Monthly Archives: September 2013



From Al Mohler: Fred Craddock, among the most influential figures in recent homiletic thought, famously describes today’s preacher “as one without authority.”

His portrait of the preacher’s predicament is haunting: “The old thunderbolts rust in the attic while the minister tries to lead his people through the morass of relativities and proximate possibilities.”

“No longer can the preacher presuppose the general recognition of his authority as a clergyman, or the authority of his institution, or the authority of Scripture,” Craddock argues.

Summarizing the predicament of the postmodern preacher, he relates that the preacher “seriously asks himself whether he should continue to serve up monologue in a dialogical world.”


I decided to write this post before the flooding in Colorado and shootings in DC.  But then there are always evils and catastrophic events going on, many of which we are unaware of.


A short time ago I read an article about a former pastor who became a skeptic.  The post 9/11 world did not make sense to him.  He figured there could be no God in such a world.  This is nothing new.

Andrew Delbanco has famously said Americans went from believing in the providence of God prior to the Civil War to believing in luck after it.  Too much carnage took place for one to keep believing in a God who is good and in control of all things.

I also struggle to make sense of these realities, yet I am perplexed by those who choose to bail on the Christian faith.

The Bible makes it clear that we are living in a broken world where the most hideous things imaginable will take place.  Make sure to digest that important truth.  If “delicate women” will boil their own children for food (see Deut. 28:53-57), we know there is the capacity for all kinds of evil.

Further, if God had not made it clear that I will not understand many things this side of heaven, I also would consider bailing on the Christian faith.  However, God has made it clear we will only understand very little this side of heaven when it comes to processing evil and suffering.  There is quite a bit underscoring this reality in Scripture (for example Deut. 29:29; Job 38-42; Isa. 55:8,9; I Cor. 13:12)

Luther, like the Psalmists (note plural), struggled with the silence of God, even the God who seems to hide Himself at times.

So I wonder what Bible the pastor turned skeptic was reading.  I trust you are reading and digesting the entire Bible!




Sometimes there are very good books which travel under radar.  For one reason or another, they do not get the attention they deserve.  Defeating Pharisaism is one of those books.

InterVarsity published this terrific book and it really needs to get more attention.  This post is my small attempt to do just that.

If you are looking for a thoughtful resource on discipleship and how to avoid the many pitfalls of the Pharisees, this is a wonderful resource.  Tyra convincingly shows how us as so-called conservative or Bible-believing Christians can so easily fall into the trap of the Pharisees.

The late Dallas Willard said, “To understand why most Christian churches are in constant difficulties and fail to flood their world with spiritual life, carefully study this book. You will also come away with knowledge of what you can do to change this situation, starting right where you are.”

Here is the amazon link:


I met Dave and Gwen McCoy about twenty years ago when I was a pastor.  Wonderful folks!

Dave was one of our best Sunday school teachers.  Dave is amillennial in his understanding of so-called “end-times” matters or at least he used to be.  The church was and remains premillennial.  I am now “agnostic” on how it will all end/begin anew, but that topic is for another time.

Back to Dave.  Our elders still allowed Dave to teach and several sat in his class.  Indeed, they told me on a regular basis how much they were learning from Dave.

Though Dave’s training is in the sciences (he holds a Ph.D. in organic chemistry), he has a keen interest in literature and the arts.  I vividly remember seeing several of his works of art on display throughout his home.  

Well, what I saw about twenty years ago, you can see for yourself via the marvels of the Internet.  By the way, the picture above depicts Ecc. 9:4 about how it is “better to be a live dog than a dead lion.”


Andrew Bacevich is a graduate of West Point, Vietnam veteran, holds a Ph.D from Princeton, teaches at Boston University, and is a prolific writer.  He is a conservative who has much to share about why war is many times a misguided option.  Bacevich’s son was killed in Iraq.

From what I have heard, Bacevich articulates my own view.  More surprisingly, Phil Donahue’s view also seems to be similar to mine!


Years ago, I heard that theologian, J.I. Packer, reads The Brothers Karamazov every year.  I figured I should read it at least once.  Suffice it to say, there is a lot to think about in that big and important book.  

I vividly recall driving across country after our honeymoon and my wife Doreen sharing about the profound impact of another Dostoyevsky classic, Crime and Punishment.  So gripping was the book that Doreen started to feel sympathy for the criminal.  I am happy to report it did not lead her into a life of crime.

Here is a four minute clip (HT Justin Taylor) from one of our wisest counselors.  In a short space he does a great job of describing what great writers can do for us:



There is much to remember when one is suffering or when we are seeking to minister to others going through deep waters.
Imagine you are walking down the street with a friend.  You fall and mess your knees up pretty badly.  Nothing life-threatening, but it hurts like crazy.  As you are groaning over the pain, your friend looks at you and says, “Oh don’t complain.  People are starving in the Congo.  And don’t forget all the people who are dying of cancer.”
It is true that we should keep the suffering of others before us when we go through our own suffering.  Peter gives instruction us on this very thing (see I Pet. 5:9).
However, there are other biblical truths we need to remember when we suffer.  Proverbs 14:10 says, “The heart knows its own bitterness and a stranger does not share its joy.”  Yes, knee pain is put in better perspective when we remember those who experience more serious types of suffering.  However, pain is pain and badly bruised knees still hurt!
It seems too many of us either act as if the knee pain doesn’t exist or imagine it is the worst form of suffering known to mankind.  Neither extreme does justice to what the Bible teaches us.


I believe it is theologian David Wells who said television perhaps more than anything else has challenged the Christian view that God is in charge of all things.

In “real time” (a weird neologism) we can see all kinds of evil unfold. We can vicariously sense the terror of those going through war as we did when CNN correspondent, Bernard Shaw, reported from Baghdad.  As the bombs fell, the tremor in Shaw’s voice was unmistakeable.

Even secular scholars have written books describing the destructive effects of being exposed to certain types of evil.  Roger Shattuck’s Forbidden Knowledge is one such book and the anti-moralists were not happy that one of their own would raise questions about the value of reading certain works of literature.

Bringing this principle home is what caused me to get rid of our D.H. Lawrence books.  I’m no prude, and yes, I have read books which have stuff about sex in them…like the Bible!  I got rid of Lawrence even in my quest to “read the best which has been thought and said” because it seemed the defiling potential of Lawrence was greater than the positive payback.  I could be wrong and gladly invite push backs.

In any case, how do we determine not only how much we watch television, but more to the point, what kinds of shows?