24 April 2015

Janet Mefferd: the interviewer interviewed (Part One)

by Dan Phillips

I think that, before Kregel got me an interview opportunity with her, I'd never heard of Janet Mefferd. As it turns out, Janet's questions were so insightful and incisive that I started listening, and found that she was doing what, as far as I could tell, no one else was doing, and doing it with excellence. Hugh Hewitt calls Janet "extremely esteemed in the world of talk show hosts," and her listeners would heartily agree.

Obviously with a solid background herself, Janet had an array of scholars, preachers, authors and opinion-formers on her show, and always seemed to ask just the right central questions — like an expert jeweler, who knows just the right point at which to tap the raw diamond.

Of course, her interview with Mark Driscoll, and the disheartening aftermath, is the stuff of legend. To say the least, many we'd respected in the past did not cover themselves with glory. In what followed, Janet herself was more than vindicated. 

Then — I believe it was the day she had me on to talk about Sufficient Fire! — Janet unexpectedly announced her coming retirement from Salem Radio.


This is, I believe, Janet's first interview since her show left the air.


DJP: So, wait… you’re not Janet Parshall?
JM: Nope, I’m not Janet Parshall. I met her once, so I have to operate on the assumption that we’re not the same person!
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DJP:  Sketch the show: when did it start, what was the growth of its coverage? 
JM: It was really a rather accidental career. I’d worked part-time at SRN News as a weekend anchor for several years, and I was asked by one of the Salem Radio Network executives to fill in one time for a local Christian talk show on KWRD-FM in Dallas. Before I knew it, I was being asked to take the job permanently. I really didn’t want to do it. But my husband, who’s also in the Christian radio industry, strongly encouraged me to give it a shot. I prayed it about it a lot, and I eventually decided to try it out.

Within six months, the Salem Radio Network approached me to syndicate the show nationally. We launched the national show in February 2010, and we were on about 180 radio stations by the end of my run.
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DJP: You refer to a time “in J-school,” and clearly have doctrinal background. Sketch out the course of experience and education that prepared you to host this show. 
JM: I majored in journalism and history at Baylor University, and I worked at the school paper for several years. I also took a radio class my freshman year, and I worked shifts at the campus radio station and did on-air news, as well. After college, I worked in newspapers for several years as a reporter and editor, while staying active in Christian radio on the side.

But I’d say my biggest doctrinal preparation for my show started in college. My roommate and I decided that when we went home for Christmas break one year, we’d research a doctrinal topic and report back to each other what we’d learned. I remember heading into my public library, determined to research some great subject, but realizing I didn’t have a clue where to start. The only Christian author I knew at the time was C.S. Lewis. So I prayed, “Lord, please lead me to a good Christian book!”

I scoured the shelves for a long time, and  a little red book on a bottom shelf finally caught my eye. It was called “The Christ of Christmas” by James Montgomery Boice. I’d never heard of him, but I went home and read the book, and it honestly changed my life. I kept saying out loud, “Dr. Boice knows the same Jesus I know, but he knows so much more about Him than I do!” And I became something of a Dr. Boice fanatic, wanting to read everything he wrote so I could learn more about Jesus and the Bible -- and he taught me so much. I went on a quest to own every book he ever wrote, at a time when there was no Internet to help me.

And soon after, I started reading Martyn Lloyd-Jones and had the same response. What I didn’t realize at the time was that these men were teaching me the Reformed faith, though they never named it as such. I just knew they were teaching me the Bible. It wasn’t until a few years later that I really learned what the Reformed faith was and started reading theology and doctrine all the time. I took a few seminary classes here and there for fun, but most of my doctrinal preparation was through a lot of reading and listening to Christian radio.

