Contend Earnestly: September 2008

Friday, September 26, 2008

Dispensationalism, Covenant and New Covenant Theology

I admit it, I steal. I lifted this from Desiring God and the following was written by Dr. John Piper. I thought this was a great glimpse into each theological department in one post. Figured I would put them here. Historically I have been a dispensationalist, but according to these descriptions alone, I would really lean more towards New Covenant Theology. Before I get into each one, here is a quote from Driscoll that would help understanding of where I fall in the looking at the OT (and why I feel I am getting closer to NCT, although I still strongly believe in a literal 1000 years):

It is my desire that you really embrace this simple but transforming truth. Unless Jesus is the central message of the Old Testament, many errors abound. The most common is moralizing. Moralizing is reading the Old Testament not to learn about Jesus, but only to learn principles for how to live my life as a good person by following the good examples of some people and avoiding the bad examples of others. That kind of approach to the Old Testament is not Christian because it is not about Christ. It treats the Bible like any other book with moral lessons that are utterly disconnected from the example and empowerment of Jesus.
Mark Driscoll, A Book that You Will Actually Read on the Old Testament, p. 42

Below is a quick description of each theological position in a nut shell, which one do you agree with? Do these faithfully describe each one? Take a look below.

What does John Piper believe about dispensationalism, covenant theology, and new covenant theology?
By Dr. John Piper
January 23, 2006

There are three main theological camps on the issues of law, gospel, and the structuring of God's redemptive relationship with humankind: dispensationalism, covenant theology, and new covenant theology. Many have written to us asking about the differences between these three views, and so before discussing John Piper's perspective we will give an overview of each.

It can be hard to summarize dispensational theology as a whole because in recent years multiple forms of it have developed. In general, there are three main distinctives.

First, dispensationalism sees God as structuring His relationship with mankind through several stages of revelation which mark off different dispensations, or stewardship arrangements. Each dispensation is a "test" of mankind to be faithful to the particular revelation given at the time. Generally, seven dispensations are distinguished: innocence (before the fall), conscience (Adam to Noah), government (Noah to Babel), promise (Abraham to Moses), Law (Moses to Christ), grace (Pentecost to the rapture), and the millennium.

Second, dispensationalism holds to a literal interpretation of Scripture. This does not deny the existence of figures of speech and non-literal language in the Bible, but rather means that there is a literal meaning behind the figurative passages.

Third, as a result of this literal interpretation of Scripture, dispensationalism holds to a distinction between Israel (even believing Israel) and the church. On this view, the promises made to Israel in the OT were not intended as prophecies about what God would do spiritually for the church, but will literally be fulfilled by Israel itself (largely in the millennium). For example, the promise of the land is interpreted to mean that God will one day fully restore Israel to Palestine. In contrast, non-dispensationalists typically see the land promise as intended by God to prophesy, in shadowy Old-covenant-form, the greater reality that He would one day make the entire church, Jews and Gentiles, heirs of the whole renewed world (cf. Romans 4:13).

In many ways it is thus accurate to say that dispensationalism believes in "two peoples of God." Although both Jews and Gentiles are saved by Christ through faith, believing Israel will be the recipient of additional "earthly" promises (such as prosperity in the specific land of Palestine, to be fully realized in the millennium) that do not apply to believing Gentiles, whose primary inheritance is thus "heavenly."

Covenant Theology
Covenant theology believes that God has structured his relationship with humanity by covenants rather than dispensations. For example, in Scripture we explicitly read of various covenants functioning as the major stages in redemptive history, such as the covenant with Abraham, the giving of the law, the covenant with David, and the new covenant. These post-fall covenants are not new tests of man's faithfulness to each new stage of revelation (as are the dispensations in dispensationalism), but are rather differing administrations of the single, overarching covenant of grace.

The covenant of grace is one of two fundamental covenants in covenant theology. It structures God's post-fall relationship to mankind; pre-fall, God structured His relationship by the covenant of works. The covenant of grace is best understood in relation to the covenant of works.

The covenant of works, instituted in the Garden of Eden, was the promise that perfect obedience would be rewarded with eternal life. Adam was created sinless but with the capability of falling into sin. Had he remained faithful in the time of temptation in the Garden (the "probationary period"), he would have been made incapable of sinning and secured in an eternal and unbreakable right standing with God.

But Adam sinned and broke the covenant, and thereby subjected himself and all his descendants to the penalty for covenant-breaking, condemnation. God in His mercy therefore instituted the "covenant of grace," which is the promise of redemption and eternal life to those who would believe in the (coming) redeemer. The requirement of perfect obedience for eternal life is not annulled by the covenant of grace, but is rather fulfilled by Christ on behalf of His people, since now that all are sinners no one can meet the condition of perfect obedience by his own performance. The covenant of grace, then, does not set aside the covenant of works but rather fulfills it.

As mentioned above, covenant theology emphasizes that there is only one covenant of grace, and that all of the various redemptive covenants that we read of in the Scripture are simply differing administrations of this one covenant. In support, it is pointed out that a covenant is in essence simply a sovereignly given promise (usually with stipulations), and since there is only one promise of salvation (namely, by grace through faith), it follows that there is therefore only one covenant of grace. All of the specific redemptive covenants we read of (the Abrahamic, Mosaic, etc.) are various and culminating expressions of the covenant of grace.

New Covenant Theology
New covenant theology typically does not hold to a covenant of works or one overarching covenant of grace (although they would still argue for only one way of salvation). The essential difference between New Covenant Theology (hereafter NCT) and Covenant Theology (CT), however, concerns the Mosaic Law. CT holds that the Mosaic Law can be divided into three groups of laws--those regulating the government of Israel (civil laws), ceremonial laws, and moral laws. The ceremonial law and civil law are no longer in force because the former was fulfilled in Christ and the latter only applied to Israel's theocracy, which is now defunct. But the moral law continues.

NCT argues that one cannot divide the law up in that way, as though part of the Mosaic Law can be abrogated while the rest remains in force. The Mosaic Law is a unity, they say, and so if part of it is canceled, all of it must be canceled. On top of this, they say that the New Testament clearly teaches that the Mosaic Law as a whole is superseded in Christ. It is, in other words, no longer our direct and immediate source of guidance. The Mosaic Law, as a law, is no longer binding on the believer.

Does this mean that believers are not bound by any divine law? No, because the Mosaic Law has been replaced by the law of Christ. NCT makes a distinction between the eternal moral law of God and the code in which God expresses that law to us. The Mosaic Law is an expression of God's eternal moral law as a particular code which also contains positive regulations pertinent to the code's particular temporal purpose, and therefore the cancellation of the Mosaic Law does not mean that the eternal moral law is itself canceled. Rather, upon canceling the Mosaic Law, God gave us a different expression of his eternal moral law--namely, the Law of Christ, consisting in the moral instructions of Christ's teaching and the New Testament. The key issue that NCT seeks to raise is: Where do we look to see the expression of God's eternal moral law today--do we look to Moses, or to Christ? NCT says we look to Christ.

There are many similarities between the Law of Christ and Mosaic Law, but that does not change the fact that the Mosaic Law has been canceled and that, therefore, we are not to look to it for direct guidance but rather to the New Testament. For example, England and the US have many similar laws (for example, murder is illegal in both countries). Nonetheless, the English are not under the laws of America, but of England. If an English citizen murders in England, he is held accountable for breaking England's law against murder, not America's law against murder.

The benefit of NCT, its advocates argue, is that it solves the difficulty of trying to figure out which of the Mosaic laws apply to us today. On their understanding, since the Mosaic Law is no longer a direct and immediate source of guidance, we look to the Law of Christ for our direct guidance. Although the Mosaic Law is no longer a binding law code in the NT era, it still has the authority, not of law, but of prophetic witness. As such, it fills out and explains certain concepts in both the old and new covenant law.

