Monday, July 27, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
I wish things looked this organized at my house right now!
Friday, July 17, 2009
There are some intense thoughts here for the interested reader. Please consider these points as seeds for deeper meditation on the cross of Christ. God's Word REVEALS God's character - and His work on the cross reveals mysterious wonders that are satisfying food for our hungry, sin-sick souls. This is where we find the greatest encouragements, and the deepest change. We begin with an examination of the Hebrew word for "astonished." I pray that you and I and all mankind will fall down in utter awe before the Beautiful One Who died for lost, disgusting sinners like us. (Had I said "wretched," you wouldn't have tripped over that sentence. But the two words are synonymous - do you believe it? Until we believe it, won't be astonished by the cross.)
Gazing upon the cross of Christ will leave us blessedly desolate, as we are finally freed from ourselves, and liberated from the destructiveness of sin, and rightly made nothing in our own eyes. The cross properly deflowers us from the self-wrought veneer of our own glory. As worms looking up to the cross, we see what we are in what He became for us. As puffed up, self-inflatable gods looking down upon the cross, we see the means by which we may be made worms again. God knows we need to be astonished by some things. We need to be shaken out of the stupor of sin.
The Astonishment of the Cross Comes from the Marring of Christ's Appearance and Form.
Marred = Heb. MISHCHATH, משחת - "disfigurement (of face), corruption" (Brown-Driver-Briggs). Note that this is not an adjective, but an adjectival noun - representing disfigurement as personified and epitomized. The word is only used twice in the Old Testament. The other occurrence is in Leviticus 22:25, where it refers to an animal that has been bruised, crushed, torn, or cut, and is therefore unacceptable as a sacrifice. These terms fit well as a description of crucifixion, and the unacceptability of the animal may relate to Christ's work as the sin-bearing sacrifice, the One who became sin for us, and also became a curse for us. He bore our marred image, and shared with us in the destructive effects of sin - but for Him it was taken even further, so that He was marred by sin to a greater extent than we were.
The Cross is an Astonishing Revelation of God's Righteous Hatred for Sin, and His Just Judgment Against Sin
Just look at some of the internal aspects of Christ's sufferings:
Even in Gethsemane, our Lord spoke these words:
Matthew 26:38 "My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death ..."
Christ's sufferings were unimaginably heavy, yet He did not suffer under compulsion. He gave Himself willingly and without a trace of malice. Typically, when we human beings suffer even slightly, we rise up with cursings of hellish anger and hatred. But the Man Christ Jesus, suffering fathomless horrors, offered forgiveness to His murderers.
The person who looks upon the cross with faith sees this: his own sins have caused the suffering, shed the blood, and taken the life of the Perfect Man who is the Son of God. By this fact we are ever crushed. But God has used the cross to wipe out the debt of our sins and bring us back into fellowship with Himself. By this fact we are ever renewed and made joyous again.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Justification is about what Jesus has done. Sanctification is about abiding in what Jesus has done. IF one is truly justified then one HAS BEEN sanctified in the sense of being set aside for holy use (like the vessels in the temple were sanctified).
The frequent misapplication of the complementarian idea that we have a "duty faith" to PRODUCE good works IF we are justified (by which some mean "saved") is actually a Roman Catholic heresy. It's where Tetzel made his living. It's where Luther stood in the breach and refused to budge. The Catholics never had a problem with salvation by grace through faith - their problem was the tiny, tiny word "alone."
Either we are saved (meaning the whole ball of wax from justification to glorification) by grace alone through faith alone or we are saved by a grace which gets us started, but cannot finish the job. We know from Philippians 1:6 that such a statement is heresy.
So I go surprisingly far down the road with those other heretics, the Grace Evangelical Society. But there is a significant difference. They believe that a confession of faith, once made, secures a person's salvation; a person is saved by WHAT THEY DO (even though they can flatly deny it later); and they are saved even if they later deny the faith. True Christians do not believe these things. They do not believe they are saved BY faith, but THROUGH it. It is something GOD does - but it is something that God DOES (in other words, there is evidence of God's activity, namely by the obedience of faith).
The doctrine of justification tells us HOW God saves. It does not save of itself. Faith is the means by which God saves, but faith itself does not save. Our faith is not in our faith. Our faith is always in what God HAS DONE. He has justified His elect and nobody can undo that.