It’s so neat to look back on it all now and see God’s clear and providential answer to that one little prayer: “Lord, please lead me to a good Christian book!” Did He ever!
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DJP:  What books have been most formative to you? 
JM: That’s like asking me to pick my favorite child! But as far as Christian books, I’d have to include “The Christ of Christmas” by James Montgomery  Boice; “Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure” by Martyn Lloyd-Jones; “The Christian in Complete Armour” by William Gurnall; “Sanctification: Christ in Action” by Harold Senkbeil and the four-book “No Place for Truth” series by David Wells. I also can’t fail to mention”The God Makers” by Ed Decker and Dave Hunt. That book was formative in my life at a time when I was completely obsessed with studying and refuting all the cults, particularly Mormonism.

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NEXT TUESDAYwe turn to surprising guests and interviews. You know what that means.


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23 April 2015

"I'm just going to trust God"

by Dan Phillips


From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.


The following excerpt was written by Dan back in October 2010. Dan discussed popular notions of trusting God, and why they are unBiblical.


As usual, the comments are closed.
It is a pretty good hermeneutical principle that the first occurrence of a major concept controls and informs subsequent Biblical occurrences. I think that holds in this case, where faith makes its first appearance in Genesis 15:1-6.

What are the essential elements? There are only two:
  1. An explicit word from God
  2. Believing embrace of that word
So that is what faith is: it is trusting an explicit word from God. We could say a lot more about it, but we must say at least that much, and shouldn't let ourselves stray far from it.

The related word trust is not fundamentally different, except that it emphasizes the element of dependence on the truth, leaning and relying on it. But it still is directed towards the Word (Psalm 119:42), and the truth it reveals.

Other similar statements are simply shorthand for the same idea. For instance, when David sings, "O my God, in you I trust" (Psalm 25:2), we must understand this in the background. David isn't saying, "God, I have great self-esteem, and I've plunged myself into the Cloud of Unknowing, listening in the mystic stillness for that still small voice." Such thought would have been foreign to him, repellant. Rather, he is saying in effect "I know what Scripture says about You to be true, and I rest my full weight on it."

So let's move to the bottom-line. This whole area of faith and trust provides yet more rich and verdant pastureland for Christianoid nonsense. Like other pious nonsense phrases ("The Lord told me...."), we're supposed to just grunt and nod piously. We certainly shouldn't ask questions.

But I think we should ask questions. I think we must.

In this case, it really isn't rocket-science. I just don't (and never have) seen Biblical Christianity as a "Get-out-of-thinking" ticket. Quite the reverse; I think Christians who practice their professed faith are hard, rigorous thinkers. Have to be.

So in this particular, two questions. Just two simple, straightforward, perfectly-Biblely questions. To wit:
  1. For what?
  2. On what specific Biblical basis?
Let's apply.

Suppose you seminarians "trust" me to write your theses for you. Or you husbands "trust" me to teach your sons for you. Or you pastors "trust" me to compose your sermons for you. I suppose that I could do those things, you know. I have the ability.

So what's missing?

Well, what's missing of course is that I have neither offered nor promised to do any of those things for you. You have no grounds, no basis for that "trust." So the concept of "trusting" me to do something I never said I'd do — well, it's just absurd and silly. You would end up looking ridiculous.

Or not? Suppose a nightmare Bizarro world, where everyone imagined that I was obliged to come through for everyone who concocted some scheme, and then committed me to it in absentia. Why, in that case, I would just look more and more pathetic as people across the globe announced things they were "trusting" me for, and I kept failing to deliver, over and over again.

It could ruin my good name, my reputation, if people were lazy and sloshy-minded enough not to think through what "trust" implies and assumes. 

For yourself, don't shame the name of God by broadcasting that you are "trusting" him for things He has not specifically promised (the in-this-life healing of an ill loved one, the numeric growth of a church, the salvation of a friend or child). Do glorify Him for trusting Him in those areas where he has left us precious promises — such as trusting the utter sufficiency of His word for all of Christian life (2 Timothy 3:15-17). 

For others, when you hear someone say that (s)he is "trusting God" for X, just nicely ask two questions.

You know which two.


21 April 2015

Let's pretend: imagine an even-handed media

by Dan Phillips

Suppose political reporters wanted to pretend to be anything vaguely approximating even-handed.

