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, August 31, 2011

PARADOX FILES, Vol. 17 - Wayne Grudem

The eminent Evangelical scholar and theologian, Wayne Grudem, is the latest recipient of our famous t-shirt. These words of wisdom from his Systematic Theology text will tell you why.
We find in the New Testament that Jesus and the New Testament authors will often quote a verse of Scripture and then draw logical conclusions from it. They reason from Scripture. It is therefore not wrong to use human understanding, human logic, and human reason to draw conclusions from the  statements of  Scripture. Nevertheless, when we  reason  and draw what we  think  to be correct logical deductions from Scripture, we sometimes make mistakes. The deductions we draw from the statements of Scripture are not equal to the statements of Scripture themselves in certainty or authority, for our ability to reason and draw conclusions is not the ultimate standard of truth — only Scripture is. 
What then are the limits on our use of our reasoning abilities to draw deductions from the statements of Scripture? The fact that reasoning to conclusions that go beyond the mere statements of Scripture is appropriate and even necessary for studying Scripture, and the fact that Scripture itself is the ultimate standard of truth, combine to indicate to us that we are free to use our reasoning abilities to draw deductions from any passage of Scripture so long as these deductions do not contradict the clear teaching of some other passage of Scripture.7 
This principle puts a safeguard on our use of what we think to be logical deductions from Scripture. Our supposedly logical deductions may be erroneous, but Scripture itself cannot be erroneous. Thus, for example, we may read Scripture and find that God the Father is called God (1 Cor. 1:3), that God the Son is called God (John 20:28; Titus 2:13), and that God the Holy Spirit is called God (Acts 5:3 – 4). We might deduce from this that there are three Gods. But then we find the Bible explicitly teaching us that God is one (Deut. 6:4; James 2:19). Thus we conclude that what we thought to be a valid logical deduction about three Gods as wrong and that Scripture teaches both (a) that there are three separate persons (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), each of whom is fully God, and (b) that there is one God. We cannot understand exactly how these two statements can both be true, so together they constitute a paradox (“a seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true”).8 We can tolerate a paradox (such as “God is three persons and one God”) because we have confidence that ultimately God knows fully the truth about himself and about the nature of reality, and that in his understanding the different elements of a paradox are fully reconciled, even though at this point God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isa. 55:8 – 9). But a true contradiction (such as, “God is three persons and God is not three persons”) would imply ultimate contradiction in God’s own understanding of himself or of reality, and this cannot be. 
When the psalmist says, “The sum of your word is truth; and every one of your righteous ordinances endures for ever” (Ps. 119:160), he implies that God’s words are not only true individually but also viewed  together  as a whole. Viewed  collectively,  their “sum” is also “truth.” Ultimately, there is no internal contradiction either in Scripture or in God’s own thoughts.
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, 34. Italics original. bold added for emphasis.

This is a good basic overview of the THEOparadox thesis. All of the salient points are there. Dr. Grudem deserves not only the t-shirt, but the THEOparadox hat, shoes, tie, bumper sticker, coffee mug, keychain, belt buckle and wall poster as well.
Dr. Grudem's Footnotes:

