Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Here We Go Again: The "Camp Quest" Flyer Flap

A reporter from the Charlottesville weekly The Hook called yesterday to get my reaction to the latest flap over the Albemarle County school policy of allowing any non-profit to send home flyers in children’s backpacks. I was oblivious to it till she called.

WorldNetDaily had an article on May 25 titled "Teachers rebel over atheist promotion." The flyer promotes "Camp Quest" as "the first residential summer camp in the history of the United States for the children of Atheists, Freethinkers, Humanists, Brights, or whatever other terms might be applied to those who hold to a naturalistic, not supernatural, lifestance. Campers are encouraged to think for themselves and are not required to hold any particular view." The promotional brochure entices potential campers: "Take the CAMP QUEST CHALLENGE. Win a god-free $100 bill! Be the first camper in CQ history to disprove the existence of the two invisible unicorns who live at camp!"

The camps are located in Ohio and Michigan, and it is unclear what local group presented the flyers for distribution, though my guess would be the humanist subgroup at Thomas Jefferson Unitarian-Universalist emboldened by the success of NatureSpirit’s November 2006 holiday flyer (see my previous post "Happy Holidays? Pagan Evangelism and the many comments).

Here are a few reflections:

1. This episode once again illustrates the absurdity of the policy of allowing any group to send home promotional materials through the schools.

2. It also is a warning reminder to Christian parents of the mind-numbing secularity of the public school administrators with regard to religion. Just consider what this "all is one" philosophy does to the quality of children’s academic education, not to mention the development of their character. As Al Mohler sagely noted back in 2005, the time is now for a responsible "exit strategy" from public schools for committed Christians (and anyone else, for that matter, who might have any serious convictional beliefs).

I would offer a modest suggestion to the Albemarle County School Board:

Please consider changing your policy and do not allow any non-profits to send home promotional flyers (whether Humanist, Baptist, Boy Scout, or Little League).

Or, adopt a reasonable guideline to weed out flyers like the one above. It might include some of the following limits:

1. Promotional flyers must be for events and activities that take place in the local area (Charlottesville-Albemarle).

2. Groups allowed to send out promotional materials must meet some basic criteria as a local, viable, accountable, public, non-profit organization. These might include:

  • A verifiable minimum number of participants in the organization who are residents of the local area;

  • Proof of the existence of a functioning board of directors or trustees which has oversight of the organization;

  • The organization’s proof of ownership or rental of property within the local area from which its organization operates.

The School Board could easily create an application process for any group that desires to send home such flyers and applicants could then be approved in public meetings, allowing for citizen feedback.

My guess is that if the County would implement such a policy this would quickly eliminate such frivolous, agenda-driven, promotional materials.

Veritas, JTR

New Blog: For the Brothers

JPBC's Steve Belcher has entered the blogosphere. You can read his thoughts here. Steve has based his blog name on 1 John 3:14 and dedicates it to his two physical brothers (both of whom are serving in the US military) and his spiritual brothers at JPBC. I look forward to reading it.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Spring 2007 Evangelical Forum Newsletter posted

The Spring 2007 issue of the Evangelical Forum Newsletter has been posted online (here). Bonnie will be sending out the hard copy edition soon.


Memorial Day Weekend and Religious Freedom

The past two issues of World Magazine reported the recent arrest and trial of Nguyen Van Dal. This 38 year-old Christian lawyer has been defending persecuted believers in Vietnamese courts for years. Nguyen, a member of the Evangelical Church of Vietnam, belongs to Advocates International, a global network of some 30,000 Christian lawyers who work to ensure religious freedom in their home nations. In 2004 and 2005 he gained international attention for his defense of the "Mennonite Six," a group of Vietnamese Mennonites who were arrested and tortured for their faith.

On March 6, 2007, however, Nguyen was himself arrested, along with a 28 year-old colleague, Le Thi Cong Nhan, for "propagandizing" against the Vietnamese republic. After a four-hour trial in Hanoi, the two received prison sentences of four and five years, respectively.

As we approach the Memorial Day weekend, we ought to pause for at least a moment and consider some of the benefits of religious freedom that we take for granted. No police informants are secretly infiltrating our church services. We do not have to ask the government’s permission to publish books or religious tracts. We do not face the risk of arrest or torture for assembling to worship. No censor must approve the messages that are preached.

