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!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

PARADOX FILES, Vol. 14 - John MacArthur

This year, R.C. Sproul's Ligonier Ministries Conference focused on "Tough Questions Christians Face." Dr. John MacArthur addressed the question, "Does the Doctrine of the Divine Decrees Eliminate Human Will?" MacArthur's answer radically affirmed Biblical paradox and divine incomprehensibility, while also radically affirming the clarity and reliability of Scripture. His words rang with the humility of a man who has wrestled with the twin truths of God's sovereignty and human responsibility, and found himself standing in baffled awe before the transcendent wisdom of God, as revealed in His Word.

Here are some excerpts from MacArthur's message . . .

"This is a very, very important question, and I think . . . for folks who are new to . . . Reformed theology, this is the big hurdle to get over. If God is sovereign - if God is in control of absolutely everything - then what place does human responsibility play? . . . It is also, I think, the most pervasive, nagging question in the minds of people who have already embraced Reformed theology, who still grapple with the solution to how divine sovereignty and human responsibility work together. It is unquestionably a paradox, at least apparently. Certainly it is not contradictory to God, nor is it contradictory in reality, but it appears to us to be contradictory. I know all of you have struggled with this question, all of you have. I have. It's not a question that goes away. You don't get a short answer. In wanting to prepare my thoughts for this occasion . . . I began to read everything I could find on how human responsibility comes together with divine sovereignty. What I got was a lot of philosophy, a lot of rational thinking, a lot of reasoning, a lot of adjectives, qualifying absolutely everything, but I really didn't get any satisfaction."

"I want you to see the way Scripture handles this issue. There is a reason why nobody yet has given you a fully satisfactory answer, and I know no one has. You may be a teacher of Reformed theology, and you haven't read or heard a really satisfactory answer to this difficult dilemma from the standpoint of human reason. Where you have to go with this is to set all of that aside and just see what Scripture says."

"The Scripture never equivocates on presenting these two great side by side realities in the very same place. . . . Human responsibility both for faith and culpability for unbelief is crystal clear, and it is put in the passages where sovereignty is emphasized strongly."

"The Bible doesn't tell you one side of this in this book, and then four books later sneak in the other side. It's in the same place over and over and over again. . . . I can't resolve this. You just need to enjoy the pain. . . . and you certainly don't want to come up with a hybrid in the middle which denies the reality of both. They are what they are. And if you're under the illusion that you can figure it out, you're on the level of a man who thinks he's a poached egg."

Can I just encourage you? Have you been struggling with this? Of course you've been struggling with this! . . . these two things go together and there is no explanation beyond that. You're there. . . . you've got it."

"You say, 'look, I'm struggling a little bit with this.' Good. It means you're human. . . . Are you surprised that you're struggling with this? Get over it. Who do you think you are? 98% water. Are you kidding me? Why should you expect to understand this? . . . This is way beyond us, but we love these truths, don't we? We love the truth of divine sovereignty. We embrace the truth of human responsibility. And we cherish Gospel duty. . . . These mysteries for us are inconceivable, incomprehensible, unfathomable, unsearchable. You don't need more information . . . You got it."

"Listen folks, not your individual intellect or our collective intellects are going to be able to comprehend the incomprehensible, inscrutable mind of God."

See the video here:

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Isaiah 53:2b - An Unmajestic Appearance of Deity

He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.

Jesus Christ stands as history's most prominent figure. During his days on earth, He was briefly hailed as a celebrity in the tiny realm of ancient Palestine. After his death and resurrection, His apparent popularity expanded rapidly and has now filled the entire world! Today, He has garnered the professed allegiance of a vast swath of humanity, and the professed respect of most who have lived - along with the outward animosity of a few, and the hidden hatred of most. Fallen man is in a state of rebellion, though he sometimes dresses it up in religious robes.

God Himself repeatedly testifies to man's pretended allegiance, stealthy defiance and quiet rejection of the Divine Authority:

Isaiah 29:13 And the Lord said: "Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men . . .
Isaiah 48:1
Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and who came from the waters of Judah, who swear by the name of the Lord and confess the God of Israel, but not in truth or right.

Jeremiah 5:2 Though they say, "As the Lord lives," yet they swear falsely.
Titus 1:16
They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

II Timothy 3:5 . . . having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.

