Friday, March 31

Particular Redemption and 1 John 2:2

Each of us, in our systems of theology, encounters problem passages with which we struggle. Calvinism is no exception, especially in regards to the doctrine of particular redemption (or, limited atonement). God's Word contains several passages that seem to teach an unlimited (universal) redemption or atonement. Passages such as...

Isaiah 53:6, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all."

John 1:29, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"

John 4:42, "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world."

Romans 5:18, "Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men."

Romans 8:32, "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all -- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?"

2 Corinthians 5:14-15, "Christ...died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again."

2 Corinthians 5:18-19, "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation."

1 Timothy 2:5-6, "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men."
These verses seem to produce a bit of a conundrum for the particular redemptionist. Yet each of these verses has a viable and satisfactory explanation.

First, each of these passages must be taken as a part of a whole. In other words, each of these verses is a part of a larger context. For example, we know that the "all" of Isaiah 53:6 is limited to those who have been justified according to the preceding verse (Is. 53:5). The same is true of the verses in Romans 5, Romans 8, and 1 Timothy 2. As for the 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 passage, "all" is defined within the verse itself...as those "who live" and those for whom Christ died and was raised again ("who died for them and was raised again").

Second, in John 1:29, John is addressing the purpose and power of Christ's coming (this is comparable to the passage in Matthew 1:21, "She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. He is the Savior, possessing the unparalleled ability to take away the sins of the entire world. Paul is speaking to the same issue in 2 Corinthians 5:18-19...that because of Christ's cross-work, God is reconciling those in the world to Himself. These verses cannot be speaking of universal reconciliation, because those who do not believe are not at peace with God but rather at enmity against Him (Romans 8:7). This "reconciliation" can refer only to the elect because of what it results in: "not counting their trespasses against them."

Third, in John 4:42, John is speaking to Christ's position...He is the Savior of the world. He is the only Savior this world will ever have (Acts 4:12), not that He will save every individual in it (if so, Christ has failed to do so).

The above passages are answered rather easily, yet there appears to be no easy solution to the most troublesome text of 1 John 2:2,
"He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the world."
This verse seems to make a distinction between a limited and universal atonement, and even affirming the latter. So, how does the Calvinist respond to this apparent disconnect in his theology?

Stay tuned, the answers will come tomorrow! I feel badly for doing this to you, so I offer my humble apologies!

Thursday, March 30

A Coincidence at SmartChristian.com?

It seems that Dr. Andrew Jackson of smartchristian.com has placed a disclaimer above the blogads in the left sidebar of his site. This may seem like an insignificant addition, but let's remember that earlier this month an ad for the Purpose Driven Mobile devotional appeared on Dr. Jackson's site...and to my knowledge, came without any such disclaimer! Hmm...

Here's the disclaimer...

BLOGADS

SmartChristian does not necessarily endorse all advertisements.
I do enjoy Dr. Jackson's site, I just found it a bit humorous that a disclaimer should appear after he took a bit of a shot [click here] at my post, "Purpose Driven Gone Mobile" [click here].

Disclaimer: It is entirely possible I could be wrong about all this...the ad disclaimer may have appeared at smartchristian.com without my notice. Maybe this is why my wife is always reminding me that I am not very observant! If I am wrong, and Dr. Jackson informs me of my error, I will gladly aplogize and offer any penance he deems necessary!

UPDATE: Dr. Jackson responds to my claim [click here] ... it turns out I was being observant after all! Could someone please tell my wife?!

The New York Times Highlights the "Prosperity Gospel" of Joel Osteen

You can read it here.

There will be no surprises for those of you who have followed the humanistic gospel of Osteen that preaches propserity and makes God into being nothing more than a slave to our own lustful desires. You will also find in this article that Osteen will be enjoying a new $13 million book deal to follow up on his recent bestseller "Your Best Life Now".

An Early April Fool's Day

A good friend of mine sent me this and I couldn't help but think of Psalm 14:1 in light of what this says. I hope you enjoy this:

An atheist was quite incensed over the preparation for
Easter and Passover holidays and decided to contact the
local ACLU about the discrimination inflicted on atheists by
the constant celebrations afforded to Christians and Jews
with all their holidays while the atheists had no holidays
for them to celebrate.

The ACLU jumped on the opportunity to once again pick up the
cause of the downtrodden and assigned their sharpest
attorney to the case.

The case was brought up before a learned judge who, after
listening to the passionate presentation by the ACLU
representative, promptly banged his gavel and said, "Case
dismissed!"

