Friday, February 29, 2008


I have never been so appalled in my entire life. To get the full weight of this, you need to watch the video to the end.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Assessing The Decline of Protestantism

According to a new report by US News & World Reports, we Protestants are going to eventually become the minority. "Whereas nearly two thirds of Americans identified themselves as Protestant as recently as the 1980s, only 51 percent identify as Protestant today, the study found." Really? Going to be a minority? I'm a Protestant, and I'm pretty sure that I've always been in the minority of American religion. Ever since I took my evangelism class with Josh Walker at GCU and read my way through The Purpose Driven Life per my teacher's requirements, I have known that "true" Protestant religion stopped being cool a long time ago. Sure, really cool guys like Josh and I are fighting to make it society's standard for awesome once again; but swimming upstream like this takes time.
"American religion is likely to be even more diverse in the future than it is now," John Green, a senior fellow with the Pew Forum, told reporters. "One can make the case that Americans will be less Protestant and less Christian a century from now, but how much is hard to gauge."
Darn. And I was used to being in the majority! I thought that the "seeker sensitive" churches with their broad and appealing approach were supposed to save Christianity in America. Oh well; I suppose the next trendy approach to butchering historical Christianity should get its chance to try out the spotlight. Go ahead, Emergents; you give it a try.

One really interesting piece of information: "Thirty percent of all Americans, it found, have switched their religion at some point in their lifetime, either to a different religion or to an 'unaffiliated status.'" For those living in Rio Linda, unaffiliated means, "I believe what I want about God and no religious group is going to tell me what He's like. This is becoming very popular, but lets remember that this trend started long before Meno Simon ever picked up a New Testament and decided those creeds were completely worthless.

I want to remind our readers here at Bring The Books that we are in a struggle for the hearts and minds of those around us; of our communities. Significant threats are not only on the horizon, but already here. First, Roman Catholicism; as more and more immigrants come here from Latin countries, so too does the Roman religion come along with them. Second, Islam; though not something I have to deal with, living here in the Bible belt, it is nonetheless a worldview threat which we must all be educated on and prepared to offer a defense against (with love and respect). Finally, generic unbelief; judging from this study from US News & World Reports, massive numbers of people are turning from religion altogether or labeling themselves "atheistic" or "agnostic."

I want to also make a passing observation that these figures from USN&WR makes one presumption which we should not accept; and that assumption is that the trends will continue as they are right now. If history offers us one lesson it is that trends change. What pollster could have predicted the Great Awakening, for example? The opportunity for spiritual revival and a resurgence of interest in the true Biblical faith is there, and that is something which polls cannot predict, because our God is sovereign.

Though election and predestination are both true, we as Reformed Christians know that we have a responsibility to present the Gospel and to leave unbelievers "without an excuse." "How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?" (Rom. 10:14). After all; would the Great Awakening have ever happened if Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and John Wesley had not spread the Truth of God throughout the colonies? I would suggest not. I would also suggest that we each take personal stock of each of these major competing worldviews I have pointed out and ask ourselves whether we are adequately prepared to defend "the faith once delivered" against unbelief in its many forms.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

And Then There Were Three

I would like to introduce our readers to the latest addition to our staff here at Bring the Books... Jason Grabulis. Jason is an M.Div student at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson Mississippi. He grew up in the D.C. area and moved south after he got out of the military. After graduating with a B.A. in Biblical Studies with an emphasis in New Testament Greek, Jason headed to Knox Theological Seminary in Florida. However, after a year and a half of study the seminary abandoned its commitment to the historic Reformed confessions and so Jason transferred to RTS. In fact, he has a blog that informs the Reformed community as to what is going on at Knox, read it here. Jason has been married for about 12 years and has a beautiful and vivacious little girl.

I am sure that he will be a great addition to the staff here. His theological insights are deep and his grasp of Church history is outstanding. He will fill in some of the gaps and add to the overall breadth at Bring the Books... We are very exited to have him join and we are sure that our readers will be blessed by his contributions to this site. I would like to be the first, but I hope not the last, to welcome Jason to Bring the Books..., welcome!