Many pretend to love God, and Jesus "enjoys the favor of the people." Devotion can be real or feigned, but the One who looks upon the heart knows the difference between the two. We are emphatically NOT the judges, although we are commanded to examine the doctrine and test the spiritual fruit in light of Scripture.

Let's step back 2,000 years . . .

In the days of His incarnation, it was neither His form nor His appearance that drew people. He had the form of a servant and the appearance of an ordinary man. Today there is hardly a celebrity who is not "beautiful," for mankind is prone to judge by the eyes and exalt the attractive. But Jesus Christ was a common, everyday person on the outside - barely noticeable.

What actually drew people to the carpenter from Nazareth? For many, it was His works. For others, it was His words. For some, it was that utterly irresistible character, attitude, and liveliness. He was more literally "alive" than any person who ever walked the earth, then or since. Those who saw this considered themselves blessed.

The divine form - could it be seen - would have been glorious, captivating and inspiring. But Christ's outward form was merely human, and even His human appearance was lowly. It was not the appearance of a king or some person of worldly importance. It was that of a simple man. Entirely unimpressive.

What really attracted people to Christ?

There were various human reasons to follow Him . . .

Physical Reasons - food, healing, deliverance from evil powers
Social Reasons - the crowds were there

Intellectual Reasons - challenging philosophy, enigmas, paradoxes and parables
Reasons of Curiosity - to see what He would do and say, and enjoy the verbal boxing matches with Pharisees, Sadducees, Priests, Scribes and Teachers of the Law

Political Reasons - the kingdom was promised, Roman rule might be challenged, enemies might be conquered

Religious Reasons - He represented a new movement, so why not join the bandwagon?

The Divine Reason - God was calling sinners to Himself!

"Be Attracted" = חמד Heb. CHAMAD - to desire, covet, take pleasure in, delight in

Like us, Christ's contemporaries desired many different things for many different reasons. Few desired HIM.

2,000 years later, there are still just as many wrong reasons to follow Jesus, just as many lesser desires to distract us from seeking Him, as He is, for Himself. And there remains ONE right reason to follow Him. This reason requires us to stop judging Him and instead agree with His estimation of our sinfulness. When this happens, nothing will be able to turn us from Him, for He will appear to us as the most beautiful, blessed, glorious, capable and perfect of all beings. An honest response to the Gospel is all that is needed, and suddenly the veil falls from the eyes.

Have you responded honestly - repentantly, trustfully - to the message of Christ's birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and promised second appearance? If you have, it is because the Father drew you to Him. If you have not, do so now!

He will receive you. He will not turn you away. No matter who you are, or what you have done - no matter what you have left undone - He will receive, embrace, forgive, save and cleanse you when you come to Him in faith. He may not look like much to the natural eyes, but to those who know Him He is a humble, gracious, wonderful, majestic, incomparable, saving King.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The 5 Points of Fundamentalism

Dr. Curt Daniel shared these historical tenets of Fundamentalism in a recent sermon series on the 5 solas. Here they are . . .

1. The Verbal Plenary Inspiration of Scripture
2. The Virgin Birth of Christ
3. The Vicarious Substitutionary Atonement of Christ
4. The Victorious Bodily Resurrection of Christ
5. The Visible Return of Christ

I've seen these emphasized in almost every church I've attended, but I never knew they were codified officially as the "5 Points of Fundamentalism." I wonder how many of them are still held among mainstream Evangelicals, seeker-sensitive ministries, and Emergents? It seems all 5 are up for grabs in some circles, while in others they remain non-negotiable.

Of course, correct belief combined with a loveless, graceless, arrogant, legalistic, man-focused religion will only create an ungodly disaster called "Pharisaism." This appears to be the type of religion practiced in some conservative churches nowadays. On the other side, there is the heresy of the Emerging Church, which has distanced itself from anything so "traditional" and is now latching onto whatever mystical mumbo-jumbo it can find in the brave new world of post-orthodoxy. Dry fundamentalism holds some truth but lacks grace. Drowning postmodernism thrashes about in the cesspool of humanistic dogma, but gladly welcomes all. "Come on in, the water's fine," they say.

