Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Through Death to Resurrection

In chapter 3 of Francis Schaeffer's book "True Spirituality"
he writes about what it would be like to experience what Paul speaks about in 2 Corinthians 2:2-4:
2I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.

Schaeffer states:
"Can't you imagine this man as he came back from heaven? He had seen it as a propositional truth, as a brute fact. He had been there, and looked at it, and then had come back. Would anything ever have looked the same to him again? It is as though he had died. It is as though he had been raised from the dead. Just as the Mount of Transfiguration gives us a different perspective when we are in the perspective of the kingdom of God, how different this man's perspective would have been all his life. The constant pressure to conform to the world about us, the social pressure and every other kind of pressure of our day-surely it would have been broken. How could he conform to this, which is so marred, so broken, so caught up in revolution against God, so disgusting? How could he, in comparison with what he had seen? What would the praise of the world be worth when one had stood in the presence of God? The wealth of the world, what would it look like beside the treasures of heaven? Man longs for power. But what is earthly power after one has seen the reality of heaven and the power of God? All things would look different. Surely all of this is involved in the statement that we are to live by faith now, as though we had died already, and already been raised from the dead."
He goes on to make six basic considerations for the Christians life:
  1. Christ died in history
  2. Christ rose in history
  3. We died with Christ in history, when we accepted him as Saviour
  4. We will be raised in history
  5. We are to live by faith now as though we were now dead, already have died
  6. We are to live now by faith as though we have now already been raised from the dead

The last point is the one that has gotten me thinking. What would my life really look like if I saw what Paul wrote about? God can do what he wants, when he wants, but I don't foresee visiting the foot of his throne anytime soon. I'll just be content with praying for the faith to live as though I have and came back.

Sam Storms' problems with the Arminian view of election

In Chapter Two of his book Chosen For Life, Storms addresses the Arminian view of election by describing, in a fair manner, their view on election followed by some problems he has with it.

He briefly list 5 potential problems:
  1. If one denies prevenient grace, as some Arminians do, it means that fallen humans are both willing and able to believe in Christ apart from regenerating grace
  2. Prevenient grace is not found in Scripture
  3. The Arminian view, in Storms' opinion, gives man something to boast about
  4. The view in discussion suspends God's work on man's will
  5. Claiming God's election is based on His foreknowledge proves nothing since God foreknows all things; there remains to be seen how man comes to put his faith in God
Storms also produces what I believe to be an excellent question for the Arminian:
"The question, then, is this: If God truly desires for all to be saved in the way the Arminian contends, and if he knows what it is in the means of persuasion contained in the gospel that brings people to say yes, why doesn't he orchestrate the presentation of the gospel in such a way that it will succeed in persuading all people to believe? The point is this: Surely the God who perfectly knows every human heart is capable of creating a world in which the gospel would prove successful in every case. And if God desires for all to be saved in the way the Arminian contends, why didn't He bring every one of them to salvation?"(Chosen For Life, 31)

Monday, June 29, 2009

We are nothing!

If we be not in good earnest in religion, and our wills and inclinations be not strongly exercised, we are nothing. The things of religion are so great, that there can be no suitableness in the exercises of our hearts, to their nature and importance, unless they be lively and powerful. In nothing is vigour in the actings of our inclinations so requisite, as in religion; and in nothing is lukewarmness so odious. True religion is evermore a powerful thing; and the power of it appears, in the first place in the inward exercises of it in the heart, where is the principal and original seat of it. Hence true religion is called the power of godliness, in distinction from the external appearances of it, that are the form of it, 2 Tim. 3:5: "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power of it." The Spirit of God, in those that have sound and solid religion, is a spirit of powerful holy affection; and therefore, God is said "to have given the Spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind," 2 Tim. 1:7. And such, when they receive the Spirit of God, in his sanctifying and saving influences, are said to be "baptized with the Holy Ghost, and with fire;" by reason of the power and fervour of those exercises the Spirit of God excites in their hearts, whereby their hearts, when grace is in exercise, may be said to "burn within them;" as is said of the disciples, Luke 24:32. - Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections, emphasis mine

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Hearing yet not changing: lack of religious affections!

There are many that often hear of the glorious perfections of God, his almighty power and boundless wisdom, his infinite majesty, and that holiness of God, by which he is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity, and the heavens are not pure in his sight, and of God's infinite goodness and mercy, and hear of the great works of God's wisdom, power and goodness, wherein there appear the admirable manifestations of these perfections; they hear particularly of the unspeakable love of God and Christ, and of the great things that Christ has done and suffered, and of the great things of another world, of eternal misery in bearing the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God, and of endless blessedness and glory in the presence of God, and the enjoyment of his dear love; they also hear the peremptory commands of God, and his gracious counsels and warnings, and the sweet invitations of the gospel; I say, they often hear these things and yet remain as they were before, with no sensible alteration in them, either in heart or practice, because they are not affected with what they hear; and ever will be so till they are affected. - Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections

John Piper on TV and Movies

In a 'Taste and See Article' at the Desiring God website John Piper writes an article on "Why I Don't Have a Television and Rarely Go To Movies".

Here is an excerpt:

I think relevance in preaching hangs very little on watching movies, and I think that much exposure to sensuality, banality, and God-absent entertainment does more to deaden our capacities for joy in Jesus than it does to make us spiritually powerful in the lives of the living dead. Sources of spiritual power—which are what we desperately need—are not in the cinema. You will not want your biographer to write: Prick him and he bleeds movies.

He lists several reasons for not watching entertainment:
  • the prolific sex in entertainment
  • its addictive tendencies
  • its trivialization of life
  • its deadening effects
  • its colossal waste of time
It is hard to argue with a quote like this:

All Christ-exalting transformation comes from “beholding the glory of Christ.” “Beholding the glory of the Lord, [we] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Whatever dulls the eyes of our mind from seeing Christ powerfully and purely is destroying us. There is not one man in a thousand whose spiritual eyes are more readily moved by the beauty of Christ because he has just seen a bare breast with his buddies.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sam Storms on Scripture and Affections

This excerpt by Sam Storms is from his book Convergence: Spiritual Journeys of a Charismatic Calvinist.

"Hear me well. Just as certain as that rose will turn brown and brittle and lose its allure, so too will our souls if they are not deeply and securely rooted in the soil of Holy Scripture. We may flourish for a season, perhaps even impress people with the color of our spirituality or the fragrance of our good deeds and the tenderness of our love for others. But in the absence of a continual supply of truth and knowledge and devotion to cultivating a mind aflame with the revelation of who God is in Christ, we will become like a wilted rose. Affections such as joy and love and hope and peace are essential to true Christian living, the sort of living that honors and glorifies and exalts Jesus. But they cannot long survive if severed from the rich soil of truth and doctrine and ever-expanding understanding in the mind of the splendor and majesty of God." (Convergence, p234-5)

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Princess Bride and Total Depravity

Rich had an excellent post on this blog a while back on total depravity: 911. Along those lines, I came across this at Andy Naselli's blog:

Mostly Dead vs. All Dead

This two-minute clip from The Princess Bride is my favorite light-hearted illustration of the Arminian view of human depravity (an issue integrally related to prevenient grace):

This is the notable part of the exchange:

“Well it just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. . . . Now mostly dead is slightly alive. All dead—well, with all dead, there’s only usually one thing that you can do.

“What’s that?”

“Go through his clothes and look for loose change.”

Recommended resources:

  1. William W. Combs, “Does the Bible Teach Prevenient Grace?Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal 10 (2005): 3–18.

  2. John Piper, “Total Depravity,” in “TULIP” (a nine-part seminar available in audio and video), 2008.

  3. Thomas R. Schreiner, “Does Scripture Teach Prevenient Grace in the Wesleyan Sense?” in Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge, and Grace (ed. Thomas R. Schreiner and Bruce A. Ware; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), 229–46.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contenment - Part 2 - Opening the Mystery

In Part 2, Burroughs recognizes that though many would desire to be content, the desire itself does not make contentment any more real in experience. He writes "But you will object: What you speak of is very good, if we could attain to it; but is it possible for anyone to attain to this? It is possible if you get skill in the art of it; you may attain to it, and it will prove to be not such a difficult thing either, if you but understand the mystery of it."

