Contend Earnestly: November 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving for Atheists, etc.?

Thanksgiving is coming up this Thursday where we all go against Proverbs 23:20 where it states, "Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine, Or with gluttonous eaters of meat"
Okay, hopefully not the first part of the verse, but most likely with the second half. Good job. What most don't realize is that if the gorge their face with food it is just as bad as getting drunk, but that post is coming up in my last of the 10 Steps to Become a Legalist. As a Christian, we have much to be thankful for. If you are a Christian you even know that Thanksgiving isn't the only time that we are thankful, but we are thankful daily to the One who has supplied all our needs. What I wonder is what happens at an Atheist's, and others, table on Thanksgiving evening.

When I think of Thanksgiving it is a special day to direct my thoughts and prayers towards the Giver of all good things. This isn't the only time, but a special time. It is like Valentine's Day. If I only love my wife once a year, we have some issues. But, I celebrate Valentine's Day with my wife as it is a special time of year to display my love towards her.

But, this had me thinking...what about the Atheists, Deists and Open Theists?

The Atheist's Thanksgiving?

So, what happens around the table and on this day? Do they sit around and thank themselves? Do they thank the big bang, chance and time for everything that has been given to them? If they are true atheists, in the form of Darwinism, they should thank the goo for not making them like the black people who are less evolved (according to Darwin).

I would love to sit around with an atheist on Thanksgiving and watch him praise himself for all the good things that he has done for all those around him. Because as we get to the bottom of it, on what basis does he judge what is good and what is bad? They have no moral compass based on their strict belief that man is just a machine. So, I wonder if they live out their beliefs and not only thank themselves for all the "good" that they have created, but I wonder if they thank themselves for all the "bad" that they have done as well? Because what is good to them might be evil to another. And according to their belief system this fits fine, until someone comes and murders their child. Then what? Was that action evil or good? Maybe to the person murdering their child, it was good. So, how does Thanksgiving look like then? It would be quite interesting to see how they give thanks and watch their heads spin if they have multiple cultures represented at their table as we watch them argue over what should be given thanks for and what should be abhorred. Maybe a little comical too.

The Deists Thanksgiving?

This would also be very interesting to watch on Thursday evening as they gathered together. Like most of our forefathers, the Deist does believe in a god who created the universe, but they see him more like someone who created the watch, wound it up and let it go. After that, this god, just watches the universe go wild but never interjects. So, no miracles and really no divine providence in any way besides the start of the "wound up watch" we know as the universe. Most notably, Thomas Jefferson, as he has his own bible where he cut all the miracles out of the Bible, including the resurrection of Christ, to fit his heresy.

So, what do they do on Thanksgiving? In the end they can't pray, because God won't do anything or listen to their prayers, because he is an absent god without a real care about the universe that he created. They have to, in the end, thank themselves, as the atheist does, because the only providence found is in the creation account (which is a miracle in itself) but all the rest of decision making and providence comes from the man, not the God who created them.

The Open Theist Thanksgiving?

When the Open Theist wakes up on Thanksgiving day, he must be just as surprised as God is that he didn't die in his sleep. So, both the the Open Theist, and their god, give out a big "woo hoo" for making it through the night. But who does the Open Theist thank on Thanksgiving? He can't thank God because he had no control of what was going to happen. As far as God knew, the person wasn't going to make it to this year's Thanksgiving and has no control if the turkey bone is going to choke him when he accidentally swallows it.

How can you thank a god that doesn't even control the next minute, much less, this past year? The Open Theist Thanksgiving must be a very confusing one for him and their god. They both kind of scratch their heads, look at the years past events, and just thank chance that they ever made it through.

In the end, the Open Theist, again, has to thank himself for freely making every correct choice to make it to this year. He has to thank himself for forgetting where his keys were, so that he left that morning 10 minutes later, only to find out that if he left on time, he would have been involved in the head on collision at the near by intersection. He has to thank himself for making the correct free choice of choosing to leave his bank job for another because his god was caught off guard on the financial crises as much as he was.

As we look to this Thanksgiving, even if we hate most of the surrounding aspects of it, we have to direct our attention to the Most Holy God who is sovereign over all things. This is the only way that your Thanksgiving can be truly directed off or yourself and on to the Creator and that is if you believe that he truly is the only Providential Sovereign God.

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
James 1:17

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Escape from Reason

Francis Schaeffer admits that this small book overlaps much of his book titled The God Who is There. What Schaeffer does in this small treatise is give a glimpse on the impact that Thomas Aquinas had on the thinking about nature and grace. Meaning that before Aquinas much of what was thought about God and the heavenlies were never pictured in any way besides mere symbols. For instance, before Aquinas, Mary and Jesus were never portrayed as real bodies with a physical element, but were only allowed to be pictured using symbols. As well as this, nature held no interest to the artist and were never pictured at all in art in any way. This came from the fact that before Aquinas, to simply climb a mountain for the sake of climbing a mountain had never been done.

Out of this nature started to have more meaning for people, which if taken from a biblical perspective can be good in so far we speak of stewardship, but what we find is that from this time on, nature took on more of a role than Aquinas would have thought.

In the Escape from Reason Schaeffer shows how from the start of Aquinas and the Renaissance nature started to depart from the Scriptural understanding of its place among men. So, art, poetry, theatre, etc. took from this and lead us down the road of being completely autonomous from God, where nature ended up "eating up grace" so that it was completely free from the God who created it and us.

Schaeffer goes to show the history of this thought and then gives the better understanding through the Reformation and the Scriptures. Namely, that the only way that man can be the most free is within the "constraints" of the knowledge given by the personal, communicable triune God of the Christian bible.

Even though much of this was overlapped from The God Who is There, this book was still very worth the read and gives greater understanding of how, from Aquinas on, nature and autonomy took a dangerous turn from the freedom found in God, and turned instead to an autonomy apart from Him. Highly Recommended. Link to Buy

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The Personal God Gives Us Meaning

I have been reading a lot of Schaeffer these past 3 weeks and am about to finish up my third book by him in that time. I can now see why so many have pointed me to him in the past. He was truly before his time, yet spoke truth to those in his time as well. I want to give another quote of Schaeffer in regards to why the personal God of the Christian gives us meaning, unlike the impersonal god of the deist, or impersonal science in regards to the atheist or secular humanist. This quote comes off the heals of him showing the dilemma of a personal human coming out of an impersonal naturalistic science. Enjoy and have a great weekend.

So now let us think what it means to begin with that which is personal. This is the very opposite of beginning with the impersonal. That which is personal began everything else. In this case man, being personal, does have meaning. This is not abstract. Many of the people who come to L'Abri would not become Christian if we did not discuss in this area. Many would have turned away, saying, "You don't even know the questions." These things are not abstract, but have to do with communicating the Christian gospel in the midst of the twentieth century.

At times I get tired of being asked why I don't just preach the "simple gospel." You have to preach the simple gospel so that it is simple to the person to whom you are talking, or it is no longer simple. The dilemma of modern man is simple: he does not know why man has any meaning. He is lost. Man remains a zero. This is the damnation of our generation, the heart of modern man's problem. But if we begin with a personal and this is the origin of all else, then the personal does have meaning, and man and his aspirations are not meaningless. Man's aspirations to the reality of personality are in line with what was originally there and what has always intrinsically been.

