• Starting Easter Sunday at Resolved: Jesus Vs. Atheism

    In the past decade atheism has had a resurgence. This resurgence is due to four main authors:

    Richard Dawkins, who is an English  evolutionary biologist, and writer. He was the University of Oxford’s Professor for Public Understanding of Science from 1995 until 2008. He is the author of much read and debated book The God Delusion

    Christopher Hitchens, (who sadly passed away on 15 December 2011) was a British author. Hitchens was brilliant with the pen and contributed to New StatesmanThe NationThe AtlanticThe London Review of BooksThe Times Literary Supplement and Vanity Fair. He was also a fierce debater whose debates entertained even if you disagreed with his premises or conclusions. He is the author of the wildly passionate book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

    Sam Harris, is an American author and philosopher who holds a PhD in cognitive neuroscience from UCLA. He has lectured or debated at some of the most prestigious educational institutions in the world including University of Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Caltech, Berkeley, Stanford University, and Tufts University, as well as TED, where he outlined the arguments made in his book The Moral Landscape. Harris has also been interviewed on such prominent TV shows as  Nightline, Real Time with Bill Maher, The O’Reilly Factor, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and The Last Word. He is the author of The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason and Letter to a Christian Nation

    Daniel Dennett who is the Co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies and the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University.He is the author of Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon

    Needless to say these men are extremely intelligent and I would say gifted by God. Their writings are lucid and full of passion and vigor. Anyone who would question their intelligence has not interacted with them fairly or honestly. These men and their writings pose a formidable challenge to religion in general and Christianity in particular and if Christians truly engage with these men and their writings we will ask deep questions about our faith which will in turn help us discover the truth and therefore our faith will be strengthened.

    Because of the formidable challenge  that these men and their writings pose to Christianity, at  Resolved, starting Easter Sunday, we are looking at what Jesus and these men say about five aspects of Christianity that these men attack. Here are the topics and the dates we are looking at them:

    20-April: Can a Rational Person Believe Jesus Rose From the Dead?

    27-April – Can a Rational Person Believe the Bible?

    4-May – Does Evil and Suffering Disprove God?

    11-May- Isn’t the God of the Bible a Moral Monster?

    18-May – Hasn’t Christianity Been a Force of Evil in Our World?

    At each service there will be time for people to ask questions and interact with what we say. I am really excited about this series and I hope whether you are a Christian, Atheist or you are unsure about faith you will come and hear why I side with Jesus over and against the New Atheists.


    Please follow and like us:
  • Pleasure Without Boundaries Produces a Life Without Purpose

    “When I read the biography of Oscar Wilde and researched the life of this quintessential hedonist, I was repeatedly surprised by the protracted passages of despair that came from the heart and the pen of a man so completely devoted to the pursuit of pleasure. See the scripture reference – Job 29:22 – engraved in Latin on his tombstone, which translates as, “After I had spoken, they spoke no more; my words fell gently on their ears.” ponder the epitaph that reads, “And alien tears will fill for him pity’s long broken urn, for his mourners will be outcast men, and outcasts always mourn.” These speak of the silence of pain. If it were pain alone that brought emptiness, I would at least half grant the atheist’s point. But some of the loneliest people I have met or read about are those who have had everything and experience little of what we consider pain; yet, they too have pain – pain resulting from having indulged and come away empty.
    The greatest disappointments (and resulting pain) you can feel is when you have just experienced that which you thought would bring you the ultimate in pleasure – and it has let you down. Pleasure without boundaries produces a life without purpose. That is real pain. No death, no tragedy, no atrocity – nothing really matters. Life is sheer hollowness, with no purpose.”
    You may also like:
    Please follow and like us:
  • The Amazing God of Grace

    “The God whose grace Paul proclaimed is the God who alone does great wonders. He creates the universe from nothing; he calls the dead to life; he justifies the ungodly. This third is the greatest wonder of all: creation and resurrection are consistent with the power of the living and life-giving God, but the justifying of the ungodly isprima facie a contradiction of his character as the righteous God, the Judge of all the earth, who by his own declaration “will not justify the ungodly” (Exodus 23:7). Yet such is the quality of divine grace that in the very act of extending it to the undeserving God demonstrates “that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26).” 

