Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Religion of Bailoutism

After years of ecumenical influences, America has resultantly become a nation of virtual Christianity.  Evangelicalism, having been turned on its head, has become a kind of meaningless label for a movement that only survives as a miniscule minority.  Here is a sad but interesting article regarding America's most popular views about who will inhabit heaven:

By CHARLES M. BLOW

Published: December 26, 2008, The New York Times

In June, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life published a controversial survey in which 70 percent of Americans said that they believed religions other than theirs could lead to eternal life.  This threw evangelicals into a tizzy. After all, the Bible makes it clear that heaven is a velvet-roped V.I.P. area reserved for Christians. Jesus said so: “I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” But the survey suggested that Americans just weren’t buying that.

The evangelicals complained that people must not have understood the question. The respondents couldn’t actually believe what they were saying, could they?

So in August, Pew asked the question again. (They released the results last week.) Sixty-five percent of respondents said — again — that other religions could lead to eternal life. But this time, to clear up any confusion, Pew asked them to specify which religions. The respondents essentially said all of them.

And they didn’t stop there. Nearly half also thought that atheists could go to heaven — dragged there kicking and screaming, no doubt — and most thought that people with no religious faith also could go.

What on earth does this mean?

One very plausible explanation is that Americans just want good things to come to good people, regardless of their faith. As Alan Segal, a professor of religion at Barnard College told me: “We are a multicultural society, and people expect this American life to continue the same way in heaven.” He explained that in our society, we meet so many good people of different faiths that it’s hard for us to imagine God letting them go to hell. In fact, in the most recent survey, Pew asked people what they thought determined whether a person would achieve eternal life. Nearly as many Christians said you could achieve eternal life by just being a good person as said that you had to believe in Jesus.

Also, many Christians apparently view their didactic text as flexible. According to Pew’s August survey, only 39 percent of Christians believe that the Bible is the literal word of God, and 18 percent think that it’s just a book written by men and not the word of God at all. In fact, on the question in the Pew survey about what it would take to achieve eternal life, only 1 percent of Christians said living life in accordance with the Bible.

Now, there remains the possibility that some of those polled may not have understood the implications of their answers. As John Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum, said, “The capacity of ignorance to influence survey outcomes should never be underestimated.” But I don’t think that they are ignorant about this most basic tenet of their faith. I think that they are choosing to ignore it ... for goodness sake.

This is an interesting read.  If anything, I might conclude that the numbers may still be a bit generous regarding those who profess Christ and hold to inerrancy with true conviction.  It is a sad state of affairs – but the whole of our culture has come to believe in the religion of Bailoutism (or if you prefer, Ba'aloutism).  This is the religion of helpless victimization, non-responsibility, and the expectation that no matter how indifferent or rebellious a man may be, he can expect to be rescued in the end - simply because the entire universe owes it to him.  

Sadly, we’ve been here before (Ecclesiastes 1:10-11), and won’t see the end of it until Christ returns to judge the living and the dead.

Dagon 2.0

Saturday, December 20, 2008

What God Owes Us

Throughout my life as a youth I had no better regard for Christmas than an alcoholic might have for a cheap bottle of booze.  For me, the only value of Christmas consisted of the food, free time, cash, and toys that I received during this festal season.  Of course, all of these base impulses of mine were well concealed beneath the veneer of my freckled smile and youthful charm.  I merely endured the holiday formalities so as to anticipate the morning of the 25th - and this I did with the pained anxiety of an addict.  As I look back on those days, I now realize that I never saw the depth of my blindness, and my utter lack of regard for much of anything else other than my own desires.  I do recall one Christmas morning where my hedonism had reached its peak.  In particular, I remember making an extra effort to detect the "goods" that I expected to receive that year.  To do this, I would carefully inspect the bags and packages as they were ushered into our house, and I even tried to probe my parents for information with the earnestness of a military tribunal.  I was so sure that I would be buried alive in a treasure trove of goods, unlike any other Christmas in the past, and this only intensified my anticipation for payday on the 25th. 

To my horror, it was the most meager gift exchange in the history of our family. 

I will never forget the dark feelings of resentment that I had for such an anticlimactic morning.  Sadly, instead of feeling rebuked for my selfishness, my overactive mind yielded a never ending supply of thoughts which justified my narcissism.  The smiles and thanks that I offered to my parents that morning only masked the darker reality from within - I wasn't thankful at all.

In many ways, this is a picture of the natural man who does not give thanks to the very One who showers mankind with the daily gifts of His beneficence and kindness (Romans 1:21).  This is even true when it comes to the Father's matchless gift of His beloved Son - Jesus Christ.  Frankly speaking, the natural man looks at the manger scene with contempt and disappointment - whether he might be a secularist or a religionist.  Now the secularist will reveal his contempt unhesitatingly; but the religionist is rather deceitful with his ingratitude.  Many religious people feign appreciation for God's greatest gift to the world, but their real view of the manger scene is one which belies its true value.  How often do I hear men speak of God's "gift" in terms which seem to emphasize the world's supposed worthiness.  Such preachers portend a deity who is so focused on mankind's value and need that he seems to be indifferent to his own justice and glory.  I have heard some preachers say - "If you were the only person on earth, God would still send His Son to die for you."  Despite the better intentions of this expression, many offer this teaching with the following connotation: God gives His gifts based upon the value and worthiness of the recipient.  Now if this were truly the case, then we ought to refrain from calling Christ "God's gift" to mankind and instead refer to Him as "God's payment" to a worthy world.  In a paradigm of thinking such as this, it is as though God owed us the person and work of Jesus Christ.

This is the best that the religionist can do - in the bondage and slavery of his own heart and mind he can only transform the 1st Advent celebration into a payday; but the reality is that God owes us nothing.  He doesn't owe us the next breath nor is He indebted to give us our next heartbeat.  He doesn't owe us fruitful seasons, human joy, or even the glory of the Heavens above; and He certainly doesn't owe us eternal bliss and forgiveness through the sacrifice of His Beloved Son.  The incarnation, perfect life, crucifixion, and resurrection of the Son of God was nothing less than an unmerited gift offered freely to a very unworthy and thankless people (John 3:16).  If one wishes to bloviate about the matter of what God owes us - then let him remember this: God does owe mankind His just and eternal judgment (John 3:18, 36).  Those who believe that they deserve a payday will in some sense get what they were looking for, but it won't be what they were expecting.  In short, all religionists are like selfish little children huddled around the festal tree, seeing the gifts that are offered as being that which they deserve as good and worthy people.

Let me now end with a second Advent tale.  In 1982 I was in the military and was thousands of miles away from family.  I barely had two pennies to rub together, and the Christmas tree that I had was nothing more than a pine branch taped to a cardboard platform - it was all quite tacky at best.  From the world's perspective it would all seem quite pathetic, and yet for myself it was the best 1st Advent celebration that I had ever celebrated in my life, because it was my first Christmas celebrated as a Christian.  It was the first time in my life that I realized that God had graciously refrained from giving me what I actually deserved and instead gave me the precious and undeserved gift of salvation through faith in the One who was crucified for my sin.  For the genuine Christian, the celebration of the 1st Advent of Christ is not merely an annual event - it is a perpetual remembrance and celebration of that gift which no man deserves.

