Dedicated to the Passionate Pursuit of the Glory of God.

Puritan Catechism Question of the Week
Q 16. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A. The fall brought mankind into a state of sin and misery.

Name: Mike
Location: California, United States
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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Romans 9 - Part 4

We have been looking at the Theology of Romans 9. We took a two day break during the weekend (I write my posts one day ahead of time) which has been beneficial for me. At this point we can turn to verse 14 to begin to answer some of the questions that arise from what has been discussed so far.

Verse 14, “What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!”

Paul envisions an objector and in true rhetorical style addresses his concerns before they are asked. Interestingly enough, this is one of the primary questions that Calvinists are asked when the doctrine of Unconditional Election is raised. If God chooses to bless some people with Saving Grace and leave others entangled in their sin, doesn’t that mean He is being unfair? One can see how this would come out of what Paul has just stated. In verse 11 he says that God has chosen the two, one to love and the other to hate (v. 13), before they were born and had not done anything good or bad. It is not because of works, but according to God’s purpose.

So then, how does Paul answer this charge and how ought Calvinists answer the very same charge?

Verse 15: ”For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs but on God who has mercy.”

At first we must say that this is not really an answer. Paul will get to the “answer” part in down the line (our next post v.19ff). However, he does take a moment to strike at the core of the objection. A person is making this objection for a reason. Since it is a charge against God, we must assume (with Paul) that it begins with bad theology. That is a key point so allow me to state it again: A person is making a charge that impugns the character of God (viz. that He is unjust); this necessarily stems from bad theology (ie. Words/beliefs about God).

What ought Paul to do? Of course the answer is to address the wrong Theology that is leading to the objection. How does Paul do this? He states that mercy is dependent solely on whomever God wants to give compassion to. It has nothing to do with the man who wills or the man who runs, but upon God who has mercy. This is very unpopular in our society where everyone believes themselves to be utterly autonomous, the captain of their own ship. However, it is what the Bible teaches and it must be what we teach. If someone gets upset when we say “it is not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs but on God who has mercy” then all we must do is to return to Scriptures. Our sinful, prideful, arrogant fallen bodies naturally beg us to believe that we are involved here. The only way to counter this is to continuously make clear in our mind that it does not depend on us, but upon God who has mercy. This will give us a higher view of God and a lower view of ourselves (just as it should be – remember the words of John the Baptizer).

Paul then continues in verse 17: “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.”

Here, Paul illustrates what he has just said above. He returns our minds to Exodus where we see Pharaoh raised up to demonstrate the power of God and that the name of God might be proclaimed throughout all the earth.

One might not see how this ties into Paul’s theology immediately, so he clarifies his thoughts for us: “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.”

Paul has now tied everything together for us. What is the purpose of the paragraph that spans from verse 14-18? Earlier we have Jacob being chosen for blessing and Esau being chosen for cursing before they did anything on there own. Some people, clearly, were going to think that this was unfair. In this section, Paul spells out that this “blessing” (and in the context of Salvation we could also call this blessing “saving grace”) is not the result of man willing or running, but on God who shows mercy. He illustrates this in the negative with Pharaoh (namely it was not dependent on Pharaoh but upon God who raised Him up and hardened Him). So then, Paul says in a concluding sentence, God shows mercy on whom He wills and He hardens those whom He wills.

Now, in light of the context both before and after this paragraph, I believe this is clearly talking about an eternal blessing (namely God granting Saving Grace to His elect). However, for the purpose of this thread I am going to set that aside for a second. I am simply going to ask you to consider whether you believe this to be fair. Regardless of what the blessing and cursing entails, do you believe that God is just in choosing to bless some and curse others before they have done anything? If you find this unjust, then with Paul I must suggest that your Theology is in error.

This is so crucial for the Calvinism vs. Arminianism discussion so allow me to state it again. We will pretend for a second that this is not talking about Salvation at all. Do you believe that God is perfectly fair in deciding to bless (Love) some and curse (Hate) others before they have even done anything? If you do believe it is unfair, all I can do is repeatedly point to the Scriptures. We must let God’s character define our ethics and not let our culturally-saturated-fleshly-inclination-to-sin-ethics define God. If, on the other hand, you find it perfectly just, then I would ask you to remember this when we begin to talk about Salvation. If God can do this and remain just, then he can do the same with Salvation and remain just. Now, just because He could do it does not mean that he does do it; that I hope to prove later. All I want at this time is an admission that God could do it and remain just. If you do make that admission, then we should never hear some of the most popular complaints directed towards Calvinists: “That’s unfair, That’s a cruel God, etc.”

In Christ alone,

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Romans 9 - Part 3

We now move on to the third part of our series. Through this point we have only looked at Romans 9:1-8. We now turn to verse 9 and following to conclude the illustrations drawn from Genesis.

It should be noted that there are units of thought that the bible comes in. The paragraph or pericope that we left off in runs from verse 6 through 14. We stopped after verse 8 simply because length was already an issue. In verses 6-8 we saw that the Word of God (namely His promises) have not failed. Paul answers the objection by providing the case of Isaac verses Ishmael. Israelites, so we have been told in verse four, have the promise of “adoption as sons”. This blessing is only given to Isaac (the son of Sarah v. 9). We are told that this is because not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. That is, not according to the flesh but based upon the promise of God.

In this illustration we have two possible descendents but only Isaac receives the blessing. Only Isaac is declared one of the “children of God” (verse 8).

Paul, however, continues with his second illustration. He says, “And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good of bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of the works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, ‘The older will serve the younger.’”

So we have another scenario where there are two descendents who could claim to be Israel based upon the flesh. However, Paul asserts that belonging to true Israel is a matter of promise not flesh. So it is with Jacob and Esau. Jacob, based only upon the promise of God, will be a child of God (as a result of promise) and Esau is a child of the flesh (and according to verse 8 – not a child of God).

There are some who would claim that this is only relating to temporal blessings. Where this assertion seems totally without merit in the first illustration, there is something that could lead us in that direction with this illustration. The text says, “the older will serve the younger.” This does carry the hint that possibly we are talking about temporal blessings. The text also says, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”. In the context of Malachi 1:2-3 this also may be hinting at temporal blessings or cursing. At first examination, Daniel and others appear to be on to something here. In fact, this used to be my main point with the text.