    F.F. Bruce – Paul Apostle of the Heart Set Free, 18-19

    Please follow and like us:
  • The Cross Both Humbles Us and Fills Us With Thanksgiving

    “In daring to write (and read) a book about the cross, there is of course a great danger of presumption. This is partly because what actually happened when “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ” is a mystery whose depths we shall spend eternity plumbing; and partly because it would be most unseemly to feign a cool detachment as we contemplate Christ’s cross. For, whether we like it or not, we are involved. Our sins put him there. So, far from offering us flattery, the cross undermines our self-righteousness. We can stand before it only with a bowed head and a broken spirit. And there we remain until the Lord Jesus speaks to our hearts his word of pardon and acceptance, and we, gripped by his love and full of thanksgiving, go out into the world to live our lives in his service.”

    John Stott, The Cross of Christ. pg 12

    You may also like:

    Why Penal Substitutionary Atonement Implies Definite Atonement

    Are You a Frustrated Church Leader?

    An Interview With Graham Cole on The Incarnation


    Please follow and like us:
  • Was Jesus a Wimp?

    The new Rector of St Mark’s Darling Point, Michael Jensen, has written a thought provoking blog entitled The Wimp that Won. As with all of Michael’s writing it is clear, lucid and has enough quotes from dead theologians and poets to make you realize that Michael is one brainy dude who has studied at Oxford and that he probably wrote the piece in a tweed jacket. 

    The guts of the blog is that Jesus was not an Ubermensch, which is an idea created by the crazily brilliant German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. The Ubermensch is a person who will act as his own God, giving himself morality and value as he sees fit according to him alone. The Ubermensch is an independent individual who has the power to banish herd instincts from his mind and become a master of self discipline. So basically he is the type of person that every atheistic undergrad uni student wants to be but can’t because they are still living with their mum.

    Michael says that Jesus was not a beastly or tough dude (my words)  but a man who gave up everything for the glory of his father and for our betterment and he was cruelly beaten and died an ignominious death on the cross and therefore we should be just like him. Jesus was a wimp that won and we should be the same

    But here is where Michael and I disagree. The Jesus of Philippians 2 can’t be a wimp, to give up all that he has and die for others is not a wimpish thing to do at all. It is a model of perfect toughness and love. It is the definition of what strength is. So in Michael’s obvious hyperbole he has undercut something very unique and manly about Jesus. He has also lost an opportunity say something very profound about what true toughness and manliness is. True toughness and manliness is not having a beard and tattoos, drinking scotch and smoking cigars all while reading Calvin’s Institutes and beating up an Arminian. No real toughness and  real manliness is knowing when to wield your might and power. In Jesus’ love for humanity, in the incarnation, Jesus chose not to wield his considerable might and power for the sake of those he loved and yet, in his return, we will see that might and power on full display.

    Was Jesus a wimp? Hell no. He was a true man, one who knew when  to wield his power and when to relinquish it for the good of others. This is not wimpish, it is ultimate manliness and toughness on full display.

    You may also like:

    Is God Arrogant?

    Is Church Planting Really the Answer?

    The Sin of Failing to be Angry


    Please follow and like us:
  • Is Church Planting Really the Answer?

    My good friend Josh Dinale has written a blog entitled Is Church Planting Really the Answer which either excited or infuriated people based on what they think of church planting, Mark Driscoll and hipster pastors. If you don’t like the current crop of church plants around the shop, you like Phillip Jensen or John MacArthur more than Mark Driscoll and you think that all pastors have hips and therefore you think all hipster pastors need a good wash and shave you probably applauded the fact that a former skater punk like Josh has settled down, grown up, showers regularly and become a suburban Anglican minister[1]  who now rants against the evils of the current crop of faddish church planting with the zeal of a young church planter ranting against established churches. But if you are passionate about church planting, you want to start or have started a church a “theologically conservative culturally liberal” church and you have grown a beard, wear skinny jeans and only use Apple computer products you probably hated Josh’s rant and you might have thought “Typical old man Anglican!”

