Saturday, May 19, 2012

Friday, May 18, 2012

Book Review: R.C. Sproul commentary on Mark, He Taught Them as One Who Had Authority

"The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God," Mark 1:1.

     It has been a long strange trip for me, for the last two years or so.  I was an interim pastor of a small, Southern Baptist Church for a year and a half and I was determined to preach through my favorite Gospel, the Gospel of Mark.  It was an incredibly exciting, exhausting and exhilarating experience preaching through Mark from week to week and I learned so much in that time.  One thing really disheartened me though: I could not find a good commentary on Mark.   The most prevalent problem was that most commentators were spending so much time explaining what a passage didn't mean, what the novel interpretation of the moment is or how this all fits into the so called "synoptic problem".  Now, understand that I was only reading conservative evangelical commentaries but I was repeatedly frustrated by what I call, "the hedgers".  They spent so much time discussing everything except the most obvious and edifying understanding of the passage. 
     Well, I am preparing to teach the Gospel of Mark again and lo and behold, I found that R.C. Sproul had preached through Mark at his church and had just finished his commentary and I eagerly sopped it up.  You can probably tell, by my use of the past tense in the first paragraph, what I think of Sproul's new commentary.  It is everything I've been looking for.  It is fantastic.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.
     Sproul is well known for his scholarly and academic approach to theology and apologetic's and I was not sure how this would translate into a useable and practical commentary on Mark.  My suspicions were completely unfounded and this commentary is truly a wonderful, thoughtful and informative description of Mark's account of Jesus' ministry.  R.C. Sproul has truly transformed into a fantastic preacher with a pastor's concern right before our eyes.  Not that he wasn't a loving and caring Christian before but you can just feel his pastoral concern for those who are under his teaching and for those who want to learn more about Jesus Christ and His holy word.  There a couple of occasions where you can feel the tension between the academic and pastoral Sproul, yet R.C. does not veer off and he stays focused on the passage at hand and its immediate understanding.  You can sense that he wants to take several pages to discuss a particular point of doctrine but he keeps a laser focus on his task and after all the subterfuge I've read concerning Mark, I was grateful for that!
     That is not to say I agree with everything Dr. Sproul wrote or believes.  Sproul holds to the concept of Markan priority which I do not agree with.  This is the belief that Mark was the first Gospel written and Matthew and Luke used Mark to write their Gospels.  There is evidence which supports this but it is not irrefutable and I choose to believe the original arrangement of the Gospels and there is much good evidence for that approach as well.  What I do appreciate about Dr. Sproul though is that he does not make a big deal about this except briefly, at the outset of his commentary.  I also disagree with much of what Dr. Sproul wrote concerning the Olivet Discourse.  Dr. Sproul is a partial preterist.  This is the belief that most if not all things concerning the end times have happened except for the physical second coming of Christ.  I am not of this persuasion but I still found much to agree with even in his chapters concerning this great discourse.
     Finally, I appreciate Dr. Sproul's submission to the word of God.  There were at least two occasions where you could tell he was apprehensive about a particular interpretation, yet the Bible was clear and he submitted to its authority.  Dr. Sproul maintains and expounds the highest view of scripture possible and does not acquiesce to the whims of modern scholarship and political correctness.  I would recommend this commentary to anyone who wants to benefit from one of the great theological minds of this generation.  It will be my go to commentary as I prepare to teach on Mark.
     God bless you and learn, live and love the gospel of our glorious Savior!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Al Mohler was right! The Mega Church is Regurgitated Liberalism

"Preach the word!  Be ready in season and out of season.  Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and teaching," 2Tim. 4:2.