Update:  With video -

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Love of Discipline

It was recently reported that Grace Community Church, in Jacksonville Florida, is going through quite a trial right now.  Foxnews.com reported that GCC is in the midst of a church discipline matter - the story became national news as of last night (story here).  We can thank the Lord for the church's resolve in this matter.  On the other hand, it is quite odd that the person being disciplined has expressed such regret over the publicity of her case - and yet she is the one (it is reported) who disclosed the matter to foxnews in the first place.  This is, no doubt, a rather tangled matter - but we do pray that God's glory would be revealed through the faithful perseverance of his people...

Monday, September 01, 2008

One Nation Under Feminism

Isaiah 3:10

11 Woe to the wicked! It will go badly with him,

For what he deserves will be done to him.

12 O My people!

Their oppressors are children,

And women rule over them.

O My people! Those who guide you lead you astray

and confuse the direction of your paths.

Some time ago I changed my voter registration to that of Independent as I came to realize that the Republican party no longer represented me very much at all.  Since then I have become more and more convinced of the importance of such a choice.  I certainly don't mention this in order to sway others to do the same - I only mention it here in order to point out my growing vehemence towards the shallow politics of our nation.  My differences with both the Republican and Democratic parties are not principally found in the matters of taxation, fiscal discipline, or even energy policy; my profound differences are found in the matters pertaining to "family values" - something that has been reduced to a meaningless campaign slogan, used only for political expediency in too many cases.  The way in which our family values have been systematically destroyed in our nation are as follows:

  • The definitions of marriage and marital fidelity have been degraded severely.
  • The concept of the roles of men and women have been all but decimated, thanks to the rise of feminism and the prevalence of emasculated men.
  • As a result of these problems, the valuation of children has degraded in our overall culture.

As to this final problem, most Republicans will pridefully deny any wrong-doing, while pointing out the opposing party's devotion to a woman's "freedom of choice" (i.e. the right to murder unborn children).  While I can agree that the Democratic party has excelled in this matter of devaluing the rights of children, I must also remind Republicans that they have no right to cast the first stone.  If anything, there is a more insidious denigration of children among Republicans these days, and it has to do with their exceeding devotion to feminism.  Many who would term themselves as "conservatives" these days, show themselves to be quite liberal when it comes to the biblical definitions of fatherhood and motherhood.  If anything, through the advancement of feminism (which has resulted in the systematic destruction of motherhood), the children of our nation are being being abandoned as virtual orphans.  Left to themselves, their classmates, teachers, televisions, video games, and ipods, the children of this generation are being raised within a cesspool of materialism, selfishness, and familial anarchy.  Even those trace elements of "motherhood" found within our culture are still being systematically crushed beneath the well lubricated machine of political correctness and identity politics.  Consider the following clip from ABC News: 

Why is it that male politicians have not been questioned about "who is taking care of the children" at home?  Because this nation, which once held to a form of Judeo-Christian values, understood that men were to lead and provide for their homes, while mothers nurtured and cared for their children.  In other words, there once was a day when fatherhood and motherhood meant much more than sexual reproduction.  Sadly, many conservatives have excelled in this degradation - in some ways transcending the efforts of contemporary liberals.  Our most recent illustration of this point has been seen in John McCain's appointment of Sarah Palin, the Governor of Alaska.  We are supposed to believe that appointing a woman to this office is a good thing.  After all, the glass ceiling that kept mothers in their home, and out of the public workplace, is being utterly shattered by feminists like Geraldine Ferraro, Hillary Clinton, and...Sarah Palin:

Sarah Palin:  "I think -- I think as well today of two other women who came before me in national elections.  I can't begin this great effort without honoring the achievements of Geraldine Ferraro in 1984...(APPLAUSE)... and of course Senator Hillary Clinton, who showed such determination and grace in her presidential campaign. (APPLAUSE)  It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America...(APPLAUSE)... but it turns out the women of America aren't finished yet and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all."

Palin's Acceptance speech, Aug. 29th, Dayton Ohio

Like many other feminists of our day, Palin has broken through the glass barrier of motherhood indeed, and with a vengeance.  Having served two terms as Mayor (Wasilla), and now as the governor of Alaska - she has certainly proven to us all that women can break free from the shackles of motherhood.  Unfortunately, what she has also proven is that mothers who forsake the importance of nurturing children in the home often reveal the dark consequences of their choices.  Sadly, it has been reported today that her unmarried 17 year old daughter, Bristol, is pregnant.  I would add to this unfortunate news the fact that Sarah Palin made a questionable gamble when her fifth child was born in April of this year.  At 8 months into her pregnancy, she began to leak amniotic fluid; and yet despite this she proceeded to give a speech thirty minutes later at a Texas energy symposium.  Afterwards, rather than checking into a hospital for her soon to be born Downs Syndrome child, she proceeded to take an 8 hour commercial flight back to Alaska, despite the obvious risks associated with such a choice.  While we still know very little about Sarah Palin, what is known about her choices as a mother is quite troubling. However, we must remember that children are not obstacles to a greater agenda; they are precious gifts (Psalm 127) who require the loving guardianship of a father who will lead in the home, and the caring nurture of a mother who is most eager to devote time to her family. 

Let me say that for some of you who care more about a better energy policy, or lower gas prices, just remember this: there are things that are much more important, such as God's institution of marriage and family; the value of human life; and the importance of nurturing children who are called precious gifts from God Himself.   If you feel a competition between these matters, then you ought to consider whether or not you too have fallen into the trap of materialism and pragmatism.  We all have a need to guard the higher priorities against the onslaught of the lesser.

Finally, lest anyone might seek to confound my overall point in this post, remember that the greater culpability in this story is found, not with Sarah or Bristol Palin, but with the one whom God has ordained to manage the Palin household - Mr. Todd Palin (Genesis 18:19, Eph. 5:22-33, 1 Peter 3:7).  I tremble at the thought that our nation may very well deserve the consequences of the actions and inactions of this "First Dude" of Alaska, thereby leaving us all the more as one nation under feminism (Is. 3:10).  

Update:  Here is an interesting interview with Voddie Baucham concerning the matter of Palin's nomination.  Be sure to advance to 1:00 in the video - the interview doesn't begin until then.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Nuff Said...

What exactly would we do without the mainstream media?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

In the Tank...and Waiting

And for the much awaited prize - let the 2008 Gaffe-Fest begin:  "President Joe Biden" and "Barak America," respectively:

Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A "Wordle" for All Nations Under God

A Wordle is a graphical "word cloud" which gives greater prominence to words that appear most frequently.  In a sense, it is an artistic way of seeing what is emphasized in any piece of literature.  Hence, I decided to throw the full text of All Nations Under God in there, and the picture above is the result.

