Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

As the new year dawns, perhaps we can take some tips from Jonathan Edwards:
Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God's help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ's sake.

Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.
  1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God's glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad's of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.

  2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new invention and contrivance to promote the aforementioned things.

  3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.

  4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.

  5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

  6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

  7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

  8. Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God.

  9. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.

  10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.

  11. Resolved, when I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances don't hinder.

  12. Resolved, if I take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by.

  13. Resolved, to be endeavoring to find out fit objects of charity and liberality.

  14. Resolved, never to do anything out of revenge.

  15. Resolved, never to suffer the least motions of anger to irrational beings.

  16. Resolved, never to speak evil of anyone, so that it shall tend to his dishonor, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.

  17. Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.

  18. Resolved, to live so at all times, as I think is best in my devout frames, and when I have clearest notions of things of the gospel, and another world.

  19. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump.

  20. Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.

  21. Resolved, never to do anything, which if I should see in another, I should count a just occasion to despise him for, or to think any way the more meanly of him. (Resolutions 1 through 21 written in one setting in New Haven in 1722.)

  22. Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power; might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.

  23. Resolved, frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God's glory, to repute it as a breach of the 4th Resolution.

  24. Resolved, whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then both carefully endeavor to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.

  25. Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.

  26. Resolved, to cast away such things, as I find do abate my assurance.

  27. Resolved, never willfully to omit anything, except the omission be for the glory of God; and frequently to examine my omissions.

  28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

  29. Resolved, never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession, which I cannot hope God will accept.

  30. Resolved, to strive to my utmost every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.

  31. Resolved, never to say anything at all against anybody, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honor, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule; often, when I have said anything against anyone, to bring it to, and try it strictly by the test of this Resolution.

  32. Resolved, to be strictly and firmly faithful to my trust, that that in Prov. 20:6, "A faithful man who can find?" may not be partly fulfilled in me.

  33. Resolved, always to do what I can towards making, maintaining, establishing and preserving peace, when it can be without over-balancing detriment in other respects. Dec.26, 1722.

  34. Resolved, in narration's never to speak anything but the pure and simple verity.

  35. Resolved, whenever I so much question whether I have done my duty, as that my quiet and calm is thereby disturbed, to set it down, and also how the question was resolved. Dec. 18, 1722.

  36. Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call for it. Dec. 19, 1722.

  37. Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent, what sin I have committed, and wherein I have denied myself: also at the end of every week, month and year. Dec.22 and 26, 1722.

  38. Resolved, never to speak anything that is ridiculous, sportive, or matter of laughter on the Lord's day. Sabbath evening, Dec. 23, 1722.

  39. Resolved, never to do anything that I so much question the lawfulness of, as that I intend, at the same time, to consider and examine afterwards, whether it be lawful or no; except I as much question the lawfulness of the omission.

  40. Resolved, to inquire every night, before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking. Jan. 7, 1723.

  41. Resolved, to ask myself at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly in any respect have done better. Jan. 11, 1723.

  42. Resolved, frequently to renew the dedication of myself to God, which was made at my baptism; which I solemnly renewed, when I was received into the communion of the church; and which I have solemnly re-made this twelfth day of January, 1722-23.

  43. Resolved, never henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God's, agreeable to what is to be found in Saturday, January 12. Jan.12, 1723.

  44. Resolved, that no other end but religion, shall have any influence at all on any of my actions; and that no action shall be, in the least circumstance, any otherwise than the religious end will carry it. Jan.12, 1723.

  45. Resolved, never to allow any pleasure or grief, joy or sorrow, nor any affection at all, nor any degree of affection, nor any circumstance relating to it, but what helps religion. Jan.12 and 13.1723.

  46. Resolved, never to allow the least measure of any fretting uneasiness at my father or mother. Resolved to suffer no effects of it, so much as in the least alteration of speech, or motion of my eve: and to be especially careful of it, with respect to any of our family.

  47. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to deny whatever is not most agreeable to a good, and universally sweet and benevolent, quiet, peaceable, contented, easy, compassionate, generous, humble, meek, modest, submissive, obliging, diligent and industrious, charitable, even, patient, moderate, forgiving, sincere temper; and to do at all times what such a temper would lead me to. Examine strictly every week, whether I have done so. Sabbath morning. May 5,1723.

  48. Resolved, constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or no; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of. May 26, 1723.

  49. Resolved, that this never shall be, if I can help it.

  50. Resolved, I will act so as I think I shall judge would have been best, and most prudent, when I come into the future world. July 5, 1723.

  51. Resolved, that I will act so, in every respect, as I think I shall wish I had done, if I should at last be damned. July 8, 1723.

  52. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age. July 8, 1723.

  53. Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. July 8, 1723.

  54. Whenever I hear anything spoken in conversation of any person, if I think it would be praiseworthy in me, Resolved to endeavor to imitate it. July 8, 1723.

  55. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if I had already seen the happiness of heaven, and hell torments. July 8, 1723.

  56. Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.

  57. Resolved, when I fear misfortunes and adversities, to examine whether ~ have done my duty, and resolve to do it; and let it be just as providence orders it, I will as far as I can, be concerned about nothing but my duty and my sin. June 9, and July 13 1723.

  58. Resolved, not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness and benignity. May27, and July 13, 1723.

  59. Resolved, when I am most conscious of provocations to ill nature and anger, that I will strive most to feel and act good-naturedly; yea, at such times, to manifest good nature, though I think that in other respects it would be disadvantageous, and so as would be imprudent at other times. May 12, July ii, and July 13.

  60. Resolved, whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination. July 4, and 13, 1723.

  61. Resolved, that I will not give way to that listlessness which I find unbends and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on religion, whatever excuse I may have for it-that what my listlessness inclines me to do, is best to be done, etc. May 21, and July 13, 1723.

  62. Resolved, never to do anything but duty; and then according to Eph. 6:6-8, do it willingly and cheerfully as unto the Lord, and not to man; "knowing that whatever good thing any man doth, the same shall he receive of the Lord." June 25 and July 13, 1723.

  63. On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true luster, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, to act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time. Jan.14' and July '3' 1723.

  64. Resolved, when I find those "groanings which cannot be uttered" (Rom. 8:26), of which the Apostle speaks, and those "breakings of soul for the longing it hath," of which the Psalmist speaks, Psalm 119:20, that I will promote them to the utmost of my power, and that I will not be wear', of earnestly endeavoring to vent my desires, nor of the repetitions of such earnestness. July 23, and August 10, 1723.

