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!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Questions That Don't Need Answers

Skeptics sometimes ask: "If God created everything, who created God?"

The question seems reasonable enough, but it overlooks the eternality, transcendence, and self-existence of God.

I like this turn of the tables: "If man created God, then who created man?"

Since human beings are clearly not eternal, transcendent, or self-existent, and the person asking the question is a human being, this seems to be the more important of the two questions. Skeptics say they cannot see or sense God, so how can they know He exists? Okay, fine. But all of us can perceive human beings, and must somehow account for their existence. As I see it, the choices ultimately boil down to spontaneous generation in an illogically eternal universe, or creation by God (which may sometimes appear illogical to some, but is ultimately the most logical of all possibilities).

Someone will say that skeptics don't know the eternality, transcendence, and self-existence of God, which is why they're asking the question in the first place. The Bible says they most certainly do know these things, and they are therefore without excuse in their stubborn refusal to glorify their Creator by trusting in Him.

Romans 1:18-21 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

It is not a lack of logical explanation, but a lack of trustful adoration, which prevents sinful man from believing in his Creator.

God exists as the uncaused Cause, the unsourced Source, the unmoved Mover, the uncreated Creator, the unmade Maker, the ungiven Giver - and all too often as the unloved Lover. Even those who deny this know it to be true.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

PARADOX FILES, Vol. 13 - Henry Mahan

I found an excellent message titled "Orthodox Paradoxes" by Henry Mahan, a well known "Sovereign Grace" Baptist who has enjoyed a fruitful preaching ministry for over 50 years. Here is Mahan's bio from

Henry T. Mahan was born in Birmingham, Alabama August 1926. He began pastoring at the young age of 21 and has wide experience in the pastoral ministry, having been pastor of Thirteenth Street Baptist Church, Ashland, Kentucky, for over 50 years. He also travels widely as a conference speaker and evangelist. What draws the positive reaction from people all over the world to Henry Mahan's preaching is not primarily the man, but the message. It is not the preacher so much as the One preached. Listeners know that each one of these sermons will honor their precious Savior and lift up the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Pastor Mahan believes in the sovereign free grace of God. He sees all of God's plan and purpose directed toward one end of glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ in the salvation of sinners. His sermons are God honoring, Christ exalting, and places the Savior at the forefront of our attention, the worth of Christ's blood and righteousness on the lips of every saved sinner. If you love the God-honoring preaching of God's sovereign grace, you will not be disappointed in the preaching of Henry T. Mahan!

Among other things, Mahan discusses the paradoxes of faith & works, the Trinity, the Incarnation, God's sovereignty & human responsibility, active election & passive reprobation, divine love & wrath, law & grace, and the sinner/saint paradox. This is a very encouraging message that gives helpful perspective on the struggles of the Christian life.


"One of the evidences that a person has not been taught of God - has not been taught of God . . . has not heard that voice from heaven in his soul, he has not learned of the Father - is when a man continually has problems with the orthodox paradoxes."

"You can't handle a paradox unless you're taught of God."

Well said.

Listen to it here:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Christianity and We-Are-Able-ISM

"This fresh breaking out of the doctrine of the free-will ministers to the pretension of the natural man not to be entirely lost, for that is just what it amounts to. All who have never been deeply convicted of sin, all those with whom this conviction is based on gross and outward sins, believe more or less in free-will. You know that it is the dogma of the Wesleyans and all reasoners, of all philosophers; but it completely changes the whole idea of Christianity and entirely perverts it."

J.N. Darby (Source)

Note: The first line is clumsily worded, but it's worth reading over again if necessary. The word "ministers" is a verb, not a noun. I finally got it on the 3rd reading. The full article is excellent, too.
Note #2: In case you're wondering, I'm not a dispensationalist, but I do appreciate the Christ-centered devotional writings of the Plymouth Brethren.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Why I am a Bad Calvinist - Conclusion

A Calvinist is a person who knows he is bad, and knows Christ is good. It's that simple.