Wordle link credit: David Kjos & image is courtesy of Wordle Net.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sin Not Leading to Death

1 John has been a rich preaching and devotional experience for me.  Despite its small size, it is a massive treasure chest full of God's riches regarding the truths of salvation, preservation, and sanctification.  Now that I am coming to the close of this wonderful epistle, I find that John provides a very interesting instruction regarding prayer.

1 John 5:13-16: 

13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

16 If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.

17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.

18 We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but He who has been born of God keeps him, and the wicked one does not touch him.

This text has presented some long-standing challenges for expositors throughout the years.  When surveying commentaries on this subject, I find that too many fail to address the broader context of verses 16 & 17; as well I find that not enough expositors delve into the text very well, and as a result some will merely assume that John is speaking of physical death and life without explaining why they think that this is so.  However, one must wonder what John would mean if he is indeed speaking in physical terms alone: "If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to [physical] death, he shall ask and God will for him give [physical] life to those who commit sin not leading to [physical] death."   Why would a Christian pray for physical life for someone who is not sinning unto physical death?  It should be evident that John's symmetry of thought is in fact spiritual, as Simon Kistemaker points out in his analysis of 1 John 5:16-17:

"What is the meaning of the word death?  In addition to 5:16, where it occurs three times, the word appears twice in 3:14: 'We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers.  Anyone who does not love remains in death.'  John is not thinking of physical death.  Rather, he is referring to spiritual death.  He contrasts death with eternal life (3:15) to set apart the believer, who possesses this life, from the person who denies that Jesus is the Son of God (2:22-23) and who hates the believer (3:13)." New Testament Commentary, 1 John.

I agree with Kistemaker that the notion of spiritual death/life is much more in keeping with John's overall theme in the epistle, and it is in closer keeping with the Apostle's immediate development concerning assurance and prayer:

1 John 5:13-16: 

13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

16 If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.

17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.

18 We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but He who has been born of God keeps him, and the wicked one does not touch him.

As Christians, we have a real hope (v. 13) in view of our faith in the One who keeps us and preserves us from the evil one (v. 18).  Because of this, we have a real assurance (v.13), confidence (v.14), and knowledge (v.15) because we know that the Lord hears our every petition, the greatest of which was our petition for the mercy of forgiveness and salvation, and therefore we are assured that He secures us in the Beloved One, Jesus Christ.  These contextual considerations are, frankly speaking, unavoidable.  I would suggest that anyone who approaches verses 16-17, apart from such a context, would be in great danger of missing the Apostle's broader point.   Ultimately, John is teaching believers how they ought to pray for other brethren (v. 16a.  "If anyone sees his brother committing sin...").  Therefore, when Christians sin, it must be remembered that such sin is not unto apostasy, or spiritual death (eternal condemnation).  Thus, John's mention of "sin unto death" is designed to establish an important contrast between the child of God and the reprobate.  Calvin secures this same important observation:

Calvin (Commentaries, 1 John 5:16):  "There is a sin unto death. I have already said that the sin to which there is no hope of pardon left, is thus called. But it may be asked, what this is; for it must be very atrocious, when God thus so severely punishes it. It may be gathered from the context, that it is not, as they say, a partial fall, or a transgression of a single commandment, but apostasy, by which men wholly alienate themselves from God. For the Apostle afterwards adds, that the children of God do not sin, that is, that they do not forsake God, and wholly surrender themselves to Satan, to be his slaves. Such a defection, it is no wonder that it is mortal;* for God never thus deprives his own people of the grace of the Spirit; but they ever retain some spark of true religion. They must then be reprobate and given up to destruction, who thus fall away so as to have no fear of God."

Calvin is correct, I believe, when he reveals John's polarity of thought.  Believers do not forsake God (sin unto death), and thus their sins, though still grievous, can never lead to apostasy.  When we consider the application of John's teaching about prayer, coupled with his description of the believer's true assurance in Christ, we find that John is giving us an instruction on prayer which curbs judgementalism - which is a fitting capstone to an epistle that is filled with critical tests for assurance:

Calvin (Commentaries, 1 John 5:16):  "The Apostle in the meantime exhorts us to be mutually solicitous for the salvation of one another; and he would also have us to regard the falls of the brethren as stimulants to prayer. And surely it is an iron hardness to be touched with no pity, when we see souls redeemed by Christ’s blood going to ruin. But he shows that there is at hand a remedy, by which brethren can aid brethren."

The entire epistle of 1 John is indeed filled with several tests that are useful for evaluating fruit in the lives of the children of God and the children of the devil.  These lists are needful, but in the wrong hands they can be used as an instrument of cold judgementalism.  If we know that we are praying for a brother (which is the premise of John's instruction), then we ought to pray in the proper context of a believer's need.  As Christians, our need is the abundance of Christ's life and power in order to overcome sin.  It is this spiritual life that all Christians possess in regeneration and in our progressive sanctification, and it is this life which dwells in us through the person of the Holy Spirit.  However, when we sin, we quench the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19), thereby diminishing the influence and vitality of life (zoe) within us. But remember, thought the vitality of spiritual life may be partially quenched at times, through sin, the believer never sins unto spiritual death via apostasy.  This, no doubt, is why John says: 

1 John 5:16c:  There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.

What might seem to be an obscure statement within some interpretive constructs, is readily clarified in view of John's description of the believer's security.  When we are praying for a true brother who is struggling over sin (v.16a), we are not to judge them harshly by praying for them as though they were an apostate.  Again, Calvin hits the nail on the head when he observes the Apostle's call to compassionate petition: 

Calvin (Commentaries, 1 John 5:16):  "And when the Apostle recommends sympathy to us, he at the same time reminds us how much we ought to avoid the cruelty of condemning our brethren, or an extreme rigor in despairing of their salvation."

The epistle of 1 John does in fact give us a vast list of tests for evaluating fruit.  Such lists are needful in order to evaluate potential self-deception; the reality of false brethren; as well as the deceptions of false teachers.  However, if we were to treat this list of tests without personal evaluation and humility, we could become like the Pharisees who went about testing others with a cold spirit of judgementalism, pride, and arrogance.  I believe that it is no wonder that John gives us this important and humbling call to prayer for others - remembering that we all struggle and battle with sin on a daily basis (1 John 1:8-10). 