However, maybe Daniel is making the same mistake that I believe that I once did. It is true that temporal blessings and cursings are alluded to in this discussion about Jacob and Esau. However, might it be the case that this is a result of something greater, something eternal? One cannot read the Pentateuch even once without discovering the idea of Blessings versus Cursings. If you follow and obey your Lord then you are blessed. If you disobey and reject your creator you are cursed. At this point I am merely asking if it is possible that the temporal blessings alluded to are actually the result of the eternal state of these two men.

Now, the good observer is not going to let me just pose that question and move on. I must have some reason for asking that. If I did not you would be justified in responding “sure it is possible, but I have no reason to believe it and so I wont.”

Very well; allow me to briefly give some reasons why this might be beyond temporal blessings alone.

The first and strongest point is that verses 10-13 do not exist in a vacuum. Quite to the contrary. This is where the very first rule of hermeneutics comes into play: Context! Context! Context! As important as location is to real estate, context is just as imperative to a passage. What is our context? Hopefully you will not begin to remember Part 1 and 2 of this discussion. In Romans 8 we have a discussion on living in the Spirit. We are told that those in the flesh will have their eternal destiny in death and those who live by the Spirit will have an eternity in life. Those who live by the Spirit are adopted as sons of God and thus are considered children of God. This causes us to groan inwardly waiting for our future hope which is the resurrection. We learn that God has brought this all about because he words all things together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. We learn that “all things” specifically refers to the golden chain of redemption, which is consummated in glorification. With this knowledge we are told that no one can bring a charge against the elect since it is Christ who justifies. Accordingly, nothing can separate us from the love of God. Paul then proceeds to chapter 9 where he laments the state of the Jews. They are separated from Christ and thus eternally cursed. He wishes he could trade places with them.

Reason 1 summarized: Every bit of context is screaming Salvation, child of God, Spirit, Glory, eternal life, resurrection, etc. If this is the context, then this might at least make us consider the possibility that Jacob and Esau are used for this reason.

There is, however, a second point that we must not forget. In the counsel of Scripture we are given additional information about the eternal state of both Jacob and Esau. Consider the word of the Lord:

“Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise…” (Heb 11:9)
“By faith Jacob, as he was dying blessed each of the sons of Joseph…” (11:21)

What is the importance of this faith ...
“And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.” (11:39-40)

Of course, the fulfillment and the perfection is found ultimately in Christ and that is why these men are to be considered “so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us” (12:1).

There are very few people who would doubt the eternal state of Jacob’s soul.

What about Esau’s?

“See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards when he desired to inherit the blessing he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears” (Heb 12:15-17).

Can we deny Esau’s eternal state? He is said to fall short of the grace of God, immoral, godless, etc.

There is a reason that Jacob is in the Hall of Faith and is considered a witness that we are to emulate and Esau is in chapter 12 in a warning passage.

So then, with the clear context and the biblical knowledge that we have, we must ask whether this election is only for “temporal blessings” or whether there is something deeper. It seems clear to me (for both contextual reasons and other biblical knowledge) that these two were chosen for the purpose of showing two different men with two different eternal destinies. I would really need something much more explicit in the text to suggest that this has nothing to do with eternal blessings.

In any case, we must then ask if this is conditional election or unconditional. Clearly, Paul labors the point that this is unconditional. Before the children were born, before they did anything good or bad, God choose based not on their actions but on His promise for His purpose. God chooses to lavish blessings (temporal and eternal) on Jacob and not for Esau.

Why? Isn’t this unfair? If these questions come to mind then we are in luck. Paul knew that you would ask these question and he answers the objection with another illustration in the next paragraph. We will wait for another day to tackle that passage.

In Christ alone,

Friday, January 27, 2006

Romans 9 - Part 2

Today we continue on in the second part of our series on Romans 9. This began from a discussion on Romans 8 where Daniel (archor for the soul) and I had different views. Accordingly, I am now giving what I believe to be the correct interpretation of Romans 9 and evaluating Daniel’s comments. In the first post we considered verses 1-5 and will now pick up at verse 6. This post is a tad bit longer than I would have liked but I thought the length necessary to adequately deal with the text.

Paul begins his argument stating, "But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel." Paul had just begun a long list of the promises that are due to Israel including "the adoption as sons, and the glory". However, in chapter 8 Paul had just argued that it is through Christ that results in "waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons" and a promise that "these whom He justified He also glorified" (8:23 and 30). In other words, Paul has stated that Israel is due these blessings, but he has done so on the heels of stating that these blessings come as a result of belonging to Christ in the Spirit. "How can this be?" says the implied objector. Paul answers by saying ‘not all who are descended from Israel are true Israel.’ His illustrations are going to prove this point. In Chapter 11 he will use another illustration to explain what exactly true Israel is (viz. one olive tree that consists both of the remnant of Jews and gentiles whoa re in Christ). For the time being, we will content ourselves with the discussion at hand.

Verse 7-8: "nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: through Isaac your descendants will be named. That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants."

Here is our illustration and Paul has so graciously provided us with the interpretation. Ishmael and Isaac both have promises but both are not heirs of the promise made to ‘Abraham and his descendants’. So then, says Paul, it is not the children by flesh who are the children of God, but rather the children of promise. If this distinction of flesh and promise sounds familiar then it may be because you have been reading Romans 7-8 recently. If you flip back just a little you will see a huge battle between flesh and Spirit. According to the flesh we will die, but according to the Spirit we will live (see 8:5-6, 13).

If the discussion of what are true "children of God" sends off warning lights then you may have also been reading later in chapter 8. Starting in verse 15, "For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him".

Now things may be beginning to click into place for us. One principle of bible interpretation is that authors who use the same words and phrases back to back generally use them the same way. We would actually require evidence to the contrary to insist that an author is going to use the same vocabulary in two chapters but use the words to mean entirely different things. Daniel accepts this principle and has used it to define the word "kaleo" in Romans. If he does so with that word, he must also be willing to do so with phrases like "flesh", "children of God", "adoption", etc.

Clearly in the discussion of Romans 8 we have flesh and Spirit warring against each other. The flesh leads to sin and ultimately to eternal death. The Spirit leads to mortifying sin and finally eternal life. "Adoption as sons" is defined in Romans 8:23 as "the redemption of our body". This, argues Paul, is based on the hope that we have been eternally saved and will thus persevere in hope (8:24-25). "Children of God" is explained in Romans 8:15-17 as a person who has the Spirit and is thus an heir with Christ and shares in His blessings which consummates in glory.