The ACLU lawyer stood up and objected to the ruling and
said, "Your honor, how can you dismiss this case? Surely the
Christians have Christmas, Easter, and many other
observances. And the Jews--why, in addition to Passover,
they have Yom Kippur and Hanukkah ... and yet my client and
all other atheists have no such holiday!"

The judge leaned back in his chair and simply said,
"Obviously your client is too confused to know about or for
that matter even celebrate the atheists' holiday!"

The ACLU lawyer pompously said, "We are aware of no such
holiday for atheists--just when might that be?"

The judge said "Well, it comes every year at the same
time--April 1st!"

How Particular Redemption Affects Eternal Security

I’m wondering if this discussion on particular redemption is boring you, our readers (all except for my brothers, that is). The comments on this subject seem to be few and far between. Here at The World From Our Window, we appreciate your readership. We value your friendship. We are grateful for the several minutes a day you spend with us. And we want to keep you coming back.

So I ask for your input: is this topic worthwhile? Is it necessary? Or, in your opinion, is this a simple case of “splitting the proverbial theological hair?” While you contemplate whether this is a valuable and crucial debate, allow me to share an additional quote that may pique your interest.

According to John Murray in Redemption Accomplished and Applied (pgs. 63-64), this is a valid discussion because it impacts the eternal security of the believer. This ought to awaken those of you who consider yourselves to be three or four point Calvinists (who would most certainly hold to the eternal security of the believer). Here are Murray’s conclusions:

The very nature of Christ’s mission and accomplishment is involved in this [particular redemption or limited atonement] question. Did Christ come to make the salvation of all men possible, to remove obstacles that stood in the way of salvation, and merely to make provision for salvation? Or did He come to save His people? Did He come to put all men in a savable state? Or did He come to secure the salvation of all those who are ordained to eternal life? Did He come to make men redeemable? Or did He come effectually and infallibly to redeem? The doctrine of the atonement must be radically revised if, as atonement, it applies to those who finally perish as well as to those who are the heirs of eternal life. In that we should have to dilute the grand categories in terms of which the Scripture defines the atonement and deprive them of their most precious import and glory. This we cannot do. The saving efficacy of expiation, propitiation, reconciliation, and redemption is too deeply embedded in these concepts, and we dare not eliminate this efficacy. We do well to ponder the words of our Lord himself: “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent me. And this is the will of Him who sent me, that of everything which He hath given to me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up in the last day” (John 6:38-39). Security inheres in Christ’s redemptive accomplishment. And this means that, in respect of the persons contemplated, design and accomplishment and final realization have all the same extent.

Here’s my view…if Christ’s death only made redemption available to all people rather than securing the redemption of the elect, the work on the cross is merely hypothetical. In this view, the Savior sacrificed Himself on a cross to provide a hypothetical salvation for hypothetical believers (i.e., “made salvation possible and plausible”).

This view also lends itself to the Arminian understanding of how salvation is secured … by the decision of man rather than by the will of God (John 1:13). And here’s why. If by His death, Christ did not actually secure the salvation of anyone, logically, it is up to each individual to apply this hypothetical salvation to themselves by their own choice. On the other hand, if Christ’s death secured the salvation of those “chosen from the foundations of the world”, God has applied this actual salvation to the sinner by His own sovereign grace (which does not negate man’s responsibility to exercise saving faith).

Now back to the eternal security issue. If salvation could, in any way, be secured by man, it could also be lost by man. This is how the “L” of limited atonement is related to the “P” of perseverance of the saints. A “hypothetical atonement” lends itself to a “hypothetical security” and a "possible redemption" leads to a "possible security." None of us wants this to be true!

Hebrews 7:25 (ESV), "Consequently, He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them."

If, in your opinion, this subject is unnecessary, please comment accordingly. But, if you are convinced this discussion is a valuable and worthy endeavor, let us know.

Wednesday, March 29

What is Our Greatest Hindrance to Preaching Today?

Most, if not all, who preach on a consistent basis would concede that it is one of the most exhausting yet rewarding vocations to be called to. Martin Lloyd-Jones once said "Preaching is theology on fire". It is no easy task to prepare a Christ-centered message that is true to the text of Scripture and that is a faithful exegetical summary of the passage. But it seems that in the context of where we are today, preaching is becoming increasingly more difficult. There are certainly no shortages of resources available to pastors today - commentaries, books, on-line sermons, sermons on the internet for free and ones you can actually buy (I think we have discussed this before on this blog), and numerous conferences. Yet, the task of faithfully preaching the Word has never been more difficult. I've listed several hindrances that I have observed:

Post-modernism - If you listen to the post that I linked John MacArthur's message at the Shepherd's Conference this past March I think you will see where I am coming from. Presenting truth as propositional and objective rather than subjective has become the arrogant political incorrectness of our day. Post-modern thought has infected the minds of its hearers into the thinking that absolute truth is irrational and unhealthy. Unfortunately, this has creeped into the people's minds who sit in our pews Sunday after Sunday. Whether we want to accept it or not, the post-modern mindset of everything being subjective is present in many of the mindsets that attend our churches faithfully.

