12/24/2011

Merry Christmas Star Trek Style

One of the most underrated benefits Christ brought to us during His earthly life is communication of God’s character and intentions.


Some quotes from Jesus:

“… I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.” John 8:28

“I speak of what I have seen with my Father…” John 8:38

“For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.” John 12:49

“Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. “ John 14:10

Christ came to tell us some important things.  Now for a story.

I sat downstairs in the University of Tennessee’s Student Center in a little café called “The Rafters.” I often went there to study. I find it easier to study with a lot of commotion around me. I don’t know why, I just do.

I could not help but overhear a lively conversation going on at the table next to mine. Several students were rather loudly discussing how space aliens might be able to communicate with us. It seemed funny to me that the science-fiction crazed undergraduates were spending so much time on the topic. Anything to avoid studying the calculus books that lay open on their table, I guess.

One student proclaimed to the others that the best way would be to do as the Federation had done in several episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation: make themselves look like the alien species in order to walk among them, learn their customs, and discover a way to accurately and easily communicate.

(I know many consider Star Trek examples to be in poor taste, but it is my blog and I will do what I want to. Besides, I am here quoting a bunch of undergraduates, and many of us know from our undergrad. years just how weird some of those conversations can get.)

I could not help but recall some of the things I had recently heard about Jesus, how He came to tell us of what God had done, what God would do, what God was like, and what God requires of us. I turned around and joined the conversation.

“What if God wanted to communicate with us? How would He do it?” I asked. Two of the five students rater loudly exclaimed that they did not believe God existed. The others just sat there, trying to determine why this strange person was butting in on their friendly talk with such a strange series of questions.

“But what if God existed and wanted to communicate with us?” I pressed. Some of the students almost mockingly chimed in with the standard voice from above or writing on the clouds.

“What if God used the same basic approach that the Federation used as you were just discussing? What if He became a man like us? Someone who looked like an ‘ordinary Joe’ and walked and talked like a common place human?” I was starting to enjoy this.

One guy spoke up,”That just might work.” This encouraged me to press on. I asked, “How would he prove to us that he was God in the flesh?” The same guy got a strange, excited look on his face. “By doing things only God could do,” he exclaimed.

I asked if I could join them at the table and was invited to come over. I began to talk to them about their church and religious backgrounds. I found that the group had by and larger rejected the Christianity they had grown up hearing about. I also learned that most of that Christianity was of a liberal, ‘warm and fuzzy’ variety that was almost antithetical to the fundamentalist Christianity of my raising.

Most seemed genuinely surprised as I explained to them that orthodox Christianity had taught for hundreds of years that God had done precisely that. God had become a man in the Person of Jesus Christ in order to communicate with us. The eternal Second Person of the Trinity had assumed human form.

In the Person of Christ, God had done things only God could do. He worked miracles, not the ‘touchy feely,’ Guideposts sort of miracles, but acts that worked completely contrary to nature. We discussed a few of those stories from their youth.

It turned into a 45-minute discussion of the basics of the Christian faith, from Christ’s birth to His perfect life lived for us, to His infinite suffering on our behalf on the cross. After three or four more conversations, one of those five people professed his faith in Christ. The last I heard of him, he had surrendered to the call to full time Christian ministry. This is one of my happier stories from my graduate school days.

So, I wish a merry Christmas to you and yours. May the joy that comes from Christ’s words flood your heart and soul.

And, “Live long and prosper.”

12/20/2011

Presbyterian

I have just read a post over at Kevin DeYoung’s blog that I find interesting. He laments some of the things that have bothered me most about the “Young, Restless, and Reformed” (YRR) movement. He takes careful aim at the one item that has bothered me most of late: the fact that many in this movement seem to downplay denominational ties. DeYoung writes:




…it’s better to live in a specific ecclesiastical room instead of in the hallway of evangelicalism…We need to learn to be good churchmen, investing time in the committees, assemblies, and machinery of the church. We need to publicly celebrate and defend important doctrinal distinctives (e.g., baptism, the millennium, liturgical norms) even as we love and respect those who disagree. We should delight in our own histories and confessions, while still rejoicing that our different vehicles are ultimately powered by the same engines of the Christian faith–justification, the authority of Scripture, substitutionary atonement, and the glory of our sovereign God.




I have found myself comfortable in the Presbyterian church, specifically the Presbyterian Church in America. I define Presbyterian as one who believes and follows the Westminster Standards.

Why did I settle here? I have always had a degree of respect for the Westminster Confession, from the first day I read it. Even when I disagreed with their answers, I liked the questions that they asked.

I have read the Bible through several times. I have read the Standards and their Scripture proofs many times over. The Standards make more sense of the Bible than anything I have ever read. I have respect for many for the other reformed confessions and catechisms, but I choose to make Westminster my own.

Does this mean that I will not participate with some of the inter-denominational efforts? Of course not. I have benefited greatly from The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Together for the Gospel, The White Horse Inn, and especially Ligonier Ministries.

I do not want to do without those ministries, but I do not rely upon then for expositional Bible teaching, the administration of the sacraments, and church discipline. For those things, I turn to my local PCA congregation. I cannot do without those things.

I hope that everyone within the YRR movement takes the step to join a church and actively participate in its life. Of course, I hope they join the PCA (That is the correct church after all.). But at least display colors and stand on a detailed confession (Please, not a confession that can be written upon a single sheet of double-spaced, 8.5 by 11 piece of paper. Get a real confession.).

Will I ever change denominations again? Possibly. I will follow the Bible’s teaching wherever it leads me. The Bible is my ultimate authority. Here I stand; I can do no other. But, I don’t think I’ll ever move again.

Join a particular church and submit to its authority. Support a particular denomination and follow its direction.

I pray YRR people will make the right choices.

12/19/2011

Plantinga on Evolution in Christianity Today

A recent Christianity Today article gives this quote from Alvin Plantinga:


…if you are a naturalist and think that we have come to be by evolutionary processes, then you will think that the main purpose of our cognitive processes, our mental faculties, is survival and reproductive fitness, not the production of true belief. Evolution doesn't give a rip about whether your beliefs are true. It only cares whether or not your actions are adaptive, whether they contribute to your fitness. From the point of view of evolution together with naturalism, you wouldn't expect that our faculties would be really adjusted to truth or aimed at truth. They would just be aimed at fitness.

But if this is true, if our minds are aimed at mere survival, not at truth, then it's not probable that our minds should be reliable—that is, produce an appropriate preponderance of true over false beliefs; and if that is so, then one who believes both naturalism and evolution should reject the thought that our minds are reliable. But that's a crippling position to be in. Nietzsche is among the people who have suggested this problem. Some contemporary philosophers—Thomas Nagel, for example—have voiced the same worry, and so did Darwin himself.

This is not the first time Plantinga has addressed evolution in Christianity Today. Other articles can be found here.

What I find most interesting about Plantinga’s argument is the way it reduces evolutionary naturalism to it logical end: the deconstruction of the human intellect.

