Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Both Reformation Christians (Reformed/Lutheran) and Roman Catholics tend to speak of spirituality with reference to the means of grace. This is seemingly a point of commonality against Anabaptist, Pentacostal or anti-ecclesial Christians who would eskew mediums or means for immediate (no medium) religious spirituality. But Catholics and Reformation Christians are not completely together on this...
now, I have not posted a lot of things pointed directly against Roman Catholics. But Andrew, a Catholic friend, is not shy to post Anti-Protestant material, so I thought I might share a piece from John Owen, where he explores why Catholics, though sacramental, err in their approach to spirituality by the means of grace:
"Now, the reasons why the Papists can never, with all their endeavours, truly mortify any one sin, amongst others, are, —
(1.) Because many of the ways and means they use and insist upon for this end were never appointed of God for that purpose. (Now, there is nothing in religion that hath any efficacy for compassing an end, but it hath it from God’s appointment of it to that purpose.) Such as these are their rough garments, their vows, penances, disciplines, their course of monastical life, and the like; concerning all which God will say, “Who hath required these things at your hand?” and, “In vain do ye worship me, teaching for doctrines the traditions of men.” Of the same nature are sundry self-vexations insisted on by others.
(2.) Because those things that are appointed of God as means are not used by them in their due place and order, — such as are praying, fasting, watching, meditation, and the like. These have their use in the business in hand; but whereas they are all to be looked on as streams, they look on them as the fountain. Whereas they effect and accomplish the end as means only, subordinate to the Spirit and faith, they look on them to do it by virtue of the work wrought. If they fast so much, and pray so much, and keep their hours and times, the work is done. As the apostle says of some in another case, “They are always learning, never coming to the knowledge of the truth;” so they are always mortifying, but never come to any sound mortification. In a word, they have sundry means to mortify the natural man, as to the natural life here we lead; none to mortify lust or corruption.
This is the general mistake of men ignorant of the gospel about this thing; and it lies at the bottom of very much of that superstition and will-worship that hath been brought into the world. What horrible self-macerations were practised by some of the ancient authors of monastical devotion! what violence did they offer to nature! what extremity of sufferings did they put themselves upon! Search their ways and principles to the bottom, and you will find that it had no other root but this mistake, namely, that attempting rigid mortification, they fell upon the natural man instead of the corrupt old man, — upon the body wherein we live instead of the body of death.
Neither will the natural Popery that is in others do it. Men are galled with the guilt of a sin that hath prevailed over them; they instantly promise to themselves and God that they will do so no more; they watch over themselves, and pray for a season, until this heat waxes cold, and the sense of sin is worn off: and so mortification goes also, and sin returns to its former dominion. Duties are excellent food for an unhealthy soul; they are no physic for a sick soul. He that turns his meat into his medicine must expect no great operation. Spiritually sick men cannot sweat out their distemper with working. But this is the way of men who deceive their own souls; as we shall see afterward.
That none of these ways are sufficient is evident from the nature of the work itself that is to be done; it is a work that requires so many concurrent actings in it as no self-endeavour can reach unto, and is of that kind that an almighty energy is necessary for its accomplishment; as shall be afterward manifested.
It is, then, the work of the Spirit ...(not man's wills)... "
-John Owen. Mortification of Sin.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Matthew Henry on what Peter was telling the Jewish audience of his sermon, where he said "the promise is to you and to your children" (Acts 2:39):
(3.) “Your children shall still have, as they have had, an interest in the covenant, and a title to the external seal of it. Come over to Christ, to receive those inestimable benefits; for the promise of the remission of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, is to you and to your children,” Act_2:39. It was very express (Isa_44:3): I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed. And (Isa_59:21), My Spirit and my word shall not depart from thy seed, and thy seed's seed. When God took Abraham into covenant, he said, I will be a God to thee, and to thy seed (Gen_17:7); and, accordingly, every Israelite had his son circumcised at eight days old.
Now it is proper for an Israelite, when he is by baptism to come into a new dispensation of this covenant, to ask, “What must be done with my children? Must they be thrown out, or taken in with me?”
“Taken in” (says Peter) “by all means; for the promise, that great promise of God's being to you a God, is as much to you and to your children now as ever it was.”
-Matthew Henry on Acts 2:39
Saturday, September 26, 2009
A Practical look at the parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:23-35):
Matthew 18:23-35 - "Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.
But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, 'Pay what you owe.' So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."
First we should explain the parable. A servant, (doulos – bond-servant. Indebted to a master that works because of that debt) under authority of the master, has a LARGE DEBT. 10,000 Talents. One Talent is worth about 20 years labor. Thus, 10,000 Talents would take 200,000 years to pay off. Let's assume even a modest American salary ($40,000 a year). If Jesus told the story today, he could have just said $8 billion. It doesn't matter, the point is he can't pay it back. The forgiveness is not on the basis of ability to repay, it is shear mercy not to lock him up.
Then the servant, under the authority of the master, finds a fellow servant, also under the authority of the master, who owes him 100 denarii. This would be 100 days wages. Let's just assume it is a fourth of a year. This is not a small amount of money. Sometimes we say, this was absurd for person to hold a grudge over such a small amount. If someone owed you $10,000, you would not think it is a small thing. It is real, and the lack of it is felt by the servant. But the forgiven servant does not forgive, and has the other servant thrown in prison. The Master then is angered at the forgiven servant and gives him to the “jailor” which is actually better translated the “torturer,” to punish him “until he should pay back all the debt.” He cannot pay it back, so the punishment is life long.
Q: What is the purpose of parables?
Instruction or judgment. Perhaps both. Remember David and Nathan. Nathan tells a story, David judges the man in the story, and Nathan says, “you are the man!”