  65. Resolved, very much to exercise myself in this all my life long, viz. with the greatest openness I am capable of, to declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to him: all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires, and every thing, and every circumstance; according to Dr. Manton's 27th Sermon on Psalm 119. July 26, and Aug.10 1723.

  66. Resolved, that I will endeavor always to keep a benign aspect, and air of acting and speaking in all places, and in all companies, except it should so happen that duty requires otherwise.

  67. Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.

  68. Resolved, to confess frankly to myself all that which I find in myself, either infirmity or sin; and, if it be what concerns religion, also to confess the whole case to God, and implore needed help. July 23, and August 10, 1723.

  69. Resolved, always to do that, which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. Aug. 11, 1723.

  70. Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak. Aug. 17, 1723.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Atheist: "Africa Needs God"

Atheist Matthew Parris, in a column for Times Online, talks about the need for God, particularly on the African continent. He concludes:
    Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.

    And I'm afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.
First, we heard Penn Jillette's remarks about proselytizing, and now this. I hope believers out there are paying attention.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

IN LOVING MEMORY

Frances Loraine (Reeves) Shelton
June 11, 1924 - December 26, 2008



Friday morning, my loving Mother passed away unexpectedly in her home. At this time, we are not sure how she expired. For the past 5 years my mother has lived "just around the block" from Marsha and me in Cold Spring, Minnesota. On Christmas day, our "Thursday Evening Dinner Club" got together for a Christmas meal. My sister Sharon, her husband Alan, along with Marsha, me and my mother enjoyed each others company while feasting on turkey, dressing, gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry salad and pumpkin pie. It was a time of sweet fellowship with family. We called friends and relatives on the phone and shared precious memories with each one. Little did we know that Mom's time with us was in short supply.

My mother and father were married to each other a little over 60 years. During that time, they displayed what true love was all about as they exampled the love they had for each other to those that lived around them. My father was a true "trailblazer" in many areas of spreading the Gospel. Mom was probably the least selfish person that I ever knew. She placed her husband and children ahead of herself in life. She indeed was the "wind beneath the wings" of my father. If giving is more blessed than receiving, as Jesus Christ said it was, then my mother experienced much blessing in her life.

A Friday, January 2nd memorial service is planned to be held at Mt. Zion Bible Church in Pensacola, Florida. The Bayview Fisher-Pou funeral home is taking care of all arrangements. My father is buried in the Bayview Cemetery and mom will soon join him. Pastor Jeff Pollard, current pastor, will conduct the service.
- Lee R. Shelton, III

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Favorite Christmas Passage

"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" (Galatians 4:4-5). This passage doesn't typically spring to mind when we think of Christmas, but I think it captures the essence of what we're celebrating.

But when the fullness of time had come...
The timing of Christ's birth was not random or arbitrary. It occurred at a very important time with respect to Old Testament history, especially as it pertained to the law and Christ's roles of Prophet (Acts 3:19-26), Priest (Hebrews 6:20), and King (Matthew 26:64).

The timing was also important for the spreading of the gospel. The Roman Empire had brought general unity and stability to the known world. Greek was the lingua franca of the empire, meaning it was used and recognized throughout many different countries and cultures, much like English is today.

...God sent forth his Son...
The fact that Jesus was sent tells us that he came with a purpose. His birth was a meaningful, deliberate act.

...born of woman...
It was prophesied that Christ would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). He was the very Word of God made flesh (John 1:14).

...born under the law...
He was born under the law because he came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17). He lived a perfect, sinless life (Hebrews 4:15) and showed us how we might fulfill the law through love (Romans 13:8-10).

...to redeem those who were under the law...
The law convicts us of sin, and once we understand that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), we realize that to be under the law is to be cursed (Galatians 3:10). "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us -- for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree'" (Galatians 3:13).

...so that we might receive adoption as sons.
It is only because we have been freed from the curse that we can be adopted into God's family. The righteousness imputed to us as believers is not due to our own works but the work of Christ (Romans 4:5-8). Because of his sacrifice, the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us (Romans 8:2-4).

May God bless you and yours this holiday season, and may we all remember why Christ came in the first place. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Away in a Manger

This nativity scene is about as biblically and historically accurate as any other you'll see this Christmas:

The Arminian Problem Simplified

If you don't want to acknowledge that the future is decreed by God, Phil Johnson believes you are left with two alternatives:
  1. Some being other than God determines the future and is therefore more sovereign than He. That is a kind of idolatry.

  2. Some impersonal force does the determining without reason or coherence. That is a kind of fatalism.
God is not one to relinquish his sovereignty, nor does he simply react to what unfolds.

Friday, December 19, 2008

This Week in Calvinism - December 19, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Atheist Penn Jillette on Proselytizing

If you're familiar at all with Penn Jillette, the vocal half of the famous magic and comedy duo Penn & Teller, you know that he is a very outspoken atheist who has never shied away from ridiculing the Bible or Christianity. So, you can imagine my surprise when I saw this:
Interesting and convicting.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

'Tis a Gift to Be Simple...

Pope Benedict XVI is hopeful that the global economic crisis will help us rediscover the "simplicity" of Christmas.




Naturally, when I think of the Pope or the Vatican, the first word that pops into my mind is "simplicity."

Friday, December 12, 2008

This Week in Calvinism - December 12, 2008

  • There are four main points to remember when discrediting Calvinism. First, single out one contemporary author or theologian to act as a representative for everyone else. Second, paint a negative picture of Calvinism by focusing on just one or two historical incidents (e.g. the execution of Servetus). Third, avoid using scripture to support your claims. The last thing you want is to have people studying the issue for themselves to see if what you're telling them actually makes any sense. Fourth, imply that while Calvinists may not say that those who disagree with them are lost, their theology actually demands that they believe it in their hearts. This last point is the most important because it trumps any argument the Calvinist may use in response. I mean, how much credibility can a guy have if he thinks everyone else is going to Hell?

  • Timmy Brister on the casualties of anti-Calvinism.

  • Regarding the turmoil over Calvinism in the SBC, Nathan Finn asks (and I'm paraphrasing here), "Can't we all just get along?"

  • And now back to Timmy Brister for his response.

  • Kevin Jackson believes that "Calvinist theology damages the body of Christ," and that "Calvinism is a distortion of the Gospel." I guess that explains why he became an Arminian.

