Saturday, October 31, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Jesus, I Come
by William Sleeper
1. Out of my bondage, sorrow and night,
Jesus, I come; Jesus I come.
Into Thy freedom, gladness and light,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of my sickness into Thy health,
Out of my wanting and into Thy wealth,
Out of my sin and into Thyself,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
2. Out of my shameful failure and loss,
Jesus, I come; Jesus, I come.
Into the glorious gain of Thy cross,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of earth’s sorrows into Thy balm,
Out of life’s storms and into Thy calm,
Out of distress into jubilant psalm,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
3. Out of unrest and arrogant pride,
Jesus, I come; Jesus, I come.
Into Thy blessed will to abide,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of myself to dwell in Thy love,
Out of despair into raptures above,
Upward forever on wings like a dove,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
4. Out of the fear and dread of the tomb,
Jesus, I come; Jesus, I come.
Into the joy and light of Thy home,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of the depths of ruin untold,
Into the peace of Thy sheltering fold,
Ever Thy glorious face to behold,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I have recently re-read John Owen's Communion with the Triune God. I posted it earlier, but it is worth a second look. Owen tries to answer for us: Why do I not feel a love for Christ?:
"Compare a little what you aim at, or what you do, with what you have already heard of Jesus Christ: if anything you design be like to him, if anything you desire be equal to him, let him be rejected as one that has neither form nor comeliness in him; but if, indeed, all your ways be but vanity and vexation of spirit, in comparison of him, why do you spend your 'money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which satisfies not?' [Isa. 55:2]
...consider, I pray, what are all your beloveds to this Beloved? What have you gotten by them? Let us see peace, quietness, assurance of everlasting blessedness that they have given you. Their paths are crooked paths - whoever goes in them shall not know peace. Behold here a fit object for your choicest affections - one in whom you may find rest to your souls - one in whom there is nothing that will grieve and trouble you to eternity...
Pray, study him a little; you love him not, because you know him not."
After reading the book, I could recommend few better places to study Christ a little than John Owen's Communion with the Triune God.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
A fluid list of the 10 most influential theological books I've read outside of the Bible (at the time that I read them). This is not necessarily the list of books I recommend, but that were most influencial on me at the time I read them.
10. God of Promise by Michael Horton. This may not be the best book on Covenant Theology, but it introduced me to a world that made sense of the Biblical text and lead every concept to Christ.
9. On the Incarnation by Athanasius of Alexandria. A book that introduced me to multiple facts: 1) the early church knew the gospel. 2) Christ and his work is the center of that gospel, not just my response. 3) The Incarnation is included in the work of Christ.
8. Biblical Theology by Geerhardus Vos. There is difference between "biblicism" and Biblical Theology. The former treats the Bible as a cold text, the latter as divine Scripture. Vos' book is the Bible narrative explained until it points to Christ. I'm learning that Biblical Theology is the discipline one never masters and never ceases to learn.
7. The Death of Death by John Owen. This is how to write theological treatises. On the most important subject: Christ and His work.
6. The Christian Ministry by Charles Bridges. This book introduced me to Practical/Pastoral Theology. Written in the 1800s, I have yet to find its equal in contemporary literature.
5. The Christian Tradition by Jaroslav Pelikan. A 5-volume set on the History of Doctrine I read over the period of 4 months. It changed the way I look at Christian History, the development of Doctrine and Eastern Orthodoxy.
4.The Westminster Standards. Not properly a book. The doctrinal statement put together by dozens of ministers in the 1600s, representing the labor and piety of a generation of bible teachers and preachers. This collection of the Westmisnter Confession and the Catechisms is both educational and devotional. Barely a week goes by without it teaching me something or discovering its truth elsewhere and reading it here more clearly.
3. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. The first book that made me realize that Jesus was God. Also, the first book I read that answered questions about the Christian faith in a way that was reasonable, rather than just demanding a leap of faith.
2. Desiring God by John Piper. Piper convinced me of the answer to Westminster Catechism Question 1: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
1. The Confessions by St. Augustine. I first read this in a group with a few other people from my old church, EWO. Augustine introduced me to a way of looking at the Christian faith with both my brain and heart engaged. I've read it four times now. It is the greatest book written outside of the Bible.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
When discussing a topic and trying to come to a conclusion on the meaning of Scripture, there need to be certain implicit (maybe now explicit) understandings. One would be the place of Scripture as the basis of theological discussion. The other would be the rules of logic in making conclusions based on Scripture. It seems, however, that the rules of logic and knowledge of what constitutes a logical fallacy is not common knowledge anymore. Thus, Scripture is merely thrown back and forth without coming to any conclusion.
From my interaction in the blogosphere and in person, I have found these to be my top 10 pet peeves in theological discussion that need to be abandoned if real dialog is to follow:
1) "My position is Biblical."
This is both a "bare assertion fallacy" (saying it is true is assumed to make it true) and "begging the question." If we are two rational Christians, this is the question we are trying to answer, not merely a self evident assertion. If one is going to say something is “biblical” then one needs to go to the biblical text to argue something.
2) "I'm just not convinced"
This is fallacy is a combination of an "Argument from ignorance" and "Burden of proof." This assumes something is false because it has not been proven true. Actually, the person is unable or unwilling to fully consider that it might be true, then, it places assumption on falsehood without considering evidence.
There are agreed upon laws of logic and if one has committed a fallacy, then one should be called on it. But if the other person does not understand or like the implications of the argument, that is not a grounds for denying it.