In this series I have endeavored to show how a Biblical understanding of human depravity leads directly and necessarily toward a theological viewpoint which exalts the grace and mercy of God, maximally glorifies Him, and gladly rejoices in His exhaustive, meticulous, comprehensive, detailed, enveloping, all-encompassing sovereignty over all things - including the salvation of individual sinners. The five parts coincide with the 5 points of Calvinism.

The trouble with some Calvinists is they have forgotten they are bad. A "good" Calvinist (indeed, a "good" Christian of any sort) has a short shelf life and spoils immediately. Bad Christians, on the other hand, never stop repenting and never stop receiving more of Christ and grace. And when Christ's work in us is complete, we will be fully restored from all the effects of the fall - better than if it had never happened.

Soli Deo Gloria!
Solus Christus!
Sola Gratia!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Why I am a Bad Calvinist - Part 5

Because I am so utterly sinful that I would turn back to sin and fall away from Christ if God did not keep me. I could never - and would never - do a single thing to please Him, except as He works in me to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Apart from Him, I can do nothing.

God, who elected us before the world began, gave us life, preserved us when we rebelled against Him, called us through the Gospel, regenerated us by the Holy Spirit, gave us faith, washed us in Christ's blood, and saved us by His grace, will certainly keep us to the very end and bring us safely into His glorious, eternal rest!

I think this is my all time favorite Keith Green song.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Why I am a Bad Calvinist - Part 4

Because it required the direct intervention of the Third Person of the Trinity to turn me from my love of sin and bring me to faith in Christ.

The Holy Spirit unveils the beautiful Son of God to us and instills in us His own love for Christ. No fallen sinner will ever choose Christ on his own. But thanks be to God, He draws us to Himself.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Why I am a Bad Calvinist - Part 3

Because my sins and offenses against a holy God are so completely wicked they require an infinite payment - a payment in sinless blood. A Perfect man had to die in my place to satisfy the justice of a Perfect God, so that the unutterable sinfulness of my soul would be forgiven and a sufficient, saving righteousness would be freely given to me. My moral bankruptcy is so great that I can not even pay a fraction of a penny toward my own salvation. I can bring only the immensity of my debt and the fact of my inability to pay.

Man's iniquity is so vile that there is no way for us to approach God (or even continue to breathe!), apart from the Mediator who experienced the immeasurable spiritual agony we deserve, died in our place, and rose to new life so that He might apply the benefits of His sacrifice to His chosen ones.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Why I am a Bad Calvinist - Part 2

Because there was NOTHING good in me that would make me worthy enough for God to choose me . . . unworthy sinners are elected unconditionally on the basis of God's mercy, according to His own sovereign purpose, and not according to any merit or worth in them.

We would never have chosen Him, so He chose us. That's a remarkable and humbling fact.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Why I am a Bad Calvinist - Part 1

Because there's no such thing as a good Calvinist . . . by definition, we're all totally depraved.

Christ died for sinners, and only His grace can make any good of any of us.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Marveling at the Gospel

The incomprehensible God united Himself incomprehensibly with humanity, to die under the incomprehensible suffering generated by His just and incomprehensible wrath, paying an incomprehensible price to redeem incomprehensibly sinful sinners through His incomprehensible grace, rising again by His incomprehensible power, showing His incomprehensible love, displaying His incomprehensible wisdom, revealing His incomprehensible glory.


Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Why I Spell Coincidence with a Capital "G"

It's been an interesting week. I was in Atlanta on business from Sunday evening through Tuesday. The trip wasn't going very well, and a lot of my "personal expectations" (read: idolatrous desires) were not being met. We stayed in an atrocious downtown hotel and, out of fear of our lives, decided to move to another hotel after the first night. I had hoped to stay for the full week, but my boss insisted I return on Tuesday. The trade show was smaller than expected, and didn't seem too productive. I had hoped to have dinner with some business associates before flying out on Tuesday night, but it didn't work out. By 5:00, I hadn't had any lunch, and I found myself heading to the airport several hours earlier than expected. As I walked alone toward the train station, preparing for the 20-minute ride to the airport, I sensed the Holy Spirit calling me to submit my self-centered and complaint-ridden attitude to God's mercy and sovereignty.

