Archives for February 2010

the meaning of godliness

I recently preached a message on the subject of ‘Godliness and Dignity’ based on the two terms found in 1 Tim 2.2. The more I consider the subject, the more important I think it is. The concept seems to be disappearing in the collective mind of the modern church.

What is godliness?

Godliness is a manner of life dominated by reverence for God that is displayed in a respect for other men that is visible to outside observers.

The word translated ‘godliness’ in the New Testament is eusebeia. According to Kittel, the root ‘seb-’ has the idea of ‘shrinking back’ or ‘falling back from’. With the prefix ‘eu-’ we could call it the ‘good shrinking back’. It is good because the term eusebeia speaks often of a proper attitude to the gods – piety – which is reflected in one’s conduct to men. Perjury, for example, is not godly. Caring for a dying father is godly. This conduct reflects an attitude of reverence towards deity and respect towards men.

In the New Testament, the term is occurs mostly in the pastoral epistles where its meaning is very parallel to Greek usage. It refers to conduct in relation to God, conduct that is no ascetic constraint but is positive expression of faith in the new life that now is and the life that is yet to come (1 Tim 4.7-8). This conduct is displayed by care of widowed mothers because such conduct pleases God (1 Tim 5.4). It is a life that is motivated by the Lord’s return, a life lived with ‘eternity in view’, since the things of this life are to be destroyed (2 Pt 3.10-11).

Godliness isn’t just private piety – it is visible piety. The gospel of grace teaches us that we are to live it out in this present world, before witnesses (Titus 2.11-12). It is to mark out the man of God, who, in contrast to the deceivers who trouble the church, is to pursue godliness rather than riches, content with his reward in heaven rather than profit on earth (1 Tim 6.1-12). It is that life to which God has provided the things pertaining to its essence and its conduct through the full knowledge of who called us by his own glory and excellence (2 Pt 1.3). God is excellent, the believer is called to excellence in this life.

In 1 Tim 2.2, the term is connected with the term ‘dignity’ (translated ‘honour’ in the KJV). Godliness speaks to the conduct of one’s life before God; dignity speaks to the quality of that life by virtue of a transformed inner man.

Godliness is given lip service today. For many people, if considered at all, it seems to simply mean, “having the right theology.” In the ancient world, some thought godliness merely meant keeping the rituals of religion, whether it be the Law of the Jews or the cultic practices of the Greeks. I am afraid many Christians today are quite satisfied with that kind of godliness today. “Get the form right, and I am all right.”

What we are after is a heart religion that reverences God and accordingly respects men. A heart religion that is no friend of the world, but a friend of God. Can it be that Christians who embrace the world and its ways are also friends of God? Are they godly?

It may be that godly Christians will come to differing applications on some specific matters of conduct, but the life of every godly Christian will be headed in the same direction: with fear toward God and respect towards men that outside observers can see – and will not confuse with worldliness.

Godliness is a manner of life dominated by reverence for God that is displayed in a respect for other men that is visible to outside observers.


a tim’s olympic moment

We’ve been enjoying the Spring Olympics out here on the Wet Coast. Of course, that means the sporting events are interrupted by commercials.

One commercial we have been seeing over and over up here is promoting Tim Horton’s coffee shops, almost a national institution up here. It is one of those very few commercials that you don’t get tired of, so I thought my American readers might enjoy seeing it:


The screen here in Canada says it is based on a true story, but I haven’t been able to find any background on it.

I did find this discussion of it, which I think helps capture the emotion of the spot… and the ‘Canadian-ness’ of it as well.


my name is johnson

[Aside to the humour-challenged, see disclaimer below.]

My name has a long and sometimes storied history. It belongs to a whole host of characters. According to wikipedia, it is the second most common name in the USA. Alas, in the land of my forebears (Scotland), it doesn’t even make the top 20.

As I understand it, my name originally meant that its bearers were descended from one John (Iain), son of the MacDonald, who branched off and formed his own smaller clan, the MacIains (son of John, i.e., Johnson – or Johnston as we were known in the Old Country).

