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Posts Tagged: theology

Why Asking "Do You Agree with Our Statement of Faith" is Not Enough

Jun. 20, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

We have a question on our application for those who wish to be mentored and sent to bring sound theological training around the world.  One of those questions has to do with our Statement of Faith. It's a fair question and quite normal. We want to know if you subscribe to what we believe. We use two confessions for our teachers, with The Gospel Coalition Confessional Statement being what all teachers must subscribe to.

As I have interviewed over 100 people to be sent, I find that most just skip the question as to whether they gladly agree and just mark "yes." Most are innocent (though lazy!).  I have had a number of Presbyterians tell me they subscribe to the Bethlehem Baptist Elder Affirmation of Faith in their application.  This always puzzles me and upon further review the applicant realizes they just checked the "yes" box. To be fair, there are also many Reformed Baptists who do not know the content of what they have signed off on.

This is no minor issue for us. We are sending people to teach doctrine to pastors and leaders. The teacher must have conviction on what they believe and not so easily mark “yes.” I believe what has happened is that some people want to be associated with the Young, Restless, Reformed Movement, but they have yet to put the work in and cannot explain the foundational theological underpinnings of Reformed doctrine. I remember Josh McDowell used to stir up parents by showing them that high school kids had no idea how to articulate a Christian Worldview. I now find that college and graduate students along with some pastors like being associated with the hip Reformed movement, but they don’t really know the statement of faith they say they subscribe to.  Obviously, Christians have varying degrees of maturity, but when it’s a teacher, the stakes are very high and the consequences great.

Situations like these are very serious when interviewing a pastor/elder for a position in a church or a professor for a seminary post. Many churches and seminaries have lost moorings because people have hired friends who they like who seem to love Jesus with almost total disregard for their personal statement of faith. Sometimes no questions are asked. Other times the person being interviewed is “close enough” in agreement and the person is hired.  Need examples?

A brother in the Lord recently interviewed for a position at an evangelical school. He does not agree with part of their statement of faith. But no big deal, he is now a professor. They didn’t press him on the statement of faith, but asked if he agreed and crossed their fingers because he is such a fine scholar. He said he could work within the boundaries of their statement, but he personally does not agree. 

There are a number of evangelical churches close to me where the Senior Pastor does not agree with part of the statement of faith of the church. I have seen churches appoint elders by asking them if they agree with the statement of faith and leaving it at that. Of course, those same men can’t even tell you the content of the statement of faith.

Just asking, “Do you agree” is a sign of terrible shepherding. What we believe about God is the most important thing about us. The church uses confessions to protect, unite and worship.  If your church or organization does not take them seriously, you will eventually be torn apart from the inside.

Take doctrine seriously. While it is fair to ask, “Do you agree,” let’s not stop there. I don’t care if someone has been ordained, passed test after test in theological studies or written wonderful papers and articles.  I still will ask for an explanation and defense on what they believe. In doing so I safeguard TLI. Will you safeguard your church or organization?

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New Release: The Journal of Global Christianity

Mar. 9, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

Training Leaders International just released the newest edition of the Journal of Global Christianity, which has over 100 pages of articles and book reviews. The journal is available in five languages: English, French, Spanish, Chinese, and Farsi.

The Journal of Global Christianity seeks to promote international scholarship and discussion on topics related to global Christianity. The journal addresses key issues related to the mission of the Church, in hopes of helping those who labor for the gospel wrestle with and apply biblicalScreen_Shot_200e79a3bbf7 teachings on various challenging mission topics. The journal targets an audience of pastors, missionaries, and Christian workers around the world.

