Thursday, April 30, 2009

Frame on God's Covenant Presence


In chapter 6 of The Doctrine of God, Frame discusses God's intimate presence with his people which he calls God's 'covenant presence'. He defines the covenant presence of God: "Covenant presence, then, means that God commits himself to us, to be our God and to make us his people. He delivers us by his grace and rules us by his law, and he rules not only from above, but also with us and within us." (96)

Further on in the chapter Frame introduces the 'Immanuel Principle' which is simply stated "God will be with them, to be their God and to make them his people." (98) The Immanuel principle suggests that God is present in several ways; present in time, present in place, present in blessing and judgment, and present in all of creation.

Frame is very inclusive in terms of explaining who exactly is in a covenant relationship with God; all humanity. Frame suggests that all humanity a related to God covenantally through several covenants; the creation covenant, the Adamic covenant, and the Noachic covenant [God's covenant with Noah].

Frame concludes with a point about God's absolute presence: "By "absolute presence" we mean that with out him there could be no meaning, no significance, no purpose in anything. We also mean that he is the one with whom we have most to do. Therefore, the most important thing in life is to have a good relationship with God, to be his obedient covenant servants, his faithful friends, his body and bride." (102)

If nothing else, Frame's book magnifies and compounds the greatness of God in my heart and mind. Though not everything is clear to me yet, nevertheless the overall impression I am left with so far is of a great and might God who loves his people.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

For what purpose did Christ die?

In chapter 4 of book 2 in The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, John Owen summarizes the purpose or 'end' for which Christ died as well as the products of the event:

"God, out of his infinite love to his elect, sent his dear Son in the fulness of time, whom he had promised in the beginning of the world, and made effectual by that promise, to die, pay a ransom of infinite value and dignity, for the purchasing of eternal redemption, and bringing unto himself all and every one of those whom he had before ordained to eternal life, for the praise of his own glory." (231)

To this summary he adds a few assertions for clarity:

First, The fountain and cause of God's sending Christ is his eternal love to his elect, and to them alone; which I shall not now farther confirm, reserving it for the second general head of this whole controversy.
(231)

Secondly, The value, worth, and dignity of the ransom which Christ gave himself to be, and of the price which he paid, was infinite and immeasurable; fit for the accomplishing of any end and the procuring of any good, for all and every one for whom it was intended, had they been millions of men more than ever were created. (231)

Thirdly, The intention and aim of the Father in this great work was, a bringing of those many sons to glory, — namely, his elect, whom by his free grace he had chosen from amongst all men, of all sorts, nations, and conditions, to take them into a new covenant of grace with himself, the former being as to them, in respect of the event, null and abolished ; of which covenant Jesus Christ is the first and chief promise, as he that was to procure for them all other good things promised therein, as shall be proved. (231-2)

Fourthly, The things purchased or procured for those persons, — which are the proper effects of the death and ransom of Christ, in due time certainly to become theirs in possession and enjoyment, — are, remission of sin, freedom from wrath and the curse of the law, justification, sanctification, and reconciliation with God, and eternal life; for the will of his Father sending him for these, his own intention in laying down his life for them, and the truth of the purchase made by him, is the foundation of his intercession, begun on earth and continued in heaven ; whereby he, whom his Father always hears, desires and demands that the good things procured by him may be actually bestowed on them, all and every one, for whom they were procured. (232)

Owen may be accused of being verbose, but he cannot be accused of trifling with this matter. He is thorough to a fault. I think this approach indicates the seriousness with which he undertook this writing. For him, this polemic was integral to the life of the gospel.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Some quotes from Chapter 5 - The Lordship Attributes: Authority in The Doctrine of God



Here are some quotes that I found helpful, interesting, challenging, or all of the above.

  • And when he yells us to believe in the truth of his word, we must do so, both because his word can never prove false and because we have a moral obligation to believe it. God is the supreme interpreter of both himself and the universe he has made. The world is what he says it is. (80-1)
  • He [God] sets the standards and will not be subject to the standards of others. (82)
  • When we know that God has truly spoken and that he has announced his ultimate intentions, we have no right to question him. When he tells us something, we have no right to demand evidence over and above God's own word. (87)
  • To reflect a moment on recent controversy, we can see that it is wrong to try to restrict the infallible authority of God's word in Scripture to some narrowly defined religious area, or to 'matters of salvation' as opposed to other matters...God claims the authority to direct all our thinking and all our decisions. (89)
  • The written word is the covenant constitution of the people of God, and its authority is absolute, because the authority of its author is absolute. (91)
  • Absolute authority entails infallibility. A word of ultimate authority is beyond human criticism. We may never judge it to have failed or to have been mistaken. So God's word in Scripture, as all his other words, must be judged to be infallible and inerrant. (92)
  • Theologians who try ro play down the importance of God's authority - whether to avoid "patriarchalism," to promote the freedom of human thought and choice, to allow greater latitude to science and philosophy, or whatever - have lost something that is central to the biblical revelation. Everything in Scripture comes to us as authoritative communication. (92)

In Chapter 5 Frame also describes in what ways God's authority is absolute:
  1. It cannot be questioned.
  2. His covenant transcends all other loyalties.
  3. It covers all areas of life.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Are you clear on the gospel?

This was posted at In Light of the Gospel:

Are you clear on the gospel?
April 27th, 2009 by JHG

D. A. Carson’s recent editorial for Themelios is well worth your read. In it, makes a fundamental distinction about the gospel that is being lost in our current theological climate. Carson explains:

It is this: one must distinguish between, on the one hand, the gospel as what God has done and what is the message to be announced and, on the other, what is demanded by God or effected by the gospel in assorted human responses.

This is fundamental. The gospel is about what God has done and not about what I have done. Growing up, this was confused by saying that gospel is believing on Christ. Now this is confused by saying that the gospel is life. The current situation is a reaction to the former. We (at least in evangelicalism broadly speaking) have moved from describing the gospel as conversion to describing the gospel as a way of life. Both are mistakes.

After explaining that the gospel is the “good news” about what God has done in Christ, Carson clarifies what the gospel is not:

By contrast, the first two greatest commands—to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves—do not constitute the gospel, or any part of it. We may well argue that when the gospel is faithfully declared and rightly received, it will result in human beings more closely aligned to these two commands. But they are not the gospel. Similarly, the gospel is not receiving Christ or believing in him, or being converted, or joining a church; it is not the practice of discipleship. Once again, the gospel faithfully declared and rightly received will result in people receiving Christ, believing in Christ, being converted, and joining a local church; but such steps are not the gospel.