3) "But that's the Old Testament"
This violates the terms of the agreement in the beginning of the discussion. If the Old Testament is not considered authoritative in an argument of itself, then discussion is impossible. If a principle as been abrogated by fulfillment, that is different. However, believing that earlier revelation can be nullified by later revelation is a tenant of Islam, not Christianity. If you wish to be Christian, this is not a proper argument. I've said more here.
4) "That's mean." or "you are mean" or "You Pharisee!" or "You Traditionalist!"
This is "Ad Hominem." or also called an argument "to the man." It could be true that the other person is not nice in their language. But feelings do not determine the validity of an argument, nor does it invalidate an argument.
5) Aren't both sides right?
This is a violation of the "law of non-contradiction." "A is B" and "A is not B" are mutually exclusive, meaning that both cannot be true statements. If A is B and A is not B, then it is in different ways, or at different times. They cannot both be right in the same way and time or the law of non-contradiction is violated.
6) "That's what Catholics/Nazis/Hitler believe"
This is all sorts of wrong. It is a "guilt by association." This is associating a an idea by a disapproved of person or group thinking that such an association makes the position wrong in itself. Catholics believe in the Trinity and the infallibility of Scripture, that does not make it wrong. Nazis believed in mathmatics, that does not make math evil.
It may also be a case of "proof by example." This tries to build a case based on anecdotes. Or a "package deal fallacy," believing that you must accept all of something because one accepts something the other person usually packages together.
7) "Oh yeah, well this verse says something different."
Again, we must abide by the "principle of contradiction." The Scriptures are either coherent and one and true, or they contradict and we should go do something more meaningful than talk theology. If one verse is used against another without answering what the first verse means, then no progress is made and we are undermining the authority of Scripture by misrepresenting it.
8) C.S. Lewis / C.H. Spurgeon / John Calvin / Peter Kreeft / G.K. Chesterton / L.S. Chafer says...
This fallacy is an "appeal to authority." A quote may help state something better than one can say it oneself, but these people are not authorities to be exegeted like Scripture. Now, experts in a field are different, especially if neither party discussing an issue knows that field. But pithy words from a smart guy are not argument stoppers.
9) "Augustine/Calvin/Thomas Aquinas/John Menno can't be right because he lived when people thought the earth was the center of the universe..."
This is called "Chronological Snobbery." It falsely states that since you are using an argument that was used in a time when another unrelated but clearly false thing was believed.
10) "If you believe my position, then (these good things) will happen..." or "If you believe your position (these bad things) will happen..."
This is an argument from consequences. It says that something is true because believing or doing it will lead to a desirable consequence, therefore it must be true. This is often used to justify pragmatic measures that cannot be proved otherwise. Or to say, because something would make me happier, it must be true.
A few others:
*) "That's not what it means to me"
Unless you are God, ultimate meaning is not determined by you. This is not an argument.
*) "It is obvious/clear that this is true."
Another "Bare assertion."
*) "I'm more ______(insert virtuous quality) than you... "
This is a personal form of "Appeal to authority." It is an appeal to superior virtue as a determining the validity of an argument. Declarations of virtue are not helpful to discussion.
*) "That's too dogmatic"
Christianity is coherent and thus dogmatic. To suggest Scripture yields dogmatic truth means saying Scripture is systematic, true and sure and this is not a bad thing.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Is it the Kingdom?
This is the first theme I heard when someone was trying to explain the Biblical Narrative. This sees the Bible as narrating the reign of God. This explanation, however, seems to not account for all the data. The goal of the preacher would be to declare God's Lordship, calling for obedience. But the Bible narrates so much disobedience and inability on the part of man. If the theme is God's Kingdom and God's giving man dominion, then most of the Bible is a narrative of the failure of that project.
"The movement of God towards man"
This answer was given by a professor I admire. I think this may be closer to the heart of the answer. However, it also seems to miss the narrative of man's flight from God. It is too vague.
History of Redemption
From Genesis 3 onward, man rebels. If God's kingdom was his only concern, he ought to have killed man in justice and started over with better subjects. If it is a general movement of God towards man, we can see this, but God was nearest man in Genesis. I think it is better to think of the narrative of the Bible as the history of redemption.
Genesis - man and God are in communion, but man sins.
Revelation - man is restored to an even better home and communion than the garden.
In between - the story of God's character revealed in love for His people through His Son ensues.
But how do we plug the details of the story into this narrative? A few books that have helped me:
Biblical Theology - Geerhardus Vos
Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation (Essays) by Geerhardus Vos
Redemptive History and the New Testament by Herman Ridderbos
Paul: An Outline of His Theology by Herman Ridderbos
A History of the Work of Redemption by Jonathan Edwards
Sunday, October 18, 2009
What does this all mean with the Triumphal Entry and teh Cleansing of the Temple? This section is meant to set the stage for something. Jesus is entering as a king into the city. Strife with the religious leaders has started with the cleansing of the Temple. But these two events have happened in a manner we don't expect. The “Triumphal Entry” was done on a donkey, a sign of humility and peace, rather than military might as we were to expect, from the parallels with Joshua and Zechariah 14.
Jesus has come into the Temple to liberate it, but not from Roman rule, but the rule of those who have turned it into a business rather than what Solomon had intended it to be. The Temple is meant to be a place where all nations come to know and worship the Lord. Jesus liberates from more than that too:
What is the place of the Temple in redemptive history as a set up for the rest of where we are heading in the last week of Christ? When we put Jesus and the Temple together in our minds, what ought we to think about? I'd like to connect some Biblical themes that are culminating in this Holy Week.
