"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Praise be to Jesus Christ,

who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

(Phil 2:6-11)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christ and Culture

Over the issue of Christians, the Church and Culture, I lean heavily in a "Two-Kingdoms" perspective. This is an area of dialogue and debate in the Reformed World. Two articles have come out from two PCA pastors on different sides of the question. Tim Keller arguing for a more Transformationalist view and Horton for the Two Kingdom view. These are not formal or deep defenses but are an interesting introduction to the topic. I believe Horton has the better position, but read for yourself and enjoy:

Tim Keller: "Coming Together on Culture"

Michael Horton: "Christ and Culture Once More"

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Joy and Sorrow

Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” (Luke 18:15-17)

My focus lately has been so much on our coming baby, but I'm reminded of the wisdom of Solomon: "It is better to go to a funeral than a feast. For death is the destiny of every person, and the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, because sober reflection is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of merrymaking." (Ecc 7:2-4)

My thoughts today are with a man I greatly admire and appreciate, my mentoring pastor, whose daughter would have been four today. He penned a sublime entry after his daughter went home.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Presbyterian Worship

Even the Muppets know when someone is violating the regulative principle:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pleasing and Satisfying God

A Question arises when speaking about conduct and God’s attitude towards a believer. Can God be satisfied by my actions? Can I please or displease God by my actions? To some the answer to both is an obvious yes, to others the answer is an obvious no. Those who say yes say there are actions that are more pleasing to God and actions that are less pleasing to God. Those who say no point to the work of Christ, and that his work standing for ours means that God at no point loves us more or less than with the love of His Son and so is always perfectly pleased with us.

If you noticed the two questions, you may have noticed there is a change of language from inquiring of God’s “satisfaction” to wondering about God’s being “pleased.” Such a difference in language is intentional. I wish to show why my answer to those questions is different:

1) Can God be satisfied by my actions?

My answer: No. Our actions cannot satisfy God.

Lewis S. Chaffer was known for saying to his students in class over and over again: “God is fully satisfied.” He wanted to ingrain to them that they were not in seminary or going into the ministry to satisfy God, and if they were, they were there for the wrong reason.

Satisfaction has a particular meaning referring to the justice of God. By that standard, we required the substitution of the work of Christ, Such as Described in Romans 5:17-19. Our Catechism describes the blessing of justification in such a way that “Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners, in which he pardoneth all their sins, accepteth and accounteth their persons righteous in his sight; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ,”

Christ has fully satisfied the justice of God. The only righteousness that causes us to be just in the sight of God is the righteousness of Christ and our actions cannot satisfy God more or less than the work of Christ.

But to the second question:

2) Can I please or displease God by my actions?

Yes. We are specifically told that our actions and our walk relate to God’s being pleased:

1 Thess 4:1 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.

Other places contain instructions encouraging us to “try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” (Eph 5:10) So this leaves us wondering, do these things contradict? To say God cannot be more satisfied, but that I ought to work towards pleasing the Lord?

These do not contradict, but sweetly comply. Satisfaction refers to the legal judgment of God. Thus, in justification we are taught that Christ’s satisfaction stands for us, that God is perfectly satisfied in his divine justice in the work of His Son taking our place and penalty. However, pleasing in the sense of the believer acting towards God does not refer to that legal aspect. We do not add to or take away from our justification. In justification, God related to us as a Judge. Now that justice has been satisfied before that Judge, we are told that we have been adopted (Gal 4:6-7). Notice, for instance, that in Galatians that while Paul lays our justification by faith (Galatians 2), that before Paul gets to our Christian walk he must pass through our Adoption at the end of Galatians 3 and beginning of Galatians 4. This is reproduced in our Catechisms where we are told that we walk through the benefits of salvation first in justification, then in adoption and finally in sanctification. That particular order is very important. Sanctification, the Christian Life, Walking in the Spirit is a process done in light of Adoption. We no longer relate to God as a Judge, but as a Father.

How does that relate to satisfy and pleasing? One must satisfy justice before a judge. One works to please a Father.

