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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Monday, October 31, 2016

THE CURE

In 1996, a group of theologians, teachers, pastors, and Christian thinkers gathered and decided that a single, guiding statement of faith and intent would be useful for the church to follow and consider.  They formed CURE: Christians United for Reformation, with the sole intent of being a focused, united front to help guide Christians and shape the Christian Church toward more Biblical theology.
Cure was founded by some of the greatest living leaders in Christianity at the time: Michael Horton, Rod Rosenbladt, James M. Boice, David Wells, Gene Veith, Robert Godfrey, Albert Mohler, Alistair Begg, RC Sproul, and many more.  They produced a document, a statement of intent that came to be known as the Cambridge Declaration.
So why bring this up on Halloween?  Because for protestants, October 31st is when we remember that Martin Luther hammered his 95 theses on the Whittenberg chapel door, as was the fashion of the time, laying out what his next talk was going to be about.  I've written about that in the past, but in short, it kickstarted the Protestant Reformation.  And that's what the Cambridge Declaration was about as well, a return of the church to the Bible's teachings.
The document was a statement of faith, with a series of declarations of concern and complaint, followed by the answer and where the church should then go.  It was in effect, a 20th century version of the 95 theses.
Here is the declaration:
Evangelical churches today are increasingly dominated by the spirit of this age rather than by the Spirit of Christ. As evangelicals, we call ourselves to repent of this sin and to recover the historic Christian faith.
In the course of history words change. In our day this has happened to the word "evangelical." In the past it served as a bond of unity between Christians from a wide diversity of church traditions.
Historic evangelicalism was confessional. It embraced the essential truths of Christianity as those were defined by the great ecumenical councils of the church. In addition, evangelicals also shared a common heritage in the "solas" of the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation.
Today the light of the Reformation has been significantly dimmed. The consequence is that the word "evangelical" has become so inclusive as to have lost its meaning. We face the peril of losing the unity it has taken centuries to achieve. Because of this crisis and because of our love of Christ, his gospel and his church, we endeavor to assert anew our commitment to the central truths of the Reformation and of historic evangelicalism. These truths we affirm not because of their role in our traditions, but because we believe that they are central to the Bible.
Sola Scriptura: The Erosion Of Authority
Scripture alone is the inerrant rule of the church's life, but the evangelical church today has separated Scripture from its authoritative function. In practice, the church is guided, far too often, by the culture. Therapeutic technique, marketing strategies, and the beat of the entertainment world often have far more to say about what the church wants, how it functions and what it offers, than does the Word of God. Pastors have neglected their rightful oversight of worship, including the doctrinal content of the music. As biblical authority has been abandoned in practice, as its truths have faded from Christian consciousness, and as its doctrines have lost their saliency, the church has been increasingly emptied of its integrity, moral authority and direction.
Rather than adapting Christian faith to satisfy the felt needs of consumers, we must proclaim the law as the only measure of true righteousness and the gospel as the only announcement of saving truth. Biblical truth is indispensable to the church's understanding, nurture and discipline.
Scripture must take us beyond our perceived needs to our real needs and liberate us from seeing ourselves through the seductive images, cliches, promises, and priorities of mass culture. It is only in the light of God's truth that we understand ourselves aright and see God's provision for our need. The Bible, therefore, must be taught and preached in the church. Sermons must be expositions of the Bible and its teachings, not expressions of the preachers opinions or the ideas of the age. We must settle for nothing less than what God has given.
The work of the Holy Spirit in personal experience cannot be disengaged from Scripture. The Spirit does not speak in ways that are independent of Scripture. Apart from Scripture we would never have known of God's grace in Christ. The biblical Word, rather than spiritual experience, is the test of truth.
Thesis One: Sola Scriptura
We reaffirm the inerrant Scripture to be the sole source of written divine revelation, which alone can bind the conscience. The Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured.
We deny that any creed, council or individual may bind a Christian's conscience, that the Holy Spirit speaks independently of or contrary to what is set forth in the Bible, or that personal spiritual experience can ever be a vehicle of revelation.
Solus Christus: The Erosion Of Christ-Centered Faith
As evangelical faith becomes secularized, its interests have been blurred with those of the culture. The result is a loss of absolute values, permissive individualism, and a substitution of wholeness for holiness, recovery for repentance, intuition for truth, feeling for belief, chance for providence, and immediate gratification for enduring hope. Christ and his cross have moved from the center of our vision.
Thesis Two: Solus Christus
We reaffirm that our salvation is accomplished by the mediatorial work of the historical Christ alone. His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our justification and reconciliation to the Father.
We deny that the gospel is preached if Christ's substitutionary work is not declared and faith in Christ and his work is not solicited.
Sola Gratia: The Erosion Of The Gospel
Unwarranted confidence in human ability is a product of fallen human nature. This false confidence now fills the evangelical world from the self-esteem gospel to the health and wealth gospel, from those who have transformed the gospel into a product to be sold and sinners into consumers who want to buy to others who treat Christian faith as being true simply because it works. This silences the doctrine of justification regardless of the official commitments of our churches.
