The Puritan Understanding of Christianity
by J.I. Packer
"...a connected view of God, of the Bible, of the world, of ourselves, of salvation, of the church, of history, and of the future. Few, it seems, even in Biblie-believing churches [today], grasp this whole picture, and in liberal churches, where attention to scholars' fads and fancies replaces the teaching of the Bible, there is virtually no grasp of it at all. Once, churches taught it to all their children, using catechisms, but not anymore. I state it [the Puritan View] here, therefore, in summary form:
God, who within the unity of his being is intrinsically a society, the Father, the Son, and the Holy SPirit together, and who is infinite, unchanging, and almighty in his wisdom, goodness, and justice, created the universe, and ourselves within it, so that he might love and bless us, and we might love and praise him. But things have gone wrong.
Original sin is the radical distortion of every human being's mortal nature, making love and honor to God from our hearts impossible and self-centredness at deepest level inevitable. We sin because we are sinners, and human history, from one standpoint, is original sin writ large.
Jesus Christ the Saviour, the Jew who died, rose, reigns, and will return for retribution to everyone, past, present and future, is God the Son incarnate, whose death atoned for our sins, whom we trust for forgiveness and acceptance and serve as our living Lord, and who unites us to himself for the renewal of his image in us, dethroning original sin and giving us resources against its down-drag in the process. This is present salvation.
Images of the Savior (5 â€“ His Temptation in the Wilderness)
When God created our first father, Adam, he placed him at once in the heart of paradise, to enjoy a sweet and pleasant fellowship with his Creator. This fellowship was freely offered for as long as Adam was still innocent; but his innocence had not yet been confirmed, and so God designed a test of obedience to see whether Adam would continue in his state of holy blessedness, or reject the Lord's commandment and bring upon himself misery and banishment from paradise. During this time of probation, God allowed Satan to enter into paradise for the purpose of tempting the man. In this first great struggle between man and Satan, man was utterly defeated and driven out from the presence of the Lord. Adam had failed to abide by the terms of his first covenant with God, and so plunged himself and his entire race into death and corruption. At this time, all might have been lost; but in his mercy, God instead established a new and gracious covenant with our father Adam, promising that he would send a Seed of the woman who would again enter into conflict with Satan. This promised Seed would be triumphant, and would crush the old Tempter, bruising his own heel in the conflict. Thousands of years passed, and all God's people hopefully awaited this coming Messiah who would again take up the struggle with Satan, and who would this time utterly conquer him by rendering a perfect obedience to the word of the Father in the face of his fiercest temptations. When the Spirit led our Savior into the desert, the time had finally arrived for the mighty conflict to be taken up again between the Seed of the woman and the Tempter of mankind. But this time, the outcome would be much different.
Irresistible Grace by Dr. James White
"The doctrine of "irresistible grace" is easily understood. It is simply the belief that when God chooses to move in the lives of His elect and bring them from spiritual death to spiritual life, no power in heaven or on earth can stop Him from so doing. It is really nothing more than saying that it is God who regenerates sinners, and that freely. The doctrine has nothing to do with the fact that sinners "resist" the common grace of God and the Holy Spirit (they do) or that Christians do not live perfectly in the light of God's grace. It is simply the confession that when God chooses to raise His people to spiritual life, He does so without the fulfillment of any conditions on the part of the sinner. Just as Christ had the power and authority to raise Lazarus to life without obtaining his "permission" to do so, He is able to raise His elect to spiritual life with just as certain a result.
Objections to irresistible grace are, by and large, actually objections to the previously established truths of the doctrines of grace. Obviously, if God is sovereign and freely and unconditionally elects a people unto salvation, and if man is dead in sin and enslaved to its power, God must be able to free those elect people in time and bring them to faith in Jesus Christ, and that by a grace that does not falter or depend upon human cooperation. Those who disbelieve God's right to kingship over His creation or the deadness of man in sin and put forward the tradition of man's autonomous will can hardly confess that God's grace actually saves without the freewill cooperation of man. From their perspective, the autonomous act of human faith must determine God's actions. That act of faith becomes the "foreseen" act that controls God's very decree of predestination, and, of course, that act of faith becomes the "trigger" that results in one being born again.
Neither side in the debate will deny that God is the one who raises men to spiritual life. The question is: Does He do so because men fulfill certain conditions, or does He do so freely, at His own time, and in the lives of those He chooses to bring into relationship with Himself through Jesus Christ? This question is normally framed in the context of the relationship of faith and regeneration. Do we believe to become born again, or must we first be born again before we can exercise true, saving faith? Can the natural man do what is pleasing to God? Can the dead choose to allow themselves to be raised to life? This is the issue at hand."
- Dr. James White, Debating Calvinism, p. 197- 198
The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses
As a few of you may be aware, I have recently begun the project of reading and reviewing various books in the Monergism bookstore. Until now, I have merely submitted my reviews to be published in connection with the book in question, at the bookstore itself. But my latest read was so helpful and Christ-centered that I decided to post the review on ReformationTheology as well, for the purpose of encouraging as many readers as possible to make use of it. It was one of the most enriching books that I have read in quite some time, and I cannot recommend it too highly. Here, then, is the review.
Are We Basing Justification on Sanctification?
