Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Catechism #24 & #25

Question #24: How are these articles divided?

Answer: Into three parts: God the Father and our creation; God the Son and our deliverance; God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification.

Question #25: Since there is but one God, why do you speak of three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

Answer: Because that is how God has revealed himself in his Word: these three distinct persons are one, true, eternal God (Deut. 6:4; 1 Cor. 8:4, 6; Matt. 3:16-17; 28:18-19; Luke 4:18 (Isa. 61:1); John 14:26; 15:26; 2 Cor. 13:14; Gal. 4:6; Tit. 3:5-6)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Song of the Week

This is a fantastic song by Red Mountain Church Music. It's from the Gadsby Project CD. Here's some info from the website on the Gadsby Hymns: "Gadsby’s Hymns, published in several stages during the first half of the 19th century, is a collection of hymns from multiple writers containing songs dating back to the 17th century. Some of the 1,156 songs in this hymnal are familiar, but most of these great lyrics have simply been forgotten in the modern church."

Thanks Red Mountain guys for allowing me to post this.

Red Mountain Church, "Christ, or Else (I die)"

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Catechism #22 & #23

Question #22: What then must a Christian believe?

Answer: Everything God promises us in the gospel. That gospel is summarized for us in the articles of our Christian faith— a creed beyond doubt, and confessed throughout the world. (Matt. 28:18-20; John 20:30-31)

Question #23: What are these articles?

Answer: I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pushing Your Spiritual Button

This morning I was playing action figures with Luke (after he had worn me out wrestling). It's my day off and I love it. I had a couple of good guys and two bad guys - some weird robot looking thing and Two Face. Luke said, "when the robot dies, he can just push his button and he'll come back to life." I asked, "if he's dead, how can he push the his button to come back to life?" Luke's answer, "he just pushes it and then he's alive."

When it comes to the order of salvation a lot of our talk ends up following the same path the Luke did. We often try to put faith before regeneration (being born again). How is this faith possible? I don't think it is. The clear testimony of Scripture is that before rebirth we are spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1, 5). How can spiritually dead people push the faith button?

From a slightly different angle, we could ask, "does faith please God?" or, "is faith a good?" The answer on both counts is yes. Faith pleases God - it is foundational to all acts that please Him. It is good. But, can the one who is of the flesh, who hasn't been born again, do anything that pleases God? The simple answer, according to Paul, is 'No'. Romans 8:5-8: "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. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot." Or also Romans 3:10-12:
"None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one."

When considering the order of salvation (ordo salutis), conversion (repentance & faith) and justification come after being born again (regeneration). Certainly, regeneration ensures faith, repentance, justification, as well as sanctification and glorification will follow, but getting the order mixed up lays glory at the feet of man who chooses God independently of his quickening grace instead of at the feet of the all deserving God.

Soli Deo Gloria

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Great Video and an Important Lesson

So funny. Bob showed us this video today in our staff meeting.

What's so weird about this speech is how the passion and intensity rise at weird moments. He's excited. Ok, that's good. but he's running for treasurer! And he emphasizes odd things - like 'MA in COMMUNICATION', and Albert Einstein and 'INFESTATION'.

Wonder if we, as Christians, can learn something here. Does our emphasis fall on the right places - like the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Or, does the emphasis fall on odd places - like our political values, eschatological visions, views of manhood/womanhood, etc. Ok, really, I'm just trying to find a reason to post the video.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Catechism #20 & #21

Question #20: Are all saved through Christ just as all were lost through Adam?

Answer: No. Only those are saved who by true faith are grafted into Christ and accept all his blessings (Matt. 7:14; John 3:16, 18, 36; Rom. 11:16-21).

Question #21: What is true faith?

Answer: True faith is not only a knowledge and conviction that everything God reveals in his Word is true; it is also a deep-rooted assurance, created in me by the Holy Spirit through the gospel, that, out of sheer grace earned for us by Christ, not only others, but I too, have had my sins forgiven, have been made forever right with God, and have been granted salvation (John 17:3, 17; Heb. 11:1-3; James 2:19; Rom. 4:18-21; 5:1; 10:10; Heb. 4:14-16; Matt. 16:15-17; John 3:5; Acts 16:14; Rom. 1:16; 10:17; 1 Cor. 1:21; Rom. 3:21-26; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-10; Gal. 2:20;Rom. 1:17; Heb. 10:10).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Historiography and Providence

Don't we all cringe when Pat Robertson or some other televangelist comes on and declares that Katrina or 9/11 are expressions of God's judgment for our nations moral decay? Or worse, when the connect tsunami's or earthquakes in third world countries with God's wrath. I do.

But why?

