The Wonder-Working God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Miracles (Interview with Jared Wilson)

Posted by on Oct 15, 2014 in Interviews | One Comment
The Wonder-Working God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Miracles (Interview with Jared Wilson)

There is never any shortage of fascination with the supernatural. Be it in, or outside of the evangelical world, the miraculous is something we simply can’t ignore. For some it becomes an obsession, while for others it feels safer to pretend it doesn’t exist. For Christians, the subject of miracles is one we should seek to rightly understand, specifically in the context of the Gospels. To this end Jared Wilson has contributed a winsomely and worshipful work which helps us do just that. I was privileged to ask him a few questions about his latest title, The Wonder Working God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Miracles and the all-important subject it explores. After reading this interview, I highly recommend you pick up a copy for yourself and wonder at our Wonder Working God

In what sense is your most recent book, The Wonder Working God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Miracles, a follow up to, The Storytelling God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Parables, published earlier this year, and in what ways do Jesus’s parables and His miracles serve the same purpose?

The books are complementary works in that they cover these two unique features of Jesus’ ministry by examining how they function in the in-breaking of God’s kingdom on earth. Both Jesus’ parables and miracles give us “windows” into the kingdom – snapshots, as it were, of what life under Christ’s Kingship looks like and what ramifications Christ’s work has for mankind. Additionally, both the miracles and the parables serve this unique function of simultaneously revealing and concealing. Depending on the heart of the person hearing or witnessing, the parables may reveal Christ’s glory or be utterly confusing. The miracles may strike someone as a signpost to the spiritual healing of the gospel or they may turn someone against it.

How should we define the word “miracle,” and in doing so do we need two separate definitions, one in relation to the time of Jesus’s earthly ministry, and one for our modern context?

My definition of “miracle” is somewhat counterintuitive, because we tend to think of miracles as a “bending” of the ordinary or a disruption of what’s normal for something supernatural. And of course that is true from the perspective of finite minds in a fallen creation. A miracle is a supernatural act that suspends for the moment the ordinary course of the natural. But the miracles of Christ are, properly understood, actually acts of bending the fallen world back into its original normalcy! The miracles are reminders of the world as it used to be, before sin came and corrupted everything, and of the world as it one day will be, when Christ returns to vanquish sin and death finally and set all things back to rights.

I do think we see more miracles in Jesus’ day, if only because Jesus walking around on earth is quite a special thing. We should expect extraordinary ripples in the Incarnational ministry, and even in the work of the apostles in the explosive dawn of the early church. So while miracles have never been common, they proliferated more in the life of Christ and the early church. And yet I would say the definition for the Christian miraculous today would remain the same. If and when God works what we call miracles today, they are meant to point us away from the miracle and to the glory of Christ.

Wonder Working God CoverWhy is it that miracles in our day are not as common as they appear to be in the New Testament, or is this simply a false perception?

It’s not a false perception. As I said, I think the specialness of Christ’s physical presence, the inauguration of the kingdom, and the launch of the church were all special things in history that should be expected to carry extraordinary signs and the proliferation of them. I think this is why most of the most credible reporting of miracles like we see in the Bible tend to come from the mission field where the gospel is brand new in the midst of unreached people groups.

Is there such thing as counterfeit miracles, and if so how are we to discern between real and fake, authentic versus feigned?

We certainly see in the Bible the working of miracles by ungodly means. Pharaoah’s sorcerers come to mind, as well as some of the pagan exorcists and miracle workers in the New Testament. The miracles themselves were legitimate enough, but they are not works that ought to be trusted because they are done through demonic power and therefore do not point us to Jesus. Even today, we can discern between legitimate miracles and signs sometimes performed in self-proclaimed Christian churches by seeing how much emphasis is put on the miraculous over against the Miracle-worker, how much emphasis is put on material goods or health, how connected the miracles are to the false gospels of prosperity or “word of faith,” and how interested in confession and repentance the miracle-enjoyers seem to be.

Though we only have one recorded instance where unbelief seemingly hindered Jesus’s willingness to perform miracles, what are we to make of this? To what extent does our faith, or lack thereof play a part when it comes to the miraculous?

Our faith plays a huge part, but we have to stay away from mathematical formulas. Sometimes God heals the doubter. This is an act of grace. Sometimes God does not heal the faithful. This is an act of grace too. So we let God set the requirements for how he will work, and we stay away from the idea that we’d see miracles “if only we’d believe.” That is a focus on the miracle rather than the Miracle-worker, and it is a rather common variation of the prosperity gospel that’s infected wider evangelicalism.

C.S. Lewis remarked that we can fall into two errors when it comes to our belief in devils; one being to disbelieve in their existence, and the other being an “excessive and unhealthy interest” in them. It seems the same two errors can be made regarding miracles. What is the danger of falling into either of these errors?

Well, the danger on the skeptical side is failing to take the biblical teaching at face value, but even greater, to assume that God can only work in certain ways. It is, ultimately, an attempt to hem in God’s sovereignty. On the other hand, of course, we see a host of abuses and perversions. And it’s typically these wrongs that push the skeptics further into their trench. We may be in danger of doubting God’s miraculous working today, but many are in perhaps a greater danger of obsessing over them too much, of in fact making an idol out of the idea of the miraculous. And we see in the Scriptures how eternally dangerous it can be to focus on the signs and miss Him who is signified by them.

Whenever Jesus’s miracles are brought up, it seems only a matter of time before the question of “how” arises. People want to know if Jesus preformed miracles as God or man, in his divinity, or his humanity. Some avoid asking this sort of question at all for fear of being irreverent or even blasphemous. Is this a type of question we should be asking, or in doing so are we “missing the forest for the trees?”

I don’t think we can partition Jesus’ dual nature out that way. He was both fully God and fully man. The writers and witnesses of the Gospels can only emphasize certain perspectives, so of course sometimes we see one aspect emphasized over another, but I don’t think this gives us safe ground to begin dissecting or categorizing Jesus’ works and words in this way. There are some clear delineations we can make – for instance, Jesus was killable because he was human, but he also could have prevented his own death through employment of his divinity, and of course God did not die on the cross. But when it comes to the miracles, I don’t think we are blasphemous to follow that train of thought, just sidetracked. Jesus, as the God-Man, performed miracles a man full of the Spirit of God. That may be as much as we can say.

In addition to the Bible Studies you have written and the books you have co-authored, you have published seven books in the last four years, including a novel. Do you see yourself taking a break from writing anytime in the future, or can we expect to see more in the years ahead? Are there any writing projects you have currently in the works we can be looking forward to?

I have always been a writer, even since childhood, so I’m always writing. I don’t think I could foresee a time when I might take a break from writing. Perhaps a break from publishing, but not any time soon. I spent almost ten years trying to get published before my first book, so in a way, I feel as though I’m making up for lost time. And I do see this work as an extension of my ministry and a service to the church.

I have two books coming out next year – a gentle critique of the attractional model of ministry called The Prodigal Church and a unique look at how the coming new heavens and new earth give meaning to everyday life tentatively titled God’s Plan for Everything – both from Crossway. I have also contributed some help to Matt Chandler’s next book, a look at romance, marriage, and sex through the Song of Solomon. And I have a Bible study resource coming out next year as part of a new series called “The Gospel-Shaped Church” from The Good Book Co. and The Gospel Coalition.

Jared C. Wilson is the pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont. His articles and short stories have appeared in a number of periodicals, and he has written the popular books Your Jesus Is Too Safe, Gospel Wakefulness and Gospel Deeps, as well as the curriculum Abide. Wilson lives in Vermont with his wife and two daughters, and blogs regularly at The Gospel Driven Church hosted by the Gospel Coalition.

David Livernois is married to Nicole, the love of his life; they have three amazing children, Riley, Sarai and Abigail, all of which are undeserved miracles pointing to the goodness of our Wonder Working God, Christ Jesus. They live in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina where they are active members of Missio Dei Asheville.


Interview with Matthew Barrett on the Canons of Dort (Part 2)

Posted by on Oct 1, 2014 in Interviews | No Comments
Interview with Matthew Barrett on the Canons of Dort (Part 2)

Over at Books at a Glance, Fred Zaspel has interviewed Matthew Barrett, executive editor of Credo Magazine, on his new book, The Grace of Godliness: An Introduction to Doctrine and Piety in the Canons of Dort. It is a two part interview (and you can read Part 1 here).

9781894400527mHere is the start of Part 2 of the interview:

Books At a Glance:
Let’s talk about Assurance. The Calvinist will say that the Arminian has little room for Assurance, given its focus on the human will and the possibility of falling away. But the Arminian will wonder how the Calvinist can be assured that he is, in fact, numbered among the elect, those for whom Christ died! How would the pastor-theologians of Dort argue that their doctrines foster genuine assurance and not a mere presumption?

Matthew Barrett:
Dort recognizes that there are some Christians who have serious struggles with assurance, questioning whether they are numbered among the elect. This doubt usually creeps in when they are failing to overcome sin. What does Dort prescribe? To begin with, Dort points them to the objective work of Christ. The believer, especially when struggling with sinfulness, is to “flee for refuge to Christ crucified.” It is at the cross that redemption has been accomplished and secured, where forgiveness flows for all eternity.

