Whitefield on Election

From George Whitefield:

The doctrines of our election, and free justification in Christ Jesus are daily more and more pressed upon my heart. They fill my soul with a holy fire and afford me great confidence in God my Savior.

I hope we shall catch fire from each other, and that there will be a holy emulation amongst us, who shall most debase man and exalt the Lord Jesus. Nothing but the doctrines of the Reformation can do this. All others leave free will in man and make him, in part at least, a Savior to himself. . . .

I know Christ is all in all. Man is nothing: he hath a free will to go to hell, but none to go to heaven, till God worketh in him to will and to do of His good pleasure.

Oh the excellency of the doctrine of election and of the saints' final perseverance!

I am persuaded, till a man comes to believe and feel these important truths, he cannot come out of himself, but when convinced of these, and assured of their application to his own heart, he then walks by faith indeed! Love, not fear, constrains him to obedience.

--quoted in Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield: The Life and Times of the Great Evangelist of the 18th Century Revival (2 vols; Banner of Truth, 1970, 1980), 1:407


Atheist Morality in Action - Dr. K. Scott Oliphint

Dr. K. Scott Oliphint ‘s penetrating analysis of a spat within the atheist community can be found at this link. Reason alone simply cannot provide an adequate framework for ethical decision-making.

Dr. Oliphint, professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, has been doing some strong work in apologetics from the presuppositional point of view (now referred to as covenantal apologetics) at the Reformation21 blog. Dr. Oliphint also defends the presuppositional position at The Gospel Coalition in a debate summarized at this link.

I recommend Dr. Oliphint’s work because it brings much needed clarity to the subject.


Jonathan Edwards: Missionary

It is well known that the great pastor-theologian Jonathan Edwards spent 1751-1758 in the position of a missionary to the Indians in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. I have always heard that either this was a time Edwards arranged to work on his writing, or else a period of exile after a bitter conflict cause Edwards to lose the pastorate of his church of twenty-two years.

An article by Jonathan Gibson, a PhD candidate in Hebrew Studies at Girton College, Cambridge, puts together a convincing case that Edwards was a missionary who took his role quite seriously. The well-written and convincing article can be found at this link.


An Hypothesis Test for God’s Existence

I recently had the chance to comment on an atheist web site that prides itself on requiring testable hypotheses in order to gain any knowledge. I formed one of Alvin Plantinga’s arguments into hypothesis testing format. The point is that arguments for God’s existence are based on verifiable, testable data and that science assumes the validity of higher-ordered mental functions in the experimentation process. The comment is reproduced below with some modifications and some links included.

This will be an observational study using the data we find in the known universe. The null hypothesis is that our faculties of reasoning which allow us to develop higher-order beliefs arose from chance guided by natural selection. The alternative hypothesis is that our faculties of reasoning which allow us to develop higher-order beliefs arose from a process guided by God or an event brought about by God.

This is a valid way of describing the problem at hand. We have data in the known universe. We can observe or experience this data. We can then use this data to accept or reject the null hypothesis. (I will not go into all of the philosophical assumptions inherent in a test of this nature, but I reserve the right to do so in future discussion.)

First, we must assume that our reasoning faculties are valid in order to pursue the test. We are dealing with higher-order beliefs, those not related to survival. We are reasoning about those beliefs. Our mental faculties must be assumed from the get go to form and execute the experiment. We assume these higher order functions every time we even discuss these issues.

Second, the null hypothesis would require us to assume that some form of evolutionary process brought about by random mutations and guided by natural selection developed mental faculties capable of accurate higher-order beliefs. There is no guarantee that evolutionary processes would lead to our faculties of reasoning. We are only guaranteed that the mental faculties we have are capable of reasoning which would enable our survival based on natural selection. (Evolution does not “care” whether we flee from the tiger because we think it will eat us or because we think tigers look better from a distance. It just “cares” whether we flee from the tiger.)