In conclusion, Carson reminds us:

Failure to distinguish between the gospel and all the effects of the gospel tends, on the long haul, to replace the good news as to what God has done with a moralism that is finally without the power and the glory of Christ crucified, resurrected, ascended, and reigning.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The proper end and effect of the death of Christ


Owen repeats a definition of the what the end of Christ's death is:
The end of the death of Christ we asserted, in the beginning of our discourse, to be our approximation or drawing nigh unto God; that being a general expression for the whole reduction and recovery of sinners from the state of alienation, misery, and wrath, into grace, peace, and eternal communion with him. (201)

The ultimate end of the death of Christ is indicated by Owen:
The first is the glory of God, or the manifestation of his glorious attributes, especially of his justice, and mercy tempered with justice, unto us. The Lord doth necessarily aim at himself in the first place, as the chiefest good, yea, indeed, that alone which is good; that is, absolutely and simply so, and not by virtue of communication from another: and therefore in all his works, especially in this which we have in hand, the chiefest of all, he first intends the manifestation of his own glory; which also he fully accomplisheth in the close, to every point and degree by him intended.(201)

The chief end of the death of Christ was the glory of God because "the Lord doth necessarily aim at himself in the first place". I can hear an 'amen' from Piper on that phrase.

Owen gives a secondary end of the death of Christ a littler further on:
There is an end of the death of Christ which is intermediate and subservient to that other, which is the last and most supreme, even the effects which it hath in respect of us, and that is it of which we now treat; which, as we before affirmed, is the bringing of us unto God.
(202)

And we can see the benefit for us rendered when Christ glorified his Father. What blessings would we see in the lives of the people around us if we would seek God's glory first?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Summary of Chapter 4 from The Doctrine of God

In his summary of the chapter entitled God's Control: Its Efficacy and Universality, Frame delivers 4 passages of Scripture which he feels encapsulate both the doctrine of God's universal sovereignty and his arguments towards that end. Here are the four passages from the ESV:

  • Lamentations 3:37-38 - Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?
  • Romans 8:28 - And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
  • Ephesians 1:11 - In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will
  • Romans 11:33-36 - Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Concerning the big picture that this doctrine teaches Frame says: "The good news is that Jesus' atonement has cosmic dimensions: in time, it will counteract all the effects of the Fall, as well as sin itself, so that "creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God" (v.21).Therefore, God is now working in all things,not only when we suffer for the gospel,to bring about that which is good for those who have been effectually called into fellowship with Christ." (78)

Frame continually assures the reader that he will deal with some of the questions that arise in later chapters. So, though this chapter was compelling and persuasive, I look forward to reading the rest of the book.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Foreordination of sinful decisions

Well, the topics don't get any easier in the fourth chapter of The Doctrine of God. After discussing such topics as the efficacy of God's control in the natural world, human history, and human decisions, Frame goes on to discuss God's sovereignty over our sinful decisions and actions.

The author is frank about this topic: "This section raises even more serious difficulties than the last. If it is hard for us to accept God's foreordination of human decisions and actions in general, it is even harder to accept his foreordination of our sinful decisions and actions in particular.The former raises questions about human freedom and responsibilities; the latter raises questions about God's own goodness." (65)

Frame goes on to give examples from Scripture where God hardened peoples hearts; Pharoah,Sihon, and the Israelites themselves. Or consider God sending a wicked spirit which causes the false prophets to lie to King Ahab. Frame also uses the crucifixion of Christ as an example: "As we have seen, Judas' betrayal, the Jews murderous hatred of Jesus, and the horrible injustice of the Romans, were all due to "God's set purpose and foreknowledge" (Acts 2:23). These people did what God's "power and will had decided beforehand should happen" (4:28; cf. 13:27; Luke 22:22). The crucifixion of Jesus could not have happened without sin, for he did not deserve death. For God to foreordain the Crucifixion, he had to foreordain sinful actions to bring it about." (69, emphasis mine)

These ideas bring to mind the quote I shared by D. A. Carson a while back: "To put it bluntly, God stands behind evil in such a way that not even evil takes place outside the bounds of his sovereignty, yet the evil is not morally chargeable to him: it is always chargeable to the secondary agents, to secondary causes [i.e., those who actually do it]. On the other hand, God stands behind good in such a way that it not only takes place within the bounds of his sovereignty, but it is always chargeable to him, and only derivatively to secondary agents...If this sound just a bit too convenient for God, my initial response (though there is more to be said) is that according to the Bible this is the only God there is."

I'll keep reading, because as Carson suggests, 'there is more to be said'. We'll have to see what more is said by Frame concerning this difficult doctrine.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Limited Atonement

In my continuing study of the Doctrines of Grace I have decided to read The Death of Death in the Death of Christ by John Owen. I first read of this book via the pen of J. I. Packer and committed to reading a book that was praised by one such as Packer.

In chapter 3, Owen produces an oft-referred to quote concerning limited atonement. Owen poses the premise that "God imposed his wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for, either all the sins of all men, or all the sins of some men, or some sins of all men." (174)

In regards to the notion that Christ died for all the sins of all men Owen responds:
"then, are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins? You will say, " Because of their unbelief; they will not believe." But this unbelief, is it a sin, or not? If not, why should they be punished for it? If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not. If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death? If he did not, then did he not die for all their sins. Let them choose which part they will." (174)

I am wondering what the opposing view would produce as an answer to that. I have none.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Human Decisions



As I continue to read through the 4th chapter of The Doctrine of God I am continually being challenged to understand the completeness of God's sovereignty. The author discusses the question "Does God bring about our decisions?" (61)

Though Frame promises to discuss the genuineness and importance of our responsibility and freedom in a later chapter, he nevertheless declares that "we must face the fact that our decisions are not independent of God, and therefore our definition of freedom must somehow be consistent with God's sovereignty over the human will." (62)

It would be hard to refute that in the history of redemption God has brought about the free decisions of certain people; Joseph's brothers in Genesis 45:5-8, Cyrus as in Isaiah 44:28, and Judas as is seen in Luke 22:22 and Acts 2:23-24 for example. And Frame suggests that "We should not be so prejudiced by the unbiblical, but popular notion that God never foreordains our free decisions." (62)

From Scripture we can see that:
  • God ordains the events of nature
  • God ordains the events of our daily life
  • in making us God controlled our heredity
  • God controls the length of our life
  • God decides on our successes and failures
The only way for God to manage these thing is by being the ultimate cause of our decisions as well as every other humans decisions. Now, Frame admits that this conclusion is from inference but he goes on to show that Scripture teaches directly that God brings about free decisions.