Dort does not stop there, but turns to the subjective aspect of the Christian life as well. The sinner must mortify the flesh (John Owen must have read Dort!) and put on godliness. In doing so, the Calvinist, unlike the Arminian, is not left without the promise that those whom the Father has called, Christ will indeed keep to the end. God is faithful, mercifully strengthening his children in grace, powerfully preserving them to the end, even through valleys when all seems hopeless. Therefore, there is an assurance that not only comes from unconditional election but divine preservation as well. This assurance, warns Dort, does not derive from “some private revelation beyond or outside the word, but from the faith in the promises of God which he has very plentifully revealed in his word for our comfort, from the testimony of the Holy Spirit testifying with our spirit that we are God’s children and heirs, and finally from a serious and holy pursuit of a clear conscience and of good works.”

It is on the subject of Christian assurance that I believe Dort is at its best. And so I would especially recommend chapter 6 to readers.

Read the rest of this interview at Books at a Glance.


New Interview on the Canons of Dort with Matthew Barrett

Posted by on Sep 30, 2014 in Interviews | One Comment
New Interview on the Canons of Dort with Matthew Barrett

Over at Books at a Glance, Fred Zaspel has interviewed Matthew Barrett, executive editor of Credo Magazine, on his new book, The Grace of Godliness: An Introduction to Doctrine and Piety in the Canons of Dort. It is a two part interview. Tomorrow part 2 will be available.

Here is the start of the interview:

9781894400527mBooks At a Glance:
When I (FGZ) was working on The Theology of B.B. Warfield I was stunned that no one had done the work before me. I felt that way again as I read you’re The Grace of Godliness – how in the world was this book not written before now? Am I right in guessing that you have received encouraging feedback since its release? At any rate, the work was saved for you – congratulations and thanks on filling this gaping hole in historical-theological studies.

Matthew Barrett:
Thanks Fred. The book began as an article and at the outset I assumed there would be a multitude of resources on the subject. To my surprise, not only is there a very limited amount of studies on the Canons of Dort, but few draw the connection between Dort’s emphasis on the doctrines of grace and personal and corporate godliness and piety. As I argue in the book, Dort believed that the doctrines of grace do not undermine incentive to holy living and the pursuit of godliness, but rather these doctrines are actually the engine that drives our sanctification.

Books At a Glance:
First, give us a brief view of the setting of the Synod of Dort. What were the “sides” in dispute? And how did this gathering come about? More specifically, then, how did the synod come to address these specific points of doctrine? How was this agenda set for them? And by the way, maybe it would be helpful for some if you would tell us what a “Canon” is in this sense.

Matthew Barrett:
At the end of the sixteenth-century and beginning of the seventeenth-century what we see is a rising and growing number of Reformed churches. These Reformed churches were greatly influenced by John Calvin and his successor Theodore Beza, and especially the Reformed confessions. This is evident when we look at the Dutch Reformed churches in this time period. However, tension began to form when Jacob Arminius, a former student in Geneva, began to teach certain doctrines that deviated from the Reformed confessions. For example, he argued that God’s electing choice is conditional, based on the faith he foresees within man. He also believed that Christ did not die only for the elect but that his death was for all people without exception. Additionally, God distributes a prevenient grace which mitigates man’s depravity so that he now has the ability to cooperate with or successfully and finally resist divine grace no matter how hard God tries to save him. Naturally, many Reformed theologians believed that these beliefs, among others, deviated from the Reformed faith and, more importantly, were unbiblical. While Arminius died, his views did not, but were picked up by his followers who remonstrated against Reformed doctrine. Hence, they became known as the Arminian Remonstrants. So at the beginning of the seventeenth century Reformed theologians gathered together in order to respond to the Remonstrants. Their synod resulted in what we today call the five points of Calvinism. While the five points of Calvinism today are ordered in the acronym T.U.L.I.P., Dort actually ordered their points differently:

1 – Unconditional Election
2 – Limited (Particular) Atonement
3/4 – Total Depravity and Irresistible (Effectual) Grace (Dort treated these two together, showing how they are indispensable to one another)
5 – Perseverance of the Saints

These points were called canons. And no, not the type of canon you ignite and shoot! These were heads or rules of doctrine.

This all-too-short history is important because many assume that it was the Calvinists who drew up their five points only to have the Arminians respond. Quite the opposite is true, though I would argue that the theology found in the canons of Dort can be seen in the writings of theologians long before the 17th century.

There is far more that could be said, but you have to read the book!

And here is another excerpt from the interview:

Books At a Glance:
Is there a general characterization you can give us regarding the more pastoral concerns reflected in the Canons of Dort? What are some of the leading points of application?

Matthew Barrett:
I did not write the book strictly as a commentary on the Canons of Dort. While I do explain each of the canons, my main purpose is to show how those canons do not serve to undermine Christian piety but actually support evangelical godliness. In other words, the charge that is often leveled against Reformed theology is that the doctrines of grace destroy any incentive to holy living and pursuit of godliness. I argue the exact opposite because I believe the authors of the canons did as well.

So, unconditional election does not result in laxness and sloth in Christian living, but is the fuel that ignites Christian holiness. Similarly, predestination is not meant to result in doubting one’s salvation or, on the other hand, boasting that one is elect, but rather should lead to Christian assurance and humility. Or consider particular atonement. Christ substitutionary death is for his bride, whom he loves in a special, saving way, a way that he does not love the rest of the world. Therefore, the personal nature of substitutionary atonement is cause for personal and corporate worship, magnifying Christ, our Savior and Lord. Total depravity and effectual grace serve to kill pride. The Christian has no room to boast in himself, not even in the slightest. His salvation is not due to anything in him, but solely to the grace of God. The irresistibility of grace, therefore, fosters true humility. When we boast, we boast in the Lord, not in ourselves. Finally, the preservation and perseverance of the saints is an incentive to holy living. The God who saved us will sanctify us and he has given to us the means by which we are to pursue godliness. He will not let Satan snatch us out of his hand but by the power of the Holy Spirit he will keep us so that we persevere to the end, even in the midst of hardship. One might notice that it is in this fifth canon that Dort has the most to say about how God’s sovereign grace relates to Christian piety and godliness.

Read the entire interview over at Books at a Glance.


Reading Job with Christopher Ash (Matthew Claridge)

Reading Job with Christopher Ash (Matthew Claridge)

I can’t think of a better introduction to Christopher Ash’s new commentary, Job: the Wisdom of the Cross, then this promotional video for John Piper’s poetic rendition:

Christopher Ash has put John Piper’s poetry to prose in this wonderful commentary.  I often found myself with a new desire to read and study Job as I worked through Ash’s commentary. This is what the best sort of “literary criticism” accomplishes; it inspires you, moves you, and takes you back to the original text with fresh insight and appreciation. This is even more the case here, as Ash not only takes us back to Job with fresh eyes, but draws our eyes to the Christ seen through Job.

Christopher Ash works for the Proclamation Trust in London as director of the Cornhill Training Course. In addition to serving on the council of Tyndale House in Cambridge, he is the author of several books, including Out of the Storm: Grappling with God in the Book of Job and Teaching Romans. He is married to Carolyn and they have three sons and one daughter.

What are the prosperity and therapeutic gospels, and how does the book of Job address both?

Well, thank you for asking. It seems to me that perhaps the most widespread distortion of the Christian gospel woJob Christopher Ashrldwide is the teaching that if I become a disciple of Jesus, then Jesus will make me rich and healthy. If I am poor, I will become rich; if I have no job, or a poor job, he will give me a better job; if I am single, he will get me a wife or husband; if I am sick, he will make me better. And so on. This is the so-called “prosperity gospel”. When I live in a society where, by and large, we already have riches (by world standards – enough food, clean water, and so on) and health, the prosperity gospel metamorphoses into its cousin, which I call the “therapeutic gospel”. This teaches that, in addition to health and wealth, if I come to Jesus feeling empty, he will fill me; not only will he give me objective good things (money, wife/husband, children etc); he will also give me subjective benefits, lifting my spirits, making me feel better about myself.

Job pulls the rug out from under both these gospel distortions. It sets before us a conspicuously righteous man (Job 1:1,8; 2:3) who suffers prolonged and intense loss and grief, the very opposite of what these gospel distortions would lead us to expect.

 Job could not, you claim, be just any one of us. His suffering and trials are in a class by themselves. What role does Job play in the drama of the human story?

Yes, indeed, it seems to me that Job cannot be “everyman” for several reasons. He is exceptionally righteous (1:1,8; 2:3), exceedingly great and successful (1:3), and his sufferings are intensely deep (1:6-2:10). Far from being a picture of human suffering in general, the book tells the story of a unique man suffering with unmatched intensity. In the big sweep of the bible story it is very natural therefore to see him as foreshadowing Jesus Christ, the one absolutely righteous man on earth, the greatest human being who has lived, and the one whose sufferings were uniquely deep and grievous. Job in his extremity helps us understand Jesus in his uniqueness. Only then may we legitimately see Job as prefiguring our experience in any way, as those indwelt by the Spirit of Jesus and experiencing in our lives some measure of suffering with him (e.g. Rom.8:17; Col.1:24).

 A classic conundrum of Job is the question of his own integrity. As we listen continually to his justifications, we are very tempted to think there must be something wrong or sinful with him. Are we supposed to be quoting to Job Rom. 3:10, “there is none righteous, no not one”?