God's grace in Christ is not merely necessary but is the sole efficient cause of salvation. We confess that human beings are born spiritually dead and are incapable even of cooperating with regenerating grace.
Thesis Three: Sola Gratia
We reaffirm that in salvation we are rescued from God's wrath by his grace alone. It is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ by releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from spiritual death to spiritual life.
We deny that salvation is in any sense a human work. Human methods, techniques or strategies by themselves cannot accomplish this transformation. Faith is not produced by our unregenerated human nature.
Sola Fide: The Erosion Of The Chief Article
Justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. This is the article by which the church stands or falls. Today this article is often ignored, distorted or sometimes even denied by leaders, scholars and pastors who claim to be evangelical. Although fallen human nature has always recoiled from recognizing its need for Christ's imputed righteousness, modernity greatly fuels the fires of this discontent with the biblical Gospel. We have allowed this discontent to dictate the nature of our ministry and what it is we are preaching.
Many in the church growth movement believe that sociological understanding of those in the pew is as important to the success of the gospel as is the biblical truth which is proclaimed. As a result, theological convictions are frequently divorced from the work of the ministry. The marketing orientation in many churches takes this even further, erasing the distinction between the biblical Word and the world, robbing Christ's cross of its offense, and reducing Christian faith to the principles and methods which bring success to secular corporations.
While the theology of the cross may be believed, these movements are actually emptying it of its meaning. There is no gospel except that of Christ's substitution in our place whereby God imputed to him our sin and imputed to us his righteousness. Because he bore our judgment, we now walk in his grace as those who are forever pardoned, accepted and adopted as God's children. There is no basis for our acceptance before God except in Christ's saving work, not in our patriotism, churchly devotion or moral decency. The gospel declares what God has done for us in Christ. It is not about what we can do to reach him.
Thesis Four: Sola Fide
We reaffirm that justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. In justification Christ's righteousness is imputed to us as the only possible satisfaction of God's perfect justice.
We deny that justification rests on any merit to be found in us, or upon the grounds of an infusion of Christ's righteousness in us, or that an institution claiming to be a church that denies or condemns sola fide can be recognized as a legitimate church.
Soli Deo Gloria: The Erosion Of God-Centered Worship
Wherever in the church biblical authority has been lost, Christ has been displaced, the gospel has been distorted, or faith has been perverted, it has always been for one reason: our interests have displaced God's and we are doing his work in our way. The loss of God's centrality in the life of today's church is common and lamentable. It is this loss that allows us to transform worship into entertainment, gospel preaching into marketing, believing into technique, being good into feeling good about ourselves, and faithfulness into being successful. As a result, God, Christ and the Bible have come to mean too little to us and rest too inconsequentially upon us.
God does not exist to satisfy human ambitions, cravings, the appetite for consumption, or our own private spiritual interest. We must focus on God in our worship, rather than the satisfaction of our personal needs. God is sovereign in worship; we are not. Our concern must be for God's kingdom, not our own empires, popularity or success.
Thesis Five: Soli Deo Gloria
We reaffirm that because salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God, it is for God's glory and that we must glorify him always. We must live our entire lives before the face of God, under the authority of God and for his glory alone.
We deny that we can properly glorify God if our worship is confused with entertainment, if we neglect either Law or Gospel in our preaching, or if self-improvement, self-esteem or self-fulfillment are allowed to become alternatives to the gospel.
A Call To Repentance And Reformation
The Faithfulness of the evangelical church in the past contrasts sharply with its unfaithfulness in the present. Earlier in this century, evangelical churches sustained a remarkable missionary endeavor, and built many religious institutions to serve the cause of biblical truth and Christ's kingdom. That was a time when Christian behavior and expectations were markedly different from those in the culture. Today they often are not. The evangelical world today is losing its biblical fidelity, moral compass and missionary zeal.
We repent of our worldliness. We have been influenced by the "gospels" of our secular culture, which are not gospels. We have weakened the church by our own lack of serious repentance, our blindness to the sins in ourselves which we see so clearly in others, and our inexcusable failure adequately to tell others about God's saving work in Jesus Christ.
We also earnestly call back erring professing evangelicals who have deviated from God's Word in the matters discussed in this Declaration. This includes those who declare that there is hope of eternal life apart from explicit faith in Jesus Christ, who claim that those who reject Christ in this life will be annihilated rather than endure the just judgment of God through eternal suffering, or who claim that evangelicals and Roman Catholics are one in Jesus Christ even where the biblical doctrine of justification is not believed.
The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals asks all Christians to give consideration to implementing this Declaration in the church's worship, ministry policies, life and evangelism.
For Christ's sake. Amen.

