Neuhaus on the new New Evangelicals

In the October edition of First Things, Richard John Neuhaus uses an article in the New Yorker as the basis for a discussion of changes in evangelical political involvement.

Here are a few key paragraphs.

In the last issue I discussed “An Evangelical Manifesto,” with its palpable and touching eagerness to be accepted by those whom its signers view as their cultural betters. The message of the manifesto is: “Please, we are not that kind of evangelical.”

p. 62

But sometimes what passes for change is a replay of very old stories. Rick Warren is quoted by Fitzgerald as declaring to a Baptist convention that the great need is for  ‘a second Reformation,’ one that would be about ‘deeds not creeds.’ I hope he is misquoted . . . . The slogan ‘deeds not creeds’ was of course the rallying cry of the social-gospel movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It was the “modernism” to which first fundamentalism and then its post-World War II reconfiguration in evangelicalism was the response. And now the New Evangelicals are hailed as the social-gospel movement redivivus. As one never runs out of occasions for mentioning, history has many ironies in the fire.

p. 63

The only reason a Frances Fitzgerald is interested in evangelicals or evangelicalism is that these people are political players. For people such as Fitzgerald, politics is “the real world.” In the perspective of Carl Henry’s 1947 manifesto and the emergence of that earlier instantiation of “the new evangelicals,” the so-called religious right of recent years may be seen as the first inning in the game of cultural and political engagement. The evangelicals didn’t always play it well, but at least they were playing in the big leagues. Now, impressed by their unaccustomed influence, some evangelicals are prepared to concede the game in return for a permanent pass to the stadium. If Fitzgerald and like-minded commentators are right, evangelicalism is joining liberal Christianity on the well-worn path to public irrelevance.

p. 63

Neuhaus, however, closes on a positive note:

It is a heady sensation to be exalted by the likes of the New Yorker, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, but it is an embarrassingly paltry reward for betraying the promise of evangelicalism in American public life, and I am persuaded that most evangelicals will not accept the deal.

p. 63

Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics

Rod Decker notes that a Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics met last week as a forum for traditional Dispensationalists to talk about a variety of hermeneutical issues.

In addition to the discussion questions for each session, the council website also includes a statement of affirmations and denials and three papers:

On why God does not grant immediate deliverance from sin

We may, indeed, be sure that perfect chastity—like perfect charity—will not be attained by any merely human effort. You must ask for God’s help. Even when you have done so it may seem to you for a long time that no help, or less help than you need, is being given. Never mind. After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again. For however important chastity (or courage, or truthfulness, or any other virtue) may be, this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still. It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God. We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments, and, on the other, that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven. The only fatal ting is to sit down content with anything less than perfection.

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 94.

Paul warns Timothy, that a minister may not be a young scholar, ‘lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6), indicating that it is the special danger of ministers to have high opinions of themselves because of the high dignity of their service. To prevent this, God in his mercy has planned that all true ministers will by some means or other be humbled and emptied themselves. They will be driven to such fear and amazement at the sight of their own wickedness, that they will throw themselves down at Christ’s feet, and deny themselves wholly, acknowledging that anything they are, they are only in him, and rely and trust only on his grace and help.

William Perkins, The Art of Prophesying.

Van Til on the Proving the Existence of God

We have now before us in bare outline the main points of the Christian doctrine of God. Christianity offers the triune God, the absolute personality, containing all the attributes enumerated, as the God in whom we believe. This conception of God is the foundation of everything else that we hold dear. Unless we can believe in this sort of God, it does us no good to be told that we may believe in some other sort of God, or in anything else. For us everything depends for its meaning upon this sort of God. Accordingly we are not interested to have anyone prove to us the existence of any other sort of God but this God. Any other sort of God is no God at all, and to prove some other sort of God exists is, in effect, to prove that no God exists.

Defense of the Faith, 4th ed, 34.

September Chapel Messages at BJU

The chapel messages I was able to hear this month were quite good. These are the ones that I heard. I especially commend the messages by Minnick, Berg (esp. the opening minutes), and McGonigal.

Stephen Jones – “Putting Feet to the Truth

Mark Minnick on the transformitive nature of God’s Word.

