"Unity without verity is no better than conspiracy." - John Trapp

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Legacy of the Reformation

The legacy of the Reformation is all around us today. It is on our bookshelves, table tops, CD racks, and stored electronically on computers and handhelds. It has been honored, debated, and scorned. Yet it stands as the foundational benefit of the Reformation. That legacy is the Holy Bible.


There were attempts to translate the Bible into common vernaculars prior to the Reformation. Perhaps the most famous was the translation of John Wycliffe. Wycliffe predated the Reformation by 200 years, and his belief that the Bible was for everyone, not just a select few, would bear fruit in the Protestant Reformation.

Benjamin Hart has written of Wycliffe's views that:
[T]he Bible, thought Wycliffe, was a far more trustworthy authority than papal pronouncements or church tradition:

"All law, all philosophy, all logic and all ethics are in Holy Scripture," he said. The Bible is "one perfect word, proceeding from the mouth of God," and is "the basis for every Catholic opinion." Wycliffe's thinking broke sharply from medieval scholasticism, which considered church tradition as co-equal in authority with Scripture; many saw the Church as the primary authority, a view articulated by Guido Terreni, when he said that "the whole authority of Scripture depends upon the church." Wycliffe said this was wrong, and that in fact the opposite was the case: "In Holy Scripture is all truth."

The church condemned Wycliffe and his teachings. While he died of natural causes the Roman Catholic Church had his bones exhumed and burned as condemnation of Wycliffe's beliefs. Despite this Wycliffe's followers, the Lollards, would spread his teaching through much of Europe. An article on the Lollards notes that "Lollards promoted the reading of the Holy Scripture in the vernacular as the means for knowing the true Word of God." However, the Roman Catholic Church would crush the movement.


But attempts to withhold the Scriptures from the average man would fail. Martin Luther would take many of the ideas of Wycliffe and John Hus and spread them throughout Christendom. He would do so not because they were the ideas of Wycliffe or Hus, but because he was convinced that these ideas were the teaching of the Holy Scriptures.

Luther, like Wycliffe, translated the Bible into the language of the people (in Luther's case, German). For those of Luther's day, this was the first time they had access to the Bible and could read it. This translation was the result of Luther's own love for the Scriptures, and his conviction that it was meant for everyone to read.

It was the Scriptures that had brought him to Christ. It was the Scriptures that revealed to him the Gospel. It was the Scriptures that showed him the true meaning of the righteousness of God. Luther loved the Bible and believed that everyone should read it. Dr. Richard P. Bucher notes that:
Martin Luther's last writing was a short message written on a slip of paper the day before he died. This note was found on a table next to his death bed. What was on the note? Words of praise for the Bible and an appeal to read it with a humble spirit (this note is recorded in Luther's Works 54:476). Fitting last words for a man whose adult life was marked by an intense love for the Scriptures of God.

Recovering the Reformation?

Let us not falsely idolize the Reformation. While there is much to commend, and we could do far worse than returning to Reformation doctrine, not everyone in that time agreed with Luther. Worse, as Luther knew, there were many who were simply apathetic to the Scriptures. It was not that they disagreed with Luther, but that they thought his devotion to the Bible extreme.

These people, like many in the modern church, did not see Bible study as something worth a significant investment of personal time. Luther laments (quoted by Dr. Bucher):
The neglect of Scripture, even by spiritual leaders, is one of the greatest evils in the world. Everything else, arts or literature, is pursued and practiced day and night, and there is no end of labor and effort; but Holy Scripture is neglected as though there were no need of it. Those who condescend to read it want to absorb everything at once. There has never been an art or a book on earth that everyone has so quickly mastered as the Holy Scriptures. But its words are not, as some think, mere literature (Lesewort); they are words of life (Lebewort), intended not for speculation and fancy but for life and action. But why complain? No one pays any attention to our lament. May Christ our Lord help us by His Spirit to love and honor His holy Word with all our hearts. Amen (LW 14:46).
We are the heirs of the Reformation. Unfortunately, most of us have taken our inheritance from these over which Luther laments. We have access to the Bible in print, on audio (CD or MP3), and through electronic texts. We have multiple English translations.

And yet we are ignorant of what the Bible teaches. We know who won the football game, and who Oprah's guest was today, but we do not know who Hezekiah was. We can find Waldo, but not Haggai. We spend hours online debating the Bible, and maybe a few minutes reading the Bible.

Okay, that's not fair. I don't know you. I hope those things are not true of you. But me? Okay, I don't know who was on Oprah today, but I know how the Colts game ended and what their record is now. And its not bad that I know that. But if there is going to be a new Reformation, we are going to have to be more passionate about the Bible than we are about football. or Oprah. or even the internet.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Thankful on Sunday (SE): Patrick Hunter

Or, the Right Rev. Dr. Pastor Patrick Hunter (he likes it when I call him that ;).


A little over five years ago now I started looking for a new church (long story, not worth telling). The pastor of the church I had been attending recommended Beacon Baptist to me as the pastor there (Dave Richards) was a calvinist. I had visited Beacon in the distant past (about 7 years earlier) and the pastor at that time had the end time charts out. Not my cup of tea. Also, Beacon is Southern Baptist (SBC) and base on my experience with the SBC in Dallas I really did not intend on joining another SBC church. But I decided to check it out anyway.

Long story short, I joined, and had been part of the leadership team at Beacon for some time when Pastor Dave resigned to pastor another church. This led to me being part of the Pastoral Search Team that recommended that the church call Patrick Hunter as the next pastor of Beacon Baptist in the spring of 2004.

Now, I'm the senior member of the leadership team. There has been a lot of change in leadership, not all of it for bad reasons and none specifically related to Patrick. A retirement with a move out of the area and a call to serve at another church are among the reasons leaders more experienced than I have left.

And today Pastor Hunter turned in his resignation as he has accepted the call to a church in Texas. This is a good move for him, and, I think, the kingdom. Beacon is a small (60-70), more or less rural church while he'll be moving to a larger church that will make better use of his gifts (and will not joke about his "Dr." - pronounced "der" - words).

So the next couple of weeks will be busy with transition items. Deciding what we will do in the near term to fill the pulpit. Making sure that all the other items he normally handled will get covered. Any number of things we haven't thought of yet. After we get through that and the holidays the work of finding a replacement. I don't know how directly I'll be involved in any of these tasks except some responsibilities that clearly fall under my leadership areas (ministry funding, etc.) that I'll have to pick-up immediately. But I expect my blogging time will be limited.