Jesus declared in Luke 6:43-45 that the human heart is the root of human decision. Frame brings up Proverbs 21:1 which says: "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases." And as far as Frame is concerned, "God directs the hearts, not only of kings, but of all people." (63)

God ensures some things happen in order to fulfill Scripture and prophecy such as the soldiers gambling for Jesus' garments or the owner of a colt allowing the disciples to borrow it. And if God causes some decisions humans make then is it not reasonable to suggest God is behind all human decisions in a similar fashion.

Wow! It is going to be a process wrapping my head around this one! I'll finish with one more quote from Frame: "The picture given to us by this large group of passages is that God's purpose stands behind the free decisions of human beings...But the point is not merely that God has advance knowledge of an event, but that he is fulfilling his own purpose through that event. That divine purpose imparts a certain necessity to the human decision..." (64)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Violence!

The ESV renders Matthew 11:12 as such: From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. However, it also suggest another rendering which would be: From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has been coming violently, and the violent take it by force.

I have always found this verse intriguing and have often wondered what it meant. In Jesus and the Kingdom, George Ladd addresses this verse and attempts to explain it. After discussing 5 of the most popular explanations and their implicit faults, he goes on to suggest the meaning he thinks best suits the verse in light of the context of the verse and with others verses about the kingdom of heaven in mind.

For various reasons, Ladd believes the 'coming violently' rendering is the most reasonable and thus he describes what the verse would mean:"Jesus taught that because God had acted, because the dynamic power of his kingdom has invaded the world, men are to respond with a radical reaction."(159) These reactions were suggested in other demands of Jesus: if your hand causes you to sin then cut it off, if your eye causes you to sin then pluck it out, if one does not hate his family he cannot be my disciple, He came not to bring peace but a sword, a man should be willing to surrendered everything he has to enter the kingdom.

Ladd does not suggest that these verse are to be taken literally but he believes they indicate the manner in which we appropriate God's kingdom. "The presence of the kingdom demands radical, violent conduct. Men cannot passively await the coming of the eschatalogical Kingdom as the apocalyptists taught. On the contrary, the Kingdom has come to them, and they are actively, aggressively, forcefully to seize it." (160)


Keep in mind the definition of violent: involving extreme(the greatest degree) force(anything that is able to make a change). This is important because though I believe God's kingdom has inflicted harm on the kingdom of darkness I do not think this is a call to physical violence. In the context of this verse Jesus has explained to John's disciples that the the kingdom of heaven has not come in the social-political-physical sense that John thought it would. Jesus was not going to conquer Rome. But he made it clear that the kingdom had come with violence and it required a similar response from those wishing to be a part of it.

This seems like a reasonable approach to this verse and I'm going with it until I am persuaded otherwise. What do you think?

The Efficacy of God's Control

In The Doctrine Of God the author summarizes the efficacy of God's rule with 5 passages from Scripture:

  • Psalm 33:11 - The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.
  • Psalm 115:3 - Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.
  • Psalm 135:6 - Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.
  • Isaiah 43:13 - Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?
  • Revelation 3:7 - And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.

The author also writes: "Nothing is too hard for God (Jer. 32:27); nothing seems marvelous to him (Zech. 8:6); with him nothing is impossible (Gen. 18:14; Matt. 19:26; Luke 1:37). So his purposes will always prevail. "(48)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spiders, ants, frogs, flies, lice, dust



I am currently reading a book by N. H. Keeble which has the title Richard Baxter: Puritan Man Of Letters. It looks at the life of Richard Baxter through his extensive collection of written materials.

In chapter 5 the author brings to light Baxter's appreciation of the natural world and how, contrary to some religious movements, the Puritans had a great respect for the natural world and what we could learn from it.

The author quotes Bunyan in making his point: "since it is the wisdom of God to speak to us ofttimes by trees, gold, silver, stones, beasts fowls, fishes, spiders, ants, frogs, flies, lice, dust &c., and here by wood; how by them should we understand his voice, if we count there is no meaning in them?" (110)

In Baxter's words, "What deal of the Majesty of the great Creator doth shine in the face of this fabrick of the world?" (112)

I am reminded that He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (1 Corinthians 15-17)

He is before all things and in him all things hold together. Should we expect anything less than seeing God's glory displayed in the spiders, ants, frogs, flies, lice and dust?

Friday, April 17, 2009

A bit of reading for a lazy afternoon!

Here is a Reading Guide from Monergism:

INTRODUCTORY READING
Christianity is not about knowing a lot of things. It is
about deeply knowing the one true God in order that
your whole person may be conformed into His image:
· Basic Christianity | John Stott
· Bible Overview | Steve Levy
· Christian Beliefs | Wayne Grudem
· Christian Life | Sinclair Ferguson
· Concise Theology | J. I. Packer
· God’s Big Picture | Vaughan Roberts
· Truth for All Time | John Calvin


INTERMEDIATE READING
Grow deeper in the knowledge of God by studying
how the Gospel trains us in every area of life:
· Attributes of God | Arthur Pink
· Church History in Plain Language | Bruce Shelley
· Finally Alive | John Piper
· Holiness of God | R. C. Sproul
· In Christ Alone | Sinclair Ferguson
· Just Do Something | Kevin DeYoung
· Knowing God | J. I. Packer
· Knowing Scripture | R. C. Sproul
· Living the Cross Centered Life | C. J. Mahaney
· Prayer and the Knowledge of God | Goldsworthy
· Putting Amazing Back Into Grace | Michael Horton
· Seeing with New Eyes | David Powlison
· Today’s Gospel | Walter Chantry
· Whatever Happened to The Gospel of Grace? | James M. Boice
· When Grace Comes Home | Terry L. Johnson


ADVANCED READING
Some things God has revealed about himself are difficult
to understand. Careful study of these works will
be greatly rewarding:
· Chosen for Life | Sam Storms
· Christless Christianity | Michael Horton
· Courage to Be Protestant | David Wells
· Desiring God | John Piper
· Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God | D. A. Carson
· Doctrine of the Knowledge of God | John Frame
· Systematic Theology | Wayne Grudem


CLASSICS
Following Christ’s example, believers have always
labored to bless the generations which would come
after them. These are some of the finest fruits of
that labor:
· Bondage of the Will | Martin Luther
· Bruised Reed | Richard Sibbes
· Christian in Complete Armor | William Gurnall
· Confessions | St. Augustine
· Crook in the Lot | Thomas Boston
· Freedom of the Will | Jonathan Edwards
· Institutes of the Christian Religion | John Calvin
· Mortification of Sin | John Owen
· Religious Affections | Jonathan Edwards