7 This guideline is also adopted from Professor John Frame at Westminster Seminary.
8 The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, ed. William Morris (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1980), p. 950 (first definition). Essentially the same meaning is adopted by the Oxford English Dictionary (1913 ed., 7:450), the Concise Oxford Dictionary (1981 ed., p. 742), the Random House College Dictionary (1979 ed., p. 964), and the Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary (p. 780), though all note that paradox can also mean “contradiction” (though less commonly);  compare the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Paul Edwards (New York: Macmillan and The Free Press, 1967), 5:45, and the entire article “Logical Paradoxes” by John  van Heijenoort on pp. 45 – 51 of the same volume, which proposes solutions to many of the classical paradoxes in the history of philosophy. (If paradox meant “contradiction,” such solutions would be impossible.) 
When I use the word paradox in the primary sense defined by these dictionaries today I realize that I am differing somewhat with the article “Paradox” by K. S. Kantzer in the EDT, ed. Walter Elwell, pp. 826 – 27 (which takes paradox to mean essentially “contradiction”). However, I am using paradox in an ordinary English sense and one also familiar in philosophy. There seems to me to be available no better word than paradox to refer to an apparent but not real contradiction.
There  is,  however,  some  lack  of  uniformity in the use of the term paradox and a related term, antinomy, in  contemporary evangelical discussion. The word antinomy has sometimes been used to apply to what I here call paradox, that is, “seemingly contradictory statements that may nonetheless both be true” (see, for example, John Jefferson Davis, Theology Primer [Grand  Rapids :  Ba ker,  1981],  p.  18).  Such a sense for antinomy gained support in a widely read book, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, by J.I. Packer (London: Inter-Varsity Press, 1961). On pp. 18 – 22 Packer defines antinomy as “an appearance of contradiction” (but  admits on p. 18 that his definition differs with the Shorter Oxford Dictionary). My problem with using antinomy in this sense is that the word is so unfamiliar in ordinary English that it just increases the stock of technical terms Christians have to learn in order to understand theologians, and moreover such a sense is unsupported by any of the dictionaries cited above, all of which define antinomy to mean “contradiction” (e.g., Oxford English Dictionary, 1:371). The problem is not serious, but it would help communication if evangelicals could agree on uniform senses for these terms.
A paradox is certainly acceptable in systematic theology, and paradoxes are in fact inevitable  so long as we have finite understanding of any theological topic. However, it is important to recognize that Christian theology should never affirm a contradiction (a set of two statements, one of which denies the other). A contradiction would be, “God is three persons and God is not three persons” (where the term persons has the same sense in both halves of the sentence).

Monday, August 29, 2011

Election and Atonement - A Few Key Differences

A recent article by David Ponter got me thinking about some of the differences between election and atonement in God's sovereign plan of salvation. Here are a few important distinctions that came to mind . . .

Election is supra-historical (it took place outside of time as we know it, or what we call "history"). 
Atonement is a historical event (it happened at a specific time in history)

Election happened outside the world, in eternity, before the creation of the world. 
Atonement happened in the world.

Role in Salvation
Election is essentially a plan and a decision to save
Atonement is the means by which the plan is executed

Relation to Sin
Election does not prevent sins or remove guilt
Atonement is the remedy for sin that has been committed (or will be committed) and the means of removing the resulting guilt.

Election took place in secret and outside the possibilities of empirical verification
Atonement took place in public and was verifiably witnessed

Human Involvement
Election is totally free of human involvement, being God's choice alone
Atonement occurred through a compatibilistic action of God's will through the sinful choices of fallen humans, and by the righteous act of the incarnate God-Man.

Relation to the Incarnation
Election occurred independent of the incarnation, however it rendered the incarnation necessary
Atonement could not occur apart from the incarnation

Election only benefits believers
Atonement benefits everyone, and especially believers

Intended Audience
Election is preached primarily to believers
Atonement is preached to everyone

Intended Effect of Preaching
The preaching of election is meant to encourage, edify and comfort believers
The preaching of the atonement is meant to induce initial repentance in unbelievers, and to edify believers

Primary Revelatory Purpose
Election reassures believers of God's eternal love
Atonement tells the whole world of God's love and justice

Relation to Human Will
Election is not offered, but decreed from eternity, and cannot be accepted or rejected
Atonement is offered to all people, to be accepted or rejected.
*Note that apart from the effectual call, the offered atonement is always rejected.

Relation to the General Call of the Gospel
Election has no bearing on the the general call of the Gospel, except that it guarantees that call will reach all of the elect
Atonement is the essential subject matter of the general call

Relation to the Effectual Call
Election determines who will receive an effectual call, and thus respond to the general call
Atonement is the essential subject matter of the effectual call, the fountain of irresistible grace

Relation to God's Will (Part A)
Election reflects God's specific choice to save particular sinners
Atonement reveals God's general desire to save sinners, by telling all sinners a way has been made for their salvation, yet it is also the means by which His particular will to save the elect is put in to effect

Relation to God's Will (Part B)
Election is a hidden decree of God
Atonement expresses God's revealed will to offer salvation to all, and is the means by which He fulfills His hidden decree to actually save some.