For Burroughs, part of the 'skill' of attaining contentment is to understand the 'mystery' of it. He proceeds to explain, in 15 points, the mystery of contentment:

  1. The first thing is, to show that there is a great mystery in it.
  2. A Christian comes to contentment, not so much by way of addition, as by way of subtraction.
  3. A Christian comes to contentment, not so much by getting rid of the burden that is on him, as by adding another burden to himself.
  4. It is not so much the removing of the affliction that is upon us as the changing of the affliction, the metamorphosing of the affliction, so that it is quite turned and changed into something else.
  5. A Christian comes to this contentment not by making up the wants of his circumstances, but by the performance of the work of his circumstances.
  6. A gracious heart is contented by the melting of his will and desires into God's will and desires; by this means he gets contentment.
  7. The mystery consists not in bringing anything from outside to make my condition more comfortable, but in purging out something that is within.
  8. He lives upon the dew of God's blessing.
  9. Not only in good things does a Christian have the dew of God's blessing.
  10. A godly man has contentment as a mystery, because he sees all his afflictions sanctified in Jesus Christ, sanctified in a mediator.
  11. A gracious heart has contentment by getting strength from Jesus Christ; he is able to bear his burden by getting strength from someone else.
  12. A godly heart enjoys much of God in everything he has, and knows how to make up all wants in God himself.
  13. A gracious heart gets contentment from the covenant that God has made with him.
  14. He has contentment by realizing the glorious things of heaven to him.
  15. The last thing that I would mention is this, a godly man has contentment by opening and letting out his heart to God.

Some of these suggestions may be unclear, but the author does an excellent job of 'fleshing them out' with explanations, Scripture references, examples and analogies.

Some of his suggestions are very practical. In particular, I would like to consider his fifth point which reads: A Christian comes to this contentment not by making up the wants of his circumstances, but by the performance of the work of his circumstances. This really is a gem. Instead of worrying, complaining, whining, fretting or performing any other non-profitable and possibly detrimental actions, Burroughs implores the reader to be proactive in seeking contentment.

Burroughs explains it as such: This is the way of contentment. There are these circumstances that I am in, with many wants: I want this and the other comfort-well, how shall I come to be satisfied and content? A carnal heart thinks, I must have my wants made up or else it is impossible that I should be content. But a gracious heart says, 'What is the duty of the circumstances God has put me into?’"

This practical application of Burroughs' 'opening of the mystery of contentment' is doubly profitable. Firstly, it is part of process to learning the art of contentment. Secondly, it will be of benefit that one is actually doing something instead of moping or stewing over his or her difficult circumstances. "Let me exert my strength to perform the duties of my present circumstances. Others spend their thoughts on things that disturb and disquiet them, and so they grow more and more discontented."

Burroughs finishes this point with an appeal to the sovereignty of God: "O that should be the care of a Christian, to serve out God's counsels. What is the counsel of God? The circumstances that I am in, God has put me into by his own counsel, the counsel of his own will. Now I must serve God's counsel in my generation; whatever is the counsel of God in my circumstances, I must be careful to serve that. So I shall have my heart quieted for the present, and shall live and die peaceably and comfortably, if I am careful to serve God's counsel."

This is solid instruction. I hope to be able to apply this practically to situations I face. Along with the authors other suggestions, I think this point will help us uncover the 'rare jewel' that is Christian contentment.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Athanasius: A Theological Introduction by Thomas G. Weinandy

“Sin, for Athanasius, is the turning away from God and all that pertains to him and a lustful self-centered turning inward to what pertains to man and his earthly bodily life with all its sensual pleasures.” (15)

For Athanasius, as the Son of God was the original acting agent within the order of creation, so the Son will now be the acting agent within the order of redemption. Following the biblical historical narrative of God’s revelation, Athanasius insightfully perceives that the Son of God, as the Father’s Word and Wisdom, inextricably conjoins protology and soteriology and, ultimately, eschatology.” (28)

Quoting Athanasius from De Incarnatione:
“For His it was once more both to bring the corruptible to incorruption, and to maintain intact the just claim of the Father upon all. For being Word of the Father, and above all, He alone of natural fitness was both able to recreate everything, and worthy to suffer on behalf of all and to be ambassador for all with the Father. (7.5)” (31)

“In order to address all of these intertwined issues adequately, the Word of God, who is incorporeal, incorruptible, and immortal, must, for Athanasius, assume what is corporeal, corruptible and mortal, and he does so precisely in becoming a man.” (32)

“Before proceeding further, it is important to note that the biblical nature of Athanasius’ response to the Arian crisis is evident from the onset. Athansius is well aware of the philosophical issues involved; yet these will be addressed primarily from within a biblical context. It is to the Bible primarily that he turns to oppose the Arian position and to defend and expound what he considers the orthodox faith, and thus much of his argumentation focuses and converges on the right reading and proper exegesis of biblical passages and concepts.” (66)

“For Athanasius the incarnational ‘becoming’ means neither ‘come into’ nor ‘change into’. Well, what then does ‘become’ mean for Athanasius? While somewhat hidden, it lies in the very denials. Athanasius is ultimately saying the following: ‘The Son of God actually does become man and does not merely come into man, but by saying that he “actually becomes” man, I do not mean that he “changes into” man, for the one who is man remains the Son of God.’” (86-7)

“Again, as Athanasius had argued strenuously for the Son’s divinity in order to ensure humankind’s salvation, so that same motivation is present throughout his affirmation of the Spirit’s divinity. If the Spirit is not God, then he cannot sanctify and vivify and so cannot transform human beings into the likeness of the Son and so make them children of the Father.” (119)

Quoting Athanasius in Festal Letter 10:
“For He suffered to prepare freedom from suffering for those who suffer in Him, He descended that He might raise us up, He took on Him the trial of being born, that we might love Him Who is unbegotten, He went down to corruption, that corruption might put on immortality, He became weak for us, that we might rise with power, He descended to death, that He might bestow on us immortality, and give life to the dead. Finally, He became man, that we who die as men might live again, and that death should no more reign over us; for the Apostolic word proclaims, 'Death shall not have the dominion over us(10.8).’” (123)

“Athanasius knew well enough that the term homoousion would never have entered the minds of the evangelists or Paul as they professed their belief in the one God as Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, but he rightly recognized that the proper understanding of homoousion was lodged within the New Testament from the outset.” (136)

“In closing, I hope Athanasius’ theological significance is now evident. He was a man who fought the good fight of faith for the faith, and won.” (139)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Athanasius on the Image

Colossians 1:15 - He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

“For Athanasius, being made in the image of the Image means that human beings could know the Image, and so knowing the Image, know the Father himself.” (Athanasius: A Theological Introduction, 35)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Summer of Sam

With the official start to summer just past and a fresh sunburn giving me a lesson in the consequences of negligent skin-protection choice, I decided to name this season the Summer of Sam.

If you have heard of the Summer of Sam before you are probably thinking of 1999 crime-drama directed by Spike Lee. I never saw the movie but wikipedia tells me it was based around the Son of Sam serial murders. That sounds very morbid and I deny any similarity between my Summer of Sam and the movie or the serial killings.

My Summer of Sam has to do with the pastor, theologian and author Sam Storms. If you don't already know about Sam Storms you can see his bio here which is at his ministry's website; Enjoying God Ministries. This is an excellent website with many profitable resources that Dr. Storms has made available to the public. I have come to appreciate Dr. Storms' teaching and writing through various mp3 downloads and the aforementioned resources at his site. I also highly recommend the audio downloads from the Clarus 09 conference that he and Ray Ortlund Jr. ministered at this past spring.

However, let's get on to why this will be the Summer of Sam. I have decided to read a large portion of Dr. Storms' books. Last winter I did a similar endeavour with another author; J. I. Packer. I bought 6 Packer titles and read them consecutively. I found it very enriching and edifying and so I thought I would try it again with a different author.

