Saturday, December 15, 2012

My Jewish Boss Has Always Been Right

The other night on the ride home from hockey practice (over an hour drive) I had plenty of time to chat with my 13-year-old daughter about life. One of the things that came up was the issue of family life. We chatted about the culture wars, drugs & alcohol use and adultery, divorce and even......homosexuality. Yes, I am an odd ball. I actually discuss things with my kids.

I first learned of the importance of family and its design not by my Lutheran pastors or even fundamentalist preachers, but by a Jewish man I once worked for in North Pembroke. He was the owners of an AMC Jeep Parts business, and he was a great guy to work for...tough, but a good man.

One day I told him I needed to go visit a friend that had attempted suicide. He quickly asked me about his family life. As far as I knew, his family life was fine, but my Jewish boss insisted it was not. I argued with him for a bit, but he explained to me what to watch for and what is the definition of a family. Over the years, he's always been right. There's just something about those practicing, Hebrew Scriptures believing, Jews that seem to have their finger on the pulse of what's going on.

So as I explained to my daughter the other night, prior to this evil incident in New England (yes, I said evil, not conventional but absolute evil) you may find many of our cultural evils traced back to the destruction and redefinition of the family. Although the problem is more fundamental than that. For evil springs from the heart and is reflected in the family. It's expression (sinful man's evil heart) goes through the foundation of our society and perverts everything.

This is where the current cultural debate will err. Instead of recognizing the source of the problem, the Political Left will interpret these events from a worldview which suppresses the knowledge of their Creator and thereby suppressing and twisting the created order. Instead of attempting to repent of their evil thinking, they will seek to use the evil actions of a man in order to expand the powers of the State by advancing more gun control laws. Instead of supporting the God-given and designed family, they will continue to support Homosexual lifestyles, furthering the twisting of the family life.

As a Christian, I have a new Jewish Boss, who also thoroughly believed the Hebrew Scriptures. It is to Him we must repent in our thinking about who God is and what He has designed and what the purpose of His creatures are. It is to Him we must look to for Eternal Life, and from Him and through Him must all things be restored.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

The Impossibility of the Contrary

An acquaintance of mine, who is a naturalistic materialist, made a couple of comments about his view of the world recently. He wrote,
Religion is a broad subject that includes creation myths, codes of morality, etc etc etc. Science doesn't do all that -- it is the narrow pursuit of objective truth. (My use of the t-word is your cue to pounce.) We close, asymptotically, on the best explanation for observed facts. Howie -- you believe what you like. I'll stick with my imperfect, humanistic scientific method as a tool for explaining physical reality. If you want to talk philosophy, we can do that too, but I insist that we include more than biblical quotes. There are many competing creation myths.

Now his definition of "objective truth" is probably synonymous with "observed facts". However, what most naturalistic materialists miss about presuppositional apologetics is that the Christian is challenging exactly that [or ought to be challenging that]. It is impossible to not start with some metaphysical premise while claiming to be merely naturalistic.

Please notice that he wanted me to accept his presuppositions by insisting that I go outside of God's revelation. So I would like to offer Greg Bahnsen's view when he explains that Christians need to be ready to demonstrate the "impossibility of the contrary". Keep in mind that this is the trick the non-Christian uses. He often marginalizes the Christian into accepting his false presuppositions in order to look "neutral", but in truth, there is no such thing.

In Bahnsen's  Always Ready, page 72, he stated:

Eventually all argumentation terminates in some logically primitive starting point, a view or premise held as unquestionable.

So how is the Christian to view this? Are we to just be "reasonable" and accept their demands? The next paragraph Bahnsen wrote:

But now a problem obviously arises. If argument chains must eventually terminate, and if the believer and unbeliever have conflicting starting points how can apologetic debate ever be resolved. Since there are different primitive authorities in the realm of thought, does apologetics reduce to a blind, voluntaristic "will to believe"? Is the decision for or against the faith a mere matter of personal taste eventually? Well, the answer would have to be yes if the apologist contented himself merely with arguments and evidences for elected, isolated facts. But the answer is no if the Christian carries his argument beyond "the facts and nothing but the facts" to the level of self-evidencing presuppositions--the ultimate assumptions which select and interpret the facts.

At this level of conflict with the unbeliever the Christian must ask, what actually is the unquestionable and self-evidencing presupposition? Between believer and unbeliever, who actually has the most certain starting point for reasoning and experience? What is that presuppositional starting point? Here the Christian apologist, defending his ultimate presuppositions, must be prepared to argue the impossibility of the contrary--that is, to argue that the philosophic perspective of the unbeliever destroys meaning, intelligence, and the very possibility of knowledge, while the Christian faith provides the only framework and conditions for intelligible experience and rational certainty. The apologist must contend that the true starting point of thought cannot be other than God and His revealed Word, for no reasoning is possible apart from that ultimate authority. Here and only here does one find the genuinely unquestionable starting point.

