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!

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Let's begin the new year with a fresh submission to the will of God, and break the hold of that lackadaisical and purposeless attitude which has flooded our age.
"We live in a day of 'whatever.' The problem is that 'whatever' is fate to - 'whatever happens.' The mantra I hear from post modernity is, 'I don't know, I don't care and I don't really matter.' This strikes at the truth and value of human life. This is preached in contemporary music, seen in art and read in literature. The technical terminology for ths frame of mind is agnosticism, narcissism and apathy. 'whatever' leads to hopelessness and hopelessness leads to apathy and apathy eventually leads to depression. This lethargic minded approach of interpreting life is very dangerous to the health of your soul. The attitude shift of repentance is 'Whate'er My God Ordains is Right.'"
-Pastor Craig Bowen of Lakeside Community Church (from a sermon delivered on Dec. 18, 2011)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Contradiction, Paradox and Mystery

I ran across this interesting video on YouTube. These guys do a good job of discussing issues close to the heart of THEOparadox. Don't you agree?

DISCLAIMER: with a little further research, I discovered the main speaker here is Alex Locay, and the questioner is Eric Purtic. Both are instructors at the Ravi Zacharias School of Apologetics, which is associated with Calvary Chapel in Ft. Lauderdale. The two have produced lots of apologetics videos, some of which are very good. However, given the prevailing anti-Calvinist stance of Calvary Chapel (not to mention Ravi Zacharias' commitment to the free will doctrine), some of the videos should be taken with large grains of salt. Use caution. No apologist is great on every topic, but Locay and Purtic provide well informed arguments on some of the important ones.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A.A. Hodge on the Mystery of Incarnation