There is a tension in Job. On the one hand, we are told repeatedly that he is a righteous man. The narrator headlines this (1:1) and God tells us twice (1:8; 2:3) before reinforcing it at the end (42:7). That is to say, Job is a true believer, one who is justified by faith, and who fears and walks with God. But, on the other hand, at the end he does repent of things he has said (42:1-6). So, is Job right or wrong? His three friends accuse him of hidden sins (e.g. 22:5) and they are wrong (42:7). The answer would seem to be two truths. On the one hand, Job’s comforters say that he is suffering because he has sinned and will not repent, and they are wrong. But, on the other hand, Job himself admits that his suffering has caused him to sin in some of the things he says.

Your quotation from Romans 3:10 sheds light on this. It is a quotation from Psalm 14, in which David laments the evil surrounding him and says of these people, “They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good…” and so on. But David himself trusts God and is confident that there are others who trust God (e.g. Ps.14:6 “the Lord is his refuge”). So when he says, “there is none righteous, no not one” he means there is no human being who is by nature righteous before God; but, thank God, there are human beings who are righteous before God by faith! This was true in David’s day and it was true of Job.

 I find this thesis statement throughout your commentary: “the glory of God is more important than your or my comfort.” Why is that and why is it good news?

Yes, I was greatly helped by 1 Peter 1:7 as I grappled with Job. Writing to suffering Christians, Peter says that the “various trials” they are enduring will show the “tested genuineness” of their faith. That is to say, the trials will prove that they really trust God; it is easy to say we trust God when things are going well; it is when blessings are taken away that it is seen whether we really worship God simply because He is God. When we do and our faith is seen to be tested and genuine then, when Jesus returns, there will be “praise and glory and honour” to God. It is good news to know that your and my Christian sufferings have such an exalted purpose; that our sufferings will prove that in our hearts we honour God as God. Only when we suffer can this be publicly and convincingly seen to the watching world.

 Another challenge of this book is what to do with the speeches of Job’s friends. How do you recommend we read these speeches? Any rules of thumb for how Christians can exercise discernment while reading them? Is it ok to ever quote their words as “thus saith the Lord”?

Ah, yes, this is a tricky one. After all, God says these three friends have not “spoken rightly” about God (42:7) and so we would need support from elsewhere in scripture before being confident that any particular thing they say is true. And yet these speeches are part of scripture and ought to benefit us and promote faith in Christ (2 Tim.3:15-17). It is hard to give a short answer and really you need to read my book, in which we walk carefully through each speech! The comforters say many true things – true things about God, true things about justice, true things about sin and judgment. But they are not true of Job. The critical thing they deny is the possibility of unjust suffering, and therefore the flip-side of this, which is the possibility of undeserved blessing, or grace. I have included an introductory chapter about the comforters’ theology, and in the various speeches have suggested what we can learn from them. One of the main things I have learned is to be warned, because it is so easy for our Christian culture to slip into a Job’s comforters culture, and for grace to slip out of the window.

 The book of Job challenges our assumptions that suffering necessarily is the result of sin. But this leaves us in a conundrum, because sometimes it can be. Are we ever allowed or justified to suggest that unrepeated sin might be the immediate source of someone’s suffering?

Yes, Jesus himself suggests this when he warns the man he has healed to “Sin no more, so that nothing worse may happen to you” (John 5:14). But we need to be careful. Job’s comforters accuse him of secret sins for which they have no evidence (for no evidence exists). This is quite different from pastorally pointing out sins for which there is evidence. And yet even here, it is not given to us to know the individual connections between sin and suffering, any more than riches and health is necessarily evidence of moral goodness. We need to exercise great care. Above all, we need to search our own hearts more than we accuse others (Mt.7:3-5).

 The Book of Job famously ends with God actually never explaining to Job why he suffered. Indeed, God’s answer is itself a series of questions. What are we to make of this?

Job has spoken as if he could run God’s world better than God. God’s speeches focus first on the wild parts of the universe, the parts that are clearly outside Job’s control. And then finally on this strange and terrifying monster, serpent, beast called Leviathan (Job 41), who is a vivid storybook way of speaking of the devil or Satan. The central message is that God alone may be trusted to be sovereign even over supernatural forces of evil in the universe. This is a huge claim, that there truly is one Sovereign God who rules the universe and is so great and wise that he can even use supernatural evil as one of his agents in governing the world. The devil is, in Luther’s vivid phrase, “God’s Satan”.

 I really appreciated your commentary on each of the individual speeches in the book. You’re right. Its tempting to preach Job in just four or five sermons with one (maybe) covering all the speeches in the middle. Do you recommend spending more time on the speeches of Job?

Yes, I do! When I first preached Job, I think I took 7 sermons. By the time we came to the end, I wished I had planned for 10. I think it is not difficult to preach 10 sermons on Job without loss of momentum or interest. The advantage is that there is time to soak ourselves in some of the poetry and to have time to feel and engage emotionally as well as intellectually with the speeches. However, I am not recommending 42 sermons on Job, one for each chapter; that way, many people will never get to listen to Romans, John’s Gospel, or Isaiah!

 Matthew Claridge is an editor for Credo Magazine and is Senior Pastor of Mt. Idaho Baptist Church in Grangeville, ID. He has earned degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Cassandra and has three children.


Show Them Jesus: An Interview with Jack Klumpenhower (part 2)

Posted by on Jul 18, 2014 in Interviews | No Comments
Show Them Jesus: An Interview with Jack Klumpenhower (part 2)

We are glad to be back with the second half of our two part  interview with Jack Klumpenhower, author of Show Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids. Today he answers a few more questions for us, and reminds us of the great privilege we have in being entrusted with the gospel.

show_them_jesus_thumbnail__26699.1404693685.451.416Though definitely not the norm, with the ever increasing abundance of gospel-centered books and curriculum geared towards teaching kids to see Jesus in all of scripture, why is it not enough to simply read/teach from these resources verbatim as if from a script? Doesn’t this approach ensure the message won’t be obscured?

Discipleship is personal. Good material can help greatly, and I certainly recommend that teachers make use of lessons that help them teach the gospel. But in the end, the old maxim that students learn more from what we do than from what we say is true. Students also tend to remember those things their teacher is most excited about, and teachers get excited about truths they’ve studied and discovered for themselves. For these reasons, it’s at least as important to have gospel-saturated teachers as it is to have gospel-centered curricula.

You’ve included many practical helps for parents to implement at home in teaching their children the gospel, some of which are variations of the same tools you give that can be utilized in the classroom. It seems however that there can often be a disconnect between what kids are being taught at church in their youth classes, and what parents are (or are not) reinforcing at home. In chapter eight you layout a helpful framework for having good-news discussions that can help serve to bridge this gap. What other suggestions would you offer both parents and youth workers towards this end?

The gap exists because both parents and teachers easily get lazy, so that parents don’t bother to find out what’s happening in class and teachers don’t take the time to tell parents. It happens to me all the time, and the best solution I know is to make a habit of regular communication. When I teach I need to distribute lesson summaries to parents every week, even if most parents seem uninterested. As a parent I must ask about class even if the teacher seems too busy to be bothered.

Habitual communication not only builds relationships and keeps parents informed, it also encourages teachers to do their jobs well. I take more care with my lessons when I know I’m going to give a summary to parents.

Another good practice is to make classrooms and youth groups places where parents are encouraged to visit anytime. If it works with a church’s child protection policies, that kind of open classroom goes a long way to creating the feel of a group effort. Holding whole-family classes where parents are not just invited but expected to attend with their kids helps as well, as does bringing parents in on a rotating basis to help lead prayer time or contribute to class in some other way.

You write, “One test of any kids-ministry gimmick is to ask what we’d think if adult ministries used the same technique.” What do you mean by this statement? Shouldn’t we contextualize the gospel differently for adults and youth in a way that is age-appropriate?

I do many things differently when I teach kids rather than adults. I use age-appropriate language and concepts. I teach shorter lessons with more repetition. I’m careful to incorporate a variety of learning styles (visual, auditory, hands-on). I also use examples that fit kids’ lives. This is effective teaching that keeps the students in mind.

Gimmicks are different. A gimmick is something contrived to get kids involved for reasons that have little do with Christ: memorize verses to win a toy; bring a friend to earn a candy bar; come to Sunday school because we have a cool space station theme; attend youth group because the music absolutely rocks.

We must be careful with gimmicks. The subtle message in many gimmicks is that the toy, candy bar, space station, music, or whatnot is better and more interesting than Jesus. If Jesus were better, wouldn’t he be our motivation? And if you think about it, if someone suggested offering prizes to adults who brought friends to church we’d probably object that doing so not only is childish but also violates the spirit of why we ought to invite people. That Christ-first spirit is violated when we use the technique with kids, too.

That said, I’m all for having fun. Christians should be joyful people, so there’s nothing inherently wrong with fun activities or great music or little celebrations of achievement. We just need to include such things carefully so that Jesus remains our focus and our chief attraction.

In teaching children and in the context of youth ministry, why do you think there is a common tendency to want to teach a safe, sanitized version of the Bible, and not the scandalous message of redemption as narrated through the scriptures? Along those same lines; just as in your book you described teaching the story of Achan from the book of Joshua, how we can teach the “scary” parts of scripture to kids as opposed to skipping over them in the name of “playing it safe”?