Now obviously the criticism that will be leveled here against the presuppositionalist is that non-Christians clearly reason and discover things all the time. However, that is not what is being argued by Bahnsen. It is simply an issue of consistency and the immoral view that men may be neutral in evaluating evidence.

To put it another way, man's problem is moral. He will take the evidence of the creation around him and twist his knowledge of the created order in order to suppress his knowledge of God.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Evictionism, Babies Trespassing In the Womb?

Walter Block wrote a blog post and posted a video at Lew Rockwell's Blog concerning abortion. He has tried to come up with a third way to discuss the issue. He wrote:

1. The unborn fetus is trespassing into the womb of the woman.
2. The rights of all fetuses are equal.
3. Therefore, the only right choice would be evicting the fetus. Killing it would be wrong.

Here is the video.

As a Christian, who is in the Libertarian camp, I must start with God's revelation. As a Christian, I must bow to the Lordship of Christ and His revelation first and foremost. Therefore, I find this argument most unhelpful. Although he imagines he is doing something different from the Pro-choice crowd, notice his stated premise that the fetus is trespassing into the womb. This premise is exactly the problem the Feminist movement has. Both thoughts are rejecting the created order.

It is the Creator of us all who has designed the creation. It is the Creator who has designed the family and how it is to come about and exist and perpetuate. Feminists have admittedly rejected the created order and have become irrational.

If Walter Block is going to argue for private property rights, does he not ground such a belief in the created order or natural law? Is this natural law or morality not established by the Creator? I realize that Libertarians make private property rights central in their political philosophy, but how do we do that to the exclusion of the family?

Several times throughout his video he mentions that this is a very complex issue. This seems to be synonymous with complicated. I'm sorry. There is nothing complex or complicated about the family. The nature of the family and how it is to be perpetuated is anything but difficult to understand. I'm not saying there are not difficult issues, but the basics I don't think are too difficult.

Now he does offer the case of rape as a violation of property rights into the woman's womb. The problem is that this is argued as a parallel for a normal situation of propagation. I hardly think there is any comparison. Another man's child that has invaded a family illegally and immorally through an heinous act should never be compared to the God given parameters.

To say the child is innocent does not mean it will by necessity have a free ride in this life. For instance, if a man driving down the street runs over my child playing in the street does not mean that I, the innocent dad, will somehow not pay for that accident. In the same way, one could argue that the child, though innocent of the act of rape, may end up being injured as a result of the crime committed by the rapist. But most in our nation, including Mr. Block, do not believe the innocent should pay for the crimes of their parents. So I will stop there for now.

Mr Block then uses a Utilitarian argument to save babies via technology. He also explains that the Prolife position is losing therefore we must do something different. But I can hardly understand how employing an ungrounded philosophical/utilitarian argument is a better route? When a culture rejects the created order, thereby suppressing the truth about its creator, from a Christian perspective, we should not turn to "reason" as some new ultimate authority to save us, but instead, expect the judgment of God. Is that not what we are seeing in our culture?

I respectfully disagree with Mr. Block. I think we must argue more persuasively by appealing to sound argumentation based in natural law. Our children are being raised in state schools which will always teach the morality of the State. Since the morality of the State is believed to be derived from itself and not the Creator, the suppression of the created order will only be further suppressed, creating a spiraling downward of rational thought and a populace easily controlled by the State.

If we are going to be practical or utilitarian, then perhaps the best and most practical way to reduce abortions is to rid our society of state schools.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Word With 4-Pointers

Listen to internet radio with how2fish1689 on Blog Talk Radio

A friend of mine sent me a link to an article by Trevin Wax at the Gospel Coalition. I decided to interact with a couple of points in the article via a Podcast. I thought that this might save some time. It doesn't.

I also have realized that my editorial comment/excuse doesn't work since the offending statement is not in the main book but in the interview. I realize also that there is more to the article that needs to be discussed, but I only allotted myself 15 minutes. So that's all you get, and it's probably more than you want.

Here is a link to the Wax's article and a link to the interview.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Church Membership part 4: Discipleship

I have been wondering about the approach I should take in answering my own questions about church life. So I though I'd approach it by asking two different but obviously related questions. What is the role of a disciple? And what is the role of a pastor? Let's deal with the first question in this post.

To be honest, I think the role of a disciple is quite simple (please notice I did not say easy). God in His Word has given to us the means of grace by which the Christian is to grow in his faith. According to Acts 2:42-47,
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

First, if you follow the reading of the text, the crowd had just listened to Peter's sermon. When they asked what should they do to be saved, Peter commands them to repent and be baptized. As followers of Christ, it is that simple. Repent and be baptized into the community of believers in Christ. Then "they" devoted themselves to the Apostle's teaching. In other words, they became listeners. They sat at the feet of those entrusted with the Gospel and submitted to God's Word. So the Gospel was announced in preaching and in the baptism and the new converts believed and identified themselves with Christ by repenting and being baptized.