CHILDREN’S BOOKS
Strengthen the young minds under your care early
with gospel-centered resources:
· Big Truths for Little Kids | Susan & Richie Hunt
· Jesus Storybook Bible | Sally Lloyd-Jones
· Training Hearts, Teaching Minds | Starr Meade


EVANGELISM
Not a secondary matter, sharing the good news is
a necessary part of believing the good news:
· Always Ready | Greg Bahnsen
· Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God | J.I. Packer
· Gospel and Personal Evangelism | Mark Dever
· Let the Nations Be Glad | John Piper
· Reason for God | Tim Keller
· Tell the Truth | Will Metzger


STUDY BIBLES
Like having a scholar read the Bible with you,
study Bibles provide insightful notes and clarifying
articles along the way:
· ESV Study Bible | Crossway
· NIV Spirit of the Reformation | Zondervan
· Reformation Study Bible (ESV) | P & R


REFERENCE WORKS
Easy to find answers to all your Bible-related
questions. These reference tools put historical
and literal-grammatical details at your fingertips
and make topical studies a breeze:
· Commentary on the N.T. use of the O.T. | G. K. Beale & D. A. Carson
· Introduction to the Old Testament | Tremper Longman & Raymond Dillard
· Introduction to the New Testament | D. A. Carson & Douglas Moo
· New Dictionary of Biblical Theology | T. Desmond Alexander & Brian Rosner

I AM WHO I AM

In chapter 3 0f The Doctrine of God, author John Frame begins to discuss the divine attribute of control. In opening this discussion he considers the name that God ascribes to himself in Exodus 3:14; I am who I am.

Frame offers some other possible renderings of this phrase:
  • I am what I am
  • I am who I am
  • I will be what I will be
  • I am because I am
  • I will be because I will be
  • I cause to be what I cause to be
  • I am present is what I am
  • I am the one who is

These renderings offer a plethora of interpretations and meanings. For instance, the phrase I am because I am speaks loudly of God's self-sufficiency. God is the only being in the universe whose existence depends on nobody else. There are hours and days and weeks that one could spend contemplating that aspect of his revealed name.

Frame goes on to write about this list of possible rendering: "They indicate that Yahweh is very different from us, determining his own nature, or his choices, or even his own being, without any dependence on us." (44) And he finishes off the chapter with the declaration that "Yahweh, then, is the sovereign, the Lord over all his creatures." (46)

He is the Lord.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Recreation


A post inspired by Reading the Classics with Challies.

The final 2 chapters of Wilberforce's book, with a pared down title of Real Christianity, contain a wide range of topics and issues pertaining to the authentic Christian life. I would like to consider a few things the author mentions about recreation.

Since the 80's, when it first came to my attention, the group Loverboy revealed to me what most people already knew; 'everybody is working for the weekend'. We are a society that is consumed with pastimes, hobbies, recreations and amusements. I do not know for certain that this generation is more enamored with their recreation than other generations, but I do know it is of great importance to many people.

Consider what Wilberforce has to say concerning our leisure pursuits: "The Christian relaxes in the temperate use of all the gifts of Providence. Imagination, and taste, and genius, and the beauties of creation, and the works of art, lie open to him. He relaxes in the feast of reason, in the intercourses of society, in the sweets of friendship, in the endearments of love, in the exercise of hope, of confidence, of joy, of gratitude, of universal good-will, of all the benevolent and generous affections; which, by the gracious appointment of our Creator, while they disinterestedly intend only happiness to others, are most surely productive of peace and joy to ourselves." (287) The author is not 'anti-recreation'. He believes that recreation and the activities we enjoy are very much 'gifts of providence. He speaks appreciatingly of our love of the arts, of social activities, of challenging our minds with 'feasts of reason'. But his positive support for recreation is not a carte blanche acceptance of all things leisure.

Wilberforce suggests that recreation should serve a purpose; it is not supposed to be a trivial pursuit. "There can be no dispute concerning the true end of recreations. They are intended to refresh our exhausted bodily or mental powers, and to restore us, with renewed vigour, to the more serious occupations of life. Whatever therefore fatigues either body, or mind, instead of refreshing them, is not fitted to answer the designed purpose. Whatever consumes more time, or money, or thought, than it is expedient (I might say necessary) to allot to mere amusement, can hardly be approved by any one, who considers these talents as precious deposits, for the expenditure of which he will have to give account." (285) Recreation has a pragmatic end; it is to refresh and reinvigorate us so we can approach the 'more serious occupations of life' with alacrity and enthusiasm. A Christian must be a good steward of his recreation as he is with all other aspects of his life. And hobbies or pastimes that exhaust us in mind and body or are unreasonably expensive or trivial are not legitimate in the authors opinion. We all can certainly benefit by considering our recreational activities and determining if they are indeed time well spent.

And although the author recognizes the appropriateness of reasonable recreation, he also opines that "this world is not his resting place: here, to the very last, he must be a pilgrim and a stranger; a soldier, whose warfare ends only with life, over struggling and combating with the powers of darkness, and with the temptations of the world around him, and the still more dangerous hostilities of internal depravity." (284) We are pilgrims and strangers in this world and 'rest' in worldly activities is a poor substitute for the rest we shall find in God. And we are in a state of perpetual warfare against the evil powers, worldly influences, and our flesh. We are not hedonists of the earthly kind.

Among other things I did not expect to find in this book, a brief theology of recreation is right near the top. But if we take the author's advice we see that recreation is a gift from God provided for our refreshment and renewal and it should invigorate us for our daily journey as a pilgrim and strengthen us for our battles as a soldier. It seems like wise counsel for our generation.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Frame on the Lordship of God


From Chapter 2 - The Lord as found in Frame's work entitled The Doctrine of God:

Certainly the biblical Lord is not just any ruler. It would be wrong for us to expound God's lordship merely by appealing to extrabiblical models of kingship, rule, dominion, and so on. God is different in many ways from an oppressive monarch, a Roman emperor, a feudal lord, or a European king. But the basic concepts of hierarchy, rule, and power are intrinsic to the lordship of God. To oppose the rule of God is to oppose his lordship altogether. (24)

Frame goes on to write:

Lordship does not at all fit the model being urged upon us by feminist and other liberation theologians, nor does it fit the model of process theologians, for whom God's influence on us is always "persuasive," rather than "coercive". Nor is it consistent with open theism, process theology, or theological pluralism. From one perspective, however, this fact is not surprising. The very nature of liberal theology, for the past three hundred years, has been to assert human autonomy. The liberal theologian wants to avoid at all costs the notion that he belongs to someone else, that he must think according to someone else's standards, that he must obey someone else without question. He may be willing to use the term Lord, but the biblical doctrine of God's lordship is inimical to his most fundamental instincts. (25)

For me, I recognize that many of the 'problems' and 'issues' I face in my Christian journey, entirely or in part, revolve around God's lordship and how it plays out in my life. Though we are Jesus' friends and siblings, we are also remain servants of God; and he remains The Lord.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Of sufficient weight


From an article that appeared in the nation's capital's newspaper we read this quote: "Although 80 per cent of Canadians think "proper tolerance" is given to those who wish to practise religions other than Christianity, fully four in 10 don't think Christians are given those same allowances by other faiths."