John tells us that Jesus came to be God “tabernacling” among us. (John 1:14) Tabernacle is the pre-Temple. The Temple comes as the unmoving tabernacle.
When the Temple was built on a permanent site, the mount the temple is located on is Mount Moriah. (2 Chron 3:1) The only other place it is mentioned is the sacrifice of Isaac. (Gen 22) Abraham is told to take his son, his only son of promise, as Genesis and Romans puts it, and sacrifice him. But the Angel of the Lord, (which we know when it says Angel of the Lord that is usually pre-incarnate Christ) stays his hand. Instead a ram is substituted. Then the Temple is built, to continue that substitution, waiting for the week Christ came to cleanse the Temple.
This temple that Jesus was at was the second temple. The first was destroyed at the time of exile. The prophets had promised it would be rebuilt, greater than before as the dwelling of God among men. But when the elderly Jews saw what was built, remembering what they had known 70 years earlier they wept, (Ezra 3:12) but not from joy, but because it did not compare to the former glory of the Temple. When John was saying Jesus comes to dwell, to tabernacle, among his people he is pointing to Jesus as the Third Temple, ushering in the true fulfillment of the glory of the temple exceeding the glory of Solomon's Temple.
Jesus becomes where all nations are to come and know God, and worship Him truly. Jesus comes to be the full, perfect Temple sacrifice. Through studying this final week, we have a veil lifted to see the culmination, that Old Testament saints longed to see. Do we realize the priviledge we have in having the New Testament revelation of Jesus Christ?
When the Angel or messenger of the Lord that stayed the hand of Abraham, He himself is substituted, along the same range of mountains. This is the week of the coming of the third temple, of the culmination of everything from Abraham, to the Temple, to the prophets, to a hill on a Friday where Christ is, just as the sacrifices of Passover in the second temple occur and the passover lambs are sacrificed, then will the true Lamb be sacrificed with less ceremony and less honor, as the substitute for Isaac and for us. Here comes to His appointed time.
Abraham, Moses, the judges and the prophets longed to see what we can see the pages of the New Testament. Do we long to see it?
Matt 13:17 For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
Friday, October 16, 2009
-2 Timothy 3:16
Nearly daily, I find myself in a seminary context. I've been having a re-occuring reaction when discussing theological issues with Christians (especially strict old school dispensationalists). Many times an issue that will come up where most every other Evangelical friend I have will take a different stand. This may be the issue of the Sabbath, or how a covenant works, or the nature and method of worship. Every conversation is starting to end the same way. I quote or exegete Scripture and the other person says that Scripture is not authoritative or binding. They don't say it in that way, but the effect is the same. You see, when this happens, I tend to be quoting or exegeting the Old Testament.
I want to call it Marcionism, but that is too harsh. Marcion saw the Old Testament as containing a different God. This Semi-Marcionism of today sees the same God in the Old Testament, but with a different system of religion, so not authoritative today. The buzz words are "fulfillment" and "radical discontinuity." These words usually communicate that the Old Testament may have been fine in its day, but now is passe. Back then, God was concerned about those things, but He got over it.
If one argues that "there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God," one is told either that is Old Testament and not repeated in the New Testament (even though my wording is a quote from Hebrews 4:9) or that Christ fulfilled the Law and we don't need to worry about it anymore.
If one argues that worship is covenant renewal based on Exodus 24, one is told that is Old Testament worship and New Testament worship is completely different. Different how? Now it is "in Spirit" (whatever that means). Why? Because it is. Fulfillment! Radical Discontinuity! New Covenant trumps old covenant!
Let's be honest. Most American Evangelicals treat the Old Testament as Apocryphal. It contains some interesting history and background, but it is not really Scripture and authoritative like the true canon: The New Testament. True, it is never stated that way. Instead, it is either couched in language of "fulfillment" or the new covenant trumping the old. But the effect is the same. The Old Testament's theology is seen as no longer binding or true unless stated in the New Testament. Radical discontinunity becomes a convenient way to disregard 2/3's of the Bible.
Fulfillment is certainly a Scriptural concept. I know Christ fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5:21). Some of that mean that there are some things in the Old Testament that no longer apply (such as national or ceremonial Law). But fulfillment does not mean abolish. (Matt 5:17) By thinking fulfillment means abolish, the concept has been applied too broadly and come to merely mean: the Old Testament has no authority. The Old Testament is pictured as a different religion of the Jews. Even if the Old Testament presents a doctrine in a certain way, our particular understanding of the New Testament is all that counts. Christianity is seen to contradict the old (read: outdated) ways and so "fulfillment" is just another word for abolishing a bad thing rather than development of a good thing. The Sabbath, how a covenant works and the method and nature of worship are then all bad things we don't like, that God finally got right in the New Testament. We quote Augustine: "The New is in the Old contained, and the Old is in the New explained." We don't mean it though. We really mean: " The New is in the Old in certain parts, and the Old is in the New explained away."
The real reasons we dismiss the Old Testament:
1) We don't read the Old Testament.
Our time answers to the demands of real life. This is legit, to a degree. Life requires work. But when we get a free moment, we'd rather not think, but unwind. So we watch television and surf the web. If we do devotions they are from the New Testament, and when we read the Old Testament, it is not as someone under authority, but as story.
