Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

PARADOX FILES, Vol. 8 - David Harrell

This Paradox File features Dr. David Harrell of Calvary Bible Church in Joelton, Tennessee. Dr. Harrell has been a committed Biblical (nouthetic) counselor for over 20 years, and has taught Biblical Counseling courses at the Master's College. Here, he encourages us to hold fast to the time-tested paradoxes of Christ's teaching as an antidote to the Purpose Driven Life fad of recent years. He manages to deliver a rather provoking expository sermon while simultaneously critiquing the seeker sensitive fads and affirming the THEOparadox concept. It's just beautiful!

The message is entitled,
"The Power of a Paradox Driven Life."
Click here for the message on Sermon Audio

Here are some notes and quotes from the message . . .


"Certianly it's true that the character and the purposes of God are incomprehensible, and, frankly, only through the eyes of faith can we even get a glimpse of who He is . . . Indeed, there is an infinite chasm between man's minute understanding and God's omniscience . . . we quickly discover that His plan for glorifying Himself through salvation of sinful men is filled with paradoxes. His ways seem illogical to our way of thinking."

There is a very good overview of some key Scriptures and concepts that address Biblical paradox in this introductory section (especially the first 7 minutes of the message). He does a great job of showing just how paradoxical the Gospel message is. This is why he gets the shirt.

"These paradoxes of the Christian life stand in stark contrast to the superficial, watered down gospel that is popular today."

1. A cross comes before a crown

"We prefer happiness over holiness. We prefer recreation over re-creation, right? We don't want to be regenerated and born again, [and] become new creatures. We want to be happy and enjoy everything in the world, that's the idea. We want health and wealth, not forgiveness. We want purpose, not redemption. Well, Jesus said 'Get behind me, Satan, you are a stumbling block to me.'"

"Jesus is saying, again, 'My ways are not your ways. Your ways are selfish, mine are selfless. Your ways are short-sighted, mine are eternal.'"

2. We win by losing

"This is the opposite of the self-centered gospel of Neo-Evangelicalism that paints God with a smiley face running around trying to make us all happy. We must understand that Christ suffered the agony of the cross for our spiritual (not our physical) needs . . . When we come to faith in Christ, we are to come ... poor in spirit, utterly bankrupt, we have nothing to offer, we're crying out for this undeserved mercy and grace from the Lord. We come to Christ renouncing our old self." Whew!

"Beloved, we want to preach the Gospel clearly enough for unbelievers to reject it." AMEN!

"I stand before you this morning calling us back to the great paradoxes of the Christian faith. These are the divine principles that should drive our lives." Double AMEN!

In this section, Dr. Harrell explains the meaning of one of my favorite Greek words: agonizomai. That's also the name of my favorite blog, which is perfectly fitting.

3. Lasting joy comes through suffering.

"Each one of us, the Bible says, will stand before God and give an account. And make no mistake about it, the penetrating eyes of our holy and omniscient God will not be deceived. There'll be no place to hide, and your fate will not be determined by a jury of your peers, but by a holy and omniscient God, the Judge of the universe. And so I leave you with this question: will He see a life driven by selfish ambition and phony religion that loves cotton candy Christianity, or one driven by the glorious paradoxes of the Gospel of Christ?"

Dr. Harrell powerfully refutes the errors of the Purpose Driven Life and leads us right back to the Gospel according to Jesus Christ. I thank God for men like him.

DISCLAIMER: Although the topic is not mentioned in this sermon, Dr. Harrell is clearly pre-millennial/Pre-tribulational and strongly dispensational in his eschatology. I appreciate some aspects of dispensational theology, but reject it in general. However, I do not believe eschatology alone should divide Bible believing Christians. The Together for the Gospel conferences ( are an example of eschatologically diverse Reformed believers joining hands over the ESSENTIALS of Biblical teaching. In this spirit, I commend Dr. Harrell without reservation, but I don't necessarily endorse his eschatology. I also forgive him for having more hair than me.


  1. Derek,

    I also forgive him for having more hair than me.So you have more in common with James White than you think, then :o) At least you don't have to forgive him for the hair thing.



  2. Tony,

    James White will have to forgive both of us for having more hair than him. LOL.

    I think White and I would make good friends.

    Recently I listened to a series of radio programs where he debated (and demolished the arguments of) a well known Arminian. I appreciate the work he does, but he's definitely NOT a paradox guy. He's a hand and I'm a foot, but we're all part of the Body of Christ. Praise God for that.

    Grace & peace,


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