Bruce McAllister – “God’s Word, the Touchstone of Truth”

Mike Barrett on Colossians 3:1-4

Jim Berg – “Not by Bread Alone”

Kerry McGonigal on the relationship between truth and life in Titus

Greg Mazak – “How to Pray When Times Are Rough”

The Threefold Office of Christ – Part 16

The three offices are all highlighted in the book of Hebrews. The opening verses indicate that not only had there arisen a prophet like Moses, but that the Son was a prophet greater than Moses. The Lord knew Moses face to face, but this prophet is characterized as “a Son” (Heb. 1:2). Furthermore, though Moses interacted with God face to face,* and even saw his glory, the Son “is the radiance of the glory of God.” The people of Israel asked for Moses to be their prophet-mediator because they were afraid to approach God directly (Ex. 20:18-21; Deut. 5:22-27; 18:15-16), but the Son is both Mediator and God. Hebrews also teaches Christ was prophet in his earthly ministry by declaring the message of salvation. Yet the prophet is not merely a preacher of new revelation from God. The prophet also mediated the covenant. Moses mediated the Old Covenant, but Christ mediates a better covenant (Heb. 8:6) (See Horton, Lord and Servant, 210f.).

Hebrews, more than any other book expounds the priestly work of Christ. His suffering and death are mentioned in the early chapters (Heb. 1:3; 2:9, 14-15). Hebrews 2:17 introduces the idea that Christ is “a merciful and faithful high priest.” This is expanded upon in the following chapters. Hebrews five and six provide an introductory exposition of Christ as High Priest. Hebrews 7:1-10 makes the case that Jesus is a priest after the order of Melchizedek and that as such He is superior to the Levitical priests. The further significance of the emergence of Christ as the Melchizedekian Priest is unpacked in 7:11-28: the Mosaic law is set aside (7:18-19), a better covenant is instituted (7:22), and Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice fulfilled and replaced the repetitious sacrifices of the Levitical system. The following chapters demonstrate that Christ’s sacrifice fulfilled and replaced the Levitical sacrifices because he accomplished what those sacrifices could not. Hebrews 10:18 is the last word of exposition in the author’s argument that Christ is the superior High Priest: “Where there is forgiveness of [sins], there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.” Jesus is the absolute fulfillment of the entire Old Testament priestly system.

Because of the Son’s priestly ministry, he is enthroned and crowned (Heb. 1:3; 2:9). Once again appeal is made to Psalm 2:7. His successful sacrifice for sin resulted in his enthronement with the words promised to the Davidic king upon his ascension. Multiple Old Testament quotations establishing the kingship of Jesus follow. The chain of quotations climaxes with Psalm 110:1, emphasizing once again the Davidic nature of Jesus’ rule. Hebrews 2:5-9, by quoting Psalm 8:4-6, links this Davidic rule back to Adam’s dominion. This dominion was corrupted by the fall, and even of Christ, the passage says, “At present we do not yet see everything in subjection to him” (Heb. 2:8; This harmonizes with Psalm 110:1 which teaches that during the Messiah’s reign enemies will need to be subdued). But the Davidic Messiah is the Second Adam who will restore the right dominion of Man to the new earth (Heb. 2:5; 1 Cor. 15:22ff.)

*Douglas Stuart describes the significance of “face to face,” “The expression ‘face to face’ (פָּנִים אֶל־פָּנִים) is an idiom. It does not mean ‘looking at each other’ or the like as if Moses actually saw God when Moses stood in the ‘tent of meeting’ and Yahweh stood in front of it in the form of the glory cloud. (This could hardly be so in light of the explicit statement of God later in v. 20, ‘You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.’) Its sense is more that of the Eng. expression ‘up close and personal.’ The Eng. idiom ‘person to person’ is relatively similar as well (because it does not imply visual perception), and the idiom ‘heart to heart’ is also analogous (because, likewise, it emphasizes the quality of intimacy of the conversation rather than any visual perception).” Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus, New American Commentary, ed. E. Ray Clendenen (Nashville: B&H, 2006), 699, n. 111.