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!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Historical Adam Discussion on Reformed Forum

Rick Phillips
The link below leads to an excellent discussion of the historical reliability of Genesis and a response to the compromises some Evangelicals are making with regard to the historicity of Adam. Rick Phillips does a great job of explaining why it is important to hold to Biblical inerrancy and stand firm against a cultural conformity to the passing fancies of scientism. Great stuff!

Click here for a direct download of the audio.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Great FREE College Course on the Book of Romans

I have been enjoying this great series of lectures:

Dr. Jack Fish on Romans (click to view on iTunes)

Dr. Jack Fish

Dr. Fish does a great job of bringing the exegetical aspects of the text together with informative discussions of historical and systematic theology. A graduate of Brown University and Dallas Theological Seminary, his perspective is definitively Calvinistic and probably dispensational. Overall, the course is very edifying and educational. If you're looking for a good study of Romans, look no further.

The course includes 28 lectures, each one offering an in-depth exposition of a single passage.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Response to Scot McKnight Regarding Roger Olson's "5 Conundrums of Calvinism"

Scot McKnight, who says he abandoned Calvinism for an Anabaptist-flavored Pietism, recently posted and commented on Roger Olson's "5 Conundrums of Calvinism." McKnight makes this astounding claim:
"There are often better, non-Calvinist explanations, and the Calvinist appeal to conundrum, or antinomy, masks the illogic and fails to deal with the more adequate rational, logical answer of others. Divine determinism and meticulous providence create more problems for God’s character than they solve problems. Divine self-limitation and human free will are better, more rational explanations."
Really? Does McKnight truly think the Bible leaves those options open? I don't mean to be harsh, but one can only reach this conclusion by miniaturizing God, exalting man, and playing fast-and-loose with Scripture. It is better to have philosophical conundrums on our hands and remain uncompromising with Scripture than to construct pretend "explanations" of the Word of God using mere man-made speculation. I responded as follows:
First, It is obvious that God self-limits (however, His self-limiting - or condescension, divine humility, etc. - is itself an expression of His eternal glory). For a Calvinist, there is no problem in any of that. The major problem, in fact, is not that God self-limits, but that human beings self-exalt. For example, we magnify ourselves by imagining that we can devise better "logical" explanations for the philosophical conundrums created by the Bible rather than simply accepting God's own testimony and admitting we are limited in our logic, information and understanding. We don't particularly like God's testimony because it leaves a lot of holes and seems to create logical conflicts. Our rationalistic minds demand resolution; we don't want to live in the lowliness of our own limits, or the discomfort of mysteries and paradoxes. We easily commit the error of filling in the gaps with our own thoughts. However, because the contradictions themselves are only apparent, the resolutions we create are also only apparent. They are a mirage designed to make us feel better - but in reality we have solved nothing. There was nothing to solve because God never saw any conflict between the two sides we supposedly resolved (e.g. His meticulous sovereignty and our freedom of choice). In fact, if we "solved" the apparent problem by contradicting a single Biblical proposition, we only succeeded in creating a bigger problem for ourselves! 
Second, it is true that "explanations" have been devised which fill in the logical gaps left by the Bible. However, I daresay this has only been done at the expense of the Bible. There is no way to take ALL of the Bible at full face value without accepting a great deal of mystery and some degree of paradox or antinomy. We stand in great danger of overstepping whenever we begin to demand answers to questions God Himself has left unanswered. 
In conclusion, I remain a Calvinist because it is the only system I know of that allows me to give full credit to God's revelation in the Bible without delving presumptuously into the matters He has not revealed. At the same time, the Reformed system leaves me the freedom to explore philosophical matters with the understanding that I am only thinking the lowly thoughts of a man - so I can rest in God's wisdom even when I can't get it all figured out "logically." It teaches me to take my own thoughts less seriously, and God's thoughts with absolute confidence. If my system is criticized because it doesn't answer all of the questions to the satisfaction of a fallen human being, I can live with that. 
I believe any true Pietist can and should find such an arrangement refreshingly humbling. Pietists and Calvinists ought to be the best of friends. :)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cornelius Van Til - "Why I Believe In God"

If you would like to know more about Dr. Cornelius Van Tilthe father of presuppositional apologetics, you may find the following video useful. It contains the narration of a long letter written by Van Til to defend his belief in God, and more specifically the Christian faith. This is extremely thought provoking and insightful material, and even includes some interesting autobiographical information regarding Van Til's upbringing in Holland (you'll love his jokes about wooden shoes).