Evolutionary naturalism is the belief that a natural process not guided by any outside personal force produced life in all its complexity. Naturalism is worth attacking on several fronts (see articles here, here and here), but Plantinga may have the best approach.

Without God we are truly lost.


(Other takes on the relevant arguments can be found here and here.)

11/21/2011

The Canons of Dort

I believe that the Canons of Dort are true. This is a statement that came out the Synod of Dort, held from 1618-1619. The Canons of Dort outline the system of theology known today as the “five points of Calvinism.” The problem I have with most “five-point Calvinists” is that the Canons of Dort contain much more than five points. Many explanations of the TULIP (total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace and the perseverance of the saints) are gross simplifications of the Canons of Dort.


[This is especially true of explanations given by those who oppose Calvinism. It is easier to knock down a straw man than it is to knock down a real man, and so it is easier to criticize an oversimplified Calvinism that the more robust form.]

Some of those who teach the “five points” leave out some of the quotes below:

This death of God's Son is the only and entirely complete sacrifice and satisfaction for sins; it is of infinite value and worth, more than sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world… This death is of such great value and worth for the reason that the person who suffered it is--as was necessary to be our Savior--not only a true and perfectly holy man, but also the only begotten Son of God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Another reason is that this death was accompanied by the experience of God's anger and curse, which we by our sins had fully deserved… Moreover, it is the promise of the gospel that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life… all who are called through the gospel are called seriously.

There is nothing lacking in the payment Christ made for sin. Therefore, when a person tells you that you can be assured of heaven if you repent of your sins and have faith in Christ, he is making a real offer on God’s behalf. There is nothing outside you that keeps you from repenting. If you turn from your sins and trust Christ’s sacrifice to pay for them, you can be saved (John 3:16). It is, in this sense, your choice, and it is a real choice.

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.
We do not look for evidence of seeking or evidence of a changed heart before we share the gospel. Everywhere we go we should share the good news of the kingdom (Mathew 28:18-20), and we should make special trips to as many places as possible (Acts 1:8).

…many who have been called through the gospel do not repent or believe in Christ but perish in unbelief is not because the sacrifice of Christ offered on the cross is deficient or insufficient, but because they themselves are at fault…But all who genuinely believe and are delivered and saved by Christ's death from their sins and from destruction receive this favor solely from God's grace--which he owes to no one--given to them in Christ from eternity… Therefore, all people are conceived in sin and are born children of wrath, unfit for any saving good, inclined to evil, dead in their sins, and slaves to sin; without the grace of the regenerating Holy Spirit they are neither willing nor able to return to God, to reform their distorted nature, or even to dispose themselves to such reform…There is, to be sure, a certain light of nature remaining in man after the fall, by virtue of which he retains some notions about God, natural things, and the difference between what is moral and immoral, and demonstrates a certain eagerness for virtue and for good outward behavior. But this light of nature is far from enabling man to come to a saving knowledge of God and conversion to him--so far, in fact, that man does not use it rightly even in matters of nature and society. Instead, in various ways he completely distorts this light, whatever its precise character, and suppresses it in unrighteousness. In doing so he renders himself without excuse before God.
God elects, but men are responsible. All of us would reject God’s command to repent and believe if God did not do a special work in our hearts. We need new hearts to repent, but when we do not repent, we are doing exactly what we want to do. We do what we want to do, and we are responsible for our choice.

What, therefore, neither the light of nature nor the law can do, God accomplishes by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the Word or the ministry of reconciliation. This is the gospel about the Messiah, through which it has pleased God to save believers, in both the Old and the New Testament.
God’s saves the elect through the preaching of the word (Romans 10:14-15). The Holy Spirit does not act to give men new hearts without this preaching.

In this life believers cannot fully understand the way [God’s giving of a new heart] occurs… this divine grace of [God’s giving of a new heart] does not act in people as if they were blocks and stones; nor does it abolish the will and its properties or coerce a reluctant will by force, but spiritually revives, heals, reforms, and--in a manner at once pleasing and powerful--bends it back.
The Canons of Dort allow for a doctrine of persuasive action. God does in some sense persuade men to embrace the truth. God does not coerce the will from outside a person. How this is done cannot be fully understood in this life.

...a ready and sincere obedience of the Spirit now begins to prevail where before the rebellion and resistance of the flesh were completely dominant. It is in this that the true and spiritual restoration and freedom of our will consists. Thus, if the marvelous Maker of every good thing were not dealing with us, man would have no hope of getting up from his fall by his free choice, by which he plunged himself into ruin when still standing upright.
God gives some people a new heart. Those people repent of their sins and believe the gospel. Those people also do good works as naturally as sparks fly upward. They are not perfect, but there is a change of heart that results in a new, better life (James 2:14-26).

This is not an exhaustive list of the finer points of the Synod of Dort, but it is a start. I encourage you to study and approve this great statement of faith.

The five points of Calvinism communicate truth, but that truth is incomplete without a careful explanation. All who discuss Calvinism, friend and foe alike, should remember this.

11/18/2011

Reformed?

Part of the problem is that the current revival in reformed theology is not actually a revival in Reformed theology. Adherence to five or, more frequently, four points of Calvinism is that which qualifies one as reformed these days and thus as part of the movement. Yet such adherence leaves massive and important areas of theology and church life undecided. A movement built on such minimal agreement is a movement whose strength and unity depends to a large degree on sleight of hand or at least on pretending that much else can be filed under `Agree to differ.' - Carl Trueman



I believe in the system of religion outlined in the Westminster Standards, the Westminster Confession of Faith and Larger and Shorter Catechisms. Those detailed statements of the Christian faith ask and answer many questions about the Bible and theology. All of the things mentioned in them are important.

Relatively few of the so-called “new Calvinists” hold to a robust statement of faith such as this one. Some “new Calvinists’” statement of faith can be written on one double-spaced, 8.5 by 11 sheet of paper.

I do not believe that a person with a simplified statement of faith is truly "reformed."

11/17/2011

Another Article for My Local Paper

This is the third in a series of articles I have written for our local paper.

The Heidelberg Catechism: Question One and Two


In the last two weeks, our articles introduced the idea of a catechism and introduced The Heidelberg Catechism. This week, we will discuss the first of the fifty-two sections of the catechism. This section contains questions one and two.

The first question reads:

“What is your only comfort in life and in death? That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.”

Christians belong to Christ, whose kingdom knows no end (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Romans 14:7-9, Titus 2:14). Christ has saved His people by dying for their sins (1 Peter 1:18-19, I John 1:7-9). Christ makes it so Christians do not have to live in sin any longer (John 8:34-36, Hebrews 2:14-15, I John 3:1-11). Nothing that happens to us is outside of the care of Christ, our friend (Matthew 10:29-31, Luke 21:16-18). Christ ensures the Christian that everything he or she goes through ultimately leads only to salvation and joy (Romans 8:28). Christ makes us want to follow Him with joy in our hearts (Romans 8:15-16, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, 2 Corinthians 5:5, Ephesians 1:13-14). Christ Himself is our great comfort (Romans 8:1-17).