This volume has the following contributions:

  1. Darren Carlson l EDITORIAL: Encouraging Women to Do Biblical Studies at the Graduate Level
  2. H.H. Drake Williams, III I Evaluating a Response to the Refugee Crisis through a Biblical Theological Lens: Perspectives from the Epistle of James
  3. Fred Farrokh l Pursuing Integrated Identity in Christ in Ministry to Muslims
  4. John A. Wind l Does the Old Testament "Authorize" a Creation Care Mission of the Institutional Church? Examining Christopher Wright's Claims
  5. Thomas R. Schreiner l New Trajectories and Old Patterns: Hermeneutics and Same-Sex Advocacy 
  6. Aaron and Meg Brown l REPORT FROM THE FIELD: Reflections on Our One Year Anniversary
  7. David W. Shenk l APPROACHES TO MINISTRY: The Universal Questions Muslims Ask

The Journal also contains book reviews. 

Join me in praising God for all those who made this journal possible. May this journal also be an encouragement to our brothers and sisters around the world.

Training Leaders International just released the newest edition of the Journal of Global Christianity, which has over 120 pages of articles, book reviews, and abstracts. The journal is available in five languages: English, French, Spanish, Chinese, and Farsi.

The Journal of Global Christianity seeks to promote international scholarship and discussion on topics related to global Christianity. The journal addresses key issues related to the mission of the Church, in hopes of helping those who labor for the gospel wrestle with and apply theScreen_Shot_20ccbcd6d824biblical teachings on various challenging mission topics. The journal targets an audience of pastors, missionaries, and Christian workers around the world.

This volume has the following contributions:

  1. Philemon Yong | EDITORIAL: The Priority of Scripture in the Pursuit of Gospel Relevance for the African Traditional Religious Context
  2. Christopher Wright | The Challenge of the Brain Drain Within Global Theological Education
  3. Evan Burns | Moravian Missionary Piety and the Influence of Count Zinzendorf
  4. Baiyu Andrew Song | “To the Joy of the Church, and the Honour of Christ”: A Case Study of Personal Evangelism in Early Chinese Mission
  5. Zachary Howard | The Promise & Peril of Globalization: How Local Churches Should Respond to Globalization
  6. Dwayne Baldwin | Report from the Field: Educational Missions in Eastern Europe
  7. David Deuel | CLOSING EDITORIAL: Shepherding People with Disabilities

The Journal also contains book reviews and abstracts on a variety of topics. 

Join me in praising God for all those who made this journal possible. May this journal also be an encouragement to our brothers and sisters around the world.

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Honor and Shame in Judgment

Jul. 24, 2015By: Jackson WuAuthor Bio

If you emphasize honor and shame, does this mean that you need to minimize the theme of “judgment” in the Bible? Absolutely not.

Unfortunately, some people have that impression. They seem to think that judgment is a legal idea and so unrelated to honor and shame. In this post, I will show you a number of passages that show how the Bible describes judgment in terms of honor-shame.


The Shame of Judgment 

Everything a person can say about judgment from a traditional perspective can be communicated by using honor-shame.

Daniel 12:2 is quite direct:

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Likewise, Daniel 9:8 adds,

To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you.

The psalmist pleads for God to judge his enemies. It is especially interesting to observe the purpose for God’s judgment. Psalm 83:16–18 says,

Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek your name, O LORD. Let them be put to shame and dismayed forever; let them perish in disgrace, that they may know that you alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth.

God gets glory when he puts his enemies to shame (cf. Exod 7:4–5; Eze 32:9–15)

Biblically speaking, “judgment” referred to more than the punishment of bad people. It routinely speaks about how God sets a situation right and rescues His people. We see this two-fold emphasis in Psalm 75:7, which says: is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.

Through judgment, God honors one side and shames another.

Saved from what?

Consider how the Scripture describes salvation. Biblical writers announce that God’s people will be saved from shame. In Zeph 3:11, we read

On that day you shall not be put to shame because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me; for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain.

In Romans 10:11 (and in Rom 9:33), Paul draws from Isa 28:16 saying, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame” (cf. Rom 5:5).

The Shame of Death

What about passages like Rom 6:23, which say that the “wages of sin is death”?

     Death is the ultimate shame.