I was just reading yesterday about evangelical involvement in the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade. Both in America and in Britain, opponents of the slave trade viewed it as a moral stain on their respective nations. It was not uncommon for clergy who opposed the slave trade to warn of God's impending judgment unless the nation repented of wickedness. John Newton, the captain of a slave ship turned pastor (and friend of William Wilberforce, and author of Amazing Grace) did not think it proper of clergyman to interfere directly in politics, but still affirmed "it is Righteousness that exalteth a nation; and Wickedness is the present reproach, and will sooner or later, unless repentance intervene, prove the ruin of any people" (from John Wolffe, The Expansion of Evangelicalism: The Age of Wilberforce, More, Chalmers and Finney, pg 198). Others, like James Stephen (Wilberforce's brother in law) looked to the Bible and picked up on themes like the plagues on Egypt, the exile of Israel, the destruction of Jerusalem, etc. and warned, "severe chastisement for the guilt of the Slave Trade, have already been felt, and that still severer are approaching" (ibid, pg. 198). Similarly, Wilberforce, when fighting to emancipate slaves in the West Indies urged his countrymen not to "presume too far on the forbearance of the Almighty."

Is it still proper to warn of impending judgment on a nation for its sin? Does God still hold whole nations accountable for corporate sins? Some may want to argue that the Bible shows pictures of God judging Israel as his people and that no nation can be said to hold the same unique position as God's chosen nation/people today. True. However, God's discipline/judgment wasn't reserved for his people Israel. He uses his people to judge the sin of the Canaanites (Gen 15:16). He warns Nineveh (Assyria) through the reluctant prophet Jonah of his impending judgment unless they repent. He prophesies doom on Babylon (Habakkuk 2:6) and many others (see, for example, Amos 1:9, 11, 13). So, is it just that God was more active back then? Or, does God still 'rebuke the nations' (Psalm 9:5)?

I'm sure God still judges nations, but honestly, I have more questions here than answers. When you look at the New Testament, there doesn't seem to be warnings issued to nations - at least not like those that come from the prophets in the Old Testament. What does that mean? Nations are clearly in view in the book of Revelation, especially Rome (Babylon), so there seems to be some continuity with the OT prophets on this. On the other hand, most of the 'warnings' of the NT are directed to sinful individuals, more specifically, sinful Christian individual. Yet, the idea of 'corporate sin' is still present in the NT. For example, certain churches are guilty of sins (see Revelation 2-3) and are in danger of judgment. As mentioned earlier, Babylon (Rome and by extension the whole world order opposed to God and the church) in the book of Revelation is guilty of sin as a corporate entity and will be judged corporately.

I guess I'm wondering: if we should warn God's impending judgment for sin, should we not also, as those early evangelicals, look at calamity as expressions of God's judgment. Or, to put it another way, what role should providence play in our telling of history (historiography)?

Not too long ago even Presidents felt free (maybe compelled) to make such connections. Lincoln didn't shy away from this understanding of history. In his second inaugural address he states, "The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

Steven Keillor is one of the few who have thoughtfully and boldly declared that God's judgment should play a prevalent role in a Christian telling of history (historiography). In the Introduction to his book God's Judgments: Interpreting History and the Christian Faith, he writes, "In essence, this book began as an attempt to answer Andree Seu's call for a 'theology of fullness of truth' about the tragedy of September 11th, 2001, rather than the 'kind of gag rule' by which evangelicals, especially, were restricted to saying 'we cannot know what God is doing and why.' Specifically, God's judgments were the subtext: we cannot know that God is judging the nation. Yet, September 11th is only the starting point..." In this book, which is still sitting unread on my shelf (a theme of recent), Keillor goes on to explore what the Bible, both OT and NT say about God's judgment, the meaning of History, the burning of Washington as punishment, the civil war as an expression of judgment for slavery and more. (If that interests you, pick up Keillor's other book This Rebellious House - an interpretation of American history from a Christian perspective).

Anyway, I think more thought should be given to how we include biblical concepts of providence, blessing, curse, judgment, etc., into our view of history - not just distant history, but current history too.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Web Round Up

There's been a flurry of good/important posts from some of my favorite bloggers recently. Here's a run down:

First up was a great three part series In Praise of Generalization: Part One, Part Two and Part Three. Along the same lines is The Illustrated Guide to a PhD (no offense to you PhD's - I'm thrilled specialists are constantly pushing the bounds and expanding human knowledge).

Second was a great post in response to 'transformationalist' critiques of two kingdom theology by Jason Stellman. I've already posted some comments from it, so nothing new is needed.

Third, though I haven't read 'Green Awakening', I am somewhat concerned by how gospel language and redemption motifs have been 'hijacked' to for the cause of creation care. I think creation care is a good thing - but it's not the same as evangelism. Anyway, that's a long into to a great post in critique of the language/approach of 'Green Awakening'.

Forth, a really good reminder of the value of the King James Bible.