The best marking of the Memorial Day weekend will likely not come in going to a soccer tournament, having a cookout, watching the big race, or visiting the newly opened pool. It is more likely to come in bowing our heads in prayer to thank God for the sacrifice of many of our fellow citizens who fell in battle—from the Revolutionary War, to the Civil War, to the great World Wars, to current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq—to secure for us and others the freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our conscience.

It would also be fitting to remember in prayer before the Father the members of the persecuted church, including men like Nguyen Van Dal. In the Parable of the Great Judgement in Matthew 25, Jesus has the sheep ask the King, "Or when did we see You sick or in prison, and come to you?" (v. 39). And the King answers: "Assuredly, I say to you inasmuch as you did it to the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me" (v. 40).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Evangel article (5/23/07).

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Baxter on Education

The Puritan Richard Baxter (1615-91) on the attempt to do education apart from a knowledge of God:

Nothing can be rightly known, if God be not known; nor is any study well managed, nor to any great purpose, if God is not studied. We know little of the creature, till we know it as it stands related to the Creator: single letters, and syllables uncomposed, are no better than nonsense. He who overlooketh him who is the 'Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending,' and seeth not him in all who is the All of all, doth see nothing at all. All creatures, as such, are broken syllables; they signify nothing as separated from God. Were they separated actually, they would cease to be, and the separation would be annhiliation; and when we separate them in our fancies, we make nothing of them to ourselves. It is one thing to know the creatures as Aristotle, and another thing to know them as a Christian. None but a Christian can read one line of his Physics so to understand it rightly. It is high and excellent study, and of greater use than many apprehend; but it is the smallest part of it that Aristotle can teach us.

Source, Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor (Banner of Truth [1656 original] 1974): 56-57.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Apprentice

As promised at Body Life yesterday evening, here is a photo of JPBC's Sheri States and her pal "the Donald" (along with Sheri's sister and another friend). They met Trump at the Furniture Mart in High Point where he was promoting his new line of furniture. I'm sure it's "high class all, the way." Anyone want to suggest a caption?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

In Memoriam: Jerry Falwell

News is breaking today that Jerry Falwell has died (see the Fox article here). As the writer of Ecclesiastes said, "For man also does not know his time" (9:12). Whatever one's take on Falwell's theology (he was outspoken in opposing Calvinism in recent years) or politics (not all Baptist evangelicals shared his views on church-state issues) one has to admire his tireless work as a Pastor (founder of Thomas Road Baptist Church) and educator (founder of Liberty University), his stand and passion for his convictions (on issues like opposition to abortion and moral decline in America), and his visionary institutional leadership (Who would have thought that Lynchburg, Va would be the lauching pad for a national religious-political figure?).

I had the opportunity to speak briefly with Jerry last December while visiting his church's annual Christmas program with some friends. He was amiable, warm, and accessible.
Let's join in lifting up his family and friends as they grieve his death.


The Crazy Youth Conference Season Approaches

The approach of summer means the coming of evangelical youth conference and camps galore. Our church gets its fair share of promotional flyers.
I just got one for the upcoming BGAV sponsored summer YEC event. This year the acronym has changed from the traditional "Youth Evangelism Conference" to "Youth EnCounter." The theme is "Transformation."

Why does this bother me?

Maybe, the thing that rubs me wrong are the photos promoting Christian entertainment. Here's one of a puppet guy who will be there:

Then there is this photo of the band "Skillet" that will also be there:

Question: Just what exactly do we want the youth who attend this event to be transformed into? What is the difference between the posing of this group and a secular rock group? What does the name "Skillet" indicate anyway? Is this really an example of not being conformed to this world but being transformed by the renewing of your mind? At least they've taken the word "Evangelism" out of the title.
I don't mean to to pick on the BGAV or YEC in particular. This is par for the SBC and evangelical youth ministry course, whether "conservative" or "moderate."
My observation, however, is that there is an emerging younger generation who want more than wordly music and mindless "Christian" entertainment. They want solid doctrinal teaching, clear ethical guidance, and authentic Christian community. They want to know that being a Christian means separation from the world, not getting as close as you can to it and still thinking yourself Biblical in worldview and life practice. They will not respond to these kind of shallow events in droves.

Congratulations to Ben and Vanessa!

JPBC's Ben Parziale and Vanessa Garvey are engaged to be married! Here's a photo Sheri States sent me that was taken at their house last Saturday evening soonafter Ben popped the question. We, of course, rejoiced with them on Sunday morning. Ben and Vanessa graduate from UVA next weekend and both will serve ministry internships at JPBC this summer (Ben as Pastoral Intern and Vannessa as Children's Ministry Intern). We are glad they plan to be around C-ville and JPBC to begin their married life together.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Exposition of Jude: Part 3 of 25

This series is an occasional, verse-by-verse commentary on the book of Jude.

