RSS

Tag Archives: Controversy

Sinclair Ferguson on “Considering the Glory of God”

Consider the Glory of God

sinclair-ferguson

By Sinclair Ferguson

John Newton (1725–1807) is best known today for his great hymns (including “Amazing Grace” and “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken”). But in his own day, he was perhaps more highly prized as a letter writer — “the great director of souls through the post,” as someone described him. Such was the value of his correspondence that he published several volumes of his letters (including one of his letters to his wife, which called forth the comment by one reviewer, his friend Richard Cecil, that wives would be in raptures reading such love letters while “we [husbands] may suffer loss of esteem for not writing them such gallant letters”).

In several of his letters, he comments on the subject of controversy. He had a distaste for it. (It would be an unhappy thing to have a “taste” for it, would it not?) He also had a sense of being unfitted for it. He remarked that it was “not only unpleasing to my taste, but really above my reach.” But lack of experience is not necessarily an obstacle to one’s ability to give biblical counsel. Newton constantly sought to give such counsel. (Did he not encourage William Wilberforce in the great public controversy of slave trading?) In a day when only a paltry number of Anglican ministers were evangelical, he was particularly conscious that Calvinists, being much in the minority, might feel pressed into controversy too frequently.

It is surely for this reason that one of his chief concerns was that if we are to engage in controversy, our perspective needs to be dominated by the issue of the glory of God. “If we act in a wrong spirit,” he writes, “we shall bring little glory to God.” The first question of The Westminster Shorter Catechism is relevant here as everywhere: How do I speak, write, or act in situations of controversy so that God may be most glorified?

This is the principle. But it needs to be particularized. Newton realized that sometimes we engage in controversy professedly “for the glory of God” but are blind to the ways in which our own motives impact and play out in our speech and actions. The rubric “for the glory of God” must transform how Christians respond to controversy.

For the glory of God” does not call for a monolithic response to every controversy. Circumstances alter cases. We do not cast pearls before swine.

Here are three illustrations of controversy. In the first, silence is the appropriate God-glorifying reaction; in the second, confrontation; and in the third, patience. Why such different responses?

KEEP SILENCE

Isaiah 36 vividly describes how Sennacherib of Assyria attacked Judah. The Rabshakeh (an Assyrian officer) sought to stir up controversy. He spoke, as Hezekiah recognized, “to mock the living God” (Isa. 37:17). But the leaders followed their king’s counsel: “They were silent and answered him not a word” (36:21). The end of the story? God vindicated their response. The angel of the Lord struck down 185,000 Assyrians. Sennacherib retreated.

Would it not have been bolder, more “faithful,” to engage in verbal controversy in defense of the Lord? Why silence? For three reasons:

1. FIGHTING WORDS would not have defended the Lord’s glory here. At such times, we look to the Lord to defend His own glory and not give it to another.

2. WE BEST DEFEND the Lord’s glory by speaking first to Him about unbelieving men rather than speaking first about Him to unbelieving men. Hence Hezekiah’s prayer: “O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the Lord” (37:20). Alas, not all strong controversialists are strong intercessors.

3. WE CAN MAR the Lord’s glory — as Newton hints — by how we respond to controversy. Man’s insulting God is not reversed by our insulting man.

SPEAK DIRECTLY

A less public, but no less breathtaking, incident took place in the early church.

Imagine the electric atmosphere: Simon Peter had table fellowship with Gentiles. Then “certain men came from James” (Gal. 2:12). Peter separated himself, as did other Jewish Christians, “even Barnabas” (vv. 11–14). How did Paul respond? He “opposed [Peter] to his face” (v. 11).

Paul was surely right. But why was this a God-glorifying response, rather than silence in deference to Peter and Barnabas, avoiding embarrassment and potential division?

1. THE PROTAGONISTS were present and believed the same gospel. Paul did not wait and later “bad mouth” Peter. He did the hard thing. He spoke personally and directly to him. That glorifies God because it follows a biblical pattern (Matt. 18:15James 4:17).

2. THE VERY HEART of the gospel was at stake here (as Paul notes in Gal. 2:15–21).

3. “ORDAINED” MINISTERS of the gospel were involved, not a single, ordinary individual. The deviation of both Peter and Barnabas would lead to the deviation of others and a disastrous disruption of the whole church. God’s glory in the church required direct speech.

RESPOND PATIENTLY

Some years later, Paul encountered a situation that, at first sight, seems similar. There was an ongoing controversy about “diets and days” in the Roman church(es). Some observed special days and refrained from certain foods. It was presumably a controversy between Jewish and Gentile believers (the latter being the majority in the churches after the expulsion of Jews and Jewish Christians from Rome, see Acts 18:1–2). Paul had an eye to God’s glory. How could the two groups in this controversy “with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:6)?