Monday, October 17, 2016

THE GROWING CANCER

"Maybe not solvable within your laws"
-Mathematics

We are in a time in America where everyone is massively divided on politics, to the point of tooth-gnashing rage over every single issue and candidate. Not just divided like two friends, but turning into enemies with furious bitterness.
The last time this happened, we erupted into the bloodiest and most ghastly war in American history. And I know the cause. Its not "heated rhetoric" or the internet, or radicalism in candidates or culture wars, although all that contributes.
The cause is power.
The federal, state, and local governments have gotten so much power over every aspect of our lives that instead of being a contest over which fellow will waste our time and smoke cigars in office, they affect us in critical, absolute ways. The bloat and expansion of the government at all levels, particularly federal means that there's too much at stake every election. We're not voting for representatives. We're voting for our future, desperate to control what the state can and will do.
A smaller government would have so much less impact on your life and influence your liberty and day to day behavior that elections would have significantly less import.  150 years ago, the government was so much smaller and weaker it had little impact on most people's lives.  You could go weeks, months, even years without even being aware there was a federal government -- there wasn't even a yearly federal income tax to pay.
 Even just thirty years ago nobody seriously believed the government would monitor all our phonecalls and drag people off to prison. Nobody seriously believed that you could be arrested for how the dust blew off your property when you plowed a field or where you smoked. Nobody believed you could be fined or jailed for who you baked a cake for or didn't. And already by that time the federal government was far too vast.
Now its even bigger, exponentially, like the Blob. Its eating everything. And that means every election everything is at stake. The last 8 years of President Obama has seen a deliberate, systematic, and overwhelming drive from the top down to totally change the culture and throw everything that we know and became in America away for something radical and new.
 Even if you believe this is a good change, its so fast and so dominating and so top-down that it is incredibly disruptive to culture and our identity as a nation, not to mention the function and identity of the nation in the world at large.
And that is something people do not take lightly or go through easily, even if they aren't really aware of what's happening. This complicates matters, making people especially uneasy as life is unstable and unpredictable, but its also an example of how power is being exercised at an even greater rate and with even greater force, making each election more dire and important.
Every election becomes ever more important and the stakes get ever higher, because every election the federal government has spread further like a cancer devouring more and more freedom, power, and influence. Each election is a desperate bid to control that power, because of how it can and will be used.
 And as each presidency goes by, we see that power used for more and more extreme and expansive things -- in the name of doing good and helping out of course -- but used either way. So each election is more horrifying and important. The stakes have gotten so high that I fear there will be blood on the streets before the next one.
And there's only one way out of this: for the monster to be cut back, for the government to shrink. And I see no possible way for that to happen within the system and within the boundaries of law. And that's an outcome we all should fear and pray God does not happen.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

THE IMPERVIOUS HORRORS

Oh, were it mine with sacred Maro’s art
To wake to sympathy the feeling heart,
Then might I with unrivalled strains deplore
Th'
impervious horrors of a leeward shore. 
-William Mowatt (from The Ionian Mission)