This is something that I always believed to be true but I found it quite interesting that 40% of Canadians saw things this way. I like John M. Frame's take on this in The Doctrine of God. He writes that "...while society becomes more tolerant of these things [spiritualities and superstitions], it becomes less tolerant of biblical Christianity...both those who idealize secularity and those who promote other spiritualities agree on rejecting the God of Scripture. Only He is of sufficient weight for them to recognize as their enemy. So they are eager to shut him out of the cultural dialogue, to replace him with almost any alternative." (2)

He indeed is 'of sufficient weight'. You can't trifle with Him or juggle the concept of him along with so many other worldviews. He is unlike any other. This leads me to an article by Michael Coren from this past Easter weekend.

Coren begins with a somewhat confrontational introduction: "What I particularly love about Easter is the joy it brings to all those tired old atheist hacks who can sell articles to newspapers explaining why Easter isn't Easter, Jesus wasn't Jesus and Cadbury Creme Eggs are all some sort of Christian conspiracy to cause obesity and heart disease." He then discusses some of the arguments that try to explain away Christianity; cultural Christianity's pat sins, eternal punishment, suffering. And it seems, by looking at the comments following the article, that God is still 'of sufficient weight' to cause quite a commotion which is not unexpected by Coren. You can read the whole article here.

Note that what began with a confrontation ends with a challenge: "In the final analysis I, they and the arguments do not matter. What does is what Easter means to you. The day will come when it will be too late to make the correct decision. Final, over, done. Right now could be the time to think and act. Good Lord, the time to pray and commit." But as I suggested, the comment section is mostly void of any discussion of this challenge, but it is full of people for whom God is far from benign. Rather, He causes them consternation because He is 'of sufficient weight'.

Monday, April 13, 2009

New website for Grudem's Christian Essentials class


I was alerted to this by In Light of the Gospel. For me, this has been the single most valuable resource I have come across on the web. Grudem has been teaching this class for several years and has been going through the Systematic Theology book that he authored. I cannot recommend this site and the audio teachings on it too strongly. See for your self: Christian Essentials

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Article: Most Canadians believe country 'a Christian nation'

Here is a few excerpts from the article:

Though not every Canadian will celebrate Easter this weekend, a new poll reveals the majority -- including nearly half of those who don't believe in God -- think Canada is "essentially a Christian nation."

Although 80 per cent of Canadians think "proper tolerance" is given to those who wish to practise religions other than Christianity, fully four in 10 don't think Christians are given those same allowances by other faiths.

Although the poll found just 58 per cent of Canadians "definitely believe in God" -- down from 64 per cent in 2003 -- Hexham believes we're nonetheless a country with "very strong Christian ties."

Read the whole article here.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

What if Philippians were our only Bible?

Here is a post by Ray Ortlund Jr from his blog Christ is Deeper Still:

A recent study in Philippians prompted me to wonder, what if this one brief book were our only available Bible? How much would we have to believe and live off of? At least this:

• He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (1:6);
• We are all partakers of grace together (1:7);
• We will be pure and blameless for the day of Christ (1:10);
• Human opposition, far from defeating the gospel, is serving to advance the joyous spread of the gospel (1:12-18);
• Should life be lost, Christ is gained (1:21);
• Temporary survival is gospel opportunity (1:22);
• To depart and be with Christ is far better than this life (1:23);
• The further we go with Christ, the more joy we experience (1:25);
• The gospel of Christ is an uplifting power (1:27);
• Opposition to gospel witness presages the doom of the opponents and the glorious destiny of the faithful (1:28);
• It is a God-given privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ (1:29);
• Union with Christ brings encouragement, comfort from love, participation in the Spirit, affection and sympathy (2:1);
• Christ Jesus himself is living proof that the arrogance of this world is doomed and that gospel humility is the path of great reward (2:6-9);
• Jesus is King, and he will have every rational creature in the universe know it and own it, to the greater glory of God the Father (2:10-11);
• We do not need even an apostle always present to lead us by the hand; God himself is deeply at work in us (2:12-13);
• Knowing Christ Jesus the Lord redefines all trophies of self-exaltation as “rubbish,” for he gives true righteousness and participation in his death and resurrection; he is so superior to all things in this world that, whatever path we may take into the resurrection of the dead, the price to be paid is small (3:7-11);
• In conversion, Christ Jesus takes eternal possession of us (3:12);
• The call of God in Christ Jesus offers a prize far beyond this world, worthy of our all (3:14);
• To whatever extent we struggle to grasp the upward call, God will reveal all that we need revealed (3:15);
• To settle for the rewards of this world is to make oneself an enemy of the cross of Christ and to make a god of one’s earthly appetites, which is the path of destruction and the reversal of a truly human life (3:18-19);
• We who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh also find our citizenship in heaven, from which we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will raise our "vile" (KJV) bodies into his immortal glory by his power over all things (3:3, 20-21);
• Our names are written in the book of life (4:3);
• The Lord is at hand (4:5);
• God receives our prayers and sends his overruling peace to guard our hearts when the circumstances of life would have us frantic (4:6-7);
• As we follow the apostolic example of lovely heavenly-mindedness, we experience the presence of the God of peace (4:8-9);
• Christ strengthens us to accept with contentment whatever life may bring (4:11-13);
• When we support the ministry of the gospel, the fruit increases to our own credit (4:17);
• God receives our gospel partnership as a sacrifice pleasing to himself (4:18);
• God is committed to our own needs with all his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (4:19);
• In it all, God will get glory for himself forever and ever (4:20);
• And in the meantime, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ will steadfastly be with our spirit (4:23).

Makes me wonder, how much more is there in this Bible which I hardly know?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

What's wrong with the world?

A post inspired by Reading the Classics with Challies.

In chapters 5 and 6 Wilbeforce seems to get a little more practical. Since 'A Practical View' is the start of this book's lengthy title, it is appropriate that the author goes in this direction as the book approaches its completion.

The title to Chapter 6, very wordy as per usual, ends with this phrase: 'Practical Hints for which the Foregoing Considerations Give Occasion'. It is in this section of the reading I wish to focus.

