Bible Reading in 2011 and Operation World

Reading through the Bible is a great way to learn more about the Christian faith. I used the One Year Bible to read it through in 2010, and it was unforgettable and humbling.

I have explored several Bible Reading plans for 2011. Some of the more intriguing printable pdf file plans are here, here, here, here, here, and here. An interactive approach to developing your own plan is here.  I dare you to pick one and try it.

One simple checklist that allows for reading at your own pace and in the place you want to start is here. I think that is going to be my approach this year.

The reason for the truncated Bible reading plan is that I am going to follow David Platt’s suggestion in Radical. I am going to pray through the newly published Seventh Edition of Operation World.

Operation World is basically a book of prayer requests that cover missions in the whole world, country by country. I used the Fifth Edition for a while, and I miss the prayerful interaction with global concerns. Try it yourself. You might like it as much as me.

And Happy New Year!

[1/3/11: Two great posts on Bible reading plans are here and here.]


Quote of the Day – John Newton on Humility

“Whoever is truly humbled — will not be easily angry, nor harsh or critical of others. He will be compassionate and tender to the infirmities of his fellow-sinners, knowing that if there is a difference — it is grace alone which has made it! He knows that he has the seeds of every evil in his own heart. And under all trials and afflictions — he will look to the hand of the Lord, and lay his mouth in the dust, acknowledging that he suffers much less than his iniquities have deserved.” – John Newton


Rosenbladt Sings O Holy Night

Rod Rosenbladt sings O Holy Night here. Great job for a professional theologian.

I had the chance to sing this song at our church a few days ago. I did not do nearly this well.

It’s my favorite song of the Christmas Season.


North Korean Assassin turns into a Minister

Thanks to Brandywine Books for the link to a New York Times story about a North Korean assassin who became a South Korean citizen and a Presbyterian minister (A minister to the largest Presbyterian church in the world no less.).  Follow the link here.


More Education Leads to More Church Attendance

It seems the more education we have, the more likely we are to attend church and have strong families.  (See the post here.)  Who would have thought?


Dorothy Sayers on Doctrine

Dorothy Sayers authored one of my favorite essays of all time. The essay is available here. It drives home the point that doctrine is not boring after all. Here’s an excerpt:

So that is the outline of the official story—the tale of the time when God was the under-dog and got beaten, when He submitted to the conditions He had laid down and became a man like the men He had made, and the men He had made broke Him and killed Him. This is the dogma we find so dull—this terrifying drama of which God is the victim and hero.

If this is dull, then what, in Heaven's name, is worthy to be called exciting? The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused Him of being a bore—on the contrary; they thought Him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround Him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified Him "meek and mild," and recommended Him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies. To those who knew Him, however, He in no way suggested a milk-and-water person; they objected to Him as a dangerous firebrand... He was emphatically not a dull man in His human lifetime, and if He was God, there can be nothing dull about God either. But He had "a daily beauty in His life that made us ugly," and officialdom felt that the established order of things would be more secure without Him. So they did away with God in the name of peace and quietness.

Thanks to Justin Taylor for the link.


Jesus vs. Paul?

Scot McNight writes on the differences between Jesus’ and Paul’s emphasis here.

Michael S. Horton answers him here.


Rosenbladt Talks About a Gift

Quote from a Rod Rosenbladt sermon I found here:

God: I told you. I hate religion. Religion was your idea – not Mine. You have forgotten what Anselm said: “You have not yet considered the depth of your sin.”

Sinner: But I want to show you I have. I really have. I know it is really deep. Talk to me. Teach me sanctification.

God: I told you. You aren’t ready for sanctification yet. You just imagine that you are ready. You are arrogant and you don’t know it.

Sinner: What do you mean? I am ready.

God: You are not. If you were, you wouldn’t be talking like you are talking.

Sinner: Well, what then?

God: Just sit there. Sit there for a long while.

Sinner: And do what?

God: Consider the shed blood. Consider that the blood was enough. Think about the fact that it isn’t your repenting that has saved you. Think about the fact that it isn’t your faith that is saving you.

Sinner: Can’t I just, as you said, just think about my sin and the depth of it?

God: That is a start. But you like doing that. You like it too much.

Sinner: This makes no sense. What are you saying?

God: I am saying that you like atoning for yourself by feeling guilty. And you like atoning for yourself by thinking about your faith.

Sinner: Well, what else is there?

God: There is Jesus Christ – but you don’t consider Him. You are not used to gifts. You don’t think much about them. Gifts make you nervous and tense. You don’t know what to do, so you jump to trying to impress Me. I am not impressible.


Adrian Warnock on the spectrum of Calvinism and Arminianism

Adrain Warnock has a great post on the fact that Calvinism and Arminianism run across a spectrum.

I find myself residing somewhere between the Moderate and Strong Calvinist positions as listed. Personal responsibility is important to me, and I believe it to be important to all biblically consistent five point Calvinists.

An Evangelical Hypocrite

Josh Harris cites the following poem:

Of all hypocrites, grant that I may not be an evangelical hypocrite,

who sins more safely because grace abounds,

who tells his lusts that Christ's blood cleanseth them,

who reasons that God cannot cast him into hell,

for he is saved, who loves evangelical preaching, churches,

Christians, but lives unholily.

A Puritan prayer from the book Valley of Vision.

The thing is, if I am honest, I am exactly that kind of hypocrite. Only the perfect Christian could be immune to the charge, and, alas, I am not him.

I look to Christ to save me.  He's my only hope.


Calvinism Simply Put

Justin Taylor’s blog reprinted one of my favorite quotes on Calvinism:

Some readers will recall the conversation between Calvinist Charles Simeon (1759-1836) and Arminian John Wesley (1703-1791) about their commonality amidst the controversy:

[Simeon] Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions. Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?

[Wesley] Yes, I do indeed.

[Simeon] And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?

[Wesley] Yes, solely through Christ.

[Simeon] But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?

[Wesley] No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.

[Simeon] Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?

[Wesley] No.

[Simeon] What then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother’s arms?

[Wesley] Yes, altogether.

[Simeon] And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?

[Wesley] Yes, I have no hope but in Him.

[Simeon] Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things where in we agree.

Cited in Handley Carr Glyn Moule’s 1892 biography, Charles Simeon, p. 79f.
Those of us who argue over the issues would do well to remember that exchange.

[1/3/11: More information on Simeon can be found here.]


Do You Have Doubts?

"The only way to doubt Christianity rightly and fairly is to discern the alternate belief under each of your doubts and then ask yourself what reasons you have for believing it. How do you know your belief is true? It would be inconsistent to require more justification for Christian belief than you do for your own, but that is frequently what happens. In fairness you must doubt your doubts. My thesis is that if you come to recognize the beliefs on which your doubts about Christianity are based, and if you seek as much proof for those beliefs as you seek from Christians for theirs – you will discover that your doubts are not as solid as they first appeared. “ - Tim Keller, The Reason for God, pg. xix


Tim Keller Comments on the Parable of the Prodigal Son

A prominent Christian minister comments on the Parable of the Prodigal Son:

What must we do, then, to be saved? To find God we must repent of the things we have done wrong, but if that is all you do, you may remain just an elder brother. To truly become a Christian we must also repent of the reasons we ever did anything right. Pharisees only repent of their sins, but Christians repent for the very roots of their righteousness, too. We must learn how to repent of the sin under all our other sins and under all our righteousness – the sin of seeking to be our own Savior and Lord. We must admit that we’ve put our ultimate hope in both our wrongdoing and right doing we have been seeking to get around God or get control of God in order to get hold of those things.

