The Myth of Political Neutrality
While I generally like to avoid political issues on this blog and spend most of the time with theology, I wanted to use a recent statement by a politician to show the mindset of many Americans and how this mindset influences the practical outworking of theology in our day and age.
Regarding the appointment of Samuel Alito, Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, said, "I must say that I wish the president was in a position to do more than claim a partisan victory tonight...The union would be better and stronger and more unified if we were confirming a different nominee, a nominee who could have united us more than divided us."
When I read this line, I sat there baffled, wondering if he actually believed his own deceptive words rolling off his tongue. He might as well have said, "if you would have chosen a nominee who had political positions that aligned with my own then our country would be more united." To think ones 'own ideology is somehow neutral while others are divisive and extreme is either complete blindness or chicanery to appease a certain constituent. Whether right or left, such statements are utterly foolish. Why not just admit that we are all biased and have a position we wish to promote and that neutrality on important issues simply does not exist. Is this pretended neutrality supposed to promote civility? No, rather, it creates division because it is based on a false premise about life that always accuse the other side of prejudice, bias and intolerance. Instead of disagreeing with a position we hurl the "biased" ad hominem their way. This actually deflects from the real issues and creates a society of distrust.
Which Came First? by Pastor John Samson
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Musings about this difficult and perplexing question has gone on for centuries. Thankfully though, the consequences for an incorrect answer are not particularly severe. Life goes on regardless.
But there's an area of study in Christian theology called soteriology (the study of what the Bible teaches regarding salvation), and within that context, how we answer the question as to "which came first?" has far more significant impact. I am speaking here of the order of salvation; namely does a person have faith and then is born again, or are they born again and then have faith? Is Divine election based upon God foreseeing us putting our faith in Christ or do we have faith in Christ because God first elected us?
The Sin Problem
I recently received the following note from a brother:
"I am a relatively new believer (a little over a year, start: Oct. 2004), and while GRACE abounds, while CHRIST ATONED, while GOD CAN NOT BE ANYMORE PLEASED WITH HIS PEOPLE (IN CHRIST) THAN HE IS NOW, I am NOT comfortable with accepting that I will be a sinner until the Day of Glory. I can not cope with the fact that sin will be a part of my life until I die, and that this is somehow alright, because of CHRIST atonement, and the Father's wrath completely poured out on the SON. Everytime I sin, as a man, ESPECIALLY EVERY TIME I "SIN", I simply can not go to the Throne of Grace (Heb. 4), confess/repent, say Amen, and then have a heart that says, "alright, let's keep moving, can't stop, can't slow up, got to keep "Pressing Into the Kingdom (Edwards)." For me, its more like, "why keep fighting this foe, this foe you can't see, can't feel, can't touch, can't get a grasp on! Why keep fighting, to lose more times than you win! Why fight!"
I was wondering, if you might be able to recommend any specific articles on this site that deal with this. I know its a big task to ask for one, two, or three specific articles, but I am struggling here. I need to know, "how does the believer in CHRIST, accept his status of redeemed sinner, justified sinner, so that his hatred of his sin, does not result in his hatred of himself?" If you can help John, thanks. If not, then at minimum I praise GOD that you had a heart to listen to a stranger pour out his struggle, and did not reject him. Thanks again, Grace and Peace."
Logic in the Pulpit by Pastor John Samson
Preaching to a congregation is obviously a very different scenario from teaching a class on logic in a University or Seminary setting. Yet I believe that we as ministers can teach the Scriptures using logical arguments without having to resort to using technical language which the vast majority of folk would not be able to understand.
I am sure that all of us as preachers have at times been guilty of speaking over the heads of our people. Yet one of the ways to remedy this is to simply be constantly aware of this tendency. Then we need to apply the discipline of working out how to say the exact same thing we would say to a group of intellectuals (using the same logic) to the people in the congregation, by using language and explanations which all can follow. This takes work - sometimes a great deal of work. Yet I do believe it is very much possible to bring logic into a sermon.
Visitor Questions on the Fall & Evil
A visitor recently wrote to ask the following:
I have to say that I think you made a really good argument against the Amyraldistic point of view. But I have a question about the fall. If Adam and Eve were sinless and had an unstained "free-will" then why would they fall? If they had a "free-will" [i.e. free from bondage to sin] and then fell, it would only go against the Calvinistic teachings of "Perserverance of the Saints."