The three other bloggers at this site and myself had decided to read Storms' book Signs of the Spirit along with The religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards. Dr. Storms is a recognized Edwards-expert of sorts and Signs of the Spirit is something of a interpretation/introduction/companion to Edwards' classic work on religious affections.

That decision spurred me on to order 2 more Storms titles: Convergence and Chosen for Life. Convergence has some autobiographical material that I thought would be helpful for starting out. His journey from being a cessationist to a 'charismatic-Calvinist' will be fascinating and educational I'm sure. Chosen for Life is a book recommended by Desiring God ministries and that alone was recommendation enough for me.

I'm not sure what books of Dr. Storms I'll go to from there but I think that will be a good start to the Summer of Sam.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Neither Poverty Nor Riches: Summary, Conclusions, and Applications

From Neither Poverty Nor Riches by Craig L. Blomberg:

Biblical material summary:

Pentateuch – goodness of wealth and God’s desire to bless his people with material possessions

Law – restriction of use and accumulation of property

Historical – the negative effects of wealth consolidation

Prophets – economic injustice

Wisdom and Poetry – wealth as a reward for faithfulness and industry; warnings against the wicked rich and ill-gotten gain; justice will come at the end of time

New Testament – carried forth many Old Testament principles with the exception of material wealth as a guaranteed reward for spiritual obedience or hard work; all Christians should have access to houses and fields thanks to the generosity of other Christians

Bible – never views material poverty as good; God wills his people to distribute wealth more equitably; God and mammon are rival masters; almsgiving integral to kingdom of God (241-3)

Additional Conclusions:

  1. Material possessions are a good gift from God meant for his people to enjoy
  2. Material possessions are also one of the primary means of turning human hearts away from God
  3. A necessary sign of life in redemption is that of transformation in the area of stewardship
  4. There are certain extremes of wealth and poverty which are in and of themselves intolerable
  5. The Bible’s teaching about material possessions is inextricably intertwined with more ‘spiritual’ matters. (243-7)


  1. If wealth is an inherent good, Christians should try and gain it
  2. If wealth is seductive, giving away surplus is a good strategy for resisting the temptation to overvalue it
  3. If stewardship is a sign of a redeemed life, the Christians will want to give
  4. If certain extremes of wealth and poverty are intolerable, then those with excess (i.e., most readers of the book) will work hard to help those in need
  5. If holistic salvation represents the ultimate good, then our charitable giving should be directed to people or groups that minister holistically (247)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Religious Affections

Edward's Big Questions

What are the distinguishing qualifications of those who are in favor with God, and entitled to his eternal rewards? Or which comes to the same thing What is the nature of true religion? And wherein do lie the distinguishing notes of that virtue and holiness that is acceptable in the sight of God? (1)

Literature (at least the bulk medical research literature) is filled with excellent studies and trials that are well designed, well carried out, analyzed to statistical perfection but have failed to ask a clinically relevant question - a question that means something in real life, to real people. So when I picked up Religious Affections and was greeted on page one by Edward's questions I was genuinely excited about what answers he may have because these questions are acutely relevant to anyone who professes Christ.

He begins from a scripture written to Christians under persecution or trial

1Pe 1:8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
  • trials above all things have a tendency to distinguish between true religion and false(6)
  • trials make the genuine beauty and amiableness [of true religion] remarkably to appear. True virtue never appears so lovely as when it is most oppressed(7)
  • trials purify and increase true religion(7)
The manner of true religion is manifest in trials by the following responses:
  • Love to Christ - a supernatural principle of love to something unseen; they loved Jesus Christ, for they saw him spiritually whom the world saw not
  • Joy in Christ - their inward spiritual joys were greater than their outward sufferings
Further notes on the nature of that joy
  1. it arises from faith
  2. it is different from worldly joy and "unspeakable" in that it is more vastly pure, sublime, and heavenly nature, being something supernatural and truly divine, and so ineffably excellent; the sublimity and exquisite sweetness of which, there were no words to set forth
  3. it was full of glory - it was a preliberation of the joy of heaven, that raised their minds to a degree of heavenly blessedness
From all of this Edward's proposes that "True religion, in great part, consists of holy affections."

What a challenge when you are facing adversity to put your attitudes and behaviors up a against the standard of scripture! Lord have mercy on me and allow your joy to pervade my mind and spirit as I face persecution however great or small.

I am anticipating some God ordained personal challenges as I read this book but it is exciting none-the-less.

Neither Poverty Nor Riches: Still More Quotes

More Quotes from Craig L. Blomberg's book entitled Neither Poverty Nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Material Possesions:

“While the materially impoverished of our world should provoke Christian compassion, irrespective of their world-view of religious allegiance, James 2:5 in not teaching anything about automatic religious superiority based on low socio-economic standing, even if it is often the case that the materially poor more quickly recognize their dependence on God than the material rich.” (152)

“So, too, professing Christians today who have surplus income (i.e. a considerable majority of believers in the Western world), who are aware of the desperate needs locally and globally, not least within the Christian community (a situation almost impossible to be unaware of, given our barrage of media coverage), and who give none of their income, either through church or other Christian organizations, to help the materially destitute of the world, ought too ask themselves whether any claims of faith they might make could stand up before God’s bar of judgment.” (155)

“Together, these two examples in verses 10-11 [James 5] strongly suggest Christians today should besiege God with complaints about injustice, particularly among the oppressed poor of our lands, and plead before God’s people for a greater measure of compassion, generosity, and sacrifice.” (159)

On the earliest Christian community: “There is no once-for-all divesture of property in view here, but periodic acts of charity as needs arose.” (162) “What is more, it is only consumption and not also production that is shared in Acts’ model.” (162) “Interestingly, what does not appear in this paragraph [Acts 4:32-5:11] is any statement of complete equality among believers. Presumably, there was quite a spectrum, ranging from those who still help property which they had not sold (cf. the reference to the home of John Mark in Acts 12:12) all the way to those who were still living at a very basic level. But the church was committed to taking the principle of Deuteronomy 15:4 very seriously: ‘there should be no poor among you’.” (165)

“On protestant presuppositions, all Christians should be committed to modeling patterns of generous benefaction without the expectation of reciprocity. The various particulars will change from situation to situation, but generous giving rather than selfish hoarding, accompanied by compassionate commitment to doing what will most help the genuinely needy, must remain a priority for God’s people.” (175)

Although one cannot move directly from these texts [1 and 2 Thessalonians] to determine in detail what modern welfare reform should look like, one can find certain precedents here, namely: 1, the Christian community taking great pains to ensure that the genuinely needy in their midst do not suffer because of the lack of an adequate government programme for them; and 2. a concern to put as many to work as possible, even in conditions of higher unemployment than in most First World countries today.” (182)

“Contemporary applications of these principles [as found in 1 Corinthians] should lead congregations to seek to compensate generously those who lead them in Christian ministry.” (187)

“Just as we pointed out the Israelites would have gathered and consumed varying amounts in the wilderness according to their needs, so, too, Paul is not enunciating the ideal of some fully egalitarian communism. But he does recognize that there are extremes of wealth and poverty which are intolerable in the Christian community.” (194)

“In 2 Corinthians 9:6-11, Paul returns to the theme introduced briefly in Galatians 6:6…Wealth is portrayed as a good, particularly if it leads to generosity.” (196)

“But there appears to be no support in either Testament for God’s people to refuse to pay taxes simply because they disagree with the way their government spends that money. Particularly if part of Paul’s purpose in penning these words was to respond to civil unrest in the late 50s ‘centering upon abuses in the collection of taxes’ (Byrne 1996: 386), it must be God’s will that Christians render financial tribute to the government even when the authorities spend some of that money in ways that displease God. Otherwise it would have been impossible for Paul to commend paying taxes to a pagan, totalitarian regime that ultimately came to deify itself.” (200)

