Posts Tagged ‘Ray Ortlund Jr.’

In The Letters of John Newton, the last letter to Rev. Symonds concerns the differences that exist among Christians.  Some of those are differences in belief, and some are differences in practice.  Newton’s comments lead us toward charity on the non-essentials.

He had recently moved from Olney to London.  There in London his sphere of influence was greatly enlarged.  This mean that a wide range of people were coming to hear him preach.  He mentions “Churchmen and Dissenters, Calvinists and Arminians, Moravians and Methodists, now and then I believe Papists and Quakers sit quietly to hear me.”

I know that in the churches I’ve served, this can often be true.  There have been a hodge-podge of backgrounds and present views.  And you just never know where that visitor is coming from.

What he says in the rest of the letter concerns our brothers with whom we disagree.  Don’t take them as applying to denominational standards.  The greater the bond the greater the agreement must be.  Denominations do well to have statements of faith that are binding (even if I disagree with many a denomination’s’ particulars).

“Whoever wants to confine me to follow his sentiments, whether as to doctrine or order, is so far a papist.  Whoever encourages me to read the Scriptures, and to pray for the teaching of the Holy Spirit, and then will let me follow the life the Lord Jesus gives me, without being angry with me because I cannot and will not see with his eyes, nor wear his shoes, is a consistent Protestant.”

He accuses those who demand that others believe as they do, and do as they do of acting like a Pope.  Such people, though often claiming to be Protestants, condemn all who disagree with them.  For instance, this is the issue the Ray Ortlund, Jr. has with the “Truly Reformed“.  In their zeal for truth, particularly Reformed Theology, they condemn all who do not believe (and do) as they believe (and do).  They have lapsed into functional papacy.

This does not mean we should not expect others to hold to essentials of the faith (unless we start thinking everything is essential, which is what these folks do).  He continues:

“The depravity of human nature; the deity of the Savior; the influences of the Holy Spirit; a separation from the world, and a devotedness to God- these are principles which I deem fundamental; and though I would love and serve all mankind, I can have no religious union or communion with those who deny them.”

There are certain minimal beliefs that make one an orthodox Christian.  Newton does not deny this.  But he does not want to hold people to the maximum standard before admitting them as brothers.

“Though a man does not accord with my views of election; yet if he gives me good evidence that he is effectually called of God, he is my brother.  Though he seems afraid of the doctrine of final perseverance; yet if grace enable him to persevere, he is my brother still.  If he love Jesus, I will love him; whatever hard name he may be called by, and whatever incidental mistakes I may think he holds.  His different from me will not always prove him to be wrong, except I am infallible myself.”

Newton looks for evidences of the grace of God in them, not theological consistency.  The key word is “incidental” mistakes.  For instance, Rob Bell’s increasing syncretism is not an “incidental mistake”.  Rob needs the real gospel.  But Protestants can disagree on issues regarding baptism, the Table, election, the covenants, the millennium etc.  I did say Protestants since the Roman views of baptism and the Table depart too far from Scripture as to be heretical.

Newton gets to the main point at the very end.  We cannot expect everyone to agree with us, submitting to our view of things unless we somehow mistakenly think we are infallible- that we are the Pope speaking ex cathedra (from his chair on matters of faith and morals).  No mere man is infallible, but we all err.  And this ought to humble us as we interact with brothers on matters of dispute.  Treat them as brothers, not enemies.  Grant one another grace and continued love.

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Less than $15 at WTS Books!

Less than $15 at WTS Books!

I own and read this book under its previous title: Whoredom: God’s Unfaithful Wife in Biblical Theology.  I’ve recommended the book to friends, and on my blog.  I guess that title was a bit over the top for some people.  It was re-released as God’s Unfaithful Wife: A Biblical Theology of Spiritual Adultery.  Ray Ortlund’s book is still part of the New Studies in Biblical Theology series.

This is a great book on a very difficult subject.  It makes for must reading if you are reading, studying or preaching from any of the prophets that wrestled with Israel’s apostasy.  It works through the many passages that show how ugly it is, and how prevalent our temptation really is.

I’m glad this book is still available, and wish more pastors would read it.  This is particularly true in America where Satan’s strategy to neutralize the Church is seduction rather than persecution.  We live in dangerous times as prosperity (and the prospect of losing that prosperity) silently seduces us from faithfulness to the Holy One who has created, redeemed and adopted us.  It is the silent spiritual killer that is corrupting many sermons, books and churches.

Sorry if I sound alarmist, pessimistic and negative.

This book is not an easy read.  It is a bit academic in that it assumes some working knowledge of the original languages.  It is also difficult due to the metaphors Scripture uses to convey how corrupt Israel was in pursuing false gods or engaging in synchretism.  Scripture often sexualizes it (and translators work to make it PG) to drive the point home, shocking us for holy purposes.  Even if you never preach on those difficult texts, this book will help you keep such texts in mind as you encounter the common call to return to God with all your heart, to love the Lord with all we are and to be blameless before Him.

No, not an easy read but a very important read.  I’m glad D.A. Carson asked Ray Ortlund Jr. to make this a part of the NSBT series.

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In an earlier Pensee, I quipped “Everyone has a sexual agenda.”  I initially spoke that soundbite while at lunch w/some other counseling students.  Everyone has an agenda for their sexuality- from feast to famine and everything in between.

As made as sexual beings, we will do SOMETHING with our sexuality.  Question is, what?

Piper’s thoughts in chapter 1 of Sex and the Supremacy of Christ are profound.  The first is that “Sexuality is designed by God as a way to know God more fully.”  The inverse is just as true- “all misuses of our sexuality distort the true knowledge of Christ” or “conceal the true knowledge of Christ.”

So, sex within its proper contexts as established by our Creator, and revealed in the Bible, is a way to know God more fully.  Marital love and faithfulness is a picture of what our relationship with Jesus is to be like- self-giving, self-forgetting, exclusive, face-to-face intimacy.  “God created us with sexual passion so that there would be language to describe what it means to cleave to him in love and what it means to turn away from him to others.”  This is not the only reason, but a big reason (filling earth with His image is another big reason).

Piper mentions only a few passages in which God does use the language of sexuality to describe what our relationship should be like, and unfortunately what it is often like.  Idolatry is described as prostitution, adultery etc.  Ray Ortlund Jr.’s excellent book God’s Unfaithful Wife explores this most vividly.  The Bible is shockingly vivid at times.  Yet, we also see the “mighty mercy of God” in how Jesus has paid the penalty for our whoring and prostitution (seen both in Ezekiel and Hosea).


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