Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Devolution of Evolution

"Evolution is a joke." So writes Gary DeMar.

And he's right. In order to believe in evolution - and we're talking macro-evolution here - one would have to believe that it's possible to get life from inanimate matter through natural processes, something that science has proven to be impossible.

DeMar explains:
    A study of the history of science will show that at times science itself has been an impediment to scientific advancement. For example, after Italian biologist Francesco Redi (1626–1697) successfully challenged the dogmatism of spontaneous generation which had been for so long based on Greek "science," some scientists still clung to elements of the outmoded theory. Even when additional experiments by Louis Pasteur (1822–1895) showed that "microscopic beings must come into the world from parents similar to themselves," skepticism remained. Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919), a chief proponent of Darwinism, stated in 1876, 25 years after Pasteur's famous experiment, "If we do not accept the hypothesis of spontaneous generation, then at this one point in the history of evolution we must have recourse to the miracle of a supernatural creation." Haeckel chose spontaneous generation even though there was no empirical evidence to support it because he did not like the alternative - belief in God. Don't be surprised by Haeckel's irrationalism. Despite the evidence to the contrary, a number of high profile modern-day evolutionists have constructed their theory of origins on the rejected premise that life as we know it today developed (evolved) from non-life.
The irony in all of this is that the "theory" of evolution is devolving. Rather than continue down a gradually enlightened path, scientists are realizing how little they know and how they are being forced to put their faith in what they can't see. At some point, the evolutionist must accept the fact that "something" happened to create life.

If you're looking for the punchline to the joke that is evolution, try looking to scripture. Genesis 1:1 is a good place to start.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Christmas Verses

In the spirit of the season, I thought I'd share some of my favorite "Christmas" verses (most of which are not taken from the traditional scripture passages we normally hear quoted this time of year):
    Galatians 4:4-5
    "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons."

    John 1:1, 14
    "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."

    Romans 8:3-4
    "For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."

    Isaiah 9:6-7
    "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this."

    1 Timothy 3:16
    "He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory."

    Philippians 2:5-8
    "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

    Hebrews 2:16-17
    "For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people."
Feel free to share some of your favorites.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Unknown Wonders of Creation has a fascinating article entitled "13 Things that Do Not Make Sense." You will definitely want to read the full article, but here are some brief excerpts:
  1. The placebo effect
    Don't try this at home. Several times a day, for several days, you induce pain in someone. You control the pain with morphine until the final day of the experiment, when you replace the morphine with saline solution. Guess what? The saline takes the pain away. ...

  2. The horizon problem
    Our universe appears to be unfathomably uniform. Look across space from one edge of the visible universe to the other, and you'll see that the microwave background radiation filling the cosmos is at the same temperature everywhere. That may not seem surprising until you consider that the two edges are nearly 28 billion light years apart and our universe is only 14 billion years old.

    Nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, so there is no way heat radiation could have travelled between the two horizons to even out the hot and cold spots created in the big bang and leave the thermal equilibrium we see now. ...

  3. Ultra-energetic cosmic rays
    For more than a decade, physicists in Japan have been seeing cosmic rays that should not exist. Cosmic rays are particles - mostly protons but sometimes heavy atomic nuclei - that travel through the universe at close to the speed of light. Some cosmic rays detected on Earth are produced in violent events such as supernovae, but we still don't know the origins of the highest-energy particles, which are the most energetic particles ever seen in nature. But that's not the real mystery. ...

  4. Belfast homeopathy results
    Madeleine Ennis, a pharmacologist at Queen's University, Belfast, was the scourge of homeopathy. She railed against its claims that a chemical remedy could be diluted to the point where a sample was unlikely to contain a single molecule of anything but water, and yet still have a healing effect. Until, that is, she set out to prove once and for all that homeopathy was bunkum. ...

  5. Dark matter
    Take our best understanding of gravity, apply it to the way galaxies spin, and you'll quickly see the problem: the galaxies should be falling apart. Galactic matter orbits around a central point because its mutual gravitational attraction creates centripetal forces. But there is not enough mass in the galaxies to produce the observed spin. ...

  6. Viking's methane
    July 20, 1976. Gilbert Levin is on the edge of his seat. Millions of kilometres away on Mars, the Viking landers have scooped up some soil and mixed it with carbon-14-labelled nutrients. The mission's scientists have all agreed that if Levin's instruments on board the landers detect emissions of carbon-14-containing methane from the soil, then there must be life on Mars.

    Viking reports a positive result. Something is ingesting the nutrients, metabolising them, and then belching out gas laced with carbon-14. ...

  7. Tetraneutrons
    Four years ago, a particle accelerator in France detected six particles that should not exist. They are called tetraneutrons: four neutrons that are bound together in a way that defies the laws of physics. ...

  8. The Pioneer anomaly
    This is a tale of two spacecraft. Pioneer 10 was launched in 1972; Pioneer 11 a year later. By now both craft should be drifting off into deep space with no one watching. However, their trajectories have proved far too fascinating to ignore.

    That's because something has been pulling - or pushing - on them, causing them to speed up. The resulting acceleration is tiny, less than a nanometre per second per second. That's equivalent to just one ten-billionth of the gravity at Earth's surface, but it is enough to have shifted Pioneer 10 some 400,000 kilometres off track. NASA lost touch with Pioneer 11 in 1995, but up to that point it was experiencing exactly the same deviation as its sister probe. So what is causing it? ...

  9. Dark energy
    one of the most famous, and most embarrassing, problems in physics. In 1998, astronomers discovered that the universe is expanding at ever faster speeds. It's an effect still searching for a cause - until then, everyone thought the universe's expansion was slowing down after the big bang. "Theorists are still floundering around, looking for a sensible explanation," says cosmologist Katherine Freese of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. "We're all hoping that upcoming observations of supernovae, of clusters of galaxies and so on will give us more clues." ...

  10. The Kuiper cliff
    If you travel out to the far edge of the solar system, into the frigid wastes beyond Pluto, you'll see something strange. Suddenly, after passing through the Kuiper belt, a region of space teeming with icy rocks, there's nothing.

    Astronomers call this boundary the Kuiper cliff, because the density of space rocks drops off so steeply. What caused it? The only answer seems to be a 10th planet. We're not talking about Quaoar or Sedna: this is a massive object, as big as Earth or Mars, that has swept the area clean of debris. ...

  11. The Wow signal
    It was 37 seconds long and came from outer space. On 15 August 1977 it caused astronomer Jerry Ehman, then of Ohio State University in Columbus, to scrawl "Wow!" on the printout from Big Ear, Ohio State's radio telescope in Delaware. And 28 years later no one knows what created the signal. "I am still waiting for a definitive explanation that makes sense," Ehman says.

    Coming from the direction of Sagittarius, the pulse of radiation was confined to a narrow range of radio frequencies around 1420 megahertz. This frequency is in a part of the radio spectrum in which all transmissions are prohibited by international agreement. Natural sources of radiation, such as the thermal emissions from planets, usually cover a much broader sweep of frequencies. So what caused it? ...

  12. Not-so-constant constants
    In 1997 astronomer John Webb and his team at the University of New South Wales in Sydney analysed the light reaching Earth from distant quasars. On its 12-billion-year journey, the light had passed through interstellar clouds of metals such as iron, nickel and chromium, and the researchers found these atoms had absorbed some of the photons of quasar light - but not the ones they were expecting.

    If the observations are correct, the only vaguely reasonable explanation is that a constant of physics called the fine structure constant, or alpha, had a different value at the time the light passed through the clouds.

    But that's heresy. Alpha is an extremely important constant that determines how light interacts with matter - and it shouldn't be able to change. Its value depends on, among other things, the charge on the electron, the speed of light and Planck's constant. Could one of these really have changed? ...

  13. Cold fusion
    After 16 years, it's back. In fact, cold fusion never really went away. Over a 10-year period from 1989, US navy labs ran more than 200 experiments to investigate whether nuclear reactions generating more energy than they consume - supposedly only possible inside stars - can occur at room temperature. Numerous researchers have since pronounced themselves believers. ...
Again, take time to read the entire article. I'm sure you will find it just as interesting as I did.

But what I find most interesting of all is that while scientists admit there are things they just don't know, they will readily assert that there is no God - that the universe in which we live came about purely by chance. If anything, this list serves as an example of man's finite mind. The more we learn, the more we learn how much we really have yet to learn. And if we are pursuing knowledge for selfish reasons (i.e., for reasons other than glorifying the Creator of all things), then it is as King Solomon said: "I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind. ... For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow" (Ecclesiastes 1:14, 18).

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Tale of Two Christmas Sermons

I recently compared two sermons that were both based on Matthew 2:1-12:
Both speak about treasuring Christ, but they are hardly the same sermon. One is topical and one is expositional. Can you tell which is which?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Brief Thought About CCM

Contemporary Christian Music continues to dominate the religious airwaves and even filters into the secular mainstream. I will readily admit that I don't care too much for CCM. There are only a handful of CCM artists (Michael Card and Steve Taylor being among my favorites) that I have ever cared to listen to, and frankly it doesn't seem like I've missed out on much.

