Friday, April 27, 2007

This Week in Calvinism - April 27, 2007

I thought it would be nice to have a regular feature for the five or six people who actually read this blog. I'm calling it "This Week in Calvinism," and it will feature links to other sites, news stories, or blog posts that deal with...yes, you guessed it...Calvinism. So, without further ado, here's what's happening this week in Calvinism...

  • Tim Challies explains the concept of limited atonement, or, as many of us like to call it, "particular redemption."

  • An unfortunate homeschooler has a problem with John Piper's "false teaching."

  • Gene Cook Jr. has a great audio clip of Jerry Falwell calling preachers like John MacArthur, Alistair Begg, and John Piper heretics.

  • Jennifer Brost, author of How I Suffered from My Theology, thinks that God has no purpose for pain and suffering, but that He "allows pain to happen against His will." She also thinks that Calvinism is "the fatalistic type of thinking that led her to despair."

  • Author and radio entertainer Garrison Keillor has a mistaken view of Calvinism and bizarrely equates it with the Cult of Bush.

  • Explore Geneva's Calvinist heritage...

  • ...and visit the International Museum of the Reformation.

  • If you're tired of "the melancholic sterility of the Calvinism and of the Protestantism," then Jean H. Charles invites you to come to Haiti "and enjoy the ecstatic rituals of the collective joys that will keep your psychiatrist away."

  • According to Barbara Ehrenreich, Calvinism helped spur on the "mass epidemic of depression" that broke out in the 1600s.
  • Thursday, April 26, 2007

    In Defense of Christian Hedonism

    This morning, I ran across a blog post that was praising an article by Craig W. Booth entitled "God Is Most Glorified...When?" The article is an attempt to paint John Piper as a false teacher for promoting the concept of "Christian hedonism," which he sums up in the phrase "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him."

    I can't help but wonder if Booth and the blogger he so impressed have ever heard John Piper speak or have ever read anything he has written. For one thing, in their attempt to shred his philosophy they immediately overlook the two little words "in us." I think it is inarguable that God certainly is most glorified in us (in our lives) when we are most satisfied in Him.

    What do we think God wants? Are we supposed to go through life as sour-faced suffering servants? Does it bring God pleasure when we begrudgingly perform our Christian duties with no desire to be happy and fulfilled?

    "These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full" (John 15:11). That's Christian hedonism in a nutshell. We are to find pleasure in the Lord. He should be the source of our joy. And if we are "most satisfied in him," who do think is the one giving us that satisfaction?

    Jesus says in John 6:35, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst." Why does he say that? Because Christ is the only one who can satisfy.

    If we're supposed to take issue with the phrase "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him," then what are we to do with the commands to be happy and satisfied in the Lord? Psalm 37:4 says, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." In Psalm 100:2 we read, "Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!" In doing so, are we not fulfilling the commandment to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind" (Luke 10:27)?

    The concept of Christian hedonism isn't that difficult to understand. As Piper notes, it is nothing more than "stating an ancient, orthodox, Biblical truth in a fresh way."

    Wednesday, April 25, 2007

    Sam Waldron Responds to John MacArthur

    Sam Waldron has begun a series of posts on his blog in response to John MacArthur's preemptive attack on amillennialists. Here's the introduction:
      I am going to try something new over the next couple of weeks in this blog. I have just now named it "blog a book." I am responding to MacArthur's recent introductory sermon at the 2007 Shepherds' Conference. You can help me write this response by your comments and input. So here goes with Chapter 1. ...
    You can read the full post here. This should be interesting!

    Thursday, April 19, 2007

    Why I'm Addicted to "The Narrow Mind"

    If you haven't already done so, check out "The Narrow Mind" with Gene Cook Jr. I admit that I'm an addict. I subscribe to the podcast via iTunes and check in every day to see what's new.

    Ask me why I like it and I suppose I could talk about his in-depth interviews, his knowledge of God's Word, his desire to spread the Gospel, his stance on presuppositional apologetics, his appreciation for fine cigars, and so on. But I'll keep it short and sweet: the real reason I like "The Narrow Mind" is because I have one--and it's nice to know that I'm not alone!

    Wednesday, April 18, 2007

    The Law Does Not Sanctify

    When we received the gift of salvation by grace alone through faith alone, were we set free from the curse of the law only to be commanded to return to the law in order to be sanctified? Some seem to think so.

    I recall a blog post by Chris Ortiz at Chalcedon.edu bemoaning the fact that "[s]anctification by the law of God is not likely to be heard within the padded sanctuaries of the mega-church." Well, I would hope that sanctification by the law of God is never heard in any church.

