Friday, December 29, 2006
Many men have accused Calvinists of holding to a rationalistic conception of God, especially in his works of predestination and election. But in reality, as Helm clearly shows, it is the alternative views which impose a philosophical a priori assumption upon the Bible. The Pelagian, Semi-pelagian, Arminian, Molinist, and Open Theist views all assume a form of libertarian freedom nowhere taught in the Bible. They then struggle to make this assumption fit with the biblical revelation of God, which forces them to deny or reinterpret many passages of Scripture. This is true rationalism.
1000 years ago Anselm of Canterbury stated well the proper relation between reason and revelation: "I do not seek to understand so that I may believe; but I believe so that I may understand. For I believe this also, that 'unless I believe, I shall not understand'." This epistemological attitude of the heart will keep us from reasoning away what the Bible clearly teaches.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
His post entitled B. B. Warfield on Divine Passion will reward the mental effort it requires with a greater appreciation of who God is and who we are. Here is an extended quote I found stimulating.
Although God is simple, without parts, without division, there is
nevertheless a complexity in the mind of God, but this complexity does not
depend on something other than him. The classical Christian tradition readily
recognizes this. God knows many things and we may think of God’s 'feelings' as
simply his attitudes to what he knows. What he knows - the details of everything
that comes to pass - is present to the divine mind, even though that mind is
itself simple, without parts or divisions, immutable and impassible. What could
be more complex than the universe, with its unparalleled variety? God knows that
complexity. God the Father takes pleasure - no doubt - in the goodness of the
various aspects of the creation, and in the Incarnation, being well pleased with
his beloved Son. And we find in Scripture that among the many things that God
knows that he has delight in are: a just weight (Prov. 11.1); the upright in
their way (Prov. 11.20); those that deal truly (Prov. 12.22); the prayer of the
upright (Prov. 15.8) and so on; among those things which he has ordained which
he hates are a proud look (Prov. 6.16), Esau (Mal. 1.3), all workers of iniquity
(Psalm 5.3) and so on.
How are we to understand these attitudes of God? I suggest that it is
improper to strongly model these on human feelings, to think of these as we
think of human passions or emotions. Although undoubtedly as God has
accommodated himself to our human condition in this way he represents himself as
passionate, God cannot really have passions because of the implication, in the
use of the word 'passion', that the one who is passionate is overtaken or
derailed or blinded by the passion. The passion is an irrational response. That
much is surely clear.
However, it is at this point, I suggest, that we take some care, for a person
may speak with full control of himself, yet in an impassioned way; and the
control he exercises may be the direct result of his passion. To talk of a
scientist’s passion for truth, or a judge’s for justice, may be a way of
speaking of the strength of these commitments. In some cases human passion
distracts and impairs the reason, while in other cases it intensifies the
engagement of the reason. Because of such he may think and speak and act with
greater care than otherwise. For example a person may be so passionate about
truth telling that he takes extreme care to speak the truth himself. A detective
may be so passionate about solving a crime that he is utterly careful and
scrupulous about assembling and weighing the evidence. If God in himself is to
be said to be passionate then this is how it must be with him. We must think of
him as essentially impassioned, full of feeling, utterly engaged in the most
clear-eyed way possible. In other words, we must not define passion in terms of
irrationality, as a misunderstanding or miscalculation of good and evil, as
Stoicism is inclined to do.
Can we understand this impassioned life of God a little more? If God is
impassioned about something then he is maximally engaged in ensuring the coming
to pass of that thing, and to the effects of that coming to pass on beings other
than him. His being is suffused with this commitment. It is likely that such an
understanding of God's commitment to his creation will not be of much comfort to
the current advocates of a 'suffering God', for they readily model the life of
God on the life of passionate human beings. But if God is passionate in this
sense of being utterly engaged then he is impassioned in the works of creation
and redemption in a way and to a degree that utterly transcends the vagaries of
human passion; impassioned in his regard for truth and goodness. So perhaps we
would nearer the truth if we thought of God not as 'having passions' or as a
'suffering God' but as being utterly impassioned in all that he does.
If God is full of feeling then does he have feelings? We may, influenced by
our touchy-feely culture, think that the answer is obvious. Of course he has.
