Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Why?

When asked why one chooses Christ and another does not the universal answer from the Arminian is because:




When all is said and done your salvation is up to you:



But that is fraught with:



The mystery of human love still baffles minds as unsolvable. Why? What is it that takes the heart and hurls it over a cliff headlong? How is it that such coarse a smith's hand holds a flower's stem and the cold steel voice becomes as soft as petals and as pleasing as lavender in mist?

Just because? It's up to you? We don't know what love is? Nah!

What love is this? It is a love that gives us a new heart which is spread abroad with the love of God:
So it is now my cause to show that this is exactly the same case for those being regenerated. They choose Christ because they have a new heart. I will demonstrate that the choice to believe must spring from a heart and nature that loves Christ if it is to be a faith that is pleasing to Him. Further the prophet Ezekiel said the result of giving the new heart is that is causes his people to walk in His ways. In other words, there is no heat without a fire, there is no sight without an eye; there is no hearing without an ear; and there is no believing without a new heart. Belief is what is required in the New Covenant and belief is what characterizes those who have been born again (1 John 5:1). We believe the gospel because it is now in our nature to love Christ and see his beauty and excellence. Our natural hostility has been disarmed because it was replaced by another affection. Now to all those who choose Christ do so because their new nature compels them to. A regenerate person never resists the desire to believe. He believes because he wants to and cannot do otherwise.

That's what love is.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Universalism Squeezing Arminianism

This post from Steve Hays at Triablogue presents an interesting question that I think all synergists (not merely Arminians) need to answer.  Read his post. It doesn't start out as an attack on Arminianism, but rather winds up posing some sticky questions re: "evangelical" universalism.

If you're too lazy to read the post, here's the point that is interesting. Universalism is on the rise in modern "evangelicalism" (so-called.) The Universalists use a lot of the same texts to prove their case that the Arminians use to combat Calvinism, texts focusing (supposedly) on God's great desire to save each and every individual. And, it seems, it's the Universalists who take these texts at greater "face value." This highlights the oft-made observation that many of the Arminians proof texts, if they prove Arminianism, really prove more than that: Universalism. (e.g. When the Bible tells us that Jesus is the "savior" of the whole world, on the face of it that would seem to support Universalism more naturally than it would Arminianism, especially when Arminians hold such statements up as proof against the idea of decretal election.)

Since we are graced here with the presence of some thoughtful Arminians and other synergists on occassion, I'm curious what your answer is to Hays' post. And, of course, I'd challenge you to answer him directly. I've got my popcorn ready.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Mediocre Review of a Great Book: "Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices" by Thomas Brooks

Is there a Reformed view of "spiritual warfare?" And if there is, does it differ significantly from the modern, charismatic rebuking-the-devil sort of thing?

The answer to the first question is Yes. Thankfully, the answer to the second question is also Yes. (In the interest of full disclosure, I write this review as a former charismatic, warfare prayin' demon buster. I could cast devils out of just about anything, including stuff you never knew they'd get into. Those were the days, joining hands in warfare prayer around a pallet-full of demon-possessed ceiling tiles... but I digress.)

For my money, the best treatment of so-called spiritual warfare from a Reformed perspective is Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices, a Puritan classic by Thomas Brooks, published by Banner of Truth.

Here's the shocking, secret weapon of the devil in spiritual warfare, that the typical charismatic completely misses as he's rebuking spirits of hip-hop music in the sound system: The devil wins in spiritual warfare when he can coax God's people into...brace yourselves...into sinning.

Precious Remedies is really like a foot-soldier's field-manual, instructing him thoroughly in the enemy's tactics and how to overcome them. It has spurred me personally to a greater pursuit of holiness. I suspect that was intentional on Brooks's part.

There is one section that some might find controversial, in which Brooks discusses what is often called "besetting sins," or those particular sins, particular to us as individuals, which we seem to struggle with (and lose against) more often than other people do, and more often than we do with regard to other sorts of sin. Mary is known as a gossip, and can't seem to help herself. Joe is famous for his temper, etc. They both hate their "trademark" sin, but seem to be unable to defeat it utterly.

Brooks's somewhat surprising answer to this is that he was unable to find any promise in the Scripture which gave assurance that these sorts of besetting sins could or would be completely annihilated from the Christian life. He goes on to propose some reasons why God may allow the believer to struggle so, reasons that are both thoughtful and redemptive.

The controversy may come as this sort of thinking meets with a currently popular answer to the same topic. This other answer is: "Stop that! Cut it out! You are probably not saved if you continue to struggle with this one thing and can get no lasting victory over it. Etc." Brooks was unwilling to paint things in such stark black-and-white on that one. Whether you wind up agreeing with him or not, the discourse is worth reading.

For my money, the best way to get your hands on Brooks' Precious Remedies is in the first volume of The Works of Thomas Brooks, a six-volume hardcover set that is now on sale for about 4 cents a page. Talk about your treasure troves, aye, mateys. Brooks is widely regarded as one of the most readable, and profitable, of the Puritan authors and this set is a crown jewel in any Reformed theologian's bookshelf. If any of you out there are wondering what to get me for Christmas--hint, hint, nudge, nudge.

8930: Works of Thomas Brooks, 6 Volumes Works of Thomas Brooks, 6 Volumes

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

ESV Study Bible

"Though I still prefer to preach from and memorize the King James, I really enjoy digging into the new ESV translation. Hey, it's the hot thing among the "young, restless, and Reformed" so you know it has to be good. Plus, right now this is a pretty tantalizing price (click the link to check...it was over 40 percent off this morning.)"

-Gordan

502415: ESV Study Bible, HardcoverESV Study Bible, Hardcover


The ESV Study Bible includes more than 25,000 notes, written specifically for the ESV Study Bible. These notes focus especially on understanding the meaning of the text, giving answers to frequently raised questions, and providing theological, historical, and archaeological background—all for the purpose of helping readers to understand the Bible in a deeper way.

The ESV Study Bible also provides a wealth of additional resources. Thus the introductions to each book include essential information about the author, date, and place of writing; an extensive chart of key themes; a summary of how the book fits in with the rest of the biblical storyline; a description of literary features; an outline of the book; and a large full-color map showing the setting of the book.

Another unique feature is the inclusion of over 50 helpful articles on topics such as the authority and truthfulness of the Bible, reading the Bible for application, the Bible in worship and prayer, the reliability of the biblical manuscripts, the relationship between archaeology and the Bible, an overview of biblical theology, and many more.

Other key resources include a system of 80,000 cross references and a concordance (which together facilitate easy location of important words, passages, and biblical themes). In addition, over 200 color charts, located throughout the Bible, provide clear, concise presentations of essential information.

View a complete list of editors, contributors, and articles.

Features:
  • The ESV Bible text is set in highly readable 9-point type, in a single-column, book-text format.
  • Section summaries are highlighted for easy location throughout the notes. Summaries provide an overview of each main section and correspond to the outline shown in the introduction for each book.
  • Over 200 full-color maps printed throughout make events and places in the Bible come to life.
  • Over 25,000 notes focus especially on understanding the Bible text and providing answers to frequently raised issues. Words from the Bible text are printed in bold for easy reference.
  • Over 80,000 cross-references provide easy access to key words, passages, and themes throughout the Bible.
  • Numerous diagrams bring fresh understanding to key places and events in the Bible, based on the best, most recent historical and archaeological research.
  • Over 200 charts provide concise, “at a glance” summaries of important themes and teaching.
  • Presentation page
  • Family Record pages

Monday, December 8, 2008

Does A Bad Tree Bear Good Fruit?