  • Does Calvinism make the universal offer of the gospel insincere? No.

  • I've heard Calvinists called a lot of things, but "Pelagian"? That's a new one.

  • Is God a God of love or a God of wrath? "God expresses both love and wrath," writes Tim Challies, "but where wrath is demonstrated, love is personified. God is love."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Free Will: A Matter of Physics?

Arminians and Calvinists don't have a monopoly on the debate over free will. Philosophers have wrestled with the issue for millennia.

The following clip is from the movie Waking Life. I found it rather interesting, and thought you might as well:

Jonathan Edwards Library Online

Everything Jonathan Edwards has written is available online...for FREE! Check it out here.

(HT: Adrian Warnock)

Saturday, December 06, 2008

A Question for Atheists

If only the natural world exists, then how did belief in the supernatural evolve?

Friday, December 05, 2008

This Week in Calvinism - December 5, 2008

  • In this video, James White weighs in on the John 3:16 Conference.

  • On the anti-Calvinist movement in the Southern Baptist Convention, Greg Alford writes, "Someone needs to tell these guys to STOP this war on Calvinism before serious and lasting damage is done to the SBC and the Evangelical Community as a whole."

  • Are you unaware of what's been going on lately in the SBC? Let Ronjour Locke bring you up to speed.

  • Another "convert"!

  • Steve at Triablogue has an interesting post on time travel from a Calvinist perspective.

  • Rab Houston, professor of modern history at the University of St. Andrews and author of Scotland: A Very Short Introduction, isn't religious, but, according to Times Higher Education, "he believes that Christianity, and indeed Calvinism, have had a positive impact on Scotland ... Calvinism is generally considered a dour religion, but Professor Houston disputes this image, pointing out how it accommodated popular festivities."

  • Matthew Halsted on Ergun Caner, Calvinism, and Protestantism.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Conjunction Junction, What's Your Function?*

Tonight we will be treated to a rare celestial event: Venus and Jupiter will converge with the crescent moon to form an "unhappy face" in the southern sky. It should be quite a sight.



Some historians believe that a similar conjunction occurred around 2 B.C., inspiring the story of the Star of Bethlehem. This theory typically comes up this time of year to downplay the significance of the events surrounding Christ's birth. But even if we concede that what was witnessed 2,000 years ago was some sort of planetary alignment, we must still conclude that it was nothing short of miraculous since the wise men from the east followed it for about two years (Matthew 2).

So, what is the significance of this event? Nothing...other than the heavens continuing to declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1).


*Hey, give me a break. I grew up on Schoolhouse Rock!

Debate: Does God Exist?

On October 30, 2008, Douglas Wilson and Christopher Hitchens met at Westminster Theological Seminary to debate the existence of God.



You can watch the video here.

(Pics stolen from Doug Wilson's blog.)

Friday, November 28, 2008

This Week in Calvinism - November 28, 2008

This being a holiday week, I didn't really have time to read many blogs, but here are a few items that caught my attention:
  • Pull a few choice quotes out of context, compare them to carefully selected Bible verses, and voila! You can "prove" that Calvinism is nothing more than a man-made religion.

  • Mike Corley and Pastor Scott Reiber discuss the recent John 3:16 Conference.

  • You might be a hyper-Calvinist if...

  • Tom Ascol on the SBC and Calvinism: three events that widened the divide.
Hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Good Place to Start

    Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne.
    Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own.
    Awake, my soul, and sing of Him who died for thee,
    And hail Him as thy matchless King through all eternity.
We're all familiar with that hymn. It is one many of us have sung all our lives, and it is undoubtedly featured in thousands of churches across America on Easter Sunday -- which is one of the reasons why I believe that, to an extent, all Christians are amillennial.

Think about it. Even the most ardent dispensationalist won't deny that Christ is currently reigning. Rather, he will stand up in church and belt out praises to "the Lamb upon His throne" with every bit as much joy and enthusiasm as the amillennialist brother standing next to him.

But the most fundamental aspect of amillennialism is the recognition that Christ is (present tense) reigning. To deny that is to deny scripture. Besides, how can one be a king if one has no kingdom? As his royal title implies, Christ is reigning now.

Let's take a look at just a few passages that deal with the immediacy of Christ's kingdom. Perhaps the first thing we should note is that Jesus was worshiped as a king from the moment he was born (Matthew 2:2). From the beginning of his ministry -- even before he called his first disciples --- he preached the message, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17).

Jesus himself spoke of his reign as a present reality. In Matthew 12:28-29, he said, "But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you."

Jesus spoke about his death and resurrection to a crowd gathered around him, saying, "Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power" (Mark 9:1).

Even the thief on the cross recognized Christ's kingdom as a present reality: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom" (Luke 23:42).

The Apostle Paul was confronted by a group of people in Rome, and "he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets" (Acts 28:23).

Paul referred to his Christian brothers as "fellow workers for the kingdom of God" (Colossians 4:11).

We read in Hebrews 12:2 that Christ "is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."

Now, to be sure, you will find disagreement all across the theological spectrum as to the extent of Christ's present reign. But I think the realization that he is reigning is a good starting point on the road to understanding amillennialism, or "inaugurated eschatology."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Intellectual Neutrality Is a Myth

Gary DeMar reminds us that "no one is neutral and facts don't speak for themselves":
    Many Christians and most secularists argue as if facts are self-interpreting, that reasonable men and women will come to the same reasonable conclusion when presented with a reasonable argument based on a fair and reasonable presentation of the facts. This rarely happens. As William Watkins writes, "Facts do not come with interpretation tags, telling us how to view them. ... Both sides haggle over the facts. Both sides search for new facts to add to their arsenals. Both sides raise accusations, yet it's a rare day indeed when both sides acknowledge that their differences stem from something much more basic than facts. Their differences are rooted in opposing worldviews, which in turn are permeated with philosophical assumptions and commitments." ...