Jeffrey Tucker, editorial vice president of, wrote about CCM in an essay entitled "Suffering, Thy Name Is FM Radio":
    How can I describe this stuff? It's like bad rock, bad pop, bad country, bad everything all rolled into one. The voices are all bad. They have this cheesy little vibrato that seems designed to sooth but only annoys. The instrumentation is all canned. All songs begin softly with whispered nothings about some personal problem you don't care about. They grow and grow with choruses featuring long notes. Cymbals and trumpet flourishes arrive at the high points. They end with some victorious flourish. A dated rock beat backs it all. The words are completely vacuous. The sentiment is cheap. The melodies are childish. If religion were this thin, it's a wonder anyone goes along with it at all! This is truly bad music in every way.

    Give me the cultural authenticity of rap. I'll take the phony philosophy of the college station blues. I'll tap my toe to the Village People. Put on a Sting re-tread. I'll take another 688 bars of saxophone improvisation. I'll even suffer through an old-time country crooner. But please please, can't somebody do something about Christian contemporary music? I know what I was thinking and feeling: This stuff is the bane of the entire radio dial.
Hyperbole aside, is Mr. Tucker being unfair?

I recall what a fellow student told me back in college: "We don't need more Christian rock musicians; we need more rock musicians who are Christians." His point was that good music and Godly music aren't necessarily synonymous. We don't have to settle for bad music just because the lyrics happen to be about God. Why can't we have both? Wouldn't a more God-glorifying combination be intelligent, edifying lyrics sung to an equally intelligent and edifying tune?

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Reformation Day!

Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences
Commonly Known as The 95 Theses
by Martin Luther

Out of love and concern for the truth, and with the object of eliciting it, the following heads will be the subject of a public discussion at Wittenberg under the presidency of the reverend father, Martin Luther, Augustinian, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and duly appointed Lecturer on these subjects in that place. He requests that whoever cannot be present personally to debate the matter orally will do so in absence in writing.

1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said "Repent", He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

2. The word cannot be properly understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, i.e. confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.

3. Yet its meaning is not restricted to repentance in one's heart; for such repentance is null unless it produces outward signs in various mortifications of the flesh.

4. As long as hatred of self abides (i.e. true inward repentance) the penalty of sin abides, viz., until we enter the kingdom of heaven.

5. The pope has neither the will nor the power to remit any penalties beyond those imposed either at his own discretion or by canon law.

6. The pope himself cannot remit guilt, but only declare and confirm that it has been remitted by God; or, at most, he can remit it in cases reserved to his discretion. Except for these cases, the guilt remains untouched.

7. God never remits guilt to anyone without, at the same time, making him humbly submissive to the priest, His representative.

8. The penitential canons apply only to men who are still alive, and, according to the canons themselves, none applies to the dead.

9. Accordingly, the Holy Spirit, acting in the person of the pope, manifests grace to us, by the fact that the papal regulations always cease to apply at death, or in any hard case.

10. It is a wrongful act, due to ignorance, when priests retain the canonical penalties on the dead in purgatory.

11. When canonical penalties were changed and made to apply to purgatory, surely it would seem that tares were sown while the bishops were asleep.

12. In former days, the canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before absolution was pronounced; and were intended to be tests of true contrition.

13. Death puts an end to all the claims of the Church; even the dying are already dead to the canon laws, and are no longer bound by them.

14. Defective piety or love in a dying person is necessarily accompanied by great fear, which is greatest where the piety or love is least.

15. This fear or horror is sufficient in itself, whatever else might be said, to constitute the pain of purgatory, since it approaches very closely to the horror of despair.

16. There seems to be the same difference between hell, purgatory, and heaven as between despair, uncertainty, and assurance.

17. Of a truth, the pains of souls in purgatory ought to be abated, and charity ought to be proportionately increased.

18. Moreover, it does not seem proved, on any grounds of reason or Scripture, that these souls are outside the state of merit, or unable to grow in grace.

19. Nor does it seem proved to be always the case that they are certain and assured of salvation, even if we are very certain ourselves.

20. Therefore the pope, in speaking of the plenary remission of all penalties, does not mean "all" in the strict sense, but only those imposed by himself.

21. Hence those who preach indulgences are in error when they say that a man is absolved and saved from every penalty by the pope's indulgences.

22. Indeed, he cannot remit to souls in purgatory any penalty which canon law declares should be suffered in the present life.

23. If plenary remission could be granted to anyone at all, it would be only in the cases of the most perfect, i.e. to very few.

24. It must therefore be the case that the major part of the people are deceived by that indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of relief from penalty.

25. The same power as the pope exercises in general over purgatory is exercised in particular by every single bishop in his bishopric and priest in his parish.

26. The pope does excellently when he grants remission to the souls in purgatory on account of intercessions made on their behalf, and not by the power of the keys (which he cannot exercise for them).

27. There is no divine authority for preaching that the soul flies out of the purgatory immediately the money clinks in the bottom of the chest.

28. It is certainly possible that when the money clinks in the bottom of the chest avarice and greed increase; but when the church offers intercession, all depends in the will of God.

29. Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed in view of what is said of St. Severinus and St. Pascal? (Note: Paschal I, pope 817-24. The legend is that he and Severinus were willing to endure the pains of purgatory for the benefit of the faithful).

30. No one is sure of the reality of his own contrition, much less of receiving plenary forgiveness.

31. One who bona fide buys indulgence is a rare as a bona fide penitent man, i.e. very rare indeed.

32. All those who believe themselves certain of their own salvation by means of letters of indulgence, will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.

33. We should be most carefully on our guard against those who say that the papal indulgences are an inestimable divine gift, and that a man is reconciled to God by them.

34. For the grace conveyed by these indulgences relates simply to the penalties of the sacramental "satisfactions" decreed merely by man.

35. It is not in accordance with Christian doctrines to preach and teach that those who buy off souls, or purchase confessional licenses, have no need to repent of their own sins.

36. Any Christian whatsoever, who is truly repentant, enjoys plenary remission from penalty and guilt, and this is given him without letters of indulgence.

37. Any true Christian whatsoever, living or dead, participates in all the benefits of Christ and the Church; and this participation is granted to him by God without letters of indulgence.

38. Yet the pope's remission and dispensation are in no way to be despised, for, as already said, they proclaim the divine remission.

39. It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, to extol to the people the great bounty contained in the indulgences, while, at the same time, praising contrition as a virtue.

40. A truly contrite sinner seeks out, and loves to pay, the penalties of his sins; whereas the very multitude of indulgences dulls men's consciences, and tends to make them hate the penalties.

41. Papal indulgences should only be preached with caution, lest people gain a wrong understanding, and think that they are preferable to other good works: those of love.

42. Christians should be taught that the pope does not at all intend that the purchase of indulgences should be understood as at all comparable with the works of mercy.

43. Christians should be taught that one who gives to the poor, or lends to the needy, does a better action than if he purchases indulgences.

44. Because, by works of love, love grows and a man becomes a better man; whereas, by indulgences, he does not become a better man, but only escapes certain penalties.

45. Christians should be taught that he who sees a needy person, but passes him by although he gives money for indulgences, gains no benefit from the pope's pardon, but only incurs the wrath of God.

46. Christians should be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they are bound to retain what is only necessary for the upkeep of their home, and should in no way squander it on indulgences.

47. Christians should be taught that they purchase indulgences voluntarily, and are not under obligation to do so.

48. Christians should be taught that, in granting indulgences, the pope has more need, and more desire, for devout prayer on his own behalf than for ready money.

49. Christians should be taught that the pope's indulgences are useful only if one does not rely on them, but most harmful if one loses the fear of God through them.

50. Christians should be taught that, if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence-preachers, he would rather the church of St. Peter were reduced to ashes than be built with the skin, flesh, and bones of the sheep.

51. Christians should be taught that the pope would be willing, as he ought if necessity should arise, to sell the church of St. Peter, and give, too, his own money to many of those from whom the pardon-merchants conjure money.

52. It is vain to rely on salvation by letters of indulgence, even if the commissary, or indeed the pope himself, were to pledge his own soul for their validity.

53. Those are enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid the word of God to be preached at all in some churches, in order that indulgences may be preached in others.

54. The word of God suffers injury if, in the same sermon, an equal or longer time is devoted to indulgences than to that word.

55. The pope cannot help taking the view that if indulgences (very small matters) are celebrated by one bell, one pageant, or one ceremony, the gospel (a very great matter) should be preached to the accompaniment of a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.

56. The treasures of the church, out of which the pope dispenses indulgences, are not sufficiently spoken of or known among the people of Christ.

57. That these treasures are not temporal are clear from the fact that many of the merchants do not grant them freely, but only collect them.

58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, because, even apart from the pope, these merits are always working grace in the inner man, and working the cross, death, and hell in the outer man.