But here again some caution is called for. For we use the term 'feeling' to
cover not merely mental states, feelings of sympathy or compassion, or of
betrayal or alienation, but also feeling arising from changes in our bodies, or
even the fact of being embodied. We feel tired, we have aches and pains,
scratches and itches, sexual pleasure, we feel cold and heat, the wind and the
rain. Is this how it is with God? Clearly not. Further, our mental states, our
feelings or emotions, are frequently the result of selfishness and ignorance. If
in saying that God feels, or even that God has emotions, we are simply (and
carefully) speaking of God’s impassioned attitudes of delighting in, and hating,
and loving in the manner sketched above, then clearly the answer must be no:
God's passion is in no way spasmodic, nor does it impair his mind but rather
enhances it. But not otherwise.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Moses told the Israelites, "And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not" (Deut 8:2). Your life this past year has not been an accident. It has been the outworking of the gentle sovereignty of God in your life, and you must not forget what he has done, whether in blessing or in chastisement, for in all he does he seeks to impart himself to us. Remembering, then, is an act of worship. It is acknowledging and submitting to God's good providence. As King David wrote in one of his inspired songs, "Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered.... Remember his covenant forever" (1 Chron 16:12, 15).
To help you get started, here are some things you and your family can remember. I'm sure you can add more to this list.
- How did the Lord direct my life and provide physically in 2006? Where did I travel? How did the Lord keep me safe? What significant household projects did I complete this year? How did God provide financially for me? What did I do to improve my body for the Lord's service? Did God deliver me from sickness?
- What significant family events happened this year? Did the Lord grant us a child? Did a loved one pass on to glory?
- What important books did I read or sermons did I hear that helped me to think more biblically? What Scriptures did I memorize? How did my life change as a result?
- What special friendships were made this year, and how did those friends make an impact for good in my life?
- What were my greatest failures and sins in 2006? How did the Lord correct and teach me through these? Am I bringing any unresolved issues into the new year?
- What were my most significant spiritual victories this year? How did God enable me to serve him? How has he enabled me to pursue and proclaim Christ?
- What did God do in my church in 2006? How did God train and purify us as his children? In what ways did he enable us to carry out the Great Commission?
2. Be Grateful
In the song of David already mentioned, he began by saying, "Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him; sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually" (1 Chron 16:8-11)! As you worship God by remembering what he has done, let this flow naturally into praising him. Give your heart to adoration in light of how God has manifested his steadfast love and faithfulness in 2006.
What better way to end this year than to unite our hearts as a worshipping community before the throne of God! To him be the glory forever. Amen.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Here, according to Cyberhymnal.org, are the words as Wesley originally wrote them.
Hark, how all the welkin rings,
“Glory to the King of kings;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
Universal nature say,“Christ the Lord is born to-day!”
Christ, by highest Heaven ador’d,
Christ, the everlasting Lord:
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb!
Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate deity!
Pleased as man with men to appear,
Jesus! Our Immanuel here!
Hail, the heavenly Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings.
Mild He lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth;
Born to give them second birth.
Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conquering seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to thine.
Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface;
Stamp Thy image in its place.
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the life, the inner Man:
O! to all thyself impart,
Form’d in each believing heart.
Friday, December 22, 2006
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
This is why we need to be relentlessly biblical. "Positive feelings" about "faith" do not a Christian make.
Link to Barna's comments.
In his most recent blog entry, Dr. Albert Mohler provides a good example of this in relation to the toys we buy our children at Christmas. The toys we buy our children at Christmas? Yes, the toys we buy our children at Christmas. Every facet of our lives must conform to pursuing and proclaiming Christ, and this means we must exercise discernment in the toys our children play with. Mohler specifically deals with the toy phenoms Barbie dolls and Bratz dolls, which, as he clearly shows, both embody ungodly cultural ideals. How sadly ironic that many people celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ by giving gifts to their children which embody the exact opposite of what Christ came for (Titus 2:11-14).
So at this Christmas season, let us continue to work out our salvation and show to the world the pure and holy joy that comes from pursuing Christ!
Saturday, December 16, 2006
None other Lamb, none other Name,
None other Hope in heaven or earth or sea,
None other Hiding-place from guilt and shame,
None beside Thee.
