Archive by Author

In Praise of Church Meetings

“Let all things be done decently and in order” (1Corinthians 14:40, NKJ).

As our denomination prepares for the annual meetings of Synod next week, the difficult task of reading and digesting a mountain of reports and of organizing my schedule to accommodate being gone for the better part of a week is upon me.  While I do enjoy visiting with friends whom I’ve not seen for many months, I must confess that church meetings are not something I look forward to with much anticipation.  Sitting in one room for hours, parliamentary procedure, eating institutional food, sleeping in a dorm room, listening to seemingly endless debates and reports – none of it really appeals.  After about a day and a half, I am ready to give up and go home.  But this year I am heading to our annual meetings with an altered perspective and renewed appreciation for the blessings of ordered and faithful church government.

Answering Jihad

Every time another Islamic terrorist blows up something or someone, political and media leaders speculate as to the root causes of jihad. What possesses people to sacrifice themselves for the sake of killing others? Former Muslim, Nabeel Qureshi, whose 2014 autobiography Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity describes his journey from committed apologist for Islam to born again Christian, has written helpfully this week in USA Today about the root causes of the radicalization of young Muslims.

There is No “Junk” in God’s World

The human genome has around three billion base pairs of DNA, and yet our best estimates are that this massive amount of DNA only includes about 20,000 protein-coding genes. These genes amount to a mere 1.5% of the total genome. Scientists have known that some portion of the remaining “non-coding” DNA has regulatory functions but the vast majority of the genome appeared to have no function. When I started a PhD program in molecular biology in 1992, the functionless DNA was sometimes called, “junk DNA” and was considered an artifact of evolution. “No intelligent being would make a genome this inefficient” was a common refrain.

Nearly twenty-five years later it turns out that “junk” is just another name for our ignorance.

A Matter of Inches

Last spring I was working at home when I received a call from a number that I did not recognize. I let it go to voice mail. The same number called again so I decided it might be important and answered. On the other end of the line I heard a strange female voice asking me if I had a daughter, who was an Indiana University student. When I answered in the affirmative, the voice told me that my daughter had been run over by a car while walking on campus and that she was going to the hospital in an ambulance.

Why We Sprinkle

A number of years ago a new family in our congregation had just completed the membership class and was preparing to join the church. They were planning to present several children for baptism. Having heard me say in the membership class that for us the mode of baptism is not essential, the father requested immersion for his kids. Somewhat embarrassed, I had to explain that, although we accept any baptism done with water in the name of the Triune God in a true branch of the visible church (whether by immersion, dipping, pouring, or sprinkling), we practiced sprinkling. He was a bit disappointed that we were not a “full service” operation, but agreed that his kids would be sprinkled. That incident prompted me to be much clearer about our position on the mode of baptism in subsequent classes. Although the mode of baptism is not essential, we practice sprinkling. And we practice sprinkling, not because we are too cheap to install a baptismal Jacuzzi or to rent a local swimming pool. No, we practice sprinkling because it is biblical and because it seems to pick up the Old Testament symbolism of ceremonial […]

Doctrine and Evangelism

Several months ago I received the following email from a former student at Indiana University.

“You do not remember me but I was in one of your Biology classes at IU. I teach science and frequently integrate information from your class. Before I joined the Army, you loaned me a book from your church. As I was unpacking at our new house I found it. I cannot tell you how influential you were for me but years ago, as I was reading it, I was saved and baptized while serving [in the military]… Anyway, I would like to return the book to you if you wouldn’t mind giving me the best address to do so. I am truly sorry I have kept it so long!”

This was a student I taught nearly 15 years ago, who was prompted to join the military in the wake of the 9/11 bombings. In nearly 20 years of college teaching, I’ve had numerous opportunities to minister to students in various ways. I’ve given out a lot of books. I could remember this student, but I could not remember what book I’d given out. What book would I give to a young […]

He’s Invested Too Much

Last month the Chicago Blackhawks won their sixth Stanley Cup Championship as a professional ice hockey franchise. More impressively, this is their third title in the last six years. Given the team’s recent dominance, it might be tempting to conclude that winning was easy. It certainly was not. The team battled injuries throughout the regular season and entered the playoffs with the third seed in their division. In the conference finals, Chicago trailed in a best-of-seven series, three games to two. At a particularly low point in that series a television interviewer asked Joel Quenneville, the coach of the Blackhawks, whether or not he had considered pulling his starting goalie. Quenneville’s answer got my attention. To the in-game interviewer Quenneville said, “No, not at all.” And then he gave his logic: “We’ve invested too much to do that.” Quenneville was communicating that he stood behind his all-star goaltender, Corey Crawford, and that he was not about to introduce an element of uncertainty or doubt at a point in the season when everything was on line. The coach and the team were “all-in” and Crawford was their guy. Crawford […]

Baptism and the Burden of Proof

Who bears the burden of proof in the argument over infant baptism? The New Testament (NT) neither explicitly commands the baptizing of infant children of believers nor forbids it. Sometimes what is NOT said speaks loudly to us. In this case, the absence of a direct command regarding infants and baptism strongly supports one position on this issue over the other.

Given that the people of God in the Old Testament (OT) had been putting the sign of the covenant (circumcision) on their infant children for nearly 2,000 years when Jesus arrived on the scene, it is logical to infer that NT believers, who were overwhelmingly Jewish, would have assumed that the NT sign of the covenant (baptism) would be applied to their children as well. The absence of any prohibitions on baptizing the children of believers or even any discussion of this as an issue in the churches to which Paul wrote suggests that this was NOT an issue in the early church. The only way it could be a non-issue is if there was no fundamental change in the way the sign was applied to the children of believers.

While there is […]

Represented, Sealed, and Applied

Last Lord’s Day our congregation had the pleasure of witnessing the baptism of a covenant child born into one of our families. When infants are baptized, parents take vows. We understand the obligation baptism places on parents, who present a child for baptism. But how does baptism make a difference in the child’s life?