I find that many teachers are uncomfortable talking about sin and the cross. I know I used to be. Even though I believed the cross was central to Christian faith and I had no theological problem with it, it felt weird to talk about it much—like venturing into somber territory that always increased the stress level in class.

Beyond that, practicing faith in the God who saves can feel uncomfortable too. Healthy faith begins with tons of prayer. It’s accompanied by things like confession of sin and accountability in repentance. None of this comes naturally to proud, self-sufficient people like us. So this too makes it more comfortable to skirt the gospel when teaching Bible lessons.

However, when we dare to embrace the gospel it actually ends up bringing great comfort. It allows both students and teachers to stop hiding behind appearances and instead rest openly in Christ. Once we get over the initial hump and start talking about the gospel regularly, it starts to feel more natural and becomes a delight rather than a source of unease. Studying Jesus in depth also helps. Jesus spoke directly and challengingly about the issues that feel uncomfortable to us, yet he also has compassion for struggling sinners. Getting to know him gives us the courage to talk about deep things too; sin, atonement, repentance, God as Father, death and eternal life—all the grand themes of the gospel.

As for Bible passages that are disturbing due to violence, it’s fine to shield the youngest kids from a few things they aren’t ready for yet. But in general, it’s good for kids to see that God is at work even in the most horrific and appalling events of life. The gospel comes to us in the context of such sin and misery, and there it gives us hope and life. We can’t sanitize the Bible without also reducing our wonder at the gospel.

Jack Klumpenhower, author of the new book, Show Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids, is a Bible teacher and a children’s ministry curriculum writer with more than thirty years of experience. He has created Bible lessons and taught children about Jesus at churches, camps, clubs, conferences, and Christian schools all over the world, including Serge conferences. He is currently working on his next publication, a middle-school gospel discipleship curriculum titled What’s Up? Discovering the Gospel, Jesus, and Who You Really Are. He lives with his wife and two children in Durango, Colorado. Check out for more of Jack’s writing as well as resources from his latest book.

David Livernois is married to Nicole, the love of his life, and they have three amazing children, Riley, Sarai and Abigail. They live in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina where they are active members of Missio Dei Asheville.


Show Them Jesus: An Interview with Jack Klumpenhower (part 1)

Posted by on Jul 17, 2014 in Interviews | No Comments
Show Them Jesus: An Interview with Jack Klumpenhower (part 1)

 As the subtitle suggests, Jack Klumpenhower’s new book, Show Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids, is about teaching the gospel to kids. Much more than a “how-to” however, this book not only delivers what it promises, but far exceeds it; one cannot read it and not see the immense beauty of the gospel explicitly woven throughout every chapter, making it an excellent read for anyone, not just parents and teachers. In a word, this book not only shows us how to show kids Jesus, it shows us Jesus.

With that said, we are pleased to welcome Jack Klumpenhower here for the first time on Credo, as recently we had the privilege of him answering a few questions for us based on his new book and more than thirty years of experience as a Bible teacher.

show_them_jesus_thumbnail__26699.1404693685.451.416At one point in your book you mention that we essentially have two options when presenting the gospel: either offend people with the gospel, or offend the gospel itself. What exactly do you mean by this?

The gospel is such a grand display of justice and mercy that it tends to offend the sensibilities of sin-damaged people like ourselves. Some people are bothered by the justice side of the gospel; they think it’s barbaric to believe that atonement for sin required the death of God’s Son. Others are bothered by mercy; they secretly like comparing themselves to others, and talk of absolutely free grace sounds dangerously permissive to them. Still others bristle at the suggestion that a God of such justice and mercy has the right to require them to repent daily and live exclusively for him.

Because of this, we can expect that a no-holds-barred explanation of the gospel will often bother some people—even in church! They will suggest we tone it down. They will ask us to back off a bit on one point or another to make it all sound more palatable.

If we do this, though, we are bound to make God sound less holy, or less loving, or less sovereign than he actually is. We will also make the saving work Jesus accomplished sound less necessary, less complete, or less transforming than it is. If you think about it, you’ll see that this is offensive to Christ and to the gospel.

This doesn’t mean we ourselves should be offensive. We must be humble people. But if our gospel teaching never causes anyone to complain that we’re too radical about either justice or mercy, we have to wonder if we’ve been too timid.

In chapter two you reference what has become known as “moralistic therapeutic deism” and then allude to this in several other chapters as well. For those of us who may be unfamiliar with this term, can you explain what this phenomenon is, and what can be done to combat and correct it?

The term “moralistic therapeutic deism” comes from a study of American teenagers. The study found that our teens, even many of those in church, really aren’t Christians as the Bible defines this. Instead of faith in Jesus Christ as the Prophet, Priest, and King who’s their ever-present Savior, they have a vague sense of a largely detached God (deism) who wants them to be basically good (moralism) and can be used to help cope with life’s occasional struggles (therapy).

The scary thing is that if this is what young people believe, they learned it from us. They got it from watered-down teaching that avoided talk about sin or atonement or salvation, sidestepped the cross and empty tomb, and was content to tell kids to behave and to go to church and pray if they want to feel better. Moralistic therapeutic deism isn’t so much an alternative religion. Rather, it’s what Christians are naturally left with when they downplay the gospel.

The antidote is simple: teach the gospel. Be relentless about showing kids Jesus—both the wondrous person he is and his work to save us from sin. Most teaching in most American churches, even those that affirm sin and salvation in Christ alone, barely touches on the full richness of the gospel. I talk to teenagers who’ve spent their whole lives in evangelical churches but can only think of two or three benefits of faith in Jesus. They have trouble describing his character too, and have virtually no personal engagement with him through private prayer. No one has taught them.

In your introduction you touch on the fact that in many churches there never seem to be enough volunteers to work with children’s programs. Tell us more about why the “it’s easy, anyone can teach kids” recruitment approach for volunteers is more harmful than helpful, and the disservice we do to our youth and our churches at large by going about finding teachers this way. Based off experience, can you offer a suggestion or two on how a church might gain volunteers in a healthy manner?

It’s easy to take an approach that says, “This person is really good with kids, so let’s recruit her to teach Sunday school.” Now, it does help for a teacher to be comfortable around kids. But an even better approach is to think, “This person loves Jesus and spends time in prayer and really knows the Bible, so let’s train her to work with kids.” Good programs use volunteers with many different skills, but having several who fit that second description makes a huge difference.

Faith matters more than ministry skills. Our children and youth are the most impressionable, ready-to-learn people in the church. They need our most faith-filled teachers. Many of those kids will decide by the time they finish high school whether or not to follow Jesus for the rest of their lives, and those who quit often say it’s because they found no spiritual depth in the church. We need to make sure that before they get to that point they’ve had a chance to learn from the godliest men and women we can find.

Such people can be hard to recruit. They want to know that the work is meaningful and spiritual. If you pitch the job as an easy one anybody could handle, you’ll be devaluing teachers and you’ll make them uninterested.

When I’ve been involved in recruitment I’ve preferred to personally approach people I know are mature believers rather than making announcements to the whole church asking for volunteers. I get better teachers that way and they feel more called to a spiritual task. If they’re uncomfortable with kids, I let them assist an experienced teacher first. They can learn how to teach. That is fairly easy compared to learning to walk with Jesus.

I also like to get a few elders (or whatever church leaders are in charge of the overall spiritual shepherding) involved in Sunday school recruitment. The people who’ll be best at shepherding our children often respond well when the church’s spiritual leaders challenge them to take on that task.

Let’s say you have two kids in your weekly children’s class, one comes on a regular basis and has even made a credible profession of faith, the other comes every now and then and demonstrates little if any evidence they are saved. You indicate that your approach to teaching both these students would be largely the same. How come?

Unbelievers need to repent and turn to God in faith, so they need to hear the gospel and be challenged to believe it. Believers grow by continuing to repent and practice faith in God, so they too need to hear the gospel and be challenged to believe it more fully. Unbelief is at the root of all sin (for example, a greedy kid is not believing that Christ is all he needs), so continuing to believe the gospel is a key part of fighting sin and growing as a Christian.

Both kinds of kids also need to get to know Jesus. Jesus said the way to see the Father is to know him, so one chief aim of any Bible lesson should be to see more of the person and work of Jesus. Unbelievers need this in order to have good reasons to put their faith in Jesus for the first time, and believers need this in order to love him more and have good reasons to keep trusting him.

For these reasons, I show all kids Jesus. I teach all kids the gospel and urge them to believe it. I might take a somewhat different approach to God’s commands if I’m reasonably sure I’m dealing with an unbeliever rather than a believer, but most of the rest of my teaching will be essentially the same. One benefit of this is that I don’t have to try to figure out which kids are true Christians and which aren’t; I just teach the gospel.

…come back tomorrow for part 2 of this interview!

Jack Klumpenhower, author of the new book, Show Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids, is a Bible teacher and a children’s ministry curriculum writer with more than thirty years of experience. He has created Bible lessons and taught children about Jesus at churches, camps, clubs, conferences, and Christian schools all over the world, including Serge conferences. He is currently working on his next publication, a middle-school gospel discipleship curriculum titled What’s Up? Discovering the Gospel, Jesus, and Who You Really Are. He lives with his wife and two children in Durango, Colorado. Check out for more of Jack’s writing as well as resources from his latest book.

David Livernois is married to Nicole, the love of his life, and they have three amazing children, Riley, Sarai and Abigail. They live in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina where they are active members of Missio Dei Asheville.