However, Romans 9 then uses the very same terminology. In verse 4 we hear about "adoptiopn as sons, and the glory". In verse 8 we learn that God’s promises are not passed down according to the flesh, but through the promise (remember… we also had quite a bit of promises in Romans 8). In 9:8 we also learn about the "children of God" who stand in contrast with the children of the flesh. The problem for Daniel and those who would hold a similar view is that we cannot take clear meanings of words that are literally defined in Chapter 8 and then assume that they mean entirely different things in chapter 9. We cannot suppose that Paul is in mourning about the fact that his brothers according to the flesh are cut of from Christ and then suggest that the illustrations have nothing to do with Salvation. To remain consistent, rather, to perform proper exegesis, we must view this illustration in light of the discussion at hand and the vocabulary employed.

Daniel does make a perfect observation about 9:6-7. He says, "Paul's answer is clear. Not every Israelite is entitled to the promises spelled out in the Word of God. Not all of ethnic Israel is a part of spiritual Israel. The privileges listed in v. 4-5 were not for every Jew. In fact, God's promise to bless Israel was never meant to include every Jewish person." We must applaud Daniel here for speaking the truth and doing so better than I could.

However, Daniel then goes on to say things like this:
"It's important for us to remember that most illustrations are never perfect. What I mean is, that they don't always have a direct correspondence."

"So illustrations are never intended to have complete correspondence to the author's main point."

"However, while his argument deals with the eternal salvation of the Jews in his lifetime, Paul is not necessarily discussing the salvation of the individuals that he mentions in his illustrations."

After saying something that was so true I was saddened to see the quick leap to claim that illustrations are never perfect. It is true, illustrations do not always have a direct correspondence. However, generally the main point of the illustration fits in with the main point of the discussion at hand. Otherwise the illustration would be useless. Daniel then explains that Narnia is an allegory for the story of redemption but not everything has direct correspondence. He is correct about this. In fact, Lewis even denies that it is an allegory for this very reason. However, he then concludes that therefore illustrations never correspond completely. This is a quick and unnecessary jump. It is my opinion that statements like this ought to serve as caution tape warning us that we are about to explain away what the text does in fact teach.

Unfortunately, Daniel does seem to do so. In a discussion clearly about the Salvation of the Jews, Paul uses an illustration to teach about the promises of God. In the illustration he chooses words that are identical to chapter 8, namely "children of God" (where they are used to reference those who have Salvation). Without any reason (that I can see) apart from disagreeing with the implication, Daniel states that the illustration does not discuss at all the salvation of the individuals. I must conclude that this is a departure from proper exegesis.

That is all for this post. This is a reminder of where we have come and where we are at this point. In the first post we examined the background of Chapter 8 and the implications that this has on Chapter 9. We then examined verses 1-6. In this second post we looked at the first illustration (Isaac/Ishmael) in light of the terminology from verse 4 of the same chapter and also Chapter 8.

I’d again like to thank Daniel for all of the correct stuff he has said (which I often have not included) and thank him for graciously dealing with this slightly polemical discussion.

In Christ alone,

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Romans 9 - Part 1

Romans 9 – A evaluation of the text and a response to Daniel.

I recently posted on Romans 8:28-30. In the comments section one of my new favorite bloggers (although I think he is tragically wrong about a bit of his theology), Daniel, noted that he understood Romans 9 different than I did. I searched through his blog and read the three articles that I could find. I will probably reference parts of his analysis throughout this series. Hopefully Daniel and everyone else will note that this is not a personal attack on Daniel. He and I both love Jesus and accordingly we both of Truth. To love truth is to hate error. We would both be derelict of duty if we did not earnestly contend for truth.

Daniel stated that "The very heart of Calvinism is built around a particular interpretation of Romans 9." While Romans 9 certainly speaks the truth of the Doctrines of Grace very clearly, it should be noted that the entire system does not live or die off of one text. There are many texts that in my opinion clearly teach Calvinism. John 6, for example, is probably quoted just as much if not more than Romans 9. The same could be said about Ephesians 1 and 2, Romans 8, etc.

With that we can begin the discussion of Romans 9. We must remember that Romans 9 comes on the heels of Romans 8 that has the great chain of redemption (v. 28-30). Based on this reality Paul says, "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?" Here, Paul speaks of a category of people who are different than the rest of the world. Paul uses different terminology for the same people in verse 33: "Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies…" Paul then gives the great promise to these elect that nothing can separate them from the love of God. However, these people of God, "the elect", do not at first glance appear to be the same people of God of our Fathers (viz. the Jews). If the promises that were once offered to the Jews have not been satisfied, then what is to guarantee that this promise will be delivered? To this objection the great orator begins his discussion of Romans 9.

Paul begins,
"I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen."

Paul is a Jew and has deep compassion for the state of his brethren according to the flesh. He longs for their salvation and wishes that he could even be accursed if it would mean their salvation. This is very important along with the following two quotations: "belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory" and "from whom is the Christ (anointed one / Messiah) according to the flesh. Paul is sorrowful and wishes he could take their place (viz. accursed and separated from Christ).

Now, we must remember that this is the beginning of Romans 9. In the verse 5 verses we have a distraught Paul who laments the eternal peril of their souls. He longs for them to have the blessings which include adoption as sons, glory, the one who delivers people from their sins (the Christ). This is the backdrop of Romans 9. Try as some might, this cannot be ignored.

Insert Polemical Theology (we must now view a competing view that seems to deny this truth):
"However, while his argument deals with the eternal salvation of the Jews in his lifetime, Paul is not necessarily discussing the salvation of the individuals that he mentions in his illustrations."

"Paul did not intend to prove from these illustrations that God had damned Ishmael or Esau. With the possible exception of Heb. 12, the Biblical record is quite silent concerning the eternal futures of either of these individuals. This is not the focus. Paul is only illustrating that in the past not every physical descendant of Abraham was selected to be a recipient of God's temporal blessings. This means that now God is not obligated to give eternal blessings to every Jew regardless of their rejection of Christ."

