Friday, June 26, 2009

This Week in Calvinism - June 26, 2009

  • Barry Wallace longs to see the church "passionately move forward in God-glorifying, laziness-jolting, one-other-inflaming obedience in our worship."

  • What we can learn from a different Calvin.

  • William Birch asks, "So, when a Calvinist is angry at false teaching, or false religions, or atheists, or child molesters, or adultery, or nudity, or America's moral decline, should he not really be angry at his God, for it is He who has foreordained whatever comes to pass (as the Westminster Confession teaches)?" I'll let Jonathan Edwards answer:

      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 forth as the others do, and also the glory of his goodness, 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, his goodness would not be so much prized and admired.

  • Damien Garofalo recaps the Sovereignty of God Conference.

  • Tom Ascol recaps the 2009 Southern Baptist Convention.

  • A list of some of the events around the world commemorating the 500th anniversary of John Calvin's birth.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

If God Is So Loving...

It isn't unusual to hear non-believers (and the occasional believer) ask, "If God is so loving, then why do bad things happen?" In order for that question to make any sense, we must first understand the context in which God is loving: He expresses his love through Jesus Christ.

Friday, June 19, 2009

This Week in Calvinism - June 19, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Portrait of Calvin

T. H. L. Parker's book, Portrait of Calvin, has been reprinted and is available exclusively through Desiring God. You can order a copy or download it for free here.

Friday, June 12, 2009

This Week in Calvinism - June 12, 2009

  • Eric Carpenter loves Calvinism because it is Trinity-centered. He notes, "The Calvinistic view of salvation emphasizes the involvement of all three members of the Trinity. It also emphasizes the cooperation of all three members: the Father elects those He sovereignly chooses, the Son pays for the sins of the elect, and the Spirit regenerates the hearts of the elect. All three members of the Trinity work together as One."

  • Bobby Grow believes that John Calvin, "no matter what you think of him, has made an impact upon the trajectory of Christianity that will never be shaken."

  • Geoff Hill leaves behind Geneva, "this city of smug Calvinism," and sets out to discover the real Switzerland.

  • "John Calvin and the Land of Chocolate" discusses the extent of the Reformer's cultural and political influence.

  • BBC4 will be featuring a documentary later this season that "will look at the effects Calvinism is perceived to have had over the psyche of Scots."

  • Kyle remains "deeply unsettled" by those of us who continue to defend the "blasphemy" of limited atonement, and he would like to know why. Well, here's just one reason: If Christ did indeed die for every, single human being (i.e. bore the punishment of sin for each and every person), then there would be no need for God to punish anyone else for the same sin. In fact, it would be unjust for him to do so. The very fact that people die and go to Hell is enough proof that the atonement is limited. (Actually, both Calvinists and Arminians teach limited atonement. Calvinists limit the scope of the atonement, whereas Arminians limit its effectiveness.)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Is Calvinism Becoming Too Worldly?

Dr. Peter Masters of the Metropolitan Tabernacle (yes, that Metropolitan Tabernacle) finally got around to reading Collin Hansen's book Young, Restless, Reformed. He didn't like it. In fact, in his latest article for Sword & Trowel, he writes that he "was very deeply saddened to read it, because it describes a seriously distorted Calvinism falling far, far short of an authentic life of obedience to a sovereign God. If this kind of Calvinism prospers, then genuine biblical piety will be under attack as never before."

He continues:
    The author of the book is a young man (around 26 when he wrote it) who grew up in a Christian family and trained in secular journalism. We are indebted to him for the readable and wide-reaching survey he gives of this new phenomenon, but the scene is certainly not a happy one.

    The author begins by describing the Passion, conference at Atlanta in 2007, where 21,000 young people revelled in contemporary music, and listened to speakers such as John Piper proclaiming Calvinistic sentiments. And this picture is repeated many times through the book -- large conferences being described at which the syncretism of worldly, sensation-stirring, high-decibel, rhythmic music, is mixed with Calvinistic doctrine.

    We are told of thunderous music, thousands of raised hands, "Christian" hip-hop and rap lyrics (the examples seeming inept and awkward in construction) uniting the doctrines of grace with the immoral drug-induced musical forms of worldly culture.
Contemporary music? Hip-hop? Oh, the horror!

Masters concludes, "The new Calvinism is not a resurgence but an entirely novel formula which strips the doctrine of its historic practice, and unites it with the world." That seems rather harsh.

Consider the following, written by Dr. Masters back in 2001:
    C. H. Spurgeon would never have an organ at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in his day, because he saw how so many of the larger churches had become carried away by the sound of their magnificent instruments, and the expert capabilities of their organists. They were tickling the ears of the people (as Spurgeon put it) with beautiful musical items other than hymns. He was concerned that people would go to church to be entertained rather than to worship, but even more seriously, he saw how the skill and beauty of the music was itself likely to be regarded as an act of worship, and an offering to God.

    Today the Tabernacle uses an organ, but we endeavour to keep its deployment within bounds, so that it provides an accompaniment only, and does not become a medium of worship. We would never say, for example, that the organ "enriches" worship. It disciplines the singing, and teaches and maintains the tune, but we know very well that in spiritual terms it can contribute nothing.
Couldn't the same be said of the singing itself, or any other form of musical worship for that matter? I cannot help but wonder what has changed to make the use of an organ in worship services perfectly acceptable. I also wonder what the Prince of Preachers might think of his church today.

Has Dr. Masters even listened to the music he is so quick to condemn? Has he considered the theological and biblical soundness of the lyrics? Or is it the music itself that's bad?

Of course, his article doesn't just focus on music. Masters sees a problem in that "the new Calvinism has found a way of uniting spiritually incompatible things at the same time." For example, he isn't too thrilled with the fact that the "charismatic" C. J. Mahaney is being embraced by big-name Calvinists like John Piper and John MacArthur. Talk about nitpicking.

What's interesting is that Masters apparently sees no problem uniting his own church with the world in other ways. For example, the Tabernacle's television ministry shares the airwaves with secular broadcasts. It maintains a web site on the porn-filled Internet. You can get books by Dr. Masters on Amazon.com, a site which also peddles sexually explicit, graphically violent, and anti-Christian material. Just where are we supposed to draw the line?

It is true that we aren't of the world, but we are still in it. Just because some of our musical tastes and preaching styles have changed over the years doesn't mean we are becoming one with the world.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

John 3:19

A New Worship Album for Kids

"To Be Like Jesus" is the second Sovereign Grace Kids album from Sovereign Grace Music. It is due for release this month.

The album presents sound theology set to decent music, a combination frustratingly hard to find in the vast wasteland of contemporary worship music. For a preview, click here.

UPDATE (06/12/09):
SGM's first worship album for kids is "Awesome God."

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

"Equality" Is Coming to British Churches

The church teaches equality, but it does so in light of God's word. For example, we are all created in God's image (Genesis 1:27), and "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). The gospel is offered to all nations (Mark 13:10), and "we will all stand before the judgment seat of God" (Romans 14:10).

But some members of the British Parliament want to broaden the definition of equality to force churches to employ those who engage in sexually deviant behavior. From the Telegraph:
Religious groups are to be forced to accept homosexual youth workers, secretaries and other staff, even if their faith holds same-sex relationships to be sinful.

Christian organisations fear that the tightened legislation, which is due to come into force next year, will undermine the integrity of churches and dilute their moral message.

It comes amid growing concern that Christians are being unfairly targeted by discrimination laws, following a number of high-profile cases of courts finding against believers who stand up for their faith.

Religious leaders had hoped to lobby for exemptions to the Equality Bill but Maria Eagle, the deputy equalities minister, has now indicated that it will cover almost all church employees.

"The circumstances in which religious institutions can practice anything less than full equality are few and far between," she told delegates at the Faith, Homophobia, Transphobia, & Human Rights conference in London.

"While the state would not intervene in narrowly ritual or doctrinal matters within faith groups, these communities cannot claim that everything they run is outside the scope of anti-discrimination law.

"Members of faith groups have a role in making the argument in their own communities for greater LGBT acceptance, but in the meantime the state has a duty to protect people from unfair treatment."
We should take note of what happens across the pond because things that take root over there have a tendency to pop up over here.

Friday, June 05, 2009

This Week in Calvinism - June 5, 2009

  • We are not our own.

  • Adam Smith recommends the Amazing Grace DVD (as do I) as a refutation of the five points of Arminianism.

  • The anti-Calvinist, anti-Christian "Battle Hymn of the Republic" was the anthem of the War of Northern Aggression.

  • Which kind of Calvinist are you? I would fall in the infralapsarian camp.

  • "The Wanderer" reviews a couple of books about John Calvin.

  • Bob Gonzales, Dean of Reformed Baptist Seminary,reminds us that God sincerely does desire that all sinners come to Christ. However, he also warns us not to "deny one biblical truth in order to accommodate another."

  • Depravity: total or partial?

  • Christian believes "that we are living in the most important time in all of history and that the church has a lot of work to do and it needs to believe in itself and the amazing gift that God has given us. ... To me it seems as though Calvinism creates an excuse for weaknesses and even attempts to hold us down in a negative mindset." So, I guess it could be argued that the Bible itself perpetuates that negative mindset, what with that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" business.

  • Andrew Brown has an interesting blog post on novel-writing and Calvinism.

  • Aaron reviews Michael Horton's book Introducing Covenant Theology.

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