“Paul may not issue any of Jesus’ wide-ranging or radical calls to abandon everything, although we have already argued that none of those calls was intended to be normative for all believers in the first place. But he does insist that Hellenistic Christians be equally counter-cultural in rejecting the systems of patronage and reciprocity so endemic in their culture. And he calls all believers to act as generous benefactors regardless of their net worth and with no thought of any material reward in this life. Should they fall into acute need, they should be able to count on their fellow believers to minister to them, even as they are expected to give from their surplus at the moment. In short, Paul commands generosity simply because it honors God; the only guaranteed rewards await in the life to come.” (212)

Friday, June 19, 2009

On Disciplined Reading

Between Two Worlds posts about disciplined reading:

At the Between the Times blog (from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary), Professor Bruce Ashford has an excellent series on disciplined reading. Here are the five parts of the series:
  • On Disciplined Reading
  • What Should I Read? Choosing from a Vast Array of Options
  • How Should I Read? Tips on Getting the Most from Your Reading
  • Why Should I Read? Other Advantages of Reading
  • Questions, Answers, and Concluding Thoughts
  • Quotes from Frame on Ethics, Epistemology and Metaphysics

    The last 2 chapters from Frame's book The Doctrine of God have provided some tough slogging. Here are a few quotes that piqued my interest:

    Speaking of secular ethics: "The main problem is not conceptual confusion, a lack of logical skill, or ignorance of the facts, although such problems do exist in both Christian and non-Christian ethical systems. The chief problem is rather unbelief itself.Secular ethics, like secular epistemology, seeks to find an absolute somewhere other than in the Word of God." (194)

    "A fully Christian ethic accepts only God's word as final." (195)

    "But to determine what Scripture says about a particular ethical problem, we must know more than the text of Scripture. To know what Scripture says about abortion, we must know something about abortion." (196)

    "Put in more practical terms, this means that when we face an ethical problem,or when we are counseling someone else, we need to ask three questions: (1) What is the problem? (the situational perspective). (2) What does Scripture say about it? (the normative perspective). (3) What changes are needed to do the right thing? (the existential perspective)." (196)

    "So God is knowable and known, and yet mysterious, wondrous, and incomprehensible." (201)

    "So the incomparability of God in limited by the comparisons that he himself has given to us in his revelation." (202)

    "Norman Shepherd in a class lecture drew a circle on the board representing our knowledge of God. The circumference represented our exposure to the mystery outside the circle. He then increased the size of the circle to represent an increase in our knowledge of God. But when the circle got larger, so did the circumference, and so did, therefore, our exposure to mystery. The more we know, the more we become aware of what we don't know." (202, footnotes)

    "Is God's essence, then, knowable? Yes and no. Yes in that Scripture tells us about some qualities that define God as distinct from other beings, some of which we have already discussed in this book. And when Scripture describes God, it describes him as he really and truly is. So its definitions of God enable us to know him, indeed, know his essence. No, God's essence is not knowable, in that our knowledge of God is certainly not exhaustive." (205)

    "Such biblical terms as holiness, goodness, and eternity express God's essence. They tell us what he really is, for Scripture is true. They define him, because through them God has defined himself." (205)

    "No, creatures are not necessarily less good than God. Rather, there goodness is of a different kind...So we have here, fundamentally, not a continuum, but a distinction between everything divine and everything creaturely." (219)

    "Is it likely that God's holiness, for example, is less essential to his being than spirit, light, and love?...I think not. The biblical passages dealing with these and related attributes, such as his personality, goodness, loving-kindness, and so on, present them as qualities that can never fail, without which God would not be God." (228)

    "As indicated earlier, I agree with Aquinas' view that God exists necessarily. He does not merely happen to exist; he must exist. His nonexistence is impossible." (230)

    "The point, rather, is that God's existence is necessary to the very existence of logic, for he is the very source of logical truth." (231)

    "Certainly some of God's choices are constrained by his own nature. He cannot lie (Titus 1:2), and he cannot deny himself (2 Tim. 2:13). There are, we may say, preventers in God's nature that keep him from doing such things." (234)

    "With these explanations, then, I would say that God's essential attributes and actions are necessary, but that his decrees and acts of creation, providence, and redemption are free. They are free,not merely in a compatibilist sense, not at all in a libertarian sense, but in the sense that weknow nothing in God's nature that constrains these acts or prevents their opposites." (236)

    Thursday, June 18, 2009

    Ya gotta love this!

    I came across this at In Light of the Gospel:
    Ya Gotta Have (Real) Friends
    June 13th, 2009 by JHG

    I enjoy reading Front Porch Republic, and this week Caleb Stegall posted a link to an article at Wall Street Journal by his friend Tony Woodlief (who blogs here). The title of the article is, “Ya Gotta Have (Real) Friends.” It is a reflection on modern friendships, Facebook, and life. Near the end of his essay, Tony explains:

    “My 298 Facebook friends aren’t the ones who remember our dead daughter’s birthday or leave flowers at her grave. Nor among them is the pastor who baptized each of our children and waged a personal holy war to keep our marriage from crumbling years ago. We have these deeper friendships because we’ve tried to build a life in one place. They sprang up because the stuff of life happened to this cluster of us living near one another, and much of it was too joyous or heartbreaking not to share with someone. If friendship is the key to happiness, then maybe this is the key to friendship, to be enmeshed — not just tangentially or voyeuristically, but physically — in the lives of others. That can be hard to swallow in a culture that prizes individualism, mobility and privacy.”

    Thanks for reminding us of this Tony.

    Reading the Classics with Challies - The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

    I have been through and am going through a fairly troublesome time. In the big scheme of things it really isn't too big of a deal. But a career change at the age of 36 still presents some difficulties. These trying times have revealed something that I'm fairly confident I would have confessed beforehand: I'm not nearly as content as I should be.

    The book that has been chosen for 'Reading the Classics with Challies' has already had an impact on me. The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs is clearly going to challenge me and hopefully help develop my character in an area that needs the work.

    Burroughs definition of Christian contentment as presented in the book is as follows: "Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition." Now, I can assure you that my frame of spirit over the ensuing changes in my life has been anything but sweet, quiet, or gracious. And though I may have been submitting to God's disposal, it has been grudgingly as opposed to with delight.

    This may not have been apparent to everyone. I display some traits that may cause others to believe I am content but to which, in Burroughs opinion, Christian contenment is opposed to. "But now the gracious frame of spirit is in opposition to three things: 1. In opposition to the natural quietness of many men and women. 2. In opposition to a sturdy resolution. Some men through the strength of a sturdy resolution do not seem to be troubled, come what may. 3. By way of distinction from the strength of natural (though unsanctified) reason, which may quiet the heart in some degree."

    I am naturally a quiet person; at least in regards to my inner dealings. I am fairly resolute in a natural way and I often use reason to quiet my heart to some degree. But this is not the 'jewel' that Burroughs extols for the Christian.

    I don't want to just 'get through' this experience. I want to learn and grow and be sanctified by this divinely ordained process. I want to be able to say "not only do I see that I should be content in this affliction, but I see that there is good in it." I want my inner man to reflect the attitude in this quote: "It is, indeed, the top and the height of this art of contentment to come to this pitch and to be able to say, 'Well, my condition and afflictions are so and so, and very grievous and sore; yet, through God's mercy, I am in a good condition, and the hand of God is good upon me notwithstanding.'"

    I am in complete agreement with Burroughs when he states "I suppose that merely in opening this subject you begin to see that it is a lesson that you need to learn, and that if contentment is like this then it is not easily obtained." Nevertheless, I purpose to obtain Christian contentment by the grace of God.

    Wednesday, June 17, 2009

    Athanasius on the Son

    I came across this memorable quote while reading Athanasius: A Theological Introduction by Thomas G. Weinandy:

    "He is the Father's Power and Wisdom and Word, not being so by participation , nor as if these qualifies were imparted to Him from without, as they are to those who partake of Him and are made wise by Him, and receive power and reason in Him; but He is the very Wisdom, very Word, and very own Power of the Father, very Light, very Truth, very Righteousness, very Virtue, and in truth His express Image, and Brightness, and Resemblance. And to sum all up, He is the wholly perfect Fruit of the Father, and is alone the Son, and unchanging Image of the Father. (46.8)”

    The quote comes from the Athanasius work entitled Contra Gentes. Athanasius is, of course, referring to God the Son.