Well, It's time for some Biblically grounded Calvinists to arise (humbly!) with the fire of God in their bones and the grace of God in their tear-stained eyes. May God revive us with 5 Points of Fundamentalism, 4 or 5 Points of Calvinism (see note below), 5 Solas of the Reformation, 9 fruits of the Spirit, 7 Beatitudes of Blessing, 2 Great Commandments, ONE Glorious Gospel, and the 5 fires of genuine devotion: LOVE, MERCY, GRACE, COMPASSION and HUMILITY (yes, I made the last part up, but to God the 5 fires are already written in stone - and according to His command need to be written on our hearts).

Hosea 6:6 For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

Matthew 9:13 "Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."

Matthew 12:7 "And if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless."

James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
NOTE: If you don't like people clarifying the famed 3rd point of Calvinism, or you think all the points stand or fall together, you'll have to take it up with John Calvin, Richard Baxter, J.C. Ryle, R.L. Dabney, William G.T. Shedd, Bruce Ware, and a whole host of other well known Reformed guys!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Van Til on Human Knowledge, the Laws of Logic, and the Gospel

The “natural man” assumes that there is a “principle of rationality,” including the laws of logic, i.e. the law of identity, the law of excluded middle and the law of contradiction which is, like the “facts,” just there. The facts he speaks of he assumes to be non-created facts. There is no “curse” that rests upon nature because of man’s sin. The “natural man” assumes that he himself, being “just there,” can relate the space-time facts which are “just there” by means of a “principle of rationality” that is “just there” to one another or that if he cannot do this, no one can. It does not occur to him to think of God as the one whose thoughts are higher than his thoughts. How do I, as a Christian, know all this information about the “natural man.” Christ tells me this in Scripture. Moreover, the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit gives me life from the dead so that I understand this not merely in intellectual fashion but existentially, I have been born again unto knowledge. Once I am born again I know that I am a creature made in the image of God. I now know that together with all men I became a sinner, a covenant-breaker, subject to the wrath of God. I now know that Christ died to redeem me from the curse that rested upon me for my disobedience of the law of God and that in him I am now justified. I know that I am, together with the body of the redeemed, on the way to my Savior’s presence. In the words of the Heidelberg Catechism I am now persuaded that “I belong, not to myself, but to my faithful Savior and that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair shall fall from my head.” Everything in the I-it dimension as well as everything in the I-thou dimension is unified by means of the all-directing control of Jesus Christ, the Savior of his people. The city of God will be victorious over the city of men. The powers of hell cannot prevent the victory of the work of the triune God for the salvation of the world.

-Cornelius Van Til, Excerpted from a Letter to Francis Schaeffer (Source)

UPDATE: Every time I read this quote, I like it even more! So much good here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Found a Treasure Trove!

He's wise, he's witty, he's obscure, he's prolific, he's Canadian, he's humble, he's full of grace, he's Tony Hayling of Agonizomai. For a couple of years now, I've been like a little yippy dog nipping at his heels.

As of today, THEOparadox advisor Tony Hayling is indefinitely "retiring" from blogdom.

Tony recently opened up the mother lode: his entire collection of audio works on one page! I've been looking for this page for a long time, and haven't been able to find it (I suppose I could have just asked him where it was). In any case, it is now available to all.

Tony's devotional commentaries have covered Hebrews, Romans 1-3, Revelation 1-3, I Corinthians, Jonah, and Malachi, with a variety of classic sermons by well known theologians and other topical goodies mixed in. So, if you're looking for God-centered audio messages with a pleasant voice and a beautiful theology, start downloading some of these gems. They will point you to the Word, and Christ, and grace at every turn. Click here for the treasure trove!

I am also going to add a link in the sidebar of this blog for easy reference.

We hope Tony enjoys fishing the icy waters of Canada while we enjoy the fruits of his labors in the Word.

Monday, June 14, 2010

There are always exceptions . . .