Not sure what "perseverance of the saints" has to do with this? But consider that Adam, when created, was not originally sealed in righteousness. He was given a trial period which would reveal how he would use his will and he failed as the federal head of us all. Theologians call this biblical concept of Adam's trial period the "covenant of works", which lingers with us to this day. Like Jesus said to the rich young ruler, "obey the commandments and live"...i.e. if anyone could obey the commandments perfectly they would not need a savior, correct?
God created Adam and gave him a time period to fulfil His Law. He did not create him already sealed in righteounsss. Jesus likewise, though in very nature God, as a human being he had to "fulfill all righteousness" and "fulfill the law" from our side in order to save us. His sinless "passive" death alone does not save us (though that is part of it) but we are redeemed also because he positively fulfilled God's covenant obligations toward us. Likewise we believe Adam had to fulfil a positive righteousness if he were to have gained life.
Next the visitor asked the following:
Logic and John 6:44
"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day." Jesus - John 6:44
I have a good friend called Brian Bosse (who lives in Green Valley, Arizona) who is quite the intellectual. In recent years, I have been used somewhat to help this man come from Arminianism to the Reformed faith, at a time when in his words, the illogical nature of Arminianism almost caused him to reject the Christian faith altogether. He saw the futility of the Arminian position long before he knew there was an alternative, and almost threw Christianity and the Bible aside (in his mind). Now Brian is fully reformed in his thinking and a very able defender of the faith.
He recently sent me an article he has worked on for some time regarding John 6:44. If Brian is right, then just this verse alone (John 6:44), properly interpreted, dismantles Arminianism.
Be warned though - this article is certainly not something that everyone would follow - but for those who enjoy the rigors of logical analysis, I encourage you to read the following pdf file here.
Posted by Pastor John Samson
God Is Not a Buffet Line of Options by Pastor John Samson
What is the Church's biggest need? I believe that what the Church needs more than anything else is GOD as He really is, and the GOSPEL as it really is. If one of these is distorted, then so is the other.
God has not changed in any way at all. Not recently. Not ever! God Himself says, "I am the Lord, I do not change." - Malachi 3:6. Yet in today's church, many of Godâ€™s characteristics or attributes have been deliberately obscured from view. The more popular attributes of God are still being displayed, such as His Love, His Grace and His Mercy. Yet there has been the obscuring of certain other attributes of God - His Holiness, Righteousness, Justice, Wrath and Sovereignty.
At a Buffet, we find no Buffet Police watching to see if we put every item on our plate, and holding us accountable for doing so. We are free to choose which type of food we will eat, and which we will leave to one side. We do so with impunity, for we face no legal action for passing by a certain meat or failing to put the apple pie on our plate.
But lets be clear, Godâ€™s attributes are not a buffet line of options. We are not invited to choose the attributes of God that we like best and leave the others. We have no right to say, â€œIâ€™ll give Sovereignty a pass, but Iâ€™ll take the love." God doesn't allow us to put some of His attributes to one side. God is everything He says He is. To only believe in or to only emphasize certain of His characteristics is to invent our own god. There's a biblical name for that - idolatry! An idol can be fashioned and formed by the heart and mind just as much as by the hand. There is only one God and any god that is not the God who has revealed Himself in Scripture is a false one.
The Apparent "Good" in Natural Man
If natural man's condition is Total Depravity, How do we account for the apparent "good" in the unregenerate?
Good question because the meaning of total depravity is often misunderstood. It should first be pointed out what "total depravity" does not mean. The doctrine does not refer to man being as evil a creature as he can be. All fallen, unregenerate human beings are endowed with many of God's common graces. God has blessed all men with a conscience and the capacity to promote virtue and civil righteousness. It is abundantly clear that many beautiful aspects of the world we live in have been brought forth by those which are unredeemed by God's regenerative grace. God has gifted natural men and women with the skill to create beautiful music, make profound works of art, to invent intricate machines and do countless things that are productive, excellent and praiseworthy. John Calvin said,
"Those men whom Scripture calls "natural men" were, indeed, sharp and penetrating in their investigation of inferior things. Let us, accordingly, learn by their example how many gifts the Lord left to human nature even after it was despoiled of its true good." (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 274-275).