Wilberforce is concerned with the decaying Christianity that is apparent in his country. His concerned is partially based on the fact that he believes a weakened Christianity will have an adverse effect on all of society; "...in particular it must be material to ascertain, whether religion be in an advancing or a declining state; and, if the latter be the case, whether there be any practical means for preventing at least its farther declension." (231)

Wilberforce believes that Christian morals are what bring 'good' to a society. In contrast, his blame for evil in a society is clear: "But, more than all this ; it has not perhaps been enough remarked, that true Christianity, from her essential nature, appears peculiarly and powerfully adapted to promote the preservation and healthfulness of political communities. What is in truth their grand malady? The answer is short; Selfishness." (251) Therefore the main bulwark against selfishness and thus evil is 'Real Christianity': "...unless the prevalence of this be in some degree restored, we are likely, not only to lose all the advantages which we might have derived from true Christianity, but to incur all the manifold evils which would result from the absence of all religion." (256)

Many would not disagree with the author in that they think we need sound morals for a just and caring society. They would, however, take issue with his idea that Christianity was needed for true morality. Wilberforce has considered this option. "But in this way the fatal habit of considering Christian morals as distinct from Christian doctrines, insensibly gained strength. Thus the peculiar doctrines of Christianity went more and more out of sight; and, as might naturally have been expected, the moral system itself also, being robbed of that which should have supplied it with life and nutriment, began to wither and decay." (242) Without Christianity providing the foundation for the morals their 'life and nutrition' they will whither.

I believe we are seeing the fruits of this in North America. Whether you believe that Canada and the United States of America began as 'Christian nations' or not, I do not think it is possible to effectively refute the premise that both these countries were built on Christian principles and morals. But those days are quickly leaving us.

Wilberforce would instruct us that un-anchored morals, morals without a foundation in solid Christian doctrine, are better than no morals at all: "We should endeavour to tread back our steps. Every effort should be used to raise the depressed tone of public morals." (262) His practical suggestion is to attempt to raise the moral standard of society. However, he also cautions that "...fruitless will be all attempts to sustain, much more to revive, the fainting cause of morals, unless you can in some decree restore the prevalence of Evangelical Christianity." (264)

So we see the practical steps the author proposes to us. He would encourage us to maintain and build up the moral fiber of our society for the benefit of all. But more importantly, he would implore us to find a way of restoring 'Evangelical Christianity' to a prevalent place in our countries. And, as we have seen, Evangelical Christianity's central themes are "...the corruption of human nature, that our reconciliation to God by the atonement of Christ, and that the restoration of our primitive dignity by the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit..." (222-3).

If we take these suggestions as the steps we need to take, the we have our work cut out for us! God help us!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Avoiding Moral Mine Fields

This quote is taken from the most recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine - April 2009.  It is an excerpt from an editorial entitled Conscientious Objection Gone Awry - Restoring Selfless Professionalism in Medicine by Dr. Julie Cantor MD JD.  It is a criticism of the legislation enacted by GW Bush during the late stages of his administration to protect conscience in health care.  I'm particularly struck by this portion of the article where Dr. Cantor all but tells medical professionals with moral opposition to certain medical practices that "if you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen"

As the gate-keepers to medicine, physicians and other health care providers have an obligation to choose specialties that are not moral mine-fields for them. Qualms about abortion, sterilization, and birth control? Do not practice women’s health. Believe that the human body should be buried intact? Do not become a transplant surgeon.  Morally opposed to pain medication because your religious beliefs demand suffering at the end of life? Do not train to be an intensivist.  Conscience is a burden that belongs to the individual professional; patients should not have to shoulder it.
Translation - "You can't push your morals on me, and don't try to push them on your chosen profession either"  Clearly there are several negative repercussions if we are to take Dr. Cantor's statement  seriously - least of which being the systematic deprivation of care to patients who are seeking treatment from physicians with whom they are morally like minded.  The "moral mine field" remains so until the "moral mine" demolition experts carefully dismantle the explosives and cautiously dispose of the dangerous material.   The mine field does not miraculously become a pasture of clover because you ban the demolition team from working there, it just becomes more difficult to see the mines when no one is there to point them out for you. 

Barabbas - worth watching and listening to!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

John Owen's grave

I found this at www.johnowen.org where there is lots of interesting and useful information on John Owen.




From the Latin epigraph on Owen's grave, loosely translated and explained:


John Owen, born in Oxfordshire, son of a distinguished theologian, was himself a more distinguished one, who must be counted among the most distinguished of this age. Furnished with the recognised resources of humane learning in uncommon measure, he put them all, as a well-ordered array of handmaids, at the service of theology, which he served himself. His theology was polemical, practical, and what is called casuistical, and it cannot be said that any one of these was peculiarly his rather than another.

In polemical theology, with more than herculean strength, he strangled three poisonous serpents, the Arminian, the Socinian, and the Roman.

In practical theology, he laid out before others the whole of the activity of the Holy Spirit, which he had first experienced in his own heart, according to the rule of the Word. And, leaving other things aside, he cultivated, and realised in practice, the blissful communion with God of which he wrote; a traveller on earth who grasped God like one in heaven.

In casuistry, he was valued as an oracle to be consulted on every complex matter.

A scribe instructed in every way for the kingdom of God, this pure lamp of gospel truth shone forth on many in private, on more from the pulpit, and on all in his printed works, pointing everyone to the same goal. And in this shining forth he gradually, as he and others recognized, squandered his strength till it was gone. His holy soul, longing to enjoy God more, left the shattered ruins of his once-handsome body, full of permanent weaknesses, attacked by frequent diseases, worn out most of all by hard work, and no longer a fit instrument for serving God, on a day rendered dreadful for many by earthly powers but now made happy for him through the power of God, August 25, 1683. He was 67.


I love this line: In polemical theology, with more than herculean strength, he strangled three poisonous serpents, the Arminian, the Socinian, and the Roman.

Millennial views

In preparing for a 'small group' lesson on eschatology I have been reading some books on the end times; Contemporary Options in Eschatology by Millard Erickson and The Bible and The Future. To go along with those resources I have been searching on the internet for some learning aids. The most useful thing that I have found for our small group meeting I found at Monergism. It is a summary of the millennial views and it summarizes them by considering how they answer questions that pertain to Revelation 20. It seems that Revelation is the 'linchpin' which many of the differences revolve around. Here is the summary produced by Aaron Orendorff:

The Questions – Revelation 20:1-8
(1) When is the millennium – past, present and future?
(2) When will Jesus return – before or after the millennium?
(3) What does the binding of Satan refer to (v. 2)?
(4) Is the thousand years a literal period of time (v. 2)?
(5) What is the “first resurrection” (v. 4-6)?
(6) What is the “second death”?
(7) What and when will the rapture be?
(8) What will the world be like until Christ returns?