Some may object, saying that our status as sons of the Father means that God only looks on us in love and pride and would never be either angry or displeased. This formulation, however, is not the treatment we see in Scripture. God is very angry with his people, many of them true regenerates, over the sin of Achan in Joshua 7. God was angry with the generation of the Exodus, though they were his children. [Deut 1:34-37] God as a Father can be displeased with the acts of his children. We do not have a senile grandfather in Heaven, but a good Father. A good Father does not merely send his children out to live however they want without discipline:

Hebrews 12:5-11: And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

We forget this passage. We forget that a Father disciplines his children. We forget that God can be displeased in the acts of his sons, even when he loves them and his justice is satisfied. The regeneration of a believer, and indeed the union of the believer to Christ is not the end of God’s rod and staff. This rod and staff continue to discipline his children but in love. He disciplines for it teaches us righteousness. He disciplines us to do what pleases Him. And when we worship God we do not worship a neutered God, but one for whom we have reverence and awe, and for whom we do fear to displease, for we fear to displease our Father, though when we do we remember his acceptance and the satisfaction of Christ, not to placate our passivity, but to spur us on to actively pursue God’s character and face as given in his commands, for if we love God, we will endeavor to follow his commands.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hymn: Come, O Come Thou Quick'ning Spirit

Well, there is no Indelible Grace version, or Red Mountain Music version, or other modernized version I know about - yet, that doesn't impair my appreciation for this hymn, "Come, O Come Thou Quick'ning Spirit." It is a great Hymn of Preparation, either for confession or reading the Word. It focuses on the necessity of the Spirit to do any good thing before God. You can see a couple of OPC ministers singing it here. Seems those OPC guys still use hymnals. Hmmm...
Come, O Come Thou Quick'ning Spirit.

Come, O come, thou quick'ning Spirit,
God from all eternity!
May thy power never fail us;
Dwell within us constantly.
Then shall truth and life and light
Banish all the gloom of night.

Grant our hearts in fullest measure
Wisdom, counsel, purity,
That we ever may be seeking
Only that which pleaseth thee.
Let thy knowledge spread and grow,
Working error's overthrow.

Show us, Lord, the path of blessing;
When we trespass on our way,
Cast, O Lord, our sins behind thee
And be with us day by day.
Should we stray, O Lord, recall;
Work repentance when we fall.

Holy Spirit, strong and mighty,
Thou who makest all things new,
Make thy work within us perfect
And the evil foe subdue.
Grant us weapons for the strife
And with vict'ry crown our life.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Justice and Mercy

There have been a lot of replies to Rob Bell's video "asking questions" leading towards Universalism. I really like this one though. Instead of hitting on "love" vaguely defined, it hits on justice, defined and satisfied:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Gospel Assumed...

Often as Christians will admit that we live life assuming the gospel. By that, we mean we "move past" the gospel to other things. Gospel becomes those things that are elementary and then we stop declaring them to "move on" to other things. Then when we assume the gospel, we confuse the gospel (because we never talk about it and forget it). Then after we confuse the gospel we deny the gospel. I came across this selection recently and think it is appropriate to share:

Assuming the Gospel is the height of arrogance. It is as if we were saying, “We all know what God has done for us in Jesus, so we can go on to teach and learn other things today.” St. Paul gave much apostolic direction for living the Christian life – “bearing with one another” (Colossians 3:13), “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), “walking by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16), and seeing the “more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31). Yet Paul always put such admonition in the context of Christ’s saving work for us. In fact, Paul was adamant about the priority of the cross: “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2: 2)… No matter what else Paul had to say, the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our salvation are the center, the essence, the focal point of all Christian preaching. Whether the subject is justification or sanctification, it all comes back to the cross. No preaching, no Christian teaching is complete unless it brings us back to what God has done for us in Jesus Christ on the cross. Indeed, anything else the preacher might proclaim is meaningless, unless it flows into or out of the message that Jesus died and rose for us. Every doctrine of Scripture is designed by God ultimately to bring the comfort of sins forgiven and eternal life in Christ to the penitent sinner.
Herbert C. Mueller, Jr., “The Gospel Assumed is the Gospel Denied” in Concordia Pulpit Resources 15, no. 3

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Minister's Prayer

O my Lord,

Let not my ministry be approved only by men,

or merely win the esteem and affections of people;

But do the work of grace in their hearts,

Call in thy elect,

Seal and edify the regenerate ones,

And command eternal blessings on their souls

Save me from self-opinion and self-seeking;