Here is a great example of Van Til's presuppositional method:

"... I propose to argue that unless God is back of everything you cannot find meaning in anything. I cannot even argue for belief in Him without already having taken Him for granted. And, similarly, I contend that you cannot argue against belief in Him unless you also first take Him for granted. Arguing about God's existence, I hold, is like arguing about air. You may affirm that air exists, and I that it does not, but as we debate the point we are both breathing air all the time." 
- 2:43 on the video

I especially liked his critique of the presupposition behind rationalistic atheism:

"You have made the reach of your intellect the standard of what is possible or not possible. You have thereby virtually determined that you intend never to meet a fact that points to God. Facts, to be facts at all - facts, that is, with decent scientific and philosophic standing - must have your stamp instead of that of God upon them as their virtual creator."
- 44:30 on the video

Cornelius Van Til - "Why I Believe in God"

There is much more on Van Til here:

Thursday, January 05, 2012

A Primer on Sanctification

At different times in Church History, issues of justification and sanctification have led to great errors. Sometimes the attempts to correct these errors have resulted in other errors. What follows is a Biblical perspective on eight aspects of sanctification that deserve to be included in any discussion of the topic. They range from the forensic, instantaneous aspect of sanctification, which takes place right alongside justification, to the oft-mentioned progressive aspect - and several associated aspects which are often overlooked or underplayed. Of course, much more could be said, but it is our earnest prayer that this little primer will help saints to advance in the cross-centered life of holiness.
Sanctification is . . .
We belong to God. This is the "definitive" or "positional" sanctification that accompanies justification. God now calls us holy, saints, His own redeemed people. We become His special possession - immediately, instantaneously, and irrevocably. It is a legal and forensic holiness - entailing a change of status rather than a change of state or behavior. Because we are in Christ, God now looks upon us and treats us as those clothed in Jesus' own perfect holiness.
Acts 26:18 so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'
Romans 7:4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.
I Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ ...
I Corinthians 1:30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption ... 
I Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 
Hebrews 10:10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Christ has the right of way. We must surrender to Him and yield to the Holy Spirit daily.
Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
Romans 6:11, 13 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. ... Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

Romans 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit
Galatians 5:16-17 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do
James 4:7-8 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
We are impressed by the splendors of Christ's holiness, and His image is increasingly impressed upon our hearts. We become more like Him in our thoughts and beliefs as our inner person is transformed.
Romans 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Romans 13:14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.  
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 
Galatians 6:14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 
Philippians 2:5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus ... 
Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Colossians 3:1-3 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 
I John 2:28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 
We actively portray Christ's image through our words and deeds.

Philippians 1:27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ ...  
Philippians 3:10 ... that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death ...
I John 2:6 ... whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 
I John 4:17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.
We fight against our natural, fleshly and sinful tendencies and say "no" to sin.
Romans 6:12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.

Romans 13:14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
I Thessalonians 4:3-5 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God ...

Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age ...

James 1:21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

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.
We change over time as we replace sinful habits with godly practices, and we gradually become more holy in our thoughts, attitudes and actions.
Galatians 5:25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 
Colossians 3:9-10 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 
Heb. 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
Sanctification takes us beyond the minimum "legal" requirements of obedience to a divine overflow of love and service. 
I Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 
II Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 
Philippians 1:9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more ... 
I Thessalonians 3:12 ... and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all ... 
I Thessalonians 4:1 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 
I Thessalonians 4:9-10 Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more ...
Our energies and wills are devoted to the mortification of sin and the vivification of Christian virtues. Through a struggle and fight of perseverance we overcome evil with good. We increasingly learn to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength, and we become hyper-conquerors through Him who loved us.
Romans 6:14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 
Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 
Romans 13:12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light
Ephesians 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 
Galatians 5:24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires
Colossians 3:5, 8 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. . . . But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 
I Thessalonians 5:8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

Monday, January 02, 2012

A Real Friend

 Barry Wallace (right) and me (left)

One of my favorite things about blogging is being able to "virtually" meet so many interesting and edifying people from all over the world. I've been blessed to interact with great theological minds and godly people I might never have met otherwise. Early in my blogging career (I'm not sure if that's the right word for it), I found Barry Wallace to be a wonderful friend and ally in the cause of sound doctrine and discipleship. I can still remember the day I stumbled onto his blog and found my heart resonating with his article, "A Bad Heart." Since then, I have come to rely on Barry's mature advice and counsel, as well as his gracious words of encouragement.

During my recent vacation in Missouri, I had the opportunity to meet up with Barry in "real life." I happened to be driving right through his town, so we decided to bring our families along and have lunch at a local Mexican restaurant. I was thrilled to enjoy a few hours of fellowship with this man whose thoughtful writings I have long appreciated. Barry and his family were delightful, and he wasn't even fazed by my children sticking balloons on top of his head while we talked. That was true meekness, I think!

Sometimes people downplay online relationships as if they were not in any way impactful or genuine. As if they were somehow "unreal." While I understand and agree with the primacy of cultivating actual face-to-face relationships with the people around us, I believe some of the criticism of online friendships is overstated. Consider how many of the apostle Paul's relationships were developed over long distances and through letters, and how "real" and "genuine" he took those relationships to be.

Colossians 2:1 "For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face . . ."

I'd like to follow that up with another question: is your relationship with the Lord "long distance" or "face-to-face"? Now you can see the false dichotomy in those categories, can't you? For Christians, real connections can be made with folks we never meet because the same Spirit lives in us. We love and serve the same Savior, and we are mystically united in Him whether we ever make spatial contact in this life.

Have you ever met a Christian brother or sister with whom you had formed an online friendship? Leave a comment and tell us about it.