Amillennialism
(1) The millennium is now, the entire period of time from the Jesus’ first coming to His second.
(2) Jesus will return after the millennium.
(3) The binding of Satan refers to the gospel’s worldwide advance.
(4) The thousand years is a figurative number indicating a long period of time.
(5) The first resurrection refers to:
a. The intermediate (after-death) state of believers.
b. The spiritual coming to life (i.e. regeneration) of those who believe the gospel.
(6) The second death refers to hell.
(7) The rapture is a public event that takes place at Christ’s second coming when believers who are still living are “caught up” and transformed.
(8) Both evil and good will increase side-by-side until Christ returns.

Postmillennialism
(1) The millennium is future – a period of worldwide Christian triumph when the Kingdom of God is dramatically unveiled in history.
(2) Jesus will return after the millennium.
(3) The binding of Satan refers both to the gospel’s worldwide advance as well as a sever limiting of his power – both spiritually and physically.
(4) The thousand years is a figurative number indicating a long period of time.
(5) (See Amillennialism)
(6) The second death refers to hell.
(7) (See Amillennialism)
(8) Good will triumph over evil as the millennium approaches and continues.

Premillennialism (Historic or Classic)
(1) The millennium is future.
(2) Jesus will return before the millennium.
(3) The binding of Satan refers to his power and presence being completely removed from the earth.
(4) The thousand years may be literal or it may be figurative.
(5) The first resurrection refers to the physical resurrection of all the “dead in Christ” when he returns.
(6) The second death refers to hell.
(7) The rapture is a public event that takes place at Christ’s second coming when believers who are still living are “caught up” and transformed.
(8) Evil will increase until Christ returns.

Premillennialism (Dispensational)
(1) The millennium is a future time when God will literally fulfill his OT promises to national Israel.
(2) Jesus will return once at the rapture (secretly) and again before the millennium (publically).
(3) The binding of Satan refers to his power and presence being completely removed from the earth.
(4) The thousand years is a literal period of time.
(5) The first resurrection refers to the physical resurrection of Christian martyrs and OT saints.
(6) The second death refers to hell.
(7) The rapture is a secret event that takes place at Christ’s first second coming when the church is silently removed from the earth:
a. Pre-tribulation
b. Mid-tribulation
c. Post-tribulation
(8) Evil will increase until the great tribulation begins – a seven year period of satanic dominance.


Key Passages
The Seventy Weeks of Daniel – Daniel 9:24-27
The Olivet Discourse - Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 20
The Coming of Christ – John 5:19-29, Acts 24:15, 1 Thess. 4:13-5:11 and 2 Thess. 1:5-10

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Kingdom of God and The Meaning of History




I am enjoying Anthony A. Hoekema's book entitled The Bible and the Future. I particularly liked his chapter on the kingdom of God. Here are some quotes from that chapter:

“We must therefore always see the kingdom of God as indissolubly connected with the person of Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ words and deeds, miracles and parables, teaching and preaching, the kingdom of God was dynamically active and present among men.” (43)

“The kingdom of God, therefore, is to be understood as the reign of God dynamically active in human history through Jesus Christ, the purpose of which is the redemption of his people from sin and demonic powers, and the final establishment of the new heavens and the new earth.” (45)

“It should be added that the kingdom of God includes both a positive and a negative aspect. It means redemption for those who accept it and enter into it by faith, but judgment for those who reject it.” (45)

Another powerful chapter was on the meaning of history which consequently had The Meaning of History as its title. Hoekema lists the main features of a Christian interpretation of history:
  1. History is a working out of God’s purposes – “Though it is true, therefore, that God reveals himself in the Bible which is his Word, we must not forget that he reveals himself primarily in the historical events which are recorded in the Bible.” (26)
  2. God is the Lord of History – “Because God is the Lord of history, history has meaning and direction.” (28)
  3. Christ is the center of history
  4. The new age has already been ushered in
  5. All history is moving towards a goal: the new heavens and the new earth
If those 5 points don't bring a sense of peace to your soul than you better read them again.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Eschatological Outlook of the Old Testament


From The Bible and the Future by Anthony A. Hoekema:

"At the very beginning, there was an expectation of a coming redeemer, who would bruise or crush the head of the serpent. As time went on, there was a growing enrichment of eschatological expectation...we may certainly say that at various times the Old Testament believer looked for the following eschatological realities in the future:
  1. the coming redeemer
  2. the kingdom of God
  3. the new covenant
  4. the restoration of Israel
  5. the outpouring of the Spirit
  6. the day of the Lord
  7. the new heavens and the new earth
all these things loomed on the horizon of expectation." (11-12)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Giving to the poor


We had an interesting time of fellowship last night with the 'small group' that meets at my house on Friday nights. The discussion was on the atonement. However, as is often the case, we strayed off topic and had several interesting discussions about various topics.

One topic in particular that has stuck with me was concerning giving money to people on the street who beg for it. In response to that discussion I did some surfing this morning to try and find some answers to my questions about giving money to beggars.

I came across 2 interesting items:

1) A paper entitled A Biblical Theology of Poverty and Almsgiving by T. David Gordon was very interesting and informative.

2) This excerpt from a John Piper sermon found by doing a search at Desiring God:

It’s the overflow of the seminar I did on Prayer, Meditation, and Fasting a few weeks ago, as I pondered what it really means to enjoy fellowship with Jesus and anticipate meeting him face to face very shortly and giving an account of the way I have thought, for example, about giving to people who ask for money. I remember, specifically, in one of those hours asking the class: Suppose you die and you’re standing before Jesus Christ, who surrendered his body to spitting and shame and torture and death so that undeserving sinners (like you and me) might be drawn into eternal joy, and he inquires how you handled the people who asked you for money - you know, panhandlers, beggars, street people, drunks, drifters. What would you say?

(Emphasis mine)I suggested to them, and I suggest to you now, you’re not going to feel very good about saying, "I never got taken advantage of. I saw through their schemes. I developed really shrewd counter-questions that would expose them. So I hardly ever had to give anything." Do you know what I think the Lord Jesus is going to say to that - the Lord Jesus, the consummately, willingly, abused and exploited Jesus? I think he is going to say, "That was an exquisite imitation of the world. Even sinners give to those who deserve to be given to. Even sinners pride themselves on not being taken advantage of." Well this message is a spillover of some of those thoughts. (emphasis mine)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Ray Ortlund Jr. likes what Malcolm Muggeridge has to say.