Entertainment - This is what many attribute to preaching today. Recently, a church in our area had a "Bless the Motorcycle Sunday" where bikers from around the area brought their bikes to a nearby park and had the pastor "bless" their motorbikes. Now I am all for getting the Gospel to as many people as possible but I am also convinced that our theology should also determine our methodology. With that being said, I find it hard rationalize a theological reason for blessing motorcycles other than the pragmatic obsession that so many have with numbers. Much of this has derived from the "what is in it for me" mentality that looks for what a church offers them rather than finding a way that they can personally and constructively get involved in a church.

Apathy - Sadly, many who occupy our pews on Sunday mornings and evenings have come to the conclusion that they have heard it all before. In many cases that may be true but I hardly think that much of it has been applied. One of my favorite sayings from John Piper is - "God is not boring!" Amen and amen! However, because of the apathy that has grown in the hearts of so many of God's people the idea that God is boring has been conveyed to the average person who attends an evangelical church. This must be addressed if our preaching is to have any effect on the people who sit under our preaching.

Biblical illiteracy - It is no secret that the evangelical church is in deep trouble in this area. Due to pastors succombing to the "felt needs" mentality and preaching to meet people's needs instead of letting the Word do its work, we have produced a generation of church goers who for the most part, could not give a legitimate definition of the Gospel if their life depended on it. Sure, many could take you down the "Roman's Road" and concoct a prayer that ensures your reservations for heaven, but many could not begin to tell you about man's depravity and the need for God's grace. This is very troubling. Having a shallow knowledge of God's Word will no doubt produce a shallow view of God as well.

Dead preaching - Spurgeon once said - "We must not talk to our congregations as if we were half asleep. Our preaching must not be articulate snoring." Those of us who preach the Gospel must also be captivated by the Gospel. Hence, we should have sincerity, earnestness, and emotion to our words. No, I am not advocating here emotionalism that has no Scriptural basis. However, it would do many of us good to actually ask ourselves the question as to whether or not we are really and sincerely moved by the truth of God's Word and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. John Stott wrote in his book "Between Two Worlds" - "We cannot hide what we are. Indeed, what we are speaks as plainly as what we say. When these two voices blend, the impact of the message is doubled." I believe it was Calvin who said (someone please correct me if I am wrong) "Let the Word run loose". True biblical preaching based on true biblical theology will result in a true turning of our hearts and affections to Jesus Christ. What a shame for those of us who preach the Gospel to not be captivated by the wonderful truth of the Gospel.

God has been truly gracious to me in giving me a group of believers here at First Baptist Church of Roxana who have been incredibly receptive to this inept preacher of the Word. I pray that their hunger for the Word never ceases and that they continue to grow in His grace.

If you have some more hindrances, please let me know. I know many could be added to the list but this will have to do for now.

Where Arminians and Calvinists Agree

There, I said it. There are a few points upon which both Arminians and Calvinists agree...even when discussing the atonement! Being on an official "no-whining vacation" (as I informed my children while pulling out of our driveway), I thought posting a piece such as this would lead to a "no-whining blogosphere."

I have found James Montgomery Boice and Phil Ryken to offer the most concise and biblical arguments for particular redemption (or, limited atonement). On pages 115-117 of The Doctrines of Grace, they discuss a "no-whining view" of the atonement. Take a read for yourself...and remember, no whining! (Please understand I am using "Arminian" loosely...in reference to those who hold to a non-limited view of the atonement. If you don't appreciate this characterization, remember, no whining!)

1) There is agreement about the value of Jesus' atonement. When Calvinists speak of "limited atonement," as they sometimes unwisely do, they seem to suggest that somehow the death of Jesus was inadequate to save all men and women. But this is not what Reformed people believe. All of us stand together in affirming that the value of Jesus' death was so great -- in fact, infinite -- that it is more than sufficient to atone for all the sins of all the people in all ages of this world. The value of the death of Jesus Christ is not limited in any way. His atonement is of infinite value.