John Piper's position
John Piper has some things in common with each of these views, but does not classify himself within any of these three camps. He is probably the furthest away from dispensationalism, although he does agree with dispensationalism that there will be a millennium.

Many of his theological heroes have been covenant theologians (for example, many of the Puritans), and he does see some merit in the concept of a pre-fall covenant of works, but he has not taken a position on their specific conception of the covenant of grace.

In regards to his views on the Mosaic Law, he seems closer to new covenant theology than covenant theology, although once again it would not work to say that he precisely falls within that category.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

When to Stand; When to Flee

I have been teaching through the book, "Don't Waste Your Life" by John Piper to our youth. We are really hitting our stride in the book and I find it very interesting the different points that Piper makes.

We all know that we are going to have persecution as Christians, it is like saying, "if you are a human, you have a soul."

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
2 Timothy 3:12

I always ask myself, in times of peace, "why am I not being persecuted?" Usually the answer is because I am not standing for Christ as I ought. We know we will be persecuted as we live out our lives for Christ, but the question then comes, "Does this mean that I run into an angry Muslim mob in Iraq and tell them that Muhammad is a false prophet and Jesus died for their sins?" I don't think so. Well, I hope not. Well...maybe?

We know that through persecution that Christ will give us grace that is sufficient for us (2 Cor 12:8) which is a great comfort, but the gray area comes in "when do I take a stand and when do I flee?" Missionaries have to answer this question most often as their lives are often at stake in hostile communities. They must know when to run, when to stand. But, whatever the case, they must bathe their decision in prayer and ask God for wisdom in it. Paul understood this. Paul understood that a Christian life lived is not a life lived for the sake of self, but for the sake of Christ's fame. This means that if you flee for the sake of your safety and not for the glory of God, that is sin. Also, if you take a stand for the sake of your name, so that all will hear how great you are in your standing, and not for Christ's glory, then that is sin. Both can be sin, both can be in the will of God. Is there a perfect answer for how this should take place? I think not.

The one standing within these options must plead to God for wisdom and power to do what is in His will and not their own. This might mean teaching in Iraq and it might mean running from Iraq. It might mean standing against your boss, it might mean shutting your mouth. But, there is no chapter in the Bible with a laid out plan. What I found very interesting is how John Bunyan thought of this, the pastor who spent twelve years in prison and wrote Pilgrim’s Progress. He could have been released from prison if he had agreed not to preach. His wife and children needed him. One of his daughters was blind. It was an agonizing decision. “The parting with my wife and poor children hath often been to me in this place as the pulling of the Flesh from my bones."

Here is what he wrote about the Christian’s freedom to stay or flee from danger.

May we try to escape? Thou mayest do in this as it is in thy heart. If it is in thy heart to fly, fly: if it be in thy heart to stand, stand. Any thing but a denial of the truth. He that flies, has warrant to do so; he that stands, has warrant to do so. Yea, the same man may both fly and stand, as the call and working of God with his heart may be. Moses fled, Exodus 2:15; Moses stood, Hebrews 11:27. David fled, 1 Samuel 19:12; David stood, 1 Samuel 24:8. Jeremiah fled, Jeremiah 37:11–12; Jeremiah stood, Jeremiah 38:17. Christ withdrew himself, Luke 9:10; Christ stood, John 18:1–8. Paul fled, 2 Corinthians 11:33; Paul stood, Act 20:22–23.…

There are few rules in this case. The man himself is best able to judge concerning his present strength, and what weight this or that argument has upon his heart to stand or fly.… Do not fly out of a slavish fear, but rather because flying is an ordinance of God, opening a door for the escape of some, which door is opened by God’s providence, and the escape countenanced by God’s Word. Matthew 10:23.… If, therefore, when thou hast fled, thou art taken, be not offended at God or man: not at God, for thou art his servant, thy life and thy all are his; not at man, for he is but God’s rod, and is ordained, in this, to do thee good. Hast thou escaped? Laugh. Art thou taken? Laugh. I mean, be pleased which way soever things shall go, for that the scales are still in God’s hand.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Game Day for the Glory of God

This book is a very compact book (95 pages), but is packed with godly wisdom in our understanding of sports. The author, Stephen Altrogge, conveys a deeper understanding of why we have sports and how a Christian should represent Christ through them, not apart from them. He successfully shows the impact we can have as we play and watch sports for the glory of God, and what impact we can have if we do it for the glory of ourselves.

Sports provide us with opportunities to grow in godliness. Few things allow us to grow in humility, conquer our anger, discipline our bodies, persevere in the face of adversity, and pursue excellence, all in the span of an hour or two. Sports expose our sinful pride and desire for personal glory. They reveal our sinful self-sufficiency, self-worship, and self-centeredness. They also present unique opportunities to grow in humility, a character trait that deeply pleases God. Sports also expose our anger, impatience, and sinful cravings, thus enabling us to grow in God-honoring self-control.
Stephen Altrogge, p. 103

He not only draws attention to the person actually playing the sport, but also to the parent that is to be training the child in glorifying God in all things. This is very helpful as I am a dad, past his prime in playing sports, but can have a lasting impact on my two sons who are now getting into watching and playing feverishly.

Don't simply drop them off and pick them up from practices and games. Don't think that your responsibility ends with attending games. Rather, before each practice or game take a few moments to help your children prepare their hearts. Remind them of the need for humility, self-control, passion, encouragement, and trust. Help them see how sports fit into the bigger picture of life, eternity and God's glory. If time permits, pray with your children before each practice or game. In doing so you will help your children grow in godliness while playing sports. Hebrews 12:14 tells us to "Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." Sports provide us with an opportunity to strive for holiness. Let us take full advantage of that opportunity.
Steven Altrogge, p. 105

The chapters in this book break down like this:

1. A Life for the Glory of God
2. The Source of All Talent
3. The Joy of Sports
4. Game Day Priorities
5. Winners and Losers
6. Parents, Children, and the Glory of God
7. Tying it All Together

Appendix by C.J. Mahaney

The appendix, only 4 pages long, is very helpful as Pastor Mahaney puts forth a quick list of things he goes over with his son before every sporting event or practice:

- Humbly receive correction from your coach, and ask your coach how you can grow in character as well as athletic skill.

- Thank your coaches for the way they have served you. And thank the referees after each game.

- Encourage your teammates for their display of godly character and athletic skill-in that order of priority.

- Encourage your opponents during and after the game. If you knock someone over, extend your hand to help him up.

- Play the game passionately and unselfishly. Serve your team by playing aggressive defense (his father never did this) and passing the ball on offense (again, his father never did this).

- Humbly respond when the referee calls a foul on you. Do not complain or disagree in word or by facial expression (unfortunately, his father always did this).

- No inappropriate celebrating after you score; instead recognize that others played a role (his father never did this).

- Thank the team manager for the way he served, and recognize the humility and servanthood he is displaying at each game. Remember that true greatness is sitting on the end of the bench.

The whole of the book is filled with information like this and draws on stories of major events in sports history, great quotes from some Christian athletes and of course the personal stories from Altrogge that makes you cringe and laugh (especially when you can see yourself in his stories).