God is perfect in planning and in executing the plan.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Hymn by Calvin

I greet Thee, who my sure Redeemer art,
My only Trust and Saviour of my heart,
Who pain didst undergo for my poor sake;
I pray Thee from our hearts all cares to take.

Thou art the King of mercy and of grace,
Reigning omnipotent in every place:
So come, O King, and our whole being sway;
Shine on us with the light of Thy pure day.

Thou art the life, by which alone we live,
And all our substance and our strength receive;
Sustain us by Thy faith and by Thy power,
And give us strength in every trying hour.

Thou hast the true and perfect gentleness,
No harshness hast Thou and no bitterness:
O grant to us the grace we find in Thee,
That we may dwell in perfect unity.

Our hope is in no other save in Thee;
Our faith is built upon Thy promise free;
Lord, give us peace, and make us calm and sure,
That in Thy strength we evermore endure.

- by John Calvin, 1545; translated by Elizabeth L. Smith, 1868, alt.

This hymn reinforces my suspicion that the mere sovereignty of God may not be the preeminent feature of Calvin's theology. I wonder if his soteriology, at least, was driven more by a firm faith in God's absolute saving strength and goodness?

Here is the original version, nicely sung and played by Zachary Harris.

And a contemporary version by Brian Moss.

Monday, August 22, 2011

James White Flays "A Cultish Side of Calvinism"

We knew it wouldn't be long before James White delivered a response to the latest-and-greatest anti-Calvinist book. Click here to listen to the two hour presentation.

Note: Although White gives a scholarly defense of basic Calvinism, his brief statements concerning limited atonement in this broadcast seem to betray an uncharacteristic ignorance of the historical development of the doctrine of particular redemption, the importance of differentiating between the extent (infinite power) and intent (limited purpose) of the atonement, and the logical consistency of the well-attested belief that there can be no limits to the atonement's power. He appears to be missing some important pieces here. But we all have our blind spots, I guess.

UPDATE: Arminian apologist William Birch also has reservations about "A Cultish Side of Calvinism". His article is a great example of wisdom, balance and irenic disagreement.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Christ is the Remedy for Sin

Here are some encouragements for the saints. Be encouraged in your walk with Jesus today. If you are a preacher, you may find a spot for this somewhere in a sermon. Feel free.

Christ is God's gracious and true remedy for sin. He is full of grace and truth. He saves sinners completely.

Hebrews 7:25 ... He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

Christ is an undeserved remedy for sin

We do not deserve such a Savior. We do not deserve to be saved. We deserve to be condemned and separated from His presence.

Christ is an unmerited remedy for sin
We cannot earn His favor through our efforts or make ourselves worthy of Him.

Christ is the exclusive remedy for sin
There is no other way to be saved from sin.

Christ is the powerful and effective remedy for sin
He justifies us from its punishment. He sanctifies us from its effects. He will free us from it completely.

Christ is the enduring remedy for sin
He will not be replaced with another. He is all in all, eternally.

Christ is the ideal remedy for sin
He perfectly fills all of our need.

Christ is the available remedy for sin
He stands ready to receive all who come to Him by faith.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Isaiah 53:5 - Wrath and Discipline

Editor's Note: With chagrin, I must remark that our slowly progressing study of Isaiah 53 might be the longest running series in blogging history. This particular post has been 15 months in the making! I hope it was worth the wait. The challenges contained in this verse led to the recent series of posts on the extent of the atonement, which had to be sorted through before this post could be finished. May you be blessed by the encouragements given through Isaiah in his astoundingly deep words about the work of Christ in our behalf.

But He was pierced through for our transgressions, 
He was crushed for our iniquities
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, 
And by His scourging we are healed.

This verse is a response to the preceding phrase: "we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted" (Isaiah 53:4b). It answers the questions, "Why was He so afflicted, grieved and sorrowful?" and, "Why would God treat Him this way?" The reasons are clear: because we sinned, and in order to restore us.

Here Isaiah brings the substitutionary and representative aspects of Christ's work into focus. As substitute, Christ stands in the place of the condemned sinner and receives the full outpouring of God's wrath. Yet He stands also in the place of the redeemed sinner and represents that sinner in the corrective judgments that will bring full restoration. As the believer's substitute, Christ closes the door on wrath. As his representative, He opens the blessed way into God's discipline - the way of sonship.