    Neither Poverty Nor Riches: a Few More Quotes

    From the book Neither Poverty Nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Material Possessions by Craig L. Blomberg:

    • “Thus it is clear that the man [the rich fool in Luke 12] is condemned not just for being rich. Still, it is important for professing Christians today to ask themselves how many unused surplus goods, property or investments they accumulate without any thought for the needy of our world. If the parallels become too close, presumably Jesus would say that their professions of faith are vacuous.” (119)

    • “Self-justification or rationalization of one’s attachment or material possessions continues to trouble those in every age of human history, including those who, like most Pharisees in Jesus’ day, are also generous in giving to charity. Only God knows a person’s true motives.” (123)

    • “The parables always contain a spiritual dimension relating to Christian discipleship, forgiveness, salvation by grace, and the like, as the primary foci of God’s kingdom or dynamic reign. But this discipleship will inevitably produce a tangible impact in the area of stewardship of material possessions.” (126)

    • “There is no indication in any of Jesus’ stories that this kind of stewardship can ever be quantified or that any economic reversals would ever lead to pure egalitarianism. But it is clear that Jesus believes there extremes of riches and poverty that are intolerable in the circle of his followers.” (127)

    • “The principles of the Sermon on the Mount/Plain are meant not as a constitution for government or merely as a guideline for individuals, but as a manifesto for those already willing to follow Jesus in the context of ‘church’.” (128)

    • “Both versions of the sermon begin with the beatitudes, and the beatitudes commence with Jesus declaring the ‘poor’ to be blessed. The Greek word ptochos is the term that referred to someone not just below the poverty-line but utterly destitute.” (128)

    • “All of this suggests that Jesus was not commanding, either in his day or in ours, that his followers necessarily give all beggars everything they demand. What is best for them is not always what they request. But to the extent we can determine people’s genuine physical or material needs, we should be concerned to point them towards the kind of help that stands a reasonable chance of remedying the situation.” (130)

    • “Jesus is not teaching that we can never store or safeguard possessions, but we must scrupulously determine which are really necessary.” (131)

    • “Thus, when we come to Mark 10:21b, we must be sure to read all of it. The command to sell everything and give to the poor cannot be separated from the accompanying, climactic command, ‘Then come follow me.’ The only charity that counts is what comes as the price of discipleship.” (139)

    • “Zacchaeus comes to salvation not by his stewardship, but by his encounter with the Son of Man.” (141)

    • “The good news of the gospel is consistently holistic, according to the teaching of Jesus. Material sustenance without spiritual salvation proves meaningless, but the liberation that God in Christ grants regularly includes a physical or material dimension to it as well. The only way God’s people can consistently obey all of his commands is as the entire Christian community worldwide, and any local expression of it, increasingly captures the vision of sharing its resources with the needy in its midst.” (145)

    • “Nevertheless, there is a clear emphasis in Jesus’ ministry and teaching on meeting the needs of the outcasts and have-nots of this world.” (145)

    • “It goes too far to say that one cannot be rich and be a disciple of Jesus, but what never appears in the Gospels are well-to-do followers of Jesus who are not simultaneously generous in almsgiving and in divesting themselves of surplus wealth for the sake of those in need.” (145)

    • “The covenant model that assumes material reward for piety never appears in Jesus’ teaching, and is explicitly contradicted throughout.” (145)

    Tuesday, June 16, 2009

    The Dilemmna of Duty

    It seems to me that the puritans placed high value on duty. It also seems that modern Christianity does not see the value and delight of duty as the puritans did. For example, consider a quote I came across on Tony Reinke's blog Miscellanies and a quote by Jeremiah Burroughs from The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.

    From Miscellanies:

    “A perfect man would never act from a sense of duty; he’d always want the right thing more than the wrong one. Duty is only a substitute for love (of God and of other people) like a crutch which is a substitute for a leg. Most of us need the crutch at times; but of course it is idiotic to use the crutch when our own legs (our own loves, tastes, habits, etc.) can do the journey on their own.” —C.S. Lewis, Letters, 18 July 1957.

    From A Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment:

    "We should prize duty more highly than to be distracted by every trivial occasion. Indeed, a Christian values every service of God so much that though some may be in the eyes of the world and of natural reason a slight and empty business, beggarly elements, or foolishness, yet since God calls for it, the authority of the command so overawes his heart that he is willing to spend himself and to be spent in discharging it."

    This is one topic I would like to investigate further.

    Monday, June 15, 2009


    An interesting quote from Albert Einstein which you may have heard before goes like this "Example isn't another way to teach, it is the only way to teach”.  I fully admit that I use this quote regularly from the point of view of the teacher and more recently I have been paying attention to it from the position of a student.  
    Jude recently put up a post from JP Moreland's book which provoked a few more questions for me.  In response to Moreland's quote on the Christian mind I asked myself "What kind of person do I want to be and how badly do I want it?"  I also thought it beneficial to share this with my household so I printed Moreland's quote and my question out in large font, landscape orientation, and stuck it to our refrigerator (aka the local blog spot of our home).  I'm hoping to generate some discussion with my two sons.  
    Here's the problem - it is very difficult to get past the first part of that question (What kind of person do you want to be) without a frame of reference.  For a quick example, if you are unaware that the world record for the 100m is 9.69 s, you might be satisfied with your current personal best of 13.4 s (alright I'm slow).  Furthermore, if you know that Usain Bolt holds that record, you might be able to pick up a few pointers from him - study his tape, listen to him at a 100m conference or read his book.  You might also get some idea of "the price he was willing to pay to order his lifestyle appropriately" to achieve that goal.  So I've started writing a table listing the spiritual fruits, virtues, Godly attributes on the vertical axis and 3 columns (Bible character, non-Bible deceased Christian, and living Christian) to remind myself of real people who I should be striving to follow as role models in as much as they imitate Christ.  I'll post the table when a few more blanks are filled.
    I Cor 11:1  Be imitators of me as I am of Christ - Paul-

    Neither Poverty Nor Riches: a Few Quotes

    From the book Neither Poverty Nor Riches by Craig L. Blomberg:

    • “The wealth of the patriarchs must therefore be understood within its clear covenantal context. This wealth is tied directly to God’s plan to give his people a special land. In the Christian era, in which believers do not live in a uniquely promised land, we must take care not to assume that wealth necessarily, or even frequently, represents God’s blessing.” (36)

    • “No command issued to Old Testament followers of Yahweh necessarily carries over into the Christian era unchanged, but every command reflects principles at some level that are binding on Christians.” (39)

    • “So, without necessarily calling into question the wisdom of modern distinctions between legal and illegal aliens for legislative purposes, it would seem unconscionable that any Christian should ever support efforts to withhold basic human services from the neediest in any land, regardless of their country of origin.” (48)

    • “Wealth can be a sign of God’s blessing, even if it is not always related to an individual’s or a nation’s obedience. But the unique covenant arrangements between God and Israel prevent us from generalizing and saying that god must materially reward his faithful people in other nations or eras.” (51)

    • “In passing, this text shows that ‘the lending of money was itself no evil; better that a man should be in debt than that he should have to beg his bread. Nehemiah shows no remorse for having been a money lender’. Instead, he focuses on the usury.” (54-5)

    • “God may have made a unique arrangement with the people of Israel to bless them materially in response to their covenant faithfulness, but he calls all people to care for the needy, seek justice and use their wealth compassionately.” (71)

    Sunday, June 14, 2009

    The General Value of Apologetics

    An Excerpt from J. P. Moreland's book Love Your God With All Your Mind:

    I am not suggesting the only thing in Scripture relevant to evangelism is rational argument and apologetics. However, I am suggesting that apologetics is an absolutely essential ingredient to biblical evangelism. And it is easy to see why. An emphasis on reasoning in evangelism makes the truthfulness of the gospel the main issue, not the self-interested "fulfillment" of the listener. Felt needs are important, but if they are made the issue, Christianity will be seen as just another means of helping the convert overcome his problems, along with his therapist and workout routine. Let me repeat - there is a place for simple gospel presentation and for addressing people's felt needs in our evangelistic strategy. But these should never be the tail that wags the dog, at least not if our evangelism is to express biblical teaching and common sense. If the truth of a message is important, apologetical reasoning will be a crucial part of evangelism because it places the emphasis where it should be - on the truth of the message. (132-3)

    Children....lots of them.