It is only when you see the desire to be your own Savior and Lord—lying beneath both your sins and your moral goodness—that you are on the verge of becoming a Christian indeed. When you realize that the antidote to being bad is not just being good, you are on the brink. If you follow through, it will change everything—how you relate to God, self, others, the world, your work, you sins, your virtue. It’s called the new birth because its so radical” - Tim Keller, The Prodigal God, as quoted here.


God and Politics

R. C. Sproul has this to say to us as we approach politics:

Yes, we must always work for social reform. Yes, we must be “profane’ in Martin Luther’s sense of going out of the temple and into the world. We do not despise the country of our birth. But in what do we invest our hope? The state is not God. The nation is not the Promised Land. The president is not our King. The Congress is not our Savior. Our welfare can never be found in the city of man. The federal government is not sovereign.

Read the whole thing for R. C.’s take on America’s future.


Responses to Some Common Questions on The Gospel

I find a particular set of questions show up when I share the gospel with atheists on the internet. I want to adapt some of those questions as given here and give my answer and / or explanation. The objections are boldface. My comments are regular script.

“God has no right to impose punishment on me because he is the one who made his laws so I could not follow them. The God who makes the laws, decides if you broke the law or not and determines the punishment.”

You assume that the law of God is arbitrary, that God could choose to make the law be whatever He wanted it to be.

God could no more make the moral law in a different way than he could make the laws of mathematics a different way. All of these abstract laws are an expression of His nature and character.

God’s character is the basis for good attitudes. God’s actions are the basis for good behavior. God’s character and morality cannot change because His being cannot change.

God’s knowledge is the basis for the laws of logic, and by consequence the laws of mathematics. He cannot learn or forget. His knowledge is unchanging, and everything He knows must fit together into a coherent account. Logic helps us spot inconsistencies in our own views, the places where our knowledge does not fit together coherently.

God could not make the laws of morality or the laws of logic differently than what they are. God, being who He is, must create as an expression of Himself.

Things being what they are, the laws of morality cannot be any different. We know this intuitively whether we admit it or not. We know some things are right and some things are wrong. That is the way the universe works. We know it full well.

“When a law is created that nobody can follow, it’s a bad law… Violating an impossible law incurs no debt and any punishment is unjustified... a tyrannical king.”

Your argument depends on something forcing you to behave in the way you do, to violate your freedom of choice.

No one or nothing can force you to make any choice. You always choose the very thing you desire most at the time you make a decision in the situation you find yourself in. Your choices in a given situation can be limited, but I cannot ultimately make you do anything.

You always do what you want to do. Your actions are freely chosen according to your most pressing desire at the time you make your choices.

There is nothing outside of us forcing us to sin against our will. It’s not that we cannot keep God’s law; it’s that we will not because we do not want to.

”A gift is something that is freely given with no obligation or conditions upon the recipient… When you put conditions like “faith” on your "gift" it's not one.”

I can buy you a brand new BMW 7 Series luxury car. I can make arrangements with an insurance company to pay the insurance for the next five years. I can make all of the appropriate car tax and licensing fees.

I can then present you the keys. If I hold the keys out in front of you, and you do not take them, you will never drive the car. The gift of the BMW must be received, but it is no less a gift.

Eternal life, unhindered fellowship with God in this life and the next, is a gift freely given. But any gift must be received to be of benefit. That’s the way a gift works.

”How does Christ’s sacrifice pay for my sins, what is it giving up to itself for the payment to have any meaning?”

Anytime someone sins against me, they owe me a debt. Anytime someone sins against me, they break a law and should be punished. It is that way in all human relationships because we are made in the image of God.

If you purposely drive your aforementioned BMW (if I can ever get you to take the keys to the darn thing) into my house, you will damage my house. You owe me for the damage (and probably for emotional suffering). You are ethically obligated to repair the damage to my home.

If I chose to forgive you freely and completely, I have to incur the costs of repairing my home. I must, in effect, pay the penalty for the damage.

If you did purposely drive your BWM into my house you have caused me pain. You should have to suffer yourself for the pain you have inflicted. Almost everyone who has been severely sinned against has felt the right to inflict punishment on the one who has offended him or her.

This right to vengeance is a real moral right. We are just when we require it.

If I choose to forgive you, I choose to experience this pain while giving up my right to vengeance. I suffer the pain your actions have caused me without requiring appropriate pain from you.

God must both pay sin’s penalty and suffer sin’s punishment. Our universe being the kind of universe it is there could be no other way. God just did it by suffering on the cross in the Person of Jesus Christ as a kind of object lesson.

There’s a book on this subject that I would like to recommend: The Reason for God by Timothy Keller. He does a much better job on this topic than me, and much of my answer is borrowed from him.

”Paying for a debt that wouldn't have been incurred had they not inflicted that debt on you in the first place is not a gift…”

Again, this line of thinking depends on the law of God being completely arbitrary and capricious. It assumes things could be different in this universe when those things cannot in fact be different.

It also indirectly assumes that we are not fully aware of this law as we violate it. A person is only responsible for what they know to do. While our awareness of the moral law is never perfect, we have not followed the morality we do in fact admit.

"The one that created the law, decides that it didn't break the law, and uses that decision to pay itself for the debt it claims that you incurred… It just paid itself for the debt/punishment it decided you owe it.”

The law is not arbitrary. It is an unchanging standard that finds its logical ground in the unchanging character of God.

“…the one that is throwing you the life preserver [paying for your sins] is the same one that caused you (and everyone) to start drowning and says you need faith to use it. I would say the person that put you in danger is morally obligated to save you. They have committed a crime...”

Again, nothing outside of us forces us to make any of the choices we make. We are fully and completely responsible for our own actions given the knowledge we have. God can send us all to the hell we so richly deserve and still be fair. He didn’t make us sin.

“Something created us, and you will have faith in it or you will suffer forever. This is motivation by fear.”

You have nothing to fear if you have not freely chosen to sin against God’s law, insofar as you know it to be. But I bet you have done things you know in your heart to be wrong. We all have.

You only have to fear God if you freely choose to reject the gift of salvation He offers you in Christ. No one or nothing can force your rejection. If you reject that offer, you have no one to blame but yourself.

The good news of the gospel destroys the basis for servile fear of God.


Prayer changes things-including your mind.

I received some mass e-mail communication from The Colson Center today regarding a new book by Dr. Curt Thompson, a Psychiatrist who is certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Dr. Thompson has an interesting hypothesis that he says is born out by experimentation: prayer and other spiritual disciplines affect the mind itself.

Here is an excerpt from Dr. Thompson's article over at the Colson Center:

…consider one of the features of the brain that neuroscientists call neuroplasticity. This refers to the capacity for the brain to do three things: (1) produce new neurons; (2) to increase the speed and efficiency of neurons by increasing their length and diameter and (3) increase or decrease the level of connections between neurons, depending on how often they are used—those neuron patterns that are fired more frequently make greater attachments, and those that are used less frequently are pruned away….

Current neuroscience supports the idea that spiritual disciplines line us up to allow God to change us in ways for which we hunger and thirst. As we meditate, pray (especially contemplatively), fast, seek proper solitude, confess, submit, study, and engage in other such disciplines, we create space for change. In this sense, when Paul writes in Romans 12:2 to no longer “be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect,” he’s not kidding. This transformation of which he speaks is not metaphor.

Although Paul was no neuroscientist, he wrote that which neuroscience would now confirm: that the transformation that God began with the resurrection of Jesus is now being extended and grounded in our very brains…
Seems Paul was right in Romans 12-1-2. We can be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

It also bears out the idea that prayer primarily changes us. Prayer is not about changing the situations we find ourselves in as it is about changing our response to those situations.