This answer is a great summary of the entire catechism. This answer is great comfort for a Christian facing persecution, suffering, or death.

Question two gives us the outline of the catechism: “What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort? Three things: first, how great my sin and misery are; second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.” In three words, the three sections of the catechism are guilt, grace, and gratitude.

As Kevin DeYoung says in his book The Good News We Almost Forgot, “The rest of the catechism will follow this three-fold outline. First, we understand our sin. Then we understand salvation. And finally we understand how we are sanctified to serve.” That is a great summary of the Christian faith.

Join us next week as we continue to look at The Heidelberg Catechism.

11/11/2011

Another Article for My Local Paper

What is The Heidelberg Catechism?


Last week’s article gave a brief definition of a catechism and an introduction to a catechism’s use in the church. We learned that catechisms are “structure statements of faith written in the form of questions and answers.” This week we will look at the background and history of a reformation catechism respected by several different denominations, The Heidelberg Catechism.

The Heidelberg Catechism was composed in Heidelberg, Germany, in the late 1500’s. Elector Frederick III, who ruled the German province, which contained the city of Heidelberg, had the catechism written in order to bring unity between the various religious groups under his rule.

Many believe Zacharius Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus were coauthors of the new catechism, but the Elector wrote that the catechism was written “with the advice and cooperation of our entire theological faculty in this place, and of all superintendents and distinguished servants of the church." It was most certainly a group effort.

The church in Heidelberg approved and adopted the catechism at a meeting in January of 1563. The churches soon divided the catechism into fifty-two sections, called “Lord’s Days.” This was so one Lord's Day could be explained in preaching and teaching each Sunday of the year.

Why should we take the time to study something written so long ago? Mark Noll, in his excellent work, Confessions and Catechisms of the Reformation, puts it like this: “…prospects for thoughtful Christian faith …are seriously damaged if in the confusions of our own day we refuse to listen to these voices from the past.” We suffer greatly when we ignore great thinkers from the past.

The Heidelberg Catechism is divided into three sections: guilt, grace and gratitude. These three sections outline the Christian faith.

All men and women are guilty of sinning against a Holy God and stand condemned by Him. This does not refer to feelings of guilt, but to real guilt. We feel guilty because we are guilty.

God’s grace can save us through the Person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ if we have faith in Him. Christ’s perfect life and death for our sins on the cross purchase a place in heaven for those who trust Him.

Those who have true faith then live holy lives out of gratitude for what Christ has done for them. We do good works because we have eternal life, not to earn eternal life.

The catechism explains The Apostle’s Creed, the Ten Commandments, and The Lord’s Prayer, in that order. Following God’s commands and praying as our Lord taught us come in the section on gratitude. Placing the commandments and the prayer in the last section emphasizes the fact that God’s laws apply to the Christian. Christians are still obligated to follow them.

Protestants wrote this great catechism. It is a product of the Protestant Reformation in all its glory. It tells of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone, as described in Scripture alone, and to the glory of God alone. The many Scripture references contained in The Heidelberg Catechism point to the Bible as our authority.

Next week we will turn our attention to the first question and answer of The Heidelberg Catechism. Join us on our journey through this great work.

Two books that will be helpful in our journey include The Good News We Almost Forgot by Kevin DeYoung and The Heidelberg Catechism: A Study Guide by G. I. Williamson. The catechism itself can be found at either this link or this one

11/09/2011

Grace Presbyterian In The News

Our church has been running a series of newpaper articles in our local paper that I have mentioned here before.  We now have a web page where people can leave comments on those articles.  Just follow this link.

Another Article for my Local Paper

Below is a re-print of an article I wrote recently for our local paper.  It is an intorduction to a series our church and some special guests are doing on the Heidelburg Catechim.


What is a Catechism?


Last week’s article finished Soli Deo Gloria’s look at J. I. Packer’s book Knowing God. We will now begin our next series of articles dealing with The Heidelberg Catechism. This week’s article will define the word “catechism” (pronounced ka-tə-ki-zəm) and look at how the modern Christian church can use catechisms for education in Christian doctrine.

Almost all Christian denominations have developed written statements of faith to express what they believe the Bible teaches to be true. These statements of faith have included The Apostle’s Creed, The Nicene Creed, The Westminster Confession of Faith, The Articles of Religion of The Methodist Church, The New Hampshire Baptist Statement of Faith, The Declaration of Faith of The Church of God, and the modern Baptist Faith and Message. These written documents have played a vital role in defining and explaining the facts a denomination believes.

Mark Noll, in his book Confessions and Catechisms of the Reformation, defines catechisms as “structured statements of faith written in the form of questions and answers.” This question and answer format makes a catechism easy to remember and easy to learn.

Children and adults can learn the answers to common questions by reading a catechism. Authors of catechisms try to pick the questions people ask about the Christian faith that are most important. The authors then write the answers to these questions in memorable form so that a person can learn them either by content or by heart. Scripture references are placed in the answers to each question.

The best catechisms have the most memorable wording. Many can quote the first question and answer from the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” This is a valuable truth to learn to find purpose and meaning in life, and the catechism states it simply and memorably.

Typically, the questions and answers are learned and discussed a few at a time. This process can be over a period of weeks, months, or years. Christians for centuries have called this process “catechesis” or being “catechized.”

Many current-day pastors and teachers lament the fact that children raised in the Christian church leave the faith behind after high school. The eighteen-year-old turns his or her back on the faith and never looks over his shoulder.

But what if that faith has been drilled into the mind of a child from a very early age by both parents and preachers? What if they had a firm grasp of the basic beliefs of Christianity and the basics of Christian ethics?

Adults need to be well grounded in the truths of the Bible to face the many challenges and temptations our modern world brings. They too must know right beliefs and the difference between right and wrong. Besides, adults who love their children cannot teach them what they do not already know.

Catechisms typically contain questions and answers about who Christ is, what He did, and how we can be united to Him in faith. They also contain explanations of the Ten Commandments and Christian standards of right and wrong. This doctrine is solid information that the Holy Spirit can use to change the hearts and minds of young people who face life on their own. This sound truth can give an adult something to shape the remainder of his or her life.

Next week we will read about the history of one of the most beloved catechisms written by reformation-era Protestantism: The Heidelberg Catechism. Please join us as we read and discuss each question of this time-honored catechism


More to come here.

Write to Understand

Folow this link to a great post containing quotes from famous theologians on writing.

Write to Understand

10/28/2011

Do Our Worship Songs Have Room for Lament?

Every person who is responsible to pick songs for corporate worship should read the essay that Justin Taylor quotes at his blog. I reprint Taylor’s quote below.



From Carl Trueman, “What Can Miserable Christians Sing?” in The Wages of Spin (pp. 159-160):

Perhaps . . . [the Western church] has drunk so deeply at the well of modern Western materialism that it simply does not know what to do with such cries and regards them as little short of embarrassing.

