Friday, November 14, 2008

Christ-Centered Preaching: A Review

Chapell, Bryan. Christ-Centered Preaching. Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2007.
399 pp. $29.99

Christ-Centered Preaching is an introductory manual to expositional preaching. The author, Bryan Chapell, is professor of practical theology and president of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis Missouri. He also served as a pastor for many years. He earned his Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University.

Christ-Centered Preaching is comprehensive in scope. First, Chapell seeks to inform on how best to prepare an expository sermon by discussing how to organize, develop and deliver it. The book also seeks to inform the student about the necessity of preaching Christ-centered sermons from any text in the Bible. He discusses the problems with a “Be” sermon, which is a sermon that proclaims ethical instruction but lacks the redemptive message of Christ. He argues that this type of sermon will only discourage those who are listening because it implies that the power of our ethical performance is in us rather than through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. He is also concerned that this type of sermon will lead to a theology of self justification and ultimately to despair and/or legalism. He does not argue against preaching ethical commands but that our message must be informed by the cross of Christ. Also, he points out that our obedience should not come from fear of damnation but rather through thankfulness to the God of the gospel.

Many people might be afraid that preaching Christ from a section of scripture that does not mention him explicitly is to impose on the text an unwarranted point of application. That is exactly what expositional preachers want to avoid! They might be concerned, for example, with someone taking a passage from the Old Testament historical books and “Christianizing” them. However, he makes the point that we interpret the historical flow of the Old Testament through the eyeglasses of the New Testament and points out that the focus of all of scripture is on Jesus Christ (John 5:39,46;Luke 24:27). He also warns that there is a necessity to preach Christ, arguing that the only true hope and motivation for ethical transformation is not found in mere commands but in the Christ of the gospel. He writes, “…no text tells us what we can do to complete ourselves or to make ourselves acceptable to God (by our actions), for then we would not be truly fallen. No passage tells us how to make ourselves holy (as though we could achieve divine status by our own efforts). The Bible is not a self-help book. Scriptures presents one, consistent, organic message. It tells us how we must seek Christ, who alone is our Savior and sources of strength, to be and do what God requires. To preach what people should be and do and yet not mention him who enables their accomplishment warps the biblical message ( 277).”

It was encouraging for me to read a preaching book that labored, both to be faithful to the theme of the individual sermon text as well as the main theme of the Bible; Christ and him crucified. The book did a good job focusing on the theology of preaching as well as on how to preach. Its greatest strength is that it is comprehensive in its approach. For instance, he covers everything form grammatical outlining of the text, the mechanics and importance of sermon illustrations, commentary, and language tool recommendation to a sustained argument for preaching Christ in every sermon from all of scripture.

In light of the above, I whole heartedly recommend this book to any student of preaching. It is a great place to begin as you develop your ability to create a biblical sermon. Chapell has succeeded in writing a theologically driven, textually accurate, gospel saturated and listener sensitive introduction to homiletics.

Written by Stephen Stanford

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Notes on the Proverb

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.
Proverbs 3;5-8

v.5 "Trust in the Lord..." We should trust God, accepting his guidance and doing as he commands. God has knowledge and power over all things. If he is for us, then we will prevail. This trust should be sincere and confident knowing God's designs will be accomplished.

"Do not lean..."
We should not rely on our own understanding. Where God knows all things, we do not; where he has power, we do not. What God has not revealed we can not know. Our understanding is not sufficient to accomplish our plans, and we ought to trust God and his commands no matter what, recognizing that he is wise and good and that nothing happens apart from his plans. We may not know God's plans, but we know that he will fulfill them. The bible is a testament to his faithfulness and goodness and should make us confident in our trust of God. (see Gen. 22, The Sacrifice of Isaac)

v.6 "in all your ways acknowledge him..." The first part of this sentence commands our action and the second affirms what God will does when we obey. We need not say, "this is for God" or "praise the Lord" in every moment, even though it is good to say so. The idea behind acknowledging God is not that of verbal praise-giving, but of doing all that God commanded in every area of life. We acknowledge him as we obey him. When we begin to think like God (as much as possible) we will acknowledge him in ways that we could not conceive before.

"the Lord will make straight your paths."
This is not a promise of prosperity, but that we will walk rightly or righteously when we obey. This righteous walking is the work of God in us and credit is do to him. No one walks righteously without him, but only by him.

v.7 "Be not wise..." We ought not conceive of ourselves as wise and do as seems best to us. What seems good is an illusion (not really good), but if one fears the Lord he will turn from evil( and what seems good). Fear of God assumes that one knows Gods power. No one's plans will stand nor will his way prosper apart from the Lord. Therefore, the one that walks apart from the Lord has no reason for confidence. (see Luke 12;13-21, Parable of a rich fool) He thinks that he will accomplish his plans not knowing that it is only possible if God wills it. To trust oneself and not God is evil. The one that fears God turns from evil because he knows God's wrath burns against evildoers.

v.8 "It will be healing..." To obey and trust God is good for us, it is necessary for proper health. The one that does not is sick. But to fear God and turn from evil will bring healing to the flesh and refreshment to the bones. It is good for whole person. It will revive the weak, the sick, the weary.

By Samuel Gantt

Friday, October 24, 2008

Corporate Worship

I have been thinking about corporate worship. My thoughts have been centered around the idea of how best we can organize our worship on Sunday morning. What is the best way to organize a God glorifying, Christ exalting, Holy Spirit filling worship service? Well here is a rough outline of what I would like to see accomplished.

1.) The true Gospel needs to saturate the service.

2.) Christ' Lordship needs to be a prevalent motif.

3.) Prayer should take place, at the very least, before, during and toward the end of the service.

4.) Pastoral prayer for the congregation should apply to the congregation and be thought out before hand but done with flexibility.

5.) Music should have traditional hymns but arranged in a contemporary way and newly written songs. This allows the music to be culturally relevant yet still helps Christians understand the unity they have with believers of past ages. Some of the songs done in the service would be happy and there would be clapping. Other songs would be solemn. Too often services go from one extreme to the other. In the Psalms we find that there are a number of different emotional postures. Services might also incorporate psalms set to music but arranged in a contemporary manner.

6.) Worship service should have contemporary songs that are theologically accurate and that are centered around God.

7.) There should be a lot of scripture. It would be nice to see scripture selection done in a way that incorporates a biblical theological method. Biblical Theology in a technical sense is the study of the unity of the scriptures. So how this applies is that scripture passages from all over the bible, both Old and New would relate to the main theme of the sermon. They would be read at different parts of the service. However the opening scripture would be based around an attribute of God and/or an action of God. That is how the service would begin. There would probably be three, four or five scripture passages read during the service. Preferably each quarter of the service would have a passage read. The last passage would be the main text for the sermon. The many scripture reading would help impress upon the congregation the importance of the word of God. It would also show that the service is centered around God in that we place so much importance on Gods very words.

8.) The ordinances would be taken toward the end of the service every Sunday.

9.) Preaching would be Christ centered expository preaching as the norm. Topical preaching would be done on special occasions (national tragedy, etc) and also to teach major doctrines. For instance after preaching the book of Philippians the teaching elder might do a series on the doctrine of sanctification. Preaching should be biblical, theological and explicitly applicable.

Anyhow these are some of the ideas I have.

Written by Stephen Stanford

Monday, October 13, 2008

Book Review: According to Plan

According to Plan: The unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible. By Graeme Goldsworthy Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 1991. 251 pp


The bible is a collection of books with a variety of characters that existed over a long period of time. Some times we might think of the bible as simply Gods instruction manual for our life, but with so much diversity in the historical-chronological placement of the characters and the multiform locations how do we find any coherence and unity to apply the text of scripture to our lives. It is common place for many Christians to be confused on how the Old Testament relates to their lives. For instance, one might wonder how the story of the exodus relates to a non-Jewish Christian in 2008. Graeme Goldsworthy takes up the task of Biblical Theology. Biblical Theology in the technical or academic sense is the study of the bibles unity. In According to Plan he sets out to find the unifying elements between the Old Testament and the New Testament.


The book is split into four parts. The first part is entitle “Biblical Theology- Why?” In this section he sets out to inform us as to why Biblical Theology is necessary. He argues that Biblical Theology as a methodological approach helps us deal with a number of theological problems that occur as we read the text of scripture. Also, he argues that Biblical Theology helps us interpret the Old Testament properly. Moreover, biblical theology helps us interpret problematic passages. By understanding the grand narrative of scripture we can interpret the problematic particular parts.

