Archive for October, 2010

Yesterday I finally picked up John Frame’s The Doctrine of the Christian Life (sample pages).  I had to get something else, and was trying to decide what else I could use to meet the minimum purchase for the $1 shipping.  It is derived from his pastoral ethics course, and I sat in on a few lectures.

I should have waited to place my order.  This morning I got an ad from WTS Bookstore that they are running a special deal on his newly released volume in his Theology of Lordship series, The Doctrine of the Word of God.  They currently have it for only$28.99 until November 8th.  And you save an additional 15% off when you buy 2 or more volumes in the series.  In other words, I could’ve saved a bundle if I’d waited a day.  I suppose since I don’t have The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God yet ….

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I cruised by Sermon Cloud today to see which sermons people are still listening to.  These are my pre-Arizona sermons.  It was interesting.  Some sermons that were initially “popular”, like Sweet Jesus, I Hate Bill O’Reilly have slowed while others have maintained a decent pace.  Here are the sermons and # of downloads.

It is interesting to think about what matters to people based on what they listen to.  Fasting is a surprise, but a nice surprise.  There are also a number of sermons on God’s sovereignty in our (often unpleasant) circumstances.  I wonder how this list will change in another year.


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One of the books I bought at GA this year was Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology.  It is the manuscripts from the Together for the Gospel conference of the same name.  I started it back in September, but other projects have been distracting me from reading it quickly.

The other day I read Thabiti Anyabwile’s Bearing the Image.  He didn’t really spend time examining the nature of the image of God in which we were made.  He focused on our unity in Adam, in Christ, in the church and in glory.  But what he really focused upon was the issue of race.  Or should I say the pseudo-issue.

In our culture we make much of the issue of race.  Everything seems to be about race these days (yes, an overstatement).  But Thabiti makes an important point- in the Bible there is only one race.  We are all descended from Adam, through Noah.  Obviously secular people will deny this.  But Christians often neglect this.  We end up confusing race with ethnicity and culture.

We are quick to notice the obvious distinctions between groups of people.  You can immediately tell a white person from an Asian from a black person.  It would be erroneous to think that all Asian people are the same.  There are ethnic and cultural differences between people of the same skin color.  And there can be cultural similarities between people of different skin colors.

We tend to accentuate the differences while neglecting the one big common denominator: Noah.  We are of the same race, not different races.  We are all from the human race, despite our differences in color, history and culture.  We may be ethnically different, but we are certainly of the same race.

“One way that race and ethnicity differ is that ethnicity is not rooted in biology as race theory historically has been.”

The point he makes is that our differences are not rooted in biology, our genes.  Clearly, there are some pre-dispositions to different diseases and disorders.  But our musical preferences are rooted in ethnicity and culture, not race/biology.  How we speak or act is rooted in ethnicity and culture, not race/biology.


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A recent sermon was on Abram’s encounter with the mysterious Melchizedek.  Since it was a sermon, I just briefly mentioned that he was a man who was a type of Christ.  He was not, as some have thought, the pre-incarnate Son of God.

I had a question about that.  I did some more research, particularly on the Hebrews 7 passage at the crux of the issue.  I also went back to my unpublished work on the priestly ministry of Jesus.  Here’s what I said there (sorry the footnotes are incomplete):

The author then begins to explain what he meant all the way back in chapter 5.  He feels compelled to remind them of who this man was since he is such a mysterious figure.  Who he was has been greatly discussed over the course of history.  There has been no limits to the speculation some have engaged in.  We do well to heed Turretin’s warning about “the silence of Scripture imposing silence upon us here in a certain manner and checking our curiosity.”[1] We will find by the way the Apostle describes him that he never thought that Melchizedek was the pre-incarnate Christ as some have supposed.  Neither are we to suppose that he was actually the Holy Spirit, or Shem, the son of Noah.

This man, at the time of Abraham, was a king of what was probably Jerusalem[2].  In addition to his duties as king he was also a priest.  In the midst of great paganism we find a priest to the Most High God, Jehovah.  Like Abraham, Melchizedek was a worshipper of Jehovah.


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The Book at the Center of it All

Here are my notes from the 3rd lecture by Sinclair Ferguson on The Marrow Controversy.


This controversy enables us to see marks in our hearts and ministry of where we are with relationship to the grace of God.  We must exegete those great passages dealing with law & gospel.  It is one of the hardest notes in all divinity for us to untie.