First, I must contend that Hebrews 12 seems to make clear the eternal state of Esau. Second, we must ask ourselves why it is that Paul is so distraught for these first few verses about the salvation of the Jews, but then would use illustrations that apparently do not deal with the subject matter. What is the election that was discussed in Romans 8? What is causing Paul great sorrow and unceasing grief? Paul is using his illustrations for the purpose of explaining the election just mentioned. It is this reality, that most of his Jewish brothers were not elect, that causes his sorrow. It is this reason that he begins to use his illustrations. It seems clear to me to look at the following illustrations in light of what he has been talking about.

Daniel himself has recognized that Paul’ thesis is going to deal with the question of how God is faithful without granting eternal salvation to every Jew. However, he then concludes that the illustrations are only dealing with "temporal blessings". I can find no reason from the text to make this leap and ample evidence that would suggest otherwise. I must ask Daniel (and I do not mean to put him on the spot necessarily) if he is denying what seems evident from the text in order to maintain his previous view. I think we can all relate to this. Before I was a Calvinist, I found myself doing the same thing in several locations (and this is one of them).

That is all for the first look at Romans 9. All we have done so far is to introduce the series, consider briefly the literary context (following Romans 8), and evaluate Paul’s motive in light of his first 5 verses. From this we have asked whether it is legitimate for Daniel to maintain his view of the following illustrations.
In the next post, I will begin to move through the illustrations and hopefully show that we are building up to a great affirmation of Reformed Soteriology.

Lord willing,

In Christ alone,

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Path to Personal Piety

I recently found this excerpt from JC Ryle quoted by Nathan White. These three short paragraphs take us on a path towards personal piety. Do you desire to be a healthy Christian? If so, and I must presume that you do, then I urge you to read this quotation with open eyes. Let Ryle pierce your heart. Let the words penetrate into your inner being. Let us not be those with cold religion who were always seeing but never understanding. Hear these words:

If you desire to be a healthy Christian, consider often what your own end will be. Will it be happiness, or will it be misery? Will it be the death of the righteous, or will it be a death without hope, like that of Lot’s wife? You cannot live always; there must be an end one day. The last sermon will one day be heard; the last prayer will one day be prayed; the last chapter in the Bible will one day be read; meaning, wishing, hoping, intending, resolving, doubting, hesitating—all will at length be over. You will have to leave this world and to stand before a holy God. Oh, that you would be wise! Oh, that you would consider your latter end!

You cannot trifle forever: a time will come when you must be serious. You cannot put off your soul’s concerns forever: a day will come when you must have a reckoning with God. You cannot be always singing and dancing and eating and drinking and dressing and reading and laughing and jesting and scheming and planning and moneymaking. The summer insects cannot always sport in the sunshine. The cold chilly evening will come at last and stop their sport forever. So will it be with you. You may put off religion now and refuse the counsel of God’s ministers, but the cool of the day is drawing on when God will come down to speak with you. And what will your end be? Will it be a hopeless one, like that of Lot’s wife?

I beseech you, by the mercies of God, to look this question fairly in the face. I entreat you not to stifle conscience by vague hopes of God’s mercy, while your heart cleaves to the world. I implore you not to drown convictions by childish fancies about God’s love, while your daily ways and habits show plainly that "the love of the Father is not in you." There is mercy in God, like a river, but it is for the penitent believer in Christ Jesus. There is a love in God toward sinners which is unspeakable and unsearchable, but it is for those who hear Christ’s voice and follow Him. Seek to have an interest in that love. Break off every known sin; come out boldly from the world; cry mightily to God in prayer; cast yourself wholly and unreservedly on the Lord Jesus for time and eternity; lay aside every weight. Cling to nothing, however dear, which interferes with your soul’s salvation; give up everything, however precious, which comes between you and heaven. This old shipwrecked world is fast sinking beneath your feet; the one thing needful is to have a place in the lifeboat and get safe to shore. Give diligence to make your calling and election sure. Whatever happens to your house and property, see that you make sure of heaven. Oh, better a million times be laughed at and thought extreme in this world, than go down to hell from the midst of the congregation, and end like Lot’s wife!

In Christ alone,

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Quick Update

Quick Update:

First I'd like to mention that the beloved Pyromaniac (Phillip Johnson) has decided to stop posting at his individual blog. However, he will maintain a group blog with several very solid posters. Check out the new blog here.

Second, It has come to my attention that for at least yesterday and today the blog has been messed up when viewed in Firefox (and similar browsers). I believe I have fixed the error and it should look just like IE now.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Golden Chain of Redemption

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according go His purpose. 29) For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; 30) and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
This text is one of the most amazing pictures of the process of redemption in the Bible. It is typically referred to as a Chain because each link on the change hangs on the preceeding link. Those whom He foreknew, He predestined. Those whom he predestined, He called. Those whom He called, He justified. Those whom he justified, he also glorified.
There are many thing that should be addressed when looking at a marvelous text like this. However, time and space permit only a few observations. I will try to choose relevant observations that deal with things that are typically addressed when these verses come into play.
1) The verse note is that we are dealing here with parallelism. All in category A belong to B. All in B belong in C. Etc. The alternative is to suggest that Some who belong in A belong in B (granted, there is nothing in the text that would lead us in this direction). Some who belong in B also belong in C. Etc. In either case, we must be consistent. If we are going to say "Some of whom he Called, he also Justified" then we must be prepared to claim equally as boldly that "Some of whom he Justified will be glorified (and we would also need to find soemthing in the text that would allow us to do this)."
2) We note that this chain begins with "For whom He foreknew". Some here insist that the text reads, "For whom He foreknew would choose to place faith in Jesus". We must note that the text does not say that, nor does it hint at it. The text simply speaks of a group of people who are foreknown. That is, they were known before. At this point, an Arminian, Calvinist, Molinist, or most other people can readily affirm the text. God knew us (personally) before the foundation of the world. That is all this text teaches at this point and that is all we must affirm.
3) Next, the group of people who were foreknown in the first link are predestined. That is, they were destined/ordained beforehand. English uses the word "Destiny" correctly. When speaking of something that is Destined we are speaking of someone who has a fixed outcome that is chosen based on eternal considerations. We could have naturalistic determinism which says that the forces of nature necessarily determine what will happen. The biblical alternative is God choosing and bringing about His end according to His purpose. In either case, this destining takes place beforehand (Ephesians tells us before the foundation of the world). The act of destining is the people who were foreknown and the result is to be perfectly conformed to the image of His son. So far, I would still say that most Theological viewpoints could affirm this point.
4) However, this is the point in the chain where Reformed Theologians must break with other traditions. The text now states that who whom He Predestined, He also were called. Now, the dagger in the heart of Arminian (and similar) Theology is the next part of the verse. Those whom He called, He also justified. Again, all who were foreknown were predestined. All whom were predestined were called. Now, all who were called were also justified. Now, unless our Arminian friends happen to also be Universalist then they run into a problem here. All who have been called are justified. This, unfortunately, is not what typical Evangelicalism is teaching right now. Most Churches are teaching that God has equally called all people and then they "respond". Those who respond correctly are justified. Those who do not will die in their sins. However, this is not what the text is teaching. We must affirm with the text that those whom God has called He will justify. This now begins to give us a better understanding of what Paul is speaking of when referecing Predestining (here and in Ephesians). This also sheds light on Paul's statements in Chapter 9 where he declares that it is not according to the man who wills but to God who shows mercy. It explains what is happening when Paul speaks of objects destined for glory and objects destined for wrath.
Lastly, those whom He justified, He also glorified. This is the great truth of Salvation. It is God alone who has saved us and it is God alone who will bring us to glorification. All that God has Justified He will also Glorify. Why? Because God has not merely predestined us to be saved and then we are on our own. Rather, we are predestined to ultimately be conformed to the beautiful image of Jesus. Thank God! This ought to bring us great joy.
In Christ alone,