A diet of unremittingly jolly choruses and hymns inevitably creates an unrealistic horizon of expectation which sees the normative Christian life as one long triumphalist street party—a theologically incorrect and a pastorally disastrous scenario in a world of broken individuals.

Has an unconscious belief that Christianity is—or at least should be—all about health, wealth, and happiness corrupted the content of our worship?

. . . In the psalms, God has given the church a language which allows it to express even the deepest agonies of the human soul in the context of worship.

Does our contemporary language of worship reflect the horizon of the expectation regarding the believer’s experience which the psalter proposes as normative?

If not, why not?

Is it because the comfortable values of Western middle-class consumerism have silently infiltrated the church and made us consider such cries irrelevant, embarrassing, and signs of abject failure?

Christians are often required to suffer pain for the sake of the glory of God. I can see this pain on the faces of people in our corporate worship times at Grace Presbyterian Church. As a person tasked with the selection of hymns and songs for our congregation, I try to pick songs that allow for lament and provide encouragement in pain. For example, “God Moves In a Mysterious Way.” I find most songs like this to have been written long ago.

However, as Trueman suggests above, the Psalms are the best way to express all of the emotions God’s people have, the highs and the lows, the negatives and the positives. I hope to introduce the singing of the Psalms in our formal worship over the next few months

10/20/2011

Who Dies in the Faith?

Craig Blomberg over at the Denver Seminary web page has an interesting article at the link below on the one statistic churches never seem to track: how many die in their faith. If we believe in the old-fashioned doctrine of perseverance of the saints, we know that only those who carry on to the end truly prove their salvation to be genuine. So how many converts leave the faith before they die? Those who do prove their salvation was not real in the first place.

Denver Seminary Blog

9/22/2011

The Last Two Articles I Published On "Knowing God"

These are the last two articles I wrote for my local paper on J. I. Packer's book Knowing God.  These were written for a series of articles on Packer's book by members of my church.  The other articles can be found at this link.

Knowing God, Chapter Nineteen: Sons of God, Part One by John K. Jones


Last week we looked at what J. I. Packer calls the heart of the gospel, propitiation. Propitiation is the fact that “The wrath of God against us, both present and to come, has been quenched.” In essence, this Scripture means that the wrath we deserve due to our sin was transferred to Christ. If you have repented of your sin and placed your faith in Christ, God is not mad at you anymore.

This week we will briefly look at one outcome related to propitiation: adoption. The idea here is that God has become the Father of those who place their trust in Him. As John 1:12 says, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

Packer defines the very essence of the message of the New Testament in three words: “adoption through propitiation.” He says, “…I do not expect ever to meet a richer or more pregnant summary of the gospel than that.” In “adoption through propitiation,” not only is God no longer angry with us, God has given us a place in the family. We are children of God if we have trusted Christ to pay the penalty for our sins.

Even though, as Packer says, “We are not fit for a place in God’s family; the idea of his loving and exalting us sinners as he loves and has exalted the Lord Jesus sound ludicrous and wild,” Yet, God brings us into his family anyway.

I am an adoptive parent. A teacher in a Sunday School class asked me one time whether God could love us as much as he loves Christ. I responded by telling them of my love for my adopted daughter. “Her birth certificate has mine and my wife’s name on it. She is my child, and nothing will ever change that.”

Our spiritual birth certificate has God the Father’s name on it. We are his children. Let us never forget, and let us live to honor our Father.

Byline: John K. Jones is a Deacon at Grace Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Troy where he attends with his family.





Knowing God, Chapter Nineteen: Sons of God, Part Two by John K. Jones

In our last article, we looked at the reason for and the permanence of our adoption in Christ. If we have true faith in Christ, God is our Father in heaven. This week we will look briefly at some of what that means.

As J. I. Packer says in Chapter Nineteen of Knowing God, The prospect before the adopted children of God is an eternity of love.” Our adoption is permanent, and it depends on the love of God for us and the grace of God to save us. God will not let us go. We are his children.

We can also have hope. Christianity is “a faith that looks forward.” For Christians, “the best is always yet to be.” We have the hope of an everlasting inheritance in Christ. During the time Christ was alive, parents adopted children to obtain an heir to whom parents could bequeath their earthly goods. In the same way, our adoption as God’s children guarantees our inheritance from him (Romans 8:16-17).

God’s wealth is immeasurable. As his adoptive children, we have limitless hope in an ideal heavenly Father.

Certain prominent atheists have ridiculed Christianity for being ‘pie in the sky by and by.’ Their idea is that Christianity is mere “wish fulfillment.” We could ask them if they wish that there were no God who would judge them. We could point out that their approach could be wish fulfillment just as they accuse ours of being. The idea cuts both ways. But Christianity is ‘pie in the sky by and by,’ and the ‘pie’ tastes great.

The Holy Spirit is given to us as “the Spirit of adoption” (Romans 8:15). The Spirit comes into our lives at the moment we trust Jesus, and there is nothing more of his presence that we can expect to get in a later second blessing or acceptance of Christ as Lord.

The Holy Spirit also helps us understand and learn about our relationship with God in Christ. This realization leads to true holiness of life. We have “an abiding obligation to keep the law, as the means of pleasing [our] newfound Father.” As his children, we feel joy when we please our Father.

Packer tells us to think often of the facts: “I am a child of God. God is my Father; Heaven is my home; every day is one day nearer. My Savior is my brother; every Christian is my brother too.” Packer tells us to repeat these things to ourselves “over and over.”

What joy the Father has given to us! We can be sons and daughters of God.

9/19/2011

Do we help or hurt?

Steve Saint, of “End of The Spear” fame, has written a thought-provoking article for “Mission Frontiers” magazine this month that is found at this link. The article questions some approaches used to aid the “poor.”


Here is a section of the article:

Financial help that does not develop sustainable, local, financial self-sufficiency is much more likely to create poverty than it is to meet real needs. Until we realize that we can’t overcome poverty with handouts, we will never be much help in completing Christ’s Great Commission.

Can we do more damage by “helping” than by leaving alone?

9/15/2011

The Next Article for My Local Paper on "Knowing God"

This is the next article amoung four I have recently written for my local paper.


Knowing God, Chapter Fourteen: God the Judge by John K. Jones


Over the last two articles, we have looked in turn on God’s love and His grace. We have seen the beauty of Exodus 34:6-7: "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” This article turns to the second part of verse 7: “Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished.” We too often revel in God’s love and grace while giving no thought to His justice.

However, the Bible shows everywhere the terrible face of God as judge. As J. I. Packer notes in Chapter 14 of Knowing God, God judged Adam and Eve (Genesis 3), the entire world in Noah’s day (Genesis 6-8), Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18-19), Egypt (Exodus 7-12), those who worshiped the golden calf (Leviticus 10:1-3), and even His chosen people, Israel (Judges 2:1-15, 3:5-8, 4:1-3; 2 Kings 17, 32:15-17, 23:26-27). The Bible gives many more examples.

