Monday, February 23, 2009

Allegheny District Welcomes First African-American Congregation

Although we are a small district, we take very seriously our mission to "glorify God by multiplying healthy churches among all people."  We have been working on the health and planting part very steadily, but what has been missing is fulfillment of the "all people" component.  That being said, we are so very glad that God has linked us together with Pastor Eugene Williams and Lifeway Church of Beaver Falls.  Over the past 3 + years Lifeway has investigated the possibilities of partnership with the Evangelical Free Church of America and the Allegheny District.  At our Saturday Board meeting, the District Board heartily and unanimously affirmed Lifeway Church to become a member church with us to be affirmed by the conference at our March 27 - 28 District Conference.  We have so much to learn from the urban and multi-ethnic ministry of Lifeway.  Rejoice with us in this new development!

More Stay Sharp Resource Links

This is post 2 of resource links mentioned by Greg Strand at the Allegheny District Stay Sharp Event - Day 2.  Special Thanks to the ever-impressive Pastor Matt Mitchell.

Paul Grimmond    We Need More Shack Time
The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy
In My Place Condemned He Stood (Foreward, Preface, Introduction)
D.A. Carson    Themelios 33.2 Editorial (On the Gospel & Deeds of Mercy)
Tim Keller    Themelios 33.3  The Gospel and the Poor
Ed Stetzer    First Person: Understanding the Emerging Church
Michael Patton    Would the Real Emerging Please Stand Up?
Lausanne Covenant

Friday, February 20, 2009

Stay Sharp - Day Two

What a start to a day! Nearly 60 men (and a few ladies) singing a few great hymns like For a Thousand Tongues to Sing & The Solid Rock (acapella). How glorious! Books were made available from NextStep Resources and from .


For slides and other resources from this conference go to and for more great thoughts and notes!


Theological Issues


Knowing God, J.I. Packer (transcendent emphasis but does not preclude the issue of immanence)

Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby (immanent emphasis but does not preclude the issue of transcendence)

Yet often people focus on one aspect and almost neglect or ignore the other.

20th Century Theology: God and the World in a Transitional Age, Stanley Grenz & Roger Olson


People swing between the Transcendence of God and the Immanence of God. This shows in the people's interest in the book The Shack by William P. Young. How should we respond? The good is the book encourages people to get with God in the Shack of difficulty, the bad is that it undefines God and makes Him much more like one of us than the God who is revealed in Scripture. We need to leave not with question marks in our lives, but exclamation marks from God's Word! See Paul Grimmond's review at



"How should we respond to The Shack? My first response was to run away as quickly as I possibly could. But then I realized that The Shack gets one thing right when it encourages us to meet God in the difficult issues. 'The shack' functions as a metaphor for two things: it is the place where we stuff the things that are too hard to think about, and the place where we meet with God face-to-face.


Young is dead right to suggest that we need to get to know God in the midst of the hard questions. The problem is that he brings us face-to-face with a God who is not God at all. In his zeal to 'free' God from the chains of misunderstanding, Young has shackled God beyond recognition. The solution, though, isn't to run away from 'the shack'; the solution is to spend more time there—not in William P Young's 'shack', of course, but in the place where the living God speaks for himself about the big issues of life. We need to spend more time gazing into the face of the God who reveals himself in the Bible. We need to think about the big

questions of suffering and obedience and truth while we sit at the feet of our Lord. In fact, if we have been reading our Bibles, we will have found that these are issues that he is only too willing to discuss. Indeed, it is the triune God of Scripture alone who is both sovereign enough and good enough to deal with evil.

I am not pretending that there won't be difficult questions. Nor am I suggesting that the answers will be totally satisfying for everyone. We may even need to

accept that God is not willing to answer some of our questions right now. But we will certainly be better off hearing from the God who sent his Son to die for us,

than listening to the god of our imaginations. If western Christianity had spent more time in 'the shack' with the true and living creator, and less time wallowing around in our felt needs, then, just maybe, less people would have been fooled.


We might have recognized The Shack for the empty shell that it is. Our churches might even have become places where people could meet face-to-face with the holy God of Scripture. Only when we come into the presence of the loving, holy, majestic, glorious, gracious, judging, rescuing, creating, sustaining and redeeming God, who holds the future in his awesome hands, will we have a real message to offer a world obsessed with pain."




How Do We Define Inerrancy? The Chicago Statement on Inerrancy -,,PTID307086%7CCHID750054%7CCIID2094584,00.html


Paul D. Feinberg, "The Meaning of Inerrancy"

(chapter 9), 267-304.


Inerrancy means that when all facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be whollytrue in everything that they affirm, whether that

has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences.


We cannot answer today's questions with 50 year old answers, so we must constantly be reforming our reformation back to God's Truth revealed in His Word.


Challenges Today:


1. The postmodern shift in epistemology(i.e. post-foundational) has led some evangelicals to question propositional revelation.