A Quote on The Doctrines of Grace
"What are the 'doctrines of grace' and why do they matter? Such is like asking, "What does the Bible teach about the very heart of the gospel, and does it matter one way or the other?" The doctrines of grace are the biblical teachings that define the goal and means of God's perfect work of redemption. They tell us that God is the one who saves, for His own glory, and freely. And they tell us that He does so only through Christ, only on the basis of His grace, only with the perfection that marks everything the Father, Son, and Spirit do. The doctrines of grace separate the Christian faith from the works-based religions of men. They direct us away from ourselves and solely to God's grace and mercy. They destroy pride, instill humility, and exalt God. And that's why so many invest so much time in the vain attempt to undermine their truth. The religions of men maintain authority over their followers by 1) limiting God's power, 2) exalting man's abilities, and 3) "channeling" God's power through their own structures. A perfect salvation that is freely bestowed by God for His own glory is not a "system" that can be controlled by a religious body or group. And even more importantly, such a system is destructive of any sense of pride in the creature man, and if there is anything man's religions must safeguard, it is man's "self esteem."" - Dr. James White
Psychology and Theology by Marco Gonzalez
If there is one thing Christians are in need of it is counseling. You donâ€™t have to look into the NT (New Testament) too long to discover the constant need for counsel. In fact, Paul, in 1 Corinthians uses the word â€œcomfortâ€ over ten times in the first chapter alone. Yet, I believe there is much confusion over the right approach to biblical counseling. I use that term loosely because it has a variety of meanings to people. We live in a society that thrives on discovery, much like Odysseus, in the great novel by Homer â€œThe Odyssey.â€ We find a manâ€™s constant need for discovery and chance, which, likens to our own societyâ€™s need for discovery. With the use of psychological and sociological theories it is believed that we have solved most of the modern-manâ€™s problems. Many Christian colleges and seminaries have integrated these findings from our society into their counseling and pastoral programs. This model of â€œintegratingâ€ theology and psychology together is the predominant form of counseling in Christianity.
The Conjoining of the Spirit with Word and Sacrament
How is faith formed is us and how are we to nourish and continue that faith which the Holy Spirit effectually created in us?
The child who is conceived by his parents must also be nourished by them with food and then brought up in discipline lest his physical and mental growth be stunted. Likewise the faith which the Holy Spirit initially formed in us must also be nourished. Unless the life once quickened in us by the Holy Spirit is daily nourished by the means appointed by God, faith will wither and struggle, and not bear healthy fruit.
And just what are the appointed means God has given? The Word and the Sacraments. (1) The Preaching of the Word. We nourish the faith the Spirit begat in us first by assembling together with other Christians to hear the word of God preached to us. This is the ordinary means the Lord works faith in us, a means which He has promised to bless and bind Himself to. (2) The Administering and Receiving of the Sacraments which Jesus commanded us to partake of "till He come". The greater the frequency of being united to Christ through the sacrament of the Lord's Table the more our faith will receive nourishment. We should make it a habit to often come together, as did disciples, who "continued in the Apostles doctrine and fellowship and the breaking of bread and prayers" (Acts 2:42). This is the means they used to nourish and augment their faith that Christ had begun in them (Phil 1:6, 1:29).
Christian - Rest in God's Sovereignty by Pastor John Samson
"Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, 'My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure'; - Isaiah 46:9-10
"When we speak of the Godhood of God we affirm that God is God. We affirm that God is something more than an empty title: that God is something more than a mere figure-head: that God is something more than a far-distant Spectator, looking helplessly on at the suffering which sin has wrought. When we speak of the Godhood of God we affirm that He is "King of kings and Lord of lords." We affirm that God is something more than a disappointed, unsatisfied, defeated Being, who is filled with benevolent desires but lacking in power to carry them out. When we speak of the Godhood of God we affirm that He is "the Most High." We affirm that God is something more than One who has endowed man with the power of choice, and because He has done this, is therefore unable to compel man to do His bidding (Prov. 21:1). We affirm that God is something more than One who has waged a protracted war with the Devil and has been worsted. When we speak of the Godhood of God we affirm that He is the Almighty. To speak of the Godhood of God then, is to say that God is on the Throne, on the Throne as a fact and not as a say so; on a Throne that is high above all. To speak of the Godhood of God is to say that the Helm is in His hand, and that He is steering according to His own good pleasure. To speak of the Godhood of God is to say that He is the Potter, that we are the clay, and that out of the clay He shapes one as a vessel to honor and another as a vessel to dishonor according to His own sovereign rights (Rom. 9), "according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him what doest Thou?" (Dan. 4:35). Therefore, to speak of the Godhood of God is to give the mighty Creator His rightful place; it is to recognize His exalted majesty; it is to own His universal scepter." - A. W. Pink
God is Sovereign. He rules and reigns. He can never be voted out of power; for He was never voted into power. He is, was and always will be the Sovereign King, whose will can never be frustrated. Sovereignty means that God does what He wants, when He wants, the way He wants, without having to get anyone else's permission.
