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Posts Tagged ‘doctrine of adoption’


In the next 2 chapters of his book, Gospel-Powered Parenting, William Farley covers the tools of discipline.  No, it isn’t about spanking spatulas, switches and the like.  Discipline is one of the tools parents use to instruct and guide their children.  The gospel does not eliminate discipline, but provides a foundation for loving, gracious discipline.

His starting place is Ephesians 6:4- “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  The 2 tools of parenting here are discipline and instruction.  To neglect either is to provoke your children.  We forget that discipline, from a biblical perspective, is an expression of love (Hebrews 12 which quotes Proverbs 3).  With our Father in heaven as our example, we see that love motivates discipline.  This is because the parent wants what is best for the child and seeks to protect the child from danger- including self-destruction.  We fail our children when we kid-proof our lives.  They must learn proper boundaries, and that there are consequences to crossing boundaries.

He gives a list of reasons why the gospel is the proper foundation for discipline:

  • It convinces us that indwelling sin is the real problem.
  • It convinces us that authority is a crucial issue in parenting.
  • It convinces us that the heart is the issue and we must seek heart change.
  • It convinces us that discipline can preach the gospel to our children.
  • It motivates us to fear God.
  • It helps us to grow in humility and sincerity.

When I worked for Ligonier I used to have a sign on my cubicle that read: It all leads back to depravity.  All of the customer service problems (and employee problems) were rooted in that.  The same is true for parenting issues.  Children do not need to be taught to do wrong- it apparently happens ‘naturally’.  We do have to work hard to teach them to do that which is good.  It leads back to depravity.   When we think our kids are basically good, we think all they need is a little info instead of a new heart that longs to obey, which is only promised in the gospel.

Discipline, or the lack thereof, also preaches.  We communicate whether or not disobedience is taken seriously, which can have disastrous results as adults (they can become irresponsible and unable to maintain relationships and jobs).  We also forget that if we don’t discipline them, God will.  By the time he does, they are far more entrenched in their sin and rebellion.  It will be that much more painful.  We are wise to discipline them while they are young.  We show a lack of love if we refuse to discipline our kids.

Farley brings the discussion back to the fear of God (the fear of a son, not a slave).  If we do not fear God, we will inevitably fear our children.  We will live for their approval and love in return.  We will not do the important but difficult things necessary to correct them and show them the right way.  The gospel shows us how deadly sin is, as well as God’s gracious work of adoption, which work to develop respect for our heavenly Father.

Farley does not delve into details.  He’s looking at the heart.  These are helpful chapters.

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This the end of Velvet Elvis.  The final chapter is called Good.  And the point is the church should be doing good in society.  Rob Bell wants nothing to do with Christians who retreat from society, focusing on getting to heaven and “saving souls.”  In some ways, Rob provides a good critique of much dispensational thinking.  As usual, Rob seems to provide an over-correction.

Rob does a great job of laying the groundwork for the fact that Jesus will be restoring creation (Romans 8).  Our personal salvation is a part of this cosmic renewal Jesus has begun, which will be completed when He returns.

What Rob neglects is that while we await His return, those who die in Christ are in heaven with Him.  And they shall return with Him to renew the heavens and earth, which shall be our dwelling place with God forever (Revelation 21-22).  He lays this out as the expectation of the prophets in the Old Testament.  Paul’s eschatology is not a departure from OT eschatology (2 peoples => 2 destinies).  Rather, we join true Israel (not replace) in receiving the promises.

There are some “interesting” statements made.  Things that would make the Scriptures unclear to most Christians, and lead some in unhealthy directions.

“Jewish writers like John did things like this all the time in their writings.  They record what seem to be random details, yet in these details we find all sorts of multiple layers of meaning.  There are even methods to help decipher all the hidden meanings in a text.”

Hidden meanings…. dangerous stuff in my mind.  His footnote brings us to Matthew’s genealogy.  There he develops this numerology deal with David’s name in Hebrew (the numbers add to 14, which is how many people make up each section of the genealogy which is supposed to shout “King, King, King” to us.  Most people will go “Cool, I didn’t see that.”

It is not hidden.  Matthew’s Gospel starts with saying Jesus is the son of Abraham and the son of David.  He is the fulfilment of the promises given to these 2 great men of faith.  He is the long awaited Seed who will be for the blessing of the nations, and the King to sit on David’s throne.  It is right there in plain sight, for all to see.  And those themes (expansion to the Gentiles and Jesus as King) run all the way through Matthew’s Gospel.  No secret knowledge necessary to understand some hidden meaning.