Jesus finishes his discourse in beatitudes by stating the defining difference between the children of the kingdom and the children of the world.

Primary to the entrance into the kingdom is the necessity that one is born again. The term is not found in John 3, there the term is anothen gennao, born from above, or born from the beginning. The term born again is found in 1 Peter , anagennao, again born or born again. The distinction is subtle. The former indicates the origin or the source of the action, the latter, the action itself perfected. That is to say, the cause and effect. Indeed, in the first case what is hidden from view is the monergistic work of the Spirit in bringing about the conditions that will make it possible for one to understand the "beauty" of Truth. In the second, that generating action is found to have been accomplished, what is seen of the wind.

At the end of this article: Regeneration Necessary to Perceive the Beauty and Excellency of Divine Things Charles Hodge quotes J. Edwards


"...It is agreeable to the sense of the minds of men in all ages, not only that the fruit of effect of a good choice is virtuous, but the good choice itself from which that effect proceeds; yea, and not only so, but also the antecedent good disposition, temper or affection of the mind from whence proceeds that good choice, is virtuous. This is the general notion, not that principles derive their goodness from actions, but that actions derive their goodness from the principles whence they proceed; and so the act of choosing that which is good is no further virtuous than it proceeds from a good principle or virtuous disposition of mind; which supposes that a virtuous disposition of mind may be before a virtuous act of choice; and that therefore it is not necessary that there should first be thought, reflection, and choice before there can be any virtuous disposition. If the choice be first, before the existence of a good disposition of heart, what signifies that choice? There can, according to our natural notions, be no virtue in a choice which proceeds from no virtuous principle but from mere self-love, ambition, or some animal appetite." - 140 Jonathan Edwards, Works, vol 1 (Edinburgh, Banner of Truth, 1974), p. 177.


Hodge says:
It is the motive which gives the moral character to the act. If the motive is good, the act is good; if the motive is bad, the act is bad; if the motive is indifferent, so is the act. The act has no character apart from the motive This, it seems, is admitted with regard to all moral acts excepting the first. But the first act of a holy kind is an act of obedience, as well as all subsequent acts of the same kind. How then is it conceivable that the first act of obedience performed from the mere desire or self-love can be holy, when no other act of the same kind and performed from the same motive, either is or can be? How does its being first alter it very nature? It is still nothing more than as act done for self-gratification, and cannot be a holy act.


In earlier threads and with the eruption of accusations against James White as being both hyper-Calvinistic and freshly developing a new position has come the in house Calvinist debate on the ordo salutis and when regeneration takes place. As Hodge says, there really in no difference between the Arminian position and the defective Calvinistic belief that regeneration proceeds from faith. But, as can be seen, both the logical order and the temporal order must be that a righteous nature is regenerated before the action of faith can be considered a moral act. In other words, as I have argued elsewhere, and as John informs us, without a new nature and the abiding Holy Spirit, no one can believe. Having faith, as righteous act, can only proceed from a regenerated nature. Without a renewed nature, faith in Christ is sin, mere animal sensuality.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

For He Who Sanctifies And Those Who Have Been Sanctified Are One

With the brouhaha over false allegations of heresy hurled at James White came the false claim that Calvin did not teach a limited atonement. Though this might seem a declension from the study of the subject of the atonement in Hebrews, it is not really. In John Calvin's sermon The Call to Witness there are three things to take note of: 1. That there is a definite purchase of an inheritance and the blood of Christ is not shed in vain as David Allen would have us believe. 2. That the object of that purchase has been perfected from before the beginning of time. 3. That the preaching of election is not to be neglected, for it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Monday, December 1, 2008

If I Could Force All Christians to Read....

Here are some books that would be on the mandatory list:

21271: Five Views on Law and Gospel

Five Views on Law and Gospel

The issue of the relationship of the New Testament Christian to the law of God is more complex than most of us have bothered to think about. This "debate" book does a fantastic job of clearly setting forth a handful of options that have historically been proposed. As a theonomist, of course, I think Greg L. Bahnsen carries the day here. But even if you disagree, it's vital that we start thinking about these things Biblically.


307431: Bondage of the Will

Bondage of the Will

This is the first book that taught me that non-fiction can be passionate. Say what you will about the "mad monk," Martin Luther, but his fiery zeal for the Gospel of Jesus Christ radiates from the pages here. If this book served as the Constitution of all Lutheran churches (which it doesn't, sadly) I'd happily join them.


1515959: The Godly Man"s Picture

The Godly Man's Picture

Thomas Watson's portrait of the true Christian, "drawn with a Scripture pencil," was my introduction to the Puritans. I confess that I had, at the time, the popular charicature of this crew firmly lodged in my brain: dour, cold, stern, strict, humorless, severe, etc. If you've got that same picture in your head, please allow this book to blow that vision to Kingdom come. I was moved to weeping (yeah, I can admit it) by the sheer warmth and pastoral compassion of this book. You will never think so meanly of your Puritan brethren again.


60157: The Pursuit of God

The Pursuit of God
AW Tozer is my favorite Christian author. Shocking, I know: He wasn't a Calvinist, wasn't a rigorous theologian, probably would have cut off his own arm rather than pastor a modern SBC church. What he was, though, was a man with fire shut up in his bones. He was a man who heard the Word of God whispered sweetly, and took it and shouted it from the rooftops. Especially, I'd make all my button-down Reformed brethren read this book, because top-heavy brainiacs with their giant craniums could use a strong reminder that a pound of wonderful theology won't help you if you lack an ounce of what the Puritans called "experimental religion."


18190: The Roman Catholic Controversy

The Roman Catholic Controversy

One of the greatest needs among modern Protestants, in my view, is that we remember what it is that we're protesting against. It's especially vital in our day, when the battle cries seem to be, "Theology isn't worth fighting about!" and "Can't we all just get along?" Dr. White does an even-handed job of evaluating the Pope's church, by referencing Catholic writings on theology. This is important: He isn't constructing straw-men, but rather allowing Catholicism to speak for itself. Very instructive.

For other great books that come with hearty, Reformed Mafia approval, see here.

Arminianism and Regeneration-Prior-to-Faith

Article 3 of The Five Arminian Articles of 1610:

That man has not saving grace of himself, not of the energy of his free will, inasmuch as he, in the state of apostasy and sin, can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do any thing that is truly good (such as saving Faith eminently is);

[A fairly strong statement that fallen man can do nothing, including have faith in the Gospel of Christ, that is anything other than evil. -GR]

but that it is needful that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in his understanding, inclination, or will, and all his powers, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good, according to the Word of Christ, John XV.5; 'Without me ye can do nothing.'

-from pages 546-547 of Philip Schaff's The Creeds of Christendom, Volume III. (Brackets mine, of course.)

Note well the phrase "it is needful that he be born again of God," and its relation to understanding and doing that which is "truly good"; and, note that the article has specified that faith is included in that true good. This Arminian confession, the foundational Arminian confession, which is the basis of the famed Remonstrance, has clearly specified that being born again must precede, logically, faith in Christ.

