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Posts Tagged ‘Doug Wilson’


Some books are written and read as labors of love. Some books are written and read as “necessary evils”. The author wishes they did not have to write the book, and you wish you didn’t have to read it. Sometimes their labor of love is your “necessary evil”.

The Federal Vision and Covenant Theology: A Comparative Analysis by Guy Prentiss Waters is probably one of those necessary evils. I’m sure he probably wishes he could have spent the time and energy writing on some other project. Because he loves Christ and his denomination (the PCA), he felt compelled to write this book.

Because I am now serving in the PCA, and love Christ and His Church, I felt it necessary to read this book that I might better understand the Federal Vision since it is present in the PCA. Since I appreciated his earlier book Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul, I thought this would be a helpful book. It was. I just wasn’t happy that I had to read it, and at times found it difficult to wrap my head around what the Federal Vision actually is.

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There is a disturbing trend that I have noticed the last few years. I almost fell into myself while reading a book recently.

Karl Barth

The author favorably quoted from Karl Barth. I had to catch myself. Karl Barth had some very unbiblical notions, but as one of the most prominent theologians of the 20th century he had to have a few good ideas.

The theological Pharisee will not permit anyone to quote from those deemed unworthy. We are expected to treat these men like pariahs or we will be treated like them after a good internet lashing.

I’ve seen people like Jonathan Edwards attacked for having slaves. He never wrote about it and defended it (like some others). Yes, he was part of the cultural sins of his day in this respect. But should that invalidate everything he wrote? No.

Others, dead and alive, have defended slavery which is crazy in my book. I’ve never gotten into the “southern Presbyterians” though I am technically in a southern Presbyterian denomination. I prefer the Princeton theologians, overall. But I don’t cringe when someone quotes Dabney. I see what is said and evaluate it.

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She was a heartbreaker- maybe it was the tight clothing.

I was heading to the Men’s Study this morning when I had to stop the seek feature for some Pat Benatar. The lyrics remind me of our plight as fallen people.

Your love has set my soul on fire, burnin’ out of control
You taught me the ways of desire, now it’s takin’ its toll
You’re the right kind of sinner, to release my inner fantasy

That sets us up for what I hope is the final post on sexual chaos, working thru a redeemed sexuality in the midst of sexual chaos. Since my last post I remembered another story of how not to do this. I was working at Ligonier when I had a call. I’m not sure what prompted the call, I can’t see R.C. Sproul having mentioned this, but this older woman told me that oral sex was wrong “because that’s what homosexuals do.” I responded with “they also kiss, hug and hold hands; does that mean we can’t do any of them either?” With that, let’s try to sort all of this out.

1. Consensual- redeemed sex is consensual. It is wrong to force your spouse into any sexual activity whether proper or improper. Consent is necessary, but insufficient for determining the appropriateness of a practice for a Christian. As I mentioned before, this seems to be the only criteria you find in many of the Christian sex blogs. It is a starting point, but not the whole canoli.

18 Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, 19  a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. Proverbs 5

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The world is filled with books on marriage. Many of them are not worth reading. But there has been a bunch of excellent books on marriage that have been released in the last few years. Add The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God by Tim Keller (with his wife Kathy).

Tim is one of the best people for writing a book on marriage, from a biblical perspective, that non-Christians may actually read. He touches upon some of the more contemporary controversies here, clearly but without condemnation. I know some guys in our denomination love to hate on Keller as some great compromiser. I don’t see him that way. I just see him in a light similar to John Newton: clear as to what he believes but not using that to stick his finger in people’s eyes. He’d much rather win them to his position- that whole winsome thing. Not everyone is supposed to be Elijah, engaging in clear confrontations to expose the folly of false gods (though Keller did write a book on that).

Keller spends more time on cohabitation, bringing up studies which reveal how destructive it actually is to marriage.  He shows how the typical arguments used to justify the practice have no basis in facts. So he shows the foolishness of that particular sin in a variety of ways. Homosexual marriage is not tackled head on, but he consistently affirms the biblical view of man and woman. Contrary to what I’ve heard from some of the haters, there is a clear affirmation of complementarianism. But they distinguish the biblical doctrine from how some people practice it.  And that is good. We have to recognize that if will look different in different marriages and in different cultures.

The book is not perfect. There are, I think, so factual errors. Tim writes that Paul was never married. We don’t know that. He, as a Pharisee, was probably married at some point. But at the time of his work as an Apostle, he was single- probably widowed. But that is a small thing.

My only other complaint was the length of the chapters. They were quite long, about 25 pages each on average. I like to finish a chapter in a sitting, and due to my schedule that was a little more difficult with this book.

The book derived from sermons on marriage the Tim preached in 1991. The bulk of the book is drawn from Ephesians 5, but the Kellers draw on a number of resources to understand and apply the biblical teaching on marriage. They cover issues of love (romantic love, mature love and the acceptance of one another’s faults), how to look for a spouse and what to look for in one, gender differences and roles in marriage, sex and more. They walk thru some of the landmines, the idols of both traditional and progressive culture.

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It has been quite some time since I’ve read anything by Doug Wilson.  The constant controversy turned me off.  But I had been meaning to read To a Thousand Generations: Infant Baptism- Covenant Mercy for the People of God for a few years.  I lacked opportunity.  Teaching a class on baptism provided the opportunity.  So I took it.

