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, November 24, 2011

Thanks be to God ...

... For His inexpressible gift! (II Corinthians 9:15)

The context of this phrase:
The Corinthians have embraced the Gospel.
The Gospel's work in them has made them generous.
There is a continuous flow of giving and receiving from genuinely generous hearts.
The result is more thanksgiving and praise and glory to God - and more giving and receiving among believers.
Needs are abundantly met and there is great joy!
Paul adds this phrase at the end to remind them who gave first and who gave most.

The gift was is inexpressible, so the praise will be eternal!

Here are a few photos taken around the City Center in Port Orange, Florida.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Nouthetic Counseling and Discipleship Training

Brad Bigney shares a Biblical
Perspective on Worry and Fear
This weekend my pastor and I attended the third installment of NANC Counseling and Discipleship Training at Christian Family Chapel in Jacksonville, FL. Over three weekends, we received an introduction to the basics and fundamentals, and we hope to pursue more education in this area in the future. My former pastor, Brad Bigney, was one of the featured speakers. It has been wonderful to sit again before this man whom God used at a critical time in my life. Soon after I first met Brad back in 2000, my marriage fell apart and my wife and I were separated for two and a half years. We are walking miracles, now committed to our family and working hard to raise up our children in the ways of the Lord! We have received such mercy at the hands of our God, who not only forgave and accepted us, but also lives in us and transforms us by His Word. As I sat next to my current pastor, Craig Bowen, it struck me how perfectly God has provided for the care of my family under faithful servants of Christ.

The 30 hour NANC training course was amazing. Some of the other featured speakers were:

Randy Patten - Executive Director of NANC. He is a solid, hard-hitting preacher and teacher with vast counseling experience and lots of insightful lessons to share.
Stuart Scott - Associate Professor of Biblical Counseling at SBTS and Department Coordinator of Biblical Counseling at Boyce College. Dr. Scott served 10 years under John MacArthur at Grace Community Church. He is a pioneer in the art of Biblical Counseling and a man of great discernment.
Jim Newheiser - Pastor of Grace Bible Church of North San Diego County, CA and head of the Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship. He is a wise, balanced thinker.
Nicolas Ellen - Pastor of Community of Faith Bible Church in Houston, TX. He is a great speaker with energy and passion for the Truth!
Dan Gannon, MD and Pam Gannon, RN - This husband/wife team includes an orthopedic surgeon and a registered nurse who share valuable insights regarding medical issues in counseling. They are thorough and extremely helpful in their analysis of challenging topics.
Andrew Rogers - Pastor of Sunrise Community Church in Atlantic Beach, FL. He is a solid preacher and teacher with a gift for exposition and application.

A key concept shared by several of the speakers is the fact that humanity's problems revolve around two primary issues: sin and suffering. All suffering is a result of the fall, but not all suffering is the direct result of one's own sin. Often a counselor must confront sin, but sometimes he is simply called to offer comfort to an afflicted soul. The counselor is a fellow sinner and a fellow sufferer who desires to share God's grace. The goal is always to help the counselee to grow to become more like Christ, pleasing and glorifying God through the situation. NANC's overall perspective included a great deal of humility and nuance, while holding resolutely to the sufficiency of Scripture. Integrationist methods that attempt to reconcile secular psychology with Biblical theology were briefly critiqued, but the main focus was on the power and efficacy of the Word of God itself.

I have met a few people who have gotten a poor impression of nouthetic counseling. My suggestion would be to attend a NANC training course before believing any negative reports about what is taught. The things you actually hear might surprise you!

In conclusion, I highly recommend this training for any Christian who is interested in helping others and making disciples.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Each day I live, I find I am more grateful for God's grace in my life.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sitting at the Leper's Table - by Horatius Bonar

Some edifying thoughts here from the Scottish revivalist, preacher, and hymn writer - Horatius Bonar. His text is Matthew 26:6 - "Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper . . ."

Friday, November 11, 2011

Can Biblical Paradoxes Be Reconciled?

Of course they can. By definition, a paradox is not an actual contradiction but an apparent one.
When we say that paradoxes are apparent contradictions, and not actual contradictions, we affirm that they can be logically reconciled. The important question is not whether they can be reconciled, but by whom. We must always affirm that any collection of true statements are logically reconciled in the mind of our wise and omniscient God.
But this prompts another question: can all Biblical paradoxes be logically reconciled by human beings?
The answer is "Yes" and "No." It is "Yes" because one remains hopeful that they can all be explained in some way by human beings. We are ingenious creatures capable of highly complex thought. Some who are intellectually gifted can come up with creative ways to explain just about anything. If there is a paradox that hasn't been theoretically "solved" by some philosopher or theologian, we can be sure it's only a matter of time before someone presents what they believe to be a logical solution.
This, however, brings up a third question: how much stock can we place in these solutions?
This is the critical point: the question of epistemological authority. In layman's terms, the question is: who or what is an authoritative source of knowledge? How can we know that a given logical explanation for a paradox is THE TRUE explanation - the one that reflects God's own knowledge of the matter?
We must say, "No, Biblical paradoxes cannot be reconciled by human beings," because apart from divine revelation we can't put complete faith in our explanations.