If God is not Sovereign, then God is not God. If He were not ruling over every molecule in the universe, governing its existence, directing its course, and setting its boundaries, then we and God should be very worried indeed...
"I Can Only Believe in What I See"
"I only believe what I see" is a contradictory statement. A self-contradictory statement both affirms and denies its own basic meaning. [J.P.] Moreland points out that "the proposition 'I can believe in only what I can see' cannot itself be seen. The underlying metaphysical and epistemological principle of "what is real is visible," is not visible! The statement, "I only believe what I see," expresses a conceptual principle distinct from the literal written sentence and is therefore neither visible to the eye nor detectable by the rest of the senses. Thus, to accept the statement, "I only believe what I see" demands acceptance of a principle that cannot be seen. Put another way, if a person actually believed the declaration, "I only believe what I see," then he or she would not believe the statement itself, because the belief cannot be seen. The statement "I only believe what I see," reduces to absurdity."
[Atheists] committed to naturalism (that nature is the ultimate reality) often say, or imply, "I only believe in what can be observed empirically, or what can be inferred from what is empirically observed. This statement is also self-contradictory. Christian philosopher Greg L. Bahnsen [said]: "I only believe in what can be observed empirically, or what can be inferred from what is empirically observed' cannot itself be observed from empirical observation" The view that nature alone exists is not and cannot be derived from scientific inquiry. Rather, it is an empirical presumption or dogma of secularism that too often interferes with scientific inquiry."
- Kenneth R. Samples(Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions, p. 35-37 ).
Frankly, (like the above example) you would be amazed at how often you can catch people being inconsistent wherein an assertion actually cancels itself out. For example...
Dead Men Walking by Pastor John Samson
Just how dead is dead? Exactly what can a dead person do?
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins... - Ephesians 2:1. The Greek word here for "dead" is the word nekros which means "dead like a corpse." As far as his relationship to God is concerned, man is a lifeless corpse, unable to respond or even make a single move toward God, unless God first brings this spiritually dead corpse to life. He is dead in trespasses and sins. It is a very strange kind of death because while dead, he is nevertheless up and about actively practicing sin. He is what horror stories call a zombie - dead but walking around. This is a fair description of what Paul says about human nature in its lost condition. He is biologically alive but spiritually dead.
The sinner actively practices evil. His will is enslaved (John 8:34) and he is also by nature an object of God's wrath (Eph. 2:3). He has a will, most definitely, but he has no desire to seek after God (Rom 3:11) or submit to Him, in fact he cannot do so (Rom 8:7, 8), without the direct and gracious intervention of God.
This is why without Sovereign election, evangelism would be the most futile activity imaginable. It would be much like a salesman trying to sell his products in a graveyard. The dead need to be raised to life before a salesman can make a sale! The dead have no interest in skin cream products, double glazed windows, hair loss prevention treatments, air purifiers or the latest and greatest vacuum cleaner. They are not moved by even the greatest of sales pitches! Why? Well that's pretty obvious, isn't it? Its because the dead are, in a word.... dead!
The Arraignment of Error by Samuel Bolton
There have been several visitors to this blog who have asked at various times about how to determine which creed or which authority is right in interpreting the Bible. For an in depth study on this we recommend The Arraignment of Error by Samuel Bolton which may be of significant help in this regard. Here is the publishers' description:
It has perplexed many throughout the centuries why if there is one truth, it is so difficult to determine it. Protestants believe in an infallible Bible; but who interprets it with final authority? Roman Catholics believe in an infallible Bible, and an infallible church (their own) as the infallible interpreter of it.
How do we determine who is right? And why does God allow errors in His Church (though never in His Word)? Do we accept the opinions of learned men as right because of their academic acumen? Or do we simply acquiesce to the fact that more people believe this doctrine than don't, so that therefore it must be the truth?