    ... We can never assume that "facts alone" will be enough to confirm the validity of the Christian faith to someone whose interior logic begins with naturalistic presuppositions. Jesus performed many miracles before many eyewitnesses, and still they did not believe. For example, the Sadducees, "who say there is no resurrection" (Matt. 22:23), heard every reasoned claim of a resurrection but filtered the information through an anti-supernatural hearing device. Why did those in Athens "sneer" (Acts 17:32) when Paul spoke of the resurrection before they heard his account of it? The very idea of a resurrection did not fit their naturalistic worldview. All talk about the "facts" of a resurrection would be discarded because an anti-supernatural worldview cannot (will not) account or make room for any supernatural claim.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What Government Cannot Do

All too often it seems we Christians aren't willing to get our own hands dirty. It's much easier to vote for a politician who says he will feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and care for the sick. So, many of us simply check a box on election day and go home feeling as if we've actually accomplished something.

But there are some things governments just cannot do. My friend, Dr. Dave Black, who has spent a great deal of time ministering in Ethiopia, writes:
    There is a profound tendency to want to help these people on the purely societal level in much the same way that a U.S. president is expected to accommodate the whims of 350 million Americans who demand affordable health care, job security, secure bank accounts, and optimal retirement plans. The missionary goes to Ethiopia with a sincere commitment to build Christ's kingdom, but it is easy to read into Jesus' words our own agenda: "My kingdom is not of this world, so act as though you can achieve peace, justice, equality, liberty, and a prosperous planet without Me or My Gospel."

    That's certainly not what Jesus meant, but that’s how we act so often. If I am critical of Mr. Obama's overly-optimistic view of government, it is not because I'm attacking him. Most Americans have bought into the lie that political, societal, and economic conditions can be solved by political instruments.

    But as I point one finger elsewhere, I'm pointing three at myself. For how often do I act as if Jesus said, "Go, sell some of what you have"? Didn't He say “all of what you have"? Didn't He tell me to give to the poor? Didn't He tell me to sacrifice so that others might live?

    That's why the Gospel is so offensive; that's why it's so intolerable. It expects us to act in a completely irrational way: Trust God! Put not your confidence in anything human! Renounce everything, and then you will possess everything! "We have nothing, although we possess everything," wrote Paul, and he meant it (2 Cor. 6:10). "We're beggars, although we make others rich." "We're dying but -- as you can see -- we go on living."...

    ... The bottom line of the bottom line: I do not look to the government. It is only when the church is the church and when she travails in labor pains that she brings forth sons and daughters who have the power to change society from the inside out.

Friday, November 21, 2008

God vs. Goodness



This banner is part of a clever little ad campaign:
    "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake," proclaims a new holiday ad from the American Humanist Association. Already appearing today in the New York Times and Washington Post, the message will soon be blazoned on the sides, taillights, and interiors of over 200 Washington DC Metro buses.

    It's the first ad campaign of its kind in the United States, and the American Humanist Association predicts it will raise public awareness of humanism as well as controversy over humanist ideas.

    "Humanists have always understood that you don't need a god to be good," said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. "So that's the point we're making with this advertising campaign. Morality doesn't come from religion. It's a set of values embraced by individuals and society based on empathy, fairness, and experience."
Deny God, believe in goodness. Does anyone else see the irony here?

No one can define "goodness" based on a set of arbitrary principles, but that's exactly what these atheists/humanists try to do:
    We can have ethics and values that aren't set in stone. Our ideals and principles can evolve over time to reflect our ever-changing and increasingly complex world. Yet, we can be confident of the decisions that we make, not because someone told us what to do but because we relied on our own careful reasoning and emotional reflection. ...

    ... Humanists understand that compassion for fellow human beings, as well as an acknowledgement of their inherent dignity and worth, must form the basis of our interactions with each other. Humanists are free of belief in any god or afterlife. We must make the best of this one life that we have.
So, just be good for goodness' sake -- even though your definition of goodness may change depending on how you feel at that particular time.

This Week in Calvinism - November 21, 2008

Not much to report this week...
  • Lisa has some tough questions for Calvinists.

  • Calvinists are more perceptive than atheists. Who didn't know that? ;)

  • Nathaniel Wallace once "happily embraced this prickly, dour theology" of Calvinism, but has since seen the light and apologized.

  • Call yourself "Reformed" and you'll irritate Dr. James Emery White.

  • "White Man" doesn't believe Calvinism is a cult; he believes it has evolved beyond that into a religion.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gospel-Driven Parenting

In light of yesterday's post, I decided to revisit something I posted on a couple of years ago.

Rob Wilkerson, blogging at Miscellanies on the Gospel, believes it's crucial to present the gospel to our children -- especially when disciplining them:
    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:
  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.
You can read the entire post here.

I pray that Christian parents will be emboldened to train up their children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6), even though the world will hate and despise them for it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Biblical Teaching or Child Abuse?

Check out this post from Jean in Lancashire, England, in which she relates something her daughter said one morning:
    As usual first thing when she woke up today she said, "I am going to be a good girl today mummy," and I nodded and said, "OK." She was quiet for a while as if in deep thought then she said, "But mummy, everyday I try and I want to be a good girl, but I can't do it. I can't be a good girl." I didn't know what to say to her at this point so I asked her why she could not do it. "Because there is only one person who can ever help me to be good," she said.

    So not knowing where this was going and a little confused by what my daughter was saying, I asked her who it is who would help her to be a good girl, thinking maybe she was going to say me, she said - Jesus. Yes my four year old daughter told me that the only person who would ever help her to be a good girl was Jesus Christ, because she could not do it on her own. I have never told her this. I would have thought this is too deep for a four year old to understand. That she was a sinner, she could not control her sinful nature. She wanted to be good but she could not, instead she did things that where wrong no matter how she tried to be good. Her theology is far deeper than that of many preachers today. I mean she gets it. It is only by the finished work of Christ on the cross that we can be delivered from sin. The righteousness of God is imputed to us when we forsake our sins and believe, 2 Corinthians 5:21. It is Christ who works in us enabling us to do good when we are saved, otherwise all our good works are like filthy rugs before God. She sounded like Paul in Romans 7, "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" And she understood the answer, that it is only through Christ that we can be delivered and freed from the bondage of sin. I was so amazed by God's power that I wanted to cry. I have never shared this with her, so how did she know? It can only be the work of the Holy Spirit. For a little girl to know that she can not be good on her own, that there is only one who can help her, that is Jesus is beyond my comprehension. When she said that all I said to her was that she was right. I did not say anything more as I was in shock and I did not want to ruin what the Lord was doing in her heart. I am not saying she got saved, she is only four. But one thing I know God is definitely working in my little girl's life. It encouraged me to pray for her even more. She is a wretched little girl, who knows she is a wretched sinner who needs only a good saviour to help her. Glory belongs to God!
That is exactly what every Christian parent should be praying for! But what does this sound like to unbelievers?