The text goes on to mention that they broke bread. So as a community of baptized believers, and as other parts of the New Testament inform us, they took part of the Lord's Table. They fellow-shipped with each other using the means of grace God had provided including prayer and praise. There were no programs. No books on marriage. No 12 step self help program. The Apostles simply preached a message where they explained the law of God and then demonstrated how the law pointed us to Christ.

For example, we know in the NT that marriage is good and divorce is wrong based in the law in the created order, but the Apostles didn't stop there. They demonstrated what marriage was for in the first place. They used the Gospel and not the law to motivate the people of God to die to themselves. It was in praise of Christ and what He had accomplished that caused Christians to obey.

Which leads to the last point of the text. The Christians in Acts 2 did good works in meeting each others needs because they had sat at the table and heard from God in the presentation of Christ. They ate and had their spiritual fill. Because their needs were met through the means of grace that God had provided in preaching, baptism, Lord's Supper, prayer and praise, they then turned to make certain those who were in need had their needs met.

My point is that being a disciple is not a call to go change the world. It is a call to come out of the world while still living in it. It is a call to submit to Christ's Lordship. It is a call to recognize our true source of life in the words of Christ's Gospel. It is to gather together with the Saints and use the means of grace God has given to His people. It is to listen to what God has said and allow Him to change us with a message that is outside of us...a message of Christ and His finished work. By so doing, Christians will become the very Salt and Light that programs can never accomplish.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

To My Sisters

To My Sisters,

A devotion, a meditation on the events that have pierced our hearts and their relation to Christ as expounded to us by the writer to the Hebrews, especially chapter 2.

I have been meditating on the New Testament's teaching on the Resurrection. The text in Hebrews has been especially on my mind.

Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

My eyes opened this morning to rays of sunlight surrounding the window shades. In my arms cuddled up to me were both my wife on the right side and my 5-year-old son on my left. I quickly considered the many blessings I have received in this life. Yet, in one sense, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I went to the window and pulled back the curtains and looked at the world. Men were still rising and going to work. The neighbors were watering/mowing their grass. The occasional clouds with possible storms made their way across the sky. The occasional ambulance call still went forth over my pager. The world seems to be as Peter's objectors/scoffers would say,

They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”

The thought is the same. The world is just moving along as it always has. Nothing has changed. People live their lives and then come to their end. No transcendent meaning except what ever meaning we think we may ascribe to it. The writer to the Hebrews however, reminds us that we do not have the eyes of natural man. We do not see the world as the one, who is blind to Christ.

I have often wondered if even we, Christians in general, truly believe fully what has happened. I have often wondered if we miss the the significance of the Resurrection. I know we all celebrate Easter year after year. But do we simply celebrate it as an historical even, or do we see its theological impact? In other words, do we really believe and understand what has happened nearly 2,000 years ago?

This morning, I did not rise and merely see a world passing by in a state that it has always existed. This morning, I woke up prepared to take my family to a cemetery and in a sense, bury a child. This child was my nephew/niece, my children's cousin, but more importantly, it was your child.

I don't have words of comfort. If I speak, I would probably say something as dumb as others that have offended you. As a man, I wish I could fix what has happened. Yet death is so final. It catches us by surprise and decimates our souls.

But again, I did not wake up looking at a world moving along as it always has. The writer to the Hebrews is very clear. The eyes of faith see the very same things the world sees and sees them radically different. We now live in the age of the Resurrection (at least Christ's Resurrection!). Christ Himself rules and governs the affairs of this world. The verse cited above are the results of the Resurrection. For instance, in the first verses of the letter, we are told Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father. We are told that all of the Angels worship Him. We are told that He is God in the flesh, and that He rules now and forever.

As we buried a child in that cemetery, I refuse to see this event, this tragedy, this family member, our little one, as just another meaningless death. I refuse to see this as merely God's wrath against sinners. We are in a sense like those in Hebrews 11, who were a "people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised".

We, on the other hand, have received, at least in part, that which was promised. We possess Christ! We no longer live as "separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world". Instead we live in the age where one, who claims to be the resurrection, has been raised from the dead. As Jesus said to Martha,

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Do we believe this? Perhaps we are growing in our understanding of what our Savior means by this. The resurrection has in one sense already come. As Jesus teaches us in John 5,

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

In conclusion, I have never experienced death in the way you have. I just hope that as fellow believers, you will be encouraged by what God has revealed to His people. I refuse to believe your child has died apart from Christ's authority, and I agree with the London Baptist Confession when it states,
Elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit; who works when, and where, and how He pleases; so also are all elect persons, who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.

Jesus has all power to save anyone He wishes, including our children. He is the One who is the Final Judge. I trust He will do what is right and good. As we forever shed tears due to the pain God has inflicted upon our families, I pray we would all grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior and His Resurrection!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Church Membership part 3: Consistency

I wanted to establish in my last post, whether or not I did well, is that I firmly believe salvation does not exist outside of the church. We are not saved outside the context of the church. Jesus died for the church and purchased it with His blood.