The Marrow Men were accused of Amyraldianism, Arminianism, antinomianism.  But they held to a particular, not universal, atonement; free grace, not free will; and the law as a rule of life.

The 2nd part of the Marrow of Modern Divinity is an exposition of the place of the law of God in the life of the believer.  Wherever natural hearts, or gracious hearts bound by a legal spirit, hear of the grace of God they hear “shall we sin that grace may abound?”  We are in danger of legalism in response to this.

Wherever free grace is fully preached, the accusation of antinomianism has ever arisen.  Israel called John the Baptist a legalist and Jesus an antinomian.  The gospel is ever under attack.

Often it is a false conclusion from a true premise.  Grace does abound all the more where sin abounds.  But we do not sin that grace may abound.  We must affirm the true premise that grace is greater than sin.

The Nature(s) of Antinomianism– it wears many faces

The historical use of the term arose in the days of Martin Luther.  He emphasized free grace.  About 1537, one of his friends drove this to unbiblical, but logical, conclusions.  This friend taught we were free from the law as a rule of life.  Luther began to correct his friend.

Antinomianism existed long before the name was given to it.  The WCF teaches that while the law is not a covenant of works to the believer, it remains a rule of life to the believer.  We are bound to the law as a rule of life.  Antinominism denies this in a variety of ways.

We must not dispute about mere words, but instruct with gentleness.  We should not use it as a cuss word, condemning others needlessly.  We often attribute the worst possible theological conclusions to adherents of a particular view point, conclusions they do not hold.  We need the wisdom of Solomon and the meekness of the Son of Man.

It is a pastoral and theological duty for us to distinguish from the forms of antinomianism.

Doctrinal Form- the absolution of the law as a rule of life is the result of a theological premise.  Some Puritans emphasized the free grace of God that any question of law was opposite to the grace of God.  Justification was eternal, and emphasized immediate assurance apart from the Word of God.  Since we are justified, we have no need to know our sin.  It was associated with hyper-Calvinism at times.

They ignore the indicative-imperative pattern of Scripture from beginning to end.  They focus only on the indicative, rending asunder what God had joined.

The Brethren and their concern for the purity of the church, similar to hyper-Calvinism, drew similar concerns.  Darby called the covenant of works as a mischievous fable.  He could see no place for the 10 Commandments in the life of the believer.  In his full-blown dispensationalism, it was confined to the OT.  This has lead many Brethren to fill the void with tradition, looking for decisions instead of obedience as a fruit of grace.  This is like Ryrie’s “unbelieving believer.”  Easy believism rejects the place of the Law in our life as a rule.  When Christianity is more a matter of decision than living, grace becomes an excuse of licentiousness.

Exegetical Form- it is commonplace now for theologians to take a view of the law is like the position adopted by hyper-Calvinists and dispensationalists.  They think Jesus did away with the law.  They think Paul makes no distinction between the end of the ceremonial law and the continuation of the moral law.  This does not mean these men are immoral.  They often affirm all but the Sabbath since they are repeated in Paul.


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It happened again.  That interesting phenomenon when seemingly unconnected reading connects on a particular day.  After reading Scripture, I turned to The Letters of John Newton and then Costly Grace.  The subject of both was suffering, and God’s purposes in suffering.

John Newton was writing a letter to Mrs. Gardiner, a lady too familiar with affliction.  She would end up being confined to her room the last 12 years of her life.  While not yet bed-ridden at the time, she was still home bound it would seem.  She longed for the ordinances of God.

“A sure effect of the grace of God is a desire and longing for gospel ordinances; and when they are afforded, they cannot be neglected without loss.”

I thought I’d toss that in there in light of the recent, on-going, discussion about the frequency of communion.  Some fear to have it too often takes away the sense of something special.  It ends up being “too ordinary”.  But the ordinances include the Word.  We never talk about the preaching of the Word as ordinary, but sadly we can treat it as “too ordinary”, as merely another man speaking instead of God himself (despite the errors they make, as one who misspoke this Sunday).  Both are meant to seem ordinary, similar to Jesus during his earthly ministry.  His glory was veiled.  So is the glory of the Supper and the sermon.

The point he was making, despite my rabbit trail, is that the regenerate heart longs for them.  If we don’t, there is something wrong, very wrong.  We are like sick people who have no appetite.  But we need to eat lest we become too weak and perish.  Spiritually we need the Word and sacraments to keep us spiritually healthy.  The person who suffers needs them more than they realize.