Q: Who is the Master? [God]
Q: Who is the forgiven servant? [Peter; or to apply it now: us]
Peter's question was “how many times do I forgive?” The answer: Forgive to the degree that you believe you have been forgiven.
The degree to which you forgive is the degree to which you believe you have been forgiven. If you believe you have been forgiven little you will forgive little. If you think your debt is small, you forgive small.
If you think that is hard, I think this is mild compared to the extent to which you are to forgive:
Have you ever forgiven someone but thought, “Yeah, I'll forgive you, but I hope you get hit by a bus.” or at least “I hope you fail at everything you do.” It's not only forgiveness, its asking that they may be blessed:
Luke 6:28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
It is even harder than forgiveness. Those that wrong you: you are to pray for, not just that God would make them see how wrong they are, but that God would bless them, make them successful, and show favor to them. That's a very hard next step. To those we harbor painful memories and thoughts towards, can we ask for blessings for them?
I heard a pastor once say that he gave this advice to a woman that was deeply wronged by her husband. The pastor's advice? Pray for his well being. Pray that God will bless them. That's hard. And if we are just told to do this we should say “Why should we?!”
Think of what these actions have done in history: Stephen, in the midst of being stoned to death, asks God to forgive the people that are not just calling him names, not stealing money from him, not saying things behind his back, but in the middle of killing him: “God, forgive them.” Think of what that prayer did. It saved Paul. If Paul heard the prayer, I'm sure he was offended at it, but God heard it. Why did God choose Paul to be an Apostle, I think maybe it was because Stephen prayed for him.
Who else modeled this but Christ on the cross?: “Father forgive them.” What did that prayer do? It interceded for us.
The objection may be leveled that forgiving and asking blessing on those who are debtors to us, that have wronged us in painful ways, seems to be “but you don't know what they did, it was so bad that it is beyond forgiving.” But even before they asked for forgiveness, Jesus and Stephen forgave people who were tearing open their skin, and asked the Father to bless them.
This is the real question, if we think it is hard for us to forgive, let's ask: Do we believe that we have offended God less than that person has offended us? Do we believe that the full culmination of our sins as committed before God continually on a daily basis: sins of arrogant pride, of self-indulgence, of self-ish behavior, or ingratitude and of unbelief, (as every act of sin is in some degree an act of unbelief): do we believe these are less than what one person has done to us?
If we believe this, we have done one of two things: We have either elevated the sin of that one person out of proportion, which is less likely than the second: We have too low a view of our sin and too high a view of our merits.
The comparison is between two servants, two bond-servants indebted to a Master. One owing another servant functions under the canopy of a greater debt to the Master.
Who is your debtor? Who if justice was done for you would really get it? Who has wronged you so deeply you want them thrown in prison? It is not a small debt. Sin is not trivial. Your pain is not inconsequential.
But how great a debt have you been forgiven? If one is not willing to forgive someone else, I would suggest focusing on the first part of the story. The debt someone owes you does not compare to the one you owe God. How great a debt has been forgiven you? If you think it light, if you think it is a sin or two a day or a dozen or so a year, read through the Sermon on the Mount again (that's Matthew 5-7). Put your sin before you. That is the reason David said he was asking forgiveness is:
Psalm 51:3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Is your sin before you? Is your sin in front of you, do you know it or is it under the carpet? If you put it before you, then you can say:
Only when we know the greatness of our sin do we know the greatness of our salvation, and then we mourn over our sin:
Psalm 51:4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.
Zech 12:10 - when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn
We look to Christ's suffering on the cross, not out of pity, but out of the realization that our problem of sin is so great that it took the death of the Son of God to atone for. The sins of others make us mourn but do our own sins make us mourn? They ought, for we know Whom we have offended and wronged.
Ultimately, this parable is a motivation behind instruction in the Sermon on the Mount: "be reconciled to your brother." This is a post-gospel law. If one has been forgiven one will forgive. If one does not forgive, it is either because they have not reflected on the greatness of their sin and pardon, or perhaps they truly are not a child of God. If we wish to forgive, we must do this by
1.Seeing the graveness of our debt to God
2.Seeing the greatness of our forgiveness in Christ, who has paid that debt on our behalf at great cost to Him, at the cost of separation from the Love of the Father, at being the receipient of the wrath of God owed to us, but paid to Christ.
3.Seeing the debts of others to you in light of our great debt and great payment made to God.
4.Thus to act Christ-like. As Christ-like in our willingness to forgive AT GREAT PAIN. This does not make forgiveness less painful. It remains painful. And in giving forgiveness, and suffering the pain of forgiveness, we understand better, experientially, the greatness of the gospel. We fill in the sufferings of Christ. We experience a small amount of the great salvation gained for us. The salvation won for us was not cheap, but expensive, not easy, but difficult, not painless, but painful.
Go and do likewise.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Verses I should think of before blogging (and sometimes wish I had considered before posting lately):
"Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger." (James 1:19)
"A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion" (Prov. 18:2).
"By the mouth of a fool comes a rod for his back, but the lips of the wise will preserve them." (Prov 14:3)
"Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent." (Pro 17:28)
"But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him." (Hab 2:20)
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
"Forgive Us Our Trespasses as We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us"
Martin Luther on this petition:
The Fifth Petition.
85] And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
86] This part now relates to our poor miserable life, which, although we have and believe the Word of God, and do and submit to His will, and are supported by His gifts and blessings, is nevertheless not without sin. For we still stumble daily and transgress because we live in the world among men who do us much harm and give us cause for impatience, anger, revenge, etc. 87] Besides, we have Satan at our back, who sets upon us on every side, and fights (as we have heard) against all the foregoing petitions, so that it is not possible always to stand firm in such a persistent conflict.