The question arises as to what difference this makes in sanctification. You've heard the truism "We are justified (or saved) through faith alone, but a faith that saves is never alone". I think people mean by this that a truly saved person WILL produce fruit. But they so often misrepresent it by implying that a person MUST produce fruit - thereby driving a poor struggling saint right back to the LAW, when they thought they were saved by an act of grace while they were yet sinners. Who changed the rules?
We will NEVER - NEVER - produce godly works by fear or guilt. That was the whole idea of the law - to show us our spiritual impotency. Godly works are the fruit of abiding in the finished work of Christ. "There is forgiveness with Thee, THAT thou mayest be feared."
Why begin in the spirit and finish in the flesh? The commands to do and to act righteously exist as pedagogues to bring us to Christ. Even in the gospel age. Especially in the gospel age. We cannot maintain or keep our salvation by deeds of righteousness. We "maintain" and "keep" it in exactly the same way that we first received it - by believing in Jesus Christ and His finished work. That abiding is what produces fruit in the true believer.
There might be some confusion about the means by which fruit is manifested. It is manifested through the exercise of our faith - God will neither believe nor repent FOR us. We are means. We are vessels. For a good deed to be done it must be manifested in our words and through our actions. But we step into heresy when we attribute those deeds to our own stick-to-it-iveness. We have forgotten already Who it is that is in us to will and to do of His good pleasure. We are not admonished to work, but to work OUT our own salvation. The difference is huge. Working OUT our salvation is simply being in constant remembrance of what God has done for us. If we truly do this, then fruit is INEVITABLE. But I would never in a million years employ the term NECESSARY. It's too misleading - especially today, in a Christian environment in which people already believe that they are helping God out by choosing to believe Him. The seed of Arminianism has rotted the truth from the root. And it has grown to full blown Pelagianism in many places because people have bought the lie that God does His part and we must do ours.
Jonah 2:9 is clear. Salvation (all of it) is of the Lord. Jonah's saga is proof positive that those whom He justifies, He sanctifies. It is proof that God produces willingness in His people. He does it by revealing Himself to them and in them. He does NOT do it by commanding them to do something and leaving it up to them. That is death. Augustine pleaded with God to command what He would, but to grant that which He commanded. He knew that the command could only
This whole concept is a hill I will die on. It disturbs me that there is a Christianity out there in which people see themselves as saved by the power of God and kept by something that they themselves do - or MUST do. Law has no place except to bring us to Christ. If there is anything we MUST do it is to believe in the One Whom He has sent - period. End of story. But that is not enough for those who would get some trace of human work in by the back door. I'll say it one more time - we are not justified by what we do, neither are we sanctified by what we do. We are justified and sanctified by what Jesus Christ did once for all in His life, death and resurrection. Our job is to walk in it by looking to those facts and believing with the faith that God works in us.
This fundamental truth is so easily perverted because fertile ground exists for the heresy of human contribution even in professing believers. It is taught from many pulpits - even evangelical pulpits. Are men like Gerstner technically right when they use the word "necessary" in the way they do. Well, yes. But what help is it to be "right" by dotting the "i"s when the whole sense is perverted because the listeners have no idea of the nuances involved. 16th Century terms for technical aspects of doctrine play well in Seminary or Reformed blogdom, but will they play in Peoria?
Will we BELIEVE God - that He will produce the fruit if we abide in Christ - or will we go down to Egypt for horses and chariots because we want back-up in case God fails? Are we our own insurance policy? Or is God perfectly able to do what he says He will do?
The truth about law and gospel I discovered without the aid of any modern church - indeed quite in spite of them. And once discovered, it is a truth I shall never relinquish - that it is only by looking to Christ that any good is borne in and through us at all. It is never on account of what we do, nor what we imagine needs to be done that we are either justified or sanctified. Ours is all response in faith to what God has done to make us fit for His kingdom.