Third, an intelligent being could account for our existing metal faculties. This being could have created us in such a way as to allow for us to process information about higher-order issues. This being could have the intelligence to design a brain and mind that can accurately determine the truth or falsehood of higher-order beliefs and the power to create what it designed. (It should also be noted that designing and creating are powers most often associated with personhood.)

The null hypothesis is extremely unlikely, if not impossible. Therefore we reject the null and accept the alternative.

This argument is cogent and based on the data we observe in the universe and in our own self-awareness. We can explore similar arguments that allow for proofs of God’s logic, power, and even a form of freedom of choice; but we should stick with the argument at hand for the time being. We have an intelligent, purposeful and powerful being that created our minds to know the world in all of its splendor.


Lord’s Day 17: Christ Rose from the Grave

[This article was written for a series for my local paper.]

This series of Soli Deo Gloria articles is focused on the Heidelberg Catechism. This catechism is a series of questions and answers written in 1563 to teach people the Christian faith. The writers divided the catechism into 52 Lord’s Days so a person could learn it in one year. Today’s article discusses Lord’s Day 17, Question 45.

Q 45 How does Christ’s resurrection benefit us?

A. First, by his resurrection he has overcome death, so that he might make us share in the righteousness he obtained for us by his death. (Rom. 4:25; 1 Cor. 15:16-20; 1 Pet. 1:3-5) Second, by his power we too are already raised to a new life. (Rom. 6:5-11; Eph. 2:4-6; Col. 3:1-4) Third, Christ’s resurrection is a sure pledge to us of our blessed resurrection. (Rom. 8:11; 1 Cor. 15:12-23; Phil. 3:20-21)

John Warrick Montgomery, a prominent Lutheran defender of the Christian faith, presents a strong evidential case for the truth of Christianity based on the resurrection of Christ. In his book History, Law and Christianity, he lays out the argument that the resurrection is a stamp of approval on Jesus Christ’s claims to be God, and that Christ’s identity as God in the flesh (His deity) makes Him a perfect witness to the truth of the Bible.

Montgomery writes, “Jesus’ deity in itself establishes the truth of the Christian message over and against competing religions and secular world-views.” The well-documented fact that Christ rose from the dead provides strong evidence for the truth of Christianity, but it provides so much more.

First, in Christianity, death is an enemy to be destroyed, not an event to be accepted. Christ has “overcome death,” our enemy.

With the resurrection, sin, death and the devil are conquered. This is why Christians can share in the righteousness Christ earned for them in His perfect life and sacrificial death. As Kevin DeYoung writes in his book The Good News We Almost Forgot, “The resurrection means Christ proved Himself righteous to the Father, so that through faith we now share in His righteousness.”

Second, because Christ died and rose again, we have a new life. New life is not just a goal for the Christian; it is a reality. We have the power to live godly lives from our hearts. That is not all, however.

Third, Christ’s resurrection guarantees the resurrection of those who place their faith in Him. I will never forget about how this hope ‘played out’ in my life.

A few short years ago, my mother died. I struggled to explain what had happened to my three-year-old daughter. My mother had been very sick for some time, and I had taken the chance to read several books and pamphlets on how to talk to children about death.

Many of those booklets told me to emphasize the finality of death so that my daughter would not be confused. In this theory, Granny Jones was not “asleep” or “living in heaven,” but permanently gone. That is what death is to the world: final.

My approach changed when I stood over Mom’s casket with my daughter in my arms. Theology ‘kicked in;’ psychological theory went ‘out the window.’ I said, “Granny is dead, but one day she will live again. When Christ comes back, Granny will come back to life because she placed her faith in Him before she died. She will have a new body that is perfect and joy in her heart.”

I helped my daughter to understand that Christ’s “resurrection is a sure pledge to us of our blessed resurrection.” Christians will come back to life after they die. In this, we have hope.


Lord’s Day 16: Christ Died

[This article was written for my local paper in a series on the Heidelberg Catechism.]

