Ministry Theology

Five Reasons I’m Thankful For The Gospel Coalition

The Gospel Coalition (TGC) is a fellowship of evangelical churches deeply committed to renewing faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures. TGC was founded by D.A. Carson and Tim Keller. In the past two years, for me, it has become the go-to place for theological insights, conversations, and resources. In addition to the general TGC blog, a host of pastors and authors blog there. I encourage you to check them out if you haven’t already.

Here are five reasons I thank God for TGC:

  1. The whole reason for their existence is to help the church universal become gospel-centered in their theology and ministry. Because their focus is on the gospel, non-essentials do not cause division. TGC consists of Baptists, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Non- and Inter-Denoms, and many others. Heck, I’m sure that there’s even a Methodist or two in there. The point is this: if someone loves the gospel of Jesus Christ and sees all of Scripture, belief, and ministry through that lens, they will find a home with TGC.
  2. TGC is solidly in the Reformed Evangelical tradition. It’s my conviction that those who are truly “Reformed” in their theology will be the most gospel-centered in their belief and practice (that’s another post altogether). TGC gets to the heart of what the Reformed tradition is all about: Jesus Christ. They put “Calvinists” in a better light and, hopefully, help win Reformed theology a fair hearing in the evangelical world.
  3. TGC produces quality stuff without being gimmicky, faddish, or cliché. Their website is pleasing to the eyes, with great graphics and high quality short videos. They also produce gobs of material quickly. That material covers more than intramural theological banter. Commentary hits pop culture, literature, history, politics, science, and, my favorite, sports.
  4. TGC review books–tons of books. As a husband and father who interns at a church and is in the midst of a master’s degree, I cannot read (or afford to read) everything I want to read. But I can read reviews. That helps me narrow down my selections, but also helps me file a title away in my notes so down the road I can check it out when the book’s issue comes up.
  5. TGC equips and helps people for real-life ministry. The blog, in particular, is not a place for mere theological speculation among intellectual giants. There is some of that, but it is very minimal. What you will find at TGC is that rich theology finds its way in the mundane nature of everyday life. Your life. Pastor or layperson. Christian or non-Christian. School of higher learning or school of hard knocks. Everyone will find something there to help–whether it’s, “Why does justification by faith matter?” or “Can a person get remarried after a divorce?”

What are you waiting for? Head on over there and dig in.

Ministry Theology

Thinking About Infant Baptism

Note: I have updated the first bullet point with a few thoughts from Doug Moo’s commentary on Romans.

I often joke that I am one sprinkled baby away from becoming a Presbyterian. Aside from infant baptism and their church governance structure, I am fairly aligned with most of the theological convictions of the PCA (the conservative branch for those of you who get worried when the word “Presbyterian” comes up), the RCA, or the EPC.

I doubt I will ever baptize an infant, or have my children baptized as infants, so let me get those cards on the table now. I am a credo-baptist (“believer’s baptism”). In light of this, I have some honest questions for paedo-baptists (“infant-baptists”). These four bullets are not exhaustive (of course), or an attack on my infant-baptist brothers and sisters. I love you and appreciate your desire for gospel-saturated, Christ-centered ministry. These are just thoughts that sprung to mind this morning.