59. St. Laurence said that the poor were the treasures of the church, but he used the term in accordance with the custom of his own time.

60. We do not speak rashly in saying that the treasures of the church are the keys of the church, and are bestowed by the merits of Christ.

61. For it is clear that the power of the pope suffices, by itself, for the remission of penalties and reserved cases.

62. The true treasure of the church is the Holy gospel of the glory and the grace of God.

63. It is right to regard this treasure as most odious, for it makes the first to be the last.

64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is most acceptable, for it makes the last to be the first.

65. Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets which, in former times, they used to fish for men of wealth.

66. The treasures of the indulgences are the nets to-day which they use to fish for men of wealth.

67. The indulgences, which the merchants extol as the greatest of favours, are seen to be, in fact, a favourite means for money-getting.

68. Nevertheless, they are not to be compared with the grace of God and the compassion shown in the Cross.

69. Bishops and curates, in duty bound, must receive the commissaries of the papal indulgences with all reverence.

70. But they are under a much greater obligation to watch closely and attend carefully lest these men preach their own fancies instead of what the pope commissioned.

71. Let him be anathema and accursed who denies the apostolic character of the indulgences.

72. On the other hand, let him be blessed who is on his guard against the wantonness and license of the pardon-merchant's words.

73. In the same way, the pope rightly excommunicates those who make any plans to the detriment of the trade in indulgences.

74. It is much more in keeping with his views to excommunicate those who use the pretext of indulgences to plot anything to the detriment of holy love and truth.

75. It is foolish to think that papal indulgences have so much power that they can absolve a man even if he has done the impossible and violated the mother of God.

76. We assert the contrary, and say that the pope's pardons are not able to remove the least venial of sins as far as their guilt is concerned.

77. When it is said that not even St. Peter, if he were now pope, could grant a greater grace, it is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope.

78. We assert the contrary, and say that he, and any pope whatever, possesses greater graces, viz., the gospel, spiritual powers, gifts of healing, etc., as is declared in I Corinthians 12 [:28].

79. It is blasphemy to say that the insignia of the cross with the papal arms are of equal value to the cross on which Christ died.

80. The bishops, curates, and theologians, who permit assertions of that kind to be made to the people without let or hindrance, will have to answer for it.

81. This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult for learned men to guard the respect due to the pope against false accusations, or at least from the keen criticisms of the laity.

82. They ask, e.g.: Why does not the pope liberate everyone from purgatory for the sake of love (a most holy thing) and because of the supreme necessity of their souls? This would be morally the best of all reasons. Meanwhile he redeems innumerable souls for money, a most perishable thing, with which to build St. Peter's church, a very minor purpose.

83. Again: Why should funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continue to be said? And why does not the pope repay, or permit to be repaid, the benefactions instituted for these purposes, since it is wrong to pray for those souls who are now redeemed?

84. Again: Surely this is a new sort of compassion, on the part of God and the pope, when an impious man, an enemy of God, is allowed to pay money to redeem a devout soul, a friend of God; while yet that devout and beloved soul is not allowed to be redeemed without payment, for love's sake, and just because of its need of redemption.

85. Again: Why are the penitential canon laws, which in fact, if not in practice, have long been obsolete and dead in themselves,—why are they, to-day, still used in imposing fines in money, through the granting of indulgences, as if all the penitential canons were fully operative?

86. Again: since the pope's income to-day is larger than that of the wealthiest of wealthy men, why does he not build this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of indigent believers?

87. Again: What does the pope remit or dispense to people who, by their perfect repentance, have a right to plenary remission or dispensation?

88. Again: Surely a greater good could be done to the church if the pope were to bestow these remissions and dispensations, not once, as now, but a hundred times a day, for the benefit of any believer whatever.

89. What the pope seeks by indulgences is not money, but rather the salvation of souls; why then does he suspend the letters and indulgences formerly conceded, and still as efficacious as ever?

90. These questions are serious matters of conscience to the laity. To suppress them by force alone, and not to refute them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christian people unhappy.

91. If therefore, indulgences were preached in accordance with the spirit and mind of the pope, all these difficulties would be easily overcome, and indeed, cease to exist.

92. Away, then, with those prophets who say to Christ's people, "Peace, peace," where in there is no peace.

93. Hail, hail to all those prophets who say to Christ's people, "The cross, the cross," where there is no cross.

94. Christians should be exhorted to be zealous to follow Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hells.

95. And let them thus be more confident of entering heaven through many tribulations rather than through a false assurance of peace.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Great Lordship Debate

Phil Johnson, blogging at PyroManiacs, has finished his latest series of posts:
You'll want to take your time and read them all.

For more on the issue of "lordship salvation," check out Pulpit Magazine's blog.

Monday, October 16, 2006

On Service and Dominion

I would like to briefly consider the seeming paradox believers face as we think about the relationship between being stewards of God’s creation and the palpable disinterest in worldly endeavors that seems a part of the New Testament narrative particularly.

Specifically, I’ve been thinking about Peter’s description of Christians as "sojourners and exiles" (I Peter 2:11). Interestingly, immediately after this passage, Peter moves on to a discussion of civil authority and the obligations, duties and responsibilities of citizenship. So how exactly are we exiles and citizens at the same time, and what holds these two strands together?

Beyond Peter, James says that our life is like a vapor. Christ indicates that His Kingdom is not of this world. Paul says that our citizenship is not of this world, but is in heaven. Our kiddies go to summer camp and sit around the campfire singing ditties like this:

This worlds not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angel beckons me from heaven’s open door
And I just can’t live at home in this world anymore.

Conversely, we’re told in Scripture that we are to exercise dominion on God’s behalf. "Be fruitful, multiply, and subdue the earth" was the command given to Adam and Noah, and it hasn’t been revoked. We’re told to go "and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." Jesus taught his disciples to pray, "thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on EARTH as it is in heaven." Likewise, we sing "This is Our Father’s World" and we believe that redemption extends as far as the curse is found.

How shall we reason through the paradox? How is that we can exercise dominion while being exiles and sojourners?

First, we must make a distinction between being in and of the world. The word "world" is used in numerous ways throughout scripture, as it is in modern parlance. To think of the world as the created order or as a geographic area, for instance, is different from considering it as an ethical system.

Scripture affirms that God loved the world (John 3:16), the cosmos, and thus sent His Son to perish for its ultimate redemption and glorification (Rom. 8:21). Likewise, Genesis says that God created the world and that everything he saw was "good." In Col. 1 we read of the supremacy of Christ, and His role as creator: "For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him" (v. 16). Christ also sustains all things via His providential hand (v. 17).

Further, in the Bible, men are never saved out of this world, but are recreated in Christ for the purpose of serving Him (Eph. 2:10). Christ’s prayer in John 17 is clear: "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."

So "the world" as the benevolent gift and creation of God is something that is good, something we should work to restore. But world often has another meaning, too. It is frequently used to represent an ethical system. See the thoughts of Greg Bahnsen discussing Satan as the "prince of this world":

It is quite common for the term "world" to be used, not in a geographic sense, but in an ethical sense…the immoral realm of disobedience…The “world” represents the life of man apart from God and bound to sinful impulses. Thus, when scriptural writers speak of "the world," they often mean the world in so far as it is ethically separated from God...the world is that realm which is dominated by Satan and his standards…[and] must be interpreted [in many passages] as the kingdom of darkness, the city of reprobate man.

So, often in the New Testament when we are given commands about fleeing from worldliness, the command isn’t to retreat into monasticism or pietism, but to keep our minds and hearts from conforming to the wicked ways of "the world," meaning the ethical system characterized by Satan’s standards.

I think a better way to understand the passage in I Peter, however, is simply to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. Many of Peter’s readers would have been familiar with the Older Testament and recalled the words of Jeremiah 29. Writing to exiles in Babylon, Jeremiah, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, penned these words:

Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Then in verse 10 we read God’s promise, "When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place."

There are two things happening here. First, the people could look ahead to a future promise, a future restoration in their home. They had great and wonderful prospects for a future deliverance from exile. Likewise, so do Christians.

At the same time, they didn‘t eschew their responsibilities in history, for it is by God‘s providential hand that they had been placed in their circumstances. The language employed by Jeremiah--"build houses," "multiply there," "seek the welfare of the city"--echoes the language of the Cultural Mandate. It is, in short, the language of dominion.

What ties these two seemingly contradictory ideas together is the Christian understanding of service--or as Peter says in verse 12, having conduct that is honorable and doing good deeds.

Such deeds, empowered by the Holy Spirit, are ultimately blessed by God, who brings a harvest of souls as a result. Christians ultimately have different ideas about dominion than those in "the world." Non-believers make the mistake of assuming that power is simply wielded indiscriminately for personal benefit. Christians, on the other hand, believe that true power and authority stem from a foundation in service.

Think about the example we are to emulate in Christ. Matthew says, "whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:26-28). Paul says that "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: he humbled Himself and became obedient to death." And what was the result of His servanthood? Paul continues: "Therefore god exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name" (Phil. 2:5,9).