Terrorizing ears all over AZ

He builds the analogy of a patient and physician.  It is the role of the patient to communicate their symptoms.  It is the role of the doctor to prescribe the proper course of treatment.  When the patient tries to treat himself, bad things can happen.  For instance, this weekend CavWife noticed she couldn’t hear out of her left ear.  She surmised that she had a build up of wax in the ear.  Nothing she did seemed to help.  Being the ever-helpful husband that I am, I jokingly offered an alternative explanation: there was a bug in her ear.  I knew this would creep her out.  Finally she went to a clinic to discover she had an ear infection.  She had been undertaking a harmless, but ineffective course of treatment.  We tend to know only our symptoms, but Jesus knows the real sickness and the proper treatment.  Part of that proper treatment is the Word and  the Sacraments (and other means of grace like prayer).  Thru them we encounter the gospel, which alone restores us to health.

“It is my part to commit myself to him as the physician of sin-sick souls, not to prescribe to him how he shall treat me.  To begin, carry on, and perfect the cure, is his part.”  John Newton

Affliction magnifies the already present doubts and fears we have.  Satan uses our circumstances to deceive us into thinking that God is not present and he is not gracious.

“In themselves they are groundless and evil; yet the Lord permits and overrules them for good.  They tend to make us know more of the plague of our own hearts, and feel more sensibly the need of a Savior, and make his rest doubly sweet and sure.  They likewise qualify us for pitying and comforting others.  … A Christian is not of hasty growth, like a mushroom, but rather like an oak, the progress of which is hardly perceptible, but in time becomes a great deep-rooted tree.”


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Yes, it has been since before my vacation that I’ve read any of Recovering the Reformed Confession. I’ve been quite busy since I’ve been back.  But I’m picking up with Recovering Reformed Worship.

Immediately he is lamenting the changes to worship liturgy in the last 30 years, including the loss of the Psalter.  He quotes D.G. Hart:

“… more congregations in the PCUSA are likely to follow the Genevan order of service than those in the OPC or PCA.”

My initial response is that the Genevan order of service isn’t getting them too far.  I’d rather keep Calvin’s theology than his order of service.

We actually utilize a fairly traditional liturgy or structure to our worship (Call to Worship, Invocation, Confession of Sin, Confession of Faith, Pastoral Prayer, Scripture Reading & Sermon, Benediction).  We want the heritage to inform us, but not enslave us.  Clark is alarmed that Calvin, the Heidelberg Reformers and others would not recognize our worship services.  Neither would the Apostles.  For that matter, they wouldn’t recognize the services of Calvin and the others either.


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Here are my notes from Sinclair Ferguson’s lecture on Legalism in the Marrow Controversy.  As an interesting aside, I’m currently reading Costly Grace which is a modern application of Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship.  Many of the formulations there sound much like the conditional grace which plagued the Pharisees and the Church of Scotland.  That bears more thought.


Robert Trail:  men who take a middle way have more kindness toward that extreme toward which they move than that from which they come.

John Simpson has been accused of propogating Arminianism.  He would later teach Arianism.  He was merely warned not to grant too much to natural reason.  The General Assembly had been moving away from free grace and toward legalism.  They were kind to this halfway house to full blown legalism.


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The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller is a great book.  It was critically acclaimed, and I found the book very helpful (aside from his openness to evolution).

It makes a great give away book.   But they have just released a new way to use the book.  They now have a DVD in which Keller interacts with people about their doubts and objections.  These are not “man on the street” confrontations.  Instead, they sit together and talk through the issues, modeling for us how to actually do this work of apologetics.

The publishers have also released a study guide to help people work through  the material (sample pages).  This helps churches to utilize the material in small groups or Sunday School, to better equip people to interact with the skeptics around them.

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In a recent video interview Mark Driscoll was asked about dealing with notoriety and how that intersects with humility.  It is in this context that he talks about 3 “F”s- fans, foes and friends.  It is a perceptive moment.

Fans- most pastors have a few fans.  Even the worst of us do.  These people will support you unless you start sacrificing animals on the communion table.  They will back you, cheer for you and encourage you.  Many pastors deal with discouragement, so they could use a few fans.