    "Sanctification by the law" presents a huge problem for believers. It creates a conflicting message. It makes no sense to condemn justification by works and then turn around and promote sanctification by works. That which is powerless to justify is just as powerless to sanctify. Sanctification comes by grace through faith (Acts 26:18, Hebrews 10:10) and is the ongoing work of the indwelling Holy Spirit (2 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 Peter 1:2).

    This is not antinomianism by any stretch of the imagination. I believe the law serves the same purpose it always did: it reveals sin. It exposes to the light of truth that which we seek to keep hidden. It shows us just how powerless we are to save ourselves. It also condemns us. As Paul writes in Galatians 3:10, "For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, 'Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.'"

    Sin and the law go hand in hand. Indeed, "sin is not counted where there is no law" (Romans 5:13). But Paul reminds us that sin no longer has any dominion over us, since we are "not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:14).

    Thanks to the cross, we have "died to the law through the body of Christ" (Romans 7:4). More to the point, Christ, the only one capable of satisfying the requirements of the law, "redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us" (Galatians 3:13).

    So, how then are we to live? We are told to "serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code" (Romans 7:6). In short, it is the Spirit that sanctifies (2 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 Peter 1:2). The fruit of the Spirit "leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life" (Romans 6:22).

    It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that the law is fulfilled. Paul explains in Romans 13:8-10: "Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,' and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." He reminds us again in Galatians 6:2 when he says, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."

    Note the emphasis Paul places on love. With Christ as our focus, we cannot help but love. But if we believe that sanctification come through obedience to the law, then the law becomes our focus, and it is impossible for us to love our neighbor and bear one another's burdens if our attention is on living up to the law and meeting its requirements. That's an impossible task. However, if we rest in what Christ has already accomplished for us, then we are free to live a life of love as ones who have truly been redeemed from the curse of the law.

    What this means is that we will not be able to boast except in the Lord Jesus Christ, "who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). The result is that God alone receives the glory.

    I don't know about you, but I find that to be one of the most blessed truths in all of scripture. Soli Deo Gloria!

    Saturday, April 14, 2007

    Hang Together, Not Separtely

    God does not leave His people defenseless in the world. He sends a comforter and counselor in the Holy Spirit, we have the assurance of Christ’s righteousness imputed to our account, the peace which flows from the Gospel, and the sword of God’s infallible Word.

    We also have the people of God living together in the church. Our brethren provide love and encouragement, not to mention the occasional rebuke, preaching the Gospel to us in word and deed.

    I discovered this truth again recently in the seemingly innocuous closing words of First Peter. The beauty of Holy Scripture is that even in the ostensibly banal and trite there are nuggets of gold and great wisdom.

    Consider I Peter 5:12-14: “By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it. She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son. Greet one another with the kiss of love.”

    The theme of suffering and tribulation is a consistent subject throughout I Peter. He was writing to Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor who were undergoing persecution. Moreover, they would face greater strife in the near future. Peter desired to see them live well in the face of trouble. His hope was that suffering would serve as an iron, melding the people of God together rather than ripping them apart.

    And it is crucial that Christians learn to handle suffering. Suffering is certain, it will happen. “Beloved do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (I Peter 4:12). Whether physical suffering associated with the slow decaying and dying of our bodies, grief connected to watching our family and loved-ones suffer, problems stemming from sin—our own and others, we will in fact suffer. We may struggle not merely with physical maladies, but also emotionally—the pangs of loneliness or despair, worry or anger, feelings of inadequacy or condemnation, etc. Faith in Christ will not protect us entirely from struggle or difficulty. "Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). Suffering is certain, and how we handle it has consequences, temporal and eternal.

    Think for a moment of the parable of the sower (Matt. 13:1-9, 19-23:

    "A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear…When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty."

    The “seed” was sown on three types of soil. First, there is good soil that produces a yield of 30, 60, and 100-fold. Then there is rocky soil where the seed immediately springs up, but it has no established root so when persecution and trouble come it is followed by falling away. Likewise there is soil that is filled with thorns. Those thorns are the worries and anxieties of this life that choke out the word so that it does not bear fruit. In short, if we don’t know how to handle worries and afflictions, we will not persevere as believers.

    Throughout the letter, Peter has been comforting his readers with the truth of the Gospel by emphasizing their standing before God. But in his closing greeting he shows that growing strong through suffering requires standing with other saints.

    The fact that we are not merely suffering alone, but together, should give us hope and buttress our faith during a time of trouble. Moreover, it is not merely believers in local bodies, but believers all over the world. Peter says that we should be spurred to resist by the fact that “the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (v. 9).

    Peter is saying that throughout the world believers are undergoing similar trials and similar stresses. And like soldiers going to war, we are not suffering and battling alone, but are fighting the devil with our spirit-filled brethren.