My faith burns low, my hope burns low,
Only my heart’s desire cries out in me
By the deep thunder of its want and woe,
Cries out to Thee.
Lord, Thou art Life tho I be dead,
Love’s Fire Thou art however cold I be:
Nor heaven have I, nor place to lay my head,
Nor home, but Thee.
This poem is worth pondering for a while, and if you have time, read Haykin's whole post here.
The current world political scene, as well as all of human history, should make us put our trust in the One who is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Here is a good article on the facts.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Here is an important exhortation along those lines, penned about 50 years ago by E. J. Young, which is still as relevant today as when it was written.
"The majority of professing Christendom does not take seriously the Word of God. He, however, who has fled to Christ for refuge from the accusing finger of God's law must take that Word seriously. It may be a very unpopular thing today to base one's life upon such an authority as the Bible. But if it is unpopular, it surely is a very blessed thing. To know that the words of Scripture are not merely the words of men, but that in them a Divine authority resides, is indeed strengthening to one's faith...."
"A return to the Bible is the greatest need of the day. Unless the Church turns to this authoritative Word of the sovereign God as - let us say it boldly - an external authority; unless the Church is willing to hear the Word of God in the one place where that Word may be heard, she will soon cease to be the Church of the living God. When, however, in humble submission to the gracious, loving Word of her glorious King, she bows to His will, she may courageously challenge all opponents. Far and wide, with majestic boldness, she may proclaim the truth: I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it was given me of Him who is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. He tells me that this Book is His, and this Book tells me about Him. Come, then, ye wise of this world, ye doubters, ye disputers of the age. Come with your whisperings of doubt, your mockeries of uncertainty. I take my stand upon the solid, unchanging rock of His eternal truth, and in the everlasting Name of Him who brought into being the fair fields of earth and the blue heaven above, I command you,
Hear Him, ye deaf, His praise, ye dumb,
Your loosened tongues employ.
Ye blind, behold your Savior come
And leap, ye lame, for joy."
(Thy Word is Truth, pp. 272-73)
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
OZYMANDIAS of EGYPT
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said:—Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
In the meantime, you can still discuss the sermon here if you wish.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Unfortunately, however, this is not what many people mean when they use this terminology. I actually get a little bit nervous when I hear the phrase, "engage the culture," because in my experience this amounts to code for "copy our degraded and ungodly culture." This is actually antithetical to the gospel. If we are to advance the gospel, we must live lives that are worthy of the gospel, which always means that we will not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Let's engage the culture with holiness, truth, and love. Then the world will see Jesus, not a bad imitation of themselves.
Here is a good article on this.
Friday, December 08, 2006
"Death is not supposed to precede birth, is it? We certainly do not expect it to. Sometimes expectations go unmet. When they are, God is there offering His strong, loving arms to carry us through.
"This past April I was 'expecting.' It's interesting that we use that word to describe a pregnant woman, because that's what I was doing. I was expecting to experience ... that in a few weeks I would meet the precious little one whom God had placed in my womb."
She went on to relate the story of how the baby in her womb, a little girl, had died from a knotted umbilical cord. She told of the difficult process of delivering her dead child, saying, "We left the hospital...with an empty womb, empty arms, and broken hearts, but our Lord was with us...." But she also told of how the Lord taught her through the Scriptures in this trial.
"Sometime later God showed me something about expectations. I realized that my expectations are things that I feel I have a right to. Philippians 2:7 tells us that Jesus gave up His rights as God, and took the humble position of a slave, even submitting Himself obediently to death! If my Jesus, the one Who holds the rights to everything, gave up those rights for me, I must be willing to let go of my rights, my expectations. I need to place them in the gentle hands of the One who has a better plan for me. I have had to do that again this year - in September another baby was born to heaven through miscarriage.
"We all have expectations, and many are realized. When they are not, God is still there, offering His love, support and comfort and He guides us down the path He has laid out for us. When we die to our expectations, we find new life in Christ...."
This is what it means to have the mindset of Christ. It was the reason the apostle Paul's joy oozes between every line of the letter to the Philippians. For him, to live was Christ and to die was gain. He gave up everything (including his expectations) for the sake of knowing Christ Jesus the Lord. Oh that all of us would give our expectations to God, and know the surpassing joy of knowing Christ!