Another way of explaining this is by presenting the Christian's hierarchy of epistemological certainty. The top level represents the highest level of certainty we can possess, with our certainty decreasing as we move down.
GENERAL REVELATION (Creation, Conscience)
INTUITION (Feelings & Senses)
(This chart is adapted from notes taken during a lecture by Dr. Stuart Scott)
Attempted reconciliations of Biblical paradoxes are in the realm of metaphysics. That is, they belong to the category of soft sciences, being unsupported by direct revelation or empirical proof. We can swim around in mysteries, theorize and explore implications. But we can't KNOW anything outside of Scripture with an equal level of certainty. We lack the epistemological warrant to claim we have authoritatively reconciled any Biblical paradox. That is, unless Scripture itself provides the solution.

Thus, we are led back to the exegesis and exposition of Scripture - not mere philosophical speculation - as the best ways to grow in certainty regarding the Truth of God.

Isaiah 8:20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.

Thus, let us hold fast to the Word and leave the rest to God. 

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Calvinists Aflame for God

Some say Calvinism tends toward a cold, cerebral piety that is devoid of compassion. They claim Reformed theological convictions produce ineffective or just downright annoying Christians. In some cases this has undeniably been true. You can probably think of examples. 

Great. Point conceded.
On the other hand, many of the most zealous servants of Christ have been Calvinists. Some of the most pioneering, devoted, self-sacrificing missionaries in the history of the Church have been Calvinists. Many of the martyrs who have testified passionately and died for Christ's cause have been Calvinists. Many of the greatest devotional works - the ones that point to the glories of Christ and call us to love-inspired labors - were written by Calvinists. Newton, Bunyan, Spurgeon, Baxter, Whitefield and Watson come to mind.
How is it that some Calvinists have demonstrated such intense devotion, while others have gone flat? It's a good question, and an important one. Below are a few thoughts about how we Calvinists can stay aflame for God, speaking Truth in love and maintaining the simplicity of devotion to Christ, even as we wrestle Calvin-style with the hard doctrines of Scripture and refuse to back away from any of their philosophical implications.

  • Never think about the doctrine of Total Depravity without considering your own sins. Especially your recent sins. Let the desperate plight of fallen humanity inspire a fresh compassion for the lost people around you.
  • Never think about the doctrine of Unconditional Election without reminding yourself that nothing in you influenced God's choice. That's what unconditional means. Know that it was purely of His mercy that He took pity on you and saved you.
  • Never think about Christ's atoning work without thanking Him for what He has done for you at the cross, and in the resurrection, and the way He applies that work to your life now. Be affected by how much you need the cross on a daily and moment-by-moment basis.
  • Never think about the doctrine of the Effectual Call without marveling that God miraculously changed your stony heart. 
  • Never think about the doctrines of the Perseverance and Preservation of the Saints without recognizing that all your godly fruit is an effect of Christ's unmerited mercy toward you. Remember that a lack of godly fruit is a sign of trouble that must move you to re-examine your heart. Don't use the doctrine of election to exempt yourself from this.
  • Never think about the sovereignty of God without surrendering yourself afresh to His glorious rule.
  • Never let logical deductions about the secret will of God lessen your adherence to His revealed will in the Scriptures. Don't get carried away by speculations.
  • Read plenty of Reformed books and blogs if you like, but devote yourself to the study and application of Scripture. Read the whole Bible and spend more effort applying it than thinking philosophically about it.
  • Share the Gospel regularly and stay involved in missions. Prove that you believe in the free offer of the Gospel.
  • Worship God alone. Don't let theology become your idol.
  • When you speak, boast in the goodness of God rather than just spouting theological facts you have learned.
  • Repent thoroughly, earnestly and often. Confess your sins to God daily, and rejoice in His outpoured grace daily. Repent to other people when you sin against them (it's wonderfully humbling).
  • Stay close to your Lord, and tremble if you gain a head full of knowledge without corresponding affections for Him.