God is serious about judgment. No one ‘gets a pass.’ As Packer says, “…the heart of the justice which expresses God’s nature is retribution, the rendering to persons what they have deserved; for this is the essence of the judge’s task.” This judgment is “a revelation of the moral character of God, and an imparting of moral significance to human life.” As even Immanuel Kant admitted, we see in God’s judgment the eternal value of moral choices because of the punishments and rewards that God gives.

We all, in ourselves, are without hope. God’s standard for right behavior is perfection. Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48). And we all fall far short of this standard (Romans 3:9-20). But there is hope from outside of us, from someone else.

But God, the just judge, became a man in the Person of Jesus Christ (John 1:1-13). He came to earth, lived a perfect life, and died a death He did not deserve on the cross for the sins of His people. In the clearest example of God’s judgment in the Bible, Christ was judged for sin (Galatians 3:10-14). Christ was judged for those who place their faith in Him. He is our hope.

What are we to do since we are faced with God’s judgment? Packer writes, ”Call on the coming Judge to be your present Savior…Run from him now and you will meet him as Judge then-and without hope. Seek him now, and you will find him … and you will then discover that you are looking forward to that future meeting with joy, knowing that there is now “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus “ (Romans 8:1).”

Flee to Christ! Turn from your sin and turn to Him in simple trust that He paid the penalty for your sin. Turn the face of your Judge into the face of your Savior (John 5: 22-23).

 
[This is part of a series of acrticles the members of my church are publishing on Packer's famous book.  The other articles in this series can be found at this link.]

9/12/2011

An Article for my Local Paper - "Knowing God," Chapter Five

I have been helping the members of my church write a series of articles for our local paper on J. I. Packer's Knowing God.  I thought I would post the articles I have written here on "Fear and Trembling."


Knowing God, Chapter Five: God Incarnate by John K. Jones


What is light? What is matter? Science has long been puzzled by questions like these because, when we perform experiments, both light and the constituencies of matter behave like a particle some of the time and a wave some of the time. Particles are things that move in a straight line like small billiard balls. Waves are spread-out things that expand like ripples in a pond. In theory, something cannot be both. Science has its mysteries.

As J. I. Packer points out in Chapter 5 of Knowing God, Christianity has mysteries too. The supreme mystery of Christianity is the idea that God became a man to walk, talk, eat, sleep, hunger, thirst, hurt, and be all that it means to be human on this earth (Hebrews 2:17-18, 4:15-16).

Some try to deny that the Bible teaches that Christ was God and man, but they ‘run up against a brick wall’ erected by the First Chapter of John’s Gospel. Packer outlines seven things this chapter teaches us about Christ (The passages from the Bible are in italics.):

1.
Christ is eternal. “In the beginning was the Word…” Packer says Christ did not have a beginning, that, “when other things began, he – was.”

2. Christ is a personality separate from God the Father. “And the Word was with God…” Christ has his own distinct personality.

3. Christ possessed deity. “And the Word was God…” Christ is one with God the Father in being. Packer writes, “The mystery with which this verse confronts us is thus the mystery of personal distinctions within the unity of the Godhead.” God is one in being, but three in Persons.

4. Christ created. “Through him all things were made…” Packer writes, “All that was made was made through him.”

5. Christ is animating. “In him was life…” Packer states, “Here is the Bible answer to the problem of the origin and continuance of life, in all its forms: life is given and maintained by the Word.”

6. Christ was revealing. “And that life was the light of men…” All of us learn of God from the life and teachings of Christ.

7. Christ was the Word incarnate. “The Word became flesh…” Packer says the Christian’s message “rests on the staggering fact that the child in the manger was God.”


Christ laid aside his glory and submitted himself to God the Father ultimately so that he could die on the cross for our sins and rise from the dead (Philippians 2:5-11). Christ’s resurrection shows us that God accepted his death on our behalf.

Packer says Christ did not lay aside his “power and attributes” as God, instead he laid aside his “divine glory and dignity.” Yet Christ submitted to his Father’s will so perfectly that he did not “do all the things he could have done, because certain things were not his father’s will,” nor did he consciously know all the he might have known,” but only what the Father “willed him to know” (Matthew 26:53-54; Mark 5:30, 13:32).

This is the true spirit of Christmas: that we should lay aside our own glory for the good of others. “ You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9, NIV).


[The other articles in this series can be found at this link.]

9/10/2011

9/11

I wanted to say something about the 9/11 tragedy, but I realized that I had already said everything I wanted to at this post.

8/30/2011

Almost Done With My MBA

I have one last class to go to earn my MBA from Union University, but this last class is very difficult. Hence, I have not posted much lately. It will be a few weeks before I post again.


Here are some links of interest:

A prayer of repentance I have had to pray allot lately can be found here. I have had some battles with some old habits I thought I had broken.

A long debate between a Muslim apologist and myself can be found here (Warning: It is a long debate.).

Justin Taylor posts some parables here that I had previously posted here. Nice to know I have good taste.

A friend of mine talks about his journey from atheism to Christianity here.

Norman Geisler comments on what it would be like to have loved ones in hell at this link.

A good reminder that some powerful truths can be contained in part of a verse at this link (when taken in context, of course).

Follow a link here to see John H. Gerstner remind us of the necessity of justification by faith alone for the individual as well as the church.



I will see you all soon.

8/09/2011

Tchividjian on Vocation

Tullian Tchividjian has a great article on “Staying Where You Are” in relation to a Christian’s vocation here.

7/23/2011

Some Quotes Deserve a Post of Their Own

“If God had perceived that our greatest need was economic, he would have sent an economist. If he had perceived that our greatest need was entertainment, he would have sent us a comedian or an artist. If God had perceived that our greatest need was political stability, he would have sent us a politician. If he had perceived that our greatest need was health, he would have sent us a doctor.

But he perceived that our greatest need involved our sin, our alienation from him, our profound rebellion, our death; and he sent us a Savior.” — D. A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation (Grand Rapids, Mi.:Baker Books, 1992)

7/16/2011

Bad Things and Good People

"Why do bad things happen to good people? That only happened once, and He volunteered." - R.C. Sproul


“Why do bad things happen to good people” as a philosophical problem for Christianity assumes the presence of “good people.” There simply are none in the world today. Only Jesus Christ was a truly good person, and, as Sproul points out above, He volunteered for the duty.

Like it or not, no one is free from sin (Romans 5:12-21). Since we are not, we should suffer. As R. C. Sproul points out above and John Gerstner pointed out in “The Problem of Pleasure,” we do not deserve anything but punishment. Earthquakes, tornados, floods, tsunamis, and other natural disasters are what we deserve.



[This is a brief note on one approach to the philosophical problem of natural evil. This kind of thinking does no good to persons who are wrestling with the personal problem of evil. The personal problem of evil is what you experience when you go through it yourself. Please see this post and this post for some different approaches if you find yourself suffering.]

5/28/2011

Christ: Revealing God and Reconciling His People to Him

One problem in theology especially confuses me. This is not a big surprise. I am not a professional theologian and have no formal seminary training. Yet, theology is a passion for me because I know a little of what God is like, and I know how little of God’s character I reflect. In this post, I will set up the problem and suggest one possible solution.


