Category Archives: Denominations

John Frame and Evangelicalism

I would encourage everyone to listen to this interview of Pastor James Grant on Trinity Talk radio. Pastor Grant is a personal friend of mine and he has co-written a great chapter with Justin Taylor in the Festschrift in honor of John Frame titled, Speaking the Truth in Love. The chapter is entitled “John Frame and Evangelicalism.” It deals with John Frames influence on the Reformed world and his influence, or lack thereof, on Evangelicalism itself.

To give a little more detail of the chapter, John Frame’s influence on the Reformed tradition of our day cannot be lightly dismissed, especially as it pertains to his helping the Reformed world of today interact more broadly with the Evangelical world. The chapter is also helpful to point out how, or how he could have, influenced broader evangelicalism through more interaction with the scholarly societies.

Listen to the interview to find out more about the chapter. Also, I encourage everyone to get the Festschrift and read through it because the contributors are excellent and their insights and discussions of Frames work are priceless.

[HT: In Light of the Gospel]

Greg Beale Appointed Professor of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary, PA

Press Release:

Dr. Gregory K. Beale
Associate Professor of New Testament

Westminster Theology Seminary


On July 1, 2010, Dr. G. K. Beale will join the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary as Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology.

Dr. Beale holds an M.A. from Southern Methodist University, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from University of Cambridge. He is ordained in the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference.

Find out more about Dr. Beale.

Read the official announcement from Westminster Theological Seminary.

See the ministry bookstore for a listing of books by Dr. Beale. If you do not own it, I highly recommend The New Testament use of the Old Testament Commentary that he and D. A. Carson put together for Baker Book House.

Homosexuality and the Church

James Grant says:

In the previous post regarding the Church of Scotland and the appointment of a practicing homosexual to a particular ministerial post, someone left a comment stating that this is a healthy move for the Church of Scotland, and American Christians should follow their lead, referencing this article by Walter Wink: “Homosexuality and the Bible.” In this article, Wink provides several arguments as to why the church should not condemn homosexuality, but at the heart of his article and argument is this statement: “The crux of the matter, it seems to me, is simply that the Bible has no sexual ethic.” Indeed…that is a crucial matter on several levels (not to mention an significance difference of opinion on the nature of Biblical revelation).

I do hope Christians can have open and civil discussions, even about this controversial matter, but it is important to realize that Wink’s arguments will not persuade Christians who oppose the practice of homosexuality and have thought through the textual, biblical, and historical issues. It is not as if Christian’s haven’t dealt with Wink’s arguments both throughout church history and in our more recent cultural situation.  Robert Gagnon’s The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics is one of those books that helps Christians get the right perspective on this issue. It is the most comprehensive book-length response to the interpretive assumptions that go into this type of discussion.

Robert A. J. Gagnon

I would also encourage you to check out Robert Gagnon’s website. Gagnon is Associate Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and his credentials are superb: a B.A. from Dartmouth College, an M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School, and a Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary. He is also an ordained elder in a Presbyterian Church (USA) in Pittsburgh. His website is a comprehensive response to the homosexual movement within the church, which he faces in the PCUSA. You can view some of his specific responses to particular articles and reviews here. This includes a response to Walter Wink’s arguments from Christian Century. Scroll to the bottom of the page and you will see links to the pdfs. If you prefer to hear Gagnon, Issues, Etc., has a two part interview with him (Part 1 & Part 2).

The Coming Evangelical Collapse

Michael Spencer has a very provocative article that was published in the March 10th edition of the Christian Science Monitor. I encourage you all to read it. Here is an important excerpt:


1. Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This will prove to be a very costly mistake. Evangelicals will increasingly be seen as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society.

The evangelical investment in moral, social, and political issues has depleted our resources and exposed our weaknesses. Being against gay marriage and being rhetorically pro-life will not make up for the fact that massive majorities of Evangelicals can’t articulate the Gospel with any coherence. We fell for the trap of believing in a cause more than a faith.

2. We Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. Ironically, the billions of dollars we’ve spent on youth ministers, Christian music, publishing, and media has produced a culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it. Our young people have deep beliefs about the culture war, but do not know why they should obey scripture, the essentials of theology, or the experience of spiritual discipline and community. Coming generations of Christians are going to be monumentally ignorant and unprepared for culture-wide pressures.

3. There are three kinds of evangelical churches today: consumer-driven megachurches, dying churches, and new churches whose future is fragile. Denominations will shrink, even vanish, while fewer and fewer evangelical churches will survive and thrive.

4. Despite some very successful developments in the past 25 years, Christian education has not produced a product that can withstand the rising tide of secularism. Evangelicalism has used its educational system primarily to staff its own needs and talk to itself.