My mother-in-law was going to give me a $25 gift certificate to Redeemed Books, a used Christian bookstore in Springfield, MO with quite a large inventory. As I happened to be going there yesterday to shop for some gifts, she said, "Just pick up $25 worth of books for yourself and put it on our account." Nice! Pre-buying theology books for my own Christmas gift. What could be better? Here's what I got:
1. The Cross of Christ by John Stott
2. The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination by Loraine Boettner
3. Evangelical Theology: Lectures on Doctrine by A.A. Hodge
A.A. Hodge of Princeton
Each of them is a treasure, but I have found Hodge's book especially insightful. His writing style is direct and pointed, and every paragraph is laden with useful insights. Following are a few excerpts from his chapter on the Person of Christ:
"It is the grand distinction of Christianity that all its doctrines and all its forces centre in the Person of its Founder and Teacher. . . . the entire system, from foundation to superstructure, rests upon and derives its life from the Person of its Founder. The question of questions is what he was, rather than what he taught." (p. 184)
"The Person of the incarnate God is unique. His birth has had no precedents and his existence no analogy. He cannot be explained by being referred to a class, nor can he be illustrated by an example. The Scriptures, while clearly and fully revealing all the elements of his Person, yet never present in one formula an exhaustive definition of that Person, nor a connected statement of the elements which constitute it and their mutual relations. The impression is all the more vivid because it is made, as in a picture, by an exhibition of his Person in action - an exhibition in which the divinity and humanity are alike immediately demonstrated by the self-revelation of their attributes in action; and this unique personality, as it surpasses all analogy, also transcends all understanding. The proud intellect of man is constantly aspiring to remove all mysteries and to subject the whole sphere of existence to the daylight of rational explanation. Such attempts are constantly ending in the most grotesque failure. Even in the material world it is true that omnia exeunt in mysterium ["everything comes out to mystery"]. If we cannot explain the relation which the immaterial soul sustains to the organized body in the person of man, why should we be surprised to find that all attempts to explain the intimate relations which the eternal Word and the human soul and body sustain to each other in the Person of Christ have miserably failed?" (pp. 185-186)
"And undoubtedly we freely admit just here that in the constitution of the Person of the God-man lies the, to us, absolutely insoluble mystery of godliness. How is it possible that the same Person can be at the same time infinite and finite, ignorant and omniscient, omnipotent and helpless? How can two complete spirits coalesce in one Person? how can two consciousnesses, two understandings, two memories, two imaginations, two wills, constitute one Person? All this is involved in the scriptural and Church doctrine of the Person of Christ. Yet no one can explain it. The numerous attempts made to explain or to expel this mystery have only filled the Church with heresies and obscured the faith of Christians."  (p. 187)
"There is one obvious respect in which the doctrines of the Trinity and of the Person of Christ agree, and one in which they no less obviously differ. They agree in that both alike utterly transcend all experience, all analogy, and all adequate grasp of human reason. But they differ in that, while the mystery of the Trinity is that one Spirit should exist eternally as three distinct Persons, the mystery of the person of Christ is that two distinct spirits should for evermore constitute but one Person. If you give due attention to the difficulties involved in each of these divinely revealed doctrines, you would be able a priori to anticipate all possible heresies which have been evolved in the course of history. All truth is catholic [i.e. universal or comprehensive]; it embraces many elements, wide horizons, and therefore involves endless difficulties and apparent inconsistencies. The mind of man seeks for unity, and tends prematurely to force a unity in the sphere of his imperfect knowledge by sacrificing one element of the truth or other to the rest. This is eminently true of all rationalists. They are clear and logical at the expense of being superficial and half-orbed. Heresy . . . means an act of choice, and hence division, the picking and choosing a part, instead of comprehensively embracing the whole of the truth. Almost all heresies are partial truths - true in what they affirm, but false in what they deny." (pp. 190-191)
"I adore a Christ who is absolutely one - who is at the same time pure, unmixed, unchanged God, and pure, unmixed, unchanged man - and whose Person, it its wholeness and its fulness, is available throughout all space and throughout all time to those who trust him and love his appearing." (p. 200)
A.A. Hodge, Evangelical Theology: Lectures on Doctrine, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1976 (first published 1890), bolding and bracketed portions mine.
Note that he practically states the THEOparadox thesis in the fourth excerpt. We in the Reformed/Calvinistic tradition in this day need to heed Hodge's wise words forewarning us against the creeping rationalism that would deny one truth in order to affirm another. This Christmas, enjoy the blessed paradox of our wonderful Savior in His mysterious incarnation - fully God and fully man.
Now, where did I put those t-shirts?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Wayne Grudem on Spirit Baptism

Early on Thursday mornings, my pastor meets with men from our church to work through a chapter or two of Grudem's Systematic Theology. This week we went over chapter 39: "Baptism In and Filling With the Holy Spirit - Should we seek a 'baptism in the Holy Spirit' after conversion? What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit?" It's a great topic and those are good questions.
Grudem's approach is refreshing and interesting. As a former Pentecostal who is now essentially Reformed (but still committed to the continuation of spiritual gifts), I found his thoughts enlightening.


Grudem begins by delineating the basic Pentecostal understanding of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. His rendering is fair and accurate. He then examines the seven New Testament passages dealing directly with the subject. Appealing to a consistent interpretation of these passages, Grudem offers a strong argument for Spirit baptism occurring at the point of conversion rather than subsequent to it. Next, he answers the possible tensions his interpretation might create when compared with several passages in the book of Acts. The result is a cogent, Biblical understanding that properly accounts for Spirit baptism as a soteriological event linked directly to regeneration.


Having neatly dispensed with the idea of a "second blessing" on solid exegetical grounds, Grudem addresses a more practical problem with the Pentecostal understanding: the creation of a two-class Christianity that (perhaps inadvertently) places Spirit-baptized believers above ordinary Christians who have not experienced Spirit baptism. Pentecostals, however, are not alone in this regard. Grudem effectively illustrates how other theological systems have created similar two-class systems. Roman Catholic hierarchy is mentioned, along with several run-of-the-mill sanctification errors. Noticeably absent from this discussion is the two-class doctrinal system, commonly found among the Reformed, which views anyone outside of our doctrinal camp as a second-class or "unenlightened" believer. However, this problem is more subtle because it is not inherently and obviously linked to Reformed doctrine as it is to Pentecostal doctrine. Among the Reformed, it is more an issue of pride than a direct effect of the theology itself. In fact, it is doubly ironic because it is directly counter to our theology. But I digress . . .