2) We aren't taught the Old Testament
Measure your Old Testament sermons compared to New Testament sermons. Then, when the Old Testament is taught, how often is theology in view rather than marriage tips from Song of Solomon and Ruth, parenting tips from the Patriarchs, and trusting God generically in generic situations?
3) We don't like the Old Testament world
The Old Testament deals with people as a group. As nations and families. We function as individuals. There is a distinction between clergy and laypeople. We hate hierarchy and authority. There are kings. We are democrats. People go to war in the Old Testament. We like peaceful and happy Jesus, not wrathful and angry Yahweh. The Old Testament contains these people called prophets, and we think prophecy is just prediction. If we ever read the prophets, we find more judgment and commands than we desired, and when we come to the prophets we find they don't "prophecy" like Nostradamus and the prophecies do not become "fulfilled" in the way we think they should be. So, we ignore and neglect the prophets and merely assume it is for scholars to confirm and give us the two sentence version.
4) The Old Testament is long
We have the New Testament at about half the length of the Old Testament. We prefer to read the New Testament instead...though we really merely repeat what we've heard other people say about it because,
5) We prefer a tradition of supposed biblicism (we'd rather claim to be Biblical than read the Bible)
We hear others talk about the Bible and give us a few conclusions. We trust them and think by doing so, we are Biblical. So if something else is argued, even if the Bible is referenced, we think it is not "Biblical." Nevermind "searching the Scriptures to see if it is so."
We ought to be honest. Either Evangelicals should relabel their Old Testaments as Apocrypha or start taking them seriously. I don't know what is meant by fulfillment and radical discontinuity anymore other than that person does not think the Old Testament functions as Scripture. We must have a theology of the Old Testament that recognizes what Paul said about the Old Testament: "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
I was reading through the book of Hebrews again (it's my official favorite book of 2009) and came across a passage that upsets our categories:
Hebrews 11:23-26: By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king's edict. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.
Two things the passage says we may have trouble with:
1) In the second "by faith," Moses had faith in Christ...hundreds of years before Christ came bodily.
2) in the first "by faith," the faith talked about by which Moses was saved from Pharaoh, was not Moses' faith, but the faith of his parents.
No Commentary. Just Observation.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I'm not a big fan of rap. But Mark Dever interviewed Shai Linne and Voice, two Reformed rappers (no, that's not an oxi-moron) on 9 Marks audio. Interesting interview, especially in their sophisticated view of the place of art in the Kingdom, and their medium as suppliments and not replacements for the means of grace.
Listen MP3 here
I do appreciate Shai Linne's music, and you should check out his album Atonement. It is more theologically dense than Derek Webb, if that helps as an endorsement.
You can listen to his song "Mission Accomplished" here. It's a great defense of definite atonement. Plus, who else has a song about C.H. Spurgeon?
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Circumcising the Nation
5:1 As soon as all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of the Jordan for the people of Israel until they had crossed over, their hearts melted and there was no longer any spirit in them because of the people of Israel.
2 At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the sons of Israel a second time.” 3 So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the sons of Israel at Gibeath-haaraloth. 4 And this is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: all the males of the people who came out of Egypt, all the men of war, had died in the wilderness on the way after they had come out of Egypt. 5 Though all the people who came out had been circumcised, yet all the people who were born on the way in the wilderness after they had come out of Egypt had not been circumcised. 6 For the people of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, the men of war who came out of Egypt, perished, because they did not obey the voice of the Lord; the Lord swore to them that he would not let them see the land that the Lord had sworn to their fathers to give to us, a land flowing with milk and honey. 7 So it was their children, whom he raised up in their place, that Joshua circumcised. For they were uncircumcised, because they had not been circumcised on the way.
8 When the circumcising of the whole nation was finished, they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed. 9 And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” And so the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day.
First Passover in Canaan
10 While the people of Israel were encamped at Gilgal, they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening on the plains of Jericho. 11 And the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. 12 And the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.
The Commander of the Lord's Army
13 When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” 14 And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” 15 And the commander of the Lord's army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Valley of Vision - Puritan prayers titled by theme. Great resource for personal prayer.
Westminster Standards - Every Reformed Christian ought to have a copy of the Westminster Standards. Once one is familar with the standards, it aids theological study and even Bible study. The catechisms are great helps to education oneself and children in the faith.
Worship Sourcebook - a book for constructing liturgies put out by the Christian Reformed Church. Has multiple choices for every element of worship from the Call to worship, the confession of sin, to the Benediction.
Heart Aflame - edited version of Calvin's commentary on the Psalms.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
When I look to other traditions, there are certain traditions I have little or no envy over. I don't read many Methodists. I'm not impressed with their theology or homiletics. Sorry. No offense, but I'm just not interested. There are some traditions that I can enjoy certain theologians and persons, such as Anglicanism. I love many Anglican theologians and hymn writers (like John Newton, William Cowper, C.S. Lewis, etc.) I enjoy the occassional Episcopal Euchraist or liturgy. But, ultimately, I what I like about Anglicanism is where it has commonalities with the Reformed Tradition.
Then, there is the one tradition I truly have tradition envy over. The Lutherans. Not usually their theology. I'm a 5-point Calvinist. I think the Lutheran approach to Free Will is 10-fold better than Arminians, but still too weak...still, not Luther-like enough. But I will tell you where I do envy Lutherans:
1) Homiletics. Conservative Lutherans know Law and Gospel. They distinguish the two to the point of predictable regularity in their sermons. And that's great. We could learn from their homiletics.