These are exactly the questions that Dr. Samuel Bolton addresses in this rare book. In an irenic spirit typical of the English Puritans, Bolton tackles the tough issues in a gentle, but convincing manner. This book was last published in 1646, but it is as relevant for our day as it was for theirs.
The Arraignment of Error by Samuel Bolton
The Challenge of the Da Vinci Code by Pastor John Samson
"but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence." - 1 Peter 3:15 (NASB)
This past Sunday, our congregation, Faith Community Church in Phoenix, Arizona, had the privilege of having Dr. James White with us to address the Da Vinci Code book by Dan Brown. I believe it was extremely important for our congregation to hear this material and believe that all Christians need to be familiar with the central issues as May 19, 2006 fast approaches with the release of the movie. As I've noted before, James has written a series of articles on the Da Vinci Code at his web site, www.aomin.org, where many of the quotes from the book, and from the annals of church history are recorded. I would very much encourage you to take the time to review the series and arm yourselves for the onslaught on the faith ahead. The release of the movie could actually become a great opportunity for us, if we are prepared for it.
Today, Dr. White brought his series to a close by writing the following:
Inconsistent Underlying Assumptions the Cause of Unsound Theology
There is a tremendous need for cogent thinking among our leaders and teachers in the church today. Theological literature and sermons brim over with unsound and invalid reasoning. We must, therefore, be extra discriminating in what we read and who we listen to from the pulpit. Even though many in the pews have not had formal education in logic, more and more people sense there is something wrong in what they hear even if they cannot put their finger exactly on what it is. When we hear preachers expound mutually exclusive propositions or contradictory assertions, while we may not have the communication skills to confront the preacher ourselves, yet we feel uneasy about it and this feeling lingers on.
It is important to note that consistency and logic (like omniscience, justice and mercy) are among the perfections of God. Lest you doubt the validity of this assertion, the Scripture itself teaches this. Jesus Himself said that He is "...the Truth" and later in the same gospel he states that God's Word is Truth (John 17:17). These statements, of course, would be utterly meaningless if it did not mean that Jesus was opposed to all falsehood. The conclusion we must, therefore, reach is simply that God's Word does not contradict itself. We should also note that the Scripture affirms that God is Holy. This assertion means nothing if His character in any way contradicts this. In other words, God cannot be unholy or cannot do what is contrary to His own nature. Likewise the Text affirms that God keeps his promises, does not lie, nor does God have the capacity to deny Himself. Since this means God cannot contradict Himself in what he says, does and believes, then He calls us to do likewise (Be truthful, holy, keep your promises, do not lie). God Himself, as revealed in Scripture, is the ultimate presupposition we have in being consistent and logical in everything we say and do, and this is especially true for those who would be teachers of God's word.
Quotes on Intimacy with Christ
Some of you have truly been brought by God to believe in Jesus. Yet you have no abiding peace, and very little growth in holiness. Why is this? It is because your eye is fixed anywhere but on Christ. You are so busy looking at books, or looking at men, or looking at the world, that you have no time, no heart, for looking at Christ. No wonder you have little peace and joy in believing. No wonder you live so inconsistent and unholy a life. Change your plan. Consider the greatness and glory of Christ, who has undertaken all in the stead of sinners, and you would find it quite impossible to walk in darkness, or to walk in sin. Oh, what low, despicable thoughts you have of the glorious Immanuel! Lift your eyes from your own bosom, downcast believer - look upon Jesus. It is good to consider your ways, but it is far better to consider Jesus. Oh, believer, consider Jesus. Meditate on these things. Look and look again, until your peace flows like a river. - Robert Murray Mâ€™Cheyne
A Word to Musicians
"An effective worship leader, aided and led by the Holy Spirit, skillfully combines biblical truth with music to magnify the worth of God and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, thereby motivating the gathered church to join him in proclaiming and cherishing the truth about God and seeking to live all of life for the glory of God." - Bob Kauflin
John Calvin lived and breathed to see the true worship of God take place in the life of the church. I think something of that same passion can be found in Bob Kauflin's blog articles, and I recommend them to you. Bob (pictured left) serves as director of worship development for Sovereign Grace Ministries, and as a pastor and worship leader at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He now also writes a blog at worshipmatters.com, which, as the name suggests, is specifically focused on matters of worship. I found his recent articles entitled "On Musicians and Reading Books" to be very helpful, as they show quite clearly, why having a sound theology is so vital. I've pointed these articles out to those on the music team at the church I pastor, and happily do so again here in this venue. For the sake of space, I've slightly edited his three articles into one... (I hope Bob doesn't mind).