    I came across 2 posts on children at In Light of the Gospel:

    Should Christians Have Large Families?
    June 13th, 2009 by JHG

    Craig Carter thinks we should. He found Akin’s comments from Joe Carter’s post, and provided these six reasons for large families:

    1. God has never rescinded his command to “be fruitful and multiply.”
    2. There are numerous passages in the OT that view children as a blessing from the Lord (eg. Ps. 127:3).
    3. Contrary to much conventional wisdom, the world’s birth rate is declining rapidly…
    4. Christians have hope for the future because of our faith in God.
    5. All abortion and some forms of contraception should be rejected by Christians.
    6. Christians need to submit their wills to God and accept children as gifts from Him, rather than as “projects” or “products” of our own wills.

    Read the whole post for his explanations.

    Less Children = Less Christians
    June 13th, 2009 by JHG

    You probably think that statement comes from a Presbyterian, or at least someone of a covenantal persuasion in terms of the covenantal nurture of children. Well, then, you might be surprised at this one.

    This week Trevin Wax posted a 4 part interview Dr. Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Seminary. Here are the individual posts:

    The second one caught my eye when Trevin posted it. He asked Dr. Akin, “What do you think are the major reasons for the declining number of baptisms and our shrinking membership?”

    Akin gives two answers. First, Southern Baptists have become “practical inclusivists” because they have no sense of the “urgency about the plight of the lost.” Akin’s second answer is worth quoting in full:

    Secondly, Dr. Mohler has pointed out a fact that is kind of funny and sad at the same time. You can almost document the stagnation and decline of baptisms within the Southern Baptist Convention as the decline in the number of children that Baptist have.

    The truth is, (and I said this in my Axioms sermon that’s either famous or infamous depending on your perspective) we have bought into the mindset of the modern world in that we think that less children is best or at least better. Because we have less children, we have less family members coming to faith in Christ.

    This is amazing! He does qualify his answer by saying that Baptists have been baptizing children at a very young age, and they need to stop because that is not really Baptist. Nevetheless, this issue is so important. What you have here is a Baptist acknowledging that the future of the church is bound up in our children. Sounds very biblical to me, but I am not too sure that Baptist theology reflects the importance of what it means to “disciple” those children and nurture them in the faith, as opposed to pressing those children into some kind of crisis conversion. At the very least it means that Baptists need to engage and develop a more robust theology of children than they currently have.

    Saturday, June 13, 2009

    Passion and Perseverance

    I have an affinity for these two virtues. And by affinity, I'm not suggesting I'm particularly developed in either two. But I think about them a lot and I speak to people about them a lot. I am currently reading J. P. Moreland's book called Love Your God With All Your Mind. Moreland touches upon these virtues in the following quote:

    The Christian thinker should be a passionate person filled with ardor or zeal [both are synonymous with passion] - zeal for God and truth. The zeal expresses itself in a passion to know and to do the truth and to live a religiously reasonable form of life. It also helps make possible the vigilance [perseverance] necessary to stick to a life of study when it is not convenient or not particularly valued by those around you...An impatient generation looking for instant solutions and quick answers will be a generation of shallow slogans. (109-10)

    I also came across these two virtues in a recent blog post by Ray Ortlund Jr at his blog Christ Is Deeper Still:

    Zeal and resolve

    The righteous are bold as a lion. Proverbs 28:1

    "Two things urgently needed in ministers, if they would attempt great advances for the kingdom of Christ, are zeal and resolve. Their influence and power for impact are greater than we think. A man of ordinary abilities will accomplish more with zeal and resolve than a man ten times more gifted without zeal and resolve. . . . Men who are possessed by these qualities commonly carry the day in almost all affairs. Most of the great things that have been done in the world, the great revolutions that have been accomplished in the kingdoms and empires of the earth, have been primarily owing to zeal and resolve. The very appearance of a intensely engaged spirit, together with a fearless courage and unyielding resolve, in any person that has undertaken leadership in any human affair goes a long way toward accomplishing the intended outcome. . . . When people see a high degree of zeal and resolve in a person, it awes them and has a commanding influence upon them. . . . But while we are cold and heartless and only go on in a dull manner, in an old formal round, we will never accomplish anything great. Our efforts, when they display such coldness and irresolution, will not even make people think of yielding. . . . The appearance of such indifference and cowardice does, as it were, call for and provoke opposition. Our misery is lack of zeal and courage."

    Jonathan Edwards, "Thoughts on the Revival," in Works, I:424, paraphrased.

    I see 'zeal and resolve' as yet another facet of passion and perseverance. I think perseverance, resolve, persistence, or vigilance are all a product of both God's Spirit at works and us and our co-operation with Him in sanctification. For our part, I believe our choice to persevere is informed by our mind and our emotions. Generally, I think we know that persisting is the right thing to do. But our emotions are not always 'on board' with that decision. And that is where passion comes in.

    Being passionate, having zeal and ardor, is the emotional stance that will help us to persevere. Passion is basically strength of emotion and zeal is tireless devotion. When we are passionate our emotional state is one that cries "keep on keeping on".

    Keep your eyes open for another post describing how to maintain passion in your life.

    Friday, June 12, 2009

    Paying the price!

    To develop a Christian mind skillfully, you must want to be a certain kind of person badly enough that you are willing to pay the price of ordering your lifestyle appropriately. - J. P. Moreland, Love Your God With All Your Mind, p105

    Thursday, June 11, 2009

    What is quietness of spirit opposed to?

    In The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Jeremiah Burroughs indicates that one of the hallmarks of Christian contentment is 'quietness of spirit'. This is apparent if we consider his definition of Christian contentment: Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.

    To help clarify, Burroughs shares what proper quietness of spirit is opposed to:

    But what, then, it will be asked, is this quietness of spirit opposed to?
    1. It is opposed to murmuring and repining at the hand of God, as the discontented Israelites often did.
    2. It is opposed to vexing and fretting, which is a degree beyond murmuring.
    3. It is opposed to tumultuousness of spirit, when the thoughts run distractingly and work in a confused manner, so that the affections are like the unruly multitude in the Acts, who did know for what purpose they had come together.
    4. It is opposed to an unsettled and unstable spirit, whereby the heart is distracted from the present duty that God requires in our several relationships, towards God, ourselves and others.
    5. It is opposed to distracting, heart-consuming cares.
    6. It is opposed to sinking discouragements.
    7. It is opposed to sinful shiftings and shirkings to get relief and help.
    8. It is opposed to desperate risings of the heart against God by way of rebellion.

    Wednesday, June 10, 2009

    Getting better or getting worse

    In university I had a coach who ended up being the winningest coach in Canadian University football. He was much accomplished in both victories and championships. He had a dozen or so catch-phrases that he would regularly use when addressing the players. One has stuck with me; "As a football team, you are either getting better or getting worse."

    The idea he would go on to espouse is that football teams never remain the same in terms of performance and ability. They either improve through hard work and preparation or they worsen through apathy and ignorance. But they are never static, they never stay the same.

    I think this idea is applicable to many areas of life. A 'plateau' is never really possible. Once you have plateaued, and you cease to grow or improve, you are actually declining. Consider education or a skill set for a hobby or a relationship; if these things aren't growing or improving or expanding they are actually diminishing.

    In A Body of Divinity, Thomas Watson applies this principle to spiritual growth as well. Considering this type of growth is 'organic', I think there is some truth to the ideas he shares here:

    Such as do not grow in grace—decay in grace. "Not to go forward in the Christian life is to turn back," Bernard. There is no standing still in piety—either we go forward or backward. If faith does not grow, unbelief will. If heavenly-mindedness does not grow, covetousness will. A man who does not increase his stock, diminishes it. Just so, if you do not improve your stock of grace, your stock will decay. The angels on Jacob's ladder were either ascending or descending. Just so, if you do not ascend in true religion, you descend. (276)

    Let us be encouraged to keep ascending, to keep growing, to keep going forward, to keep pressing on. We must. Because we don't remain the same.