*Note:  Calvin's use of the expression "mortal sin" is in reference to his earlier discussion of Rome's view of venial and mortal sin.  Mortal sin is a reference to sins which lead to eternal condemnation.  Calvin rebukes Rome's distinction of venial (i.e., tolerable sins) and mortal (i.e., intolerable sins) by reminding the reader, that all sin is intolerable in the eyes of God and is therefore mortal (worthy of eternal condemnation); therefore, if it were not for Christ's shed blood and salvation in the life of any sinner, all would sin unto death.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Our Devotion to History

America's devotion to the subject of history consists, not of knowing history, but of repeating it.  I am convinced our nation's foreign policies are dangerous for the express reason that they are often fraught with the worst kind of historical ignorance.  For example, policy makers are now insisting that the words Islamic Terrorist should not be used together, because to them it seems implausible that the words Islam and terrorism should be so conjoined.  By such a protestation, we see evidence of an illiteracy concerning the bloody trail that flows from the hands of the true followers of Muhammed.  Instead, Pentagon officials should draft a policy that would reconsider using the words government intelligence in the same breath.

More recently, we see the evidence of our short term memories in view of Russia's advancement into Georgia.  In the wake of this historical repeat of Russia's aggression, many have praised Secretary of State Rice's "strong words" where she said: "This is not 1968."  On the one hand, I agree: it's not 1968 - it's 2008; however, if her point is that history cannot repeat itself in Georgia, then she is already wrong.  Consider this 1968 BBC report on Russia's deception as it entered into Czechoslovakia:

1968: Russia brings winter to 'Prague Spring':

"Dozens of people have been killed in a massive military clampdown in Czechoslovakia by five Warsaw Pact countries.

Several members of the liberal Czechoslovak leadership have been arrested, including Prime Minister Alexander Dubcek.

The Soviet news agency, Tass, claims "assistance" was requested by members of the Czechoslovak Government and Communist party leaders to fight 'counter-revolutionary forces.'

But in a secret radio address, Czechoslovak President Ludvik Svoboda condemned the occupation by Warsaw Pact allies as illegal and committed without the government's consent."

May I be so bold as to suggest that Prime Minister Putin is pursuing Georgia with the 1968 playbook in hand, and that history is already being repeated - at least in part?  I offer you this piece from the New York Post as an excellent description of how we, the West, have been left dumbfounded through our gross historical illiteracy:

A CZAR IS BORN:

...This is intelligence work at the hall-of-fame level. (For our part, we had all the intelligence pieces in our hands and failed to assemble the puzzle.)

On the military side, the months of meticulous planning and extensive preparations for this invasion were covered by military exercises, disingenuous explanations - and maskirovka, the art of deception the Red Army had mastered. The Russians convinced us to see what we wanted to see.

Equally as remarkable was the Kremlin's ability to lead the global media by the nose. (Oblivious to the irony, a BBC broadcast yesterday portrayed tiny, poorhouse Georgia as a propaganda powerhouse and Russia as an information victim - an illustration of the Russian propaganda machine's effectiveness.) From the start, every Russian ministry was reading from the same script (try to orchestrate that in Washington). Breaking off his phony play date with Bush in Beijing, Putin rushed back to the theater of war.

Upon arrival, he publicly consoled "refugees" who had been bused out of South Ossetia days in advance. Launching the war's Big Lie, Putin deployed dupe-the-rubes code words, such as "genocide" and "response."

Wearing his secret-policeman's stone-face, Putin blamed Georgia for exactly what his storm troopers were doing to the Georgians. And lazy journalists around the world served as the Kremlin's ad agency.

"...lazy journalists around the world served as the Kremlin's ad agency."  Well stated.  What mystifies me is the general sense of surprise that overcomes the masses when such predictable events occur.  As the oft quoted expression goes:  "Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it." 

Sadly, this is our devotion to history - the devotion of repeating, rather than knowing.

 

Ecclesiastes 1:10-11:

10 Is there anything of which one might say, “See this, it is new”? Already it has existed for ages Which were before us. 11 There is no remembrance of earlier things; And also of the later things which will occur, There will be for them no remembrance Among those who will come later still.

 

The Commercialization of Science

One of the most important but little known chapters in Michael Behe's book Darwin's Black Box is the eighth chapter, entitled Publish or Perish.  I say most important because Behe says things there that are not said enough: that modern/secular science is much more of a commercial industry than anything else.  Those who want to "make it" within the scientific community of the modern age must sing the Darwinian National Anthem  with mindless devotion or face permanent exile.  This attitude is becoming more prevalent in a culture which disdains anyone who would dare to question Darwin's general and special hypothesis of evolution.  All of this is quite ironic since there is no scientific proof that genetic mutations yield an increase of information in the genome in question.  Until such evidence can be given, evolution remains, at best, a strained hypothesis; and we are thereby left to our imagination about how a T-Rex can transform into a chicken, how cows morph into whales - and while we're at it, why unicorns can fly (speaking in the realm of mere hypothesis).  In the realm of physics, and even mystical physics, we have the same dilemma.  Take for example string theory.  Most traditional physicists would agree that such a "theory" is not the product of empiricism and must be relegated to the realm of unproven hypothesis.  String theory may be true, but because it lies outside of the realm of direct observation it could never be absolutely proved, or disproved - i.e., a hypothesis.  But this won't stop some scientists from claiming that string theory is absolute science.  Nor will it stop men from using such mystical physics in the commercial industry of modern research.  Case in point - watch the short video below and note how Michio Kaku, author of "Physics of the Impossible," explains how it was necessary to sell CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) through the use of creative marketing and exaggeration.  I can at least appreciate his honesty.  

P.S., It's pronounced hadron, not haedron:

 

What is always striking, in such examples as these, is the unmitigated arrogance which attends those who suppose that they can "find God" with a manmade machine.  Sadly, this is the world in which we live.  As they say - Publish or perish.

*Hadron is the nominative English transliteration of the Greek word 'adrotes > 'adros - meaning something that is thick, well-grown or abundant. 

Monday, August 04, 2008

Unlocking the Mystery of Life

Unlocking The Mystery Of LifeI recently had the opportunity to take a look at the video entitled Unlocking the Mystery of Life by Illustra Media.  I won't go into much detail here, but I would rather refer you to a review that I wrote for Michael Behe's book Darwin's Black Box (here)* for more information.   My best summary of this excellent video is that it is (in a sense) the video version of Darwin's Black Box plus a brief history of the beginnings of the ID movement.  Not everyone will want to take the time to read Behe's book, but with a video like this, a viewer could easily digest the basic arguments advanced by Behe, while being introduced to other leaders within the ID movement in the process.  Additionally, this video is simple enough for children to comprehend.  The CGI reconstructions of various biochemical processes is absolutely stunning, and helps the viewer to see a portion of the vast measure of complexity that lies within the smallest levels of cellular life - the likes of which Darwin could only assume (and hope) was simple and non-complex.  This video does an excellent job of exposing the black box of unproven hypotheses, as held intensely by Darwin and his devoted followers, while at the same time revealing the majesty, wisdom, and glory of the Creator who created life for His own glory.
 