ON MUSICIANS AND READING BOOKS by Bob Kauflin
I think Iâ€™ve interacted with enough Christian musicians over the past couple decades to make a general observation: Christian musicians rarely read theology books. Now, I know thatâ€™s a broad statement. There are non-musician Christians who donâ€™t like to study theology, too, and some Christians musicians who actually love theology. You're the ones who took offense at my earlier comment. â€œWhat's he talking about? Iâ€™m ALWAYS reading theology books!â€ If so, youâ€™re to be commended. But youâ€™re the exception.
Is God Narrow Minded? by Pastor John Samson
Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." - John 14:6
"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other Name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." - Acts 4:12
One of the main objections people have to the Christian Gospel is this issue of exclusivity: that the Christian proclaims that only in Jesus Christ is salvation to be found. Certainly it would be less objectionable if Jesus was merely presented as simply one of the many ways to God. Yet it needs to be pointed out that it is not the Christian who came up with this idea, but the claim comes directly from Jesus Himself. Because of this, either Jesus is the Way to God as He said, or else He is a liar and a deceiver, and not even one way to God!
Lets think about this idea of there only being one way to God by looking at it from a hypothetical perspective. Follow the logic of Dr. R.C. Sproul as he writes the following in his book "Reason to Believe":
Let's suppose that there is a God who is absolute in His holiness and righteousness. Suppose He freely creates mankind and gives each human being the gift of life. Suppose He sets His creatures in an ideal environment with the freedom to enjoy the wonders of the entire creation. Then let's suppose that God imposes one small restriction upon them, and warns them that if they violate that restriction, they will die. Would such a God have the right to impose such a restriction with the penalty of forfeiture of the gift of life if His authority was violated?
Then let's suppose that for no just cause, the ungrateful creatures disobeyed the restriction. Yet suppose that when He discovered their violation, instead of killing them instantly, He redeemed them. Suppose the descendants of the first violators increase their hostility and disobedience to God to the point that the whole world become enemies of God. Suppose God still determined to redeem these people, and set aside a distinct nation for Himself, giving them special gifts, so that through them, the entire world would be blessed. Suppose He kept delivering them from all their enemies, yet as soon as they were liberated, they rose up in rebellion to Him.
Suppose, because of His mercy and grace, God sent specially endowed messengers or prophets to plead with His people to return to Him. Suppose the people killed these divine messengers and mocked their message. Suppose they then began to worship idols of stone and things they had made. Suppose they then invented religions which were totally opposed to the truth He had made clear to them, and they worshiped creatures rather than the Creator.
Suppose in an ultimate act of redemption, God Himself became incarnate in the person of His Son. Suppose this Son came into the world not to condemn the world, but to redeem it. Suppose this Son were rejected, slandered, mocked, tortured, and murdered. Yet, suppose that God accepted the murder of His own Son as punishment for the sins of the very persons who murdered Him. Suppose this God offered forgiveness, and a cleansing from all guilt, victory over death and eternal peace with Himself. Suppose God gave these people as a free gift the promise of a future life that would be without pain, without sickness, without death, and without tears. Suppose that God said to these people, "There is one thing that I demand. I demand that you honor my one and only Son and that you worship and serve Him alone." Suppose God did all that, would you be willing to say to Him, "God, that's not fair, you haven't done enough?"
If man has in fact committed cosmic treason against God, what reason could we possibly have that God should provide any way of redemption? In light of the universal rebellion against God, the issue is not why is there only one way, but why is there any way at all?
Cooperation in the Church (Audio Interview)
By Dr. Mark Dever
Four veterans go a few rounds on the subject of cooperation among evangelicals & their churches. Listen to Mark Dever, Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan and CJ Mahaney talk about where they can and cannot cooperate as church leaders. Mark writes, â€œThis is one of my favorite conversations we've been able to record. We had already been together for several hours and the conversation just flowed." Two baptists, one Presbyterian and a Reformed Charismatic discuss the pratical implications of unity when people are coming from different distinctives.