God is holy. This means He is separate and different from me, primarily in the fact that He is completely without sin or sinful desires. My understanding of God’s holiness comes mainly from reading and studying the life of Jesus.

I can see out into the expanse of Christ’s life by looking through the window provided in the New Testament of the Bible. I have read this collection of 27 books many times.

I have rarely questioned whether these records were true, at first because of the fact that the people I respected held the New Testament to be God’s Word and without error. Later I had the opportunity to explore the evidence for the basic truthfulness of the New Testament documents for myself. I accepted The New Testament as true for my own reasons without depending on the testimony of others. (For a summary of some of that evidence, please see this link.)

The New Testament presents a terrifying picture of what holiness because it shows us the Person of Christ. Christ shows knowledge beyond that expected of a human (John 1:48-49). He heals the sick (Matt. 15:29-31). He stops the wind and the waves (Mark 4:35-41). He raises the dead (John 11:38-44). He teaches the most strict version of morality I have seen, including actions and attitudes of the heart (Matt. 5-7, Mark 7:14-23). He accepts worship (Matt. 16:16-17, Luke 5:8, John 9:38, John 20:28-29). Moreover, and certainly not least, He rose from the dead Himself (1 Cor. 15:1-8). (For scholars' defenses of the resurrection, please see this link.)

Christ claimed to be God (John 8:58, John 10:30). He convinced a group of Jewish monotheists that He was God in the Flesh (Phil. 2:5-11). (For a scholar’s view of reasons to believe Jesus is God, see this link.)

Why is this so scary? He created the world (John 1:1-5) and holds it together (Col. 1:16-17). As my creator, He has the right to tell me what to do, and He requires perfect obedience (Matt. 5:48). He teaches that sin requires an eternal punishment (Mark 9:42-50).

In the words of Phillip Yancey, He is resurrected and “out there running around loose somewhere,” capable of upending all of my plans and dreams at any time. And He has reason to do exactly that in view of my sin.

However, the story does not end there. We see Christ promising to reconcile people to God by taking away their sins (Matt. 20:28, Luke 24:46-49, John 3:10-21, John 14:6-7). We learn of the marvelous chance to take credit for what He has done for us by placing our trust in Him (Luke 18:9-14). We see the picture of God’s action: “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” by making “[Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21).

I am confused about this one thing: How could a God so perfect and holy love me, a professional sinner?

The atonement, what Christ did for us on the cross, is a partial explanation for that love. The idea is that God could love His people because He sees their sin as paid for by Christ's suffering on the cross. He sees them as having Christ’s righteousness credited to their account.

Many within the church obscure this marvelous, incomprehensible love of a holy God. I read books that treat the atonement as a kind of overarching story without explaining any of the particulars. I read and hear sermons that hide God’s holiness, His requirements, and man’s sinfulness under a mountain of practical advice and modern psychological methods. I find Sunday School materials that omit God’s requirements and holy nature while pointing to the example of God’s love, leaving much of God’s character unexpressed. I find intellectuals who bury the simplicity of the gospel under a mountain of technical jargon and obtuse arguments over fine points of archaic “theories” that have often been rejected by the church in most of history.

Only Christianity even begins to explain God’s holiness and God’s love at the same time. Why do we hide our uniqueness under the mundane?

We see a light that blinds us in its intensity and permanently changes the way we see. Why do we hide this light, the very light of the world, under a bushel? Why do we hide the very words that could gain a hearing from the world and the cultures we live in?

God, have mercy on us because of Christ. Grant that we would be overwhelmed with your claims and your actions. Give us a change of heart that overflows into the lives of those around us.

5/03/2011

The Face of Terror

Osama Bin laden is dead. Since the rest of the internet is buzzing with opinions on that death, I thought I would weigh in.


First, this is not the end of global terrorism. Like the Hydra of old, when one head is chopped off, two more take its place. We still need diligence in our fight against global terror. U. S. and allied Armed Forces still need our prayers. We still need a strong military and intelligence community. We have not yet cut off the Hydra’s immortal head.

Second, the way to get to the ‘heart of the matter’ is with Christian missionary efforts. We must reach the people who make up those societies and population segments that produce terrorists. To tell a story I have told here before:

Early in the twentieth century, Baptist evangelists preached through rural Mississippi and Alabama with such effectiveness that moonshiners could no longer sell their whiskey: All their customers were getting converted! In desperation, the whiskey sellers hired two men to murder one of the leading Baptist preachers.

Pistols in their hands, the assassins waited in the dark outside a country church where their target was preaching. The evangelist spoke with burning intensity about heaven and hell, his voice ringing out into the night. When everyone had gone, he turned out the church lights and stepped outside. The killers approached him, pistols in hand.

But instead of shooting the evangelist, they handed him their guns. “We came here to kill you, but we couldn’t,” they said. “We heard your preaching and we believed it. We’re now on the same side.”

That story was told to me years ago by a pastor in Alabama. The Baptist evangelist was his grandfather. The story stayed with me. It is compelling drama and a parable of our position in an increasingly dangerous and demoralized world. Either we evangelize our generation with new power or its members are going to kill us. The bad guys are waiting for us ‘out there,’ and intend to do us in … We need an evangelism with enough strength to get the bad guys before they get us. – C. John Miller (Powerful Evangelism for the Powerless, Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1997, p. 1-2.)


Certain societies produce terrorists. If we want to do away with the terrorists, we must convert those who make up the groups that produce them. Either we reach them, or they will kill us. (I am not saying that only Islam produces terrorists. We ‘grow a few of our own’ here in the U. S. There are other groups to reach.)

Islam has made many in-roads to into the Western countries, and life under Muslim rule can be difficult for non-adherents. We should keep these things in mind.

Two of the best missions agencies reaching out to Muslims right now are Frontiers and Arab World Ministries. Please join them with prayer, financial support, or by going as a missionary with those agencies. You may be part of our only hope.

May Jesus’ message of tolerance and non-violence win out in the hearts of all peoples in our world! "Put up again thy sword into its place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword" (Matthew 26:52).



A Side Note to Certain Visitors:

If you are Islamic and are reading this blog, I invite you to read some of my posts on Islam and the Christian doctrines Islam repudiates. Please start with the posts here, here, and here. I have also presented positive evidence for the truths of Christianity in many places in this blog. A good place to start for a Muslim would be the search label “Argument from Scripture.”

4/22/2011

Good Friday and Easter Links

I wanted to put up a few links to resources on the meaning of the Good Friday and Easter holidays.


Some good books on historical evidence for Christ’s resurrection can be found here, here, and here.

William Lane Craig gives a tight argument for the resurrection on video here.

Some good books on the meaning of the cross are here, here, and here.

Some good books on the applications of the cross and the resurrection to our lives are here and here.

A post on what to preach about on Easter Morning is here. Russell Moore laments the standard far of church pulpits and calls us back to preaching the cross.