 

*My normal disclaimer concerning ID usually includes a reminder to the viewer/reader that the ID community is quite broad.  While tools like these are useful, I would like to encourage caution to those who use such things. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

LHC Countdown

See updates (in red) below -

For those of you who may be interested - there is an LHC update page , along with a blog, now located on the CERN/Hadron website for the startup of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).  Some people are watching this "clock" because they believe that the world will end when the LHC is plugged in and activated - those that believe this are convinced that tiny little black holes will be created and will consume the Earth, however, I can assure you that a particle accelerator should be the least of this world's concerns.

UPDATE:  Geneva, 7 August 2008. CERN has today announced that the first attempt to circulate a beam in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will be made on 10 September.

UPDATE (10 September 2008):  Live webcast here.

UPDATE (11 January 2009):  "The top priority for CERN today is to provide collision data for the experiments as soon as reasonably possible," said CERN Director General Robert Aymar. "This will be in September of 2009."

More Fodder for the Faithless

 

I've been away from The Armoury for some time - we recently completed an addition to our home which took every spare ounce of time and energy - but we're thankful for the results and bless the Lord for it.

I realize that this is a weak way to return to posting, but I thought I'd begin with an AP News Story: 

AP News -

A pastor brought out a dirt bike during a church service to demonstrate the concept of unity. Now he's demonstrating the concept of healing.

Jeff Harlow, the senior pastor at Crossroads Community Church, broke his wrist when he lost control of the motorcycle at the start of Sunday's second service, driving off a 5-foot platform and into the vacant first row of seats. He underwent surgery on the wrist Monday.

"Jeff has already laughed a lot, so he's OK. I think his pride was bruised," said his wife, Becky.

Becky Harlow said her husband had recently attended a motorcycle race in Buchanan, Mich.

"He had this idea that he would bring this bike out onstage and show people how the rider would become one with the bike," she told the Kokomo Tribune. "He was going to just sit on it and drive it out. He was just walking the dirt bike out onstage and somehow it got away from him. It was not intended."

No one else was hurt.

Jeff Harlow had performed the demonstration at earlier services Saturday night and Sunday morning without incident.

Whenever I read things like this, I am reminded of the fact that such events as these give the world more fodder against those who name the name of Christ - and therefore (sadly) many conclude that if such behavior is Christianity, then they'll have nothing to do with it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hypercalvinism - A Three Part Series by Fred Zaspel

ot wanting to have this series lost within the shuffle of posts here at The Armoury, I have chosen to combine the links to Fred Zaspel's three part series on Hypercalvinism within this single post.  Pastor Zaspel's work on this important subject is excellent, and I commend the entire series to you.  Fred's father, James Zaspel, e-mailed me some time ago, offering his articles to me (via "The Theological Journal" edited by James Zaspel).   I wrote him back and asked for permission to post some of these articles on The Armoury as a guest post.  Thus, with his permission, I have been glad to post this important series.  Part 3 was sent to me in mid-March, but I delayed in posting it because I have had precious little time to review it prior to posting:

Theme:  Hypercalvinism vs. True Calvinism

1. Hypercalvinism & Eternal Justification.

2. Hypercalvinism & Immediate Regeneration.

3. Hypercalvinism & The Gospel Call.

Below is an introductory note from Dr. James Zaspel concerning the series:

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Introductory Note from the Editor, Dr. James Zaspel

Theme: Hyper-Calvinism vs. True Calvinism Part 3 of 3

In this series my son has been answering the question: "What is a hyper-Calvinist? A short review of what has already been covered in the first two issues of the Journal might be helpful. Theologically, hyper-Calvinists hold to three errors which Reformed Calvinists have never held, and which the Bible clearly does not teach. Thus far Fred has exposed two of the three heresies of hyper-Calvinism:

1) Eternal Justification: – an error of hyper-Calvinists whereby they believe that God pronounces "elect" sinners righteous from eternity – that their justification is not made actual in time but in eternity past, which belief would be tantamount to unbelievers being declared righteous; or to put it another way, we would have justified unbelievers.

2) Immediate Generation: In regard to the means of regeneration, they espouse the view that God immediately and sovereignly brings a sinner to life apart from any means at all – that God uses His Word/Gospel only in conversion, not in regeneration. Such teaching necessitates a long period of time between regeneration and conversion which would amount to having unconverted people who were born again. They fail to see that the Spirit uses the instrument of the Word to bring sinners "new life" (regeneration), to bring them to faith (conversion).

3) No Free Offer:  This third critique is Fred’s longest. We trust that you will be able to retain in capsule form these three heresies which we reject as hyper-Calvinism, so that you may be able to intelligently and theologically answer anyone who charges our church with hyper-Calvinism. We believe it is more dangerous than Arminianism, which will be the subject of our next Theological Journal. We appreciate my son’s contribution and hope that his series has been a benefit to your Christian life.

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Hyper-Calvinism, Part 3 - Fred Zaspel

THE FREE OFFER OF THE GOSPEL

by Fred G. Zaspel

Introductory Considerations

n a day in which Pelagianism reigns it may seem a strange discussion indeed to debate whether the gospel should be offered freely. But hyper-Calvinism remains with us, and the resurgence of Reformed Theology in recent decades has witnessed a resurgence of hyper-Calvinism also. And one of its characteristic marks is its hesitation and sometimes even refusal to preach the gospel to the non-elect or to the unregenerate. Some "high" (hyper) Calvinists come a step further and argue that while the gospel should not be offered it should be proclaimed. The gospel makes no offer, it is argued; it issues a command to repent and believe.

We must clarify at the outset that this discussion does not concern contemporary "altar calls" or formulaic decisionism. Nor does this discussion question the necessity of divine initiative — unconditional election and effectual calling, and so on. Nor does this discussion question that the sovereign Spirit alone can persuade the lost to faith in Christ. On these matters all Calvinists are agreed. The question at issue is whether a sincere offer of salvation can legitimately be made indiscriminately to the lost.

Biblical Statements Related to the Free Offer

We will begin simply by citing Biblical statements related to the free offer, allowing God to speak for himself to this issue. Then we will return to discuss some related theological matters.

Deut. 5: Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!

This is an expression of the Lord’s heart toward the rebellious people of Israel. In the face of their continued rejection of him, he passionately wished covenant blessing for them. Clearly God had not decreed that they would have a heart inclined to him, for if he had they would have followed him. The verse plainly describes a desire on God’s part that was not in accordance with what for higher reasons he had decreed. The divine offer of covenant blessing was sincere, but it fell on deaf ears.

Ps.2:12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

The call to "kiss the Son . . . take refuge in him" is a call to submission and faith, and it is addressed not to believers or those who show evidence of regeneration but to the rebellious kings and rulers of the earth.

Ps. 4:5  Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.

Again, this exhortation is addressed not to the faithful but to the wicked who worship false gods (v.2).

Prov. 1:20-33  Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech: "How long will you simple ones love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you. But since you rejected me when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand, since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you — when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you. "Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me. Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the LORD, since they would not accept my advice and spurn ed my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.

