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As I begin the slow, arduous process of reading broadly on faith and reason to write a paper for my Philosophy class, I find I am constantly struck by the concept of truth. What is it? Does it exist? Is it, as one friend of mine has put in his “About Me” section on his Facebook page, “what rocks dream about”?

These past few days I’ve been following with some interest the story of Mike Daisey, a storyteller/monologist who created a popular stage show in which he tells the story of his trip to China to visit, firsthand, Apple’s factories on order to report on their poor working conditions. The show is popular enough that the NPR show This American Life excerpted it after researching its accuracy. It is, according to host Ira Glass, their most downloaded show ever.

And much of it is a lie.

Glass (and Daisey) are quick to point out that the conditions are in fact bad. Very bad. Atrocious, you might say. But what makes (or made) Daisey’s tale so gripping were numerous firsthand accounts and details, details which Daisey claimed time and again he collected in China, but were in reality secondhand rumors. Other details of his trip were, according to his translator, entirely fabricated.

Daisey’s defense? That as a storyteller he is not indebted to tell the truth per se, and that the underlying issue he was undertaking- to bring attention to the abuses of Foxconn and Apple- were true. Daisey has apologized, and even given a ‘speech’ at Georgetown (fair warning, Daisey really enjoys the ‘oh fudge!’ word),  but it is not overly sincere.

How does this tie into Philosophy of Religion? Because it’s easy, at least for me, to get sucked into the minute and necessary details and forget to take my conclusions and shine them onto the broader world. As a Christian, a husband, a father, a hopeful pastor, I need to remember that good, salt of the earth people probably won’t be wading through Anselm or Hume or Plantinga anytime soon, but they do wrestle with the conclusions. Guys like Daisey are a dime a dozen, if not in their talent (he is a gifted storyteller) in their view of truth. Do the ends justify the means? Does it really matter if his chronology and details are exaggerated? And if it’s okay for him to exaggerate for the sake of story, what about me? My kids? Or, to turn it specifically to a church issue, what about the Gospel authors? Or Moses? The Chronicler?

I know it’s a bit of a reach, but not that much.

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I’ll be the first to admit I have never read a word of Anne Rice’s books. I’ve never even see Interview With a Vampire- Tom Cruise creeps me out (and I mean HIM, not him playing a vampire).  In fact, straining my brain back a few years, I’m pretty sure the only reason I even know about her at all was in relation the fact that the Interview With a Vampire lady had returned to  ‘Christianity’ (aka Roman Catholicism).

And now once again Ms. Rice has appeared like a blip on my cultural radar screen. More than a blip really. This lady is everywhere- Christian blogs, editorials, milk cartons, bus benches- okay, maybe I’m overstating a little bit, but at the risk of sounding oh-so-rude I’m inclined to agree with Carl Trueman on this one- why is  this such a huge deal?

But apparently it is, and since Mark Driscoll appeared to me in a vision last night and lectured me on cultural engagement, I’ll bite (but only for a moment). William Lobdell, writing in the L.A. Times, was kind enough to let us all know that the Church is dead and everyone need to make like Francis of Assisi- more doing and less talkie-talkie.  Mr. Lobdell uses Rice’s departure- communicated via that hotbed of intellectual and cultural credibility, Facebook- to give a ‘unique’ view of the American religious landscape. (FOOLED! BAMBOOZLED! This post isn’t about Anne Rice at all!) And by unique, I mean quoting Ronald Sider and George Barna.  Because really, at the end of  the day,  if you disagree with their ideas then you disagree with Jesus- or at least their Jesus.

And don’t miss the last line- it’s  a doozy:

A well-informed hunch says American Christians aren’t ready for the kind of reformation that will realign their actions with biblical mandates. And in the meantime, the exodus from the church will continue.

That sounds familiar- all those well-informed hunches about Brett Favre I keep hearing.

To be fair, the article did say one thing I found worthy of chewing on, mostly because I think the principle is right (though he obviously applies it differently):

How to explain the Grand Canyon-sized gap between principles outlined in the Gospels and the behavior of believers? Christians typically, and rather lamely, respond that shortcomings of the followers of Jesus are simply evidence of man’s inherent sinfulness.

But if one adheres to the principle of Occam’s razor — that the simplest explanation is the most likely — there is another, more unsettling conclusion: that many people who call themselves Christian don’t really believe, deep down, in the tenets of their faith. In other words, their actions reveal their true beliefs.