J. I. Packer comments on the Cross and Christ’s love here.

Happy Easter everyone!

4/21/2011

Obama Gets It Right

Thanks to Ed Stetzer for posting some of President Obama’s comments at the National Prayer Breakfast (There is a video posted at Ed's place too.) 

Obama got this part right. Here is what the President said:



We all live in the hustle and bustle of our work. And everybody in this room has weighty responsibilities, from leading churches and denominations, to helping to administer important government programs, to shaping our culture in various ways. And I admit that my plate has been full as well. (Laughter.) The inbox keeps on accumulating. (Laughter.)

But then comes Holy Week. The triumph of Palm Sunday. The humility of Jesus washing the disciples' feet. His slow march up that hill, and the pain and the scorn and the shame of the cross.

And we're reminded that in that moment, he took on the sins of the world -- past, present and future -- and he extended to us that unfathomable gift of grace and salvation through his death and resurrection.

In the words of the book Isaiah: 'But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.'

This magnificent grace, this expansive grace, this 'Amazing Grace' calls me to reflect. And it calls me to pray. It calls me to ask God for forgiveness for the times that I've not shown grace to others, those times that I've fallen short. It calls me to praise God for the gift of our son -- his Son and our Savior.

We agree on that part, now if we could just agree on some other things…

4/15/2011

Under the Category of “I’m Glad I Don’t Have to Read That Book…”

Michael Scott Horton reviews Rob Bell’s Love Wins at this link.




Mike Licona reviews Forged by Bart Ehrman at this link.



Thank you Mike and Mike for reading those books and reviewing them for the rest of us.

3/23/2011

Lewis and Earthly Christians

“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. . . . It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this one." - C. S. Lewis (Mere Christianity, chapter 10)

3/16/2011

How Rob Bell Drove Me To Repentance – A Quote from Another Blog

Reformation Theology quotes a pastor on the reality of hell at this link. Here’s the quote:


A very good friend of mine, Pastor Graeme Adams, from Dundee, Scotland writes, "“Are you orthodox on the issue of hell? Good! Does it cause you to pray and weep for the lost and actively seek ways to reach them with the good news of Jesus, or be smug or worse because you know something Rob Bell doesn’t? It’s incredibly sad and harmful when high profile leaders propagate heresy, AND when millions of Christians profess faith, historical biblical faith, and yet don’t live it. Heresy and Cold lifeless heartless Orthodoxy are partners in crime against humanity and God. May God use this issue to break our hearts.”

3/12/2011

All Things Are Not Equal

“All things being equal, God does desire that no one should perish. But all things are not equal. Sin is real. Sin violates God’s holiness and righteousness. God also is not willing that sin should go unpunished. He desires as well that His holiness should be vindicated…. When the preceptive will is violated, things are no longer equal.” – R. C. Sproul, From Can I Know God’s Will? pp. 22-23.



We no longer have a right to claim God’s favor when we violate His commands. We forfeit all claims on His love and mercy.

As the highest and best being in the universe, God has the right to demand of us whatever He desires. God’s desires are always in accordance with His nature, and He is wholly good. He can no more command something that is evil than He can cease to be God. He cannot because He will not, and His essential desires never change.

God, in some sense, takes “no pleasure in the death of anyone” (Ezekiel 18:32) and does not desire “that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). However, He is “of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong” (Habakkuk 1:13). Moreover, He “will by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:7).

God’s nature has both aspects. God has love for all men in some sense, but the sinner is under His wrath.

All things are not equal.

But God gave His Only Son, and Christ has paid the penalty for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21). If we trust that what Christ did on the cross, He did for us, then our sins are paid for by Christ. We need not fear the wrath of God when we are in Christ by faith.

All things are not equal.

3/10/2011

Some Quotes Deserve a Post of Their Own: The Bad News and The Good News

“The bad news is far worse than making mistakes or failing to live up to the legalistic standards of fundamentalism. It is that the best efforts of the best Christians, on the best days, in the best frame of heart and mind, with the best motives fall short of that true righteousness and holiness that God requires.


Our best efforts cannot satisfy God’s justice. Yet the good news is that God has satisfied his own justice and reconciled us to himself through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son. God’s holy law can no longer condemn us because we are in Christ.” — Michael Horton, Christless Christianity (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Baker Books, 2008), 91.

3/08/2011

There is nothing in us or done by us…

“There is nothing in us or done by us, at any stage of our earthly development, because of which we are acceptable to God. We must always be accepted for Christ’s sake, or we cannot ever be accepted at all. This is not true of us only when we believe. It is just as true after we have believed. It will continue to be true as long as we live. Our need of Christ does not cease with our believing; nor does the nature of our relation to Him or to God through Him ever alter, no matter what our attainments in Christian graces or our achievements in behavior may be. It is always on His “blood and righteousness” alone that we can rest.” - B. B. Warfield

I have had many times of doubt in my life. I have convinced myself I was on the way to hell because of my mediocre Christian life, my personal suffering, and my doubts.


In my times of despair, I have learned to look to three things:

Look to my attitude toward God. "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love" (Gal. 5:6). Do you love the God of the Bible? Not do I love Him perfectly. Not do I love Him enough. But do I love Him at all? If I really love the God of the Bible, then I am saved because the unsaved hate Him (Ro. 8:7).

Look to Christ. He has accomplished your salvation for you. Christ has paid the penalty for my sins. Christ said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). It is over. I must trust that it is. That is the essence of Warfield’s quote above.

Look to the promises of the Word of God. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life” (John 6:47). If I have looked to Christ, I am saved.

Saving faith and true repentance are never perfect in this life. There are times of doubt. There are always sins left to repent of (Romans 7). But we look to Christ.

2/28/2011

Do Christians Divorce More Often than Non-Christians?

How many times have you heard that the divorce rate among Christians is higher than the divorce rates among the general population?  Research revealed at this link says that this is wrong.  Conservative religious practice yields lower divorce rates.

[Thanks to Trevin Wax for the link.]

[3/22/11 - More on the issue from Gene Edward Veith at this link.]

2/26/2011

Hitler Never Existed?

A wonderful, tongue-in-check piece about revisionist history is at this link.  I cannot help but think about those people who say Jesus Christ never existed as I read this.

Rob Bell and Hell

I agree with Justin Taylor that Rob Bell now seems to have outwardly embraced universalism. He seems to be teaching that all people ultimately go to heaven. Taylor provides Bell’s video at this link, and Bell’s own words condemn him.  (If this turns out to be some kind of publicity stunt, then woe to Bell for taking liberties with his message.)

I have written about Bell’s dangerous theological leanings before (see the links here and here), but this new teaching takes him far outside orthodox Christianity. Jesus is the figure from the Bible who says the most about hell. He describes it as eternal (Mt. 25:41, 46; Mk. 9:43, 48) and as a place of torment (Mt. 25:30). To venture outside these teachings is to find oneself arrayed against the Lord of Glory Himself. (I recommend an audio presentation by R. C. Sproul on hell at this link.)