What this means is that when synergists of any stripe, even those claiming to be Arminian, argue against regeneration-before-faith, they are not advancing the cause of true Arminianism. Rather, they are denying the doctrine of Total Depravity (which both Calvinists and Arminians affirm) and are siding with teaching of Pelagius. Pelagius, of course, maintained that

a) Adam's fall into sin did not render his posterity incapable of doing Good, and

b) the fact that men are commanded to do Good is proof that they can.

These concepts undergird the position of the mainstream leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention. This is the position that was advanced at the John 3:16 Conference. It is neither Calvinistic nor Arminian in its origin. Classic theologians in both those camps would label the theology of J316C as some form of Pelagianism.

Granted, it is not "hard" Pelagian: it is some greatly softened version, but it maintains the core ideas. Specifically, man's fallen state does not render him incapable of truly doing Good, and the fact that the Gospel commands him to do so is proof that he can.

Again, for those keeping score, Pelagianism is a heresy. Whether or not the J316C version of it is damnable is up to God the Judge; but we can certainly render the verdict that it is a different gospel, and thus anathema (Galatians 1.)

Spurgeon's Battles with the Hyper-Calvinists

In the aftermath of the now infamous ( "In famous?") John 3:16 Conference, a debate that is swirling is over Hyper-Calvinism. What is Hyper-Calvinism? Who is one, and who isn't? Is Dr. James White? (He isn't, but why or why not?)

It has become typical for anti-Calvinists, especially those within the Southern Baptist Convention, to freely apply the epithet, Hyper-Calvinist, to anyone who is

a) more Calvinistic than I am, or
b) holding to all five points of the TULIP, or
c) is fierce in their defense of Calvinism, or
d) is unapologetic about showing where my own home-grown soteriology is not consistently Biblical, and does not respect how good my own system makes me feel about God, etc.

Clearly, it's a good time for all who are concerned about things like Truth, to become more familiar with the issues that are at stake in this argument. To that end, may I humbly recommend the following book to your consideration. It will not make you an expert in Hyper-Calvinism, but it will go a long way toward shedding historical and Biblical light on the current controversy.

1516920: Spurgeon vs. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel  Preaching Spurgeon vs. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching

By Iain H. Murray / Banner Of Truth


In the wide coverage given to Spurgeon's ministry since his death in 1892, one controversy in which he was at the centre has been left largely untouched. It concerned what his Autobiography called 'the first serious attack' on his ministry. Fellow Baptists of Hyper-Calvinistic persuasion condemned him for believing that along with 'impassioned appeal to every sinner to come to Christ and be saved'. To this Spurgeon replied that he was not only teaching what was in the old Baptist Confessions, but, more important, his evangelistic preaching was true to the New Testament itself. After a portrait of Spurgeon as a man living for the Word of God, Iain Murray details the furore which his preaching caused among those who opposed his gospel preaching. 176 pgs.

Calvin's Commentaries (at 10% normal retail)

This morning I checked the price for this set, and my jaw hung open. I got my set of Calvin's Commentaries for several times the price being offered here. It's a 90% savings we're talking about today. Pretty amazing.

Consulting this set has become a regular stop along the way in my weekly sermon preparation. I've noticed that if you have the Matthew Henry commentary and you compare it with Calvin, you'll see where Henry got a lot of his stuff. No plagiarism, mind you; I'm merely saying that you can see where the great American puritan went to be fed and taught himself.


24442: Calvin"s Commentaries, 22 VolumesCalvin's Commentaries, 22 Volumes

By John Calvin


A towering figure in the Reformation and prolific scholar and theologian, John Calvin authored not only his famous Institutes of the Christian Religion, but commentaries on twenty-four books of the Old Testament and all of the New Testament except for 2 and 3 John and Revelation. These classic commentaries continue to be valued exegetical reference works for pastors and serious students of the Bible today.


Or, if you're one o' them fancy-schmancy hi-tech nerds, there's the CD version, for even a few bucks less.







5319: Calvin"s Commentaries on CD-ROMCalvin's Commentaries on CD-ROM


All 22 volumes of the Baker edition are now available on the Libronix Digital Library System. Always the Renaissance humanist, Calvin offers a clear, forceful exegetical/homiletical treatment of nearly every book in the Old and New Testaments. Many still consult this work for its enduring insights.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Get the "L" Out Of Here

Of the five points, "L", the central column upon which the other four depend, is the most hated, the most attacked, and really where the war will be won or lost.

This has been the attack point for those of the J316C. As we approach Christmas, the who and why for what to whom, is a question we should look into when contemplating the incarnation.

Follow John's links for some insight-filled listening and reading.

Remember the Arminian/4 Pointers Motto: Just Believe. The Gospel will become real, you are the power behind it, you make it efficacious. As long as you try, you always find it was worth it. Just believe...



Then again, the demons believe.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

All Old Testament Laws Cancelled??

I was mailed a review copy of a New Covenant Theology book by Greg Gibson.

Here's my review.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Closed for Season


As the only remaining founder of the Reformed Mafia, I'm hereby shutting down the blog until further notice. Due to myriad circumstances, this blog is no longer functioning as it was originally intended. I appreciate the contributions that have been made here. If anyone has any questions, feel free to contact me at rhettswhips at Yahoo dot com.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Rhett

Monday, October 6, 2008

Why I'm A Harrier Guy



Asked why one with prevenient grace believes and not another, the libertarian answers, “one believed and the other did not”. But I did not ask him what he did, because we all know what he did already from my question, but I asked ‘why’ he believed. 'One believed' is no answer at all. It is merely saying the same thing in other words. Our libertarian friend never really answer the question as I asked it, but he did answer it according to his libertarian philosophy which he imports into the Scripture, since he believes that it was not the nature of his heart (or anything else) that caused him to choose one way or the other. The will itself is sovereign, in the libertarian view, and has an ability of its own which can ultimately choose apart from any gracious affections of the heart. To a libertarian, he can choose Christ even if he does not desire Him. While the affections may influence the choice, in their view, still the will can chose what it doesn’t want ultimately, which, of course, destroys the unity of the person.



Harry means:

1. cause distress by repeated attacks: to cause somebody physical, mental, or emotional distress by repeated physical or verbal attacks
2. raid or pillage: to raid or pillage a place, especially during a war

Or: smallest piglet:
the smallest or weakest piglet in a litter

To be harried:
looking or feeling tired and annoyed

A harrier:
1. somebody who harries somebody else: somebody who repeatedly attacks another person or group physically or verbally 2. raider or pillager: somebody who raids or pillages a place

We don't expect a small weak piglet to be a threat, really. It is the squealing that takes on the attribute of another type of harrier:
dog for rabbit hunting: a small hound resembling a foxhound used for hunting hares or rabbits
The only annoyance there is when they're caged and still howl and yip as if they were hunting.

We appreciate it when one shows tireless endurance like:
runner: a cross-country runner
but when the runner loses the race and keeps running anyway and claims victory because no one else is, that's an annoying harrier.

Generally we don't think of one as a sleek or an able hunter with remarkable eyesight and soaring above its prey:
a slender graceful hawk with long wings and a long tail that hunts by flying low over marshland and grassland to catch mice, snakes, frogs, and fish
when being harried. We think of the squealers, instead, used car salesmen, telemarketers, bill collectors and the like.