I’m willing to bet the ‘principals outlined in the Gospels’ as described by Lobdell would sound more like Jim Wallis than Jesus. However, I’m also convinced that there is, deep down, a tiny kernel of truth in this (and Anne Rice’s) critique, although it comes more by accident than by them getting the point.


“I once had a patient, a sound atheist, who used to read in the British Museum. One day, as he sat reading, I saw a train of thought in his mind beginning to go the wrong way. The Enemy, of course, was at his elbow in a moment. Before I knew where I was I saw my twenty years’ work beginning to totter. If I had lost my head and begun to attempt a defence by argument I should have been undone. But I was not such a fool. I struck instantly at the part of the man which I had best under my control and suggested that it was just about time he had some lunch. The Enemy presumably made the counter-suggestion (you know how one can never quite overhear What He says to them?) that this was more important than lunch. At least I think that must have been His line for when I said “Quite. In fact much too important to tackle it the end of a morning”, the patient brightened up considerably; and by the time I had added “Much better come back after lunch and go into it with a fresh mind”, he was already half way to the door. Once he was in the street the battle was won. I showed him a newsboy shouting the midday paper, and a No. 73 bus going past, and before he reached the bottom of the steps I had got into him an unalterable conviction that, whatever odd ideas might come into a man’s head when he was shut up alone with his books, a healthy dose of “real life” (by which he meant the bus and the newsboy) was enough to show him that all “that sort of thing” just couldn’t be true. He knew he’d had a narrow escape and in later years was fond of talking about “that inarticulate sense for actuality which is our ultimate safeguard against the aberrations of mere logic”. He is now safe in Our Father’s house.

You begin to see the point? Thanks to processes which we set at work in them centuries ago, they find it all but impossible to believe in the unfamiliar while the familiar is before their eyes. Keep pressing home on him the ordinariness of things. Above all, do not attempt to use science (I mean, the real sciences) as a defence against Christianity. They will positively encourage him to think about realities he can’t touch and see. There have been sad cases among the modern physicists. If he must dabble in science, keep him on economics and sociology; don’t let him get away from that invaluable “real life”. But the best of all is to let him read no science but to give him a grand general idea that he knows it all and that everything he happens to have picked up in casual talk and reading is “the results of modem investigation”. Do remember you are there to fuddle him. From the way some of you young fiends talk, anyone would suppose it was our job to teach!

Your affectionate uncle
SCREWTAPE”

The Screwtape Letters, pp 2-4

I’ve been thinking lately- which might explain the long silence on this blog. And if you believe that’s the reason nothing ever gets posted on here, I know some swamp land in Florida that just might interest you…

But seriously,  I see and hear the term practical theology from time to time. I hear people talk about classes that are ‘more practical’  than others. And I get what they mean by it, I really think I do.  Here’s my question: Can Christian theology ever really be impractical?

If the point of Christian theology is to study/think about/learn about/talk about the God of the universe, then how is that in any way shape or form impractical? I can think of nothing more practical than total depravity, eternal damnation, and redemption through the Gospel message.

Where I think we (translation: lots of fellow Christians ) have dropped the ball is in understanding the connection between what we believe and what we do.  To put it bluntly, you can say what you believe to you are blue in the face but until it actually affects what you do, what you say, how you act, I am going to be skeptical.  If you believed the building was on fire, would you yell? Run? Warn? Call 911?  None of those this is as vastly important as what the Bible purports to be true- what theology purports to be true.  And I contend the problem is not that theology as a discipline needs to be rescued as much as we need to actually put the doctrine into our every day life. You believe everyone’s going to hell apart from Christ? Really? What about your cousin- you ever told them that? Your neighbor? Boss? Best friend?

Now, there are two things at play here. One is that I genuinely think many (I’d say most, but I’m in a good mood today) don’t actually believe what the Bible teaches.  When it’s convenient they follow it; when something they think is preferable for them rubs up against their supposed faith, they look out for number one. It’s Pascal’s proverbial ‘all men seek happiness…’ appearing at a theater near you-only this theater has uncomfortable pews and ugly carpet.

But I also know that there are times I do the same kind of things: I go and do something that flies in the face of the very things I had been pointing out in Bible study last night! So I don’t mean to say that every sin is evidence of apostasy or definitive unbelief in the Gospel.   No perfectionism here, please and thank you.

