Friday, July 31, 2009

"Praise Factory" Children's Curriculum

I found this at Between Two Worlds:

"Praise Factory" Children's Curriculum

Capitol Hill Baptist Church is now making their children's curriculum, Praise Factory, available online for free if your church is interested in obtaining a copy. The Big Questions and Scriptures been set to music.

For an overview, see this blog post or check out their website.

The Gospel in 6 Minutes


Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contenment - Part 4 - The Excellence of Contentment

Jeremiah Burroughs often uses imagery in his writing. Many of these devices he uses are enjoyably elucidating. I have found these similes and metaphors and analogies beneficial and entertaining. I have pulled a few analogies of the contented person out of the first half of part 4.

Analogies of the contented person from part 4 of The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.

A contented person is like:

A dog who lies at the feet of his master; this is worship of Christ

A strong body that can endure harsh weather

A strong mind which overcomes an ill body

The eagle who does not cry out for hunger or thirst

One who walks in a fiery furnace without being burned

A still vessel in which God can pour His mercy

One final analogy I would like to point out is one that concerns the discontented person. It can be seen in this excerpt:

Oh, the temptations that men of discontented spirits are subject to! The Devil loves to fish in troubled waters. That is our proverb about men and women, their disposition is to fish in troubled waters, they say it is good fishing in troubled waters. This is the maxim of the Devil, he loves to fish in troubled waters; where he sees the spirits of men and women troubled and vexed, there the Devil comes. He says, 'There is good fishing for me', when he sees men and women go up and down discontented, and he can get them alone, then he comes with his temptations: 'Will you suffer such a thing?' he says, 'take this shift, this indirect way, do you not see how poor you are, others are well off, you do not know what to do for the winter, to provide fuel and get bread for you and your children', and so he tempts them to unlawful courses.

Having fished quite a bit, particularly when I was younger, this analogy spoke to me. When I would head out on a lake to do some fishing with my brother, the condition we dreaded the most was complete calm. When there was no wind and the surface of the lake was like glass, we did not have high expectations for catching fish. The idea the Burroughs puts forth concerning a disturbed heart and its exposure to temptation is fascinating to the angler in me. Perhaps Satan dreads a calm heart the way my brother and I dreaded calm waters.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Designed Resemblance?

"And the conception of Christ in the womb of the blessed virgin, by the power of the Holy Ghost, seems to be a designed resemblance of the conception of Christ in the soul of a believer, by the power of the same Holy Ghost." -Jonathan Edwards
Putting all of the other arguments aside, how can the importance of the immaculate conception be negated when there is such an amazing reflection of it in our lives everyday!?

Dorothy Sayers on Sloth and Envy

From her essay entitled The Other Six Deadly Sins as found in her book Letters to a Diminished Church.

The sixth deadly sin is named by the Church acedia or sloth. In the world sloth calls itself tolerance; but in hell it is called despair. It is the accomplice of every other sin and their worst punishment. It is the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, loves nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing and remains alive only because there is nothing it would die for. We have known it far to well for many years. The only thing perhaps that we have not known about it is that is a mortal sin. (103)

A few paragraphs later Sayers shares an excellent quote about the intellectual life:

Let us take particular notice of the empty brain. Here sloth is in a conspiracy with envy to prevent people from thinking. Sloth persuades us that stupidity is not our sin, but our misfortune; while envy, at the same time, persuades us that intelligence is despicablea dusty, high-brow, and commercially useless thing. (104)

A little earlier in the essay Sayers discusses Envy:

Hand in hand with covetousness goes its close companion-invidia or envy-which hates to see other men happy...At its best envy is a climber and a snob; at its worst, it is a destroyer; rather than have anybody happier than itself,it will see us all miserable together. (99)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Edwards on the inheritance of the elect

"The inheritance that Christ has purchased for the elect, is the Spirit of God; not in any extraordinary gifts, but in his vital indwelling in the heart, exerting and communicating himself there, in his own proper, holy, or divine nature; and this is the sum total of the inheritance that Christ purchased for the elect. For so are things constituted in the affair of our redemption, that the Father provides the Saviour or purchaser, and the purchase is made of him; and the Son is the purchaser and the price; and the Holy Spirit is the great blessing or inheritance purchased, as is intimated, Gal. 3:13, 14; and hence the Spirit often is spoken of as the sum of the blessings promised in the gospel, Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4, and chap. 2:38, 39, Gal. 3:14, Eph. 1:13. This inheritance was the grand legacy which Christ left his disciples and church, in his last will and testament, John chap. 14, 15, 16. This is the sum of the blessings of eternal life, which shall be given in heaven. (Compare John 7:37, 38, 39, and John 4:14, with Rev. 21:6, and 22:1, 17.) It is through the vital communications and indwelling of the Spirit that the saints have all their light, life, holiness, beauty, and joy in heaven; and it is through the vital communications and indwelling of the same Spirit that the saints have all light, life, holiness, beauty and comfort on earth; but only communicated in less measure.(A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, 121, emphasis mine)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Freedom from Conscience

Here are a few quotes from Chapter 8 of Schaeffer's True Spirituality:

"Thus from the time of the Fall onwards, everything rests upon the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, not upon ourselves, no in ourselves. Hence if there is any real victory in my life, it must not be thought of as my victory or my perfection. Such a notion foes not fit the scriptural picture of man or God's dealing with is since man has sinned. It is not my victory, it is always Christ's victory; it is never my work or holiness, it is always Christ's work and holiness. When I begin to think and grow in the idea of my victory, there is really no true victory. To the extent that I am thinking about my sanctification, there is no real sanctification. I must see it always as Jesus Christ's."

"If I count on Christ's victory for my entrance to heaven, will I deny him the glory he would gain in victories won, in me and through me, in my present life? If I look to Jesus Christ and his victory on the cross for my entrance into a future heaven, dare I deny to him what that victory should produce in the battles of the present life--the battles before men and angels and the supernatural world? What an awful thought."

"And the emphasis is on the specific sin. It will not do just to say, "I sinned." This is nothing. There must be a willingness to call my specific sin sin. I must take my place in the Garden of Gethsemane with Christ. There Christ is speaking as a true man, and he speaks the absolute reverse of Adam and Eve in the Garden of the Fall, when he says, "Not my will, the thine be done." I, too, must say with meaningfulness, "not my will, but thine be done," at the point of that specific sin; not just a general statement, "I want you will," but "I want your will in reference to this thing that I acknowledge to be sin" [...] Thus we say, "Not my will, but thine be done." And as I say this in reference to the specific sin, I am once again the creature before God; I am in the place for which I was made."

"And in the question of restoration: the blood of Christ has meaning for me in my present life when I have fallen and my peace is gone. Restoration must be first upon the understanding of what Christ has done for us in this area, and then beginning to practice this moment by moment. It is not a mechanical process; the meaning of the work of Christ in our present life is to be consciously acted upon. But the base is the finished work of Christ in history [...] When my heart cries, "You have done it again," I am to believe God again as to the value of the finished work of Jesus Christ. There must be death, we have seen, before there can be resurrection."

I could pretty much type out this entire chapter because it was so good. This book is bringing so much freedom to so many different areas of my life that I hadn't realized were being held captive.