As one whose theology is within the Reformed Baptist camp, the struggle comes within how to be a member within a local church when such radical differences exist in theology in the area in which I live. For example, is it a proper thing to take your family to church only to have to constantly explain to your kids on the way home that such and such was wrong? Perhaps the Pastor used the poor illustration of George Wilson's pardon? Perhaps there was dancing or a skit in violation of the Regulative Principle (read john Frame's article here). Perhaps the constant form of preaching is topical and lacks any exegesis on a consistent basis causing people to read the Bible poorly. Perhaps some people receive a "word" (in the charismatic sense) from the Lord and decide to share it. Perhaps there is no Confession at all to which the people agree.

As one who agrees with the 1689 London Baptist Confession, looking for consistency is quite difficult. And bringing this consistency to my family is even more so. The reason why we attend First Baptist in St. Francis is that the church is Confessional and adheres to the 1689 Confession. They attempt to practice and be consistent with the Regulative Principle of Worship in how they approach formal worship. The pastor often preaches through books and attempts to have exegetically based, expository sermons (which he does extremely well I might add). While driving home I love being able to ask my children to recount the points my pastor raises during his sermon and discussing them. I desire to bring spiritual health to my family, and I believe having sound and consistent doctrine taught to them is of vital importance.

But getting to St. Francis on a regular and consistent basis simply isn't practical. Even if we do, they would not be the same people we interact with on any regular basis during the week. Not that that is necessary, but having an RB church down the street is vastly different from having one nearly 140 miles away.

This is a spiritual health issue. Although most churches do teach the law of God in some fashion, many churches teach some kind of moralistic/therapeutic philosophical self help methods of living a healthy life with Jesus' Name attached on the back side just to give it approval much in the same way we end our selfish prayers with "in the Name of Jesus" just to make certain it goes through.

I am not interested in moralisms. I am not interested in fighting the world of politics, Left or Right or whatever. I am not interested in hearing a 5 part sermon series on the biblical definition of the family verses the world's or a 5 part series on how to save your marriage or make it better (as important as that may be). I am not interested in fighting alcohol or drugs or gambling as damaging to lives those things can be. I am not interested in substituting youth groups for 4-H or Boy Scouts because it has the Jesus stamp of approval.

I am interested in a consistent presentation of the Gospel and being discipled and making disciples. And it is to that I turn in my next post.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Church Membership part 2: What Is It?

Now many good books have been written, even recently, on the subject of the church. This truly is a great thing. As I mentioned last time, so many people treat the church as a pair of slippers to be put on when one feels like it. However, this should not be our attitude. Yet with so many scandals within the church, how do we avoid such a mentality in a nation where we have such freedom to go wherever we like.

A few years back, a friend of mine explained to me that he quit going to church because his pastor had raised a lot of money from the parishioners, including him, and absconded with the money. When I explained to him that perhaps God was using these events to teach him wisdom and to get him to think about theology and a sound church [he was more charismatic]. That wasn't even a consideration. Perhaps God was testing him to see if he had faith at all? Whatever God may have been doing in his life, we need to do the obvious. We need to look at what Christ has to say. After all, it is His church.

It really is that simple. Christ founded His church, is building His church, and is coming again for His church. The church isn't just some mental exercise that people discuss. It isn't some building down the street made of mortar. It is His body. In Matthew 16 Jesus explains Peter's confession about who He is.

Mat 16:18  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Now I realize that my Roman Catholic friends see this in a perpetual installation of Popes that mark the church. It is here we must see the difference between passing the torch [so to speak] via natural means verses such as what John explains in his Gospel.

 Joh 1:13  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Protestantism recognizes that the church exists where ever the Gospel is preached, the sacraments/ordinances followed and perhaps church discipline [that is debated] and true believers gather together. The Gospel isn't passed on through an institution that resembles a business. It is passed on through faithful men.

Christianity doesn't perpetuate itself necessarily through our children. Although God may be pleased to bless faithful parents by bringing their children to faith. This isn't necessarily the case. Just because another generation comes along and says it is Christian, doesn't make it Christian.

Again in John chapter 3 Jesus states very clearly,

Joh 3:6  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Again, the Spirit gives birth to believers. So the church is made of those who have been given new life through the preaching of the Gospel. But this is not individualistic. We are not saved to be a bunch of Lone Rangers. Instead, Jesus is creating a new humanity that is united in Him.

1Co 12:12  For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
1Co 12:13  For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

What effect should this have on the believer. He should recognize that the church exists because Christ has purposed it to exist. He should recognize that just as we are all born in Adam and united to him through natural means of propagation, we are united to Christ and all of His spiritual descendants through supernatural means.

The believer should recognize that the institution of the church is not some merely human organization, but an organization that is created by Jesus through His Spirit. It is a living organization that resembles a body. Just as any body, the parts are dependent upon each other and all look tot he Head, so too we must all learn to love one another and together look to our Savior.