The second part is entitled “Biblical Theology- How?” This part really deals with the epistemological basis for our ability to do Biblical Theology. In this section he explains the various theological disciplines that we use to know scripture. Then he looks at how the Christian world view informs our presuppositional basis for interpreting scripture. He also looks at the implications of Christ interpreting the Old Testament and how that informs out understanding of the grand theme that runs from genesis to revelation.

The third part is entitled “Biblical Theology- What?” This section is the largest of the four. In this section he goes through the main sections of the bible and shows how they relate individually to the flow of redemptive history. For instance, how does the covenant made with King David build upon the covenants of Sinai and with Abraham? Another way of looking at the question is: How does the history of the bible relate to the overall theme of the bible?

The fourth section is entitled “Biblical Theology- Where?” In this section Goldsworthy shows the reader how to do biblical theology. He lets the reader see how to take a topic and then look at that topic through the lenses of the redemptive history of the bible.


The book was very helpful in many was. His discussion of the exodus account was particularly interesting. He helped me meditate about how God, in his sovereignty, often will set up the redemptive context in ways that man can only credit God for the accomplishment of redemption. Abraham had to trust that God would provide an heir even when physically it looked impossible. So also, Israel in its captivity had no way to save themselves. The promises given to Abraham looked empty. God said that he would make them a great nation but instead they are slaves in Egypt. Yet God chose them as his people not because they were better than Egypt or any other people group on the earth, but so that God would glorify himself through the coming messiah. The people of Israel simply had to trust the promises of God on Gods intrinsic authority. Not only do Gods promises look hopeless because they are slaves, but also God hardened pharaoh’s heart. God sets up the hopeless situation so that the redemption could only be traced back to the handiwork of God.

This is particularly what he has does even with us. We are children of Abraham (Gal 3:7) but, like the nation of Israel was not chosen because of its wealth or the greatness of its numbers so also we as individuals were not chosen because of our inherent goodness or decision making abilities (Rom 9:11-18). Just like Israel was subject to the Egyptians so also we (Christians), albeit willingly, were subject to our lord: the world, the flesh and the devil (Eph 2:1-3). Just as God redeemed his people with his mighty hand, plaguing and destroying the Egyptians so also God redeemed us by sending his son to die for our sins and giving us faith to believe (Eph 2:4-8). The point is that it is God alone who gets the credit for the work of redemption. God saves us in such a way that it is God dishonoring to see man as anything else but as completely needy upon his grace and authoritative sovereignty.

Use for Ministry

I think that this book will be very useful for anyone who seeks to understand the scriptures in their entirety. This book will be particularly helpful for those who want to see the deep significance of the Old Testament narratives. As for those, like myself, who desire to preach and teach Gods word. It will be particularly helpful as I seek to prepare sermons on the Old Testament. Moreover, it will be helpful for me as I prepare sermons so that I can relate the Old Testament narrative to its ultimate telos, the Gospel.

Written by Stephen Stanford

Monday, October 6, 2008

Evangelistic Opportunities

In the last post I mentioned three ways that we can engage people in evangelistic conversation. We should be opinionated (in the way that I described in the previous post), inquisitive and compassionate. Several good comments were added in response by others. Now, I want to think of a few ways that we can create opportunities for conversations about the gospel. We are around the unbelieving all the time, and if not we should make it a point to spend time with the unbeliever. The fact is that wherever we are we have the opportunity to evangelize, at work, at play and at church. Yes, even at church. Not everyone is converted there, and besides we ought to speak of God's word often with those at church.

At work we can, and I think, ought to evangelize. The mere fact that there may be consequences is not sufficient to excuse us, for it is not great than the commission from Christ. I don't mean to say that the consequences are not significant; they should be considered, but they are not more important than God's command. It should also be remembered that evangelizing those at work need not be all at once, but done gradually. It will come about that people will discuss what they believe and why, an opportunity is presented at that time. Share what you believe, and connect it to the gospel which is your reason. Gain their respect as much as possible be open to opportunities. Evangelism is not something that we do at a certain time and in certain places. Use the ideas discussed in the previous post at work.

The most basic idea I have for evangelism is to get involved in something that you are interested in where there will be unbelievers. Examples of this are abundant, I have heard of a pastor that joined a rowing team in order to evangelize, another person uses a book club and another befriends those on the bus. Do you like music? Join a music club. Do you like sports? Join a team, invite people over from work. Meet people with common interests and use that as a vehicle for creating opportunities for evangelistic conversations.

Another idea is to start evangelizing the people around you. Do you live in an apartment? Talk to your neighbors. Do you go out to eat? Become a regular at a local restaurant and befriend the workers. Be friendly.

Some less popular methods are still valid. Handing out tracts and preaching to groups. I recommend that the latter be done in an environment that facilitates this. Say in formal debates, in meetings and classrooms. If your a student, make it clear what the gospel is and correct the ignorance of unbelievers appropriately. I knew an RUF intern that regularly attended the UT atheist club meetings. There he made his belief known and made friendships with the people involved. By the end of the year they have decided to put on a debate to which atheists and rufers were invited. After the debate they went to eat and talk. Out of this I remember hearing of fruitful conversations. This is perhaps one of the best examples I know of evangelism. In regards to tract evangelism, the point is not so much to be effective in a singular moment, but to spread information about the truth as much as possible. It is basically advertising. Believe it or not people learn things form the media and its advertising. Advertising is an excellent way for us to spread the knowledge of the truth. Using brief, but well thought out arguments about christianity can be useful. Spread them around whether you talk to a person or not, it is likely that someone will ready it and learn something.

This are some ideas that I have thought about, though they are not entirely my own. I would like to mention a few things as a side note. Whenever we talk about evangelism, especially relationship evangelism it is important to remember that the way act and live is exceedingly important. It will show how much we really believe in Jesus and Love him. Our passion can be seen. It also means that part of setting a good example is being honest about our imperfection and sin. Believe it or not sinners will see us sin (they may hold it against us or think that it is okay), but rather that excuse ourselves or deny things, or stand proud or whatever we do, we should use it as an opportunity to explain the gospel. We are sinners, they are sinners and both need the forgiveness of Christ. Tell them about the promise of the Spirit who does his sanctifying work. We can not avoid unbelievers seeing us sin, so use it as an opportunity to explain the gospel when possible. Obviously that won't always be possible, but we must do what we can. And of course, remember that you should live as uprightly as possible because you love Christ and you will faithfully represent him in this way. We must not forget that representing christ in our action is not the gospel, and that it must be coupled with speaking the word of truth. Finally, I want to remind the reader of what has been on my heart. We will neither pursue nor see evangelistic opportunities, nor be ready with the gospel, nor able to set a good example if we are not in Prayer and bible study and most of all if we are not loving and dwelling on Christ as first and foremost in our lives.

I hope that these ideas are helpful to everyone. Let me know what you think, I really appreciated and enjoyed the comments that were made on the other post.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Evangelistic Conversation

Lately, I have been thinking about evangelism. I haven't been thinking about the specific content of our message; I have been thinking about how to do evangelism. What do we do that we consider evangelism. Wherever Jesus and Paul went they evangelized. Books and sermons analyzing John 4 and Acts 17 can be found in abundance and they are great examples of the masters at their work. First, I think that evangelism is most affective when it comes from the overflow of the heart. When we are familiar with the scripture and have been wrestling with it we are far better prepared to evangelize. Understanding is of great importance, and so is personal application. Having the gospel close to our hearts and fresh in our minds makes us ready to evangelize. So, that is what sets the stage for evangelism, but what about doing it? Ideas are endless, churches plan visitations and work at soup kitchens and various ministries, like campus ministries,tract evangelism and helping internationals. At some point I have done most of these, and I like them. But what I really want to consider is what should be the most common form of evangelism, simple personal evangelism. If every Christian was involved in the above ministries, I still don't think that we would see the results that we would hope to see. Personal evangelism, then, is the most important for the lay Christian. Lets consider conversing about the gospel. How do you start a conversation?