88] Therefore there is here again great need to call upon God and to pray: Dear Father, forgive us our trespasses. Not as though He did not forgive sin without and even before our prayer (for He has given us the Gospel, in which is pure forgiveness before we prayed or ever thought about it). But this is to the intent that we may recognize and accept such forgiveness. 89] For since the flesh in which we daily live is of such a nature that it neither trusts nor believes God, and is ever active in evil lusts and devices, so that we sin daily in word and deed, by commission and omission, by which the conscience is thrown into unrest, so that it is afraid of the wrath and displeasure of God, and thus loses the comfort and confidence derived from the Gospel; therefore it is ceaselessly necessary that we run hither and obtain consolation to comfort the conscience again.
90] But this should serve God's purpose of breaking our pride and keeping us humble. For in case any one should boast of his godliness and despise others, God has reserved this prerogative to Himself, that the person is to consider himself and place this prayer before his eyes, and he will find that he is no better than others, and that in the presence of God all must lower their plumes, and be glad that they can attain forgiveness. 91] And let no one think that as long as we live here he can reach such a position that he will not need such forgiveness. In short, if God does not forgive without ceasing, we are lost.
92] It is therefore the intent of this petition that God would not regard our sins and hold up to us what we daily deserve, but would deal graciously with us, and forgive, as He has promised, and thus grant us a joyful and confident conscience to stand before Him in prayer. For where the heart is not in right relation towards God, nor can take such confidence, it will nevermore venture to pray. But such a confident and joyful heart can spring from nothing else than the [certain] knowledge of the forgiveness of sin.
93] But there is here attached a necessary, yet consolatory addition: As we forgive. He has promised that we shall be sure that everything is forgiven and pardoned, yet in the manner that we also forgive our neighbor. 94] For just as we daily sin much against God, and yet He forgives everything through grace, so we, too, must ever forgive our neighbor who does us injury, violence, and wrong, shows malice toward us, etc. 95] If, therefore, you do not forgive, then do not think that God forgives you; but if you forgive, you have this consolation and assurance, that you are forgiven in heaven, not on account of your forgiving, for God forgives freely and without condition, out of pure grace, because He has so promised, as the Gospel teaches, but in order that He may set this up for our confirmation and assurance for a sign alongside of the promise which accords with this prayer, Luke 6:37: Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. Therefore Christ also repeats it soon after the Lord's Prayer, and says, Matt. 6:14: For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, etc.
97] This sign is therefore attached to this petition, that, when we pray, we remember the promise and reflect thus: Dear Father, for this reason I come and pray Thee to forgive me, not that I can make satisfaction, or can merit anything by my works, but because Thou hast promised and attached the seal thereto that I should be as sure as though I had absolution pronounced by Thyself. 98] For as much as Baptism and the Lord's Supper, appointed as external signs, effect, so much also this sign can effect to confirm our consciences and cause them to rejoice. And it is especially given for this purpose, that we might use and practise it every hour, as a thing that we have with us at all times.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
More from Greg Bahnsen's debate with atheist named Gordon Stein. (Audio here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) Bahnsen uses an argument I first saw in C.S. Lewis about the argument from reason that an atheistic universe is not a rational universe.
Greg Bahnsen's closing statement:
Dr. Stein has yet to explain to us even in the broadest simplest Sunday School child manner that I told you about laws of logic, laws of science and laws of morality. He hasn't even begun to scratch the surface to tell us how in his world view that there can be laws of any sort. And if there can't be laws, or standards in his world view, then he can't worry about my irrationality, my alleged irrationality.
The transcendental argument for the existence of God has not been answered by Dr.
Stein. It's been evaded and made fun of, but it hasn't been answered. That's what we're here for: rational interchange. The transcendental argument says the proof of the Christian God is that without God one cannot prove anything.
Notice the argument doesn't say that atheists don't prove things, or that they don't use logic, science or laws of morality. In fact they do. The argument is that their world view cannot account for what they are doing. Their world view is not consistent with what they are doing; in their world view there are no laws; there are no abstract entities, universals, or prescriptions. There's just a material universe, naturalistically explained (as) the way things are happen to be. That's not law-like or universal; and therefore, their world view doesn't account for logic,
science or morality.
But, atheists, of course, use science and morality. In this argument atheists give continual evidence to the fact that in their heart of hearts they are not atheists. In their heart of hearts they know the God I'm talking about. This God made them, reveals Himself continually to them through the natural order, through their conscience, and through their very use of reason.
They know this God, and they suppress the truth about him. One of the ways that we
know that they suppress the truth about him is because they do continue to use the laws of logic, science and morality though their world view doesn't account for them.
Dr. Stein has said that the laws of logic are merely conventional. If so, then on
convention he wins tonight's debate, and on convention I win tonight's debate. And if you're satisfied with that, you didn't need to come in the first place. You expected the laws of logic to be applied as universal standards of rationality. Rationality isn't possible in a universe that just consigns them to convention.
I've asked him repeatedly - it's very simple, I don't want a lot of details, just begin to scratch the surface, - how, in a material, naturalistic outlook on life and man his place in the world, can you account for the laws of logic, science, and morality?
The atheist world view cannot do it, and therefore I feel justified concluding as I did in my opening presentation this evening by saying that the proof of the Christian God is the impossibility of the contrary. Without the Christian world view this debate wouldn't make sense.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Greg Bahnsen is a presuppositionalist apologist and a student of Cornelius Van Til. Before his death in 1995, Bahnsen debated an atheist named Gordon Stein. (Audio here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) This debate is at a higher level of thought than I have heard with people like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. This was my favorite part, with the audio below, where Bahnsen is cross examining Stein:
Dr. Bahnsen: I heard you mention logical binds and logical self contradictions in your speech. You did say that?