2)Devotional material. The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has released seven resources that has made me ask: Why don't we have this?! Sure, the book of Concord is a book of confessions like the Westminster Standards. No envy there. Our theology is better anyway :)
But also see:
The Lutheran Study Bible – Yeah, there is a “Reformation Study Bible” and the new ESV Study Bible, that some say is covenantal. But the Reformation Study Bible was made to be so broad that it should be called Reformish or Reformesque rather than Reformed. Sacramental Theology and Ecclesiology are both weak in key passages to accomidate Reformed Baptists and other possible customers. The ESV Study Bible's notes are New Covenantal rather than covenantal. So, ironically, the notes on the sacraments and Law and Gospel in the Lutheran Study Bible are closer to true Reformed ideas than in the Reformation or ESV Study Bible.
Lutheran Service Book – A book of liturgies. The CRC (Dutch Reformed) have produced practical works like this (see Worship Sourcebook). But the conservative Presbyterians have only produced a hymnal. A good hymnal, but it needs more liturgy.
Treasury of Daily Prayer – Wonderful daily readings from Scripture, OT, Psalms, and NT. Also includes songs to sing, prayers to pray and quotes from figures in Church History, from the Apostolic Fathers up to the 20th Century. But 90% of the reading is Scripture, to get one in the Bible daily. How great is that?
Lutheran Book of Prayer – Daily prayers to aid morning and nightly prayers and gets one started when praying on other topics when one does not know how to start.
Reading the Psalms with Luther – An introduction to each Psalm to aid understanding from Martin Luther himself.
After exposure to these resources, and in the case of “Treasure of Daily Prayer” and “Lutheran Book of Prayer” my personal use, I would love to have resources more in line with the Reformed Tradition along these lines. A real Reformed and covenantal Study Bible. A Reformed Book of Prayer. A Reformed Treasury of Daily prayer with selections from the Three Forms or Westminster instead of Book of Concord. But, oh well. Until such things happen, I'm content to read my Westminster next to my Lutheran Book of Prayer. But I'm really tempted to get a Lutheran Study Bible and carry it to church. When asked why, I would reply: it's as close to a Reformed Study Bible in English. Sad but true.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Michael Horton has continued his 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 keeps getting better. [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
Friday, October 09, 2009
"Ver 8 - “For by grace,” saith he “have ye been saved.”
In order then that the greatness of the benefits bestowed may not raise thee too high, observe how he brings thee down: “by grace ye have been saved,” saith he,
Then, that, on the other hand, our free-will be not impaired, he adds also our part in the work, and yet again cancels it, and adds,
“And that not of ourselves.”
Neither is faith he means, “of ourselves.” Because had He not come, had He not called us, how had we been able to believe? for “how,” saith he, “shall they believe, unless they hear?” (Rom. x. 14.) So that the work of faith itself is not our own.
“It is the gift,” said he, “of God,” it is “not of works.”
Was faith then, you will say, enough to save us? No; but God, saith he, hath required this, lest He should save us, barren and without work at all. His expression is, that faith saveth, but it is because God so willeth, that faith saveth. Since, how, tell me, doth faith save, without works? This itself is the gift of God.That he may excite in us proper feeling
Ver 9. - touching this gift of grace. “What then?” saith a man, “Hath He Himself hindered our being justified by works?” By no means. But no one, he saith, is justified by works, in order that the grace and loving-kindness of God may be shown. He did not reject us as having works, but as abandoned of works He hath saved us by grace; so that no man henceforth may have whereof to boast."
- John Chrysostom on Eph 2:8-9
"For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." (Gen 15:6/Rom 4:3). Abraham believed God. Let us also believe, so that we who are heirs of his race may likewise be heirs of his faith."
-Ambrose of Milan
"Paul revealed that Abraham had glory before God not because he was circumcised nor because he abstained from evil, but because he believed in God. For that reason he was justified, and he would receive the reward of praise in the future."
"Vain, too, are Marcion and his followers when they seek to exclude Abraham from the inheritance, to whom the Spirit through many men, and now by Paul, bears witness, that 'he believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness."
Thursday, October 08, 2009
The Baptist Catechism as I understand it was based mostly on the Westminster Shorter. Good start or you would think so. But seriously what were they thinking with changing the first question? The wonderful question “What is the chief end of Man?” was changed to this;
Q. Who is the first and chiefest being?
A. God is the first and chiefest being (Is. 44:6; 48:12; Ps. 97:9).
I am not arguing against the answer but did they think they were one upping the Westminster divines by taking man out of the equation? Westminster I think wisely started with the question on everyone’s heart and takes us deep into the heart of God with each question there after. Bravo!
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
C.H. Spurgeon saved the Baptist Catechism when he changed the question back for use in his own church. Spurgeon’s Catechism is probably the only "Baptist" Catechism I am aware of that lives on still.
(BTW - Thanks to Jay Bennett for some revision help)
[TEXT: Habakkuk 2:4]
We just sang:
Thy justice, like mountains, high soaring above
Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.
Open your pew Bibles to the book of Habakkuk and let us see see how Habakkuk responds to such grand thoughts of God's justice:
Hab 1:2 O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you "Violence!" and you will not save? Hab 1:3 Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. Hab 1:4 So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth.
You may have read our text from Habakkuk 2:4 on the front cover, one of the most quoted OT verses in the New Testament. But Habakkuk, believe it or not, does not start in chapter two, but begins with Habakkuk, registering a complaint with God. In fact, Habakkuk has two complaints before we get to 2:4. We are looking at these two complaints together tonight, as we take a quick journey through the whole book of Habakkuk.