I've boldly criticized the Clarkian viewpoint (in the post preceding this one, for example). But in the interest of fairness, I should note that I've just recently finished a pleasant conversation with Hugh McCann, who seems to have Clarkian leanings. It ended with this very irenic exchange:

My final response:


I think there are at least two things happening here:

1. We’re going around in circles over the same ground. I’ve given numerous explanations and illustrations of the way I personally interpret the categorical distinction (in a way that seems to be more or less similar to RSC and the classic Reformed tradition – perhaps leaning toward the Van Tillian side) and why I think it’s worth affirming. You have given your reasons for rejecting some of the language. I could give more illustrations, and you could give more reasons, but the basic ideas will likely be the same and we’ll only be repeating ourselves. I repeat, we’ll only be repeating ourselves. :)

2. More importantly – you and I are going to disagree, plain and simple, on what is an acceptable way to describe man’s knowledge of God through His self-revelation.

You quoted RSC as follows:

“Our intellects do not intersect with God’s.”[b]
“God can know what I know without my knowing what he knows.”[c]
“By definition, an analogy is not an intersection. An intersection, at the intersecting point, is identity. That is not analogy.”

You said these statements are problematic, but I think they’re accurate. In heaven we may find out who is more correct, but by then I’d think we won’t even care.

At this juncture, perhaps the best way to avoid a repeated and fruitless disagreement over the same friction points is to unhesitatingly apply the oil of acceptance and the grease of gratefulness. I accept that you see this differently. I am grateful to God for showing you His Truth and and granting you strong convictions about the comprehensibility of that Truth (in all likelihood, this conviction furthers your sanctification). I am grateful for His grace in giving me strong convictions about His incomprehensibility (this definitely furthers my sanctification). And I accept that we haven’t achieved a consensus on the exact way these concepts should be harmonized. If GHC and CVT could see us now, they’d probably be laughing.

I have enjoyed and profited from the discussion, and wish you all the fullness of blessing in Christ.

Grace & peace,

  • Derek,

    Ditto on the profitability. I enjoy and appreciate your analogies!

    I believe we agree that God
    (1) knows all we know,
    (2) knows more than we know,
    (3) knows in a manner differently than we, and thus,
    (4) we know some of the things he knows.

    Surely we agree that we think some of God’s thoughts after him.

    We have the mind of Christ in us, the hope of glory, indeed.


That's "agree to disagree" as it ought to be.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Debating Rules for Clarkians

As a proponent of Reformed theological paradox, I've found my most vocal critics and philosophical opponents (aside from atheists, agnostics and Pelagians) are Clarkians. One of their popular bloggers has kindly referred to me as "the poor soul who runs THEOparadox." He has also recommended people Google "THEOparadox" to find an example of horribly bad theology. Yep, you got it. Look no further than Bible-believing, orthodox, Gospel-centered, conservative, essentially Reformed THEOparadox for some horribly bad theology. Has anybody seen my pitchfork?

Ironically, I've learned a few genuinely helpful things from Clarkians. I'm not going to discuss those things in this post. Instead, I'm publishing my tongue-in-cheek observations about their debating techniques. Don't get bent out of shape, this is just for laughs. By God's grace, I can honestly say I love these guys more than I disagree with them (and we disagree rather thoroughly on some topics). In those disagreements, I've observed that these are the rules by which they play the game . . .
Debating Rules For Clarkians

1. If you insult the other guy, you've won.
We are of peace. Always.
2. If you quote Gordon Clark, you've won.
Surely he's the smartest guy who ever lived. Never made a mistake, either. Like Superman without the cape.
3. If you link the other guy's position to something in Roman Catholicism, no matter how contrived or unrelated, you've won.

Those Catholic heretics think the Trinity is a paradox, too. So it can't be true.

4. If you endlessly repeat the same argument he's already answered 20 times, you've won.

Pretend he didn't just wipe out your argument, and say it again as if it's the first time. If that doesn't work, try playing dumb. And repeating yourself. Repeating yourself is a good strategy. Repeating yourself is a good strategy. Repeating yourself is a good strategy (I must be winning!)
5. If you say he's irrational or illogical, you've won.

There are, after all, only two kinds of arguments. Perfectly sound Clarkian arguments and total irrationality. Only read Clarkian books and blogs. You can read other stuff if you're looking for something to attack, but not to learn anything.

6. If you quote John Robbins, you've won.

He's smaller than Guru Clark, but still a guaranteed winner. He works especially well with the Pope Card.
7. If the other guy responds to your argument, you've won. Same as if he doesn't respond.