Dr. Stein: used that phrase, yes.
Dr. Bahnsen: Do you believe there are laws of logic then?
Dr. Stein: Absolutely.
Dr. Bahnsen: Are they universal?
Dr. Stein: They are agreed upon by human beings. They aren’t laws that exist out in nature.
Dr. Bahnsen: Are they simply conventions then?
Dr. Stein: They are conventions, but they are conventions that are self verifying.
Dr. Bahnsen: Are they sociological laws, or laws of thought?
Dr. Stein: They are laws of thought which are interpreted by men; and promulgated by men.
Dr. Bahnsen: Are they material in nature?
Dr. Stein: How can a law be material?
Dr. Bahnsen: That’s a question I’m going to ask you!
Dr. Stein: I would say no.
Moderator: At this time you have an opportunity to cross examine Dr. Bahnsen.
Dr. Stein: Dr. Bahnsen, would you call God material or immaterial?
Dr. Bahnsen: Immaterial.
Dr. Stein: What is something that’s immaterial?
Dr. Bahnsen: Something not extended in space.
Dr. Stein: Can you give me an example of anything other than god that’s immaterial?
Dr. Bahnsen: Laws of logic.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
In 1997, John Piper published a book of devotional writings called “A Godward Life.” One of the entries was titled: “Did God Command a Man to Earn His Life? - Thoughts on the So-Called Covenant of Works.” Ultimately to this question: Did God command a man to earn his life: Piper answers “no.”
Piper writes, “It is true that God commanded Adam to obey him, and it is also true that failure to obey would result in death (Genesis 2:16-17)...But the question is this: what kind of obedience is required for the inheritance of life – the obedience of earning or the obedience of trusting?” (pg 171) Piper answers “trusting” which is synonmous with faith. (pg 171-172) To see it as earning, it is charged that this would be “legalistic.” (pg 172)
I believe Piper is wrong. Not that earning life (I'll even call it meriting life) would be legalistic. Indeed it would be. But Piper is wrong that God did not set that very system up. Adam was given a covenant agreement that if he obeyed, he would merit eternal life. It was legal and in accordance with justice, hence legalistic. Adam was told to earn life.
Piper can only see a disobedience of a lack of trust as what was evil about Adam's sin. “What made Adam's sin so evil was that God had shown him unmerited favor and offered himself to Adam as an Everlasting Father to be trusted in all his council for Adam's good.” (pg 172) It must be admitted that to be given a covenant or even initial life is unmerited. Adam did nothing before he was created to merit being created. Neither did Adam do anything before being given a covenant to merit being given a covenant. But that is NOT the question. The question is the nature of the agreement set up by God. The agreement was not anti-meritorious. On the contrary, it was a meritocracy, merit-pay. “Do this, then you get this.” The payment may have been out of propotion. That's not the point. It was payment: wages for work. Grace in salvation was not needed for sin was not yet a problem. Grace as salvific answers the problem of sin, but before sin, Adam was to keep God's commandments, and in this probationary period merit eternal life. Adam did not do this by faith or trust alone, but by works. Faith after Adam is trusting Christ's works, but Adam's works, not yet defiled by sin, needed no substitute.
What Piper rejected in his 1997 work is what I believe makes his response against Wright and the New Perspective on Paul (NPP) not as strong as it needs to be: both NPP and Piper have no functional doctrine of a covenant of works. (*Piper has acknowledged that the Covenant of Works may have validity, but it has not become functional in his theology as far as I have seen)
Piper asks an odd rhetorical question to try to prove the absurdity of a covenant of works as being failed by Adam and fulfilled by Jesus: "Should we think of the Son of God relating to his Father as a workman earning wages? Are we to think of the role of the 'second Adam' as earning what the 'first Adam' failed to earn? I his role not rather to glorify the trustworthiness of his Father, which Adam so terribly dishonored?"
My answer to the first two questions is Yes. To the final question: Yes and no. Not rather, but also.
How is Jesus the second Adam? Does Jesus merely trust God better than Adam? Or does Jesus merit eternal life where Adam failed? Jesus legalistically earns what we cannot not. Paul seems to have this contrast between Adam and Christ in view in Romans 5:12-21. Paul had previously set up just such an "earning" and meriting situation in Romans 2: "[God] will render to each one according to his works" (2:6) and "For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified." (2:13) Paul tells us the way to righteousness is work. But then no one does this righteousness (Romans 3:10-12). So instead salvation must be given by a gift (3:24) and "one is justified by faith apart from works of the law." (Romans 3:28). This is only possible because of the life and death of Christ (5:10) whom we may be joined to, as the choice becomes union with Adam or Union with Christ (5:12-21). By evil work, Adam brought condemnation to all humanity, Christ by righteous obedient work brings new life. (5:18)
Christ obeys were Adam sinned. Christ earns what Adam did not. By virtue of our union with Christ, that righteousness is imputed to us. It is "legalistic" for Christ, not for us. This is part of why we call imputation forensic, meaning legal. Adam was given a covenant that was a chance to merit life by obedience. Adam failed. From then on, no man could merit life for he was tainted by sin. Christ was given that same covenant and succeeded. Christ was perfect not merely to be a pure substitute in sacrifice, but also in order to obey the covenant of works on our behalf and merit His righteous obedience to the covenant of works imputed/credited to us by faith not works. We need both to have our wages paid (the wages of sin being death) and also to have eternal, resurrection life merited for us by Christ's righteous keeping of the law/covenant of works. This is the ministry of the gospel then:
2 Cor 5:20-21 - "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."Our choice then is: who are we united to? Are we in Adam or in Christ? (1 Cor 15:22) Are we united to Adam's meriting of death, or the second Adam's meriting of life. Do we try to fulfill the covenant of works on our own, or do we plead the covenant obedience of Christ? This is the only ground by which we can talk about imputing Christ's righteousness.