I give you below an extract from a rare and out of print work by Luther called "God's Word and God's Work":
I see that it is in the seeing, and holding to, and believing of Who Christ is and what He alone has done that the flower of good works blossoms. It is BECAUSE we believe that we HAVE BEEN SAVED (justified and set apart) that we produce fruit. The production of fruit is not to the fruit's credit, nor is it truly within the fruit's power to grow, but that of the vine or the tree.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Some Calvinist I am! I was just reading this post over at Green Baggins - and suddenly I realized that while I was talking about the first birthday of this blog yesterday, I had entirely forgotten to note that it was John Calvin's 500th birthday.
It's funny that I started a blog on Calvin's 499th birthday. That was completely coincidental.
Friday, July 10, 2009
It's been one year since THEOparadox first launched with the post, "What is THEOparadox?" Since that time, there have been almost 120 posts added. Here are some of the highlights from the year:
• The Hardening of Pharaoh's Heart (2 Parts)
• The Relationship Between Divine and Human Goodness (4 Parts)
• Repentance and Amazing Grace in Psalm 32 (15 Parts)
• The Impossible Sayings of Jesus (10 Parts)
..... • You Must Be Born Again (3 Parts)
• The Free Offer of the Gospel (3 Parts)
• The Paradoxes of Prayer (3 Parts)
• The Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53 (In Progress)
We also discussed the defining characteristics of the Gospel
We started a review of James Anderson's "Paradox in Christian Theology"
We followed (and participated in) some controversies about theological paradox
We articulated a theology and philosophy of paradox
We distanced ourselves from false forms of theological paradox
We offered up 8 "PARADOX FILES" as examples of the basic thesis behind the blog
We formed a team of 4 like-hearted (if not always like-minded) members.
And we had a little Reformed fun, too . . .
• My Precious Wife (the AMAZING woman!) - for putting up with late-night study sessions when I just can't let go of those tricky theological questions, and for helping me stay focused and God-centered. And for her forgiveness. LOTS and LOTS of forgiveness.
• Dr. Chris DeVidal (who is not a "real" doctor and who no longer blogs, unfortunately) - because he's one of my best friends, a godly example, a good thinker, and a challenging "hold-you-accountable" kind of brother in Christ. And he loves his wife. (his blog is still available for viewing, and the old articles are still really good).
• Pastor Craig Bowen of Lakeside Community Church - for being a true disciple-maker, a fearless preacher of the Word, a faithful example and a brother in Christ.
• Tony Hayling of "Agonizomai"- for his friendship and lots of great discussions (when you suggested I write a blog, did you ever think it would come to this? Me, either).
• Barry Wallace of "Who Am I?" - for his friendship and TONS of encouragement.
• Dr. Curt Daniel - for helping me to understand historic Calvinism in its beautiful balance (his 75 lectures are super and well worth your time - trust me on that).
• David Ponter of "Calvin & Calvinism" - for helping me better understand the strengths of the moderate wing in Reformed theology.
• Phil Johnson of Pyromaniacs - for a brief, but very helpful, conversation about theological paradox. And a pride-bashing, grace-empowered sermon. I'm still chewing on that!
• My Dear Daughter (a.k.a. GirlWhomGODloves) - for her excellent and insightful guest articles.
Finally, I'd like to thank everyone who has linked to this site, re-published THEOparadox articles, commented on the posts, faithfully followed the progress of this blog, or simply stopped by on occasion. I pray the God of all grace will meet you powerfully in His boundless love and mercy through what you have found here - and that His glorious truth may always renew our minds so that we are conformed to the image of His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace & peace,
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
This time it's James Anderson vs. Turretin Fan (links to their posts are at the bottom). Since the two of them crossed swords a few weeks ago, TF has been mulling over the subject of theological paradox and trying put together an argument. He follows a very typical pattern that I have seen over and over from those who refuse to accept the idea of Biblical paradoxes. Essentially, he reduces the paradox concept to this obviously false proposition: "A can be both A and non-A, at the same time and in the same sense."
Despite his aversion to paradox, I appreciate Turretin Fan for the way he upholds the core truths of Reformation theology and defends the faith against heresy. But I don't appreciate the way he moderates comments on his site. In the past he has been unwilling to publish comments from me, no matter how constructively or graciously they are presented. Below are the comments I sent to Turretin Fan in response to his argument against paradox. I'll take his refusal to publish this as an admission of defeat. (UPDATE: TF has published my comment, and responded here as well. I think the discussion has taken a step in the right direction. FURTHER UPDATE: TF has even invited me to comment on a particular post on his site. I guess it just took some time for him to warm up to me.)