We continue our series of articles on the Heidelberg Catechism. The catechism is a series of 129 questions and answers on the Christian faith. Theologians wrote the catechism in 1563 to teach people the Christian faith.

The questions are divided into 52 Lord’s Days, one for each week of the year. Today’s article covers Lord’s Day 16, Questions 40-44, as we continue our discussion of the Apostle’s Creed.

Q 40 Why did Christ have to suffer death?

A. Because God’s justice and truth require it: (Gen. 2:17) nothing else could pay for our sins except the death of the Son of God. (Rom. 8:3-4; Phil. 2:8; Heb. 2:9)

How does a holy and just God forgive sinful human beings without becoming unholy or unjust? Humanly speaking, this question presented God with a problem. On the one hand, God loved His people and did not want to punish them. On the other hand, since God is just, he must punish their sin. God solved this ‘problem’ in the Person of Jesus Christ.

God became a man and came to earth as Jesus Christ. Because He was a man, He was tempted just as we are. Because He was God, He lived a perfect life in the face of that temptation.

Christ died a death he did not deserve in order to pay the full penalty for our sins. Because He was a man, He represented fallen human beings. Because He was God, He could suffer an infinite punishment, a punishment horrific enough to pay for the sins of all those who place their faith in Him. (See Cur Deus Homo [lit. ‘Why the God-Man?’] by Anselm of Canterbury.)

Q 41 Why was he “buried”?

A. His burial testifies that he really died. (Isa. 53:9; John 19:38-42; Acts 13:29; 1 Cor. 15:3-4)

Many modernist theorists hold to the ‘swoon theory.’ The idea behind the swoon theory is that Christ did not die on the cross; he only passed out or swooned. The cool air of the tomb revived him.

But the fact of His burial by those who loved Him most exposes this theory as untrue. Why would his closest friends and family members bury Him without knowing he was dead?

Q 42 Since Christ has died for us, why do we still have to die?

A. Our death does not pay the debt of our sins. (Ps. 49:7) Rather, it puts an end to our sinning and is our entrance into eternal life. (John 5:24; Phil. 1:21-23; 1 Thess. 5:9-10)

Christ’s death has changed the very nature of death for those who repent of their sins and place their trust in Him. Death is not a punishment for sin; it is a deliverance from sin. Christ makes Christians into the kind of people they have longed to be: people who are perfect in what they think, speak, and do.

Q 43 What further benefit do we receive from Christ’s sacrifice and death on the cross?

A. By Christ’s power our old selves are crucified, put to death, and buried with him, (Rom. 6:5-11; Col. 2:11-12) so that the evil desires of the flesh may no longer rule us, (Rom. 6:12-14) but that instead we may offer ourselves as a sacrifice of gratitude to him. (Rom. 12:1; Eph. 5:1-2 )

Remember the three main divisions of the Heidelberg Catechism: guilt, grace and gratitude. We realize that we are guilty of sin. We become aware of all that Christ has done by His grace, and we place our faith in Him. We then live the best lives we can because we are thankful for what Christ has done for us. Christ’s sacrifice helps us to be grateful.

Q 44 Why does the [Apostle’s] creed add, “He descended to hell”?

A. To assure me during attacks of deepest dread and temptation that Christ my Lord, by suffering unspeakable anguish, pain, and terror of soul, on the cross but also earlier, has delivered me from hellish anguish and torment. (Isa. 53; Matt. 26:36-46; 27:45-46; Luke 22:44; Heb. 5:7-10)

Satan’s very name means “accuser.” He can bring torment on God’s people by reminding them of their sins, and we have all committed sins that Satan uses to torture us. When Satan reminds us of what we have done, we should remind him of what Christ has done. Christ’s suffering of the wrath of God frees the Christian from his or her tormented conscience.


Abortion: Horror, Healing and the Short-term Plan

John Piper comments on the horror of abortion (link).

David Powlison posts a video on how to heal after having an abortion (link).

Justin Taylor explains why we should not ‘go for the home run.’ A series of ‘base hits’ might do the job, or at least most of it (link).

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