As a post script to this, I will share with you a poem written by one of my seminary friends, Will Pareja, whose child died in the womb.
Dirge for Nicolas Augusto Pareja
Ps 127:4-5; Prov 13:12; Lam 3:13; Job 1:20; 6:4; Ps 119:68
Two warriors envisioned a quiver of children,
Of pointed arrows shot in obscure night.
Poised for alarm and prepared to fight,
They longed for the time when bows bent.
Overjoyed were they by the Maker’s first arrow
Given to them across the Big River. [Forgive the intrusion here. Their first son was born in Mexico, on the other side of the "Rio Grande." JP]
Desire blazed to again fill the quiver,
But not with grief that would bring them so low.
Marked was the quiver for the second of shots,
To fill the desired place.
Yet outside of time and space,
The Great Giver set in motion his eternal tho’ts.
To their racking woe, the Maker snuffed out
The life of their second born son.
“A dream?,” they tho’t—no, they were undone
Holding the broken arrow they would no longer tout.
The wounds of divine severity— though rarely pleasant—
Are lathered in the balm of God’s mercy.
Good Giver of life, we bow the knee
In adoration of your wisdom and right to reclaim our infant.
It is critical that we learn to think in biblical terms about these issues, because when challenges come to our "traditional" gender roles, we have a very weak position if we can only answer, "That's the way we've always done it." For example, I sometimes hear social conservatives argue against homosexual legal unions with things like "This has never been done before in the history of Western society." True enough. But why should this carry any moral authority with homosexuals? History can only carry the moral authority of example when it is properly interpreted, and the proper interpretation of history must come from God as he has revealed it to us in the Bible. It is the Bible that is our source of faith and practice.
I would now like to present some words from a modern admirer of Tocqueville who thinks that Tocqueville's vision of gender roles has been rendered nostalgic and unworkable in our modern society. In his recent work, Manliness, Harvey C. Mansfield writes:
"How can we employ manliness usefully in our gender-neutral society? One thing we cannot do is to go back to a society in which women are kept in the home and men are free to leave it. Women restrained, men free; this is how that traditional arrangement looks to us now. One could say, with a nod to Rousseau, that women were more in charge than they appeared to be, and men less. Some conservatives, women and men, may be inclined to go back in this direction, and to see whether this reactionary change might be possible let us look briefly again at Tocqueville. Tocqueville paints a beautiful picture, too beautiful to be true, of how men and women lived separate but equal in America in his day.
"Tocqueville congratulates American women for willingly accepting the confines of the household, the 'yoke' of marriage, in view of natural differences between the two sexes. American women, he says, tolerate this condition 'courageously' because they have chosen it; they often display a 'manly reason and a wholly virile energy.' So if you were to ask Tocqueville (he imagines) to what he attributes the prosperity and force of the American people, he would answer that 'it is to the superiority of its women.' Although American women cannot escape the domestic circle, they are never forced to leave it; so they retain 'a very delicate appearance and always remain women in their manners.' Women with the best of manliness who yet remain women, and democratic, too!
"Tocqueville's solution to the problem of democratic despotism is to encourage manliness, and part of that is to attribute manliness to American women. ... It's a very complimentary statement, a nice try from a gallant and attractive man; but today, in a late stage of the democratic revolution that Tocqueville described so well, our democracy has placed the idea of separate but equal status for women firmly in the past....
"Having firmly set aside the reactionary solution of separate roles, man in public and woman in private, an arrangement 'traditional' to be sure - if you mean by that common to all human history - we abandon nostalgia and return to the gender-neutral society...."
What do you think of Mansfield's argument? How would you answer it biblically? Is it simply passe to speak of separate roles for men and women?
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Before I begin, let me post here the relevant quotes from the book which raised questions. You will understand these best if you have read the entire chapter, so if you haven't done that, please take time to do so. These are all taken from chapter six, "A Wife's Understanding of Her Role."
"The Apostle Paul is making reference [in 1 Cor 11:7-9] to God's original intent. Man is to glorify God and woman is to glorify the man" (p. 49).