By now, I’ve (seemingly) wandered far afield. “What in the world does this have to do with Practical Theology?” Here’s what I want to say, and I say it as much (more, really) for myself as for any and every one else:

Satan wants nothing more than for us to think that all this Bibley, theology ‘stuff’ needs to be somehow ‘made’  practical, because it shows that we’re already stuck looking at and reflecting on all the stuff in front of us more than looking at the Cross of Jesus Christ and reflecting upon His work en toto, from incarnation to ascension.

It’s like being trapped in the Matrix: we look at everything here and start to think all of these things are what’s real.

One of the things I find most interesting/disturbing/irritating/sad about non-Lordship theology is the combative nature of many of its proponents. Take the headstone carving from Sandeman’s tomb, just a couple of posts down.  Robert Sandeman was not exactly well known for his gracious character or charm.  In other words, it appears that many people considered him to be a petulant man-child.

Now I do want to be careful in insinuating that a person’s stated beliefs always manifest themselves in the rest of their life and practice.  (I mean, it’s not as if there is some hotly debated and discussed big name pastor who has a ginormous church in a valley in California, an obsession with number forty and a penchant for apocopating the Gospel, who might have recently professed a dead theologian as his personal hero, and demonstrate that very point…)

Yet to some certain (albeit vaguely indefinable) extent, doctrine should (and will) drive practice, both ecclesiastically and personally. It’s why conservative Evangelicals hate abortion- because we believe Genesis 1-3 to  be a trustworthy account it drives our personal and corporate opinions on the sanctity of life.  (There’s thoughts about the Waltke situation buried in there somewhere as well. )  So the question is, ‘Why is it that non-Lordship folks seem so stinking belligerent?’  There are a few options here, and I want to think about a bit.

1. They believe that Lordship Salvation so distorts the Gospel that it cannot save.

Or, as I like to label this, the Galatians 1 defense.  Some do, in fact, believe this- and to them I have no real answer other than, we will never agree. You’ve be answered by others with more wisdom and wit.  I’m not big on casting pearls before swine.

2. The specific individuals who are so belligerent are either not actually converted or they are fairly immature in the area of personal relationships, which God will purge from them sooner or later.

Let me clarify this: I do believe that there are Free Grace guys that have genuinely trusted in Jesus Christ and are actively working out their salvation with fear and trembling. They have and are producing in parts of their lives- even though they claim that it is not a requirement for salvation.  This is the Hodges category. That guy demonstrated great personal holiness over the long haul, and was undeniably brilliant- and yet the way in which he seemed to snipe in his books was atrocious.  However, I do think there are people in the pews who took the idea of non-Lordship, used it to glorify and justify their own sinful lives, and will fight you to the bitter death over this issue. I’ve heard stories about people hating guys like MacArthur and Boice and so on, and it was mostly because they didn’t really like the idea that God actually changes people with the Gospel.

3. In addition to the other (legitimate) reasons, is there something inherent to the theology of the Free Grace movement which tends to breed in people and/or attract generally argumentative and belligerent people?

And to that I have to say yes. A Gospel that promises that we can have our cake and eat it to will most often do terribly little to transform the life of the one that ‘believes’ it (although I am convinced that FG belief is incomplete, I’ll roll with it for now).  I praise God that He keeps us from fully carrying out the possible logical extremes of belief systems. It keeps me from being a fatalist, classical Arminians from being Open Theists, and Free Gracers from living lives of total antinomianism.

I also look at many Free Grace arguments and get dizzy from what might be called ‘exegetical gymnastics’. In the words of my favorite squid-like alien, “It’s a Trap!” Just because an argument looks more intelligent and sophisticated, doesn’t mean that it is.  Folks without a knowledge of Greek look at this stuff and say, ‘Well that looks smart, so it must be true!’  When I was in college, I had a Prof who lamented that he had watched many young and intelligent Baptists leave a Reformed/Calvinistic Baptist perspective for Presbyterianism because it seemed more intellectual and academic.

All that to say, I don’t think it’s a stretch to think that a position which attracts guys (and gals, at the risk of sounding Roger Nicole-ish!) by it’s intricate exegesis will also tend to attract those most bent upon arguing and defending in long-winded and often irritating ways.

And now, I’m off to remove my own log and meditate on the fact that I claim a high view of grace and can so often show so little of it. If grace isn’t making us gracious we need to check the label- it just might  not be grace after all.