5. The confrontation between cultural secularism and the faith at the core of evangelical efforts to “do good” is rapidly approaching. We will soon see that the good Evangelicals want to do will be viewed as bad by so many, and much of that work will not be done. Look for ministries to take on a less and less distinctively Christian face in order to survive.

6. Even in areas where Evangelicals imagine themselves strong (like the Bible Belt), we will find a great inability to pass on to our children a vital evangelical confidence in the Bible and the importance of the faith.

7. The money will dry up.

[Continue Reading…]

Culture News: Churches blame empty pews on fewer babies

Church Pews Not Full

From the

That’s what almost every major Christian denomination in the United States has in common — from Southern Baptists to Missouri Synod Lutherans.

In fact, 21 of the 25 largest groups in the United States reported a decline or flat line in membership last year, according to the 2009 edition of the Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches. In most cases, the so-called birth dearth is the reason.

Carl Royster, a Church of Christ statistician, says that churches are seeing the aftereffects of the baby boom.

For example, in the mid-20th century, conservative groups like the Southern Baptists and Church of Christ saw their membership spike. “You had humongous growth in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s,” Royster said. “Now, the baby boomers are beginning to die off.”

Those boomers had fewer kids than their parents, leaving fewer descendants to replace them in the pews.

Royster said that he’s not panicking about the church decline. But he’s worried about the future.

“The sky is not falling yet,” he said. “But in a few years, it might be.”

Paul Prill, professor of communication at Lipscomb University and the part-time preacher at Acklen Avenue Church of Christ, says the congregation once averaged about 120 but fell to 50 when kids in the church grew up and moved away and older members became too frail to attend.

In recent years, young married couples settling in the area have begun returning, at a trickle’s pace, bringing the congregation back to about 80 members.

But it’s a slow process, Prill said.

“It’s hard to reach people who are in their 20s and are not going to church,” he said.

[HT: Ed Stetzer]

J. Gresham Machen’s Response to Modernism

I found this article over at Desiring God recently and thought I would share it. Thankfully, if you don’t have time to read it all, Desiring God is now providing audio recordings of many of their past articles. I encourage you to listen to it in your car or while you work one day. Machen’s work and writings continue to be a strong influence today in the Reformed Protestant tradition and I think you will find this biographical sketch by John Piper a very enjoyable read. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Here is the audio:


Here is an exceprt from the article:

Machen’s Response to Modernism and to Fundamentalism

Machen’s years at Princeton were the two decades which are known for the ongoing mondernist-fundamentalist controversy. We will see Machen’s distinctive response to Modernism if we contrast it with what was known most widely as fundamentalism. In the process of defining his response the meaning of Modernism will become clear.

He was seen as an ally by the fundamentalists; and his ecclesiastical opponents like to make him “guilty” by association with them. But he did not accept the term for himself.

In one sense fundamentalists were simply those who “[singled] out certain great facts and doctrines [i.e., Fundamentals] that had come under particular attack, [and] were concerned to emphasize their truth and to defend them” (see note 18). But there was more attached to the term than that. And Machen didn’t like that. He said,

Do you suppose that I do regret my being called by a term that I greatly dislike, a “Fundamentalist”? Most certainly I do. But in the presence of a great common foe, I have little time to be attacking my brethren who stand with me in defense of the Word of God (see note 19).

What he didn’t like was

1) the absence of historical perspective;
2) the lack of appreciation of scholarship;
3) the substitution of brief, skeletal creeds for the historic confessions;
4) the lack of concern with precise formulation of Christian doctrine;
5) the pietistic, perfectionist tendencies (i.e., hang ups with smoking (see note 20), etc.);
6) one-sided other-worldliness (i.e., a lack of effort to transform culture); and
7) a penchant for futuristic chiliasm (or: pre-millenialism).

Machen was on the other side on all these things. And so “he never spoke of himself as a Fundamentalist” (see note 21).

But none of those issues goes to the heart of why he did not see himself as a Fundamentalist. The issue is deeper and broader and gets at the root of how he fought Modernism. The deepest difference goes back to Machen’s profound indebtedness to Benjamin Warfield who died February 16, 1921. Machen wrote to his mother, “With all his glaring faults he was the greatest man I have ever known” (see note 22).

In 1909 at the 400th anniversary of Jon Calvin’s birth Warfield gave an address that stirred Machen to the depths. Warfield made plea that the Reformed Faith—Calvinism—is not a species of Christian theism along side others, but IS Christianity come to full flower.