    Tuesday, June 9, 2009

    The Rare Jewel of Christian Contenment - Part 1 Summary

    At the end of Part 1 in The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs, the author summarizes:

    Contentment is the inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, freely submitting to and taking pleasure in God's disposal in every condition: That is the description, and in it nine distinct things have been opened up which we summarize as follows: First, that contentment is a heart-work within the soul; Secondly, it is the quieting of the heart; Thirdly, it is the frame of the spirit; Fourthly, it is a gracious frame; Fifthly, it is the free working of this gracious frame; Sixthly, there is in it a submission to God, sending the soul under God; Seventhly, there is a taking pleasure in the hand of God; Eighthly, all is traced to God's disposal; Ninthly, in every condition, however hard it be and however long it continue.

    In simply reiterating Burroughs definition of 'contentment' I realize how desperately I need to read, understand, and apply this book to my life:

    I offer the following description: Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.

    I'll take a personal inventory of my 'frame' during difficult times:
    • sweet - nope
    • inward - nah
    • quiet - no
    • gracious - nada
    • freely submits - nyet
    • delights - not likely

    God help me.

    Monday, June 8, 2009

    Quotes from The Doctrine of God

    A few quotes from the chapters Human Responsibility and Freedom and The Problem of Evil:
    • To feel responsible is to affirm for ourselves the purpose for which God has made us. To feel significant is to recognize that God has give each of us an important role in history, and that he has arranged everything in the universe to be consistent with that role. (152)
    • So when God "permits" creatures to do things contrary to his will, it is because he intends for them to do those things. This is the same as if he explicitly brought those things to pass. (154)
    • Quoting Calvin in Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God: But how it was ordained by the foreknowledge and decree of God what man's future was without God being implicated as associate in the fault as the author and approver of transgression, is clearly a secret so much excelling the insight of the human mind, that I am not ashamed to confess ignorance. (177)
    • Permission, then, is a form of ordination, a form a causation. (178)
    • The transcendence of God plays a significant role in biblical responses to the problem of evil. Because God is who he is, the covenant Lord, he is not required to defend himself against charges of injustice. He is the judge, not we...God is not subject to the ignorant evaluations of his creatures. (180-1)

    Sunday, June 7, 2009

    Have faith and trust

    Today I will give you two instructions from Thomas Watson as found in his book A Body of Divinity; to see the Trinity through the eyes of faith and to trust in God's providence.


    The Trinity is solely an object of faith; the plumbline of reason is too short to fathom this mystery. But where reason cannot wade—there faith may swim! There are some truths in religion that may be demonstrated by reason; as that there is a God. But the Trinity of persons in the Unity of essence, is wholly supernatural, and must be believed by faith. This sacred doctrine is not against reason—but above it. Those illuminated philosophers, who could find out the causes of things, and discourse of the magnitude and influence of the stars, the nature of minerals; could never, by their deepest search, find out the mystery of the Trinity. This is of divine revelation, and must be adored with humble faith. (112)


    God is to be trusted when his providences seem to run contrary to his promises. God promised to give David the crown, to make him king; but providence ran contrary to his promise. David was pursued by Saul, and was in danger of his life—but all this while it was David's duty to trust God. Pray observe, that the Lord by cross providences, often brings to pass his promise. God promised Paul the lives of all who were with him in the ship; but the providence of God seemed to run quite contrary to his promise, for the winds blew, the ship split and broke in pieces. Thus God fulfilled his promise—upon the broken pieces of the ship they all came safe to shore. Trust God when providences seem to run quite contrary to promises. (123)

    Saturday, June 6, 2009

    Boldness and confidence!

    I have begun to study the idea of 'access to God' as is seen in Hebrews 4:16: Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

    It resurfaces in Hebrews 10:19-22: Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

    Clearly, this is one of the benefits Christ secures for us through his work as out high priest. Access to God; who can fathom that?

    Thomas Watson touches upon the idea of confidence and boldness the believer has in this quote from A Body of Divinity:

    Lifting up the face is an emblem of boldness. Nothing can make us so ashamed to go to God, as sin. A wicked man in prayer may lift up his hands—but he cannot lift up his face. When Adam had lost his holiness, he lost his confidence with God; he hid himself. But the holy person goes to God as a child to its father; his conscience does not upbraid him with allowing any sin, therefore he can go boldly to the throne of grace, and have mercy to help in time of need. (86)

    Friday, June 5, 2009

    The damned around you are no more damned than you were!

    From Christ is Deeper Still:

    Do you realize?

    "Were you a likely candidate for salvation? Yet didn't God save you? And while he may have used some human instrument, don't you see that he would have saved you with or without any instrument? And haven't you seen other 'impossible' brothers and sisters delivered likewise by the incredible power of the invisible God?

    Do you realize from whence you came? You were in the grip of hell. Demons had wrapped their chains about you. The god of this world had blinded your understanding. Yet God struck off your chains and the face of Christ illumined your soul. The damned around you are no more damned than you were, their chains no thicker, their darkness no deeper. Nor is the power of Christ to save them one whit less."

    John White, The Golden Cow, pages 151-152.

    Was Paul naive?

    In Paul's second letter to Timothy, in between his personal instructions to Timothy and his final greetings he writes down this statement:

    "The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen." (2 Timothy 4:18)

    Really? Does Paul really believe that he will be rescued from every evil deed? Does Paul really think his transfer to the heavenly kingdom will be a safe one? Is this 'polly-anna' naivete?

    Not likely.

    Paul's words do not reflect a gullible neophyte but rather a seasoned, veteran soldier of the cross. For him, safety does not involve freedom from suffering and pain. Safety, in Paul's estimation, is indifferent to whips and stones and fists. He's been there and done that. He is not concerned with these 'light and momentary afflictions'.

    And being rescued does not mean removed from hardship unless by removed you mean in the ultimate sense; death. But what is death but 'rescue' to one who considers dying to be gain? Evil deeds that result in Paul's death, and this is indeed how he would die, are nothing more than safe passage to the presence of his King.

    It's his perspective that makes rescue inevitable and safety ensured. His perspective of his sovereign and merciful Saviour.

    Thursday, June 4, 2009

    What injustice?

    "What injustice is it in God to inflict a less punishment; in order to prevent a greater punishment? The best of God's children have that in them which is meritorious of hell. Does God do them any wrong, if he uses only the rod, where they have deserved the scorpion? Is the father unjust, if he only corrects his child, who has deserved to be disinherited? If God deals so favorably with his children, he only puts wormwood in their cup, whereas he might put fire and brimstone! They should rather admire his mercy than complain of his injustice." (A Body of Divinity, 90)

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009

    Culturally Relevant Apologetics

    Christian apologetics is an area of interest for me. I have been an ardent reader of apologetic books for the past several years. I have enjoyed authors such as; Joe Boot, Ravi Zacharias, Peter Kreeft, Lee Strobel, Greg Koukl, William Lane Craig, Norman Geisler and the like.

    For me, this area of study was integral for my faith's recovery coming out of a university situation where my faith in God did not wane but where my confidence and strength in my beliefs took a beating. It was refreshing and rejuvenating to realize that I held to the most rational, coherent, and powerful worldview that was girded by the Creator of the universe and the Savior of my soul.

    At any rate, I enjoyed a section of A Body of Divinity by Thomas Watson in which he provides proofs of God's existence. Some of these are classic proofs whereas others are very culturally relative. So he does list things such as the works of nature or the human conscience. But he also produced one in particular that just about caused me to laugh out loud. It can be seen here:

    There are devils, therefore there is a God. Atheists cannot deny but there are devils, and then they must grant there is a God. (42)

    Can you imagine using this proof on some of your friends? Apparently, for Watson, this very well may have been an ironclad argument. In a society where belief in 'devils' was widespread it would make sense to make this connection. But this argument, standing alone in a naturalistic-materialistic culture seems absurd. There are still cultures in this day and age where this argument would be profitable. But I think that there are probably more prudent approaches available to us.