It is the Christian who has the answer at this point - a titanic answer! So why have we as Christians gone on saying the great truths in ways that nobody understands? Why do we keep talking to ourselves, if men are lost and we love them? Man's damnation today is that he can find no meaning for man, but if we begin with the personal beginning we have an absolutely opposite situation. We have the reality of the fact that personality does have meaning because it is not alienated from what has always been , and what is, and what always will be. This is our answer, and with this we have a solution not only to the problem of existence of bare being and its complexity - but also for man's being different, with a personality which distinguishes him from non-man.

We may use an illustration of two valleys. Often in the Swiss Alps there is a valley filled with water and an adjacent valley without water. Surprisingly enough, sometimes the mountains spring leaks, and suddenly the second valley begins to fill up with water. As long as the level of water in the second valley does not rise higher than the level of the water in the first valley, everyone concludes that there is a real possibility that the second lake came from the first. However, if the water in the second valley goes thirty feet higher than the water in the first valley, nobody gives that answer. If we begin with a personal beginning to all things, then we can understand that man's aspiration for personality has a possible answer.

If we begin will less than personality, we must finally reduce personality to the impersonal. The modern scientific world does this in its reductionism, in which the word personality is only the impersonal plus complexity. In the naturalistic scientific world, whether in sociology, psychology or in the natural sciences, a man is reduced to the impersonal plus complexity.

Francis Schaeffer, He is There and He is Not Silent

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Recap of My Allegation Against James White

There have been 4 posts and 83 comments on my allegation against James White and the thoughts on God's desire of the salvation of all men. I honestly did not know that this would cause such a "stir" when I wrote my first post and didn't expect James White to respond to it directly on his radio show. What I want to do is do a recap of what has gone on so far and show that I still don't have an answer on what James White believes on God's desire. I also want to show that I tried to answer what James White said was my "responsibility" to do. I will say that Turretinfan has been more responsive, although elusive at times. I just received an email from Turretinfan about the use of "desire" but will not post or comment on it unless I get his permission first. My post here is going to be with regards to James White, since he decided to "throw down" on his radio show. :)

I want to demonstrate that I went ahead and answered James White's questions and wondered what his thoughts were on the questions that he directly questioned me on.

So, I just want to make some remarks based on his show and then ask for further guidance on his thoughts on the subject. If you want to hear the show, you can find it here. (the conversation in regards to Contend Earnestly starts around the 34 minute mark and last for about 7 minutes).

James White starts his listeners off by saying that my site is "interestingly titled, Contend Earnestly", as if it was mis-titled by me questioning a theologian about his theological convictions. That is odd. He then reads the post and gets a little perturbed when he reads, "I don't think any of us are saying that James White doesn't go out and evangelize or defend the faith. That isn't what the question is here." He states, while laughing, "It isn't the question of what I do, but it is just a matter of what I..." Again, James white acts as though the question on someone's theological conviction can't be challenged because of what we see them do. Take that same logic to the extreme and we have to ask why we would question a Mormon who lives a good life and helps the poor, etc. I think he knew that he faulted in that response and why he abandoned it and went on.

James White then states that he has written numerous books, numerous articles and debated not dozens of times, but multiple dozens of times on this topic. Later he comments that I have never read any of his books, which I am not sure where he pulled that from, because I have read many of his books. Now, I will admit that while reading them, I was not focused on trying to understand his understanding of the desire of God. So, I would have to ask, "Can you, James White, please point me to those writings so I can go re-read or re-listen to them?" By the way, the original claim was based, not on his written material, but on an answer that he gave on his own broadcast. I don't know if he changed his mind on the desire of God from the time of his writings, but I would assume that what he states in his answer would be his current belief. So, that is what I went off of.

He then says that I am bearing false witness. Wow. I would like to know how I beared false witness when I linked to his response and said that the disbelief in the desire of God for the salvation of the reprobate is a tenant of hyper-Calvinism. If this could be explained, that would be much appreciated.

James White then goes on to explain that he is an elder in Reformed Baptist church and that I need to show where he would differ from the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, not only should I do this, but I was under "obligation to do so." So...I did...through someone I am sure he respects in Samuel Waldron. I not only did it through Waldron, but showed the differences he has with John Piper, John Murray, R.L. Dabney and Charles Spurgeon.

Dr. White then goes on to say that he doesn't respect someone who will not debate with him on these subjects. I have to say, debating is not the only tool within this and I can't answer for those who won't dialogue with him on this matter. But, with all that aside, I am not sure why he wouldn't respect a brother in Christ. That seems like a bit of an overstatement, but that is just my personal thought on the matter.

After this, James White decides to show that since he proclaimed the gospel and called for repentance then that means he is not a hyper Calvinist. This is what we would call "duty faith" and the "common call" of the gospel. Although most historical hypers didn't believe in duty faith or the common call, this does not mean that if you do these two things that one is cleared completely from the rest of the tenants of hyperism. I, again, know from watching Dr. White, listening to Dr. White, reading Dr. White, that he does these things. My question was on his denial of the desire of God for the reprobate. So, he is dealing with an issue that I didn't question him on. Very confusing.

He then describes my position of "desire" of God by using an Arminian explanation, not a Reformed one. He equates my question, by saying that if God desires the salvation of the reprobate that I must think that God is "eternally disappointed" because he decided he wanted to do something he didn't do. This is not the Reformed position on this, nor was it ever my question posed to him. He is drawing up a straw man, to try and make my claim sound ridiculous. The problem with this, is that I have many Reformed men who believe just as I do on the desire of God in regards to the Reprobate. And none of them believe that God would be "eternally disappointed" that an Arminian would hold to.

James White then says he gets upset that I took a potshot at him and that I hide behind the anonymity of the keyboard. What is pretty funny about this claim is that you can find out whatever you want about me. You could call my church and let my pastor know if I have offended you. You can know my convictions pretty easily as I use my real name in all my comments and all my posts. But the very one that brought this original post to James White, Turretinfan, is completely anonymous. James White says that he has very little respect for the approach of hiding behind the anonymity of the keyboard. I think what he meant to say is that he doesn't respect those who don't agree with him, because I believe he greatly respects Turretinfan even though Turretinfan is completely anonymous to anyone on the internet. That is very interesting to say the least.

I am not interested in debating with James White. I am not even interested in trying to "tear apart his ministry" in any way. I just want to know his understanding of the desire of God for the reprobate. I have demonstrated over and over through these posts and links that it is a Reformed position, both with the moderate and high Calvinist, to believe that there is a desire in God for the reprobates salvation. James White could very easily clear everything up by just saying,

"I am not sure about how it works, it is a mystery, but there is some way within God that he desires the salvation of the reprobate."

He has put forth some things that he believes I needed to do to substantiate my claims, and so I did. I would hope that if he is going to call me out on his radio show that he would have enough in him, to respond to what he stated that I was under responsibility to show. I guess we will wait and see. I am guessing that he just hopes that I go away.