Water the hearts of those who hear thy Word,

That seed sown in weakness may be raised in power

Cause me and those that hear me

To behold thee in the light of special faith,

And hereafter in the blaze of endless glory;

Make my every sermon a means of grace to myself,

And help me to experience the power of dying love,

For thy lood is balm,

Thy presence bliss,

Thy Smile heaven

Thy cross the place where truth and mercy meet

Look upon the doubts and discouragements of my ministry

And keep me from self-importance;

I beg pardon for my many sins, omissions, infirmities

As a man, as a minister;

Command thy blessing on my weak, unworthy labors

And on the message of salvation given;

Stay with thy people

And may thy presence be their portion and mine

When I preach to others let not my words be merely elegant and masterly,

My reasoning polished and refined,

My performance powerless and tasteless,

But may I exalt thee and humble sinners.

O Lord of power and grace,

All hearts are in thy hands

All events at thy disposal,

Set the seal of thy almighty will upon my ministry.

-from Valley of Vision (A Minister's Prayer) pg 338

Monday, July 18, 2011

Who Am I?

I was cleaning out my desk at the Hospital and looked up again at the poem I have over my desk. This past year of my life as a Chaplain has been one of considering anew my calling and role as a pastor. Bonhoeffer, when in his cell imprisoned by the Nazis, asked himself the question "Who am I?" Times of transition, of which I am in one, are often times of self-evaluation, self-doubt and reorientation. The poem particularly speaks to me now, both in the uncertainty and anxiety of change as well as the certainty within changes in life.

“Who am I?”
By Dietrich Bonhoeffer (March 4, 1945)

Who am I? They often tell me
I would step from my cell’s confinement
calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
like a squire from his country-house.

Who am I? They often tell me
I would talk to my warden
freely and friendly and clearly,
as though they were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me
I would bear the days of misfortune
equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I know of myself?
restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
struggling for breath, as though hands were
compressing my throat,
yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
trembling in expectation of great events,
powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today, and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine.

Friday, July 08, 2011

On Grief

I've worked as a Chaplain in a Hospital for about a year and have been present for, by my count, about 50 deaths. In processing and attempting to glean some spiritual fruits from the contemplation of death and the finitude of life I have not found very many good resources. I do have a new appreciation for the book of Job, Psalms 13, 22 and 88 and Ecclesiastes. The one exception of a good book outside of the Bible is "Facing Grief." This book was originally titled "A Token for Mourners," written by John Flavel. This English minister experienced the death of a child and his first wife, second wife and third wife. Flavel is one of the few to capture what I have seen with parents: "To bury a child, any child, rends the heart of a tender parent; for what are children, but the parent multiplied? A child is a part of the parent made up in another skin."

Flavel was a man acquainted with grief and so a man whom those in grief can expect not only a true and faithful voice, but one that is appropriately gentle. "Facing Grief" both affirms the necessary place for grief in the lives of believers as well as warning against excessively entertaining grief. As a person experiences the death of a loved one, Flavel gives comfort to the believer and warning to the unbeliever. It took me a while to find something, but if one is looking personally or has been asked for a book on grief, Flavel's book is a great one, especially after the shock has passed and the heavy-hearted reflections begin.

The first paragraph:

"To be above the stroke of passions is a condition equal to angels; to be in a state of sorrow without the sense of sorrow is a disposition beneath beasts; but duly to regulate our sorrows and bound our passions under the rod is the wisdom, duty, and excellency of a Christian. He who is without natural affections is deservedly ranked among the worst heathens; and he who is able rightly to manage them deserves to be numbered with the best of Christians. Though when we are sanctified we put on the divine nature, yet, till we are glorified, we put not off the infirmities of our human nature."

Facing Grief - John Flavel - wtsbooks.com

Facing Grief - John Flavel - Amazon.com

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What I learned from DTS (and what I didn't learn)

Dallas Theological Seminary has a reputation. Most Protestants in the United States have heard of it and have some opinions about it. Many positive, many negative. Of course, in this world little is either all good or all bad. A year after graduating from seminary as I labor within the church and in hospital life as a Chaplain, and I have had a little time to reflect back on what I believe I was given in seminary that was helpful, what I was given that was not helpful, and what was noticeably absent. I have changed since I entered, entering as a "non-denominational" Christian looking to teach in a school, and exiting as Presbyterian, recently licensed and serving as a Chaplain, looking to pastor in the church.