  • Romans 6:1-4: You would be hard pressed to fit infant baptism into this scenario Paul presents to the church in Rome. Can an infant say he has died and risen with Christ to new life? Can an infant say he can “walk in newness of life.” This is what Paul connects with Christian baptism. In saying baptism is “connected” to the newness of life, it does not mean baptism brings about new life. Rather, it is a symbol of what is true in the heart. According to Doug Moo, Paul would think it an oxymoron to meet an “unbaptized” Christian. He says, “Baptism is introduced not to explain how we were buried with Christ but to demonstrate that we were buried with Christ” (NICNT, Epistle to the Romans, 364). Moreover, it seems that a baptized unchristian (an infant) would be just as unbelievable because of the context. Moo also notes that “in the early church [they] conceived of faith, the gift of the Spirit, and water baptism as components of one unified experience, which [J. Dunn] calls ‘conversion-initiation'” (Romans, 366). If an infant has not exercised faith and received the Holy Spirit, why would they be baptized? They do not need to be “initiated” since they do not belong to God’s family yet.
  • Matthew 28:19-20: Would the disciples have assumed a connection with circumcision and baptism in this scenario, so as to baptize infants, even though they cannot be taught and thus become disciples before regeneration? Furthermore, Is not the promise of heart circumcision connected to, and what makes obsolete, flesh circumcision (Rom. 2:25-29)?
  • Though it is true Acts speaks of “household baptisms” (twice, in Acts 16:15, 31) it nowhere says that infants were, in fact, baptized. Of course, infant baptism is nowhere forbidden in the New Testament. Nevertheless, is this the case because the apostles would have thought it absurd to do such a thing? On Pentecost, the men responded to Peter’s sermon by asking, “What shall we do?” Peter answered, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:37-39). Peter indeed says the promise of the Holy Spirit is for “your children” but there is a conditional clause: it is for “everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Not all children of Christian parents–not even all baptized infants–are effectually called and saved by God. Will a child experience the blessing of being raised by a Spirit-filled parent? Of course! Will that Spirit be imparted to them apart from God’s grace and a true belief in Christ? No. So I ask: would Peter have expected a baby to stand in line that day? Probably not. Peter connected repentance and baptism. In the same way, John’s baptism was a “baptism of repentance” (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3), which Paul said pointed to Jesus’ coming (Acts 19:4). Jesus’ whole ministry expanded on his opening words: “Repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Again this is something a baby–not even a toddler–can do. Paul’s own testimony connects baptism with the forgiveness of sins (Acts 22:16), something that cannot be given to a baby who is unregenerate.
  • Finally, as a side note: it is interesting that the same Reformed theologians who say that “household baptisms” occurred in Acts, thus giving credibility to infant-baptism is Scripture, will be the first to say that Acts was not “normative” as it concerns spiritual gifts (i.e. the so-called “sign” gifts). In order to be consistent with the issue of what is, or is not, normative in Acts, those theologians would have to say that all gifts continue until today or say that “household baptism” are either 1) not normative for today, or 2) may not have implied infants were members of those households.

No matter what side of the debate you are on, what are your thoughts?


Colin Smith on “The Adjustment Bureau”

I saw The Adjustment Bureau starring Matt Damon a couple months ago with my wife. We both liked it, but we both realized it made God look unpleasant, rigid, and frustrated by the way man responded to the “plan” he has for us. 

Over at The Gospel Coalition blog, Colin Smith writes a tremendous analysis of the film. Here’s the crutch:

The Adjustment Bureau suggests that you need to make choices that will deliver you from a dark and sinister God. But the real story is about how you need the sovereign God to deliver you from the dark and sinister power that inhabits your choices. The film suggests that your will is supremely good and that God cannot be trusted. But the real story is that God is supremely good and that you dare not trust your own will. The Adjustment Bureau suggests that the best plan for your life is the one that originates with you. The real story is that pleasures beyond anything you can imagine are at God’s right hand, and he is able to deliver you from the self indulgent choices that would keep you from them.

The Adjustment Bureau is a good film worth seeing, but it puts God in the place of man and man in the place of God. Its message needs not so much an adjustment as an inversion.

Ministry Theology

The Legacy of R.C. Sproul and John Piper

Justin Taylor has written a heartfelt tribute to Sproul and Piper. He compares their similarities and the blessed ways they have both ministered to the Church over the last several decades.

Here’s a snippet from the post:

It’s not merely the God-centered, biblically saturated content. It’s that this deep theology is creatively presented and passionately believed.

These men do not merely teach; they herald, they summon, they exhort, they plead, they yearn.

In a way that’s difficult to describe in a non-clichéd way, the timber of their voices contains both sorrow and joy. And in that sense, I think they echo the tone of their sorrowful-yet-always-rejoicing Savior.

For me personally, I am thankful to God for both these men. It was Piper’s book Don’t Waste Your Life that God first used to give me a passion to live for God’s glory in all things.  It was Sproul’s book Chosen By God which first led me to discover the beauty of the doctrines of grace that permeate the Scriptures.

More than any other person, living or dead, Piper has influenced my theology and and my desire to have a longing passion for God. Every sermon or chapter I read from him leave my soul stirring for more of Christ.

Though his impact has been smaller, Sproul has still challenged me to think carefully, yet deeply about God. He has also inspired me to communicate simply the truths of Scripture. His Reformation Study Bible has helped me in these endeavors.

As Taylor said at the end of his post, to God alone be the glory!


John Piper on Rick Warren

Last week, we found out that John Piper invited Rick Warren to speak at the Desiring God National Conference this October. Many Christians are barking at Piper saying he is now a heretic. For the record, I like Rick Warren. I’ll leave it at that for now.

Here’s a 9 minute video of Piper talking about a phone conversation he had with Warren. In the video he talks about a number of things:  Warren’s theology; his hope for the young, restless Reformed crowd (like me and many of you who read this blog); his expectation of a Q & A with Warren at the conference; and what Warren has to offer the body of Christ.