First he endures wrath so that we can escape from it, then He experiences divine discipline so we can embrace it. There is the wrath which we deserve but haven't yet received, and then there is the discipline we need but can't receive without first being accepted as sons. Christ suffers the one substitutionally so that we can't suffer it, and the other representatively so that we may join Him in it

The Substitutionary Suffering of Christ

The verse divides neatly into two halves, indicating substitutionary atonement first, and then representative suffering. As our substitute, Christ suffered in our stead - so that the sting of sin and death is now removed. Thus, as believers, we can never experience what He experienced there. We could have, and should have, but by God's grace we never will. This is the message of the first half of the verse:

But He was pierced through for our transgressions, 
He was crushed for our iniquities

Pierced Through - Heb. HHALAL, חָלַל = to wound (fatally), bore through, pierce, bore. The word can also have the meaning: to profane, defile, pollute, desecrate

In the literal sense, Christ was "pierced" 5 times; in each hand, in each foot, and then in His side. In the figurative sense, God allowed him to be defiled by our sin. Sin defiles the soul, piercing and killing it.

Crushed - Heb. DAKA, דָּכָא = to crush, be crushed, be contrite, be broken

Though our Lord experienced the most intense physical pain, He was not crushed physically. In fact, He was preserved from the breaking of bones (Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12; Psalm 34:20). He was spiritually broken, crushed and made contrite by the bearing of our sins. The weight and pressure of them was hideously oppressive to His soul.

Here He is treated as an enemy, and not as a son. "Piercing" and "crushing" describe the furious destruction that would be meted out upon one's adversary. One pierces and crushes his foe, not his child. Thus, Christ represented the enemies of God and experienced the kind of destruction they are due: the terror of having to bear their own iniquity and its destructive results.

The Representative Suffering of Christ

As our representative - our brother - Christ suffered with us. In the first half of the verse, he accomplished what was needed to justify us. But in the second half he brings about our much needed sanctification. In this sense He not only suffers for us, but also with us, and in order that we may suffer with Him. He thus provides the ground by which we can be accepted, not merely as sinners justified through a gifted righteousness, but also as sons sanctified through experiential identification with THE SON. This is the message of the second half of the verse:

The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, 
And by His scourging we are healed.

Chastening - Heb. MUSAR מוּסָר = discipline, chastening, correction. "Essentially, it is a bond, a checking, restraint, i.e., correction which results in education." (Zodhiates)

Well-being - Heb. SHALOM שָׁלוֹם = completeness, soundness, welfare, peace. ". . . Shalom is a harmonious state of soul and mind, both externally and internally. . . . Though shalom can mean the absence of strife, it usually is much more. It expresses completeness, harmony, and fulfillment." (Zodhiates)

Scourging - Heb. HHABURAH חַבּוּרָה = bruise, stripe, wound, blow

Proverbs 20:30 Blows that wound cleanse away evil; strokes make clean the innermost parts.

Healed - Heb. RAPHA רָפָא = to heal, make healthful

In the second half of the verse, He suffers the corrective discipline which would be administered to a beloved but disobedient son. "Chastening" and "scourging" describe the discipline a Father administers to his erring child. Christ was standing in our place, no longer as rebellious sinners deserving wrath, but as justified sons needing the Father's discipline. He suffers this discipline not so that we can avoid it, but so that we can enter into it with Him.

In the first part of the verse, He suffered for the sin of the whole world. In the second, He suffered for the benefit of those who are redeemed and brought to sonship through His suffering. As He suffered the fullness of divine wrath for the sin of the world, so He suffered the fullness of divine discipline for the sins of the believer.

Thus we find God, in the process of making atonement, already responding to the anticipated effects of the atonement.