Hey, I said suppose. Stop laughing. Use your imagination, and work with me here.

We know they're going to ask every Republican presidential candidate deep and probing vital-issue-of-the-day questions like:
  • Should "gays" be stoned?
  • Would you go to a "gay" "wedding" if you were invited?
  • Would you go to a "gay" "wedding" if it were your son or daughter?
  • Is being "gay" a choice?
...and so forth. I don't need to do their work for them.

So what if they were even to pretend to be even-handed on this issue? What questions could they ask of the Democratic candidates?

I'm absolutely serious about these, and I've come up with the lot of them on the run, without even breaking a sweat. Here goes:
  • Should people act on every sexual impulse they have? How can they tell which is which?
  • If someone has a homosexual impulse, does he have a choice as to whether or not to act on it?
  • Should adult children whose hearts move them to marry one or both of their parents be legally allowed to? Why or why not?
  • How about adult siblings whose hearts move them to marry one or more of their siblings?
  • Is being homosexual like being black or Asian? How is it different?
  • Christians believe that Jesus can free people from being enslaved to destructive sexual impulses. Are they wrong?
  • Jesus said that it was wrong to act out some sexual impulses. Was He wrong?
  • If your son or daughter married a Christian who believed that homosexuality is a sin, would you attend the wedding?
  • Followup: should bakers be required by law to cater such a wedding?
  • Do you think Christians who believe in the Bible should be allowed to hold public office?
That's just without really trying.

Feel free to offer your own.

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19 April 2015

A god of one's own making

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 47, sermon number 2,736, "The great miracle worker."
"Would you have a Bible made according to your mind,—a brand-new Bible, I suppose, once a week, for your mind changes so often that it would need constantly to be revised in order to be according to your mind? And shall God speak only such things as you would have him say? Are you to be master of his voice, and lord even of the Inspired Word?" 

There are some people who raise questions even concerning God himself. According to their notions, God should be this, or that, and almost anything but what he really is.

Jehovah, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the only living and true God, is not at all according to their taste.

Some even venture so far as to call his justness, “severity.” They would have “a God all mercy” if they could. Or they pick out some one or other of God’s attributes, and they want to have a change made in it.

What! man, is God to be made to suit thee, instead of thyself being adapted to God’s will? And is the question to be, not, “How can I be right with my Maker?” but, “How can I make my Maker right with myself?”

Is that the blasphemous turn that your thoughts have taken? It is so with some people; and, accordingly, they practically become idolaters; for, while they pretend to worship the one living and true God, yet, inasmuch as they attribute to him a character which is not his own, they do, in effect, worship a god of their own making.