There have been many jabs at some of my friends (Tony Byrne and David Ponter) through this discussion in regards to us "pulling statements out of context" but I have yet to see one actually demonstrated. It seems as though these few people like to claim these things, yet do not show these claims to have any merit. By way of understanding, unless you want us to post the entire book in a post, we are always going to have to pull partial quotes. That's kind of the point of pulling out quotes from books or longer theses.

Again, we will see if James White will give some sort of REFORMED (again not Arminian) response to the desire of God for the resprobate. I like what Tony posted:

It is blasphemous to think that God would be guilty of equivocation and deception, that He would say one thing and mean another, that He would earnestly plead with the sinner to repent and believe unto salvation, and at the same time not desire it in any sense of the word.

Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969), p. 462.

So, the question still stands, "Does James White believe in the desire of God for the salvation of the reprobate in the reformed understanding?"

We shall hopefully get a response.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Learning from the Michael Vick Situation

I was listening to Seattle's sports station the other day when the news hit the wires that Vick is expecting to return to football when he gets out of jail this Summer. It was interesting to hear the responses from callers and also the local radio show host, who always seems to know little of the subjects that he comments on. As I was hearing the conversations take place on live air, it made me chuckle and also just shake my head at the world view many of these people have. In case you haven't heard and have been in a cave looking for unicorns, you can read why Vick went to jail here.

As I was listening it made me think of how a Christian should respond in these situations and what our reactions should be, not only to this, but to anyone who sins against us in such a public way.

The first is biblical forgiveness. Many callers on the show kept saying that the NFL should restate him because everyone deserves a "second chance." This is an overstatement in so many ways. The NFL is a corporation, and like any corporation, image to the customers is key. Now, we might argue that there might be a double standard here (which I will discuss below) but still, the corporation gets to decide what is deemed as an unforgivable image offense and what is deemed as an offense worth a "second chance."

Biblical forgiveness is a forgiveness that forgets the sin, but not the sinner. We learn that when God forgives us that he wipes it from our slate and that it is as far as the east is from the west. But, we are also told to not make a brother stumble. So, to simply say, "forgive and forget" and leave it at that is not that simple. Let me give you an extreme so you get my gist of this. If I were to find out that someone was beating my child when they were baby sitting them, I could forgive them but that doesn't mean that I simply allow them to babysit my child again. That is called stupidity. The same process should be used with anyone that sins against us. We should be careful that we don't cross the line of biblical forgiveness with "turning a blind eye" to their sinful tendencies. If we allow someone to be put back into a situation that would tempt them to fall back into their sin, we should be held accountable. We need to be careful as Christians as does the NFL with Michael Vick and his restatement. If they do restate him, I would put some clauses in his contract on ways to try and keep him out of past sins and tendencies. That to me, would be the Christian way to handle this.

Second, is the fact that all our sin is atrocious. The radio host made a comment that other players that get caught doing drugs and have an alcohol problem should not be seen in the same light, because they have a disease, not a moral problem with their actions. Wow, what a statement. What I have noticed with this Michael Vick situation is that what he has done to dogs is seen as more important than a player beating his wife, or a player endangering the lives of other humans by driving under the influence. If we really want to get to the bottom of this, those acts done against image bearers are much more atrocious than those done against dogs. Both are sins though and both are ones that should be taken seriously. What I noticed is that the radio host and the callers continued to make Michael Vick their standard and would say, this player or that player is okay because they didn't do what Michael Vick did. Or, they would point out that they themselves were okay, because they didn't do what Michael Vick did. Michael Vick became their standard of holiness.

We as Christians love to do the same thing. We set others as our standard, when they aren't our standard but, in actuality, are a mirror of our sin. I was riding the bus the other day when a transvestite came aboard and I started to think, "I have to start to see my sin on the inside as disgusting as this transvestites sin that they are showing on the outside." Until I see my sin, the way I see the transvestites sin, I will always hold myself out to be more holy than I actually am.

We must stop comparing ourselves to others, and must compare ourselves to the only holy God. When we are commanded to follow the law perfectly, told to be perfect as He is perfect, be holy as our heavenly Father is perfect, we should understand that HE is our standard and holiness is our calling. When we see ourselves in those eyes, we will stop being so confounded at others and their sin and we will see that they are only reminding us of the ugliness of sin that is in our own lives! The good thing is that God is not the NFL or the finite, sinful callers that called into the radio show. God is a God that sent His Son because He knows what we don't get. Namely, we are Michael Vick. We need to be reconciled to God and the difference is that God gives us this through His Son, not our "improved actions" or payment of our penalty with jail time.

For the record, I hope that Vick gets reinstated so that the conversation continues on sin and comparison between him and the others in the NFL continue to be looked at.

In the end though, I will not hold the NFL responsible if they decide to not reinstate Vick, because it is their company, and they get the final vote on their image and their employees.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Some Resources for the Readers

Here are some helpful resources for the readers:

Mark Driscoll's book on pornography can be downloaded for free: Porn Again Christian

Adrian Warnock reveals what we all suspected with Chalke: Chalke Denies Penal Substitution

Tony Byrne does a radio interview with Unchained Radio: Arminianism, Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism

If you would like to join my facebook blog network you can do that here: Contend Earnestly Blog Network

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The God Who Is There

This is the first book of Schaeffer's that I have read, and I must say, I am pretty excited to continue to learn from this godly evangelist. In The God Who Is There, Schaeffer weaves in and out of so many philosophical systems and history that it is quite impossible to list it all in a book review. Schaeffer is definitely a classic presuppositional apologist. Meaning that he tries to get the listener or reader to get to the very reason they believe in the certain system that they believe in. He then points out their holes in their arguments and shows how Christianity is the better and most reasonable option there is in philosophical thought. Most of this argument comes from Romans 1:18 where it states,

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

If they suppress the truth, that means that the truth is definitely inside them, as they are made in the image of God, their Creator.

In The God Who Is There, Schaeffer shows how the modern man has woven himself through philosophy, art, music, theatre, movies, etc. After showing how this has been done throughout history, Schaeffer shows that the "leap of faith" does not happen in Christianity, but actually in humanism, or modern atheism. Schaeffer explains it this way:

Of course, faith is needed to become a Christian, but there are two concepts concerning faith. The two ideas of faith run like this: One idea of faith would be a blind leap in the dark. A blind leap in which you believe something with no reason (or no adequate reason), you just believe it. This is what I mean by a blind leap of faith. The other idea of faith, which has no relationship with this, none whatsoever, is that you are asked to believe something and bow before that something on the basis of good and adequate reasons. There is no relationship between those two concepts of faith. The biblical concept of faith is very much the second and not the first. You are not asked to believe in a blind leap of faith. The Bible teaches that there are good and sufficient reasons to know that these things are true. If you examine the ministry of Paul and also of Christ, you find they endlessly answered questions. There was no concept here of "Keep quiet, just believe"; it just does not exist. Paul answered the questions of the non-Jews, he was always answering questions; and the book of Romans certainly answered the questions of those without the Bible as well as of those with it. There are good and sufficient reasons to know that these things are true. We have already with the fact of reality and everybody having to deal with reality; (1) the existence of the universe and its form; (2) the dinstinctiveness of man; (3) you can relate these to a third thing, and that is the examination of the historicity of Scripture Francis Schaeffer

This is what the book aims to answer. Not only does Schaeffer answer these through the understanding of the triune God of historic Christianity, but he shows how humanism, or atheism, cannot fully answer these questions, therefore, they are the ones taking the "blind leap of faith", not Christianity. There is so much in this book that I did not mention, but Schaeffer had a strong conviction that the Christian cannot live in a castle with a moat, but must be among the culture to help answer the question of those that desire to know the answer to the question, "Why are we here?" He resonates much of what I desire to do within the ministries that God has given me and the convictions of my heart.

I very much enjoyed this book and would recommend anyone desiring to take up the challenge to read Schaeffer as well. I do not think that this is the only answer to the understanding of the existence of God, but believe it helps move us all in the right direction. Highly Recommended. Link to Buy

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Desire of God: James White and Phil Johnson

So, Turretinfan decided to put this up as an answer to what does it mean that God desires the salvation for the reprobate. He quotes Phil Johnson on this:

"The word desires is problematic, however, because it implies an unfulfilled longing in the Almighty, and that is inconsistent with biblical affirmations of divine sovereignty such as Psalm 115:3 ("Our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased"). God doesn't have unfulfilled longings, frustrated wishes, or unsatisfied appetites. He doesn't "desire" anything in the sense we normally employ the term. Yet it is extremely difficult if not impossible to deal faithfully with the biblical passages describing God's demeanor toward the wicked who perish without employing the language of desire. Scripture itself freely uses such expressions (Ezek. 18:23, 32; 33:11; Lam. 3:33)."

I will say that I found out where this quote came from and this quote comes in the notes of something that R.L. Dabney wrote. In this part Dabney gives an example of how he sees God's desire for the reprobate. He states (the whole article can be found here) :

A certain Major André had jeopardized the safety of the young nation through "rash and unfortunate" treasonous acts. Marshall says of the death warrant, signed by Washington, "Perhaps on no occasion of his life did the commander-in-chief obey with more reluctance the stern mandates of duty and of policy." Dabney observes that Washington's compassion for André was "real and profound". He also had "plenary power to kill or to save alive." Why then did he sign the death warrant? Dabney explains, "Washington's volition to sign the death-warrant of André did not arise from the fact that his compassion was slight or feigned, but from the fact that it was rationally counterpoised by a complex of superior judgments . . . of wisdom, duty, patriotism, and moral indignation.

Further, we find Phil Johnson elsewhere showing what he means by desire on his blog Pyromaniacs. He states in this post (in the comments section):

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm strongly committed to the idea that God in some meaningful sense seeks and "desires" the repentance of every sinner. (Note: I use the d-word advisedly, acknowledging that optative expressions when used of God are always problematic and never quite accurate. But I don't know a better way to say it; and denying it outright would seem to suggest that God's commands and beseechings are not well meant.) Anyway, I believe God expresses a bona fide preference and sincere plea for the salvation of sinners rather than their damnation, and that it's perfectly appropriate to tell any sinner that God loves him or her.
Phil Johnson

Now this is how Phil Johnson clears up his thoughts on God's desire. It seems as though Phil would agree that although this desire is a mystery, as John Murray has said, it is still present and bona fide.

Here is where all this started. I compare the above with what James White said on his radio show The Diving Line and found something that denies God's desire for the reprobate. Here is that quote (full discussion and audio can be found here) :

"Yeah, and that's one of the problems I have with Ezekiel 18 or 33 being read into this particular issue, because I feel like we're being forced to somehow attribute to God some kind (for some reason)...some kind of an attitude or desire that I just never see, not only do I never see expressed, but it would likewise force us to say that God has an unfulfilled desire, but it's not really the same desire as he chooses to fulfill with other people. And we're left not only--you're not only left with the two-wills conundrum, now you've got multiple desires conundrums, which I don't, I just don't see a reason for it. The Ezekiel texts are talking to people who were saying that there was no reason for them to repent because they're already doomed because of the sins of their forefathers. That's why they repeated the parable of their teeth being set on edge because of the sour grapes that their fathers had eaten, and so on and so forth. And so what I hear Ezekiel as saying is an apologetic response to people who were saying there's no reason to preach to those people, there's no reason for us to even listen to the message of the prophets, because our repentance would never be accepted. Now that's different than Isaiah's commissioning where God specifically commissions him to proclaim a message of judgment, and says he's going to harden the hearts of the individuals who hear it. That's a completely different context. But, I just don't, if someone can explain to me where the idea comes from that we have to attribute to God a desire that he then does not fulfill.
James White

This is the conundrum. From my comparison of James White with Phil Johnson and John Murray, and others, James White errs in this thought.

The reason that I labeled this understanding as a hyper Calvinist thought is found when Ian Murray quotes Spurgeon at length of what constitutes a hyper Calvinist. You can find that here.

I still see a difference in James White and Turretinfan vs Phil Johnson, John Murray, R.L. Dabney and Charles Spurgeon.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

God's Desire of Salvation for All

We have been going back and forth here a little bit on what it means that God desires for all men to be saved. From what I have discerned from James White's response here, is that he is a little to soft in his assertion of God's will or desire. It seems as though that White would only agree to the fact that by the proclamation of the gospel to all, by men, would show his desire for all to be saved. What it seems White draws the line at is God's personal desire for all men to be saved. Although I believe that the way God displays his desire is found in the proclamation of the gospel, it doesn't merely stop there. I find that God truly desires or wishes in his person that all men be saved. To understand this more fully, one has to ascribe to the "two-wills" theory of God to be able to say that God desires fully for someone to be saved, yet also leaves them as the reprobate. Murray calls this a mystery as he states these two summations here:

II Peter 3:9. In view of what we have found already there is no reason in the analogy of Scripture why we should not regard this passage as teaching that God in the exercise of his benevolent longsuffering and lovingkindness wills that none should perish but that all should come to repentance. An a priori assumption that this text cannot teach that God wills the repentance and salvation of all is a gravely unsound assumption, for it is not an assumption derived from the analogy of Scripture. In approaching this text there should be no such prejudice. What this text does actually teach will have to be determined, however, by grammatico-historical exegesis of the text and context.

(2) We have found that God himself expresses an ardent desire for the fulfilment of certain things which he has not decreed in his inscrutable counsel to come to pass. This means that there is a will to the realization of what he has not decretively willed, a pleasure towards that which he has not been pleased to decree. This is indeed mysterious, and why he has not brought to pass, in the exercise of his omnipotent power and grace, what is his ardent pleasure lies hid in the sovereign counsel of his will. We should not entertain, however, any prejudice against the notion that God desires or has pleasure in the accomplishment of what he does not decretively will.

We can also see that John Piper would say the exact same thing in his short treatise on this subject:

To avoid all misconceptions it should be made clear at the outset that the fact that God wishes or wills that all people should be saved does not necessarily imply that all will respond to the gospel and be saved. We must certainly distinguish between what God would like to see happen and what he actually does will to happen, and both of these things can be spoken of as God's will.

Piper then tells a story given by Dabney about George Washington. The following is told:

Dabney uses an analogy from the life of George Washington taken from Chief-Justice Marshall's Life of Washington. A certain Major André had jeopardized the safety of the young nation through "rash and unfortunate" treasonous acts. Marshall says of the death warrant, signed by Washington, "Perhaps on no occasion of his life did the commander-in-chief obey with more reluctance the stern mandates of duty and of policy." Dabney observes that Washington's compassion for André was "real and profound". He also had "plenary power to kill or to save alive." Why then did he sign the death warrant? Dabney explains, "Washington's volition to sign the death-warrant of André did not arise from the fact that his compassion was slight or feigned, but from the fact that it was rationally counterpoised by a complex of superior judgments . . . of wisdom, duty, patriotism, and moral indignation [the wide-angle lens]."

Dabney imagines a defender of André, hearing Washington say, "I do this with the deepest reluctance and pity." Then the defender says, "Since you are supreme in this matter, and have full bodily ability to throw down that pen, we shall know by your signing this warrant that your pity is hypocritical." Dabney responds to this by saying, "The petulance of this charge would have been equal to its folly. The pity was real, but was restrained by superior elements of motive. Washington had official and bodily power to discharge the criminal, but he had not the sanctions of his own wisdom and justice." The corresponding point in the case of divine election is that "the absence of volition in God to save does not necessarily imply the absence of compassion." God has "a true compassion, which is yet restrained, in the case of the . . . non-elect, by consistent and holy reasons, from taking the form of a volition to regenerate." God's infinite wisdom regulates his whole will and guides and harmonizes (not suppresses) all its active principles."

In other words, God has a real and deep compassion for perishing sinners. Jeremiah points to this reality in God's heart. In Lamentations 3:32-33 he speaks of the judgment that God has brought upon Jerusalem: "Though he causes grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the sons of men." The word "willingly" translates a composite Hebrew word (milibo) which means literally "from his heart" (cf. 1 Kings 12:33). It appears that this is Jeremiah's way of saying that God does will the affliction that he caused, but he does not will it in the same way he wills compassion. The affliction did not come "from his heart." Jeremiah was trying, as we are, to come to terms with the way a sovereign God wills two different things, affliction and compassion.

This is all trying to answer the question of Turretinfan on what I mean when I say, "desire/wish." Turretinfan and James White both try and undercut this by answering a question with a question. They both ask, (my loose quotation) "Are you stating that God is somehow disappointed or frustrated with the fact that something he desired did not come to pass?"

To be honest, I will stick with Murray on this and say that it is a mystery how this comes to pass.

The way that Piper explains this mystery is as such:

Putting it in my own words, Edwards said that the infinite complexity of the divine mind is such that God has the capacity to look at the world through two lenses. He can look through a narrow lens or through a wide-angle lens. When God looks at a painful or wicked event through his narrow lens, he sees the tragedy or the sin for what it is in itself and he is angered and grieved. "I do not delight in the death of anyone, says the Lord God" (Ezekiel 18:32). But when God looks at a painful or wicked event through his wide-angle lens, he sees the tragedy or the sin in relation to everything leading up to it and everything flowing out from it. He sees it in all the connections and effects that form a pattern or mosaic stretching into eternity. This mosaic, with all its (good and evil) parts he does delight in (Psalm 115:3).
John Piper

So, to end this questioning, I believe and have found the Reformers to believe the same. Namely, that God's emotions are complex and we cannot understand them fully, but I do adhere to the fact that God does indeed desire/wish with deep compassion that all men be saved, but in his eternal secretive decree has chosen some and passed over others for his glory. To get a quick understanding of the two wills theory, please read Piper in its entirety here.

If James White or Turretinfan believe in these facts of God's actual desire/wish for all men to be saved (Ezekiel 18; Ezekiel 33; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9 and John 3:16) then I will retract what I have stated.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Question for James White on God's Desire

It looks like yesterday's post created quite a stir with James White and Turretinfan. James White decided to bring up the post and talk on it for about 10 minutes yesterday on his radio program called The Dividing Line. James White wasn't happy so he attacked some, which I would have done as well, so I don't hold that against him in any way. It is cool, part of the process since we don't know each other at all. It must also be very difficult for him being in the public eye and getting complaints from all sorts of whack jobs and weirdos. Although Dr. White doesn't know this, I have read many of this books and have listened to many of his debates. Again, I greatly appreciate much of what White does on the "front lines" of evangelism and I went to his Shabir Ally debate here in Seattle and wrote a review of it here. I want to also express that I need to be more specific. On the desire or wish of God for all to be saved, if one denies this, it has historically been a tenant of hyperism. So, although James White might not be a hyper Calvinist as a whole, on this doctrine, based on this exchange, it would seem that in this specific area of his theology, he would be affirming a hyper Calvinist conviction. But, I feel as though I need to "make sure" of this so that is the reason of this post.

So, the one thing that has had me concerned with White is his thoughts on God's desire or wish for all men to be saved, which would then flow out of this the "well meant offer" of the Gospel to all men. One of the challenges that White posed to me was simply, "show me where I differ in regards to the 1689 Baptist Confession." (loose quotation). Now, lets be honest. White can run circles around me theologically. I am no fool to think otherwise, but I bet I could beat him in an arm wrestling contest :). What I am going to do is simply ask him if he agrees with the following statements and men, and if he doesn't I simply ask if he can define what he believes as far as God's desire or non-desire for all men to be saved and show historically any men that would agree with his definition. I will first quote Dr. Samuel Waldron from A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith.

"The doctrine of this text that God earnestly desires the salvation of every man who hears the gospel and thus freely offers Christ to them is confirmed throughout the rest of Scripture. The Bible teaches that the good gifts which God bestows upon men in general, including the non-elect, are manifestations of God's general love and common grace towards them (Matt. 5:43-48; Luke 6:35; Acts 14:17). While they do serve to increase the guilt of those who misuse them, this is not the sole intention of God towards the non-elect in giving them. The Scriptures teach that God desires the good even of those who never come to experience the good wished for them by God (Deut. 5:29; 32:29; Ps. 81:13-16; Isa. 48:18). The Scriptures also teach that God so loved sinners that in the person of his Son he weeps because of the destruction they bring upon themselves (Matt. 23:37; Luke 13:34; 19:41-44). God emphatically expressses his desire that some should repent who do not repent (Ezek. 18:23, 32; 33:11; Rom. 10:11). The Scriptures teach a general gospel call which comes to the hearers of the gospel indiscriminately and which may be, and often is resisted (Prov. 1:24; 8:4; Isa. 50:2; 65:12; 66:4; Jer. 7:13-14; 35:17; Matt. 22:14).

This biblical witness does not overthrow the scriptural teaching of an unconditional election and an irresistable grace. When our finite minds contemplate the glory of the incomprehensible God revealed in the Scriptures we often will be unable to penetrate completely how two seemingly contradictory truths may be reconciled. It ought, however, to rid us of every hesitation in calling men indiscriminately, passionately, freely and authoritatively to embrace Jesus Christ as he is freely offered in the gospel."
Samuel E. Waldron, Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith (Evangelical Press, 1989), p.122

I would also ask if James White would agree with John Piper and John Murray on this topic as well.

Also, if not, which historic men of the Christian faith would agree with his conclusions on God's desire and/or wish of the unregenerate?

That is all for now. These are mere questions and I hope to get a clear understanding of what James White believes on this desire. And next time he is in Seattle I will buy him lunch and let him tear me apart theologically.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

When Friends Err: Part I

This is a very hard subject. What do we do when our friends in ministry are in error on theological subjects and others point it out? Because I am not in the spotlight like some, although I have dealt with this subject, I haven't dealt with the subject in the public eye. I have had to correct friends of mine who have taught error and had to correct them in front of groups because of questions being posed to me because of the teaching of this individual. It wasn't easy, but it was necessary. Did this person hold it against me? Actually no. I went to him beforehand to let him know and then proceeded to do in a way that hopefully was very God honoring.

The issue I have is the fact that we have those in the public eye, who come up with formulas of labeling others, but when faced with one of their friends in this area they start to back peddle. It is really some sort of friendship bias because they "know" the person. To me, this doesn't make sense. What good is it to have clearly defined labels if they aren't followed through with? What good is it to clearly define some dangers in the modern evangelical circles if when these definitions are then put to friends that those who pose these definitions back off? This is clearly dangerous to do, and very confusing.

I know you are crying for examples so let me give you some. One is general and then the others will be specific. The most general one that I find are with those religions that we deem as against Protestant Christianity. We preach and defend against these, whether it is Roman Catholicism, Buddhism, Mormonism or Islam. What I find interesting is that preachers around the nation don't have the balls to follow through with their exclusive claims of the cross. If we believe that only those who believe in Jesus Christ are saved, then if someone doesn't not believe in the efficacy of the Christ and His atonement, then they are outside of the faith. What is found though, is that when some are pressured, they will throw up their hands and say, "I leave that to God." While I understand this to an extent, and the statement is ultimately true, we should have the guts to at least state, "If they do not believe in the Christ alone, and his efficacy, then they are outside of the faith and will go to hell." This is a far better response than what we have found with some within contemporary circles (here and here). Take a stand. Say something to defend Jesus, not your friend.

Specifically now.

Last year I visited the Resurgence Conference 2007 with Bruce Ware. I really like Bruce Ware and believe his thoughts on the atonement and his convictions in general are much like my own. Dr. Ware's most widely heard ministry is against Open Theism. The conference that I attended was called, "Where the Hands of God and Hands of Man Meet." It was about Calvinism (Reformed), Arminianism and Open Theism. Bruce Ware went through a complete weekend of just hammering Open Theist positions and called out their error quickly and succinctly. He even brought up a great passage when speaking to the Open Theist in Isaiah 41:21-24

“Present your case,” the Lord says.
“Bring forward your strong arguments,”
The King of Jacob says.
Let them bring forth and declare to us what is going to take place;
As for the former events, declare what they were,
That we may consider them and know their outcome.
Or announce to us what is coming;
Declare the things that are going to come afterward,
That we may know that you are gods;
Indeed, do good or evil, that we may anxiously look about us and fear together.
Behold, you are of no account,
And your work amounts to nothing;
He who chooses you is an abomination.
Isaiah 41:21-24

This put me over the edge of thinking that Open Theism is outright heresy. We then found out that Bruce Ware, under his own admission, was close friends with some of the major proponents to this thought. Bruce broke this passage down to show that the Open Theist is worshiping another god and not the God of the Bible. So, during the Q&A someone asked, "Would you then consider Open Theism as heresy?" Bruce Ware responded by saying, "no, I would not. I have close friends who are open theists and find them to love Jesus very much." I had issues with this, so I stood up and had to question this. I put forth the logic to Dr. Ware that if we can't say that my mormon friend loves Jesus, therefore he is "in" then how is this different than his Open Theist friends? He responded that it was different. I then asked, "How is this different? You taught that they worship another god and that those who choose this god is an abomination. Do you know of anywhere in the Scriptures where a regenerated elect person of God is ever called an abomination?" He quickly moved on and didn't really respond to my questioning. He, by this Q&A just tore down his entire argument for the past couple of days. I was thinking, "Why is this such a big deal if they are one of the elect and saved?" It seemed like double talk. I greatly respect Dr. Ware, but this made little sense to me. I felt like he was giving a "pass" because his friends were involved in this area of theology.

Another example is more recent. This one involves James White and Phil Johnson. I respect Phil a lot yet find him sometimes irritating, probably because in our demeanor we are a lot a like. Phil and others historically have given definitions of what is deemed as hyper-Calvinism. If you want to see a great break down of the different levels of moderate, high and hyper Calvinism, check out Tony's chart here.

One of the defining points of hyperism is the thought that God has no desire to save the reprobate. Historically, Calvinism has thrown this idea back and forth, but landed with the fact of the two wills theory that was a proponent of Calvin himself. Meaning, that God has a revealed will and a secretive will. Meaning that although God desires all people to be saved, in his secretive will, not all can be saved. He chose some, and past over others for his own glory by the consulting of his own will alone. This would fall in line with the following:

“Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord God, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?
Ezekiel 18:23

“Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’
Ezekiel 33:11

There is much more to this argument and very easy to show that God does indeed desire for all men to be saved. Classic Calvinism would definitely agree with this as well. The problem here is that Phil Johnson has clearly laid out this definition of hyper Calvinism here and James White clearly denies the free offer and God's desire here. After reading the two, it is clear that James White falls into the historic definition (notice I said definition of, not labeling him as one outright) of a hyper Calvinist. But, we find Phil Johnson defending his friend here. I understand wanting to defend a friend, but this really is out of bounds to leave all definitions of what it means to be a hyper Calvinist and defend someone because you like them and have seen them in action. I don't think any of us are saying that James White doesn't go out and evangelize or defend the faith. That isn't what the question is here. The question and definitions are solely from a theological understanding on the free offer and desire of God. On this, James White is sorely in error, yet Phil Johnson seems to defend this error for only the reason of a friend being caught up in it. Just my perception.

This is disheartening for sure. What I hope happens behind closed doors is for Phil and James White to have some good discussions on the free offer and desire of God and for James White to be corrected in his error. But, I will tell you that James White's response to this allegation is immature and laughable. Instead of arguing from Scripture, like he tells all of his opponents to do, he merely tries to draw up straw men and argue from practice by belittling his opponents. Dr. White, just because you happen to be defending the faith on the weekend that this conference was going on, doesn't mean that this clears your name as a proponent of the historical claims of the gospel. At least be honest and respond in the ways that you desire your opponents to respond. Because if they would have made the same claims that you did in your response, you would have laughed at them and undercut them the first chance you got.


Let me say this. I would argue that because of White's definition and understanding of God's desire (found here) that this would at least be deemed as having hyper tendencies. He might not be a hyper Calvinist outright, but it would seem as though some of his thoughts on the desire and free offer would lean the way of the hyper Calvinist.

Tomorrow we will look at what we should do when a friend is found to be in error theologically and others notice this error and ask us about it.

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

L'Abri and Schaeffer's Legacy

I found a very well done article at Christianty Today on the current state of Schaeffer's L'Abri in Switzerland. It is sad where it has gone and what is also interesting is that those that are at L'Abri are out of touch with their own postmodernism. They make some very incoherant statements about postmodernism and Schaeffer himself and I find it very irritating. One statement is that Schaeffer's work is outdated because he was working against modernism, which questioned basic truths, but now we work with postmodernism that asks, "Is there anything that is absolute truth?" The problem with their conclusion at L'Abri is that they figure that people today don't want to know truth, which they do and are searching for. Schaeffer's work still stands because it will take the postmodern to the fact that there not only is truth, but Christianity is that truth they are seeking for.

I am saddened to read how far L'Abri has deserted Schaeffer's desire, but I guess it shouldn't with the state of our crappy, who cares attitude with standing for the faith in the United States. Take a look at this article, as it actually gives a glimpse into what is going on with those young people who are questioning truth altogether.

Not Your Father's L'Abri

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Our Unique Opportunity: Francis Schaeffer

I am currently reading "The God Who is There" by Francis Schaeffer and am really enjoying it. I am very angry at myself for not reading him earlier in life. He is truly amazing in thought and practice. I came to this thought from him and thought I would share it. Enjoy, and have a great weekend:

But we cannot take advantage of our opportunity, if we let go in either thought or practice that methodology of antithesis (that is, that A is A and A is not non-A). If a thing is true, the opposite is not true; if a thing is right, the opposite is wrong.

If our own young people within the churches and those of the world outside see us playing with the methodology of synthesis, in our teaching and evangelism, in our policies and institutions, we can never expect to take advantage of this unique moment of opportunity presented by the death of romanticism. If we let go of our sense of antithesis, we will have nothing left to say.

Moreover, not only will we have nothing to say, we become nothing. Christianity ceases to exist, though it may still keep its outward institutional form. Christianity demands antithesis, not as some abstract concept of truth, but in the fact that God exists, and in personal justification. the biblical concept of justification is a total, personal antithesis. Before justification, we were dead in the kingdom of darkness. The Bible says that in the moment that we accept Christ we pass from death to life. This is total antithesis at the level of the individual man. Once we begin to slip over into the other methodology- a failure to hold on to an absolute which can be known by the whole man, including what is logical and rational in him- historic Christianity is destroyed, even if it seems to keep going for a time. We may not know it, but when this occurs, the marks of death are upon it, and it will soon be one more museum piece.

To the extent that anyone gives up the mentality of antithesis, he has moved over to the other side, even if he still tries to defend orthodoxy or evangelicalism. If Christians are to take advantage of the death of romanticism, we must consciously build back the mentality and practice of antithesis among Christians in doctrine and life. We must do it by our teaching and by example in our attitude toward compromise, both ecclesiastically and in evangelism. To fail to exhibit that we take truth seriously at those points where there is cost in our doing so, is to push the next generation int the relative, dialectical millstreams that surrounds us.

Finally, and with due reverence, may I emphasize that not only should we have genuine compassion for the lost among whom we live, but also concern for our God. We are His people, and if we get caught up in the other methodology, we have really blasphemed, discredited, and dishonored Him - for the greatest antithesis of all is that God exists as opposed to His not existing; He is the God who is there.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Symbolism of the Cross

I had written a post about a former student of mine doing a speech in her English class, in a public school, on the cross. I thought I would go ahead and post her speech here so all could read. It is very interesting to see how a 16 year old stands for the understanding of the cross. It is nice to see that my teaching has impacted someone so greatly that they still write and keep me informed of what is going on with their witness. It is truly good to see God's grace work in her life. I have given her some ideas as well for further speeches and also challenged her to open up lines of communication with those in her class to seek further conversation on the cross.

Cross Symbolism

For many people, when they see just another religious symbol, they could care less what it means or symbolizes. Especially if it is of another religion other than their own, or if they don’t even put themselves in a “religious category.” I want you in this moment to clear your mind of all previous knowledge and just listen to what the Christian cross means.

Jesus was born to a young peasant woman in the area we know as present day Israel 2000 years ago. We, as a civilization, revolve our history using time that was divided by his birth. Do B.C. and A.D. sound familiar? They stand for “before Christ” and “Anno Domini,” meaning the year of our Lord.

Until he was thirty, Jesus lived a traditional Jewish life, working as a carpenter. During this time, the whole area was under Roman dictatorship ruled by Caesar, including Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, and Nazareth, where he was raised.

In his thirties, Jesus began his public teaching and display of recorded miracles, but always stayed fairly close to home. Over a three-year period, despite trying to keep a low profile, Jesus' acts and teachings spread nation wide. The Roman government took notice to this person who spoke such nonsense. God offers love and forgiveness? That you are actually worth something and can have hope? What was this nonsense? They took him in and sentenced him to death. He was beaten, whipped and mocked, then forced to carry his own wooden cross to a hill outside of the city walls. They hammered nails through his wrists and feet. Scholars say he slowly suffocated to death. Do you hate the feeling you get when you can’t hold your breath anymore? How about having that feeling for hours on top of having most of you skin shredded from the beatings beforehand? A word actually had to be invented because there was no other word in existence for the pain Jesus felt. The word ‘excruciating’ literally means, 'out of the cross'.

Seth McBee, a former youth pastor of mine, told me what the cross symbolizes to him. “The cross represents both the most tragic and yet most triumphant event in the history of our sinned stained world.” This crucifixion was the most tragic because it shows how severe out sinful hearts are. The only choice God had was to send his only Son to die in the most brutal way in existence. This event is also the most joyous though, because we were brought back into fellowship with our Creator and now can have our past wiped clean and can start again with a new slate. Without this brutal murder of God’s Son, we would still be lost and hopeless. But with a simple prayer and admittance that we are leagues away from forgiveness without God, there will be hope for everyone. All because of a cross. Seth says, “We, as Christians, see a triumphal victory where the war has been won and the Commander and Victor calls out to all, “Come you who are weary and find rest for your soul.”

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Christian Response to Obama's Presidency: Trust, Pray, Submit

Many Christians that I know are going to be very unhappy today, many Christians I know are going to be extremely happy today as well. Both sides are called to do the exact same thing at this point: Trust, Pray and Submit. Whether you voted for Obama, voted for McCain, voted for another party, or did as this author did, which is not vote, we are all called to do the same things in response to last nights victory that was like watching an NFL team beat up on a Junior high football team. What I will say before I continue is that my respect for McCain increased as he gave a very good concession speech and rebuked those who were booing Obama. Way to go McCain.

As far as our response as Christians to the Obama presidency, here is where our response should be:


We must trust God through this. God is all sovereign and it is overwhelming through the Scriptures that God's will for us was for Obama to be our next President.

For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.
Romans 13:1

It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding.
Daniel 2:21

“This sentence is by the decree of the angelic watchers And the decision is a command of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes and sets over it the lowliest of men.”
Daniel 4:17

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.
Psalm 118:9

Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.
Psalm 146:3

We must not trust that Obama is going to bring the change that we truly need, we must not trust that everything is going to fall apart because of Obama either. No matter which side of the debate you are on, if you look to Obama as great or a disappointment, you are looking in the wrong direction. We must look to God, for he is in control, not Obama.

The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.
Proverbs 21:1

Know that God is in control. Trust in Him, not in Obama or any leader that is put above us.


First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
1 Timothy 2:1-2

Although God is in control, he definitely uses those in authority to accomplish his will. God tells us to continually pray for those in authority and for our "kings" so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness dignity. This is probably prayer that the kings and those in authority will continue to allow us Christians to practice our faith without being persecuted. Paul states that we must pray for them and do so in a way to where we also pray that we would, as Christians, live in a way that is submissive to our authorities and not in a way that is by way of civil disobedience.

Whichever side you are on, again, pray for President Obama. Pray that he would make good decisions for our country, pray for his family, pray for his faith in Jesus, pray that he would know the eternal God. Do not pray "because you have to" but pray because he is God's established ruler for our nation. You have to realize that as my friend David said, Jesus voted for Obama. His will was done. Now we must pray that God's will is lived out in this nation.


This is going to be tough for a lot of people. But, we now all have to submit to this new presidency. By not submitting to him, we don't submit to God.

Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.
Romans 13:2

Whichever side you are on, you will either show God's glory or defame his name in response to the election results. This does not mean that you have to agree with everything the President says or does, but it means that you must trust God and submit to those decisions. This is one of the reasons I think "picketing" is utterly ridiculous. This also doesn't mean that you cannot show your displeasure with the President, but it is in who you put your trust in. If Obama makes bad decisions, or ones you deem as bad, do you trust in him or God? Our response is important here. I have had a tough time with Bush, I think most decisions he made were terrible. But, when I talk to others about him, they know right away that my fate is not in Bush's hands, but in God's. The same is with Obama.

Submit to his policies, knowing that God's will is being done. Remember that nothing is done outside the will of God, including the Presidency.

So, the question isn't, "Was God's will done?" The question is, "Are we going to trust, pray and submit to His will?"

What are my final thoughts on last night's results? I praise God that his will was revealed. I also think it is awesome that we have a black President. I think this says a lot about our nation.

It would also be pretty cool if Obama showed up to all the golf clubs in our nation that don't allow blacks and state, "When is my tee time?"

Because that would be funny.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Common Mistakes When Reading Theological Books

I like to read. If you have known me for any period of time that sounds like Driscoll saying Joyce Meyer is his hero. I used to hate reading. Actually, up to college I had only read one book. One would have thought that I was illiterate. It seriously was that bad. You ask which book? Where the Red Fern Grows. I read it when I was like 15 and cried. If you haven't read it yet, the dogs die in the end. Sorry, I am a jerk. The one thing that I have noticed since becoming an avid reader is some common mistakes that I make when I read and then notice them in others as well. I just wanted to point out some so that we can hopefully read and discern well as we look to extra-biblical sources for a deeper understanding of God.

The first mistake that I notice when I read is that am really harsh on myself and others around me as I read a book.

What I mean is that if I read a book on holiness, or a book dealing with character traits as a Christian, I start to get really harsh on myself. This happened when I read Mahaney's book on Humility and Owen's book on Mortification of Sin. After both of these I just hammered myself on my many shortcomings. This also has happened after reading books on ecclessiology. I start to look at my church and expecting it to be just as good or expect change to happen right away. I found this happening when I read Simple Church, Radical Reformission and The Master's Plan for the Church. Also, as I read books on parenting, like Age of Opportunity and Shepherding a Child's heart, I started to be harsh on myself, but then turned that harshness on others, expecting them to be the perfect parent. These are terrible ways to respond to books that we read. I was recently at the Shepherding a Child's Heart Conference at Mars Hill and Dr. Tedd Tripp said something very well. He said,

"Don't be too harsh on yourself when hearing these things. Know that you are a sinner and do not spend too much time on your short comings, but look to how God desires you to change at this time and what he has in store for your future. If you spend too much time on your shortcomings, which there are probably many, you will not move forward."

This is really good advice as we read books as well. As you read books, it is good to notice your shortcomings in your theological knowledge, in your theological practice, in your church, and also shortcomings in others. But, we must know that God is in control and we must ask God how He wants us to grow now. How he wants our church to grow now. How he wants others to grow now. We cannot expect a perfect self, perfect church or perfect friends, that is actually very bad theology and will drive you to live in a cave somewhere in the corner of the earth.

As you read books, look to see the ways that God desires you to grow, and also praise him for the ways that he has been growing you and do the same for others. I am reminded by a sermon I heard from C.J. Mahaney, at the Resurgence Conference, when he preached on seeing the grace of God in others. This is exactly what we need to do as we read books, see the grace that God has given us, our church and others. Don't make the mistake of reading books and becoming overly critical of all those around you and yourself. That makes reading a hindrance and not a positive influence for the gospel.

The other major mistake that is often seen, is the hero and goat mentality of the author's presenting the material.

What I mean is the fact that if our favorite pastors or authors write a book, we are all about praising them with little discernment. On the other hand, if someone we find brutal in theology or an irritant as a whole, we dismiss all they have to say. The lack of discernment is frightening. When reading a book recommended to me I always try and be extra discerning as I start to read. It is very hard. Usually the recommended book comes from someone I respect and from an author I respect. The hard thing is not to pander to these two facts and come out with a heart of wisdom and discernment. When we read books by those that we deeply respect we must be Bereans with them. We must be critical to make sure that the book aligns with Scripture and that we don't give them a free pass to theological understanding. I have found this happening many times as I write reviews for books and disagree with some of those that I respect or with those that other's respect greatly. Meaning, if I say anything in the negative people jump all over you like a fat kid on cake. It is quite interesting.

The same happens in another way with those that we disagree with as a whole. I have found this with guys like Rob Bell and Donald Miller. I honestly don't agree with a lot of what these two have to say, but I do believe that some of the things that they say is very revealing of contemporary Christianity. The way that they carry out their theology in response is not very good (huge understatement), but I can glean some truth in what they do point out. We need to be careful to be discerning with those we don't agree with too, to see if we can get any learning from their thoughts. This aligns with a thought from a pastor friend of mine. He once told me that when he gets someone pointing out many of his faults in anger, instead of throwing out the person's negativity, he first prays to ask God if any of this is true. What he has told me is that even though the person might have come to him in the wrong way, that if any of the problems that are pointed out to him are true, he would like to know so that he could change for the betterment of the Gospel and God's glory. That is real maturity. Same could be said when we read those that we do not agree with. Glean what you can. Be discerning and try and understand where they are coming from and see if you learn from them in any way. Pray that God would show you where they are right, and where they miss the mark.

I think that if we can keep these things in mind, the reading process will be much better. I think we will be able to glean from the books to better help us with biblical understanding. I think if we do not change and continue down these paths, we start to worship the authors more than Jesus and they become our rule of faith more than the Scriptures. If we are able to keep this all in right perspective we will be able to grow ourselves, learn from other churches and aid those who need to mature in their faith. If we do not see these tendencies happening within ourselves we become legalists who demand change not only from others, but so much within ourselves, we will live a joyless life that is wasted, instead of a life full of joy pointing to the glory of our God.

Now that you have this in mind, go find a good book and enjoy the reading. Here are some helps:

Contend Earnestly Book Reviews

Westminster Bookstore

Discerning Reader

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Monday, November 03, 2008

The Most Important Issues of the 2008 Election

I know most of you have already seen this, but it is very good and insightful. Both sides of the debate, or all three sides can surely agree with this from a Christian perspective.

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