Monthly Archives: September 2011

Rob Bell Resources

Tonight I had the pleasure of giving a lecture called “Rob Bell and the Cultured Despisers: The Liberalism of Love Wins” for Chinese Gospel Church in Chinatown, Toronto. As you can tell by the title, it is a critique of Rob Bell’s recent book Love Wins, where I locate him in the history of theology, particular theological liberalism.

I reference a number of helpful sources in the paper, so I thought I’d link them here for further information if anyone who attended the lecture wanted to check them out.

Kevin DeYoung: God Is Still Holy and What You Learned in Sunday School is Still True

Carl Trueman: Easy Virtues and Cruel Mistresses (on Martin Luther)

Michael Wittmer: Christ Alone site (first book length critique of Love Wins)

J. Gresham Machen: Christianity & Liberalism (foreward by Trueman and opening chapter)

Francis Chan and Preson Sprinkle: Erasing Hell 







Filed under apologetics, books, carl trueman, hell, liberalism, rob bell

Review: Through Western Eyes (Letham)

Here’s my review of Robert Letham, Through Western Eyes: Eastern Orthodoxy: A Reformed Perspective (Fern, Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2007). It is in the new issue of Hope’s Reason: A Journal of Apologetics.

Christians in the West have little understanding of Eastern Orthodoxy. Though at odds, Roman Catholics and Protestants have a fairly good take on each others’ faith and practice. Both, however, are largely ignorant of their Eastern brethren. All three Christian expressions share in the rich theological tradition of the patristic period and look back to fathers like Athanasius, the Cappadocians, and the early creeds for their Christology and doctrine of God. After the split between East and West, precipitated by differences in Greek and Latin, the two streams diverged with little confluence. While the West underwent theological growth influenced by medieval and Reformation cultures, and had to undergo the challenges of the Enlightenment, the East was largely untouched by these cultural shifts. As a result, the two sides of the split look very different and often have different ways of expressing their Christian faith.

Robert Letham’s Through Western Eyes goes a long way to helping Protestants, especially those conscious of their Reformation heritage, understand the theological development and appearance of the East. Letham was a Presbyterian minister in the U.S. A., and has held teaching positions at Westminster Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary. Currently he teaches at Wales Evangelical School of Theology. He has authored important works on the Trinity and Christology that deal well with patristics and is an expert in post-Reformation history. He is more than qualified to write a book of this nature.

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Filed under apologetics, books, eastern orthodox, hope's reason, reviews

New Hope’s Reason Journal

Here’s the latest issue of Hope’s Reason: A Journal of Apologetics. It is both an online and print journal, this is the online bit. The print will be available some time soon.


“An Apologetic Church”
Stephen Bedard

“Apologetic Testimony from an Unlikely Source”
Mark Eckel

“The Witness of the Spirit: Developing a Pentecostal Approach to World Religions”
Jeffrey K. Clarke

“The Christian Doctrine of God Explained and Defended for Muslims”
Luis Dizon

“The Resurrection, Two Scholars, and Historical Method”
J. Steve Lee


Ravi Zacharias, Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We Defend by Stephen J. Bedard

Carl R. Trueman, The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Fred G. Zaspel

Tom Wells, The Priority of Jesus Christ by Fred G. Zaspel

Andreas J. Kostenberger and Scott R. Swain, Father, Son and Spirit: The Trinity and John’s Gospel by Fred. G. Zaspel

Paul R. Williamson, Sealed With An Oath: Covenant In God’s Unfolding Purpose by Fred G. Zaspel

Norman L. Geisler, If God, Why Evil? A New Way to Think About the Question by Stephen J. Bedard

Michael Rydelnik, The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? by Fred G. Zaspel

Rob Bell, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Stephen J. Bedard

Daniel C. Dennett and Alvin Plantinga, Science and Religion: Are They Compatible? by Josiah J. Batten

Drew Dyck, Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults Are Leaving the Faith by Jeffrey K. Clarke

Paul Hughes (ed.), Think and Live: Challenging Believers to Think and Thinkers to Believe by Stephen J. Bedard

James Hannam, The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution by David Rodriguez Jr.

Peter Hitchens, The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me To Faith by Ian Clary

Tim Challies, The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion by Michael Plato

William Edgar and K. Scott Oliphint, Christian Apologetics: Past & Present: A Primary Source Reader: Volume 1: To 1500 by Ian Clary

Robert Letham, Through Western Eyes: Eastern Orthodoxy: A Reformed Perspective by Ian Clary

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Filed under apologetics, articles, atheism, books, hope's reason, islam, journals, reviews, science

Until Dead

I am a reluctant supporter of the death penalty. I sympathize strongly with those who are against it, but ultimately I value life enough that the death penalty seems to me an appropriate sentence for someone who has committed first degree murder. While I am not a neo-conservative, I do think that the position taken by Hadley Arkes in his debate against Christopher Hitchens and Jesse Jackson convincing, at least more convincing than the position taken by The Nation‘s defenders.

