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Theological Matters

Theological Insights from Southwestern

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Noah and Gnosticism

The recent film “Noah” has garnered attention and criticism. I have especially followed with interest the secondary conversation between the promoters and critics of the movie. For instance, in a recent movie review, Dr. Brian Mattson describes “Noah” as a Gnostic recasting of the biblical story. This follows in the line of what some have seen as Hollywood’s trend of pushing Gnostic ideology (e.g., “The Da Vinci Code”), as well as the current scholarly focus on the Gnostic Gospels. Read More »

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Axe Mingled with Old Spice: The New Incense

Older members of the congregation may not drive vans full of teenagers or help serve pizzas, but they can help shape the effectiveness of your church’s student ministry. They may be three or four times the ages of the teenagers, but they can be important to them. Axe mingled with Old Spice may create an aroma that will exalt Christ and bless both generations. Read More »

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Just the Facts, Ma’am—Is that Enough? A Review of “Killing Jesus”

In the last several decades, many authors have attempted to describe the historical Jesus while trying to denigrate the historical record: mainly the four canonical Gospels. They fruitlessly tried to find the person while maligning the manuscripts. Fortunately, this is not the case with Killing Jesus because this book is frequently faithful to the Gospel details and presents a mostly accurate portrayal of the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus.  Read More »

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Are Corporations People Too?: Hobby Lobby and Religious Liberty

Who would have ever imagined that a craft store chain owned by a Christian family would be at the center of a Supreme Court case about sexuality, abortifacient drugs, the role of corporations, and religious liberty? Oral arguments were heard today in the Supreme Court case Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby. The central point of the case is whether or not the Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby and Mardel Christian bookstores, has the right to exercise their religious freedom in opting out of the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate requiring employer-provided health plans to offer emergency birth control drugs at no charge to their employees. The Greens have objected on religious grounds that such emergency birth control options are tantamount to abortion and that providing abortion-inducing drugs is a violation of their deeply held religious beliefs. Read More »

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Reflections on Teaching Online: “The Christological Content of the Christian Faith”

At Southwestern, it is a privilege to be part of an innovative faculty that has taken upon itself the responsibility for instructing a large and growing set of courses through an online format. Many people, students here and at other institutions as well as faculty members at other institutions alongside a number of interested laypeople, have often asked for, and continue to request, access to my lecture notes as well as any video or audio recordings of my class lectures. Perhaps now their requests may be answered more fully. Read More »

ReachTheWorld

Rain and Unknown Gods: Missive On Missionary Praying

Vultures sat atop carcasses of dead gods. Dry, dusty, and dangerous is May in Rajasthan, India. So even the divine Brahman cows gave up and died because temperatures soared to 128 degrees in the shade as students and I worked in villages near Sawai Madhopur. Ethnographic surveys gave presence in the villages. Being dry season, the village Sarpanches, or leaders, were available to interact through translation. We covered five Hindu villages and two Islamic ones in 10 days. Read More »

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Federal Judge Strikes Down Texas Marriage Amendment

In what is now a string of cases decided by federal judges regarding state laws, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia has struck down Texas’ constitutional amendment defining marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman. After the state legislature presented the amendment in 2005, 76% of Texas voters approved the addition of the amendment to the state constitution. Read More »

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What is the Value of Apologetics?

There are, on my view, a variety of values that can be had by practicing what we call Apologetics. Let’s first say what Apologetics is as a discipline. In its most general sense, apologetics is a preparatory discipline where one readies oneself to commend and defend the truth of Christianity. What immediately comes to mind for many of us are the overly cerebral arguments one may offer in defense of the faith. These are the ones that, for many, cause immediate eye glazing to occur. They may include formal arguments for God’s existence; historical evidence for the resurrection; addressing challenges, such as the so-called problem of evil; alleged contradictions in Scripture; and alleged moral issues in Scripture as well as a whole host of other academic topics. These are indeed in the corpus of Apologetics topics. However, on my view, commending and defending the faith may at times be much less cerebral. Read More »

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Christ in the Old Testament

In Luke 24 Jesus showed Himself alive to His disciples and explained that the cross and resurrection, and indeed much else in His life, were predicted in Scripture. Verse 27 states: “Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted for them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” Then in verse 44, He told them “that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Read More »

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Methodism: John Wesley’s Plan to Bring Christ’s Holiness to the World

What is Methodism?

Methodism is a Protestant denomination that emerged within Anglicanism during the 1700s that sought to inspire a deep evangelical ethos within the Church of England. Because they originally were methodical and highly disciplined in their approach to the Christian life, they were labeled “Methodists” by their opponents, a name which stuck. John Wesley, who did more than anyone to establish Methodism, did not initially intend it to become a separate denomination. As the movement matured, however, it became clear that significant differences emerged between Anglicanism and Methodism, a point which led to an official separation after Wesley’s death in 1791. Read More »

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Top 10 Questions about Your Church’s Ministry with Teenagers

If I were a senior pastor I would print the following list of questions, and I would take it to staff meeting for discussion. I would expect discussion to involve everyone. For example, I would expect those in ministry with children to consider how 12 years in their program will address question #1. I would expect those in adult ministry to have much to say about questions #7-9. I would expect those who lead senior adult ministry to address question #10 with creativity. And of course, I would keep the youth pastor at the heart of all the conversations. Read More »

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Congregationalism: Self-Governing Churches “Gathered” Under Christ’s Rule

What is Congregationalism?

In church history, the term Congregationalism refers to that form of ecclesiastical polity (or church governance) that envisions the spiritual authority of the church to reside in the local congregation. According to Congregationalists, Christ is the head of the church; he does not rule it through intermediary institutions that are above the church (such as bishops or presbyteries, bodies which are external to the local church). Rather, He rules each individual congregation immediately through his Word, the Scriptures. Because Christian believers are endowed with the Holy Spirit, they can rightfully interpret the Scriptures, “covenant” together under Christ’s kingship in local congregations, and ordain ministers who will faithfully lead them according to the Scriptures. Read More »

PreachTheWord

Text-Driven Preaching and Pragmatic Textual Analysis

Pragmatic analysis of texts asks the questions “What is the author’s purpose of a text?” and “What does an author desire to accomplish with his text.” The text-driven preacher is always attempting to accomplish something with every sermon. All verbal or written communication has at least one of three purposes:

  1. Affect the ideas of people
  2. Affect the emotions of people
  3. Affect the behavior of people

Preaching should incorporate all three of these purposes. We should be attempting to affect the mind with the truth of Scripture (doctrine). We should be attempting to affect the emotions of people because emotions are often (some would say always) the gateway to the mind. Finally, we should be attempting to affect the behavior of people by moving their will to obey the Word of God. Read More »

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Will All the Ducks Fly Away?

“God, Family, Ducks…in that order.” So reads the Twitter profile of Jase Robertson, one of the stars of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” reality show. It looks like that saying is about to be tested. A&E has suspended Phil Robertson, father of Jase, Willie, and Jep Robertson and founder of Duck Commander, for his recent comments about homosexuality in an interview published in GQ. Read More »

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Do Not Neglect the Table: A Reminder to Parents

I remember wondering why I could not have the little piece of bread and the small cup of juice that my friend Noel was able to take. I did not question my parents on that Sunday morning, but later asked my mom and she explained that Noel had given his life to Jesus, and you could only take the Lord’s Supper after you had become a Christian. She then explained the Lord’s Supper and the gospel. It was the beginning of my searching and as I was further exposed to the gospel (particularly one night at the parsonage at Falls Baptist Church in Wake Forest, North Carolina) eventually on June 14, 1981 my mom led me to the Lord and I put my faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Read More »