When virtually any issue comes up, political, social, emotional, intellectual, etc., there is an opening. Giving your opinion on a issue, and state the Christian motive behind that. This is applying our christian worldview to the issue so that others see it and can consider it. Of course, this means we had better think about things beforehand. Making it explicit allows people to connect it and you to Christianity. People can and will disagree with you, but as time goes on they will (if the relationship is long lasting) be able to see a comprehensive worldview, and rationale. When people see the rationale, it gives them more reason to consider it. The goal is for them to be informed about what you believe and be challenged by it. Avoid starting an argument, state what you believe and why, if the conversation is with a friend you will have more opportunities to discuss it. If someone starts arguing with you about your position, give a defense and make it clear that there is a fundamental reason for the disagreement, namely that you are a Christian, but don't continue arguing. The idea is, don't start it but don't fear it.

Another suggestion is to be inquisitive, ask questions, let people tell you what they think. This shows interest and respect, so don't be condescending. If their position is lame they will reveal that. Learn from them, and hopefully they will start asking you questions too. Be prepared to answer questions and defend against attacks.

The third thing is to be compassionate. Listen to their struggles and show interest. Listening shows respect and wins trust. If appropriate ask them questions that allow them to think about things, and when you can give advice be sure that you show its connection to the gospel. When we do this we show an ordered rationale that rightfully becomes associated with Christianity and not our own wisdom. In compassion we can be most winsome to those in need and most offensive to the angry. But it is helpful for both to see that Christ is compassionate, and just. The fact is that when they reject it they'll know in their hearts that you are right.

So, their are three things to keep in mind: be opinionated, be inquisitive, be compassionate. None of these will make a difference if not connected explicitly to the gospel. Assuming that people will think that you do things because you are a believer is a bad idea. Let them know the reason and the rationale for your action or belief. This shows that you are conscious of it and that you are passionate about it (you really believe it!). Unbelievers don't understand Christians and don't piece things together correctly, which is understandable, so be explicit about how things work. All of this assumes that you are thinking about how things work and are prepared.

There are some other things I really wanted to mention in addition to this, but I will have to save it for another post. In that post I will talk more about what I mean by personal evangelism and creating opportunities for it. Let me know what you think of my ideas, tell me yours I am interested in finding out what you think.

by Samuel Gantt

Thursday, September 18, 2008

9 Marks Ministries Weekender

Right now I am in Washington D.C. I am attending a small pastoral conference put on by 9 marks ministries. 9 marks ministries is a ministry that promotes biblical ecclesiology. One of the important aspects of Baptist ecclesiology that they have helped to recover is the plurality of elders. Pastor Mark Dever is the pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. He is probably the most influential ecclesiologist in Baptist life today. He has written extensively on the theology of the church, Baptist History, puritan history and practical theology. He hold a master of Divinity at Gordon-Conwell Theological seminary, a Master of Theology from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (the greatest seminary ever!!!) and a PhD in ecclesiastical history from Cambridge University. Academically he is in a league of his own. Yet, he is one of the most light hearted guys I have ever met. He is constantly making jokes. This weekend I am staying in his home. I have never been in a home with as many books as his home. Right now next to my bed are books from the 19th century on Baptist history!

Today I had a two hour break between lectures so I decided to walk a few blocks over to the Capitol building. Both the Church and our nations capitol are in D.C.'s historical district. All the buildings are from the 19th century and are kept up. There are little cafes on the side of the street. I had fun except I was not with Kym. Our nations capital is so much different than I thought it was from TV. The city is much more busy. The distance between the Supreme Court building, the Library of Congress, and the White House is much shorter than I expected.

Any how I am enjoying my stay here in DC.

written by Stephen Stanford

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Bible Translation

What Bible translations do you use for bible study? Yesterday I bought the new NLT study bible. I am loving it. The study notes cover a lot of material... it is impressive. I cannot wait till the ESV study bible comes out. Now there are 4 basic translational philosophies.
First, there is the paraphrase. The paraphrase is not really a translation in the strictest sense of the word. Basically the author of the paraphrase attempts to retell not translate what the original text says. Examples of a paraphrases are the Living Bible of the 1970 and the Message. I will bypass discussion over these paraphrase because I question how useful they really are for serious bible study.
Second, there is the dynamic equivalence ( I will call this DE). DE translations are probably the most popular. The NLT, NIV, TNIV are examples. The DE translation seek to translate thought for thought rather than word for word. The advantage of this kind of translation is that it helps modern readers understand the orignal text when phrases do not translates well literally. The disadvantage is that there is not always a consistency in word usage. Another problem is that sometime they do not use important theological words.
Third, there is the literal or essentially literal. Essentially literal and literal are actually two different categories but we will throw both of these into one category for our discussion. The advantage of this kind of translation is that it sticks, as best as possible to the original words of the biblical text. Also there is a consistency of translated words. There is also less interpretation over the meaning of the text, although there is obviously still some. The disadvantage is that the translation does not always fit within normal English word usage. Another problem is that idiomatic expressions are sometimes not given in English with an equivalent expression. That can actually be good and bad. The term literal translation can be kind of misleading. It is kinda like the term decalf coffee. No translation is strictly literal. If it was it would be unintelligible to read at times. Examples of a literal translation are the New American Standard Bible, the New Revised Standard Version, the Revised Standard Version, the English Standard Version, The New English Bible, the King James Version and the New King James Version.
Fourth, there is a new translational philosophy called the optimal equivalence. The Holman Christian Standard Bible is an optimal equivalence translation. The optimal equivalence translation seeks the best of the literal translation and the best of the dynamic equivalence. However, because it seeks to do what both the literal and the DE does it also has the weakness of both to more or less degree. I also think that the ESV is more or less an optimal equivalence translation. It leans more toward the literal translation while the HCSB may move more toward the DE.
Now which translation philosophy is the best? This has often the cause of controversy. Some say that DE is the way to go others say that literal translation is the best way to go. I think that they are both good. I think everybody needs a copy of at least one from either translation philosophy. The ESV is my main translation. This is because the word for word translation allows you to pay attention to word consistency. Also I think that the word for word translation correspond to expository preaching better than a thought for thought translation. Also, It allows you to see the translation with less interpretation into the text. Second translation that I go to is the HCSB. Third is the NLT and fourth is the TNIV (todays new international version). So as you can see when I study a passage I look at all types of translations. It is good to use at least two translations that you know will differ in how they are translated. This allows more objectivity as you approach the text.
When trying to find a translation to use remember this: all translation are just that, translations. If you want to be exact and precise you will have to learn the original languages. There are all kinds of online classes that are available. We live in a pretty awesome day in time.
One of the most important considerations when picking a translation to use is: what is the textual basis for the translation. When translations are made it is important to use the most accurate manuscript. For instance the NIV uses the USB3 while the TNIV uses the USB4. The USB4 is a more accurate text so if you use a translation you probably would rather go with the TNIV rather than the NIV. That does not mean the TNIV is perfect it just means it is translated with better manuscripts.
Anyhow, what translations do you use and in what order? What are your thoughts on translational philosophy?
My greek professor quotes an Italian proverb "traditorre traditore" (which I am not quite sure I spelled it right) but basically it means translators are traitors. The words sound exactly alike. The point is that no translation is perfect.

written by Stephen Stanford

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Incarnational ministry?

How are we to minister to the world? Do we present a social gospel, a social and spiritual gospel or a spiritual one. Who should we imitate, Jesus or Paul? Perhaps, I should say should Paul's or Jesus' example of ministry be the basis of ours?

I think that the message we preach is most certainly spiritual over all the other options, despite the fact that it has effects on society. Christ's ministry on earth was not primarily social, for he did not come incarnate to relieve the temporal poverty of the Jews, but to the fulfill the Law and sacrificial acts of the High Priest as explained in Hebrews. His ministry to the poor was for their eternal salvation, as seen in his teachings which emphasized Love of God, obedience, and the danger of hell. He ministered to the poor, because the were humble, knowing they are sinners (Matt. 9;12). His goal was not the alleviation of poverty (Matt. 26;11), but the the proclamation that the kingdom is at hand(Matt 4;17) and proving his authority as messiah through miracles (Jh. 14;11). John's version of the the Great commission does not emphasize a social gospel but rather that we are given authority through the Holy Spirit and are to proclaim the kingdom (Jh. 20;21). We are called to suffer like Christ for the gospel ministry (Matt. 5;11, Jh 15;20, Phil 1;29).

