An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

When neo doesn't mean new

Ever since the Time Magazine decided that "new calvinism" was the no 3 idea that was changing the world many have been confusing the so-called "new calvinism" with neo-calvinism.

On new calvinism:

Mark Driscoll, one of the new calvinists describes it as follows:

  • Old Calvinism was fundamental or liberal and separated from or syncretized with culture. New Calvinism is missional and seeks to create and redeem culture.
  • Old Calvinism fled from the cities. New Calvinism is flooding into cities.
  • Old Calvinism was cessationistic and fearful of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. New Calvinism is continuationist and joyful in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Old Calvinism was fearful and suspicious of other Christians and burned bridges. New Calvinism loves all Christians and builds bridges between them.
He then goes on to say

This is certainly no neo-calvinism. Neo-calvinism goes back (at least ) to Kuyper.

Those that confuse the two include:

Neo-calvinism has several distinctives - several I outlined here. These are a far cry from the often pietistic and puritan emphasis of the 'new calvinists'.
  • Jesus is lord over all of creation

  • The idea that all of life is to be redeemed

  • Cultural mandate

  • Creation, fall and redemption

  • Sphere sovereignty

  • A rejection of dualism

  • Structure and direction

  • Common grace

  • The antithesis

  • Worldviews

  • The role of law
So, in this case new calvinism is not equal to neo-calvinism.

In fact, R Scott Clark has argued that Mark Driscoll isn't even a calvinist!

Odds and sods

Doug Groothius has a guest post on Debunking Christianity: 'The straw God: understanding the new atheism' has a shed load of resources on cessationism (the idea that charismata have ceased).
Jesus' use of humour at Best of both worlds.
Jake Belder has an excellent and thought-provoking series on 'Mortifying Modernity'.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Goheen and Bartholomew - Living at the Crossroads

Living at the Crossroads

Living at the Crossroads
An Introduction to Christin Worldview

Michael W. Goheen and Craig G. Bartholomew
Baker Book House, 2008

ISBN 978-0-8010-3140-3
pbk xvi + 205 pp

Do we need another worldview book? The last decades have seen the proliferation of excellent worldview books:

  • J. Mark Bertrand. 2007. (Re)Thinking Worldviews: Learning to Think, Live, and Speak in This World. Wheaton: Crossway Books.
  • David Naugle. 2002. Worldview: The History of a Concept. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
  • Paul A. Marshall, et al eds. 1989. Stained Glass: Worldview and Social Science. Lanham MD: University Press of America.
  • John Peck and Charles Strohmer. 2001. Uncommon Sense: God's Wisdom for our Complex and Changing World. London: SPCK.
  • James W. Sire. 1976. The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog. Downers Grove: IVP. 4th revised edn 2004.
  • Brian J. Walsh and J. Richard Middleton The Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian Worldview. Downers Grove: IVP.
  • B. J. van der Walt. 2008. The Eye is the Lamp of the Body:Worldviews and their Impact. Potchefstroom: Institute for Contemporary Christianity in Africa.
  • Al Wolters. 1985. Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Second edition 1988. Revised and expanded 2005 (with Mike Goheen)

And now Goheen and Bartholomew's contribution. However, what marks this book as different is its missional focus and its clear setting within the biblical story. Both these reflect the interest of the authors. Goheen's PhD was on Lesslie Newbiggin, and Bartholomew's on Ecclesiates.

This is a sequel to their excellent Drama of Scripture. This hopefully, will mean that evangelicals and those with an interest in biblical studies will read this; it will thus appeal to others other than reformationals. This is an important message and needs to be grasped by Christendom at large rather than kept in the small reformational corner.

The book begins by setting worldviews in the context of the gospel, story and mission. We find ourselves at the crossroads of two totalising narratives - the biblical story of creation, fall and redemption and the post/modern western story. This book is written to help us live faithfully as Christians at the crossroads.

The second chapter examines 'What is a worldview?'. They begin with a brief history tracing the concept to Kant, Schelling, Kirkegaard and Dilthey. They note that its origins carry with it associations 'to be affirmed and others to be awry of' (p. 13). They go on to look at and address criticism of the 'appropriation' of worldview. these objections are:
  • it intellectualises the gospel
  • it relativises the gospel
  • it may become disconnected from scripture and thus vulnerable to the spirits of the age
  • it may lead to an unhealty messianic activism
  • it may entrench a compromised middle-class Christianity

This discussion is helpful as it serves to act as a warning, we need to be aware of the temptations so we can avoid them. They see worldview as a foundation for 'vigorous cultural engagement' and as providing 'tools to carry out our task in the world' (p 30) - worldview correctly understood has a missional thrust. It is a great strength of this book that it continually emphasies this.