Jude 1:3 Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

Why is Jude writing this letter? In v. 3 we have the purpose of this epistle explained.

First, Jude says he was diligent to write to these "beloved" (the called, sanctified, and preserved believers [see v. 2]) concerning "their common salvation." The adjective "common" in Greek is koinos. It reminds one of the noun for "fellowship" [koinonia]. As believers we are joined in fellowship by a common experience of salvation. What are we saved from? The Bible says we are saved not merely from ourselves, or from our sin, but from the wrath of God! In John 3:36 we read that the one "who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."

Second, however, Jude notes that it was necessary for him to encourage (from the Greek parakaleo; we might use the stronger verb: "to exhort") the believers to contend earnestly for the faith. What is "the faith once for all delivered to the saints"? Here "faith" refers to core doctrinal content and not merely to the experience of believing in Jesus. Jude, like Paul in his letters, is urging the defense of right doctrine about who Jesus is. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 Paul reminds the church at Corinth of the seminal facts of "the gospel" which he had received (including the death, burial, resurrection, and appearances of Jesus) and then faithfully communicated to this church. Paul warned the Galatians not to accept "a different gospel" (Gal 1:6). Jude, likewise, is in a battle with false teachers bearing counterfeit ideas about Jesus. We must always be on our guard against error and compromise in doctrine. Jude urges us to make a spirited defense of Biblical truth.

Practical application:

1. Have you ever noticed an immediate common bond with a new acquaintance who is a believer? How is this attributable to your common experience of salvation?
2. What are the core Biblical doctrines that must be defended?
3. How does Jude 1:3 support the practice of a church setting down its fundamental beliefs in a confession of faith?
4. How does Jude 1:3 debunk the notion that one can be a Christian without getting "bogged down" in doctrinal precision?
5. Do you know enough about the Christian faith to resist false teachers and false teaching?


Monday, May 07, 2007

Beckwith crosses the Tiber

One breaking story over the weekend was that Francis Beckwith, a philosophy professor at Baylor (who gained his tenure at the moderate Baptist school with some controversy over his conservative, pro-life views) and current President of the Evangelical Theological Society (I'm a member), announced he had converted (or returned--he was apparently Catholic till his teen years) to the Roman Catholic Church. See his post "My Return to the Catholic Church" on the Right Reason blog and the numerous comments. Apologist James White responds here. A Baylor student from Beckwith's new church who is also a Catholic convert gives her take here.

Beckwith soonafter offered his resignation as ETS President, since the group is clearly evangelical, acknowledging in its minimal confessional standard: "The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory." There will, no doubt, be great discussion on this in days to come.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Noblit on Church Discipline

Jeff Noblit is Paul Washer's Pastor at FBC-Muscle Shoals. He also has a ministry called "Anchored in Truth."
He has a two part series on Church Discipline online that is worth hearing: Part one; Part two.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Call to Worship: The Elephant in the Sanctuary

Below are notes from the Call to Worship last Sunday (4/29) morning:

Did you read the article in the Daily Progress this morning? It was titled, "Henrico church service features live elephant." The article tells about a church outside Richmond that is bringing in a 34 year old elephant named Minnie to its services this morning.
The article (edited) begins:

A Henrico County church is bringing in a real heavyweight for its Sunday service.
The featured guest is so big—7,000 pounds—that the church is setting up chairs outside. Besides, an elephant it sure to attract a crowd.

"It’s literally traffic-stopping worship," said the Rev. Jim L., pastor of the (church) near Short Pump….

He said the elephant will help illustrate the children’s message: "How big is your God?"
The church is investing $20,000 in the service which includes the cost of leasing the elephant, rentals, supplies, and advertising….

The chairman of the Church Council is quoted as saying:

"The vast majority of people who are in our church have come there as the result of this type of outreach…. When you’re talking about evangelism and bringing people to church, you need something that grabs their attention… An elephant will do that."

Is this what is has come down to? We have to have an elephant to get people come to worship? Friends, something is deeply wrong with this picture. We do not come here to see an elephant. We do not come to worship to be entertained. We do not come to worship because it has a wiz-bang music program, or a good children’s ministry, or to hear an eloquent speaker.

We come here to meet with our God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ.

When the temple was dedicated in Jerusalem, Solomon prayed: "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!" (1 Kings 8:27).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

(Evangel article, 5/1/07)