Recovering Eden: An Interview with Zack Eswine (Matt Claridge)

Recovering Eden: An Interview with Zack Eswine (Matt Claridge)

In the church traditions I grew up in, a popular favorite was the “Gospel Song” Victory in Jesus. It still makes me cringe. The theology of the song is actually not terribly bad; it’s even a bit Calvinistic–”he sought me and bo’t me with his redeeming blood; He loved me ere I knew Him, and all my love is due Him.” And there’s nothing inherently wrong with celebrating the victory we do have in Christ over sin’s power to condemn us. Nonetheless, it is the poster-child anthem of triumphalistic Christianity. One reason for this, I believe, is the wedding of a lamely peppy tune with a spiritual conteRecovering Edenxt that subtly shifts the focus of the song from “His” victory to “My” victory. The song makes you feel good about yourself for all the wrong reasons. In that sense, the effect comes out Arminian in the end. The “I, I, I” peppered throughout the song becomes all consuming.

But my uncomfortableness with this song pales in comparison to the jarring and subversive intent of the book of Ecclesiastes. It’s subversive because it too is peppered throughout with “I, I, I,” but for an entirely different reason and with a totally different effect. It’s jarring because it cynically regards “victory” as an impossible outcome for anyone living under the sun. I loathe Victory in Jesus, but I’m scarred of Ecclesiastes. Its easy to poke holes in Christian triumphalism, but its difficult to find hope when we honestly face the brutalities and vanities of life. Ecclesiastes is a corrosive that is capable of not only undermining our American consumer paradise, but also vaporizing the shreds of Christian joy we maintain in this mad, mad, world. Enter Zack Eswine and his commentary Recovering Eden: The Gospel According to Ecclesiastes. In his hands, this dangerous acid of a book is handled with appropriate care and applied with appropriate force. In his hands, it becomes a gospel summons, not a gospel embarrassment. In this book, we find the appropriate place where we all ought to stand and live as fragile creatures under the fathomless Sun of Righteousness.

Were you assigned the task of commenting on Ecclesiastes or did you ask for it? If the latter, why?

I asked for it. Imagine the shock if your pastor stood in the pulpit this coming Sunday, opened his Bible and shouted, “Everything in life that you care about is nothing! It’s all meaningless! In fact” he continues, “I hate life. I hate it because of the grief we all experience in it. I’m bone tired of it! It seems like God has just given us all busy work. Seems like he just wants to frustrate us and he won’t even tell us plainly what we are supposed to make of it all. I tell you this morning that it would be better if none of us had been born than to have to go through this.”

At this point, some of us as Christians would be very concerned about our pastor’s state of mind or salvation. We would have very little patience to sit through this kind of human experience and might seek immediately to squelch it or to get immediately to the offer of the good news in Jesus. But the fact that God has inspired and given us such a preacher with such language, with no haste to get to the good news, is intentional and it instructs us about God. God has provided with this book a needed gift of grace for our neighbors who are unfamiliar with the Bible and disinterested or suspicious of Christian life.

What I mean is that a Christian who listens to that opening by the pastor might react with concern. But many neighbors who do not follow Jesus would respond with pleasant surprise. Their inmost feelings are given a hearing on the lips of the preacher. It is as if the preacher has read their hearts. The spokesperson for God seems to know their innermost and unvarnished sentiments. What’s more as the preacher shares his heart they see themselves in him. Never has a “god-talker” sounded so true, so honest, so knowledgeable, so relevant.

Ecclesiastes provides a needed primer for listening and talking humanly with our neighbors. These neighbors may have very little familiarity with the Bible but what they are familiar with is suspicion and caution regarding “church” and “religion.” They’ve been hurt by “god-talkers” or they know people who have. Or the “god-talk” they hear seems trite and irrelevant in comparison to the raw and real circumstances of their lives and in our world. The preacher in Ecclesiastes speaks to us, not as a churchy evangelist but as a human being who looks at the world, not as it is supposed to be, but as it is. His fear of God does not lead him to pretend away his questions or his pains and frustrations. His way of relating to the world is anything but trite.

I asked to comment on this particular book because I want to learn from God how to live this humanly as a preacher, how to hear my neighbor’s heart and my own this honestly, and how from there to point to the provision, character, redemption, wisdom and grace of God for the hope our hearts long for. Ecclesiastes is God’s primer for this kind of life and evangelism.

 What does the title of your book, Recovering Eden, say about your approach and interpretation of Ecclesiastes?

As the preacher gives voice to the empty pursuits, injustices, and complaints of our earthly lives, he cycles back to repeat a conclusive theme over and over again. “There is nothing better” he repeats, then to enjoy the lot in this life that you’ve been given. The work you’ve been given, the food and drink that you have, the people with whom you share these good things with, the wife you love, this is a gift from God for your joy.

It is like the preacher in Ecclesiastes has been away from home for a long time. He comes back and everything has changed and this for the worst. His fond memories of the goodness that once was are shattered by the painful realities of what now is. This disorientation rouses his lament. But he keeps coming back toward the dream of what once was and he asserts that as the way that we take our stand now against the tide of emptiness and violence. No matter what happens during the seasons of this life, God’s good gifts of a place to be, a thing to do in that place, and a people to share it with, remains.

To me, this sounds like a lament for the Eden that was lost, and an assertion that what God gave us then, remains true for us today. Even though everything is meaningless and broken, we still can taste the goodness of His gifts to us. We can derive the joy He intends with food, family, work, and place. We do so as a feisty witness to something good that once was and that will one day find its restoration again.

 I think I can say that one of the major themes you discover in Ecclesiastes is appreciating our “humanness.” This theme is also present in your book Sensing Jesus. What’s the significance of this idea in Ecclesiastes and your view of the Christian life?

In my book, Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being, I meditate on our temptation to fix-everything, know everything and be everywhere at once. We are applauded for such attempts, particularly as those who lead others, and yet, only God can fix everything (omnipotent), know everything (omniscient) and be everywhere at once (omnipresent). For example, we needn’t repent that we don’t know everything. We were never meant to know everything. Instead, we need to repent for trying to know everything, for trying to fix everything and for trying to resist the fact that we can only be one place at one time (even our use of social media cannot reverse the fact that we sit in one particular chair in one particular place in the world when we push “send.”) To embrace these noble limits is to glorify God by powerfully surrendering to our creatureliness, our being human and not divine. In this, the joy and sense of home that God intends for us is found and experienced through Jesus. I flesh out the implications for this for our daily life in ministry and the world. In short, I read my Bible with reading glasses. I pray with coffee breath. Even if spiritual awakening should break out in my town, I’d still have to take a bathroom break.

So, in Ecclesiastes, this preacher is a King. More than that, he wears the mantel of Son of David. More than that he professes to have had access to wisdom unlike any other of his time. And yet, Ecclesiastes is written in the first person. It comes to us as a testimony from a preacher who is a man, a human being, who shares his heart with us. It is almost like reading someone’s unedited journal. Not only does he shed his position and power in order to speak to us, he also commends that we discern God’s presence in our daily lot, and in our lot to enjoy the ordinary gifts of human life. The great answer to life under the sun is to live humanly in the fear of God as were meant to from the beginning. We do so in hope of the one greater than Solomon who has come, Jesus our wisdom.

With that in mind, we are tempted to believe that we should respond to the swirling worldviews, injustices, misguided uses of peoples and things by doing something large, famous and right now. But the preacher seems to say otherwise. Our great hope is found in recovering the ordinary, small, often overlooked gifts of God for human flourishing. By tending to our lot throughout the ebb and flow of delightful and disconcerting seasons, we continue to pursue what it means that we are human and that God is God, no matter what the cultural weather forecasts for us today.

By trying to engage the world as if we are not human and as if our ordinary lot isn’t God’s gain for us, we repeat Adam and Eve’s forfeiture over and again by trying over and again to be like God and do what only God can do. Ecclesiastes sets these truths in front of us boldly and plainly.

 One could almost imagine a noble pagan being responsible for Ecclesiastes. His Carpe Diem mentality seems more at home in the jaded Greco-Roman world than a Judeo-Christian one. How do we redeem or integrate this focus with the rest of the Bible?

That is a good question. Perhaps we can begin an answer in this way. Because this book was written by Solomon himself or in Solomon’s name, we are already encountering a kind of message that stands squarely in the Judeo-Christian tradition. First, Solomon made tragic errors in his life. Ecclesiastes offers an implicit rebuke or corrective for these errors. Second, the King doesn’t talk like a King but like a man who is human, searching, and full of questions. On both counts, this is rare in the history of the world. Most Kings re-write their histories. Ancient nations hide the faults of their rulers and accentuate their conquests. But the Old Testament constantly reveals a storyline in which the faults of its kings and heroes are on full display so that we are left ultimately to look off of them and onto God our true hero and king. The carpe-diem sentiment, if it is there, comes to us clothed in confession, corrective and humility. Thirdly, the day or the moment that we seize is explicitly God given and saturated. There are things we are not meant to seize—they will not provide the gain or freedom we thought they would. Rather, our hope will only come as we entrust ourselves to the lot, the gifts, and the wisdom that God has given to us within the seasons of purpose that God works for us. In essence, what we are to seize moment by moment is God himself—we detect his presence and provision moment by moment, believing by faith, that He, and not the swirling miseries under this sun, will have the last word. Finally, we integrate Ecclesiastes by recognizing its place in redemptive history. What I mean is that it comes to us after the promise of a coming messiah has been made and before that messiah arrives. It therefore points us forward, as I hinted at earlier, to the one greater than Solomon who will come.