Inevitably the book traces the contours of a Christian worldview through the framework of creation, fall and redemption. And this is the topics of chapters 3 and 4. They then look at how modernism and postmodernism shape society. Chapter 5 looks at the roots of modernity, the worldview underlying Western culture. This is, in the words of Corliss Lamont, 'the task of being our own savior and redeemer' (p. 68). The roots of modernity were to some extent Christian but this became mixed with Greek humanism and from this arose scholasticism and a separation of reality into two storeys: grace and nature. Chapter 6 examines the growth of modernity. The Renaissance's secular humanism and the Enlightenment split apart the synthesis of the gospel and humanism, they led to a conversion of the West from a faith in the church to a faith in reason. The world would be bettered through science and reason. A synthesis of gospel and humanism became an antithesis.

In chapter 7 they adopt Tom Wright's addition to Walsh and Middleton's worldview questions: What time is it? Here postmoderism, consumerism and globalisation, the renascence of Christianity and the resurgence of Islam are scrutinised.
Chapter 8, the title chapter, explores how we can be both faithful and relevant in culture; they pose and answer the question: 'how can a christian remain faithful to the biblical story while living in a culture that has been shaped by a very different story' (p 132). To do so we must become 'critical participants'. The distinction between structure and direction is utilised to help distinguish between creational design and cultural idolatry.

The final chapter looks at six areas where worldviews are fleshed out: business, politics, sport, creativity and art, and scholarship. These provide tantalising teasers. It would be great to have each of these developed as chapters in another book! (Hint! Hint!)

This is a brilliant book its strength is that it provides a missional focus for a reformational worldview. It is replete with wisdom and insight. So, do we need another book on worldview? If its one as good as this, then Yes! Buy it, read it, act on it.

Publisher's website
Book website

Available in the UK from:

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Living at the Crossroads Conference in Bristol April 4th

Only 3 weeks to go! Get those registration forms in!

Details here.

Responding to secularism conference

The Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics and The Gospel & Our Culture Network present:
Responding to Secularism:
Christian Witness in a Dogmatic Public Culture

Friday 24th April 2009
10.00am – 5.00pm
Tyndale House, Cambridge

  • TRACING secularism from its origins to current developments
  • DEFINING the secularist worldview and its depiction of religion
  • ENGAGING secularist public policies and polemics

  • John Stackhouse (Regent College, Vancouver)
  • Elaine Storkey (Tearfund)
  • Andrew Kirk (formerly University of Birmingham).
  • Dominic Erdozain (King’s College London)
Details here.

Barna survey looks at changes in worldview among Christians

The Barna survey defines a "biblical worldview" as:
believing that absolute moral truth exists; the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches; Satan is considered to be a real being or force, not merely symbolic; a person cannot earn their way into Heaven by trying to be good or do good works; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; and God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today. In the research, anyone who held all of those beliefs was said to have a biblical worldview.

They found that 9% of all American adults have "biblical worldview".
They comment:
Ongoing research by The Barna Group on these matters consistently demonstrates the powerful impact a person’s worldview has on their life. A worldview serves as a person’s decision-making filter, enabling them to make sense of the complex and huge amount of information, experiences, relationships and opportunities they face in life. By helping to clarify what a person believes to be important, true and desirable, a worldview has a dramatic influence on a person’s choices in any given situation.

And find that:

* One-third of all adults (34%) believe that moral truth is absolute and unaffected by the circumstances. Slightly less than half of the born again adults (46%) believe in absolute moral truth.

* Half of all adults firmly believe that the Bible is accurate in all the principles it teaches. That proportion includes the four-fifths of born again adults (79%) who concur.

* Just one-quarter of adults (27%) are convinced that Satan is a real force. Even a minority of born again adults (40%) adopt that perspective.

* Similarly, only one-quarter of adults (28%) believe that it is impossible for someone to earn their way into Heaven through good behavior. Not quite half of all born again Christians (47%) strongly reject the notion of earning salvation through their deeds.