Cover your ears whenever the heretic speaks!
8. If you declare him to be a Van Tillian, you've won.

Sure, Van Til was a genius who was firmly committed to Reformed orthodoxy. But why should that garner any respect? Never say his name without showing your utter disdain.
9. If you cite lopsided articles from the Trinity Review, you've won.

It's everything you'd want in a tabloid, minus the doctored up pictures of the people being tattled on.

10. If you can't derive everything you claim to know directly from Scripture, you've lost.

So if you don't happen to have a Biblical name, we don't know what to call you. In fact, you may not even exist.

Based on #10, they lose every time. But watching #1-9 keeps it entertaining.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Categorical Distinctions in the Knowledge of God

Editor's Note: Close the hatches, we are about to go deep into the waters of Reformed theology.

Thanks to Brandon Wilkins at A Pilgim's Theology for pointing us to this quote from Louis Berkhof:
“Alongside of the archetypal knowledge of God, found in himself, there is also an ectypal knowledge of Him, given to man by revelation. The latter is related to the former as a copy to the original, and therefore does not possess the same measure of clearness and perfection. All our knowledge of God is derived from His self-revelation in nature and in Scripture. Consequently, our knowledge of God is on the one hand ectypal and analogical, but on the other hand also true and accurate, since it is a copy of the archetypal knowledge which God has of himself” (Berkhof, ST, 35).
This thought wasn't original to Berkhof; it is reflected in a long line of Reformed thinkers. The distinction was heavily pressed by Cornelius Van Til, while it was minimized by Gordon Clark. Maintaining the "categorical distinction" is important for many reasons, some of which are discussed in the comments at this post on R. Scott Clark's Heidelblog. Some have described "Archetypal Theology" and "Ectypal Theology," or the TA/TE distinction for short. Others have merely discussed Archetypal and Ectypal knowledge. It's the same thing either way. Those who hold the distinction are sometimes called "analogical theologians" because they affirm that our knowledge of God is an analogy of His own higher and perfect knowledge.

Those of a Clarkian mindset (followers of Gordon Clark, not R. Scott Clark) tend to take issue with such distinctions, but we believe the distinctions are essential to the development of an orthodox view of God, revelation and humanity.

Here is a comment I left at the Heidelblog in response to certain criticisms of this doctrine that were leveled by previous commenters:

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems that some here are building a straw man and not taking the TA/TE distinction at face value.

Aren’t these straw men?
“If the truths revealed in Scripture are not what God really thinks . . .”
I don’t hear analogical theologians saying that. They’re saying the truths of Scripture are a faithful copy of God’s actual thoughts.
“if there is and can be no identity of content between God’s knowledge and man’s . . .”
That’s not what they’re saying, either. It’s not a question of content, but of our ability to humanly comprehend and categorize the content that is only divinely comprehensible.
“If the human words of Scripture are not also God’s own divine words . . .”
Absolutely wrong. No analogical Reformed theologian denies that the Bible is God’s Word.
“If the truths revealed in Scripture are not what God really thinks . . .”
Analogical theologians don’t say this. If there are truths revealed in Scripture (and we believe there are), God thinks them. But He thinks more than that, and He thinks in a different way (a divine way).
“if there is and can be no identity of content between God’s knowledge and man’s . . .”
A totally false inference. Read the Berkhof quote again.

These straw men do not reflect the things I hear those who hold to the distinction saying (e.g. Berkhof). They are simply comparing the intellectual apparatus of man with that of our Creator. These men are saying the propositions we receive from Scripture are a faithful, accurate copy of God’s own thoughts (that’s what ectype means). Hence, we can think some of the same propositional content of God’s thoughts after Him, but we cannot think God’s actual thoughts because we don’t have the apparatus to do so. (It’s like trying to pick up a TV signal through a radio. Even when you get tuned in to the right station, you’re still missing something – a picture). One can think of propositional revelation (the ectype) as 2-dimensional, and God’s archetypal thoughts as 3-dimensional. He sees stereoscopically, with infinite depth, while we see with an eye patch called “creaturehood” makin Truth look flat. Since we are so limited, God reduced His thoughts into language that we can understand (Calvin’s “lisp”), language that is necessarily limited (but not false or uncertain). Guys like Berkhof are simply saying that God Himself cannot be reduced to a mere set of propositions (contra Gordon Clark). Propositions are containable and controllable. God isn’t.