We think of Paul being harried by what at first was a tolerable follower. And when someone is a harrier of this kind, we can forgive them, but when they are a harrier of this kind we find them a little more than tiring.

Why? Just answer the why. Why or why won't you answer the why oh harrier guy? Could it be? Or, this?

Why, oh, why?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I'm Still Alive

I couldn't really think of a better title for my post...

I just thought I'd let everyone know that the rumors of my demise at the hands of the Secret 9 are greatly exaggerated. Between family, sports, work, school, and pure old apathy; I hardly have time for more than the occasional political rant over at my other blog. While I hope that sometime in the future I may be able to return to the gang with guns a blazing, I really don't see it happening until December.

Have a good one.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Contextualize This

Used by Force. All Rights Unnerved.

Pointedgun Publishers Inc.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Condemnation!



Nice Work Doulogos!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

White Horse Inn Selling Jesus American Politics And Pelagius

It takes all types.


I recently posted on this at Treasures.

If you haven't followed what Michael Horton is doing in this series on the state of evangelicalism today and you are in the market for a few hours of often disturbing but informative listening, then I heartily recommend it. There is plenty of solid theology along with Dr Horton's erudite ability to make it relevant for today.

Friday, September 5, 2008

By Grace God Is The Monergistic Causal Agent

22Therefore say to the house of Israel, "Thus says the Lord GOD: "I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name's sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. 23And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD," says the Lord GOD, "when I am hallowed in you before their eyes. 24For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. 25Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. 28Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God. 29I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. I will call for the grain and multiply it, and bring no famine upon you. 30And I will multiply the fruit of your trees and the increase of your fields, so that you need never again bear the reproach of famine among the nations. 31Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations. 32Not for your sake do I do this," says the Lord GOD, "let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel!"

33"Thus says the Lord GOD: "On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will also enable you to dwell in the cities, and the ruins shall be rebuilt. 34The desolate land shall be tilled instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass by. 35So they will say, "This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden; and the wasted, desolate, and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.' 36Then the nations which are left all around you shall know that I, the LORD, have rebuilt the ruined places and planted what was desolate. I, the LORD, have spoken it, and I will do it."

37"Thus says the Lord GOD: "I will also let the house of Israel inquire of Me to do this for them: I will increase their men like a flock. 38Like a flock offered as holy sacrifices, like the flock at Jerusalem on its feast days, so shall the ruined cities be filled with flocks of men. Then they shall know that I am the LORD."'"

In the above passages from Ezekiel 36, a unique thing occurs. Something that the Lord says is not done for anything that man has done. verse 32 The sequencing is familiar:

Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."


What must happen to a man first so that he believes into Christ is the Dividing Line.

As John Hendryx explains:
God does indeed give a prevenient grace to man: According to Scripture, all people are born dead in sin (Eph 2:1). This simply means that, as a result of the Fall, people are born without the Holy Spirit and therefore, (left to themselves) are hostile to Christ and unable to understand to spiritual things (1 Cor 1:21). It does not mean they can do (or think) nothing in their state of common grace, but it means they can do nothing spiritual or redemptive ... that they will always think God's word is foolish (1 Cor 2:14) until the Holy Spirit, who comes from the outside, works grace in their hearts.

Now, what may come as a surprise to many is that even the most hardened Arminian believes this. Semi-pelagians do not believe this, of course, but Classic Arminians along with Calvinists believe, with the Scripture, in the necessity of some kind of prevenient grace prior to belief. And it is important that we make this distinction so we do not misrepresent anyone's views. So to the question: can any person come to faith in Christ apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, both the Arminian and the Calvinist would definitively answer "no".


As is demonstrated in the Ezekiel passage it is not something with which man must in the beginning cooperate. Quite the opposite. Man in his state of rebellion will not. To be able to will to love God and keep the first commandment, God does a miracle, removing the heart of stone and putting in its place a heart of flesh, verse 26. That is not owing to man, not for his sake, verse 32, not that there is anything worthy in man, for he is no different than all the nations around with hearts of stone. Israel profaned the name of the Lord and caused the nations to do likewise. It is not because of some effort on their part, either, that they are caused to obey. For the following verse tells us from where the power which enables them is derived and how it is that power exerts its influence in causing the keeping of the ordinances of God such as the commandment of repentance unto salvation or any other righteous work required for entrance into the kingdom.

The kind of grace that God gives is not the faulty grace of the Arminian which may or may not fulfill the commands of God. It is bound to the very Spirit of God, verse 27. Just as men of old spoke as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit, so also the righteous appeal of repentance and the cry for mercy is a gift carried out in vessels of flesh by the Holy Spirit's efficacious power. He causes and He carries His own to do what he commands.

Not only that, but the sanctification is accomplished by Him and Him alone. It is called circumcision of the flesh, or mortification of the flesh, by the Spirit. See Galatians also where Paul is concerned, not with just definitve sanctification but progressive sanctification which he parallels as being of the same type concluding that if one is saved but submits to rules and ordinances for sanctification and perseverance in salvation, the death of Christ avails nothing. A little leaven leavens the whole lump and eventually the doctrine of salvation by grace is abandoned and the Jewish religion of works takes its place. That is what Paul accused Peter of, introducing accursed heresy which usurps the Gospel's rightful place, replacing it with a gospel of bondage again to the law. It is a gospel, which is no gospel, of a god who is no god able to save.

Ezekiel tells us that all that comes before in prevenience is all that will ever be given, and all that is given is all that is necessary, and that it is complete in reference to the glory of God (verses 33-37) which otherwise would be blasphemed if it should fail to fulfill the thing it was sent to do. Jesus summed this glorification up in John 17. And as Hendryx explains, all those that the Father has given to the Son will be given a new nature in regeneration, and it does not fail, of all that the Father has given no one is ever lost.

Hendryx sums up:
To use some biblical imagery, we cast the seed of the gospel indiscriminately because the Holy Spirit alone can “germinate” the word unto life in Christ. The fallow ground of our hearts must first be plowed up by God, for the soil of our heart is not good by nature, but only by grace. The seed will not find good soil until God makes it so. For Ezekiel the prophet says:

“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

Notice that in order for obedience to take place the Lord must first cleanse our hearts, put a new spirit in us and remove our hardened uncircumcised heart. No one believes and obeys while their heart is still stone. Our blind eyes must be opened, our deaf ears unstopped, and our corrupt nature supernaturally changed by the Holy Spirit, before we can begin to have any good thoughts about Christ. The Bible likens the new birth, or regeneration, to the first creation (2 Cor. 5:17). God let light shine into what was darkness. And God breathed life into lifeless man and then man, because of the new principle of life now within him, breathed and walked. Likewise regeneration can be likened to God's first breath in man, and faith, to Adam's first breath. The former is monergistic and the later, while it springs from the principle of grace that now exists within, is participatory. Both the creation and the maintaining are all of grace, but only God's breathing life into us (ex nihilo) is monergistic (that is, it is the work of God alone). When God brings forth something out of nothing, it is monergistic, but when we breathe (or have faith) as a result of God's act, we are now participating, so by definition this is not monergistic, but all springs forth from God's initial monergistic act of giving life from nothing.

