Posted in Uncategorized, tagged accommodation, Adoption, apartheid, Augustine, Canons of Dort, Chrysostom, communion, covenant, double grace, Exodus International, Gordon Clark, gospel, Heidelberg Catechism, Herman Bavinck, incomprehensibility, J. Todd Billings, John Calvin, Justification, justiice, Michael Horton, Ministry, MTD, Richard Muller, sanctification, Three-fold Office, total depravity, union with Christ, Ursinus, Van Til on July 23, 2012 |
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About a year ago I realized I had no books on the subject of our union with Christ. I decided to go on a buying binge. It didn’t last long because there are not many books on that subject. Since then I read Robert Letham’s excellent book on the subject. Since I was on study leave, I decided to take J. Todd Billings’ book Union with Christ: Reframing Theology and Ministry for the Church.
The phrase reframing theology can often be a bad sign, sort of like ‘repainting the faith”. But here it is not. Billings is a Reformation scholar, with particular emphasis on Calvin. This book oozes Calvin, along with others. He utilizes “retrieval theology”, which was a new term for me. You look to the theology of the past to address problems of the present, and to renew our vision. We tend to be culturally captive, and see theology in light of the problems of our day. This looks to the past to gain a theological foothold to examine the problems of our day, sometimes to even see them. I hope that makes sense, and that I did it justice (I suspect some Ph.D. candidate out there could take me to task). Billings wants to reframe our thinking, so we look at things like salvation, justice, communion and ministry in light of our union with Christ.
When I taught a Sunday School class, one congregant took issue with Packer’s assertion that one only understands Christianity to the degree that they understand adoption. His assertion was that union with Christ as the most important unifying principle or doctrine that we must understand. So, I found it ironic that the first chapter is entitled Salvation as Adopted in Christ. The point is, that they are connected to one another. You can’t have one without the other. But one way we can better understand union is thru understanding adoption. Much of the book keeps our current context in mind, and explores how Christianity really differs from MTD, or moralistic, therapeutic, deism. Odd in that some of the other books I’ve been reading have dealt with that as well. Salvation as adoption is so different than MTD. God, who is transcendent (great & glorious) draws near to us in salvation. He draws near to us to save us.
“The prospect of adoption in this sense is an offense. It is too much closeness- it is the sort of closeness that requires giving up one’s own identity.”
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Posted in Uncategorized, tagged Anabaptists, ARP, Augustine, church history, Cornelius Venema, credo baptism, Cyprian, Eastern Orthodoxy, infant baptism, John Calvin, John Piper, Justin Martyr, Origen. Clement of Alexandria, paedocommunion, PCA, Roman Catholicism, sacerdotalism, salvation, transubstantiation on November 8, 2011 |
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While I was in seminary the topic of paedocommunion (infants receiving communion) was largely unaddressed. I may have overheard a conversation or two, but it was very much under the radar. During my time in the ARP, the subject was not even on the map. While candidating for a position in a PCA church in New Jersey, the retired minister who was their stated supply encouraged me to study this subject (and I thought “why?!”).
Now that I am in the PCA it is time. There are pastors who hold to this view, though they are not permitted to practice it. One of my elders read Children at the Lord’s Table? by Cornelius Venema so I decided to read it for myself.
“Though it is true that the church’s practice ought to be formed by the teaching of the Scriptures, which are the supreme standard for faith and practice, the Reformed churches read the Scriptures in the company of the whole church and may not ignore the lessons of history.”
The first argument for paedocommunion that Venema examines is the argument from church history. As noted above, sola scriptura is about our final authority regarding practice. Properly applied we also examine church history and historical theology to see how the church has thought and acted in the past. We recognize that the Spirit has been instructing the church in the meaning of the Scriptures for 2,000 years. We don’t start from scratch. But not all the church has thought or done has been in accord with the Scriptures.
Those arguing for infant communion assert an early and widespread practice of infant communion. They claim that the western church has departed from this practice and should return to the practice. Venema examines this claim first. He notes the ample early evidence for infant baptism (he depends upon Jeremias’ work). The evidence for infant communion is note nearly as strong or as early. The first clear statement affirming the practice of infant communion is from Cyprian in the middle of the 3rd century. Prior to this we find statements indicating the church did not practice infant communion. For instance, Justin Martyr (mid-2nd century) says that “no one is allowed to partake but the man (person) who believes that the things which we teach are true…” (First Apology). So the practice he was familiar with was communion after a period of instruction in the faith. Clement of Alexandria (150-219) also teaches that those who receive it have been instructed and receive it “by faith” in Instructor and The Stromata. In the east, Origen, also says that children were not given communion in his Homilies on the Book of Judges.