Foes- most pastors need a few foes.  The key word would be “few”.  Too many foes and you are sunk in the slough of despond.  Too many and you’re looking for a new position, and quite possibly a new profession.  But foes can help us stay true to our calling.  Sometimes they are right, and that’s when you need to heed what they say.

Friends- a pastor can’t have enough of these!  A friend will encourage you when you are down.  A friend will also tell you the things you need to hear.  For this reason, many “friends” are really fans- they won’t tell you what you need to hear.  The wounds of a friend are faithful.  They speak not out of love for tradition, but out of love for you.


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This Sunday I’m sort of preaching on the Ten Commandments since it is 10/10/10.  What I’ll be doing is grappling with Law and Gospel.  I want my people to understand the nature of their relationship to the law because of the gospel.

I’ve had a few of those conversations on the internet lately.  It is a difficult issue to grasp and we tend to head toward the extremes of legalism and antinomianism.  They are the 2 ditches on the side of the road.  And both ditches are deadly.  I don’t advise falling into either.

So, I started to listen to Sinclair Ferguson’s Pastoral Lessons from the Marrow Controversy.  Here is a short history of the Marrow Controversy.  I thought my notes might help a few people to understand what was going on, whetting the appetite about this pastorally important theological controversy.

The History of the Marrow Controversy

1717- the Presbytery of Auchterarder examined a candidate for ordination, William Craig was asked a question unique to that Presbytery.

“Do you subscribe to the following: I believe that it is not sound and orthodox to teach that we forsake sin in order to our coming to Christ.”  Craig hesitated and they refused to grant him ordination.  This brought the Auchterarder Creed before the General Assembly.

It was condemned by the Church of Scotland “as unsound and detestable doctrine.”

Thomas Boston was there, and he was quite disturbed by the proceeding.  He saw this as an attack upon the gospel of grace, falsely accusing it of antinomianism.  In 1700 Boston had discovered The Marrow of Modern Divinity which enabled him to grasp the relationship of law and gospel.  He recommended it to James Drummond who gave it to James Hog who ended up reprinting it.


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One of the newer books on adoption out there is Russell Moore’s Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches.  Moore is the Dean of Theology at Southern Seminary, as well as a preaching pastor.  He is an adoptive father.

Most books about adoption that I’ve read are either about the adoption process (including trying to encourage people to adopt) or about the doctrine of adoption as an aspect of our salvation.  This book is about both, which is both its strength and weakness.

It is a strength because the church desperately needs to see the connection between the two.  Since we’ve been adopted by God, we reveal much of the gospel as we adopt children who have no status, stability and inheritance.  Moore does a great job of working through much of the doctrine of adoption.

He also shares his struggles in deciding to adopt, the process and then parenting 2 boys.  He wrestled with pride in many forms all through the process.  He paints a realistic picture of international adoption though he also addresses issues regarding domestic adoption.  Some of our experiences were the same, others were quite different.


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Sometimes there is a synergy to your reading that is unexpected.  Books will pick up a similar thread, though they are not obviously related.  I had one of those moments today.

My progress through the Letters of John Newton has slowed lately.  But this morning I read one of his letters to Mrs. Thornton.  Apparently she had recently undergone a crisis of some sort.  He was responding to that crisis and pointed her our Great High Priest.

“He with whom we have to do, our great High Priest, who once put away our sins by the sacrifice of himself, and now for ever appears in the presence of God for us, is not only possessed of sovereign authority and infinite power, but wears our very nature, and feels and exercises in the highest degree those tendernesses and commiseration, which I conceive are essential to humanity in its perfect state.”

He brings up the hypostatic union to make his point.  The exalted Christ is still fully human.  As a perfect human, he is prone to tenderness and the ability to commiserate with our weakness and misery.  Or as Newton says later, “compassions dwell within his heart.”  He is not just our Savior, but also our Brother and unashamed to declare this among the assembly.  As a result:

“No, with the eye, and the ear, and the heart of a friend, He attends to their sorrows; He counts their sighs, puts their tears in his bottle; and when our spirits are overwhelmed within us, He knows our path and adjusts the time, the measure of our trials, and every thing that is necessary for our present support and seasonable deliverance, ….”

He has experienced our weakness and frailty (though not our sin).  He loves us and is concerned about those things that weigh us down.  He pays attention, and is moved to act.  He is not cold, unconcerned and unmoved.  He is full of compassion.


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