TF, I think the point is being missed here.___________________________________________________
Let's take the classic example of divine sovereignty and human responsibility (indeed, this is Packer's famous "antinomy"). It's clearly not a case of "A is both A and non-A." It's more like this: A implies non-B, and B implies non-A. Yet both A and B are Biblical propositions (and therefore true).
A. God is completely sovereign. (this IMPLIES that created beings are not responsible)
B. Man is fully responsible for his choices. (this IMPLIES that God is not completely sovereign)
The two propositions do not directly contradict one another. They only appear to contradict on the basis of what they imply. Yet the implications are natural and reasonable (some might even say they're necessary, but I wouldn't).
Since Scripture does not give us the resolution for this, we have just grounds to affirm that there is an area of mystery between these two Biblically TRUE propositions. The paradox arises when human beings try to understand HOW the two propositions relate to one another, and as our minds interpret their implications. There is no ACTUAL CONTRADICTION, but in our minds there appears to be one (apparent contradiction = paradox).
If it was simply a matter of "A cannot be both A and non-A," the whole matter would be simple. But it's more complicated than that.
If Scripture sets forth two propositions with apparently contradictory implications, but it remains silent on how the implications can be reconciled, then we are left with unresolved paradoxes. Our various attempts to explain them are mere man-made theories which may or may not be true.
In the end, don't we have to say Scripture is more weighty than human reason? Only by elevating human reason to the level of Scripture can one affirm categorically that all Biblical paradoxes are resolvable.
Stated formally, my argument looks like this:
P1) A and B are Biblically warranted propositions
P2) A implies that B cannot be true
P3) B implies that A cannot be true
Conclusion 1 (based on P1 alone) Both A and B are true
Conclusion 2 (based on P2 & P3) The relationship between A and B is an unrevealed mystery, and the implications of A and B form an unresolved paradox.
As long as the information which is needed to resolve the paradox is unrevealed (or if, as some would argue, we are incapable of receiving it), the mysterious relationship and the paradoxical implications remain.
This has nothing at all to do with "A cannot be both A and non-A." For me, belief in that rule is what leads to an affirmation the existence of humanly unresolvable paradoxes. I wonder if the real reason so many people chafe at this is that our proud hearts simply can't tolerate not knowing - and not being able to know - the divine secrets. Wasn't that part of the motivation that led to the fall of our race?
Grace & peace,
Turretin Fan against Paradox: http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2009/07/problems-with-paradoxes.html
James Anderson for Paradox: http://proginosko.wordpress.com/2009/07/08/turretinfan-strikes-back/
TF has added this: http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2009/07/response-from-james-anderson.html
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Here's a video about Dr. James Anderson, author of Paradox in Christian Theology: An Analysis of its Presence, Character, and Epistemic Status. So far, I've reviewed the first two chapters of the book, and I'll be adding more soon.
Anderson has accomplished a great feat in setting forth a philosophically grounded case for theological paradox. Prior to this, theological paradox was widely acknowledged - and even assumed in many circles - but no one had built a logical case for it from a philosophical standpoint. As such, Anderson has made a monumental contribution to theology, hermeneutics, and apologetics. Most importantly, he has helped us define the boundaries between apparent contradiction and actual falsehood, logical paradox and irrationality, genuine mystery and baseless mysticism. Even as Anderson was penning his book, God was opening my heart to the possibilities of Biblical paradox. Reading the book, I find the Lord is expanding my mind to a greater appreciation of the nature of His Truth.
The video is partly a bio of Anderson, and partly a promo for Reformed Theological Seminary, where Anderson teaches. Enjoy!
Friday, July 03, 2009
Although it is true that the Hebrews were fond of using synonymous terms for emphasis, I do not believe the Spirit's intent in this passage was merely to emphasize how exalted Christ is. I propose that this verse does not simply tell us that He is exalted; rather, it tells us why and how He is exalted. The three terms - high, lifted up, greatly exalted - may speak of three distinct phases in the existence of the Son of God: His pre-incarnate glory, His crucifixion, and His exaltation at the Father's right hand following the resurrection. The main reason for this is the phrase, "He will be ... lifted up," which is consistently used in John's Gospel as a reference to the cross.