It is this promise to Abraham that is important in understanding some of the implications of election.  Problem is, Rob ignores the issue of election for salvation (which is the context of most of the statements concerning our election).  He majors on the minor theme of how we are to be for the blessing of the nations.  Christians need to hear that message too, so we don’t run and hide from society.  We seem to forget that the early church entered a very corrupt society and transformed it with the gospel.  The early Christians took care of the poor and abandoned (as Julian the Apostate noted and applauded).  They saw this as a function and picture of the Gospel.  They did not separate this from the Gospel of salvation.

Sadly, Rob would appear to do this (as the Social Gospel did years ago taking Sheldon’s In His Steps too far).

“And this is because the most powerful things happen when the church surrenders its desire to convert people and convince them to join.  It is when the church gives itself away in radical acts of service and compassion, expecting nothing in return, that the way of Jesus is most vividly put on display.  To do this, the church must stop thinking about everybody primarily in categories of in or out, saved or not, believer or nonbeliever.  … To treat people differently based on who believes what is to fail to respect the image of God in everyone.”

We are to love all- even our enemies.  But family ties being greater responsibilities.  We see this in Paul.  A person who calls themselves a Christian must provide for their family (1 Timothy 5:4-8).  We are to do good, especially to those in the family of believers (Galatians 6:10).  This is a function of our adoption into God’s family.  We should treat all people well, and our family in Christ better.  All people are made in the image of God, but some participate with us in the blessings of salvation.  This is the kind of neglect of God’s whole counsel that irritates me.  By flattening it out, Rob can mislead people just as much as those he is reacting against.  This is what I mean by over-correction.  If your plane is off course, you correct it so it arrives at the proper destination.  You don’t just yank the steering column hard in the other direction and pray for the best.  That is dangerous, not just for you but all those following you.

So ends a book that says some great things, and some really bad things.  Discerning people can identify both and benefit from the good things.  But Rob’s intended audience would appear to be people who don’t have the ability to discern those things.  And they will suffer for it.  And that is sad.

Repainting Mission from the Great Commission => Creation Mandate (reversing the progression of revelation)

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            Enter the Gospel.  Part of the Good News is that God becomes our Father.  The doctrine of adoption is one of the most neglected doctrines in the Church.  The Westminster Confession of Faith says the following in chapter 12.

 

All those that are justified, God vouchsafeth, in and for his only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of the grace of adoption, by which they are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God, to have his name put upon them, receive the spirit of adoption, have access to the throne of grace with boldness, are enabled to cry, Abba, Father, are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by him, as by a Father: yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption; inherit the promises as heirs of everlasting salvation.

 

Our heavenly Father’s not afraid to give us the good stuff we need to become healthy people.  What does our Father do for us?  He gives us access to Himself in prayer (Matthew 6:9-13; Ephesians 2:18), and promises not to abandon us (Hebrews 13:5).  In the movie Anna and the King, court stops when the King of Siam’s daughter enters the room.  He grants his beloved child all of his attention.  The perfect Father gives attention to all of His children.  He takes time to listen to them.  His ear is not cold toward us in distress, but we are pitied.  He empathizes with us.  There is no “big boys don’t cry” or “take it like a man”.  Rather, He pities us in our weakness and distress. 

In addition to pity, He provides protection. In his great treatise on adoption, Paul declares, “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Rom. 8:31)?

Not only that, but He provides for us.  Our daily bread is His gift to us.  Lastly, He disciplines us as sons (Hebrews 12:5-11).  He wants us to bear the family likeness, and works to conform us to the likeness of His unique Son, Jesus (Rom. 8:29).  So we find a strong, but neglected, theology that addresses the situation of many Christians under our care. 

(more…)

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(This is the 2nd in a series on Open Theism)

 

The Curse of Open Theism

Genuine human freedom would be a morally neutral will.  I could freely choose from any number of options without any outside interference.  That identical set of circumstances may produce any number of choices. 

I say genuine human freedom is a myth because they fail to account for, or minimize, depravity and its effects on human freedom.  They ignore the Bible’s assessment that we are slaves to sin and enemies of God.  God’s Word declares that we do not possess genuine human freedom.  Their theological system is built to protect a philosophical idea we do not find in Scripture.

Jonathan Edwards called the will “the mind choosing”.  We choose, freely, according to our character.  Unfortunately, we are sinners.  We make our choices on the basis of our impure motives, desires and longings.  We are not morally neutral!

However, this assumption of genuine human freedom affects how Open Theists interpret some key Bible passages.  In Genesis 28 they believe that God actually learned that Abraham feared Him.  They use a “face value” model of interpretation.  They claim God had to learn this piece of information about Abraham by testing him.  This despite the fact they still claim God has full knowledge of the past and present.  If God has full knowledge of the present, He would have known that Abraham feared Him.  If we have genuine human freedom, this test is irrelevant.  God cannot base any of His future actions on Abraham’s fear and faithfulness because God does not know if Abraham will continue to fear God and be faithful in the future.  Tested again, Abraham could choose differently.