The world sees no need for a savior. Man is not seen as inherently evil, so any talk of original sin is foolish.

If you have the time, take a look at the hundreds of comments Jean's post generated. She is ridiculed. She is mocked. She is attacked by those who love darkness over the light (John 3:19). Here are just a few examples:
    "Jean, YOU are the wretched vile thing here. I weep for your children, you evil thing, you!!!"

    "I'll say this, and I won't be the last. This IS child abuse. I hope one day your little girl realizes she is a human being, deserving of love and respect, and overcomes your attempts to make her feel worthless. I hope someone in your area has the good sense to forward this to social services."

    "We do worship the god we create in our image. You are worshiping an evil god."

    "You are a brainwashed religious lunatic who shouldn't be allowed to look after a dog, let alone a human child. I am both outraged at you and infinitely sad for the little girl who is at the mercy of your wretched, stinking, evil religion."

    "This is the most flagrantly chilling admission of child abuse that I have ever read. A sick, twisted woman passing that concept onto an impressionable child. This is disgusting. Someone contact social services, that child needs a loving parent."

    "I hope you know that there is a discussion on Richard Dawkins' website about finding out who you are and reporting you to the child protection authorities."

    "I'm ashamed you call yourself Christian. You've completely disregarded Christ's lessons and have taken the worst out of the Bible and made it the rule of your life. You've decided you're going to hell and are going to drag your poor, innocent daughter with you. Well I can promise you that hell is where you're going unless you repent the evil you're doing, take control of your life and help fix in your daughter what you're trying so hard to destroy."

    "Child Protection Services has been notified of this blog. I am utterly horrified at your misconduct towards your daughter, and I feel nothing but contempt for you and your ilk!"
Oh, that we may all be convicted of just how wretched and vile we are. Unless we see the need for repentance, we will never see the need for a savior.

Please pray for Jean, her daughter, and the rest of her family. Pray also that the Gospel message gets through to someone because of this.

UPDATE
It seems representatives from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children have paid Jean a visit. There is the possibility her daughter could be taken away. Pray it doesn't come to that.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Psalm 58:3

This Week in Calvinism - November 14, 2008

Recapping this week:
  • Leave it to Internet "philosophers" to discuss Calvinism and how it relates to the salvation of extra-terrestrials.

  • For whom did Christ die?

  • God's people may slip and slide, but we do not fall away from grace. He will cause us to return.

  • For the last time, James White is not a hyper-Calvinist.

  • TBNN reports that Calvinism has finally been defeated once and for all: "The most amazing part of the [John 3:16] conference was when one of the speakers reportedly said, 'We're right. They're wrong. Who's wrong? A few guys named Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, John Owen, John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, William Carey, Adoniram Judson, James Boyce, Arthur Pink, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, J. I. Packer, R. C. Sproul, John MacArthur, and especially John Piper.'"

  • Seriously, do you really want to defeat Calvinism? Here's how.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Election Results Got You Down?

Voddie Baucham reminds us that it's not all bad. Here are just a couple of things about which he is encouraged:
  • Evangelicals will be forced to rely on the gospel instead of the government as the means of cultural transformation.

  • Perhaps "conservatives" will dust off the Constitution and start holding our leaders accountable to it again. In the past eight years George W. Bush has in many ways made a mockery of the Constitution (the Patriot Act, "No Child Left Behind," an undeclared, unconstitutional war, proposing the $700 Billion bailout, etc.). Unfortunately, many conservatives gave him a pass. I have a feeling Mr. Obama will be called to task for doing things Mr. Bush did in spades (i.e., the largest expansion of government in American history).

Reformation Polka

Yeah, I'm a little late in posting this, but it's still funny.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Emerging Legislature

It's official. Emergent guru Doug Pagitt is running for office:
    After two years of thinking, planning and dreaming I have made a decision to add a new component to my work and service life: I am going to join the political field and run for public office.

    So, today I announce that I am running for the Minnesota State Legislature in 2010.

    While the 2008 election just ended minutes ago, I am setting my sights on November 2, 2010, only 729 days away.
This new endeavor shouldn't take any time away from his ministry. Pastors who aren't busy preaching the gospel tend to have a lot of extra time on their hands.

This Week in Calvinism - November 7, 2008

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Voting, Conscience, and Sin

Elections tend to bring out the worst in people. Even in the Reformed circles of the blogosphere accusations were being tossed around about how a vote, or failure to vote, for a particular candidate was a sin. Did we really have to sink to that level?

At the risk of offending some of my readers, let me point out the blatantly obvious fact that there is no biblical command to vote. While some have used the dominion mandate in Genesis 1 and the subjection command in Romans 13 to argue that we have a responsibility or duty to vote, I submit that voting is simply one method of exercising influence.

In this country we (at least for now) are free to vote, but we are just as free not to vote. How we vote and if we vote are matters of conscience, and the conscience is an important thing to consider. Let me illustrate.

In 1924, Eric Liddell refused to run in the Olympic Games on Sunday. He believed strongly that it would be a violation of the Fourth Commandment to keep the Sabbath holy (Exodus 20:8). We can all respect that. I consider Liddell to be a great man of faith, even though I disagree with his view of the Sabbath.

Jesus told us in Mark 2:27, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath." We are under a new and better Covenant (Hebrews 8:6), and believers have already entered into a Sabbath rest (Hebrews 4). Christ is our Sabbath, not a particular day of the week. The Fourth Commandment was a shadow of what was to come, and the death penalty imposed for breaking that commandment was merely a glimpse of what would happen to those found outside of Christ in the coming judgment.

Yet Eric Liddell was convinced in his heart and mind that running on Sunday was breaking God's law. Therefore, it would have been a sin for him to compete, since he would have been in violation of his conscience. Likewise, it would have been a sin for other Christians to encourage him to act against his conscience.

This principle is applied in scripture to all aspects of our lives, from what we eat and drink (Romans 14:21, 1st Corinthians 8:10) to what we think and believe (2nd Corinthians 10:5, 1st Timothy 1:5, 1:19). Our conscience bears witness to the law of God written on our hearts (Romans 2:15).

So, how does all of this apply to voting? I believe that we should examine ourselves before casting a single vote. Ask yourself, "What are my intentions? What are my motivations? Are they in line with God's word?"