I do not relish the idea of anyone going to hell, and I find it encouraging that God does not either (Ezek. 33:11, Mt. 23:37-38). Yet God’s justice requires eternal punishment when it is affronted. Perfect righteousness requires perfect punishment to those that offend it. Perfect innocence requires infinite punishment when injured. Absolute authority demands overwhelming retribution when rebelled against.

Kevin DeYoung gives eight reasons why we need a doctrine of hell on his blog at this link. They are excerpted from his excellent book Why We Are Not Emergent.

The most compelling reason DeYoung gives is that “we need God’s wrath in order to understand what [God’s] mercy means.”

Divine mercy without divine wrath is meaningless. Only when we know that we were objects of wrath(Ep. 2:3), stood condemned already (John 3:18), and would have faced hell as God’s enemies were it not for undeserved mercy (Rom. 5:10), can we sing from the heart “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!”
May we all throw ourselves on the mercy of God in order to escape the coming wrath.

May Rob Bell take the chance to repent.

[3/2/11: Please see more thoughts from Kevin DeYoung at this link.]

[3/9/11: Tim Challies reviews the entire book at this link.  I have more questions than answers.]

[3/15: Follow this link for a parody of the Rob Bell video that makes a great point.]

[3/16/11: Dr. Jeremy Evans of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary discusses differing views concerning the nature of hell held by Christians and how a good and loving God could send people there at this link.]

[3/22/11: See Mike Horton's review at this link.]

2/24/2011

The Bible’s Big Picture

Ligonier Ministries blog shares a helpful list from R. C. Sproul. R. C. has listed various books of the Bible to read in order to get the overall story of Scripture at this link. It is a helpful list for ‘big picture’ people.


How about it all you Myers-Briggs intuitives? Let’s read some Scripture together.

2/07/2011

I Need a Real Chaplain Who Believes in a Real Hell

Trevin Wax posts a great scene from the TV show ER.  Every liberal Christian theologian should watch the video at this link.

1/22/2011

Abortion: Stem the Tide

On this 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade I felt it was important to post on the topic.

First, I would like to provide some links on the subject:


Greg Lucas: Four Women I Would Like to Thank on the 38th Anniversary of Roe vs Wade (Best blog post I have read on the subject!)

R. C. Sproul on: Experiencing God’s Forgiveness from Guilt Connected with Abortion (Important for all of us to remember: God’s grace is bigger than all of our sins.)

Justin Taylor: The Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade, and Abortion Law

George Grant’s comments and statistics passed on by Ligonier.

Kevin DeYoung: Jesus Loves The Little Children (a startling look at the similarities between our culture and ancient ones)

Scott Klusendorf: Clarity Not Gadgetry: Pro-Life Apologetics for the Next Generation

Justin Taylor: This is Abortion (Warning: the video on this page is extremely graphic and not for the faith of heart.)

A book by Francis J. Beckwith: Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice

A book by R. C. Sproul: Abortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue (Ligonier mailed a copy to every member of Congress this year.)


Second, I like to briefly share my opinion on the matter:

As an adoptive parent, I have a young woman to thank for the greatest blessing that has come into my life since Christ as my Savior and Katherine as my wife: a daughter. My daughter’s birth mother faced one of the most difficult decisions a person could ever face, and she made a good one.

She gave life to a child and placed her into a home where she could be loved and cared for. She named our child Elizabeth Hope, her gift to her daughter by birth.

I once heard John Wood at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church in Knoxville give a short summary of a National Prayer Breakfast he had attended during the Clinton Administration. Mother Teresa spoke at the breakfast. Her comments during part of her speech turned to abortion. She said, “If you do not want your children, then give them to me and I will raise them.” She may be the only person in our generation with enough moral authority to make a statement like that in a context like that.

As my wife and I begin to make financial arrangements to adopt again, I would like to echo her words, even though it is a faint echo. If you do not want your child, then give her to us and we will raise her.

1/13/2011

Motivation for World Missions

Gospel for Asia has two wonderful videos on their web site promoting world missions. I recommend them. They can be found here.




[Thanks to Desiring God for the link.]

1/08/2011

Over 400 Posts

This is my 401st post at Fear and Trembling. I wanted to give links to some significant posts and some brief thoughts on the blog.


Links to the most popular posts since I installed Google Analytics in late March of 2007:

Some quotes from the Koran.

A disturbing set of quotes from George W. Bush.

A post on the theology of N. T. Wright.

A post on Paley’s teleological argument (argument from design for God’s existence) with links to more resources.

A post on a hymn-writer who suffered from major depression for most of his life, even as a Christian.

A search label of a series of posts I did on why I am a Christian as opposed to other faiths or worldviews.



Some posts I wish people would visit more often:

A post on why we need salvation and why we cannot provide it for ourselves.

My slightly irreverent personal testimony (somewhat ‘tongue in cheek’).

A post on faith and good works.

A search label that gives succinct reasons to accept God’s Existence.

A post that gives a self-serving motivation for missionary activity in the modern world.



My first post on 3/7/2007:

Rob Bell and the gospel.


The blog has changed names twice since inception. It was first “Fear and Trembling: A Baptist Layman Looks At Life.” Then it became “Fear and Trembling: A Presbyterian Layman Looks at Life” when I changed denominations from SBC to PCA. Then I shortened it to just “Fear and Trembling.” This was an effort to shorten the name so Networked Blogs on Facebook would pick up more words from my posts.


Some statistics:

10,973 unique visits. (Analytics kicks out the visits from people who transfer from one blog page to another within the blog for this metric.)

17,634 pageviews. (Yes, my ‘bounce rate’ is often quite high. Hopefully it is from people who have me on feed readers. I may never know.)

Over 830 comments.  (Many from me.)

1:34 average time on site. (I don’t have much time to make a good first impression. Quite a few visits are much longer.)

Visits from 111 countries.

Visits from all 50 U. S. states and two U. S. territories.



I have enjoyed my time blogging and especially those people who have stopped by to leave comments. Those who agree with me have affirmed my efforts. Those that disagree with me have taught me something; I learn from arguments.

I am well-aware that my style of writing is gleaned for the most part from college and professional experience in technical writing. It is almost mechanical. I am, after all, an engineer. I am also well aware that my choice of topics is leaned toward philosophy and hard-core theology. Therefore, this blog is not for everybody.

Here’s to more posts! I plan to keep it up until I get no more hits.

1/07/2011

Ingratitude

Russell Moore has a post up over at The Resurgence that convicts me for ingratitude (follow this link).  His post really hits home for an adoptive parent like me.

[Side note: This is my 400th post.  Blogging has been fun so far.]

1/03/2011

New Year’s Resolutions, 2011

After considerable thought, I resolve to:


Spend more time with my family.

Lose 50 pounds.

Read through Operation World.

Teach through The Good News We Almost Forgot in a Sunday, 06:30, Bible Study.

Make straight A’s in my MBA program at Union University.

Some of these might be mutually exclusive, but I hope not.

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