Meredith Kline went so far as to say,
I think Kline is right, though he was not talking specifically about the NPP or Piper. If Piper wants to affirm an imputation of Christ's righteousness, he needs to revisit and clearly affirm the idea of a covenant of works with Adam based on merit, for the sake of Christ's merit. Piper's case against Wright is defective, as they both improperly understand the covenant of works which is at the heart of the old Reformation perspective (for the Reformed as a covenant of works and as the Lutherans understand the law). Piper may certainly make his case based on his own theology, but it should not be seen as the definitive “old perspective.”
“imputation is obviously not compatible with the position that disavows the works principle. On that position, a declaration of justification and conveyance of eschatological blessings in consequence of a successful probation, whether of Adam or Christ, would be an exercise of grace, not of simple justice. But if there is no meritorious accomplishment possible, the rationale of the imputation arrangement in general becomes obscure, if the whole point of it is not in fact lost. In the case of the gospel, if there is no meritorious achievement of active obedience on the part of Christ to be imputed to the elect, then this cardinal doctrine of soteric justification in its historic orthodox form must be abandoned.”
Sunday, September 13, 2009
-William Willimon. (a United Methodist bishop.) Peculiar Speech. pg 9.
"THE PREACHING OF THE WORD OF GOD IS THE WORD OF GOD. Wherefore when this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe that the very Word of God is proclaimed, and received by the faithful; and that neither any other Word of God is to be invented nor is to be expected from heaven: and that now the Word itself which is preached is to be regarded, not the minister that preaches; for even if he be evil and a sinner, nevertheless the Word of God remains still true and good."
"The preaching of the Word is the testimony of God and the profession of the knowledge of Christ, not of human skill. Furthermore, the hearers ought not to ascribe their faith to the gifts of men, but the power of God's Word (1 Cor 2:1,2,5)"
Friday, September 11, 2009
In reading the debate between John Piper and N.T. Wright on Justification, though thankful for Piper's work, I have been disappointed with aspects of Piper's approach. Piper leans more "New Covenantal" rather than classical covenantal in his approach to the concept of covenant and imputation, which oddly means that there are times that I agree with Wright over Piper, even though I agree with Piper's conclusion and not Wright's.
Michael Horton, however, has taken up the task of critiquing N.T. Wright's view of justification (which denies a covenant of works and imputation) from a classical covenantal perspective. The series is very helpful:
[UPDATE: Get the entire review in one place here]
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Unity of the Covenant in justification
Part 3: Justification and God's People
Part 4: Justification and Eschatology & Imputation
Part 5: Justification and Imputation (cont.)
Part 6: Justification and the Works of the Law
Part 7: Is Wright Biblical or reading in his Systematics in Paul?
Part 8: Justification and Romans
Part 9: Works of the Law: Soteriology and Ecclesiology
Part 10: Conclusion
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
There is, therefore, no help to be expected against the dominion of sin from the law..."the strength of sin is the law" (1 Cor 15:56)...men under the law will attend unto their convictions and endeavour for a while to shake off the yoke of sin. They will attend unto what the law saith; under whose power they are...But, alas! the law cannot enable them hereunto - it cannot give them life and strength to go through with what their convictions press then unto; therefore, after a while they begin to faint and wax weary in their progress...to be freed from the dominion of sin is not to be freed absolutely from all sin, so as that it should in no sense abide in us any more. this is not to be under grace, but to be in glory...
The gospel is the means ordained and instrument used by God for the communication of spiritual strength unto them that believe, for the dethroning of sin (Rom 1:16)...We are absolved, quitted, freed from the rule of sin, as unto its pretended right and title, by the promise of the gospel...
Nothing but the death of Christ for us will be the death of sin in us."
(from: The Dominion of Sin)
Monday, September 07, 2009
Mark Dever interviewed Kevin DeYoung, author of “Just do Something” and “Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion"
Get the audio here.
Mark Dever (a Baptist) begins by asking DeYoung (Dutch Reformed) to defend Reformed covenantal ideas of baptism and Reformed ideas of church government. Near the end, Mark Dever reads this section from DeYoung's new book "Why We Love the Church," where DeYoung describes the problem with Emerging critics who complain about the church. DeYoung rightly identifies the critics as firing the first shot at the church, and are then openning themselves up to criticism:
"The church-is-lame crowd hates Constantine and notions of Christendom, but they want the church to be a patron of the arts, and run after-school programs, and bring the world together in peace and love. They bemoan the over-programmed church, but then think of a hundred complex, resource-hungry things the church should be doing. They don't like the church because it is too hierarchical, but then hate it when it has poor leadership. They wish the church could be more diverse, but then leave to meet in a coffee shop with other well-educated thirtysomethings who are into film festivals, NPR, and carbon offsets. They want more of a family spirit, but too much family and they'll complain that the church is "inbred." They want the church to know that its reputation with outsiders is terrible, but then are critical when the church is too concerned with appearances. They chide the church for not doing more to address social problems, but then complain when the church gets too political. They want church unity and decry all our denominations, but fail to see the irony in the fact that they have left to do their own thing because they can't find a single church that can satisfy them. They are critical of the lack of community in the church, but then want services that allow for individualized worship experiences. They want leaders with vision, but don't want anyone to tell them what to do or how to think. They want a church where the people really know each other and care for each other, but then they complain the church today is an isolated country club, only interested in catering to its own members. They want to be connected with history, but are sick of the same prayers and same style every week. They call for not judging "the spiritual path of other believers who are dedicated to pleasing God and blessing people," and then they blast the traditional church in the harshest, most unflattering terms." (Pg. 88)
Saturday, September 05, 2009
I was listening to this hymn put to newer music by Sandra McCracken. Listening to it, I thought: every verse is a sermon! Christ is the subject of the verbs, and I the object. And the range of truths that cause the soul such comfort: The Sovereign reign of grace, Eternal Security of Believers by the hands of Christ (No one shall pluck them out of my hand! -John 10:28), Union with Christ, and the mystery of election by God's good pleasure that leaves us asking: Why me? I have done nothing worthy of this grace. Grace determines. "Hallelujah, Grace Reigns."