Overall it is a very practical book that points to the glory of God. When a book can look to sports in this way and point us to the Creator of sports, it is already starting in the right direction. I would very much recommend this to any parent or teen that is involved in any kind of sport in any way. As a father I am excited to take these truths and apply them to my family as I train my boys to be glorifying God in all things, especially sports. Highly Recommended. Link to Buy

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

More Stuff/Crap About Vulgar Language

As I continue to take a deeper look into what this means to use vulgarity and what it means to try and understand coarse language, I think there is something that is missing in this understanding. What I, and what I suppose Tripp, Driscoll and Piper are saying, and what I know Tim Lien is saying, is that vulgar language is not always used nor appropriate. What I am not going to do is walk around and just start to use vulgar language for the sake of doing so under my liberty. For the sake of stereotyping, I am not going to become a drunken sailor. :)

The idea behind language is to know the hearer. This is really just another understanding of contextualization. This does not mean that if I am standing with folk that like to cuss for the sake of cussing that I just join in. But, what I am saying is that if I am with a crass crowd that think they are doing just fine in their walk in life, it will make more sense to use some coarse language for them to understand their plight. Meaning. I would show them how their righteous deeds are like bloody tampons (Isaiah 64:6); that Paul counted all things that he did in the flesh as "s____"; that their idols in their life are like them being whores and sluts instead of submitting to the authority of the Creator (all of Isaiah,Jeremiah, Ezekiel).

Does this mean that I sit in front of my 4 and 5 year old and talk to him in the same way? No, of course not. Does this mean that I stand in front my church and preach this in the same way? Some of the above would be worth it, not all of it though. Am I going to tell a mother that has come out of a divorce, hooked on drugs and knows she needs a redeemer that she is a whore after other gods? No. I have to know my listeners. This is how Christ and the prophets all did it as they exclaimed the word of God. The listeners had a huge role in what ways the gospel was pronounced. So, with the righteous people Christ used very coarse language and word pictures, but with the woman at the well, it was done with more "soft" wording for her to see the water that never runs dry. I also will not use words that I know someone finds offensive if we are just having a conversation. Again, important to know the hearer.

I think the biggest fear of most people that see these types of posts is the fear that I am going to give out a license to cuss. That is not what any of us are saying. We are saying that any time we publicly speak things we know to be vulgar, or coarse, this is to be bathed in prayer for understanding and to behold the glory of God in it. The reason for any type of vulgarity or coarse language is the same reason for vulgarity and coarse language in the Scriptures: to awaken the hearers out of their dullness.

If we take a stand against vulgarity and coarse language for the fear of licentiousness then we should go ahead and do the same with the grace of the cross. The reason I say this is that a lot of people hate when pastors focus in on grace and forgiveness because they are afraid you are going to give people a license to just sin and ask for forgiveness. But, we must not be scared to preach biblically for the fear of what sinners might do with the message. Remember what Paul says, "Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be!" We must preach the message of the Scriptures under the fear of our God. The whole counsel of God is to be preached, not just what we find to be useful or appropriate. I start to wonder if we really believe 2 Timothy 3:16

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
2 Timothy 3:16

There is a time to preach and teach the vulgarity of sinfulness. There is a time to use terms that will awaken the hearer to their plight. We must contextualize the gospel so that all will hear and awaken. We must also not just use vulgarity for the sake of vulgarity. We must use only what is deemed permissible in the Scriptures to awaken the hearer, even if culture would screech at such word usage.

I am guessing that no one in culture would like to hear the following:

19 Yet she became more and more promiscuous as she recalled the days of her youth, when she was a prostitute in Egypt. 20 There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses. 21 So you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when in Egypt your bosom was caressed and your young breasts fondled.
Ezekiel 23:19-21

We must use discretion when to use Ezekiel and when to use Christ's words to the woman at the well, as there was nothing vulgar or coarse in his language, yet it penetrated the woman:

Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
John 4:13-14

This is why it is not an easy job to preach and teach the gospel of our Lord. He doesn't tell us when to use Ezekiel and when to use more subtle and soft language. Maybe this is why Paul exhorts us to "pray unceasingly." Maybe this is why the early church instituted that they could "devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word."

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Further Discussion on Coarse Language

This has really been a firestorm here. It is understandably controversial, but a controversy that needs to be discussed. I have always wondered what makes a word "good" or "bad" and felt that Dr. Paul Tripp gave some great insights into this. If you haven't seen the short video, check it out here. I have always wondered how words have played out and become curse words, or filthy words, over time and how they affect different cultures. I believe words are no different than many other aspects of our culture. We as Christians are to then take a look at when to go with culture and when to take a stand against it. We are all affected by culture, so we must discern what is acceptable and what is not. I have been having a discussion in this comment thread and found it to be odd what some would call "coarse" and what some would call "okay." This is why I believe that Tripp hits the heart of the matter in this discussion. Because it actually is about knowing who you are talking to, even if some don't believe this to be true. We see this in Christ with the Pharisees and the woman at the well, we see this with Paul when speaking to Jews vs. Gentiles vs. Legalists, we see this with John when using the term "logos" to refer to Christ, we see this in Peter's sermons, etc. We really see this all through Scripture. The people you are talking to is a major component of how you use language and what language you use. If you want some further insight to this, check out this post on contextualization.

When people hate on Driscoll I find it interesting because they really don't realize the difficulty found up here in Seattle. I recently spoke to the head of the (as I know him personally) at the Biblical Parenting Conference and he told me that when pastors from around the world came up here in February for the Resurgence Conference, most of them said, "I would never want to minister in Seattle." They could see the difference in just being here for a week. Yet, some don't want acknowledge this.

Beyond all this, Tim Lien has a great post on coarse language, and I thought I would share it here. We have been speaking over the past week on this subject and he directed me to his post and another post by well respected scholar, Peter Leithart. His post is entitled: On Vulgar Language.

As far as Tim Lien's post, here it is (if you want to see it in its original form, click here):

Taking the *Bleep* Out of *Bleep*
by Tim Lien

Leave it to a Presbyterian minister to take all the fun out of cursing. I realize that this discussion could possibly be quite volatile. But, again, leave it to a Presbyterian minister to coldly and systematically approach the subject.

Most importantly, as the Shorter Catechism (Q#2) reminds us, the Scriptures should be our only rule and appeal for the glorification and enjoyment of God. In other words, we should let Scripture guide our beliefs, not cultural mores or conventional sentiment. This is especially important when it comes to swearing and cursing—since it is not an issue where you find many moderates.

There are 5 basic groups [my personal arrangement only] of “swear/cuss” words that I will address. I have addressed them in the order of their severity (#1 being the worst offense).

1) Profanity There is actually only ONE form of true “profanity.” Profanity is to directly blaspheme or attack the Creator. Profanity is “to treat the sacred with abuse or irreverence.” Profanity demeans what is good, holy, and pure. This is done in many ways. For example: “Oh my G-d!” or “G-dd-mnit” or “Jesus Christ” (In a perjorative /exclamatory way) or “Jesus H. Christ.” And there are others. Many people do not realize that saying “Oh my God” is really much, much, worse than saying the “F-Bomb.” Profanity blatantly trivializes and dismisses our holy, powerful God as common and capable of defamation. In effect, profanity is “taking the Lord’s name in vain,” which is clearly laid out in the third of the 10 commandments. I have told many people that I would actually rather hear the “f-word,” than to hear the Lord’s name in vain. People do not understand the gravity of this sin. Instead of mocking or deriding the creation— they boldly and brazenly mock the Creator. Yet, you will hear this with greater frequency: “Oh my God!” And, yet, it does not carry the negative stigma across our social strata. The remaining categories are simply an intellectual discussion compared to this one. This one is non-negotiable. The ancient Hebrews referred to God as YHWH(Yahweh), and yet, in prayers, they referred to him as Adonai. With any other verbal reference to God they used “Jehovah,” (transposing the vowel pointings of Adonai over the vowel pointings YHWH) so that they would not even come close to violating the third commandment. Even in historical rabbinical literature and modern English, orthodox Jews will type “G-d” to show the greatest reverence for his name.