 I personally think Ecclesiastes might be the hardest book of the Bible to preach. How would you recommend it be broken up into preaching portions?

I agree that it can challenge us and our congregations to preach through Ecclesiastes. Mainly, because as American Christians we are by and large unaccustomed to the wisdom literature of the Bible. So, the first time one preaches through this book, it might serve the congregation well, to survey the themes rather than plow through verse by verse. The chapter titles in my book offer a guide to what these over arching themes are. Then, come back to the book more fully later on in the life of the congregation. Or, if you pursue chapter-by-chapter or verse by verse, you might need to start with the end. That is, go ahead and alert the hearer to chapter 12 and to what the point of the book is by spending time on this as an opening sermon for the series. Then frame each subsequent sermon with this reminder of the point. In other words, with a pastoral mindfulness of how different and uncomfortable this book can be, approach the sermon series in a more deductive fashion even though the book itself is inductive in nature.  If you preach in a setting that is not predominately made up of Christian hearers, it is probable that you can simply walk through the angst chapter by chapter building to the main point at the end, because oftentimes such hearers have more patience with less tidiness. What they hear will likely refresh and compel them to want to learn more about the God who can talk like this.

 What are some good books to be reading alongside your commentary?

My writing style leans poetic. For a reader less accustomed to this kind of writing, a good commentary such as Philip Ryken’s or Derek Kidner’s will serve as a helpful verse by verse companion.

 Matthew Claridge is an editor for Credo Magazine and is Senior Pastor of Mt. Idaho Baptist Church in Grangeville, ID. He has earned degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Cassandra and has three children.


Of God and Slot Machines: An Interview with Vern Poythress

Posted by on Jun 10, 2014 in Interviews, Matthew Claridge, Philosophy, Videos | No Comments
Of God and Slot Machines: An Interview with Vern Poythress

Vern Poythress has published a new book entitled, Chance and the Sovereignty of God: A God-Centered Approach to Probability and Random Events. Poythress is Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary, as well as the Editor of the Westminster Theological Journal. He earned a B.S. in mathematics from California Institute of Technology (1966) and a Ph.D. in mathematics from Harvard University (1970). After teaching mathematics for a year at Fresno State College (now California State University at Fresno), he became a student at Westminster Theological Seminary, where he earned an M.Div. (1974) and a Th.M. in apologetics (1974). He received an M.Litt. in New Testament from University of Cambridge (1977) and a Th.D. in New Testament from the University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa (1981). He has been teaching in New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia since 1976. In 1981 he was ordained as a teaching elder in the Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod, which has now merged with the Presbyterian Church in America. He is the author of numerous books, which you can read about here.

I recently had the pleasure of talking to Poythress about his new book on chance and divine sovereignty.

Honestly speaking, I was a bit surprised by the topic of your book. What can really be said about chance if one firmly believes in the sovereignty of God?

God has created a world in which we experience surprises, both big and small. God knows the future in every detail, so there are no surprises for him. But he has designed the world and providentially governs it so that there are many surprises for us. TChance and the Sovereignty of Godhese surprises can be called “chance.” For example, we may say that we met an old friend “by chance.”

Now we must be careful. The word chance can be used in more than one way. Some people use the word to describe events that they claim are outside God’s control. This claim is not true. The Bible indicates that God controls even the details in this world (Prov. 16:33; Lam. 3:37; Matt. 10:29-30). But the word chance can also be used in an innocent way to describe events that we human beings cannot predict and events for which we do not understand all the causes. (“Time and chance happen to them all,” Eccles. 9:11 ESV.)  “Chance” events are unaccountable only from a human point of view. So we might say that there is no chance from a divine point of view.

But it is also important to observe that God designed us in such a way that we experience “chance”–we experience surprises. Our experience of chance is not an illusion, and we should not see it as an “unfortunate” limitation. Rather, it is fortunate; it is a blessing from God. We have just the kind of experience of unpredictability that God designed us to have. In addition, God understands completely every human point of view and all the effects that our limited human knowledge brings with it.

Chance events are important in revealing the very character of God to us. For one thing, they remind us again and again that God’s knowledge is greater than ours. Properly understood, they encourage us to trust in God and not in ourselves. God controls the events, but they are outside our control and outside our ability to predict.

Chance events also exhibit in a powerful way God’s creativity. God did not need to create the world. From everlasting to everlasting he is God, even without the existence of the world. He did not need the world. And, having decided to create the world, he had many choices about just what kind of a world he would create. The same goes for his providential governance of the world, now that he has created it. God decides that weather, plants, animals, and human history develop in one way and not another. His decisions are creative and often surprising. All these creative decisions remind us that he is the original creator, which every instance of human creativity imitates.

In this way, chance is a wonderful thing. Chance events display the glory of God and his character.

Is “chance” an indispensable tool for the scientific enterprise?

Many areas of science focus primarily on the regularities concerning how God governs the world. But chance also plays an indispensable role in experimental science. Experimental science depends on repeated experiments. And repeated experiments never come out exactly the same. There are small “chance” variations in the measurements. Many experimental scientists use sophisticated tools from the theory of probability and statistics in their analyses of these variations. So we can say that chance plays an integral role. All of science is influenced by experiments, and experiments always depend on a conception of the meaning of chance variations. Science depends on God, who governs the chance variations in a dependable way.

I think this topic can hit a spiritual nerve because, if we are honest, most things in our life appear to happen completely at random. Prayer may seem just as chancy as a roulette machine: we pray and sometimes results appear and just as often they don’t. Life doesn’t appear to be like a sit-com where serendipitous events happen with uncanny frequency. Are we just interpreting life with purpose when there is none?

Underlying people’s uneasiness about the meaning of life is the question of God. Does God exist? And if he does, what kind of God is he? Here is one place where the Bible has an important role to play. God gave us the Bible as the very word of God, and it introduces us to Jesus Christ, who is the one whom God the Father sent in order to restore us to a personal relationship to God and gives us a knowledge of God. When we come to know God and trust in him, we gain confidence about the way he is governing the world.

Many people are trying to get answers for themselves, all by themselves, without admitting that they need God. They need God himself even to provide solid answers about God. But once we humble ourselves to admit that we need God’s instructions, and when we come to God through Christ, we get more and more answers.

There are still many events that happen in surprising and unaccountable ways. The Book of Job and the Book of Ecclesiastes in their own ways tell us that we cannot master life or find out all the purposes. But if we know God, we know that he has purposes, even when those purposes are beyond our understanding. “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). God calls us to trust his promises, even when we cannot see what are his purposes.

Would you mind responding to this video?


Dr. Tyson has a lot to say in two and a half minutes, and it is difficult to respond to all of it in a few paragraphs. I can only touch on a few points.

Dr. Tyson argues that the universe does not have purpose. He appeals mostly to scientific information and scientific theories. In fact, scientific laws testify to God who ordained them (see Vern Poythress, Redeeming Science). So science itself shows divine purpose from one end to the other. Dr. Tyson’s reliance on science is actually a nonstarter if he wants to show the opposite—that there is no purpose.

A good deal of the video amounts to citing the big spans of time involved, compared to human life times, and the huge number of living things involved, in comparison with humanity as a single species. To Dr. Tyson, all this seems “inefficient.” And the presence of natural disasters suggests to Tyson that the universe is not friendly to us. In the end, Dr. Tyson is revealing to us his personal preference: if he were God, he certainly would not have done it this way.

Dr. Tyson criticizes those who in “hubris” think that humanity has a central role in the universe. And indeed it would be hubris to project human guesses out into the world without divine revelation. The decisive question that Dr. Tyson travels by too rapidly is whether there is such revelation, both in the world that God made and in the Scripture that he has provided as his word. It is not hubris, but wisdom, to listen to God. Ironically, Dr. Tyson is doing something similar to what he criticizes: he is projecting into the world his human guesses about how a god should have done things. It is hubris to imagine, as Dr. Tyson does, that one’s personal preferences for how God ought to do things constitute a weighty argument.

I suppose that I am being asked about this particular video because near the end Dr. Tyson makes a statement that depends on probability: he writes “99.9999%” on a whiteboard. The context suggests that he is 99.9999% certain that the universe does not have a purpose. The irony is that his statement relies on God. God’s purposes establish the very meaning of 99.9999%. Without God’s purpose, there is no meaning in language, and there is likewise no meaning to probability. The very conception of probability depends on the complex interplay of regularity and unpredictability, both of which are established by God in his faithfulness and creativity. I discuss this issue at greater length in the chapter of my book entitled, “Is God Probable?” The answer is that God is not “probable”: he provides the very foundation through which probability exists.

So far, I have focused on the more theological or spiritual dimensions of your book. Do you feel you are also making a contribution in your book to the academic study of probability?

Yes. Parts III and IV of the book discuss the nature of probability. There are two main challenges here. One is to understand what probability is. Philosophers have given multiple explanations, but only a Christian approach provides a satisfactory answer. The second challenge is to understand how God reveals his character, wisdom, and majesty right in the midst of the academic study of probability. I attempt to show people how God’s eternal power and deity are displayed in probability, just as they are displayed “in the things that have been made” (Rom. 1:19-20).