N. T. Wright and the Evangelical Theological Society

The debate on justification between the New Perspective on Paul and the traditional reformation view at the recent Evangelical Theological Society meeting. My personal views are here and here.

Ligonier Ministries’ opinion is linked to here, with some more helpful links here.

The Heidelblog weighs in here.

Trevin Wax has some helpful links here.

Collin Hansen weighs in with a particularly helpful post here.


I can’t believe anyone would do this – vote for birth?

A couple has placed their decision to birth or abort a baby up for vote on the internet.

I found this out from an atheist web site. It’s been making the rounds. They are talking about a very large swing in the voting toward pro-abortion since the posts on the atheist web.

I am hoping that this is some sort of stunt, and that they will not go through with it.

I would also think that, since most pro-choice people claim to be anti-abortion, that the votes would come out in favor of birth by the end.

Vote today.


Christian Vocation - A Paper for my Management Ethics Class at Union University

Developing a mental model that enables an effective approach to work is one of the most important activities that a person can engage in. The approach taken is dependent on one’s overall thoughts about the world around him. My way of thinking about the world is distinctly Christian, and my faith informs my outlook on the work that I do. I am a Safety and Environmental Manager for a fireplace manufacturer. I see my work as a vocation, a distinct calling that God has extended to me. My work is not just a “job,” something I do to make money so I can support my true interests and enjoyments. Aside from the Bible itself, Martin Luther, a leader of church reform in the 16th Century, has done more to shape my approach than any other, and this paper will clearly reveal dependence on him.

The Bible exhorts us to work diligently. God’s original command to people is “fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over [it]” (Genesis 1:28, ESV). How could this be done without engaging in work of benefit to mankind? Work is elsewhere demanded in harsh tones: “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10, ESV). Caring for one’s own family is directly commanded: “if anyone does not provide for his relatives … he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8, ESV). Paul and those who worked with him are given as examples of those who did not “eat anyone’s bread without paying for it … that [they] might not be a burden” (2Thes. 3:8 ESV).

Some Christians belittle work for profit, but this concept is utterly foreign to the Bible. Abraham is cited as an example of a rich man (Genesis 13:5). King Solomon, another hero, is rich enough to greatly impress another prominent queen (1 Kings 10:4-5). Jesus himself commended the accumulation of riches through entrepreneurial endeavors in two famous parables (Matthew 21:33-43, Luke 19:11-27). Of course, when we have done our best, we are exhorted to avoid greed and “be content with what we have” (Hebrews 13:5, ESV). We turn now to Luther.

Martin Luther’s approach destroys the distinction between ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’ vocations. In the movement Luther led, “Every kind of work, including what had heretofore been looked down upon – the work of peasants and craftsmen – is an occasion for priesthood, for exercising a holy service to God and to one’s neighbor”(Vieth 2002). When secular vocation had begun to be treated as a mere job, Luther’s own words were “An official who governs well pleases God. A mother who cares for her children, a father who goes to work, and a student who studies diligently are all servants of God” (Luther 1998 November 11). Each and every morally upright activity engaged in is an honor of God through service to our fellow men, whether for profit or not.

Each act of work is engaged in for the benefit of other people. God does not need our help, so our service is to others (Psalm 50:12). As Gene Edward Vieth, a Lutheran author, says:

God healed me. I was not feeling well, so I went to the doctor…in no time I was a lot better. But it was still God who healed me. He did it through the medical vocations…God fed me…with what the teenager working at the fast-food joint gave me…God clothed and sheltered me, with the help of my employer. God protected me, though I wish the highway patrolman hadn’t pulled me over. God gave me pleasure, thanks to the talents He gave that musician playing on my new CD. (Vieth 2002)
God works through us to serve others, and all work done for the benefit of others can be for God’s glory and for his pleasure. Of course, business must be engaged in honestly (Leviticus 19:36).

God does not guaranteeing our success in business. Luther wrote: “God tells us to do the best we can and leave the rest to him. He didn’t promise that everything we do would be successful” (Luther 1998). God is not a vending machine who automatically delivers to us what we pay for. Our true benefits are guaranteed in the world to come, heaven (Matthew 25:40, 46).

As for me, my true calling is to support manufacturing operations in the role of a Safety and Environmental Manager. The night before my last final exam in industrial engineering I was praying about what I would do after earning my undergraduate degree. I was reading through 1 Corinthians 15 as part of my prayer and devotional time when I ran across verse 26: “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” For the next few days, I could not get the verse out of my mind. How does an industrial engineer combat death?

I had taken and enjoyed a course in industrial safety in my undergraduate curriculum. I had been the financial means to go on to graduate school, and I took coursework in human factors engineering (ergonomics) to prepare for the role I felt called to. I have spent some time in the field of quality engineering, but my primary calling is safety and health.

To summarize my philosophy, we are to engage in honest work for the benefit of others and in obedience to God’s command. This honest, ordinary work is honored, and we are to be rewarded for our efforts. Profits earned through business that serves others are ours to enjoy. Meaningful work that benefits others is ours to pursue.

Reference List

Luther, M. (1998). In J. C. Galvin (Ed.) By faith alone: 365 devotional readings updated in today’s language (p. November 11, April 10).Iowa Falls, Iowa: World Bible Publishers.

Vieth, Jr. G. E. (2002). God at work: your Christian vocation in all of life, kindle edition (position 111, position 163-165). Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV) (2001), Wheaton, Illinois: Good News Publishers.


Election Day

Chuck Colson with some pointed words on today’s election:

So, have you voted yet? If so, well done. If not, as soon as this broadcast is over—or as soon as you’re off work—I want you to go and fulfill your Christian duty to be a good citizen and go vote.

And while you’re at it, call a few of your Christian friends. Find out if they have voted yet. If not, tell them you’re going, and you’ll be glad to stop by to pick them up…

And let me say this. The next time you hear someone tell you that Christians ought to take a vacation from politics, tell them to go fly a kite!

Listen, its our duty, as citizens of the Kingdom of God to be the best citizens in the society we live in. If your pastor no longer has the energy or courage to motivate his flock to speak out on public issues, maybe you can lovingly “buck him up.” Remind him or her that God’s people are to love their neighbors, to desire the best for them, to pursue the common good. And we can’t do that on the political sidelines.

And when a rabid secularist tells you to stop forcing your religion down his throat—simply correct him. You might say, “Excuse me, but who is suing the government to remove crosses from cemeteries? Who has filed lawsuits to remove ‘under God’ from the Pledge of Allegience? Who’s trying to tell doctors and nurses and pharmacists that they have to participate in medical procedures that violate their religious conscience? Who’s banning Bibles from schools?

In other words, who is forcing their point of view on whom?

Read the whole thing here. And go vote today! I just did.


Reformation Day (One Day Late)

We celebrated Reformation Day yesterday at our church. Some helpful links:

Justin Taylor's take on the subject is here.

Ligonier Ministries offers some great free resources here.

Desiring God points to Luther’s First Thesis and very last words here.

John Piper offers lessons from Martin Luther’s life and labor here.

Scotty Smith offers up a great Reformation Day prayer for “the gospel plus nothing” here.


It is Okay to Pass This Test

Kevin DeYoung shares that we can “examine [ourselves] to see if we are in the faith” and conclude that we are. An excerpt:

The thing we often miss with 2 Corinthians 13:5 is that Paul expects the Corinthians to pass the test…So go ahead and encourage one another to examine the heart. Let’s be honest and see if we are in the faith. Let’s test whether or not Christ is in us. But as we put our “in-Christness” to the test let’s not forget it’s okay to give ourselves a passing grade. To God be the glory.