Here God is depicted as calling the foolish to follow him and receive blessing. Would it be over-reading this passage to look ahead in the canon and affirm that these are the words of Wisdom Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ who is wisdom incarnate (Col. 2:3, 9)?

Isa. 1:18-20 Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword." For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Here God calls the sinful to come and reason the matter with him and to consider his gracious offer of forgiveness.

Isa. 45:21-22  Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the Lord? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. Turn unto me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.

It would be difficult to imagine a more indiscriminate offer than this. God presents himself as the only God, the world’s only savior, and he freely invites "all the ends of the earth" to come to seek him in that capacity. He is accessible to all who will come, and invitation is made accordingly.

Isaiah 55:1-7 Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of the peoples. Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations that do not know you will hasten to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor." Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

Amazingly God stoops to the level of a huckster on the street corner selling his wares, indeed, begging the wicked and evil man to come to him for free pardon.

Ezek. 18:23, 32 and 33:11  Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? . . . For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live. . . . Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?

Here God exposes his heart as lamenting the destruction of the wicked as he pleads with the rebellious nation (who eventually is destroyed) to return to him and escape his wrath. God takes no delight in destroying the unrepentant; he takes great delight in the repentance of that wicked person. And so he pleads accordingly, even though his plea goes unheeded.

Mt. 11:28-30  Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Christ’s call for the weary to come to him for rest is offered indiscriminately.

Mt. 22:1-13  Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. "Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ "But they paid no attention and went off-- one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. "Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. "But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. "Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

In this parable Jesus describes the invitation of salvation. Blessing is offered to rebellious Israel, but it is refused (v. 1-3). The offer is sweetened, talked up and shown to be glorious (v. 4), but still it is refused (v.5). And so he prophesies Israel’s destruction (v. 6-7). And now the offer goes out unrestricted to all (v. 8-10). Those who respond are saved, and those who refuse are destroyed (v. 11-13). The offer is passionate, soteric, and unfettered.

Mt. 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.

Whatever the identity of those whom Jesus addresses (whether Israel’s leaders or Israel at large) his claim is that he stands ready to save all who would come, and he laments the loss of those who would not.

Mat. 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Lk. 24:47 Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

In these two passages we read of Christ’s great commission to the church to announce the good news of forgiveness to all. There is only one way to keep this command, and that is to offer the gospel indiscriminately to all and to exhort all concerning their duty of repentance.

Lk. 15:2 This man receives sinners and eats with them!

Surely Luke records this criticism of Jesus by the Pharisees for theological and not merely historical reasons. Indeed, the following parables (lost coin, lost sheep, lost son) are intended exactly to illustrate the heart of God toward sinners. Jesus, like his Father, maintains a compassionate and welcoming stance with regard to the lost.

Acts 2:38-40  Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off — for all whom the Lord our God will call." With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves [Gk, "be saved"] from this corrupt generation."

Peter’s public sermon consists simply of a free, indiscriminate offer of salvation to all who will repent.

Acts 3:19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.

Again the call is given indiscriminately promising salvation to all who will turn to God. The apostle does not offer salvation merely to those who already show evidence of life. He calls the unrepentant to faith and offers a corresponding promise of forgiveness.

Acts 8:22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart.

Significantly, Peter makes this offer of forgiveness upon repentance to Simon Magus who according to Peter himself was "full of bitterness and captive to sin" and whose heart was not "right with God" (v. 21,23). The inspired apostle offered salvation even to those who were manifestly unregenerate.

Acts 13:38-41, 46 Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses. Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you: "‘Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.’" . . . Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: "We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles

Here the apostle Paul is seen to offer the blessings of the gospel to those who, as it turned out,

Rom. 10:21 But concerning Israel he says, All day long I have held out my hand to a disobedient and obstinate people.

Here the apostle Paul cites the words of God through the prophet Isaiah (65:2) and pictures God as standing with arms outstretched waiting longingly for the rebellious nation to turn to him and be saved. His offer goes unrequited, but still, amazingly, he stands with arms outstretched to receive any who will come.

2 Corinthians 5:11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.

Again the inspired apostle describes his evangelistic work in terms of attempted "persuasion" of people to turn to Christ and be saved.

1 Jn. 3:23 And this is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his son Jesus Christ.

This verse was the text for Spurgeon’s famous sermon, "The Warrant of Faith." As plainly as can be stated, warrant (command!) is given here for any person to believe and be saved.

Biblical Characterizations of Apostolic Ministry

Closely related to all this is the New Testament characterizations of the apostolic evangelistic ministry. Often Paul’s ministry is described as one of pleading, begging, reasoning, and persuading.

The Greek word peitho means to persuade, to convince, to seek to win. This is a favorite word of Luke to describe Paul’s evangelistic ministry.

Acts 18:4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

Paul’s regular practice was to reason with men and women, argue his case in attempt to persuade them to believe in Christ and be saved. Clearly, such language reflects a firm commitment to the indiscriminate and even passionate offer of the gospel to all. Repeatedly Luke uses this word to characterize Paul’s work, as the following passages demonstrate.

Acts 19:8 And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.

Acts 19:26 And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods.

Acts 28:23 When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening. Some were persuaded by what he said, but others would not believe.

Acts 26:28 - In this verse King Agrippa uses the same word to describe Paul’s efforts with him.

And Agrippa said to Paul, "In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?

2 Corinthians 5:11 - Here the apostle Paul himself uses the word to characterize his work.

Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.

Another word used regularly by Luke is dialegomai, which means to reason, dispute, argue.

Acts 17:17 So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present.

Acts 18:19 "They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews."

In the following two verses both of these terms (peitho and dialegomai) are used of Paul’s ministry.

Acts 18:4 "Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks."

Acts 19:8 "And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God."

Related to all this is Paul’s characterization of his ministry in his letter to the Corinthians.

2 Cor. 5:20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore (deomai) you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God!

Two words are significant here. First he says that God himself is "making his appeal" through the apostle’s preaching. The word used here (parakaleo) has a wide range of meanings. Very often it carries the connotation of pleading, begging, beseeching, entreating (e.g., Mt.8:5; Mt. 18:32; Mk. 1:40; Acts 16:9). And it is clear that this is the meaning here coupled as it is with the next word deomai. But what is especially significant here is that it is God himself who is said to do the pleading. The second word (deomai) means to beg. And again what is significant is that Paul speaks of this begging as coming from God himself. God’s appeal is echoed in the apostle’s pleading. Paul is God’s ambassador, and in his passionate pleading with sinners he preaches the gospel in the spirit of the one who sent him.

Finally of interest is Paul’s characterization of his ministry in 1 Cor. 9:19. Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.

The term here (kerdaino) has the idea of winning or winning over. Paul says simply that it was his goal to win (kerdaino) as many people to Christ as possible. He was not carefully trying to sort out

who was elect. That is God’s doing. Paul’s responsibility, as he saw it, was to win as many as possible. Clearly Paul was disinterested academically in his work. He was a persuader. He argued, reasoned, pled, begged, and sought by it to persuade men and women for Christ. This language plainly reflects Paul’s practice of offering the gospel indiscriminately as he sought to "win" the lost to Christ.