Ok, so it’s been two weeks and I still haven’t posted anything on Lordship Salvation.  The good news is that no one is actually reading this stuff so it doesn’t matter that there isn’t anything to read anyway. Although I plan on continuing to post occasionally, since this might just help teach me time management skills.

Until I actually do that, here’s a song. Because let’s face it, everyone loves a song.

Busy, busy, busy.  I’m preaching in class this week, plus I’m not quite finished with devotion-type-stuff for Sunday morning, so I have no post on Lordship salvation ready. However, here are  a few quotes I found interesting, and disturbing. 

Here lies

Until the Resurrection

The body of

ROBERT SANDEMAN;

A native of Perth, North Britain;

Who, in the face of continual opposition

From all sorts of men,

Long and boldly contended

For the ancient faith;

That the bare work of Jesus Christ,

Without a deed,

or thought on the part of man,

is sufficient to present

THE CHIEF [OF] SINNERS

Spotless before God. [1]

“Just as the gospel survived from …Galatia until Sandeman’s day, the burden is on those in the Free Grace camp to carry the torch until Christ returns. May Sandeman’s motto…forever characterize those in the Free Grace movement. [2]


[1]Michael Makidon, “From Perth to Pennsylvania: The Legacy of Robert Sandeman,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 15, no. 29 (Spring 2002): 82.

[2] Makidon, “From Perth to Pennsylvania”, 92.

As I said before, launching a blog is intimidating.  Will anyone read it? Will they like what they read? Is it new and fresh or adding to the noise? Anyone who witnessed the Super Bowl commercials this year knows how cringe-worthy life can be.  (Remember when they used to be funny, and engaging, and not sponsored by churches?)

That being the case, what direction should my blog take? It seems like all the major options are taken.

I’m not smarter than James White, so apologetics is out. Ditto Triablogue.

I’m not a dispensationalist or good at Hebrew, so I can’t compete with Dan Phillips.

Not enough people hate me, so I can’t be Frank Turk/Douglas Wilson/etc.

I’m Southern Baptist, but not quite as diehard as the Bart Barbers or Marty Durens of the world.

I hope to post more than once in a blue moon, so Ascol’s out too.

There could only be one Marc Heinrich.

I can’t read enough to compete with Tim Challies.

Justin Taylor is too good as a Christian aggregator.  Plus, I already jack enough of his links and put them on my Facebook.

I don’t even want to talk about all those big meanie heads over at Pyromaniacs. They make me  cry.

Come to think of it, maybe I should just throw in the towel.

In reality, I’ll probably just keep on anyway, because that’s how I roll.

I hope to post some thoughts on so-called ‘Lordship Salvation’ (aka Christianity) soon. It’s an often discussed and maligned issue, yet I am increasingly convinced of its truth. More than that, I think that among many ‘Lordshippers’ it does not get the pride of place that it should. The reality of the Kingship of Jesus Christ is not merely a thematic category of the New Testament, it is the point of the Bible. This has serious implications for all parties involved- and all parties are involved.

Overstatement? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

**EDIT: In the meantime, here’s a video I really like.  Hopefully it will have made your stop quasi-worthwhile. **

Let’s face it: there are a lot of blogs out there.

A LOT.

Not only has the number of blogs multiplied exponentially over a relatively short time period, the overall quality of blogging seems to have improved in an almost Darwinian-fashion, with the stronger (however one might define stronger in blogging terms) outlasting the weaker.

I am here to reverse the curse, so to speak.

But seriously, I have been what is commonly known a a ‘lurker’ or ‘troll’ in the blogosphere for quite some time.  There are even a few abandoned Blogger/Wordpress pages out there which I can’t even remember the password to. If anyone has ever seen the irritating (yet distractingly handsome) ‘Associate to the Pastor’ commenter wander in and out of Biblical Christianity or Pyromaniacs then you’ve seen me before.

I’m actually a little nervous about blogging. So much benefit can come of it, but also so much damage.  Plus, I love to write and am a little squeamish about laying it all out there for all to see and critique. It’s much easier to sit back and ruminate on my own- I never lose an argument that way,  and I never have to admit that I am wrong.  Punditry goes down much easier in the infallibility of one’s own opinions. Add to all this an utter lack of originality and a sprinkle of complete technological incompetence, and it’s like sitting through The Hour of Power: Are we done yet?

Time to make like an Obama and promote myself.