So we are to serve. Jesus says we are to seek first the kingdom of God, and ultimately success, or dominion--represented by the visible expansion of God’s Kingdom in every aspect of life--is accomplished by service to God, which is usually accomplished by serving other men and God’s creation.

Consider missionaries headed for an overseas appointment. They are leaving their home to become sojourners and aliens in a foreign. They’re ultimate home is heaven, but they are leaving the comforts of their temporal home behind. They will be subject to the laws of a new land and will learn to speak new languages, adapt where possible to new and strange customs--basically go native, all for the purpose of doing good to others and ultimately proclaiming the excellencies of God (I Peter 2:9). Sitting here in our wealthy and blessed land, we think this the height of spirituality. And yet, we are likewise aliens, in very similar circumstances, and our goal should be to carefully think through how to apply the same principles in our day-to-day lives.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Parenting and the Gospel

As many of you know, my wife, Dawn, and I are in the process of adopting a little girl from China. This will be our first child, so you can imagine how excited we are!

We realize what a tremendous blessing this will be and that our lives will change forever. We also know that our priority, not only as parents, but as believers, is to help lead our daughter to a saving faith in Christ.

One of the things that I'm sure many Christian parents have struggled with is how to present the gospel to their children. We all know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is a fundamental aspect of the Christian family, but where do you start with one so young?

Rob Wilkerson, blogging at Miscellanies on the Gospel, sees this as a crucial task in parenting, especially when it comes to disciplining children:
    Not to share the gospel when we discipline our kids is, I believe, to drive them to anxiety and exasperation (Eph. 6:4). If parents discipline without the gospel, they cause both emotional and physical pain to a child, only to offer no spiritual power or hope which can heal the guilt incurred in the emotions and cause the heart to view the pain with thanksgiving.
As for the "how," Wilkerson breaks it down into four parts (and you will want to check out his blog for more detailed descriptions of each):
  1. Show them their sin.
  2. Show them what God says about their sin.
  3. Show them what God has done about their sin.
  4. Show them what you are going to do about their sin.
It is my prayer that we are able to raise our daughter in a way that glorifies our Heavenly Father. May God grant us the grace and strength to do so.

* For more on our adoption experience, feel free to visit our family blog.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Christians Should Get LOST

The TV series, that is.

I admit that the Calvinist in me is always intrigued by stories in which the characters struggle to find meaning and purpose behind seemingly random coincidences. It has been my experience that when you really start to pay attention in life, you soon realize that random coincidences simply don't exist. Nothing happens by chance in a universe under the care of a sovereign Creator.

Of course, it goes beyond that. Once you begin to filter through all the garbage that's out there, you find that there are actually a few shows that have redeeming qualities. LOST is one such show.

James DeMar, writing for American Vision, explains why the series has been such a hit and why Christians should pay attention:
    LOST has and will affect tens of millions of people in numerous ways during the next few years before the show finally comes to an end. The writers engage the viewer through the use of inordinately involved story telling and multiple tie-ins through various media avenues. ...

    ... No other show in history has pulled so much from the past and present culture into a weekly TV production. Christians should take note. God calls us to be the "light of the world." If Christians want to be taken seriously and not be thrown into the dustbin of history, we need to start creating meaningful "stuff" through all the different avenues available that captures the unbeliever's attention along with fellow Christians. So often, movies are made or books are written with just Christians in mind. Jesus' message was for the lost of this world along with the believer.

    Relate the Bible and God's Word to everyone. I don't believe the creators of LOST expect to save anyone's soul or even care, but it may actually stimulate more people into reading scripture and plant that needed seed more so than Bible thumping, yelling and screaming that we so often see on college campuses. At least LOST doesn't portray Christians as wackos. LOST is a show that engages and intrigues. Why can't Christians do the same?
While I certainly wouldn't call LOST a Christian show, it definitely touches on biblical themes. It is a show to which Christians can relate and one that perhaps could be used with non-believers to begin a discussion about God, faith, relationships, and life in general.

So, if you haven't done so already, get LOST. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Yes, Another Blog

Humorous, random, less focused, disjointed, rambling, muddled...In other words, this new blog will be more like how my mind actually functions:Check it out!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Is Jesus Lord?

You'd think that question would be a no-brainer for believers. But consider the "no-lordship" position on salvation that is held by some professing Christians. Nathan Busenitz, posting at Pulpit Magazine, calls attention to a particular quote from Zane Hodges, a leading opponent of lordship salvation. Here is a brief excerpt:
Oh how disgraceful for a man to have known the truth and proclaimed the truth and then to deny the truth! He has put the Son of God to an open shame! Well you say, "I guess he's headed for hell, right? I guess he's headed for eternal damnation. He's renounced his Christian faith." Wait a minute. I didn't say that, and neither does the writer of Hebrews. Let me remind you that Jesus said, "I am the bread of life. He that cometh to Me shall never hunger and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst." And He also said, "He that cometh to Me I shall in no wise cast out." ... God's will is that He lose no one (John 6:37-40). He has never lost anyone and He never will! And I grieve because my friend and brother has lost his faith but Christ has not lost him. He has lost his faith, but Christ has not lost him! Do you believe in the grace of God?
Yes, Mr. Hodges, I believe in the grace of God. It is because of that grace that I do not fall away and turn my back on the truth.

Sure, I sin. All Christians do, and we will continue to sin until we are ultimately freed from our sinful nature. But the beauty of God's grace is that He continues to forgive our sin. In fact, Christ's blood covered it once and for all on the cross. That does not mean, however, that we are free to do as we please. We believers who struggle with sin do not accept it as a natural extension of our relationship with Christ. We are pained by the persistence of sin in our lives. We continue to repent of our sin. We strive to live Godly lives - and we do so knowing that it is only by the grace of God that we have not fallen away.

If I were to venture a guess, Mr. Hodges, I would say that your friend was never a true believer in the first place. As you correctly noted, those who come to Christ will never be cast out. But as a Calvinist I believe in the perseverance of the saints. By that I mean that once God has saved a sinner by grace, through faith, that sinner will continue to be saved and show the fruit of his salvation.

This perseverance - or, more appropriately, preservation - is taught clearly in scripture. Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Romans 8:29 says, "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." We read in Phillippians 1:6, "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." And Galatians 5:22-23 says that "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control ..." Are those things evident in the life of one who rejects the lordship of Jesus Christ and speaks out against his followers?

So, is Jesus Lord or isn't he? He is Lord in the lives of true Christians, i.e., those who submit to his lordship. Those who don't are proclaiming to the world that their unrepentant, unregenerate souls have no need for a savior. Oh, what a sad position to be in on Judgment Day.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A Healthy Tree Wears Good Fruit

Jesus told his followers, "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have it printed on a t-shirt." Or something like that. Seriously, who knows for sure what Jesus actually said? As long as we let the world know that he's kind of important to us, isn't that enough?

Not since the "My boss is a Jewish carpenter" bumper sticker have Christians been so effective at being salt and light in the world. Now, your t-shirt can be one of the most effective ways to reach the lost.

Just think: with the right kind of Christian apparel, you will be able to...

...spread the Good News...

I need you to build a bridge.
Here are all the tools you will need.
See you soon-
Love, Dad"

...lampoon popular culture...

...condense the Gospel into easily recognizable catch phrases...

...and even turn your children into pint-sized evangelists.

"I can do all things"

You can find these and other valuable witnessing tools here.

Remember, what's in your heart isn't as important as what's worn over it. That's what people are going to see. Why take the time to read and understand scripture when someone has already printed the important verses on a t-shirt? Why work so hard to live what you believe when you can just wear it?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Anything Goes

In olden days a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking,
But now God knows,
Anything goes!
Good authors too who once knew better words
Now only use four-letter words
Writing prose,
Anything goes!
If driving fast cars you like,
If low bars you like,
If old limbs you like,
If Mae West you like,
Or me undressed you like,
Why nobody will oppose.
When every night the set that's smart is
Intruding in nudist parties in studios,
Anything goes!

---From "Anything Goes"

According to the Times of London, a Church of England priest has continued to officiate as a cleric in spite of his conversion to Hinduism. The Rev. David Hart's diocese renewed his license even though he moved to India, changed his name to Ananda, and serves in a Hindu temple in Thiruvananthapuram, a village in southern India.

Hart, er Ananda, recently published a book entitled "Trading Faith: Global
Religion in an Age of Rapid Change," where he discussed his conversion to
Hinduism. It should also come as no surprise that Hart was a Fellow of the
Jesus Seminar and secretary for the World Congress of Faiths.

In an interview, Mr. Hart said, "I have neither explicitly nor implicitly
renounced my Christian faith or priesthood." However, in his capacity as
Hindu priest, Hart daily blesses a congregation of about 60 with fire that
has previously been offered to Nagar, the snake god.