2) Cursing The biblical definition/and record of cursing is very clear: Cursing is the act of wishing ill fortune to come to the hearer. Job cursed the day he was born, and he also cursed the life of the person who told his parents that he had been born. (Job 3) Almost every single prophet was used by God to pronounce cursings on the people of Israel and also the alien outsiders/foreigners/invaders (eg. like Babylon, etc…) The biblical definition of cursing does not include swearing. Cursing is wholly limited to the calling out for bad things to descend upon the one being cursed. Also check out Prov. 26:2 “Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, so a curse without cause does not alight.” In other words, there are times when cursing is fully godly and appropriate— if there is just cause. However, curses are meaningless if there is no real reason for you to utter them. Are we to believe that we must be holier than Job— the “most righteous man on earth?” Must we be cleaner than the bible itself and all of the prophets. That is being a Pharisee. (Making stronger rules to prevent from breaking the real ones.) Another word that must be inserted in this category is “d-mit.” Most likely, in its etymology there almost certainly is an implied “(‘God’)d-mit.” I would agree that frequent/undiscerning/loose use of this word is not advisable nor godly. However, there are times that the human soul finds proper expression of the longing and ache for the heavenly kingdom by this very utterance. What do I mean? Affected by the Fall, man AND creation are constantly falling apart. The works of man are always frustrated by imperfection and sin. Nothing will be perfect until Christ comes back again. And anything that is not perfect will not find a place within the future kingdom. One of my professors gave this example: If a chair that was poorly designed to accomplish what it should do (hold a person up), and then, the chair breaks, a possible response to that occurrence would be to say “d-nit!” Why? We are expressing that all bad things— even badly designed things should be dismissed from the heavenly kingdom. That badly designed chair has no place in the kingdom of God. However, due to ignorance and our own times of when our anger becomes sinful, the proper usage of this seems to be very rare. An additional caveat: God alone has the right to damn or to redeem, so it is imperative that we “damn” the things that God himself damns.

3) Swearing/Oaths This is probably the most misunderstood of all the biblical references to “swearing.” The biblical intent and definition of “swearing” is the act of taking an oath based on the validity and power of the one sworn by/to. We are commanded not to “swear” in God’s name. In other words, this is never appropriate: “I swear to God.” Why? Because you are making God culpable and responsible for the act that we are swearing to. This is not good. The bible also places “oaths” in this category. Unless vows/oaths/swearing are taking place within the context of accountability, then they are improper. In fact, our Book of Church Order views “oaths/vows” as one of the elements of worship. It happens every time we accept new members, perform a baptism, or ordain a new minister.

4) Perversion and Degradation This category is somewhat difficult to exhaustively explain, since there is an endless supply of sexual euphemisms available to the human language. However, this category represents all words that demean, belittle, pervert, or soil the created order, creation, and the beautiful acts of creation. Most often, it is a reference to sexual activity. Since this is an ordained and beautiful creation of God— it would be wise to not to treat these words lightly. I would include “hell” in this category, as well. An often ignored word is also in this category: “fool.” The Proverbs warn about the gravity of calling someone a “fool.” Sometimes, it is biblically warranted— but it shouldn’t be thrown around loosely, either. One other item might be mentioned here: it doesn’t take a “cuss word” for us to communicate hate or perversion. The most innocuous word could be used in a context of rage and perversion.

5) Linguistic inelegance/Rough language This final category can hardly be in the same discussion with the first 4 categories. But because of misunderstandings, I will include it. Dorothy Sayers(fellow Inkling with CS Lewis) writes that these words are “at worst, inelegance— no more.” This would include words like “-ss,” “sh-t,” “b-tch,” “b-stard,” and others….These words have been simply ascribed severity by their social context. There are other acceptable words that mean exactly the same thing. We MUST pay attention to what words mean— NOT what they sound like! Would you find it cute if I said “arse” or “butt” or “gluteus maximus” or “heiney” or “backside?” They all mean “-ss.” Someone once wrote this response to this assertion: “When used in a way that is meant to bring down people, or even to interject strong feeling, it is morally and biblically wrong.” I could not dissagree more with this sentence! Our friend has said that these words are morally and biblically wrong! Evidently she does not know her own Bible! Paul uses the word “scubelo” or “sh-t” in Philippians 3. But the NT is a kindergarten classroom compared to the OT. All of the major translators (RSV,NIV,NAS) have chosen to render “explicit” words with more amenable word choices. Are we cleaner than God’s holy word? NO. A thousand times no! These strong words were used for a reason! Are we to change them so they suit are social context? I know that this is merely an introduction, however, the serious OT scholar would want to investigate the scribal transmission of text (especially concentrating on the use of “Kethibh” and “Qere”(the actual text and the marginal notations of explicit material) Kethibh is the term used for the original uncorrected text which would remain in all copies of the Scriptures. Qere would be any marginal notation that would actually be the words used in public reading (to preserve decorum, we presume.)

The final thought: We reserve our mouths at times— not because the specific speech is intrinsically or spiritually “bad,” but, rather, through our propriety we are showing deference and respect to all of our weaker brothers and sisters. Similarly, we are preserving the witness of Christ to an unbelieving world who may misunderstand and associate these words with “anti-Christian” beliefs. It is my wish that we 1) regain awesome reverence for God’s name 2) respect those around us 3) and not attach improper moralistic restraints to words that are not truly profane, curses, or perverse.

Commence the firestorm.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

God's Glory and the Stock Market

Many of you know, some may not, that my primary business is investments. I have been in the business since 1999 and seen many ups and downs. My father has been in the business since 1987. He actually started with Merrill Lynch a couple of months before Black Monday. What is interesting about the markets and my clients is that their joy and their happiness is ran by the stock market. Also, their love of me all depends on our returns. I have literally been told many times that I am a genius, and then when the market turned sour, that same client has said that they wanted to sue me because I am a moron. I admit that I am a moron, but please, don't sue me, because that just sucks.

Unless you have been in a cave, the markets have been all over the place because of our great administration that has allowed the biggest financial companies in the world to fall apart. You would think that they would have learned from Enron, Worldcom, etc. but it seems as though they have allowed the same mistakes to be made, just in different areas and in different ways. As of yesterday morning at about 9am, all the markets were down over 20% each for the year. Because of the downfall of the markets, you can only imagine how many times I have been called an idiot by my own clients...which some, because of their tone, have been told, "close your account, we will no longer service you." Which is the best part about owning your business. Instead of "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service" we stand by, "No Brains, No Tact, No Thanks."

The other side of the coin are those clients who ask, "How are you doing?" I have been asked by clients and others that know my line of business how I have been taking this down turn emotionally. This is the definite reason that God has placed me in this industry. My life is not determined by the Stock Market. My joy is not determined by the Stock Market. Is it difficult when the times are down? Yes, of course. Is it gut wrenching at times? Yes, of course. Does it destroy me and cause me to lose it in these circumstances?

Come on...remember...Jesus died for my soul. To live is Christ. Jesus is my prize, Jesus is my life, not my stupid job. Not money. Have I struggled with this concept? Yes, but like Paul said, I am dying daily in Christ Jesus (1 Cor 15:31). What does this mean? It means that if I am trying to prize Christ above all, then all his gifts to me are not the ultimate prize, he is. So, I die daily to health, wealth, friends, family and, of course, the Stock Market. If I die daily to these things, then when they are taken from me, I do not lose hope or joy, because my prize is found in Christ.

John Piper puts it this way:

When everything in life is stripped away except God, and we trust him more because of it, this is gain, and he is glorified.

So, when the Stock Market is up or down, God is glorified and He is good. When the Stock Market is down, it gives me the opportunity to tell those clients and those Christians who ask about my emotional state...God is glorified in this because He is my prize.

God designs that tribulations intensify our hope for the glory of God. Paul says in Romans 5:2 that we have access by faith into grace and “rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Then he tells us in the next two verses how that hope is preserved and sweetened: “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (verses 3–4).

This hope that grows and deepens and satisfies through suffering is the hope of verse 2, the “hope of the glory of God.” We were made to see and savor this glory. And God, in love, will use whatever trials are necessary to intensify our savoring of his glory.
John Piper

This is the message that I get to show others through my life, especially when the Market gets ripped to shreds.

And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

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When Christian Bashing Becomes Ridiculous

About three years ago we had a pastor come out and give a quick reprise of the emergent movement and also the seeker movement. Up here in Seattle, we seem to have both running pretty rampant. What I found in his words though, impacted me greatly.

He went through some of the dangers in both movements and why he would not employ their strategies and also some of their theologies. When speaking specifically of Rick Warren and the Purpose Driven Life/Church he ended up making a great point. He said, "When we are in heaven, and I don't pretend to know if this is what will happen, and we are sitting and speaking to each other, this isn't what I want to happen:

Saint Peter: So, Pastor Warren, in what ways did you try and glorify Christ?

Pastor Warren: I tried to implement strategies in winning as many people as I could to Christ. Some of them worked, some of them didn't, but my heart was to truly reach people for the sake of Christ.

Saint Peter: That sounds very interesting. I am glad to know that your heart was to win people to Christ. So, Seth, in what ways did you try and glorify Christ?

Seth: (pointing at Rick Warren, who is sitting in heaven) I tried to refute everything he was doing.

End Quote

I wonder what Peter, or anyone in heaven, would think of that conversation? At some point you have to make your point known on where you stand and then move on. So, if you disagree with someone (focus is on Christian brothers and sisters here), great, let it be known. But to continue to make it your mission to beat down guys like Driscoll, MacArthur, Warren, Piper, et al, you are going to sound ridiculous when you get to heaven and show off your fruit of really self exaltation of "why you were right."

With that said, I am only going to mention this once and will be done. I believe that Steve Camp is going over the edge with his absolute hatred of Driscoll, Tripp and Piper. If it isn't seems to be. He seems to take stands more on why these preachers of Christ are wrong, than other seemingly more important things. Steve...make your point and walk away.

Alright, that is my only rant, I will not bring up Steve Camp again. I just needed to give warning. From what I know, I will see Steve in heaven. We will glorify the Lamb together, and might even sing some of his songs there. But, I wish that he would switch gears here. He is viciously attacking God's own preachers and teachers. You can take a look at these two recent posts:

Let My Words Magnify the Lord: ...a plea and prayer to the young, restless, pseudo-reformed and emerging ->worship Jesus Christ with reverence

PAUL TRIPP-ING - HE REALLY LIKES TO SAY THE "S" WORD...has Piper lost his mind or just forgotten his Bible?

Let's be a people that show more of what we are for, than what we are against.

I am for Christ and Him glorified. Period. May his name be praised.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Preaching Notes

I found a pretty interesting series by Josh Harris. It is a series on preaching notes from some well known pastors around the country. The series has an intro and then a PDF with their actual notes they used to preach a sermon. It is interesting, to say the least, to see how others put their thoughts on paper as they prepare to bring the message of Christ. Just wait til you see Tim Keller's. Pretty crazy to say the least. Here are the posts that Pastor Josh did...enjoy:

Mark Dever
Mike Bullmore
C.J. Mahaney
Ray Ortlund, Jr.
Tim Keller

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Paul Tripp: What Makes a Word a Bad Word?

Here is my question that I would ask Dr. Tripp. He speaks of edification through building up through grace. My question is how we use words to those that are devout pagans or legalists? God and his prophets seem to “bring it” most with those types of people. They didn’t hold back and so I can see that as edifying the audience to show how stupid and grotesque their sins were. So, I wonder if Tripp makes a distinction here, or in those instances he would consider that to be “grace”…just wondering.

What are your thoughts on Dr. Tripp's distinctions? Is he crazy? I think it is very helpful.

HT: Pastor Pete

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Preach Jesus...Always

I am currently reading, The Law and Its Fulfillment: A Pauline Theology of Law, by Thomas R. Schreiner. It struck me as Dr. Schreiner was in his rebuttal of Sanders' thoughts on Judaism in both Second Temple Judaism and also Judaism in Paul's day. Sanders' main point through this is that the Jews during this time were not legalistic. Sander's tries to show that the reason that the Jews did the work of the Law was out of gratitude of the grace that God has shown them. Although I, of course, concede that this was the reason for the law, I do not believe that this is what was being practiced.

The problem is that one cannot find the grace taught in the rabbinic works in Second Temple Judaism. Sanders simply says that grace is presupposed and therefore not needed to be written to the Jews. Since the Jews knew that it was by grace that they were called and elected, there was no reason to include this in the rabbinic writings or teachings. Here is Sanders direct quote on the subject:

Very seldom is God's role in the covenant directly discussed. It is assumed so thoroughly that it need not be mentioned.
Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, p. 82

Based on this, Schreiner responds accordingly:

This explains, says Sanders, the emphasis in rabbinic literature on the fulfillment of commandments. Sanders' thesis on why the covenant is unmentioned may be granted in one sense. Presumably the rabbis did assume that God's covenantal mercies were the basis of all their behavior, and one must recall the nature of the literature found in the Mishnah and Gemara. Nevertheless, when one combines the failure to mention the covenant with the emphasis on obeying the detailed prescriptions of the law, one has a recipe for legalism. Such theology may not be legalistic in theory; it can always appeal to the covenant as the basis of all behavior. Theology, however, is not measured only by formal statements but also by what it stresses. Any theology that claims to stress God's grace but rarely mentions it and that elaborates human responsibility in detail inevitably becomes legalistic in practice, if not theory. This principle applies to rabbinic Judaism and to Christian churches. A church outwardly lauding grace as primary and fundamental may practice the most virulent legalism.
Schreiner, The Law and Its Fulfillment, p. 117

This is a great understanding. The main point that Schreiner is making is against Sanders' view and also Judaism's view of how to teach. This also hits us squarely on the head.

We cannot preach and teach like people understand that "it is all about Jesus" unless we show them how it is truly "all about Jesus." If we just give them things to do, steps to follow, and laws they must keep as a Christian, they will fall into legalism and so will we as the teachers. We can never assume that people "get it." We have to continue to put Jesus and the cross in the front of their eyes EVERYTIME we teach the Scriptures. The reason is that our futile minds and faulty reasoning as humans will naturally move to legalism and an understanding that it is all about what we do and not what Christ has done. So, if we just tell people to pray, read the word, tell others about Jesus, memorize Scripture and help those around them without telling them "why?," we have failed. We must always underline these things with the grace of the cross and the fulfillment of Christ. Without the preaching of the cross within these principles, we return to legalism by default.

Do not assume that your parishioners, or you, ever fully understand the grace of the cross. We must study the cross, preach the cross, pray the cross, sing the cross and live the cross. We must do this daily and we should do this because this is exactly what we will be doing for all eternity.

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped.
Revelation 5:11-14

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Bullinger's belief in Strict Limited Atonement and Unicorns

This is starting to frighten me. Yesterday, I posted something from my friend David on Bullinger's view of the atonement. David made a great comment in his post. He said:

These works have added a lot of useful material for my Bullinger file. What is clear now, beyond any doubt whatsoever, is that the doctrine of unlimited atonement was a Reformed doctrine. The evidence now is of such efficacy that only a proverbial fool would insist otherwise.

One may not agree with the doctrine. One may claim it is illogical. One may claim it is inconsistent with the doctrine of Predestination. One may claim that later Calvinists refined and smoothed out earlier inconsistencies. One can think and believe all that. What one cannot do is be dishonest about the plain and undeniable historicity of the doctrine in early Reformed theology.

What is starting to frighten me is the bullheaded process of just outright denying that the Reformers believed in universal atonement. Now, when we say this, we aren't denying that they also believed in limited atonement, we are saying that they believed both. Our friend Turretinfan cannot accept this. He goes to great lengths to try and outright deny that Bullinger or others ever believed in a universal atonement. So, he not only denies unlimited atonement but he now tries to just say, "nuh uh" when we constantly prove otherwise that a lot of the Reformers would agree with us. He might as well try and prove that Bullinger also believed in unicorns. I can accept that he doesn't believe in the unlimited view of the atonement, but this is getting ridiculous how much he twists words and ignores plain language to try and refute that the reformers didn't believe in the unlimited aspect of the atonement. With his arguments I am going to start to debate why Bullinger and the Reformers believed that leprechauns rode in on unicorns with fairy dust to take over Montana. No matter how hard Turretinfan, and others mind you, try and refute the plain language of Bullinger and others, it is still there for all to read. Take a look at this comment from Bullinger (from David's follow up post):

Also they declare by the way, whom he has redeemed: that is to wit, men of all tribes, &c. In which rehearsal he does imitate Daniel in the 7. chapt. and signifies an universality, for the Lord has died for all: but that all are not made partakers of this redemption, it is through their own fault. For the Lord excludes no man, but him only which through his own unbelief, and misbelief excludes himself. &c. Henry Bullinger, A Hvndred Sermons Vpon the Apocalipse of Iesu Christ. (London: Printed by Iohn Daye, Dwellyng ouer Aldersgate, 1573), 79-80.

Can you honestly tell me that Bullinger is not clear as day here? It is now to the point to where we say it is sunny outside and Turretinfan says that it is snowing and it is midnight.

If you would like to see to what lengths Turretinfan is going to try and prove that there are unicorns in the language of Bullinger click here. To see David's rebuttal, click here.

If you don't agree with us, fine. I can take that. But stop with this pretend world that makes no sense at all. At some point, you have to just say, I don't agree with some of the Reformers and move on. But to continue to try and have a smear campaign is retarded.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Reformed Doctrine of Unlimited Atonement

This is a post that my friend David did over at theology online. I really liked it and hope that it will shed some light on those who refuse to believe that the unlimited view of the atonement is merely Arminian or by deviant Amyraldians. Take a look and also take a look at the links included within the post. David has compiled quite the list that is overwhelmingly in the favor of the Reformed TRUE understanding of the atonement. Here it is, enjoy:

For the last few months I have been working my way through some rare out-of-print works by Henry Bullinger.

These works include:

Henry Bullinger, Common Places of Christian Religion, (Imprinted at London by Tho. East, and H. Middleton, for George Byshop, 1572).

Henrie Bullinger, The Summe of the Foure Euangelistes Comprehending both the course of the historie, and also severall points of doctrine set foorth in the same, pointing foorth as it were with the hand, that IESVS is CHRIST, the only perfect and sufficient Saviour of all the Faithfull, (Imprinted at London: William Ponsonby at the signe of the Bishops head, 1582).

[Henry Bullinger], Looke from Adam, And behold The Protestants Faith and Religion (London: Printed by Iohn Haviland, for Thomas Pavier, and are to be sold at his shop in Ivie Lane, 1624).

Henry Bullinger, A Hvndred Sermons Vpon the Apocalipse of Iesu Christ. (London: Printed by Iohn Daye, Dwellyng ouer Aldersgate, 1573).

[Henry Bullinger], An Holsome Antidotus or counter-poyson agaynst the pestylent heresye and secte of the Anabaptistes newly translated out of the Latin into Englysh by John Veron, 1570.

Henry Bullynger, A moste sure and strong defence of the baptisme of children against the pestiferous secte of the Anabaptytses. set furthe by the famouse Clerke, Henry Bullyinger: & nowe translated out of Laten into Englysh by Jhon Verone (Imprynted at Worceter by Jhon Oswen, 1551).

These works have added a lot of useful material for my Bullinger file. What is clear now, beyond any doubt whatsoever, is that the doctrine of unlimited atonement was a Reformed doctrine. The evidence now is of such efficacy that only a proverbial fool would insist otherwise. When it comes to the Web’s many many uber-Calvinists and uber-apologists who insist that this doctrine was either invented by heretical Arminians or by deviant Amyraldians, it is now clear that they are just wrong. Some of our internet cowboys need to get their head out of their posterior on this point. One may not agree with the doctrine. One may claim it is illogical. One may claim it is inconsistent with the doctrine of Predestination. One may claim that later Calvinists refined and smoothed out earlier inconsistencies. One can think and believe all that. What one cannot do is be dishonest about the plain and undeniable historicity of the doctrine in early Reformed theology. To do that is just to engage in mindless smear campaigns and sectarian polemics. When we add other early Reformation leaders like Luther, Zwingli, Musculus, Gualther, Calvin and many others, it is either willful stubbornness or willful ignorance to deny the evidence of history. When folk over there at Puritanboard or on Paltalk or on the various boards out there, call the doctrine of ‘double-reference’ theory of the atonement “blasphemy” those persons exhibit some of the worst forms of ignorance imaginable.

It’s time that our uber-calvinists out there on the big wide web leave behind their sectarianism and arrogance and rethink their approach to Reformed theology and to those who deviate from them the merest nanometer.

David are the links to the quite large database of quotes and references compiled by David on the Reformed view of the atonement, love of God, desire of God, etc.

THE Index

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Speaking the Truth in Love and Unicorns

This title that I used for this post is probably the most overused and abused term today in the church and from those who don't like to cut it straight with people. What people seem to want this to mean is that we need to ride into town on a unicorn, dressed in a white Benny Hinn suit, handing out daisies and speaking softly like a midnight radio DJ. Is this what this means? Does this verse, which is found in Ephesians 4:15, trying to make sure that speak to each other like we are in a library filled with gumdrops and lollipops?

I would doubt it. The reason I think that this is taken out of context and used very wrongly is because people define love by what modern media defines it, instead of how God defines it.

Love would be defined by most people as speaking kindly and looking the other way, no matter what, with someone. Even lie if you have to, but whatever you do, don't tell them what you honestly think about them. Love has become the word that is used more to describe the 14 year old girl that is caught up in gazing into the eyes of the quarterback's dark brown eyes. This, sorry to say, isn't the love that is described in the Bible. That is just lust or puppy love, or whatever the kiddies call it today.

Love in the Bible would be probably best understood as giving or telling someone what they need to have, or need to hear, to build them up to a more godly way of life.

Why do I say this? Because the way we find God's love demonstrated isn't when he created unicorns in the Garden of Eden while Adam was sitting on a heart shaped couch. We find love being demonstrated in the most vile way possible: the cross.

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

Why is this shown to be God's love for us? I mean, God's love was shown by killing his Son in the most brutal way he could find? Yes. The reason is because this is exactly what we needed to happen to bring us from death to life, from sickness to health, from blind to sight. God's demonstration of love is violently different than most would allow in today's modern culture.

We also find Christ, before he was crucified, speaking the truth in love to those around him by not always saying the nicest things in the world, but making sure he spoke as to bring that person to a loving relationship with him. It seems as though Christ would say exactly what that person needed to hear to pierce their heart to the core so that they would understand their need for a Saviour.

Think of this:

He calls Peter Satan

He calls the legalist Pharisees white washed tombs and sons of the devil.

He calls the Israelites an adulterous nation (in other words he calls them a bunch of whores)

So on and so on....

So, this is one way of Christ speaking to people the truth in love. He needed to get their attention. Nice words weren't going to do it. Strong, piercing words needed to take place.

Jesus also shows us that it does matter who you are talking to when you decide how to bring them the truth in love. Some, if you were to call a son of the devil would agree with you and be even more depressed with their condition. So, breaking them down further with sharp words would be very careless.

Jesus shows this in two particular instances that I can see. One of the most glaring is the woman at the well. Jesus seems to be very calm with her and very loving towards her. Although he does still basically call her a whore by asking, "where is your husband?" He does it in a different way than he did it with others. What this does show us is that even if people are down on themselves and having a tough time apart from Christ, we still cannot simply overlook their sin. But the way that Christ handled the woman at the well is vastly different than he spoke to the Pharisees.

The other way that Christ shows the truth in love without screaming at someone is with Judas. This might have been the most piercing words found in the New Testament and is the most overlooked, in my estimation. It is found in Matthew 26:50:

Friend, do what you have come for

In one word, Jesus summarized his time with Judas. Jesus, although he had never done anything against Judas, but Judas had done so much against Jesus, calls him friend. This obviously opened up a damn of emotions in Judas. More than likely Judas did some "soul searching" at this point and saw that Jesus was perfect, did nothing but love Judas, lavish all he could for Judas and it was all summed up in one word: friend. Jesus shows in one word that although he knew all along who the son of perdition was, he still only showed him grace and mercy and truly loved him.

Jesus told Judas exactly what he needed to hear. The problem is that instead of it turning his heart towards Christ, it turned Judas against himself as we find himself killing himself for what he had done. I believe he did it because of one word: friend.

The point is that Jesus knew who he was dealing with. He knew those whom needed a strong word and those whom needed a kind, yet piercing word. But, let's stop this crap of "speak the truth in love" and think that it is describing the morning radio host on Christian radio stations.

May we wake up and try and actually know the audience we are speaking to. Let us speak with the goal of turning people from sin to grace through truly speaking the biblical understanding of truth in love.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Piper, Wright, Justification and Pauline Theology

This book is a tough one. The reason I say this is because I totally agree with John Piper's view, and the Reformation's view of the Pauline theology of justification by faith. I agree with Piper's and the Reformation's view of the imputation of Christ's righteousness to the believer. I also disagree with N.T. Wright's, which ultimately started with Schweitzer, Wrede and Sanders, view of Pauline theology and the link they believe it has with second century temple Judaism. Although I do like their premise of trying to understand Old Testament Judaism. I believe though that they get confused in what God intended with the Law and how the Jews misused it

So, now that I have stated all that, you would expect me to really like Piper's book on the topic. The problem is that I think it is a little too early to try and refute what Wright is coming out and saying. The reason for this is because no one really has a clear understanding of what Wright believes (at least those who I have talked to). Piper even praises Wright for many of his views of Scripture, and also the high view that Wright places on Scripture. But, there are many places in here that Piper says that he "thinks" Wright means this, or that Wright "might" believe that. I would think that it would be better to go ahead and wait this out until we find what Wright is really saying before we try and refute him outright.

With all this said, I also understand why Piper desired to come out with a refutation. I just believe it was too soon. I believe he would have been better to come out with a short intro to some disturbing beliefs of Wright and then write a polemic on the justification of God and the imputation of Christ. I know that Piper has a couple of books that do this, so maybe an update to those books with this intro would have served better.

The book, because of the confusion of Wright's beliefs, is very hard to follow. There are even parts in the book where I would probably either agree with what Wright is saying, confused on what the problem is, or just am completely confused on what Wright really believes. The book really makes you feel like Piper is as confused as you are with what Wright is trying to say.

I honestly wouuld not recommend this book to anyone trying to get a grasp on what Wright believes, it was very confusing. Because of this, Piper's refutations come out very confusing as well. The best part of the book was the end, when Piper gives a small defense of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ.

I believe that this book will be something that will be forgotten and will need to be thrown away once we understand more on what Wright is trying to get across in his views of Justification and Pauline theology. Once a better understanding is seen, I would ask Piper to try again. Not Recommended. Link to Buy.

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Augustine, Luther and Calvin

This is the first of the series of "The Swans Are Not Silent." This series is a series of books that are quick bios on the the lives of different people in the history of Christendom. The reason for the title of this series comes from a quote from Eraclius. Piper tells us the following:

At the age of seventy-one, four years before he died on August 28, A.D. 430, Aurelius Augustine handed over the administrative duties of the church in Hippo on the northern coast of Africa to his assistant Eraclius. Already, in his own lifetime, Augustine was a giant in the Christian world. At the ceremony, Eraclius stood to preach, as the aged Augustine sat on his bishop's throne behind him. Overwhelmed by a sense of inadequacy in Augustine's presence, Eraclius said, "The cricket chirps, the swan is silent."
The reason that Piper chose to title this series, "The Swans are NOT Silent" is because the legacy of understanding of the sovereignty of God by Augustine has been anything but silent. So, the idea behind this book of biographies is to show that the swans from Augustine to Luther to Calvin were not silent but heralded the truth of Sovereign Joy.

In this book, Piper gives three biographies in Augustine, Luther and Calvin. He focuses on four topics to which he really wants to drive home in these men:

1. Do not be paralyzed by your weaknesses and flaws

Piper does admit that the men being studied in this book are flawed. They are not perfect. Which is good, because they are not Christ, and we, as humans, can learn from them and their understanding of working out their salvation with fear and trembling. These men, although imperfect, continued to bear fruit for the sake of the glory of God.

2. In the battle against sin and surrender, learn the secret of sovereign joy

This was shown most clearly in the life of Augustine. Although he went from complete paganism and the love of women, to believing in complete heresy, God brought him through this to his side for the glory of God. Augustine saw this as God's complete work of salvation through him, which if it weren't for God, Augustine would have never come to God on his own.

3. Supernatural change comes from seeing Christ in his sacred word

Luther was the found in the light of this thesis statement. Luther focused in on the sacred study of the word of God. He saw that this is where Christ was to be found through the Holy Spirit, prayer and meditation. He made sure that people, especially those caught in the bounds of Catholicism, realized that our only hope is found in the Word of God and not in the knowledge and tradition of men.

4. Therefore, let us exult over the exposition of the truth of the gospel and herald the glory of Christ for the joy of all peoples.

Piper shows this in the life of John Calvin. When Calvin found Christ in the Scriptures and was caught up in Reformation doctrine, he did what he only knew he should do: Preach. John Calvin's life was known for his preaching. Preaching for John Calvin was faithful, verse by verse, exposition of the word of God. Here he found that through this preaching the exaltation and glory of Christ was found and given for us all to enjoy. So much so that when he was preaching in Geneva, he was banished by the city council. When he was allowed to return three years later, he picked up the exposition in the next verse. John Calvin firmly believed in the preaching of the word of God.

This small book was a great quick intro to the lives of these men. By no means it is exhaustive, but that wasn't its intent. I would recommend this to anyone who either wants a quick refresher or for those who know very little about these men. You will notice that the overall these in these pages is the Sovereign Joy of our God. Recommended. Link to Buy.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Augustine Holds True Against the Prosperity "Gospel"

I am not a great historian. I kind of wish I was, but the fact is, I don't have time and when I read biographies with a lot of facts, I usually lose interest. This is a huge hole in my theological knowledge, and sometimes it pains me. I bring this up because of a couple of quotes that I read from Augustine. They would be very appropriate to take to the prosperity gospel proponents for questioning. The reason I speak of my limited knowledge on history is because I wonder when the prosperity gospel started taking such a foot hold worldwide. We know that it has always been somewhat present because we see Paul say some things that would point to the evil preachers of money during his time:

For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.
2 Corinthians 2:17

We also even see this said in Isaiah (which is speaking of the evil people taking advantage through evil statutes, but the moral reasoning still stands):

So as to deprive the needy of justice
And rob the poor of My people of their rights,
So that widows may be their spoil
And that they may plunder the orphans.
Isaiah 10:2

The biggest issue that I find with the Prosperity "Gospel" is that they put the gift above the giver. They put on display the glory of the gifts more than the glory of the Saviour. This is a really big issue. We find in 1 Peter 3:18 what our gift is, namely, God!

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;
1 Peter 3:18

Notice that Christ died for us, to bring us to God. Not to bring us to God's gifts. What I find interesting through all this is a couple of quotes from Augustine that hit directly to the heart:

You are ever active, yet always at rest. You gather all things to yourself, though you suffer no need...You grieve for wrong, but suffer no pain. You can be angry and yet serene. Your works are varied, but your purpose is one and the same...You welcome those who come to you, though you never lost them. You are never in need yet are glad to gain, never covetous yet you exact a return for your gifts...You release us from our debts, but you lose nothing thereby. You are my God, my Life, my holy Delight, but is this enough to say of you? Can any man say enough when he speaks of you? Yet woe betide those who are silent about you!

Augustine, Confessions, p. 23 (I,4)

Suppose, brethren, a man should make a ring for his betrothed, and she should love the ring more wholeheartedly than the betrothed who made it for her...Certainly, let her love his gift: but, if she should say, "The ring is enough. I do not want to see his face again" what would we say of her?...The pledge is given her by the betrothed just that, in his pledge, he himself may be loved. God, then, has given you all these things. Love Him who made them.

Augustine (Brown, Augustine of Hippo, p. 326 (Tractate on the Epistle of John, 2:11))

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Martin Luther and Language

It seems as though language is becoming more and more a discussion these days on what is considered vulgar and what is okay to proceed from the mouth of a true Christian. I was once told that I should never be allowed to preach if I use the word "suck" or "crap." I proceeded to ask the person if they would please give me their list of acceptable words so that I could also become a legalist to place that yoke on other's necks as well.

Whether many want to admit it or not, Martin Luther, which is a hero to a lot of protestants, used some pretty vulgar images and words to get his point across. I have written about some shocking use of terms and images a couple of times in Refuting those Who Contradict and also Playing the Whore. Some of Luther's quotes, which I will not go into all of them are the following:
Luther advised people to "tell the Devil to kiss my ____"

He repeatedly said that if the Pope should send him a command to appear before him: "I shall _____ upon his summons"

He said that the monks are "the lice placed by the devil on God Almighty's fur coat"

When trying to explain how far God is or is not the author of evil, he says: 'Semei wished to curse, and God immediately directed his curse against David. God says, "Curse him not and no one else." Just as if a man wishes to relieve himself I cannot prevent him, but should he wish to do so on the table here, then I should object and tell him to betake himself to the corner.'"

My all time favorite is his response to Rome about their use of Aristotle's thoughts on reason. Luther exclaimed, "Reason is a whore."

He also mentioned, "When I (the Pope-a--) bray, hee-haw, hee-haw, or relieve myself in the way of nature, they must take it all as articles of faith, i.e. Catholics."

So, the question comes to us today as, "Why do you use harsh language or vulgar images to get your point across?" Although I wouldn't stand behind all the ways Luther spoke or gave images I do completely agree with his outlook on it, and I do think that too many people have pussy footed around using harsh biblical language to awaken the pagan from their slumber.

Below is Luther's own words for why he used such language:

I own that I am more vehement than I ought to be; but I have to do with men who blaspheme evangelical truth; with human wolves; with those who condemn me unheard, without admonishing, without instructing me; and who utter the most atrocious slanders against myself not only, but the Word of God. Even the most phlegmatic spirit, so circumcised, might well be moved to speak thunderbolts; much more I who am choleric by nature, and possessed of a temper easily apt to exceed the bounds of moderation.

I cannot, however, but be surprised to learn whence the novel taste arose which daintily calls everything spoken against an adversary abusive and acrimonious. What think ye of Christ? Was he a reviler when he called the Jews an adulterous and perverse generation, a progeny of vipers, hypocrites, children of the devil?

What think you of Paul? Was he abusive when he termed the enemies of the gospel dogs and seducers? Paul who, in the thirteenth chapter of the Acts, inveighs against a false prophet in this manner: "Oh, full of subtlety and all malice, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness." I pray you, good Spalatin, read me this riddle. A mind conscious of truth cannot always endure the obstinate and willfully blind enemies of truth. I see that all persons demand of me moderation, and especially those of my adversaries, who least exhibit it. If I am too warm, I am at least open and frank; in which respect I excel those who always smile, but murder.

I find this to be a great quote to back up Luther's use of language and images that make some cringe. I see some modern preachers getting this and using this kind of understanding to wake up the sleeping modern evangelical that will sleep his way in the pew all the way to the fires of hell.

I would rather be questioned from the legalist (or ultra conservative) on my usage of language than watch those under my guard run straight into hell without a bold warning of their whoring after other gods.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Christian Voting

I figured I would just do a post with a question instead of having to put it in the comments.

Let's say for a moment that I have to vote. I have no choice in the matter. Why should I decide to vote for one guy over another? Because let's be honest, these aren't the best we got. We have to choose between two very rich men, who will lie and compromise as much as possible to make sure that they get re-elected.

So, how am I supposed to vote? Based on abortion? Based on homosexual marriage? Welfare reform? War decisions? Social issues? Taxes against the poor? Taxes against the rich? This is my quandary. I feel like no matter who you vote for you are deciding between two terrible candidates and you just have to pick the best of the worst. And by the way, in my estimation you can't have all these in one candidate perfectly. These qualities are mutually exclusive.

So, here is the question for any to comment on:

On what basis am I supposed to vote as a Christian? Because picking the best of the worst, doesn't sit well with me.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Christians and Politics

Alright, this post might get me into some trouble...oh well...will try anyway. I am going to put up another post in a couple of weeks or at least a little closer to the Presidential Election on "Why Am I Supposed to Vote?" which will reveal that I have never voted in any election and to date, still don't plan to. You can hate me, love me or think I am crazy, that's cool I have got all these reactions in the past anyways.

My question comes to this point. Why do you vote for you do? Do you vote republican because that person doesn't believe in abortion or gay marriage? Do you vote democrat because you believe that they have a better social welfare plan? I just wonder why people vote for who they do. I mean people were willing to vote for a Mormon because he believed that abortion and gay marriage was wrong...doesn't that sound a little weird to you? Mormons, from their hierarchy, historically have bold faced lied, twisted evidence, changed words and their meaning and had "convenient prophecies" to change their views on certain issues...yet people were going to vote for Romney because he was Republican. That is really odd for me. A Mormon Politician? Isn't that like saying a Male Dude? Isn't that a dangerous redundant? So you have a guy who is a liar liar? Isn't there some song that has "pants on fire" that aludes to this?

I mean let's be honest. As long as Roe vs. Wade is upheld, abortion will stay, so no President can do anything for it. Look at what happened by voting in Bush because he was going to overturn cost us a huge war and our economy in the toilet and gas going from $1.46 to $4 a gallon. And he did nothing major for abortion.

What about gay marriage? Am I against it? Yes, of course. But I am also against heretical preaching from the Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Islam, etc. But, am I going to push a president into office to rid our nation of them? I don't think so. Plus, it isn't the gays that are ruining the sanctity of marriage, it is the over 50%of failed marriages that come WITHIN the visible church of Christ. So, shouldn't we worry more about the church of Christ than what the pagan world is doing? They do many things that are corrupt that we overlook just because we want to hang our hat on abortion and gay marriage. We vote guys in who love money and corruption, who lie and are deceitful, who divorce their wives (McCain), etc. But, as long as they stick to the anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage campaign then we are good...that is crazy.

People want to do more for politics than trying to change the problems that are so corrupt in the church. We are willing to do anything to just get someone in office that is opposed to abortion and gay marriage, but if they worship a false god, we'll overlook that. Or we'll overlook all the other sinful things that they stand for, just as long as these two "biggies" don't go through. I just wonder why these two sins are bigger than the love of money, which seems to be talked about more in the Scriptures than all the others combined.

So, what are your thoughts on this...this is just a rambling, so let me have it.

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Monday, September 01, 2008

Theology From My Five Year Old

I asked my son today, "Why did you lie to daddy?"

He responded, "Because I am a sinner like the devil"

Seriously? What am I supposed to say to that? Needless to say, it was yet another great time to share the gospel with him.

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