Could you explain the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, what it demonstrates, and how we should evaluate it through a Christian framework?

Within quantum mechanics, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle is a principle originally formulated by Werner Heisenberg in 1927. It has an exact mathematical formulation, but the details are not essential at this point. Roughly speaking, it says that you cannot simultaneously obtain precise information about the location and the velocity of a particle of small mass. The more precise the information about the location, the more uncertain must be the estimate of velocity—and vice versa. The smaller the mass of the particle, the more pronounced becomes the difficulty. This uncertainty seems to be an intrinsic limitation, rather than a temporary limitation imposed by the current physical apparatus used for measurement.

This principle has become an important discussion point because, if it expresses an intrinsic feature of physical reality, it spells an end to physical determinism. The behavior of a single small particle cannot be perfectly predicted, even in principle.

This principle also sometimes comes up in discussions about God. Some people think that even God is limited and cannot make perfect predictions. But such an inference fails to distinguish between God and man. The Heisenberg uncertainty principle is a principle ordained by God, who specifies the very nature of the world. The principle specifies limitations in human measurements. It does not imply that God is limited. In fact, the uncertainty principle is a vivid illustration of the supremacy of God in his knowledge and control, in contrast to the limitations in human knowledge and control. In other words, it reveals the glory of God.

 Matthew Claridge is an editor for Credo Magazine and is Senior Pastor of Mt. Idaho Baptist Church in Grangeville, ID. He has earned degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Cassandra and has three children.


An Interview on Sex and Violence … in the Bible (Matthew Claridge)

An Interview on Sex and Violence … in the Bible (Matthew Claridge)

Who says the Bible is prudish? Who says the Bible is tame? Not the author of the recently published Sex and Violence in the Bible: A Survey of Explicit Content in the Holy Book. Here to scintillate and educate us on the Holy Book’s seedier side is Joseph W. Smith III, a teacher of English at Loyalsock High School, Williamsport, Pennsylvania. He formerly worked for sixteen years as a film critic for the Williamsport Sun-Gazette. Its a pleasure to have Mr. Smith featured here on Credo to fill us in on the juicy details.

Tell us a little bit about how you were drawn to the subject matter of this book and what reader expectations should be for it?

Nearly everyone can recall reading some explicit Bible passage and thinking, “Whoa — does it really say THAT?”  In many cases, the answer is YES — and I wanted to confirm this, because those are the very passages we seldom hear about in sermons and Sunday school.  I don’t know — have you ever heard a sermon on Onan in Genesis 38 or Eglon’s grisly murder in Judges 3?  I don’t think I have — despite a lifetime of regular church attendance!  So … I wanted to tackle these passages that we rarely study, and understand what they really say — and how they say it.  That is, I wanted to use the Bible as a sort of “aesthetic guideline” to help Christians understand “how much is too much” — that is, to see where the writers of Scripture draw the line with graphic content.  What I found was that they are indeed sometimes quite blunt — but not too often; it’s a very small percentage compared, for example, to a Stephen King novel or a Tarantino film.

You raise the point that Christians should not be squeamish to view R rated content when the Bible itself contains much R rated descriptions.  Some have responded that this argument fails to take into account the profound difference between exposure to visual mediums and to literary mediums.  Any thoughts on that?

sex and violence in the bibleWell, I can’t say I had a goal of making it “okay” for Christians to see R-rated films; many of those go far beyond the bounds of moral and even artistic propriety.  (Though I did hope to curb the knee-jerk reaction — “R = NO” — that some folks experience in this area.)

At the same time, you raise a hugely important issue, one that’s somewhat beyond the scope of my book; we might need another volume entirely to deal with the moral distinctions between visual and verbal material!

Clearly, there is a vast difference between reading a Bible story about rape and actually watching some rape scene in a contemporary film; or, for that matter, between reading about nudity and seeing it on screen.  That goes for violence as well, of course.  The “line” all of us constantly try to find when interacting with modern culture does, I think, need to be much more conservative, and much more cautiously drawn, with visual media.  For instance:  Despite the frequent nudity in the Bible (I have a whole chapter on this!), most Christians are profoundly uncomfortable with nude scenes — and rightly so.  At the same time, the mere fact that certain material is verbal instead of visual does not make it automatically OK; the recipient can process this sinfully too, of course.  Even Bible content could conceivably be abused in this way — as in the final scene of Clockwork Orange.

For this reason, my own feeling is that much of the “OK / not OK” question depends on individual viewers and readers — whether a given person can process this material in a way that does not lead to sin.  Much self-searching and brutal honesty is necessary here, and I don’t think the “line” is by any means the same for every person.  The issue, as I suggested, needs much more space than I have here; but I will also observe that every Christian needs to have a line he or she won’t cross — especially with visual material.  If you have no boundaries, you haven’t been thinking biblically on this matter.

Unpack this statement for us: “[the Bible’s] approach to indecent matters is not that of a twenty-first-century schoolboy, nor is it that of a nineteenth-century Victorian housewife.”

Good pick on that line, Matthew — it’s kind of a thesis statement for the book.  Like the Bible, we aren’t to be obsessed with sex and violence the way so many folks are today (and not just schoolboys either!) — constantly cracking raunchy jokes, finding (and enjoying) unseemly implications all over the place, and using these hot-button items merely to generate interest, humor, excitement — even lust!  On the other hand, it’s insane to pretend these issues don’t exist or aren’t important.  We all know, for example, how much behavior is driven by sex; it’s certainly a factor in numerous Bible stories!  In addition, all parents are familiar with vomit and excrement (topics also covered in my book) — these are a huge part of life, and not something we can simply ignore.  The Bible approaches these issues in a boldly matter-of-fact manner — not obsessed, not ashamed — frank, but not detailed or pornographic.  I suspect this ought to be our approach as well.

What makes Ezekiel 23:20 a good candidate for the grossest verse in the Bible?

Well, it’s got male genitalia, semen and implied bestiality; and it talks about the donkeys having unusually large “members.”  That’s kind of a quadruple whammy.  Incidentally, it’s significant that such strong language — rare in Scripture — is reserved in this case for idolatry and faithlessness on the part of God’s people; if we are so disgusted by this verse — well, that’s how disgusted God was by the covenant unfaithfulness of his people!

I honestly found your discussion of the Lord’s use of sexual terminology to describe his relationship with his people quite shocking. Give us an idea where and why the Lord uses such language, and how we should tread carefully here.

Yeah, I was surprised by that too, Matthew — and I tried to tread carefully, as you say.  But we’re really talking only about two short passages — Ezek. 16:7-9 and John 3:29, in which coitus is used (metaphorically, of course) to describe God’s relationship with his people; so it’s not exactly a major strand in Biblical writings.

But I think the main thing to say is — maybe it’s time for folks like you and me to not be so shocked by our heavenly father’s attitude toward sex.  As my pastor sometimes says, “Let’s not try to be holier than God!”  (I almost used this as the subtitle for my book.)  Sex is a good thing — a great thing, as Song of Solomon makes abundantly clear.  God created it — he’s the one who made it so great!  Like so much else in creation (food, sunsets, animals, work, music), he didn’t have to make it that good; but he did, because that’s his nature:  He likes to make and bestow really good things!  There’s absolutely nothing “unholy” about enthusiastic marital sexuality (again I point to Solomon’s Song) — any more than there is about good wine or fresh-baked bread (both also used to help us understand God’s love).  Since most of us are very familiar with the intimacy, the joy and even the spiritual depth of biblical sexuality, God is trying to tell us something about the kind of relationship we can have with him.  Yes — it can be that good!  And maybe one adjunct he’s trying to convey is:  This weird reaction we have when we think sex is somehow separate from God, something we must not connect with him?  Sorry, that’s not biblical.

I’m hoping very much that my book helps demonstrate this.

(Your question also cautions about treading carefully, so I will add that we don’t tread much differently here than we do when eating and drinking Christ’s body and blood; obviously that’s not literal — it would be gross and silly to approach it that way; and we accept God’s use of sex here in a similarly figurative manner.)

What’s distinctive about the way the Bible describes “rape” in comparison to other violent acts?

I think the most significant difference is that all three of the principal “rape narratives” in the Old Testament express strong condemnation for the act.  In Judges 19, one character calls it a “vile thing” (v. 23 — he’s talking about the threatened rape of the man earlier in the chapter — but the idea is the same); and later the people of Israel are amazed at the depravity, for “such a thing has never happened” (v. 30).  Similarly, the rape of Tamar by her half-brother (2 Sam. 13), and of Dinah by Shechem (Genesis 34), are both accompanied by the narrator’s statement that “such a thing is not done.”  It’s actually somewhat rare to see such blatant and consistent condemnation of violent acts in the Old Testament; usually, the narrator simply reports them without much editorial comment.  But apparently, there is something especially objectionable about rape that elicits these denunciations.

How can the topic of sex and violence in the Bible actually be an apologetic for the Bible?

Let me quote from a recent review of my book at the “Schaeffer’s Ghost” blog on the Patheos website:  “Religion is useless if it only deals with the polite aspects of life.  Life is messy, earthy, full of pain and death and sex.  If your religion doesn’t have a category for these things, you aren’t doing it right” (Paul D. Miller).

