Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth

Good post on Triablogue. Read it to understand the title. Very thought-provoking. The thoughts that it provoked in me:

Jim Pemberton said...
It seems to me that people generally promote discipline in those areas they consider fundamental to morality and they promote liberty otherwise.

Political conservatives hold to traditional values and leave everything else up to personal responsibility as a matter of some liberty. Rebelling against traditional values, political liberals have declared liberty in those areas while developing a different set of moral strictures otherwise.

Both general schools of moral thought are arbitrary when untethered from biblical revelation, even where they happen to be similar to it.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A critique of “A Color-Blind Denomination”

Todd Benkert, a white brother, wrote an article on race relations and his friend, Raymond Dix, a black Pastor, wrote a thoughtful article critiquing it. Both articles are worth a read. In the comments on Pastor Dix' article Todd made an astute observation that has a practical application to the matter at hand:

"sin issues are not solved in the abstract."

I agreed and added a few lines to his observation:

Jim Pemberton February 26, 2012 at 10:11 pm
“Sin issues are not solved in the abstract.”

Great observation. I’ve often heard abstract truths offered as solutions to practical outworking of sin. I may have given some myself. The abstract is the foundation for practical solutions, but we don’t do anyone any favors unless we also come across with something practical we can use out of it.

“In our focus on Jesus we must strive toward unity in Christ in real and concrete ways.”
Amen. And I would add that it’s a long time coming. Most people toss only the abstract in the ring because they don’t really want to deal with the problem. It’s like they say, “See? I have the solution. Now I’ve done my part and can wash my hands and go back to my comfortable life while you have to figure the practical out on your own.”

For the matter of race relations, if we are serious about it, it requires actually developing relationships cross-culturally. Friends are friendly, but also know, trust, and love each other well enough to deal with each others’ sin.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Having the Mind of Christ - Having Faith Based on Knowledge

Fellow commenter on SBC Voices, Christiane asked a rhetorical question on Jared Moore's response to John Franke's book. Silly me likes answering rhetorical questions.

Jim Pemberton February 20, 2012 at 3:41 pm
“If I ‘rationally’ understood the great mysteries, then it wouldn’t be called ‘faith’, would it?”

I can agree that you likely don’t understand, or don’t yet know, what Biblical faith actually is. The definition of faith that you imply here is placed in contrast to knowledge.

However, let me encourage you in your faith to pursue the knowledge that you have available to you by virtue of the Holy Spirit. Biblical faith goes hand-in-hand with knowledge (Eph. 4:11-16; Phi 6; 2 Pet 1:3-11) and we who have faith also have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16). There is no question that we have faith by virtue of some knowledge given to us by God and that this faith is strengthened by pursuing greater knowledge. Therefore, we don’t pursue knowledge for its own sake, but we have knowledge for the sake of our position of salvation in Christ and the mission of His Body.

And I offer this encouragement also to all of you - seek to know God and understand Him. He hasn't simply given us information to absorb on our own, but He has given us the Holy Spirit to help us understand Him. Pursue this understanding.

Understanding and Responding to John Franke’s Nonfoundationalism

This article on SBC Voices by Jared Moore is very instructive. It's long, but very well done. My own comment adds only a drop to the bucket full of what Jared wrote:

Jim Pemberton February 20, 2012 at 5:04 pm
I think Franke here is guity of at least one common error: there is a difference between the truth and knowing the truth. Many people conflate truth with epistemology, talking about the truth with regard to how we know the truth. However, this denies that the truth that has been revealed to us is actually knowable.

But in one sense I see the issue that Franke is trying to address here. It seems (seems) like Jesus and the Apostles treated the OT scriptures often willin-nilliy. Jesus talked about how the Son of Man was to be raised up like Moses raised up the serpent (John 3:14) or that Jonah was a sign of Christ (e.g. Mat 12:39). But the NT meanings aren’t revealed by an exegesis of the OT passages. In these examples, Jesus is using those accounts as illustrations of something else he was trying to teach. That’s not to say that those accounts weren’t given originally in part to provide material for NT analogy, but we don’t have the place of being able to invent our own meaning for things like this. Jesus and the Apostles did – we don’t. So their use of OT scriptures is instructive to us, but we can’t fully base our methods of exegesis on them.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

What Unbelieving Pagans Know about God and Why They Are Responsible for It

Justin Taylor observes the following in an article about Romans 1:18-21:

First, the object of their knowledge is God’s “invisible attributes.”