The stated reasons make clear that Jesus ministry to the poor was spiritual. The Jewish context was special in that they had the Law and the promises and the word. He went to the Jew, not the gentile and rejected political involvement. Throughout Acts we see Christ proclaim as savior and the apostles as witnesses. It is Paul that is specifically sent to the gentiles and Paul that says he is all things to all people (1 Cor. 9;19-23). In addition to this it is Paul that sells us to be imitators of him as he is of Christ (1 Cor 4;16-17, 11;1). If then we are to imitate Christ, which we are, then we should imitate him in the way that Paul imitated Christ. We should apply his understanding of what it meant to imitate Christ. By pointing this out, I want to show that instead of looking to Christ as our example of how to minister we should look at Christ through Paul. Where Christ tells us to make disciples of the nations, Paul shows and instructs us in the way that we should do that. So, how did Paul imitate Christ? He suffered and gave up his freedoms, even privileges for effective ministry. While Christ's work with the Jews may be descriptive (an example) of a contextualized ministry, it is Paul that tells us to do that in 1 Cor. 9.

Interpreting missions and ministry through Paul will help us to better understand in what we are to imitate Christ and in what ways his ministry was truly unique. doing the reverse will undoubtedly lead to misapplications of the gospels and how we are to minister. The key to how we are to glorify God in ministry is to imitate Paul as he imitated Christ (1 Cor. 11;1).

Samuel Gantt

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Contextualizing the Gospel

One of our readings from missiology class was about contextualizing the gospel. Basically, how do we reach across cultural barriers and communicate the gospel effectively. Do we, like postmoderns, conform the message to the ideas and concerns of the culture? Do we see the meaning of scripture to be flexible and changing with time? If not, then how do we reach other cultures?

Once, I was speaking with a Japanese friend about Christianity, and the topic of values came up. My friend explained that the Japanese cherish things that are temporary, that don't last. For example, the cherry blossom only blooms once a year and for about a week. This tree's blossoms are considered most beautiful, especially since their beauty escapes you. It does not remain forever. The Japanese take their families and friends flowering viewing during this time to enjoy the experience while it lasts. But this is not limited to flowers, they cherish loved ones, and relationships and life because it is fleeting. So, life is meaningful because it is impermanent. If that is so, Christianity does not make things important, rather it makes them unimportant.
I propose that this is very different from Christianity, obviously. In response, I told her that Christians don't cherish things because they are permanent or impermanent, but because their value comes from God. This being true, we can appreciate things that are impermanent and those that aren't. At the time I wanted to say that we can appreciate impermanent things too and agree with her that they are valuable, but I realized that agreeing with her didn't make sense. So, I explained why we can appreciate things and value them for different reasons.

We didn't discuss the gospel at that time, but what we talked about did have to do with a Christian view of values versus a Shinto/Buddhist view. What is important, agreeing or disagreeing with unbelievers? Should we show the contrast in ours beliefs or the similarities? But really, are not we obligated to explain why we believe something, whether we are in agreement or not? My point is to ask, how do we teach others about the faith, whether they are Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist, protestant or pagan? What do you think our priorities are in contextualizing the gospel?

by Samuel Gantt

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

First Week in Seminary

Now I know that the week is not over. In fact it is only Wednesday. However, I have done all the class work for the week. I am taking Introduction to Missiology and Elementary Greek. The missiology class will demand a lot of reading. I will have to write a research paper on something related to missions or the mission of a local church. I think that I am going to write my research paper on outreach strategy's of a church within a highly literate metropolitan context. The last semester of college I took a class on the reformation. I thought that it was extremely interesting how the French Calvinist evangelized catholic France. In 1530 reformation minded people were only but a handful. By 1570 about 1/10 of the population identified with the reformation. So in 40 years France went from having close to zero evangelicals to having around 2 million evangelicals. I think it is pretty amazing. So I wonder if there are some missional lessons that can be learned from that.

My missiology professor, David Sills, received his MDiv from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He received a Doctor of Missiology and a PhD from Reformed Theological Seminary. He was a missionary to the Quichua Indians in the Andes mountains and he served as a professor at Ecuadorian Baptist Theological Seminary. So he has practical and academic experience in missions

My Greek course is awesome. I have wanted to take NT Greek for a while. My professor, Johnathan Pennington, went to Trinity Evangelical Seminary for his MDiv. He was an assistant of D.A. Carson. He did his PhD work at St. Andrews University Scotland. So academically he is a studd. He seems like a light hearted guy, though. When he lectures he often times makes jokes.

Anyhow that is my first impression of seminary.

written by Stephen Stanford

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Comedy Movies and Christian Ethics

I recently walked out of a movie. I hate paying to see a movie at the theater and then not being able to watch the movie all the way through. If the movie has bad acting, I usually try to look for something entertaining about the movie. However last night the movie was absolutely horrible. Kym, I and some friends went to see Tropic Thunder. The movie attempted at (and for some succeeded) making humor out homosexual sex, heterosexual sex functions, mental retardation, and death and destruction. In this post I want to explore the idea of ethical norms for comedy.

I want to say, up front, that I have not always acted with integrity when it comes to comedy. I have often found myself laughing at something that is rather base. Sometimes in my life I have justified my ability to laugh under some concept of pseudo-Christian freedom. I recently went to a church planting conference that was very missional (in the contemporary sense of the term). At the conference one of the speakers made a joke that none of the people at the conference watched The Office because we are all Christians here. He made clear that it was only a joke and that in fact he did watch the office. Many of those who fall into the contemporary reformed missional movement ( which, I think I am apart of that, but I don't really care either way) are often reacting to socially constructed ethic norms of evangelicalism that do not find their basis in scripture. This gentlemen, that spoke at the conference, was simply making a joke within that missional context. It is a danger to be too ethically constructive (I like this term better that legalistic because legalistic gives the impression that one cares about the objective forensic code) when dealing with particular issues. However, on the opposite side of the coin, is the danger of moral apathy. I would guess, rough guess, that the latter is more prevalent within my generation. Therefore, I want to think aloud about ethics and movies, with particular reference to comedy.

It is at this point that I will consider a common objection to ethics and comedy. Perhaps some one reading this has already thought this objection out while reading that I thought Tropic Thunder was not right for the Christian to watch. This objection would go something like this, "but it is only comedy!" or it might be urged, in a slightly more sophisticated way, "comedy has a particular license that allows it not to be held so tightly under moral constraint."

Now for the Christian, who takes the Bible seriously as his/her ethical norms this is quite easily refuted. Consider Ephesians 5:4 Paul writes, "Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving." Now it is important that we take seriously the command. This passage obviously places certain limitations, ethical speaking, on comedy. There are certain jokes that the Christian has no right to make nor find funny.

When we read scripture we have to, before applying in to our particular circumstance, read it with the authors original intent. It seems that the adjective "crude" in verse 4 refers to sexual jokes. I takes this from the emphasis found in surrounding verses, verse 3 and 5. Paul says in verse 3 that sexual immorality should not be instantiated among the Ephesian church. He also says in verse 5 that sexual immorality will result in eternal damnation. Instead of sexual immorality being funny we should see it as that which leads to damnation. It is something not funny but rather grotesque.

Now concerning jokes about mental retardation. I too, though I am ashamed to admit, have found such jokes funny and amusing. When I was an elementary school kid I would call those who I did not like a retard. In the early days of my college I had some friends that did an impression of mentally retarded people. I laughed. Every one I knew laughed. However, I think, upon reflection, that was inappropriate and wrong to do. Now it is quite clear to me that there is no biblical passage that says, "You shall not make fun of those who are mentally retarded." However, Christian ethical theory is not so impotent as to be limited to specific commands. There are biblical principals that can be applied to present situations. To know right and wrong, a person has to be equiped with at least three things; a.) bible knowledge (thus its principals) which supplies the Christian ethicist with his/her ethical norms b.) cognitive ability or existential apprehension ( I like both terms, yet they can roughly refer to the same thing, for a fuller illustration of what that broadly means see Plantinga and especially John Frame) and c.) an understanding of the situation that the Christian finds himself or herself in. Without all three perspectives the Christian lacks the ability to make ethical statements in every day life.