Habakkuk begins his prayer, skipping any formalities, naming of grand attributes of God, or praising of God's name and goes straight to “Why are you not listening?!” I cry “violence” and why will you not save. Habakkuk lives near the end of the time of the kingdom of Judah. Israel has been conquered and taken into exile, and Judah alone remains. Judah had been known as the good kingdom compared to Northern Israel, but at this time Judah is worshiping Baal and Mannassah, King of Judah, had even sacrificed his own son by fire to foreign gods! It's a horrible situation in Judah. Habakkuk cries out to God, if you are Holy and Just, why do you not save us from this evil?!
We find ourselves among much evil. The scary part is when it comes from within the people of God, within the church. The recent approval of sexual perversion by multiple denominations in their own clergy. We saw a so-called revival meeting last year in Florida that ended with money stolen from participants and an affair by the main pastor leading it. We see sex abuse scandals involving clergy and children. We think of the middle ages when there was dishonest theft from the poor by the church to build a building in Rome.
Are we not tempted to shout with Habakkuk: “Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth.” What good is the law with all this evil?!
It may seem impious and irreverent to say such things. We like to critique the attitude of Biblical characters. But that's what makes Old Testament characters like Job and Habakkuk so interesting and relevant is they shock us with their honesty. They haven't learned to hide their doubts and even anger at God as well as we have. The words shock us, but they do not shock God. God is not at a loss for words.
In response to Habakkuk's complaint, crying to be saved from human evil, God assures him that His Justice is coming, in verse 6, he says He is raising up the Chaldeans, a tribe of the Babylonians, to violently seize their nation from them in God's Justice. God's wrath against sin and human evil will be shown in His Justice.
The end. Habakkuk's happy now, right?
Of course not! Habakkuk then files a second complaint and says:
1:13 You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?
Basically he says: “The Chaldeans will judge us?! That's not the answer I wanted! They are worse than we are!” What's the problem now? Habakkuk is realizing he's targeting the very ship he is standing on! Habakkuk is a member of the nation of Judah. And as a part of Judah, how can God allow a less righteous people come to punish a more righteous nation?!
Let's look at this dialog: First Habakkuk cried for salvation from human evil. Then, God's Justice acts and promises swift justice and wrath. Then, Habakkuk needs salvation from God's Justice.
Habakkuk appeals for deliverance. But, on what grounds? What grounds does Habakkuk appeal to God from, that God would spare Judah? “We're better than those guys.” We are more righteousness than them. Sure, I just admitted we are really evil. But we're not THAT BAD.
The guy who killed someone in the paper, he deserves justice. But us? We only kill my boss in my mind everyday when we see that idiot. We're not actually going to do it! The guys in the papers that had a string of bank robberies, they deserve to go to prison. We may just under-report my assets to the IRS. It's different. We are relatively more righteous than those other horrible people! I should live on account of my righteousness! Can't you grade on a curve, God!? It's only fair.
Habakkuk sits back and thinks he has God in a corner (2:1). God answers the second complaint, letting Habakkuk know the Chaldeans will have to answer His justice, but this is where we get the answer of 2:4, our text. This is the problem 2:4 comes to answer. God must explain to more-righteous-than-them Habakkuk what sort of righteousness God is looking for in man. Not a puffed up pride, as better-than-the-next-guy righteousness, but
Hab 2:4 "Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.Notice what God did not say. The righteous do not live by man's righteousness. They do not live by being better than the next guy. He lives by faith.
Jesus has a nack for taking a hard teaching and making it offensive. In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector going to the Temple to pray, the Pharisee prays: Thank you that I am not like this man, who openly steal from his people. The tax collector merely beat his chest and said, have mercy on me, a sinner. Luke's account tells us that Jesus has the audacity to say the one known to steal from his people openly, the tax collector, "went home justified." But the Pharisee lived better! In comparison, he was more righteous! How can a less righteous acting man be justified? Only the tax collector had pleaded for God's mercy in faith, rather than pleading his own righteousness.
God's Justice does not grade on a curve. You see the man who pleads his own righteousness does have a sort of faith. But where is that faith? In himself and his righteousness. “his soul is puffed up.” The righteousness God speaks of is different. It is marked by the righteousness of the object of faith, not the person believing.
When Habakkuk gets his third time to speak, well, the third time's a charm. Habakkuk first wanted God to save them from human evil because God is Holy. When God's Holy Justice answers with wrath against sin, Habakkuk needs salvation from God's wrath. But when God takes away the ground of Habakkuk's righteousness, Habakkuk finally gets it in chapter 3. In 3:2. He asks the Lord in fear:
Hab 3:2 in wrath, remember mercy.Finally, Habakkuk asks for salvation from God's wrathful justice against human sin by appealing to God's mercy, rather than Habakkuk's righteousness. What that faith ultimately looks like is that faith does not plead one's own righteousness, but faith pleads the righteousness of Another, which Habakkuk is going to do. Isaac Watts wrote in a hymn: “The best obedience of my hands, dares not appear before Thy Throne, but Faith can answer Thy Demands, by pleading what my Lord has done.” Is it our obedience or Christ's we trust? Is it what we have done or Christ has done?
