May 2010

The problem with Hell, part three...

"In Keller’s description of man’s descent into sin and Hell, God stands like the prodigal's father offering a life filled with love, joy, peace, happiness, wholeness and human flourishing, but His children sin by rejecting His proffered gifts to go their own way. In other words, man wins."

(David) This is the third installment in a four-part series reviewing an article on Hell by Tim Keller titled, "The Importance of Hell." Here are parts one and  two of this review.

The most troubling section of Tim Keller’s essay on “The Importance of Hell” is the third section, which begins with the statement, “(Hell) is important because it unveils the seriousness and danger of living life for yourself.” 

Having previously sought to define the nature and character of suffering in Hell, here Keller demonstrates how Hell should be preached to be understood as reasonable by postmodern man.

There is, of course, a great deal of truth in his initial statement about the danger of living for self. Selfishness is a deep evil, a sin Christ reveals as characteristic of those who will spend eternity in Hell by warning His disciples that on the day of judgment the King will consign to eternal fire those who saw Him hungry and yet, “gave Me nothing to eat,” thirsty and yet, “gave Me nothing to drink… a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.” (Matthew 25:42, 43)

But in the hands of Pastor Keller, the sin of “living life for yourself” becomes even more of an offense than the characteristic sin of the damned that Christ portrays it as:

The problem with Hell, part two...

"Keller rejects the literal nature of Hell’s fire by writing, 'Since souls are in hell right now, without bodies, how could the fire be literal, physical fire?'"

(David) This is part two of a four-part series reflecting on an article by Tim Keller titled, "The Importance of Hell." Part one of the series can be found here. Part three can be found here. Pastor Keller's original document is available here.

Earlier this year a document titled “The Importance of Hell” appeared on Redeemer Presbyterian Church Manhattan’s web site. Despite at first appearing a full-throated affirmation of classic Biblical teaching on Hell, the article by Redeemer senior pastor Tim Keller disappoints on a number of levels.

Keller initially—and rightly—emphasizes the importance of preaching and teaching on Hell. He writes:

“Why is this so extremely important to stress in our preaching and teaching today? The idea of hell is implausible to people because they see it as unfair that infinite punishment would be meted out for comparably minor, finite false steps (like not embracing Christianity.) Also, almost no one knows anyone (including themselves) that seem to be bad enough to merit hell. But the Biblical teaching on hell answers both of these objections.”

A small taste of Heaven...

(Tim, w/thanks to David W.) Last night, I was up in the bedroom when I heard screaming, downstairs. Going down to check out the commotion, I found our dear sister, Terri Wegener, standing in the hallway with her daughters, Mary and Lizzie.

Mary has been living with our son-in-law and daughter, Doug and Heather Ummel, this past year, and graduates from Bloomington North High School this weekend. So, as a gift to his family, David sent Terri home for the celebration--all the way from Ndola, Zambia. No one knew. It was a complete surprise. What joy to Lizzie and Mary! What joy to Mary Lee and me! What joy to us all!

If you want to know the pain of missions work that takes you overseas, watch this clip of Terri surprising Mary last night, in the Ummels' driveway...

Booster seats as babies are slaughtered...

(Tim, w/thanks to Ben Crum) Speaking of the Western World's repudiation of God's Moral Law, replacing it with an infinite number of trivial laws passed by nanny-state legislators: here are two good articles (one and two) on child booster seats demonstrating that the laws requiring them that are in vogue and have recently been passed across the country do nothing to protect our children. "Nothing" as in nothing.

Exchanging big laws for little ones...

(Tim) This question from a reader, followed by my answer.

An honest question, no snark, from someone seeking to further understand your viewpoint here: If one's religious beliefs compel them to denounce those of the homosexual persuasion I can understand that regardless of whether I share those beliefs.

However, we live in a country that does not have a state-endorsed religion. With that in mind, how does someone such as yourself, Mr. Bayly, advocate legislating your religious beliefs? The military is an extension of the government and I'd just as rather see my church stay out of such things.

Once again, thanks in advance for your explanation. I truly do seek to better understand a viewpoint other than my own on this issue.

Dear Lynn,

Love of sinners and their victims is what causes Christians to denounce the wicked sexual perversion known as sodomy, just as love of sinners and their victims causes us to denounce murder, rape, and incest.

These awful crimes against God and man are all the same...

President Obama's a pretty legitimate, you know, person...

(Tim) Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak told a reporter the White House offered him a position up near the top in the Obama administration if he'd withdraw from the primary where he was trying to unseat Dem. Senator Arlen Specter. Republicans are saying the White House broke the law with the offer and the press asked Rep Sestak for a statement about the mess. Here's how the Washington Post reported...

The problem with Hell, part one...

"Religious narcissism, no less than cultural narcissism, makes man the measure of all things. And nowhere is this seen more clearly than the attenuated, kinder and gentler view of Hell embraced by postmodern preachers."