17 April 2015

Some Here, Some There — April 17, 2015

by Dan Phillips

.Here you go. Updates until noon, TX time.
  • Is the doctrine of substitutionary atonement a later invention, unknown to earlier Christians after the close of the Canon? Michael J. Kruger both says and shows "no."
  • Here's one Borg who not only is not in despair over the world's increasing attempts to assimilate Christians; indeed, he finds it cause of hope and optimism, observing that "Persecution has always proved fruitful to the church."
  • So, I guess R. Scott Clark is arguing that the fact that The World-Tilting Gospel emphatically lays out the distinctions between justification and sanctification in Biblical terms rather than explicitly leaning on a confession... I'll probably eventually end up Socinian? Hm. Well, yeah, I'll be sure to watch out for that.
  • I don't take it personally; assume Clark hasn't read the book. Other confessionals such as Lig Duncan found it useful. But, anyway.
  • Clarification: I add this Saturday, without changing the wording of the previous two bullet-points. It was already clear I wasn't suggesting that Clark was interacting with TWTG, per se. Insofar as Clark is warning (to quote his later tweets to me, which I appreciate) against "reading Scripture by itself, by one's self, or reading Scripture as if no one has ever read it before," I quite agree. That spirit generally indicates a foolish unteachable arrogance often condemned in Proverbs and elsewhere. Both over-dependence on confessions, and arrogant unconcern for them and previous great students of Scripture, are dangers.
  • Over at Practical Shepherding, brother Brian Croft asks (and answers) "How do I encourage my pastor?" They're good pointers. I'd add one more: join your pastor in loving and serving the local church of Christ that he loves and serves. Become a member, attend all the meetings you can, get to know your fellows, love and encourage and exhort them, serve. Join him in trying to practice the preached word. Nothing is more encouraging (3 John 4 — walking!).
  • Last week, we noted how The Gospel Coalition seems to have strayed from its stated raison d'être by reaching out to pagans to figure out what to do about racism. Over at the DBTS blog, brother Mark Snoeberger notes more within this mission-drift, suggesting that perhaps TGC should rename itself The Coalition for the Advancement of Realized Eschatology.
  • A hard trajectory to watch, to be sure; but not hard to understand. TGC stops its ears to Gospel-loving critics not on the clubhouse in-list, and only shows much passion in sneering off the same. Who does that leave?
  • Denny Burk offers some good thoughts (hey, I said "Denny Burk") on reparative therapy.
  • I like Denny, it's no secret. He's a solid Biblical scholar and thinker, and he's a real guy. For instance, that same blog today has Denny's top ten things he loved about the new Star Wars teaser trailer.
  • Over at Cripplegate, Jesse J. slaps leather and deftly exposes Westboro Baptist Church for what it really is.
  • The irony that, in the video Jesse's pastoral associate is out on the street, preaching the gospel, behind the Westboro folks who are protesting that Jesse's church doesn't preach the gospel on the street — thus not in any way doing what Jesse's church is at that moment doing.
  • That 99% Charismatic Fringe Update #1 — horrible story: a (A) female "pastor" (b) who hears God talking to her apart from Scripture (c) in a Pentecostal-affiliated church (d) starves a two-year-old to help drive a "demon" from him.
  • That 99% Charismatic Fringe Update #2 — horrible eisegesis.
  • But yeah, everyone was right to criticize Strange Fire and ignore Sufficient Fire. No real need for either. Move along. Bring on the dancing bears.
  • I may be over-subtle. One of the biggest LOTR fans I know didn't catch the Aragorn-speech allusion that opened this sermon on the person and work of the Spirit.

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16 April 2015

Faith Improves Our Sight

by Frank Turk


From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.


The following excerpt was written by Frank back in August 2006. Frank offered his thoughts on a proper understanding of "We walk by faith, not by sight."


As usual, the comments are closed.
I have a lot of pet peeves – you might say I am the Dr. Doolittle of Pet Peeves. It’s because I am an intransigent man, and you’ll get no apologies from me for it.

Anyway, the pet peeve I’m addressing today is from 2 Cor 4:7-5:10. Let me say clearly that there is something that this passage can not and does not say: it does not say “we fumble around in the dark, blinded by our faith and trusting the faith blindly.” There’s no way to make this passage – culminating in 2 Cor 5:7 – say that. Paul is not saying that faith usurps our sight, or that faith trumps our sight, in order to make us do irrational things: Paul is saying here that faith improves our sight in order that we may, in fact, walk the right way toward the right goal with the ability to do the right thing.

Think about where this passage begins (as I have cited it): Paul is underscoring that who we are as created beings – that is, as jars of clay – is intended to underscore that all the doing of the Gospel is God’s work and not our work. Isn’t that amazing? So, for example, when we are delivering the Gospel, we don’t have to invent a new tract or an interpretive dance that – if we just work hard enough – will turn men to Christ and His cross, at which time they can make a decision about what to do about that. That doesn’t mean we can be slack and do nothing, but it does mean that the pressure is off of our finite and fallible resources and the real “pressure” (if we can call it such a thing) is on God’s infinite and infallible resources. Amen?