J. P. Moreland on Hawking and Mlodinow’s The Grand Design

J. P. Moreland quickly and concisely refutes Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow here. A taste:

The fact that many people have been influenced by the claims of Hawking and Mlodinow is sad to me. Here’s why. In previous times when average people knew more philosophy, these claims would simply be laughable…


Are you sure Spurgeon is not alive today?

“[This] age extols no virtue so much as “liberality,” and condemns no vice so fiercely as bigotry, alas honesty. If you believe anything and hold it firmly, all the dogs will bark at you. Let them bark: they will have done when they are tired! You are responsible to God, and not to mortal men. Christ came into the world to bear witness to the truth, and he has sent you to do the same; take care that you do it, offend or please; for it is only by this process that the kingdom of Christ is to be set up in the world.” – C. H. Spurgeon


William Lane Craig’s Videos

Someone has a helpful index of Dr. Craig’s videos here.  Craig is one of the foremost Christian philosophers of our time, and an index of many of his video appearances is a great thing.

Faith and Good Works

I have often struggled with the relationship between faith and works in my own life. I can go from one extreme to the other. At one moment, I think I can live in sin and still expect to go to heaven. At another moment, I think I have to be good to earn God’s favor.

I have been helped by good teachers like John Gerstner, whose teaching is summarized in “A Primer on Roman Catholicism,” a short 44-page introduction to the topic.

Gerstner is very helpful in stating the distinction between reformation (read: Biblical) Christianity and Roman Catholicism. Gerstner’s basic explanation is given below in three formulas. The first two are wrong-headed. The last one is spot on. I have taken some liberties with the explanations.

Formula of Antinomianism (that means anti-law): FAITH – WORKS = JUSTIFICATION . This is often called ‘easy-believism.’ Walk forward at the invitation, mouth a prayer you don’t mean, and never doubt your salvation ever again despite the fact that there is no change whatsoever in your attitude toward sin. This idea is not Biblical. See James 1:22-27, 2:14-26.

Formula of Rome: FAITH + WORKS = JUSTIFICATION. Works are infused righteousness in the believer that are meritorious. These works, a result of God’s grace, earn salvation in a sense. God saves by faith, but he does not save those who are not inherently righteous. See Romans 4:1-8.

Formula of Reformers and the Bible: FAITH = JUSTIFICATION + WORKS. The faith that saves results in a heart set free from the guilt of sin. Guilt is what gives sin the power to rule our lives. When that guilt is removed, our hearts are motivated by gratitude and love to do good works. Good works do not play a part in earning justification, only Christ’s work does. Faith alone saves, but not a faith that is alone. See Romans 6, noting that the chapter is about things that are true, not things we are to make true.

The bottom line is: “Flee to Christ.” We are to abandon all hope in our works and run to Christ, Who is our righteousness. This kind of faith saves and gives hope. I abandon all hope in myself and rely completely on what Christ has done.

(See Dr. Gerstner explain part of this on a uTube video here.)


The Beginning

I have followed with interest much of what Paul Davies has written on the subject of science and the origins of the universe. He certainly writes many things which I do not agree with, but he is often eloquent and intelligent. Here’s a sample of him confronting the notion of an eternal universe:

One evasive tactic is to claim that the universe didn't have a beginning, that it has existed for all eternity. Unfortunately, there are many scientific reasons why this obvious idea is unsound. For starters, given an infinite amount of time, anything that can happen will already have happened, for if a physical process is likely to occur with a certain nonzero probability-however small-then given an infinite amount of time the process must occur, with probability one. By now, the universe should have reached some sort of final state in which all possible physical processes have run their course. Furthermore, you don't explain the existence of the universe by asserting that it has always existed. That is rather like saying that nobody wrote the Bible: it was just copied from earlier versions. Quite apart from all this, there is very good evidence that the universe did come into existence in a big bang, about fifteen billion years ago. The effects of that primeval explosion are clearly detectable today-in the fact that the universe is still expanding, and is filled with an afterglow of radiant heat.

I have found this line of reasoning to be good reason for faith. There are scientific and philosophical reasons to believe in a beginning and a Personal Creator.

It is not possible to move through an infinite series of moments of time. For example, if time extends forward out to infinity then it is obvious we will never reach the end of it. Reversing the process, if time extends infinitely into the past, we could never have moved through time from the past to get to this moment.

(For an physicists reading this: the common understanding of time is used here as an analogy. The line of reasoning in the next paragraph follows no matter how you see time.)

Similarly, we cannot expect that an infinite regress of finite causes exists either. That is, if we move backward from ourselves to the things that caused us, then backward to the things that caused them and so on, we must find something that did not have a beginning. Otherwise, we would never have moved through the infinite series of finite causes to get to ourselves. The infinite regression of discrete, physical things cannot exist in reality.

Whatever the first cause in the chain was, it must have always been (it is “eternal”) and it must have the power to bring about all we see in the universe (a part of “omnipotence”). We know something of God’s “eternal power and divine nature” from the world we live in.

We can know more than that from the line of argument. This eternal cause existed when nothing else did. Nothing outside of this first cause caused it to act or influenced it’s action. It had to have the power to act in and of itself. Only a being with the power of choice fits this picture. The power to choose without any outside influence is the hallmark of a Personal Being. This cause must have a personality in the primary sense of the word.

Evidence of rational design provides the rest of the picture of a Personal God. Further, we have historically reliable accounts of Christ’s life found in the New Testament that provide evidence that this Personal God is not adverse to interaction with His creation.

These chains of evidence and argument are enough to convince any unbiased person of the Christian God’s existence. The problem is that we are not, when left to ourselves, unbiased.


Faith and Reason

I heard some testimonies the other day that really stressed me out. Several people shared that Christianity implies the need for a “leap of faith,” or that “God’s existence cannot be proved because then faith would not be faith.” These ideas will not strengthen faith when Christians are confronted by worldly philosophy.

God's existence is as plain as the nose on our faces (Romans 1:18-19). Many, from St. Augustine to St. Thomas Aquinas to John Gerstner to Greg Bahnsen, have proven the faith beyond reasonable doubt. The problem is not the lack of evidence, but the suppression of it. The unbeliever does not want to submit to God, so he or she refuses to acknowledge the truth that is plain (Romans 1:21-23).

There is no need to fall back on a position that says God's existence is to be taken on faith, as if faith is something that goes beyond reason. The Christian faith is the wisdom of God that makes foolish the wisdom of this world (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). The Christian faith is "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Heb 11:1, ESV, emphasis mine).

My faith is something I am sure of, convinced of beyond any doubt.

Hawking and The Grand Design

There is a helpful set of links discussing Hawking and Mlondinow's The Grand Design here.


A Puritan Prayer - Repentance

Tim Challies posted the following prayer here.

O God of Grace,

You have imputed my sin to my substitute, and have imputed his righteousness to my soul, clothing me with a bridegroom’s robe, decking me with jewels of holiness. But in my Christian walk I am still in rags; my best prayers are stained with sin; my penitential tears are so much impurity; my confessions of wrong are so many aggravations of sin; my receiving the Spirit is tinctured with selfishness.

I need to repent of my repentance; I need my tears to be washed; I have no robe to bring to cover my sins, no loom to weave my own righteousness; I am always standing clothed in filthy garments, and by grace am always receiving change of raiment, for you always justify the ungodly; I am always going into the far country, and always returning home as a prodigal, always saying, “Father, forgive me,” and you are always bringing forth the best robe.

Every morning let me wear it, every evening return in it, go out to the day’s work in it, be married in it, be wound in death in it, stand before the great white throne in it, enter heaven in it shining as the sun.

Grant me never to lose sight of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, the exceeding righteousness of salvation, the exceeding glory of Christ, the exceeding beauty of holiness, the exceeding wonder of grace.