(David) This is part one of a four-part series reflecting on an article by Tim Keller titled, "The Importance of Hell." Part two of the series can be found here. Part three can be found here. Pastor Keller's original document is available here.

In a narcissistic age, proclamations of sin inevitably focus inward and are psychological, not spiritual. The primary reference is self rather than God, His holiness and judgment of sinful men.

Postmoderns preaching to postmoderns are all about "Look what you've done to yourself by your selfishness." This is their conviction of sin. "Look how disordered you've made your world. Look how you--and others like you--are tearing the world's fabric by your self-centeredness."

Narcissists preaching to narcissists speak of selfishness as the supreme sin. And indeed, selfishness is a root sin of narcissism. But what solution do they offer?

Such preachers proclaim deliverance from self-centeredness by turning the sinner into a better, happier, more self-actualized narcissist. The narcissistic gospel delivers the sinner, not from himself, but to himself; to the true him as God intended him to be.

Why no free MP3s of the NASB, ESV, NLT, and HCSB?

(This post was quite different, originally, and I've changed it to reflect what I found after more research. I'm sorry for my earlier errors.)

(Tim) Evangelical publishers would do well to offer free digital MP3 files of their Bibles to facilitate memorization. Free MP3s of the KJV are widely available, while other Bible publishers are earning good royalties off these audio files that cost little to nothing to serve on the web, nor do they need to be printed or shipped. The NASB95 is about the least expensive of contemporary versions at $20-30 for the entire Bible in MP3...

A face only a mother could love...

(Tim, w/thanks to my Mary Lee) If you like babies...

As our Commander in Chief pushes sodomy into our barracks...

(Tim) Because I'm a citizen of these United States of America and have a number of men in my congregation who serve in our Armed Forces, I care deeply about the integrity of our nation's homeland security forces (the mandate our military used to follow). That integrity has already been gravely damaged by the mainstreaming of the weaker sex among our soldiers. Everything now indicates our President's resolve to further politicize and weaken the military, using it as an instrument to oppose God and His Moral Law by repealing the ban on sodomy and sodomites.

And as an explanation to new readers, I discipline myself to use the words 'sodomy' and 'sodomite' as a Biblical witness so that shame and horror will continue to be attached to this sexual perversion. For 2,000 years, this usage has been common, reminding us all of the fire of God's wrath that rained down on Sodom and Gomorrah's abominations.

There are a number of voices in the wilderness calling our nation back to sanity in these matters. As an aid to our fulfilling our Christian obligation to be salt and light, here are some useful links...

Should pastors preach evangelistic sermons to their churches?

(Tim) Under "What is Gospel-centered ministry, really...," there's been a lengthy series of exchanges in the comments concerning whether it's proper to preach evangelistic sermons to established churches. This is an exceedingly important discussion and I want to encourage readers to go down and read those comments in their proper context. But knowing some won't go there, here is my most recent response which can, to some degree, stand on its own. Whatever else you don't read, make sure not to pass over the critically important quote from Luther here recorded.

* * *

Augustine said, "Many sheep without, many wolves within." From the founding of the Church, this has been the universal experience of pastors as we care for our flocks. Yes, the Epistles demonstrate a presumption that letters to believers are letters to believers. It's hard to imagine how they could have been written otherwise. "To those purporting to belong to Christ who are a part of that organization purporting to be a true church in Galatia?" It doesn't work.

But do the Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles provide evidence that our Lord and His Apostles called the faith of those marked by the signs of the Covenant into question? The answer to that question is an emphatic, "Yes!" How long shall my list be? Think of those Christ contradicts, telling them their father is not God, but the Devil (John 8:38 & ff.). And if we want to let ourselves off the hook by dismissing Christ as our paradigm for pastoral care today under the rubric of His omniscience, let's move to the Apostolic warning given to Simon Magus in Acts 8. Or on to the many exhortations to baptized believers recorded in the Epistles carefully calculated to warn against and expose presumption--including the Letters to the Seven Churches (eg. Revelation 3:1-6).

So yes, we are to preach to our people normally addressing them as true believers. But we also must test ourselves to see if we are in the faith and call our flock to follow us in this discipline...

What is Gospel-centered ministry, really...

(Tim) What does it mean for a church planter to tell us he's "Gospel-centered?" Well, it means he's reading all the Acts 29 and Redeemer stuff. You can't stand in succession without talking the talk. But assuming "Gospel-centered" is a good thing, what does it actually mean?

Let's have the Apostle Paul define it:

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

If a church planter is Gospel-centered, he's determined to "know nothing among (his flock) except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." Now two things, here.

First, the Apostle Paul is specific about the "nothing" he's determined not to know. He doesn't know superiority of speech or wisdom; he doesn't know strength, but weakness; he doesn't know confidence, but fear; he doesn't know how to cop a suave posture, but he trembles...

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