Letters to a Diminished Church - Dorothy Sayers

I have begun reading Letters to a Diminished Church by Dorothy Sayers. Here is a brief bio of Sayers:

Dorothy Leigh Sayers was born at Oxford on 13th June 1893, the only child of the Rev. Henry Sayers, of Anglo-Irish descent. Her father was at the time headmaster of Christ Church Cathedral School, and she was born in the headmaster's house. She was brought up at Bluntisham Rectory, Cambridgeshire, and went to the Godolphin School, Salisbury, where she won a scholarship to Somerville College, Oxford. In 1915 she graduated with first class honours in modern languages. Disliking the routine and seclusion of academic life she joined Blackwell's, the Oxford publishers, worked with her Oxford friend Eric Whelpton at L'École des Roches in Normandy, and from 1922 until 1931 served as copywriter at the London advertising firm of Bensons.

More can be found at the home pages of the Dorothy L Sayers Society.

Here is a well known excerpt from her essay The Dogma is the Drama.

Let us, in heaven's name, drag out the divine drama from under the dreadful accumulation of slipshod thinking and trashy sentiment heaped upon it, and set it on an open stage to startle the world into some sort of vigorous reaction. If the pious are the first to be shocked, so much the worse for the pious—others will pass into the kingdom of heaven before them. If all men are offended because of Christ, let them be offended; but where is the sense of their being offended at something that is not Christ and is nothing like him? We do him singularly little honor by watering down his personality till it could not offend a fly. Surely it is not the business of the Church to adapt Christ to men, but to adapt men to Christ.

The dogma is the drama—not beautiful phrases, nor comforting sentiments, nor vague aspirations to loving kindness and uplift, nor the promise of something nice after death — but the terrifying assertion that the same God who made the world lived in the world and passed through the grave and gate of death. Show that to a heathen, and they may not believe it; but at least they may realize that here is something that a man might be glad to believe. (Letters to a Diminished Church, 20-1)

In light of Chris' post on loving the sinner but hating the sin

I came across this post at Already Not Yet. You can see it for your self here.

“The cliché, God hates the sin but loves the sinner, is false on the face of it and should be abandoned. Fourteen times in the first fifty Psalms alone, we are told that God hates the sinner, His wrath is on the liar, and so forth. In the Bible, the wrath of God rests both on the sin (Romans 1:18ff) and on the sinner (John 3:36).”

-D.A. Carson

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, Crossway, 2000, p. 70.

(HT: Reformed Voices)

You can read The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God on line here.

Week of July 20 Word Cloud

Here is a word cloud generated from the text contained in this blog's posts for the seven days beginning with the 20th of July.

Click on image to enlarge.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sam Storms: "If I did not believe in the absolute sovereignty of God

This article was brought to my attention by fellow Oak Log blogger Chris Power. Sam Storms, in this article, shares what he would think and do should he not believe in the absolute sovereignty of God.

1. I would despair of my eternal destiny.
2. I would be terrified of all suffering, with no confidence that God can turn evil for good and bring me safely through.
3. I would become manipulative and pragmatic in evangelism, believing that conversion is altogether a matter of my will/skill vs. will/skill of unbeliever.
4. I would cease praying for God to convert and save the lost.
5. I would despair of the political process and live in fear/anxiety/resentment of those elected officials who oppose the kingdom of God.
6. I would live in fear of nature: tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanoes, wind and hail and rain.
7. I would despair of ever doing anything of a spiritual nature that God requires and commands of me.

For the whole article, go here.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Frame on the 6 days of creation

John Frame, in his book The Doctrine of God, shares with the reader his belief about the days of creation; they were literal days. He also shares some ideas he thinks are important in resolving the questions around the days of creation. Here are his first two:
  1. This discussion concerns the interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2. The question is not whether we should abandon the teaching of these chapters to accommodate secular science. The question is, What does this passage say? It is an exegetical issue. I am convinced that the main advocates of all three views [normal day, day-age, and framework] are seeking to be true to the teaching of the passage.
  2. I am not denying secular science has influenced this debate. The claims of scientists that the universe has existed for billions of years have certainly motivated theologians to go back to the text, in order to see whether these claims are consistent with Scripture, and that has meant rethinking traditional positions. In my view, that is entirely right and proper. We should not assume at the outset that the scientists are wrong. It is also possible that our interpretation of Scripture is wrong, though it is not possible for Scripture itself to be wrong. We must be humble enough and self-critical enough to reexamine these questions, even under the stimulus of scientific claims with which we may be initially unsympathetic. This is part of our apologetic mandate to bring every thought captive to Christ. In that sense, it is right for our exegesis to be "influenced" by science. (302-3)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Salvation: Past - Future - Present

From chapter 6 of Schaeffer's True Spirituality:

"Eternity will be wonderful, but there is one thing heaven will not contain, and that is the call, the possibility, and the privilege of living a supernatural life here and now by faith before we see Jesus face-to-face."
"Therefore, for the Christian, justification is past[...] In the future, there is glorification[...] Sanctification is our present relationship to our Lord, the present tense."
"The Christians life is not an unbroken, inclined plane. Sometimes it is up, and sometimes- we must all acknowledge if we are not deluding ourselves- it is down. While it is not possible to be more or less justified, it is possible to be more or less sanctified. Justification deals with the guilt of sin; sanctification deals with the power of sin in the Christian's life..."
"In certain ways, sanctification is the most important consideration for the Christian now, because that is the point where we are. It is the present portion of salvation, and in this sense it is the most important consideration of the Christian now. Justification is once for all; sanctification is continuous, from our acceptance of Christ right up to our death."
It's not often that I view my process of sanctification as something to relish while I'm here. It's not always fun making the tough decisions that, as time goes on, will make me more Christ-like. But I'm challenged yet again to change my way of thinking, to enjoy this moment-to-moment living by faith for God.

Frame and Edwards on transcendence

From Edwards' A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections:
Not that the saints are made partakers of the essence of God, and so are godded with God, and christed with Christ, according to the abominable and blasphemous language and notions of some heretics: but, to use the Scripture phrase, they are made partakers of God's fullness, Eph. 3:17, 18, 19, John 1:16, that is, of God's spiritual beauty and happiness, according to the measure and capacity of a creature; for so it is evident the word fullness signifies in Scripture language. (emphasis mine)

From Frame's The Doctrine of God:
The biblical metaphysics...makes a clear distinction between the Creator and the world, his "creaturely other." God is the Lord; the universe serves him. God is entitled by nature to be Lord; we are not. His lordship extends to everything that he has made. So there is no continuum between God and creation. There are no degrees of divinity; God is divine, we are not...So we have here, fundamentally, not a continuum, but a distinction between everything divine and everything creaturely. (emphasis mine)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contenment - Part 3 - The Lessons That Christ Teaches

In the third part of Jeremiah Burroughs' book entitled The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, which is the current work being considered in Reading the Classics with Challies, the author explains what lessons the student of Christ will learn.

The lessons that Christ teaches are:
1. The lesson of self-denial.
2. The vanity of the creature.
3. A third lesson which Christ teaches a Christian when he comes into his school is this: he teaches him to understand what is the one thing that is necessary, which he never understood before.
4. The soul comes to understand in what relation it stands to the world.
5. Christ teaches us wherein consists any good that is to be enjoyed in any creature in the world.
6. Christ teaches the soul whom he brings into this school in the knowledge of their own hearts.
7. The seventh lesson by which Christ teaches contentment is the burden of a prosperous outward condition.
8. Christ teaches them what a great and dreadful evil it is to be given up to one's heart's desires.
9. The ninth and last lesson which Christ teaches those whom he instructs in this art of contentment is the right knowledge of God's providence.
This section is very practical and very convicting. Sometimes I wonder if I am nothing more than a big baby! I have not been a student of Christ like I need to be in the area of contentment.