We now share in Christ's sufferings. We take up our crosses and follow Him. Christian suffering and sanctification in the New Testament are framed as a participation in the sufferings of Christ, and a sharing in the cross.
Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me."
Luke 9:23 And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me."
Luke 14:27 "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
I Peter 2:24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
I Peter 4:1-2 Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.
Romans 6:10-11 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions.
The first half of Isaiah 53:5 showed us our culpability as sinners under God's wrath. The second half speaks of our well being as God's redeemed children. Contained in every line, and forming the link between these two concepts, is the suffering of Christ in behalf of sinners. His suffering accomplishes our justification and empowers our sanctification.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Is There a Viable Non-Calvinist Interpretation for this?

Try as I might, I can't see any way to explain the following passage apart from Unconditional Election and the Effectual Call. No Arminian or Open Theist interpretation seems possible, let alone plausible. Maybe I've just been a Calvinist for too long, and have forgotten how to think the other way.
I Corinthians 1:26-31 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
What does Paul mean by "calling", if not the divinely orchestrated Effectual Call? How does one explain, "God chose A [to have a particular effect upon] B", apart from Unconditional Election? What does Paul mean by, "because of Him you are in Christ Jesus", if not the monergistic action of God in saving His elect? And what prevents me from boasting, if salvation ultimately depends more on my own "free choice" than on God's?

John Wesley himself seems to have temporarily become a Calvinist in his notes on the passage:
I Cor. 1:26 Behold your calling - What manner of men they are whom God calls. That not many wise men after the flesh - In the account of the world. Not many mighty - Men of power and authority.
Wesley can't possibly mean the general call of the Gospel is kept from those who are wise and mighty after the flesh, can he? Does he believe in a special call? Based on these notes, he seems to.
I Cor. 1:27 [No entry exists in John Wesley's Notes for this verse]
I Cor. 1:28 Things that are not - The Jews frequently called the gentiles, "Them that are not," 2 Esdras vi. 56, 57. In so supreme contempt did they hold them. The things that are - In high esteem.
That's an interesting detail. Wesley is worth reading.
I Cor. 1:29 That no flesh - A fit appellation. Flesh is fair, but withering as grass. May glory before God - In God we ought to glory. 
Another good thought. I have nothing against Wesley, just his errors.
I Cor. 1:30 Of him - Out of his free grace and mercy. Are ye Engrafted into Christ Jesus, who is made unto us that believe wisdom, who were before utterly foolish and ignorant. Righteousness - The sole ground of our justification, who were before under the wrath and curse of God. Sanctification - A principle of universal holiness, whereas before we were altogether dead in sin. And redemption - That is, complete deliverance from all evil, and eternal bliss both of soul and body. 
Is God "free" to bestow His grace and engraft us into Christ when, where, and how He Himself wills? Does Wesley affirm man's total moral inability when he says we were "altogether dead in sin"?
I Cor. 1:31 Let him glory in the Lord - Not in himself, not in the flesh, not in the world. Jeremiah 9:23-24
Is there an Arminian, Open Theist, or other advocate of "free will" out there who can provide a more satisfying explanation for his passage? One that is faithful to Sola Scripture and the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cultish Side of Calvinism?

It looks like another book attacking that horrible, dangerous thing called "Calvinism" has just been released. I won't say anything substantial against the book until I've read it (if I read it). For now I want to consider what others are saying (others who, presumably, have read the book).

Tim LaHaye said this about "A Cultish Side of Calvinism":

“At last, someone has the courage to tie Calvinism 
into the dark side where it originated."

Okay. That was pretty ignorant. He'll have to apologize to God for saying that.  But it was a mild endorsement compared to this one:

“With great skill, submission and sincerity, Pastor Micah Coate has very faithfully brought to light a much-needed word regarding the pitfalls of a deficient and defiant craze with Calvinism. In this outstanding work, Pastor Coate weaves these victorious patterns through his discerning work to show real life in Christ alone, and through none other! When you read this captivating, clear work, it will bring certainty of conviction. This literary work will greatly mandate, motivate, and matriculate you in maturity serving the Master!!!”
-Pastor Eddie Atkinson, Calvary Baptist Church, Beverly Hills, Florida

I laugh longer and harder each time I try to make sense of this paragraph. If the book is half as clownish and senseless as the alliterated endorsement, it will make entertaining reading. But I'd say don't waste your time or money. What I mean is, don't desecrate your denominations of dollars with delusional denunciations of divine doctrine. If you do, you might major on misinformation and matriculate yourself into the margin of magisterial mumbo-jumbo. Ha, that's fun. Sort of like wearing a t-shirt with huge red letters that say, "Pay no attention to me." And then putting a line through the words "no attention to".