This news story is heartbreaking. I think it emphasizes the gravity of abortion. Many today treat abortion as a common, unpleasant, but sometimes necessary thing. Consideration for the long-term effects on the woman having the abortion often goes on the back burner. Also, although this woman made the decision to have the abortion, I still hope her "boyfriend" feels terrible.

[Also, a side note: I live in Kansas, and was traveling through a nearby town when I saw a sign which, even as an ardent pro-lifer, made me angry. The sign read in big black letters: My Mommy Had An Abortion. It was accompanied by an illustrated picture of a baby chopped up into little pieces with blood everywhere. Seriously, what am I supposed to tell my 2 year old when she asks me what that picture means? I think there is something to be said for tact and self-control when it comes to arguing for one's position. We don't have to reduce ourselves to the level of the barbaric baby-killers in order to change the minds of others. In my own opinion, signs like the one I just referred to do greater harm to the pro-life position, since they insult the intelligence of their audience, assuming that they will only be moved by brute, offensive images and not by rational discourse and argument.]

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Recantation of Eli Sunday

Plainview: "I see the worst in people. I don't need to look past seeing them to get all I need. I want to rule and never, ever explain myself. I've built my hatreds up over the years, little by little, Henry... to have you here gives me a second breath. I can't keep doing this on my own with these... people."
We watched There Will Be Blood tonight. It's an absolute shoe-in for best picture, I am certain. Even if it doesn't win best picture, I guarantee you all (this is the day before the Oscars) that Daniel Day-Lewis will win best actor.

This is all an aside. Before proceeding, here's my warning: I'm giving away a massive confrontation at the end of the film. If you don't want to lose the surprise, don't read this. I'm assuming if you're reading that you've seen There Will Be Blood or that you don't mind spoilers.

In the film, the two opposing characters are Daniel Plainview (a pragmatic, irreligious, greedy oilman) and Eli Sunday (a young, deceptive, two-faced, charismatic preacher sharing a strong resemblance to Benny Hinn and company). Throughout the film, the two characters clash in violent and emotionally revealing ways. At one point in the film, in order to make a land deal go through, Daniel agrees to be baptized in Eli's church The Church of the Third Revelation (seems like a cult to me). During the baptism, Eli the preacher forces Daniel Plainview to reveal painful and embarrassing sins to the church (and by extension, to the community).

Many years later (approximately 10), Eli comes to Daniel (now a fabulously wealthy oil tycoon) asking him for financial assistance because the church has fallen on hard financial times. Daniel takes the opportunity to belittle Eli and insult him
Plainview: "You're just an afterbirth, Eli, slithered out from your mother's filth. They should have put you in glass jar on a mantlepiece."
The ultimate indignity comes, however, when Daniel demands that Eli admit what Daniel has known all along - that Eli is a false prophet. Essentially, we the viewer have known it all along, as well. However, Daniel takes things a step further and demands that Eli not only confess that he is a false prophet, but that God is a superstition. After mumbling his confession, Daniel finally coaxes Eli into selling his soul for Daniel's help.
Eli: "I am a false prophet and God is a superstition! I am a false prophet and God is a superstition!"
Now, of course, I don't condone what Daniel forces Eli to say, completely, since I do not believe that God is a superstition. But for Daniel, God is a superstition, and Daniel knows that the greatest indignity that can be foisted upon this false prophet is for him to have to admit the lie which he has been keeping from everyone for years upon years.

Possibly the most powerful confrontation I have ever seen in any film, this scene in the film transcends physically violent confrontation. For once, I felt I had seen something more devastating than violence in a film. It is painful to physically hurt someone, but what can be more soul-wrenching than forcing someone to confess a lie dealing with one's ultimate worldview?

The tagline for the movie is "When Ambition Meets Faith," and this scene of clashing personalities could not have delivered more rewardingly on that promise. Ultimately in this showdown, we don't learn anything about God's existence so much as we learn about the two men who are saying these things. Eli clearly chooses materialism over principle. His affection for financial gain was greater than his affection for God, and therefore he denounced Him. Earlier in the film, Daniel's desire for financial gain was greater than his desire to maintain his integrity, and therefore he made a false profession of faith and was baptized by Eli.