     Spurgeon wrote years ago during the Downgrade Controversy in England that many pastors affirmed all the right things when they were alive and professed orthodoxy.  They did not explicitly teach against core doctrines of the faith but they did not teach them explicitly either. Make no mistake, they were sowing the seeds of unbelief, but it was difficult to pin them down.   Spurgeon commented that only after these men passed was their apostasy revealed in their private writings.
     Recently, Dr. Al Mohler heralded a battle cry against the encroaching liberalism in the American evangelical church.  He wrote a piece on Tuesday, May 1st titled, "Is the Megachurch the New Liberalism?"  This was an insightful piece and a shot across the bow of the American evangelical church.  Mohler gave praise to the Megachurch where he saw its faithfulness, particularly as it related to his beloved Southern Baptist Convention.  He points out that it was largely prominent mega church pastors who helped bring the SBC back from the abyss of liberalism.
     Mohler did not stay in the complementary mood long and focused his attention on the issue of homosexuality and its affirmation and acceptance in mega church circles and he lowered the boom, in particular, on Pastor Andy Stanley of North Pointe Church in Atlanta, Georgia.  Stanley taught in a service in mid April and offered no biblical admonishment to a homosexual couple who were serving in one of his satellite churches.  Stanley took a firm stance against adultery(he seemed to waver later) and the need for one of the gay men to step down from serving until his divorce was final.  He offered no counsel it seems though concerning the sin of homosexuality.  The men were not rebuked for the sin that broke up both of their marriages.  The Bible is clear that homosexuality is a sin and Mr. Stanley made it clear that he saw adultery as the problem and not homosexuality.  In effect, Mr. Stanley is sanctifying the sin of homosexuality above any other sin.  This is the problem with the gay rights movement as it seeks to influence the church.  They demand that we accept and affirm their sin above the word of God and against all other sins.  This is classic liberalism and is a different religion altogether.  In fact, as Dr. Mohler pointed out, Mr Stanley mentioned the forgiveness we have through the cross of Christ but left out the need for faith and repentance. 
     As I listened and watched Mr. Stanley's talk, I noticed how he seemed compelled to mention, over and over, his kingdom of churches.  Mr. Stanley not only is in charge of North Pointe but he has his head piped into many other churches around Atlanta and the U.S.  He in fact, is a Pope.  But that is another matter that I have written about before.  I just refuse to call these men with their little kingdoms, pastor.  It seems a slander to the good men who toil at churches all over the world with little fanfare but who truly pastor a flock that they know personally by name, each and every one.  I remember Jesus telling Peter, "Feed My sheep...tend My sheep."  A Pope with his own kingdom cannot do that.  This is not a liberal tendency, but a meglomaniacal tendency.  How it promotes liberalism though is that it makes it easier for a false gospel to travel further, faster and with more authority.
     One other thing struck me as I listened to Mr. Stanley.  He commented that homosexuals attending his church liked it because he wasn't hung up on affirming homosexuality and he taught the Bible more than the gay affirming churches they were used to.  Yet, the Bible was little on display in his speech and he took a full ten minutes(in a forty minute speech) to tell the extra biblical story that Mohler's piece was about.  The Apostle Paul was emphatic when he told Timothy, "Preach the word!"  It is the word of life.  It alone has the power to change hearts and lives and turn back people from the precipice of Hell.  Liberalism always strays far from God's word.  It has to because of its ability to "discern the thoughts and intents of the heart".  The modern liberal, even if dressed up in evangelical garb, believes that psychology and man's wisdom is best able to discern and rehabilitate the thoughts and the heart.  They truly follow what Paul taught that "they have a form of godliness but denying its power."  They believe man has the power and he can work to overcome his problems, if in fact, they acknowledge sin at all.
     Dr. Mohler is correct in his assessment of  the modern mega church.  It often is a vehicle for doctrinal liberalism.  In fact, Rick Warren sent Dr. Mohler a nasty tweet asking Dr. Mohler to apologize.  This is interesting because Warren is a protegee of the liberal practioneer Robert Schuller of Crystal Cathedral fame.  In fact, to bring this to a tidy close, Kay Warren, Rick's wife, just preached(if you can call it that) at the Crystal Cathedral.  That is all the proof a discerning christian should need of the bankruptcy of the modern mega church movement.
     Friends, "earnestly contend for the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints."  Do not be mislead by men with large churches as if that means anything.  Don't be fooled by the wisdom of this world.  Build your life on the rock, God's word.  Let His Spirit fully illuminate you with all truth.  Remember that, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."  Do not allow the world to grab a foothold in your mind.  Be washed with the word and learn, love and live the glorious gospel of our beloved Lord.