I argue that Habakkuk had faith in Christ's work. How can I say that, since Habakkuk lived before Christ? Indeed, but the God had covenanted with his people in order that mercy and grace might be shown, from Genesis 3:15 on, where the seed of the woman would “crush the head of the serpent,” the source of evil. This is what Habakkuk is appeals to in 3:13 where he expectantly says
Hab 3:13 You went out for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your anointed. You crushed the head of the house of the wicked, laying him bare from thigh to neck.
Habakkuk has turned from himself to God's promise. As God has done before with defeating Pharaoh and will do with the Chaldeans and again definitively in the Promised Messiah. The ground of appeal had to be moved from a false righteousness to the promise of the seed crushing the head of evil. The ground of faith is the Righteous One and His promises. Habakkuk ends his prayer in 3:18, appealing to “the God of my salvation, The Lord is my strength” or the word can also be translated resources or wealth, or treasure. The grounds of Habakkuk's appeal have fully moved from his own power and treasure of righteousness to God's righteousness and mercy.
The Ancient Jew had to rest on God and His promises in faith alone, that He would save him. We are no different in essence on this side of the coming of Jesus. Where is Habakkuk's ultimate hope? “The God of my salvation” (3:18)
Where is our hope? In Jesus. In Yeshua. In the name that literally means: “The Lord saves.” Habakkuk trusts the “God of my salvation” just as we trust Jesus “The Lord saves.” Will God answer the problem of evil? Yes in Holy Justice. How can we be saved then from God's wrath in justice? How can God “in wrath, remember mercy?” being both Just and merciful? By God Himself taking on the wrath of God. Only by God Himself being the one that fulfills all righteousness under the law. Only in the God of our salvation. Only in Yeshua, the Lord saves.
From human sin, from the wrath of God's Justice, we fly to no other source when we come to the table. We do not trust our flesh to fulfill all righteousness under the law, but trust Christ's truly righteous flesh. We do not pay our penalty with our tainted blood, but plead Christ' truly righteous blood as payment. We come to exchange. Our righteousness, which at best is filthy rages, for true righteousness.
Come to the table to plead with our God with the words of the prophet: “in wrath, remember mercy, oh God of my salvation.” Amen.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
“it has coherence when it is not interacting with the particulars of the text, but it wreaks havoc at the lexical level for it is self-defeating...I would view Wright’s synthesis of Romans as a brilliant failure—brilliant because of how coherent it is, but a failure because it sits three feet above the text at all points where it would be inconvenient to wrestle with what the text actually says.”
Monday, October 05, 2009
I love this selection from Jerome I came across recently. Jerome states a principle we ought to honor as a true axiom of our age: Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. No one can neglect Scripture and claim a devotion to Christ or claim personal relationship over study, reading and knowledge of the Scriptures.
Jerome's introduction to the Book of Isaiah:
“I interpret as I should, following the command of Christ: Search the Scriptures, and Seek and you shall find. Christ will not say to me what he said to the Jews: You erred, not knowing the Scriptures and not knowing the power of God. For if, as Paul says, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.
Therefore, I will imitate the head of a household who brings out of his storehouse things both new and old, and says to his spouse in the Song of Songs: I have kept for you things new and old, my beloved. In this way permit me to explain Isaiah, showing that he was not only a prophet, but an evangelist and an apostle as well. For he says about himself and the other evangelists: How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news, of those who announce peace. And God speaks to him as if he were an apostle: Whom shall I send, who will go to my people? And he answers: Here I am; send me.
No one should think that I mean to explain the entire subject matter of this great book of Scripture in one brief sermon, since it contains all the mysteries of the Lord. It prophesies that Emmanuel is to be born of a virgin and accomplish marvellous works and signs. It predicts his death, burial and resurrection from the dead as the Savior of all men. I need say nothing about the natural sciences, ethics and logic. Whatever is proper to holy Scripture, whatever can be expressed in human language and understood by the human mind, is contained in the book of Isaiah...
it was not the air vibrating with the human voice that reached their ears , but rather it was God speaking within the soul of the prophets, just as another prophet says: It is an angel who spoke in me; and again, Crying out in our hearts, Abba, Father’, and I shall listen to what the Lord God says within me.” — Jerome’s Commentary on Isaiah (Nn. 1.2: CCL 73, 1-3)
Sunday, October 04, 2009
Matthew 18:1-5: At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
19:13-15 - Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.
When the disciples ask a question about the greatest, Jesus uses a child as a model. Jesus uses a child to say “unless you turn/change/convert (all are valid translations of this word) and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Now Jesus did not mean act childish, the disciples were already good at this. “Who's the greatest?” already is a childish question. Paul says we grow up and put away childish things. It's almost as if it is like Jesus says: stop having the bad qualities of a child and get some of the good ones.
And Jesus gets a lot of mileage out of this example. The child offers an example for
2)How to welcome others
3)The responsibility we have to others (in the graveness of sin)
I once heard John Piper say that one of the traits he looks for in an elder is how they interact with children. Is the Christian Life a matter of one's individual piety and outward cleanliness? Or is it found in community and not the individual? For Piper, children were the ultimate test because they are needy, they can be annoying (as they were to the disciples later), and they can give you nothing back for the time you give them. They may, if an infant, sit there and look cute, but they will not return the favor. You don't take them out to lunch then they get the bill next time. A child may say thanks but then runs off to do his own thing.
So what I think Jesus is getting at in “becoming like one of these” is in rank and importance. It is not acting childish, though the innocent trust of the child is held up. It is humility, welcoming people like children who cannot give you something, and in not leading them into sin.