From both sides, greed won the day. Principle took the back burner. I feel a little guilty saying it, but it was rewarding to see this Benny Hinn-type figure get his just desserts (not that Daniel Plainview was any better; he was a very selfish and evil man). I have had few times when I felt so much pleasure while watching a movie. I guarantee you, I'll be thinking about this movie for many many days to come.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"Jesus Died For Someone's Sins But Not Mine"

"Jesus died for somebodys sins but not mine
Meltin in a pot of thieves
Wild card up my sleeve
Thick heart of stone
My sins my own
They belong to me, me"

Patti Smith "Gloria"

I appreciate the brutal honesty in Patti Smith's words here. I would, however, say that it is never correct for someone to say words like these, believer or not. The reason is that there is a high level of presumption which says that they know they will never become a Christian, never find forgiveness, and never recognize a need for their sins to be atoned for. Biblically speaking, no one may ever be presumptuous enough to declare that "my sins my own/they belong to me, me." Maybe. Maybe your sins are your own, and you will atone for them yourself. But maybe you will someday come to faith in Jesus and find that He has atoned for you already. Guard your words, Patti Smith, for you do not know what the future holds.

What a disservice we do to unbelievers when we (in the spirit of hypothetical universalism) tell them that Jesus died for their sins. These are people who do not want an atonement; they probably do not even believe they need an atonement. And this atonement actually does nothing for the indifferent pagan.

Nowhere in Scripture do we ever find someone being told to repent on the basis that Jesus has already provided atonement for them. Everywhere, we find that people are told to repent and believe in Jesus - essentially - on principle. Repent because eternal life is at stake. Repent and believe for the forgiveness of sins. But no one is told in the Bible, "Believe in Jesus because he died for your sins." Go ahead, look it up; try to find it just once.

I actually worked with a fellow named Chris* who once told me that he didn't need to become a Christian. I asked why, and he said, "Well all my life, I've been told by people that Jesus died for my sins. I thought about it one day and realized that if Jesus died for my sins, then I'm off the hook; whether I become a Christian or not." My response was stunned silence, because universalism makes way more sense than hypothetical universalism, and I realized this in that moment. (Actually, later, I told him that he had no reason to believe that Jesus died for his sins, and that those people who told him that were well meaning idiots who thought that "Jesus died for your sins" was the Ace up their sleeve. Sorry, hypothetical universalists.)

Think about it: Jesus provides atonement for you. What fear should you have of hell? On what basis will you be sent to hell if your sins are atoned for? On what basis?

*This is an absolutely true story.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Ecumenical Discussions

There are many, as of late, who think that unity in the Church should be found in the first four ecumenical councils. Besides the fact that this is arbitrary (why not the first five? Or the first three? Why only the first four?), it misses the point that the person and work of Christ can never be separated.

Allow me to explain. The first four ecumenical councils deal primarily with the person of Christ. That is, they develop who Christ is. Is he divine or human or both? What is his relation to the father? How many wills does the person of Jesus have? These are but a few of the questions that these ecumenical councils sought to answer.

Whereas, questions about his work (what he did) were given a cursory treatment in relation to the depths these councils went with the person of Christ. They did not develop the significance of the cross, for example. What was the death of Jesus for? Why did he have to die on a cross? Why all the blood? What is justification? What is propitiation? Most of these questions were not dealt with at these councils and if they are the answers are hardly as deep as the Christian Church needs them to be.

This raises the question, why are we to be united on the person of Christ and not on his work? Or even more fundamental, how can Jesus be separated into these parts? Sure we can make the distinction between the person (who he is) of Christ and the work (what he did), but we cannot separated them—they are two sides of the same coin. Those, I would submit, who try to find unity in the ecumenical councils are in fact separating Christ’s person from his work. Since we are to have unity (which I am a huge advocate for), I suggest that we have unity around the whole Jesus, his person and his work.

Gordon Fee in his new book, Pauline Christology, discusses this very point that Jesus cannot be broken into parts.

The attempt to extract Christology from Paul’s letters apart from soteriology is like asking a devout Jew of Paul’s era to talk about God in the abstract, without mentioning his mighty deeds of creation and redemption. Although one theoretically may theologize on the character and “person” of God on the basis of the revelation to Moses on Sinai, a Jewish person of Paul’s’ era would hardly imagine doing so. What can be know and said about God is embedded in the story in such a way that God’s person can never be abstracted out of the story. Whatever else, God is always “the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob.”