The author uses the watch as a metaphor on two occasions. In point #6 as seen above, we see one of the things that Christ will teach us is the knowledge of our own heart. Burroughs gives 3 ways in which knowing your heart will help one arrive at contentment:
1. By studying your heart you will come soon to discover wherein your discontent lies.
2. This knowledge of our hearts will help us to contentment, because by it we shall come to know what best suits our condition.
3. By knowing their own hearts they know what they are able to manage, and by this means they come to be content.
In the first way of help we are given the first watch metaphor:
When a man has a watch, and understand the use of every wheel and pin, if it goes amiss he will soon find out the cause of it; but when someone has no skill in a watch, if it goes amiss he does not know what is the matter, and therefore cannot mend it. So indeed our hearts are as a watch, and there are many wheels and windings and turnings there, and we should labor to know our hearts well, that when they are out of tune, we may know what is the matter.
Knowing one's heart in detail will allow the Christian to know exactly what is impairing the heart in terms of discontentment. If we do not know our hearts, we may be upset and anxious and not know the cause of it. My eldest daughter gets very vexed when she encounters new things. We have discussed this tendency and she is learning to know her heart in this way. This helps her to deal with the lack of peace in a purposeful way instead of just fretting. She still cries in many of these situations, but she knows why she is crying and takes steps to work through it.

The second watch metaphor surfaces in the ninth lesson that Christ teaches which is "the right knowledge of God's providence." I have been learning and wrestling with doctrines related to God's sovereignty and providence. I'm sure I am going to profit from this struggle though I'm sure it is nowhere even close to being finished. However, Burroughs offers 4 things we need to understand in regards to the right knowledge of God's providence:
1. The universality of providence, wherein the soul must be thoroughly instructed in to come to this art of contentment.
2. The efficacy that is in providence.
3. The infinite variety of the works of providence, and yet the order of things, one working towards another.
4. Christ teaches them the knowledge of providence.
The metaphor we are looking for comes out in the third point.
There is an infinite variety of the works of God in an ordinary providence, and yet they all work in an orderly way...We, indeed, look at things by pieces, we look at one detail and do not consider the relation that one thing has to another, but God looks at all things at once, and sees the relation that one thing has to another. When a child looks at a clock, it looks first at one wheel, and then at another wheel: he does not look at them all together or the dependence that one has upon another; but the workman has his eyes on them all together and sees the dependence of all, one upon another: so it is in God's providence...Now notice how this works to contentment: when a certain passage of providence befalls me, that is one wheel, and it may be that if this wheel were stopped, a thousand other things might come to be stopped by this. In a clock, stop but one wheel and you stop every wheel, because they are dependant upon one another. So when God has ordered a thing for the present to be thus and thus, how do you know how many things depend upon this thing? God may have some work to do twenty years hence that depends on this passage of providence that falls out this day or this week.

When we fight against God's providence in a certain matter we are like an infant trying to remove a wheel from the inner workings of a clock; we have no idea of the consequences of such an action nor of the way and manner of clocks. How much more infinitely complex is God's ordering of everything which we call providence.

This was yet another excellent reading from The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. I truly consider this a classic in Christian literature for it's applicability as well as for the truth it contains.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Word #7 Grace

A few notes / paraphrases from this excellent chapter in Packer's book:

Grace is God's undeserved favour and unmerited love. Grace implies there is no antecedent bond and no censure if such favour is not granted. God is obligated to no one. God chose out of love - unconditionally, spontaneously, selectively, unevoked and undeserved. It also encompasses the notion of God's resolute loyalty to those he chose. Rightly understood, grace is the entirety of New Testament theology.

Grace is a particular divine gift to be accepted, a gift to service, a gift of privilege and the outworking of God's favour in man's transformation of life. Grace astounded the New Testament writers especially given the depravity of man and the costliness of the the grace at Calvary.
It is the union with the person of Jesus, crucified and risen, and by the virtue of his atonement that men know grace.

Where grace exists, it reigns! (Rm 5:21)
I spent a fair bit of time trying to wrap my head around this one. Grace reigns overwhelmingly victorious, dominates, prevails, may be contested but never defeated - never!, for time and eternity, the glorious, all powerful, unstoppable, desire of God.

A few elegant words on legalism and antinomianism by Packer:

Legalism frustrates grace by seeking righteousness through works of law and religion, viewing these as parts of our acceptance with God alongside the merits of Christ.
The antinomian is so mesmerized with grace as to lose sight of the law as a rule of life. Since Christians are discharged from the law, not under the law, with eternal forgiveness already in their possession, it no longer matters what kind of lives they live.
Both proceed from the same false assumption, that the one and only purpose of law-keeping is to gain righteousness with God.
The moral law expresses the will of God for man as man. It was never meant as a method of salvation. Grace establishes the law as a rule of conduct.

Lastly, some of the privileges of living under grace:

1. Freedom from the hopeless necessity of trying to commend yourself to God by perfect law-keeping. Now he lives by being forgiven, and so is free at every point in his life to fail (and inevitably he does in fact again and again) - and, having failed, to pick himself up where he fell, to seek and find God's pardon, and to start again.
Without grace we would not get up and not try again.
The Christian's experience of daily failures, along with the inside knowledge of his own false motives and his tally of shameful memories, make him constantly want to claim for himself Paul's end-of-life self-description 'the foremost of sinners'; daily, however his shortcomings are forgiven and his joy is restored. One reason why as Jesus taught we must be ready to forgive our fellow-Christians countless times is that our own life with God is a matter of being forgiven countless times, too.

2. Freedom from sin's dominion
Not only is righteousness possible and prescribed for Christians, but it is also a fact that no Christian can go on sinning like before, for union with Christ has now changed his nature so that now his heart desires righteousness as before it desired sin, and only obedience to God can satisfy his deepest inner craving.

3. Freedom from fear.
Fear of the unknown, of meeting God, of being destroyed by hostile forces or horrific experiences of one sort or another. He knows that nothing can separate him from the love of God in Christ, nor dash him form his saviour's hand, and nothing can happen to him which is not for his long-term good, making him more like Jesus and bringing him ultimately closer to his God. So when fears flood his soul, as they do the soul of every normal person from time to time, he drives them back by reminding himself of these things. And how can fear stand in the face of that?