Who actually uses the word "matriculate"? How exactly will this book "greatly matriculate me into maturity"? Does that even mean anything?

This sort of book becomes popular simply because many Calvinists themselves - and most non-Calvinists - don't recognize the inherent balances in Biblical, Reformed soteriology.

Anyhow, I'm keeping my membership in the horrible Calvinist cult, 'cause I'm completely constrained and correctly confined and colossally correlated and comprehensively contained and cheerfully changed and concomitantly combined and constantly connected and contentedly commandeered by Scripture.

If you'd like, feel free to leave an amazing alliterated comment . . .

Monday, August 08, 2011

Evolution: Science Beyond Its Boundaries

There is much talk these days about accommodating the Bible to the supposed "fact" of evolution, whether it is possible to retain belief in a literal Adam and Eve, how God could have used evolutionary processes to create, etc. You've probably seen it somewhere (since it seems to be everywhere), so I won't give examples.

The problem I see in this whole discussion is . . . too many Evangelicals are taking the current state of scientific theory as unassailable and unalterable "fact". Scientific theory by its very nature is constantly changing and always subject to refutation as more evidence is discovered. Today's evolutionary theories are quite a bit different from those that existed 10 years ago, and 50 years ago, and 100 years ago (most evolutionary "theory" is actually hypothesis, despite what they claim). The idea of evolution is itself evolving! I doubt it is reaching a higher form, however.

The reason theories and hypotheses change so much is that scientists can only build them from the tiny slice of empirical facts they presently have available (tiny in comparison to all of the facts that exist, or even all of the facts relevant to the subject). As they discover more facts, they are forced to adapt - or even revoke - their theories and hypotheses. Sometimes newly discovered empirical facts will totally overthrow a long accepted theory. It's happened over and over, that is what science is all about. What science can establish as empirical fact is very useful, but what is hypothesized/theorized is never absolutely certain.
Care for a scientific theory? Just ignore the artificial colors, flavors and assumptions.
Now, place that bowl of jello next to the rock solid Truth of the Word of God. Which One do you trust more?

Any attempt to accommodate our view of Scripture to the current prevailing theories will likely force us to adjust further and further as the theories get adjusted - and we could potentially have 
our views totally destroyed as further empirical data is discovered. We could waste our time writing large volumes attempting to accommodate eternal and infallible Scripture to whirling bits of hypothesis that only last 100 years or less! Often much less. I do not doubt that if scientists were given, by fiat, ALL of the pertinent facts, they would logically be forced to become literal 6 day creationists.

Who actually possesses all of the empirical facts regarding the origins of life and the universe? More to the point, who has ALL of the empirical facts that exist, period? The same One who also knows ALL of the history of our universe. When He gives an account of what He did, I think it wise to simply accept what He has said, and believe that he has the facts to back it up – whether we have uncovered those facts yet or not. This is the difference between science and revelation.

Really, the hubris of a puny man giving us very firm dates for this or that event in the remote past, millions and billions of years ago. It’s simply absurd for him to do it, but it might be even more absurd for us to take him seriously.

Isaiah 40 gives us some idea of what God thinks about such temporary and fading human pride.

6 A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
7 The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the LORD blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.

9 Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”
10 Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.
12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
and weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance?
13 Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD,
or what man shows him his counsel?
14 Whom did he consult,
and who made him understand?
Who taught him the path of justice,
and taught him knowledge,
and showed him the way of understanding?
15 Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
and are accounted as the dust on the scales;
behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.
16 Lebanon would not suffice for fuel,
nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering.
17 All the nations are as nothing before him,
they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Goal of Preaching

Not trying to coerce people into good behavior,
but calling them to the good Savior.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

John Stott on Sin and Salvation

This is one of those short quotes that just sums everything up perfectly . . .

"The essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be. Man claims prerogatives which belong to God alone; God accepts penalties which belong to man alone."