Death exposes our vulnerabilities, our weakness and limitation. We are not sovereign over ourselves. None but Jesus are able to resurrect ourselves.

Consider Jeremiah 51:47–51. Notice how death and destruction are described in terms of shame.

Therefore, behold, the days are coming when I will punish the images of Babylon; her whole land shall be put to shame, and all her slain shall fall in the midst of her. Then the heavens and the earth, and all that is in them, shall sing for joy over Babylon, for the destroyers shall come against them out of the north, declares the Lord. Babylon must fall for the slain of Israel, just as for Babylon have fallen the slain of all the earth. “You who have escaped from the sword, go, do not stand still! Remember the Lord from far away, and let Jerusalem come into your mind: “We are put to shame, for we have heard reproach; dishonor has covered our face, for foreigners have come into the holy places of the Lord’s house.” 

No one wants to “lose face.” The fear of shame drives people’s behavior as does the desire for honor. Both in the Bible and in world cultures, people use honor and shame to discuss the most significant issues in life and theology, including judgment and reward.

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Does Calvinism Kill Missions? These Guys Didn't Get the Memo

Jun. 26, 2015By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio


Does Calvinism kill missions? Consider the following:

  • John Calvin: Calvin sent missionaries from Geneva into France and as far away as Brazil. Most of these young men sent to France died a martyr’s death, but the church of Geneva continued to send them.
  • John Eliot: A missionary sent to the American Indians in the 1600′s. He is believed to be the first missionary among this people group. As many have said, if William Carey is the father of the modern mission’s movement, then John Eliot is its grandfather.
  • David Brainerd: A missionary to the American Indians in the 1700′s. Many historians believe that he has sent more individuals into the mission field than any other person in the history of the church via his diary, An Account of the Life of the Late Reverend David Brainerd.
  • Theodorus Frelinghuysen: The great evangelist and preacher, who set the stage for the First Great Awakening in the middle colonies.
  • Jonathan Edwards: The great theologian, writer, and preacher of the First Great Awakening. He was also a missionary to the Indians.
  • George Whitfield: The great voice and preacher of the First Great Awakening. He journeyed across the Atlantic Ocean thirteen times and scholars believe he preached over 18,000 sermons.
  • William Tennent: He founded the Log College, which later became Princeton University. This college trained pastors and provided many of the revivalist preachers of the First Great Awakening.
  • Samuel Davies: The famous President of the College of New Jersey (Princeton University), preacher of the First Great Awakening, and evangelist to the slaves of Virginia. It is believed that hundreds of slaves came to saving faith through his evangelism efforts.
  • William Carey: He is the famous missionary to India and is considered the father of the modern mission’s movement.
  • Robert Moffat: The first missionary to reach the interior of Africa with the Gospel. He translated the entire Bible and Pilgrim’s Progess into Setswana.
  • David Livingstone: Arguably, the most famous missionary to the continent of Africa.
  • Robert Morrison: The first Protestant missionary to China and the first to translate the Bible into Chinese.
  • Peter Parker: An American physician and missionary to China who first introduced Western medical techniques to the Chinese. He also served as the president of the Medical Missionary Society of China.
  • Adoniram Judson: The famous missionary to Burma, translated the Bible into Burmese, and established multiple Baptist Churches in Burma. His mission work led many to enter the mission field and was foundational for forming the first Baptist association in America.
  • Charles Simeon: The vicar of Holy Trinity Church and the founding figure of the Church Missionary Society. This organization was instrumental in leading many students to the mission field. The Society itself has sent more than 9,000 missionaries into the world.
  • Henry Martyn: The renowned missionary to India and Persia. He preached in the face of opposition and translated the New Testament into a number of languages.
  • Samuel Zwemer: He is affectionately known as “The Apostle to Islam.” His legacy includes efforts in Bahrain, Arabia, Egypt, and Asia Minor. His writing was used by the Lord to encourage and mobilize an entire generation of missionaries to labor in Islamic countries.
  • John Stott: Scholar, preacher, pastor, and evangelist of the twentieth century. He was one of the principle authors and the influential leader in establishing the Lausanne Covenant, which promoted world-wide evangelism.
  • Francis Schaeffer: Pastor and found of L’Abri, which has been used by the Lord to draw many to saving faith as they intellectually wrestled with the tenants of Christianity.
  • D. James Kennedy: The founder of Evangelism Explosion, which many believe is the most widely used evangelistic training curriculum in church history.
  • John Piper: Pastor, writer, and theologian, who has been used by the Lord to define missions and send many young people into the mission field.