Theological Synthesis

All this is not to say that the apostles were simply after "decisions." Nor would they cheapen the gospel in order to make it more palatable to the unregenerate (2 Cor. 2:17). But ministering the gospel faithfully they sought earnestly to see the lost saved — as many of them as possible. They offered the gospel to all, but it was the gospel as given and not a lesser substitute for it.

Moreover, it is highly instructive that in the same Acts narrative that characterizes Paul’s ministry in terms of "persuasion" and such, Luke comments along the way that "as many as were ordained to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48). The gospel goes to all, passionately and indiscriminately, and by it the elect are saved. The gospel is the external means of calling, but the sovereign Spirit alone makes it effective and gives saving faith.

This is precisely how the apostle Paul characterized and explained the success of his ministry. In 1 Cor. 1:17-31, he argues that the "foolish" message of the gospel goes out to all but is made effective only when coupled with the divine (internal, efficacious) call. Or again in 2 Cor. 2:14-16 he writes,

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?

Or as he summarizes crisply 1 Cor. 3:6, I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.

That is to say, while the gospel goes to all God makes it effectual in the experience of his elect. As Charles Spurgeon said to his audience, "I can bring Christ to you, but I cannot bring you to Christ." The evangelist preaches the gospel to all, even pleadingly, seeking to persuade. But success in persuasion is entirely dependent on the sovereign Spirit of God. To quote Spurgeon again:

You have heard now from the preacher —

Truth by him has been made known.

But we need a greater teacher

From the Everlasting throne —

Application is the work of God alone.

In other words, the Calvinist should not fear this notion of the free offer of the gospel.

It is in no way inconsistent with soteriological particularism (i.e. Christ died to save his elect), divine sovereignty, or human inability. That our offer of the gospel should be restricted to those whom we can recognize as elect / regenerate is a theological deduction that cannot find exegetical support, and runs exactly contrary to the practice of the inspired apostles. Nor does the free offer (mis)characterize God as wringing his hands in frustration, hoping for results that he is helpless to effect. No, the Spirit of God is the ultimate persuader, but that in no way obviates the role of the free and indiscriminate offer of the gospel or the responsibility of the Christian to give it.

Along these same lines of thinking we should mention that it is not at all wrong to exhort carnal men to spiritual duties. Natural man’s inability to obey God’s commands or respond to God’s offers of grace in no way precludes his responsibility to obey and come. Nor is the offer of grace therefore insincere. The offer is genuine — "Whoever you are, if you come to Christ he will give you rest. God offers himself passionately and takes no pleasure in your destruction." This is how God positions himself in reference to the lost. Their inability in no way impugns either God’s sincerity in the offer or their responsibility to accept.

Finally, some have argued that the free offer of the gospel is demeaning to God. It is beneath God, it is reasoned, to offer forgiveness to those whom he knows will refuse it. But while the concern for God’s honor is commendable, two answers must be given to this line of reasoning. First, the fact is that he does. In one sense, perhaps it is beneath God to offer himself to those whom he knows will reject him. There is no reason at all why he should do this. But, again, the fact is he does, as so many passage of Scripture inform us. He stands with arms outstretched to rebel sinners who will reject him, saying, as it were, "If you will come I will have you!" This is entirely beneath him. But amazingly, he does it. Second, He wants us to know what kind of God he is. This gracious and compassionate stance of God toward rebellious sinners related for us in Scripture so many times is part of his self-revelation. He wants us to know that he is this kind of God. This is one aspect of his glory. We therefore cannot and will not adore him aright until we recognize and adequately appreciate this amazing aspect of his great heart of love.

Conclusion

The traditional Reformed position has rightly maintained that the indiscriminate call of the gospel. And the concern of some "high"(hyper) Calvinists that the free offer of the gospel implies Arminian notions, is mistaken. God positions himself toward the wicked as willing to save, and he pleads

with them accordingly through his spokesmen. This universal appeal of the gospel is the external means by which God sovereignly calls his elect individually into the fellowship of Christ.

ADDENDUM

Bible Interpretation

There is a general overall lesson to be learned by these studies, and it is about mistakes in the handling of Scripture – Bible Interpretation.

1. The mistake often made is taking an already held hermeneutic (interpretation) and imposing it on a text rather than taking the text for what it says.

2. Another, is related to it but perhaps more sophisticated. This is the mistake of imposing some theological idea on a related theological matter without allowing the various issues at hand to be exposed in their own Biblical-exegetical light.

To put it another way, to make theological deductions and use them as a controlling grid in framing one’s treatment of related doctrines. The deductions in some respects may be very reasonable, but they are unnecessary deductions unsupported exegetically, and when examined in light of other doctrines they are shown to be wrong.

For example, it makes some sense to say that since in the mind of God we were given to Christ in eternity past, that we were justified in eternity past. But this is a step the Bible never takes. The Bible only speaks of justification in terms of a time-faith experience. And in fact the Bible speaks of our union with Christ as experienced in time (cf. Rom.6:5,7; II Cor. 5:1-17). But hyper-Calvinism has taken the reasonable deduction from God’s decree and imposed it on the doctrine of justification to shape the doctrine in a way the Bible does not – and in fact which is contrary to the Bible’s own display of that doctrine. It is human reason imposed on the Biblical text. To put it more formally, it is eisegesis (reading into the text) rather than exegesis (reading out of the text). In short, there are many passages that speak directly of justification before God as experienced in time and by faith, and they must be given their weight. It will not do to impose our own preconceived theological notions on them and force them accordingly. The text must be allowed to speak for itself or the hermeneutic is deeply flawed.

We could point out the same thing concerning their belief in immediate regeneration. They have reasoned from total depravity to a conclusion that disallows God sovereign use of the gospel in regeneration. Again, that may be a very reasonable deduction, but it is exactly contrary to the way the Bible itself presents the doctrine of regeneration.

Similarly, it is a mistake to say, for example as they do, that since John 3 does not mention the gospel in regeneration therefore the gospel must be excluded from regeneration. If we were to follow that argument, every passage addressing any doctrine must say everything about that doctrine. But, of course, that is never the case. The fact is there are many passages that speak of God’s sovereign use of the gospel in regeneration. These passages are transparently clear and must be allowed to speak for themselves – we just cannot allow our own theological deductions to be imposed on them and force them in a direction they were never intended to go.

One point of confusion is in regard to the matter of man being passive in regeneration. All Calvinists believe this, but what hyper-Calvinists are evidently unable to see is something a true Calvinist will fight for. We will fight that God must "prepare the soil." But this does not mean that

God does not use his Word as the agency in giving life. Man is passive. God is active. But God acts through his Word.