Hart believes his move will "be read in the spirit of open exploration and
dialogue which is an essential feature of our shared spirituality." "My
philosophical position is that all religions are cultural constructs," he
said. "I am acting out God's story in local terms." Nothing like diving headlong into a stew of theological relativism.

I know that I should probably critique the unbiblical, heretical view
of God on display; that I should point out the flaws in his soteriology, parse his
syncretism, and harp on his gross violations of God's holy and perfect law. Clearly his epistemological foundations are in need of challenge. But I'm going to resist those urges and in the spirit of Elijah (see I Kings 18), will resort to a bit of sarcasm instead.

When I read this news item, all I could think of was "The Simpson's"
episode entitled "Homer the Heretic," where Homer rejects Christianity. At
one point, he is discoursing with Apu at the local Quickie Mart. Seeing a
statue of Ganesha in the "employee lounge," Homer chides Apu:

"Hey, Ganesha. Wanna peanut?"

"Please do not offer my god a peanut."

"No offense Apu, but when they were handing out religions, you musta been
out taking a whizz"

So true. But even worse are the "Christians" who allow such idolatry from their own clergy.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Joel Osteen: The Pandering Prophet

Joel Osteen was in the People's Republic of Massachusetts last week hawking his book "Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential."

You can almost picture the scene, can't you? Here is a blurb from the Boston Herald:

In Boston yesterday, more than 400 fans - most of them fawning females - lined up to meet Osteen at a book signing at the Prudential Center’s Barnes & Noble. Only a visit by former President Bill Clinton drew a bigger crowd, book store employees said.

Osteen and his pretty, blonde wife, Victoria, sold out the TD Banknorth Garden last night with their two-hour worship service, which fetched $10 a ticket. The couple’s visit came a month after controversial faith healer Benny Hinn came to the Hub.

If you've been paying attention for the last several years, you may be aware that the homosexualist assault on marriage is quite advanced in Massachusetts. Hence, a visit from the "most popular preacher in the country" was bound to elicit some discussion of the Christian position on "gay marriage."

When asked about gay marriage, Osteen said "I don’t think it’s God’s best. I never feel like homosexuality is God’s best."

That antiseptic response was apparently not enough to mollify the hard-edged reporters on the scene who persisted with the hard line of inquiry. Osteen finally responded, "I don’t feel like that’s my thrust . . . you know, some of the issues that divide us, and I’m here to let people know that God is for them and he’s on their side."

God is on whose side exactly? The Old Testament condemns homosexuality in no uncertain terms. Buggery is termed an "abomination," and Leviticus 20:13 established the death penalty for homosexual acts.

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul provides a revealing description of homosexuality: "In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion" (Rom. 1:27).

The word "inflamed" here literally means "to burn out." Homosexuality involves the burning out of a man. The structure of the passage in Romans 1 indicates that homosexuality as a practice represents the height of apostasy and hostility toward God.

In a week when a British evangelical was arrested for merely passing out leaflets at a homosexual rally, Osteen's tepidness is really little more than cowardice. "But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death" (Rev. 21:8).

Writing about Osteen's comments, Dr. Mohler hits the nail squarely:

Mr. Osteen can be assured that his weak and evasive non-answer to this reporter's question will put him at very little risk for arrest. But then, pandering prophets are rarely at much of a risk from the public anyway.

There was no conviction in his answer; no clear declaration of biblical truth; no Gospel, no judgment, and no promise. Just a non-answer with a smile. Pathetic . . . simply pathetic.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Pastor John Returns

Our pastor, John Piper, has returned from his five-month sabbatical. And it seems he was quite busy:
    I was able to finish writing the main body of two books. One is called What Jesus Demands from the World, which will be published by Crossway Books in late September (Lord willing). It is a 365-page book on the commands of Jesus, in an attempt to obey Matthew 28:19, "Teach them to observe everything I commanded you." Not just to know everything, but to observe (obey!) everything. How do you handle the Gospels in such a way that the teaching results in obedience? That was my goal. The other book is a response to N. T. Wright on the doctrine of justification. I have no immediate plan to publish it until I get the feedback from critical readers. My motivation in writing it is that I think his understanding of Paul is wrong and his view of justification is harmful to the church and to the human soul. Few things are more precious than the truth of justification by faith alone because of Christ alone. As a shepherd of a flock of God’s blood-bought church, I feel responsible to lead the sheep to life-giving pastures. That is not what the sheep find in Wright's view of Paul on justification. He is an eloquent and influential writer and is, I believe, misleading many people on the doctrine of justification. I will keep you posted on what becomes of this manuscript.
Definitely something to look forward to. You can read his entire report here.

For more on the doctrine of justification, check out Phil Johnson's excellent series on 2 Corinthians 5:21 over at PyroManiacs.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Worship Service or Pep Rally?

Maybe we've been going about things the wrong way. Maybe what we need isn't more Christ-centered worship or expositional preaching or even sound, biblical doctrine. Maybe what our churches need are more mascots. From the satirical
    MONTEREY, Calif. — First Nazarene Church used to start Sunday services with announcements and a generic welcome from the associate pastor. Now service starts with whirling spotlights, stadium music and a cougar mascot bounding down the center aisle slapping high fives and making "raise the roof" gestures.

    "Adding Christian Cougar was a great move for us," says the pastor. "No one calls our church boring anymore."

    Churches across the country are adopting mascots to pump up Sunday mornings and rally people in worship.

    "Our new mascot energizes things," says pastor Del Richards of Valley Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., which just introduced Lift-Him-Up Lion.

    On Sunday morning during worship time, the Lion rushes on stage and does the running man dance to "Blessed Be Your Name." He then makes "I can't hear you" motions and broad clapping gestures, then kneels with his hands raised when the songs turn slower. Worship team members play along with his antics. During the offertory he pulls out an oversized wallet and dumps wads of fake cash into the offering plate. During the sermon he stands to the side and makes rah-rah gestures and encourages people to applaud.

    "I tell him to go with the Spirit and raise some heaven," says the pastor. "By the time I get in the pulpit, the people are so amped up they can hardly contain themselves." ...

    ... Mascots are also an affordable option compared to larger projects.

    "We couldn't afford a new youth center, but we can afford a wolverine costume," says a Michigan pastor whose attendance has risen considerably since they added Worship Wolverine, who does trampoline flips, handstands and runs across the platform with a banner that says, "Praise!" ...

    ... Some churches experimented with live characters like Samson or the Apostle Paul, but people "thought they were weirdos or homeless people." Most stick with animals. (Full story)
Now, if people dressed up as animals can be used to get the congregation fired up for the Lord, just think of how much more excited people would be about going to church if we added cheerleaders!

Oh, that would be too much? I suppose. After all, we wouldn't want anything to take our focus off of Christ, now, would we? Unfortunately, looking at everything churches do to get people through the doors, we can't be too far away.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Should Christians Be Optimistic, Part III

I’m finally returning to the question of how Christians should view history, particularly the future.

I want to turn very briefly to the humiliation and sacrifice of our Lord and ponder just how it should change or shape our outlook of the future. Jesus suffered greatly, both as man and God, for the sins of His people.

First, he laid down His divine prerogatives to take the form of a humble servant. Paul writes that Jesus "made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Phil. 2:7-8)

Second, not only did Jesus die for us, He lived a perfect life for us, too, in the face of great temptation. As the Second Adam, Jesus had to face and overcome the temptations and machinations of Satan (Matt. 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13). The author of Hebrews says that, "we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15). Jesus had to face and conquer temptation on behalf of His people as a man, to win victory where Adam had fallen.

Third, in His physical being, Jesus had real, human, physical limitations. He hungered (Matt. 4:2), thirsted (John 19:28), and became physically tired (Mark 4:38). Additionally, Jesus had real human emotions. At various points, Jesus is described as troubled (John 12:27), sorrowful (Matt. 26:38), and compassionate (Mark 1:41).

Fourth, before going to the Cross, Jesus suffered slapping and scourging by His Roman tormentors and was mocked and cursed by His own kinsmen of the flesh. He endured harsh physical and emotional pain on our behalf.

Fifth, on the Cross, He became Sin for us. The Bible says that he became "a curse." "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.'" As God, Jesus was without sin, and yet He willingly became sin to save His people from the coming wrath and judgment of God. "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (II Cor. 5:21).

Finally, Scripture says that the only begotten Son of God, who shared perfect fellowship as the second member of the Godhead, was forsaken by the Father. “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34).

Christ's suffering begs the question, was it all in vain? Did Jesus do all of this so that only a small percentage of men would be saved? Did he suffer so that the world would fall increasingly under the reign of Satan? Moreover, is Jesus’ victory at the cross and His ultimate exaltation primarily, if not exclusively in the spiritual realm?

It seems reasonable to assume that because His suffering, humiliation, death, burial, and ultimate triumph occur in rather than outside histor--and as a real, physical man--that His ultimate victory likewise will be visible and on earth, in history, not as the result of a post-historical discontinuity.