And … from my own conclusion:  “We want a religion that is true not just for some of life — for spirituality, worship and service — but for all of our experience. The wide range of Scripture on sex, violence and other uncomfortable material helps us to see that the Judeo-Christian tradition is true for all of life — that it does not prudishly overlook or sidestep certain issues; rather, it concerns itself — often quite closely — even with mundane bodily matters like menses, skin disease and nocturnal emissions.”

In recent decades, our culture has gotten very good at acknowledging the seamy parts of life — movies, for instance, are sometimes praised for their “realism” in depicting life with all its unsavory messiness.  Well, folks — welcome to the Bible, which was doing this 3500 years ago.

 Have you found it awkward describing this project to others?

Once they get over the mild shock of hearing my title — deliberate on my part, of course; it’s a great attention-getter — then actually:  No, it hasn’t been very awkward.  Christians are really quite interested in this material, and some express gratitude at my willingness to tackle it.  I’ve been surprised at the number of much older women who wanted a copy — one told me frankly that when she was growing up, nobody ever talked about this stuff.

If there’s any awkwardness, it’s in having to assure folks that my angle on this is not a negative one — that I’m not attacking the Bible.  There are several books on these topics (esp. violence) that mean to undermine God and his word.  (Funny, that so many pooh-pooh the Bible for its violence but have no problem personally slaughtering thousands in some gory video game every day!)  But once I’ve assured them of my respect for God’s word, the general response has been keen interest.  I guess that’s why it’s been selling pretty well!

Matthew Claridge is an editor for Credo Magazine and is Senior Pastor of Mt. Idaho Baptist Church in Grangeville, ID. He has earned degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Cassandra and has three children.


Jeramie Rinne on Church Elders (Interview by Matthew Claridge)

Jeramie Rinne on Church Elders (Interview by Matthew Claridge)

The resurgence of interest in church polity is something that has taken many by surprise. Organizations like 9Marks churn out book after book, podcast after podcast, and article after article on this topic with gusto and, apparently, an eager public. Frankly, I count myself among those hungry for more. 9Mark’s success in an area usually considered the “Valley of Dry Bones” for most seminarians and lay people alike is attributed, I believe, to infusing church polity with a theological vision and purpose.

That distinctive hallmark can be seen once again in the newest booklet from 9Mark’s “Building Healthy Churches” series. Jeramie Rinne, who serves as senior pastor at South Shore Baptist Church in Higham, MA and regularly contributes to the 9Marks Journal as well as other venues, has written a practical and theologically rich treatment on Church Elders: How To Shepherd God’s People Like Jesus.

imagesYou state that “elders” are not an optional feature in church life. Everyone agrees that leadership is important, why this kind of leadership?

The short answer is the apostles specifically installed elders to lead the churches that they planted.  For example, Paul told Titus, “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town” (Titus 1:5).  Churches aren’t “straightened out” until they have pastoral, elder leadership in place.  A church without shepherding elders is a disordered church.

The longer answer involves the very nature of church itself.  Local churches are first and foremost spiritual families.  Churches are assemblies of people who have been united to Jesus by faith and by the Holy Spirit in order to display God’s glory.  Therefore churches need more than just good organizational leadership.  They specifically need spiritual leadership—i.e. leadership provided by godly men who proclaim and obey God’s word with the goal of leading people toward Christ-likeness for God’s glory.

In pastoral theology, the categories of Prophet, Priest, and King are often used to describe pastoral leadership. Do you find this a helpful paradigm? Should a elder manifest all the qualities associated with these offices?

I actually don’t find those categories for leadership that helpful, or even very biblical.  While the offices of prophet, priest and king exist in the Old Testament, the Bible doesn’t use them as paradigms or metaphors for leadership styles.  When prophet, priest and king are used in this way, it feels a bit like a biblical skin is being pulled over a modern personality test.

It seems to me more helpful to adopt the dominant biblical paradigm for spiritual leadership, namely the “shepherd.”  As shepherds, all elders should feed, protect and lead God’s flock well.  That being said, every elder is unique, and each one brings a different personality, gifting and life experience to that common shepherding task.  This is also one of the reasons elder plurality is such a blessing for the church: these differences among elders can complement and balance one another.

How can you encourage lay elders to feel like “real pastors”?

Allow your lay elders to carry out functions in your church that people typically associate with the role of a paid pastor.  Let elders lead communion, perform baptisms, preach sermons, visit the sick, and provide counsel.  When elders perform these functions it communicates their pastoral status to the congregation, and to themselves.

Do you see a difference between an “elder led” vs. “elder rule” model of ministry? Do you have a preference (or a biblical conviction)? And how does a decision here work out practically in how the elders serve the church?

The difference between “elder led” and “elder rule” lies in the authority of the congregation, or lack thereof, in relationship to the elders.  In elder led churches, the elders lead and direct the affairs of the church.  But the congregation still has the final authority and responsibility before God for the doctrine, discipline, and leadership of the church.  So in elder led churches, for example, the congregation typically elects its elders.

In an elder ruled church, the elders have an authority that is not answerable to the congregation in some significant way.  Elders in an elder ruled church might make major decisions without any congregational vote, or might have the sole power to choose and elect fellow elders.

I am convinced that the elder led model more closely reflects the biblical pattern.  Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom to the church, not the elders (Matthew 18:18;cf. 16:19).  While elders have an authority to lead the church and church members have a responsibility to obey their leaders, that elder authority is not absolute.  When explaining the governance of our church, I like to say that we are an elder led, congregational church. This tension best reflects the biblical pattern.

We all know that an elder needs to be able to teach. Should an elder also be someone who loves to read? Or, to put it another way, are “blue collar” redneck elders an oxymoron?

No.  Blue collar, redneck elders are not an oxymoron.  An elder need not necessarily be highly educated or widely read.  The scriptures only require that an elder be well taught and faithful to that teaching: “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1:9).  Were first-century elders well-read?  Wasn’t Peter an unschooled fisherman?  Should elders and pastors in developing nations without access to lots of books be disqualified?  We need to be careful not to impose modern, Western ideals onto the biblical qualifications for elders.

That being said, elders in modern, Western churches should strive to read more.  Given the complexities of Western life under the conditions of advanced modernity, and given the massive resources available, elders living in the United States, for example, would be foolish not to avail themselves of the opportunities to learn more so that they can faithfully articulate sound doctrine in our information age.

What is the relationship between eldership and membership?

If elders are the church’s shepherds, then membership defines the boundaries of their flock.  When an elder takes the shepherding task seriously, a logical question comes to mind, “For whom am I accountable before God?”  Every Christian in the world?  Any Christian who happens to attend a church service on a given Sunday?  And how would an elder know that a person sitting in the pew really is a believer?  Is an elder responsible for someone attends one of his church’s Bible studies weekly, but worships regularly in another congregation?  Does an elder have a pastoral authority over and responsibility for an unbeliever who attends church faithfully with his spouse?

Membership answers all these quandaries in two ways.  First, church members identifies the sheep as sheep, to the best of the church’s ability.  And second, church membership tells an elder that he is responsible for these sheep in particular, and not for other sheep.  He can still minister to unbelievers or believing non-members in the congregation.  But at the end of the day he gives an account for the church members.

How does a plurality of elders make lay eldership more feasible?

Over the years, I have grown in appreciation for the genius of elder plurality.  An elder team distributes the ministry load and provides protection against burnout.  A group of elders complement one another’s gifts and balance one another’s personalities.   Elders can shepherd and care for one another, since in the end they themselves are all sheep as well.

There are challenges to team leadership.  Decisions can move slower and unity can be elusive.  But God uses the difficulties of communal leadership to refine elders.  Ideally, a plurality of elders provides a microcosm of love and mutual care for the entire church to emulate.

Chapter seven is about “spiritual maturity.” How can we as elders and church members avoid confusing grace and godliness for giftedness?

First and foremost, churches need to read and take seriously the elder qualification lists in 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1 and 1 Peter 5.  Interestingly, these lists focus primarily on character qualities rather than talents and abilities.  When considering an elder candidate, we need to candle the person against the words of scripture.  We should ask things like: “Does this person model Christ-like character?  Do we see the fruit of the Spirit?  Is he above reproach?”

It’s very tempting to choose elders because of their education, wealth, personality, or worldly success.  But would those people close to the potential elder consider him a model of humility, love and self-control?  Does anyone in fact know this elder well?  Who is he already shepherding and what is the fruit of that relationship?  Pay particular attention to the candidate’s track record in the church.  Does the man leave a wake of conflict wherever he goes, or does he tend to unify and build up others in the church?

All of this suggests that churches need some sort of thoughtful, deliberate process for assessing and choosing potential elders.

What are some ways to cultivate a “prayer soaked” eldership?

The most fruitful thing our elder team has done is to carve out time for extended prayer together.  In addition to our monthly elder “business” meeting, we have a monthly prayer meeting where we pray over the membership list and the needs of the church.  This gets the elders focused on the people rather than the programs and projects, as important as those may be.

Also, create opportunities for elders to pray for church members in person.  Find a way to put James 5:14-15 into practice in your context.  If you’re the pastor, ask your elders to offer public prayers.  If you’re talking with an elder and some church members, ask the elder to pray right there for those members.  The best way to soak your eldership in prayer is to pray often.

Matthew Claridge is an editor for Credo Magazine and is Senior Pastor of Mt. Idaho Baptist Church in Grangeville, ID. He has earned degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Cassandra and has three children.