1. STRIKINGLYTHE “STRONG,” those on “the right side” of the controversy (14:14), are the ones who should refrain from insisting that others adopt their “right” position and practice. The glory of God is best seen when “the strong” welcome “the weak” — because this is what God has done in Christ: “For while we were still weak … Christ died for the ungodly” (5:6).

2. FELLOW BELIEVERS are Christ’s servants, not ours. To demean or despise the weak is to despise the Lord of glory. (Remember Matt. 25:40?)

3. TO INSIST ON exercising one’s “liberty” on a controversial matter (to eat meat, to ignore days, and so on) compromises that very liberty itself. It means we are driven by inner “need” rather than by love. We are focused on self-glory rather than God’s glory. Since “Christ did not please himself” (Rom. 15:3), should we?

These examples are by no means comprehensive. But they illustrate Newton’s point. In all things seek God’s glory — and guard your heart. Christians are always in need of that wise counsel.

Source: May 1, 2012 http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/consider-the-glory-of-god/

 

Advertisements
 

Tags: , , , ,

Wisdom for Interacting With Relativists

 Fast Facts on Tactfully Sharing Christian Convictions on Controversial Cultural Issues from Christian Ministries International.

Calvin arguing
When asked for your opinion on a controversial cultural issue, first ask your questioner, “Do you consider yourself to be an open-minded person who is tolerant of people who hold different beliefs from yours?”

The above question will disarm your discussion partner of ad hominem attacks (calling you names like “bigot”) and force them to engage in a rational discussion of the issue and your beliefs.

  • Explain that all of your personal beliefs as a Christian ultimately rest on three fundamental questions: Is there a God? Has He spoken? And if so, will we obey?

  • Point out that if God exists, and if He’s spoken on a given issue, the only appropriate response from us is obedience.

  • Share what God has revealed as truth on the issue you’re discussing. If your discussion partner protests, remind them that our personal opinions are irrelevant if God exists and if He’s spoken.

  • Offer to examine these fundamental questions with your discussion partner. Continue to point them to the evidence of a Creator who has revealed truth to His creation.

Source: http://gpo.r.mailjet.com/redirect/1pn8t1h8m890hpc6sgndcd/www.christianministriesintl.org/fast-facts/052114/

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Book Review: Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll

As Real and Raw As It Gets: Review By Dr. David P. Craig

At the outset, there is no doubt about it; this book is going to be controversial. However, before I spend the rest of this review focused on the controversy that will ensue, I think that there is a ton of good advice, encouragement, and — take it from a pastor that’s been married for twenty years with five kids myself (ironically like Mark) – they make marriage as real as it gets, the ups and downs, the agonies and ecstasies, and the thrills of victory with the help of Jesus at the center of it all.

We live in a culture where we are bombarded with sexual images, discussions, and details that sometimes feel like a barrage from which we can never get away from – and I don’t think we will encounter less, but an increasingly greater exposure to all things related to sex. Many pastors and theologians will attack this book in particular for the issues the Driscoll’s discuss. They are very open and honestly discuss and tackle a lot of the questions that never get asked “in church.” However, in my experience as a pastor and life coach I am grateful that the Driscoll’s address the reality of the times in which we are living. No sexual rock is left unturned – but dealt with thoughtfully, theologically, and forthrightly.

I think one of the reasons for so much open talk about sex is the fact that the Driscoll’s minister to literally thousands of men and women in their early twenties – and it happens to be a very hot topic in their context.

Perhaps the best contribution of this book is how the Driscoll’s turned a marriage on the rocks into a marriage on the Rock – built on the solid foundation that is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through repentance and faith. Too many partners have the “grass is greener on the other side” mentality. The Driscoll’s demonstrate that all things are possible with God’s guidance and wisdom and especially with Christ at the center of a marriage. Mark states this very important truth, “There are no loving marriages apart from repentance and forgiveness. Marriage either gets bitter or better.” They show how a difficult and broken marriage can be repaired, restored, resurrected, renewed, and rejuvenated by the amazing grace of God through the Lord Jesus Christ. The good news is that it’s never to late to repent and change with God’s help.

I would hesitate to recommend this book to just anyone. Mark and Grace’s style may be too open, vulnerable, and transparent for some people. Also, some of their advise is definitely in the extra/non-biblical category. You will encounter the “reality” of marriage from “real” people who are seeking to do things God’s way for the long haul. If you are “old school” and squeamish about frank talk on sex – I would encourage you to just skip chapter 10. I am grateful that they are willing to be authentic and transparent in addressing issues in such a sexualized culture as ours – especially in a church (Mars Hill) with so many young people asking the questions they are addressing. Whether you agree with what they say in chapter 10 or not – it’s important that you read this in context of the whole book.