* A minority of American adults (40%) are persuaded that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life while He was on earth. Slightly less than two-thirds of the born again segment (62%) strongly believes that He was sinless.

* Seven out of ten adults (70%) say that God is the all-powerful, all-knowing creator of the universe who still rules it today. That includes the 93% of born again adults who hold that conviction.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Review of Blackwood Multisensory Preaching and Teaching

The Power of Multisensory Preaching and Teaching
Rick Blackwood
Zondervan, 2008
ISBN978-0-310-28097-2 hbk
US $19.99
207 pp

The sermon has been described as one of the most ineffective teaching tools ever invented and in 1857, but sounding very contemporary, Trollope wrote in Barchester Towers:

"There is perhaps no greater hardship at present inflicted on mankind in civilised and free countries than the necessity of listening to sermons. No one but a preaching clergyman has, in these realms, the power of compelling an audience to sit silent, and be tormented."
And yet we continue to use the sermon as the main teaching tool in churches on a Sunday. Blackwood, senoir pastor of Christ Fellowship in Miami, Florida, writes to help us make the sermon more effective, "to increase attention, comprehension and retention"; and thus make it easier for us to become doers as well as hearers of the word. He wants good preachers to become great prachers. He maintains that it is not just talent, but also technique.

This is a distilled but easily-digestible version of Blackwood's PhD empirical research into the effectiveness of multisensory preaching.

The book is split into three parts. The first part (Chapters 1-6) look at the effects of a multisensory preaching. Multisensory preaching engages the ear, the eye and the hand. He found that in terms of making his message memorable it increased by 62.2% when visuals were added and by 74.6%when visuals and interaction were added to the verbal communication.
It has long been known that not everyone learns in the same way.

Blackwood points out that multisensory teaching is not new and even has biblical precedents. Hosea, married an adulterous woman; Jeremiah, walked around with an ox yoke around his shoulders; and Jesus used vines, coins, water, wheat and many other visuals to communicate his message.

In part 2 (Ch 7-9) looks at the "how?" Here is practical instruction to make us multisensory preachers. In part 3 (Ch 10-12) he provides some examples. These range from getting a recently married couple to come in full wedding regalia and show a video clip of them proposing to each other. This is to illustrate the public nature of baptism.

Other ideas include giving the audience penlights, key rings and this may be above the budget of a small UK church. And much of what Blackwood proposes assumes that resources are available. resources such as a stage, stage hands, technicians, digital projectors and screens and so on. Nevertheless, this book will provide food for thought and some useful ideas for teachers who want to increase attention, comprehension and retention.

Blackwood's message can be summed up as:

Who are we?
Where are we?
On a pew in a church.
What's the problem?
We are being bored by a flat one-dimensional sermons.
What's the solution?
Multisensory preaching; getting your local preacher to read and act on a copy of this book.

Publisher's website

Thursday, 5 March 2009

A new tract

Kuyper lecture for 2009

2009 Dr Alvin Plantinga
John A O’Brien Professor of Philosophy, University of Notre Dame

Dr Plantiga will give his Prize Lecture in Princeton on Thursday 16th April 2009. It will be followed by a conference on the theme of ‘Philosophy and Revelation’ marking the 100th anniversary of Herman Bavinck’s Stone Lectures, for which paper proposals are invited.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Notes on the Kite Runner

The film, directed by Quantum of Solace's Marc Forester is based on the book of the same name by Kahled Hosseini. It is a story of redemption - but redemption achieved by self. It is a beautifully crafted film. The photography is amazing.

The story is of two Afghan boys Amir and Hassan. It is also a tale of forgiveness.

Where are we?
In a world torn apart - a country that is raped first by Russia and then by everyone else as the world watches on and does nothing.

What's wrong?
Amir lets Hassan down by watching him be raped by a bully Assef. Amir didn't stand up for his friend. He then falsly accuses Hassan of stealing his watch, this is the catalyst for the two to be separated and to never see each other again.

What's the solution?
There is a way to be good again. Go and rescue Hassan's son. In doing so he has to face the bully Assef. Redemption comes by facing up what he did wrong and being prepared to face his own giants and do the right thing by Hassan's son, to be good again.

The film ends with Amir running after the kite for Hassan's son as he calls out 'for you a thousand times' which echoes Hassan's call as he chased down a kite for Amir just before his rape.