The Bible as God's Word

Some internet debate opponents accuse me of circular reasoning. The statement I am accused of making goes like this: The Bible claims to be God’s Word so it is God’s Word. That is “begging the question,” where the conclusion is true only if the premise is true. However, the actual argument put forth by Christians is linear and logical. In bullet point form, it goes like this:

• The Bible is good history (The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell).

• We can trust what the Bible says about Jesus because it is based on eyewitness testimony (Luke 1:1-4, 2 Peter 1:16, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Richard Baukham). The lives of these eyewitnesses were radically changed by what they saw (Jesus and the Victory of God by N, T,. Wright).

• Jesus claimed to be God. He said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). Thomas said, “My Lord and my God,” and Jesus did not correct him (John 20:26-31).

• Jesus worked miracles and proved Himself to be God (John 14: 9-11).

• Jesus affirmed the truth of God’s Word. He said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). He said, in prayer to God, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17).

• Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to help the apostles remember and truthfully relate the events in the Bible (John 16:13-15).

• We have a Bible we can trust. It gives us God’s truth and equips us for faith and service (2 Tim. 3:15-17).

The basic tenor of this argument is taken from two sources, When Skeptics Ask by Norman Geisler and Reason to Believe by R. C. Sproul.

As R. C. Sproul pointed out in a recent lecture, if we have established that the Bible is God’s Word, every other issue becomes a matter of “exegesis,” deciding what the Bible says on the issue at hand.

I would love to see your comments on the general approach, the specific points, or the things I have undoubtedly left out.


Thought Processes

How do we know what we know? How do we know what is true? How do we evaluate one idea against another? How do we interpret the information our senses provide us? What do we see? Hear? Touch? Smell? Taste?

These questions fascinate me. I first began to ask questions like this as I studied Human Factors Engineering (HFE) in graduate school. HFE is a branch of engineering that studies how a human being interacts with their environment, usually with respect to how we obtain information and how we perform work. We looked at basic types of mistakes that people make, the way we obtain information from our senses, the way we process that information, the way we decide to act, and the way we activate machine controls to act on that processed information. The field includes ergonomics, but it includes much more than that.

One of the things we learned right off the bat was that the way we interact with our environment is a process. Think of a black box with arrows going into the left side for what goes into the process (inputs) and arrows coming out of the right side for what comes out of the process (outputs). The box itself is a set of steps that are followed in sequence on the inputs to reach the outputs.

I had never thought of knowledge being the result, or output, of a process until those classes. I began to read widely on the subject, both within my field and outside it. I came across the branch of philosophy know as epistemology very quickly. According to Wikipedia, epistemology is “the branch of philosophy that studies the nature, methods, limitations, and validity of knowledge and belief.” This field fascinates me, and I plan to pursue an education in philosophy as my time and resources allow.

The thing that interests me at this point is the skepticism many philosophers have with regard to knowledge. Wikipedia defines philosophical skepticism as a field that “poses the question of whether knowledge, in the first place, is possible.” I find it amazing how many modern or post-modern philosophers do not believe we can find knowledge about the outside world at all. From Hume’s skepticism with regard to sense perception and empirical knowledge to Reid’s reaction to Hume, the field is amazing to me.

I do not want to go too far into the issue, but I do want to point out something. I have been taught to see knowledge and rational thought as processes, and I believe that they are. Any process that reaches an organized output requires someone to set it up and keep it going. From assembly lines to creation itself, processes require a processor. A process must be designed, or it does not lead to purposeful outcomes. That includes the process of knowledge and the process of thought.

As John M. Frame puts it here:
Apologists have often noted that we could not know the world at all unless it had been designed for knowledge. If the world were nothing but matter, motion, time, and chance, we would have no reason to think that the ideas in our heads told us anything about the real world. Only if a person had designed
the world to be known, and the human mind to know it, could knowledge be possible…without God the data of our experience suggesting order and causality are unintelligible…So if creation presupposes God, even the denial of creation presupposes him …

We cannot deny that logic reflects reality or that knowledge is possible. Any such denials are forced and temporary. R. C. Sproul and Norman Geisler both argue this persuasively, as if it needs to be argued. Frame puts it this way: “You can’t question logic without presupposing it; you can’t argue against the primacy of logic without presupposing it as primary.”

The process of logical thinking and the process of arriving at knowledge from our senses both require a designer. We need a designer who possesses creativity and intention. We need a designer that does not change his thinking himself. If his thinking process changed, then our process of logical thinking would change as well. Going back to Frame’s writings: “Logic, the laws of nature, and the laws of morality make no sense unless God is presupposed.”

We are left with what one internet apologist states well: “The Absolute God with an absolute mind, has conceived of the logical absolutes. They are a reflection of His mind.”

May we stand in awe of the unchanging, clear-thinking, purposeful, powerful God of the Bible!


Logic, Thought and Steven Hawking

Hawking and Mlodinow’s book The Grand Design is fascinating. It is a look into theoretical physics that I appreciate.

One comment on page 180 seems to be getting all of the press: “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to envoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.” This problimatic statement is seen as a major victory for atheism. But, I note the comment on page 181: “…perhaps the true miracle is that abstract considerations of logic lead to a unique theory that predicts and describes [the universe].”

Note the reference to logic.  The abstract laws of logic shape the way all of us think. Take one for instance: the law of non-contradiction.

It says that something can not be both A and Non-A at the same time, in the same relationship, and in the same sense.

This law cannot be denied. To deny it is to affirm it. If you say, “The law of non-contradiction does not apply,” you could mean, “The law of non-contradiction does indeed apply.” The meanings would be the same. Gordon H. Clark explains:

If the law of [non] contradiction is curbed, then a collection of letters, w-a-t-e-r, can mean not only sulfuric acid, but also at the same time and in the same sentence, tree, stone, Arcturus, the preposition because, and the cow jumped over the moon, ad infinitum…A word that means everything means nothing. (as quoted here)
This law of logic, which leads to all the others, is undeniable because to question it is to invoke it. That is the only way we can think.

How would an atheist account for these laws?

These abstract laws are not the result of observable behavior of objects or actions. We do not observe the laws of logic occurring in nature. They are not open for scientific exploration and study. We assume that logic’s laws work in order to evaluate scientific evidence. Using science to prove that logic works would be viciously circular.

They are not evolutionary in origin, either. Evolutionary processes governed by natural selection would not necessarily lead to the truth about our world. Natural selection would only encourage behavior that would lead to survival. We could not be certain our beliefs about the world were true, only that they let us live in any given situation. It does not matter whether we believe the tiger could eat us or that we believe that tigers look better from a distance, as long as we run fast, we live.

A Christian can account for the laws of logic by stating that they come from God. God has originated the laws of logic because He thinks logically. The laws of logic are a reflection of God’s mind. They do not change because the God whose thinking they reflect does not change. As Michael Butler puts it:

…the atheistic worldview does not comport with the principles of logic. If atheists were consistent with their worldview, they would give up on logic and rationality altogether. But since they do behave rationally (at least some of the time) this shows that they are borrowing capital from another worldview…Christianity allows for abstract and universal laws. Abstract because the Christian worldview teaches that more things exist than material objects. Thus it makes sense for there to be abstractions. Moreover, the universality of logic is possible because it is grounded in the character of God. God is by nature logical. And this all-powerful, all-knowing God orders all things…

I do not find an adequate explanation for logic and rational thought outside God. Literally, logical thinking drives me inescapably to God’s existence.
Hawking and Mlodinow also employ the laws of science to develop M-theory. The basic uniformity of nature, that things in the future will happen as they have in the past, is a requirement for any kind of knowledge based on scientific experimentation.  But how can we be sure?

I know the future will be basically consistent with the past with respect to physical laws because the God who upholds those laws does not change.