Words of Thanksgiving

Patrick is the first to admit we have not always seen eye to eye on matters of faith and practice. But this has not stopped us from developing a deeper friendship than I ever developed with Pastor Dave even though Dave and I were much closer theologically.

This is due in part to some similar life experiences and interests. Patrick was single for a fair portion of his adult life and I remain so. Patrick has an interest in science fiction, Star Trek in particular (though he's more of Next Generation kinda guy and I'm more original Trek). We both have a familiarity with the Metroplex (Dallas/Ft. Worth), he having grown up there and I having worked there for several years.

But for me, the big reason I can overlook (okay, tolerate . . . . . okay, okay, the reason I don't put him in irons or burn him at the stake over) the theological differences (the differences are not over the essentials of the faith) is that his Christianity is real and vital. In the short time he has been at Beacon, we have twice sent a missionary team to Mexico for a week. They worked with SBC missionaries there to prayer walk communities, strengthen and teach the local believers, and help the missionaries in whatever way possible. We have also twice sent disaster relief teams to Mississippi to help the clean-up effort there; we've hosted a disaster relief effort to help clean up after a tornado hit in the northern part of our county; and we just had another couple of members return from helping disaster relief efforts in Buffalo. Patrick not only helped manage these, he went on the first Mexico trip and both Mississippi trips. Being a "Dr." has not kept him from getting his hands dirty. He does not tend to wear his emotions on his sleeves, but his actions speak volumes about his concern for others.

It is definitely a sad day personally and for Beacon as a local body, but I rejoice in Jesus and am thankful to God for Patrick and how he has been used at Beacon to further the kingdom. He has been faithful over a little these past couple of years, and now, I believe, God is granting him stewardship over more. My prayers will go with Patrick as he serves in this new area, with the hope that his stewardship over these additional resources will mean further extending the reach outward of the kingdom.

God bless you brother.

PS: This was written yesterday and saved as draft. Today was indeed a sad day for our congregation. But God is still on His throne; our times and circumstances are still in His hands. Soli Deo Gloria.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

More Favorite Hymns - Before the Throne of God Above

This hymn was written by Charitie Bancroft. I have never actually sang this hymn, but it appears, with alternate lyrics and music on Bob Kauflin's Upward. This is an excellent CD with some great old hymns with new arrangements and music.

As I mentioned, I had never even heard of this hymn before and the words are wonderful. They speak of the greatness of the work of Jesus and the exchange of my sin for His righteousness. The tune listed for the hymn is "Sweet Hour" by William Bradbury. As you might have guessed, this is the tune from the more familiar "Sweet Hour of Prayer" in case you do want to sing this.

Before the Throne of God Above

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea.
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there the risen Lamb,
My perfect spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
King of glory and of grace,
One in Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Savior and my God!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Thankful on Friday SE: You

There is a poem called "Pursuit" in Stephen Dobyns' Cemetery Nights. It has stuck with me long after I could recall which Stephen King novel quoted the line (I think it may have been Insomnia):
Each thing I do I rush through so I can do something else.

Back several months ago when I first signed up for blogger I did so just to be able to comment on a blog that did not allow anonymous bloggers. If you look over the early months of this blog posts were few and far between. My original blogging series (Election) was the reworking of a paper for a systematic theology class from several years back (not the only time I've revisited old material on this blog). That led into the Trinity series, and I started posting on a regular basis.

I did not blog with any particular audience in mind. Many individual posts were reactions to events and other blog posts I was reading. It is somewhat intoxicating for someone who loves words to be able to "publish" his thoughts where almost anyone could read them. Because of that, I've probably spent more time doing this than I should have. Particularly when combined with a lot of the blog reading I've done.

Top that off with the fact that the winds of change are blowin' in my little world (I'll likely blog a bit about that on Sunday or early next week), and I think I'm going to be cutting back here, perhaps substantially (how strong that wind is will help determine how substantially).

But, lest you think otherwise, I'm thankful to God the Father and Jesus Christ my Savior for those who stop by this little corner of my world. Whether it is once, or regularly, I always appreciate that you sacrifice a bit of your time to "listen" to me, and sometimes interact with these thoughts. So while the frequency may slow down, I hope you'll still stop by every once and a while to see if there's something new.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

All Things to All People

A Two Point "Sermon"

One night, after the flood, and the ark, and the rainbow, Noah decided it was time to uncork the good stuff. So he put on his George Thorogood records (they didn't have CD's and MP3's back then) and listened to "I Drink Alone" while he, well, you know. The album played over several times, including "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer", which isn't a great combination, and Noah passed out.

What happened next, I'll let Moses say:

Genesis 9:22And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. 23Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. (ESV)

Point One: Respect for One's Betters

The simple message of the text, given the curse placed upon Ham in v.25 and the blessings pronounced on Shem and Japheth in v.26-27, is that some things are just not seemly. Especially with respect to those whom we should honor, we shouldn't go there. Notice that Shem and Japheth didn't just cover their father, they walked in backwards so that they themselves would not see their father's nakedness.

Okay, so let's admit this line of thought was brought about by the Mark Driscoll sermon being discussed at Pyromaniacs. Let me also say that I really wanted to stay out of the Mark Driscoll debate, because, well, I've been there, done that, and nobody's opinions change. But since I have defended him in the past, let me say that I think this sermon crosses the line.

There are ways to make the point Pastor Driscoll wanted to make about Jesus without discussing the things he discussed. What may be acceptable topics for a group of guys who are smoking stogies and playing cards (no money involved, I promise) may not be appropriate when referring to your father, or to your Lord.

Point Two: The Right Hand Giveth . . .

But I still like Mark Driscoll. If he truly represents a stream of the emerging church, then the emerging church isn't all bad. And I'm not talking here merely about his Calvinism, which definitely helps. But he is passionate about the Triune God and theology, he's passionate about the church, and he's passionate about the lost.Conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists have become Pharisees in too many ways. We have created a culture where we can pat each other on the back for living up to our own ideas of righteousness, which mainly have to do with externals.

One of the things with which I disagree is the conclusion Frank draws from 1 Corinthians 8 and 9. Frank wrote:
That standard is evident in the sentence I underlined—he became "weak" to the "weak". Now: what does that mean? Does it mean that he always acted inside a "mere" version and vision of the Gospel—or does it mean something else? Let me ask those questions this way: who is the weak in 1 Cor 8?