Sovereign Grace O'er Sin Abounding
by John Kent
1. Sovereign grace o’er sin abounding!
Ransomed souls, the tidings swell;
’Tis a deep that knows no sounding;
Who its breadth or length can tell?
On its glories,
Let my soul for ever dwell.
2. What from Christ that soul can sever,
Bound by everlasting bands?
Once in Him, in Him for ever;
Thus the eternal covenant stands.
None shall take Thee
From the Strength of Israel’s hands.
3. Heirs of God, joint-heirs with Jesus,
Long ere time its race begun;
To His name eternal praises;
O what wonders love has done!
One with Jesus,
By eternal union one.
4. On such love, my soul, still ponder,
Love so great, so rich, so free;
Say, while lost in holy wonder,
Why, O Lord, such love to me?
Grace shall reign
Friday, September 04, 2009
This conviction means my options are naturally limited. The two traditions that maintain the primary nature of the church as confessional are the Lutheran and Reformed traditions. I find both to be rich traditions, rightly recognized as true faithful churches to the confession of the Gospel.
My conscience, however, is better quieted in a Reformed congregation, as Reformed confessions of faith (like the Westminster Confession or the Belgic Confession) seem closer to Scriptural mandates than the Lutheran confession of faith as laid out in the Book of Concord. If I found myself in a region with only a Lutheran Church and not a Reformed church, my conscience would not be troubled to be a member and worship with the Lutherans. However, if I were to seek ordination, my standards of doctrine are a bit higher.
Other than being confessional, I believe a church should strive to have:
* Proper view of the Church (confessional, means of salvation)
* Word rightly preached (in Law and Gospel)
* Rightly dividing law and gospel
* Rightly pointing to Christ and his means of salvation
* Preaching Christ as accomplishing Salvation
* Defining Faith as apprehending Christ's merits
* Rightly administering the sacraments
* Administering Church discipline.
* Worshiping in accordance with God's Word.
* Not confusing contemporary fads for Biblical norms
* Not individualistic
* Not confusing the two Kingdoms
* Not accepting the traditions of men for God's word.
In practice, no church body is perfect. Reformed Theology especially acknowledges this by its insistance on teaching that even after the work of regeneration begins, the saint also remains a sinner until he or she is perfected by Christ in the eschaton. Yet, the ideals and confession (Westminster) of the Presbyterian Church best matches what I believe to be Scriptural demands.
The denomination I find myself in is the PCA. There are other Reformed denominations I find equally inviting such as the OPC or URCNA, or any of the other Reformed denominations in the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council. However, the PCA is as good a ship as any to fish from.
Thursday, September 03, 2009
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
My seeking ordination might evoke two questions: Why ordination? Why in your particular church? [or you may not ask, but I'll answer for my own conscience]
My original intention in attending seminary was to teach. My undergrad degree is in education. Yet, my desires were to teach at a higher educational level, either among high schoolers or in college. I had an interest in Theology as well as history, and had been encouraged that I had an ability to teach. So I attended grad school/seminary.
While at seminary, I began to question where I should teach. Thinking that I should do something distinctly Christian with my degree. I considered teaching History and Theology in a setting such as a foreign school. But then I had a paradigm shift. I was introduced to the Church.
After 5 months in seminary, we finally settled in a local church. While there, the church was presented as something different than what I previously conceived it as. Before, church was the voluntary: a voluntary association of individual believers working together but sustained by their individual piety. Instead, I was introduced to a vision of the church as the essential and necessary, not voluntary, the source of the proclamation of the gospel, and therefore the conversion and growth of the Christian. The first duty of the Christian therefore is to the church, not the organizations outside the church, which may help the church, but do not replace the church.
As I shifted from seeing the church as a human institution to a divine instrument of God's purposes on earth, this also forced me to revisit my plans. Instead of my original plan, I was led to present my feeling of giftedness in teaching to the church. There it may be evaluated and confirmed, or dis-abused. The greatest use of teaching is the teaching of the Word, specifically of the demands of the law and their answer in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I do not feel any entitlement to be ordained. I very well may not be ordained or not receive a call from a church body. Yet, I submit myself to the church first. If she requires me, I shall serve her by serving her Groom. If not, I shall worship in her, support her, and seek a vocation that suits my skills.
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
[A John Owen extract, from the Appendix of Death of Death: ]
Some few testimonies of the ancients.