In his book God’s Lesser Glory, Bruce Ware does an excellent job examining these and other passages related to this discussion. He shows that a “face value” method of interpretation would strip God of His present and past knowledge (He had to see if Sodom and Gemorrah were really that bad).  It would also mean that God is not present everywhere at every moment (He had to go to Sodom and Gemorrah!).  They fail to test their interpretation of these passages against the clear teaching of Scripture elsewhere.  We do this because God cannot lie.  As a result, Scripture will not contradict itself.  The clear passages illumine the unclear passages.

So, part of the curse of Open Theism is that it is a slippery slope whereby God’s glory continues to decrease.  The same method of interpretation that robs us of God’s knowledge of the future robs us of other attributes of God.  We end up with a god more like ourselves, and less like the Savior, Redeemer and Defender we need.  They give us a god who could not know the Fall would happen, Jesus would die on the cross, Peter would deny Jesus three times (how’d he even know Peter would be questioned three times), that Hezekiah would live 15 more years (that is a whole lot of possible accidents, injuries, illnesses and possible assassination attempts), much less that you would exist in order to be adopted in Christ.  The Bible, and our faith, begins to unravel.

Bruce Ware also does an excellent job building the biblical case for God’s foreknowledge (in the Calvinistic sense).  In Isaiah 40-48, God declares that what separates Him for the numerous idols the people worshipped is the fact that He does declare the future.  He points to past prophecies that have come true.  He points to past prophecies that are about to come true.  He is specific about many of those.  In order for God to bring His purpose to completion, He must know and control the choices of a vast number of volitional beings.  The mystery is how He can do this “without violating the will of the creature” as the Westminster Confession of Faith asserts.  The claims of Open Theism that God does not know the future do not stand up to the teaching of Scripture.

The curse of Open Theism is not limited to theology proper.  It has a practical outworking in the lives of those who believe it (Bruce Ware is once again extremely helpful).  This is why Paul told Timothy “watch your life and doctrine closely”.  One area of concern is prayer. 

Proponents of Open Theism declare that prayer really matters.  They believe that prayer really matters only if we have genuine human freedom.  In prayer, our relationship with God is built.  We are able to share our feelings and desires.  In their view, foreknowledge would mean that our prayers do not change anything.

In Reformed Theology (summed up in the Westminster Confession of Faith) prayer has two primary purposes (at least).  God has not just ordained what will happen, but also how.  Some the instruments God uses to accomplish His will are the prayers of His people.  Our prayers matter, even in a theological system where God is in complete control. 

Prayer is also related to our adoption as God’s children.  We express our needs, longings and feelings to our Father who expresses His loving involvement with us by responding to our prayers.  One need not accept the views of Open Theism to have a prayer life that matters and builds one’s relationship with God.

Open Theism seems to forget that God knows everything past and present.  Our prayers are significant, in their opinion, because God learns something new.  But He knows what we think, feel and desire.  If God’s knowledge of the future makes prayer useless (as they claim), so would God’s complete knowledge of the present.  We don’t need to pray because God already knows. 

Their own argument backfires (as if the purpose of prayer were to inform God of something).  God will not learn something new which will cause Him to change His mind.  The point would rather seem to be integrity in our relationship with God and ourselves.  God seems to be letting us know our hearts better.  But they insist on using a human model for communication between God and man.  This is part of the same problem we saw before- making God in our image!

Their views once again slight God’s wisdom.  Why does God need our help to make decisions?  He certainly possesses more complete knowledge than we do, is wiser than us, and has much purer motives than us.  To believe that God’s decision making process is incomplete (like mine) without input from others does not make any sense.  It exalts my knowledge and wisdom, and minimizes God’s.  Compare their views with Isaiah 40:13-14.  No one is competent to be God’s counselor.  And God has no need of a counselor.  Open Theism again falls short of God’s glory as revealed in Scripture.

Beyond this, what happens when things turn out to be difficult?  Are we to surmise, as they do, that God was mistaken (since He couldn’t see the future)?  Our disappointment shifts from our circumstances to God’s character.  We depart from Paul’s conviction that God is at work in all our circumstances to make us like Jesus (however painful that might be).  We would be forced to believe that God is a good-hearted bungler who can’t be trusted to protect us.  As a result suffering has little or no meaning in Open Theism.  God’s plan can be ambushed either by Satan or your neighbor.  God’s glory is assaulted by Open Theism once again.  They reject the biblical teaching that God is absolutely in control and that God is absolutely good.  The Bible asserts both, not one at the expense of the other as Openness Theology does.  Once again it fails to measure up to the standard of Scripture.

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