The interview is free for streaming download here
Other Happenings Around the Web
Albert Mohler: A Conversation With John MacArthur and John Piper Audio
James White 17-Part Series on the DaVinci Code
*The Da Vinci Code XVIII *Part I *Part II *Part III *Part IV *Part V *Part VI *Part VII *Part VIII *Part IX *Part X *Part XI *Part XII *Part XIII *Part XIV *Part XV *Part XVI *Part XVII
N. T. Wright's "Paul: In Fresh Perspective" Review & Critique by Denny Burk
Still A Deadly Mistake: N.T. Wrights and Wrongs by Douglas Wilson
John Frame: Doctrine of the Christian Life the third volume of his Theology of Lordship series can read in its entirety online for free.
David Wells Roundtable Discussion
With the recent publication of David Wellsâ€™ Above All Earthly Powers: Christ in a Postmodern World (Eerdmans, 2005), the editor (Derek Thomas) asked three Alliance Council members, Ligon Duncan, Phil Ryken, and Carl Trueman to engage in a round-table discussion on the importance of this and his previous volumes.
Jonathan Edwards' Letter to his son
I recently came across this letter from Jonathan Edwards to his son, (found at Sean Higgin's blog at http://seankhiggins.blogspot.com).
It speaks of the uncertainty of life, the solemn reality of eternal things and the heartfelt passion of a father to see his child find his eternal comfort in the one true Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. His son, Jonathan Edwards Jr., was away on a missionary trip among the Indians at the time, being the tender age of 9.
Stockbridge, May 27, 1755
Though you are a great way off from us, yet you are not out of our minds: I am full of concern for you, often think of you, and often pray for you. Though you are at so great a distance from us, and from your all your relations, yet this is a comfort to us, that the same God that is here as also at Onohoquaha and that though you are out of our sight, and out of our reach, you are always in God's hands, who is infinitely gracious; and we can go to Him, and commit you to His care and mercy. Take heed that you don't forget or neglect Him. Always set God before your eyes, and live in His fear, and seek Him every day with all diligence: for He, and He only can make you happy or miserable as He pleases; and your Life and Health, and the eternal salvation of your soul and your all in this life and that which is to come depends on His will and pleasure.
The week before last, on Thursday, David died; whom you knew and used to play with, and who used to live at our house. His soul is gone into the eternal world. Whether he was prepared for death, we don't know. This is a loud call of God to you to prepare for death. You see that they that are young die, as well as those that are old; David was not very much older than you. Remember what Christ said, that you must be born again, or you never can see the Kingdom of God. Never give yourself any rest unless you have good evidence that you are converted and become a new creature.
We hope that God will preserve your life and health, and return you to Stockbridge again in safety; but always remember that life is uncertain; you know not how soon you must die, and therefore had need to be always ready. We have very lately heard from your brothers and sisters at Northhampton and at Newark, that they are well. Your aged grandfather and grandmother, when I was at Windsor gave their love to you. We here all do the same.
I am, your tender and affectionate father,
Posted by John Samson
Jesus Christ Fount of Every Blessing
"Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights" (Jas. 1:17). And again, "No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven" (John 3:27). "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things in Christ." (Eph 1:3)
Since every good endowment and perfect gift is from above, Jesus leaves no room for nature to boast. This is no hyperbole but a plain expression of the Holy Spirit affirming that all our our abilities; moral, natural and otherwise are the merciful unconditional gift of our Lord Jesus Christ. These and many other passages use universal positives (All, Every) to describe the all-encompassing nature of Christ as the source of every excellence and spiritual blessing. The word "endowment" used in Jas 1:17 means talent, ability or quality which points to the fact that the grace and illumination we are given in Christ to apprehend His word are a necessary precursor to have the internal moral/spiritual quality that enable us to generate right thoughts about Christ. An unspiritual man cannot naturally generate the affections or faith necessary to appropriate salvation. No stream can rise above its source, so likewise, no good thought can rise to heaven unless its fountain source is in heaven. Redemptive thoughts are not derived from resources found below but must issue forth from the river of life whose fountainhead springs forth from the throne of God and of the Lamb. And it is from this same fountain that we must continually drink lest we dry up in the use our own natural resources.