It may be hard to believe, but conservatives such as myself are big fans of immigration.  My grandfather immigrated here from Denmark, and all people living in the USA, including those designated "Native American" tribes, at one point immigrated to this land.
This nation built by immigration, however, is one built also by the rule of law and a love of freedom.  And this is where conservatives part ways with other groups, in a love of both of these things, in proper perspective, without ignoring either.
Illegal immigration ignores the rule of law in favor of freedom.  Closed borders ignores liberty to focus only upon the rule of law.  These two pressures can be viewed as negatives as well: imagine a ship sailing through a narrow channel, with jagged rocks and cliffs on either side, beneath the choppy seas are hidden reefs and shoals.
So, if you would, consider with me an analogy that helps understand this tension and perspective.
THE ANALOGY
Think of the nation as the great ship America, a sailing ship from the times of wooden ships and iron men.  It sails down a passage between jagged, lethal rocks on either side, manned by sailors of independence and personal ambition, working together to move ahead in this treacherous channel.
The main passage, through the center of these deadly cliffs, is freedom.  To stay on course toward liberty is to stay away from the ruinous shores on either side.  Shores which, if examined closely, can be found to meet beneath the hull of the ship, hidden deep by the waves.
On the port side is the evil of tyranny, in which liberty is destroyed.  On the starboard side is anarchy, in which law is abandoned.  Charting a course between these two evils that destroy civilization and happiness is a treacherous and dangerous job.
For centuries, this nation has been piloted through that narrow channel with a rudder called the Constitution and captained by leaders of integrity and wisdom.  To veer too close to one side or the other means the ship is wrecked, and as we pass through the years, we can see the skeletons of ships that veered one way or the other too far.  Nations destroyed by abandoning the rule of law or tyranny litter the passage of history.
To drift too far to port crushes the ship of our nation on tyranny, grinding its hull to pieces on laws that control us, rules that dominate us, and a culture that obliterates liberty, ambition, creativity, productivity, and even hope.  This tyranny can come to us in many forms, and always, without exception, is presented as being better for us, for our own good, and from well-meaning notions such as equality, safety, or morality.
Drifting too far to starboard eliminates law and order, creating only chaos and anarchy.  This demolishes the nation with rioting, violence, instability, crime, and disorder.  Anarchy need not be a wild man with a bomb, or a mob rising in fury.  It comes from leaders who ignore laws, from laws which the nation refuses to heed, and from exasperation, frustration, or rage at leaders who will not lead or listen.  Anarchy can come from a culture so comfortable with ignoring ethics that it mocks virtues and avoids order.  
Anarchy is when every man does what is right in his own eyes, and every woman lives her own life without regard for anyone else. It comes to us in the name of equality and freedom, but in the end only gives us bondage when after all the violence and madness, the people cry for strong leadership to bring us safety and order -- leadership which is tyrannical.
For these two extremes are like a circle: tyranny often leads to revolution and anarchy, which leads to tyranny.  Anarchy leads to tyranny when people cry for strength and order.  The two evils are incestuous, connected with tentacles of corruption and injustice that reach far into the past and, if we are not careful, our future.  There is no safe port to either side.  Both lead only to rocks, destruction, and misery.
THE PROPER COURSE
Following the course between these two extremes leads ever onward to a future of liberty, prosperity, safety, comfort, ambition, achievement, equality and all the virtues of free civilization,  All of the benefits we are told lie on either side can be found down this course. 
At times our ship will be tossed by the storms of war and the doldrums of economic difficulty, but these difficulties are far better than the rocky doom of either shore.  These troubles are short-lived and the benefits are great, if only we keep this course.
 A wise captain will chart a course between jutting rocks and shoals from port or starboard that we must navigate between.  At times we will need to pilot the ship more to one side or the other, but always through the middle course, and never too close.
When faced with temporary difficulties, often voices call us like the siren to pull to one side or the other.  "Come to the side of tyranny, where you can give up the burdens of personal liberty" they cry; "steer toward the harbor of anarchy, where you can abandon the harsh demands of laws" they implore.  Often they do so out of ignorance, not knowing the terrors they call for.  Sometimes they do so out of malice, hoping to command the ship once the captain is undone.
THE MUTINOUS WHISPERS
When hardships or down times come sailing through the safe, true course, some aboard ship will grumble, hoping to mutiny and move us to one side or the other.  Their arguments may sound emotionally persuasive.  For those without the perspective of history and reason, these mutinous voices can be very compelling.
"Let us steer toward tyranny," they murmur below decks.  "There are those among us who do not have as much as others, surely this inequality is unfair.  If only there was some force to compel those who have more to give of what they have to those who do not have as much!  If only we could force equality of treatment and outcome, a strong leader, a controlling central council, a government that made sure no one felt bad, felt wrong, felt out of place."
"No, let us steer toward anarchy," another whispers in your ear.  "The chains of law and other people's standards are keeping you from having fun.  Imagine what you could do if only we abandoned these old, outdated morals.  Think of what you could have if you just stopped following their rules.  Are you not tired of this course driven by others?  Do you not wish to find your own way, without guidance or rules?"
And each of these would sound strong, if you could not but turn and look back to see where others have crashed, or looked to the side closer, to see the jagged rocks, the flash of bones, and the ribs of ruined ships that have gone before.  These arguments sound stronger when the economy slows or when war arises.  They can seem compelling in times of hardship, and only wise, sure leadership can move us through those epochs without disaster.
OUR PRESENT COURSE
Too easily we are moving to one side or the other, wildly veering about.  Wisdom and integrity are gone at the wheel.  We have no captains of virtue and honor.  We have no schoolmasters who teach us the evils of the past others have fallen prey to.  We have only voices of outrage and fury that they do not get their own way.
The entire concept of liberty as our dearest heirloom, bought at such a terrible price by those who have gone before, is abandoned.  Never do you hear politicians or pundits mention it any longer.  Our rudder is in tatters, broken and brought aboard only to bludgeon those we disagree with, not to guide us.
Our future inevitably, surely lies upon the rocks on either side -- and in the end, it matters not which, for they all lead to the same place.  Only through generations who move back into the proper course have we a future or hope as a nation.  Only by having children, teaching them well, and demonstrating the wisdom of this teaching in our lives can we hope to correct this course, repair the rudder, and replace our captains.
How close are we to the rocks?  I can hear the waves pounding in my ears.  I can see the spray of foam off the hull to the side.  I can see their slick, deadly surface dead ahead.  How much time do we have?  How much are we willing to do in order to right the ship?
I know what it took long ago when this nation was founded.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