Sunday, January 22, 2006

New Elder Part II

In a recent post, I suggested a quiz that I thought would be beneficial for evaluating the Biblical knowledge and wisdom of a possible Elder nomination. I also alluded to some of the pillar texts that come up when discussing the issue. The Bible gives us clear cut qualifications for what an elder should look like. This, however, leaves us asking how to practically apply this. I happen to think PersonA is a great option to be an Elder. Does this make him so? Does the current elder board choose? Ought we to have a nominating committeee? Does the Congregation vote?

To answer some of these questions I'll quote some of the advice given by Mark Dever (9marks.com) at this link. Some answers are simply personal opinion, but for all of the advice looks solid and Mark's wisdom clearly shows through.

What's wrong with the Nominating Committee?
-The most serious practical deficiency of most nominating committees is that the primary criteria for placement on the nominating committee is demographic data, not spiritual maturity or biblical knowledge.?
---It is often objected that demographic representation and spiritual maturity need not be mutually exclusive attributes of a nominating committee.? This is a formally true proposition.?
---But the reality of most nominating committees is that few of the people around the table understand the qualifications for eldership, know the questions to ask in order to discern their presence or absence, or have the courage to nominate someone who meets the biblical requirements but may not be outwardly successful in other popular but peripheral areas.
-The most serious biblical deficiency of the nominating committee concept is that nominating future leaders is a function of spiritual oversight - a responsibility that belongs to the current elders themselves.? Sheep don't choose their shepherds.
---The result of error here is often that a successful businessman is nominated and appointed as an elder or deacon, yet with serious sin beneath the surface that biblically disqualifies him from serving.

We believe elders are in the best position to nominate future elders because of their spiritual maturity, biblical knowledge, and shepherd's knowledge of the lives of the candidates.
First, recognize those in the congregation who are already bearing fruit in performing elder functions among the congregation. Who meets the character qualifications of 1Tim 3 and Titus 1?? Who shows a shepherding care for the spiritual growth of others?? Who shows aptitude and delight in teaching sound doctrine??
Secondly, invite the candidate to participate in an elders' meeting.? Observe how they contribute.? What questions do they ask?? Are their answers wise and mature, or shallow and immature?? Can they disagree without becoming combative?? Are their contributions helpful and stimulating, or do they stifle the discussion?
Thirdly, examine the candidate.? Is his character above reproach?? Will his work schedule accommodate the demands of eldership?
Fourthly, achieve unanimity among the elders regarding whether or not to nominate the candidate. Unanimity here is important because each elder needs to be able to work well with the candidate and respect his character if unity among the elders is to be maintained after the addition of the new member to the group.

Fifthly, recommend the candidate to the congregation as a nominee for eldership.? Let this nomination rest with the congregation for a period of time (e.g., two months), during which time members intending to vote "no" can share their concerns with the elders and the elders can, if necessary, withdraw the nomination based on new information.?
Sixthly, if no concerns are raised, achieve a 75% majority affirmation of the call from the congregation at the next business meeting.? This supermajority is necessary because it is important that the congregation have confidence in the new elder, and that the elder be assured of that confidence by the congregational vote.? Otherwise mutual mistrust ensues.
Finally, it is wise to allow elders to serve a three year term, to be reaffirmed by the congregation for another three years, then to give them a one year break, after which the other current elders could re-nominate them if they are still qualified.? This system provides healthy accountability for elders that a lifetime eldership system seems to lack.

Staff and Non-Staff.? It is wise to keep the congregation minimally dependant on paid staff.? Therefore, non-staff elders should outnumber staff elders.? Ideally then, the minimum number of elders in any local church would be three - one paid pastor and two lay elders.?
It is also wise to keep the elder body small enough so that an executive, decision-making committee within the elder group is not necessary.? Avoiding executive committees within elder groups simplifies the authority structure of the church and prevents unnecessary divisions.

In Christ alone,

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Blog Spotting and a Great Quiz

Today is a short day of posting for me.

First I'd like to highlight some links across the blogosphere that have caught my attention over the past week:

The T4G Blog is an ongoing public conversation between Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, C.J. Mahaney, and Albert Mohler.

John Hendryx posts solid article titled Dead Man Walking discussing Ephesians 2.

Adrian Warnock interviews Justin Taylor at Adrian's blog.

Heated debate at Challies.com regarding The End of the Spear and then a follow up post.

Phil Johnson examines Karaoke Worship at a few major churches.

Steve Camp has several solid posts. One uses Al Mohler and Larry King Live as a jump start and another uses the recent "50 most Influential Christians in America" as lead in.



At our church we have a position for an Elder open and we will be considering a member on January 29th. This led me to review multiple texts from the Bible, but also brought to mind a wonderful little "quiz" that I found here at A Puritan's Mind.