Second, he explains the location of their knowledge of these invisible divine attributes: “in the things that have been made.”

Third, he explains the duration of their knowledge, to the effect that this has always been the case: “ever since the creation of the world.”

Fourth, he points to the quality of their knowledge: it is “clearly perceived,”

Paul adds all of this together and draws the inescapable conclusion (oun, so, therefore) for those who know God but suppress his truth: “they are without excuse.” None can plead ignorance, therefore none can excuse their moral responsibility and culpability.

Paul continues to explain what he means in verse 21. Their knowledge of God should lead to two appropriate responses, but instead we see two regrettable reversals: (1) they refused to honor God as God and (2) they refused to thank God for his wonderful gifts.

Read the whole article for the details.

I commented that this is one reason I don't believe in atheists. I don't believe they exist.

To explain this thought:

On the one hand, I love the irony of claiming to not believe in people who believe they don't believe in the existence of God. Simply claiming God or someone doesn't exist doesn't mean that they do. But the truth is that they do know of His existence and have chosen self-delusion in an attempt to escape His sovereign right over them.

Justin ended the article with this:

Studying just these few verses gives us enormous insight into what the pagans know and why they are responsible. May it motivate us to bring the gospel to those who are both near and far.

I couldn't agree more. Paul wrote this section for a reason. I can imagine that atheists would be incensed to be told that they really know God down deep and have simply suppressed that knowledge. However, if the Holy Spirit so enlightens a person of their internal motives for denying God, then this passage could be used by Him as a means for that enlightenment, and subsequent conviction.

So perhaps the information Paul gives in this passage is indeed evangelistic in nature. Do not fear causing someone to be incensed if it may change their heart.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Maybe we hate Calvinism because we don’t understand it.

Dan Barnes, promoting a view of soteriology he calls Wovenism, considers that non-Calvinists hate Calvinism becaue they don't understand it in this SBC Voices article. I speculate that it goes both ways and charge that we must try to understand the positions of people who disagree with us.

Jim Pemberton February 16, 2012 at 3:48 pm

That’s why it’s important to try to understand whoever you decide to oppose instead of assuming that you already understand. And it goes both ways. James White and Greg Koukl both always preach to learn what those who oppose you truly believe.

I think the reason we don’t is because the human intellect has a kind of inertia. We tend to think that the way we understand the world is the only way to understand the world and we resist trying. In terms of Bloom’s taxonomy, I believe this falls under the category of analysis. We each have established systems of categories in our minds for analyzing information. The difference between one level of intelligence and another is the number of different categories we have. The reason people “talk past each other” is because one person speaks out of one system of categories and the other person analyzes what was said using a wholly different system of categories.

Incidentally, this is an important hermeneutical principle. We often analyze what the Bible says based on categories established by our present-day culture and popular philosophies. However, we must learn to understand the Bible using the categories that were used by the human authors that God used to produce the scriptures. This principle shows up in all good hermeneutical systems using different verbiage to describe and label it. But the point is that this is a practice that we need to master in order to understand the Bible better. So why not apply it to help us understand each other better?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

We have ADS on this site?

Doug Hibbard notices that ad blockers have been filtering some good information on SBC Voices:

Then it dawned on me. I use an ad-block plug-in for Firefox and Chrome. I don’t see ads on many websites–here, Facebook, Twitter, even’s internal ads don’t show up when I browse through them. I have been blissfully filtering my internet experience and blocking out advertisements for several years now. And in that, I have become so accustomed to the filtering that I don’t even think about it. It’s automatic and is hidden: I don’t even see an icon that says “ad-blocked” like I used to back in the dark ages. Like 2007.