REAL MEN COOK 29: Deviled Egg Salad

I grew up in a home where we didn't have a lot of money, so my my mom would work hard to make the limited food budget stretch the whole month for lunches when we went to school.  One of the things she'd make was egg salad sandwiches, which I never liked.  I finally got to the point I couldn't eat them and asked her to try something else.  To this day I feel queasy when I think about them.
It wasn't that her recipe was bad, everyone else loved them.  Its that it just didn't work for me.  So when my brother suggested maybe making some for lunches here, I was skeptical.  I wouldn't really be able to eat any of it, and I eat lunch at home more than he does.
But an idea occurred to me: I like deviled eggs.  And the very simple recipe I have for them works well, and is very well-received any time I make them (also mom's recipe).  So I thought: why not make egg salad sandwiches with that recipe?
It turned out super easy.  And it tastes great.  There are two keys to this:
  1. Chop the egg up fine
  2. Keep the ingredients simple
Forget those fussy overworked recipes you see on TV.  Simple, fresh: that's your key.  You keep that in mind, you get good food.
So, what does it take to make this?
  • Eggs
  • Mayonnaise
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Mustard Powder
  • Paprika
That's it.  No celery, no onions, no bacon, no onions, no cilantro or eggplant or whatever the heck people put into egg salad.  Just those simple six ingredients.  If your recipe looks like Alton Brown's shopping list, its too fussy and busy.
Just use the recipe linked above for Deviled Eggs to make perfect hard boiled eggs then chop them up and mix in the ingredients.  If you need more specific directions, here's some proportions that worked well for me:
6 eggs, hard boiled
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika

I recommend chopping the eggs up into small bits, a quarter inch or smaller.  That way its more a spread than chunks of white in your bread.  This is key to the recipe and letting people like me who don't like the texture of egg whites (or their extremely mild flavor) tolerate the food. Once you have the parts chopped, mix in the rest of the ingredients and store for a half hour or more in the fridge to blend together.
With enough mayo, you don't even need anything on your bread.  Easy, takes about a half hour or so, and this makes quite a bit; enough for a bunch of sandwiches.  I couldn't even find a good representative picture, because people hack the egg into gigantic bits and don't use paprika even in the simplest recipes.
*This is part of the Real Men Cook series.