"So, just as Christ glorified the Father by doing the Father's 'work,' you are to glorify your husband by doing the husband's 'work.' Your role is to glorify your husband. You were created for him" (p. 51).
"[T]he wife's role is a model of the church's relationship to Christ. Therefore, you should submit to your husband's authority and use your energies to glorify him" (p. 53).
"Christ/the husband cherishes, sacrifices for, nourishes, and loves the church/wife. On the other hand, the church/wife is to submit to and glorify her Christ/husband" (p. 53).
"Basically, we have said that the wife's role is to glorify and submit to her husband. She was created to fulfill her role as 'helper' for her husband" (p. 54).
Now, I must hasten to add that the ladies were not questioning that this teaching was essentially correct. Some simply wondered if it was appropriate to speak of "glorifying" one's husband. Is this giving to a man what should be reserved for God alone?
First of all, I want to note that the ladies are on to something important here. God is unique and is not to be confused in any way with his creation. He is worthy of glory in an absolute and ultimate way, and no human being can share in his glory (Isa 42:8). Yet I would maintain that Mrs. Peace is correct in her use of the term "glorify" because she is using it in a biblical way.
Note the definition of the terms "glory" and "glorify" in the New Testament. They refer to magnificence, greatness, enhancing someone's reputation, praising them, honoring them, etc., and they are used of people as well as of God (Luke 14:10; Rom 2:10; 9:4; 1 Cor 11:7; 1 Thess 2:20). Of course, we recognize that the glory of humans is like grass (1 Peter 1:24); it is not equal to God's either in quantity or quality. It is only a reflection of God's glory. Yet, although we do not normally speak this way in everyday conversation, there is nothing inherently wrong with "glorifying" another human being. Every time we praise our children for doing something right, we are glorifying them. Every time we hold a rally for troops returning from Iraq, we are glorifying them. Every time we clap our hands for the USAFA football team, we are glorifying them. We all recognize that we are not "deifying" our children, soldiers, or football players. We are simply responding to something they have accomplished with a recognition of honor and praise.
This response is actually a profoundly important aspect of our lives as Christians. In John 17, Jesus Christ's high priestly prayer incorporates a "theology" of glory in relationships. He prayed that the Father would glorify him so that he could glorify the Father (17:2). He speaks of how he glorified the Father by accomplishing the work that the Father gave him to do (17:4) and asks the Father to glorify him in his own presence with the glory he had before the world existed (17:5). He goes on to say that he is glorified in those people who are his (17:10), and he prays in vv. 21-23 "that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them that they may be one even as we are one, I im them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me" (ESV).
As we mirror the relationships modelled for us in the Trinity, we will glorify one another. Just as Jesus and the Father glorify one another, and even share that glory with us as we are united to them (v. 22), so we should glorify one another in our relationships. Theologian John Frame says it this way, "...the concept of mutual glorification suggests an important way in which Christians can be like the members of the Trinity: we, too, are called to defer to one another in this way, to glorify one another, to be disposable to one anther's purposes - that is, to love one another as God loved us."
If this is true in all of our relationships in the body of Christ, how much more is it true in our husband-wife relationships. Mrs. Peace has done an excellent job of presenting the biblical evidence for why a wife should glorify her husband. Though this language may sound strange to our ears, it actually points us to our participation in the life of the Triune God, exemplified in our marriage relationships.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Here are some great quotes from the Puritan pastor John Owen relating to Jesus Christ as the God-man.
"This is a glory whose beams are so wonderful that the blind world cannot see their beauty and so many deny the incarnation of God. Nevertheless, this is the glory of our religion, the glory of the church, the only rock on which it was built, the only source of present grace and future glory" (The Glory of Christ).
"Let us get it fixed in our minds that this glory of Christ in his divine-human person, is the best, the most noble and beneficial truth that we can think about or set our hearts on. It is the neglect of meditation that keeps so many Christians in a feeble state, regardless of their privileges. They hear of these things and assent to the truth of them or at least they do not quesiton them. But they never solemnly meditate on them. But they never solemnly meditate on them" (ibid.).
Spend time this week meditating on and adoring the Person of Christ. I would appreciate you sharing anything you learn as you do that, and may we all behold the glory of our Lord!