Calvinism is not a specific variety of theistic thought, religious experience, [or] evangelical faith; but just the perfect manifestation of these things. The difference between it and other forms of theism, religion, [and] evangelicalism is difference not of kind but of degree … it does not take its position then by the side of other types of things; it takes its place over all else that claims to be these things, as embodying all that they ought to be (see note 23).

So he says Lutheranism is “its sister type of Protestantism” and Arminianism is “its own rebellious daughter” (see note 24). Calvinism’s grasp of the supremacy of God in all of life enabled Machen to see that other forms of evangelicalism were all stages of grasping God which are yet in process of coming ot a full and pure appreciation of his total God-centeredness. (Continue Reading)

Research on the Beliefs of SBC Pastors

Dr. Ed Stetzer has helped publish a very telling and new reseach project from LifeWay Research on the beliefs of Southern Baptist pastors. I encourage you to read through it if you are interested. Here are the excerpts Dr. Stetzer provided over here at his blog:

Concern about Calvinism

Among Southern Baptist pastors, 27 percent strongly agreed and another 36 percent somewhat agreed with the statement indicating that they were “concerned.” Sixteen percent strongly disagreed with the statement and another 17 percent somewhat disagreed. The remaining 5 percent indicated they “don’t know.”

Speaking in tongues

In a LifeWay Research release in 2007, half of Southern Baptist pastors answered “yes” to the question, “Do you believe that the Holy Spirit gives some people the gift of a special language to pray to God privately? Some people refer to this as a Private Prayer Language or the ‘private use of tongues.'” In a follow-up to that question, LifeWay found that practice is much less common than the belief in its existence. Among Southern Baptist pastors, only 4 percent said they “personally speak in tongues or have a private prayer language,” while 95 percent said they did not and 1 percent “don’t know.”


Pastors were also asked about their church’s practice of receiving members who were baptized in other churches. The question was, “Our church admits people into membership of our church who have been sprinkled or baptized in the following ways (without requiring baptism in OUR local church).”

A full 92 percent of Southern Baptist pastors said they would not require baptism of new members who were immersed after conversion in another church that has the same beliefs as a Southern Baptist church.

If the candidate for membership had been immersed after conversion in another Southern Baptist church, 84 percent of Southern Baptist pastors said they would not require baptism.

If the prospective new member had been immersed after conversion in another church that does not believe in eternal security, 26 percent of Southern Baptist pastors said they would not require baptism.

If the prospective new member had been immersed after conversion in a church that believes baptism is required for salvation, 13 percent of Southern Baptist pastors said they would not require baptism.

If the prospective new member had been baptized by sprinkling or pouring after conversion, 3 percent of Southern Baptist pastors said they would not require baptism prior to admittance into membership.

If the prospective new member had been baptized as an infant by sprinkling, pouring or immersion, 1 percent of Southern Baptist pastors said they would not require baptism.

“Baptism is always an important question for a denomination that values baptism so much that the word ‘Baptist’ is included in their name,” said Ed Stetzer director of LifeWay Research. “The results here are interesting. First, there is a small percentage of SBC churches that do not accept the baptism from other SBC (or like-belief) churches. Second, more than one-fourth of SBC pastors indicate they would receive into membership someone baptized in a church that does not believe in eternal security, possibly including such churches as a Free Will Baptist or an Assemblies of God church.

“Finally, and I am guessing most surprising, one-eighth indicate their church would accept a baptism from churches that believe baptism is required for salvation, possibly including such churches as a Church of Christ,” he said.

‘Southern’ in the ‘Southern Baptist Convention’

Among Southern Baptist pastors, 7 percent strongly agreed – and another 20 percent somewhat agreed – with the statement, “Having the name ‘Southern’ in the ‘Southern Baptist Convention’ is a hindrance to the work of SBC churches.” Forty-one percent strongly disagreed with the statement while 27 percent somewhat disagreed and 5 percent “don’t know.”

To further clarify opinions on the denomination’s name, Southern Baptist pastors were also asked their level of agreement with the statement, “Having the name ‘Southern’ in the ‘Southern Baptist Convention’ is a hindrance to the work of SBC churches outside of the South.” As the focus shifted to Southern Baptist congregations outside the convention’s historic strongholds, 16 percent of Southern Baptist pastors strongly agreed and 26 percent somewhat agreed, while 29 percent strongly disagreed and 21 percent somewhat disagreed. The remaining 9 percent “don’t know.”

Who makes decisions

In churches with average primary worship attendance of 250 or more, 8 percent identified “staff-led,” compared to 2 percent in churches under 250 in attendance. By the same token, only 24 percent of churches with average primary worship attendance of 250 or more identified “congregation-led” as the primary decision-making process, compared to 45 percent of churches under 250 in attendance.