W. G. T. Shedd puts it this way:

It is utterly improbable that such a stupendous miracle as the incarnation, humiliation, passion, and crucifixion of one of the Person of the Godhead, should yield a small and insignificant result. On a priori grounds, therefore, we have reason to conclude that the Gospel of the Cross will be successful, and the Christian religion a triumph on the earth and among the race of creatures for whom it was intended. But this can hardly be the case, if only a small fraction of the human family are saved. The presumption, consequently, is that the great majority of mankind not the small minority of it, will be the subjects of redeeming grace.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

What Is Most Damaging to the Body of Christ?

Marc Heinrich poses an interesting question on his site, Purgatorio: Which of the following is most damaging to the Body of Christ?:
    1. The Anglican's naming a woman Presiding Bishop who supports ordination of practicing gay clergy:

      Nevada Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori became the first woman elected to lead a church in the global Anglican Communion when she was picked Sunday to be the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. ... In 2003, the Americans shocked the Anglican world by electing the first openly gay bishop—V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. Placing a female bishop at the head of the denomination may further anger conservatives overseas and within the U.S. church. And Jefferts Schori voted to confirm Robinson.

    2. The PCUSA's allowing the renaming of the Trinity to "compassionate mother, beloved child, and life-giving womb" instead of "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit":

      At the recent 217th General Assembly meeting, PC(USA) commissioners voted to allow the denomination's churches to use the phrase "compassionate mother, beloved child, and life-giving womb" instead of "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" when referring to the Trinity. This was just one of the 12 phrases approved by the Assembly as permissible substitutions for the traditional names of the Godhead, another being "rock, cornerstone, and temple."

    3. The SBC's resolution on alcohol:

      RESOLVED, That we urge that no one be elected to serve as a trustee or member of any entity or committee of the Southern Baptist Convention that is a user of alcoholic beverages.

      RESOLVED, That we urge Southern Baptists to take an active role in supporting legislation that is intended to curb alcohol use in our communities and nation ...
While I believe all three positions are unbiblical, it is my contention that #3 (i.e., the issue of liberty vs. legalism) is the most damaging to the Body of Christ. Why do I say that? Because those churches who agree with #1 or #2 have already demonstrated that they are not part of the Body of Christ.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Is Old Testament Law Applicable Today?

Something that has been on my heart lately is the relevance of Old Testament Law: Does it still apply to us today? I hope to write more on this subject in the near future, but in the meantime, let me share some of my initial thoughts on the subject.

Whevever I hear someone talk about "God's Law"—in particular, calling for "God's Law" to be enforced in civil government—I find myself a bit confused. What exactly does that entail? What do they mean by "God's Law"? My concern is that what they are really pushing is an American theocracy.

Recently, I read an article that called for the state-sanctioned killing of homosexuals. "The word of God commands that sodomites are to be executed," the author writes, "and God gives our civil officials the sword to do the job. Until our civil officials turn from their wicked way by administering Justice, we can only be judged with the most depraved pagan nations in history." Welcome to life under theocratic rule.

One of the things that jumps out at me whenever I see a plea for a return to "God's Law" is the lack of clarification in defining the law. If honoring the law means adherence to the Old Testament, then what other laws should we enforce? Should a man who lies with a woman during her menstrual cycle be banished (Lev. 20:18)? Should women who aren't virgins be stoned to death (Deut. 22:20-21)? Should all adulterers be executed (Deut. 22:22)? Should we stone rebellious children (Deut. 21:20-21)? What's to be done with those who mar the edges of their beards (Lev. 19:27)? Should women who have just given birth be kept from attending church services for 33 days—66 if they give birth to a girl (Lev. 12:4-5)? And how should we lawfully and biblically deal with those who have bodily discharge (Lev. 15)?

How are we to determine which laws are to be enforced? Didn't James say that if we fail to keep the law in one point, we are guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10)? I'm not saying that the Old Testament is irrelavant, but we must look at it in light of the New Testament.

For example, in the New Testament we learn that Christ, through his life, death, and resurrection, fulfilled the law (Matt. 5:17, Luke 24:44, John 15:25). We as Christians fulfill the law through love (Rom. 13:10). And Paul reminds us that "the whole law is fulfilled in one word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'" (Gal. 5:14).

That, of course, isn't to say that we should be silent when it comes to the law. As we take Christ to the world, we preach the law so that people are convicted of their sin. But we also reach out to the lost in love by preaching the gospel. That's how individual lives, families, communities, nations, and the world are changed. No amount of legislating will do that.

A New Law
- from Mockingbird by Derek Webb

Don't teach me about politics and government
Just tell me who to vote for

Don't teach me about truth and beauty
Just label my music

Don't teach me how to live like a free man
Just give me a new law

I don't wanna know if the answers aren't easy
So just bring it down from the mountain to me

I want a new law
I want a new law
Gimme that new law

Don't teach me about moderation and liberty
I prefer a shot of grape juice

Don't teach me about loving my enemies

Don't teach me how to listen to the Spirit
Just give me a new law

I don't wanna know if the answers aren't easy
So just bring it down from the mountain to me

I want a new law
I want a new law
Gimme that new law

What's the use in trading a law you can never keep
for one you can that cannot get you anything
Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid

Monday, June 12, 2006

Should Christians Be Optimistic? Part II

In my previous post, I considered certain attributes of God's character and
His purposes that should incline Christians toward historical optimism.

Likewise, consider Jesus and His ministry. Christ came to earth to
accomplish the purpose of His Father in establishing the kingdom of God.

Before departing to the right hand of the Father, Jesus promised to empower
His disciples, and He gave them their marching orders. "All authority in
heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples
of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and
of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matt. 18:18-20).

After this, Jesus ascends to heaven and is enthroned at the right hand of
God. I've often wondered why I've never heard a single sermon on the
ascension and its significance. Not once in my entire life do I recall
having been taught about this doctrine. The reason, I've concluded, is
that it conflicts with the predominant eschatological framework of the
modern evangelical church. The idea that Jesus is king NOW and has been
given all authority in heaven and ON EARTH does not neatly comport with the
notion that the church will fail, and that Satan's authority and power will
increase over time.

Jesus has been exalted at the right hand of God and the promised Holy
Spirit was poured out on the church to empower it with gifts (Acts
2:30-36). Scripture affirms that Jesus will, indeed must, reign until he
has put ALL his enemies under his feet (I Cor. 15:25). But does this
victory occur through a catastrophic return, or is the process slow and
gradual with Jesus working out His will through His People?

Paul says that the Father "seated him [Jesus] at his right hand in the
heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion,
and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the
one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over
all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills
all in all" (Eph. 1:19-23).

Jesus said to Peter, "I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will
not overcome it." Our Lord paints a picture of a militant and empowered
body of believers, with Jesus in the lead working through the Holy Spirit,
taking the Gospel into the world and scattering the darkness. It is the
forces of evil manning the barricades against the Church, not visa versa.

Thus, if Jesus has been given all authority, and has been made head of the
church, then He is responsible to bring the world into submission. Is it
possible that He will fail? And why would such a victory only come about
AFTER the church, the Body of Christ, has been raptured out of the world?

Having said that, let me offer a qualification. The kingdom of God has not
reached its ultimate fulfillment. There is indeed an "already, not yet"
dichotomy at work. However, is it not reasonable to expect that during the
period between inauguration and consummation there will be growth in the
kingdom of God?

When Jesus describes the Kingdom in His parables, he paints a picture of a
mustard seed sown in a field. "It is the smallest of all seeds, but when
it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree,"
says Jesus (Matt. 13:31-33). Likewise the kingdom is like leaven that over
time permeates the entire loaf of bread. So the development is progressive
and slow, not catastrophic or in some sense post-historical.

This is not altogether different from a traditional understanding of
sanctification. There is a moment of definitive sanctification in the life
of the believer. However, the process of growing into Christ-likeness
takes place in history, on earth, practically in the life of the believer.
And though sin is not completely eradicated, it should wield less influence
over the believer. Why shouldn't this principle apply to the broader
context of God's kingdom?

Next time, I will briefly consider Christ's humiliation.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Should Christians Be Optimistic? Part I

As a Calvinistic Southern Baptist, it dawned on me recently how crabbed we sound when synthesizing our understanding of God's sovereignty, or decretive will, with historical pessimism.

Over the course of several brief posts, I would like to consider how our understanding of God's sovereignty, Christology, and Pneumatology should provide a framework for historical optimism.

First, let us consider some basic purposes of the Father. God has promised to bless the nations and all families of the earth. "Now the LORD said to Abram, 'Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed'" (Gen. 12:1-3)

Second, the Father has promised to establish His Son's Kingdom over the whole earth (see Ps. 110). In Daniel 2, we read, "God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever."

Through Christ, the Kingdom of God comes to fruition. According to Isaiah there will be no end to the increase of His government, and from His throne justice and righteousness will be established and upheld.