Now there is obviously the many and finer points of theology that I am not going to go through in this post. Suffice it to say that the church of Jesus Christ is not an option for the believer simply because of what it is. It is Christ's body.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Church Membership: part 1: Its Personal

The question of church membership was posed to me this weekend. Now some people may not think much about church membership. Hey, if you go to church, what’s the big deal about being a member? Some people treat church membership in a way that makes church just one place to go and worship. I can worship in my home or when I go camping in the woods or while driving my car. But as my friend, Dr. White, often says, “Inconsistency is the sign of a failed argument.” We really ought to be concerned about what Christ and His Apostles have to say about His church.

Now this is not an easy question to discuss for me since I have been personally struggling with church membership for the last couple of years. This is not some mere academic exercise, but a real life situation that I have been living. Over the last couple of years, I have seen several people struggle and some having fallen away from church. So again, this is real life and has real life impact on ourselves and our families.

A few years back I decided to move my membership to another Baptist church that is consistent with my Reformed Baptistic theological beliefs. The major problem with the decision I had made was that the church was literally over 2 hours away. With the price of gas, this has made going to church on a regular and consistent basis a major hardship. Another difficulty is that I have always believed that if it possible, one ought to attend a church in one’s community.

A third difficulty is that of offending friends and relatives, especially former church members in the church I used to attend. I want to be clear. I do not think that other denominations are somehow evil. But for the same reasons (hopefully) that a person who is not theologically Reformed would not want to attend an RB church, are the same reasons I am trying to be consistent in this area.

Being in the Reformed Baptist camp theologically has placed me in quite the bind. Since there are no Reformed Baptist churches in Scott City, how should I interact or work with local churches? For many, this may seem like a silly question, but as one who takes theology very seriously this is a far bigger problem than most realize till I have offended someone with some theological viewpoint.

For example, my father-in-law is one of the associate pastors/elders at the First Christian Church in Scott City. I know this terrific man would love for me and my family to attend regularly in his church. I know he would love to have me help in teaching youth or high school groups in some way. Yet if I were to do so, would I not cause offense rather quickly? (Something I am trying to avoid.) Reformed theology isn’t just some academic exercise. It is a rigorous and systematic theological thought that has a great impact on one’s life and how one approaches ministry.

So for the last couple of years, I have tried to find that balance where I might go to church within the area of Scott City and yet still attend as a member of FBC, St. Francis. Over these couple of years I have not found this balance profitable and not being a member within a local church in the local area has, I think, impacted my life negatively. Yet how to deal with this has been the most perplexing question in my entire Christian life.

Hopefully, I will be able to post some thoughts on my views of church membership over the next few posts and also evaluate my own situation. Perhaps together, some conversations may be started and some wisdom may be gained by thinking through what Scripture has to say about this very important subject.

Monday, March 26, 2012

United In Christ

Greg Nichols’ Covenant Theology states something very interesting.
“God’s covenant with David is unique. It crowns the Mosaic economy and organically binds it to the Christian economy (Jer 33:15,17). God’s covenant with Jesus, David’s heir, fulfills the Davidic covenant."
He expands this and concludes at the end, 
"God fulfills his redemptive favor to his people in the Christian economy. It is the ultimate set of God’s covenants with his people. He makes the Messianic covenant with Jesus and the new covenant with his people, Jesus’ posterity, through the mediation of Jesus. In this mediation Christ evangelically reforms and spiritually transforms God’s people. The Abrahamic also provides the framework for this Messianic transformation. By gospel transformation Christ spiritually transforms God’s people from Hebrew Israel under the old covenant to Christian Israel under the new."
The point is simple and yet very profound. There are not two peoples of God, the church and national Israel, as many Dispensationalists claim. Instead, there is one people of God, both Jew and Gentile, united  in Christ.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Armageddon and the Gospel

Over the years I have grown weary of prophecy pundits, who are always declaring the end of the world. Get out your newspaper and just look and see how the Bible predicted the events you read. However, by their methods of reading the Bible, it becomes as mushy as anything Nostradamus said. It just gets old. But I guess in another sense, I have benefited by their teachings. They have driven me away to find a more consistent and sound way of looking at Biblical prophecy.

A few days ago, my Jehovah's Witness friend, Russell Webster, stopped by with a new issue of Awake. And being the good "End of the World" sect they are, we get  yet another end of the world scenario.

Now I must confess that much of the article on Armageddon is something most Christians could easily agree with unlike in past generations that speculated certain dates. However, like many Dispensational Christians, by definition, the end must happen fairly in this generation.

In the portion of the article that addresses, "When Will The War Of Armageddon Come?", it offers an interesting viewpoint. It states on page 8,

The stage is now set for the war of Armageddon. How so?

Already there exists a worldwide association of people who serve Jehovah and live by the Bible's elevated moral standards. With God's backing, millions from all nations, tribes, and tongues are gathering together to form a harmonious, loving brotherhood. That brotherhood exists among Jehovah's Witnesses. -John 13:35

Now if that sounds odd to you, it should. I have asked many times of Russell if he knows that he has eternal life and if he will for certain enter this new paradise on Earth in the future. He was not able to answer for the simple reason that he has based his salvation upon his deeds. He felt that if he stopped doing the Saturday visits through the neighborhoods, then he could not possibly be a true follower even though he has been doing "Jehovah's work" for close to 40 years.

