Friday, December 28, 2012

Marriage and Submission in Light of Law and Wisdom

A husband may not require his wife (or child) to act contrary to conscience with respect to the moral law as summed up in the Ten Commandments. Only God is lord over conscience and we are to obey God and not man when the two conflict. So for example, a husband may not require his spouse or child to steel, a clear violation of the eighth commandment. Where things can get a bit more difficult for some is over matters of wisdom and discretion. For instance, if a wife thinks it is wisest not to drive during a storm yet the Governor has not outlawed driving as a matter of safety, then if the husband should insist his wife drive the children somewhere during the storm she ought to obey with a clear conscience. Whether such a decision by the husband is tyrannical is not relevant to what God requires. Before the Lord a wife should suppress what she deems most wise (even most safe) and submit to her husband’s desire with a clear conscience (in matters of discretion, not law). The principle to “preserve life at all cost” would carry no weight, for who is to say how much rain, wind or ice is too dangerous for driving? The “preserve life at all cost” card obviously begs the question. To act against a “superior’s” edict when God has not revealed that one must do so is actually to disobey God by not submitting to His structure for ordained authority.

Indeed, one may and should have personal convictions on matters of discretion, but when God places authorities over us we may not regard those convictions as absolute law otherwise God’s chain of authority breaks down. We must hold matters of wisdom-conviction with a loose hand. Otherwise subordinates could never act contrary to what they believe is their better judgment.That’s the reductio.
It should now be a bit more clear why we must maintain a difference between absolute sin (i.e. a clear violation of a commandment) and a violation of one’s personal judgment even when biblically informed as most wise. {Digression: Another way to see that wisdom is not equivalent with commandment is by recognizing that although husbands are commanded to be wise, a husband often does well to act in a manner he might objectively deem less wise in order to accommodate his wife or child in their weakness. Sometimes a husband does well to refrain from doing what he thinks is otherwise most wise due to other dynamics. In such cases a decision to accommodate may include such latitude that when abstracted from the immediate context and considered in isolation (on its own merits as an ideal) is not under good regulation as a general principle yet fitting for the situation at hand. Context is everything in matters of wisdom and discretion. Similarly, the woman’s decision to submit to an unwise decision of her husband’s is not only obedience unto the Lord but is also a matter of true wisdom when done with mature understanding.}

Finally, a wife might be tempted to think that because her husband sins by requiring something unwise of her that she may refuse based upon the principle of not partaking in the sins of others lest she sins. That defense simply won’t do because when God required in Scripture subordinates to submit to their authorities he knew they would have to submit to sinful, self-serving superiors. Moreover, if the wife were allowed to refrain from following her husband in such instances then her role as wife would be obviously undermined given that most decisions are matter of discretion. There would be no authority period. Therefore, we must maintain that the command to act wisely and the requirements of the moral law must be distinguished. Moses is not at odds with Solomon.

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pope Boniface VIII & The Alleged "Change" of Vatican II

Lane over at Green Baggins has begun a discussion over what he calls a “fascinating book” that supposedly deals with question of change that came about at Vatican II. That discussion can be found here.

I don’t find anything Lane wrote in the original post objectionable, but it has been my experience that such discussions are riddled with confusion. Just a few thoughts on the matter..

From a true Roman Catholic perspective no doctrinal change was introduced at Vatican II (and no contradiction to the official teachings of that communion could have been made). If there appears to have been doctrinal change introduced at Vatican II then from a Roman Catholic perspective there must have been some pre-Vatican II doctrines that were concealed as mysteries until the official pronouncements of that later council gave sufficient clarity to them. We might say that there is an analogy of councils for the Roman communion whereby apparently unclear utterances are to be interpreted by clearer ones. The problem, of course, is that those pre-Vatican II pronouncements that are so repugnant to evangelicals are no less clear in their prima facie interpretation than those later pronouncements that are seemingly more palatable. Consequently, either Rome’s consistency in her clarity accuses her of outright doctrinal contradiction or else there is no perspicuity of Roman Catholic doctrine, a dilemma indeed.

Either Rome has changed some of her doctrines, which would undermine her battle cry of Semper Eadem, or else she hasn’t changed any of her doctrines and is thereby a living contradiction in what she has clearly stated, which, of course, would undermine her alleged infallibility. For instance, how does Rome reconcile the unambiguous pronouncement of papal bull Unam Sanctam with the equally clear language of Vatican II from which we are informed that Protestants are now to be regarded as “separated brethren”? Are we to believe that converted Protestants are in fellowship with the pope while denying the teachings of the Roman communion?

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sweeping Statements (by a fine man)

Carl Trueman recently wrote here that he is disturbed by the willingness of Christian groups to pay Christian leaders $10,000 and upwards for giving a single lecture. He even quotes another favorably, suggesting that a willingness to pay such a fee gives “Christianity in this country a bad name.” Trueman warns against the preparedness of some Christian organizations to pay such fees, noting that it is “horribly sleazy” when one is influenced by a speaker’s “ability to command serious media attention or simply fill that stadium”. He goes on to suggest that not to voice that a lecture fee of $10,000 is “distasteful or downright inappropriate” is to head into “televangelist and prosperity huckster” territory.

Is it immoral to choose any speaker based upon a degree of popularity even when accompanied by a motive to fill even a large auditorium? If a Christian organization desires to communicate a particular message to as many people possible in one single evening, would it necessarily be wrong to consider the notoriety and communication skills of potential candidates? Moreover, if proceeds for such an event were, say, in the tens of thousands, why would it be impermissible for a speaker to be compensated $10,000 or more?

Indeed, I don’t question that speakers are sometimes sought out by Christian organizations for less than pure motives. However, I am not prepared to paint with such a broad brush as to say that to pay a speaker half the proceeds for addressing an audience of 1250 people at 16 dollars per head is distasteful, let alone horribly sleazy. Imagine, for instance, a professor writing a book on the Trinity that required a lifetime of study and reflection, including a grueling year or two to organize it into manuscript form. Not much money can be made selling useful Christian books, even award winning ones. Accordingly, I would have no problem with a Christian author recouping some of his effort in the form of a 10K financial reward through the medium of a single conference engagement. I wouldn’t even have a problem with a minister who preached thirty five sermons per year in a large congregation in Luanda, Angola making $350,000 per year given that a fast food meal in that city cost over twenty dollars in 2011.

Much more can be said on this matter, like what we think regarding the perceived worth of something relative to supply and demand.

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Revolution Replacing Reformation (in the church)

One of my neighbors was ordained years ago to the office of Elder in the Reformed denomination of which I'm a member. Thankfully, he has since time aligned himself with a non-denominational Bible church. While still in his former denomination I remember this man saying to me in my dining room how he was looking to spend the church’s money in the hiring of an extremely talented non-Christian electric guitarist who would be paid to critique the church’s corporate worship style. This “consultant” would help the church become more “cutting edge” in their worship so that they might attract the lost.
A few years before that I attended a Reformed church (same denomination) in San Diego while away on business. Before the first song the minister apologized to the congregation by saying that although they would be standing to sing "because we are Presbyterian," he assured them there was no need to stand. This amendment was not intended to accommodate the aged but rather it was intended to communicate a laid back approach to worship. The elementary school aged boy in front of me took the minister up on the offer (and then some). He sat comfortably sprawled out in his chair as he read a racing car magazine. As the pastor paced the stage with his Big Gulp in hand, he drew the analogy in his sermon that the Savior on the cross was like the pastor’s daughter who had been held down by force on a hospital bed by her father as the doctor administered a painful needle. After several other misleading word-pictures including defining justification as "a fancy word for having a new heart,” the minister ended the sermon by singing the benediction in a rock style genre while strumming a guitar. His parting words boasted “be a Christian but live like a golfer.”

Today I attended a church (same denomination) by invitation because of a baptism that was to take place. Amazingly in God’s plan I was used to persuade the parents of the biblical case for covenant baptism – all the more reason I felt a happy obligation to worship away from my home church. Out of twenty five minutes of singing, no song except for the offertory was familiar to anyone in my family. The only familiar tune was America the Beautiful. Contemporary is one thing. Sectarian and esoteric is something else. To be so far detached from not only the historic Christian church but the church of this present age so as to sing all unfamiliar tunes to the well churched ear is, I think, problematic.
In today’s worship we were told that biblical repentance always brings forth fruit, but a Christian can be one who has not yet repented. After the service was over and the Senior Minister was walking down the aisle, the atmosphere was so casual that a prominent member felt at liberty to yell to the Senior Minister that the congregation agrees to pray and look out for the baptized children even though the minister had forgotten to take a show of hands, apparently a tradition of theirs that was overlooked that Sunday. The Senior Minister was seemingly embarrassed.

Much can be said about the casual approach to worship that is pervasive in the church today and more often than not accompanied by a corrupted gospel message, which is no gospel at all. It is good to be reminded from time to time that Moses takes off his shoes when he encounters God; Isaiah is undone; Job puts his hand over his mouth and repents in dust and ashes; Peter asks the Lord to depart from him because he is a sinful man; and John falls down as a dead man. Does our adoption as sons in Christ somehow diminish the sacred and the holy? Or is it true that a God who is not perceived as transcendent, but only worshipped as our friend, is not the true and living God? If joy without reverence is not God-inspired joy, then it must be the work of the flesh.
I believe the unsaved have a better intuitive grasp of appropriate worship than professing Christians do sometimes, which is why it breaks my heart to see un-churched relatives attend such “worship” services. Casual “worship” becomes a stumbling block to the lost (and the saved) because it is not consistent with who God is and what he has done in his marvelous works of creation, providence and grace. It seems to me that evangelicals were more outraged by the inappropriateness of Michelle Obama touching the Queen in 2009 than they are with casual worship before a righteous and holy God.

Even in the Reformed church I’m afraid, Reformation is being replaced by Revolution. There seems to be a concerted effort to overthrow corporate confession of sin; assurance of pardon; historic Trinitarian creeds; OT and NT Scripture reading; Psalm singing; hymns written by theologians, sung by the one holy, catholic and apostolic church; and expository preaching. How can this be deemed an improvement?
I know there is no perfect church, and I don’t think I’m looking for one – far from it I think. I’m just looking for decency and order for my household. Thankfully, we have much more than that at my home church. By God's grace we enjoy the elements of Reformed, Trinitarian worship.

Lord willing, we’ll worship at our home church this coming Sunday.
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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"We're both part of the same hypocrisy, senator..."

Obama would use government to undermine what he considers the injustice (if not evil) of wealth disparity. Republicans believe in principle the same things, just more subtly and probably to a lesser degree. For instance, Republicans have no problem helping all people become educated through government schools funded by taxes. So why shouldn’t the government keep us healthy in the same way, through government "tax" dollars? It wasn’t Obama who ushered in the seeds of Socialism. Our progressive tax tables (originally aimed to fund the Civil War and later exasperated by the Great Depression and WWII); the new deal under FDR; and government education all preceded Obama’s birth. These are all means of “spreading the wealth” that are intrinsic to both parties. America has been on this road for a long, long time. One must either be a hypocrite or unthinking to accuse any particular party or candidate while giving a pass to others who do the same. (I'm not engaging in name calling here. I'm merely pointing out that those who accuse Obama and not the GOP are either ignorant of their own leanings or else unjust in their dealings.)
Moreover, Obama-socialism comports rather nicely with the recent bailouts of the Great Recession, supported by both parties. The bailouts were a difficult matter but only if predicated upon the question of defending our nation (the national security question). It could have been argued, I suppose, that an economic collapse would have put national security at risk, hence the need for a bailout. I don’t find that premise particularly persuasive, but that was the only possible rationale I could think of three to four years ago to justify the "loan" from a constitutional posture.
Reformed folk (whether R2K or stridently theonomic) have always grasped that the Bible doesn’t provide a blue print for economic theory, though it does speak in principle to questions pertaining to the three spheres of government - family, church and civil. Fathers and mothers are to discipline children and individuals are entrusted with feeding the poor. The church serves the Supper, and shows acts of mercy (along with individuals). The government wields the sword. Once we conflate those sorts of boundaries chaos sets in. That’s what we now have. People are to "render unto Caesar" taxes, but nowhere does God grant government the liberty to extort money at the end of a gun in the manner that both Republicans and Democrats have become so accustom. This is why I find the entire outrage over ObamaCare to be a mock horror. Sure ObamaCare is wrong; that’s obvious. But on what ground do we object to the theft of ObamaCare and not the laws and taxes regarding child education? How is nationalized health care any more insidious than national education? How is the “no child left behind act” constitutional and not a form of spreading the wealth? Faith based initiatives? Come now, Christian.
It is striking to me that both parties want to help their preferred classes of people who will indeed decide any election - the rich and the middle class. But God’s word would have us be concerned only for the financial betterment of the lowest income strata, who when at no fault of their own need financial aid. Even with Scripture's emphasis on  helping the (non-slothful) poor, the true privilege and obligation to extend financial charity always falls upon individuals and the church, not government. Yet Republicans, contrary to Scripture, foster the government-aid mentality, again – just to a lesser degree than Democrats. So again, both parties are of the same hypocrisy {no differently than Michael Corleone and Senator Patrick Geary (pictured above) were}; some are just more consistent than others.

Lastly, it is also my opinion that too many would find their hope in government, which is what true Communism would have, and it’s what Obama and Pelosi would have. But once again, I find Christians just as misguided here as they follow the GOP. Create a crisis and the people will run to government, or if I’m to believe the left – their guns and bibles. Christians, in their partisanship, too often do not think for themselves I'm afraid. They would sooner let Rush, Sean and Bill do their political thinking for them. Those men are far from conservative by my standards and certainly not intellectually honest, let alone biblically harnessed in their outlook and reasoning. They’re of the same hypocrisy as the community organizer from Chicago, just not as consistent as he. They are more selective in what socialistic, unbiblical laws suit them, but nonetheless they too want bigger government than what the framers intended and not substantially fewer programs than their opponents desire. Just look at RomneyCare. That he wants to contain it to his own state of Massachusetts is a distinction without a principled difference. (In this regard Romney reminds me of ficticious character Guiseppe Zaluchi who with his own irrelevant qualification wanted to keep drug trafficking "respectable" by restricting it in Detroit to a certain class of people that he thought were "animals anyway, so let them lose their souls.")

Every time you lick a stamp, ask yourself why the government is involved with delivering parcels. I remember a loyal Republican woman (also a Christian) who when presented this question replied in all sincerity, "Then who would deliver the mail?" (Remember Pork in Gone With the Wind? "Whose gonna milk that cow, Miss Scarlet? We's houseworkers.") Sadly, it never occurred to this dear saint that there could be private sector competition over serving the mail just like there is in picking up garbage from the curb.

Sure, Obama is the socialistic real-deal, which is why the thought of him for four more years terrifies so many, but how does Romney really differ?

In sum: I think what Obama stands for is deplorable. No equivocation there I trust. Now then, putting Romney's faith aside, I find his socialistic tendencies as misguided as his economic policies, and in principle he is no different than Obama. We can rightly consider ObamaCare a natural progression from what Romney, following the GOP, embraces. The two candidates might be at slightly different points along the trajectory, which only means that Obama is just slightly ahead of the curve, that's all.

"Obama" isn't just a candidate; it is an ideology that has been taught in public schools for years. It's in the culture and air we breathe. Everyone gets a trophy. All opinions are to be respected and, therefore, considered equally valid. There is no absolute truth, just better opinions possibly.  Romney is a disciple of that same secular philosophy. The difference between the two is Romney is not as good a student as the President. That is how Romney differs from Obama. He's not as far along as his opponent, but given time and the right providential circumstances he might just get there.

"Should five percent appear too small
Be thankful I don't take it all
'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah I'm the taxman" George Harrison
(Written in response to the "supertax" with backing vocals' reference to Labour and Conservative Parties - Mr. Wilson and Mr. Heath - suggested by John Lennon to Harrison; though Wilson [Labour] was the real culprit I suppose.)
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Sunday, September 09, 2012

Wet Dedications In Presbyterian Churches

“Timmy is joining the church this Sunday.” How often have we heard such a sentiment? A better question is “Why do we hear such a sentiment?” I am fully persuaded that the reason we hear such things is because evangelicalism is overtaking the church – even the Reformed church. In the minds of most Timmy is not joining the church upon baptism let alone birth but upon his confirmation of faith.

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church’s “Directory for the Public Worship of God” [DPWG] most clearly and decisively opposes evangelicalism in Chapter 4, Section B, Paragraph 2 where it instructs that “…Although our young children do not yet understand these things, they are nevertheless to be baptized. For the promise of the covenant is made to believers and to their seed, as God declared unto Abraham: ‘And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee.’ In the new dispensation no less than in the old, the seed of the faithful, born within the church, have, by virtue of their birth, interest in the covenant and right to the seal of it and to the outward privileges of the church… So the children of the covenant are by baptism distinguished from the world and solemnly received into the visible church.”

Before we proceed it should be noted that the official position of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is that the “covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed.” (Westminster Larger Catechism (WLC), Q&A 31) The denomination also affirms that all within the visible church are not necessarily elect; therefore, there exists within the visible church those with whom God has not established His covenant of grace yet are to receive the outward administration of it. Assuming the denomination does not contradict itself in its doctrine, we may safely conclude that when the standards teach that children of professing believers are to be baptized – because the covenant is made with them – it is treating such children as elect in Christ. Accordingly, such children are to be “distinguished from the world and solemnly received into the visible church.” But what is it to be “distinguished form the world and solemnly received into the visible church”? According to the [Westminster] standards of the denomination, to be received into the visible church includes entering “into an open and professed engagement to be wholly and only the Lord’s,” which compliments how the denomination’s catechism instructs its members to regard “strangers from the covenant of promise” who are not to receive baptism until “they profess their faith in Christ…” Infants born of professing believers are not only to be treated among those with whom God has established his covenant; they are also to be regarded as already disciples in Christ, which is why they are to be baptized, as opposed to targets for evangelistic conversion. New Testament baptism, among other things, is a call to discipleship and fidelity, not conversion. It is a call to improve upon one's baptism in exercising the seed of faith by believing all Scripture teaches, and primarily in full reliance upon the grace of God trusting and resting solely in him as he is offered in the gospel.

The DPWG goes on to state in paragraph 4 of the same section “that, although our children are conceived and born in sin and therefore are subject to condemnation, they are holy in Christ, and as members of his church ought to be baptized…” [Emphasis mine] Parenthetically we can note that the official position of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is that baptism does not make someone a member of the church but rather it is to be administered to those who are already "members of his church." The DPWG, possibly borrowing from 1 Corinthians 7:14, regards covenant children as “holy in Christ” and, therefore, among those who ought to be baptized. Moreover, paragraph 4, borrowing from Ephesians 6:4, instructs professing parents of children “to endeavor by all the means of God’s appointment to bring [children] up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Just prior to the Apostle Paul’s instruction to parents he instructs the children in Ephesus to obey their parents “in the Lord.” These children without qualification are included in the number of all hearers in Ephesus who by the apostle are called “saints”, “faithful in Christ Jesus”, “blessed”, “chosen”, “accepted in the beloved”, “sealed with the Holy Spirit of Promise”, “quickened”, “saved”, “his workmanship created in Christ Jesus”, “fellowcitizens with the saints”, “of the household of God”, “partakers of his promise in Christ”, “forgiven”, “beloved children” and “children of light”. Does the average evangelical Protestant regard his children as the Apostle Paul would have us? Or do evangelicals, Reformed or not, regard their covenant offspring as those who must “join the church” after making a credible profession of faith? Does the Reformed Christian who embraces limited atonement tell his children that Jesus died for them? The Apostle Paul tells his hearers, even at Corinth where professions of faith were less credible, that Jesus died for their sins. (1Corinthians 15:3) Covenant children were not only regarded as being among the elect for whom Christ died; they, as part of the church, were regarded as already partaking of the purchased redemption, having been "sanctified in Christ Jesus, [and] called to be saints." (1Corinthians 1:2) The baptized were treated according to what the sign of baptism signified, namely union with Christ.

Indeed, children must “improve” upon their baptism – as do adults. The Confession draws no significant difference between the two. Question 167 of the WLC asks “How is our Baptism to be improved by us?” Answer: “The needful but much neglected duty of improving our Baptism, is to be performed by us all our life long... by serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it... by being humbled for our sinful defilement, our falling short of, and walking contrary to, the grace of baptism... by growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament; by drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are baptized... and by endeavoring to live by faith, to have our conversation in holiness and righteousness, as those that have therein given up their names to Christ; and to walk in brotherly love, as being baptized by the same Spirit into one body.” Both child and adult is to improve upon his baptism.

Note well that the WLC does not exhort those who have been baptized unto conversion. Such baptistic theology is contrary to Scripture. Rather, the Confession instructs that the baptized continue in faithfulness. The doctrine of the Bible, which the Orthodox Presbyterian Church follows in its standards, instructs all within the visible church to grow in the assurance of pardon and in brotherly love, as those who have already been baptized into one body by one Spirit. Even when we find severe warnings in Scripture pertaining to falling away from the faith, we find on the heels of such warnings encouragement in the Lord:
“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."

“Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation.”

“But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” 

It is often said that baptists engage in "dry baptism" in their practice of infant dedication. What I find more true is that Reformed paedobaptists engage in wet-dedication in the sacrament of baptism. For the most part, both deny the covenant status of their offspring. Neither treats his offspring as already alive and engrafted into the risen Christ. Note the wording of the Book of Church Order for the Presbyterian Church In America on the status of children:
“The children of believers are, through the covenant and by right of birth, non-communing members of the church. Hence they are entitled to Baptism, and to the pastoral oversight, instruction and government of the church, with a view to their embracing Christ and thus possessing personally all benefits of the covenant.”
Like her sister denomination, the PCA also recognizes that children are members of the church and, therefore, are to be baptized. In such cases membership precedes baptism. Yet one can find this on a renowned congregation's website within that (my) denomination: 
“A new Christian, or a child of the Covenant, unites with a Presbyterian church by making a profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Those who become members of the church in this way appear before the session and answer satisfactorily five fundamental questions prescribed by the Book of Church Order. If they give evidence of sincerity and earnestness in their faith in Christ, the session votes to admit them to the ordinances of the church and to church membership. They ordinarily then appear before the congregation to repeat their public profession of faith in Christ, usually by answering again the five questions from the Book of Church Order. At that time they also receive Christian baptism, if they have not already been baptized in infancy.”
So, not birth or baptism but a profession of faith makes one a member of the church - contrary to the biblical, Reformed teachings of the denomination.

Not only are professing Christians to regard their children as disciples of Christ - they need not always qualify their biblical terminology with systematic language - another topic for another time. For now we might note that "There is, in every sacrament, a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified: whence it comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other." With that in mind, how often will a Christian say that he is saved by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost? For that matter how often do we hear Christians acknowledge that they are truly eating (munching!) Christ's body and drinking his blood in the sacrament of communion? We hear all too often what the sacraments are not; yet the accent in Scripture falls upon what these sacraments actually confirm, namely interest in Christ. Accordingly, it is not hard to understand that as long as Christians regard their children as outside of Christ, the church will have a hard time reclaiming the sacramental language of Scripture. I say this as one who has no interest in jettisoning systematic theology and as one who has argued strenuously against Romanism and Federal Vision.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Romney, Another Jefferson?

I've heard in the past week people trying to equate the Romney-scenario to that of President Thomas Jefferson, also a non-Christian. A few comments might be in order (and more are in the coms-box two posts ago). Jefferson was not a cult leader. And although he showed himself in the end to be apostate - Thomas Jefferson did not mistake Satan's voice for Christ's. That is the material point.

Mitt Romney not only rejects Christ's testimony of himself; he confuses Satan's testimony for it. When the presidential candidate reads the writings of false prophet Joseph Smith, Romney believes he is hearing the word of the Lord.

The point stands. These are indeed unchartered waters, completely
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Friday, August 31, 2012

More On Romney and Muddled Thinking

My last post has been the impetus for much discussion, which prompts me to voice additional observations.

1.  Many will vote for Romney as the lesser of evils because Obama, they believe, will run our country into the ground in the next four years. As far as the outcome of the election is concerned, I have it on good authority, the testimony of redemptive history, that the legitimizing of blasphemy has precedence for economic consequences and social turmoil, more than anything that might result from Obama-care and all the rest. That is something that should be considered by those who would make this election a matter of economics and social concern.  Pragmatism would seem to side with not voting for Romney, especially given his moderate tendencies that in principle are no different, just less consistent, than Obama's.
1a. It hasn’t occurred to many that the spiritual decay of this land has paved the way for the social decay we now find normal. Fixing our economic thinking and all the rest is a mere band aid at best. At the heart of the problem is the question, How might we provide a climate in which God is honored given the current state of affairs? Do we seek God's good pleasure by voting for Romney? Do we say no to a heretical, blaspheming candidate, or do we elect him as the savior of this land? Enough is enough, but unfortunately the conservative media and the GOP leadership have evangelicals so scared of Obama that the masses would sooner support a cult leader with the hope of him getting us out of the jam that spiritual infidelity got us into in the first place. The irony is killing me.
2. People are quick to claim the sovereignty of God and divine election as reason not to be terribly concerned with an attack on the gospel, but not so willing to take such a fatalistic, hyper-Calvinistic approach when dealing with socialistic / economic concerns. In other words, many think as though God will take care of protecting the elect but we humans must fight against the evils of social agendas that are un-American. What is obviously skewed in such thinking is the fact that God no less decrees salvation than he does societal decay. So any appeal to divine sovereignty begs the question of where one’s efforts and priorities should be.
3. There is a common sentiment regarding voting against one’s favorite candidate that when voiced is more manipulative than valid. That being, “A non-vote is a vote for Obama.”  During the last presidential election, if a person who was intending to vote for Obama was prevented from doing so by traffic on the freeway, he would not have voted. Would that non-vote have been a vote for Obama? Obviously not, for nothing would have been gained by Obama. In fact, something would have been lost - the vote of the hindered voter. Now if it is said that the non-vote would have been a vote for McCain, then in a sense that would be right, but such an observation would be based upon a premise pertaining to the intention of the voter. Indeed, McCain would have gained something by such a traffic-providence, for the hindrance of an Obama voter to vote would have closed the gap of the race by one vote in favor of McCain. The point should be apparent. For a non-vote in this election to be regarded as vote for Obama presupposes that the person not voting would have voted for Romney if he could, but that’s obviously false because the person in view would not be voting because he had no intention of voting for Romney (or anyone else). When the voter’s will and not some external providence prevents him from voting, it is mathematically absurd and philosophically fallacious to claim that the non-vote would have been cast in any direction.

4. We live in a pluralistic, non-Christian nation. Accordingly, voting for the lesser of perceived evils is permissible. My concern, as I wrote earlier, is what one will consider as data and how he evaluates that which he finds relevant.
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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Voting For Romney Without Hesitation, Christian?

President Obama is a left wing radical and un-American.  And although Romney is of the same hypocrisy of his opponent, he is by no means as consistent with his convictions and agenda as Obama is with his. Mr. Obama is a capable man of superior conviction, which is why the prospect of the President having four more years to implement his ideology is a dreadful thought for many Americans, including myself. That is precisely why most evangelicals will vote for Romney this November. Their vote will be against Obama; not for Romney per se.
It is remarkable to me that the preponderance of evangelicals believe in toto that voting for Obama is unconscionable and that to vote other than for Romney is foolish.  Such sentiment is often predicated upon the opinion that President Obama is more opposed to the principles of liberty upon which this country was founded. Accordingly, a vote for Romney is a vote against more extreme socialism, or even worse. Voting is thought to be a matter that pertains to policy considerations only. One’s religious convictions, for instance, have little importance in the matter. But didn’t the evangelical community, just fourteen years ago, find President Clinton’s personal life politically relevant, if not on par with policy? In fact, didn’t some posit causality between personal life and political practice? After all, weren’t evangelicals asking how a man who could not remain faithful to his wife possibly govern our nation? Well, where are these sorts of questions today where presidential candidate Mitt Romney is concerned?
Mitt Romney is a heretic and until he renounces the Mormon cult he remains one and consequently under the unambiguous anathema of Scripture. If only Mr. Romney were irreligious, but he’s not. He is a poster child for Mormonism. Should that come into one's thinking with respect to how one casts his vote? Or does the pluralism of American religious liberty somehow constrain evangelical Christians not to consider the theological ideologies of a candidate?  
In many ways evangelicals are more American than they are Christian. Decisions are predicated upon a perceived American quality of life and temporal things (even blessings) that will pass away, rather than the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. My point is not that Scripture demands a vote for this or that candidate, but rather that the principles of Scripture are to inform our thinking. My convictions prohibit me from voting for one who unashamedly believes the Lord to be a created being and spiritual brother to Satan.

Don’t get me wrong. In this election I am not terribly concerned whether evangelicals vote right, left or not at all. I am more concerned about the rationale behind one’s decision. More specifically, my concern is that among most evangelicals I find little or no consideration given to any other option other than voting for Mitt Romney. The very notion of voting for Obama so that the damnable heresies of a cult do not become more normative in the United States is not on the average evangelical’s radar screen; it's not a minor consideration. And although I will not vote for Obama, I would actually delight in knowing that some Republican-evangelicals voted for Obama because the thought of having a Mormon president along with the possible ramifications of such an outcome is too repulsive to imagine. That I could support more than a mindless vote for Romney - a vote without any consideration of his spiritual condition and what that might entail.

Those who will hold their nose while pulling the lever for Mitt Romney in November, I hope do so in an effort to suppress the stench of his heretical convictions more than the odor of his moderate polices. The latter pales in comparison to the former.

I believe there is Christian liberty to vote for either candidate, or just sit it out. My position should be apparent.

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Corporate Confession of Sin

Here is a commonly used corporate confession of sin:

"Almighty and most merciful Father, we have erred and strayed from your ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent, for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen."

Yet too often these sorts of confessions are heard:
“As fallen sinners we hate your Word…We do not love our neighbor; holiness is burdensome to us and at every turn we prefer to go our own way…”
During a transition period at one Reformed congregation the corporate confessions that were being used could not be truthfully read by any believer, like the second one above; the confessions were a testimony that could only be recited by an unbeliever who somehow possessed a sanctified understanding of his own sinful condition.

One of the goals of corporate confession is that redeemed sinners agree with God about their sin, to the end that they might be confirmed in the forgiveness and absolution they have in Christ. The former pattern of confession makes way for affirmation and confirmation of this covenant promise held out to every believer in assurance of pardon. Whereas the latter pattern of prayer actually denies the power of the gospel through its implicit rejection of God's covenant promise to definitively and progressively sanctify those who are in Christ. 

The motive behind exposing sin through corporate confession so that it might not be cloaked is not in question.  Notwithstanding, the confession of sin being used should be soteriologically sound as it relates to the converted heart of every believer, and not undermine the intended goal of leading sinners to draw near to God in full assurance of faith. Hebrews 10:22
I’m grateful for churches that understand the biblical case for corporate confession and assurance of pardon. In the practice of this Reformed gospel principle, may we never diminish the believer's confidence in God’s promise to complete the work that He has already begun in the life of every believer! Philippians 1:6 

Let us confess our sin in a manner that is consistent with our utter need for Christ without denying His work of grace in our lives. False humility is no humility.
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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Single Bit of Advice for Married Parents

A dear sister in the Lord, after waiting years to adopt a child, will have her daughter soon. This sister is preparing a "book of advice" from Christian fathers. What I was able to share is something that I've thought for many years and didn't practice nearly well enough, but when I was asked for advice this and only this came to mind... (The names have been changed but nothing else.)

Brother Mike,

I’ve seen a tendency more in fathers, though present in mothers too, of sometimes disciplining their children out of irritation without regard to the gospel. Let me try to explain... Imagine a child being annoying until the father erupts and finally scolds his child in anger. The child ends up being silenced, and rightly so, but by a father who simply wants his child to be quiet so that he can find some peace. In cases such as these, the father disciplines his child only because he doesn’t want to be annoyed any longer. End of story... End of sad, sad story... A corrected child, a satisfied father and no display of the gospel. God is removed from the training process once again.

What I believe we as fathers should do is discipline our children for the their sake and more importantly for God’s glory. Such discipline never looks like what is described above. Such discipline will take time, even more time than we care to expend, especially when we want peace NOW. If the child is behaving in a way that is annoying, it may be because he is sinning (that is what children do best) by not being concerned about others around him. In such cases, the child needs to be shown in patience, without delay and certainly before eruption, that he is breaking the principle of the fifth commandment, to consider others more important – more significant ESV, than oneself. (Philippians 2:3) Then the child is in need, dire need, of being shown the way of the gospel - that of seeking forgiveness for sin, both on the vertical and horizontal plane.

Take the time, my brother, to lead Carolyn to seek your forgiveness, Janet's forgiveness, and that of the Father’s. Lead her to the gracious forgiveness we have in Christ. Use what so many consider mild infractions, not worthy of more than a barked-out command to stop, to teach Carolyn why she needs a Savior, and that in Christ she can find pardon from a loving and gracious Father. All that to say, do take the time to show God’s love to your daughter by showing her the loving cost of her salvation. This will take time but good, gospel fruit will be born which will be occasion for much rejoicing.

Even if the father does not get annoyed easily, which is what I would sense about you, maybe because of a high threshold for irritation, Carolyn must still be shown what courteous behavior entails and what bad behavior deserves. So even the more easy going of our sex, like probably yourself, still have the same marching orders as “the rest of us.” :) (Actually, my tendency would be to address an infraction quickly but not to be consistent in bringing the gospel to bear.) You’ll do fine Michael, just be sensitive to sin in your daughter’s life and more importantly God’s love for sinners.

In His grace,

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Monday, April 30, 2012

Truth, Goodness and Beauty in light of Common Grace (and Mario Puzo)

In discussions regarding Christ and culture the matter of how we are to approach literature is a must-consideration. Of course the extent of the fall and the idea of common grace (or as I prefer “common goodness”) must be considered in such an examination. A premise that arises, or is often assumed as axiomatic rather than one that is open for debate, is that unbelievers are actually capable of expressing “the true, the good and the beautiful.” This idea is closely related to the questions of whether fallen man is created in the "image of God" and what that phrase actually means.

Certainly there are some distinctions that all Reformed Christians draw with respect to how conversion impinges upon man as God’s “image bearer.” 1 Corinthians 11:7 declares that a man ought not to have his head covered since he is the image and glory of God. James informs us that men are made in God’s likeness. James 3:9 Notwithstanding, Scripture also informs that unconverted men have their minds blinded by the god of this world, which renders them not only incapable of seeing the light of the gospel but also blind to the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. It is Christ who is the image of God, and as Ephesians 4:24 teaches, it is through being re-created in Christ, the Second Adam, that man is restored as God’s witness to this glory. Man in Christ by the Spirit participates in true righteousness, holiness, and truth (as opposed to falsehood). Accordingly, the need to be restored in Christ presupposes, at least in some sense, fatal loss of the image Adam enjoyed. (I'm indebted to Robert Letham for these insights.) This radical antithesis is the basis for Van Til's insight, that although even the most mundane predication can resemble formal agreement between believer and unbeliever, there can be no agreement in principle. In principle, believer and unbeliever disagree over 1+1=2.

Christianity is too often considered only in soteriological terms. How can man be “saved?” To have such a narrow view of redemption is to pay precious little attention to the idea that Christ is not just the way back to the Father but the way back to the Father’s world. In this larger context we may ask - in what sense does the unbeliever, who does not embrace the Bible’s depiction of creation, providence and grace, communicate what the Bible has to say about truth, goodness and beauty? What does it actually mean that a fallen unbeliever is able to communicate the true, the good and the beautiful? For instance, is goodness merely a matter of external endeavor? Is to follow a set of rules, even the correct ones, sufficient for goodness, or does motive play a part (and if so, what quality of motive is in view)? Or, does all so-called “good” behavior accuse and condemn every man outside Christ? If so, then why? Is salvation judicial only, or does redemption include radical transformation, without which all good deeds remain filthy rags? Isaiah 64:6

In an effort to preempt a common objection I readily acknowledge that all of the believer’s works are tainted by sin. Notwithstanding, the Bible’s testimony is that only those who are converted by grace can attain unto any true virtue, which will always be a reality in the experience of the believer. Philippians 1:6; 2:13 Consequently, it is simply false to reduce man's ability to reflect truth, goodness and beauty to a matter of degree with respect to what the believer can mirror compared to the unbeliever. The gulf that exists between the two is as far reaching as earth and heaven, dust and glory.

Does the unbeliever have “half an orange” (Francis Schaeffer) or does he have an entire, rotten orange (Reformed view of the effects of the fall)? It is precisely because he only has the latter that believers often add to, rearrange and try to improve upon any secular attempt to communicate truth, goodness and beauty. This is why it is often said that “we must watch this play, or read that literary work, from a distinctly Christian perspective of redemption etc.” But after the story has been critiqued through the lens of Scripture, does it really resemble truth, goodness or beauty ? No, because the story itself needs to be redeemed from faulty notions and presuppositions. When the story is examined from a Biblical perspective, it should include the observation that what was depicted as good was actually a counterfeit good (all things considered), or a “counterfeit atonement” as was recently pointed out in my hearing. I am not suggesting that secular stories ought to be revised in the minds of believers but rather they be received and recognized for what they are and not something else. Any analogy to God's revealed truth must be seen as a false analogy. How, for instance, can biblical redemption be mirrored in the thoughts of an unbeliever?

In a last ditch effort one might wish to truncate a secular message pertaining to virtue by making such a qualification: "as far as the story goes, truth, goodness and beauty is portrayed." Yet such a caveat is aimed to abstract virtue from any biblical notion, portraying it as a standalone product without need of divine source or origin. What's more, it is to bear false witness against the story itself! It is to communicate things about truth, goodness and beauty that are not only the furthest things from the author’s mind but something he vehemently would oppose. So much for allowing the author's work to communicate the author's intent. After all, certainly the secularist rejects any notion that true virtue comes from God alone and that it can only be mirrored in man through the redeeming power of the gospel. For instance, in what sense does the Christian agree with Vito Corleone when in speaking with Johnny Fontane he instructs Sonny with these words on being a faithful husband and father, "A man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man"? What is it to "spend time" and to be a "real man"? There can be formal agreement over the words while there is disagreement over principle regarding what would constitute a real man.

Now of course, it almost goes without saying that I have benefited all my life from the heathen’s efforts and I marvel, though surely not enough, at the mystery of providence in this regard. However, the benefits of what is commonly called "common grace" should not preclude one from recognizing the limits of such divine goodness as it pertains to what can be communicated in the arts in general and literature in particular. Again, there is no need to rewrite stories penned by fallen men to whom much has been given, but there is need, I do believe, to receive such works for what they truly are, recognizing in the process fallen man's unquenchable desire to be the would-be autonomous author of all that is true, good and beautiful. Recognize the ramifications of the curse as you digest man's efforts in the entertainment and stimulation it provides.

Van Til on Rome's influence:

An excerpt from Common Grace, by Cornelius Van Til, warns against the Roman communion’s notion of autonomous reasoning and its effect on Protestant, Reformed thinking as it pertains to conflating natural revelation with things pertaining to natural theology. 

 “If we are to witness to the God of Scripture we cannot afford to deny common grace. For, as noted, common grace is an element of the general responsibility of man, a part of the picture in which God, the God of unmerited favor, meets men everywhere. But neither can we afford to construct a theory in which it is implicitly allowed that the natural man, in terms of his adopted principles, can truly interpret any aspect of history. He seeks for meaning in the facts of this world without regarding these facts as carrying in them the revelation and therewith the claims of God….Now surely, you say, no Reformed person would have any commerce with any such view as that. Well, I do not think that any Reformed person purposely adopts such a view. But we know how the Roman Catholic conception of natural theology did creep into the thinking of Reformed theologians in the past. And the essence of this natural theology is that it attributes to the natural man the power of interpreting some aspect of the world [such as pertaining to “Truth, Goodness and Beauty?!”] without basic error… The Christians and non-Christians have, on this basis, a certain area of interpretation in common. They have common ideas in the sense that they agree on certain meanings without any difference… It is not merely that men are, all of them together, made in the image of God…. [or] as Kuyper stressed, all men have to think according to the rules of logic…All these things are true and important to maintain. But it is when in addition to these it is said there are common notions, common reactions, about God and man and the world to all this speech of God, on which there is no basic difference between Christians and non-Christians, that natural theology is confused with natural revelation.” Bold and bracketed emphasis mine. 
If one wants to maintain that fallen man is created in the image of God because he retains the faculty of choice and the innate ability to reason, then fine. I can allow for such semantic distinction. It's quite another thing to conflate the provisions men have through natural revelation with the possibility of an autonomous construct of any true, natural theology (one that would allow natural man to evaluate virtue, for instance). Truth, beauty and goodness are ideas with theological import; and sin corrupts man’s “notions” of what constitutes these things, which is part-and-parcel to the want of any “common reaction" between the two races of men to such qualities.

Now for some quotes from the Godfather trilogy, true literature worthy of man's consideration and deep reflection. 

"A man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man."

"Fredo, you're my older brother, and I love you. But don't ever take sides with anyone against the family again. Ever." 

Michael: "My father is no different than any other powerful man -- any man who's responsible for other people, like a senator or president." Kay: "You know how naive you sound...senators and presidents don't have men killed." Michael: "Oh, who's being naive, Kay?"

"Never tell anybody outside the family what you're thinking again."

"Some day, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me. But uh, until that day, accept this justice as a gift on my daughter's wedding day."

"...and if I ever need any guidance, who's a better consiglieri than my father?"

Godfather 2

"My father taught me many things ... keep your friends close, but your enemies closer."

"If anything in this life is certain; If history has taught us anything, it's that you can kill anyone."  

"To you she's beautiful. For me, there's only my wife..."

 "I don't--I never knew no godfather. I got my own family, senator"

"Whatcha go to college to get stupid? You're really stupid!"

"Don't you know that I would use all of my power to prevent something like that from happening?"

"Your father did business with Hyman Roth; Your father respected Hyman Roth; But your father never trusted Hyman Roth"

"We're all part of the same hypocrisy, Senator. But never think it applies to my family."

"Good health is the most important thing. More than success, more than money, more than power."

"Every time I put the line down I would say a Hail Mary, and every time I said a Hail Mary, I would catch a fish."

"Hail Mary, full of grace...." BAM! Fredo gets it.

"I didn't ask who gave the order, because it had nothing to do with business."

Godfather 3 

"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. [Our true enemy has not yet shown his face.]"

"Neri, take a train to Rome. Light a candle for the archbishop."

"All my life I kept trying to go up in society. Where everything higher up was legal. But the higher I go, the crookeder it becomes. Where does it end?"

"No, I don't hate you. I dread you."

"Politics and crime -- they're the same thing."

"This pope has very different ideas from the last one."

"Why was I so feared, and you were so loved?"

"Give me the order" [Michael:"You won't be able to go back... All my life I wanted out. I wanted my family out"] "Well, I don't want out. I want the power to preserve the Family. I'm asking for the order."

"Nephew, from this moment forward, call yourself Vincent Corleone."

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Two Thoughts For Struggling Wives (Or Husbands)

1. When trying to minister to couples in struggling marriages I have observed how it can be hurtful to a wife when her partner is willing to spend time with her only because God requires it. "What's the use?" or "How romantic?" she thinks.

Surely, when obedience to God is the only motivation for the husband to spend time with his wife it is easy to see how she might not receive her husband's attention with gratitude, or even become discouraged by her husband's efforts.

A word of comfort to the wife who has been understandably hurt in such instances should be that the best foundation to build our actions upon is faithful obedience to God's word. Conversely, if the main impetus for a husband to spend time with his wife is his desire for her, then what happens when she becomes less desirable to him? Although it might be more flattering if a spouse desires his or her partner because of the partner's qualities, shouldn't pride give way to the best foundation, a desire to please God?

The Lord may be pleased to grant once again the husband fond feelings toward his wife, but the Lord might first require the husband's faithfulness to Him before granting such feelings. After all, if the husband has turned away from his wife, then he must have turned away from God first. With that perspective in view it would seem fitting that the husband's repentance would begin with a turning back to God - indeed it must, which would in turn enable the husband to turn back toward his wife in a manner consistent with biblical repentance. (We should expect to walk through one door at a time so to speak.) So wife, don't be discouraged over what might appear to be your husband's feeble effort born out of obedience to God and not so driven by affection toward you. Keep in mind that you're in the predicament you find yourself because your husband's relationship with God has been severed; so naturally that healing must begin to take place if your relationship is to be truly restored - restored in the Lord that is. Your husband's external obedience to God's precepts might indicate a work of internal grace and the beginning of the Father-son healing process, and it is a process(!). So whatever you do, don't so much as breathe on the smoldering wick.

Keep in mind: (i) Pragmatically speaking, obedience to God is the most lasting foundation, so a wife, if she's in the marriage for the long haul, actually has occasion to be of good cheer by what she might be tempted to consider a meager, unsatisfying effort. (ii) As a matter of principle, faithful obedience to God is the marital foundation God requires in all spousal relationships; so wives, please try not to hold that, obedience to God, against your husband. At the very least, your spouse doesn't need your contempt but rather your respect, acceptance and encouragement, which may very well be the spark that God is pleased to fan into a flamed heart for you. No doubt, all of this will require that you die to yourself, if not even relinquish any earthly sense of justice that might linger in your fallen flesh. Don't give into temptation to be your husband's accuser. You are in a very real sense the high priest of your home at this juncture and as such, maybe you might consider your marriage-bliss a byproduct of your husband's relationship with the Lord. Encourage your husband in his Christian walk and expect the rest to just fall into place should he return to the Lord. Keep things on a spiritual level and make his pursuit of God, not of you, your highest priority.
2. If a husband is not spending time in God's word then the wife, whether she likes it or not, becomes the only epistle her husband reads.

Dear Struggling Woman,

What is your spouse reading these days? I pray he is reading the gospel.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Did the Second Person of the Trinity Die on the Cross or Just Jesus' Humanity?

I hear more often than not from knowledgeable Christians that although Jesus is God, God did not die on the cross – Jesus’ humanity did.

When bodies die they remain in the grave until resurrection but the soul remains conscious in the intermediate state doing what souls can do without a body. With that premise in view, how does the death of the Second Person of the Trinity impinge upon his divinity, authority, abilities or whatever? Was the death of the body sufficient to do away with Jesus’ sovereign rule over the universe? Was death even sufficient to stop the Rich Man (from Luke 16) from trying to correct God? One would have to ask how the Lord managed prior to the incarnation (when without a body) if we may not say that the Second Person of the Trinity truly died upon the cross.

In death Jesus was separated from his body but he was still conscious and active according to what he could do without a body. It is thought that if the incarnate Son died, then He couldn’t function as God, which is why I like to tease out that we believe in a conscious death, one that permits the person to operate on some level without a body. Christians are not annihilationists after all. In the case of the Son, Jesus operated most of his divine life without a body yet while ruling the universe. Accordingly, why not say he died and in that sense operated as before? I think some unwittingly impose an annihilation understanding of death onto their own thinking about the Savior's death, thereby not allowing the Savior-person to have truly died yet function as God while dead.

We must allow Scripture to inform us of what is possible. Christians should agree that if a divine person died on the cross, then death must be compatible with that divine person. The only question is why is the possession of the divine nature incompatible with the death of a person who possesses that nature? In other words, what would death of a divine person, who had assumed a human body and reasonable soul, prevent Him from doing or being? Obviously it would prevent him from doing physical things like walking but what else with respect to divine ability and ontology? In laboring the point we might note that death of a human person does not eliminate the human will and other things human, though it eliminates some things. Given that God does not require a physical body to function as God, why can’t the death of a divine person impinge upon the assumed physical properties of the person and not spiritual ones?

In the like manner, I’m willing to look at birth in such a way as to be compatible with a divine person coming forth from the Virgin's womb. Did Mary give birth to a divine person, or just a human nature? If birth implies the origin of someone new (a new person), then only humanity came forth in the virgin birth since the person born of the virgin always existed. However, Mary carried a person (and not just an embodied nature) in her womb, and after her water broke, she then labored to bring forth the person she had carried. In common parlance we call that giving birth. Since a divine person came forth, we must let that reality inform our understanding / definition of birth (rather then let our understanding of birth redefine what occurred in that manger in Bethlehem). Inception, let alone birth, need not precede the origin of a new person, precisely because the eternal Son of God, a person, was born of a virgin. When we start with Scripture apparent problems often go away. Question 37 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it this way, or rather it simply assumes the point when making another:
“How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man? Answer: Christ the Son of God became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance, and born of her, yet without sin.” (emphasis mine)
It's a comfort to know that the Second Person of the Trinity died for sinful people. If only Jesus human nature died, then only your nature would be saved, which stops short of the salvation of individual and distinct persons since the one nature is shared by all.

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Michael Horton, Abortion and R2K

Michael Horton states here : “Let me offer an example. I hold a pro-life stance as a Christian, on the basis of the biblical truths of creation, fall, redemption, and the consummation—as well as explicit commands for extending love to neighbors. I make those convictions explicit even in talking to non-Christians. However, because they are made in God’s image and cannot suppress everything at the same time, and the Spirit is also at work restraining evil in common grace, I can appeal to what I know they know even as they suppress its logical conclusions. As Calvin reminds us, “The moral law is nothing other than the natural law that is written on the conscience of all.” Of all people, Christians should not remain passive in the face of slavery, abortion, racism, exploitation, injustice, and failures to be stewards of God’s good creation. However, they can work alongside non-Christians in these callings without having the church bind their consciences about specific policies or agendas that are not authorized by God’s Word.”
I can say much about this: "I can appeal to what I know they know even as they suppress its logical conclusions" but I'll refrain other than to make just a couple of brief comments. What logical conclusions about abortion (that presumably would indict the unbeliever) can be derived based upon what man knows in conscience through natural law? Can it be derived from natural law when life becomes a human soul? Even granting that we can know from natural law that abortion violates a moral absolute, how does one deduce by any absolute standard that abortion is a crime? After all, are all transgressions criminal? At the very least, knowing x and justifying one's knowledge of x are two different matters. Isn't the latter consideration of any relevance in a discussion that pertains to how things ought to be? In fact, and ironically so, wouldn't it be to bind man's conscience in an inappropriate way to suggest sin in general and moral crimes in particular apart from an appeal to God's law (even natural law) - yet how do we justify natural law apart from Scripture? Or is arbitrariness permissible? Where is the Christian's defense to terminate other than God's word? Again, knowing x and justifying x are two different matters and the latter must have its place at the table lest we forgo any rigorous claim on the former. Finally, how helpful or relevant is it that God restrains evil through "common grace" when trying to determine and justify appropriate moral codes for society? Again, much could be said but I'll pass.

Certainly, the church should never bind consciences regarding “policies or agendas that are not authorized by God’s Word,” but has that ever been in dispute? What is being implied here anyway? In any case, the question at hand is whether God’s Word speaks to any public policy and if so, is it ever appropriate for believers in their sphere of influence to put forth the Word to the nations? To do that is not to bind consciences from an aberrant view of the church's mission but rather to hold the nations accountable to King Jesus.

Regarding how this discussion often proceeds, it is hasty to reason that since Scripture does not inform us on every matter of public life that it is silent or irrelevant on all matters of public life. Moreover, to recognize that God's word speaks to public policy in general and some policies more specifically does not imply a lack of appreciation for the church's primary focus in the world, redemption. So, maybe we might finally get down to brass tacks and get rid of all the false disjunctions that have often clouded any meaningful dialogue. (I am referring more to some of the R2K proponents that frequent GreenBaggins and not to Dr. Horton whom I'm less familiar with in this regard. I'm referring to those who would argue from the observation that plumbing and baking can be done apart from a Christian worldview to the grand conclusion that the Bible is not relevant to civil government.)

At the very least, I'm glad to see that Dr. Horton gave at least some response to Professor Frame. Maybe more will follow in a spirit of humility, charity and grace, befitting of these men.

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Friday, January 06, 2012

A Couple of Oldies But Goodies by Michael Butler

Here is a very accessible introduction to Presuppostional Apologetics, written by Michael Butler (Greg Bahnsen's protégé).

Also, here is a more detailed explication of the Transcendental Argument for God's Existence, also by Michael Butler.

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