    I was reminded of this truth reading Dave Black’s blog recently. In his April 2nd entry, Dr. Black posted pictures of evangelists serving in Ethiopia. These brethren are suffering and being persecuted for their faithfulness, and yet they face trials with “supernatural, Spirit-given joy and exultation.” The lives of these brethren are a living apology for the transforming power of Christ’s redemption. And though I have never met these men, nor Dr. Black, they are my brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I will spend eternity, and I if I love them as my brethren (which is the mark of a believer), I must support them in whatever way that I can via gifts of money and intercession.

    Peter also commends “Silvanus,” who we know as Silas. He calls Silas a “faithful brother.” Silas likely carried Peter’s letter to these churches as a means of encouraging them. He was also with Paul on his second missionary journey where he faithfully taught and encouraged many churches. For his faithfulness he suffered beatings, hardship, and even imprisonment. When Peter says “stand firm” in the grace of God, he was in the company of a man who had done just that and could serve as a worthy example.

    Peter also sends greetings to the churches of Asia Minor from, “She who is at Babylon, chosen together with you sends you greetings.” Peter is using Babylon as something of a code name to protect believers in Rome and he is also attempting to communicate the wickedness associated with the enemies of God by comparing the Roman regime to Babylon. But he is also speaking of a real group of Christians gathered in Rome. Even there in the middle of “Babylon” existed a group of believers linked with churches throughout the world in the great cause of the Gospel.

    There was also Mark, who Peter calls his son. He wasn’t a physical son, but a son in the faith. Mark, who was so afraid of persecution that he had earlier abandoned Paul and Banabas, had grown into a faithful and godly man, ready to endure hardship for the cause of God’s Kingdom

    Peter closes by saying, he “written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God” and encouraging them to “Greet one another with the kiss of love”

    In other words, extend the peace and love of Christ to your brothers and sisters. Peter has been emphasizing suffering, and he is encouraging us to go through trials together rather than individually. In our suffering, God is often preparing us to help others during their time of stress and difficulty. Our aim is to comfort one another, support one another and spur one another on to love and good deeds. Peter’s letter is a testimony to the grace of God in Jesus and he urges them to “stand strong” in that grace.

    There are many reasons to join and actively support a local church. But one reason is that during trouble, we need brothers and sisters. Moreover, we are called to minister to those who are suffering. We have been given the comfort and grace of God so “that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ” (I Cor. 1:4-5).

    Thursday, April 12, 2007

    New Blog: The Reign of Christ

    Jeremy Weaver was kind enough to invite me to post on his new blog, The Reign of Christ. Its purpose is not just to foster a better understanding of amillennialism, but to delve into what scripture has to say about Christ's kingdom, to edify believers, and, ultimately, to bring glory to the reigning King of Kings.

    You can read my first post here.

    Thursday, April 05, 2007

    Ordo Salutis

    Over the last couple of weeks, Fide-O "dogmaticians" Gene, Jason, and Scott have been devoting their Covenant Theology Thursday podcasts to the discussion of ordo salutis, or the "order of salvation."

    Here is the how the Calvinist sees ordo salutis:
    1. Election
    2. Predestination
    3. Gospel Call (Outward Call)
    4. Inward or Effectual Call
    5. Regeneration
    6. Conversion (Faith and Repentance)
    7. Justification
    8. Adoption
    9. The Gift of The Holy Spirit
    10. Sanctification and Perseverance
    11. Glorification
    And here is ordo salutis according to the Arminian:
    1. Outward Call
    2. Faith/Election
    3. Repentance
    4. Regeneration
    5. Justification
    6. Perseverance
    7. Glorification
    BIG difference, especially when you consider that the unregenerate are "dead in trespasses and sin" (Ephesians 2:1), and that natural man "does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14).

    Check out the podcast here. And invite your Amrminian friends to listen; they just might learn something.

    Sunday, April 01, 2007

    Dispensationalism: Robbing Christ of His Kingdom

    Ask any dispensationalist whether or not Christ is reigning now and his answer would be a definite "yes"--followed quickly by a "but." "Yes, Jesus is reigning now, but his kingdom won't be fully realized until he begins his millennial reign on the throne of David after the Great Tribulation."

    That may sound at first like a reasonable theological argument. After all, we Christians who have experienced salvation, but still find ourselves in a fallen, sinful world, are familiar with the concept of "the now and the not yet." The dispensational view of the kingdom, however, is completely wrong.

    One of the many complaints I have against dispensationalism is that it essentially robs Christ of his kingdom. It denies what scripture tells us is a present reality.

    I ran across an interesting post at Theology Online, entitled "Dispensationalism's Kingdomless King," that addresses what Peter, Paul, and Jesus himself had to say about the kingdom. Check it out here.

    Pay special attention to the quote from Peter's sermon at Pentecost. The Apostle explains to us exactly what David was foretelling in Psalm 110, a passage typically used by the dispensationalist as evidence of a physical millennial reign.

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