Now back to the issue of jokes regarding mental retardation. It is simply wrong because it betrays the law of love. We are called to love one another and build each other up (1 Thess 5:11 and Jas 2:8). We are also called to be compassionate and kind (Col 3:12). By taking delight in a persons weakness one is not being loving, compassionate nor kind. When a person makes jokes about mentally retarded people they are taking delight in that persons weakness. Moreover, that person is not having compassion or empathy for the broken hopes that the parent of the retarded person may have had while pregnant. May God grant me forgiveness for my sins and compassion for others.

Written by Stephen Stanford

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Pauls Prayer in Philippians 1:9-11

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,
10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Philippians's 1:9-11 ESV

Paul prays that the Philippians church would have more and more love (v.9). Without a doubt Paul wants the Philippian church to "love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deut 6:5)" He also is probably thinking that the love, that he prays they will have more of, will increase their love of their neighbor. Love for God and love for neighbor summarize the moral law. As God gives us more and more love we begin to relate to God and others differently. Thus, Paul prays that the Philippians would be more abounding in their love. However, the Love that is true and from above contains "knowledge and discernment." Biblical love is not love that is mere sentimentality. Biblical love is a seeker for the true and excellent. Paul wants the Philippians to have a biblical love that gives the Philippians the ability to "approve what is excellent." As Christians we need this love to spur us on toward genuine care for one another and care for what is true and excellent. Biblical Love gives us a heart that seeks to magnify God in all our actions. Biblical love will ignite our heart to love what God loves and thus the love that Paul prays for is an aspect of sanctifying grace. It is not something created in our heart but rather created by God for his people and placed in our heart. This sanctifying grace will work in us so as for us to "be blameless for the day of Christ." This passage is not saying that we will be perfect followers of the law but rather that "approving what is excellent" will be indicative of the believer. The biblical love that is given to us, and the fruits of that love, come "through Jesus Christ." Without the death, burial, resurrection and persistent continual intercession of Christ for us sinners, no aspect of our sanctification could come to pass. It is my hope that I will pray for others like Paul. May God pour out upon his people love that will abound more and more... to the glory and praise of God.

Written by Stephen Stanford

Why I (Stephen) have not been Bloging Recently

First, I want to apologize to out many loyal readers. We know that our absence has resulted in boredom for so many people. The truth is, that I (Stephen) have been trying to finish up my B.A.
Now that I am done with my undergraduate studies. I am the proud owner of a BA in Philosophy and in History. On Monday I begin seminary studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

An Experience with Romans 7

If my hideous heart strays from you,
what can I do?

Desire God, says our true Lords servant,
but my heart is like a hidden venomous serpent

Oh Lord, my treasonous heart amend,
That on you only may this evil sinner depend

Your great grand Glory is my desire,
So also are the spiteful smashing sins that lead to the fire!

Can holy humility be sought by hidden pride?
Can love's Life be lived in a lie?

Oh hope that down in me dwells!
Secure, eternal, joy; my heart swells!

For Jesus, praise His name, the Lord sits at the right hand,
Justice towards me, the sinner, he answers the demand!

My guilt and guile mingled with His blood, sweat and pain,
No more, for the moral Law, will fear remain!

The prayers that he now with eternal persistence, for me, will pray,
continually, progressively in my heart are changes made.

One day my lowly body, in loving likeness, will be made new,
and only love will I have for you

Come Lord! Jesus Come!

Written By Stephen Stanford

Existentialism and Christianity

This past semester I took a course on Existentialists Philosophy. I began the course with a complete disrespect for the existential philosophers. This is do to two facts. The fact that I am a Christian and the fact that I have taken most of my philosophical training in the analytic philosophical tradition. Now that I am done with all the philosophy courses for my degree, I will have to say that the existential philosophy course was, perhaps, the most unique. Most of the philosophy professors that I have had treat existentialism as a kind of pseudo-philosophy. I think that their criticisms are not that far off. Indeed I am not, nor will I ever be, a supporter of existentialism. I do find some aspects of that school of philosophy illuminating. One aspect that I find illuminating is the idea that subjectivity has a role in the way that we see the world. Existentialism comes genealogically from phenomenology. What we end up seeing and believing, to a large measure, is determined by our presuppositions. This presuppositional context helps determine the way we perceive things.

The christian should not see the fact of our subjectivity a problem. This is because the regenerated man's subjectivity is correlated with Gods divine subjectivity. Gods divine subjectivity is also Gods objectivity. Thus, we can know the world, as it truly is, when we have become regenerated after the likeness of Christ. We begin to interpret reality as God interprets reality. God's interpretation is always right. Therefore, unless one trust in Christ and receives by the Holy Spirit a new mind, one's epistemology is always at odds with one's ontology. We must seek the ontology, that of the scriptures, that can correlate with our epistemology. Only in the worldview that the bible gives us, does the correspondence theory of truth and the coherentist theory of truth meet in unity. Yes, as you may recognize, I am definitely a Van Tillian!

If you want a good introduction to the main existential philosophers, you ought to read Robert C. Solomon's Introducing The Existentialist: Imaginary interviews with Sartre, Heidegger and Camus. I read the book at the beginning of last semester. The book is split into three parts where Solomon does fake interviews with the three major existentialist. As he interviews he reviews some of the major aspects of each philosophers position. It is a fun way to learn about what these philosophers were all about.

Written by Stephen Stanford

Monday, May 5, 2008

An Experience With Holy Sonnet 14

Shall I ask you to batter my heart?
Shall I ask you my sins to subdue?

Surely you are sovereign!
Surely you care too!

Shall I tell you, like Donne, how I am prone?
Shall I ask you to ram my heart through?

For unless you chain me,
only sin will my heart spew

Written by Stephen Stanford

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Christ Lord Over Death

Who thinks of death more than I?
Who can think of death and not bat an eye?

Does the unknown experience, the thought, cause you many tears?
Does the thought of the heart, its beating stop, cause you the mortal truth suppress?

O sinner, fear not, but flee to Christ
O sinner, for those in Christ, death has not mastery; Christ owns all sovereignty

Written by Stephen Stanford

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Renewing Your Mind: An Evangelical need

Socrates once said, “Citizens of Athens aren’t you ashamed to care so much about making all the money you can and advancing your reputation and prestige, while for truth and wisdom and the improvement of your soul you have no thought or care?” This is quite an interesting question that Socrates posed. The question presupposes a moral obligation to seek the true and good. There is a moral call for the Athenians to examine their lives. They live such a blind life. They lived the kind of life that Heidegger called being part of the they. In other words, the Athenians were no different from an ant. An ant does not concern his life with self reflection and knowledge of a transcendent truth. For an ant there is no meta-analysis. The ant instead works to perform the simple task that its inter-mechanistic central operational system within it causes it to do. The Athenians like the ant never concerned themselves with the “big picture.” Socrates tells them that they should examine themselves and seek truth. One of the things that Socrates thinks that they ought to be ashamed of themselves for, is the fact that they are not improving their own life. For Socrates improvement of life meant living the examined life. In fact Socrates says, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” That seems a bit harsh, though.

Pagan though he was I think Socrates is on to something. People ought to be ashamed when they do not live an examined life. This is because God created us essential a rational being. There are a lot of different aspects to human personality, emotions for instance, but we cannot deny that rationality is one of Gods greatest gifts to humanity. Unfortunately, in Adam, humanity has tended to either use reason to promote death, destruction and diablerie. We have been busy at work to contrive an intellectual excuse for denying Yahweh as Lord. Paul in the first chapter of Romans points out that we have used our intellect to fashion idols instead of Glorifying God. We have used our gift of reason so craftily to become unreasonable fools. Through Adamic reason we deny truth and more importantly we deny the Truth.

Another sinful direction humanity goes, with respect to reason, is very similar to the direction above. Humanity has also tended to accept an idea that it is morally justifiable to be intellectually lazy. This is true of Christians as well as nonchristians. Some Christians tend to act as if it is the Pastors job to do all the heavy thinking. They think that as long as they show up and pay the preacher his salary they are fulfilling their job before God. The problem is that this is not at all what God calls is to do. He calls us to love him with all our minds. Solomon wrote in Proverbs chapter 1, “How long will you love being simple.” Solomon like Socrates thought that we had a genuine responsibility to be intellectual. One cannot separate the intellectual aspect of man from the ethical. With our whole being and personhood we are called to love God.