To return to Michael Butler:

That the uniformity of nature is compatible with the Christian worldview is easily proven ... God, who is providentially in control of all events, has revealed to us that we can count on regularities in the natural world. The Bible teaches that God providentially causes the harvest to come in due season, for example. Because of this regularity, we can be assured that scientific endeavors will be fruitful. Thus, far from presupposing the falsity of Christianity, science would be impossible without the truth of the Christian worldview.

How could an athiest be sure that nature will behave the same in the future as it has in the past?  I have no idea.
Hawking and Mlodinow, with their insistence on the use of the laws of logic and their mention of universal physical laws, have not weakened my faith in God. They have affirmed it.


Hawking and God

I checked a copy of The Grand Design by Hawking and Mlodinow out of the library yesterday. After all of the fuss around the internet and in the media, I had to have a look. (See articles here, here, here, and here.

From what I have read on the subject so far, I have two basic questions for Hawking and his proponents.

You have said that something comes from nothing. The cat is out of the bag. You have finally admitted your position. This is a violation of the most fundamental law of science: “Out of nothing, nothing comes.” Positing that the universe follows certain laws does not help because those laws describe the way the universe behaves. How do you have laws to describe what does not exist?

What if we grant your argument? What if the universe came into being because it follows strict natural laws? Where did those laws come from? The best explanation for laws like that is design. The universe behaves in a predictable fashion because God designed it that way.

It seems Hawking is left with more questions unanswered than answered.


Dort and Evangelism

I had occasion last night to read through parts of the Cannons of Dort for a Bible study class at my church. The Cannons of Dort were written by the Synod of Dort in 1618-19. They lay out the system of doctrine that has been known as ‘Five-point Calvinism’ ever since.

We are doing the Amazing Grace study, and one of the sections is Calvinism vs. Arminianism, which concentrates on the Synod of Dort (see here, here and here for information on this synod). I was once again struck by the way in which Dort defined the issues.

One of the bitterest criticisms of Five-point Calvinism that has been leveled has been the idea that it undermines evangelism. I find this criticism hard to justify in view of these statements:

Cannons of the Synod of Dort:

The First Main Point of Doctrine, Article 3: The Preaching of the Gospel

In order that people may be brought to faith, God mercifully sends proclaimers of this very joyful message to the people he wishes and at the time he wishes. By this ministry people are called to repentance and faith in Christ crucified. For how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without someone preaching? And how shall they preach unless they have been sent? (Rom. 10:14-15).

The Second Main Point of Doctrine, Article 5: The Mandate to Proclaim the Gospel to All

Moreover, it is the promise of the gospel that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be announced and declared without differentiation or discrimination to all nations and people, to whom God in his good pleasure sends the gospel.

God sends messengers to share the gospel, and we should be involved in that endeavor (Matthew 28:16-20). This gospel is to be shared to all without playing favorites or looking for the work of the Spirit in their hearts. Dort would have us to know that God regenerates the heart through the Word of God, through means.

The Third and Fourth Main Points of Doctrine, Article 17: God's Use of Means in Regeneration

Just as the almighty work of God by which he brings forth and sustains our natural life does not rule out but requires the use of means, by which God, according to his infinite wisdom and goodness, has wished to exercise his power, so also the aforementioned supernatural work of God by which he regenerates us in no way rules out or cancels the use of the gospel, which God in his great wisdom has appointed to be the seed of regeneration and the food of the soul...

Does Dort answer all of our questions? No, and they admit as much. But their statements should at least leave us with a question of our own.

Why do some insist that Calvinism stifles evangelism?

It cannot be from the statements or actions of Calvinists themselves (excluding the hyper-Calvinists). We have held the central role of evangelism since Calvin himself. A look at church history and the work of George Whitefield, Charles Spurgeon, William Cary and the like gives lie to the notion. And think of the work of modern Calvinists like John Piper and D. James Kennedy.

I, for one, would like to hear the case against Calvinists’ evangelism laid out carefully and critically in their own words. Do not tell me what the system supposedly requires. Tell me what the Calvinists have actually said or did.


Law and Gospel

Someone told me recently that the law is like a set of railroad tracks. The tracks provide no power for the train but the train must stay on the tracks in order to function. The law never gives any power to do what it commands. Only the gospel has power, as it were, to move the train. - Tullian Tchividjian

I have a hard time understanding the role of the gospel in my sanctification sometimes. I treat it like a safety net. When I fall, the gospel catches me and allows me the chance to try again. There is value in an approach like that, but I know there is more.

I am grateful for what Christ has done for me. This is a motive for good works. In that sense, the gospel provides motivation (power) to live the Christian life. But I have the feeling that there is more to it than that.

I have some more thinking to do…


Are Christians free to teach that homosexuality is wrong?

Today’s BreakPoint commentary from Chuck Colson describes an alarming situation:

When we wrote the Manhattan Declaration last fall, we warned about “the decline in respect for religious values in the media, the academy and political leadership.”

An example of this decline is on display currently in Georgia. Jennifer Keeton, who is a 24-year-old studying for a master’s degree in counseling at Augusta State University, has been threatened with expulsion. The grounds for the threatened expulsion are not poor grades or misconduct – they are Keeton’s beliefs.

Specifically, they are Keeton’s beliefs about the morality of homosexuality. In written assignments and classroom discussions, Keeton has said that people’s sexual conduct is “the result of accountable, personal choices,” and not “a state of being.”

These statements caused officials to question “her ability,” I’m quoting now, “to provide competent counseling to gay men and lesbians.” So they gave her a choice: participation in a re-education plan or expulsion.

Since when does a person have to agree with all points of particular psychological theories to work in the field of psychology? It is ridiculous to require blind obedience to theories of human development and behavior. The theories are wide and varied. The research is often incomplete. This is a travesty of justice and a violation of common sense.

Further information can be found here, here and here.

Incidentally, I had chosen not to sign the Manhattan Declaration earlier because it reminded me so much of the Evangelicals and Catholics Together document which I could not sign out of conscience. Catholics and Presbyterians differ too much on important doctrines like justification by faith alone for me to sign. I have now re-read the Manhattan Declaration and have signed the document. I commend it for your signature.


Real Evil

Evil is all around us. Some even try to use the existence of evil as an argument against God's existence.

I am not about to try to give a comprehensive explanation for how evil came to be. I do not claim to be the kind of person who can mount a theodicy of any consequence. God created men with the ability to sin and the ability not to sin, but I cannot reason beyond that. I do not know the “how”; I just know the “is.” I know that evil exists. I know evil is present. I know evil is real.

What must exist in order for evil and suffering to be truly wrong? Does not the existence of evil itself require a standard of good?

Should I just accept evil as a part of the way the universe works? Should I accept a view of evil based on social convention, or the DNA encoded in my cells? These things vary from one person to the next, but we do not find a definition of evil that changes greatly from person to person, place to place, or time to time. We always seem to have a notion of the way things ought to be.

I want a worldview that accounts for the reality of evil and suffering. I want it to be called evil, not just the absence of happiness that is a social construct of mere men. I know that this standard of good and evil must be real. Life makes no intuitive sense without it. The denial of it is impossible in view of the pain and suffering we see around us. I want cruelty to be profoundly wrong. For this, I need an absolute standard for what is right.

Christianity allows for this standard. It allows evil to be “evil.” Non-Christian views of the world do not allow for this. From Greg Bahnsen:
… it is crucial to the unbeliever's case against Christianity to be in a position to assert that there is evil in the world -- to point to something and have the right to evaluate it as an instance of evil … the problem of evil turns out to be, therefore, a problem for the unbeliever himself. In order to use the argument from evil against the Christian worldview, he must first be able to show that his judgments about the existence of evil are meaningful -- which is precisely what his unbelieving worldview is unable to do.
Knowing that evil “is,” that it exists, is enough to convince me that there is a God. We cannot define evil without defining good. Evil is in some way good’s opposite, a falling short of the good. Knowing that evil “is” leads us relentlessly to a God who is the definition of the good. Without Him, we would not know evil when we saw it.