Reasoning from our doctrine of total depravity we might deduce other wise, but such a deduction is not necessary. And in fact is contrary to many, many passages. Such deductions would overthrow such plain passages as James 1:18, I Peter 1:23, and so many others that it simply cannot be read any other way. It is a mishandling of Scripture to impose our theological deductions upon the Scriptures in any matter.

So we agree on total depravity, human passivity in regeneration, and so on. But to demand that these doctrines disallow the use of the Gospel in God’s sovereign work of regeneration, is unbiblical and damning. It is without exegetical warrant and many plain statements of Scripture, which is why so very few in the history of the church have held it, and I mean a very few.

In short, their error is that they have not given due attention to the passages that speak directly to this issue. Instead, they have relied on theological deductions from semi-related doctrines. They have not approached justification, regeneration, and a gospel call exegetically and therefore have not answered them biblically. To be blunt, hyper-Calvinism has forced God’s word into a mold already made for it – but a mold it just will not fit.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Science of Sophistry

How often do I hear people refer to antibiotic resistance as being "proof" of evolution, and yet they never address the fact that such resistance is not the product of increased information in the genome.  As an example of this common error I offer you this article by Dr. Jonathan Sarfati, with the following excerpt below: 

"It’s very common for evolutionary propagandists to define evolution as (1) simply ‘change in a population over time’, as well as (2) the idea that all life came from a single cell, which itself came from a chemical soup. Then they produce examples of ‘evolution’ (1) and use this to prove evolution (2), and then claim that Biblical creation is wrong! However the Biblical creation model does imply that organisms change over time—but these changes would always involve sorting or loss of already existing (created) genetic information, never the gain of new information. But evolution (2) requires the gain of new information. Even if information losing (or neutral) processes could continue for billions of years, they would never add up to a gain of information."

We never really hear from the defenders of Darwinism on these important matters.  The most that is ever offered, as an answer, is a Dawkins-like sophistry: 

You'll notice that Mr. Dawkins never answers the question, and this is quite unfortunate because the query ventures into the heart of genuine science which is founded upon the empirical method.  His avoidance of the question is quite telling.  Sophistry and dogmatism constitute no substitute for dialogue and debate - the latter of which is grossly missing within the "scientific" community of the modern age.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Love, Obedience & The Valley of Kidron

One of the things that I enjoy greatly about the synoptic Gospels is how they regularly illustrate the need for the testimony of witnesses in order to confirm a matter.  In science, much of what is called the empirical method is dependant upon this principle.  Simply put, if we want to get our facts straight, then we need to corroborate our studies with those who were eyewitnesses of the very matters of which we speak (Deut. 19:15, Matt. 18:15-16, 2 Cor. 13:1, 1 John 4:14).  Like different facets of a single diamond, the four Gospels give us the full specter of beauty concerning the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Right now, we are studying through John's Gospel, and we have finally managed to make our way to chapter 18 - the chapter of betrayal.  It is here that the Lord is systematically betrayed by Judas, the Jewish leaders, Peter, and the nation as a whole as evidenced by their trading in Christ for Barabbas - a thief and a murderer.  Our attention is normally directed immediately to these heart-wrenching betrayals; betrayals that are eclipsed only by the crucifixion itself.  However, if we press on too quickly, then we'll surely miss an important detail mentioned by the Apostle John at the beginning of the chapter.  Mentioned in no other Gospel is this important facet of truth:

John 18:1-2: 1 When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, in which He entered with His disciples.

Perhaps you're wondering what detail you were supposed to notice.  The brook of Kidron, a seemingly meaningless plot of land just east of the temple mount, may not appear to be an important detail, but for any Jew - it was teaming with great importance.  Historically, the brook of Kidron was a reminder of the obedience of another king - king Josiah.  For king Josiah, the brook of Kidron became a symbol of loving obedience for a very important reason.  When Josiah became king, he read the long lost Scriptures that had been hidden in the temple, and became convicted of the gross idolatry of the nation of Judah.  Thus armed with truth and great zeal, he purged the temple (and the nation overall) of its idols - burning them all, and throwing their ashes into the brook of Kidron (see 2 Kings 23). 

Josiah is therefore remembered for his great love for the Lord - for he "...turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might according to all the law of Moses..." (2 Kings 23:25, Deut. 6:4-5).  But Josiah not only abhorred the evil of idolatry, but he also reinstated the Jewish feasts, beginning with the feast of the Passover (2 Kings 23:21).  It is in this sense that Josiah stands as a model of genuine love for God, because he abhorred what was evil (idolatry), but he also did cling to what is good (Passover).  This is what the Bible calls genuine love: 

Romans 12:9: 9 Let love be without hypocrisy [anupokritos]. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.

Such is pure [anupokritos] love - the love of God.  In many respects, John's mention of the brook of Kidron should remind us that king Josiah is a foreshadowing of King Jesus.  The parallel is quite striking:

King Josiah:

1.  Cleansed the temple (& nation) of idols.

2.  Immediately following this cleansing, he re-instituted and observed the Passover (the Passover is a type of Christ who is the sacrificial Lamb of God).

3.  He is described as a great example of loving obedience among the kings of Judah and Israel (2 Kings 23:25).

King Jesus:

1.  Cleansed the temple (twice: John 2, Matt. 21).

2.  In both cases, Christ observed the Passover immediately after both temple cleansings.

3.  He is revealed as the greatest example of loving obedience as the King of all kings (John 14:31).

From the lesser (Josiah) to the greater (Jesus), we see the multiple facets of loving obedience; but there is an important contrast to observe here.  Josiah's idol-cleansing had only a temporal effect on the nation, for the Lord "...did not turn from the fierceness of His great wrath with which His anger burned against Judah..."  (2 Kings 23:26).  But when Christ cleansed the Jerusalem temple, he made an important declaration:

John 2:19-22: 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.

When Christ cleansed the Jerusalem temple, He was directing the nation to an important and greater work yet to be performed.  Unlike king Josiah, King Jesus had the power to lay down the "temple" of His own body, to bear the sins of many, and to take up His life again through the resurrection (John 10:18).  Therefore, while there are great similarities between these two kings - this distinction is crucial.  King Josiah offered reforms to the nation, by destroying the idols of the land and throwing their ashes into the brook of Kidron; but these crucial reforms had not the power to turn away the wrath of God.  However, King Jesus walked through the valley of Kidron on His way to his own arrest, trial, and crucifixion.  It was by this path of loving obedience that He sacrificed Himself, thereby providing a way to be "saved from the wrath of God" through faith in Christ (Romans 5:9). 

No other Gospel writer mentions the valley of Kidron - this is why we need the full testimony of the four Gospel witnesses.  John's mention of Kidron is no small detail, but is a crucial reminder given to us by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Ultimately, the valley of Kidron is a picture of the loving obedience of two kings - the latter of which is the only true hope for mankind.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Hawking, Higgs & the Large Hadron Collider

 

Job 38:4: 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding..."