The answer seems obvious, doesn't it? Paul is not saying, "to those who were immoral, I became a libertine of sorts to fool them into the Gospel which requires a death to self," but in fact he is saying, "to those who have a weak conscience and do not have liberty in (for example) dietary laws I became weak like them, extra sensitive to their conscientious observance."

The problem is, if this is the Biblical standard, then Peter should have told Paul (Galatians 2), "Paul, you're the missionary to the Gentiles. I'm the missionary to the Jews. When the Jews show up, I have to be weak like them, extra sensitive to their conscientious observance." Oh, you say, but these were Judiazers, and they had to be resisted. But who determines who the Judiazers are?

I think too many today have become Christianizers. There are people who, if they are called to Christ and become like we are, they're welcome. But we don't personally want to reach them, and they definitely need to "clean up" before they come to our church. A question: how do we react to the convict who was called to Christ in prison. He's out now and wants to be a member of your church. But his conscience will not let him join without admitting to the congregation who he is. What if he was in jail for tax evasion? Assault and battery? Dealing drugs to children? Pimping? Child molestation?

Now, I'm not recommending that a guy who pilfered from his company should be on the finance team. A child molestor should have no part in children's activities. But what if a former pimp wants to help organize food delivery to women walking the streets?

At the DG'06 conference, David Wells noted:
Actually, you know, it was really funny, as I was listening to Mark, because he sounded so far out, so testing the boundaries, so pushing the envelope. Now when I say those very same things, I sound staid...and tame.

I point this out to say, language issues aside for a moment, that Wells is approving of Driscoll's philosophy, if not his approach, to cultural engagement. I have to agree. And I think both are saying this is Paul's philosophy. In response to Frank's "So you ask how can it be that suddenly he is saying, "and I have enjoyed all kinds of privileges and exotic customs for the sake of the Gospel"?" I have to ask, "do you not think Paul enjoyed the exotic privilege of eating unclean foods when he was among the Gentiles, but then would refrain from carrying pulled-pork BBQ back into Jerusalem?" This is what I see the Paul saying in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.

Frank may be right that the larger context of 1 Corinthians 8 and 9 deal with Paul's relationship to believers (at least I think that's the point of 'And particularly in 1 Cor 8, are the "weak" unbelievers, or people who have some relationship to the body of Christ but have a conscience which is "weak"?'). But the paragraph he focuses on (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) seems to me to clearly be speaking of Paul's method of reaching the lost since he uses terms like "win" and "save" to describe the result. In light of Galatians 2, it seems that this does not mean capitulating to the weakest conscience. Jesus ate with tax collectors. I have a good friend that works for the IRS so that doesn't seem like a big deal to me, but to the Jews in the time of Jesus . . .


(1) So, when Frank says "So when we are talking "missiology" here, Paul isn't looking for an excuse to behave like a gentile" I can only think, "But he did." Not that he looked for an excuse, because it wasn't an excuse, but he acted like a Gentile. He ate their diet, and when Peter stopped eating their diet (Galatians 2 again), he slapped him around (figuratively, though he probably wanted to do it physically). And, therefore, a careful reading of 1 Corinthians 9 in light of Galatians 2 would allow one to say, "I may not be living up to your standard of righteousness, but I'm fulfilling my call to reach the lost."

(2) My admittedly lame attempt at humor in this post is to say I don't have a problem with humor when someone is teaching. So when Pastor Driscoll talks about his son peeing, I don't have a problem. But, and it is an important but, I think there are still subjects that are taboo and I wish Pastor Driscoll would have found a better way to make his point about the humanity of Jesus.

But, hey, that's my interpretation and I'm only an engineer; humor and philosphy are not my forte. So take it for what it's worth.

PS - Special edition "Thankful on Thursday Friday" tomorrow

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

WoW: Bridges and Total Depravity

Time for another edition of Wisdom on Wednesdays with Charles Bridges. Bridges wrote what is still one of the best commentaries (warning: this link is a PDF of the commentary and is almost 2.5M) on the book of Proverbs (and one on Ecclesiastes as well).

Who can say, “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin”? (Proverbs 20:9 ESV)

Answering the Question

Solomon knew the truth. In his wisdom he recognized what too many have forgotten today. We are not pure. We are not clean. Not a one of us. Of all the men that ever lived, only Jesus Christ can honestly proclaim that He is pure and clean. The rest of us are, as the first phrase of the T.U.L.I.P. reminds us, "totally depraved." Paul has the great summation of the Old Testament revelation of this truth in Romans 3:9-12, and while he doesn't use this verse, it clearly supports his case.

As with the other Proverbs, the idea is that we stop and think about what Solomon is saying, or in this case asking. How do we answer? According to Charles Bridges in his commentary on Proverbs:
The question is confounding. The answer humbles us in the dust- Who can say—truly say---I have made my heart clean? A sinner in his self delusion may conceive himself to be a saint. But that a saint should ever believe that he made himself so, is impossible. Who can say--I am pure from my sin? What! no vain thoughts, no sinful imaginations, lodging within! No ignorance, pride, wandering, coldness, worldliness, unbelief indulged! The more we search the heart, the more will its impurity open upon us. "Turn thou yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations" (Ezekiel 8:13), evils hitherto unsuspected. Vain boasters there are, who proclaim their good hearts. But the boast proves, not their goodness, but their blindness; that man is so depraved, that he cannot understand his own depravity. (1 John 1:8; Comp. 1 Kings 8:46; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Jeremiah 2:35; Hosea 12:8)

The Terrible Result of Walking Close to God

I recently used banging your head against a wall as a metaphor for sin. It always hurts, but we have become so numb by repetition that we no longer feel the pain. It is only when we begin to lessen the frequency that our nerves begin to heal and we feel the pain associated with sin. One of the truism of the Christian walk is that the closer we are to God, the more we feel our sin. The more we see His holiness, the more we understand our depravity.
What say they, who have entered into the presence of the King, whose holiness scattereth away all evil? "Behold! I am vile!" said one. "Now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself." "Woe is me"—said another--"for I am a man of unclean lips, for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." (Job 40:4; 42:5-6; Isaiah 6:5) Take again one—counted as the foremost of the saints of God; a very flame of love for Christ and his Church; "in labours more abundant than all;" in tenderness as a mother for her new-born child; in walk "holy, just, and unblameable"--does he speak of his purity from, sin? Verily in his highest state of Christian attainment he feels himself to be the chief of sinners—a wondrous "pattern of Divine long-suffering." (1 Timothy 1:15-16) Such was the mighty power of depravity, mingled with such shining grace, that but for a miracle of instant Almighty help, he might have been thrown from "the third heavens into the snare of the devil." (2 Corinthians 12:2-7 with 1 Timothy 3:6-7) To descend to the level near to our own day. ‘Once I thought’—said a holy man of God—'some humiliating expressions of the saints of God, too low for me—proud, blind wretch as I was! Now I can say with Edwards ‘Infinite upon infinite only reaches to my sinfulness.’' (Venn's Life, p. 183) And indeed there is not a conscious child of God, that does not drink into this selfabased spirit.