My reluctance is particularly stoked when I read an essay like George Orwell’s A Hanging, that realistically gets into the mind of one who has witnessed an execution in all its humanity and banality. There is little doubt that his essay is based on a first-hand experience of Orwell’s, hence its psychological clarity. Reading Albert Camus also reminds me of the horror of taking a human life.

Recently there were two executions in the United States, that of Troy Davis in Georgia, who was convicted of murdering a police officer, the second of white supremacist Lawrence Russell Brewer, who viciously dragged James Byrd Jr., behind his vehicle. Byrd, of course, was black and the motivation of the murder was race. Davis, incidentally, was a black man.

The Davis case was quite prominent in the media, my Twitter feed and Facebook was alight with the latest news about whether the courts would give a stay in Davis’ sentence. It seems that there was strong reason to overturn the conviction as a number of witnesses recanted their testimony. Days after his execution, friends of mine who are typically left-leaning, pro-pacifists are still discussing what they see as the lasting and harmful results of what happened.

What I have noticed, strangely, is that no one is talking about Brewer’s death.

I grant that it would be hard to defend the life of a brutal, murdering, white-supremacist. Who wants to do that? He’s a disgusting excuse for a human being. It’s in cases like Brewer’s that a sentence of death is wholly appropriate (in my thinking). But why isn’t there some, even slight outcry against the taking of his life? The arguments of those who are completely against the death penalty would apply to him as to Davis. But there is silence.

Now, I can sympathise with the Davis case because of the cloud of doubt that hung over it. As one said, pro-death penalty folk should be screaming for a stay on the sentence louder than those against it. I agree. But, in turn, shouldn’t the anti-death penalty folk be saying at least something about Brewer? This apparent inconsistency is bothersome to me. I’d love to hear from someone who is against the death penalty to explain this slip of principle. Maybe I am missing something?


Filed under camus, death penalty, ethics, orwell, politics

New City Baptist, New Website

I am a happy member of New City Baptist Church, a church plant in downtown Toronto. We meet in some office space in Atrium on Bay, across from the Eaton Centre at Bay and Dundas. Recently we completely re-did our website with the help of Church Plant Media, and while we’re waiting on a logo, it’s basically done and is now live.

I really dig the picture of the Toronto skyline on the main page. You can also find a bio of John Bell, our pastor, as well as his sermons. The site’s got all the basics, like an events calendar, statement of faith, service times, and location. Let us know what you think!

I recommend Church Plant Media, they have a very easy dashboard, regular support, and a decent price too (especially if you’re young and small like us).

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Filed under church plant media, church planting, churches, john bell, new city baptist, toronto

Innocent Smith’s Modern Proposal

If you haven’t read G. K. Chesterton’s brilliant Manalive you need to stop everything, go out and buy it (if you live in Toronto, Crux Books has it in stock!). You’ll be in for a hilarious, but incredibly insightful read. If you know anything about this book, it is likely the story of the character–in a flashback scene–when he was in university. This character, Innocent Smith, was a philosophy student who sat through a class taught by a professor who declared that there was no meaning in the world (or something to that effect). The not-so-innocent Smith meets this professor in his room one night and produces a pistol with the aim of pushing the limits of this professors philosophy. You must read the scene for yourself to soak in all its brilliance.

As it turns out, screenwriter and theologian Briand Godawa has redone this Chestertonian scene for a modern audience. While it may not have the wit of the great writer, it paints the meaning of a meaningless worldview in crystal clarity. Check out “Cruel Logic” here {HT: Steve Bedard}:


Filed under apologetics, books, brian godawa, chesterton, philosophy, video

The Bible and Diverse Interpretations

Should the matter of diverse interpretation concern evangelicals when they think through the issue of biblical authority? Is it naïve to hold to sola scriptura when evangelicals can’t agree on interpretive decisions on even the most generally agreed upon texts? These are questions that Christians have struggled with since the early days of the church; recently Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith has asked them in The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not A Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture (Brazos, 2011). For Smith, a recent convert to Roman Catholicism, the “biblicism” of evangelicalism is challenged by what he calls “pervasive interpretive pluralism” (PIP). I have not read the book and this post is not intended as a comment on Smith per se. Rather, in response to reviews of it by Robert Gundry, Peter Leithart and Kevin DeYoung, New Testament scholar Scot McKnight has lamented that they have missed the point of Smith’s argument. McKnight questions whether evangelicals believe PIP is a serious enough challenge or if it has been adequately met. He asks: “does not our claim that the Bible is revelation and clear get a massive shock when we examine who (sic) pluralistic our interpretations are? Shouldn’t a clear Bible yield clearer interpretations? Or have we fallen so much for diversity that we don’t even see this as a problem.”

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Filed under bible, books, hermeneutics, sola scriptura

The Path of Contentment by John Bell

John Bell, pastor of New City Baptist Church in downtown Toronto, wrote a great article for the recent issue of Barnabas magazine called “The Path of Contentment” that I recommend. Barnabas is the mouthpiece of the Sovereign Grace Fellowship of Canada.

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Filed under articles, barnabas, john bell, new city baptist, sovereign grace fellowship