Of course, Christianity does not stop there. It also offers hope for deliverance from evil. In the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ we find ultimate deliverance from “the last enemy,” death. (1 Corinthians 15:25-28). In Christ, we find deliverance from the power of evil and the forces that bring it about (Colossians 2:8-15). I have found Christ to be my life and my hope in the face of real, tangible evil I find all around me.


The Problem of Pain is Not the Problem

Ligonier Ministries is highlighting a primer by John H. Gerstner titled “The Problem of Pleasure” here. I am looking forward to the series.

Gerstner is quoted in the first article:

As long as there is sin, there can be no problem of pain. A good God, if He is omnipotent, would have to make the sinner suffer. … Troubled by the non-problem of pain, most people do not feel the real problem. The real difficulty is the problem of pleasure. While in a sinful world, pain is to be expected, and pleasure is not to be expected. We should be constantly amazed at the presence of pleasure in a world such as ours.

The problem is not, “Why do good people suffer?” There are no good people. The problem is “Why do bad people experience pleasure?” The old problem is turned on its ear.


Time Away

I’m taking some time off from blogging for a while. I am enrolled in a very demanding school. I’ll be back when I finish my next MBA class.
Here are some links to past posts that may prove to be helpful.


My favorite philosophical arguments for God’s existence are summarized here, here and here.

A series that features both philosophical arguments and personal anecdote is here. The are many reasons to accept Christianity which are personal and not philosophical.

Richard Dawkins’ arguments are treated here, here and here.

Christopher Hitchens’ argument from wish fulfillment is treated here.

Some of Victor Stenger’s arguments are treated here and here.

My personal testimony is told here and here.

The problem of evil is treated here, here and here.

The veracity of the Bible is partly addressed here.


Christ’s sacrifice and salvation are treated in many places, but the posts here, here and here are a start.

Good works are a necessary outcome of salvation, and this topic is treated here.

Rob Bell and parts of Velvet Elvis are addressed here and here.

Free will and Calvinism are addressed here and here.

N. T. Wright’s doctrine of salvation is discussed at length here.


A Noted Theologian Responds to a Caricature

"I once heard the president of a Presbyterian seminary declare, 'I am not a Calvinist because I do not believe that God brings some people, kicking and screaming against their wills, into the kingdom, while he excludes others from his kingdom who desperately want to be there.'

I was astonished when I heard these words. I did not think it possible that the president of a Presbyterian seminary could have such a gross misconception of his own church's theology. He was reciting a caricature which was as far away from Calvinism as one could get.

Calvinism does not teach and never has taught that God bring people kicking and screaming into the kingdom or has ever excluded anyone who wanted to be there. Remember that the cardinal point of the Reformed doctrine of predestination rests on the biblical teaching of man's spiritual death. Natural man does not want Christ. He will only want Christ if God plants a desire for Christ in his heart. Once that desire is planted, those who come to Christ do not come kicking and screaming against their wills. They come because they want to come. They now desire Jesus. They rush to the Saviour. The whole point of irresistible grace is that rebirth quickens someone to spiritual life in such a way that Jesus is now seen n his irresistible sweetness. Jesus is irresistible to those who have been made alive to the things of God. Every soul whose heart beats with the life of God within it longs for the living Christ. All whom the Father gives to Christ come to Christ (John 6:37)." 

R.C. Sproul


The Second Law of Thermo and Evolution

Great book and article here.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics,that entropy is increasing, points to increases in disorganization and decreases in usable energy in the universe. How does evolution explain that organized entities arise from disorganized matter? The arguments at the link are detailed and show that evolutionary explanations are inadequate.


Assurance For the Calvinist

How does a Calvinist know he is on the way to heaven? This post is about how one Calvinist sees things.

We can know that we are on the way to heaven if we have faith in Christ (John 6:47). This faith has two parts.

The first part of this faith is a confident assurance that what Jesus says about how to live life is true (John 3:12). This assurance brings us knowledge that we have not, even for one moment, lived free from sin. We have done things that Christ tells us not to do or failed to do things that Christ tells us to do. This knowledge of the right path leads to repentance, turning from our sins to God and His way of living.

This faith is also an assurance that Christ paid the penalty for our sins. Not just for sins in general, but for our sins in particular.

Christ is God who became a man. He laid aside His rights and abilities and came to earth. He lived a perfect life. This life is an example to us, but it also gives Him credit for a life lived in perfect obedience to God’s law. He then died on the cross for us. In some way know only to the God of all, Christ took the credit for our sins and suffered God’s infinite, terrible wrath for those sins. He became sin for us that we might become righteous. (2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 3:21-31)

Faith is the way we take credit for what Christ did for us. The credit for our sins is taken away from us because of His sacrifice, and we are given credit for Christ’s perfect life. The work is outside of us (“extra nos” in Latin). It’s not about what we do; it’s about what is done for us by Christ. When we have faith, the perfect God loves us perfectly because we are credited with perfection. When God looks at us, we are perfect because of what Christ did.

But how can we personally tell if he really believes? How can a person tell if his own faith is genuine? The most useful is Galatians 5:6. It says that what counts is “faith working through love.” Christians do love Christ. Not perfectly; sometimes not even well. R. C. Sproul puts it this way, “I am not asking whether we love this Christ perfectly; I am asking whether we love this God and this Christ at all” (Chosen by God, Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House, 1986, p. 166).

We sin, sometimes often. We even sin the same sin over and over. This sin clouds our thinking and convinces us we do not have real faith. But God does not desert us. He always comes to our aid. He helps us to look to Christ and what Christ did for us.

Maybe an old Baptist theologian can help:

The believer in Jesus, who has been regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit, will never utterly fall away from Christ and be lost. He is not free from temptation; he may, through neglect and failure to employ the means of grace, grieve the Holy Spirit and bring reproach on the himself and the people of

God. He will, however, turn away from his sins and return to his Christian duty; he will not be content in the wayward life. It is the mark of the child of God that he cannot be happy in a life of sin. (E. Y. Mullins, Baptist Beliefs, Chicago: The Judson Press, 1912, p. 53)

The God who saves Christians preserves their faith. He works in Christians to will and to do His will. He does not leave us in life’s battles without a champion.

True Christians will never abandon the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. True Christians can rest confident in their salvation.


A Helpful Review of Whosoever Will

Trevin Wax has a helpful review on the book I’m blogging through posted here.

He is more balanced than me.

[5/8/10: Here's a book review from someone who is much more sympathetic.]


Calvinism and Whosoever Will, Part 2: John 3:16

Continuing a Presbyterian layman’s critique of Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism by David L. Allen and Steve Lemke, I want to look into the verse most often quoted against Calvinism in Baptist circles. That verse is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him shall not perish, but have everlasting life” (KJV).

Jerry Vines uses this verse in a crass way against Calvinism on page 14: “The phrase ‘that whosoever believes” responds to five-point Calvinism, which says Christ died only for the elect.” Once again, a Baptist sets up a straw man of Calvinism to be knocked down by his relentless logic.

Calvinists believe that God loves the whole world (everyone) in some sense. We believe that the love God has for the world is the reason that God sent His only Son to die. We believe that Christ’s death was enough to pay the penalty for everyone’s sins such that anyone who does believe on Christ will be saved. That is all that John 3:16 teaches, nothing more.