As with many issues in our Christian walk, we will have agreements and disagreements with our brothers and sisters. I think we can all agree, for example, that drunkenness is a sin. But what about the moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages? Try asking a Southern Baptist if it's possible to come to a general consensus.

When it comes to voting, there are countless issues that must be weighed, and because we are fallen human beings with vastly different backgrounds and experiences, we will not view each one in the same way. For me, a major concern is the slaughter of the unborn. I cannot in good conscience support a pro-choice politician who pledges to keep abortion "safe" and legal. I also cannot bring myself to support a candidate who claims to be pro-life, yet turns around and votes to confirm pro-abortion judges and send billions of taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood.

As you have no doubt surmised, I did not vote for the Democrat or Republican for president. I cast my vote for the Constitution Party candidate, the guy who had "no chance" of winning.

Was that a sin? In the eyes of some, it was. I have been told on more than one occasion that a vote for anyone other than (fill in name of Republican candidate) is a sin because it ends up being a vote for the Democrat opponent (i.e. a vote in favor of abortion).

But there are other issues to consider as well, such as a politician's consistent refusal to honor his or her oath to uphold the Constitution. That document is the supreme law of the land. In other words, it is the governing authority to which we are all subject (Romans 13:1), and that includes civil leaders. When our elected representatives ignore the restraints on their power, they are governing unjustly. Vows were taken seriously in scripture (Numbers 30:2). Oaths are considered "final for confirmation" (Hebrews 6:16). Should such a grave dereliction of duty be rewarded with a vote?

It isn't my intention to delve into every single controversial issue (e.g. confiscation of private property, government-run education, financial bailouts of private businesses at taxpayer expense, preemptive war, etc.). My point is to encourage each of us to examine our own motives for voting rather than lash out at those who may have voted differently. After all, we are ultimately accountable to God for our actions.

What are your thoughts? If you can keep a relatively civil tone and the expletives to a minimum, then feel free to jump right in and speak your mind.

Monday, November 03, 2008

A Brief Thought Before Voting

If you are voting for Barack Obama, John McCain, Chuck Baldwin, Bob Barr, or some other candidate for president, what are your motives for doing so? Are they in line with what scripture has to say about the proper role of government? Would a vote for a particular candidate cause you to violate your conscience?

What about local elections? Has your attention been so focused on the presidential race that you have neglected to explore the candidates and issues more directly affecting you and your family?

Are you still torn over your decision? Have you just not studied the issues enough to make an informed decision?

We are commanded to examine ourselves before partaking of the Lord's Supper (1st Corinthians 11:28). Perhaps it would be wise to do the same before stepping into that voting booth.

Friday, October 31, 2008

This Week in Calvinism - October 31, 2008

Happy Reformation Day!
  • How can God hold people accountable if we're unable to choose him? It isn't like we're tied to a chair against our will, unable to comply when someone asks us to stand up. No, depraved man wants nothing to do with God. We curse him. We shake our fists at him. If we receive eternal punishment, we're getting exactly what we want. That is why our hearts of stone must be replaced with hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26).

  • Want to defeat the "satanic lie" of Calvinism? Here's how!

  • If Adam and Eve passed on their sinfulness to their children, why isn't new life in Christ also hereditary? I don't have a Ph.D. like Eusebio Tanicala, so I'm unqualified to even ponder such questions. The best answer I can come up with is that it isn't taught in scripture. Original sin, however, is (Romans 5:12).

  • Jim Kang on the influences of John Calvin on today's churches.

  • Bruce abandoned Calvinism and now seeks a middle ground between exclusivism and universalism.

  • Calvinism? Reformed? "Name it what you will," writes Christina, "I love the Gospel as Calvin catalogued it. The Gospel as the Apostles taught it. The Gospel as Christ (God the Son) preached it."

  • Erik, the "Irish Calvinist," reviews The Prodigal God, by Timothy Keller.

  • And what would a Halloween post be without a link to Martin Luther's 95 Theses?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Reformation Reminder

Jesus was not God. Mary was not a virgin. The resurrection story should not be taken literally. These are some of the claims made by Peter Dresser, an Australian Catholic priest, in a booklet entitled "God is Big. Real Big!"

On Christ's divinity he writes:
    No human being can ever be God. And Jesus was a human being. It is as simple as that! ...

    ... The people who made Jesus into a God -- or to be more theologically correct, the Incarnate Son of God -- were a breakaway group of Jews, Christians, who claimed that this person Jesus was the Messiah, the anointed One of God, the Christos. Subsequently there developed over the early church period some theological reflections regarding this man Jesus which ultimately lead to the Council of Nicaea which encoded the major beliefs of the mainstream Christian churches today, including the divinity of Jesus. I want to return to this whole matter regarding Jesus being God a little later because it is a concept that not only does violence to my own intelligence but must be a sticking point for millions of people trying to make some kind of sense of the Christian religion. The concept of Jesus being an avatar makes considerable contemporary sense. It does not detract in any way from Jesus being a human person, it explains more easily his relationship with his God, and it helps us to read and respect the lives and teachings of other avatars -- something very important for us living in the global village.
On the virgin birth:
    A human couple cannot give birth to God! But because the early Church saw Jesus as a divine person, God, the notion of virgin birth had to be introduced in order to explain this phenomenon. And what an overzealous and violent attempt it was. Mary was proclaimed to have been a virgin before, during and after* the birth of her son. This really affronts one’s intelligence because it is simply not possible! Not even the traditional God can do something that is logically impossible. And it is logically impossible to be a mother and remain a virgin.

    (*My note: Protestants do not hold to Mary's perpetual virginity.)
On the resurrection:
    It is important that we do not accept resurrection in a literal sense as being a resuscitation -- and Jesus literally coming alive and dancing on the tomb! Those who insist on interpreting Jesus' resurrection as his physical restoration have perhaps never considered the difficulties raised by such a view. ...

    ... It is not my intention to prolong discussion on the literal interpretation of resurrection except to say that once again we are confronted with religious language. Even the expression that Jesus was raised up on the third day is not to be taken literally.
In the following clip, Tim Brunero of LiveNews.com.au talks to Dresser about his booklet. Note how Dresser opens the interview with a blatant lie: "I'm a little bit sort of dismayed that this has caused controversy, to tell you the truth." No, this is exactly what he set out to do.