Please notice the standards by which he knows the end is near. It is a bunch of people with moral standards who hang out together. Yet I know atheists/agnostics who have better moral standards than many people who call themselves Christians. Is moral standards the way to be recognized as Jehovah's Witnesses. Well, there is some truth to that, but I would venture to say that my friend Russell would say there is more to it than that. In fact, I know he would say that one must be about witnessing door to door or forfeit your salvation.

My point for noticing all of this is quite simple. There is no Gospel among JW's. There is no Gospel in being good or even hanging out with a group of people who go door to door or trying to gain salvation through some kind of meritorious system. Please read the conversation between Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler from Matthew 19:
Mat 19:16  And behold, a man came up to him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?"
Mat 19:17  And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments."
Mat 19:18  He said to him, "Which ones?" And Jesus said, "You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness,
Mat 19:19  Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Mat 19:20  The young man said to him, "All these I have kept. What do I still lack?"
Mat 19:21  Jesus said to him, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."
Mat 19:22  When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Now Jesus' point is not that the Ruler needed to be just a bit better or give away everything and then he would be good enough. His point was that no matter how much he thought he kept the law, he was always breaking it! By giving everything to the poor, he would be fulfilling the law, but even then, one must admit he would have fallen short at some point of it no matter how hard he tried.

There is only One who has fulfilled the law. There is only One who is righteous. There is only One who has taken away sin perfectly upon the cross as a substitute for His people. There is only One righteousness that is alien and foreign to us that we must possess by faith alone. There is only One to whom we must flee from sin and wrath.

It is true that Jesus will come again. That is part of the Gospel. It is true that one day He will gather his people and deliver them from God's eternal wrath in the final sense. But the question remains.

Will you look outside of yourself and look to a perfect Savior, the eternal Son of God, Jesus the Christ, today?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Santorum and the Sword of the State

Albert Mohler,  President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written a very positive blog post about Rick Santorum, which you may read here.

He concludes,

Finally, Rick Santorum attracts protests on college campuses because people believe him when he speaks. William McGurn of The Wall Street Journal pointed out recently that, even as Rick Santorum opposes same-sex marriage, so did Barack Obama when he ran for the White House in 2008 (and, at least in terms of official statements, even now). But Santorum gets jeered and Obama gets a pass. Why? McGurn understands: “There’s no mystery why. Mr. Santorum is attacked because everyone understands that he means what he says.”
This is an excellent point. Rick Santorum is a Roman Catholic that probably believes what he is saying. This seems to be refreshing to many Conservative Evangelical voters. In fact, there are many things that he says I could whole-heartedly agree with. It is true that homosexuality is a violation of natural law. It is true that the sexual revolution was not a good thing. It is true that Mainline Protestantism is dead. Of course this is nothing new. These cultural and theological battles are as old as the hills.

But I find this paragraph interesting.
When moral conservatives reveal their reasoning, the elites hear the launch of a new Inquisition. It is simply incomprehensible to them that sane, rational, educated people might still believe in the Father of Lies. When Catholic Rick Santorum speaks theologically at Catholic Ave Maria University, the secular elites go into toxic shock. The same would be true of an Evangelical politician who would speak theologically of such issues at a truly evangelical college. Speak on love and you will not be in much trouble, but admit that you believe in the Devil and the press corps will go into apoplexy.

It is true that elites hear all kinds of nonsense when conservatives speak simply because they live in a modern world (modern world = no moral absolutes). So to hear someone say something is morally wrong would be threatening. But I would like to suggest another course than the one conservatives have been on for a looooong time.

Rick Santorum has no love for conservative libertarians.

“I would say the conservative movement believes that this country is a moral enterprise, we have God-given rights, and with God-given rights come God-given responsibilities, and we have a set of values, and if everyone does whatever they want to do, then we have George Soros, we don’t have America.”

Now I believe Rick Santorum really believes the "government has a role". But this is the problem with the culture war. Well meaning people have been sucked into attempting to save our country through governmental means. It would be one thing if Santorum were just wishing to limit government away from Modern Leftist ideas, but that simply isn't the case. Santorum will escalate the culture war with his policies.

We know in church history the fastest way to spread error is through a centralized ecclesiology. This has been true in American politics with the centralizing of the Federal government.

Let's use homosexuality as an example since that seems to be a big discussion at the moment. Ron Paul is right. If we take government out of the equation and de-centralize government in this entire debate over marriage then how could the homosexual movement force upon citizens their entire enterprise?

The simple means of accomplishing this is through the return of private property rights. By removing government coercion of cultural issues one way or the other, citizens could restrain one another through local means such as churches and other organizations. Business owners would not have civil rights legislation and bureaucrats coming down on them with the barrel of a gun.

Now this could go both ways. Homosexuals could prevail throughout a culture, but the reverse is true. Remember, fads come and go. The homosexual movement would eventually fall under its own weight and not have the ability to have a government perpetuate a culture war for them or against them.