Paul the Apostle wrote in Romans 12:2 that we should, “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Our intellect needs to be transformed. Thus, we need, through the spirits sanctifying work, a God exalting mind that is subject to the scripture as our epistemic, ontological and ethical authority. In this work, done by the Holy Spirit, we receive new beliefs, purposes and desires. One of these desires is to know truth. Still yet, another aspect of this needed renewal of our mind is the fact that we need to adopt Christian critical thinking skills. This comes from knowing scripture and a willingness to evaluate ideas according to scripture. It takes effort.

Christians need this so very bad. We face scripture twisters like Joel Osteen and TD jakes that lead stray so many people. Then on the other hand you have the rising militant secularism that seeks to promote a anti-christian crusade. This group is represented by those such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. This is the time that Christians need to be experiencing the renewal of their minds so that they are able to have discernment.

Written by Stephen Stanford

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The other day I went to the doctor. I was there for a check up. The doctor asked me a bunch of questions and took my temperature. Eventually he told me that he needed to take a blood sample. I told him I felt fine so there was no need. I knew that that was not a very reasonable answer. However, I hated..... no I hate getting my blood taken! The thought of a needle stabbing you in the arm and extracting your precious ruby red blood just sickens me. It is not simply the fact that the puncture of your skin and vein are a discomfort, it is also the fact that you know your very life force is being drained from your body. In truth, I am a wimp when it comes to blood. Now some of you might be thinking, " wow what a wimp, he can't even get his blood taken." Well I admit it. I am a wimp. I am working on it though. Maybe, in fifteen years, I will be able to get my blood taken. One of the bad things about not getting your blood taken is that you could have something wrong with you and not even know it. You see it is not simply a matter of how you feel. The fact that I felt OK, in the doctors office, told the doctor and myself absolutely nothing as far as my health was concerned. Logically, I can feel fine and still my body could have something wrong with it. Why else would he want my blood when in fact he could of asked me how I felt?
The question that I want to pose to all of us is: How are you spiritually? Some of you might hate this question just as much as I hate getting my blood taken. Some of you might be thinking, "well I feel fine, therefore I am fine." However, we already established that truth is not determined by our feeling, right? So again the question is this: How are you spiritually? Well some might say, "What do you mean Stephen." Well, let me explain by pointing out what Paul the Apostle wrote. Paul the apostle says in 1 Timothy 4:7 "Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness." Well are you disciplining yourself for the purpose of godliness? Do you have a regular disciplined Bible reading time. Do you have a regular disciplined prayer time. Do you intentionally witness to the people you meet or already know. Do you show up to church when we meet as a community or do you only come when it is convient? The bigger question is this: Do you desire to magnify, glorify and spread the name and fame of our Lord and Savior?
If there is something wrong with me not getting my blood taken, for my physical health, how much worse is it if I am not examining my heart for my spiritual health? Let us then examine our selves to check our spiritual health. Do not be like the mythomaniac that spends her time reading love letters signed by a prince, all the while suppressing the fact that it was not a prince that wrote to her but herself! Listen to what the Apostle Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:10 "Therefore, brothers be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall." Also head Pauls command in 2 Corinthians 13:5 " Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?-Unless indeed you fail to meet the test!"

Written by Stephen Stanford

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Review of Always Ready

Check out this review of Always Ready. I think it is pretty good.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Book Review

Title: Memoirs Of An Ordinary Pastor

Author: D.A. Carson

Memoirs of An Ordinary Pastor is a wonderfully entertaining book. D.A. Carson tells us about the life and ministry of his dad, Tom Carson. Tom was a pastor/missionary/church planter in French Quebec. French Quebec was mainly Roman Catholic with very few, if any, evangelical churches. Tom learned to speak fluent French so as to minister to this people group. While he ministered he faced opposition from a powerful anti-evangelical Roman Catholic Church. In French Quebec during the 1940's and 1950's the Roman Catholic Church had a strong political and social influence over the region. Some of the Evangelical Baptist ministers in Quebec were thrown in jail.

The book highlights the turmoil and depression that pastors often go through as they try to minister to their people. Tom was, as the title suggest, an ordinary pastor. Pastor Tom ministered for over 15 years at a small church that hardly ever grew. He wept over his people. He prayed for his people. He was concerned over his people's spiritual health. He was aware of his own inadequacies.

The book was a delight to read. Growing up in a home of an "ordinary pastor" I identify with Tom's son Don. I know what is like to see your dad struggle to feed his sheep and reach out to the surrounding community.

This is a book about realistic pastoral ministry. This book shows you what the majority of pastors lives are like. If your not a pastor then it will give you a glimpse of what pastors go through. Thus, it will hopefully give you more appreciation for your pastor. If you are a pastor it will encourage you as you fulfill God's calling.

written by Stephen Stanford

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Top 10 Ways To Be a Christian Intellectual

1.) Submit yourself to Christ as Lord of your heart and intellectual life as well as savior and redeemer.
2.) Read and know your Bible
3.) Meditate over and apply the bible to your life as your ethical and epistemic authority
4.) Pray and ask the Lord for wisdom and humility
5.) Keep a regular systematic reading program. Make sure that books that pertain to theological and biblical studies are the majority of your reading.
6.) Be informed of current events by reading news papers from a variety of locations (see and watch news programs.
7.) Read and be informed about secular philosophical positions
8.) Read and be informed about the history of peoples, places and ideas.
9.) Understand and be informed about positions held within both secular and biblical sciences.
10.) Have an intrest and appreciation for the Arts and other cultures.

Written by Stephen Stanford

Monday, March 24, 2008

My trip to SBTS

I have taken my sweet time to write about my trip to louisville. Two weeks ago my wife, parents and I traveled all the way to Louisville Kentucky from Austin Texas. We went a long route. We went through Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois. Kentucky. Then on our way home we went through Kentucky, Tennesse, Arkansas and finally back through Texas. Needless to say we went a long way.
My purpose for going to Louisville was to see the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. It is the oldest and largest of our SBC seminaries. Louisville is a wonderful town. In some ways it is very similar to Austin and in other ways different. The similiarities consist in the fact that it is a university city. There are a number of universities that are in both cities. Also, they are both overwhelmingly politically liberal. A less important similarity is that they both have a liberal PCUSA seminary.
The citie of Lousiville in distinction from Austin has many old neigborhoods and buildings. Of course in Austin there are older building and such, but most of the neighborhoods are relatively new. Louisville's neigborhoods are very nice, though. Even though the buildings are older they are well kept. The architecture was really nice. Some of the images I got driving down the street in Louisville reminded me of San Francisco.
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary surpised me. I knew that the campus would be nice. I had seen pictures. However the campus is much nicer than I expected. The campus buildings all match and they take a neo-classical colonial architecture. Also the buildings were much bigger that I expected. The campus was absolutly fantastic.
While I was visiting the campus I was paired with professor Dr. Coppenger. I did not tell the admissions office that I was a philosophy major, but Dr. Coppenger is a Philosophy and Apologetics proffessor. We had lunch together and talked about the apologetics program at SBTS. It was interesting to be able to sit and talk to a christian philosopher becuase all my philosophy professors have been non-christians and/or explicitly anti-christian.
One of my tour guides was named Bruce. He was great. Very friendly. He answered every question I had. He was in a MDiv program with a specialization in Biblical counciling. He spent a couple of hours showing Kym and I around. At one point we toured some particular seminary apartments. Kym and I were not that impressed. However Bruce called up some friends that lived in those apartments and they invited us over. We went and I was able to chat with a random student about living in on campus and what it was like to be a seminary student. The students that I met on campus really had a high regard for the school. You could tell it was genuine. Sometimes it is the students who can give you good information of their emperiences.
That Sunday we went to Clifton Baptist church and heard Dr. Bruce Ware preach. He is a Theology professor over at SBTS. His sermon was on Isaiah 6.
I was about 95% sure that SBTS was where I was headed, however after the visit I am 110% sure.