2) We agree that there are benefits of the death of Jesus Christ for all people, benefits short of salvation. Some of those benefits are of a temporal nature. Before the coming of Christ there was an outpouring of what theologians call common grace. God was patient with sin and delayed His judgment of it. Paul referred to this in his sermon on Mars Hill when he said that "“in the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent"” (Acts 17:30). That is true in the present as well. That is, while the gospel of grace is preached throughout the world, judgment is delayed. This is what Peter referred to when he observed that God "“is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance"” (2 Peter 3:9).

There are also common benefits of the life and death of Christ for human society. Who can doubt that the demonstration of God'’s love, mercy, and compassion at Calvary --– particularly as this has worked itself out in the transformed values of Christian people, blessing their homes and giving them a new concern for other in all other areas of life --– has blessed people wherever the gospel of grace has penetrated? The world would be a far less gentle place were it not for Christianity. Calvinists, as well as other Christians, confess that freely.

3) We are not in disagreement as to whether or not all people will be saved. There are some universalists, of course. In fact, an increasingly small minority within the evangelical church affirms universalism. But for the most part, nearly all evangelicals are united in the confession, based on Scripture, that not all people will be saved, that hell is a real place, and that there are and will be people in it.

In each of the areas mentioned, Reformed people as well as those of other evangelical theological persuasions are in substantial agreement. Furthermore, we all agree that the atonement must be limited in one way or another. Unless a person is a genuine universalist, and believes that every individual eventually will be saved, he or she inevitably circumscribes the atonement. Either it is limited in its effects (Christ died for all, but not all get saved), or it is limited in its scope (Christ did not die for all, but all for whom He died will be saved).

In my years of modified Calvinism (rather, modified Arminianism), I was taught to describe the limiting of the atonement in the following way: "“Christ'’s death was sufficient for all, but efficient for some."” But this is not the point of the debate. Those of us who hold to particular redemption don't question the sufficiency or efficiency of the atonement, we focus on the intent and extent of the atonement.

So, I end this "“let's all agree and get along like we a’re on a ‘no-whining’ vacation together"” post, with a couple of questions for all you sufficiency/efficiency theologians (some of you may accuse me of backing you into a corner with these questions, but remember, "no whining!":
Did Christ's death intend to cover the sins of those God never intended to save? Or, did God intend to save all, which necessitates a universal atonement?

Tuesday, March 28

Barry Bonds, King Solomon, And Me

Barry Bonds, who is seven home runs from overtaking Babe Ruth for second on the all-time home run list, has made some rather revealing statements as reported on the FOX sports website. As you read, be reminded that these are the words of a multi-millionaire sports idol.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) - As upbeat as Barry Bonds has seemed this spring, apparently all the negative attention is taking a toll on the slugger. At a time when Bonds should be as excited as ever, he has his low moments."My life is in shambles. It is crazy," Bonds said Monday in an interview with The Associated Press. "It couldn't get any crazier. I'm just trying to stay sane."

Bonds is seven home runs from passing Babe Ruth on the career list, but he's also facing dogged steroids accusations. Clearly joking, he also went for shock value: "Go to the Empire State Building and jump off, commit suicide and people can say, 'Barry Bonds is finally dead.' Except for in San Francisco," he said. "I'll leave something for them."

Despite those pronouncements, the 41-year-old Bonds has been in good spirits and approachable - by his standards - despite the recent release of "Game of Shadows," the book detailing his alleged longtime regimen for taking performance-enhancing drugs...

Bonds has a simple answer for how he blocks out distractions. "What's my job description? That's what I'm doing at that time," he said. "No, I don't forget (what is said). I will never forget. I forgive you, but I don't forget. I forgive everybody..."

Bonds joked that he is ready for the season to start because then "it's closer to being over." He is in the final year of a $90 million, five-year contract and will be eligible for free agency after the World Series.
Barry Bonds is a great baseball player. He has enjoyed a lengthy career, and although he's been ‘dogged’ by constant accusations of steroid use, his friends and acquaintances remain loyal to him. He is the envy of many boys who dream of being paid $15 million a year to hit sixty pitches into McCovey Cove. He's a baseball phenom who's reached the pinnacle of stardom in a nation obsessed with professional athletics. Millions go to work each day with the dream of reaching Bonds-like prestige, popularity, and wealth. Yet as this man nears the end of his career, he expresses deep disappointment and frustration with his life and accomplishments.