Lastly, a whole bunch of posts regarding Glen Beck. I think Russell Moore was the first to weigh in on the "plummet from Francis Schaeffer to Glenn Beck". Andree Seu writes on World Magazines website in praise of Glen Beck. Kevin DeYoung responds to the glowing report from Seu, especially regarding the supposed Christianity of Beck (a professed Mormon). Finally, Carl Trueman argues that Beck is actually part of the problem.

Oops, one more. Challies posts on the downfall of the porn industry. Sounds great right. It's not. The downfall is because people want, and can find plenty of free porn and are no longer willing to pay for it. Read the whole thing here.

Song of the Week

Well, I really wanted to post the hymn 'How Firm a Foundation', but I couldn't find a good rendition on Youtube. So, instead, here's a great song by Stone Temple Pilots. I was listening to this song on the drive in today. It's not a well known STP song, but I like it a lot.

Stone Temple Pilots, "Where the River Goes"

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Catechism Question #14 & #15

Question #14: Can another creature—any at all—pay this debt for us?

Answer: No. To begin with, God will not punish another creature for what a human is guilty of. Besides,no mere creature can bear the weight of God's eternal anger against sin and release others from it (Ezek. 18:4, 20; Heb. 2:14-18; Ps. 49:7-9; 130:3).

Question #15: What kind of mediator and deliverer should we look for then?

Answer: One who is truly human and truly righteous, yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is also true God (Rom. 1:3; 1 Cor. 15:21; Heb. 2:17, Isa. 53:9; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 7:26, Isa. 7:14; 9:6; Jer. 23:6; John 1:1).

I loved these questions and answers today. Why? Because the answer my kids gave when I asked them question #15 was 'Jesus'. Yes, my kids go to Sunday school so they've learned the answer to most questions is 'Jesus'. But, this question didn't ask who the mediator was, but what kind of mediator we should look for. I pushed the boys beyond the simple 'Jesus' answer and discussed with them why Jesus' humanity and deity as so important. Bulls and goats just aren't a good enough sacrifice to pay the debt we owed. It had to be a sacrifice of infinite worth. But because humans sin and are guilty, God's justice demands that a human pay the penalty. Incartion! Beautiful.
"Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen."
(Romans 11:33-36 ESV)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Catechism #12 & 13

As we came to Question #12 and #13 this morning, me and the boys have made a turn from discussing human misery to discussing deliverance.

Question #12: According to God's righteous judgment we deserve punishment both in this world and forever after: how then can we escape this punishment and return to God's favor?

Answer: God requires that his justice be satisfied.Therefore the claims of his justice must be paid in full, either by ourselves or another (Ex. 23:7; Rom. 2:1-11;Isa. 53:11; Rom. 8:3-4).

Question #13:
Can we pay this debt ourselves?

Answer: Certainly not. Actually, we increase our guilt every day (Matt. 6:12; Rom.2:4-5)

Monday, September 13, 2010

How prophetic should we be?

I have this book sitting on my shelf that I can't wait to get to. Ok, I have a dozen or so books on my shelf that I can't wait to get to when I'm done with the Independent Study I'm doing now. The one I'm referring to is by Jason Stellman (not Jason Statham). The book,Dual Citizens: Worship and Life Between the Already and the Not Yet, unpacks life in the two kingdoms. If you have followed this blog, you've seen how, over the past few years, I've grown incredibly uncomfortable with the transformationalist approach to Christianities involvement with culture, as summed up in the motto of my alma mater - "transforming the world through Christ." In exactly which direction should we be striving to transform it? Who's version of a transformed culture are we using as our blueprint? Is that really a part of the great commission or is that what Christ will do at the end of the age?

Well, Stellman puts his finger on my discomfort with the transformationalist model in his great post. If you like sarcasm, you'll love it! Here's a preview:

"You can’t have it both ways, ladies and gentlemen—if you want your minister to be prophetic, then you don’t get to first sign off on precisely which injustices he’ll address, and whose innocent lives he’ll rebuke American society for killing."

Song of the Week

The truth of this song's message came home to me afresh last night as Bob was preaching on the second commandment and our hearts proclivity to fashion idols instead of worshiping the true God. Had God not shaken me from that sin, I'd give my heart and worship to created things instead of my creator.

Matthew Smith, "My Lord, I did not Choose You"

Friday, September 10, 2010

Catechism #10 & 11

Question #10: Will God permit such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished?

Answer: Certainly not. He is terribly angry about the sin we are born with as well as the sins we personally commit. As a just judge he punishes them now and in eternity. He has declared: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law."(Ex. 34:7; Ps. 5:4-6; Nah. 1:2; Rom. 1:18; Eph. 5:6; Heb. 9:27, Gal. 3:10; Deut. 27:26)

Question #11: But isn't God also merciful?