In that, we can suffer through anything for the sake of the Gospel! You know: we can suffer through some mockery for the sake of the Gospel, because the Gospel doesn’t depend on whether or not I maintain my dignity and social standing. We can abide, as another example, being cast out of good company for the sake of the Gospel. We can also accept poverty, disability, and loss for the sake of the Gospel.

I know I have just told you why, but Paul says it clearly: because “we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.”

It is in that assurance that we have courage; it is in the fully-fledged knowledge that God’s power is manifested only in our abject weakness and inability that we have courage and strength to be ministers of the Gospel – not just pastors and teachers and preachers, but people who bear Christ’s name rightly down to the last person who can give a cup of water to a thirsty man.

And that courage, says Paul, is this: the Spirit of God is our guarantee that what we do is not in vain. When he says we “walk in faith, not by sight,” he means that we are not stuck with our sorry, fallible eyes to see if we can spot the trail out for ourselves: he is saying that God has prepared us for this work with the guarantee of the Spirit, and we have not traded our eyes for faith, but have been upgraded with eyes than now see all through faith.

15 April 2015

Trivializing a Real Problem

by F.X. Turk

There was once a guy who loved his wife and served faithfully in his local church.  His wife really loved this guy, and they had a lot of kids.  This guys was the kind of guy you read about in Titus 1 who really set things in order most of the time by loving people and being informed by God's word, and everyone who knew him and his family thought that this is what God's will looked like in a Christian home.

And this guy was killed by a natural disaster, while he was spending his last moments making sure his family was safe from harm.  He spent his whole life, from a tender age, loving his wife the way Christ loved the church, and God decided to take this guy out and leave his wife husbandless and his children fatherless.



I bring it up for one reason only: I don't really want you to talk to me about whether or not you struggle with faith and doubt unless you have spent your whole life following God, and then suddenly everything you think following God looks like is blown to bits by God.  If you are the wife of the guy I described up above (or someone like her, with her experience of loss and grief in the face of faithful devotion both to God and to your fellow human beings), your reflections on faith and doubt ought to turn some heads.  If you are not, I'm wondering what you think you have to say about the subject.

Look: the book of Job is not about some guy who, after growing up in a famous pastor's house, has some uneasiness about how Christians live and whether or not God is real if Christians are not yet perfect people.  Job is about a man who spent his life serving God and loving God, and raising a family to the place where his adult children all loved God -- and then God says, effectively, "I know you love Me and not merely My gifts, so I am taking away the gifts to show Satan and the world that Faith is in Me, not in My generosity only."  It's not some version of adolescent poetry which got published by Crossway - it's about actually losing everything to God and still remembering that God is God and you are Not.

If you are writing a book about your struggle with faith and doubt, and the best you can do is tell me that sometimes you wonder if God is safe enough to protect your middle-class notions of being warm and well fed, please find something else to write about.  Please put your pen away.  Most of us resolve your issues when we are unemployed for the first time and we don't know if we are going to feed our babies next week, or when we are afraid that God will not let us have babies in our family.  Your middle-class angst about this subject does a huge disservice to actual doubt and (if I can really put my foot in it) real faith.

You should be a grown up for more than the span of the run of your favorite TV show before you try your hand at explaining adult faith to the rest of us.

There was quite a dust-up on the internet a little while ago about what I think Phil called "Heaven Tourism books."  That is: there's a real problem in Christian Media which presents itself as books ginned up by agents and marketing people about alleged visits to heaven which somehow look nothing like the place where Jesus is sitting on a throne at the right hand of God.  That sort of hucksterism is easily discovered and decried.  It's easy to call it out and say that publishers ought to be ashamed to make a buck off that sort of thing.  But let me be clear about something: this is no better. Books about the niggling little sophist quips of people who have never really suffered which come to the conclusion that they love Jesus anyway trivializes the real dry gulf between doubt and faith.  People writing those books are trivializing a real problem which grow-ups face, and are in the same category as Rachel Held Evans - diarists of their own failure to launch, authors of memoirs where there is nothing yet to remember.