We also know some other things about God’s attributes. In His dealings with man, God is gracious and merciful. "The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love" (Ps. 145:8). Similarly, God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. "For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live" (Ezek. 18:32; see also Ezek. 18:23).

On the other hand, we also know that God decrees EVERYTHING that comes to pass for His glory and pleasure (see Eph. 1:3-14). According to the London Baptist Confession (1689), "God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass."

Does God’s decretive will, expressed above, come into conflict with his graciousness toward men? The primary eschatological approaches of the day, which tend toward historical pessimism, typically posit that the vast majority of mankind will be lost. But if God does not take pleasure in the deaths of men, why would he foreordain to punish the majority of them?

More to come...

Monday, June 05, 2006


In case you forgot, tomorrow is June 6, 2006, or... (cue the theme music from The Omen) ...666!

Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia (Does it really need to be explained?) is the fear of the number 666, and it has led to some silly reactions. You may recall that U.S. Route 666 was renamed to U.S. Route 491 back in 2003. And I know of one house not too far from my own home that had its address changed from 666 to 668.

Unfortunately, this irrational fear seems to be popping up in evangelical circles. Ambassadors Ministries, for example, is calling for a "violent day of worship" to combat the forces of evil:
    "We believe that the plans the enemy has for this date (June 6, 2006) will be destroyed through violent worship and praise. We are inviting the entire world to be part of this huge unity project."
Now, I could be wrong, but hasn't this particular date already come and gone 20 times over the last 2000 years?

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Why Does Evil Exist?

Human beings are curious by nature, so it is understandable when people wonder why bad things happen. If there is a God, and if God is good, then why does evil exist? Surely there must be a reason.

To answer this question, we must first begin to understand the concept of God's sovereignty and holiness. I realize that's a bit like saying, "In order to put gas in your car, you must first learn how to build an internal combustion engine while blindfolded," but let's just touch on some of the basics.

What is the very first thing we learn in scripture? "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen. 1:1). That's pretty straightforward. The Bible opens by saying that everything exists because of God. Naturally, there is the assumption that the Creator is in control of his creation. In other words, he has complete sovereignty.

Scripture teaches us that while God does not condone evil (Isaiah 13:11), he did ordain that evil exist. This has everything to do with his sovereignty. In fact, as we see in the book of Job, not even Satan can make a move without God's say-so.

God himself is not the sinner, nor does he act as an agent of sin. But he can and does intend sin for good. One example of this can be found in Genesis 50:20, where Joseph confronts his brothers who sold him into slavery: "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today."

Note that Joseph didn't say that God used evil for good. He meant for evil to happen so that a greater good would come from it.

Perhaps the ultimate example of God ordaining evil for good is the sacrifice of his only son for our sins. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was clearly an evil act committed by evil men—there is no other way to describe the execution of the most innocent person who ever lived—but Christ's death was predestined even before the world began (Acts 4:27-28, Eph. 1:5-7, 1 Pet. 1:18-20). And it is that sacrifice that has purchased eternal life for those who believe.

The blessed truth to be found here is that God is in control of all things (Deut. 32:39, Job 1:21-22, Isaiah 45:7, Amos 3:6, James 4:14-15). Everything that happens is in accordance with God's will. In Ephesians 1:11, the Apostle Paul writes, "In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will."

The sovereignty of God is absolutely fundamental. As Charles Spurgeon preached:
    There is no half way between a mighty God that worketh all things by the sovereign counsel of his will and no God at all. A God that cannot do as he pleases—a God whose will is frustrated—is not a God, and cannot be a God. I could not believe in such a God as that.
God is nothing if not sovereign.

God is also holy. He is perfectly good and just in every way. While it may at first seem like a contradiction for a holy God to even allow evil to exist, much less ordain it, the existence of evil helps us understand who God is. Let me explain.

As human beings, you and I long for that which is good. We want to do what is right. We strive constantly for something that is higher than we are. And there is nothing higher, more right, or more good than God. He is the epitome of purity and perfection. As such, he cannot help but bring glory to himself. To do anything less would be a sin—and God does not sin.

In short, the existence of evil allows God's glory to shine. The great American theologian Jonathan Edwards gives us a much more detailed explanation:
    It is a proper and excellent thing for infinite glory to shine forth. And for the same reason, it is proper that the shining forth of God's glory should be complete. That is, that all parts of his glory should shine forth, that every beauty should be proportionately radiant, that the beholder may have a proper notion of God. It is not proper that one glory should be exceedingly manifested and another not at all. Thus, it is necessary that God's awful majesty, his authority and dreadful greatness, justice, and holiness should be manifested. But this could not be unless sin and punishment had been decreed so that the shining forth of God's glory would be very imperfect, both because these parts of divine glory would not shine foth as the others do, and also the glory of his goodness and love and holiness would be faint without them. Nay, they could scarcely shine forth at all. If it were not right that God should decree and permit and punish sin, there could be no manifestation of God's holiness in hatred of sin or in showing any preference in his providence of godliness before it. There would be no manifestation of God's grace or true goodness if there was no sin to be pardoned, no misery to be saved from. How much happiness soever he bestowed he would not be so much prized and admired, and the sense of it would not be so great. So evil is necessary in order to the highest happiness of the creature and the completeness of that communication of God for which he made the world because the creature's happiness consists in the knowledge of God and the sense of his love. And if the knowledge of him be imperfect, the happiness of the creature must be proportionately imperfect.
So, why does evil exist? If I had to answer in a single sentence, I would say this: Evil exists because its inevitable defeat ultimately glorifies God.

Friday, April 21, 2006

On the Necessity of Christian Engagement

The Purpose of the Christian Life

Before getting too far ahead of ourselves, we should think about and define the purpose of the Christian life. The Westminster Catechism begins by saying that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. In other words, Christianity isn’t primarily about individual soul-saving, but glorifying the Creator of the cosmos.

Today, there is a tremendous need for Biblical evangelism that surpasses tract passing, personal testimony, and "Just As I Am." What is needed is a comprehensive program that brings the comprehensive message of salvation to every individual—and institution.

Evangelicals tend toward an extremely narrow view of God’s Kingdom and His purposes. What is the purpose of the Great Commission? Is it merely an edict to the Church to witness in a hopeless and dying world, snatching a few desperate souls from the fiery cauldron of the lake of fire? Or should Christ’s directive give us hope that the Holy Spirit will empower the Church to promote salvation against the world, the flesh, and the evil one?

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus asks His disciples the BIG question that we must all answer—"Who do you say I am?" Peter responds by saying, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." Next, Jesus tells Peter that upon his confession, "I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." The picture painted by our Lord is of a militant and empowered body of believers, taking the light of the Gospel message into the world and scattering the darkness. It is the forces of evil manning the barricades against the Church, not visa versa.

Though Satan is a mighty enemy, described as a roaring lion, Scripture gives us comfort that in light of Christ's victory at Golgotha; the strong man has been bound, and we are to plunder his house (Matt. 12:29) and occupy it until Jesus returns.

Thankfully, we have not been left powerless to fulfill our mission. We have the Word of God, which is sharper than a two-edged sword, and access to God through prayer. Most importantly, we have Jesus’ promise that He will be with us always in the person of the Holy Spirit, who was sent to be our counselor and minister.

Aside from the purpose of the Great Commission, Evangelicals also frequently misunderstand its nature as well. Is it merely individualistic, with the hope of saving individual lost sinners and training them in their private "walk with God" and public worship? Or is its goal to transform individuals with the expectation that they will make a difference in the world, creating a Christian culture?

Discussing the perversion of the “individualistic” Gospel, Dr. David Alan Black writes:

One of the perversions of the Gospel I think needs eliminating today is the emphasis upon personal evangelism to the detriment or exclusion of any social emphasis. I do not question the fact that salvation is personal and individual, but it is far more than that. However, for many evangelicals the emphasis on the personal and individual has increasingly made salvation individualistic. The whole of the Christian experience is thought to be one’s personal relationship to God – often to the exclusion of one’s relationship with others or to the culture in general.

Salvation is both personal and social. Since sin is personal, each individual is guilty of sin and must be forgiven for his sin, not someone else’s. However, salvation is also social. Jesus is Lord of all. Politics, education, economics, the arts – all these are included under His divine Lordship. Thus Christians must come to understand that although salvation is individual and personal, the kingdom of God is far broader than just our personal salvation experiences.

It is true, as Dr. Black says, that sin is personal, as are the consequences, and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is the starting point for Christians. Those who are dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1) must be given a new heart and a new spirit. The Apostle Paul tells us "the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law" (Rom. 8:7).

Regeneration, however, is just the beginning. In Christ, we become a new creation and are prepared to accomplish the good works for which we were created (Eph. 2:10). We are dead to sin, and slaves to Christ. In the strength of the Holy Spirit, we also have the ability to obey the commands of the King, and we are obligated to do so out of love (John 14:15, I John 2:3-5). The theological term for this growth process is progressive sanctification. In effect, we become more Christ-like in our attitudes and actions. This process of progressive growth ought to be foundational to any Christian strategy of cultural and political activism. In other words, the transformation of individuals must precede the transformation of institutions and culture.