"Regeneration is the fountain; sanctification is the river." - J. Sidlow Baxter


This is what I call passive/active sanctification, because as Jesus, Ezekial, Paul explain, except that we abide in Him we can do nothing. Nothing. By definition it is not monergistic if what we are saying is that man acts at all. The import of Hendryx, just as it was with the Council of Orange, and as it has been recognized in the orthodox faith since the patriarchs, is that man is carried along. All that flows from the fountain of monergism is what carries out the work and therefore the glorification of God. It is by grace alone and not the prevenient grace of the Arminian, or of any other form of common grace like that of the Pelagian or semi-pelagian. It is a prevenient grace that is preventive, that will not allow failure to save and that eternally. The grace of Christ, that is the Christian grace, is complete in all that is required of righteousness in man that fits him for salvation. And this all bought by the blood of Christ. His reward given to him by the Father is that we are made to partake in the adoption as sons. It is his righteousness, his deeds, his righteous confession and love of the Father freely given to us grace. It is his drawing, his spinkling of us, his cleansing us. He does it all, even making us active by it.

Our passive/active obedience is well expressed in the Hebrew term in Ezekiel for cause. Like the word receive in 1 Cor 4 it is active but can also be passive, and it can at the same time be both. The one thing that it cannot be is neutral. Like the term in Ezekiel for God santifying Himself in his people, all three are the case. Just as when it is said that his works have been finished from the beginning of the world yet he never stops working. But what always comes first is the activity of God so we also have the Promised One who is in us not by the power resident in us, that is we cannot ascend into heaven to bring Christ down, but by the power resident in Him. We are also in Him by the same power. Likewise we walk by the Spirit, passive/active. But we are at first passive while He takes the active role of causing us to walk according to His commands such that we put to death the deeds of the flesh. Though like Isaiah says he also causes us to walk not according to his statutes for a season, he is always faithful to save his people from utter destruction. His discipline moves us to diligence so we work out our salvation with fear and trembling because it is He who is a work in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. We do not do as we want. Therefore Paul tells us that Christ is our salvation, both our justification and sanctification, in whom alone is the promise, to whom alone belongs the promise, who is alone the promise. He leaves nothing to the chance of our choosing.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”


Thank God that from these stones he is able to raise up children.

ENJOY!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

It's All Grace Unless You Run Out of Will Power






The condemnations of Arminianism from Dort:

Who make use of the distinction between obtaining and applying in order to instill in the unwary and inexperienced the opinion that God, as far as he is concerned, wished to bestow equally upon all people the benefits which are gained by Christ's death; but that the distinction by which some rather than others come to share in the forgiveness of sins and eternal life depends on their own free choice (which applies itself to the grace offered indiscriminately) but does not depend on the unique gift of mercy which effectively works in them, so that they, rather than others, apply that grace to themselves.

For, while pretending to set forth this distinction in an acceptable sense, they attempt to give the people the deadly poison of Pelagianism.

The fact that others who are called through the ministry of the gospel do come and are brought to conversion must not be credited to man, as though one distinguishes himself by free choice from others who are furnished with equal or sufficient grace for faith and conversion (as the proud heresy of Pelagius maintains). No, it must be credited to God: just as from eternity he chose his own in Christ, so within time he effectively calls them, grants them faith and repentance, and, having rescued them from the dominion of darkness, brings them into the kingdom of his Son, in order that they may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called them out of darkness into this marvelous light, and may boast not in themselves, but in the Lord, as apostolic words frequently testify in Scripture.
Who teach that in spiritual death the spiritual gifts have not been separated from man's will, since the will in itself has never been corrupted but only hindered by the darkness of the mind and the unruliness of the emotions, and since the will is able to exercise its innate free capacity once these hindrances are removed, which is to say, it is able of itself to will or choose whatever good is set before it - or else not to will or choose it.

This is a novel idea and an error and has the effect of elevating the power of free choice, contrary to the words of Jeremiah the prophet: The heart itself is deceitful above all things and wicked (Jer. 17:9); and of the words of the apostle: All of us also lived among them (the sons of disobedience) at one time in the passions of our flesh, following the will of our flesh and thoughts (Eph. 2:3).


JCT said:
Once again you display your raving ignorance of Christian doctrine, Twitchell. You demonstrate quite succinctly what I pointed out before: you have no clue as to what the word 'Pelagian' even means; you toss the term around heedlessly, using it as a tar-brush to spuriously incriminate Christians who dare to disagree with you.

Pelagianism and Semipelagianism were not condemned for being synergistic, they were condemned as heresy because they denied the necessity of grace (The Canons of the Council of Orange, Canon 5); the very same canons affirmed that men are saved by aid from and cooperation with Christ.


I never mentioned Orange. To disabuse any who think JCT's claims are true:

From the Council of Orange:

CANON 3. If anyone says that the grace of God can be conferred as a result of human prayer, but that it is not grace itself which makes us pray to God, he contradicts the prophet Isaiah, or the Apostle who says the same thing, "I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me" (Rom 10:20, quoting Isa. 65:1).

CANON 4. If anyone maintains that God awaits our will to be cleansed from sin, but does not confess that even our will to be cleansed comes to us through the infusion and working of the Holy Spirit, he resists the Holy Spirit himself who says through Solomon, "The will is prepared by the Lord" (Prov. 8:35, LXX), and the salutary word of the Apostle, "For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13).

CANON 5. If anyone says that not only the increase of faith but also its beginning and the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly and comes to the regeneration of holy baptism -- if anyone says that this belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, it is proof that he is opposed to the teaching of the Apostles, for blessed Paul says, "And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). And again, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). For those who state that the faith by which we believe in God is natural make all who are separated from the Church of Christ by definition in some measure believers.

CANON 6. If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).

CANON 7. If anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life, as is expedient for us, or that we can be saved, that is, assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who makes all men gladly assent to and believe in the truth, he is led astray by a heretical spirit, and does not understand the voice of God who says in the Gospel, "For apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5), and the word of the Apostle, "Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God" (2 Cor. 3:5).

CANON 8. If anyone maintains that some are able to come to the grace of baptism by mercy but others through free will, which has manifestly been corrupted in all those who have been born after the transgression of the first man, it is proof that he has no place in the true faith. For he denies that the free will of all men has been weakened through the sin of the first man, or at least holds that it has been affected in such a way that they have still the ability to seek the mystery of eternal salvation by themselves without the revelation of God. The Lord himself shows how contradictory this is by declaring that no one is able to come to him "unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44), as he also says to Peter, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 16:17), and as the Apostle says, "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:3).

CANON 16. No man shall be honored by his seeming attainment, as though it were not a gift, or suppose that he has received it because a missive from without stated it in writing or in speech. For the Apostle speaks thus, "For if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose" (Gal. 2:21); and "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men" (Eph. 4:8, quoting Ps. 68:18). It is from this source that any man has what he does; but whoever denies that he has it from this source either does not truly have it, or else "even what he has will be taken away" (Matt. 25:29).

CANON 17. Concerning Christian courage. The courage of the Gentiles is produced by simple greed, but the courage of Christians by the love of God which "has been poured into our hearts" not by freedom of will from our own side but "through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (Rom. 5:5).

CANON 25. Concerning the love with which we love God. It is wholly a gift of God to love God. He who loves, even though he is not loved, allowed himself to be loved. We are loved, even when we displease him, so that we might have means to please him. For the Spirit, whom we love with the Father and the Son, has poured into our hearts the love of the Father and the Son (Rom. 5:5).



What is evident is that Orange did indeed condemn synergism. So did Dort. The Arminian position is always in some facet of explanation heresy, whether the dishonesty resides in a well respected SBC hero, or in the rantings of bitter internet preachers. And while the Canons of Orange did soften the notions of imputation and exclusivity of God working monergistically in all ways in sanctification, it can plainly be seen that the initiation, source and completion of all things is finally God's work alone:

Concerning Christian courage. The courage of the Gentiles is produced by simple greed, but the courage of Christians by the love of God which "has been poured into our hearts" not by freedom of will from our own side but "through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us

My position has always been that it is exclusively a monergistic work of God, but agree, that man is not merely passive. I describe it as passive/active, acknowledging what Paul taught, that he worked harder than all, yet not he, but Christ who was in him. As the White Horse Inn selection explains, the Pelagian error is more than just the particulars of Pelagius' original sin rejection. It goes to the usurpation of God's work of grace as monergistic. In both the Pelagian and semi-Pelagian systems grace is only that assistance to the natural ability of self-attainment, turning grace into works. Pelagius even went so far as to say that man did not need grace at all. And, as I have contended, as RC Sproul and John Hendryx conclude, as the men of WHI conclude, when it comes to Arminianism, the result of their view of grace and man's cooperation with it simply results in Pelagius' Island, that little area, where man does not depend upon the grace of God as sufficient for all things, but is finally on his own to make the choice.

I hope this is enough to convince the readers of this blog just who JCT is. Both Orange and Dort condemned the semi-Pelagian notions of grace. Again, I refer the reader to Canon 5 that JCT referenced and see that what JCT claimed about it was false:

For those who state that the faith by which we believe in God is natural make all who are separated from the Church of Christ by definition in some measure believers

And also later in Cannon 6:
if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).
Notice, that JCT does not make faith itself the grace which is given. And notice that the Cannon clearly states that it is a supernatural faith not common to man. In effect the grace of faith is the "conduit" or that which receives and rests in Christ, and not the will of man. It is also clear that it is grace that bends the will towards God and not man, contrary to the assertion of JCT. It is not left to man to will from neutrality, but it is the very gift of grace that kills the resistance and moves the will irresisably to trust in Christ.

Our final authority is not the concils, it is Scripture. We do however look to them as an appeal. What we find is that men before us saw in the Scripture undeniable evidence of the monergistic work of God in all facets of our salvation. It was the impetus of the Reformation. To exalt the humanistic free-will and the power of contrary choice is to embrace Erasmus and to return to Rome and condemn Luther. Our separation from Rome hinges upon the denunciation of the free-will doctrine. As Luther said, this is the hinge pin of all the protestation.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Pelagius' Island

RC Sproul give us a good account of the refuge of the lost; the prison island of autonomous free will.



John Hendryx defines for us the difference between Classical Arminianism and Semi-Pelagianism. As has been discussed here before and as R.C. and John make clear, on that little island, no matter how small, the "resetting" of man to neutral, is nonetheless, Pelagianism. Whether it is a neutral beginning, or grace which enables some residual neutrality, or some gift given to reset the neutrality; whether Pelegian, semi-pelagian or semi-semi-pelagian, it results in a return to that little isla de muerta of self-righteousness where the individual is the resolving sacrifical high preist of his own salvation -his own justification and sanctification- and not Jesus Christ, the true God and Savior.

Welcome to the world of the real.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Move Over Nelson Price

Pastor Price, you've got a legitimate challenger in the competition to put out the most outlandish, unsupported slander against Calvinism.

Worst. Post. Ever.

(Or nearly so. You'd think stuff like this would make me angry. But it just makes me tired.)

ht: Contemporary Calvinist

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Bold Face



Found at Iron Sharpens Iron. It's a nice place to visit.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

There's something about Georgia...

...that seems to attract anti-Calvinists.

The state is already home to The Secret 9, Johny Hunt, William Harrell, Jerry Vines, and Nelson Price.

Now it appears we can add yet another to that list: Emir Caner!

If this keeps up, I'm gonna move back to Florida!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Nugget from "The Book of Comfort"

So, who says Reformed confessions are dry, stuffy, impractical? If you memorize only one catechism question this year, or only teach one to your children, this is a great one.

------------------

Question 1: What is thy only comfort in life and in death?


Answer: That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ, who with his precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready henceforth to live unto him.


- The Heidelberg Catechism, 1563

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Evidentally



Pulpit Mag's Nathan Busenitz has given us a testament of evidentiary proofs that the Bible is reliable. Evidentially the Scripture is truth, no doubt. However, all the evidence in the world is not enough to save anyone:

"But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”


Our primary problem is not that we do not have enough evidence. Our problem is that without the Spirit, we are not equipped to receive it. No matter what evidence is presented it is to no avail. Except a man is born again he cannot see the kingdom. Then what evidence, what signs, will save. Jesus said that a wicked and adulterous generation seeks a sign and no sign will be given except the resurrection. And who was it that saw that first hand? There was none. Even the disciples did not behold it until after it happened. What then can we present that will ever convince anyone that he has risen? Jesus put it bluntly, "Because you have seen me, you have believed? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Even for Thomas, Jesus says, that faith is not found in this way. Instead, all that we come to know of evidences only affirms but can never confirm the Christian faith. I do agree with Nathan in this: that as believers we are built up in our faith by such things. I disagree, however, with the review's assertion that it is a good method of evangelism. In some ways the evidentialist approach is dangerous and no different that excitations provided by Finney's burlesque evangelism.

The confirmation of the faith is within. Not without. And though we have a testimony to the Word in print and history none of this can excite the conscience to embrace the faith. Simply it is not something that anyone takes upon themselves. As John said, it is not by man's will and Paul would say that these things are spiritually, not carnally (physically) discerned. Did it matter what God did among the children of Israel? No, it did not. If we were today to discover undeniable evidence of the death of Egypt's firstborn and of the first passover, likewise, it would not impress the dead minds of men that are fixed in repressing the truth in unrighteousness.

Contrary to evidentialism, which is just another form of sacramental instrumentalism, the Scripture assigns the remedy to the willful ignorance of the rebellious:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’

Monday, August 4, 2008

Some Things that TULIP Doesn't Mean

I'd like to address some things that I've seen as common misunderstandings of the Calvinistic TULIP doctrines. I'm approaching this negatively, in terms of what it doesnt' mean. Hope no one is confused by that.

Total depravity: We don’t believe that

1. TD means that humans are incapable of performing any “good works.” But we’d say that even those are tainted with sin and thus unacceptable on their own; and they certainly will never be enough to purchase salvation.

2. TD means that all people are as bad as they could possibly be. They are as bad as God allows them to be. There is always room for deprovement, as John Gerstner said.

3. TD is contradicted at all by the human being’s ability to hear the gospel with his ears. Yes, you could say that the dead man hears. But that is a non sequitor. We’ve never posited that TD means a natural inability to process sound waves impinging on the ear drum: we’ve said it means that the gospel is rejected.

4. TD means that God forces people to choose evil and will not allow them to choose good. Rather, TD means that men always choose what they love, and reject what they hate. God is not holding a gun to anyone’s head; but the sinner will not choose that which violates his own nature. He will choose what he loves, which is darkness.

Unconditional election: We don’t believe that

1. UE means that salvation is random. That is how UE is often mockingly portrayed, as if God simply goes down a line, pointing at people and saying, “Heaven, hell, heaven, hell, heaven…no wait, hell, hell, hell, heaven.” In fact, there is a condition to election; there is a reason why one is chosen and one is not--but the rub is that that reason does not lie in the person chosen. The reason lies in the mind and will of God, and He hasn’t decided to let us in on those particular thoughts of His. Election is not random. He has chosen in accordance with His own good pleasure. I can’t answer farther than that.

Limited atonement: I don’t believe it means

1. That God is stingy with salvation. I believe with Spurgeon that on the last day it will be manifest that there are overwhelmingly more that are saved than not saved. The tiny remnant will be in hell. LA does not have to mean that few are saved.

2. That anyone is barred from heaven by the Limitations of the Atonement. Meaning, some mock the doctrine by speculating that there will be people who believed in Jesus who will be damned to hell because they were not part of the group chosen for salvation. This is not LA at all. If you believe, then you are one of those to whom the Atonement of Christ is limited. No one goes to hell because they fell outside the limits of LA: they go to hell for their willful sins. Big, big difference there.

3. That there is less grace available in the Calvinistic view than in the Arminian view. I’m convinced that a lot of the hatred of LA is nothing more than an emotional reaction against the terminology itself. It strikes natural ears as somehow curmudgeonly. Rather, we revel in the belief that our Limited Atonement actually accomplishes more for the believer than the Arminian’s supposedly Unlimited version. Specifically, our LA actually saves people, while ULA saves no one, apart from assistance from the sinner.

Irresistable Grace, does not mean

1. That God forces people to be saved. Those who are saved are saved in accordance with their wills, not contrary to them. Nobody’s in heaven now murmuring, “Dang! Y’know, this is really not what I wanted.” Nobody goes to heaven kicking and screaming.

Having said that, it also doesn’t necessarily mean that

2. IG is a quick work, or that resistance is not offered by the sinner. We do often kick and scream. Sometimes we kick and scream for years. But in the end, God wins and we are glad that He does. Some people try to disprove IG by pointing to places in the Scripture where the Gospel is rejected. This misses the point. We are not saying IG means no resistance is offered. We are saying that for the elect, no amount of resistance is ultimately successful. It is a war of attrition: at some point, you give in if you’re elect. And you give in, or surrender, not because your will has been forced somehow or overwhelmed; but because it has been graciously changed. You give in because you begin to love what you once hated.

Star Trek’s villainous monsters, The Borg, have the catch-phrase: “Resistance is futile.”

Okay, that’s not what we’re saying when we speak of IG. For the Borg, they were saying, Resist all you like: we are bigger and badder than you and we will dominate you regardless. For the elect, while it is true that resistance to grace really is ultimately futile, the reason is not overwhelming force. The reason is miraculous mercy, which sweetly and softly changes our affections.

3. That we are fatalistically doomed to whatever has been chosen for us. We don’t believe in fatalism, where it doesn’t matter what you do: your fate will happen anyway. We are determinists, not fatalists: so that your actions matter. Just because we believe in IG does not mean that the human will is unimportant, or that his choices do not matter. You still must repent and believe in order to be saved. If you choose not to, and persist in that decision, your own choice will confirm your unelect status forever. If you want to come to Jesus, then by all means, come to Jesus! Heaven forbid that anything you hear us say should prevent that!!

Perseverance of the Saints, does not mean

1. That once you’re saved, you can live like the devil and be assured of heaven. Without holiness, none will see the Lord. Salvation is not a “Get Out of Jail Free” card that you simply put in your back pocket and whip out when necessary. If, since you’ve been “saved,” your relation to sin has not changed, then your relation to God has not changed either, as Paul Washer has said.

2. That your salvation is dependant upon your faithfulness. I know, darkened minds will think I’ve just contradicted what I wrote in the above paragraph. They’ve got root and fruit mixed up. Your perseverance is not what gets you in the pearly gates. Your perseverance is the result of the saving graces of God being genuinely present in your life. If you are faithful unto death, it is 100 percent a work of God’s free grace, and you get no credit. Sorry.

3. That you can’t really know if you’re saved while you’re alive. Some try to say that the Calvinistic doctrine of perseverance destroys the Assurance of salvation, by tossing it all “up in the air” until the time of death. After all, they say, until it’s all over, the possibility of apostasy is real, so you can just never know…

But we believe that real, genuine assurance is in fact possible in this life (though not guaranteed) as the elect exercise genuine, saving faith in the promises of God, and cling to them in all joy and confidence.

I hope this helps.
Gordan

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Conference Reminder and Thanks to Dusty



I thought I'd post a quick reminder that a few Mafia dons and readers are planning to attend the 2009 Ligonier National Conference in Orlando. As we get closer to the event, we'll try to work out a way for us meet up and hang-out or something. As far as the Mafia goes, I know that Gordan and myself are planning to attend. From the line-up of speakers, this looks like it's going to be a good one!

I also want to thank the infamous "Dusty McDust" of the Cerebral Dust blog for tweaking our blog header. Dusty, who happens to be the brother of Gordan, was commissioned to handle the task and I think he did a great job. I decided to get it changed because it dawned on me that it looked a bit odd for an exclusively Reformed-Credo blog to have a Paedobaptist on their blog header. Not that we're against Luther, he's cool and all, but it just seems that Spurgeon was a bit more in line with what this blog is all about, theologically speaking anyway.


Have a blessed day!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Transformationally Informal: Submission and Reverence Not Required


I like turning nouns into adverbs even if there is no such word adverbially speaking. It can often create its own genre of debate, discussionally trying to define what is meant by the speciously new terminology. A new species can become terminal, only if it generates its own life. Like missionally, a word that never before existed until it began to be used. Creative adverbing might be the only proof of evolution, actually. In the case of transformationally, it is an adverb, actually. Culturally, relationally, informally expressing ourselves is not always legitimate. Then again, without some liberty to transform what exists, legitimately, life and language would be communally, impossible.We have, today, an interesting phenomena known as the emergent church. I would not be surprised to find out that emergent was adapted from evolutionally specific auditory utterances, terminologically. Like audial, no one ever observed the use of the noun form. Well then, see, obviously audios have evolved decendantly (ascendantly?) from some unidentified parental line. Where in the case of missionally we can observe its lineage parentally. Phenomenally, emergent churches have descended from the parent churches who were in the ages past, formally organzied according to the prevailing culture. Call it a mutation or a anti-gen(erational) corrective if you will, what the emergent represents is the rejection, not of formality per se, but the exclusivity of it. But informality breeds its own problems. One of those is the lack of definition.Transformationally informal churches go along with such deconstruction and reconstruction permeating, culturally, society, subversively reassigning meanings not germane to the subject. Inch by inch, step by step, slowly we have turned in to a grunge culture. Which I have to admit, being a product of the sixties, that I had a part in said transformation. As is the case with most things subject to the laws of nature, I eventually regressed toward the mean. I no longer grungeally approach society, nor do I maintain a flip attitude toward such formal entities as the organized church that I once, pre-emergentally, loathed and distrusted. Grunge, I have had to recognize, is not just a look, or slovenliness, it is a more generally, diffusely, distributed attitude, impacting demeanor, propriety, correct handling, and sober-mindedness.