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Posted in Uncategorized, tagged Anselm, Atonement, Augustine, bondage, Emmanuel Sibomana, freedom, Gladiator, John Owen, loneliness, Martin Luther, Monk, reconciliation, Rolling Stones, Sinclair Ferguson, temptation, The Call, the Kinks, TULIP, U2 on August 11, 2010 |
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Food for the Soul
The Cavman is on vacation. One of the many benefits of vacation is the ability to catch up on the reading I’ve been meaning to do. Since we flew across the country, I had plenty of time (except when CavSon was rambunctious) to dig into Sinclair Ferguson’s By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me. If you haven’t read Sinclair Ferguson before, I ask you “Why?”. I always find food for my soul in Ferguson’s books. This book was no exception.
This book, a companion to his recent book In Christ Alone, is different. Ferguson utilizes a hymn by African pastor Emmanuel Sibomana to explore the amazing nature of God’s grace. Each of the 7 chapters uses the corresponding stanza as a spring board into good pastoral theology. By that I mean the application of theology to pastoral/personal matters.
“Being amazed by God’s grace is a sign of spiritual vitality. It is a litmus test of how firm and real is our grasp of the Christian gospel and how close is our walk with Jesus Christ. The growing Christian finds that the grace of God astonishes and amazes. … Sadly, we might more truthfully sing of ‘accustomed grace.’”
My Chains Fell Off- the gospel begins with liberation. Ferguson begins with the bondage we experience before being liberated. Christians look back and see their prior bondage. Non-Christians often don’t even notice the chains they are so accustomed to them. There were a few twists I did not expect. He quotes part of the Kinks’ song Dedicated Follower of Fashion. Later he quotes the Rolling Stones’ (Can’t Get No) Satisfaction [one of the few Stones song I like]. I thought of a few more songs that illustrated depravity while reading along.
“Every time she walks on by, wild thoughts escape” U2- God Part 2
“‘We’ll walk on thru heaven’s door and proudly raise our heads.’ I said, ‘Man, you must be crazy, our hands are covered blood red.’” The Call- Blood Red
We are in a bondage from which we cannot free ourselves. But when we forget the depths of our bondage grace becomes boring. Part of the bondage is that when it is pointed out, people feel insulted. “How dare you call me a sinner!” Until we grasp the severity of the bondage we won’t grasp the wonder of the freedom. Even from the respectable bondages, like those which enslaved the Pharisees.
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Posted in Uncategorized, tagged assurance of salvation, Augustine, experiential Christianity, John Calvin, John Frame, Jonathan Edwards, Puritans, Spirit, Word on July 8, 2010 |
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No, it isn’t about the immigration issue. It was Dual Citizens‘ subtitle that interested me: Worship and Life Between the Already and the Not Yet. I eagerly anticipated the day when I could get a copy and begin reading. That day come recently and I read much of it on the way back from General Assembly.
Let’s say the anticipation far exceeded the reality. Jason Stellman is a former missionary who was associated with Calvary Chapel. He has since discovered Reformed Theology, attended Westminster West and is now a PCA pastor in the Pacific NW.
The forward was written by Michael Horton. The book reminds me of Horton’s earlier work. Years ago I used to love Horton’s books. Not so much anymore. The problem is not that I have shifted theologically. I found him to be reactionary and prone to over-correction. That is how this book reads.
At times you can’t really be sure who he is reacting against. Evangelicalism is too broad to say “evangelicalism”. At times I wonder if it is his Calvary Chapel background, but sometimes it is the church growth movement and Rick Warren. But the end result is a book that was more critical than instructional. When he is instructive, the book is better.
I was hoping he would develop the reality of the already/not yet regarding worship and life. He doesn’t really spend much time developing the idea of the already/not yet and how both under & over-realized eschatology plagues the church by distorting our expectations and practices. That could have been a great book.
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Posted in Uncategorized, tagged 5 Points of Calvinism, Ace Hardware, Augustine, Baggins, Cohiba cigar, Desert Springs Presbyterian Church, El Burrito Patio, Monty Python, Pelagius, Stone Brewery, theological examination on March 6, 2010 |
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“No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!” I was expecting this Inquisition, but week has been “different.” While I was trying to prepare, my father-in-law became ill. The day before we were set to leave to Tucson, he was admitted to the hospital with severe renal failure. We drove down to Bradenton just in case. Thankfully, he was brought to the hospital in the nick of time. They put him on dialysis, and he should recover soon. But it was scary, and we did not expect to spend 3-4 hours in the car getting there and back. While we were gone the home inspection took place. The inspector said that our home was “well taken care of” so we passed. The sale process continues.
Thursday was a long travel day. After a short night’s sleep we left for the airport at 5:30 am. I broke from my pattern of using the satellite parking to try one of these park & ride services. We tried Park Fast and Relax. I am so glad we did. I didn’t realize the offered paper was free. But the parking was covered and the very clean shuttle van pulled up to our parking space. We saved money and were at our terminal more quickly. I can’t believe I waited this long to try it out.
Since we did not have a long layover in Chicago, we picked up sandwiches while waiting for our flight to board in Orlando. Some nice sandwiches from Au Bon Pain, the Roast Beef Caesar Sandwich. My tea was so hot I nearly needed asbestos gloves to handle the cup. We were both wiped out from the past few days, so I did not get any studying done on the first leg of our trip. I worked on a crossword puzzle.