    The first thing to say is that Josh is a provocateur like Phillip Jensen, Mark Driscoll, Rob Bell, John Macarthur, Michael Jensen, John Dickson and myself. This is his personality. Josh has always had a habit of putting provocative words out there just to rattle cages and so it came with no surprise when  I read his blog and it was deliberately provocative and hyperbolic. This is what Josh and others (including myself) do and that is why I love Josh!

    Josh mentions that there are a lot of “pastors wanting to be the next Mark Driscoll”. While I think this was more true 5 years ago there is still some truth to it now. There always has been and there always will be heroes that people look up to. If you are a guitarist who likes good music your heroes will be Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughn or Robben Ford and you will try to be like them in the way you play and you will probably cop some of their mannerisms.. If you are a young girl and you have no taste in music your heroes will be Katy Perry or Mis Direction (I think that is what they are called) and your habits, mannerisms and likes will be, to a certain extent, dictated by your heroes. This is human nature. So I am not surprised when young men who are young pastors or who desire to be pastors want to be like Mark Driscoll (or for that matter Piper, Chandler, Chan, Jensen, Chong, Macarthur, Washer, etc.). If you are a young reformed guy you may want to be like Driscoll, if you are someone who went to UNSW in the 80s and 90s you will probably gush about Phillip Jensen and if you want to destroy your church you will probably idolize Rob Bell or Karl Barth. God has created the world in such a way that people would have heroes. That being said, I agree with Josh that if you are trying to be like Driscoll, Piper, Jensen or whoever you should be yourself. Be inspired by the great men and women of the faith but part of real maturity is building your identity on Jesus and who he has made you to be.

    The second point in Josh’s critique is aimed at “pastors moving into areas where there are already good evangelical ministries and rather than working together  targeting the same group” Josh outlines two concerns; firstly, that logically it is better to get critical mass in one place than have two churches struggling to get to critical mass. Secondly, there is the issue of resources. Josh, quite rightly, points out that a church takes a lot of resources to run and you would think it would be better to pool resources and have one church rather than two. On the surface these critiques seem valid but when you dig deeper they are found to be left wanting. Firstly, it would be stupid if two Evangelical churches from the same denomination existed in the same suburb. Yes in that instance it would make more sense two have one church rather than two. But what if you have two churches that are Evangelical churches who disagree on major issues i.e. baptism, church government or ministry philosophy. Imagine I move to Brisbane in the nice suburb of Cooparoo. I am quickly convinced that Cooparoo is a godless suburb that makes Newtown look like the Christian version of Disneyland and that Cooparoo needs the gospel of Jesus more than any other place in the world. If I were to take Josh’s advice the best plan would be to throw my lot in with him and work alongside him at his church. But here is the problem, in my opinion, because he is an Anglican, Josh doesn’t believe the Bible[2] on a bunch of issues like baptism, church government, church membership etc. So really our partnership in the gospel will only work if we don’t baptise anyone, never have a church meeting or we never practice church discipline. The only way two pastors can work together in the same church is if they either agree on the gospel and secondary issues like gender, church government, baptism etc or they don’t care about these issues. On the surface this critique from Josh looks plausible but when you dig deeper it is really a naive utopian fantasy.

    Next Josh says “often whilst on the surface evangelism is said to be at the core, rather what I have found is that being cool and hipster is more important.” but then he goes on to defend denominational churches and say they are culturally relevant and they are reaching people. I am not sure how Josh knows that churches and pastors of said churches want to be more hipster than evangelistically minded. If Josh came to my church Resolved he would see a small band of Christians many of whom have brought their friends to an evangelistic course we are currently running or they are inviting their friends to church and talking with them about Jesus. I am convinced that this the case at other church plants in Sydney and also denominational churches. On the hipster thing, being hipster is not a sin I am tempted by[3] I do think there is a pressure to be hip or cool with culture. But that can happen whether you are a church planter in Newtown or a Sydney Anglican minister. All I can say is that I know guys from the Geneva Push and Acts 29 churches and it seems like their greatest desire is for people to come to know Jesus. I can’t judge a pastors heart based on their church meeting or their evangelistic track record and I don’t know how Josh can know either.