I. The confession of the holy Church of Smyrna, a little after the commendation given it by the Holy Ghost, Rev. ii. 9, upon the martyrdom of Polycarpus:— Ὅτι οὔτε τὸν Χριστόν ποτε καταλείπειν δυνησόμεθα τὸν ὑπὲρ τῆς τοῦ κόσμου τῶν σωζωμένων σωτηρίας παθόντα, οὔτε ἕτερον τιμῇ σέβειν. — Euseb. Hist. Eccles., lib. iv. cap. 15. — “Neither can we ever forsake Christ, him who suffered for the salvation of the world of them that are saved, nor worship any other.”
[It is an extract from a letter of the church of Smyrna to the churches of Pontus, giving an account of the martyrdom of Polycarp.]
II. The witness of holy Ignatius, as he was carrying to Rome from Antioch, to be cast to beasts for the testimony of Jesus, Epist. ad Philad. [cap. ix., a.d. 107]: Οὗτός ἐστιν ἡ πρὸς τὸν Πατέρα ἄγουσα ὁδός, ἡ πέτρα, ὁ φραγμός, ἡ κλείς, ὁ ποιμήν, τὸ ἱερεῖον, ἡ θύρα τῆς γνώσεως δι’ ἧς εἰσῆλθον Αβραὰμ καὶ Ἰσαὰκ καὶ Ἰακώβ, Μωσῆς, καὶ ὁ σύμπας τῶν προφητῶν χορός, καὶ οἱ στύλοι τοῦ κόσμου οἱ απόστολοι καὶ ἡ νύμφη τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὑπὲρ ἧς, φερνῆς λόγῳ, ἐξέχεε τὸ οἰκεῖον αἷμα ἵνα αὐτὴν ἐξαγοράσῃ. — “This is the way leading to the Father, this the rock, the fold, the key; he is the shepherd, the sacrifice; the door of knowledge, by which entered Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and the whole company of prophets, and the pillars of the world, the apostles, and the spouse of Christ; for whom, instead of a dowry, he poured out his own blood, that he might redeem her.”
Surely Jesus Christ gives not a dowry for any but his own spouse.
III. Clemens, “whose name is in the book of life,” Phil. iv. 3, with the whole church at Rome in his days, in the epistle to the church of Corinth:— Διὰ τὴν ἀγάπην ἣν ἔσχεν πρὸς ἡμᾶς τὸ αἷμα αὐτοῦ ἔδωκεν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἐν θελήματι αὐτοῦ καὶ τὴν σάρκα ὑπὲρ τῆς σαρκὸς ἡμῶν καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν ὑπὲρ ψυχῶν ἡμῶν. — “For the love which he had unto us, he gave his blood for us, according to his purpose, and his flesh for our flesh, and his life for our lives.”
Where you have assigned, 1. The cause of Christ’s death, — his love to us; 2. The object of it, — us, or believers; 3. The manner how he redeemed us, even by commutation.
This triple testimony is taken from the very prime of undoubted antiquity.
IV. Cyprian, Epist. lxii. to Cæcilius, a holy, learned, and famous martyr, a.d. 250:— “Nos omnes portabat Christus, qui et peccata nostra portabat.” — “He bare all us, who bare our sins;” that is, he sustained their persons on the cross for whom he died.
The same to Demetrian:— “Hanc gratiam Christus impertit, subigendo mortem trophæo crucis, redimendo credentem pretio sanguinis sui.” — “This grace hath Christ communicated, subduing death in the trophy of his cross, redeeming believers with the price of his blood.”
The same, or some other ancient and pious writer of the cardinal works Christ, Serm. 7, secund. Rivet. Crit. Sac. in Cyp. [lib. ii. cap. 15] Scultet. Medul. Pat. Erasm. præfat, ad lib.
The same author also, in express terms, mentions the sufficiency of the ransom paid by Christ, arising from the dignity of his person:— “Tantæ dignitatis illa una Redemptoris nostri fuit oblatio, ut una ad tollenda mundi peccatum sufficeret.” — “Of so great dignity was the oblation of our Redeemer, that it alone was sufficient to take away the sins of the world.”
V. Cyril of Jerusalem, Cataches. xiii. [a.d. 350]:— Καὶ μὴ θαυμάσῃς εἰ κόσμος ὅλος ἐλυτρώθη, οὐ γὰρ ἦν ἄνθρωπος ψιλὸς ἀλλὰ υἱὸς Θεοῦ μονογενὴς ὁ ὑπεραποθνήσκων — καὶ εἰ τότε διὰ τὸ ξύλον τῆς βρώσεως ἐξεβλήθησαν ἐκ παραδείσου, ἆρα διὰ τὸ ξύλον Ἰησοῦ νῦν εὐκοπώτερον οἱ πιστεύοντες εἰς παράδεισον οὐκ εἰσελεύσονται; — “Wonder not if the whole world be redeemed; for he was not a mere man, but the only-begotten Son of God that died. If, then, through the eating of the tree” (forbidden) “they were cast out of paradise, certainly now by the tree” (or cross) “of Jesus shall not believers more easily enter into paradise?”
So also doth another of them make it manifest in what sense they use the word all.
VI. Athanasius, of the incarnation of the Word of God [a.d. 350]:— Οὗτός ἐστιν ἡ πάντων ζωή, καὶ ὡς πρόβατον ὑπὲρ, τῆς πάντων σωτηρίας ἀντίψυχον τὸ ἑαυτοῦ σῶμα εἰς θάνατον παραδούς. — “He is the life of all, and as a sheep he delivered his body a price for the souls of all, that they might be saved.”
All in both places can be none but the elect; as, —
VII. Ambrose de Vocat. Gen., lib. i: cap. 3; or rather, Prosper, lib. i. cap. 9, edit. Olivar. [a.d. 370]:— “Si non credis, non descendit tibi Christus, non tibi passus est.” — “If thou believe not, Christ did not descend for thee, he did not suffer for thee.”