But as a side note before we get these traits in action in the rest of this chapter, I want to also show how this is a great argument for infant baptism. I'm serious. In other words, it is not entirely spiritualized that the kingdom community belongs to the children. In Matthew 19:13-15, the disciples may have only taken this as spiritual, and as people brought children to Jesus the disciples send them away. In Luke, it tells us that mothers carried babies to Jesus to touch. Children that could not come of their own accord, that had little knowledge of what was being done to them. The disciples did not see that children belonged in the new community that Jesus was making just as they belonged by circumcision in the community of Israel, as Jesus says that indeed they are members of the kingdom subject to his Kingship. Peter, I believe, gets it in Acts 2:38-39. When he invites the first Jews to new covenant obedience in receiving their Messiah and submitting to baptism, Peter says “for the promise is for you and your children.” Peter learned by this point children were included. Clement of Alexandria has a great line about this incident: “In Jesus' time mother brought their children to Jesus to touch, as they continue to do today in baptism.” There. My short case for infant baptism based on Matthew 18 and 19.
But I do think it is true. Having children as covenant members reminds us of the importance of community. We then see the dependence that child has on others. The community is not a social club where strong pious individuals, that are maintained by their individual personal piety come together. It is ground of the individual growing. Think of trees growing out of the building of the church, rather than trees growing out side of the church that stick a branch in the building. A child's dependence reminds us of our dependence. That a child is brought unable to help itself to have Christ touch reminds us of our helpless condition apart from being carried by the workings of the Spirit.
Saturday, October 03, 2009
Reformed Forum has a fascinating discussion (after the first 5 minutes for book reviews) on the promise of return from exile and the disappointment of Ezra-Nehemiah in return, for it was not the full fulfillment to come 400 years later in Christ.
Also, an interesting exploration of the tension of Circumcision of the heart as command:
Deu 10:16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.
And circumcision of the heart as promise:
Deu 30:6 And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
That the command of the requirement for Israel of obedience to get the promise, must be given by God in His promise before the stipulation may be met. God demands, yet God gives all that He demands. I would add, the only one to perfectly circumcise his heart is Christ, the True Israel, and His obedience grants us the promise of a circumcised heart.
Friday, October 02, 2009
A Hymn to God the Father:
Wilt Thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
For I have more.
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two, but wallow'd in, a score?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
For I have more.
I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
But swear by Thyself, that at my death thy Son
Shall shine as He shines now, and heretofore;
And, having done that, Thou hast done;
I fear no more.
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Ezekiel Chapter 7
7:1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “And you, O son of man, thus says the Lord God to the land of Israel: An end! The end has come upon the four corners of the land. 3 Now the end is upon you, and I will send my anger upon you; I will judge you according to your ways, and I will punish you for all your abominations. 4 And my eye will not spare you, nor will I have pity, but I will punish you for your ways, while your abominations are in your midst. Then you will know that I am the Lord.
5 “Thus says the Lord God: Disaster after disaster! Behold, it comes. 6 An end has come; the end has come; it has awakened against you. Behold, it comes. 7 Your doom has come to you, O inhabitant of the land. The time has come; the day is near, a day of tumult, and not of joyful shouting on the mountains. 8 Now I will soon pour out my wrath upon you, and spend my anger against you, and judge you according to your ways, and I will punish you for all your abominations. 9 And my eye will not spare, nor will I have pity. I will punish you according to your ways, while your abominations are in your midst. Then you will know that I am the Lord, who strikes.
10 “Behold, the day! Behold, it comes! Your doom has come; the rod has blossomed; pride has budded. 11 Violence has grown up into a rod of wickedness. None of them shall remain, nor their abundance, nor their wealth; neither shall there be preeminence among them. 12 The time has come; the day has arrived. Let not the buyer rejoice, nor the seller mourn, for wrath is upon all their multitude. 13 For the seller shall not return to what he has sold, while they live. For the vision concerns all their multitude; it shall not turn back; and because of his iniquity, none can maintain his life.
14 “They have blown the trumpet and made everything ready, but none goes to battle, for my wrath is upon all their multitude. 15 The sword is without; pestilence and famine are within. He who is in the field dies by the sword, and him who is in the city famine and pestilence devour. 16 And if any survivors escape, they will be on the mountains, like doves of the valleys, all of them moaning, each one over his iniquity. 17 All hands are feeble, and all knees turn to water. 18 They put on sackcloth, and horror covers them. Shame is on all faces, and baldness on all their heads. 19 They cast their silver into the streets, and their gold is like an unclean thing. Their silver and gold are not able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the Lord. They cannot satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs with it. For it was the stumbling block of their iniquity. 20 His beautiful ornament they used for pride, and they made their abominable images and their detestable things of it. Therefore I make it an unclean thing to them. 21 And I will give it into the hands of foreigners for prey, and to the wicked of the earth for spoil, and they shall profane it. 22 I will turn my face from them, and they shall profane my treasured place. Robbers shall enter and profane it.
23 “Forge a chain! For the land is full of bloody crimes and the city is full of violence. 24 I will bring the worst of the nations to take possession of their houses. I will put an end to the pride of the strong, and their holy places shall be profaned. 25 When anguish comes, they will seek peace, but there shall be none. 26 Disaster comes upon disaster; rumor follows rumor. They seek a vision from the prophet, while the law perishes from the priest and counsel from the elders. 27 The king mourns, the prince is wrapped in despair, and the hands of the people of the land are paralyzed by terror. According to their way I will do to them, and according to their judgments I will judge them, and they shall know that I am the Lord.”