The Slipping Away of Christian Reality

"Our generation is overwhelmingly naturalistic. There is almost complete commitment to the concept of the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system. This is its distinguishing mark. If we are not careful, even though we say we are biblical Christians and supernaturalists, nevertheless the naturalism of our generation tends to come in upon us. It may infiltrate our thinking without our recognizing its coming, like fog creeping in through a window opened only half an inch. As soon as this happens, Christians begin to lose the reality of their Christian lives. As I travel about and speak in many countries, I am impressed with the number of times I am asked by Christians about the loss of reality in their Christians lives. Surely this is one of the greatest, and perhaps the greatest reason for a loss of reality: that while we say we believe one thing, we allow the spirit of the naturalism of the age to creep into our thinking unrecognized. All too often the reality is lost because the "ceiling" is down too close upon our heads. It is too low. And the ceiling which closes in is the naturalistic type of thinking." - Francis Schaeffer

I know that I have for sure, at one time or another, fallen into this way of thinking. I've always considered myself very "intellectual" and struggled with the idea of the supernatural world that exists among us. It isn't that I didn't believe it, but I found difficulty with the concept. This book is challenging me in so many ways. Schaeffer is doing a fantastic job and conveying these spiritual truths in a manner that I can relate too. The purpose isn't to hold to a theology that if everything were reduced to anthropology and psychology, it would still stand. There is supposed to be a supernatural element to it....supernatural in the sense of things unseen. Paul says that in 1 Cor. 4, that we're a spectacle to man and to angels. A spectacle in the sense of being on stage....being observed! It is so easy for me just to live in this world and to completely forget that half of me should be living in the other.

Chesterton on post-modernism

"The human brain is a machine for coming to conclusions; if it cannot come to conclusions it is rusty. When we hear of a man too clever to believe, we are hearing of something having almost the character of a contradiction in terms. It is like hearing of a nail that was too good to hold down a carpet; or a bolt that was too strong to keep a door shut...Man can be defined as an animal that makes dogmas. As he piles doctrine on doctrine and conclusion on conclusion in the formation of some tremendous scheme of philosophy and religion, he is, in the only legitimate sense of which the expression is capable, becoming more and more human. When he drops one doctrine after another in a refined skepticism, when he declines to tie himself to a system, when he says that he has outgrown definitions, when he says that he disbelieves in finality, when, in his own imagination, he sits as God, holding no form of creed but contemplating all, then he is by that very process sinking slowly backwards into the vagueness of the vagrant animals and the unconsciousness of the grass. Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are singularly broad-minded." (Heretics, concluding remarks)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Chesterton on generalists

I recently read a post, at Miscellanies. a Cross-centered blog, about the need for 'generalists' in the church today. Here is how that post starts:

The Well-Informed Generalist

…is a fitting title for Ken Myers, the man behind the Mars Hill Audio Journal, which a sort of Christian version of NPR I guess. And a new interview of Myers by Walter Henegar is very interesting. Here’s how Henegar opens his piece, “The Well-Informed Generalist: Why We Should Listen to Ken Myers”—

What do eating habits, film noir, reptiles, human cloning, Facebook, economics, and poetry have to do with the Christian life? “Everything,” Ken Myers would argue, and does, thoughtfully and audibly, at least every other month. For Myers—the living library behind the Mars Hill Audio Journal—what the church needs today is not more specialists, whether in theology or philosophy or church growth, but more “well-informed generalists” who are interested in understanding all of culture in order to live more faithfully in God’s world…

I’m thankful for the specialists, but I agree with Henegar, the church could use a few more articulate generalists, like Ken Myers. The entire interview is very interesting and I commend it.

You can read the rest of the post here.

I was reminded of this post by Tony Reinke while reading G. K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense by Dale Ahlquist. It seems that Chesterton was of the same opinion as can be seen in this quote:

You cannot evade the issue of God; whether you talk about pigs or the binomial theory, you are still talking about Him…. Things can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is false, but nothing can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is true. Zulus, gardening, butcher’s shops, lunatic asylums, housemaids and the French Revolution — all these things not only may have something to do with the Christian God, but must have something to do with Him if He really lives and reigns...Now if Christianity be...a fragment of metaphysical nonsense invented by a few people, the, of course, defending it will simply mean talking that metaphysical nonsense over and over. But if Christianity should happen to be true-then defending it may mean talking about anything or everything...Things can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is false, but nothing can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is true. (Daily News, December 12, 1903)
Chesterton valued the generalist over the specialist. Interestingly, for Chesterton, the generalist par excellence is the mother. Consider this excerpt from the FAQ section on the webpage of The American Chesterton Society:

Chesterton consistly defended the amateur against the professional, or the "generalist" against the specialist, especially when it came to "the things worth doing." There are things like playing the organ or discovering the North Pole, or being Astronomer Royal, which we do not want a person to do at all unless he does them well. But those are not the most important things in life. When it comes to writing one's own love letters and blowing one's own nose, "these things we want a man to do for himself, even if he does them badly." This, argues Chesterton (in Orthodoxy) is "the democratic faith: that the most terribly important things must be left to ordinary men themselves - the mating of the sexes, the rearing of the young, the laws of the state."

As for "the rearing of the young," which is the education of the very young, this is a job not for the specialist or the professional, but for the "generalist" and the amateur. In other words, for the mother, who Chesterton argues is "broad" where men are "narrow." In What's Wrong with the World, Chesterton forsaw the dilemma of daycare and the working mother, that children would end up being raised by "professionals" rather than by "amateurs." And here we must understand "amateur" in its truest and most literal meaning. An amateur is someone who does something out of love, not for money. She does what she does not because she is going to be paid for her services and not because she is the most highly skilled, but because she wants to do it. And she does "the things worth doing," which are the things closest and most sacred to all of humanity - nurturing a baby, teaching a child the first things, and, in fact, all things.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Sum of All Religion

"For love is not only one of the affections, but it is the first and chief of the affections, and the fountain of all the affections. From love arises hatred of those things which are contrary to what we love, or which oppose and thwart us in those things that we delight in: and from the various exercises of love and hatred, according to the circumstances of the objects of these affections, as present or absent, certain or uncertain, probable or improbable, arise all those other affections of desire, hope, fear, joy, grief, gratitude, anger, etc. From a vigorous, affectionate, and fervent love to God, will necessarily arise other religious affections; hence will arise an intense hatred and abhorrence of sin, fear of sin, and a dread of God's displeasure, gratitude to God for his goodness, complacence and joy in God, when God is graciously and sensibly present, and grief when he is absent, and a joyful hope when a future enjoyment of God is expected, and fervent zeal for the glory of God. And in like manner, from a fervent love to men, will arise all other virtuous affections towards men."
- Jonathan Edwards

This quote got me thinking. It touches a little on something I posted last week concerning the wrath of God and his absolute hatred for sin. Can our love for God and righteousness be measured by how much we hate sin?? If so, that's a hard pill to swallow. I guess this post is more of a big question mark because I don't have an answer. If I don't absolutely hate all sin (note: not the sinner) does that mean I don't really love God? There are certain sins that I think are easier to get worked up about, but what about the sins that are viewed by most to be "not that big of a deal?"

These are just some of the thoughts that struck me when I came across this, I'm sure the more I think about it, the more I'll be bombarded with questions. Thanks a lot Edwards!

His blood be upon us

In The Gospel of Matthew we get an account of the Passion of Christ which includes the releasing of Barrabas and the crowds bargaining with Pilate over the fate of Christ. Consider this section of the 27th chapter:

15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” 24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves.” 25 And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!26 Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified. (emphasis mine)
The response by the crowd, "His blood be upon us and our children", jumped out at me. Originally, the crowd cried this so that Pilate would free them to crucify Christ. And I realize that I was in that crowd seeking to crucify the Son of God.

But , by the grace of God, I still cry that His blood be upon me and my children. Now, however, I do not seek His blood in order to crucify Him, but rather to receive the forgiveness from sins. His blood was once a sign of my guilt; his blood was on me indicating my responsibility in His death. Now His blood covers me freeing me from the power of sin and its consequences.