There were some Rabbis in the early first century who were teaching that if all of them (the Pharisees) would just obey the whole law for a single day it would usher in the Messianic Age. Resultantly you had certain quarters of Judaism who were intent on keeping every aspect of the law. Wouldn't it be ironic if Saul (Paul), in his zeal, in the persecution of the early 1st century church, was attempting to bring about the Messianic Age? What irony there would be if, in doing so, he was fighting against the very thing (Jesus) he was trying to bring about?
We must also take heed lest we take our eyes off of Christ in an attempt to fulfill God's purpose in some performance-based way. Or to put it theologically, trying to base your justification on your sanctification, to which the book of Galatians says, "Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Gal 3:3) This solemn warning from Paul (who, since the Damascus road, now understood grace) that humans are in constant danger of exchanging God's grace in the gospel of Jesus Christ for merit-based Christianity. This is not only a problem with many 1st century Jews but is a human problem, something we are all prone to, for we really want to feel as if we are somehow contributing to the price of our redemption. We would never say it this way, but such feelings are innate, subtle and deadly. Thus the need to preach the gospel to ourselves, as Christians, every day, reminding ourselves that we are united to Christ, are to glory in Him and have no confidence in the flesh. All merit/performance/works based righteousness in inimical to the gospel of salvation. But thanks be to God, the gospel liberates us from all such moralism, that is, all attempts to attain our maintain our justification before God through self-effort.
"Save Yourselves" (Acts 2:40)
I am sorry to bother you again with another email. But, I was reading through Acts in my daily scripture readings and came across Acts 2:40 which quotes Jesus saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation (ESV)." I am not one who needs to be convinced of monergistic regeneration...I wholly submit to that scriptural understanding of conversion. However I think if any Calvinistic preacher ever used Jesus' command here they would immediately be accused of being a monergistic preacher, I guess this is my speculation. Yet, this is quoted from the mover of monergistic regeneration. Unless there is a debate on weather or not this should translated as indicative (be saved) as opposed to imperative (save yourselves)...but I am no greek scholar...So please lend me some help and answer these three questions: 1. Is this accurate to the greek text? 2. How can this be said while holding to monergistic presuppositions? 3. How might this influence our preaching today?
Thanks for your very important question. Lets first look at this whole passage in context where Peter is preaching in Acts 2:38: Peter replied, ""Brothers, what shall we do?" 38And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." 40And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation." 41So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls...(vs 47) And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
So if read in context we immediately understand that Peter qualifies his statement with "...everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." How many people is everyone? It is a universal positive, excluding no one in the context of the sentence. This means that all persons, without exception. who are called by God will believe and be saved. This is again confirmed by the last sentence of the chapter which states that it is the Lord who "added to their number day by day those who were being saved. "
The word "all" is defined by its context - always!
Back on February 1st, 2006, I posted an article here describing the use of the word "all" in scripture. The title of the article was "All Always Means All, right?" I've just visited the blog of my friend, Dr. James White at www.aomin.org, and in an article there he lists a number of uses of the word "all" that clearly demonstrate that it is context that determines the meaning of the word. "All," quite simply, doesn't always mean "all." Here are the examples he quoted:
Acts 5:34 But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while.
Are we to interpret this as meaning that nobody disrespected Gamaliel...not even one? I don't think so. This is an obvious use of hyperbole.
Acts 7:22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.
Does this mean that Moses knew everything the Egyptians knew, completely?... Would that be a true and correct interpretation of these words?
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist . . .
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, â€œDo you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.â€ John 13:3-4, 12-17, ESV
This passage contains one of the very few instances in the New Testament wherein Jesus is set forth as an example after which believers are to pattern their behavior. Historically, a major problem in the Church has been the reduction of Christianity to the question, "What would Jesus do?" If we can just imagine how Jesus would behave in specific situations, we can mimic himâ€”no problemâ€”and live better lives... right?
Christianity Today on Calvinism
"Young, Restless, and Reformed: Calvinism is making a comeback--and shaking up the church."Christianity Today's cover story in the latest issue, shipping this week.
Justin Taylor over at Betwen Two Worlds mentioned that the cover story article was written by Collin Hansen, and that it is an excellent piece that profiles the Reformed resurgence in the twenty-something crowd. John Piper, Al Mohler, Joshua Harris, Kent Hughes, C.J. Mahaney, and Together for the Gospel are all mentioned. Pick up a copy of the magazine at your local bookstore.
We will also link to the story when it appears online next week.
Is Penal Substitution Biblical?