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Gospel In Two Sentences

"God had sent his Son into the world to die for sins. He had lived in Palestine and had taught for a few years, and had been killed like a criminal, though innocent, and had risen from the dead to show that his death was a ransom for sin, and had ascended into heaven where he rules the world until the time when he will come and establish his kingdom for all those who have put their life in his hands."

John Piper, Taste and See

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Scientology Update: Anonymous Becoming Less Anonymous?

The LA Times is reporting that the hackers who posted the Youtube video under the name "Anonymous" have started physically appearing and protesting in major cities while wearing Guy Fawkes masks (a la V for Vendetta). Very nice. So they're still sort of anonymous. But we all know who'd have a lawyer at their front door the minute they took their masks off; don't we? You might remember this video from when we posted a link to it about a month or so ago.

The story is here.

The interesting thing is, these hackers actually seem to have a very easily accomplished plan. They are protesting and picketing for an examination of the circumstances under which Scientology actually gained tax-exempt religious status. Anonymous claim that Scientology is a business, not a religion and are making what is, in my opinion, a strong case. It seems clear that their plan is to get Scientology's tax-exempt status revoked. This wouldn't topple Scientology, but it would be one brick out of Scientology's financial foundation.

Another interesting site for discussions by former members of Scientology is found here, at

Friday, February 8, 2008

Paul's Authority

I am currently reading An Introduction to the New Testament by Carson and Moo. This introduction is great and I could not recomend a book more highly. Their writing style is great. Here is a section from their chapter on Paul: Apostle and Theologian:
Paul's apostolic stance enables him to interpret the Old Testament Scriptures with sovereign freedom and to make demands on his people that he considered to be as binding as anything in Scripture.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Politics: Advice For Republicans

I'm not a republican, but I am soliciting advice to Republicans on my other blog where I put my "un-theological" thoughts. Check it out, if you want. It gets considerably less traffic, so I can say far crazier stuff over there. Interestingly, I'm also violating my own post from about a week ago where I told everyone to stop thinking about politics because they're wasting their lives on it. This is what I get for listening to talk-radio at work instead of listening to my iPod.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Super Bowl Commercials? What About These Commercials?

In this Folgers commercial from 1963, a man makes a veiled threat to leave his wife for one of "the girls at the office" over the quality of her coffee-making skills. She switches to Folgers, and he agrees to become intimate with her. I think this is a very evil commercial. There is little theological benefit to this commercial from what I see, but you people are miracle-workers. We can make a theological issue out of anything!

So get to it; I need someone to justify why I should put something like this on a theologically-oriented blog.

You won't believe this next commercial from 1962. You just won't, okay?

All I know is that Ben Rehm would definitely approve of this one. On an unrelated note, I'm pretty sure Josh is going to put me on probation for putting too many Youtube videos up here.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Assassination of Jesse James: Some Reflections

Before proceeding, might I first highly recommend The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford? It is a terrific, artful, meditative western which feels rather timeless and very un-western in many respects. Anyone who is a fan of the work of Terrence Malick (The Thin Red Line/The New World)will probably know what I'm talking about. The film is on nearly every critic's top 10 list for 2007, and it's definitely one of my ten favorite films which were released last year. Beautifully filmed by cinematographer Roger Deakins and powerfully acted by Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, as well as the rest of the supporting cast, it would difficult to more highly recommend a film from this past year.
"The righteous should choose his friends carefully,
For the way of the wicked leads them astray" (Prov. 12:26).

This is the verse which immediately leapt to mind as I was watching the closing chapters of the film. Because Jesse (played by Pitt) has lived as an outlaw and chosen to surround himself with dishonest lowlifes, he is in constant paranoia and anxiety as to whether they are plotting to kill or capture him for a reward.
"A man burdened with bloodshed will flee into a pit;
Let no one help him" (28:17).