Week of July 13 Word Cloud

With three posts generated from Dave Harvey's book When Sinners Say "I Do", one can understand the prominence of certain words in this word cloud of the past week's posts. For a better view of thw word cloud, click on the image.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Prayer - David McIntyre's classic

Prayer is an area of my life that requires a great deal of growth. This growth, I assume, is only going to happen by the grace of God and the grease of my elbows. That being said, one title that has been recommended is The Hidden Life of Prayer by David McIntyre.

Wikipedia's bio on McIntyre begins with this:

David Martin McIntyre (1859 – 8 March 1938) was a Scottish preacher and Principal of the Bible Training Institute, Glasgow from 1913 to 1938.

David McIntyre was the son of Rev Malcolm McIntyre, (16 January 1819 – 10 October 1903) and his wife Mary Ann (Miller), (6 September 1829 – 31 July 1862). David's father Malcolm was Free Church of Scotland minister of Monikie, Angus from July 1849 to his death. David had an elder sister Margaret Grace and an elder brother Miller Malcolm, both of whom died in their childhood (1863 and 1874 respectively). David's mother was the daughter of the previous minister of Monikie, James Miller, who came out of the Church of Scotland at the Disruption.

The book, really more of a booklet, can be read online here. The following is an excerpt from the opening chapter:

Our Lord takes it for granted that His people will pray. And indeed in Scripture generally the outward obligation of prayer is implied rather than asserted. Moved by a divinely-implanted instinct, our natures cry out for God, for the living God. And however this instinct may be crushed by sin, it awakes to power in the consciousness of redemption. Theologians of all schools, and Christians of every type, agree in their recognition of this principle of the new life. Chrysostom has said, "The just man does not desist from praying until he ceases to be just;" and Augustine, "He that loveth little prayeth little, and he that loveth much prayeth much;" and Richard Hooker, "Prayer is the first thing wherewith a righteous life beginneth, and the last wherewith it doth end;" and Père la Combe, "He who has a pure heart will never cease to pray, and he who will be constant in prayer shall know what it is to have a pure heart;" and Bunyan, "If thou art not a praying person, thou art not a Christian;" and Richard Baxter, "Prayer is the breath of the new creature;" and George Herbert, "Prayer...the soul's blood."

Saturday, July 18, 2009

John Frame on God's providential, redemptive-historical preservation

"The regular passing of seasons and God's provision of food for the creatures should lead men to repent, and it should motivate Christians to sense anew the urgency of evangelism. For Christian's know that God's patience again will come to an end. There will again be a time like the days of Noah, and God will come again in judgment when men least expect it." (The Doctrine of God, 282)

Friday, July 17, 2009

When Sinners Say "I Do" by Dave Harvey - Chapter Four and Five, some quotes

More quotes from Dave Harvey's book on marriage When Sinners Say "I Do".

Chapter Four - Taking It Out For A Spin
  • "When God saves us we are drawn to unfamiliar things - to holiness, truth, the Scriptures, and God's amazing love. As we learn more, though, we have a desire to act on what we know and believe about God...Biblically speaking, putting theology into gear means driving onto the road of wisdom. Wisdom in the Bible isn't some mystical knowledge or simple street savvy. It's the life and decisions of someone rightly related to God. It's applying what we know is true." (62-3)
  • "True humility is living confident in Christ's righteousness, and suspicious of our own." (63)
  • "This may be a shocker, but we should be suspicious...selectively, permanently, and internally. As the worst of sinners, in the day-to-day conflicts of marriage, I should be primarily suspicious and regularly suspicious of myself! To be suspicious of my own heart is to acknowledge two things: that my heart has a central role in my behavior, and that my heart has a permanent tendency to oppose God and his ways." (64)
  • "Scripture does not give me permission to make the sins of my spouse my first priority." (66)
  • "There's a lot of talk these days about the need for honesty in marriage. Unfortunately, what's being advocated looks more like a license to verbally unload on our spouse whatever we're "feeling" for the sake of "emotional honesty." Sadly, this approach in practice typically produces great hurt and offense. Though honesty is essential in marriage, we must be able to build trust and resolve offenses. The problem is not with honesty itself, but in the intent of a person's honest words." (68)
  • "Can my words or behavior tempt my spouse to start or escalate a conflict? Of course...But there's nothing I can do to cause a sinful response in my spouse. The sin that emerges from a spouse's heart was already there." (73)

Chapter Five - Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment

  • But deep, profound differences are the reality of every marriage. It's not the presence of differences but the absence of mercy that makes them irreconcilable." (81)
  • "We don't wait to be sinned against and then try to respond with mercy. Rather, we adopt the posture of being willing to experience sin against us as part of building a God-glorifying marriage in a fallen world." (84)
  • "But we must go back and ask, "What is the purpose of mercy?" Do I extend mercy to get a response? Are results the point? Is mercy some spiritual coin with which I purchase my spouse's good behavior?" (93)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Liberal versus Conservative Christianity

I just read a great blog post by a friend of mine who gave a full context to Jesus' famous words "juge not lest ye be judged." I think his blog is listed on the "blogs we follow" list, but for quick reference you can read the post here:

I have often wondered about this great dividing line between liberal Christianity and Conservative Christianity. There are plenty of labels thrown around on either side which include emergents, post-modern evangelicals, fundamentalists, charismatics, emerging church types and more direct insults like hippies, whackos, charismaniacs etc.

The post I refered to-- about the context of Jesus' words -- made the argument that as Christians we ARE called to make moral judgments about right and wrong. As I thought about this other verses came to my mind.

We are quick to quote "don't pick the speck out of a brothers eye" but forget to finish with "until we have removed the log from your own eye and can see clearly." Obviously we are called to remove specks from our brothers eyes... but not until we have examined ourselves.

Paul makes a clear distinction in 1 Corinthians 5 between judging those inside the church and those outside the church. Reserve judgment of pagans (his paraphrased words, not mine) for God, but judge your brothers and sisters within the body to correct, encourage etc.

I say this because I see a large division within the body and either side is content to just hurl insults rather than take up a "ministry of reconciliation". I suppose correction is hard when both sides think they're interpreting the infallible word correctly (though they seem to come out with opposite readings)... but I think it starts with each of us recongizing that Christ didn't fall into either camp. He preached to "repent or burn" (Luke 13:3, and read it in context if you think I'm proof-texting), but he also walked with sinners (Matt. 9:12-13). He taught us not to be tolerant of sin (Matt. 10:32-39) and yet show compassion to the sinner (john 8:7). Scripture describes at great length God's wrath towards sin and his utter hatred for it (Psalm 45:7; Prov. 6:16-19; Romans 3:23; Heb. 1:9) but it also describes him desiring and delighting in mercy (Hosea 6:6; Matt 9:13; Romans 9:16).

I guess we have to recognize that Christ's path isn't left or right but something deeper. A well-roundedness if you will. So often I personally get stuck in seasons of understanding. I'll go through a season where I need to know God's love, his mercy, his grace... and there are times I need to be shaken and told to smarten up, repent, be holy. Sometimes I need to remember we're called to serve outside the church building, and sometimes I need the comfort and teaching within the four walls. Sometimes I need to be reminded to love sinners. Sometimes I need to be reminded to love Christians.