Discerning God’s Will

The "purpose driven life" is a life lived seeking conformity to the will of God. But what is God’s will for us? D. James Kennedy writes, "God's answer to the question of human purpose and meaning centers around two great mandates He has given us in His Word. A mandate, of course, is a directive or command that points us in a specific direction." Those two mandates are the Cultural Mandate, given at the creation of man, and the Great Commission, given with the creation of the new man.

The first of God's two mandates - the Cultural Mandate - is found in Genesis 1:26-28:

Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth."

Nancy Pearcey says that to "'be fruitful and multiply,' means to develop the social world: build families, churches, schools, cities, governments, laws. The second phrase, 'subdue the earth,' means to harness the natural world: plant crops, build bridges, design computers, compose music. This passage is sometimes called the Cultural Mandate because it tells us that our original purpose was to create cultures, build civilizations—nothing less."

Here we see the Trinity conferring upon man the role of vice-regent, ruling and reigning with God, bringing the world under His dominion. Man’s task in accordance with God’s command and our own nature, having been created in His image, is to exercise dominion and develop culture. As a "federal head," Adam did not merely act on his own behalf, but as a representative for all of mankind. The command to Adam, which is stated again in the Noahic Covenant (Genesis 9) is still in force today. To quote Kennedy again, "As the vice-regents of God, we are to bring His truth and His will to bear on every sphere of our world and our society. We are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors - in short, over every aspect and intrusion of human society."

Adam’s fall into sin was imputed to all humanity and perverted the God-given desire to exercise authority in God’s name, and replaced it with a desire to become God ourselves. Consequently, Christ’s representative and vicarious death was necessary to restore and renew the image of God to allow redeemed men to bring the creation into submission to God. It is only in Christ, through the power of the Holy Sprit, that man can fulfill his original mandate. Thus, there is an intimate connection between the Great Commission and the Cultural Mandate, for without salvation, we can do nothing. Therefore, evangelism and discipleship takes precedence over other activities.

However, as Christians our duty is not simply to fill our churches and drag new converts into the baptistery. We are to make disciples for our Lord, and teach them to obey everything God has commanded.

True Christian discipleship recognizes that every sphere of life is under the authority of God, and Christ’s salvation and healing is not merely for individuals, but also for the creation that groans under the impact of sin (Rom. 8). As Gary North has written, "Nothing is to be excluded from Christ’s healing: not the family, not the State, not business, not education, and surely not the institutional church. Salvation is the salve that heals the wounds inflicted by sin: every type of wound from every type of sin."

Too many of my fundamentalist and evangelical friends (and I would claim to be both an evangelical and a fundamentalist) think that Christians must merely preach the Gospel, bring souls to Jesus, and everything else will simply fall into place. But this is a denial of a Christian worldview. Chuck Colson writes:

The only task of the church, many fundamentalists and evangelicals have believed, is to save as many lost souls as possible from a world literally going to hell. But this [is an] implicit denial of a Christian worldview. It is unbiblical and [it] is the reason we have lost so much of our influence in the world. Salvation does not consist simply of freedom from sin; salvation also means being restored to the task we were given in the beginning—the job of creating culture.

We must also recognize that God created the world and called it good. Thus, though contaminated by man’s sin, the created order is still good, and the redeemed in Christ are called by God to work toward restoring the world to a Godly order.

What Has This Got to do With Politics?

Thus far, I have attempted to demonstrate that the purpose of the Christian life is to pursue God’s glory in obediently seeking to fulfill the Great Commission and the Cultural Mandate. But what has any of this to do with politics?

The word politics comes from the Greek word "polis", meaning the state or community as a whole. Politics is the means of organizing a just, equitable, and peaceful society by providing mechanisms to resolve conflicts that arise between men, by means of discussion and rational compromise. Politics is not feasible without government and authority.

However, for Christians, Christ has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, and the government, all government, rests upon His shoulders. The Scripture is clear that Christ holds all things together and through Him, all things will be reconciled to the Father. "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross" (Col 1:15-20).

When Paul says "all things" does he really mean all things except politics, economics, literature, and culture? Similarly, when Paul says that we are to take every thought and make it captive to Christ (I Cor. 10:5), does that exclude politics? When he writes that we must do all things to the glory of God (I Cor. 10:31) does Paul really mean "all things other than politics?"

Also, Jesus says that His people are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, and the rule and reign of Christ is extended by His people. Christians perform a common grace function. Our presence serves as a preservative and a light scattering the darkness. Does God desire justice, equity and peace and is He the source of those blessings? If so, why would it make sense that His followers and disciples should flee the battlefield and leave society in the hands of humanists?

The Bible describes believers as exiles in the world (I Peter 1:17, I Peter). Typically, my brothers and sisters use that passage to defend obscuratinism and retreat from the culture. "We're just passin' through, 'cause our citizenship is in heaven," they say. At the same time, they recite the Lord’s Prayer and sing "This is our Father’s world" without any recognition of cognitive dissonance.

Christians are indeed exiles in this world, captives if you will (I Peter 1:17, I Peter 2:11, etc.). So how do we seek dominion at the same time that we are "exiles?" Dominion is achieved primarily by service. Jesus, King of Kings, came to be a servant, and as His disciples we are to be conformed to His image and follow His example. But it is through true servanthood that dominion is established. Writing to the Jews is captivity, Jeremiah explains what it means to be an exile:

4This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 "Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper. (Jer. 29:4-7)"

This sounds strikingly like the Cultural Mandate—have babies, build houses, till the soil and grow crops, seek prosperity and wealth. This is the heart of loving God with our whole being and loving our neighbors.

What is Government?

Modern man frequently makes the error of equating "government" with the State. The Cambridge Dictionary defines government as "the group of people who officially control a country." In fact, government belongs to God. He has established numerous "governments" with various prerogatives and powers to advance His holy purposes.

For example, God created the family as the primary source of earthly government. The family, has been given stewardship over children, authority over property and inheritance, and control over education. The family is also the institution preeminently responsible for social welfare. Paul says that the failure to care for our own marks us as "worse than an unbeliever" (I Tim. 5:8) and James says that "pure and undefiled religion…is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble" (James 1:27).

The early church did not depend on the Roman civil authorities to meet social needs. Likewise, we see Jesus on the cross with His dying words ensuring that His mother is taken care of by John (John 19:25-27). The modern State has encroached into all these areas that rightly fall under the purview of family government. Strong and stable families, jealously guarding their prerogatives, are the foundation of strong and stable communities, and only these mediating institutions can protect the naked individual from the maniacal, power-hungry State.

There are other "governments" as well, foremost among them, the school and the church. The point here is a simple one – God has established various institutions and given them responsibilities in their spheres of influence. More importantly, the jurisdiction of these institutions has been limited and circumscribed by the Scriptures.

Christians need to realize that the State is not sovereign. Only God is absolutely sovereign. All human agencies have limited degrees of authority. Scripture tells us that all power and authority reside in the resurrected and ascended Christ who is enthroned at the hand of God (Matt. 28:18) and that it is in Christ that all things are held together (Col. 1:17). The institutions created by Him are to serve as His ministers, working out His will.

The State’s power is also limited and circumscribed by the Word. According to the Bible, God established civil government for three primary reasons:

1. To protect human life that is made in the image of God: "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man" (Gen. 9:6);

2. To defend the law-abiding from lawbreakers: "For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer" (Rom. 13:3-4);

3. To provide for a peaceful, orderly society: "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness" (I Tim. 1:1-2).

Today, however, the State has usurped virtually all power to its bosom. Historically, the State has been an object of worship, God walking on earth, as Hegel says. Rushdoony has written that the state is intrinsically religious, "Every state or social order is a religious establishment. Every state is a law order, and every law order represents an enacted morality, with procedures for the enforcement of that morality. Every morality represents a form of theological order, i.e., is an aspect and expression of a religion."

Is there any doubt that a cosmopolitan, anti-Western, and vigorously anti-Christian elite has established control of virtually every viable institution, including the instruments of cultural dissemination and political control (i.e., the State)? Is there any question that said elite is an ally of humanism? Should such a state of affairs be endorsed or accepted by God’s people?

Many Christians point to Romans 13 as a proof text for inaction, or even retreat in political and cultural matters. However, I think these texts are frequently misunderstood in such a way as to leave the State free to rampage about in an unbiblical way. Paul says, "there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God" (Rom. 13:1). So even the State is established and ordained by God for the purpose of being God’s servant (deacon) "to do you good" (v. 4). In other words, the State is also under the authority of God, accountable to Him, and must rule in accordance with His divine rule as revealed in Scripture. The Church, therefore, must prophetically proclaim the Lordship of Christ in all spheres of life, and as a Christian who takes God’s Word seriously, I have an affirmative duty to speak and toil for the establishment of a social order that takes God’s law-word seriously.
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