    Now it must be said that this does not undermine the veracity of Watson's argument. However, it suggests that we need wisdom, as always, from God when we 'give a reason for the hope that is in us'.

    Tuesday, June 2, 2009

    To Wax Eloquent

    The word "wax" is ancient with it first appearing in a published work in 897. The verb 'wax' was used to mean grow or increase. Therefore, to 'wax eloquent' means to grow or increase in graceful, persuasive speech.

    One thing I enjoy when I read puritan authors is their inclination to 'wax eloquent' when writing theology. Though I have only read a few puritan authors, John Owen, Thomas Watson, Jonathan Edwards, Richard Baxter, they all do not hesitate 'wax eloquent'. They present the reader with some lines and paragraphs that stylistically would not be familiar.

    A Body of Divinity, by Thomas Watson, has some good examples of the puritan author's propensity to write with a flourish:

    It is one of the best sights to see an old disciple; to see silver hairs adorned with golden virtues. (2)

    The Book of God has no errata in it; it is a beam of the Sun of Righteousness, a crystal stream flowing from the fountain of life. All laws and edicts of men have had their corruptions—but the Word of God has not the least tincture—it is of meridian splendor. (27-8)

    What is it to be spiritual?
    To be refined and holy, to have the heart still in heaven, to be thinking of God and glory, and to be carried up in a fiery chariot of love to God. (48)

    The perfection of God's knowledge is primary. He is the original, the pattern, and prototype of all knowledge; others borrow their knowledge of him; the angels light their lamps at this glorious sun. (56)

    If a man sets up two nets, one of silk, the other of iron, the silken net may be broken, not the iron one. Just so, while men break the silken net of God's command, they are taken in the iron net of his decree; while they sit backward to God's precepts, they row forward to his decrees. God decrees to permit their sin, and then to punish them for their sin permitted. (71)

    Monday, June 1, 2009

    Bees and infinity

    "We may go with the bee from flower to flower, but we shall never have full satisfaction till we come to the infinite God." Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity - p53

    Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility by D. A. Carson - some quotes

    "The sovereignty-responsibility tension is not a problem to be solved; rather, it is a framework to be explored." (2)

    "Once again, then, the divine activity calls for a response, not fatalism; while human calling and seeking do not make the divine activity contingent." (14)

    "The point is so obvious that it scarcely requires making. From the first prohibition in Eden, through commands to individuals like Noah and Abraham -whether commands to build an ark or to walk blamelessly- to the prescriptions laid on the covenant people, human responsibility is presupposed." (18)

    "Men are not held to be responsible in some merely abstract fashion; they are responsible to someone." (19)

    "It is difficult to find an adequate word or phrase to express this 'ultimacy' in God. The crucial point is that his activity is so sovereign and detailed that nothing can take place in the world of men without at least his permission; and conversely, if he sets himself against some course, then that course cannot develop." (28)

    "...the Old Testament writers do not shy away from making Yahweh himself in some mysterious way (the mysteriousness of which safeguards him from being himself charged with evil) the 'ultimate' cause of many evils." (28)

    "To fail to acknowledge Yahweh's ultimacy-to fail to praise-is not real independence from divine dominion, but overt rebellion, a misguided declaration of self-dependence. The absoluteness of divine sovereignty and the reality of human responsibility meet in the human obligation to acknowledge divine sovereignty with grateful humility." (34-5)

    "In short, although we may lack the categories needed for full exposition of the problem, nevertheless we must insist that divine ultimacy stands behind good and evil asymmetrically." (36-7)

    "In the case of both Caiaphas and Judas, therefore, divine ultimacy even behind evil actions is presupposed. But divine ultimacy operates in some mysterious way so that human responsibility is in no way mitigated, while the divine being is in no way tarnished. In particular, Judas is responsible even when Satan is using him; but over both stands the sovereignty of God." (132)

    "There is a sense in which God's love is directed to the 'world' per se; but to absolutise the passage where this is enunciated is to fail to recognize the even more numerous passages in which the divine love is restricted to the elect, while unbelievers sit under wrath and judgment." (197)

    "Hence it [John's gospel] feels no embarrassment at picturing God's control and purposes over events themselves evil. God is neither tainted not thwarted by evil actions. Indeed, his purposes in salvation history are being fulfilled even by such actions. Men for their part do not find their responsibility lessened by God's sovereign reign." (202-3)

    "It must be protested that although the various time/eternity models serve a useful purpose as bases for discussion, they are in no sense explanatory solutions of the sovereignty-responsibility tension. That would be to explain the obscure by the more obscure." (210)

    "The example of Job is particularly instructive. Job and his friends stress equally that God is all-powerful and perfectly good; but the message of a book as a whole is that their conception of God is not high enough. God's ways are unfathomable; his knowledge, limitless; his power, effectual; who can tell him he is wrong? What man has arrogance to deny divine providence by ignorant words? No simple solution is possible, for men with their limited knowledge cannot judge God's government. Man's peace must come from knowing and trusting this God. It is significant that Job cries out in the end, not "I understand!" but "I repent." " (217)

    A Body of Divinity by Thomas Watson - Introduction, part 3


    Question 2. What rule has God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?

    Answer: The Word of God, which is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

    How does it appear that the Scriptures have a divine authority stamped upon them?

    [1] Its ANTIQUITY.

    [2] We may know the Scripture to be the Word of God by its miraculous PRESERVATION in all ages.

    [3] The Scripture appears to be the Word of God, by the subject MATTER contained in it.

    [4] That the Scripture is the Word of God is evident by its PREDICTIONS.

    [5] The impartiality of those men of God who wrote the Scriptures, who do not spare to set down their own failings.

    [6] The mighty POWER and EFFICACY that the Word has had upon the souls and consciences of men.

    • It has changed their hearts.
    • It has comforted their hearts.
    • When it has been sick—the Word has revived it.

    [7] The MIRACLES by which Scripture is confirmed.

    Are all the books in the Bible of the same divine authority?

    Those which we call canonical.

    Why are the Scriptures called canonical?

    Because the Word is a rule of faith, to direct our lives.

    Are the Scriptures a complete rule?

    The Scripture is a full and perfect rule, containing in it all things necessary to salvation.

    What is the main scope and end of Scripture?

    To reveal a way of salvation. It makes a clear discovery of Christ.

    Who should have the power of interpreting Scripture?

    • The Scripture is to be its own interpreter, or rather the Spirit speaking in it.
    • The church of God has appointed some to expound and interpret Scripture; therefore he has given gifts to men.
    • We are to receive nothing as truth, but what is agreeable to the Word.

    Use one: See the wonderful goodness of God, who, besides the light of nature—has committed to us the sacred Scriptures.

    Use two: Is Scripture of divine inspiration?

    (1.) Is all Scripture of divine inspiration? Then it reproves the PAPISTS

    (2.) Is all Scripture of divine inspiration? Then it condemns the ANTINOMIANS

    (3.) Is all Scripture of divine inspiration? Then it condemns the ENTHUSIASTS

    (4.) Is all Scripture of divine inspiration? Then it condemns the SLIGHTERS of Scripture

    (5.) Is all Scripture of divine inspiration? Then it condemns the ABUSERS of Scripture

    Use three: If the Scripture be of divine inspiration, then be exhorted,

    (1.) To STUDY the Scripture.

    • There is majesty sparkling in every line of Scripture
    • There is a melody in Scripture
    • There is divinity in Scripture
    • The Scripture is profitable for all things
    • Read with seriousness. It is matter of life and death; by this Word you must be tried; conscience and Scripture are the jury God will proceed by, in judging you.
    • Read the Word with affection

    (2.) Be exhorted to PRIZE the written Word

    (3.) If the Scripture is of divine inspiration, BELIEVE it

    (4.) LOVE the Word written

    (5.) CONFORM to Scripture

    (6.) CONTEND for Scripture

    (7.) Be THANKFUL to God for the Scriptures

    (8.) Adore God's distinguishing grace, if you have felt the power and authority of the Word upon your conscience