Far from devaluing Scripture, these men are exalting God. Some theologians who have a rationalistic bent etch away at the glory of God by reducing Him to a set of humanly explicable propositions. He’s never going to be that small.

Another comment laying out a Biblical basis for the doctrine:

Perhaps there is a tension between emphasizing the comprehensibility of divine revelation and the incomprehensibility of the One revealed. The comprehensible revelation reveals that the Revealer is too incomprehensible to comprehend … and it does so with amazing clarity.

I think when some Reformed theologians say our knowledge is “different” than God’s, they are referring quantitatively to a reduced content on the one hand (accommodating to our weakness, as in the illustrations above), and qualitatively to a reduced depth of apprehension on the other hand (accommodating to our innate creaturely limitations). I doubt even Van Til would say God knows one thing archetypally and reveals something of a completely different content ectypally. That would make God a liar, or at least a distorter of His own Truth. Ectypal knowledge has to be as true as Archetypal, or else the whole thing falls apart. But I believe there is a Biblical case for the distinction in both aspects, reduced content and reduced depth of apprehension.

In discussing God’s meticulous sovereignty in Psalm 139, David says, “Such knowledge is too wonderful [Heb. pil'iy, incomprehensible] for me, I cannot attain to it.” (Ps. 139:6, NASB). David “knows” the propositions he has just written, yet in some way he is unable to grasp them. The revealed propositions are just the tip of an incomprehensible iceberg.

The only other occurrence of the Hebrew word pil’iy is in Judges 13:18, where the angel of the Lord says he has an incomprehensible name. The name of an angel should consist of the simplest possible propositional statement, yet in this case it is obviously much more. So, the Biblical proposition revealed is not “The angel’s name is ___________,” but instead perhaps, “Things that are simple to God and His angels are way beyond your grasp.” These are two isolated texts, but along with others they point us toward the categorical distinction.

In another comment you mentioned I Cor. 2, which is certainly apropos to this topic. I’m fascinated by a few of Paul’s statements there:
1. No one knows the mind of God except the Spirit of God.
2. We have received the Spirit who is from God.
3. We may understand the things freely given to us by God.

Note that he doesn’t say we know the mind of God directly. He says we have received the Spirit who knows the mind of God. So, the Spirit living in us has exclusive Archetypal knowledge (knows the mind of God), and He shares Ectypal knowledge with us (so that we may understand the things freely given to us by God). He doesn’t say “so that we may understand the mind of God,” but the things freely given to us. Interestingly, unbelievers also have things freely given to them by God, yet they remain willfully ignorant of that fact. Both are recipients of His gifts, but only believers can perceive how greatly they have been “graced.”

Could all of this be evidence that God Himself has carefully preserved the categorical distinction in His Word?

This creates plenty of opportunity for verbal paradoxes, but is there a logical paradox at work here? Or is the categorical distinction intended to solve a logical paradox? I favor the latter, and a good solution it is.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Return to Your First Love

There are a few songs that make me cry every time I hear them, without fail. This is one of them. God brought this song by Lee Behnken into my ears when I had wandered away from Him, when my heart was hard like granite, when I had sold out to indwelling sin and felt no hope at all. I melted, and felt His love again. He renewed my repentance, and for that I will bless His Name always.

I love the fact that this was aired on Chinese television. Unfortunately, the video quality is poor, and Lee had to sing over a soundtrack including his own pre-recorded voice (makes an interesting "chorus" effect). But nothing can repress the beauty and joy of these lyrics. It's a song from God to His prodigals. Come back to Jesus, dear prodigal! Return to your first love!

No one loves you more! There is no one like the Lord!

Luke 15:11-32
There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.

But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’

The paradox is that God initiates our return in one sense, and awaits our return in another. Wandering prodigals find they must choose to return, and as they return they find a patient Father who eagerly longs for them to make this choice. But once they have returned to His arms, they look back and see that His cords of love drew them, and His effectual call caused them to repent. They are responsible to repent, yet they get no credit for it. He alone gets the glory. All who are truly repentant cannot and will not resist giving the Father this glory, though they may find it impossible to explain.