I guess my prayer is that I am able to amalgamate these seasons of understanding in my life. That I can understand God's mercy and his vengence. His love and his righteousness. His compassion and his perfect judgment. Rather than isolate these characteristics and dwell selfishly on what I need at the time, that I can see God and the example of Christ in a more wholistic way.

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contenment - Part 3 - How Christ Teaches Contentment

Narcissistic is an adjective that is often used to describe our society. Narcissism is used to describe everything from self-conceit to a severe personality disorder. The name came from Greek mythology. Here is the Wikipedia entry under narcissism:

Narcissism describes the trait of excessive self-love based on self-image or ego.

The term is derived from the Greek mythology of Narcissus. Narcissus was a handsome Greek youth who rejected the desperate advances of the nymph Echo. As punishment, he was doomed to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Unable to consummate his love, Narcissus pined away and changed into a flower that bears his name, the narcissus.

Someone with the personality disorder would exhibit several of these traits:

  • has a grandiose sense of self-importance
  • is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people
  • requires excessive admiration
  • has a sense of entitlement
  • is interpersonally exploitative
  • lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
  • shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
In part 3 of The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment the author describes how Christ teaches contentment and it is a slap in the beautiful face of the narcissist. For Burroughs, every Christian must become a student: "So a Christian coming to contentment is as a scholar in Christ's school, and there are many lessons to teach the soul to bring it to this learning; every godly man or woman is a scholar." And it is the first lesson which Christ teaches his students that would cause the self-lover to pause from gazing at his own reflection; The Lesson of Self-Denial.

The Lesson of Self-Denial is summed up quite easily:
  1. I am nothing.
  2. I deserve nothing.
  3. I can do nothing.
  4. I am so vile that I cannot of myself receive any good.
  5. With God's help I can do something but if he then withdraws I can do nothing.
  6. I am worse than nothing.
  7. If I perish it will be no loss.
  8. If I desire God's ends than I desire something, but if I desire my ends I desire nothing.
This is hard tonic to take even from the humble among us, let alone the egotistical. Burroughs clarifies these thoughts with interesting examples and proofs. He shares Scriptures and quotes to give substance to his argument. However, I thought it fitting to leave all of us narcissism-bent creatures the shocking and jarring Lesson of Self-Denial without the sometimes soothing details. If Christian contentment is the aim then all narcissists should proceed at their own risk.

We Really Don't Get It

"There also the hateful nature of our sins is manifested in the most affecting manner possible: as we see the dreadful effects of them, in that our Redeemer, who undertook to answer for us, suffered for them. And there we have the most affecting manifestation of God's hatred of sin, and his wrath and justice in punishing it; as we see his justice in the strictness and inflexibleness of it; and his wrath in its terribleness, in so dreadfully punishing our sins, in one who was infinitely dear to him, and loving to us. So has God disposed things, in the affair of our redemption, and in his glorious dispensations, revealed to us in the gospel, as though everything were purposely contrived in such a manner, as to have the greatest possible tendency to reach our hearts in the most tender part, and move our affections most sensibly and strongly. How great cause have we therefore to be humbled to the dust, that we are no more affected"
  • This is something that just boggles my mind. God is so infinitely loving that he would give his own son for the sake of the elect, but yet so incredibly wrathful that no punishment would be spared. I've heard the gospel message more times then I can count, but I don't think I'll ever truly truly understand just how much of God's wrath was exhausted on Christ. We really don't understand how much God hates sin. I've often heard, and prayed myself, that my heart would break for the things that break God's, and that I would delight in the things he delights in. I don't think I ever really fully understood that prayer, because if it was granted how different would we see the world and how differently would our lives look?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Why blog?

From a brief rationale of why Tim Challies blogs:

The more I have thought about different topics, the more I’ve realized that there is theology everywhere. And this is what motivates me to write; it’s what motivates me to read and to think and to explore. Everywhere I turn I see theology, whether in a book about the atoning work of Jesus Christ or in a book about the future of business or in a biography of a man who lives half a world away. Sometimes the theology is lying on the surface, exposed and easy to see. Sometimes it is hidden within and just needs to be coaxed out. But always there is something to think about, something to wrestle with, something to help me think deeply about how Christians are to live in this world.

I think this is a pretty good explanation of why I started blogging. This is more than yet another narcissistic opportunity for me to express myself; at least I hope it is.

Read the rest of Challies' thoughts here.

Forebearance - From Dave Harvey's book on marriage

Dave Harvey

I have been enjoying Dave Harvey's book on marriage; When Sinners Say "I Do". It has been both a convicting and encouraging read. In the fifth chapter Harvey discusses an aspect of forgiveness that does not get a lot of coverage these days, at least not from what I have heard and read; forbearance.

By definition, forbearance is restraint under provocation; a refraining from the enforcement of something (as a debt, right, or obligation) that is due. Consider these paragraphs where Harvey addresses forbearance.

Maybe you didn't know this, but the Bible gives you a special privilege in dealing with sin committed against you. It's called forbearance. It means you can bring love into play in such a way that can cut someone free from their sin against you - without them even knowing or acknowledging what you've done! Forbearance is an expression or mercy that can cover both the big sins of marital strife and the small sins of marital tension. And let's face it; small sins are the fuel for most marital blazes.

Let's be careful here. Forbearance doesn't mean we tuck sin away for another time. It's not a variation on patience, nor is it some Christianized, external "niceness" where you pretend nothing bothers you. It's not even a kind of ignoring the sin, in the sense of refusing to acknowledge it.

In forbearance, we know (or at least we suspect) we have been sinned against, but we actually make a choice to overlook the offense and wipe the slate clean, extending a heart attitude of forgiveness and treating the (apparent) sin as if it never happened. Proverbs 19:11 tells us it is a "glory to overlook an offense." Forbearance is preemptive forgiveness, freely and genuinely bestowed.

Of course, righteousness often demands that we address the sin of another, even if it may create some unpleasant results. (We'll discuss this in chapter seven.) It's not forbearance to suppress a sin you can't readily release, or to prefer the pain of being sinned against to what you imagine would be the greater pain of discussing it, or to let a pattern of sin in your spouse go completely unaddressed.

Forbearance applies to specific instances of sin. It involves a clear-eyed realization that we may have been sinned against, and then a bold-hearted, Gospel-inspired decision to cover that sin with love. Peter gives us the key to forbearance. "Above all. keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8). Looks like Peter learned the lessons of Luke 6 pretty well.

When we are sinned against, we can cover it-overwrite it, if you will-with the perspective of love. Thus, forbearance includes a commitment to earnestness in love, actively holding ourselves accountable to keeping the sin covered. (When Sinners Say "I Do", 88-9)

This is definitely a topic for further study as well as accommodation into my life.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Importance of Preaching

I found this portion of Religious Affections interesting because it challenged a few things I presently hold ...

And therefore it does not answer the aim which God had in this institution, merely for men to have good commentaries and expositions on the Scripture, and other good books of divinity; because, although these may tend as well as preaching to give men a good doctrinal or speculative understanding of the things of the word of God, yet they have not an equal tendency to impress them on men's hearts and affections. God hath appointed a particular and lively application of his word to men in the preaching of it, as a fit means to affect sinners with the importance of the things of religion, and their own misery, and necessity of a remedy, and the glory and sufficiency of a remedy provided; and to stir up the pure minds of the saints, and quicken their affections, by often bringing the great things of religion to their remembrance, and setting them before them in their proper colours, though they know them, and have been fully instructed in them already, 2 Pet. 1:12, 13.