The Five Points of Calvinism by Pastor John Samson
The raging fire of the Protestant Reformation was sparked into flame by Martin Luther. A number of notable men opposed the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church before Luther did - men such as John Wycliffe (1329-1384), John Hus (1373-1415) and William Tyndale (c.1494 - 1536). Tyndale had a monumental role in translating the Bible for the English speaking world, and shared the same fate as Hus by being burnt at the stake. But certainly it was Luther who sparked the Reformation itself with his posting of the 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg on October 31, 1517.
Following on from Luther, God raised up a Frenchman by the name of John Calvin to lead the growing Protestant movement. Both Martin Luther and John Calvin opposed the errors of the Roman Catholic Church concerning salvation, directing people to the truth of the Bible. Though definitely in agreement with the doctrine of justification by faith alone; John Calvin (based in Geneva, Switzerland) through both his preaching and his writings, systematically applied the message of the Bible to every aspect of life. Calvin's Institutes became the handbook of all the Reformers. Like Luther before him, Calvin believed in the Sovereignty of God. Concerning the doctrines of election and predestination, there was nothing in Calvin's writings and sermons that were not first found in Luther's. Yet Calvin also wanted society, as well as the church, to view the world through the lens of the Bible, so that the laws of the land were established upon biblical principles.
These men were not only concerned with what the Scriptures taught, but that the common people had access to read the Bible in their own language. It would be a fair appraisal to see these men's earlier efforts (under God) as foundational to the sweeping changes throughout Europe that Luther and Calvin would bring. Wycliffe, Hus and Tyndale built the bonfire, so to speak, and Luther simply lit the match and held it to the wood! The result - most of Europe was set ablaze with the biblical doctrines of grace.
As time passed, controversy ensued as a man by the name of Jacob Arminius began to raise strong objections to the teachings accepted amongst the Reformers. Arminius studied under the Calvinist teacher Theodore Beza at Geneva and became a professor of theology at the University of Leyden in 1603. Over time, his objections became stronger and stronger until they became a prominent issue amongst all the Church in Holland. The followers of Arminius, known as the Arminians, drew up their creed in Five Articles and outlined them before the state authorities of Holland in the year of 1610 under the name Remonstrance, signed by forty-six ministers. (These Five Articles can be read in Philip Schaff's, Creeds of Christendom, vol. 3, pp. 545-547.)
Bibliology: Doctrine of the Written Word
Take the time to see the updated and most extensive resource of the Doctrine of the Bible on the Internet @ Monergism.com. A cornucopia of theologically sound essays.
â€œSince for unbelieving men religion seems to stand by opinion alone, they, in order not to believe anything foolishly or lightly, both wish and demand rational proof that Moses and the prophets spoke divinely. But I reply: the testimony of the Spirit is more excellent than all reason. For as God alone is a fit witness of himself in his Word, so also the Word will not find acceptance in men's hearts before it is sealed by the inward testimony of the Spirit. The same Spirit, therefore, who has spoken through the mouths of the prophets must penetrate into our hearts to persuade us that they faithfully proclaimed what had been divinely commanded ... "
--John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 1.7.5.
The Space Trilogy: A Review
It may seem strange that I am writing a review of The Space Trilogy, by C. S. Lewis. It's a review of a trilogy instead of just one book. It's fiction (scientifiction, even!) instead of heavy propositional theology. What does this have to do with the Reformation Theology blog? It will probably take me the whole review to be able to answer that one (if I can).
I grew up loving to read science fiction and fantasy like The Chronicles of Narnia. I read them over and over again, even though I wasn't a Christian and had no idea about the great symbolism involved. But I hadn't read The Space Trilogy. There may have been one time I tried, but it was beyond me. It's definitely for adults with good vocabularies, preferably with some knowledge of latin, the classics, and ancient mythologies. And for those who know the Gospel well.
It may be difficult for me to boil down the content of the whole trilogy in a review and keep it of readable length, but here goes!
True Saving Faith by Pastor John Samson
The Apostle Paul's main theme in the book of Romans is that of the Gospel itself, as he answers the question, "how can an unjust person ever be acceptable to a just and holy God?" In passages such as Chapter 3:20 - 4:8, he teaches that we are justified by faith alone and not by anything that we do (other passages where Paul states this are Titus 3:5; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8,9; Phil 3:9; to name just a few). A fuller treatment of the doctrine of justification by faith alone is available here.
Romans 3:28; 4:3-8 - "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin."
Having established the case biblically that we are justified by faith apart from works, we then need to ask the question, "what kind of faith is it that justifies?" In other words, what does true faith look like?