The questions are quite challenging at times (although easy at other points), but I think it would be a good standard to use. For those interested in Pastoral Ministry, those already serving in a position of leadership, or for the Christian who wants to grow their mind, I'd encourage you to look through the questions. Answer as many as you can, and then use the questions that you do not know as a study sheet.

Here is the introduction and you can click on the link to have a look at the rest of the quiz.

A little Quiz for the Pastor who studies.

You are not allowed to use the Bible or any other Biblical help; nor may you ask the opinion of others, nor in books unless otherwise instructed. The only time the Bible may be used is when it explicitly tells you to read the passage and comment on it. You have 5 days to complete it.
Elders are not elders because they are old, they are elders because they know the Bible well. There is a distinction between those who may be good preachers and those who are Pastors/Elders of a church. But even in their humble beginnings, they knew their Bible well.
Some young Preachers who knew their Bible well:

The Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, Jesus Christ: 30 years old.

John the Apostle: ? (His age may range from 17-31??

Aurelius Augustine: 37

John Calvin: 22 (He had his first chaplainry at age 12)

Christopher Love: 27

Jonathan Edwards: 15

Richard Baxter: 23

There are:

296 questions,

183 terms to define,

and 31 practical application questions at the end.

The Quiz Begins Here

In Christ alone,


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

John 11 and the Nature of Love

The second in a brief series of Theology out of the Gospel of John. Click here for the first in the series: John 6:44 and Irresistible Grace.

What is love? This is a question that has had philosophers busy for thousands of years. In our culture of “good feelings” and post-modernism, love is typically mutually exclusive with doing something that would cause pain, grief, and sorrow. Consequently, Evangelicals have been attacked for their insistence of preaching the Gospel whenever it includes A) the denial of another belief or B) when it points out the sin in an individual’s life. This can hurt a person’s feelings and consequently it is deemed “unloving”.

Can we find an example of Jesus loving? Let us examine John 11, the narrative of Lazarus’ death.

1Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.

Notice that Lazarus is sick. At this point he could be healed.

2It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.
3So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick."
4But when Jesus heard this, He said, "This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it."

What is going to be the purpose, the end result, of this event? The Glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified.

5Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
6So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.

Now this is where things start to get strange. Apparently Jesus loves the two women and loves Lazarus, and therefore he decides to stay for two more days. The NIV renders the word as “yet” but this ignores the universal use of the Greek word which is to be translated as “therefore” or “so”. There is purpose here. Jesus loves these people and as a result he chooses to stay two days longer. Consequently, Lazarus dies and his sisters are distraught. Much pain is caused by Jesus not healing him immediately. This is evident when both of the sisters approach Jesus:
21Martha then said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.

31Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

32Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died."
33When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled,

35Jesus wept.

Both of the women are clearly in pain and have been weeping. Notice also, Jesus could have prevented this death. Nevertheless, he let it take place that the Son (himself) would be glorified. However, Jesus still weeps with them. Jesus can bring something about passively (that is by lack of intervention) and yet still weep for them. This is key for those who would say that if God weeps for the lost he must also grant equal grace to them (that they have equal “chance” of being saved).
36So the Jews were saying, "See how He loved him!"
37But some of them said, "Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?"

Some apparently had trouble swallowing the fact that Jesus could have kept him from dying and still affirm that Jesus loved him.

39Jesus said, "Remove the stone." Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, "Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days."
40Jesus said to her, "Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?"

Jesus is no reiterating why he did all of this: “will see the glory of God?” This is more important than Lazarus dying and creating a stench, causing grief, etc.

42"I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me."

Jesus also does this so that people may believe that He is sent by God.

45Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him.

His goal is accomplished.

Now, we must remember what the impetus for all of this was. Jesus loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus. True love is doing whatever it takes to guide a person to see the Glory of God revealed in His son, namely Jesus Christ, which brings about belief. This is not a popular definition of love. However, let us follow the example of Jesus (rather than the example of the world) and love our neighbors by boldly preaching the Gospel even when it could cause a little temporary pain. This light momentary affliction cannot compare to what is to come.

In Christ alone,

11This He said, and after that He said to them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep."
12The disciples then said to Him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover."
13Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep.
14So Jesus then said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead…”

Jesus included this for our hyper-literal friends :)

Monday, January 16, 2006

John 6:44 and Irresistible Grace

John 6:44 "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

John 6 is a great pillar text for Reformed theology. The reasoning should be clear. In verse 44 there is a universal negative claiming that nobody can come to Jesus unless the Father draws them. Earlier in verse 37 there is a universal affirmation that says "All that the father gives to me will come to me." Finally in verse 65, in the event that anyone has forgotten, Jesus reminds us, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father."

However, there has been substancial disagreement about this so-called "drawing" that we see in verse 44. What is the nature of the drawing here. Is it a luring or a wooing, as is often suggested, that a person then can equally choose to accept or reject the drawing?

Some may be shocked to learn that "draw" is not the main definition of the greek word here (elkw). The standard definition, if one were to look it up in any of a number of lexica would be "to drag". It is at this point that we may get a glimpse at the Father's irresistible grace for his elect. However, there is no need to take my word for this. The Scriptures provide us an excellent set of verses that bring home this point. There is only one verse, which I will save for the end, that requires any real explanation. All other verses should make this point exceedingly clear.

Here is every verse that uses "elkw":
Remember, this is the verse we are looking at.
"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

Now, other verses that use the same greek word:
John 18:10 Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave's name was Malchus.

John 21:6 And He said to them, "Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch." So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish.

John 21:11 Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.

Acts 16:19 But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities

Acts 21:30 Then all the city was provoked, and the people rushed together, and taking hold of Paul they dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut.

James 2:6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?

In every event we have a person in control of the situation bringing out their desire by some means of exertion (generally physically). Paul and Silas were not wooed out of the market place. The poor people who were being oppressed were not being lured into the courts. Peter did not plead with his sword to jump out.

Now, for the last verse that does take a little explanation:

hn 12:32 "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself."

This, at first glance, is a major problem for so-called "Calvinists". It seems to throw a wrench in the entire system because we cannot have this irresistible grace that seems so evident from the other verses for "all men". However, this is simply the Arminian fallacy. We have too quickly assumed that "all men" means each and every person to ever walk the earth. Now, context, context, and context is important here.

The paragraph that John 12:32 exists in begins in verse 20. Depending on what bible you have, you might have a bold heading that says something like "Jesus predicts his death". Whatever the event, we must first start at verse 20:

20Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast.