How appropriate that this story comes out just before we Protestants celebrate Reformation Day. Let this serve as a reminder that reformation wasn't a one-time thing. We must remain constantly on guard, ready to make a defense for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15).

Luke 12:15

And he said to them, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Double Predestination

Mark Kielar discusses the doctrine of double predestination in this excerpt from the 16-part DVD series The Sovereignty of God.

Friday, October 24, 2008

This Week in Calvinism - October 24, 2008

Some items you may have missed this week...
  • The three main beliefs that separate Wesleyans from Calvinists (as surmised from Pastor Scott's comments): 1) Universal salvation is possible, despite the biblical teaching of election; 2) nothing was really accomplished on the cross -- it was just an expression of God's love, an invitation to a relationship with Him; 3) salvation is more about experiencing change now than it is about the removal of God's wrath.

  • Eusebio Tanicala, Ph.D., accuses Calvinists of being too universalist in their application of Romans 3:10-12 ("None is righteous, no, not one..."). But in light of the universality of Romans 3:23 ("for all have sinned..."), the good doctor's argument falls flat.

  • Open theist Preston N. thinks Calvinists like John Piper, Tim Keller, and D. A. Carson are promoting lawlessness because they believe that even our future sins were paid for on the cross. Now, is it really necessary for me to point out the glaringly obvious fact that since Christ's sacrifice on the cross occurred at a fixed point in time, he was dying for past and future sins? This isn't to say that we have no need for repentance after we are saved. Repentance of sin is an integral part of sanctification. Is it Preston's point, then, that we should never be assured of our salvation? That we should live every day in fear of falling away?

  • "Solomoney" doesn't like the Calvinistic interpretation of John 3:16. Personally, I don't fret over the word "world" being interpreted as referring to the "human race." God certainly has a general love for his creation, and in saving a remnant he saves mankind from total destruction. The key to understanding this particular verse is the phrase "whoever believes in him." Who believes in Christ? The elect (Titus 1:1), the sheep (John 10:26-27), those who were predestined for adoption (Ephesians 1:5, Ephesians 1:11) and given to Christ by the Father (John 10:29).

  • It's difficult to imagine that anyone has missed J. I. Packer's quote on One-Point Calvinism, but in case you did, here it is.

  • Oh, that all of us could learn to pray like this!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Constitutional Hermeneutics

Gary DeMar, in a recent essay, discusses the importance of interpreting the Constitution correctly.

Friday, October 17, 2008

This Week in Calvinism - October 17, 2008

It's that time once again, boys and girls...
  • How well do you know your "fives"?

  • Maybe it's because it's still early, or that I haven't finished my coffee, but studying the in-depth history of Tolkien's Middle Earth seems less complicated than discussing the topic of middle knowledge. If you're interested, Travis James Campbell provides an excellent critique on the subject, concluding that "not only a consistent Calvinist, but a consistent Christian must reject the doctrine of middle knowledge." (And I assume that would include all moderate versions of it as well.)

  • Trevor Hammack responds to a sermon attacking Calvinism.

  • Drew Lewis is currently on part 5 of his 7-part response to atheist John Loftus on the problem of evil.

  • Bruce Watson, commenting on the economy, writes, "In the United States, the land where Calvinism never died, wealth is still considered a sign of rectitude and poverty a mark of weakness." Oh, so that's why every Calvinist I know is a millionaire.

  • Adam Christensen compares Calvinism to honey: "I find it sweet, refreshing when I need a little boost, and kind of sticky. Really, it gets pretty messy from time to time, too, especially when in the hands of someone that is new to it."

  • David Hall on John Calvin’s political theology.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Science in the Bible: The Hydrologic Cycle

Water is the source of all life on earth. The distribution of water, however, is quite varied; many locations have plenty of it while others have very little. Water exists on earth as a solid (ice), liquid or gas (water vapor). Oceans, rivers, clouds, and rain, all of which contain water, are in a frequent state of change (surface water evaporates, cloud water precipitates, rainfall infiltrates the ground, etc.). However, the total amount of the earth's water does not change. The circulation and conservation of earth's water is called the "hydrologic cycle."
(From the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)



Job 26:8
"He binds up the waters in his thick clouds, and the cloud is not split open under them."

Job 36:27-29
"For he draws up the drops of water; they distill his mist in rain, which the skies pour down and drop on mankind abundantly. Can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds, the thunderings of his pavilion?"

Ecclesiastes 1:6-7
"The wind blows to the south and goes around to the north; around and around goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns. All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again."

Amos 9:6
"Who builds his upper chambers in the heavens and founds his vault upon the earth; who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out upon the surface of the earth -- the Lord is his name."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Childhood Conversion

As one who is in the process of adopting three kids, I have been thinking long and hard about presenting the gospel to my children -- especially since learning that Philippe, at age 7, professed his belief in Christ. Now, I know that he and his sister are in a Christian-run orphanage in Haiti and are taught from scripture on a daily basis, but I wasn't there when this happened, so I really don't know what was said to him before or after that profession.

As you can imagine, all sorts of questions have been running through my mind: How can Christian parents know that they are getting through to their kids? What do they do when their young children make a decision to follow Christ? How can they be joyful about such a decision while remaining cautious that they don't foster deception?

Jim Elliff has written an excellent article on the subject. What follows are some of the highlights. On the topic of conviction, he writes:
    Conviction is the work of the Spirit in bringing sin and the necessity of Christ home to the child's conscience. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, righteousness (that is, that there is only one righteousness and it is found in Christ), and judgment (see Jn. 16:8-11). In looking for conviction, we should avoid any preconceived ideas about how many tears or how much agony is appropriate and keep in mind that conviction is God's tool to bring your child to a hatred of sin. God alone knows what it takes. That there must be conviction in the preparation for salvation is, however, a bedrock truth. It is in the development of conviction that the parent can play a most significant part. By carefully laying out the law (the demands of God on the conscience), by explaining the consequences of breaking that law, and by continually emphasizing the exclusivity of Christ in delivering the child from those consequences, the parent cooperates with the Spirit in this special preparation of the heart.
On revelation:
    Young Samuel ministered before the Lord (1 Sam. 3:1), but did not yet know the Lord (vs.7) before the Lord "called" him. The reason is that the Word of the Lord was not yet revealed to him (vs. 7). Eli in this case did help Samuel to know that it was the Lord who was calling the boy, and gave him the proper response, which might indicate a place for the parent's intervention in interpreting events. When Paul preached Christ's cross in Corinth he said that to some it was foolishness and to others it was a stumblingblock, but it was the power of God unto salvation to the called (see 1 Cor. 1: 22-24). Here he is speaking of the effectual call of the Holy Spirit rather than the broader call of the preacher (i.e. "Many are called, but few chosen" Mt. 20: 16). This is another way to discuss this issue of revelation. One convert said, "Christ became as irresistible to me as my sin had been before." Observation and counsel are important here, but you cannot play God's part. Your child is not just signing a contract because he wants to close a good deal, but is meeting a person who has the power to reveal or not reveal. "Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near..." (Isa. 55:6)
On regeneration:
    We have put a paradigm of exact dating on most conversions so that we tend to force whatever is happening in the child into a moment in time which he or she can remember, but the reality may be far more difficult to ascertain. For instance, my child has often prayed at night about his soul. I encourage this and often remind him and the other children, "Don't forget to talk to God about your soul before going to sleep." What I am looking for is not whether or not he has said some words in the right way that supposedly "bind" God to give him salvation. No, what I am looking for, and what he is looking for, is a changed life. He is looking for the signs of being made a "new creature" in Christ.

