Prof John Whitehall was recently one of the speakers at the Family First “Forum on the Family”, speaking on “The Phenomenon of Childhood Gender Dysphoria”. He was also interviewed by Leighton Smith on Newstalk ZB.
Given the prominence of this topic in the media at the moment, it is important that we understand the issues. It seems increasingly common to see parental encouragement to “change gender” as, in fact, child abuse.
It seems obvious that the Bible is receiving less attention and being given less respect. But is that true even amongst those who claim to follow the scriptures? In this talk Don Carson talks about Evangelicalism “drifting towards a softer view of scripture again”.
Don Carson speaks about the subtle ways that we can ignore scripture. Listen to the warning but also be re-inspired with the truth of the Bible.
N.B. Carson makes a comment about women in leadership. That is not a view with which most in AFFIRM would agree. There might be other issues with which you disagree. Please listen to the principles without being offended by the specific examples. Listen to what he says about the ways we can dismiss the Bible.
I like Carey Nieuwhof’s podcast and writings. His work on leadership is challenging, very practical and level-headed. Check him out at http://careynieuwhof.com/.
In this piece he argues that, if we look for consensus before we act, we will do little. Bold ideas are not always adopted straight away. We need the courage to act anyway because consensus kills courage. We need to be willing to act alone. Great leaders have had to step out without having everyone on side.
That is balanced by a recognition that simply being independent and pig-headed can mean that we are jerks. We still can benefit from advice and we still need to test our ideas by looking for others’ buy-in, but after we have taken the initiative, not before.
Do you have a vision that others’ haven’t yet caught onto? What is it? Do you believe it is of God? Do you have the courage to make a start trusting that people will see its value and join you?
Trevin Wax has written on The Gospel Coalition site, questioning whether those who hold a traditional view of sexual morality can accommodate those who want to revise that understanding (including the pressure to accept homosexuality and to redefine marriage). Can we simply give space to everyone?
There are some in the PCANZ who claim to hold a biblical view but also call for the church to make room for everyone, so this is very relevant.
Wax’s answer is a clear “No” for several reasons including the following:
The revisionists (those who propose a new morality) don’t actually want there to be multiple views. They want their view to prevail. As Wax says, “they don’t ultimately want just a space at the table. They want the table.”
While many revisionists claim that tolerance is required for effective mission today, that tolerance is not actually calling people to repent and turn to Jesus. Again, in his words, “As the Sexual Revolution wreaks havoc in the lives of people around us, Christians have the opportunity to proclaim the Scripture’s moral clarity–not as a barrier to the faith, but as the beacon of light in a morally chaotic world. To be faithful in this time, the Church must be a haven of hope, a refuge in the midst of sexual chaos. We won’t be able to do that if we think the way forward is “agreeing to disagree.””
“What we have is not historic Christianity, but a mutation of classic Liberalism, only now the emphasis has shifted from denying or downplaying Christian miracles to denying or downplaying Christian morality,” he says.
For another article by Trevin Wax on the same subject, but making different points, click here. In this one he considers the call to unity at all costs and questions who it is that is dividing the church.
In this video, Tim Keller and John Piper wrestle with the question of sanctification and its place in our salvation. Will I be saved if I put my faith in Jesus but do not live a holy life? Do I need to repay God for what He has done for me?
These may sound like theoretical questions but they are real for normal Christians. What does happen to the person who responds at an evangelistic rally but shows no signs of being a follower of Jesus? If holy living is necessary, how much must I do?
In the sexuality debate, people have sometimes held out hope for a “third way” but it has never been found. Indeed, David Gushee, a pro-homosexual ethicist, says there can be no compromise, only complete acceptance of homosexuality. You can read his article here.
Gushee talks of scriptural convictions as “discrimination” and says that society is changing on this issue so radically that any who don’t change will be marginalised. There is no doubt that society is changing but Christians have always sought to obey God, not people.
The 1-day pre-Assembly conference is coming up fast. Monday 14 November starting at 10:00 a.m.
The theme is “Confidence In the Gospel”. Many Christians are not sure if the gospel still works and hesitate to talk about Jesus. Come and be encouraged and inspired. We have great keynote speakers in Ron Hay and Malcolm Falloon and five practical and relevant workshops.