HT: Jason Helopoulos

Originally Published on the Gospel Coalition 

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J.I. Packer & Puritan Manliness

Jun. 9, 2015By: Evan Burns

John Owen has been called the John Calvin of England, and he is arguably the greatest of all the Puritan writers.  C.H. Spurgeon called him the prince of the Puritans.  J.I. Packer, having summarized Owen’s spirituality, sounds a clarion call to contemporary evangelicalism.  Packer says,

9781433515811Anyone who knows anything at all about Puritan Christianity knows that at its best it had a vigour, a manliness, and a depth which modern evangelical piety largely lacks.  This is because Puritanism was essentially an experimental faith, a religion of ‘heart-work’, a sustained practice of seeking the face of God, in a way that our own Christianity too often is not.  The Puritans were manlier Christians just because they were godlier Christians.  It is worth noting three particular points of contrast between them and ourselves.

First, we cannot but conclude that whereas to the Puritans communion with God was a great thing, to evangelicals today it is a comparatively small thing.  The Puritans were concerned about communion with God in a way that we are not.  The measure of our unconcern is the little that we say about it.  When Christians meet, they talk to each other about their Christian work and Christian interests, their Christians acquaintances, the state of the churches, and the problems of theology—but rarely of their daily experience of God.  Modern Christian books and magazines contain much about Christian doctrine, Christian standards, problems of Christian conduct, techniques of Christian service—but little about the inner realities of fellowship with God.  Our sermons contain much sound doctrine—but little relating to the converse between the soul and the Saviour.  We do not spend much time, alone or together, in dwelling on the wonder of the fact that God and sinners have communion at all; no, we just take that for granted, and give our minds to other matters.  Thus we make it plain that communion with God is a small thing to us.  But how different were the Puritans!  The whole aim of their ‘practical and experimental’ preaching and writing was to explore the reaches of the doctrine and practice of man’s communion with God….

Then, second, we observe that whereas the experimental piety of the Puritans was natural and unselfconscious, because it was so utterly God-centred, our own (such as it is) is too often artificial and boastful, because it is so largely concerned with ourselves.  Our interest focuses on religious experience, as such, and on man’s quest for God, whereas the Puritans were concerned with the God of whom men have experience, and in the manner of his dealings with those whom he draws to himself.  The difference of interest comes out clearly when we compare Puritan spiritual autobiography… with similar works from our own day.  In modern spiritual autobiography, the hero and chief actor is usually the writer himself; he is the centre of interest, and God comes in only as a part of his story.  His theme is in effect ‘I—and God’.  But in Puritan autobiography, God is at the centre throughout….

Third, it seems undeniable that the Puritans’ passion for spiritual integrity and moral honesty before God, their fear of hypocrisy in themselves as well as in others, and the humble self-distrust that led them constantly to check whether they had not lapsed into religious play-acting before men with hearts that had gone cold towards God, has no counterpart in the modern-day evangelical ethos.  They were characteristically cautious, serious, realistic, steady, patient, persistent in well-doing and avid for holiness of heart; we, by contrast, too often show ourselves to be characteristically brash, euphoric, frivolous, superficial, naïve, hollow and shallow….

A word to the wise?  There was once a day when God sent Jeremiah to say to Israel, ‘Ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls’ (Jer 6:16).[1] 


[1] J.I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 215-218.

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