    When we speak of assurance, we are speaking of that which we know because the evidence is clear. This is the heart of First John and the other passages dealing with this subject. The way to tell if you are a Christian is not to look at the sincerity of a decision, but to look at the change in the life. As far as I can tell, there is no teaching in the Word which says that you can be sure that you are a Christian by looking back at an historical conversion experience. "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life..." (1 Jn. 5:13, emphasis mine). What things? Those tests which make up the content of the epistle. In other words, one's assurance should be based on discernible factors which can be tested.
On correcting our mistakes:
    Leaders and parents must consider the benefits of returning to a better method of dealing with the souls of our children. To give assurance on the basis of praying a prayer or some other outward, immediate sign is sealing many in deception and makes them harder to reach in their adult years. Any casual look at the disparity between the rolls of our churches plus the numbers of supposed converts who do not even find their way on to our rolls against the actual changed lives being produced, should cause us to do some very serious thinking. In the manner of our great grandfathers who often exhibited such reasonableness and biblical wisdom, we should return to a method that both allows our active and vigorous pursuit of our children's salvation, while at the same time protects against large scale deception.
Every Christian parent will want to check out the entire article.

Feel free to share your thoughts on this weighty issue. Training up a child in the way he should go (Proverbs 22:6) is a frightfully important task, one that should not be taken lightly.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The World As Seen Through an Atheist's (Irreducibly Complex) Eyes


"The architect is a true visionary!"


"What a remarkable feat of engineering!"


"An awesome achievement of brilliant scientific minds!"


"Such intricate design is obviously the work of a very talented artist!"



"There is no God!"

Monday, October 13, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

This Week in Calvinism - October 10, 2008

This week in Calvinism...
  • Calvin on government.

  • "Inks75" stops to smell the TULIPs.

  • Mike Ratliff cautions, "What each of us should do who are Calvinists is examine ourselves to see if we are leaning too far towards the hyper side of Reformed theology. We must never forget that God created a system of salvation based on His Sovereignty while Man is still responsible to repent and believe. We are under orders to make disciples from all nations. We elect no one. That is God's purview not ours. Just as we deny that people are saved through 'decisional regeneration' we also deny that people are saved through 'doctrinal regeneration.'"

  • Rick Long is Reformed, but not a Calvinist.

  • What Aaron O'Harra learned at the Desiring God National Conference: "In the end, God will not be impressed that I talked with Bob Kauflin, or shook the hand of Mark Driscoll, or saved a seat for Paul Tripp, or that I know John Piper. The only thing God will care about is 'Did you talk with the poor? Did you shake the hand of the leper? Did you save a seat for the lame? And most of all, did you know my son?'"

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Repackaging Scripture

How do you make the most offensive book in history more palatable for non-believers? Why, change the packaging, of course:
More on "Bible Illuminated: The Book" here:
    "In general, Bible publishers have always been creative, but now they are scrambling to meet a culture where people are moving away from print reading," said Paul Gutjahr, an associate professor of English and adjunct associate professor in religious studies at Indiana University. ...

    ... "In a visually literate, advertising-skeptical age, how do you grab people's attention?" Gutjahr asked. "Mixing the biblical text with Angelina Jolie doesn't surprise me."

    First published in Sweden last year, "Bible Illuminated: The Book" is the glossy fashion magazine-style publication that features Jolie. It looks more at home on a coffee table or a nightstand in the latest hipster hotel than in a church.
God help us.

Friday, October 03, 2008

This Week in Calvinistm - October 3, 2008

Here's a glimpse at what's happening this week in Calvinism:
  • From Desiring God Ministries: "For those who use Accordance Bible Software already, The John Piper Sermon Manuscript Library integrates seamlessly into your existing library and functions as a roughly 5,000 page commentary."

  • Grace is resistible...until it's not.

  • Tim Challies on Calvinism and evangelism.

  • Calvinists often make the worst Calvinists.

  • Martin Downes on podcast spirituality: "What is this doing to local churches? Will this lead to an audio hierarchy where the best internet preachers are really the most influential figures in local churches? Is that healthy? Are we already there?"

  • Calvinism in the 21st century.

  • While this doesn't have anything to do with Calvinism, I found Tuesday's featured Wikipedia article on Tulip Mania interesting.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Desiring God 2008 National Conference Audio and Video

You can access the audio and video of the 2008 DG Conference here.

  • September 26, 2008
    The Tongue, the Bridle, and the Blessing: An Exposition of James 3:1-12
    - Sinclair Ferguson

  • September 26
    Panel Discussion
    - John Piper, Mark Driscoll, and Sinclair Ferguson

  • September 27
    Words of Wonder: What Happens When We Sing?
    - Bob Kauflin

  • September 27
    How Sharp the Edge? Christ, Controversy, and Cutting Words
    - Mark Driscoll

  • September 27
    The Life-Shaping Power of Story: God’s and Ours
    - Dan Taylor

  • September 27
    Panel Discussion
    - John Piper, Paul Tripp, Bob Kauflin, and Dan Taylor

  • September 27
    War of Words: Getting to the Heart for God's Sake
    - Paul Tripp

  • September 28
    Is There Christian Eloquence? Clear Words and the Wonder of the Cross
    - John Piper
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