The wisdom of Solomon would certainly apply to the situation Pitt's Jesse James found himself in during the film (of course, Jesse James was not righteous, and he did not choose his friends carefully). Some other verses which seem apropos:
"He who walks with wise men will be wise,
But the companion of fools will be destroyed.
Evil pursues sinners,
But to the righteous, good shall be repaid" (13:20-21)

"Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Matt. 26:52).

A little word for Robert Ford, who so badly wanted to be a member of Jesse's gang:
"Do not be envious of evil men,
Nor desire to be with them;
For their heart devises violence,
And their lips talk of troublemaking" (Prov. 24:1-2).

After killing Jesse James, Robert Ford spent the rest of his life re-enacting the assassination (on a stage for profit). He came to loathe his actions and regret that he murdered Jesse. He became known to everyone as a coward.
"He who plots to do evil
Will be called a schemer" (24:8).
It would be hard to argue that Ford did not spend the rest of his life essentially being remembered as a schemer, and as a coward. Now, some may argue that shooting Jesse James was not a sin because Jesse James was a bad man and a murderer (he killed around 17-25 people). I would only state here that at least most Christians agree that the state certainly has the right of the sword over its own citizens, and that vigilantism is not something to be tolerated under a Biblical worldview. More could be said, but I do recommend this film, and look forward to some input from the rest of you.

[Edit: I only wanted to add, in reference to movies, that the wife and I just saw Atonement (starring Kiera Knightly), and I really liked it. Actually, it was another little surprise at the end of the year that really makes you rethink your year-end top ten lists. I can confidently say if I had seen the film last year, it definitely would have been on my top ten list for last year's best films. I hope it wins the Oscar for best picture, to be quite honest.]

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Arminian National Anthem

Note: they want to be free.

No One Gets Us

Last November at the PCA’s general assembly, the PCA passed the Ad Interim Study Committee’s paper on the Federal Vision, New Perspective, and Auburn Avenue Theologies. This paper, in essence, rejected the views of the Federal Vision, in all its forms, and the New Perspectives on Paul.

Since this paper came out those who are in the Federal Vision (FV) have set their guns against this document. They have leveled many charges against the paper and the Study Committee: the committee was stacked, they misrepresented our views, they did not contact us to get clarification or to see if we really held to the views they said we did.

This last charge is one I would like to discuss because to my mind it is the weakest of the charges, yet it is the one I hear most often. First, why does the Study Committee need to contact you about your views? As Steve Wilkins put it in his resent letter addressing why this Church (Auburn Ave. Presbyterian Church) left the PCA, “the PCA Study Committee, which had judged me to be out of accord with our confessional standards without asking for clarification or for a response on my part…” I do not understand why the committee needed to speak with those who are apart of the FV. They have written a book, many blogs and/or lectures on these issues. Are their writings that unclear? Are their lectures so muddy that a person cannot listen to them and understand their position on a given point? It seems, at times, as if the FVers are saying that you cannot understand a person’s views unless you speak to them. If this is the case, then we can know nothing about anyone’s views that is passed. This is simply untrue. I can, for example, read Calvin and know what he thought about a certain issue. I do not need to call him up on the phone and talk to him to clarify his views. Now, if I did not understand Calvin it would be good to seek clarity. So to, the Study Committee could, if they so desired, have spoken with those men who they were writing about, but there is no moral or intellectual necessity that they do so.

Secondly, it does seem that the FVers think, maybe subconsciously, that they are unclear. The reason I say this is two fold: first, because they want everyone to speak to them for clarity and second, to my knowledge, there is not a single FVer who states that a person on the other side understands their view. In other words, according to the FVers, they are the only ones who understand their position. To disagree with them is, in essence, to not understand them. This is most unfortunate. Writing and lectures are the best way to get your point across clearly and preciously. But the FVers seem to be unable to get their whole system out there for public view in a clear manner. The reason for this, I fear, is that their system is contradictory. That is, the Federal Vision, as a whole, has internal inconsistencies. This is most obvious by their views of a quasi baptismal regeneration and their understanding of justification by faith alone.

Regardless of the consistency of the Federal Vision, this charge that the PCA Study Committee needed to contact these men needs to be dropped. This is simply rhetoric that takes away from the main issues of the truthfulness and confessionalness of the Federal Vision.