Matthew Vines’ book God And The Gay Christian has proved popular and a 1-page summary, A Brief Biblical Case, has put his arguments into the hands of many. Unfortunately though, Vines’ arguments are not biblical.
AFFIRM has produced a 1-page response using the same 10 headings that Vines uses. This may be a useful resource if you want to clarify your own thinking or to have to show others where Matthew Vine has become confused.
Of course, there are much more substantial responses to Matthew Vine.
The following post originally appeared on the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand’s Candour blog. Permission has been gained from Stephan van Os to also include it here.
By Stephan van Os.
Looking back on some 40+ years of Christian discipleship there are various significant marker points which on reflection turned out to be not only significant but life changing. Such was my encounter with the work of J I Packer. To this day I can recall the moment when I was browsing through the theology department of the Otago University library and spotted what looked to be a new book in the midst of a whole bunch of fairly old and dusty tomes. It was the recently published hardcover edition of Packer’s Knowing God.
At that time I had not been a Christian all that long. The title looked promising so I checked it out of the library and took it back to my digs. There I proceeded to devour its contents. It was life changing. I learned more about God than I had ever learned before and even more importantly discovered that it wasn’t enough to know about God—it was important to know God.
From that point on I began to search out other works by Packer. He had already revolutionized my understanding of God, what else could I usefully learn from him? In quick succession I acquired copies of Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God and“Fundamentalism” and the Word of God. Here was more solid grounding for my faith. These works changed my whole approach to sharing the gospel because I came to recognize that I could not convert anyone. The grace of God alone is able to accomplish that. My words could play a part in that but fallen human nature being what it is, unless the Holy Spirit moved in power they would only ever be just words.
It was while attending Knox College, Dunedin that I had the privilege of meeting Packer for the first time. It was just as the controversy over Biblical Inerrancy was coming to a head. Having explained why he believed this issue was important I began to research it for myself using his works as my point of departure. Though I was already convinced that Biblical inerrancy was critical for the future of the Church his active encouragement copper fastened my position on the Scriptures so that to this day I regard the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy as best representing what I believe about the Bible and how its message should be preached.
The other substantive work of Packer’s that made a huge impression was Keep In Step With The Spirit, a carefully worked text setting out key points concerning the work of the Holy Spirit in the light of the Charismatic Renewal of the 1970s and 80s. Key to understanding this text is the conviction that the Word and the Spirit belong together and that the Holy Spirit will never contradict the written Word of God. Thus I was saved from many a temptation to subjective experientialism on the one hand and arid intellectualizing on the other.
Over the years I have read the overwhelming majority of Packer’s works so after all this time I think it fair to ask, what is his long term legacy in my own spiritual growth in the grace of God?
He is a stabilising influence. Packer has proved to be remarkably consistent both in his personal walk with Christ and in his writings. The concerns from his early works to be faithful to Scripture, to place Christ at the centre of everything and to be dependent on the ministry of the Holy Spirit are a dominant feature in all his writings right until the present day. His writings have proved to be a sure guide through the issues and controversies that have afflicted the Christian Church in my lifetime.
Packer taught me about words and the importance of clarity and precision in both theology and liturgy. We are to say what we mean and mean what we say, particularly because the words that we use in worship and prayer have a way of settling in our hearts and affecting the way we think about God and his purposes for us.
Packer is keen to emphasise that there is nothing new about the things he writes. His roots are planted deeply in the Scriptures but also because of that he makes common ground with those who came before him; St. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, the Puritans, the preachers of the Great Awakening etc. In this regard you could call Packer a “gateway theologian” because his writings will encourage you to explore and understand where we have come from in our spiritual heritage and how that heritage can help shape the present.
Finally Packer has taught me that while good theology and spiritual writing can be deep, that does not mean that it cannot be clear. I am sure I am not the only Christian who has endured lectures at a Summer School or even sermons that have been dense and opaque. For Packer such things are inexcusable and in my turn I seek to follow his example to be clear and concise in my language about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and Christian faith generally so that the people I serve in ministry may likewise grow and be enthusiastic about their faith.
Timothy George (ed.) J.I. Packer and the Evangelical Future (Baker 2009)
Leland Ryken: J.I. Packer—An Evangelical Life (Crossway 2015)