My name has caused me a little trouble. Some unsavoury characters share the name. No end of mocking occasionally ensues when some Johnson publicly embarrasses the rest of us possessing the name.

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series on melanoma – NYT

Our family is very grateful for targeted cancer medication. The New York Times is running a series of articles on research about an anti-melanoma drug. It is quite moving – the people going through the trials have to be dealing with many ups and downs emotionally.

Here is the first article, “A Roller Coaster Chase for a Cure

Here is the second, “After Long Fight, Drug Gives Sudden Reprieve

UPDATE: Here is the third and last article in the frustrating fight against melanoma, “A Drug Trial Cycle: Recovery, Relapse, Reinvention


there was a time when we had personalities too

I’d like to comment on myself this time. In my post on ‘the vision thing’, I made this comment:

Another complicating factor in making these comparisons is that the ‘competing’ ministries are represented by ministries strongly identified with a popular individual on the conservative evangelical side as opposed to more institutional or group oriented ministries/organizations on the fundamentalist side.

Others have noticed this difference also. The Conservative Evangelical brand is largely led by ministries centered around prominent individuals. The Fundamentalist brand, these days, really has no star power in its leaders and it tends to find whatever leadership it has in collective efforts, rather than in individual ministries.

That is a generalization, of course. There are, I suppose, some exceptions to the rule, but I think the generalization holds.

For example, when you think Conservative Evangelical, you think of a list of names: Dever, Piper, Mahaney, Mohler, MacArthur, etc. Some of these men represent institutions and work closely with a number of other men, but there is a sense that they are the focal point of the brand.

On the other hand, when you think Fundamentalism, what comes to mind? Bob Jones University, the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship, Maranatha, Detroit, Central, the Wilds, etc. Of course, individuals lead these ministries and fill up their staffs, but I would suggest that even fairly well informed observers would have to think a bit to get the individual leaders of ALL of these ministries. On the CE side, if we simply named 9Marks, Desiring God, Sovereign Grace, Southern Seminary, Grace to You… most observers – regular readers of this blog – would be able to put the names to those ministries without any effort.

Isn’t that a curious difference? It wasn’t always so in Fundamentalism. And that involves both an irony and a sign of generational change.

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the vision thing

I’ve been involved in one of our interminable discussions of the state of fundamentalism on another blog. The topic of conversation shifted from the original post somewhat and one comment from a pastor in California brought up the idea of ‘vision’.

He suggests that it is easy to summarize in a few short words or a phrases the essential vision of various evangelical ministries, but questions whether that is true of fundamentalist ministries or institutions. I don’t happen to think that he is right, but he seems to think that the ‘visions’ of the evangelicals are more compelling than the lack of vision of fundamentalists.

Another complicating factor in making these comparisons is that the ‘competing’ ministries are represented by ministries strongly identified with a popular individual on the conservative evangelical side as opposed to more institutional or group oriented ministries/organizations on the fundamentalist side. In some ways we aren’t really comparing apples to apples here.

Having said that, the idea of ‘vision’ (or ‘mission statements’) leaves me cold. Too much corporate psycho-babble for me.

I wonder, however, if a few readers would like to chime in on the subject by giving us their brief ‘vision statements’ for the various ministries mentioned. Here is the list:

  • 9Marks
  • Ligonier
  • Grace To You
  • Desiring God
  • BJU
  • FBFI
  • Sword of the Lord

I am going to post the complete post I am reacting to after the jump, so I would suggest that it would be best if you write out your vision/mission statements first, without looking at the post or other comments. Then click through to my comments section and post your reaction.

We can discuss various other aspects of this post as well, but let’s start with how well we can define these ministries without looking up their mission statements on their web-sites or doing any research about them. If you aren’t that familiar with a ministry, ‘I don’t know’ is an acceptable response.

More below…

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too, too horrible

Canada has found a new punishment more horrific than capital punishment.

Those with sensitive constitutions be warned. Here is the link.