Thursday, September 30, 2010

Logos 4 Mac

The long wait for the fully-functional Logos 4 Mac is finally here. Logos Bible Software has been developing the Mac version for over 5 years but has refused to release the final version before it had all the features loaded. Order today and you will be eligible for the various promotional giveaways.

I have been using the early-release versions of Logos 4 for the last several months off-and-on. It is easy to use and backed by extremely helpful customer service staff. I will give a full review at a later point but already I can say that Logos 4 Mac is worth a serious look.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Terry Jones, Quran burning and the way of Jesus

Update: At 5:10 PM Eastern Time, September 9, 2010, CNN is reporting that Terry Jones has agreed not to go through with his announced plans.

The furor created by Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida has stretched around the world. In July, Jones announced that he and his followers would burn copies of the Quran on September 11, in memory of the attack on America by radical Muslims on September 11, 2001. Everyone from Sarah Palin, to General Petraeus to the Vatican to President Obama have condemned the planned burning and asked Jones not to do it.

Muslims have staged anti-American and anti-Christian protests on at least two continents in response to Jones' antics. As of today, his plans remain unchanged and he invites other Christians to join him for his self-initiated "International Burn a Koran Day."

The actions of Jones are wrong and irritating on so many levels that they provoke ridicule and scorn. One of the tragedies in all of this is that he and others may well wear such backlash (which now includes more than a hundred death threats) as a badge of honor and a sign of suffering for the sake of Jesus. After all, didn't Jesus say,
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake (Matthew 5:10-11)?
Of course He did. But when a Christian invokes scorn due to sensational, unbiblical actions he does not suffer for righteousness' sake but for stupidity.

Tony Reinke has provided some real biblical wisdom in assessing this whole fiasco in light of the "book burning" in Acts 19 and I encourage you to read his insights. I want to offer a few of my own, as well, as one who has more than a casual interest in what happens to Muslim friends and fellow believers living in the Muslim world.
  1. Jones has justified burning the Quran because it is an "evil book" that leads people away from the true God. Consistency, then, should lead him to add countless other titles to his bonfire, including many that are written by authors who purport to be promoting Christianity but who miss the gospel altogether.
  2. This proposed burning, coming as it does at the end of Ramadan, is severely damaging opportunities that Americans and Christians living in Muslim countries normally have to deepen relationships and share in the goodwill that is typically shown by Muslims to their neighbors in the celebration of Eid, the breaking of the fast. Instead, a cloud of suspicion is gathering over the heads of American Christians living in Muslim countries because of the actions of a small group of people in Florida. If you doubt this, you are simply naive and it is certain that you had no Muslim friends living near you on September 12, 2001.
  3. Burning copies of the Quran in Florida may appear to be courageous to some who think only superficially about such things. In reality, it is closer to cowardice. If Jones were genuinely courageous he would go to Kabul or Tehran and hold his bonfire. Better yet, if he were both courageous and wise he would go to those place, or others like them, and learn how to live among and love Muslims for the sake of teaching them the gospel of Jesus from the Bible.
  4. Burning Qurans is more about publicity than it is about honoring Jesus Christ or advancing His kingdom. It is an unbiblical activity. By that I mean, there is nothing in the Bible that directs Christians to do such a thing, especially in conjunction with a day of national remembrance.
I love Muslim people. Because of that I want them to have the very best things in the world. The greatest of all things is the forgiveness of sins and new life that comes through trusting Jesus Christ as Lord. I want Muslims, and everyone, to experience this. Burning their holy book will no more serve this purpose than burning the idols in 1st century Athens would have served Paul's burden to make Christ known to the citizens of that city.

Most Muslims are not fanatics who want to kill infidels. But even those kinds of radicals must be viewed through the eyes of biblical faith. In one sense they are our enemies because they have set themselves against Jesus as the incarnate Son of God and against those who call Him Lord. But our Lord has taught us that we, like He, must love even our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Love does what is good, not evil, to the one loved.

In another sense, however, even radical Muslims are not our real enemies. Paul reminds us of this in Ephesians when he says that "we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (6:12). Those who set themselves up as the enemies of Jesus Christ and His followers should be regarded as captives of our real enemy and in need of deliverance.

So pray for Terry Jones and for those under his leadership. They need to be taught the way of Jesus more accurately. Ask the Lord to show him how unChristian and harmful his plans are and to lead him to repent of them. Pray for US military personnel whose jobs will be made much more difficult as a result of the proposed Quran burning. Pray also for Christians living in Muslim countries as they miss out on opportunities and deal with the fallout of Jones' unbiblical and unwarranted actions.

God will rule and overrule these events for His glory and the good of His children. So we can pray confidently as we ask Him to guide His people to respond as those who have a crucified, risen Savior, no matter what happens on September 11 and the days that follow.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Is Whosoever Will a book by "Arminians?"

Roger Olsen, Professor of Theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, associated with Baylor University, in Waco Texas is a self-described "five-point-Arminian." I had the privilege of lecturing in one of his classes at Truett several years ago and found my time with him to be warm and cordial. We obviously disagree on the Arminian-Calvinism debate, but I remain deeply appreciative of his kindness to me and of his willingness to speak plainly not only about theological issues in general but also about his own views and where he fits historically.

It was with great interest that I read his review of David Allen's and Steve Lemke's book, Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism (B&H Academic, 2010). This edited volume is largely based on presentations from the John 3:16 Conference held in 2008.

Olson's review, which appears on the Baptist Theology website of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, is worth reading. It is no surprise that he finds the arguments in the book to be so "devastating" that they "demolish" Calvinism. The upcoming issue of the Founders Journal will, again, unsurprisingly, take a different view. What I most appreciate about Olson's review is its honesty and forthrightness. Southern Baptists ought to be willing and able to have rigorous theological discussions without mincing words. We should all seek to be honest with Scripture, theology and history. Whenever I read Olsen, I have no doubt that this is exactly what he tries to do, regardless of how significantly I may disagree with him.

Olsen calls the contributors to Whosoever Will "a collection of anti-Calvinist authors." In fact, he goes on to describe them as follows:
The first essay is a sermon on John 3:16 by Jerry Vines. (Many of the essays are versions of papers delivered at a 2008 conference of Southern Baptists entitled "The John 3:16 Conference.") There the author rehearses the history of Calvinism and the contemporary dispute over it and defends diversity about subjects such as predestination and free will in Southern Baptist life. As a classical Arminian I was stunned to read him saying of the conference and book that "none of the authors in this project is Arminian or a defender of Arminianism" (5). I was stunned because I read much of the book before going back and reading Vines’ sermon that introduces it. In fact, as I will discuss more later, all of the authors are Arminians in the classical sense. I don’t know why Vines and they run from the label. Perhaps because it has been so hijacked and misrepresented by Calvinists? But they don’t seem to be afraid of Calvinists. So, why so much distance from Arminianism? I can only assume it is because Vines, and perhaps some of the other authors, have bought into the pejorative polemics against Arminianism by its Calvinist enemies.
At the end of the published review online, the following editorial notation appears under the Editor's Notes: "The authors of Whosoever Will would not describe themselves as "anti-Calvinists."

Duly noted.