This is not an advertisement for, nor a tearing down of the seminary, but rather a personal reflection on what was useful about the seminary experience as it related to being thrown into the ministry experience.

First, the positive:

1) Language and Exegetical tools

No one leaves DTS with a Th.M. without knowing Greek and Hebrew grammar and why making a case for the meaning of a text only in the English is unacceptable in the academic world (or sometimes, even in the world of the pulpit, for right or wrong). Although this was a struggle and certainly not the most fun part of seminary, it is a necessary cross for every minister to bear. DTS certainly offered me this in spades.

2) Theological Framework

Six courses in Theology (101-Introduction, 102-Trinitarianism, 103-Anthropology, 104-Soteriology, 105-Sanctification/Ecclesiology, 106-Eschatology) made sure we at least received an introduction to many of the topics we will encounter in Scripture and Theology. I was surprised, when interacting with those in an ecumenical environment, that a solid theological language was not a priority at many other seminaries (with the local exception of Westminster Dallas/Redeemer).

3) General Biblical Knowledge

Although I complained that some of the Bible courses seemed like Bible Trivia prep, the characters and important events and geography of the Bible were seared on my mind. This often helps connect stories of personal experience to the Scriptures. It set the stage for the life-long study of Biblical Theology.

Second What I Learned that was not helpful

4) Value for the Facts over the Pastoral. (A false Facts vs Pastoral dichotomy)

I had professors that I otherwise adored who seemed to revel in giving the "hard answer" over the comfortable answer. This isn't necessarily bad. Sometimes this was a needed way to shock us into telling the truth rather than just what people want to hear, to be prophetic and not just therapeutic. However, sometimes this was the equivalent to giving a snake when our congregation asked for bread. Pastors should be able to speak the truth in love, not merely smack people with truth. The Truth is pastoral, there is not a balance or a choice, but a marriage, and divorce on either side is not helpful.

Finally, what I wish I learned (what was absent and I have had to learn on my own):

5) Worship.

Anything about Worship. The nature, the order, theories about worship. A definition even. Something other than a value of the "experience" of worship. Also what would have been helpful is how to put together a worship service, what are the elements (heck, what "elements" are in worship would have been helpful). The exception to this would be the Spiritual Formation department's classes (which are not required) that did focus on the formative aspect of worship.

6) Pastoral Care.

Not basics in Pastoral Counseling. Counseling classes almost exclusively focused on pre-martial counseling, with some attention to getting sinners to stop sinning. Pastoral Ministry classes were focused on preaching and evangelism. Not much required on suffering, how to listen, how to analyze both theologically and psychologically, nothing on the value of "shutting up," or even being there/present.

7) a coherent theology of sanctification -

I took 3 or 4 courses where sanctification was a major component. When you get 3 evangelicals together, it seems you will have 4 models of sanctification. None of the models seemed to have as much in common with Scripture as it did with revivalistic American evangelicalism. It seemed like those who drank in the classroom sanctification material ended up with a higher life or even semi-charismatic spirituality. Unfortunately, little seemed to be said about the role of the community or the church in spiritual formation. (again, exception with the Spiritual Formation Department, whose classes -again- are not required. Most of my practical views on sanctification have come from John Owen.)

Finally) a focus on the Gospel

The organizing construct seemed to be getting as much info on theology and the bible as possible. The shining exception would be classes I took with Dr. Svigel, where he consistently made Christ the center of all theology, whether Eschatology, Ecclessiology or Bibliology. I loved once hearing him take exception to Piper's title of his book: "God is the Gospel." No, Christ his person and work are the Gospel. [I think Piper believes that, but the book title doesn't flesh that all out] I was thankful for this, but wish it was the consistent focus of the seminary and course structure.


Currently, I am in an environment where other ministers have gone to various other seminaries. What I note in comparison is I believe I was given a wonderful preparation in exegesis, knowledge of biblical material, and an ability to engage theology critically and deeply (I would judge that preparation as superior to most of the seminary backgrounds I encounter). However, I was given very little preparation for pastoral care, engaging humbly and humanly with another person (rather than a book), or preparation to talk to suffering people with a mind towards spiritual care. Some professors took an interest in integrating the pastoral into the theoretical (I would cite Dr. John Hannah and Dr. Barry Jones as shining examples) but the course direction itself did not have these things in mind.