— John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1984), 160

Indeed, we are naturally self-idolaters, while God is a self-sacrificer. The humility of our God is astounding.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Sam Waldron on the Doctrine of God

In the video below, Dr. Waldron of the Midwest Center for Theological Studies offers a useful and thought provoking structure for analyzing theology and considering the doctrine of God. I'm not sure I agree with everything that is said here, but I was greatly edified by this video in the following ways:
  • I was encouraged to think much more deeply than I ever have before about the Being and attributes of God - His character, His acts, His ways and His glory.
  • I was delighted to consider how incomprehensibly magnificent our God is.
  • I was moved to worship our amazing God in view of the grandeur and beauty in what He has revealed of Himself.
  • I was challenged to be much more careful in what I affirm and deny about our holy God.
  • I was humbled in realizing how much I still don't know about God, and how much I have yet to learn.
What do you think of Dr. Waldron's chart for categorizing the divine attributes? I found it enlightening and full of possibilities for explaining some difficult concepts.

What do you think of Dr. Waldron's suspicion that there is no single "fundamental attribute of God," i.e. one that sums up all of God's nature? I am currently planning a series of posts for later in the year that will take a different approach. I believe there is an attribute that sums up all of God's nature, and it's not "love" or "holiness." It's one you might not readily think of. Curious? Stay tuned! In the meantime, say whether you think it's possible.

Did you catch the comment about God's promeity? That was funny.

I highly recommend this teaching as a means of deepening your thinking about the Lord of heaven and earth. But be careful, because it will blow your mind! Enjoy.

Doctrine of God | Lecture 9 from MCTS on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Christ is Praying for You

At least two passages in the New Testament teach us that our Lord is interceding for us at this very moment.
Hebrews 7:25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
Romans 8:34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
In addition, Christ is called our "advocate" in heaven.
I John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
How does Jesus pray for us, and what is the effect of His praying? We know that the Father gives Him whatever He asks, but can we know specifically how and why Jesus prays for His followers? For a clue to the way our Lord is praying for us, let's consider His own account of the prayers he prayed for His beloved disciple, Peter.
Luke 22:31-34 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
We may note the following for our encouragement:

Two witnesses stand before God
Both Jesus and Satan stand before God making requests concerning us. Satan's requests are sometimes approved, but Jesus' requests are never denied. Satan accuses and attacks, while Jesus intercedes.

Satan's evil activities are ultimately used for our good
Peter's testing is compared to the sifting of wheat. That is a highly beneficial thing! Just try eating bread made from wheat that has not been sifted, and you will taste the difference. Sifting gets the bad out while preserving the good.

Jesus' prayers do not prevent us from suffering 
Peter was facing that darkest days of his life. The Lord by His prayers was not going to stop the testing of Peter's faith, but He did prevent the destruction of it. Our faith may be shaken, but if it is real it can never be shattered. Why? Because Jesus is praying that our faith may not fail.

Jesus' prayers do not necessarily prevent sinful failure on our part 
On the contrary, Jesus knew with certainty that Peter would deny Him. Our Lord's prayers are not hindered by the reality of our sins - past, present, or future. He is praying for imperfect - though saved, and partly sanctified - sinners. Do we find that in some ways we still love this world? If we are honest, the answer is probably yes. But there is a victory that overcomes the world: our faith.

Christ's prayers guarantee that our faith will not fail, and that we will continue in repentance despite our failures and sins 
Our Lord's primary concern was Peter's perseverance in faith, not his immediate perfection in holiness. But just as the disciple's failure was guaranteed, so was his repentance: "WHEN you have turned again . . ." The battle is real, and humbling, and sometimes terrifically brutal. But the ultimate victory is guaranteed, certified, and promised. Count on it, because He has settled the matter.

Dear brother or sister in Christ, know for certain that your ongoing perseverance in repentance and faith is the result of your Lord's infallible praying from heaven. Be assured that none can pluck you from His hand. Accept the sifting that God allows and thank Him that He is working through it for your good. Be encouraged that your tested faith will prove to be of greater worth than gold, and will result in praise, glory and honor for your Lord on the day He appears. Until that day, He is praying for you.