Conclusively, we would all claim that the Bible is our ultimate filter. We do not want to do, nor encourage others to do, anything that is unbiblical. Yet there are portions of Scripture that are open to interpretation and we come to those spaces with preset filters. It’s hard to see the things that we filter out, and rarely do we like our filters challenged. We need to think through it, though. Pray through it.Keep re-examining ourselves and drawing closer to seeing what we have been missing. There is truth in the Word of God that we will continue to miss if we only listen to those who meet our filter.

I responded:

Jim Pemberton February 15, 2012 at 3:43 pm
I’ve heard it oft said, and I’ve said it myself from time-to-time, that I get something new out of it every time I read this book or watch that movie. The reason is because of the filters we used the first time that have been eroded as we suddenly noticed something that conflicted with those filters. One good practice for studying a scripture to prepare a sermon is to read the passage multiple times. The reason is to wear down those filters so we are better assured that the message we are preaching is the one commended by the passage and not information from some filter we were unaware of.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Preaching About Racial Diversity in Mono-Ethnic Contexts

From a recent Desiring God article:

Preaching About Racial Diversity in Mono-Ethnic Contexts from Desiring God on Vimeo.

It may be enough for some Christians to hold fast to the faith in an ethnically homogenous setting where severe persecution prevents them from getting outside of their context or extreme poverty limits their education. However, there is no excuse for not being involved in cross ethnic or cross cultural ministry when we have been tasked by Christ with fulfilling the Great Commission locally and around the world.

I have often wondered what prevents many Christians of different ethnicities from worshiping together or belonging to the same church. Perhaps the answer could be found when we consider this recent article by Russell D. Moore (HT: Jeff Spry). An excerpt

Thankfully, we don’t hear as much about “worship wars” these days, but I wonder if that’s because of growing maturity or if it’s simply because we’ve so segregated ourselves into services and congregations that reflect generational and ethnic and class-oriented musical commonalities. Maybe we need to reignite the wars, but in a Christian sort of way.

What if the war looked like this in your congregation? What if the young singles complained that the drums are too loud, that they’re distracting the senior adults? What if the elderly people complained that the church wasn’t paying attention to the new movements in songwriting or musical style?

When we seek the well-being of others in worship, it’s not just that we cringe through music we hate. As an act of love, this often causes us to appreciate, empathize, and even start to resonate with worship through musical forms we previously never considered.

This would signal a counting of others as more significant than ourselves (Phil 2:3), which comes from the Spirit of the humiliated, exalted King Jesus (Phil 2:5-11).  It would mean an outdoing of one another, in order to serve and show honor to the other parts of the Body of Christ. And, however it turned out musically, it would rock.

I think this applies to our brothers and sisters in the church the next street over who otherwise happen to believe basically the same things we do but just worship a little differently. We've segregated because we are more concerned about worshipping with a style that we can be comfortable in rather than enjoying the fullness of worshiping God through the discomfort of fellowship with brothers and sisters who we love in the Lord.


John Bugay at Triablogue posted this:

The image nearby was floating around on Facebook today; my cousin’s son (also my cousin), who spent six months as a Marine in the Iraqi desert (near Fallujah), at a time when things weren’t so nice there, had this posted, and I shared it. The following text was attached to it:

“Whitney Houston died today, sad, sure. But the entire world doesn't need to stop spinning for her. Do you know who else passed these last few weeks that nobody will give a second thought about? ... These outstanding men who fought and sweat and suffered and died, so that you all could live peacefully. She met her own fate curled up in a Beverly Hills hotel nursing her selfish drug addictions, not protecting your freedom as these Marines did. Semper Fidelis.”

My response:
From a Marine veteran of Desert Storm, pass on my appreciation to your cousin. Uncommon valor is still a common virtue among some. Let's pray that when we look on heaven's scene we find the streets guarded by these United States Marines! Oooh Rah!

And for those concerned with the lack of good theology behind that last line, it's adapted from the last line of the Marine's Hymn. I merely mean that I hope that my fellow Devildogs who made the Ultimate Sacrifice were believers. I'm sure many who have lost their lives in the service of our country have not been.)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Re: Some Thoughts on Guns and YouTube Scoldings as Parenting Tools

Good discussion on the Pyromaniacs. I responded positively to Chris Hart's excellent observation:

Chris Hart said...