Well this is interesting, we might have to pay attention to these Greeks who want to worship.

21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. "Sir," they said, "we would like to see Jesus." 22Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

Hmm.. now they want to see Jesus (and Jesus is informed about it). This is beginning to become important context for our passage.

23Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

Jesus begins to talk about Eternal life, following him, etc.

27"Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name!"
Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again." 29The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.
30Jesus said, "This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." 33He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

Now we have Jesus saying He is going to be glorified and the Father confirming this fact. There is going to be a time of judgment on the world as the prince is driven out (allusion to the His coming death) but when He is lifted up he will draw all men to himself.

Now, the key is that we have Gentiles coming to Jesus in the presence of the Jews. Jews, as you might know, believed themselves to be the People of God (with good reason) and considered themselves superior to the Gentiles. This continues even into the early church (as can be seen in Acts, Romans, Galatians, etc.). However, Jesus makes it clear from the beginning that he is going to break down the dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles. Jesus, here, is making a bold proclamation that he is going to draw all, meaning both Jews and the Gentiles (namely the Greeks who were seeking him).

When John 12:32 is read in context we have no reason to read into it that every single person will be drawn to him. This is not the obvious message that Jesus was intending. His message was in the context of a Jewish feast with Jewish rulers with visiting Greeks.

Once we have this straight in our mind, we can now turn our attention back to "draw" which we know is actually "drag". In every verse we have a person in utter control weilding their force on an object that cannot resist. A sword would not resist Peter. The nets were under the control of the disciples. The poor man was at the whim of the rich man. If language is to be intelligible at all, words must have meaning. The clear meaning of this word removes the possibility of "luring", "wooing", "pleading", etc.

Rather, the evident meaning is that God demonstrates His irresistible grace in effectually calling us to Himself. That is the reason why Jesus can confidently state that"All that the father gives to me will come to me" (John 6:37).

There is one note of caution that should be given here. There is often a perception of Calvinism that shows God dragging in sinners kicking and screaming who do not want to see him while keeping out those who are desperately seeking him. When we speak of this irresistible grace this is not the sense in which we mean. The way in which God works is so that he takes a dead heart who is staunchly opposed to Him and gives it new life and new desires (namely to Love him). So then, this is not dragging a person kicking and screaming, but rather performing Heart Surgery so as to effectually give new life (Spiritual life) to a once dead and wretched man.

In Christ alone,

A Puritan Catechism - Part 1

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15)

The place of catechisms are far removed from the daily life of most Protestants. This could be for a variety of reasons. I suspect that the notion that it sounds "Roman Catholic" is one hinderance. I'm pretty sure that the hostility towards Systematc Theology is another problem. However, my strongest guess is that it is hard work to memorize and we cannot see the benefit of catechisms.

In an age where we have far more biblical resources than any other generation, we are surely the most biblically illiterate soceity. Part of the reason is that we do not study the bible or theology nearly enough. The extent of average Christian studying is maybe a chapter of bible reading per day (if the church has recently started a "Read the Bible in a year" plan) and a sermon on Sunday (which may or may not include the exposition of Scripture).

One way to combat this is to become familiar with the Catechisms of old. By far the most popular is the Westminster Shorter Catechism which can be located online easily.

The chatechisms are framed in a Question and Answer format to aid memorization. At this blog, I will be posting 3 questions per week for as long as it is beneficial for at least myself. I will be using A Puritan Chatechism compiled by C.H. Spurgeon. This catechism is almost identical to the Westminster Shorter (Question 1 will show this as the most famous question is repeated verbatim). However, there are less questions (82 instead of 107) and it may more closely reflect my theology in a few places.

So then, an introduction and the first three questions:

I am persuaded that the use of a good Catechism in all our families will be a great safeguard against the increasing errors of the times, and therefore I have compiled this little manual from the Westminster Assembly's and Baptist Catechisms, for the use of my own church and congregation. Those who use it in their families or classes must labour to explain the sense; but the words should be carefully learned by heart, for they will be understood better as years pass.May the Lord bless my dear friends and their families evermore, is the prayer of their loving Pastor.

1. Q. What is the chief end of man?

A. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.

2. Q.
What rule has God given to direct us how we may glorify him?

A. The Word of God which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify God and enjoy him.

3. Q. What do the Scriptures principally teach?

A. The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

John Piper's Sermon Regarding Prostate Cancer

January 8th is the conclusion of a brief study on Prayer at Bethlehem Baptist Church. John Piper uses his recent news regarding prostate cancer as an illustration for teaching his congregation about the work of God in producing peace in the midst of prostate cancer. I found the sermon to be beneficial and I hope that you do as well. As an aside, I especially liked when he discussed the dangers of discussing his own sickness. Here are three key reasons why it may be dangerous to discuss it:

1) Melodramatic representation of the illness.
2) Not currently in pain and test is relatively small compared to what others are going through.
3) Self-pity which he describes as one manifestation of pride.

You can listen to the sermon here.
You can read the sermon here.

Desiring God is here.
Bethlehem Baptist Church is here.

The text from the sermon:
1 Corinthians 15:51-58
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 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.

In Christ alone,

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Nature of the Incarnation and the Eucharist

Since the Council of Chalcedon, Christians have affirmed four key tenets regarding Christ:

1. Jesus is fully and completely God.
2. Jesus is fully and completely human.
3. Jesus has two distinct natures that remain unconfused.
4. Jesus' two natures are united in one person.

From the Chalcedonian Creed:
"our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood"
"truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body
"to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably"
"the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word"

Point 3 from my summary and the embolden text from the creed is the key point for this discussion.

Jesus is born with a Human body and with it comes all that is essentially human. His humanity is joined together with the Divine nature. Accordingly, he always has two natures. Nothing is lost and the natures are never mixed or confused. This is where the "rubber meets the road" because there are some who affirm a doctrine of the "communications of attributes" where Jesus' humanity is supposed to have taken upon the devine attributes. Besides the fact that this is a denial of the Council of Chalcedon's conclusion that the natures are not mixed, this leads to other problems. The most notable example is when we look at Thomas Aquinas. He held to this doctrine and consequently had a terrible time understanding how Jesus could tell his diciples that He did not not know the time of His returning but only the father knew. Ultimately he has to justify this teaching by saying something that sounds very similar to Jesus deceiving his disciples. Whatever the end product may be, this is completely unnecessary. As long as we maintain the proper distinction between Humanity and Divinity then we are fine. This allows for a Jesus who is tired, sweating, bleeding, dying, not knowing, etc.