Grudem moves from Spirit baptism to a discussion of the Biblical idea of being "Spirit-filled." He notes that all believers are commanded to be filled with the Spirit, and proposes that the Pentecostal "second blessing" experience can potentially be viewed as genuine Spirit filling that has been mistakenly called "Spirit baptism." He calls for all believers to seek the filling of the Holy Spirit for increased sanctification and service. An understanding of progressive sanctification undergirds this teaching and serves as the ideal antidote to the concept of a "second blessing."


To summarize Grudem's emphases: Spirit baptism is connected to conversion; Spirit filling is an element of sanctification and an empowerment for service. Being "filled with the Spirit" is a continuous pursuit that should be experienced repeatedly by believers who are maturing. We can expect the ongoing and revolutionizing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The difference this makes is not a matter of reaching a higher plane, but an issue of maturity and progress in sanctification. It should never be the dividing line between separate classes or types of Christian.


In his final point, Grudem argues that the gift of tongues is a possible result of being filled with the Spirit, but not a necessary result. I find this view sensible and Biblical. 


Spirit baptism is not to be sought. It is to be affirmed and rejoiced in as a part of the overall conversion experience. Spirit filling, on the other hand, is to be pursued vigorously. There is no room for a two-class Christianity that elevates the "spiritual" above the "unspiritual." At the same time, there is no place for a cold and lifeless spirituality that neglects the ongoing and dynamic work of the Holy Spirit. Abandoning those unbiblical extremes, all believers should engage instead in a relentless pursuit of the Spirit's sanctifying and empowering work.

To hear Dr. Grudem speak on this subject, click here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Common Grace and Saving Grace: Flood Light and Spotlight

Here's an important fact to remember about Common Grace and Saving Grace: one never negates the other, as if one were darkness and the other light. Both are lights. They can strengthen one another, but they can never darken or diminish one another.

Some in the Reformed tradition, having accepted the glorious doctrine of unconditional election, begin to view everything through "election glasses" which tend to limit every aspect of God's nature and action.
Election Glasses may be stylish and comfortable,
but they can be theologically reductionistic.

It is dangerous to start building our theology with the divine act of election and then read that back into every other divine attribute and action. Some would reason this way: "God only elects some so He must only love some" ... however, God in His Word veritably shouts the exact opposite! Why not say, "God only elects some, so He only has the power to save some?" No Christian would ever say that, yet God has never defined Himself in Scripture as "power," while He has defined Himself emphatically as "love."

A spotlight is directed toward a limited and particular area
The fact that God loves the elect in a special way does not negate His general love for all, any more than an effectual call can negate the reality of a general one. Both work together.
Election is a type of love, but it is not the only kind. Election magnifies God's love; it does not shrink His love. Election extends His love to include the salvation of certain worthless wretches ("election according to grace"); it does not rescind His love from the rest. Election makes His willingness to save (all) effectual (in the case of some), but it does not remove His love or His willingness to save from the rest. Election simply takes a general willingness to save and makes it a FIRM WILL to save. In other words, the spotlight of Saving Grace does not unplug the flood light of Common Grace. Both work together in perfect harmony without conflict or negation. Both shed positive light, but in different ways and to different ends. They may be two different kinds of lights, but both are lights indeed.
A flood light provides a general ambiance of light

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Great Musician I Just Discovered

I stumbled across Kees Kraayenoord while searching for some music on YouTube. Apparently he's Dutch, and he's produced some spectacular music!
HOLD ON TO YOU FOREVER - Kees Kraayenoord
FOR THE CROSS - Kees Kraayenoord