When Rick Santorum says the Devil is attacking America, he is opening the door for the government to fight the devil with authority that it does not have. Only the church of Jesus Christ has the right to take that offensive and to do so not through military might, but through prayer. So although the government does have a role, its role is to restrain evil, not actively go after it. If you doubt this is Santorum's purpose, as Mohler seems to do, then just remember that Santorum has no problem with the government killing 16-year-olds at a dinner table simply because the President says they are worthy of death.

This kind of power belongs in the hands of God alone. Of course Santorum seems to not have a problem with taking that role.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Political Left-wing Propaganda

I must state at the beginning of this post that I am writing as a Christian, who actually believes the Bible to be God's Word while also standing well inside the Libertarian political camp.I also realize that much of this propaganda is satirical and meant to provoke those who are not Leftists.

I don't want to merely defend the Republicans in this post. Lord knows how the police state is growing just as much under them as it is under the Democrats, but a friend of mine posted on his Facebook page typical stereo-type stuff with shallow arguments. But what I find interesting is how people think and the assumptions they make without ever feeling they have to prove them. In fact, one commenter states that Religious wackos are waging war against the Democrats. Yet the material shows that non-religious people hold on to their Traditions just as religiously as any so-called Religious/Conservative Right-winger.

Here are the claims through pictures.

Now here are the arguments or shallow propaganda for the Left.

Notice the equivocation. Based upon the recent news stories I assume the context is that government owes women as a fundamental right, free access to birth control. Apparently, to say government shouldn't pay for or supply women birth control is to say we "are not going to let women use birth control." It is very subtle but very effective for the closed minded state worshipers.

Now I am not a Newt fan by any means. In fact, I think I'd rather have Obama...okay, that's not true. But I say that to express my total disdain for Newt. But I think Newt's point ought to be obvious. Even black men within the black community have expressed the same thing. But to put a picture of the golfing/party throwing/Nobel Peace Prize winning while waging war overseas President as the chief counter-argument is not convincing to those who would disagree with you.

Notice again the assumption. The Prolife movement has successfully argued and demonstrated over and over that there is not "the possibility of one" child in the womb. It is a child in the womb. This is so obvious that Prochoice philosophers have had to go to the greatest lengths and contortions to come up with ways of getting out of this. This is probably why my Prolife scholar friend can't find anyone to debate the subject anymore. The only side that is waging war is the one doing the murdering of babies and defying God's created order of the family. And they do this while claiming Jesus is on their side to boot.

Now I also realize that there is a picture about rape. That is another debate in itself and only about 3% of babies killed would come under that rubric. Therefore this is another straw-man argument.

Now this one is perhaps my favorite. It is true that Jesus may have been considered a Liberal in the classical sense. But Jesus was no more a Liberal in the Modern sense that He would be a Conservative. Let me offer an example.

In the fourth point, it says he hung out with criminals, whores and other unsundry characters. True enough. However, Jesus always explained to them they must repent of their sin. He didn't go to the so-called righteous because the righteous don't think they need to repent. Hence Jesus' teaching to them, "It is the sick that need a doctor, not the well." [my paraphrase]

In other words, Jesus would just as much be kicked out of a Liberal church as a Conservative one for being too judgmental.

The other one that reads anachronistically into Jesus' words is that Jesus "advocated giving away your personal belongings, and paying your taxes." Now what is funny is that Modern Liberals don't give away their personal belongings. Studies have shown that Conservatives and Republicans in general are far more likely to donate money to charity than Liberals and Democrats. But the anachronistic part is that Jesus never advocated the State to have the power to steal your money to give to another person in the form of welfare. Instead Jesus loved "cheerful givers" who give from the heart in order to fulfill the Law of God.

In fact, when it comes to Social Justice, Jesus was ignoring the role of government altogether. Everything he did was outside of government while submitting to their earthly authority when necessary.

One last picture.

There is much that could be said here but as one who is on the Libertarian side I say woo hoo! Set me free baby!

In conclusion, the idea that women need to be free from the role God has given to women is to accept the false premises of the Left, but ironically, those false premises are the same as those that the Left considers Conservatives who wish to make women second class citizens.

Women are not second class citizens simply because the Creator has made them differently from men and to have a different role from men. As a Christian, I see God's purpose for women as something to be cherished, not denigrated as the Left does. But also as a Christian and one in the Libertarian camp, I see another way to challenge the role women play.  Allow me to offer an example.

What if instead of being a "mere house-wife" [as if that is a bad thing, which it is not] a women is a helpmate to her husband in other non-conventional ways. An illustration may help here. What if a woman were to be a helpmate to her husband, who is a doctor, by becoming a nurse. My wife's cousin, who is a doctor, was greatly assisted by his nurse wife in the birth of my second child. Perhaps she should be encouraged to press on in her education and become a doctor herself and being an even greater assistant to her husband! What a team that would be.