Then something strange happened. Just after sitting down on the train, I overheard a conversation nearby. I distinctly heard someone utter the words, "the Arminian system." That caught my attention. I figured I could use some fellowship with other believers, whether Calvinists or Arminians, so I went over to the two men who were obviously discussing theology and introduced myself. They said they were indeed believers and told me their names. That's when my jaw dropped, and I saw the sovereign hand of God in the midst of all my petty disappointments (something tells me heaven will be like this).

Here's a little background to help you understand why my jaw dropped. Over a year ago, my pastor gave me a little book called "Uniting Church and Home," written by his friend Eric Wallace. Eric is a pastor who lives in Virginia, and a leader of the family-integrated church movement. I enjoyed the book and have become excited about returning to the Biblical vision for church, family, marriage, parenting, and household-based ministry. The concept has transformed and is continuing to transform my family.

The last thing I expected was to meet Eric Wallace in Atlanta, but one of the men I met on the train was him! The other man was an elder from his church. They just "happened" to be in Atlanta, just "happened" to be on my train, we just "happened" to be in the same car, and I just "happened" to overhear their conversation. So, for 20 minutes my soul was refreshed as we chatted about the good things of God, Scripture, theology and life. God knew. God knew!

That's coincidence with a capital "G."

Here is a link to Eric's website:
The Institute for Uniting Church and Home

and a short video (note the Gospel-centeredness!)

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Dr. Andreas Kostenberger was at my church last Sunday!

Yes, it's true. One of the great Biblical scholars of our day taught a small Sunday School class and then preached to less than 100 people at Lakeside Community Church.

Dr. Kostenberger capably answered several tough questions about the book of John, from my "definition-of-world" multi-question to the reason why John 7:53-8:11 is included in the Bible. His working definition of "world" was surprisingly close to mine, but he added "in need of redemption," which I thought was helpful. He also noted that there could be some aspect of "Gentiles & Jews" (i.e., "the whole world" as opposed to Jews only) in John 3:16. I'm not opposed to "Gentiles & Jews" because, well, that pretty much encompasses every individual. You're either one or the other, right? In addition, he mentioned some passages where "world" clearly means "earth" or created universe, and showed how John can quickly switch between the two meanings.

As for the apparently spurious passage in John 8, Dr. Kostenberger said he has contacted Bible publishers and asked them to consider removing it. Although it's probably historically true, the passage lacks the needed textual evidence to be considered an authoritative part of the New Testament. Contrary to the impression given by Bart Ehrman, this is one of only two passages in the New Testament which fall into this category (the other is the famous "second ending" of Mark). An interesting point made during the Q and A session was that John's Gospel has many parallels with the book of Isaiah.

The sermon covered John 20:26-29, which is the account of Thomas' refusal to believe in the resurrection without physical proof. This was timely for me, as I had just confessed to my accountability partners that "my number one problem at the moment is unbelief." God is always the master of perfect timing, is He not? In the middle of the sermon, my 8-year-old daughter looked up at me and said, "Daddy, this is interesting - I like it!" Wow.

What struck me most about Dr. Kostenberger was the way he exuded humility. He was thoughtful, gracious and not quick to speak. It is rare to see such great knowledge and insight unaccompanied by the arrogance that sometimes results from learning. God's Word, rightly handled, does produce a remarkable humility and Christ-centeredness which are inspiring.

My pastor exhibits the same characteristics, and he's no theological lightweight himself. I'm grateful to God for providing these men as examples of character qualities I hope to attain, by grace, in His time.

I haven't figured out how to upload the audio files yet, but if I figure it out I'll offer them for the benefit of all interested THEOparadoxians.