There was nothing deficient in Christ’s death. The Eternal God-Man suffered infinitely in His soul. His death could pay for everyone’s sins. The offer that “whoever believes will not perish” is a real offer. This offer is evidence of God's love for you. 

If you do not know Christ, there is nothing outside of you keeping you from knowing Him and placing your faith in Him. God’s not forcing you to stay away! You are staying away because, in the final analysis, that is what you want to do. You have no excuse.

But the ‘want to’ is the key. All people want to stay away from Christ. We are all dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). We are God’s enemies by nature and by choice, and we cannot please God (Romans 8:7). We are all together become unprofitable, unable to do anything good (Romans 3:12). None of us can come to Christ unless the Father who sent Him grants it to us (John 6:44). In fact, we cannot even see His kingdom, much less enter it (John 3:3, note that this is the very chapter in which the verse in question resides).

The last time I checked, dead men do not do anything. Mortal enemies do not lay down their arms. Coming to Christ in faith is something good. One has to have the requisite authority and power to grant another one something. And you cannot purposefully walk through a door you cannot see / perceive. God must act to change the heart of a person before that person will want to repent and believe the gospel.

The verse does not say that Christ died for everyone. It says that whoever believes on Christ will not perish.

In and of itself, John 3:16 has nothing to say about Calvinism. It only teaches what Calvinists affirm.


Calvinism and Whosoever Will

I am starting a series of posts on the subject of Calvinism. My intent is to use the book Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism by David L. Allen and Steve Lemke as a foil. I will present future posts in the form of a dialogue between a Calvinist informed by various books and a non-Calvinist informed by the contents of the book in question.

This post is a brief summary of my position on the topic. I am not out to prove anything here so much as to present a summary of my beliefs. The arguments for and against my position will come as I move into the series.

I believe that human beings are born in a state of bondage to sin. We simply do not want to do good things from pure motives. We do not do good things because we do not want to.

We do not choose to place our faith in Christ because that would involve an admission that we are inadequate on our own to earn salvation and a submission to Christ’s authority as the Lord of our lives. We would have to repent and believe. We do not choose Christ on our own because we do not want to.

God chooses to change the hearts of some people to give them the desire to repent of their sins and believe the gospel. He made this choice for reasons unknown to us. He did not choose to change the hearts of people because of their faith or because of any other virtue He foresaw in them. His choice was made before the foundation of the world.

God does not choose to change the hearts of all men. He leaves some to themselves and the way they have chosen to live. That is not unjust. He was never obligated to change anyone’s heart. That He did so is a testimony to His love and grace.

Christ lived and died to pay the penalty for the sins of some people and to provide for them a righteousness that can be credited to their account. Christ’s death will not pay the penalty for everyone’s sins, else there would be no one in hell.

Sins cannot be paid for twice, once by Christ and again by a person’s suffering in hell. That would be unjust.

God changes a person’s heart to enable them to repent and believe through a process that involves convincing them intellectually, appealing to their emotions, and giving them new desires. We can expect that God would be able to do these things if He wants to because He can do whatever needs to be done to convince (omnipotence) and knows everything He needs to know to convince (omniscience). When God chooses to change someone’s heart, He is always successful.

When God changes a person’s heart, that change is forever. Those who have truly repented and placed their faith in Christ will never go back on their pledge.

This post is a start. This is an introduction to the series I intend.

I have other posts on election and Calvinism here.


Two More Articles for the Local Paper : B. B. Warfield

B. B. Warfield, Part 1
It was 1870.  Princeton College students gathered around the two combatants. One, a young man named Warfield, had drawn a cartoon depicting the other in what could be called “an exceedingly uncomplimentary picture.” The cartoon was circulated among the other students during a particularly boring lecture. The student saw the sketch of himself, and he was livid. After class, the fight was on. The amateurish fight earned Warfield a nickname: “The Pugilist.”

After a religious experience he was reluctant to speak of, Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (1851-1921) was ordained in 1879. He taught at Western Theological Seminary from 1878 until he went to Princeton Theological Seminary in 1887, where he served as Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology. In addition to teaching, his task was to familiarize himself with current writings and challenge those who departed from the confession and faith of the seminary. His fighting spirit had found a calling to wholeheartedly embrace.

He followed A. A. Hodge and maintained the conservative Calvinistic position of that great theologian. Some conservative Presbyterians consider him to be the last of the great Princeton Theologians. His many books include Biblical and Theological Studies, Calvin and Augustine, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, The Person and Work of Christ, Perfectionism, and Counterfeit Miracles.

Warfield’s primary emphasis was the authoritative view of the Bible, a view relentlessly attached in his time. He taught that the Bible was the ultimate authority for Christian belief and behavior and that it was sufficient in and of itself for that purpose. He contended for the truth of inerrancy, that the Bible is true in all that it says, in theology and history.

Due to his refined writing style and pointed rhetoric, Warfield’s pen was regarded as a “sword” by one contemporary. It was a refined and effective weapon in his hands.

Warfield’s theology was really just an expression of his confession: The Westminster Confession of Faith. He held that this statement of faith was merely a summary of the teachings of the Bible. To Warfield, the confession was not the ultimate authority, but it was a summary and expression of what the Bible teaches. But make no mistake about it: this was a confession worth fighting for.

“Warfield: The Person Behind the Theology,” Hugh Thomason Kerr, Annie Kinkead Warfield Lecture of 1982, Princeton Theological Seminary, ed. William O. Harris, 1995, 21.

B. B. Warfield, Part 2

As seen in last weeks’ article, Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (1851-1921) taught at Princeton Theological Seminary. Some conservative Presbyterians consider him to be the last of the great Princeton Theologians. He preached often for a professor, and often told stories in his sermons to illustrate his points.

In one story, a little Dutch boy had disobeyed his father and was playing to close to a windmill. He ignored the danger posed by the moving blades and gears. The boy found himself pulled from his feet as blows began to rain down on him. His feet off the ground; he closed his eyes and feared for his life.

The boy opened his eyes to find that he was not caught by the blade of the windmill, but by the hands of his father. He was receiving the discipline his father had threatened him with if he went to close to the mill. He learned the difference between falling into the wheel of a machine that had no care for him and falling into the hands of a father who loved him and did not want to see him seriously hurt. What a difference indeed.

Few people who heard the story knew just how well qualified Warfield was to make these comments.

Warfield had married Annie Pierce Kinkead when he was 25. On their honeymoon in Germany, Annie was struck by lightning. The accident left her paralyzed for the rest of her life.

Warfield cared for here for thirty-nine years until she died in 1915. He never went far from her side. He scheduled the classes he taught so he could return home to care for her when needed. The many books and articles he authored were penned in his home as he listened for his wife’s call.

Warfield’s trials were not the fault of his sins as the young boys were in the story, but he endured discipline nonetheless.

Romans 8:28 says, “All thing work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to his purpose.” What was Warfield’s comment on this verse after all of his trials?

The fundamental thought is the universal government of God. All that comes to you is under His controlling hand. The secondary thought is the favor of God to those that love him. If He governs all, then nothing but good can befall those to whom He would do good…He will so govern all things that we shall reap only good from all that befalls us.

Warfield trusted Himself to the strong hand of a loving father.


The Purifying Power of Living by Faith in Future Grace, John Piper. Sisters, Oregon: Multinoma Books, 1995, p. 176.

“Warfield: The Person Behind the Theology,” Hugh Thomason Kerr, Annie Kinkead Warfield Lecture of 1982, Princeton Theological Seminary, ed. William O. Harris, 1995, 21.

The Fundamentals, R. A. Torey and other, eds. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1958, 1990.

http://en.wikepedia.org/wiki/ B. B. Warfield


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