Jesus Christ was Highly Honored from all eternity
Heb. RUWM, רום = " to rise, rise up, be high, be lofty, be exalted ... to be set on high ... to be raised, be uplifted, be exalted ... to be lifted ..." (Brown-Driver-Briggs) It is noteworthy that on numerous occasions this Hebrew word is translated "to offer," in the context of ritual sacrifices. Perhaps there is a hint here of the covenant of redemption.
Where was Jesus before the incarnation? Did He exist prior to the virgin birth? Scripture makes it clear that He not only existed eternally as God, but He existed in a state of glory with the Father. Consider this prayer in John 17 . . .
John 17:5 “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was."
And look at the claim He makes in a dispute with the Pharisees:
John 8:57-58 “You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”
The last sentence was correctly interpreted by the Jewish leaders as a claim to deity, for they immediately picked up stones and attempted to kill Him.
Heb. NASA, נשא = the common Heb. word for lifting or carrying, occurring 654 times in the OT. It means "to lift, bear up, carry, take ... to be lifted up, be exalted ... to be borne, be carried ... to be taken away, be carried off, be swept away" (Brown-Driver-Briggs)
The term "lifted up" can be taken as a technical reference to crucifixion. Note that the voice is passive (in Heb. it is the Niphal stem), while the terms before and after are in the active voice (Qal stem in Heb.). Someone is lifting Him. While this might refer to Christ's exaltation by the Father, there is no reason to suppose it does not rather indicate the cross. Note these passages from the book of John:
John 3:14 "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up."
John 8:28 So Jesus said, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.
John 12:32-34 "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. The crowd then answered Him, "We have heard out of the Law that the Christ is to remain forever; and how can You say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up'? Who is this Son of Man?"
Heb. MEOD, מאד = "exceedingly, much" (Brown-Driver-Briggs)
Heb. GABAHH, גבה = "to be high, be exalted ... to be lofty" (Brown-Driver-Briggs)
He has been glorified exceedingly in His resurrection, ascension, and heavenly reign.
Ephesians 1:20-22 ... [God] raised [Christ] from the dead and seated him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church ...
Philippians 2:8-11 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
It was through the humble obedience of being "lifted up" on the cross that our Lord was most highly exalted. Beloved, our path is to follow this same trajectory. The way of humble obedience leads to the highest glory.
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
Since Derek and I recently agreed to team up on our respective blogs, I thought it might be good for me to briefly introduce myself. For some time now, I've been a regular reader of Derek's blog, and an occasional commenter. In fact, our paths first crossed, I think, when I providentially stumbled onto Dereks' blog and commented on this post. I subsequently found Derek to be thoughtful, gracious, and Christ-like, both in his writing and in his interaction with others.
The other thing I discovered about Derek, as I continued to read his blog, was his relentless desire to be Christ centered, or gospel centered. Like a moth drawn to the flame, Derek's heart and mind constantly seemed to be returning to, and circling around, the precious, spotless Lamb of God. That's been evident to me in the past, and it's evident once again in Derek's current series.
For those reasons, and more, I was honored and grateful when Derek approached me about becoming a member of his blog team. I'm also humbled, and feel that I stand to benefit more than anyone else from this partnership.
That said, here are a few things you might like to know about me. I'd be happy to answer any other questions you might have in the comments.
- I would probably be considered a moderate Calvinist. By "Calvinist" I mean that I love to attribute all glory and honor and power, in everything, to God and God alone. By "moderate" I mean that I place more emphasis on the universal aspect of God's love, and the unlimited aspect of Christ's atonement, than some of my fellow Calvinists.
- I believe in the continuation of spiritual gifts, meaning I'm not a cessationist.
- I'm as intrigued (though not as articulate or well read) as Derek is with the paradoxes of Scripture.
- I live in Sikeston, MO, a relatively small town in the southeastern corner of the state.
- I'm 53, divorced and remarried, with two children out on their own, another one in college, and two still at home (that's 1 wife and 5 kids--oh, and the best little dog in the world).
- I was converted about 34 years ago. My spiritual progress since then has at times been steady (chalk that up to God's grace), and at times wretched (chalk that up to me).
- I'm a deacon in my small Southern Baptist church.