Monday, November 07, 2011

I'm a 10-Point Calvinist

Reflecting on some previous posts concerning the Three Points of Common Grace and the Purpose and Potency of the Atoning work of Christ, I have concluded that I am a 10-Point Calvinist. I believe it is important to be a 10-point Calvinist (a.k.a. a 5-paradox Calvinist) because this maintains the balance of Biblical teaching concerning God's disposition toward the elect and the reprobate. I believe all 10 points are essential for any soteriology that is based on the Bible.
Most Calvinists agree that the ubiquitous "TULIP" is an insufficient summary of our core theology. This is not to say that it is completely inaccurate. It is a brilliant strand of truth (and a handy acronym) . . . but perhaps too narrow a strand.
5 Paradoxes of Calvinism: A Deep Vision of Sovereign Grace
Humanity's Condition: Lost - yet Loved
1a. God's Pervasive Love for All of His Creatures (Psalm 145:9)
1b. Humanity's Pervasive Total Depravity and Spiritual Inability (John 6:44)
God's Disposition: Willing to Save All - yet Sovereignly Selecting
2a. God's Saving Desire toward All Mankind (Ezekiel 18:31-32)
2b. God's Unconditional Election of Particular Sinners from Eternity (Ephesians 1:4-5)
Christ's Saving Work: Sufficient for all - yet Particular to the Elect
3a. Christ's Infinitely Sufficient Atonement for all Sinners (I John 2:2)
3b. God's Particular Redemption of the Elect through the atoning work of Christ (Matthew 1:21)
The Gospel Call: Offered to All - yet Effectual in the Elect
4a. The Free Offer of the Gospel to All Sinners (Matthew 11:28-30)
4b. The Effectual Call of the Elect by Irresistible Grace (Matthew 11:27)
The Christian Life: Sinners by Nature - yet Saints by Grace
5a. The Struggle of the Saved Sinner in Sanctification (Romans 7:18-25)
5b. The Preservation and Perseverance of the Saints (John 10:27-29)

Arminians press the "a" statements to the point of denying God's sovereignty in salvation.
Hyper-Calvinists press the "b" statements to the point of denying God's goodness as expressed in His general love and willingness to save all. Mainstream Calvinists hold the balance. This is beautiful, Biblical Calvinism! 10 points worth of it.
A 10-Point Calvinist Faces Off with an Arminian
Putting it another way . . .

1. God loves all people. 
2. Sin has rendered all people pervasively depraved and unable to repent on their own.
3. God desires the salvation of all people.
4. From eternity, God unconditionally elects some sinners to salvation.
5. Christ's shed blood was and is a sufficient atonement for all people.
6. God's special intention in the atonement was to redeem a particular people.
7. In the Gospel, God freely offers His atoning mercy to all people.
8. God effectually calls and irresistibly draws the elect by sovereign, saving grace.
9. The saints are saved sinners.
10. Those who are truly converted will persevere in faith to the end.
John Piper considers becoming a 10-pointer
Just don't preach a 10-point sermon!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Saved by Works

I recently came to the realization that I am saved by works. This realization did not result from a change in my theology, nor did it result in a theological change. It actually reinforced the Biblically-grounded "Sola Fide" and "Sola Gratia" convictions I have long held. Believe me, this is a core Reformed conviction.
I'll say it again another way: all who have been saved have been saved by works. No one can be saved apart from works. I know, it sounds like heresy, but take a moment to read the rest of this article before passing judgment on the idea.
Can we be saved by works and still hold to Sola Fide and Sola Gratia? Yes, absolutely!
The question is not whether we are saved by works, but whose work saves. We can only be saved by the work of Christ. We cannot be saved by our own works. This is just another way of saying we must be saved by faith alone. All we bring to the equation is faith. God brings the rest, and He does the work. Saving faith, of course, can never be produced from within ourselves. It is granted us from God, and Christ is the Author of it. Saving sinners is His work. Granting repentance and faith is His work. Bearing sin is His work. Dying for unworthy wretches is His work. Raising the dead is His work. Forgiving the guilty is His work. Justifying the ungodly is His work. Sanctifying and keeping and glorifying believers is His work.
So if you are saved, it is by works! God's works. 
And when we recognize that we are the sinners, the ungodly, the weak fools who have proudly turned from God's mercy, we cannot imagine that there would ever be any work we could do that could possibly save us. Not in a million years. Not in an eternity.

John 4:34 Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work."

John 6:29 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent."

Philippians 1:6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

To be saved by grace through faith is to be saved by good works - but not by our own works. We are saved by the works of Christ Jesus our Lord alone.
Thus we say . . .

Sola Fide!
Sola Gratia!
Solus Christus!
Soli Deo Gloria!
And all of that is a consequence of this:
Sola Scriptura!

Editor's Note: I wrote this article a while back, and had decided not to post it. However, when I saw this post from Eddie Eddings, I changed my mind. I guess we were on the same page.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Looking for a New Job

For the last 5 years, I have worked as a marketing manager for a great company. Due to circumstances beyond my control, today will be my last day at this job. As this turn of events was somewhat unexpected, please pray that God will open my eyes to the direction He is leading.
I'm looking forward to a new opportunity. God is good.
Soli Deo Gloria!