In other words, we all make assumptions that could be wrong or inconsistent with what we say. We all need to be challenged in that area. It is the Left, however, that needs to stop accepting the false premise that women are second class citizens simply because there is a created order that God has given to women.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Why Catechize Children?

Before I mention anything, I must confess that I am probably the worst parent when it comes to teaching my children the Christian faith. I have no special powers nor am I a well self-disciplined person. I like playing video games and watching TV as much as the next guy. Yet I think catechizing children by using one of the children's catechisms is far more important than most Sunday school material you will find in most churches.

On nights that I actually put my children to bed, I try to ask a couple of the questions from Keach's Childrens Catechism. Again, it is not something I do every night or even do with any consistency. It is just something I do as I do it.

The other night I witnessed the reason I have sought to do this. I asked my 5-year-old, "How many Gods are there?" To which he responded with the obvious answer, "one true and living God." I then asked how many persons are there in this one God. To which he then correctly answered "three". I then asked, "Who are they?" And again, via rote memorization he said, "the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit."

Then I decided to ask a fourth but more difficult question. "Is Jesus both God and man?" He honestly was caught off-guard. "What? Of course Jesus is not God. He's Jesus." Now when he said, "He's Jesus." he was simply making the observation that Jesus was a man.

I then asked, "Is Jesus the Son?" To which he responded, "Yes." I then went back through the first 3 questions, stressing the Son. I asked if the Father is God, and he said "yes". I asked if the Son was God and he said, "Yes". At that point he said out loud, "I didn't know Jesus was God!"

The light bulb went off in the mind of a 5-year-old. Now I suppose this may be unusual or maybe it is something that happens often. I don't know at this point. However, I have heard of this happening to people of all ages. We teach children to memorize knowledge because that is part of the learning process. Sooner or later the mind will understand as God's will determines.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Covenant Theology by Greg Nichols

Well, I am finally half way through Greg Nichols book, Covenant Theology: A Reformed and Baptistic Perspective On God's Covenants. As the Preface states,

This book stems from systematic theology lectures. Christology covers the eternal plan, the solemn promise, and accomplishment of salvation. God expresses his solemn promise of salvation in his covenants.

The first half of the book surveys Reformed Theologians/Theology such as the Westminster and London Confessions, John Gill, Charles Hodge, Robert Lewis Dabney, the Dutch Calvinists and contemporary modifications. This is extremely helpful for Nichols shows the many insights and contributions each have given to this area, but Nichols is also honest in demonstrating some of their weaknesses as well.

For instance, early in the book, Nichols asks a question that he asks all of his students in his classes and offers a chart of the possible ways to see this in a chart on page 12. He explains a potential problem between the Westminster Confession and the Larger Catechism question 31 when we try to distinguish between the essence/substance verses the implementation of God's Covenant of Grace. He quotes the London Baptist Confession 7:2.

...a covenant of grace, wherein he freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved; and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life, his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe.

To which he then leads his students in a series of questions as to the nature and application of the covenant of grace.

What is the promise? And someone says, life and salvation by Jesus Christ....Now who are the partakers? To whom is this promise made? And now another student says, sinners. Correct. And so I ask, what is the condition? What does God require sinners do to be saved? And the class answers, believe, have faith. It says, "requiring of them faith in Him."

Now follow his train of thought here in his next questions.

Then I ask, are these sinners converted or unconverted?

Of course the class inevitably answers unconverted because of the command that they must believe.

To which he responds:

So then, the partakers are lost sinners indiscriminately, all unconverted persons who hear the Gospel. Thus if this defines the essence of the covenant of grace, then it would be a conditional covenant between God and unconverted sinners.

Now here is where things get a little tricky when he deals with the effectual call.

What is the promise?

To which the students respond.
promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life, his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe.

Now who are the partakers? Obviously this would be God's elect. So what does God require of the elect? What does He require them to do?


To which Nichols responds to his students,

Then it's unconditional...So then someone has to admit, the elect are viewed as unconverted, and it says that God promises the unregenerate elect that he will give them his Holy Spirit to make them willing and able to believe....

Now if you see the problem then you have a sharp mind, but if you don't then let me cite Nichols again from page 12.

So now I say to the class, does this define the essence of a covenant between God and His people? Now, not reluctantly, but emphatically, and usually a little shocked, they affirm that it does not.

Nichols uses this approach in order to help the reader understand those whom he surveys. It becomes obvious when Nichols interacts with Hodge and Gill and the others that they also saw this problem in their attempts to provide a sound covenant theology. As he concludes in his chapter, Summary of the Classic Reformed Doctrine,

The general and effectual call should not be regarded as distinct expressions of divine covenant. Rather, God, in His inscrutable wisdom, has determined to fulfill His covenant of grace, His pledge to apply redemption to His elect, through the general ad effectual call of the gospel, not in isolation, but in combination. Thus, it is not the hearers of the gospel who partake in this divine covenant, but the receivers and doers of the gospel, who obey the gospel in repentance and faith.

Therefore we must keep the means and essence of the covenant distinct when seeing how we define the covenant of grace.