Answer: God is certainly merciful,but he is also just.His justice demands that sin, committed against his supreme majesty, be punished with the supreme penalty — eternal punishment of body and soul. (Ex. 34:6-7; Ps. 103:8-9, Ex. 34:7; Deut. 7:9-11; Ps. 5:4-6; Heb. 10:30-31, Matt. 25:35-46)

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Academic Generalist

Carl Trueman, professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, has a great post (actually it looks like it'll be a short series of posts) In Praise of Generalists. He demoans the overly specialized approach to academics, writing, "...NT studies shows no signs of running out of topics. All that happens is that the topics become narrower and more arcane. This has little to do with the intrinsic nature of the New Testament and much to do with the need to find a dissertation topic and then to publish. No-one gets published for saying what's been said a million times before and in the same hackneyed way. It needs to be a new topic, or at least a novel presentation of an old one...This kind of behaviour creates in turn what one might dub a vortex of specialisation: as academics know more and more about less and less, the possibility for an overall synthesis becomes increasingly impossible not only to realise in practice but even to conceive of in theory."

Just this summer I dismissed the notion of pursuing a (future) academic career, switching programs at Covenant from a ThM in Exegetical Theology to a ThM in Biblical and Pastoral Theology. The switch was away from a very specific and towards a more general and practical degree.

Why the switch? Honestly, I like studying, but burnout on topics after 4,000 pages of reading. I've been working on a study on Evangelicalism. I enjoyed the first 2000 or so pages, the last 2000 pages of reading has been tough. I'm bored with it. I like knowing a little about a lot, not a lot about a little. I like being a generalist. After I've finished this class (on evangelicalism), I'd like to bounce back and do something in the New Testament, then something in Systematic Theology - maybe the Doctrine of the Church. I can't imagine doing another 4000 pages of reading on evangelicalism, even if the topic got narrowed a bit (i.e. evangelicals view of the church, etc.). I always read multiple books at one time, but fair better when they aren't so similar I feel like I'm reading the same thing if four books. In the long run, I think being a generalist will be good for me and think I'll be better equipped to serve the church. I'm exceedingly thankful for the specialists who take time to study theological or biblical minutia. I'll continue to read the specialists, and stand in awe of their focus. But I'm not one of them, and I'm happy to have finally realized it!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Catechism #9

Q. But doesn't God do us an injustice by requiring in his law what we are unable to do?

A. No, God created humans with the ability to keep the law. They, however, tempted by the devil, in reckless disobedience, robbed themselves and all their descendants of these gifts. (Gen. 1:31; Eph. 4:24, Gen. 3:13; John 8:44, Gen. 3:6, Rom. 5:12, 18, 19)

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Song of the Week

This one is from my new favorite album to work out to, 7th Symphony by Apocalyptica. I like the metal, and I really did Brent Smith from Shinedown on this song.

Apocalyptica, "Not Strong Enough"

Friday, September 03, 2010

Catechism #8

Q. But are we so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil?

A. Yes, unless we are born again, by the Spirit of God. (Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Job 14:4; Isa. 53:6; John 3:3-5)

Two Kingdoms

Kim Riddlebarger has a great post on living in the two kingdoms. It's clear, and it's relatively short. This is a critical distinction, as Dr. Riddlebarger points out. If we don't get it and confuse the two kingdoms, it quickly leads to 1) social gospel liberalism, or 2) some type of theonomy. Here's a preview:

Christ's Kingdom

Christ’s kingdom is manifest on earth through the ordinary means of grace and through those biblically mandated activities of the church (i.e., evangelism, discipleship, and diaconal ministries)

The Civil Kingdom

The civil kingdom is manifest in all human cultural endeavors and governing institutions. In the civil kingdom, Christian citizens seek to be salt and light as they fulfill their callings and vocations along with their non-Christian neighbors


Christ's Kingdom

As citizens of Christ’s kingdom, we live under the authority of Christ as revealed in Scripture (special revelation)

The Civil Kingdom

In the civil kingdom, we live under the authority of the laws of the land (i.e., general revelation and natural law)

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Catechism Question #7

Question #7: Then where does this corrupt human nature
come from?

Answer: From the fall and disobedience of our first parents,
Adam and Eve, in Paradise.
This fall has so poisoned our nature
that we are born sinners—
corrupt from conception on.(Gen. 3, Rom. 5:12, 18-19, Ps. 51:5)

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Catechism Question #6

Question #6: Did God create people
so wicked and perverse?

Answer: No.
God created them good and in his own image,
that is, in true righteousness and holiness,
so that they might
truly know God their creator,
love him with all their heart,
and live with him in eternal happiness
for his praise and glory. (Gen. 1:31, Gen. 1:26-27, Eph. 4:24, Col. 3:10, Ps. 8)