If you are a pastor, counselor, or life coach and reading this review I would ask that you read the book first and prayerfully decide whether you would recommend it or not. I will use some its contents in my own marriage and in helping others – again there is a lot of good stuff in this book – a lot of practical applications. There are some things that I agree wholeheartedly with, and others that I do not. I would encourage you also to read Tim Challies’ review on his blog, and Albert Mohler’s review on his blog to see some specific warnings and examples of why this book needs to be taken with a grain of salt – as they say.

There are simply too many other good books on marriage that I can recommend without a single caveat or reservation that are out there: Tim Keller’s “The Meaning of Marriage,” R.C. Sproul’s “The Intimate Marriage”, “Love and Respect” by Emmerson Eggerichs, and also “What Did You Expect?” by Paul Tripp, “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas, “Marriage Matters” by Winston T. Smith, and “When Sinners Say ‘I Do'” by Dave Harvey would all be books that I would recommend wholeheartedly as books that are biblically and theologically right on – without all the controversy.

However, don’t let some of the “chaff” of this book (and the negative reviews that are sure to come) keep you from enjoying and benefiting from the multitude of wheat (that which is beneficial and practical) contained in the pages of this book. I think chapter 11 with its plethora of ideas, questions, and principles for discussion are more than worth the price of the book. I am grateful for Mark and Grace’s ministry in their home, for the sake of Christ’s Church, and their commitment to tackle all things related to the gospel through the lenses of Scripture, their own experiences, and with a passion for Jesus Christ.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Book Review: God Wins by Mark Galli

The Antidote to Rob Bell’s “Love Wins”

 Mark Galli is uniquely qualified as a journalist, historian, pastor, and leadership expert to write this cogent reply to “Love Wins” by Rob Bell. In this short book that covers the same territory as “Love Wins,” I couldn’t help but think that God was so pleased with Galli’s treatment of the same material. It was charitable, exegetically sound, and God glorifying. I found myself thinking about how great our God is as I turned each page. As a matter of fact – the song “How Great is Our God” by Chris Tomlin kept popping up in my mind as I was reading this book.

The Way Mark Galli Breaks this Book Down is as Following:

Chapter 1: The Really Important Question – In this chapter he discusses the importance of asking good questions and addresses some of the most important questions and answers that we need to be asking in the 21st century. His key point is that until we comprehend the nature and character of God that all of our questions are a “chasing after the wind.”

Chapter 2: Who Is This God? – A Brief Biblical Theology of the character and nature of God. He includes an excellent discussion of how to have our joy and satisfaction in God.

Chapter 3: Becoming One Again – An exceptional discussion of how the atonement of Christ is the perfect solution to seven deadly realities that all humans face before a Holy and Perfect God.

Chapter 4: The Wonder of Faith – What God has done for us in Christ and what our response should be toward His provision for us.

Chapter 5: The Point of Heaven – A very good summary of a God focused (not activities focused or man-centered) Heaven as detailed in the Scriptures.

Chapter 6: Hell and Judgment – Excellent exegetical discussion of these two topics.

Chapter 7: The Bad News: Universalism – Very good historical and biblical discussion of the issues related to those inside and outside of a relationship with Christ.

Chapter 8: The Victory of a Personal God – Brings the whole book together and concludes: “The God of Scripture is fuller, richer, deeper, and more real than the picture painted in “Love Wins,” and that God invites us to know him as he truly is.”

Appendix 1: Discussion Guide – Well done guide: it includes a key verse for each chapter; some key ideas and questions based on the key ideas from the chapter; and some key Scripture passages to read and discuss to bring clarity to each topic of discussion.

Appendix 2: Further Reading – Galli recommends a few books in the following categories: on the Atonement; Faith; Grace; Heaven; and Life in God.

Appendix 3: Charitable Engagement – Great advice here on how to engage with people that hold different opinions than you do – worth repeating here:

1)    Try to listen carefully, and read and reread their arguments.

2)    Listen in particular for the motive.

3)    Aim to use the Bible as a guide to discern the truth of the person’s argument – and of your own argument.

4)    Disagree with ideas, not with the person.

5)    Be teachable.

6)    Try to apply the truths of Scripture not merely as you understand them but as the historic church has held them.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I will be using it in a small group setting and I hope that this book receives a wide reading to reflect on the incredibly important topics of eternal significance that have been brought to the forefront of thinking biblically in order to impact culture for God’s glory and the supremacy of Christ.

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: