Friday, September 29, 2006
It is actually a fallacy of guilt by association, in which the conclusion that Donald Miller is basically a corrupt teacher simply does not follow based upon the fact that he may like some non-Christian author. Some bloggers actually were trying to nail John Piper on a similar charge because he quoted Dallas Willard in one of his books...the same Dallas Willard who hangs out with all these liberal theologians and new agers! To be blunt SO WHAT?! At the Pyromaniacs blog Phil Johnson written on this quite well on this very issue with Slice and in the end he has continued to support Slice, and I agree with him completely.
However, for me the straw that broke the camels back is when one of my blog buddies Tim who is a bit "emergent" leaning was on Slice and was disagreeing with Ken Silva on some issues. Tim did it very respectfully and in the end he was banned from the page. Now my problem is that if Slice is going to continue to crusade against emergents and not dialogue with them, that simply is not responsible. I compare it to me making a page dedicated to shredding Mormon theology and then ban Mormons who have the gall to try and correct me. That's just not healthy. Now I like Slice and many of its contributors, as well as a lot of what has been said there, and I agree with their stance against a lot of emergent trends. However, when you refuse to respectfully dialogue with those who you disagree with I don't think you have any right to disagree with them.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
"What marvel if, under some men's shifty talk, people grow into love of both truth and falsehood! People will say, "We like this form of doctrine, and we like the other also." The fact is, they would like anything if only a clever deceiver would put it plausibly before them. They admire Moses and Aaron, but they would not say a word against Jannes and Jambres. We shall not join in the confederacy which seems to aim at such a comprehension.
We must preach the gospel so distinctly that our people know what we are preaching. "If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for the battle?" Don't puzzle your people with doubtful speeches."Well", said one, "I had a new idea the other day. I did not enlarge upon it; but I just threw it out."That is a very good thing to do with most of your new ideas. Throw them out, by all means; but mind where you are when you do it; for if you throw them out from the pulpit they may strike somebody, and inflict a wound upon faith.
Throw out your fancies, but first go alone in a boat a mile out to sea. When you have once thrown out your unconsidered trifles, leave them to the fishes.We have nowadays around us a class of men who preach Christ, and even preach the gospel; but then they preach a great deal else which is not true, and thus they destroy the good of all that they deliver, and lure men to error. They would be styled "evangelical" and yet be of the school which is really anti-evangelical."
(End Spurgeon Excerpt)
This is good meat for modern Christians (or rather, post-modern)! In our time there are all sorts of "fancies" or calls to "rethink" doctrines. Now I in a Berean spirit am all for analyzing doctrines holding them up to the truth of God's word to see whether they are true or no. Yet there is a type of whimsical questioning (or fancy) which really is anti-evangelical. These are the fancies which must be thrown aside. I have in mind notions of "rethinking" (which is a soft way of saying rejecting) cardinal doctrines of Christian faith, such as biblical inerrancy, salvation by faith in Christ alone etc. These doctrines in the name of "rethinking" are being challenged by many who think they do evangelicalism a favor in our "post-modern age" in which we need to adapt to.
For example, the other day I heard of Brian McLaren calling for a 5 year evangelical summit to "rethink" the issue of homosexuality. This I think will only end in an acceptance of homosexuality in the mind of McLaren. The connection to Spurgeon's words is that in his day men were calling for similar notions of "rethinking" doctrines (which resulted in their denial) we now look back at the rise of theological liberalism and can see strong parallels between that movement and modern immitations. Just like Theological Liberalism, its postmodern counterpart is making pleas to be culturally relevant, and adapt to the culture. This usually includes dark ominous prophetic utterances saying that "Unless the Church adapts it will fade into oblivion!"
In short, we are not to adapt the gospel to the spirit of the age and fancies of men and conform to the world, rather, it is the culture (which is made up of sinners) which need to conform to the truth of Christ's word. We are so prone to have it backwards, Christianity (I speak in the scope of doctrinal matter) is not to be shaped by fallen man's likes and dislikes as though there were some defect in the Christian message. Rather, it is fallen man's likes and dislikes which must be brought into subjection to Him who is Lord of all, Christ.
Friday, September 22, 2006
Monday, September 18, 2006
The ABC news reports:
"In Iran, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei used the comments to call for protests against the United States. He argued that while the pope may have been deceived into making his remarks, the words give the West an "excuse for suppressing Muslims" by depicting them as terrorists.
[Now note the double speak as he goes on to say...]
"Those who benefit from the pope's comments and drive their own arrogant policies should be targeted with attacks and protests," he said, referring to the United States."
When I read statements like this one thing is clear, we are not dealing with rational people who are sincerely interested in peace, that's just the PC talk guys like Ayatola have adopted. So how do we as westerners react to this growing situation?
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
"Your Best Life Now, 7 Steps to Living At Your Full Potential"
"40 Days to Purpose"
"Discovering Your Destiny"
"The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through To the Blessed Life" etc.
Do we see a trend here? There are products being sold to consumers in each of these titles, purpose, the best life possible, power unleashed, destiny. This is natural and to be expected in a consumeristic culture, and I would argue that the consumer culture is not the root of our man-centeredness but a fruit. Our man-centeredness is ultimately birthed from the fall in Eden where Adam our federal head chose autonomy rather than submission to God.
To cut to the chase we as 21st century evangelicals have adopted a thinking about God which elevates man and his will over God, man will be his own predestinator, man will be reached on his terms, and man will worship God as seems right in his own eyes (now I am not just talking about Arminianism for that is only a part of the picture, albeit a big part). We really think God's reason for existence is to serve and comfort us, He is a sort of Grandpa in the sky who gives us a boost (purpose, good life) and is there when we want and to be met how we want.
This is in stark contrast to the vision of God in the Bible, a God who is jealous for His name, and does all things for His own glory. It has been this truth that has shaped my vision of God as no other doctrine, I think this is the very center of all other doctrines. Sola Deo Gloria is like a gushing mountain spring from which flow numerous streams of truth (justification, redemption, election, the incarnation etc) all finding their fount and source in the truth that God does all things for the sake of His glory. In the following post I will lean heavily on Jonathan Edwards' Treatise: "The End For Which God Created the World, it has been Edwards' book that has pointed me to this truth that has shaped everything I do.
The first half of this will be philosophical, and here I will lean most heavily on Edwards, the second will be a scriptural testimony of this truth, this is how Edwards divides his book. In the second half will be scripture after scripture that supports this thesis so if you aren't into philosophical treatise just skip down to the second half.
I) The Chief End of God...(Philo)
Firstly, a distinction needs to be made between "ultimate" ends and "subordinate" ends. Edwards writes: "A subordinate end is what an agent aims at, not at all upon its own account, but wholly on the account of a further end of which it is considered as a means."(1)
The point here is that there are acts done by any agent really that are not the end in themselves but carried out to accomplish an end. An example would be going to work, going to work is not an end in itself (generally) but a means to an end such as providing for one's family. Thus the ultimate end is that which is sought for its own sake, what is valued of its own account and not in itself a means to another end. Based upon this Edwards maps out the following line of thought:
a.) "A subordinate end is never valued (as a chief end) above its own ultimate end."(2) Based upon the above definition of subordinate and ultimate ends it is absurd to say that the means is more valued than the end itself.
b) "When there is only one ultimate end it is chief above all other ends."(3) If there be any one ultimate end every other end is only a means to that ultimate end. This is so in the operations of God.
c) "The 'original' and ultimate end of all creation governs all of God's works"(4)
d) "In the 'highest sense' of God's ultimate end in creation, this end is also the end of all His works of providence."(5) What Edwards is saying here is that the end for which God created the world is the same end aimed at by God in all His works in interacting with mankind throughout history.
e) "There is only one ultimate end of creation if only one end is agreeable in itself"(6) If there is one sole reason by itself as to the motive of God in creation then that same motive (end) is what is aimed at in all of God's works.
This is a logical argument and I have left out some of the scrupulous steps for spaces sake but the point we arrive at is e) that if there is but one end which motivated God to create that same end is what is aimed at in all His works, and is most prized by God. Now Edwards moves to defining what original end for which God created the world is.
"Whatever that be which is in itself most valuable, and was so originally, prior to the creation of the world, and which is attainable by creation, if there be any thing which was superior in value to all others, that must be God's last end in the creation; and also worthy to be his highest end." (7)
"And, Therefore, if God has respect to things according to their nature and proportions, He must necessarily have the greatest respect to Himself."(8) What has been said in these last statements is that if God is values things appropriately the most valuable must be God Himself. This must be so for God to be upright, for God to be upright is for Him to value that which is most good (Himself).
"Hence it will follow that the moral rectitude of the disposition, inclination, or affection of God CHIEFLY consists in regard to HIMSELF, infinitely above His regard to all other beings; in other words, His holiness consists in this."(9)
This statement is extremely profound, Edwards is arguing that God's holiness demands that God value that which is most valuable, namely HIMSELF, for God to do otherwise would be to compromise His holiness. God would be unrighteous in fact if he failed to delight fully in what is most beautiful, and worthy , namely Himself. So how do we as creatures fit into this picture? To quote Edwards:
"If the perfection itself be excellent, the knowledge of it is excellent and the esteem of it is excellent. And as it is fit that God should love and esteem His own excellence, it is also fit that He should value and esteem the love of his excellency. And if it becomes a being to highly value Himself, it is fit that He should love to have Himself valued and esteemed."(10)
This is amazing, if Edwards is right the popular bookstore view of God that is so often presented (having man chief in His affections) is way off the mark. Yet through philosophic reasoning we are begining to see the God-centeredness of God, howeverm ultimately scripture is where we must turn to see what is chief in God's affections.
II) The Chief End of God... (Scripture)
From the arguments above the conclusion is reached that God has His own glory chief in His affections, this is the end sought in all that He does. We now turn to the bible because ultimately this is where this truth shines most brightly, through creation, providence and redemption. I will just put up the passages and comment here and there the point should become fairly evident that God in His acting has His glory (Himself) chiefly in mind.
First and Last:
"Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: "I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god." (Isa 44:6)
"Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am he; I am the first, and I am the last." (Isa 48:12)
"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, " (Rev 1:8)
"And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment." (Rev 21:6)
The point here is that God is the first and the last, He authored creation and He is the end to which creation moves. This is how the Lord's prayer ends as well.
The Duty of Man:
"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Cor 10:31)
"whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies--in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." (1 Per 4:11)
Here we see man is to seek the glory of God above all, and ascribe glory to God. Many more scriptures can be cited but I wish to focus on the issues of redemption.
Christ's Ultimate End In His Ministry:
It would probably be casually stated by most believers that the ultimate end of Christ's ministry on earth was the redemption of men. However, if Edwards is right and I understand the bible correctly, the salvation of sinners is not an ultimate end but rather a "subordinant". The ultimate aim in Christ's work was the glory of God. Thus, it is because God is passionate about His glory that sinners have hope, God will be glorified through saving and forgiving sinners. The fact that Christ sought God's glory first and foremost is evident through the following passages:
"The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory, but the One who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood." (John 7:18)
"Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven: "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." (John 12:28) [this passage comes as Christ is praying about His coming death which would save many]
"Then Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you," (John 17:1)
"(This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.)" (John 21:19)
The End of The Work of Redemption is the Glory of God:
In addition to the passages already mentioned surrounding Christ seeking first the glory of God in His work there are many others surrounding issue of redemption in general describing the redemption of sinners as chiefly for the glory of God.
"He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved." (Eph 1:5-6)
"[Our salvation is] to the praise of his glory." (Eph 1:12,14)
"knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God." (2 Cor 4:14-15)
Likewise in the Old Testament:
"Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name's sake!" (Psalm 79:9)
"For my name's sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another." (Isa 48:9-11)
A note must be said that when God is said to "act for His name's sake" it is synonymous with acting for the sake of His glory. The picture is becoming clear, the glory of God is the chief end sought in the redemption of man.
Other Passages Supporting This (The basis on which we can approach God):
"For the LORD will not forsake his people, for his great name's sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for Himself." (1 Sam 11:22)
"He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake." (Psalm 23:3)
"For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me;" (Ps 31:3)
"For your name's sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great." (Ps 25:11)
"Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name's sake!" (Ps 79:9)
"Though our iniquities testify against us, act, O LORD, for your name's sake; for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against you." (Jer 14:7)
"who caused his glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, who divided the waters before them to make for himself an everlasting name" (Isa 63:12)
"Yet he saved them for his name's sake, that he might make known his mighty power." (Psa 106:8)
"But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made myself known to them in bringing them out of the land of Egypt"(Ezek 20:9)
"But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out." (Ezek 20:14)
"But I withheld my hand and acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out."(Ezek 20:22)
Now by now I think it is clear that the glory of God is what God seeks in all that He does. The passages cited are in truth but the tip of the iceberg of what is in scripture about the God-centeredness of God. But oh the application of such a truth! Spurgeon said that we should when we pray approach God in prayer like lawyers pleading with Him for the sake of His name/glory to act on our behalf. Indeed this is the biblical precedent of how the men in scripture approached God. To realize the Godcenteredness of God has probably been (outside of coming to faith in Christ) the most revolutionary truth about God that has shaped my life. The power this truth has to deliver us from the spirit of the age which is so grossly man centered and makes God into a sort of life enhancing add-on is of inestimable worth.
(Citations are all from "The End For Which God Created the World" are found in John Piper's "God's Passion for His Glory" [GPFG] in which the full text of Edwards' work can be found.)
(1) pg.125 GPFG
(2) pg. 128 GPFG
(3)pg. 130 GPFG
(4) pg.134 GPFG
(5) pg.134 GPFG
(6) pg.135 GPFG
(7) pg.140 GPFG
(8) pg.140 GPFG
(9) pg.141 GPFG
(10) pg.149 GPFG
Friday, September 01, 2006
no thanks to them abideth,
the Spirit and the gifts are ours,
through Him who with us sideth,
let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also,
the body they may kill,
God's truth abideth still,
His Kingdom is forever."
(A Mighty Fortress by Martin Luther)
There is nothing that is more weighty or delightful to the Christian believer than the person of Jesus Christ. It was once said of Christ that to be in heaven without Jesus would to be in hell, and to be in hell and have Jesus with us is to be in heaven. Christ is everything to the Christian. All the Christian's hopes lay in the person of Jesus, He is our sin absolver, our righteousness, and our exceeding great reward. Christ is so precious that the apostle Paul said:
"To live is Christ and die is gain" (Philippians 1)
To those who treasure Christ their lives are poured out for Him, and to die is gain, for to die is to be with Christ. Thus, Martin Luther in his hymn can say "let goods and kindred go this mortal life also..." for there is a treasure more precious to be had than earthly goods and even family. Jesus Christ is the world to the believer. Now, there is so much that can be written about the Person of Jesus, we could talk about His Divinity, His incarnation, His eternality, His Lordship, and at some point I will. The person of Christ deserves nothing less than infinite in depth studies (that is what heaven is for). However, I will in this post focus on those aspects of Sola Christus that surround the redemption of sinners.
Christ our Sin Bearer:
It is a truth that lies at the very heart of Christianity that Christ took the sins of men upon Himself. Underlying this truth is the fact that Christ became Man, and was without sin (Ex 12:5) and thus was able to stand in the place of the guilty and take the punishment they deserve. The backdrop of the crucifixion of Christ is the Jewish Passover. In all four gospels Christ is crucified on the Friday morning/afternoon proceeding the celebration of the Passover feast the preceding Thursday night. The point is that Christ is the Passover Lamb to all who are in Him.
"For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed." (1 Cor 5:7)
Jesus Christ through His death has suffered the punishment that rebellious sinners deserve, thus God can justly forgive and Passover the sins of those in Christ. For God to be holy and treat sin in a cavalier manner would be to compromise/negate that holiness, thus sin is taken very seriously by a thrice holy God. So then are all men doomed? For all have sinned and deserve the wrath of God. Yet here is Christ who takes our sins upon Himself so that God can both be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Christ:
" [Christ] whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." (Rom 3:25-26)
Some so called Christians want to abandon this truth, it seems like Divine child abuse they say. Ah, but what know they of the heights of God's holiness and the depths to which He was willing to sink and suffer to redeem His bride. What know they the depths joy from the forgiveness springing from kneeling before Calvary to have our burdens of sin fall off our backs. What know they of the love of Jesus Christ?
"For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Cor 5:21)
"For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh," (Rom 8:3)
"But as it is, He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself...so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many" (Heb 9:26-28)
Christ is clearly portrayed as the sin bearer of His people in the scriptures, He became sin in their place to bear their guilt and justly pardon.
Christ our Righteousness:
As one may have seen particularly in 2 Cor 5:21 Christ not only became our guilt bearer but our righteousness. This is the "double exchange" that has happened to all who are in Christ. Christ not only has taken our guilt and sin and suffered the penalty due, but also has given us a righteousness that is not our own and we reap the rewards due to possessing a perfect righteousness.
"For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Cor 5:21)
"For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us..."(Rom 8:3-4)
"and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-- (Phil 3:9)
I have briefly addressed how the imputation of Christ's righteousness is being challenged by NT Wright and the "New Perspective" folks already. This truth is very precious to me, to know that I am clothed in the perfect righteousness of Jesus and that my standing before God is not damaged through my imperfections nor any better through my good frame. For Jesus Christ is my righteousness. To know that I do not have to defend myself and make myself look like I am something other than a beggar is very liberating. The truth of imputed righteousness frees us from all the idols of self-esteem and self righteousness. Puritan Thomas Watson writes wonderfully as to what it looks like to be wed to Christ and have our guilt covered by Christ's righteousness as Watson states:
"When the law brings indictments against you. When the law says, 'Here are so many debts to be paid.', and it demands satisfaction. Acknowledge the debt, but turn it all over to your Husband, Christ...Tell Satan when he accuses you, 'It is true that the debt is mine, but go to my Husband Christ, He will discharge it.' If we took this course we would relieve ourselves of much trouble. By faith we turn the debt over to our Husband...This is the believers triumph. When he is guilty in himself he is worthy in Christ. When he is spotted in himself, he is pure in his Head."
ultimately, by Christ being our righteousness all glory for our salvation belongs to Christ alone.
As with all of the five solas of the Reformation the divergence from Rome lay in the sola (alone) aspect of the truth. Here in Sola Christus it is no different. Rome has and does hold to a system of merits and works based righteousness. Christ's death in the sinners place is part of the righteousness of the sinner but the sinner himself must also participate actively through masses, confession, sacraments, penances etc to store up a righteousness and cut down years in purgatory.
The problem for the guilty conscience is that how do we know when we have said enough prayers to saints? How do we know when we have confessed all our sins (even the ones from when I was 8 years old June 17th)? Martin Luther suffered tremendously under a guilty conscience and found no ease in any of this but only found himself to be condemned. It was the truth of Romans 1:17 "The just shall live by faith." that freed this man from a guilt stricken conscience. How? The faith we are to live by is faith in Christ. Christ and His finished work alone is the saints resting place. We find nothing in Scripture about asking Mary to intercede for us but we do find passages like these:
"Most assuredly I say to you that whoever believes in Me has eternal life." (John 6)
"For there is no other name under heaven by which men may be saved except the name of Christ Jesus" (Acts 4:12)
The point of these scriptures is that salvation is attatched to belief in the person of Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ alone. Jesus never prescribed a new law for us to live by and earn our salvation by adhering to. This is the fact that separates true Christianity from all the other worldviews that exist. Christianity is the only worldview that does not give man a ladder (rules) to climb and earn heaven, rather it says you can't earn it, but here is Christ look to Him, and Him alone. Christ is presented as the "Author and finisher of our faith", how can this be seen in any other way than that He alone is our hope?
"My hope is built on nothing less,
than Jesus' blood and righteousness,
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus' name."