2. A significant number of conservative students have/are graduating with doctorates in biblical studies and theology from non-evangelical institutions.

3. Relevance and respectability in the guild is often desired more than faithfulness.

4. The notion of parallelomania is used when doing background study, and if a similar account is found in some other ANE (ancient Near East) document, it flattens and possibly even

negates the supernatural nature of the Word.

5. Modernism's strength was an emphasis on truth; its weakness was that it came at the expense of God's overarching story. Postmodernism's strength is an

emphasis on story; its weakness is that it comes at the expense of Truth.

6. There is a healthy focus on the church doing theology (e.g. Vanhoozer, Green). This is good. But the problem is that it is often theology that is tangentially related to the Bible.





Essential to the Gospel

"We believe this doctrine (penal substitution) to be central and essential to the gospel. While the atonement accomplished by Christ cannot be reduced to this understanding alone (and no one should claim that it should), to deny or confuse this doctrine is to deny that Christ died on the cross for our sins and as our substitute." Al Mohler, In My Place Condemned He Stood, forward, 15.



THE CHURCH: Emerging-Emergent


"First Person: Understanding the emerging church" by Ed Stetzer, January 6, 2006


  • Relevants - emerging
  • Reconstructionists – emerging/emergent
  • Revisionists – emergent

(the quotes to follow are from Stetzer)


Relevants – Emerging (i.e. Mark Driscoll)

There are a good number of young (and not so young) leaders who

some classify as "emerging" that really are just trying to make

their worship, music and outreach more contextual to emerging

culture. Ironically, while some may consider them liberal, they are

often deeply committed to biblical preaching, male pastoral

leadership and other values common in conservative evangelical

churches. They are simply trying to explain the message of Christ

in a way their generation can understand.

They are, instead, intentionally reaching into their communities

(which are different than where most Southern Baptists live) and

proclaiming a faithful biblically-centered Gospel there. I know

some of their churches -- they are doctrinally sound, growing and

impacting lostness.


Reconstructionists -

The reconstructionists think that the current

form of church is frequently irrelevant and

the structure is unhelpful. Yet, they

typically hold to a more orthodox view of

the Gospel and Scripture. Therefore, we

see an increase in models of church that

reject certain organizational models,

embracing what are often called

"incarnational" or "house" models.


Revisionists - Emergent

Revisionists are questioning (and in some cases

denying) issues like the nature of the

substitutionary atonement, the reality of hell, the

complementarian nature of gender, and the

nature of the Gospel itself. This is not new --

some mainline theologians quietly abandoned

these doctrines a generation ago. The revisionist

emerging church leaders should be treated,

appreciated and read as we read mainline

theologians -- they often have good descriptions,

but their prescriptions fail to take into account

the full teaching of the Word of God.




See C.Michael Patton in his writing, "Would the

Real Emerger Please Stand Up" for some helpful charts that help to define


Michael Patton, "The Second Coming of Emergers":



A New Alliance

Scot McKnight and Dan Kimball

They have not yet named this new community, but those who are

participating share an "urgency about the mission of Jesus and

evangelism." Here is how it is further described:

Friends, pioneers, innovators and catalysts who want to dream and work

for the Gospel together rather than alone.

Leaders, entrepreneurs, pastors, misfits, and artists who share a high view

of Scripture and a radical commitment to evangelism while being faithfully

committed to what is expressed in the Lausanne Covenant.

Missionally-minded people from different backgrounds who use different

methods in different cultural contexts but share the same experimental

passion and risk-taking heart for serving, loving, and helping people

connect to God through Jesus.


What is going to unite this new alliance is the Lausanne Covenant, which

consists of a strongly worded statement of the Bible and a strong

commitment to the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ in evangelism, among

other pertinent doctrinal matters:



CONCLUSION: This Stay-Sharp Workshop was loaded, and I highly encourage you to go to the website and download the powerpoint and pdf files for a lot more insights than I could put in this blog.


Resource Links for Greg Strand Talks

My thanks to Pastor Matt Mitchell of Lanse Evangelical Free Church for his list of links to Greg Strand's talks at the Allegheny District's Stay Sharp Conference.  

Resources Greg Mentioned Today That Are Online:

DA Carson    "What is the Gospel?" [manuscript pdfaudio]
Stan Guthrie  All Monotheisms Are Not the Same (Responding to A Common Word)
Mike Andrus Outline "Drawing Doctrinal Lines: Where and How?"
Albert Mohler  Theological Triage
Alfred Poirer    The Cross and Criticism
Roger Nicole  Polemic Theology: How to Deal with Those Who Differ From Us

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Theological Issues and Trends in Evangelicalism

Lead by Dr. Greg Strand, Director of Biblical Fidelity, Evangelical Free Church of America.