Edwards essentially says good theological books are equivalent to preaching in terms of increasing your theological understanding but they are not as good as preaching to impress that doctrine or understanding on your affections. If true religion is in the affections then good preaching is vital. I must admit, I often will give more weight to a good book over a good message.

When Sinners Say "I Do" by Dave Harvey - Chapter Two and Three, some quotes

Chapter Two - Waking Up With The Worst of Sinners
  • "As two people in marriage embrace this view of reality [sin is ugly], and live in accordance with it, their lives and marriage begin to look more and more like the picture God wants to display to a lost world. Until sin be bitter, marriage may not be sweet." (38)
  • But once I find 1 Timothy 15-16 trustworthy - once I can embrace it with full acceptance - once I know that I am indeed the worst of sinners, then my spouse is no longer my biggest problem: I am. And when I find myself walking in the shoes of the worst of sinners, I will make every effort to grant my spouse the same lavish grace that God has granted me." (41)
  • "So here is my conclusion: I am a better husband and father, and a happier man, when I recognize myself as the worst of sinners. That status just seems more obvious to me with the passing of each week. But then again, you're the worst of sinners too. So is your spouse. At least it's not lonely here at the bottom." (43)

Chapter Three - The Fog of War and the Law of Sin
  • "There it is. The sides of this war are not male versus female, husband versus wife, or controller versus enabler. It is a clash of desires - desires of the flesh against desires of the Spirit. It is trench warfare for the supremacy of the human heart." (48)
  • "This whole idea of seeing God, yourself, and your marriage for what they truly are is all about clear biblical thinking. Locating the source of your marriage problems in your marriage is like saying the Battle of Bull Run was caused by some really troubled farmland. The battle was fought on farmland, but its cause lay elsewhere." (51)
  • "The cause of our marriage battles, friends, is neither our marriage nor our spouse. It's the sin in our hearts - entirely, totally, exclusively, without exception." (51)
  • "If we see that sin's betrayal of us is the biggest problem in our marriage, it can evoke, if not a perfectly holy anger, at least an indignant courage. And that's an emotion that comes in very handy on a battlefield." (57)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Week of July 6 Word Cloud

This word cloud was created using the text from our blog posts for the week of July 6th. It seems Jonathan Edwards' Religious Affections is on our minds!

When Sinners Say "I Do" by Dave Harvey - Chapter One

I have just begun reading the oft-recommended book by Dave Harvey entitled When Sinners Say "I Do". The first chapter was excellent and I'd like to share a few quotes from it. First, however, here is Dave Harvey's bio:

Dave Harvey is responsible for church care, church planting, and international expansion for Sovereign Grace Ministries. He has served as a member of the Sovereign Grace Ministries leadership team since 1995.

Dave has been in pastoral ministry at Covenant Fellowship Church (Glen Mills, PA) since 1986, was ordained in 1988, and served as senior pastor from 1990 to 2008. He has served on the board of the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation since 2006. Dave received a Master of Arts in Missiology from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1989, worked toward a Master of Divinity from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1993 to 1995, and in 2001 became a graduate in Westminster’s D.Min. program. The subject of his doctoral thesis was the identification and equipping of church planters.

Dave contributed a chapter to Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World (Crossway, 2008) and is the author of When Sinners Say “I Do”: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage (Shepherd, 2007). Dave also wrote a chapter for Why Small Groups?, a book from Sovereign Grace’s Pursuit of Godliness series. He continues to work on other writing projects.

Dave lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Kimm, their four children, and despite his many protests, one stray cat.

Now on to those excerpts:

It may not sound too earth-shattering at first, but based on Scripture and everything I've learned about pastoring in the last twenty-one years, I assure you that this truth can rock your world. Here it is: What we believe about God determines the quality of our marriage. (When Sinners Say "I Do", 20)
How a husband a wife build their marriage day-by-day and year-by-year is fundamentally shaped by their theology. It governs how you think, what you say, and how you act. Your theology governs your entire life. And it determines how you live in your marriage. (When Sinners Say "I Do", 21)
Three of the most important components of a solid, biblical theology of marriage: The bible is the foundation for a thriving marriage...The gospel is the fountain of a thriving marriage...The focus of a thriving marriage is the glory of God. (When Sinners Say "I Do", 22-8)
This also means that the gospel is an endless fountain of God's grace in your marriage. To become a good theologian and to be able to look forward to a lifelong, thriving marriage, you must have a clear understanding of the gospel. Without it, you cannot see God, yourself, or your marriage for what they truly are. (When Sinners Say "I Do", 25)
What if you abandoned the idea that the problems and weaknesses in your marriage are caused by a lack of information, dedication,or communication? What if you saw your problems as they truly are: caused by a war within your own heart? (When Sinners Say "I Do", 29)
Maybe you are beginning to sense that if your experience of sin is not all that bitter, and your experience of marriage not all that sweet, maybe your theology is not all that it should be. (When Sinners Say "I Do", 32)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

New Article by Carl Trueman - Is Hurt Mail the New Hate Mail

The entire article, well worth the read, can be seen here. Here is an excerpt:
The reason for this trivialization, of course, is that the idiom of pain and suffering places the individual at the centre of the universe and makes him or her the measure of all things. In other words, it panders to the idolatry of fallen human nature. Suddenly, it is my experience, my feelings, my pain, which are the most important things. Sure, I have never known what it is like to see my loved ones gassed and cremated at Auschwitz, but I can be a victim too: I have lost my job, or been sworn at while driving, or had my opinions belittled in a blog somewhere. I don't know the pain of those who have really suffered - but my own trivial discomforts are just as important because I am me, I am the centre of the universe as I know it, and I deserve to feel good about myself. To deprive me of this is simply cruel.

Here is Carl Trueman's bio from the Reformation 21 Blog:
Carl R Trueman is Departmental Chair of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He has an MA in Classics from the University of Cambridge and a PhD in Church History from the University of Aberdeen. He is editor of the IFES journal, Themelios, and has taught on the faculties of theology at both the University of Nottingham and the University of Aberdeen. He has authored a number of books, including The Claims of Truth: John Owen's Trinitarian Theology and The Wages of Spin: Critical Writings on Historic and Contemporary Evangelicalism. He lives in Oreland, a suburb of Philadelphia, with his wife, Catriona, and his two sons, John and Peter.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Doubting of True Saints

Image by Tony Reinke -

In Part II of Religious Affections, Jonathan Edwards discusses different signs or evidences that neither prove nor disprove the existence of true religion in an individual. One of the the signs he discusses is confidence. Edwards suggests that confidence of one's religious estate and in one's religious experiences does not prove or disprove the vitality of one's religion.