The Wonderful Result of Walking Close to God

Are we then left to our own despair? Does God delight in seeing us in continual sorrow over sin? I don't think so. I think the sorrow has the purpose of causing us to flee to Christ for His righteousness. The sorrow is not beneficial in and of itself. If we only sorrow over the sin, then we remain in the sin. Godly sorrow will drive us to the cross, and there to be reminded of our forgiveness. This is true not only of the lost, but also of the redeemed. As God reveals to the depths of our sin, we understand more of the greatness (glory) of His grace. And the more we understand the greatness of the forgiveness bestowed upon us, the deeper our love for God will be (Luke 7:36-50).
But for the clear manifestation of gospel grace, should we not have cause to tremble, lest our sins—after such multiplied engagements on our part, and such tender long-suffering on God's part —should remain in all their hundredfold aggravations uncancelled in the great account, and consign us in just demerit "to everlasting punishment?" The clean heart therefore is not the heart pure from sin, but the heart cleansed and renewed by grace. And truly, if none can say---I have made my heart clean, myriads can witness to the blood of him, who is the Son of God, cleansing it from guilt (1 John 1:7), and to the mightiness of the Creator to renew it unto holiness.

But are there not many, who in the house of God will confess themselves miserable sinners, and at the holy table will acknowledge 'the burden of their sin to be intolerable,' who yet will go back to the world, and boast or comfort themselves in the confidence of their goodness? confessing indeed, that they are sinners, but stoutly warding off every charge of sin? Ah! such are not "the heavy-laden," to whom Christ hath promised "rest" (Matthew 11:28); not "the lost, whom the Son of Man is come to seek and to save." (Luke 19:10) They will lie beside the cleansing fountain, but never care to "wash and be clean."

But observe in this proverb the fundamentals of the gospel—man's total corruption; his inability to make his heart clean; and his grievous tendency to self-deception. Hence his need. Hence, when that need is felt, the value of the cleansing remedy. "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part in me." If this be so, then, Lord, "not my feet only, but my hands and my head." (John 13:8-9) "Wash me throughly from my transgressions, that I may be whiter than snow. Create in me a clean heart, 0 God, and renew a right spirit within me." (Psalm 51:2, 7, 10)

As Bridges notes, this is a foundational truth for the gospel. The good news is for those who understand their corruption and need of a savior. Those who think they only have need to improve their self image will never turn to the bloody image of Jesus on the cross. Until I understand that the person on the cross should have been ME, all my religion is doing is putting a fresh coat of whitewash on my tomb.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

QT: S. Lewis Johnson on the Trinity

The following is from the introduction to Dr. S. Lewis Johnson's sermon on John 10:32-42. In light of Pastor JD Hatfield completing his blogging of the Brandon Biblical Theology Conference on the Trinity and of me covering these verses in Sunday School this week, this seemed appropriate.

Given the reference to "a generation or so" below it is worth noting this was preached in January of 1983.

Dr. S. Lewis Johnson on the Trinity
The doctrine of the Trinity is peculiar to the religion of the Bible, to Christianity. Although the word itself is not a biblical word, yet it is a convenient designation of the one God self-revealed in Scripture as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, neither three gods (tritheism) nor three modes of God (monarchianism).

Now it is a common mistake of untaught believers to regard the doctrine of the Trinity as a mere speculative truth. And often, popular Bible teachers, playing upon the simplicity and ignorance of their listeners, take advantage of the natural laziness of the human mind in learning something new. The teachers encourage ignorance, speaking out against "theology" and urging listeners to give attention to "life truth," which is supposed to be "more practical" for the everyday life and its problems.

It is, however, a great error to regard the doctrine of the Trinity as impractical, for it underlies the whole plan of salvation, which demands a divine Creator (just and holy, although sinned against), a divine Redeemer, and a divine Sanctifier. These offices the three persons of the Trinity fill with majesty, beauty, and effectiveness. A divine Creator is necessary to explain the universe and men. A divine Redeemer alone can give authentic tidings from the Godhead, and that is why an incarnation is a necessity. And only a divine Redeemer can provide an atonement that effectually removes the guilt of sin. We cannot receive salvation from a demi-god. Our Savior must be one of us, but also divine. Otherwise He has no contact with God, and His sacrifice does not have sufficient value to cover our sin.

Many churches have practically abandoned the doctrine of the Trinity. Churches with creedal statements that include the doctrine no longer preach the truth, and often their ministers have abandoned belief in the doctrine, being practically Unitarian in their views. And others, while acknowledging belief in the teaching, never enforce its teaching in their messages, with the result that their congregations are theologically illiterate. And, sad to say, this is characteristic of many evangelical congregations.

I am fearful of the path down which many of these congregations are walking. In a generation or so, untold slippage of faith and practice may take place. The "Bible" churches are in many cases already along the way to spiritual mediocrity. The trivial ministry that characterizes many of them can only lead to doctrinal ruin and the abandonment of the faith that their forefathers believed. One of the great truths that must be retained at all costs is the truth of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.

"As a historical fact," Hodge wrote, "it is beyond dispute that in whatever church the doctrine of the Trinity has been abandoned orobscured, every other characteristic doctrine of the gospel has gone with it." That is a warning that we must note.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

More Favorite Hymns - A Mighty Fortress

This hymn was written by Martin Luther (like you didn't already know that) and translated by Fredric H Hedge. There is an alternate translation at Cyberhymnal as well. It is from the last stanza that David Well's got the title for his last book, Above All Earthly Pow'rs (note even the shortened use of powers).

A Mighty Fortress

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

BoBS for the Week Ending October 21st

For those of you who can't wait for me to get started, Mark Dever has a penetrating piece on Pride as Impatience.

Bradford Mercer at First Presbyterian Jackson has posted on Nathaniel Hawthorne's Celestial Railroad. Anyone who read Pilgrim's Progress (and if you haven't, shame on you - stop reading this and click this link, select a format, and read/listen) should read the Celestial Railroad.

Over at Not So Famous there's an interesting post on God's Authentication of Ministries. In a world of fuzzy lines, this presents a hard line for thinking about what constitutes a church.

HeavyDluxe has finished his series on (Pre)Destined for Debate about his personal journey to a reformed soteriology. This link is to the last of four posts, but has links to each of the earlier posts that you'll want to read in order.

Tim Challies has some excellent advice for us bloggers about how to deal with dirty laundry (and he's not talking about the Don Henley song). Also don't miss Tim's call for a Reformation Day symposium.

Dr. Tom Ascol has an excellent critique of Dr. Jerry Vines' sermon on Calvinism: A Baptist and His Election.

Justin Taylor at Between Two Worlds linked to four messages that Michael Horton gave at the OKC Conference on Reformed Theology. Highly recommended.

Pastor JD Hatfield has been blogging summaries of the messages from last weekend's Brandon Biblical Theology Conference on the Trinity. Be sure to check out all summaries, but especially the Q&A.

Relatively new to the blogging scene is Keith Tolbert. He has a great post in light of the recent cover story in Time magazine this is a much needed post, as long as we remember that this is not a problem unique to the black church (can you say Copeland, Osteen, etc.).

Funny Stuff

Wonder what hot Christian books might (or might not) be in the works? Check out this list at Purgatorio. While you're there, be sure to cast your vote for Puritan Boy (he's Reformation Man's sidekick). But hurry. Voting ends soon.

Okay, this is not quite within the last week, but since I didn't do BoB's last week, I'm going to include it, especially since it is a redoing of one of the best comedy routines of all time. Thabiti Anyabwile has posted a computer variation of Who's On First by Abbott and Costello.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Importance of the Mind in the Life of the Christian

“Perhaps the current mood (cultivated in some Christian groups) of anti-intellectualism begins now to be seen as the serious evil it is. It is not true piety at all, but part of the fashion of the world and therefore a form of worldliness. To denigrate the mind is to undermine foundational Christian doctrines.” John Stott in Your Mind Matters (1972)

A couple of years ago I came across a series of lectures given at Union University on Baptist Identity. One of the real concerns of this conference was that members of Southern Baptist Churches no longer know what it means to be a Baptist. I think the reality that is more troubling is that Baptists no longer know what it means to be a Christian. Even more troubling - the reality that this is not just true about Baptists. For the last century or more the importance of the mind in Christian life has been downplayed or even degraded.As J. Gresham Machen has noted:

“Modern culture is a might force. It is either subservient to the gospel or else it is the deadliest enemy of the gospel. For making it subservient, religious emotion is not enough, intellectual labor is also necessary. And that labor is being neglected. The church has turned to easier tasks. And now she is reaping the fruits of her indolence. Now she must battle for her life.

Machen’s words are more than half a century old, and while the Southern Baptist Convention has been able to retain its Biblical foundation, we are losing the war. This is what was noted at the Baptist Identity conference. How can we be losing if we have maintained Biblical foundation? Because despite the victories at a convention level, individual churches are losing the battle for the minds of their congregations. Christians no longer think Biblically. Pertinent is a warning from Scripture, one that does not get preached on very often but that I think is profoundly applicable to the modern church – Hosea 4:6:

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. (NASB95)

Three things should be noted here. First, the people were being destroyed for a “lack of knowledge”. Ignorance of the truth is no excuse. The greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. None of those is optional. In Hebrew, there is no distinction between heart and mind. You will not feel what you do not believe. God wants those who worship Him to worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Second, if we reject knowledge, God will reject us. If we lack knowledge, then it is only because we have actively rejected knowledge. Psalm 19 tells us that the heavens declare the glory of God. James tells us wisdom will be given to those who ask. And don’t think you are exempt because this passage mentions the priesthood. The New Testament clearly teaches that every believer is a priest. It is part of our calling. And if we are priests, we need to have an understanding of our priesthood.

Third, if we choose to turn away from knowing God and His word, the impact will reach beyond us; it will reach to the next generation. I think this is what we are experiencing in our culture today. Knowledge (aka doctrine) has been rejected for a generation (or more). But we cannot lay the blame at the feet of the previous generation and think we are absolved of responsibility. We need to be the ones who turn the tide on the spiritual and moral decay of our time. To do this, we have to engage all of our being, including our minds, in the pursuit of God.

Now, I’m not saying that we all need to go to seminary and get degrees. I’m not arguing even that we all should be Sunday School teachers (though a Biblical case could be made that mature Christians should be able to teach). I am arguing that we all need to be actively pursuing God by studying the Bible; by being attentive when the word is being preached and taught; and by finding a way to have a time of honest reflection about what we are hearing and reading.

Let me close with a few verses that remind us that we need to understand the faith well enough to be able to witness not just what God has done in our life, but also that we might be able to answer critics.

1 Peter 3:14-16 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. (ESV)

Thankful on Thursday: Resurrection

It is a Sunday evening. You are lying in bed, reviewing the events of the past few days, and wondering if they will be coming for you. You have remained outside of Jerusalem since Friday, cutoff from all the activity of the city. After all, this has been a trying time for you. For the last two years you have been following an itinerant Galilean preacher named Jesus. Your Judean friends have found this curious, and the teasing has had more bite than in the past. “A Galilean,” they say. “What could you hope to learn from a Galilean. Follow a Pharisee. They have been well trained, and most of them come from better stock.”

Still, though you did not follow Him constantly, the way your young friend Daniel did, whenever He was in Jerusalem, you were there. A week ago now Jesus returned to Jerusalem. Even though it was feast time, there was some question as to whether He would come. The Sanhedrin has been seeking an opportunity to seize Him, and coming back to Jerusalem would likely provoke them into action. Especially when He came into the city with people ringing with praises for Him. This only infuriated the leaders more, especially when He told them that if the people were silent, the rocks would cry out.

The week following that entry is a blur. Various groups confronted him on more than one occasion. Each time He answered them in a way that did not allow them to accuse Him of anything. But this only increased their rage. And unknown to anyone, except possibly Jesus Himself (didn’t He seem to know what the disciples were doing before they themselves did), Judas (one of the twelve!) began to plot with the Sanhedrin against Jesus. Rumor has it the price was thirty pieces of silver. Of course, it does Judas no good now, as in shame he hung himself.

It was Friday morning. Daniel came running to meet you as you headed into Jerusalem. “It’s unbelievable,” he said. “Last night, we celebrated the Passover. Jesus was with the twelve in the upper room, and apparently said some pretty heavy things. Then, we all went together to the Mount of Olives and He went off with Peter, James, and John. They returned just as the Romans were coming up the hill. Judas was leading them! He kissed Jesus, but I’m sure it was just a way of marking Him for the Romans. Anyway, Jesus spoke to the soldiers and they all fell down. Peter cut off the ear of one of the servants, but Jesus healed Him; one of those who had come to arrest Him! We all scattered, and Jesus went with them. This morning Pilate wanted to let Him go, but the crowds demanded His crucifixion, and asked that Barabbas be released instead. They are taking Him to Golgotha with two others to be crucified. I wanted you to know that it may not be safe for His followers now.”

You spent some time with Daniel, trying to gather as many facts as possible, but there isn’t really much more he knows. He says he is going to hide, and recommends you do the same. He had been so sure Jesus was the Messiah; now he is heartbroken. He bids you farewell, and the tone in his voice indicates he doesn’t expect to see you again. Even so, you went to Golgotha. There you saw the horror, as Jesus suffered. Shortly after you arrived, the day turned black, and for three hours you waited. You thought maybe Jesus would come out of the darkness with a heavenly army and destroy all those who put Him there and restore the land. Instead, shortly after the darkness cleared, He breathed His last. A few times, you think He spoke, but you stayed far enough back that whatever it was, you couldn’t hear Him.

It was first with anger, then with amazement, that you saw Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimethea come and take Him from the cross. Rumor among the disciples says that Nicodemus had come to Jesus once at night, to question Him, but Joseph? Joseph was a rich man, a member of the Sanhedrin that, as far as you know, had no previous association with Jesus. Why should they be the one’s to care for Him. But then you realized that none of His disciples were there, except John and a few of the women, and that Nicodemus and Joseph were risking a lot to show their sympathy with Jesus at this time. So you followed and watched as they prepared Him for burial. You also saw as they put Him in a new tomb, one probably intended for Joseph Himself. And then, as the Romans sealed the tomb, you felt the stone roll across your heart as well.

You awake with a start early Monday morning at the pounding on your door. In your mind, you already know it is the Romans come to round up Jesus’ followers and put a final end to His ministry by killing all who supported it. Still, you go to the door. If Nicodemus and Joseph were willing to risk what they had, then you are willing to be numbered with Jesus' followers as well. To your surprise, it is Daniel, and there is a light in his eyes you thought had been forever extinguished. You let him in, and his first words are, “He’s alive!” You tell him to calm down and you fix a pot of coffee and ask Him to explain.

“It all started yesterday morning. A bunch of the women went to the tomb to give Jesus a proper burial. They had seen where Joseph had taken Him, and they wanted to make sure He had been properly carried for, since Joseph and Nicodemus were in a hurry to complete the work before sundown and the beginning of the Sabbath. Anyway, what happened was this:
Luke 24:1 BUT on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices which they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it happened that while they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling apparel; 5 and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? 6 “He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, 7 saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” 8 And they remembered His words, 9 and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles. 11 And these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them. (NASB) – See also Matthew 28:1-10 and Mark 16:1-8

Daniel pauses, looks at his cup, and continues, "I mean, we all saw Him do some miraculous things, but to rise from the dead! Anyway, Mary convinced Peter and John to go look. I think the other women had gone to find the other disciples. John was ahead of Peter, but stopped outside.” At this point you interrupt, knowing Peter's personality, and say, “But Peter just charged right in.” “You better believe it,” Daniel answers. "But stop interupting me. Okay, let me start over.
John 20:1 NOW on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. 2 And so she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” 3 Peter therefore went forth, and the other disciple, and they were going to the tomb. 4 And the two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter, and came to the tomb first; 5 and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. 6 Simon Peter therefore also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he beheld the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the face-cloth, which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb entered then also, and he saw and believed. 9 For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. 10 So the disciples went away again to their own homes. (NASB) – See also Luke 24:12

“Now let me get this straight, your saying that Jesus not only rose from the dead, but that He, or an angel, took the care to roll up the face cloth? I’ve got to believe Mary’s instinct was right, that in fact the Romans or the Pharisees had taken the body.”

“You're interupting again. Let me finish. Sure, that seems more reasonable, but for what reason would they do it? What could they hope to gain unless they were going to publicly display the body? But they haven’t, and there’s more. See, Mary didn’t leave with Peter and John, but stayed by the tomb:
John 20:11 But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; 12 and she beheld two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around, and beheld Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren, and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her. (NASB) – See also Mark 16:9-11

“Mary has seen Him! Come on, Daniel. I went to the crucifixion. I saw Him die. The soldier stuck a cross in His side. Sure, He raised Lazarus, but Himself? And if He could do that, if He has that kind of power, why did He let them kill Him in the first place?”

“Look, just give me a chance to tell you all I know. I don’t know that I can answer all your questions now, but I’m sure that before Jesus is done, we’ll understand. He’s already started to explain … Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Next, He showed Himself to the other women:
Matthew 28:9 And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they shall see Me.” (NASB)

“We have word that around this time the guards were reporting that the body was missing. The leaders bought them off, which should indicate to you that the leaders didn’t take the body. Apparently they’ve guaranteed them safety. What I heard was:
Matthew 28:11 Now while they were on their way, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and counseled together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ 14 “And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.” 15 And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day. (NASB)

Daniel finally takes a sip of his drink. After a long moment, he looks at you. "I thought it was all over, but now? I haven't even told you the best part. A couple of the disciples were escaping the city, heading to Emmaus, when a stranger joined them:
Luke 24:13 And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 And they were conversing with each other about all these things which had taken place. 15 And it came about that while they were conversing and discussing, Jesus Himself approached, and began traveling with them. 16 But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. 17 And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 And one of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” 19 And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, 20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him up to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. 21 “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. 22 “But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels, who said that He was alive. 24 “And some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.” 25 And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. 28 And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He would go farther. 29 And they urged Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.” And He went in to stay with them. 30 And it came about that when He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. 32 And they said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” 33 And they arose that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, 34 saying, “The Lord has really risen, and has appeared to Simon.” 35 And they began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread. (NASB) – See also Mark 16:12-13

You sit astonished. How could you not have seen that the Messiah was going to suffer for His people? And what must it have been like for them to have seen Him, to have talked to Him, and to again have Him explain the Scripture. You look at Daniel, who now only sits and smiles.

“Okay, what else has happened?”

Luke 24:36 And while they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst. 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. 38 And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 [And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.] 41 And while they still could not believe it for joy and were marveling, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; 43 and He took it and ate it before them. (NASB) – See also John 20:19-25

“Then He’s really alive. Not just a spirit, but a body.”

“Yes. Thomas wasn't there, and has his doubts. At least what I heard was:
John 20:24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” (NASB)

“But you know His love for Jesus, it won’t take Him long.”

So you rejoin the disciples. Then,
John 20:26 And after eight days again His disciples were inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst, and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.” 28 Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” (NASB)

Later, you will learn that Jesus also appeared to restore Peter (John 21:1-25) and to commission the disciples (Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:14-18; and Luke 24:44-49). And you will be there when He appears before ascending to His Father (Mark 16:19-20; Luke 24:50-53; and Acts 1: 4-11).

How amazing the plan of God! When you stood there in the dark as Jesus died, you could not have imagined this outcome. Now you know it was your sin being punished on that cross. And your justification has been confirmed by Jesus' resurrection.
"My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought;
My sin, not in part but the whole;
Is been nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more.
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! O my soul." (Horatio G. Spafford)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Isaiah and SBC Resolution #5

Isaiah 1:22 Your silver has become dross,
your best wine mixed with water. (ESV)

Our Tuesday night Bible study finished Galatians a few weeks ago, and after taking a couple of weeks off, then doing a general OT history review last week, started Isaiah this week. We plan to cover roughly a chapter a week, and as with Galatians, I will likely be posting regularly on points in the text that we might have discussed, but likely on which we did not dwell.

This week, I want to briefly mention Isaiah 1:22 (see above). This verse struck me in part because SBC Resolution #5 has been in some of the SBC blogs again. In the debates that took place this summer after the resolution was passed, a number of people fell back on the argument that wine in Biblical times was diluted, that is, mixed with water. Others used the argument that fermentation of wine is like yeast in bread, both are symbolic of an "unpure" life in which sin is present.

Mixed Wine

Isaiah in the first chapter is reporting God's anger and judgment on the nation of Judah. In v.22 he provides a metaphor of what the nation has become. Isaiah reminds them that Jerusalem had once been faithful, now she is a whore (v.21). This may be a reference to making alliances with foreign nations, rather than trusting God to deliver them; or it may be a reference to following after gods other than Yahweh. In either case, the city which had once been "pure" is now mixed.

In v.22, Isaiah uses two metaphors to drive this point home. The first is very familiar - that of metal with dross in it. What is required in this situation is refining to remove the dross so that the pure metal remains (v.25). Isaiah is telling the people that affliction is coming (later he will specifically identify the Babylonians, but at a chapter a week, we have a ways to go before we get there).

It is the second metaphor that caught my eye. In previous reads of Isaiah it had not stood out to me. Isaiah is here saying that it is unmixed wine that represents purity. This rejects the two arguments I mentioned earlier which were used by proponents of SBC Resolution #5. The best wine was unmixed wine, indicating that not all wine was diluted. I think this linked with John 2:6-11 makes a strong case against the "required abstinence" position, as Isaiah's "best" wine should inform our understanding of the "good" wine in John 2.

This passage also says it is not fermentation that symbolizes sin in the Bible. In case of bread, yeast is the symbol of impurity. In the case of metal, dross is the symbol of impurity. In the case of wine, it is water that symbolizes impurity (at least in this passage; if people could find other references either supporting or showing a different metaphor, I'm opening to growing in my understanding).

But Is It Wine?

Some versions (NASB, for one) do not say "best wine" but "drink" in v.22. Other translations say beer. What is clear from the other two OT references that have the word (Hosea 4:18 and Nahum 1:10) is that it is some form of alcoholic beverage. The word is close to the Arabic for wine and the Akkadian for wheat beer.

Again, my caveat is that I'm not saying you should drink. What I'm arguing is that it is a matter of conscience, and we should not be binding the consciences of others to requirements that are not in the Bible. Paul clearly tells Timothy to take wine for health reasons (his stomach). There has been a recent study saying wine reduces the risk of stroke. Since the SBC resolution specifically calls out use as a beverage, many a Southern Baptist will be like Granny from The Beverly Hillbillies drinking for "medicinal purposes."

Colossians 2:16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. (ESV)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

QT: Lewis on Desire

This quotation Tuesday (QT) was inspired by Between Two Worlds, where Justin Taylor posted a quote from the end of C.S. Lewis' sermon The Weight of Glory. He also posted links to MP3 sermons from Michael Horton. I have listened to the first and would highly recommend it. A brief quote from that message by Dr. Horton may help to give you a desire to hear the rest:
See how the ladder moves. God came down low. We don't raise ourselves high. He came all the way down low. Which is why in the Gospels we find Him nearest the tax collectors; the prostitutes; and the bartenders. Not the religious leaders. God chose what is low and despised in the world, even the things that are nothing, to bring to nothing the things that are something so that no human being might ever boast in the presence of God.

Intentionally by Mr. Taylor or not, Dr. Horton quotes briefly from the early part of The Weight of Glory. And, as I noted in the comment at Between Two Worlds, this sermon is one of my favorite writings from C.S. Lewis. So I'm going to quote (more extensively than Dr. Horton) from the start of that sermon.

The Weight of Glory
If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

We must not be troubled by unbelievers when they say that this promise of reward makes the Christian life a mercenary affair. There are different kinds of reward. There is the reward which has no natural connection with the things you do to earn it, and is quite foreign to the desires that ought to accompany those things. Money is not the natural reward of love; that is why we call a man mercenary if he marries a woman for the sake of her money. But marriage is the proper reward for a real lover, and he is not mercenary for desiring it. A general who fights well in order to get a peerage is mercenary; a general who fights for victory is not, victory being the proper reward of battle as marriage is the proper reward of love. The proper rewards are not simply tacked on to the activity for which they are given, but are the activity itself in consummation. There is also a third case, which is more complicated. An enjoyment of Greek poetry is certainly a proper, and not a mercenary, reward for learning Greek; but only those who have reached the stage of enjoying Greek poetry can tell from their own experience that this is so. The schoolboy beginning Greek grammar cannot look forward to his adult enjoyment of Sophocles as a lover looks forward to marriage or a general to victory. He has to begin by working for marks, or to escape punishment, or to please his parents, or, at best, in the hope of a future good which he cannot at present imagine or desire. His position, therefore, bears a certain resemblance to that of the mercenary; the reward he is going to get will, in actual fact, be a natural or proper reward, but he will not know that till he has got it. Of course, he gets it gradually; enjoyment creeps in upon the mere drudgery, and nobody could point to a day or an hour when the one ceased and the other began. But it is just in so far as he approaches the reward that be becomes able to desire it for its own sake; indeed, the power of so desiring it is itself a preliminary reward.

The Christian, in relation to heaven, is in much the same position as this schoolboy. Those who have attained everlasting life in the vision of God doubtless know very well that it is no mere bribe, but the very consummation of their earthly discipleship; but we who have not yet attained it cannot know this in the same way, and cannot even begin to know it at all except by continuing to obey and finding the first reward of our obedience in our increasing power to desire the ultimate reward. Just in proportion as the desire grows, our fear lest it should be a mercenary desire will die away and finally be recognized as an absurdity. But probably this will not, for most of us, happen in a day; poetry replaces grammar, gospel replaces law, longing transforms obedience, as gradually as the tide lifts a grounded ship.

Monday, October 16, 2006

God's Kingdom at War

This seminar featured the Rev. Richard Phillips and Dr. Roy Blackwood. Each delivered two messages (one each on Friday evening and one each on Saturday morning). Additionally, there was a Q&A session at the end of the conference. All I'm going to do is summarize the first message, given by Rev. Phillips on the subject of God's kingdom at war. This is my interpretation (with some expansion) of what Rev. Phillips said, so do not assume I'm accurately representing him if you have an issue with what I post. If you feel there is theological error, first assume it is mine.

God's Objective

Rev. Phillips began by reading Revelation 12:7-12.

One of the metaphors that the Bible uses for the Christian life is that of warfare. Perhaps the most famous of these passages is Ephesians 6. In Rev. Phillips' second message he dealt with this passage in detail. But the groundwork in the first message was to discuss what the Bible says God's objective is in history, and then to look at the Biblical strategy to achieve that objective.

Does the Bible present to us a clearly defined objective? If so, it is important for Christians as soldiers in this war to know what the objective is. Otherwise we will not be working toward the proper result.

So what is God's objective? Evangelical Christians would largely answer "to save sinners." But according to the Bible that is not true. Others (Roman Catholics) apparently believe it is to erect great structures and earthly empires. But according to the Bible, the great objective of God is to display the perfections of His glory.

God wants to display the glory of His grace and the glory of His power. God displays the glory of His grace in the lives of redeemed people bound to Him in love. God displays the glory of His power in the judgment of the wicked. Knowing that this is God's objective should transform our lives and our role in the world.

Biblical Support

Rev. Phillips cited many passages to support that this is truly God's objective in history. He began with Ephesians 1:3-6 where we see God's purpose is the praise of His glorious grace. In Southern Baptist circles it used to be popular to say that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. What was meant by this was to be focused on evangelism, which was the main thing. But that's not what Ephesians 1 says. It says that God's purpose, His main thing, is His glory.

This is further reiterated in Isaiah 66:15-24. In v.18 the redeemed see God's glory. Part of this is that in v.24 they gather and look upon the torment of the damned. This image is picked up by the Apostle Paul in Romans 9:22-26 where the vessels of wrath are endured to show God's glory to the vessels of mercy.

What Then Is God's Strategy?

Rev. Phillips defined strategy as application of certain resources to meet a particular objective through certain means. What is the strategy of God in His war? The cross.

God's objective is that in history and at the end of history He displays his glory. His strategic methodololgy is cross bearing disciples. To be successful in war your strategy must undermine the power of your enemy. The cross is the one strategy for which Satan has no answer. Satan is the accuser. He tempts us, then accuses us for failing to resist the temptation. But the cross covers all our failures.

Think about how God has employed this strategy in the Scriptures. God told Abraham that He would send Abraham's descendents to Egypt to be slaves for 400 years. This is not our idea of the victorious Christian life. It would only be when they were weak on oppressed, when they could not deliver themselves, that God would send a redeemer to deliver them.

Therefore, God alone gets the credit for bringing them out of Egypt and destroying Pharoah and his army. God alone provides for them in the desert. God alone protects them from those that would kill them. God is glorified through the trials of His people.

Think about where Jerusalem is located. Unlike the other major cities of the ancient middle east, Jerusalem is not on a river. The city is between the powers of the north (Assyria/Babylon) and Egypt in the south. Every invasion goes through Israel. Then God tells them they cannot have chariots. Why? So that God can display His glory in delivering them.

Isaiah records two events where this happens. The first time he comes before Ahaz (Isaiah 7), who has made an alliance with Assyria. Rather than trust God to display His glory by delivering Judah, Ahaz acts out of self-preservation. He should not have allied himself with Assyria, but waited upon God's deliverance. Years later the Assyrians invade Judah. Ahaz successor Hezekiah has to make a similar choice, but he trusts in God. Because of this, God delivers the people from the Assyrians (Isaiah 37).

Where Have We Gone Wrong?

Because we do not know God's objective and strategy, we tend to embrace one of two erroneous views of the world. The first is that of Disneyland. The world should be a place where we can be safe and frolic and have fun. If we do not see the world this way, we tend to see it as a shopping mall, where everything is supposed to be available to us. With a little hard work anything we want should be within our reach.

The first represents a view of God's objective that is common among a the posperity gospel preachers. God wants you to have your best life now. The second is more of a fundamentalist approach that says if I try hard enough, God will bless me. This latter error is illustrated by the belief of Job's counselors. Since Job was suffering, he had to have committed a major sin.

Today, the church in America defines success by numbers. How many people are we bringing in the door. Therefore, we compromised the gospel to get more people in church. This approach has progressed from Hybels, to Warren, to Osteen. By the measure of success of numbers, this approach has been successful.

Numbers are not unimportant. Numbers represent people. But when we talk numbers, numbers of what? God's objective is not to simply fill a pew. God is looking for believers who will bear a cross to glorify Him. After all, God's objective is to display His glory. God can be glorified in a large church (think Spurgeon, Macarthur, Piper, Driscoll, etc.) but He can also be glorified in a small church. Whether large or small, what is significant is that we are proclaiming the gospel and looking to Christ.

So it is not about how large your church is. How successfully we can market Christianity. God's strategy is that through the suffering of your life as you pursue holiness God will display the glory of his grace. And as the gospel is preached and rejected He will glorify His power in the judgment of the wicked. So, do you wait on Him when you are discouraged or afflicted, or do you seek alliances with Assyria. Also, do you proclaim the gospel, knowing that to some it is the aroma of life, and to others a stench of death?