I appreciate the cultivating of the mind and languages I received, but have realized I have entered a new classroom of the real world. In this classroom, knowing the reality of the Greek text is important, but so is knowing the reality of the fallen world, the human soul, and the joys and griefs of this world, and the Glory of God as revealed in the face of Jesus Christ. In this course of study, however, I don't think anyone will hand me a paper at any point, while I am still alive, that claims that I have graduated.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Will Jesus come back tomorrow?

So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" [Jesus] said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." -Acts 1:6-8

Tomorrow, May 21, 2011, is the date predicted by Harold Camping, an extreme dispensationalist, as when Christ will return (or at least the rapture will occur). He reportedly has predicted the end of the world 10 times since 1978, so this is not new behavior.

The case of those looking for the exact date of Christ's return, the date for the novel concept of the rapture, or the date of judgment day, is a sad case. Christ gave us a privilege, a wonderful responsibility. Not to know the seasons or times, but to receive the power of the Holy Spirit, who John tells us testifies to Christ, and then enables us to be witnesses to the world, of the great work Christ accomplished by his death and resurrection.

Thinking about that, I can tell you that I am happy to be Reformed. Not because it is a source of pride or because all Reformed people are the most pious Christians or the most efficient Christians, but because of what the best of that tradition is about.

I look around and there are many Christians and many Christian traditions, often they are defined by what they focus on and unite around. Some obsess about the end times. Some obsess about the best life now. Some obsess about spiritual gifts and spiritual experience. Some obsess over the church or sacraments. I read the Puritans and Reformed and they obsess about the Gospel. What a wonderful thing to obsess over. To obsess about the Christ and His Gospel and taking it to the end of the world, even if we are very aware of our shortcomings in doing so.

So the case of Harold Camping is a sad one. What if we were known for obsessing over the gospel and Christ?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bell and Bin Laden

I couldn't resist reposting this cartoon.
HT: Tiablogue

Monday, May 02, 2011

Irenaeus on Error

"Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than the truth itself."

-Irenaeus. Against Heresies. Book I

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Repost: 10 Non-arguments

One of my biggest pet peeves is when I am talking about theology with someone and the discussion becomes stuck because the rules of logic are not being used to dispassionately decide the merits of each position. In that light, I thought I would again explore why certain responses do not advance a discussion

[Original post October 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 likely 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, April 19, 2011

New Book on the Pastor-Theologian

"The Pastor as Scholar and The Scholar as Pastor"

I haven't read a word of this book beyond the cover, but from the looks of it, the book addresses one of my big soap box issues, namely, that every Pastor must be a Theologian, and every Theologian must be a Pastor. Theologians who do not realize their responsibility to the church merely play with theology as a toy and point of arrogant jewelry to show off their inflated sense of importance. Every Pastor who does not realize their responsibility to careful and accurate theology endanger the souls and growth of their congregation from their own laziness or dangerous disregard for the skill to use their scalpel in being a physician of souls. This title, by two men I have some measure of respect for, is going on my wish list.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Twin Lakes

I just returned from Twin Lakes Fellowship, a fellowship of pastors dedicated to the ordinary means of grace for the accomplishment of the mission of the church, believing that "the gospel is the power unto salvation." (Romans 1:16) Some highlights:

Derek Thomas - Sermon on Adoption

Ligon Duncan - Case for the Ordinary Means

It also reminded me of my wrestling with the Ordinary Means that I blogged about two years ago here: "The Ordinary Means"

And if you don't know what the ordinary means are, they refer to the way our confession speaks of the work of the church:

Q. 154. What are the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation?

A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to his church the benefits of his mediation, are all his ordinances; especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for their salvation.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Religion of Rescue

For centuries now, there has been a move to understand Christianity more by the religious experience it provides than by its doctrines. We want to feel God, or at least feel better. We want to see our commitment or sobriety or intimacy with God. We want to see our lives here and now improve. The crucifixion of Christ seems like an important, even necessary, event historically, but not anything that needs to be highlighted today. It may be a moving story, but how will it help my work on Tuesday or my marriage tonight?
Yet the neglect of the cross in our churches is the result of more than our growing fascination with the subjective and self-improvement. There is also a growing hostility to the whole notion that Christ suffered as a substitute, that God would desire such a thing, or that God is at all wrathful. Theologians and biblical scholars have reread parts of the Bible - or set it aside - in order to fashion a seemingly more humane religion, a religion of improvement rather than rescue. In such a domesticated version of Christianity, there is no place for a bloody cross.