In all of our zeal to contend for every doctrine of the bible (as commendable as such an attitude is), we would do well to remember that only a relatively few doctrines are so vital for the purity of the gospel that, to deny them is, in essence, to corrupt the good news of salvation in Christ. It is only fitting that, when we see these doctrines under attack, we give the primacy of our attention to defending them. And such a doctrine is the biblical conception of the atonement; that is, the conception that the atonement involves the substitution of Christ for us, by which, having taken upon himself our sins, he willingly undergoes the righteous wrath of the Father in our place. In other words, it is vital that we contend for an account of the atonement which views it as penal (that Christ satisfied the penalty of the law, as the righteousness of the Father demanded) substitution (that he underwent this penalty in our place). Any other model of the atonement will both fail the test of biblical witness, and leave us without an adequate plea for forgiveness and acceptance with God. So the question arises, â€œIs this biblical doctrine under attack today?â€
2006 Pacific Northwest Reformation Conference
Come join the Monergism crew for a conference in the Pacific Northwest:The Last Days: What Does the Bible Teach?
in Lynden Washington on September 15&16 2006 at Lynden United Reformed Church. if my memory serves me correctly the conference is free and it will most likely be standing room only! (Seating for about 500 people)
Dr. W. Robert Godfrey, President, Westminster Seminary California and Professor of Church History
Dr. Michael Scott Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics Westminster Seminary California, Host of White Horse Inn
Friday, Sept. 15 7:00 PM
Session 1- When Will These Things Be? Christian views of end times--Dr. Godfrey
Saturday, Sept. 16 Times TBD
Session 2- Jesus Our Prophet: Matthew 24--Dr. Godfrey
Session 3- Holy War, Holy Land--Dr. Horton
Session 4- Q&A with Dr. Godfrey and Dr. Horton
Session 5- Israel and the Church--Dr. Godfrey
Click here for more info...
Is it Wrong to Confess Your Sin?
Bob George says on the basis of 1 John 1:9 that we should not confess our sins because they were already forgiven us at the Cross. Does 1 John 1:9 apply to the Christian or to the non-Christian? If to the Christian, in what sense does God forgive our sins? Wasn't the issue of the Christian's sins settled at the Cross?
Bob George's doctrine that Christians should not confess their sins to God is totally unbiblical, his interpretation is unsound, and those who follow his teaching cut themselves off from an important means of grace: prayers of confession of sins.
I have actually done a fair bit of work with 1 John 1:9, and I can confidently assert that it applies to believers. I have included below an adapted bit of commentary I wrote on this verse (a small portion of a research paper that I wrote on 1 John 1:7b-2:2). It is somewhat academic, so please forgive the style (I have done my best to make it comprehensible without totally rewriting it). I'll provide a summary at the end for you (in case the language is a little too thick to follow easily), as well as some additional comments (if you want, skip straight to these comments to get the main point of the argument).
This Joyful Eastertide: A Critical Review of The Empty Tomb
by Steve Hays
Last year, Prometheus Books, in conjunction with members of the Secular Web, as well as the infamous Robert Price, published The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.
After writing a preliminary draft of a critical, book-length review, Steve Hays of Triablogue completed a revised and expanded edition which can be accessed, by going to this URL:
This Joyful Eastertide: A Critical Review of The Empty Tomb pdf [2.7MB] by Steve Hays
The book is a defense the bodily resurrection of Christ in particular, and inerrancy in general. The Empty Tomb throws the kitchen sink at the Christian faith, so the review ends up covering many side issues as well. At one level, the review has a certain "evidentialist" appearance inasmuch as, a lot of the time, it simply rebuts the contributors on their own ground. However, the case for or against the Resurrection is as much about the rules of evidence (what counts as evidence), as it is about the evidence itself, so, at another level, the review also has a presuppositional underpinning whenever Hays challenges the methods and assumptions of the contributors, which happens frequently.
The review is in the form of a free, downloadable, ebook format, so Hays is not making anything off the book. He did it simply as a service to the Christian community.
"When we believe that we should be satisfied rather than God glorified in our worship, then we put God below ourselves as though He had been made for us rather than that we had been made for Him." -Stephen Charnock
Many times I wonder which god is being worshipped in our churches, and where this god developed his characteristics.
Many (of we) modern evangelicals seem to think that the purpose of a church service is to entertain, exhilarate, and energize. Some of us go to church, not so much to worship God, to stand in awe of His grace to us in Christ, to stir up our affections for Him but rather to consume, sit back, fancy the musical experience and apply the self-help advice we gleaned during the sermon. The pastor is expected to be to be clean-cut, non-offensive and smooth, the musicians to be talented and contemporary, the congregation to be good-looking, middle-class, look and act like you (homogenous unit principle). A great majority of us appear to actually select our churches, not by the sound and dynamic preaching of the Scriptures, but by these outward considerations alone! Some newspapers have even begun to go around and rate churches on these externals as one would a local restaurant. There you have it, a worship of consumerism - In other words this new mentality we have embraced is none other than the worship of self. Then we self-righteously attack those who differ from us, who do not use the seeker sensitive model, and lose sight of the fact that the worst enemy is, more often than not, the person we see in the mirror.
The Love of Christ Is Rich and Free
1. The love of Christ is rich and free;
Fixed on His own eternally;
Nor earth, nor hell, can it remove;
Long as He lives, His own Heâ€™ll love.
2. His loving heart engaged to be
Their everlasting Surety;
â€™Twas love that took their cause in hand,
And love maintains it to the end.
Chorus: Love cannot from its post withdraw;
Nor death, nor hell, nor sin, nor law,
Can turn the Suretyâ€™s heart away;
Heâ€™ll love His own to endless day.
3. Love has redeemed His sheep with blood;
And love will bring them safe to God;
Love calls them all from death to life;
And love will finish all their strife.