Ambr. de Fide ad Gratianum:— “Habet populus Dei plenitudinem suam. In electis enim et præscitis, atque ab omnium generalitate discretis, specialis quædam censetur universitas, ut de toto mundo totus mundus liberatus, et de omnibus hominibus omnes homines videantur assumpti.” — “The people of God hath its own fulness. In the elect and foreknown, distinguished from the generality of all, there is accounted a certain special universality; so that the whole world seems to be delivered from the whole world, and all men to be taken out of all men.”
In which place he proceedeth at large to declare the reasons why, in this business, “all” and “the world” are so often used for “some of all sorts.”
These that follow wrote after the rising of the Pelagian heresy, which gave occasion to more diligence of search and wariness of expression than had formerly been used by some.
IX. Augustine, de Cor. et Grat. cap. xi. [a.d. 420]:— “Per hunc Mediatorem Deus ostendit eos, quos ejus sanguine redemit, facere se ex malis in æternum bonos.” — “By him the Mediator, the Lord declareth himself to make those whom he hath redeemed with his blood, of evil, good to eternity.” “Vult possidere Christus quod emit; tanti emit ut possideat.” — “Christ will possess what he bought; he bought it with such a price that he might possess it.”
Idem, Serm. xliv. de Verbis Apost.:— “Qui nos tanto pretio emit non vult perire quos emit.” — “He that bought us with such a price will have none perish whom he hath bought.”
Idem, Tract. lxxxvii. in Johan.:— “Ecclesiam plerumque etiam ipsam mundi nomine appellat; sicut est illud, ‘Deus erat in Christo mundum reconcilians sibi;’ itemque illud, ‘Non venit Filius hominis ut judicet mundum, sed ut salvetur mundus per ipsum;’ et in epistola sua Johannes ait, ‘Advocatum habemus ad Patrem, Jesum
424Christum justum, et ipse propitiator est peecatorum nostrorum, non tantum nostrorum sed etiam totius mundi.’ Totus ergo mundus est ecclesia, et totus mundus odit ecclesiam. Mundus igitur odit mundum; inimicus reconciliatum, damnatus salvatum, inquinatus mundatum. Sed iste mundus quem Deus in Christo reconciliat sibi, et qui per Christum salvatur, de mundo electus est inimico, damnato, contaminato.” — “He often calleth the church itself by the name of the world; as in that, ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself;’ and that, ‘The Son of man came not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.’ And John in his epistle saith, ‘We have an Advocate, and he is the propitiation for [our sins, and not for ours only, but also for] the sins of the whole world.’ The whole world, therefore, is the church, and the world hateth the church. The world, then, hateth the world; that which is at enmity, the reconciled; the condemned, the saved; the polluted, the cleansed world. And that world which God in Christ reconcileth to himself, and which is saved by Christ, is chosen out of the opposite, condemned, defiled world.”
Much more to this purpose might be easily cited out of Augustine, but his judgment in these things is known to all.
IX. Prosper [a.d. 440], Respon. ad Capit. Gall. cap. ix.:— “Non est crucifixus in Christo qui non est membrum corporis Christi. Cum itaque dicatur Salvator pro totius mundi redemptione crucifixus, propter veram humanæ naturæ susceptionem, potest tamen dici pro his tantum crucifixus quibus mors ipsius profuit. Diversa ab istis sors eorum est qui inter illos censentur de quibus dicitur, ‘Mundus enim non cognovit.’ ”— “He is not crucified with Christ who is not a member of the body of Christ. When, therefore, our Saviour is said to be crucified for the redemption of the whole world, because of his true assumption of the human nature, yet may he be said to be crucified only for them unto whom his death was profitable. Diverse from these is their lot who are reckoned amongst them of whom it is said, ‘The world knew him not.’ ”
Idem, Resp. Object. Vincen. Res. i.:— “Redemptionis proprietas, haud dubie penes illos est, de quibus princeps mundi missus est foras. Mors Christi non ita impensa est humano generi, ut ad redemptionem ejus etiam qui regenerandi non erant pertinerent.” — “Doubtless the propriety of redemption is theirs from whom the prince of this world is cast out. The death of Christ is not to be so laid out for human-kind, that they also should belong unto his redemption who were not to be regenerated.”
Idem, de Ingrat., cap. ix.:—
“Sed tamen hæc aliqua sivis ratione tueri
Et credi tam stulta cupis; jam pande quid hoc sit,
Quod bonus omnipotensque Deus, non omnia subdit
Corda sibi, pariterque omnes jubet esse fideles?
Nam si nemo usquam est quem non velit esse redemptum,
Haud dubie impletur quicquid vult summa potestas.
Non omnes autem salvantur” ―
“If there be none whom God would not have redeemed, why are not all saved?”
X. Concil. Valen. can. iv.:— “Pretium mortis Christi datum est pro illis tantum quibus Dominus ipse dixit, ‘Sicut Moses exaltavit serpentem in deserto, ita exaltari oportet Filius hominis, ut omnis qui credit in ipso non pereat, sed habeat vitam eternam.’ ” — “The price of the death of Christ is given for them alone of whom the Lord himself said, ‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish.’ ”
EDITOR'S NOTE ON X - This was a council held at Valence in a.d. 855, and convened from the three provinces of Lyons, Vienne, and Arles. Remigius presided, five canons by a council in a.d. 853, at Chiersey, were condemned, and the cause of Godeschalcus, who had raised the controversy, was warmly supported. The canon quoted above is designed to contradict the fourth canon of the council at Chiersey, according to which “there never was, is, or will be a man for whom Christ has not died.”