In the ensuing discussion, Edwards discusses doubt which occurs in true saints, doubt which false saints do not experience. Here is the paragraph under consideration:
When once a hypocrite is thus established in a false hope, he has not those things to cause him to call his hope in question, that oftentimes are the occasion of the doubting of true saints; as, first, he has not that cautious spirit, that great sense of the vast importance of a sure foundation, and that dread of being deceived. The comforts of the true saints increase awakening and caution, and a lively sense how great a thing it is to appear before an infinitely holy, just and omniscient Judge. But false comforts put an end to these things and dreadfully stupify the mind. Secondly, The hypocrite has not the knowledge of his own blindness, and the deceitfulness of his own heart, and that mean opinion of his own understanding that the true saint has. Those that are deluded with false discoveries and affections, are evermore highly conceited of their light and understanding. Thirdly, The devil does not assault the hope of the hypocrite, as he does the hope of a true saint. The devil is a great enemy to a true Christian hope, not only because it tends greatly to the comfort of him that hath it, but also because it is a thing of a holy, heavenly nature, greatly tending to promote and cherish grace in the heart, and a great incentive to strictness and diligence in the Christian life. But he is no enemy to the hope of a hypocrite, which above all things establishes his interest in him that has it. A hypocrite may retain his hope without opposition, as long as he lives, the devil never disturbing it, nor attempting to disturb it. But there is perhaps no true Christian but what has his hope assaulted by him. Satan assaulted Christ himself upon this, whether he were the Son of God or no: and the servant is not above his Master, nor the disciple above his Lord; it is enough for the disciple, that is most privileged in this world, to be as his Master. Fourthly, He who has a false hope, has not that sight of his own corruptions, which the saint has. A true Christian has ten times so much to do with his heart and its corruptions, as a hypocrite: and the sins of his heart and practice, appear to him in their blackness; they look dreadful; and it often appears a very mysterious thing, that any grace can be consistent with such corruption, or should be in such a heart. But a false hope hides corruption, covers it all over, and the hypocrite looks clean and bright in his own eyes. (Religious Affections, 73, emphasis mine)

Thus we see that there are four ways that doubts arise in true saints:
  1. A cautious spirit that recognizes the importance of a sure foundation and dreads being deceived
  2. A knowledge of one's own blindness and the deceitfulness of one's own heart
  3. The assault of one's hope by Satan; Satan has no reason to assault the hope of the hypocrite
  4. A sight of one's corruption and blackness in the heart

I found it very interesting that Edwards could use doubt as a proof for true religion. In makes sense when the comparison is between the true saint and the over-confident hypocrite.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Happy Birthday John Calvin!

John Calvin (1509–1564) was an influential French theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism. Originally trained as a humanist lawyer, he suddenly broke from the Roman Catholic Church in the 1520s. After religious tensions provoked a violent uprising against Protestants in France, Calvin fled to Basel, Switzerland, where in 1536 he published the first edition of his seminal work Institutes of the Christian Religion. Calvin was mainly based in Geneva where he promoted reforms in the church. He introduced new forms of church government and liturgy, despite the opposition of several powerful families in the city. Calvin's writing and preaching provided the seeds for the branch of theology that bears his name. The Presbyterian and other Reformed churches, which look to Calvin as a chief expositor of their beliefs, have spread throughout the world. Calvin's thought exerted considerable influence over major religious figures and entire religious movements, such as Puritanism, and his ideas have been cited as contributing to the rise of capitalism, individualism, and representative democracy in the West.

Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals - The Cambridge Declaration

I found this while poking around on the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals website. The Cambridge Declaration is a declaration formulated in 1996. Here is the preamble:
Evangelical churches today are increasingly dominated by the spirit of this age rather than by the Spirit of Christ. As evangelicals, we call ourselves to repent of this sin and to recover the historic Christian faith.

In the course of history words change. In our day this has happened to the word "evangelical." In the past it served as a bond of unity between Christians from a wide diversity of church traditions. Historic evangelicalism was confessional. It embraced the essential truths of Christianity as those were defined by the great ecumenical councils of the church. In addition, evangelicals also shared a common heritage in the "solas" of the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation.

Today the light of the Reformation has been significantly dimmed. The consequence is that the word "evangelical" has become so inclusive as to have lost its meaning. We face the peril of losing the unity it has taken centuries to achieve. Because of this crisis and because of our love of Christ, his gospel and his church, we endeavor to assert anew our commitment to the central truths of the Reformation and of historic evangelicalism. These truths we affirm not because of their role in our traditions, but because we believe that they are central to the Bible.

The declaration then makes some statements about the 5 solas:

Thesis One: Sola Scriptura
We reaffirm the inerrant Scripture to be the sole source of written divine revelation,which alone can bind the conscience. The Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured.

We deny that any creed, council or individual may bind a Christian's conscience, that the Holy Spirit speaks independently of or contrary to what is set forth in the Bible, or that personal spiritual experience can ever be a vehicle of revelation.

Thesis Two: Solus Christus
We reaffirm that our salvation is accomplished by the mediatorial work of the historical Christ alone. His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our justification and reconciliation to the Father.

We deny that the gospel is preached if Christ's substitutionary work is not declared and faith in Christ and his work is not solicited.

Thesis Three: Sola Gratia
We reaffirm that in salvation we are rescued from God's wrath by his grace alone. It is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ by releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from spiritual death to spiritual life.

We deny that salvation is in any sense a human work. Human methods, techniques or strategies by themselves cannot accomplish this transformation. Faith is not produced by our unregenerated human nature.

Thesis Four: Sola Fide
We reaffirm that justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. In justification Christ's righteousness is imputed to us as the only possible satisfaction of God's perfect justice.

We deny that justification rests on any merit to be found in us, or upon the grounds of an infusion of Christ's righteousness in us, or that an institution claiming to be a church that denies or condemns sola fide can be recognized as a legitimate church.

Thesis Five: Soli Deo Gloria
We reaffirm that because salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God, it is for God's glory and that we must glorify him always. We must live our entire lives before the face of God, under the authority of God and for his glory alone.

We deny that we can properly glorify God if our worship is confused with entertainment, if we neglect either Law or Gospel in our preaching, or if self-improvement, self-esteem or self-fulfillment are allowed to become alternatives to the gospel.

See the whole declaration here.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The purpose of prayer and worship

In going through "A treatise concerning religious affections" by Jonathan Edwards and Sam Storms interpretive book on the same work "Signs of the Spirit" I have been finding myself quite challenged.

As someone who primarily relates to God intellectually I have been constantly prodded while working through these texts.

Here's something that has been gnawing at me since I read it several days ago and is very similar to Jude's post a day ago, but the way Storm articulated it was striking. I think this was a great book for our little group to go through:

"We are not to pray as if our petitions inform God of what he doesn't already know or change his mind or prevail on him to bestow mercy that he was otherwise disinclined to give. Rather we pray "to affect our own hearts with the things we express, and so to prepare us to receive the blessings we ask." In fact, virtually all external expressions of worship "can be of no further use, than as they have some tendancy to affect our own hearts, or the hearts of others."

He develops this point and moves on to worship, saying "God is most glorified in his people when their hearts are most satisfied."

He lists off many rituals, beliefs, acts, charities etc. and explains that "without holy affections, all such activities and the effort to advertise them are nothing but wind."

And then this one hit me like a sledge hammer:

"Those who insist on the intellect of man or the doctrinal accuracy of his thoughts as the pinnacle of religious expression need to consider that no idea or attitude or theory or doctrine is of any value that does not inflame the heart and stir the affections in love and joy and fear of God."

I'd like to hear some thoughts on these ideas Sam articulates that Edwards penned many, many years ago. I have certainly been challenged.