Like many of Doug Wilson’s books it is not very think.  It can be a quick read that touches on the most important aspects of the issue.  He doesn’t go overboard, and this one clocks in at just over 100 pages.  I know, some of you are thinking that 100 is too many pages for something that “doesn’t exist” in Scripture.

I think Wilson does a good job proving you wrong on that regard.  He opens with the problem of nominalism in churches.  This topic is never far from the surface of this book.  He revisits it often.  Sadly, some lay nominalism at the feet of infant baptism.  This is utterly erroneous for many/most baptistic churches are also plagued by nominalism.  It is not something particular, or peculiar, to churches that practice infant baptism (from a covenantal view).

In this regard Wilson brings up the problem of an “over-realized ecclesiology” (my term, I think).  Many advocates of believer’s baptism strive for a “pure” church or a “regenerate” church membership.  This includes some the “new Calvinists”.  This is a good goal- not letting pagans into church membership.  But the Scriptures are honest in that under both covenants there would be a mixed assembly- both covenant keepers and covenant breakers would be there.  The only ‘pure’ church will be in the New Jerusalem.  The visible church is not comprised only of the elect- that would be the invisible church.

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Baptizing CavSon

Perhaps it is because I was preparing a SS class on the Sacraments and then Baptism that I noticed a few things regarding baptism.  One was encouraging, and the other was disappointing.

I used to read The Gospel-Driven Church all the time.  Then transition happened.  I’m trying to get back there more often.  Jared does some good work.  He recently relocated to Vermont of all places.  The congregation, the only evangelical congregation in town, has both paedobaptists and credobaptists in it.  By conviction Jared is credobaptist (believer’s baptism).  But he wanted to love those who had a covenantal view of infant baptism well.  He did not want them to be ostracized.  So they unveiled a new policy regarding baptism.  They will honor the infant baptism of people coming for membership (and already in membership) rather than require that they be baptized as adults.  One of the deacons, who is a paedobaptist, will baptize the infants of believers who desire it.

It is a good compromise instead of the common status as 2nd class citizens often experienced by those who have paedobaptist convictions.  I’ve seen it often, binding the conscience of others to get a seat at the table (voting rights, for instance).  Most conservative Reformed churches permit members to disagree with their position on baptism without any form of church discipline.  They will often limit them with regard to office, which makes sense.  This is just what John Piper has advocated at Bethlehem Baptist.

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Being in the early chapters of Genesis, I’m covering the topic of marriage as instituted by God.  One of the things that stands out to me is that marriage is a means (so to speak) of mission.  As a metaphor of Christ’s relationship with His people, we see the reality of mission.  Jesus has a goal for his people- he redeems them and makes them holy.

In Genesis 2 we see it was not good for the man to be alone.  Why?  It is not just about companionship.  He can’t fulfill God’s mission alone.  All the other biblical  reasons for marriage are tied together with mission.  Apart from mission, they become self-serving.

Apart from mission, companionship becomes idolatry.  It is ingrown.  And once you get bored … you look for a new companion.

Apart from mission, sex becomes self-centered, and idolatrous.  Once the sex stops, or gets boring (which is what happens when it is just about sex), you look for a new sexual partner.

Apart from mission, having children is selfish.  It is more about your need to have kids, and have them “succeed” than it is about raising kids to build the kingdom.

Apart from mission, financial stability also becomes idolatrous.  If someone can no longer provide for you, you look for another money maker.

Here are some very good books that I recommend about marriage.

  • When Sinners Say “I Do” by Dave Harvey.  This is one of my favorite books because it is so humbling.  Harvey keeps the gospel central in marriage.  This is important because every marriage includes 2 sinners.  Most of our problems in marriage are really rooted in our sinfulness.  Communication skills, while helpful, don’t get to the root of the problem.  I requires the application of the gospel.
  • Intimate Allies by Dan Allender and Tremper Longman.  There is so much to appreciate about this book.  I’m not wild about the discussion about “mutual submission”.  That seems to depart from the biblical emphasis in Ephesians 5.  But I love their emphasis on enhancing the other’s dignity and restraining their dignity.  THAT is a clearly biblical emphasis when looking at marriage. They broke this down into  the Intimate Marriage series available on DVD, workbooks and leader’s guide.
  • Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas.  The subtitle says it all, what if God wants to make us holy more than to make us happy.  He’s focusing on part of Paul’s discussion of marriage in Ephesians 5.
  • Redeeming Marriage by Douglas Wilson.  I read this when I appreciated Doug Wilson more than I do now.  But this is still a good book.  It is short and to the point.
  • What Did You Expect?  Redeeming the Realities of Marriage by Paul David Tripp.  I haven’t read or watched this, but I want to.  I find great benefit in nearly everything he writes.  The DVD was released first, and then it was released in book form.
  • Another book I have yet to read, but hope to is John Piper’s This Momentary Marriage: a Parable of Permanence.  I wish I had read it in preparation for my work on Genesis 2 & Ephesians 5.

I know there are some other good books.  But these are the ones the Cavman recommends.  They will help you develop a biblical understanding of  marriage.  May the Spirit work to make us an accurate picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church.

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