4. He loves through every changing scene,
Nor aught from Him can Zion wean;
Not all the wanderings of her heart
Can make His love for her depart.
5. At death, beyond the grave, Heâ€™ll love;
In endless bliss, His own shall prove
The blazing glory of that love
Which never could from them remove.
Tag: Which never could from them remove.
Music: Sandra McCracken
Images of the Savior (4 â€“ His Baptism)
Our need as the children and heirs of Adam is desperate. If we would find again the sweet fellowship that we enjoyed with our Creator in the garden, we must not only be free from all guilt; but more than that, we must possess a positive righteousness. How desperate a case this is, when even our best righteousnesses â€œare as filthy ragsâ€ (Isaiah 64:6), and not only contribute nothing to our being acceptable with God, but actually distance us further from him! But ah, how sweet is the comforting truth that our Savior made it his task to fulfill all righteousness for us, and thus to be uniquely fitted with everything we need to come into renewed fellowship with God. This is the lesson we must learn from the account of our Saviorâ€™s baptism.
David Wells on "Churchless Christianity"
"...This attitude which diminishes the significance of being in church and which will not tolerate any inconvenience has had a strange incarnation overseas, if I can use that word. American missiologists like Ralph Winter have been strenuously advocating â€œchurchless Christianityâ€ as a new and exciting strategy. Their thought is that believers in other religious contexts need not separate themselves from those contexts but can remain in them as private believers, thereby preserving themselves from any kind of harm. This, of course, is easier to do in a Hindu context in which one is allowed to choose oneâ€™s own god from among the many that are worshipped. Christians, quietly and privately, are simply choosing to worship Jesus and ignoring the other gods and goddesses in the temple. They are never baptized, never make a public declaration of their faith, and never become part of a church. This arrangement is, of course, much harder to carry off in Islam. Nevertheless, Winter and others now estimate that there are millions of these â€œchurchlessâ€ believers concealed in other religions. And is this not where American evangelicalism is headed? In fact, there are already millions of believers concealed in their own living rooms whose only â€œchurchâ€ experience is what is had from one of the television preachers. Is it really a coincidence, then, that it is American evangelicals who are energetically arguing for the wisdom of a comparable strategy in the mission field in respect to their religious contexts? I think not!
Here we have an unholy alliance between raw pragmatism, a Christianity without doctrinal shape, one that in fact separates between having Christ as savior and Christ as Lord (an option that the N.T. never holds out to us!), and a lost understanding of the necessary role which the local church should have.
Learning from People with Bad Theology
I don't know how many times I've heard something like this: "So-and-so believes such-and-such, so I'm not going to read any of his books!" The idea, I think, is that if someone believes something wrong in one area, then you shouldn't rely on what he or she has to say in other areas. Apparently the one bad area taints the rest of it all.
So, for example, N. T. Wright's ideas about justification earn him a boycott from reformed Christiansâ€”or at least his books don't get a decent recommendation, even the ones that have nothing to do with justification. Or, for another example, Robert Capon gets quoted on a reformed website, and emails fly in demanding that the quote be removed because of Capon's views in an entirely different area than that which the quote addresses. Nevermind that the quote in itself was a brilliant illustration of the Gospel!
[I wish I could write a whole book about this problem, but no one would read a blog entry of that length. So I'll keep what I have to say concise, knowing that much more explanation could be given in support.]
Bono the Covenant Theologian
Bono, the lead singer for the band U2, to my initial surprise, had some important things to say about grace. Not having previously read much else about Bono's theological views or personal life, I cannot comment about them, but I thought this particular quote showed his amazing insight into the heart and essence of grace from the perspective of the Covenant, no less.
Bono: I really believe we've moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.
Assayas: Well, that doesn't make it clearer for me.
Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physicsâ€”in physical lawsâ€”every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It's clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that "as you reap, so you will sow" stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff.
Assayas: I'd be interested to hear that.
A Sample Daily Prayer in Preparation for Sunday
It is common for us as pastors to be telling the congregation what they ought to be doing. It is oftentimes less common for an explanation to be given as to HOW to do these things. One such area is the arena of prayer. We all know we should be people of prayer, but what causes many to stumble is a lack of knowledge as to how exactly to go about the task.
Just about a week or so ago, I was greatly impacted by reading a written prayer made by Tim Challies, found on his blog (www.challies.com). It was a prayer made in preparation for a conference he was due to attend. The thought came to me that if I adjusted just one or two words, and maybe added one or two things, the prayer would be a useful tool for all of us Christians as we prepare our hearts each week for a different setting; that of Sunday worship. Here then is that suggested sample prayer, based almost word for word on the one Tim wrote. I trust many will find it useful. - Pastor John Samson
A SAMPLE DAILY PRAYER IN PREPARATION FOR SUNDAY
Our gracious God and Father. I approach Your throne today, knowing that it is only through the name of Jesus that I can stand before You. I thank and praise You for Your goodness in allowing me to do so. I recognize very well that I am unworthy of this honor, this privilege, apart from Your unmerited favor and grace. I come before You to seek Your blessing on the service on Sunday.
Nature's Supreme Commander
(There's plenty more to be gleaned from this passage than I do, but an interesting thought here or there seems worthwhile.)
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, â€œThey have no wine.â€ And Jesus said to her, â€œWoman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.â€ His mother said to the servants, â€œDo whatever he tells you.â€
A Lasting Faith for the Last Days by C. R. Biggs- Part 4
A Lasting Faith for the Last Days:
Practical Meditations on Eschatology for the People of God- Part 4
ARE WE LIVING IN THE LAST DAYS OR END TIMES?
XI. ESCHATOLOGY AND DIFFICULT DAILY LIVING IN CHRIST
Jesus taught his people that as disciples we must learn to put our hands to the plow and not look back (Luke 9:62), but to keep looking forward in our daily walk. What is implicit in this teaching is that when difficult times come into our lives, it will be easy to look back and reconsider our commitment to our Savior. Sometimes, the worries of this life â€œchokeâ€ the growth as in the parable of the Sower (Matt. 13:1-23).
Yet throughout Scripture, we are reminded of the importance of ever looking forward as pilgrims, persevering by his grace, no matter how tough times get! Notice how the Luke records Jesusâ€™ words to his disciples.
Monergism.com Update - August 2006
"â€¦that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed upon us through the prayers of many." - II Corinthians 1:11
IMPORTANT UPDATE TO ALL OUR REGULAR VISITORS AT MONERGISM.COM
This past year, the Lord has blessed the reach of this ministry farther than we could have imagined. It is truly a blessing to see an increase in traffic and the daily inquiries we receive. I thank God, through your faithful prayers, that He has entrusted to us a tremendous increase of influence. While that causes us great joy yet we similarly recognize the attendant solemn responsibility this entails. Knowing all too well our own weakness I ask you to uphold us in prayer.
Likewise, wicked men and the minions of hell itself are particularly interested in attacking those who study, teach and apply Godâ€™s Word. In addition to our outward difficulties, juggling responsibilities of family, business, seminary, church and ministry, there is always the problem with the sin within our own hearts. It is very real so we are thankful for those who continue to pray for us and for this ministry. If you have not done so before we would encourage you to consider setting aside some time each week to lift us up in intercession before the Lord. We have truly seen the effectiveness of having other believers pray both on the mission field and at monergism.com. Your prayers do reach God's ears and they make the difference between success and failure. They concurrently work within the sovereign plan of God and for the advancement of His kingdom in the hearts and minds of men.
Steve Brown's What Was I Thinking?
I read this excellent little book on the Internet Monk's recommendation, never having even heard of Steve Brown before. I'm glad I did, and I'll be sure to read his other books as well.
At first I thought this book was going to be a bit boring. The full title is, What Was I Thinking: Things I've Learned Since I Knew It All. So I figured it would be about how, after he became settled in his perfect Presbyterianism, he came to more earnestly and humbly believe the things he already professed, which is all nice and good. But I wasn't particularly looking forward to 12 chapters of "I thought Jesus was radical, but now I really believe he's radical!"
The Potter's Freedom - Now In Electronic Format
For those of you who prefer computers to books, you might be very pleased to learn that Dr. James White's Reformed response and rebuttal of Norman Geisler's book "Chosen But Free" is now available in an electronic format here.
Chapter headings include:
â€¢ The Vital Issue
â€¢ Determinately Knowing
â€¢ The Inabilities of Man
â€¢ The Will of Man
â€¢ Unconditional Election a Necessity
â€¢ CBF's "Big Three" Verses
â€¢ Jesus Teaches "Extreme Calvinism"
â€¢ Unconditional Election
â€¢ Responding to CBF on Romans 9
â€¢ The Perfect Work of Calvary
â€¢ Particular Redemption
â€¢ Irresistible Grace is Resurrection Power
â€¢ Irresistible Grace
â€¢ The Potter's Freedom Defended
A Brief Re-Telling of the Book of Revelation
It is a singular circumstance that the man who walked the isle of Patmos in the Spirit of the Lord, that epoch-defining Lordâ€™s Day, was not a broken man. Well, he was in fact broken and humble â€“ just not in the sense that one may have expected. He was broken before Christ, his only Master; but the threats and persecution, even the strenuous exile that had been brought upon him by the fearful sway of the Roman Emperor, had left him as serenely confident in the ultimate victory of Christ, and of those who were in Christ, as if all the might of Rome had no power to touch him, or to cause him any harm. He was, perhaps, broken in body; and yet he remained untouched in spirit. He was confident that he was an overcomer, in the final analysis; and this unreasonable confidence, in place of the brokenness and servile fear that must have been expected, could not have been other than a source of amazement to all who knew him.
Don't Be Stingy
In his book "A Generous Orthodoxy", when speaking of the doctrine of unconditional election, Brian McLaren in an attempt to redefine TULIP, asserts that anyone who believes in a God who elects some and not others to eternal life (1 Peter 1:2) must be so self-absorbed in their standing before God that they view themselves as having what he calls â€œexclusive privilegeâ€ over others.
How McLaren could reach such a puzzling conclusion is a very interesting question, one which I hope to explore more in depth (along with a testimony of God's grace in my own conversion) below:
It can be demonstrated, on the contrary, that the divine intent of revealing the the doctrine of election to us in Scripture was actually to bring about the opposite effect. Understood rightly, our election in Christ safeguards the biblical axiom that our salvation is by the grace of Jesus Christ, and by that grace ALONE ... that salvation is wholly, not partly, procured by Jesus Christ and our being united to Him by His Holy Spirit. Paul thus defines a Christian as one who worships in the Spirit of God, glories in Christ Jesus and has no confidence in the flesh (Phil 3).
Philosophical & Religious Pluralism
About every other week, I confront popular pluralist notions that have become a large part of the way Americans think. For example, pluralists contend that no one religion can know the fullness of spiritual truth, therefore all religions are valid. But while it is good to acknowledge our limitations, this statement is itself a strong assertion about the nature of spiritual truth. A common analogy is often cited to get the point across which I am sure you have heard â€” several blind men trying to describe an elephant. One feels the tail and reports that an elephant is thin like a snake. Another feels a leg and claims it is thick like a tree. Another touches its side and reports the elephant is a wall. This is supposed to represent how the various religions only understand part of God, while no one can truly see the whole picture. To claim full knowledge of God, pluralists contend, is arrogance. When I occasionally describe this parable, and I can almost see the people nodding their heads in agreement.
Objection and Reply to "Images of the Savior"
I recently came across an objection to my series on the â€œImages of the Saviorâ€, because they evinced, in the objectorâ€™s opinion, a Christology which was not sufficiently high. The seriousness of this charge induced me to write a reply in which I defend my original statements. The further consideration that, if this objector reads a low view of Christology into my articles, then others may be inclined to as well, led me to post this reply, lest my work should in any way fall out to the propagation of an unorthodox Christology. The following is, therefore, a reproduction of the objectorâ€™s critique, and my subsequent response.
2,000 Years of Jesus' Catholic Church?
A quote from Dr. James White's blog at www.aomin.org
"We all heard the "2,000 years of Jesus' Catholic Church" mantra last year when John Paul II died, and it was almost never challenged. I would ask our writer to name, please, a single bishop at the Council of Nicea who believed as he believes on each of these topics: Marian dogmas (Perpetual Virginity, Immaculate Conception, Bodily Assumption), Papal Authority (infallibility), Purgatory, transubstantiation. Any semi-serious reader of history knows he would not be able to find such a person, so the claim of "2,000 years" may sound impressive, but it has the truth value any advertising slogan carries: none. It may sound great to those ignorant of history, and to those who wear the glasses Rome provides that filters out all the extraneous problems and issues, but for anyone with an even semi-decent grasp of the past, it is a hollow, shallow claim."
A Biblical Theology of Christian Mission
Several days ago, I posted a brief article on Christian mission, in which I deplored the lack of a thoroughly biblical-theological treatment of the theme and proposed to develop several posts with the goal of laying out some groundwork for a biblical theology of mission. Shortly after posting that initial article, I came across a self-styled â€œbiblical theology of missionâ€, Salvation to the Ends of the Earth, by Kostenberger and Oâ€™Brien; and I determined to defer my own development of the topic until I had obtained a copy of their work. I have now read this biblical theology, and I am pleased to announce that it was written along much the same lines as that which I had hoped to develop â€“ and furthermore, it has been much more meticulously researched and thought-through than my own musings would have been. In light of this discovery, I have purposed to discontinue my incondite designs, and have chosen instead to post a short review of the volume I found so helpful. If anyone else is likewise searching for a well-crafted biblical theological treatment of Christian mission, I can do no better than to recommend to him the research of Kostenberger and Oâ€™Brien. The book may be purchased here.
A Lasting Faith for the Last Days by Rev. C. R. Biggs- Part 3
A Lasting Faith for the Last Days:
Practical Meditations on Eschatology for the People of God- Part 3
ARE WE LIVING IN THE LAST DAYS OR END TIMES?
VIII. LAST DAYS IDENTITY AS THE PEOPLE OF GOD
As we have been studying, the question that should be asked by Christians today is not whether we are living in the Last Days (we are! according to Acts 2:16ff), but rather, â€œKnowing we are living in the Last Days, how should we then live?â€ As we have learned, the study of eschatology in scripture is not primarily about 'when Jesus will return', in fact that is exactly what Jesus does not want to teach us (cf. Matt. 24). Rather, eschatology (or, literally "the study of last things") in Scripture is about what Jesus did when he came the first time in inaugurating his Kingdom here on earth.
Further, eschatology in Scripture is about the grace that was revealed in Jesus' preaching of the Kingdom and the Kingdom manifesting itself here on earth; eschatology is also about the grace, as well as judgment that will be revealed when his Kingdom is fully realized when he returns!
The Devastating Consequences of a Watered-Down Message by John MacArthur
Those who are familiar with my ministry know that I am committed to expository preaching. It is my unshakable conviction that the proclamation of Godâ€™s Word should always be the heart and the focus of the churchâ€™s ministry (2 Tim. 4:2). And proper biblical preaching should be systematic, expositional, theological, and God-centered.
Such preaching is in short supply these days. There are plenty of gifted communicators in the modern evangelical movement, but todayâ€™s sermons tend to be short, shallow, topical homilies that massage peopleâ€™s egos and focus on fairly insipid subjects like human relationships, "successful" living, emotional issues, and other practical but worldlyâ€”and not definitively biblicalâ€”themes. Like the ubiquitous Plexiglas lecterns from which these messages are delivered, such preaching is lightweight and without substance, cheap and synthetic, leaving little more than an ephemeral impression on the minds of the hearers. More here.
John Piper to Write Book in Response to N.T. Wright
NEWS: August 2, 2006. John Piper is writing a new book which he says, "is a response to N. T. Wright on the doctrine of justification. I have no immediate plan to publish it until I get the feedback from critical readers. My motivation in writing it is that I think his understanding of Paul is wrong and his view of justification is harmful to the church and to the human soul. Few things are more precious than the truth of justification by faith alone because of Christ alone. As a shepherd of a flock of Godâ€™s blood-bought church, I feel responsible to lead the sheep to life-giving pastures. That is not what the sheep find in Wrightâ€™s view of Paul on justification. He is an eloquent and influential writer and is, I believe, misleading many people on the doctrine of justification. I will keep you posted on what becomes of this manuscript." From this essay
My soul is like a weaned child
I was once conversing with a very excellent aged minister, and while we were talking about our Christian experience, he made the following confession: he said, â€œWhen I read that passage in the psalms, â€˜My soul is like a weaned child,â€™ I wish it were true of me, but I think I would have to make an alteration in it, and then it would exactly describe me at times, â€˜My soul is like a weaning rather than a weaned child,â€™ for,â€ said he, â€œwith the infirmities of old age, I fear I get fretful and irritable, and anxious, and when the day is over I do not feel that I have been as calm, resigned, and trustful as I would desire.â€ I suppose, dear brethren, that frequently we have to make the same confession. We wish we were like a weaned child, but we find ourselves neglecting to walk by faith, and instead walk by the sight of our eyes, and then we get like the weaning child which is fretting and worrying, and unrestful. We experience this poor frame of mind especially when we want to know all the reasons of divine Providence, â€” why this affliction was sent, and why that. Why? Why? Why? Ah, when we begin asking â€œWhy? why? why?â€ what an endless task we have before us. If we become like a weaned child we shall not ask â€œwhy?â€ but just believe that in our heavenly Fatherâ€™s dispensations there is a wisdom too deep for us to fathom, a goodness veiled but certain. O dear friends, when you have been in sharp trials, when things have gone wrong for you, and, especially, if some beloved object of your heartâ€™s affection is taken from you, then you have had a quarrel with your God! It is a very sad thing that we should ever argue with infinite love, or think that we know better than eternal wisdom, or begin to suspect the grace of the Most High. That lack of submission to God lies at the root of half our suffering. We must submit to him; it would be well for us if we did so at once. One of the highest acts of devotion is to rest in the Lord. God grant it to you now, at his table especially, for his nameâ€™s sake! Amen. - C.H. Spurgeon
A Lasting Faith for the Last Days by Rev. C. R. Biggs- Part 2
A Lasting Faith for the Last Days:
Practical Meditations on Eschatology for the People of God- Part 2
ARE WE LIVING IN THE LAST DAYS OR END TIMES?
IV. THE AGE OF THE SPIRIT IN THE LAST DAYS
When Jesus is leaving his disciples in this world to be ascended to Godâ€™s right hand, he tells them two important truths about himself. He gives them a message to declare and a mission to perform until he returns, and he comforts them with the reality of his authority and presence with them until the end of the age.
Matthew 28:18-20 18 And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
Jesus sends the apostles out founded upon two realities: All authority has been given to him, and he will be with his apostles until the end of the age. What age is Jesus speaking of? The age he is speaking of is the present age that the Apostle Paul will elaborate upon more fully in his letters when he interprets the resurrection and ascension of Christ for the churches then, and for us today- -both who live in the Last Days, and also in this present age. Jesus is referring to the Last Day when he will return in a glorified body to make his people as he is! That is why he encourages his apostles that he will be with them in this present age.
The Apostle Paul speaks similar language in Ephesians chapter 1, as he prays for the Church at Ephesus and encourages them to persevere in their faith in Christ. Notice the comparison again between Christâ€™s Authority, or â€œincomparably great power for us who believerâ€ and the promise of his present by the Spirit â€œnot only in the present age, but also in the age to comeâ€.
A Lasting Faith for the Last Days by Rev. C. R. Biggs
ARE WE LIVING IN THE LAST DAYS OR END TIMES?
As a pastor I often get the intriguing question from those within as well as outside the church: â€œAre we living in the last days?â€ I emphatically answer â€œyes!â€ but then I wonder to myself what kind of understanding the term â€œlast daysâ€ or "end times" has with the person who just asked the question!
The New Testament Scriptures we are about to consider also say emphatically â€œYes! We are living in the last daysâ€ and for that we can rejoice as the people of God. But what exactly does the term â€œlast daysâ€ mean in the scriptures, and how should we as Christians live knowing we do live in the last days?
Let us begin with Peterâ€™s sermon on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. Notice in the following Scriptures we are going to study how the term â€œlast daysâ€ is considered as the historical context in which Jesusâ€™ Person and Work takes on a heightened, special, climatic saving significance for his people. According to Scripture, the last days is the time period in which all of the Old Testament promises and expectations find their fulfillment in the fullness of the times in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.
Images of the Savior (3 â€“ His First Attendance at the Passover)
Luke 2:46-47 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
We are an ignorant and foolish race, always groping for that which is eternally satisfying, and never able to come to the knowledge of what is truly good and pleasing. This blindness is the effect of our sinfulness: well may we be brought under the indictment of those who â€œ[have] the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heartâ€ (Ephesians 4:18). This blindness is also a terrible judgment upon our sinfulness, and a cause of increased sinfulness, as the apostle describes for us the terrible condition of our race, viz, â€œProfessing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for everâ€ (Romans 1:22-25). In this way, evil begets evil, and all mankind, blinded to the Glory that alone can satisfy, rushes impetuously after that which can only end in eternal misery and destruction.
Repenting of our Good Works
The first prerequisite of a sound conversion is to despair of any hope from oneself, that is, to have no hope save in Christ's mercy alone.
It is a common, but erroneous, belief that Christians think they are decent people, deserving of God's favor, and that this is why God will allow them entrance into His presence in heaven. But any Christian who reads the Scripture and catches a glimpse of God's majesty, knows they are dreadfully cracked about the head and desperately in need of mending. Those who don't think they need a physician and think their relative goodness will save them are, by definition, not Christians at all. And such persons are simply not prepared to hear the gospel ... that Christ is THE Savior, who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. In other words, in coming to Christ it is only truly evident that the Holy Spirit has done a work of grace in someone if they are fully convinced that they have been bad enough to need Jesus' help and are willing to repent of trusting in their good works. Of Course, those already Christians also must constantly, no daily, re-affirm their need of Christ, fleeing to Him alone for their righteousness. Any good we have or produce must be recognized as the result of grace, not the cause of it. "A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven." (John 3:27)
What many may fail to understand is that God does not weigh our virtue and good intentions against our malice and corruptions and then let us into heaven based on whether we have more goodness than evil in our life. On the contrary even the slightest infraction against his holiness is sufficient to cast you away from his favor into an eternity of misery. You are guilty of active rebellion against Him, and if you don't think so, try loving your neighbor from your heart at all times. Once we get a view of who God is in the splendor of His holiness, it becaomes painfully apparent who we are, and it is not pretty. Any who think God too harsh, unjust or that God will simply wink His eye at our youthful indiscretions are still under the utmost deception. Every minor sin against His holy law makes us deserving of His just wrath. God demands that we live in the perfection of holiness at all times. One might counter this by saying, "but this is impossible" and that is exactly the point. His perfect law was given to us not with the express purpose of showing us our ability, but rather our inability. The Apostle Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans said exactly this: "For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin." In other words, a true Christian is one who recognizes their utter moral inability before God's holy law and can only turn and flee to Chirst for mercy. Any hope or trust in our own flesh, in ones own virtue or in our "good intent" is actually an act of rebellion and a damnable sin. This is because, in the face of God's perfect law, if we are not humbled to the dust, then we have not understood it. The regenerate, by definition, are spiritually bankrupt, have no confidence in the flesh, and glory in Christ Jesus alone for any and all standing before God.
The Conversion and Preaching of (St) Patrick in Ireland
An extract from the â€œHistory of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Centuryâ€ by J. H. Merle dâ€™AubignÃ© (1794-1872)
On the picturesque banks of the Clyde, not far from Glasgow, in the Christian village of Bonavern, now Kilpatrick, a little boy, of tender heart, lively temperament, and indefatigable activity, passed the earlier days of his life. He was born about the year 372 A. D., of a British family, and was named Succat.1 His father, Calpurnius, deacon of the church of Bonavern, a simple-hearted pious man, and his mother, Conchessa, sister to the celebrated Martin, archbishop of Tours,2 and a woman superior to the majority of her sex, had endeavoured to instil into his heart the doctrines of Christianity; but Succat did not understand them. He was fond of pleasure, and delighted to be the leader of his youthful companions. In the midst of his frivolities, he committed a serious fault.
Some few years later, his parents having quitted Scotland and settled in Armorica (Bretagne), a terrible calamity befell them. One day as Succat was playing near the seashore with two of his sisters, some Irish pirates, commanded by Oâ€™ Neal, carried them all three off to their boats, and sold them in Ireland to the petty chieftain of some pagan clan. Succat was sent into the fields to keep swine.3 It was while alone in these solitary pastures, without priest and without temple, that the young slave called to mind the divine lessons which his pious mother had so often read to him. The fault which he had committed pressed heavily night and day upon his soul: he groaned in heart, and wept. He turned repenting towards that meek Saviour of whom Conchessa had so often spoken; he fell at His knees in that heathen land, and imagined he felt the arms of a father uplifting the prodigal son. Succat was then born from on high, but by an agent so spiritual, so internal, that he knew not â€œwhence it cometh or whither it goeth.â€ The gospel was written with the finger of God on the tablets of his heart. â€œI was sixteen years old,â€ said he, â€œand knew not the true God; but in that strange land the Lord opened my unbelieving eyes, and, although late, I called my sins to mind, and was converted with my whole heart to the Lord my God, who regarded my low estate, had pity on my youth and ignorance, and consoled me as a father consoles his children.â€4