumbling block for some readers. The underlying Greek verb (andrizesthei) is rendered variously as “act like men” (ESV, NASB; cf. CSB, KJV) or “be courageous” (NIV, NRSV, NLT). Some of those who favor “act like men” understand the text as a call to manhood. Others dismiss that interpretation by noting that the command is addressed to both men and women.

For my part, I think either translation is fine. Both of them are actually capturing something true about the original expression. The Greek word in question is built on a root that refers to adult males (aner). That means that there are at least two semantic oppositions here, not one—male as opposed to female and adult as opposed to child. As Thiselton explains, “it does not simply pose a contrast with supposedly ‘feminine’ qualities; it also stands in contrast with childish ways.”1 In other words, the root idea invokes both masculinity and maturity. Continue Reading →

The Law of Merited Impossibility Comes True

I do not relish the cultural conflagration that we are facing right now over LGBT rights. I have been writing about this for over a decade now, and I am astonished how quickly and radically things have changed in such a short period of time. But it’s not merely that popular opinion has shifted in favor of gay marriage and transgender identities. It’s that popular opinion has become openly contemptuous of those of us who still believe what the Bible teaches about sexuality and gender.

At the beginning of the 2010’s before the tide had turned, there were warnings about what was coming. Two in particular come to mind—one from Rod Dreher and the other from Robert George. In those days, gay marriage advocates would often say things like, “How does gay marriage hurt your marriage?” On the surface, the proponents of gay marriage proposed a “live and let live” arrangement: “Give us gay marriage, you have your view of marriage, and we’ll all co-exist.” Continue Reading →

Ten Exhortations concerning Gossip Blogs and Online Speech

I’ve read two different reports this week from Christian news sites written specifically to refute what amounts to online gossip and slander. I’m thankful that the stories were written even as I grieve that they needed to be written. They are worthy reports, but I’m not even going to link them here so as not to give any more oxygen to the slanders they were written to refute.

It is astonishing how many people run gossip-blogs or gossip-social-media accounts in the name of Christ and of “discernment.” Even more astonishing to me is how many readers mistake such gossip and slander for actual discernment.

Of course, we are all tempted to speak carelessly from time to time, especially when we feel like our cause is just or when we feel like we’ve been wronged. Nevertheless, the book of James warns us of the enormous power our words have—of their potential for great good and for great harm (James 3:6-10). Continue Reading →

CT’s deeply flawed article about tax exemptions for churches

Christianity Today has a jaw-dropping cover-story arguing against tax-exempt status for churches. Paul Matzko of the Cato Institute authors the piece and concludes:

It might not be such a bad thing to lose tax-exempt status. We should consider, at the very least, the cost of maintaining this kind of cultural privilege. The true church of God, after all, is not reliant on its special status in the tax code. We can walk by faith and not by government largess. (p. 49)

It’s disappointing that this piece appears in a magazine of “evangelical conviction.” It’s a thesis that is way out of touch with rank-and-file evangelical attitudes about tax-exemption. Indeed, the effect of such a policy would be draconian for many churches and houses of worship.

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A postscript on a Twitter thread about choosing a college

I read an interesting little essay by King’s College professor David Talcott last week. It was the title that caught my eye: “Don’t Assume Because A College Is Christian It’s A Safe Place For Your Kid.” Talcott’s essay dealt largely with left-leaning political views on campuses, but near the end he made a comment about theological first principles:

Christian education today is still in many ways excellent and the deeply religious culture of these institutions… can be a wonderful place for spiritual growth. But on matters related to sex, gender, and politics, it is “buyer beware” and “trust, but verify.”

Parents and donors who care about Christian higher education remaining Christian for the long-term need to ask pointed questions of the institutions to which they entrust both their children and their donation dollars. We can no longer assume that everything is okay simply because the school has always been Christian and conservative.

After all, Harvard University was founded to train Christian ministers. Schools have drifted before and they can do so again. Based on the available evidence, it’s already happening.

As I said, Talcott’s article dealt largely with left-leaning political views that dominate so many campuses. But it was this last part that I felt was most important. A campus’s culture is determined largely by what its deepest convictions are, and those convictions are irreducibly theological. Continue Reading →

A Plan to Read through the Bible in 2020

In years past, my customary mode for reading through the Bible every year involved starting in Genesis and reading right through to Revelation. I estimated that about four chapters per day would get me through in under a year’s time. The method worked reasonably well, but it wasn’t without its problems. Sometimes I would miss a day (or days) and get behind, and I had no way to keep up with my progress. I needed a schedule so that I could keep myself accountable for finishing in a year.

In 2009, therefore, I did something I had never done before. I followed a Bible reading plan. I adopted Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s Calendar for Daily Readings. It provided the schedule that I needed. It also outlined daily readings from different sections of the Bible. On any given day, I would be reading something from an Old Testament narrative, something from the prophets, and something from the New Testament. Although this plan provided the accountability that I needed, I found it difficult to be reading from three to four different biblical books every day. I know that not everyone is like me, but that approach lacked the focus that my brain requires. I missed reading the Bible in its canonical arrangement and focusing on one book at a time. I wished for a schedule that would go from Genesis to Revelation in canonical order. Continue Reading →

Let every heart prepare him room!

How could there possibly be anything more mysterious and wonderful than the incarnation of Jesus Christ? God became a man. God took on mortal human flesh. Even though he himself was unfallen, he subjected himself to the brokenness of this fallen world. He sneezed. He coughed. He got headaches and an upset stomach. Every morning he got up, shook the dust out of His hair, and put his hand to the plow in his Father’s field.

The incarnate Son of God was obedient even to the point of death. And three days later, what was mortal became swallowed up by immortality in the resurrection.

Even now, the resurrected Christ sits at the right hand of God in glory. As I type these words, the incarnate God intercedes in the flesh for His people before the Father (Romans 8:34).

And it all began in a manger 2,000 years ago. No, actually, we have to go nine months before that—when Jesus Christ was first conceived by the Holy Spirit within the virgin Mary, when the God-Man was an embryo. “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. . . The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:30, 35).

How can it be that God has come in the flesh? How can it be that he is in the flesh now? Yet this is precisely what the Bible teaches. “Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).

As we ponder the imponderables of God, let us never cease to be amazed at the manifold mercies of God that have come to us through the incarnation of King Jesus. Let every heart prepare Him room.

Merry Christmas!

God’s Glory Revealed in Christ: Essays in Honor of Dr. Tom Schreiner

Jim Hamilton, Brian Vickers, and I recently co-edited a Festschrift for our Doktorvater Tom Schreiner. The book is titled God’s Glory Revealed in Christ: Essays in Honor of Tom Schreiner (B&H, 2019).

The week before Thanksgiving, the publisher was kind enough to host a banquet in San Diego where we were able to present this volume formally to Tom. It was a special moment for all of us who love Tom and who have been touched by his friendship, scholarship, and ministry.

I am really grateful for all of those who agreed to contribute. It really is an all-star line-up including D. A. Carson, John Piper, Albert Mohler, Simon Gathercole, and many others. The book is comprised of essays dealing with biblical theology, and it is now available from Amazon and other outlets. I hope you’ll check it out. The table of contents is below. Continue Reading →

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