The father displayed complete control and was nowhere near an emotional state of concern. I appreciate the symbolism in the video. The laptop is the pen, the gun is the sword. The daughter wrote this on some costly parchment paper provided by her father and posted it on a building in the public square. The father hears of this public display of tarnishing his name, retrieved his sword, bumped his way through the crowd and grabbed the paper to slice it down the middle. As he walks away, the crowd is shaking their heads, "such violence". My quarrel is with the degradation and feminization of the character of man...

...The pen is mightier than the sword. I am not comfortable with my teenage sons alone with a laptop yet, however I have full confidence in them with an assault rifle anywhere. Which weapon is more violent and splitting families like a scatter gun? a laptop or a handgun? He left his daughter alone with a laptop??

Jim Pemberton said...
Chris Hart, re: "pen and sword": very good. I don't see the pen any different than the tongue with regard to the Biblical admonitions to control it.

Violence to an object is different than violence to a person. Did Jesus respond sinfully when He overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple? I would say that was a godly and manly thing to do.

Did this man handle the situation well? I don't think I would have to have posted a video with all the ungodly things on it. The whole cussing thing reminds me of Ralphie from A Christmas Story dropping the F-bomb on his dad - the same one he learned it from. Our children inherit their sin nature from Adam through us, but we too often also teach them how to use it.

It's a godly man who can teach them how to repent of it.


Quote spotted on Calvinistic Cartoons:

"The Bible in the pulpit must never supersede the Bible at home." J.C Ryle

My response:

Jim Pemberton said...
As important as the preached Bible is to the life of a church, members starve who only get a single passage a week for their sustenance. Spiritually, they look like those famished children in Africa with bloated bellies and barely enough skin to cover their proverbial bones. Why would any of us end up like that when a veritable feast of meat, grain, fruit and drink is always available for the asking?

Five Evangelical Myths or Half Truths

R. C. Sproul Jr. posts the following five evangelical myths or half-truths:

  1. "All sins are equal in the sight of God."
  2. "Hell is the absence of God."
  3. "Jesus saves us from our sins."
  4. "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life."
  5. "Money is the root of all evil."

Read the whole article.

A Black President for the SBC

Regarding the possibility that Dr. Fred Luter may be the first black president of the Southern Baptist Convention, some good discussion and comments on this post at SBC Voices:

reformedsteve February 10, 2012 at 6:35 pm
It would make a bigger statement if no one mentioned his skin color and simply said, “we voted in the best candidate.” Saddly that won’t happen. We’ll just pat ourselves on the back for being diverse. The goal shouldn’t be”historic” presidencies, but effective presidencies.

Dave Miller February 10, 2012 at 7:26 pm
Steve, maybe in the future we will get there. But a convention that sided for the majority of its history with slavery and racism electing a black president is too momentous to be ignored.
Hopefully, the second time it happens and the third and the fourth, it will become less of a big deal.


bill February 10, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Fred Luter is a quality step in the right direction after so many missteps over the past decade.
Unfortunately, people will forget that and focus on the fact that this will be the first African-American President of the Southern Baptist Convention.


Andrew Wencl February 11, 2012 at 9:53 am

The election of an African-American SBC president would be a historic moment in the SBC. I would have a lot of high hopes for the future, including increased involvement in SBC life from many of the dually-aligned, predominantly Black churches in our area. Maybe it would also let us see some of our racist white churches leave the convention.

Some of these comments have somewhat made me think. Do we really want anyone to run unopposed? Would you feel better if his challenger was also African American? What does that say about us? Does it betray a fear that a white candidate would likely beat a black one? Does it mean we care less about one’s specific vision for the SBC than we do for a man’s personal characteristics?