    Josh then shares his concern “about the shuffeling the deck and really not reaching new people and burning people out” and in this I’m in full agreement. There is usually a hip church plant which blows up with people leaving their church. This is not the pastors fault at all as long as they don’t encourage this church shopping mentality. I also agree that some church plants don’t reach anyone and they just burn people out. But is this last critique only found in church plants? Can’t denominational churches be evangelistically dead and burn people out? Of course they can. For various reasons Resolved hasn’t always been as evangelistically hot as we should have been and we have burnt our fair share of people out. But I know friends that are going to denominational churches that are evangelistically dead and these churches are burning them out. The common denominator in both an ineffective church plant which burns out people and an ineffective denominational church that burns people out is the leadership. Either the leadership if the church needs to grow or change.

    The final critique josh has is that “many leaders seem to be developing a level of arrogance and snobbery towards those who work within denominations.” He continues:”  I personally am sick of church planters or church plat (sic) organisations telling me that I and other young denominational guys should leave denominational churches and plant something.” Now I planted Resolved almost five years ago and in that time I have been to a bunch of planting conferences. Also, before that I listened to every church plant talk I could listen to. In all this time I have never heard of one planting leader tell someone not to plant a denominational church or leave their denomination. Not once. I’m not sure who Josh is hanging out with but I would suggest that Josh get new friends if they are telling him to leave his denomination. In fact Josh why don’t you come to the Multiply a conference put on by the Geneva Push. I promise you no one will ask you to leave the Anglican Church and that you will be encouraged to be more effective in your ministry.

    Josh’s title of his blog was “Is church planting really the answer?” And the obvious answer is no. The answer is churches that are radically shaped by the gospel whose evangelistic fire is at boiling point. We need denominational churches to be like this and if we are to reach Australia and the world with the gospel we need church plants planted all the time with this evangelistic edge. No church planting is not the answer but it will be an outcome if churches  are gospel centered and on fire.

    [1] By the way I love suburban Anglican ministers

    [2] I know Josh is a brother in Christ who is a reformed evangelical and who does uphold the authority of the Bible. I am being hyperbolic to make a point…… And have some fun. See my above comments about Josh and I being provocateurs.

    [3] This is because, I like to shower and shave, I hate coffee, I like to work out and play sport and I like my music electric and loud

    You might also like:
    Please follow and like us:
  • What Are The Best Commentaries on Acts?

    Earlier this year my church did a series on the book of Acts. Here is what I think are the best commentaries on Acts
    Ajith Fernando Acts (The NIV Application Commentary) – I have found the NIV Application commentary series fairly hit and miss. But this commentary is a massive hit! The exegesis is fresh and lively and the application is a brilliant and deep. A very stimulating commentary. This is a must buy!
    Darrell Bock Acts (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) – I was expecting a lot from this commentary because I loved Bock’s Luke commentary. Well this commentary doesn’t disappoint! Chock full of great textual insights and exegesis and yet extremely clear. If you buy one technical commentary on Acts this should be it!
    David Peterson The Acts of the Apostles (Pillar New Testament Commentary) – Peterson’s commentary is not as technical as Bock’s but it does give you a bit more insight into the narrative of Acts. This commentary comes from a distinctly Calvinist perspective which as a Calvinist I found helpful
    John Stott The Message of Acts (Bible Speaks Today) – I have a rule: if Stott has written a commentary on book of the Bible buy it! His commentaries are always simple and clear without being simplistic and dull. This commentary is no different! Some parts of this commentary were breathtakingly brilliant. Another must buy!
    FF Bruce The Book of the Acts (New International Commentary on the New Testament) – This commentary is a bit dated now but still has great insights. It is a commentary which was the industry standard on the book if Acts for a while. Not as technical as Bock or Peterson but still a very soild commentary.
    I.H Marshall Acts (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries)– the Tyndale commentary series is designed for laymen but still is a very good series despite being brief. Marshall’s commentary is probably the best one that I have read from the series. It is a bit more detailed than the other commentaries in the series. This commentary is written from a Arminian perspective
    Acts is well serviced by commentaries these days. The above mentioned ones will profit you greatly but the picks of the bunch are the volumes by Bock, Fernando and Stott.
    What are your favourite commentaries on Acts?
    You may also like:
    Please follow and like us: