Interview with Omri by Marco Gonzalez
I would like to introduce you to a series of blog posts I will be starting. Years ago, I began to interview John Frame and Vern Poythress, which drew great interest from our readers. Periodically, you will be seeing more interviews from local pastors, rap artists, or possibly more theologians.
This series will begin with Omri, a lyrically talented artist who lives in Arizona. I am humbled that he agreed to the interview and believe you will be edified by his wisdom. Many readers will be quite familiar with Omri. He has been featured on Shai Linne's "Attributes of God" , "Lyrical Theology", and Christcentric's "The Jude Injunction".
Here is a brief bio about Omri:
Omri is a living testimony of the sovereign, saving grace of God. Despite being raised by believing parents, he did not experience a radical change of life until his final year of college. Shortly after his conversion, he moved to Phoenix, AZ and began serving at Grace Bible Church. It was here that God used the church to mature and refine Omri as a Christian man, equipping him with the theological depth and practical wisdom relayed through his music.
Artistically, Omri aims to communicate the majesty of the Creator through the beauty of lyrical complexity. He currently resides in Gilbert, AZ with his wife, Emily, while teaching high school Bible and English and pursuing a Master of Arts degree in Biblical Counseling at the Master’s College.
Tell us a little about yourself. I first stumbled upon your work on Shai Linne's "Attributes of God" and was highly impressed with your musical/lyrical ability.
I've been writing and recording a little over six years now. The first time I recorded was during the same week that God saved me, but ironically, the two events were unrelated. I have always enjoyed words, even from a young age. Whether it was reading books and comics, writing, or listening to good speakers, for whatever reason, I have always been drawn to elegant diction. Shortly after God saved me, I moved to Arizona to get plugged in at Grace Bible Church where my wife and I currently serve. Besides making music, I teach English and Bible at a local Christian high school full-time and I'm studying to complete my Master's degree in Biblical Counseling at The Master's College. Unfortunately, these things don't leave as much time for music as I would like, but it's all good. This is what God has for me right now. The Attributes of God feature was actually my first big feature and quite a few people who currently follow my music were introduced to me then. It's encouraging to hear that you had the same experience.
When were you first introduced to Hip-Hop and when did you begin to see it as a viable use for the Glory of God?
Good question. I honestly don't even remember the first time I heard rap because growing up, I wasn't allowed to listen to it. My parents didn't understand it, and like many people in the late 90's, just saw Christian hip hop as the church trying to be like the world in order to reach the world. I never lost interest in rap though. I can remember listening to Yolanda Adams with my parents and always anxiously anticipating this one rap verse that was on one of her songs! Eventually, though, my parents warmed up to the idea of Christian hip hop and began listening to it with my siblings and me.
Whether or not rap could be used to glorify God was never a question in my mind though. It never even occurred to me that there was a reason why it couldn't be. In college was the first time that I actually tried my hand at writing poetry and performing it. My school hosted open mic nights all the time and I grew tired of listening to people exalt stuff that was sinful. So I started writing just for the sake of being a light and calling people to repentance. Over time, I grew in confidence through people's encouragement that I was actually decent at it, even the people who were sinning in the ways I was talking about when I performed!
What is your process for creating music? How do the scriptures, theology, and prayer fit into this?
How I make music has changed constantly over the years. Initially, I was just downloading free, generic beats online and writing lyrics to those. About a year in to writing and recording, a friend taught me about multisyllabic rhyme schemes and I began developing that writing style. Now, after putting out a decent amount of my own music, I am giving more attention to the musicality of my songs and projects. What hasn't changed is the role that theology, prayer, and God's word play in the process. I see my music is a platform for God's exaltation and the proclamation of the gospel. I'm not interested in being reserved about those things or talking about other stuff. I still enjoy some music that doesn't major on those same things or aren't as explicit about them, but that's not what I want my music to be. I'm constantly praying that God would guide me and give me wisdom and skill throughout the creative process like He did for Bezalel and Oholiab in Exodus 31. Whenever I write, I try to consider Psalm 40:3, "He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in Yahweh" and Psalm 102:18, "Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise Yahweh." I'm aware that, by God's grace, He may use my music to move people to think about Him in a way that affects several generations to come. That is what I want God to accomplish through my music.
I would invite anyone who has not watched this video to view it before reading this. Please share with us your heart on this video. Why “Wonderful Complexity”? And what inspired you to create such a masterpiece?
Wonderful Complexity was something that I had been wanting to write for a very long time. Early on in my Christian walk, through reading the Bible with an eye toward God's attributes, I began to realize that God was far beyond anything that I could imagine. He didn't mesh with my logic and there was no way that I would ever fully wrap my mind around Him. I began reading the M'Cheyne's Bible reading plan in 2009 and I kept noticing passages that, in one way or another, revealed that even the writers of Scripture saw very little of the totality of God. I started to get the sense that everything I was reading in Scripture was just the tip of the iceberg. Among those passages are Deuteronomy 3:23-24, Job 26:14, Nehemiah 9:5, and Psalms 145:3 and 147:5. Those have become some of my favorite verses and most helpful to my own growth as a believer. With the Wonderful Complexity song and video, I wanted to capture something of that sense of wonder by highlighting the paradoxes within God's character. Lord willing, it will simply be a catalyst for listeners to continue (or begin) considering God in that way. I like to think of it as my small contribution to the world to accomplish that end.
The recent controversies surrounding Christian Hip-Hop have left many believers on both sides of the fence. Many Christians see Hip-Hop as invalid and should not be a means to preach the Gospel and edify the church. As an artist, what would you say to this?
Well, obviously, I disagree. Everything that I've ever heard against the use of hip hop for the sake of the gospel has been from who I assume are well meaning saints who misunderstand God's glory and elevate their own preferences. I recommend anyone seeking clarity on this issue to read Al Mohler's article, "Thinking about Thinking about Rap" and God's Servant's article appealing to the NCFIC panelists. I believe both these brothers address the issues surrounding this debate very well.
Where can viewers find more of your music? And what are some future projects we can expect?
I can't say too much yet about what's to come, but I am working on another EP. The idea for the project came from an impactful sermon series that was preached at my church. There is no doubt in my mind that this project will be my best music yet. In the grand scheme of things, we're still a little bit early in the creative process, but I'm excited to get it into people hands. I think it is something that the church and Christian hip hop can benefit from greatly. All my music, as well as links to features and other projects, can be found on isix5.com. For things specific to Wonderful Complexity, visit wonderfulcomplexity.com.
The Doctrine of Repentance by Thomas Watson
To discover what true repentance is, I shall first show what it is not. There are several deceits of repentance which might occasion that saying of Augustine that `repentance damns many'. He meant a false repentance; a person may delude himself with counterfeit repentance.
1. The first deceit of repentance is legal terror
A man has gone on long in sin. At last God arrests him, shows him what desperate hazard he has run, and he is filled with anguish. Within a while the tempest of conscience is blown over, and he is quiet. Then he concludes that he is a true penitent because he has felt some bitterness in sin. Do not be deceived: this is not repentance. Ahab and Judas had some trouble of mind. It is one thing to be a terrified sinner and another to be a repenting sinner. Sense of guilt is enough to breed terror. Infusion of grace breeds repentance. If pain and trouble were sufficient to repentance, then the damned in hell should be most penitent, for they are most in anguish. Repentance depends upon a change of heart. There may be terror, yet with no change of heart.
2. Another deceit about repentance is resolution against sin
A person may purpose and make vows, yet be no penitent. `Thou saidst, I will not transgress' (Jer. 2.20). Here was a resolution; but see what follows: `under every green tree thou wanderest, playing the harlot'. Notwithstanding her solemn engagements, she played fast and loose with God and ran after her idols. We see by experience what protestations a person will make when he is on his sick-bed, if God should recover him again; yet he is as bad as ever. He shows his old heart in a new temptation.
Resolutions against sin may arise:
(1) From present extremity; not because sin is sinful, but because it is painful. This resolution will vanish.
(2) From fear of future evil, an apprehension of death and hell: `I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him' (Rev. 6.8). What will not a sinner do, what vows will he not make, when he knows he must die and stand before the judgment-seat? Self-love raises a sick-bed vow, and love of sin will prevail against it. Trust not to a passionate resolution; it is raised in a storm and will die in a calm.
3. The third deceit about repentance is the leaving of many sinful ways It is a great matter, I confess, to leave sin. So dear is sin to a man that he will rather part with a child than with a lust: `Shall I give the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?' (Mic. 6.7). Sin may be parted with, yet without repentance.
(1) A man may part with some sins and keep others, as Herod reformed many things that were amiss but could not leave his incest.
(2) An old sin may be left in order to entertain a new, as you put off an old servant to take another. This is to exchange a sin. Sin may be exchanged and the heart remained unchanged. He who was a prodigal in his youth turns usurer in his old age. A slave is sold to a Jew; the Jew sells him to a Turk. Here the master is changed, but he is a slave still. So a man moves from one vice to another but remains a sinner still.
(3) A sin may be left not so much from strength of grace as from reasons of prudence. A man sees that though such a sin be for his pleasure, yet it is not for his interest. It will eclipse his credit, prejudice his health, impair his estate. Therefore, for prudential reasons, he dismisses it. True leaving of sin is when the acts of sin cease from the infusion of a principle of grace, as the air ceases to be dark from the infusion of light.
How to Spend the Day With God By Richard Baxter
adapted and updated from
RICHARD BAXTER (1615-1691)
by Matthew Vogan
A holy life is inclined to be made easier when we know the usual sequence and method of our duties - with everything falling into its proper place. Therefore, I shall give some brief directions for spending the day in a holy manner.
Measure the time of your sleep appropriately so that you do not waste your precious morning hours sluggishly in your bed. Let the time of your sleep be matched to your health and labour, and not to slothful pleasure.
Let God have your first awaking thoughts; lift up your hearts to Him reverently and thankfully for the rest enjoyed the night before and cast yourself upon Him for the day which follows.
Familiarise yourself so consistently to this that your conscience may check you when common thoughts shall first intrude. Think of the mercy of a night's rest and of how many that have spent that night in Hell; how many in prison; how many in cold, hard lodgings; how many suffering from agonising pains and sickness, weary of their beds and of their lives.
Think of how many souls were that night called from their bodies terrifyingly to appear before God and think how quickly days and nights are rolling on! How speedily your last night and day will come! Observe that which is lacking in the preparedness of your soul for such a time and seek it without delay.
Let prayer by yourself alone (or with your partner) take place before the collective prayer of the family. If possible let it be first, before any work of the day.
Let family worship be performed consistently and at a time when it is most likely for the family to be free of interruptions.
Remember your ultimate purpose, and when you set yourself to your day's work or approach any activity in the world, let HOLINESS TO THE LORD be written upon your hearts in all that you do.
Do no activity which you cannot entitle God to, and truly say that he set you about it, and do nothing in the world for any other ultimate purpose than to please, glorify and enjoy Him. "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corinthians 10:31.
Diligence in Your Calling
Follow the tasks of your calling carefully and diligently. Thus:
(a) You will show that you are not sluggish and servants to your flesh (as those that cannot deny it ease), and you will further the putting to death of all the fleshly lusts and desires that are fed by ease and idleness.
(b) You will keep out idle thoughts from your mind, that swarm in the minds of idle persons.
(c) You will not lose precious time, something that idle persons are daily guilty of.
(d) You will be in a way of obedience to God when the slothful are in constant sins of omission.
(e) You may have more time to spend in holy duties if you follow your occupation diligently. Idle persons have no time for praying and reading because they lose time by loitering at their work.
(f) You may expect God's blessing and comfortable provision for both yourself and your families.
(g) it may also encourage the health of your body which will increase its competence for the service of your soul.
Temptations and Things That Corrupt
Be thoroughly acquainted with your temptations and the things that may corrupt you - and watch against them all day long. You should watch especially the most dangerous of the things that corrupt, and those temptations that either your company or business will unavoidably lay before you.
Watch against the master sins of unbelief: hypocrisy, selfishness, pride, flesh pleasing and the excessive love of earthly things. Take care against being drawn into earthly mindedness and excessive cares, or covetous designs for rising in the world, under the pretence of diligence in your calling.
If you are to trade or deal with others, be vigilant against selfishness and all that smacks of injustice or uncharitableness. In all your dealings with others, watch against the temptation of empty and idle talking. Watch also against those persons who would tempt you to anger. Maintain that modesty and cleanness of speech that the laws of purity require. If you converse with flatterers, be on your guard against swelling pride.
If you converse with those that despise and injure you, strengthen yourself against impatient, revengeful pride.
At first these things will be very difficult, while sin has any strength in you, but once you have grasped a continual awareness of the poisonous danger of any one of these sins, your heart will readily and easily avoid them.
Help for the Weak By Richard Sibbes
By meditation on these rules and signs, much comfort may be brought to the souls of the weakest. That it may be in greater abundance, let me add something to help them over some few ordinary objections and secret thoughts against themselves which, getting within the heart, oftentimes keep them low.
TEMPTATIONS WHICH HINDER COMFORT
1. Some think they have no faith at all because they have no full assurance, whereas the fairest fire that can be will have some smoke. The best actions will smell of the smoke. The mortar wherein garlic has been stamped will always smell of it; so all our actions will savor something of the old man.
2. In weakness of body some think grace dies, because their performances are feeble, their spirits, which are the instruments of their souls' actions, being weakened. But they do not consider that God regards the hidden sighs of those that lack abilities to express them outwardly. He that pronounces those blessed that consider the poor will have a merciful consideration of such himself.
3. Some again are haunted with hideous representations to their imaginations, and with vile and unworthy thoughts of God, of Christ, of the Word, which, as busy flies, disquiet and molest their peace. These are cast in like wildfire by Satan, as may be discerned by the strangeness, the strength and violence, and the horribleness of them even to corrupt nature. A pious soul is no more guilty of them than Benjamin was when Joseph's cup was put into his sack. Among other helps recommended by godly writers, such as detestation of them and diversion from them to other things, let this be one, to complain to Christ against them, and to fly under the wings of his protection, and to desire him to take our part against his and our enemy. Shall every sin and blasphemy of man be forgiven, and not these blasphemous thoughts, which have the devil for their father, when Christ himself was molested in this way so that he might succor all poor souls in this condition?
But there is a difference between Christ and us in this case. Because Satan had nothing of his own in Christ his suggestions left no impression at all in his holy nature, but, as sparks falling into the sea, were presently quenched. Satan's temptations of Christ were only suggestions on Satan's part, and apprehensions of the vileness of them on Christ's part. To apprehend ill suggested by another is not ill. It was Christ's grievance, but Satan's sin. But thus he yielded himself to be tempted, that he might both pity us in our conflicts, and train us up to manage our spiritual weapons as he did. Christ could have overcome him by power, but he did it by argument. But when Satan comes to us, he finds something of his own in us, which holds correspondence and has intelligence with him. There is the same enmity in our nature to God and goodness, in some degree, that is in Satan himself. Therefore his temptations fasten, for the most part, some taint upon us. And if there were no devil to suggest, yet sinful thoughts would arise from within us, though none were cast in from without. We have a mint of them within. These thoughts, if the soul dwell on them so long as to suck or draw from and by them any sinful delight, then they leave a more heavy guilt upon the soul, hinder our sweet communion with God, interrupt our peace, and put a contrary relish into the soul, disposing it to greater sins. All scandalous actions are only thoughts at the first. Ill thoughts are as little thieves, which, creeping in at the window, open the door to greater. Thoughts are seeds of actions. These, especially when they are helped forward by Satan, make the life of many good Christians almost a martyrdom. In this case it is an unsound comfort that some minister, that ill thoughts arise from nature, and what is natural is excusable. We must know that nature, as it came out of God's hands in the beginning, had no such risings out of it. The soul, as inspired of God, had no such unsavoury breathings. But since it betrayed itself by sin it is, in some sort, natural to it to forge sinful imaginations, and to be a furnace of such sparks. And this is an aggravation of the sinfulness of natural corruption, that it is so deeply rooted and so generally spread in our nature.
It promotes humiliation to know the whole breadth and depth of sin. But the fact that our nature now, so far as it is unrenewed, is so unhappily fruitful in ill thoughts, ministers this comfort, that it is not our case alone, as if our condition in this were different from others, as some have been tempted to think, even almost to despair. None, say they, have such a loathsome nature as I have. This springs from ignorance of the spreading of original sin, for what can come from an unclean thing but that which is unclean? 'As in water face answereth to face, so the [polluted] heart of man to man' (Prov. 27:19), where grace has not made some difference. As in annoyances from Satan, so here, the best way is to lay open our complaints to Christ, and cry with Paul, '0 wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?' (Rom. 7:24). On giving vent to his distress, he presently found comfort, for he breaks into thanksgiving, 'I thank God.' And it is good to profit from this, to hate this offensive body of death more, and to draw nearer to God, as that holy man did after his 'foolish' and 'beastly' thoughts (Psa. 73:22 and 28), and so to keep our hearts closer to God, seasoning them with heavenly meditations in the morning, storing up good matter, so that our heart may be a good treasury, while we beg of Christ his Holy Spirit to stop that cursed issue and to be a living spring of better thoughts in us. Nothing more abases the spirits of holy men that desire to delight in God after they have escaped the common defilements of the world than these unclean issues of spirit, as being most contrary to God, who is a pure Spirit. But the very irksomeness of them yields matter of comfort against them. They force the soul to all spiritual exercises, to watchfulness and a more near walking with God, and to raise itself to thoughts of a higher nature, such as those which the truth of God, the works of God, the communion of saints, the mystery of godliness, the terror of the Lord, and the excellency of the state of a Christian and a conversation suitable to it, do abundantly minister. They discover to us a necessity of daily purging and pardoning grace, and of seeking to be found in Christ, and so bring the best often upon their knees.
New Calvinism and Race Relations
On March 12, John Piper was the guest lecturer for the 7th annual Gaffin Lectures at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. The title of Dr. Piper's lecture is "The New Calvinism and the New Community: The Doctrines of Grace and the Meaning of Race."
A Treatise Concerning Meditation by Thomas Watson
"His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night." Psalm 1:2
Having led you through the Chamber of Delight in my previous discourse, I will now bring you into the Withdrawing Room of Meditation. "In his law does he meditate day and night."
I. The opening of the Words, and the Proposition asserted.
Grace breeds delight in God, and delight breeds meditation. Meditation is a duty wherein consists the essentials of religion, and which nourishes the very life-blood of it. That the Psalmist may show how much the godly man is habituated to this blessed work of meditation, he subjoins, "In his law does he meditate day and night;" not but that there may be sometimes intermission: God allows time for our calling, he grants some relaxation; but when it is said, the godly man meditates day and night, the meaning is, frequently—he is much conversant in the duty.
It is a command of God to pray without ceasing, 1 Thess. 5:17. The meaning is—not that we should be always praying—but that we should every day set some time apart for prayer. We read in the Old law it was called the continual sacrifice, Numb. 28:24, not that the people of Israel did nothing else but sacrifice—but because they had their stated hours, every morning and evening they offered, therefore it was called the continual sacrifice. Thus the godly man is said to meditate day and night, that is, he is often at this work, he is no stranger to meditation.
Doctrine. The proposition that results out of the text is this—that a godly Christian is a meditating Christian, Psalm 119:15. "I will meditate in your precepts." 1 Tim. 4:15, "Meditate upon these things." Meditation is the chewing upon the truths we have heard. The beasts in the old law which did not chew the cud, were unclean; the professor who does not by meditation chew the cud, is to be accounted unclean. Meditation is like the watering of the seed, it makes the fruits of grace to flourish.
II. Showing the NATURE of Meditation.
If it be inquired what meditation is, I answer—Meditation is the soul's retiring of itself, that by a serious and solemn thinking upon God, the heart may be raised up to heavenly affections. This description has three branches.
1. Meditation is the soul's retiring of itself. A Christian, when he goes to meditate, must lock up himself from the world. The world spoils meditation; Christ went by himself into the mountainside to pray, Matt. 14:23, so, go into a solitary place when you are to meditate. "Isaac went out to meditate in the field," Gen. 24:63; he sequestered and retired himself that he might take a walk with God by meditation. Zaccheus had a mind to see Christ, and he got out of the crowd, "He ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him," Luke 19:3, 4. So, when we would see God, we must get out of the crowd of worldly business; we must climb up into the tree by retiredness of meditation, and there we shall have the best prospect of heaven.
The world's music will either play us asleep, or distract us in our meditations. When a mote has gotten into the eye—it hinders the sight. Just so, when worldly thoughts, as motes, are gotten into the mind, which is the eye of the soul—it cannot look up so steadfastly to heaven by contemplation. Therefore, as when Abraham went to sacrifice, "he left his servant and the donkey at the bottom of the hill," Gen. 22:5, so, when a Christian is going up the hill of meditation, he should leave all secular cares at the bottom of the hill, that he may be alone, and take a turn in heaven. If the wings of the bird are full of slime, she cannot fly. Meditation is the wing of the soul; when a Christian is beslimed with earth, he cannot fly to God upon this wing. Bernard when he came to the church-door, used to say, "Stay here all my worldly thoughts, that I may converse with God in the temple." So say to yourself, "I am going now to meditate, O all you vain thoughts stay behind, come not near!" When you are going up the mount of meditation, take heed that the world does not follow you, and throw you down from the top of this pinnacle. This is the first thing, the soul's retiring of itself—lock and bolt the door against the world.
2. The second thing in meditation, is, a serious and solemn thinking upon God. The Hebrew word to meditate, signifies with intenseness to recollect and gather together the thoughts. Meditation is not a cursory work, to have a few transient thoughts of religion; like the dogs of Nilus that lap and then run away; but there must be in meditation a fixing the heart upon the object, a steeping the thoughts. Carnal professors have their thoughts roving up and down, and will not fix on God; like the bird that hops from one branch to another, and stays in no one place. David was a man fit to meditate, "O God, my heart is fixed," Psalm 108:1.
In meditation there must be a staying of the thoughts upon the object; a man who rides quickly through a town or village—he minds nothing. But an artist who is looking on a curious piece, views the whole portraiture of it, he observes the symmetry and proportion, he minds every shadow and color. A carnal, flitting professor, is like the traveler, his thoughts ride hastily—he minds nothing of God. A wise Christian is like the artist, he views with seriousness, and ponders the things of religion, Luke 2:19. "But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart."
3. The third thing in meditation, is, the raising of the heart to holy affections. A Christian enters into meditation, as a man enters into the hospital—that he may be healed. Meditation heals the soul of its deadness and earthliness; but more of this afterwards.
Anti-Scriptural Theories by Charles Hodge
Heathen Doctrine of Spontaneous Generation.
The Scriptural doctrine is opposed to the doctrine held by many of the ancients, that man is a spontaneous production of the earth. Many of them claimed to be γηγενεῖς, αὐτόχθενες, terrigena. The earth was assumed to be pregnant with the germs of all living organisms, which were quickened into life under favourable circumstances; or it was regarded as instinct with a productive life to which is to be referred the origin of all the plants and animals living on its surface. To this primitive doctrine of antiquity, modern philosophy and science, in some of their forms, have returned. Those who deny the existence of a personal God, distinct from the world, must of course deny the doctrine of a creation ex nihilo and consequently of the creation of man. The theological view as to the origin of man, says Strauss, “rejects the standpoint of natural philosophy and of science in general. These do not admit of the immediate intervention of divine causation. God created man, not as such, or, ‘quatenus infinitus est, sed quatenus per elementa nascentis telluris explicatur.’ This is the view which the Greek and Roman philosophers, in a very crude form indeed, presented, and against which the fathers of the Christian Church earnestly contended, but which is now the unanimous judgment of natural science as well as of philosophy.”1 To the objection that the earth no longer spontaneously produces men and irrational animals, it is answered that many things happened formerly that do not happen in the present state of the world. To the still more obvious objection that an infant man must have perished without a mother’s care, it is answered that the infant floated in the ocean of its birth, enveloped in a covering, until it reached the development of a child two years old; or it is said that philosophy can only establish the general fact as to the way in which the human race originated, but cannot be required to explain all the details. 5
Modern Doctrine of Spontaneous Generation.
Although Strauss greatly exaggerates when he says that men of science in our day are unanimous in supporting the doctrine of spontaneous generation, it is undoubtedly true that a large class of naturalists, especially on the continent of Europe, are in favour of that doctrine. Professor Huxley, in his discourse on the “Physical Basis of Life,” lends to it the whole weight of his authority. He does not indeed expressly teach that dead matter becomes active without being subject to the influence of previous living matter; but his whole paper is designed to show that life is the result of the peculiar arrangement of the molecules of matter. His doctrine is that “the matter of life is composed of ordinary matter, differing from it only in the manner in which its atoms are aggregated.”2 “If the properties of water,” he says, “may be properly said to result from the nature and disposition of its component molecules, I can find no intelligible ground for refusing to say that the properties of protoplasm result from the nature and disposition of its molecules.”3 In his address before the British Association, he says that if he could look back far enough into the past he should expect to see “the evolution of living protoplasm from not living matter.” And although that address is devoted to showing that spontaneous generation, or Abiogenesis, as it is called, has never been proved, he says, “I must carefully guard myself against the supposition that I intend to suggest that no such thing as Abiogenesis has ever taken place in the past or ever will take place in the future. With organic chemistry, molecular physics, and physiology yet in their infancy, and every day making prodigious strides, I think it would be the height of presumption for any man to say that the conditions under which matter assumes the properties we call ‘vital,’ may not some day be artificially brought together.”4 All this supposes that life is the product of physical causes; that all that is requisite for its production is “to bring together” the necessary conditions.
Predestination by A.A. Hodge
THIS is a subject which is very little understood, even by those Christians who profess to embrace it in their creed. This is due in part to the nature of the subject, to its profundity, and to the infinite range of its complications with other important truths. But it is also in large measure due to inattention, and to the general prevalence of a natural though an unfounded and ignorant prejudice. This prejudice has become in many quarters an epidemic irresistible to persons of more zeal than judgment. Now, I wish to urge a plea in favour of an earnest, frank, patient study of the subject. Vague prejudice unsupported by definite knowledge has no value. It is unquestionable that the Scriptures do teach some doctrine of predestination, and a very strict doctrine of unconditional election has been held by the greatest and most thoroughly biblical theologians, and by whole denominations of Christians most conspicuous for their evangelical character and fruitfulness. It will not do for any of us to dismiss such a subject with supercilious impatience. We should at the very least do our best to secure a clear conception of the doctrine, and of its relation to other doctrines, before we make ourselves sure that it is not true.
I. In the first place, it should be clearly understood that this great principle of divine predestination is held in two entirely different connections and interests. It has by a great many been discussed simply as a question of transcendental theology, as concerning the acts of God enacted in eternity in a sphere above and behind the external phenomena which are obvious to our senses. If there be a God, he necessarily exists in eternity, while the creation exists in the successions and limitations of time. The universe as a whole and all the parts of it originate in him and depend upon him, and therefore are determined by him. According to the precise language of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Ques. 7, “The decrees of God are, his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he bath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.” This sweeps the whole universe, and is a proposition of the highest and most general speculative importance. This position is unquestionably, in this form, true and logically involved in all scriptural views of the doctrine of grace in all its elements. It is therefore rightly embraced in our Confession of Faith, and the present writer with all his heart believes it to be true. It is in this spirit and from this speculative point of view that Zwingli discusses this subject in his De Providentia. And it is this aspect of the question which is habitually considered by the general Christian public in their hostile criticisms of this doctrine. Now, I am perfectly free to confess that however true this view of the general principle of predestination is, and however much it is logically implicated in the essentials of the Christian doctrines of grace, nevertheless this transcendental way of conceiving of the matter is more speculative than practical. Although I heartily accord with the view in my own mind, I feel no disposition to insist upon the assent of any Christian brother as a matter of loyalty to the Christian faith. No element of the Creed is essential unless it practically determines the attitude of the soul in its relations to God through Christ. And only those aspects and modes of conceiving Christian truth should be insisted upon and imposed upon others as obligatory which do directly determine this Godward attitude of our souls, or, in other words, which directly enter into and give form to our religious experience.
On the other hand, Calvin presents his characteristic doctrine of eternal election in living connection with the great practical experimental questions of personal salvation and of divine grace. If we are sinners, it is evident that the practically essential thing in religious experience is to appreciate truly our guilt, unworthiness, and helplessness before God, and God’s free grace toward us to its full extent. If God is infinitely gracious and just, if at measureless expense he redeemed us at the cost of the pain, shame, and death of his Son, it follows that any failure in our appreciation of our own unworthiness and helplessness, or of God’s gracious activity in our salvation, would be absolutely insufferable. To claim more for ourselves or to ascribe less to God than the facts of the case justify would he the greatest of all sins, and would be the very thing to make salvation impossible. The sense of our own guilt, pollution, and impotence, and of the absolute unconditioned freeness of the grace which saves us, is involved in every case of genuine religious experience.
Free Will and Moral Responsibility by John Frame
About ten years ago I interviewed John Frame. I was just starting to become familiar with his work and I am so glad I was introduced to him. John Frame is one of the clearest, precise, and critical thinkers of our time. John Frame is so committed to the authority of scripture he will uphold this over any confession written by man. I truly appreciate this about John Frame. He is not simply a man who try's to uphold a confession, but scripture. The following is an article he wrote about Free Will and Moral responsibility.
I highly recommend his Systematic Theology which is the magnum opus of his life work.
There are two theories of free will that are often discussed in relation to ethical responsibility. The first is usually called “libertarianism,” and it is typical of Arminian theology. Many philosophers have also argued for it, from Epicurus in ancient times to C. A. Campbell, H. D. Lewis, Alvin Plantinga and many others recently. Indeed, it seems to be something of a consensus among Christian philosophers today that one cannot do justice to moral responsibility without presupposing a libertarian view of freedom.
The libertarian view states that some human decisions and actions, particularly moral and religious decisions, are strictly uncaused. In the most sophisticated forms of libertarianism, these decisions are not even caused by our desires or character. They are very insistent on this: a truly free act is not an act which carries out our strongest desire; it rather, typically, goes against our strongest desire. The libertarian is aware, of course, that our desires are largely a function of our heredity, environment, past decisions and so on. If free decisions are based on desires, he thinks, they are not fully free. They are not in this case wholly uncaused.
The libertarian argues that such a view is essential to moral responsibility. For no one is responsible for an act unless he “could have done otherwise.” If I am strapped to a robotic machine which, using my arms, robs a bank, I am not to blame for robbing the bank. I “could not have done otherwise.” Such is the libertarian argument.
I have always felt that this position lacked cogency. For one thing, it denies the rule of God’s sovereignty over the hearts and decisions of human beings, a rule which I find abundantly attested in Scripture (see my lectures on the Doctrine of God). Indeed, in saying that human actions can be “uncaused,” it attributes to man ultimate causality; but in Christianity, only God is the first cause.
For another thing, libertarianism seems to me to be unintelligible on its own terms, for it makes our moral choices accidental. R. E. Hobart, in a famous article from the 1930s, wrote to the effect that on the libertarian basis, a moral choice is like my feet popping out of my bed without my desiring them to, and carrying me where I don’t want to go. The attempt to separate decisions from desires is psychologically perverse.
Further, libertarianism, rather than guaranteeing moral responsibility, actually destroys it. How can we be held responsible for decisions, if those decisions are “psychological accidents,” unconnected with any of our desires? Indeed, such a situation would, precisely, negate all responsibility. Certainly it is difficult to imagine being held responsible for something we really didn’t want to do.
Regeneration by Charles Hodge
The following excerpts are from an essay written by Charles Hodge entitled "Regeneration and The New Divinity Trend" taken from the Princeton Review: First Series, published in New York by Wiley and Putnam in 1846. It was written in review of "Regeneration and the Manner of Its Occurrence, A Sermon from John 5:24". Preached at the Opening of the Synod of New York, in the Rutgers Street Church, on Oct 20 1829, by Samuel H. Cox, D.D., Pastor of the Laight Street Presbyterian Church. Hodge takes on some common philosophic arguments against the doctrine of monergistic regeneration. He successfully refutes the synergistic teaching that the natural man's decision to trust Christ must come from an indifferent moral disposition, as often claimed. Hodge shows that the only reasonable explanation for holy decisions is that they must spring from holy first causes and inclinations. The ideas in the following excerpts of Hodge's fine essay must be mastered by anyone who intends on teaching a gospel that is faithful to the Scripture. The essay is not a biblical exposition (that is done elsewhere), but rather, a response to philosophical opposition to the truth of the Spirit's monergistic work of grace in the soul of the elect.
...[Jonathan] Edwards not only admits that moral principles and habits may and must exist in the soul prior (in the order of nature) to moral action, but his whole system of practical theology, as it seems to us, rests on this foundation. The great fundamental principle of his work on the affections is this: All gracious or spiritual affections presuppose and arise from spiritual views of divine truth. These views the natural man neither has, nor can have, while he remains such. Hence arises the necessity of such a change of being wrought in the state of the soul that it can perceive the beauty and excellence of divine things. This change consists in imparting to the soul what he calls 'a new sense' or a new taste, or relish, or principle, adapted to the perception and love of spiritual excellence.
...After having stated that the exercises of the true Christian are specifically different from those of unsanctified men, he infers that if the exercises are different, the principle whence they proceed must be different, or there must be, 'as it were, a new spiritual sense, or a principle of a new kind of perception of spiritual sensation.' And he hence explains why it is that 'the work of the Spirit of God in regeneration is often in Scripture compared to giving a new sense, giving eyes to see and ears to hear, unstopping the ears of the deaf and opening the eyes of them that were born blind, and turning them from darkness to light....'
...[The question is] why does one man see and feel a beauty in certain objects when others do not? Is there is no difference between the clown and the most refined votary in the arts, but in their acts? Is any man satisfied by being told that one loves them, and the other does not; that it is in vain to ask why; the fact is enough, and the fact is all; there is no difference in the state of their minds antecedent to their acts; there can be no such thing as a principle of taste of sense of beauty, distinct from the actual love of beauty?
We are disposed to think that no man can believe this: that the constitution of our nature forces us to admit that if one man, under all circumstances and at all times, manifests its quick sensibility to natural beauty, and another does not, there is some difference between the two besides their acts; that there is some reason why, when standing before the same picture, one is filled with pleasure and the other is utterly insensible. We cannot help believing that one has taste (a quality, principle, 'or inward sense') which the other does not possess. It matters not what it may be called. It is the ground or reason of the diversity of their exercises which lies back of the exercises themselves, and must be assumed to account for the difference of their nature.