Written By Stephen Stanford

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Scandals, Scandals America in Shambles

The Governor of New York recently joined the ranks of known corrupt officials as his political involvement in a prostitution ring comes to light. It is an all too common story I'm afraid. A few years back, in my hometown a similar elite prostitution ring was exposed. Sex Scandals have been rocking the churches as well. Not long ago a minister in one of the most influential churches in Austin was arrested. Some papers argue that it is merely a personal problem for the politician, but not for the Churchman. But if it is unconscionable for a minister to be a hypocrite, it is equally so for the politician. Christ had much to say about and to hypocrites, namely the pharisees. Our minister would do well to consider Christ rebuke. If you are a minister, hiding your secret sins consider the parable of the wedding feast, how he who attended, but wore no wedding clothes was treated as the outsider. The flames will not stop tormenting you. Consider the wrath of God for the way is narrow that leads to life. Confess your sin to God, confess it also to your brother that he may help you out of it. The church will help the repentant. The church is gracious and will forgive and help you, because God is gracious, but if you do not repent you have only to fear. God has provided you with a way out of your temptation, confess your sins and your weakness and the church will help you to be purified. This is your way of escape. If you are thinking of going into the ministry be sure that you are worthy, deal with your sins now, or you will ruin and lose your ministry later. Secret sins destroy the church, they destroy careers and they destroy families, and souls. The repentant man will forget his shame in the joy of his salvation, the unrepentant will not escape it. Please, hear me when I say turn away from your folly and the Lord will help you, he will save you.

By Samuel Gantt

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Weds. Prayer service Message

This is a summary of message I gave tonight at my church in Austin. It was a privilege for me to speak while our pastor is away visiting Southern Seminary with his son, Stephen. We prayed for NAMB missionaries and this message was designed to encourage our members to urgently preach the gospel. I hope that it is of benefit to you and please let me know what you think.

II Samuel 17

The text we for tonight is that famous story of David and Goliath. I will highlight a few parts of this text, but first allow me to summarize the story. Goliath taunts the Army of Israel, Challenging them to send a soldier to fight him. Israel, seeing his size and confidence, cowers. Even Israel’s mighty king Saul is afraid. David hears Goliath as his comes forward to mock Israel, and is indignant. David takes the challenge and fights, saying “God will give us victory.” And the rest is history.

There are three points of which I want you to take note.

  1. Saul and Israel was “much afraid.” (vs. 11&24.)

Twice the text mentions their fear. Israel, the ever faithless and easily dismayed, quivered at the taunts of a giant, though it had all its peculiar history to encourage it. The God of heaven and earth, creator, the God who delivered them from Egypt by unmistakable miracles had given them all the reason in the world to hope. Saul, the anointed of God, who had seen prophecy fulfilled and prophesied himself, was much afraid.

  1. David was Zealous for the Lord. (v. 26.)

His concern is not for the people, nor is it for fame and wealth. He is indignant because this fool mocked God, the living God, creator and redeemer of Israel. David’s concern was for the Glory of God.

  1. David recognized that his zeal and confidence were from the Lord. (v. 46&47.)

David gave thanks to the giver of all good things. He recognized that it is God who delivered Israel and would do it again. This would be a sign to the world that there is a God in Israel, and that Israel would know that it is not by the might of men that Israel is persevered.

This week is the Annie Armstrong week of prayer for North American missions. The theme for the week, according the “On Mission” is for us to “live with urgency.” The urgency, here, is to preach the gospel. It is urgency in missions, a zeal for it. This connects to our text in that David was zealous for the glory of the Lord; the purpose of missions is also for the glory of God. So we must ask ourselves, Are we like David, are we zealous for God or are we like Israel, much afraid? If we are like Israel then let us pray that we would be like David. Let us remember the mighty works of the living God. Living he is indeed, for both us and Israel have much to testify to this fact. God delivered Israel form Egypt with twelve miraculous plagues and Christ was resurrected for our salvation. Remember that he is living and take courage for our God has shown us favor. Then we can say “to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” for we shall then glorify God in life and see the magnificence of his face in death. And we long to see the beam beaming rays of light that shine forth from his presence. And Finally, Give thanks to the giver of all good things. Spineless cowards we may be, forgetful and fearful, but God has shown is light upon us and has granted us redemption from our sins and gives us zeal for his name, for the sake of his name. It is his pleasure to give to those who ask and it shall be given for we ask that we may glorify his name.

by Samuel Gantt

Thursday, March 6, 2008


Next week my wife, my parents, and I will be traveling to Lousiville Kentucky. We will be visiting The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. We are about 95% sure that SBTS is where God will have us go, however I think that the visit will be illuminating. I am not exactly sure what I will do when I get there. Hopefully I can meet Albert Mohler but we will see about that. I would like to meet some faculty.
Moving to Louisville will be a difficult experience. I am not sure where I will work. I am not sure where I will go to church. I dont know anybody there. However I do trust that God is faithful and that he will provide Kym and I with all that we need.

Written by Stephen

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Van Til as a Christian Hedonist

Many that know me know that I am a huge John Piper fan. I think that he is one of the most balanced pastor/theologians that there are today. It is easy for Christians to veer into one of two camps. Often times a Christian is concerned with either the objective aspects of the Christian faith (like doctrines & orthodoxy) to the expense of the subjective aspects (holiness, sanctification, godliness and the like) or the disproportion is the other way around, emphasizing the subjective aspects to the minimization of the objective. The choices are presented as either feelings or facticity. By themselves both present an equal danger. To choose one without the other is to deny the robustness of the Christian faith. It is unhealthy. So Christian beware.
John Piper represents a balanced position in that he emphasizes both aspects. That is exactly what Christians need to do.Furthermore Piper's Christian Hedonism (get over the name) presents an aspect of the Christian life that many people have not considered. That aspect being the fact that happiness and pleasure in doing good is an essential part of a good act. In other words if pleasure is absent, then so also is the moral good. One should not interpret the pleasure that I am speaking of in a shallow sense that excludes pain and toil.
Anyhow, not only am I a John Piper fan but I am also a Cornelius Van Til fan. He was an apologetics professor at Westminster Theological Seminary for many years. He is of a previous generation to Piper. Yet he is a Christian Hedonist himself! Anyhow consider the following quotes:

"Originally there could not possibly be any contrast between seeking happiness and seeking righteousness in the kingdom of God. A man could not possibly wish for happiness unless he also wished for righteousness. It is only after the entrance of sin that these ideas have been separated. The members of the kingdom would not think of the one without also thinking of the other."

"For the member of the kingdom there are no ulterior motives. Their motives with the realization of the kingdom itself is the glory of God. Their motive with their own self-realization is the glory of God. Their motive in seeking their own happiness is the glory of God. None of these matters can be seperated. Not one of them can be antithetical to another. He that seeks righteousness seeks to realize himself, seeks the good will, seeks happiness, seeks usefulness, seeks rewards, seeks the kingdom of God, and seeks God himself."

These quotes are taken from Van Til's book "Christian Theistic Ethics."

Written By Stephen Stanford

Friday, February 29, 2008

Van Til, Piper and Triperspectival Ethics

In Van Til's "Christian Theistic Ethics" Van Til gives us a tri-perspectival approach to dealing with ethics he says, "All ethics then deals with these three questions: a.) What is the motive of human action? b.) what is the standard of human action? c.) What is the end or purpose of human action?" All three aspects must exist in any good ethical system.

I am reading "Christian Theistic Ethics" and I have been running this part of the first chapter through my head for sometime. Yesterday, I finished reading John Pipers "God is the Gospel." Van Til answers these questions is a slightly different manner than I think Piper would. However, I think that they would agree but simply use different language. Anyhow, I think that Piper would answer these questions this way: The motive of our actions should the Glory of God. The standard of our actions should be the word of God. The end or purpose of human action is to glorify God by enjoying him forever.

Written by Stephen Stanford

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Materialism,Weirob and the Perception Problem

In January I reviewed a John Perry book. Now I will present some of the issues more in depth. In John Perry’s book “A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality” there is a philosopher name Wierob who is on her death. To pass the time and perhaps have some hope for an afterlife, she debates her friend a chaplain by that name of Miller on the subject of souls and the afterlife. Wierob does not believe it is possible for an afterlife. Miller on the other hand believes that there will be an afterlife. In this essay I will argue that one of the arguments given by Wierob, I call the perception argument, is weak. First I will lay out the argument presented by Weirob. Next, I will counter this argument by presenting a counter argument. Then I will take on a few objections that I think the dead Wierob would have fired at me had she lived long enough. Before I begin, I will lay on the table just what I will be assuming so that one given my assumptions would follow my argument. I assume that we believe that our friends, relatives, acquaintances and loved ones genuinely have subjective-mental states. Even poor Weirob believed this.