IT IS WELL - Mark Dever

Monday, March 21, 2011

Law and Gospel - Thesis IV


Thesis IV

Understanding how to distinguish Law and Gospel provides wonderful insight for understanding all of Holy Scripture correctly. In fact, without this knowledge Scripture is and remains a sealed book.

Walther in this rather short lecture on Thesis IV explains that the Bible is indeed a book of great and many contradictions unless you are able to distinguish between its two great doctrines of Law and Gospel.


In fact, all of Scripture seems to be full of contradictions, worse than the Qur’an of the Turks. Here Scripture pronounces you blessed; there it condemns you. When the rich young ruler asked the Lord, “What good deed must I do to have eternal life?” the Lord replied, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” When the jailer at Philippi addressed the same question to Paul and Silas, he received this answer:” Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you and your household will be saved.” P.69

The Key to Scripture:

“Do not think that the Old Testament reveals a wrathful and the New Testament a gracious God, or that the Old Testament teaches salvation by a person’s own works and the New Testament salvation by faith. No. We find both teachings in the Old as well as in the New Testament. But the moment we understand how to distinguish between Law and Gospel, it is as if the sun were rising upon the Scriptures, and we behold all the contents of the Scriptures in the most beautiful harmony. We see that the Law was not revealed to us to put a notion into our heads that we could become righteous by it, but to teach us that we are completely unable to fulfill the Law. Then we will know what a sweet message – what a glorious doctrine – the Gospel is and will receive it with exuberant joy. P.70

Thursday, March 17, 2011


New Poll on eschatology shows that 65% of Evangelical leaders are premillenial, 14% are amillenial and 4% are postmillenial (with the rest confused about what eschatology means).

So, I guess that is not about me since I'm not an Evangelical leader (or self-described as Evangelical even) but it is interesting to think that I am a minority (since I am amillenial). I wonder if I am a protected minority group?

Hat Tip: Riddleblog

Saturday, March 12, 2011

What is Worship?

Do we come in worship of God to give or to receive? I think the answer would surprise many filling our churches to discover that true humility lies in the receiving.

Psalm 50:10-15 (emphases mine)
I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds.
For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine.
"If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High,
and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

So yes, come to Church this Sunday to receive the gifts of Christ from his word and sacraments. Come to GET something out of it, and then return the sacrifice of thanksgiving because you were needy and he clothed you in his own righteousness. It's ok to come and drink.

For more check out this great broadcast of Issue Etc.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Valley of Vision: Prayer on Confession

"Holy Lord, I have sinned times without number, and been guilty of pride and unbelief, of failure to find Thy mind in Thy Word, of neglect to seek Thee in my daily life. My transgressions and short-comings present me with a list of accusations, but I bless Thee that they will not stand against me, for all have been laid on Christ. Go on to subdue my corruptions, and grant me grace to live above them. Let not the passions of the flesh nor lustings of the mind bring my spirit into subjection, but do Thou rule over me in liberty and power.

I thank Thee that many of my prayers have been refused. I have asked amiss and do not have, I have prayed from lusts and been rejected, I have longed for Egypt and been given a wilderness. Go on with Thy patient work, answering 'no' to my wrongful prayers, and fitting me to accept it. Purge me from every false desire, every base aspiration, everything contrary to Thy rule. I thank Thee for Thy wisdom and Thy love, for all the acts of discipline to which I am subject, for sometimes putting me into the furnace to refine my gold and remove my dross.

No trial is so hard to bear as a sense of sin. If Thou shouldst give me choice to live in pleasure and keep my sins, or to have them burnt away with trial, give me sanctified affliction. Deliver me from every evil habit, every accretion of former sins, everything that dims the brightness of Thy grace in me, everything that prevents me taking delight in Thee. Then I shall bless Thee, God of jeshurun, for helping me to be upright."

-From Valley of Vision

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Horton: What is the Gospel?

Michael Horton does a great job defining a word that has been so broadly used as to confuse its true meaning:

What is the Gospel?