Everything I’ve heard about Pastor Luter has been positive. I recognize his election to the SBC Presidency would be historic and could have a lot of benefit, and I currently have no reservations about voting for him. But I’m also willing to consider any godly man with a vision who would put himself forward for that position. Couldn’t a white president promote unity and diversity? What would the election of a Hispanic president do for the sake of unity and solidarity with that growing minority? How about a Korean, Chinese, or other Asian president?

I’m all for this guy, but I don’t think we should hope that no one would challenge him. It might just be there’s another godly man, black, white, or other, out there with vision who could take the SBC in a God-glorifying direction just as well, if not better, than Pastor Luter.

The Mordecai Dilemma

A question on Old Testament hermeneutics was asked on SBC Voices

Jim Pemberton February 10, 2012 at 6:17 pm
"How, then, if Mordecai and Esther cannot really be taken as ethical models, are we to determine who, and what actions narrated in the OT, are to be taken as worthy or imitation?"

This is the key question. Much of the OT narrative is merely descriptive, not prescriptive. We’re not under the Law of Moses although it is instructive.

Esther, in particular, is an odd tale. I agree with Dave where he says elsewhere her that Mordecai and Esther were not paragons of virtue. In fact, this account is about the Jews who were NOT faithful to return to Canaan to rebuild. In large part, this account shows us how sin really mucks up our ability to navigate this world virtuously. I can see where God worked behind the scenes to help these Jews out, but it would have been better for them if they had returned from captivity when their time was up.

In general, the Bible shows us God’s leaders in all their sinful lack of glory. For cues as to how to interpret whether their actions are good or bad, I look to see if they are doing what God wants them to either directly or according to the Law, or to see how God behaves, and God usually gives His reasons verbally to His prophets at the time. If none of this is indicated, I don’t read anything ethical into it. Since God is not directly mentioned in Esther, they were disobedient to return to Canaan and they are suffering the fallout, that’s where I go with Esther. Perhaps God is looking out for His wayward children, but they are forced into less than lawful actions in the process of getting out of the mess they got themselves into.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Why "Reformed Reactions"?

As I wrote in my first post, this is going to be primarily for reposting comments and discussions on other blogs. That's why this blog is called "Reactions".

The "Reformed" part takes a little explanation. It's too simple a thing to say that I subscribe to Christian Reformed soteriology. For those who don't have a clue what that phrase means, "soteriology" is the category of Christian theology that deals with salvation. "Reformed" refers to the theology that grew immediately out of the Protestant Reformation. But Reformed theologians differed on other areas of theology like baptism and end-times.

There is a school of theology that cropped up among Protestants where their soteriology tends to return back in some way to that of the Roman Catholic Church. I'm not saying it's identical, but it centers on whether fallen people bear some responsibility for their salvation. The debate rages even today among Christians.

I considered not using the term "Reformed" because I didn't want to be provocative in that way. However, it is accurately descriptive of my foundational theology.

But there is another reason why I use the term "Reformed". It could actually be "Reforming". There are some theologians and ministers in this world who seem to have been born perfect. You never see them waver on any issue throughout their long lives in ministry and through all the publications they have made. I'm not so perfect, nor do I pretend to be. The manner in which the Holy Spirit reforms us from one period of our lives to another is instructive. It's helpful to have great men of faith who never waver, but it's also helpful to see how people grow in their understanding of God. So in this sense I am "Reformed" and "Reforming".

So, may you see my Reformation through my Reactions and learn about the one who ultimately Regenerates.


I've blogged on and off for several years now.

My first blog, Religion and Politics, just got rolled into my last blog, Timeless Faith.

I had a short stint with Blogster. I left there because there was very little control over blogs and moderation. I couldn't even shut my own blog down.

I also mirrored Timeless Faith on Xanga. Xanga has been buggy, but I liked them for a time because of their photo and video features.

I'm leaving both Timeless Faith and the Xanga mirror up and I'm going back to just using Google's blogger with a brand new site. This one will focus more on the discussions I have on other sites that I think are worthy of sharing. I may still generate some stand-alone material from time-to-time, but I don't have the time to do so on a regular basis. I figure as long as I'm writing helpful comments on other people's sites, I might as well compile them on my own site.

I hope this is a benefit to others.