Weirob wants reasons to believe in the afterlife. Miller argues that, given our soul, we would have an afterlife to look forward to. Weirob points out that we never perceive a soul. If personal identity corresponds to our soul then we never know that the physical body that we meet corresponds to the same soul that directed the body earlier. This is a particular problem that would relate to us all. Suppose you met your wife on Monday, you assume that the body corresponds to the person of your wife, but the next day you would have no assurance that the soul of your wife corresponded to the same body.

Let us suppose that there are no souls. Let us suppose that all that constitutes personal identity is some aspect of the body. When a person meets a friend on Monday and on Thursday, one assumes several things about that the person. The assumption that is made during our meeting with that person is that that same body on Monday as well as on Thursday is accompanied with a subjective-mental state. Perhaps I should say that that body “accompanies” a subjective mental state but rather that body contains a subjective mental-state. Now remember we are not assuming here a mind body dualist position we are assuming a mind-body materialist position. On Monday when I go to class to meet Dr. Hutcheson I have perception of his body but I do not have perception of his subjective mental states. The question that I should then ask is this: Does he have subjective mental states? If so, how do I know? I hold that Dr. Hutcheson in fact does have subjective mental states. It is important to note that we do not in fact observe Dr. Hutcheson’s subjective mental states. If perception is what verifies knowing Dr. Hutcheson has a subjective mental state then the fact of Dr. Hutchesons subjective mental state cannot be verified. Thus, if I am required to be able to perceive X in order to believe X exist, then other peoples subjective mental states are outside of the realm of knowledge.

Another example of the perception problem is the problem presented by Hume. Suppose that we perceive pool ball A strike ball B then B moves. Suppose we see it a thousand times we still do not see the “causation” behind it all. For all we know it could turn out that B could do something unexpected.

Also we must note that, except for those lucky few who have found a place to buy a magical crystal ball, we do not perceive the future. Thus given the perception criteria we have no knowledge that the future will resemble the past given the same circumstances. For all we know, for example, there might be a brief period of time in the future when gravity will randomly malfunction.

This problem is importantly related to Wierob’s argument because she cannot have it both ways. She cannot reject the idea of a souls continual correspondence to a particular body because the soul is not perceived and still accept that there is a non-empirical subjective mental-states in the people that she meets. This strict empiricism also gives us the problems of skepticism toward induction as well as causation. The criterion that Wierob has given us not only leads her toward skepticism of souls, but a whole lot of other things including causation and that her friend Miller really has a subjective mental state of feeling her speak to him. Thus it is not right to object to the continuity of the soul in a particular body because of a lack of perception. If it is a problem of perception that she wants it is a problem of perception that she will get.

Now she could respond that we do in fact see the body and that the body contains the subjective-mental state. Thus, she might think that we see the mechanism that created the subjective-mental state. However this would not be a solution to the problem because we still do not actually perceptually verify the subjective mental state. Further more, it is at least possible, there is nothing logically contradictory, about a body interacting within an environment without a subjective mental state. It is at least possible that others are in fact similar to zombies. Like zombies others might have no subjective mental feeling but interact as if they do.

It might be given in response that we could always ask. This simplistic solution still does not verify for us the truth of the other persons subjective mental state. Suppose that we had a computer has a special program. This program is designed by its creator to respond every time you type “do you have a subjective mental state or feelings” into a bubble on a screen, with a voice “yes I do have feelings and please do not punch so hard on my keys.” Given the fact of its programming alone, this would not establish that the computer does in fact have subjective mental states. What is needed is to be able to perceive the subjective mental states.

It might be responded that we know that others have subjective mental states because we have ourselves subjective mental states. However this commits one to the same problem that Wierob pointed out. Trying to generalize from one owns personal example would be too hasty of a generalization.

Now someone could respond that they do not believe in induction, causation, other people subjective-mental states and least of all souls. I respond that they have bitten the bullet. I am astonished and astounded at their willingness to believe in just a very few things.

However, I seriously doubt that anyone believes that. Here I deviate a little from arguing with poor dead Wierob. It seems to me doubtful that someone would really have doubts about causation, induction and other people’s mental states. I could believe that someone genuinely does not believe in souls (although by what I have argued lack of perception should not be the reason). What I am saying is not that it is impossible that someone has those beliefs or rather the lack thereof, but rather it would be difficult for me to accept someone really having a lack of belief in causation, induction and other people subjective mental states. The reason for this is that it is hard to take someone serious that claims that they believe a belief say -X but act and revolve their whole life as if X.

If I have argued cogently we cannot deny the existence of souls because of a criterion of perception, to do so is to put not only souls to doubt but so also other peoples subjective mental states and other areas of knowledge that we rely on every day.

Written by Stephen Stanford

Monday, February 25, 2008

New Biography on Van Til

Check this post out. The bio looks interesting.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Follow the Evidence

On a recent broadcast of the Albert Mohler Radio show about evolution and Christianity a caller mentioned that we must follow the evidence, follow the truth wherever it leads. Now I think that this caller meant that whatever we believe, we need to let the evidence lead us to the truth that we should believe. Such a statement is an appeal to being objective not letting our own biases get in the way. But it betrays a simplistic understanding of evidence that is misleading. Allow me to illustrate this with an analogy.

Someone leaves a trail of bread crumbs as they walk through a cave. Another person finds this trail and follows it. He hopes to find either the source of the crumbs or the mouth of the cave by following this trail. There are two possibilities in his mind and he follows the evidence wherever it leads him. There it is a simple picture of what we mean by following the evidence. The problem is that this is not the kind of evidence that has been left around. I think this simple idea is also visible in popular television, where CSI and House rule the day. While the heroines follow the evidence, despite being sidetracked by a few rabbit trails along the way, they eventually come to the truth. It is a pretty picture of a scientific age in which scientific evidence always, ultimately, leads to the truth. In reality, however, this isn’t how things happen. In criminal investigations crimes are often unsolved and the innocent convicted. In the scientific world claims to what the truth is, namely theories, are verified or falsified, kept around because there is nothing better and many are useful though untrue. These theories are all supported by evidence. But the evidence has not led to the truth in every case. If one thing is clear, evidence is not truth.

What is it that constitutes evidence and what is it that constitutes truth? Let us explain this by way of example. A criminal investigator comes to a scene with some idea of what a crime scene looks like, this is the truth. When he arrives he examines the scene and decides whether it is a crime scene based on his knowledge of what one looks like. His examination reveals the evidence. The investigator decides what is evidence based on the truth, or what he supposes to be the truth not vice versa. The challenge, then, for creationists and evolutionists is not found in the evidence, but in what is considered the truth, because the truth determines what is evidence. The battle is over truth rather than evidence. The evidence may lead to or correspond to the truth, but it is no trail of crumbs. It is, rather, more akin to a mountain of bread crumbs.

Scientists do not have a unified body of thought that comes to one conclusion. Disagreements between scientist and opposing theories exist in abundance. But the more fundamental the questions that are asked the more important the answer and the more entrenched the opponents become; since it is on the fundamentals that everything is based. But the more fundamental the question is the more difficult it is to answer. There are many questions that science can not answer about reality. How does one scientifically, test the existence of God anyway? Instead, our worldview or understanding of the nature of reality determines what is truth and our sciences attempt to show how nature corresponds to that truth as in the example of our investigator given above. The grander a theory is the more tentative it should be considered and it will be, at least apart from the worldview to which it corresponds. When coupled with that worldview by those that affirm it, such theories are easily seen as truth. These grand theories of which I speak are ones that provide a framework for other theories to function within, that provide a sort of coherence by binding many theories to one. Theories that are compatible with different worldviews may not be as controversial and often times are judged without appeal to a worldview. But the more paradigmatic a theory is the more likely its justification is to be found not in sciences but in worldviews.

Finally, our worldviews determine truth which discriminates between evidences and weighs it. So, for materialist no supernatural event is evidence, because it is impossible and for a Christian that which contradicts the scripture can not be true. Clearly, the evidence is not objective nor does it lead to one truth as a trail of bread crumbs. Instead, following the evidence means that a person must see what evidence supports what worldview; and then which worldview provides the most coherent understanding of reality. Worldviews are not proven by only scientific evidence, but by historical and philosophical arguments as well. I hope this post serves to enlighten the reader by helping him to understand the proper place of evidence, especially scientific evidence.

By Sam Gantt