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Posted in Bible, Biblical Theology, Books, Hermeneutics, John Calvin, Theology, tagged Augustine, autonomy, Christ, faith, fideism, glorification, grace, Graeme Goldsworthy, Hermeneutics, John Calvin, John Frame, Justification, noetic effect of sin, presuppositions, rationalism, sanctification, Scripture, Thomas Aquinas on December 31, 2008 |
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I started to see this book pop up on people’s blogs a few years ago. The title, Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation by Graeme Goldsworthy, intrigued me. So, using a gift certificate, I bought the book. Recently, excited to begin reading, a friend wondered aloud why we need to read another book on hermeneutics.
I’m glad I didn’t listen. I have not yet finished the book, but I’ve found it quite stimulating, understandable and grappling with an important topic: how should we, as evangelical Christians, interpret the Scriptures?
Here we will cover Part 1 of the book: Evangelical Prolegomena to Hermeneutics. Goldsworthy introduces the idea of presuppositions into the question of hermeneutics: will we assume the supreme authority of God or assume human autonomy? This is the question upon which so much hinges in biblical interpretation. Our assumptions or presuppositions, in addition to this one, greatly affect the effectiveness of our attempts to understand, explain and apply the text of Scripture.
“The function of hermeneutics could be stated as the attempt to bridge the gap between the text inside its world and the readers/hearers inside their world.”
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From God is the Gospel:
“Answered prayer is based on Jesus’ priestly intercession for us, and that intercession is based on the blood he shed to remove our sins and release the flood of prayer-answering grace.”
This would be why God does not hear the prayers of non-Christians lest they be prayers of repentance. Jesus’ blood is too precious for God to answer prayer of the merely sincere. All answered prayer is owed to the gospel.
Piper spends some time in James 4, undressing our corrupt motives in prayer. “It’s because we ask God for things to indulge our desires that are not desires for him.”
Often we want money so our lives can be easier and we can take great vacations. I recently had a desire to make a bundle of cash, so I could own a big, home with a big yard so I could adopt children abandoned by their parents. This would reveal the adoptive love of God (Ephesians 1). God may not answer that prayer, because maybe I can’t really be trusted with all that money. Maybe that is a fleeting desire soon to be replaced by big TVs, big cars, lush vacations and cosmetic surgery.
If the people James wrote to had corrupt motives in prayer, we probably do too.
“You would not be honored if I thanked you often for your gifts to me but had no deep and spontaneous regard for you as a person.” That’s what they did, and this is what we do often enough. Our joy is not in God, but in His gifts.
“If gratitude for the gospel is not rooted in the glory of God beneath the gift of God, it is disguised idolatry.”
This is why the Westminster Shorter Catechism, answer #1 reads “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” But every good gift also comes with a temptation to love it more than Him. It is a struggle to keep our hearts from from idolatry. It’s like trying to keep the weeds out of your lawn- seemingly inevitable.
He wraps up with Augustine (finally) “He loves Thee too little who loves anything together with Thee which he loves not for Thy sake.”
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Posted in Books, John Calvin, John Piper, Ministry, Theology, tagged Augustine, faith, idolatry, John Calvin, John Piper, satisfaction on April 17, 2006 |
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From God is the Gospel-
“God’s glory consists much in the fact that he is happy beyond all our imagination. … No one would want to spend eternity with an unhappy God. If God were unhappy, then the goal of gospel would not be a happy goal, and that means it would be no gospel at all.”
How often we do think of Him as happy as opposed to thinking of Him as angry? It probably indicates much about the nature of our relationship with Him, or lack thereof. This is a God we can delight in.
“Three things stand in the way of our complete satisfaction in this world. One is that nothing here has a personal worth great enough to meet the deepest longings of our hearts. Another is that we lack the strength to savor the best treasures to their maximum worth. And the third obstacle to complete satisfaction is that our joys here come to an end.”
As the venerable Mick put it- “I can’t get no satisfaction, and I tried….”. Yet, crazy fools are we, to continue to seek our satifaction in the world and the things thereof. No food, sex, sports, cars, house, entertainment, technological device etc. is sufficient to satisfy all our deepest longings. As Augustine put it, “our hearts are restless”. We are, as Calvin said, idol factories, exalting created things to the place only the Creator can fill.
“If God’s pleasure in the Son becomes our pleasure, then the object of our pleasure, Jesus, will be inexhaustible in personal worth. He will never become boring or disappointing or frustrating.”
Additionally, He can give us the strength to more fully savor Him by faith. And (!) He lives forever. If we rest in Him (to complete Augustine’s statement) we will forever be satisfied in Him. If we are bored, disappointed or frustrated, it is a pretty good sign that we are actually looking to someone/something else for our satifaction than the glad God who gladly offers Himself to His people for their gladness. A large part of ministry is declaring the latter and exposing the former that we might turn from our idols to worship the living God (1 Thes. 1).
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