Now for the key point:
If Jesus' body belongs to His human nature (as is confirmed by such things as dying, bleeding, sweating, eating, etc.) and that natures are not confused or mixed, then Jesus' body is not omni-present. Only the Divine nature is omni-present. This is why we can have Jesus sitting at the right hand of the throne of God (in a spacially confined body) and yet be with us always (as the omni-present God). His divine nature is with us always. There is not one who would contend that Jesus' body is with us at all times.

So, assuming Jesus' humanity is not omni-present and His Divinity is then what follows?
Communion / the Eucharist is taken by hundreds of thousands of people at the same time across the world. To be in All of these places at one time Physically requires what only belongs to the Human Nature. Since we have decided that the Human-Nature (and the Body that belongs to said nature) is not omni-present then we must rule out both Transubstantiation and Consubstantiation.

Hence, we must reject both the Roman and Lutheran errors on this doctrine not primarily on the basis of the Bread and Wine itself but rather on the basis of proper Incarnation Theology. Scripture alone provides very little help if we must only address the Bread and Wine. Jesus says that the elements are his body. Does He mean that the elements represent His body? Does He mean that the elements consist of His body? It is impossible to tell from the few verses that we have. If we impose a hyper-literalism and demand that this means that the elements consist of Jesus' body then we must be prepared to boldly declare that the Tongue consists of Fire as the same verb and structure is present in James' epistle.

Since Scriptural evidence regarding the Bread and Wine alone are inconclusive, we must use the principle of Scripture interprets Scripture. We have conclusive Scripture to deduce a proper theology of the Incarnation as is properly defined at Chalcedon. Using this Scripture to interpret verses about the elements reveals that Jesus is present in a real way at the table, but not in a physical way. To deny either of these realities is to A) make Communion of no import or B) compromise the incarnation.

In Christ alone,

Friday, January 13, 2006

Prayer for the World

There seems to be a renewed sense of the importance of prayer in the Evangelical church this year. I have seen several churches start new programs regarding prayer and several articles have been written in recent weeks. Part of this might be due to the tragedies of 2005. It might have to due with some popular leaders who espcially need prayer at this point. Whatever the reasons, I am glad to see so great a focus on prayer.

Prayer is exceedingly difficult for most people. As one of my elders recently said, prayer is the one thing that requires the most faith and is the most foolish if God does not exist. Most aspects of healthy Christian living would have some residual benefit if God were not real. Prayer, however, if God does not exist, is sitting in a room talking to yourself. For this reason and others, prayer is a huge struggle for almost every Christian.

One of the best ways to maintain a solid prayer life is to have structure. It is important that we have some sort of spontaneity in our prayer life, but it should not be reduced to random acts of prayer. One type of structure that has been helpful for myself is the ACTS acronym where you focus on Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. However, I find that often we need even more structure than that. What do we pray for when we lift up our supplications? We all probably have a sense that the Great Commission is important and we ought to pray for it in some regard. How can we do this?

One thing that I have found helpful is Operation World. This website has a daily prayer section where it moves throughout every country in the world. It gives statistics, real-life events, and other information that gives us a more informed prayer time. As an addition to your normal prayer life, I think that this is a great resource to consider using.


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Brief commentary by David Wells

I found this interesting little article by David Wells in a recent response at Reformation 21. The following quotation was a great bit of irony that Wells picked up on:

This last year, there was a brief media buzz leading up to Christmas over the
fact that many megachurches cancelled Christmas day worship services. (What
sense could a Martian have made of the fact that in America, many Christians, on
the one hand, were arguing for the freedom at Christmas time to place religious
symbols in public places while, on the other hand, other Christians in the
megachurches were closing the doors of their churches, on Christmas day no less,
closing the doors on the most visible religious symbols in our society?!) The
reasons given for this were that Christmas day is family time, that it was
unnecessary to worship on Christmas day because many would have been to
pre-Christmas services and, further, that it would be unnecessary because people
were being supplied with videos for that day.

I will not comment beyond this because I think that this horse has already been beated enough. Suffice it to say, I hope that this was a learning experience for some of the Pastors at several churches and probably for those in the pews as well.

In Christ alone,

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Listen to this!

9Marks is a marvelous resource for a plethora of issues. This is about an hour long tabletalk with Mark Dever, Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, CJ Mahaney. In case you are unsure, that means there are two Baptists, one Presbyterian, and one Reformed Charismatic. They discuss cooperation. When ought we to cooperate? What are the least common denominators for joining together? They have a fantastic discussion with many great digs between the two who all clearly love one another.

Free Streaming here!

An Argument for Cessationism

Those who follow the Cessationist vs. Continuationist debate closely often complain that the Cessationist view is not really a scriptural view. The extent of the argument is generally that Charismaticism leads to Benny Hinn therefore it is bad. Phillip Johnson got into this for a while but is now attempting to provide justification for the Cessationist view. Whether you agree of not, he at least attempts to present a scriptural argument. I suggest that all read it here.

In Christ alone,

Friday, January 06, 2006

Please Pray

Recent news has broken that John Piper has prostate cancer. The link contains the letter that he sent out to his congregation and is also posted at desiringgod.org. At this point everything looks promising. A few quotations from his letter and prayer requests:

The most dangerous thing in the world is the sin of self-reliance and the stupor of worldliness. The news of cancer has a wonderfully blasting effect on both. I thank God for that. The times with Christ in these days have been unusually sweet.

God has designed this trial for my good and for your good. You can see this in 2 Corinthians 1:9, “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” And in 2 Corinthians 1:4-6, “He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God . . . If we are afflicted, it is for
your comfort and salvation.”

Please pray with John Piper the following:
“Lord, for your great glory, 1) don’t let me miss any of the sanctifying blessings that you have for me in this experience; 2) don’t let the people of Bethlehem miss any of the sanctifying blessings that you have for us in this; 3) grant that the surgery be successful in removing cancer and sparing important nerves; 4) grant that this light and momentary trial would work to spread a passion for you supremacy for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ; 5) may Noël and all close to me be given great peace—and all of this through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen.”