I saw this on Christ Is Deeper Still:

Why I love Muggeridge

"By definition God belongs to eternity, not to time, and so is intrinsically immortal. The last Archbishop of Canterbury but one, Dr. Ramsey, appeared not to realize this when, to my amazement, at the end of a performance of Godspell, he rose to his feet and shouted, 'Long live God,' which, as I reflected at the time, was like shouting 'Carry on eternity' or 'Keep going infinity.' The incident made a deep impression on my mind because it illustrated the basic difficulty I met with when I was editor of Punch [magazine]: that the eminent so often say and do things which are infinitely more ridiculous than anything you can invent for them. That might not sound to you like a terrible difficulty but it is, believe me, the main headache of the editor of an ostensibly humorous paper. You go to great trouble to invent a ridiculous Archbishop of Canterbury and give him ridiculous lines to say and then suddenly he rises in his seat at the theater and shouts out 'Long live God.' And you're defeated, you're broken."

Malcolm Muggeridge, The End of Christendom, page 13.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Center of Gravity

A post inspired by Reading the Classics with Challies.





Chapter IV of Real Christianity by William Wilberforce is almost a book in itself. The author indicates the chapter is "ON THE PREVAILING INADEQUATE CONCEPTIONS CONCERNING THE NATURE AND THE STRICTNESS OF PRACTICAL CHRISTIANITY." In discussing this Wilberforce leaves few issues in the whole realm of Christianity untouched. There were so many significant quotes that I was forced to only record the very best or else I would be writing a book myself.

That being said, the following quote summarizes all of Wilberforce's words in this chapter:

Thus, never let it be forgotten, the main distinction between real Christianity, and the system of the nominal Christians, chiefly consists in the different place which is assigned in the two schemes to the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel. These in the scheme of nominal Christians, if admitted at all, appear but like the stars of the firmament to the ordinary eye. Those splendid luminaries draw forth perhaps occasionally a transient expression of admiration, when we behold their beauty, or hear of their distances, magnitudes, or properties: now and then too, we are led, perhaps, to muse upon their possible uses; but however curious as subjects of speculation, it must after all be confessed, they twinkle to the common observer with a vain and “idle” lustre; and except in the dreams of the astrologer, have no influence on human happiness, or any concern with the course and order of the world. But to the real Christian, on the contrary, THESE peculiar doctrines constitute the centre to which he gravitates! the very sun of his system! the origin of all that is excellent, and lovely the source of light, and life, and motion, and genial warmth, and plastic energy! (219-20, emphasis mine)

For the author, the doctrines that we believe and hold to are preeminent when it comes to both to right thinking and right actions. This is of huge significance considering that the author is a social activist par excellence!

For Wilberforce, the doctrines are the foundation on which we build our faith; excellent works without proper beliefs represent a building perilously balanced.

The expedient indeed of attaining to superiority in practice by not wasting any of the attention on the internal principles from which alone practice can flow, is about as reasonable, and will answer about as well, as the economy of the architect, who should account it mere prodigality to expend any of his materials in laying foundations, from an idea that they might be more usefully applied to the rising of the superstructure. (119)

Now to be certain, Wilberforce does not except faith without works either: "It is indeed true, and a truth never to be forgotten, that all pretensions to internal principles of holiness are vain when they are contradicted by the conduct; but it is no less true, that the only effectual way of improving the latter, is by a vigilant attention to the former." (119) But even as you have just read you must notice that the author's remedy for poor or non-existent actions is more serious focus on one's doctrines and beliefs.

As a matter of fact, Wilberforce attributes the nominal Christian's shortcomings to forgetfulness in three particular areas: "BUT the grand radical defect in the practical system of these nominal Christians, is their forgetfulness of all the peculiar doctrines of the religion which they profess - the corruption of human nature - the atonement of the Saviour - and the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit." (202) He has listed the doctrines of total depravity, atonement, and sanctification. For Wilberforce, the antidote to nominal Christianity and the prescription for 'Real Christianity' is found in orthodoxy which will lead to orthopraxy. For him, this is the center to which we gravitate.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Conference anyone?

I'm not much of a conference attender myself. But that's not to say I wouldn't like to go to one. I just haven't been to many and that's not likely to change in the near future. I can think of one conference I've been to in the last 10 years. It was a Ravi Zacharias International Ministries conference and its focus was apologetics. It was excellent. If I had the time and money, here are 3 conferences I would attend in 2009:

1) The Gospel Coalition 2009 National Conference - Entrusted with the Gospel: Living the Vision of Second Timothy

The theme of this Conference gets to the heart of the book of Second Timothy. As Paul is mentoring a young Timothy, he is communicating the great privilege of proclaiming the gospel to the world. In an age bereft of courageous leadership, declining biblical literacy, and rising cultural accommodation, a prophetic voice from the center is needed, a voice that faithfully speaks the ancient text to our contemporary context. This Conference seeks a renewal of faithful preaching that is rooted in the Scriptures and centered on the gospel.

The best of gospel-faithful ministry is not only taught, it is also caught. This was the practice of the Apostle Paul -- the great missionary of the early church -- who not only had much to say regarding what constitutes gospel-faithful ministry, but also had much to show of what it looked like in an individual life and in the life of the church. We see these two foci coming together harmoniously in Paul's letter to the church in Corinth:

On 21-23 April 2009, The Gospel Coalition will hold its second National Conference on the theme, "Entrusted with the Gospel: Living the Vision of Second Timothy."

2) WorshipGod09: From Generation to Generation

What are we teaching future generations about worshiping God? What kind of legacy will we leave? Will those who follow us be more impressed with our music or our God? Maybe the psalmist had those questions in mind when he wrote, “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4 ESV)?

To equip us for declaring the mighty acts of God to the next generation, John Piper, C.J. Mahaney, Jeff Purswell, and Thabiti Anyabwile will be addressing us at the general sessions of WorshipGod09. Keith and Kristyn Getty will also be with us, sharing their perspectives on songwriting and singing some of their timeless songs.

Seminars this year include intermediate and advanced instrumental tracks, encouraging physical expressiveness, raising up young worship leaders, teaching children about worship, songwriting, media applications, and much more. Don Whitney will be back to talk about family worship and cultivating a thirst for God.

3) Clarus 09 - The Convergence of Doctrine and Delight

Clarus, which is Latin for bright or clear, is Desert Springs Church's annual conference dedicated to understanding the Bible better. The goal of Clarus is to enlighten the church and clarify difficult theological issues.

Speaking: Dr. Ray Ortlund Jr. and Dr. Sam Storms