Continuing from Mr.(note formal address) Machine Gun's post I offer this program from White Horse Inn. You see I agree to great extent to what Rhett was saying about the necessity of reverence and the otherness of the church, at least in corporate worship as a formal gathering to honor and learn of the Lord. And, I didn't mean to sidetrack the discussion. The Hortonites speak to the same issues. Reverence carries certain weight of authority over against the apparent irreverence of informality. There are some things by which we should be identified by the world and by which, we should identify ourselves with one another. Which is why I wear only clean t-shirts without holes, a fresh pair of pants and my best tennis-shoes ;)

To some this will still not make the grade and with others it will be all formally and stuff, by all means something to be avoided. Both those extremes are, however, one, in a self-richly sorta way.

Wisdom does teach us at least this:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.
There are some requirements. Spiritually speaking, what is the key to reverence, is it not this last phrase?
walk humbly with your God.
James tells us, also, what can happen when reverence becomes showiness, then formalism and formalism a sacramental expression of spirituality. Let us then keep the focus upon what he then says: the poorly dressed may well be the more highly praised in God's estimation. On the other hand, we should be clothed in humility, no matter what state we find ourselves in, showing the proper deference to the King who has invited us into his banquet.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Worship at St. Andrew's Chapel



The Kelley family spent the July 4th weekend in Florida visiting family. In what has become somewhat of a tradition whenever we go to Florida, we visited St. Andrew's Chapel, where Dr. R.C. Sproul is the "Minister of Preaching and Teaching."

On the cover of the program of St. Andrew's Chapel, these words are written:

"We cross the threshold of the secular to the sacred, from the common to the uncommon, from the profane to the Holy."

If anything, the trend in our day is to make the sacred secular, the uncommon common, and to profane the Holy. Just look around and it won't take you long to find an example. For instance, we have a church in our area who's members wear t-shirts around town that say "These are my church clothes." This, I suppose, is their way of poking a thumb in the eyes of legalists. But I think it also demonstrates how this church might have lost sight of the fact that a worship service (if it truly is one) is something special; something worth changing their clothes to attend.

A worship service at St. Andrew's is truly a wonderful experience. The high liturgy of the service is awe inspiring. Everything is done with purpose and with excellence unto God. The music inspires the mind and moves the soul. The hymns are deeply theological, not happy clappy fluff with no substance. There are no hippies with guitars, nor do they sing 3 mindless lines over and over in order to "pump and prime" the crowd.

The reverence in the room is amazing. Unlike anything I've ever experienced. The exposition of Scripture, verse by verse, is something that is esteemed vitally important and central, not simply a means to an altar call. It's almost like stepping into another world: a world that hasn't been effected by the revivalism, humanism, anti-intellectualism, and pragmatism that has conqured so many Evangelical churches of America.

Another recent visitor to St. Andrew's is Brandon Vallorani of American Vision Ministries. In an article published today, he wrote about his visit:
"We began our week by worshipping at St. Andrew’s Chapel in Orlando, where we heard Pastor R.C. Sproul deliver a striking sermon on Matthew 16:19. The reverence and majesty with which God is worshipped at St. Andrews stands in sharp contrast to much of what passes as “worship” in the contemporary church today. Every detail from the architecture to the liturgy reflects an appropriately high view of our Heavenly King. While there’s still an opportunity, I encourage all of you to make your way to R.C. Sproul’s church on the Lord’s Day and experience this taste of heaven for yourselves."

In closing, I think it's disturbing that Christians in our day want to bee-bop up into church with a "Jesus is my homeboy" attitude. The Lord isn't our "homeboy," He's the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. They forget that the God they claim to worship is the one who struck down Aaron's sons for offering "strange fire" that He did not command.

After each of my visits to St. Andrew's Chapel, I've always left longing for more. I come away with a vivid reminder that worship is all about God. If you ever get a chance to go to the Orlando area, take a ride up I-4 to Sanford on a Sunday morning. Visit St. Andrew's Chapel. You'll be blessed.

(I took this rather poor quality picture of Dr. Sproul preaching with my cell phone camera from inside the "cry room" where I was with my baby boy.)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Breaking the Rules

I'm kind of breaking Reformed Mafia rules with this post. When we went through the secret and bloody initiation ceremony into this family, it was stressed that the RM exists to promote the principles of Reformed soteriology (Calvinism) and the credo-baptist view of Baptism. We don't dive into denominational squabbles, or spiritual gifts, or eschatology.

Well, okay, I'm not diving in but I would like to dip my toe for a moment in the topic of eschatology. However, it's not my intention at this time to argue for a specific view, so all the guns can be put away.

What I want to mention is simply this idea (on which we here at the Reformed Mafia have proceded) that eschatology is a less-important field of study within the broader realm of theology.

While I agree with that notion, and have no intention to elevate the study of prophecy to a level of primary importance, I would like to balance that common Evangelical understanding. This whole notion that eschatology is rather unimportant in the grand scheme of things, is that Biblical?

I agree that genuine Christians ought not fight with venom over eschatological matters; and we certainly ought not divide over them, but I think I note on some high-powered Reformed blogs in particular the growing intimation that eschatology can be safely left aside while our focus is more properly placed elsewhere.

My argument on this point comes largely from experience. That is, I know that moving to a postmillennial view has sent ripples of effect throughout my whole practice of the faith. Similar to the manner in which embracing Calvinistic principles caused a thorough-going paradigm-shift which went far beyond soteriology, shifting millennial outlooks has effected more than merely my four-color chart of the End Times.

I've done no scientific survey on this, but here's what I think just from talking to people:

Premillennialists are less likely to be politically active, beyond voting.

Postmillennialists are more likely to homeschool their children.

Postmillennialists are more likely to dive into the realm of cultural reform, through the arts.

Meaning, I don't think it should shock anyone that if you hold to a view which says there is no option to the fact that the whole world will inevitably descend to the depths of unrestrained wickedness before Christ's return, you're going to be less motivated to try and get out there and build something that might actually last for generations.

Personally, the combination of a Gospel that is heavy on God's sovereignty and an eschatology which sees the nations of the world converted to Christ through preaching that Gospel, has made me a much more motivated evangelist than I was when I was synergistic and Dispensational. For me at least, my eschatology has impacted the preaching of The Good News of Jesus Christ.

The Antichrist is another issue where I think that theoretical views on the Bible have concrete, real-world effects on our practice of Christianity. Specifically, consider this: What if you are convinced that the correct interpretation is the one all the Reformers believed, and that the office of the Pope is the Man of Sin, the son of perdition, the Antichrist?

Compared to those who hold to another view, you're going to have far less inclination to work alongside Catholics in any meaningful way. As a concrete example, did you know that the modern Pro-Life movement has become a windfall for Roman Catholicism, in terms of converting Protestants to the Pope's religion? As Protestants join with Catholics in the cause, they start to think maybe these guys ain't so bad, and we're off to the races. See, if your eschatology either has the Antichrist always just around the corner in the future, or, conversely a couple thousand years in the past, you will be more inclined to try and find ways to work together with his followers in a "good cause."

Not saying right now that one view is right or wrong, but merely illustrating how differing views really do effect things.

Okay, I'm done. Back to regular programming. Just some things to think about.