Isaiah 66:1-2 – Biblical Foundation - This is what the LORD says: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?" declares the LORD. "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.



Is this our posture? Humble, contrite and trembling at God's Word.

  1. Challenges & Obstacles
    1. Post-modern Relativism with Epistemological Implications (we live in a day in which truth is denied, so we don't know what to believe or what to do)
    2. Pluralism or Multiculturalism – denies any unique exclusive religious claims, and any group that does this in anathema.
    3. Personalized Globalization – cultural differences are pressed into closer proximity than ever. The things that used to seem so foreign to us are now very familiar to us.
    4. Omnipresent Technology – we have so little time to reflect because of everything that technology brings to us. This puts people into their own world…personalized world.

    Local Issues

    1. "Twitter" – your own personal newscast to the world about your life (are we twittering our lives away? Do we feel so small about ourselves that we must make more of ourselves by broadcasting our lives?)
    2. Biblical Illiteracy
    3. A – theology and theology-ology – against theology and the study of the study of theology not necessarily about God.
    4. Evangelicalism – definition and fragmentation. What is the definition of evangelicalism we are working from? We are fragmenting in to more and more groups. Sociological vs. biblical. We are defined by our commitment to…(see Rich Trimble, Anglican and Evangelical)
      1. Biblicism
      2. Christosism
      3. Conversionism
      4. Activism
    5. Most Dangerous trends we do not see…
      1. Justification
      2. Scriptural inerrancy
      3. Racism
      4. Family
      5. Pornography
      6. Etc, etc., etc

The Primacy of the Gospel – 1 Corinthians 15:1-19 (see The Gospel of Jesus Christ by John Stott). & See D.A. Carson for more.

  1. It is Christological: the gospel centers on the person and work of Jesus Christ (life, death, resurrection)
  2. It is Theological: the gospel tells us that sin is first and foremost an offense against God, that salvation is first to last the action of God, not our own.
  3. It is Biblical: the gospel is essentially the message of the whole Bible.
  4. It is Apostolic: the gospel is passed on to us by Jesus' disciples as authoritative eyewitnesses.
  5. It is Historical: the gospel is not a philosophy
  6. It is Personal: the gospel must be personally believed and appropriated
  7. It is Universal: the gospel is for every person
  8. It is Eschatological: the gospel includes the good news of the final transformation, not just the blessings we enjoy in the age


  • Gospel, Church & Culture
  • Gospel + Culture – Church = parachurch
  • Church + Culture – gospel = liberalism
  • Gospel + Church – culture = Fundamentalism
  • Gospel + Church + cultural = Ecclesia Reformata et Semper Reformanda (the church reformed and always reforming)
    • Centrality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ –
      • Jesus is Lord and is at the center of everything we do and has entailments in all of life.
      • When this doesn't happen & the gospel is assumed, walls go up based on special interests (home schooling, abortion, etc) and the gospel gets displaced
      • When the Gospel is Denied no effect and no interest.
    • Black, White, and Gray
      • Orthodoxy – there is a body of truth
      • Heresy – there is also heresy, that which is untrue but believed by some to be true.
      • Gray Matters – something that is hard to really tell if it is orthodox or heretical….where do these things land?
    • Theological Triage – A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity – Al Mohler (


    Primary essentials are determined by: (Michael Andrus – "Drawing Doctrinal Lines: Where? And How? – How do we determine between the essentials and non-essentials of the faith.

  1. Exegetical Certainty
  2. Theological Importance
  3. Biblical Emphasis
  4. Historical agreement in the church – historical theology with a small "t".


Second-Order Doctrines are determined by: the fact that believers disagree and which will create significant boundaries between believers, but don't preclude the occasional coming together.

Third-order issues are issues cause us to totally part ways.


9 Marks Ministries – What is the Discipline of Biblical Theology? (See also Grant Osborne's – The Hermeneutical Spiral)

  1. Text
  2. Exegesis
  3. Biblical Theology
  4. Systematically Theology
  5. Historical Theology
  6. Practical Theology
  7. Theological Presuppositions

J.I. Packer

    1. Exegesis

2. Biblical Theology

3. Historical Theology

4. Systematic Theology or Dogmatics…and these four are the foundation from which everything else arise.




    1. How to Deal With Those Who Differ From Us? – Roger Nicole, "Polemic Theology: How to Deal with those who differ with us" We have obligations…
      1. We have obligations to people who differ from us…we other them love. First we want people to know what we are saying or meaning. Second, we seek to understand their aims.
      2. What can we Learn? - Make sure inner concern and outward approach are right, then seek to learn.
      3. How can I cope with the person who differs with me? Biblical arguments and general arguments.
    2. Our Goal – are we seeking to win an argument or win another person to truth?


NOTE: these notes are only partial and incomplete notes that at least provide some reference to the dialogue or discourse. For more complete notes, please request a copy of Greg's powerpoints from me.