Barry’s predicament is not new. It’s not rare, and it’s not odd. This kind of disillusionment has been the experience of many who’ve “arrived.” How often have we heard comments like “Is this all there is?” or “I have it all and I’m still not happy” or “If I could just find the time to enjoy all I’ve amassed.” Barry Bonds is not lamenting a modern phenomenon, he is addressing the same age-old problem that ‘dogged’ King Solomon.

Ecclesiastes 6:1-3 (ESV), "There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous evil. If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life's good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he."

I’ve never hit a ball into McCovey Cove, and I’ve never lived in a palace with 700 women (and let me go on record that I wouldn’t want to!). But I hear more of myself in Bonds’ and Solomon’s comments than I would care to admit. I am so easily amused and satisfied. I spend too much time chasing after baseballs and dollar bills. I am too often mesmerized by the latest technology. And too often, down deep inside my soul, I’m expecting that next purchase (or that next sermon) to give me that eternal delight for which I yearn.

I am slow to learn the truth of Ecclesiastes (even though I’m currently preaching through it). I am slow to admit my obsession with the trivial and temporary; and I’m slow to embrace the truth that only God can satisfy my soul with the Treasure and Delight of Himself.

Psalm 16:11 (ESV), “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Barry is a baseball player. I am a pastor. Today, Barry preached a sermon about chasing baseballs in the outfield...and I listened. Life isn't about chasing baseballs, it's about pursuing that forever pleasure in God!

John MacArthur vs. The Emergent Movement

Guess what side I would be on??? Yeah right. Anyway, this is the link to listen to what Dr. MacArthur has to say about this incredibly dangerous movement. Like very few can do, in six minutes, MacArthur breaks down the arrogance involved with a movement that claims humility in coming to the conclusion that believing absolute truth is prideful. The only arrogance involved with that line of thinking is the arrogance involved in a love for sin and a self-centered pride that focuses on self rather than Truth.

Take a few moments and listen to this and let us know what you think.....

Redeeming My Vacation, Part 2

Continuing the particular redemption saga...I am convinced that particular redemption is not only biblically accurate but is theologically necessary if we desire to embrace the whole counsel of God. Yet there are many today, a majority today, who would vehemently disagree. Others have never given it much thought; and others find this discussion a colossal waste of time (which they argue, is happening while a lost world is going to hell).

For those of you who consider this discussion to be a waste of time and/or vehemently disagree with me, I’m quite convinced that what I say in this and upcoming posts will not persuade you of Particular Redemption’s veracity, unless you are willing to consider God’s Word with an open mind and teachable spirit. If you’ve given this subject little thought, stick around for the next couple of days, and I hope you will find the discussion worthwhile.

I am convinced that much of this last week’s (and the last 500 years') discussion and disagreement is due to a misunderstanding of the Calvinist’s view of what we call limited atonement. Boice and Ryken explain the definition and apparent misunderstanding of the Calvinist’s view (pages 113-114)...

For whom did Christ die? That is the question the vast majority of today’s Christians would answer easily, without any special need for reflection: “Why the whole world, of course. The death of Christ is of infinite value. Anyone who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ can be saved.” Yes, but things are not that simple. Calvinists believe that Jesus died for the elect alone and that this has important implications for how we are to understand the nature, character, and effect of Christ’s death, as well as for how we understand it extent. Yet the idea of a “limited atonement” is so foreign to most of today’s Christians and is so misunderstood even by those who have heard of it, that it needs to be carefully explained.

Admittedly, these misunderstandings are due in some measure to the way Calvinists have often expressed the doctrine. Following the TULIP acronym, they have called the third of the five points, “limited atonement,” which is an unfortunate way of speaking. Limited atonement suggests that the death of Christ was of limited value, and this is not what ny true Calvinist wants to say. We believe, as do most Christians, that the death of Christ is of infinite value. It was sufficient to save not only our world but an infinite number of sinful worlds besides, if they should exist. But that is not what lies behind this question. The question we are raising is this: What did Jesus accomplish by His death? What did His death do? Did Jesus’ death merely make salvation possible for everyone, because He died for all, without actually saving anyone? Or did His death actually accomplish the salvation of those for whom He died? The Bible seems to teach the latter. But if it does, then those who will be in heaven are those for whom Christ died and those alone. He did not accomplish salvation for those who will not be in heaven, or they would be there.

But the controversy is not really about words. It is about how the gospel doctrines hold together. If God planned from eternity to save one portion of the human race and not another, which is what election affirms, then it is a contradiction to say that He sent His Son to die for those He had previously determined not to save in the same way that He sent His Son to die for those He had determined actually to save. This does not mean that the death of Christ has no benefit for the whole of mankind, short of salvation. It does have benefit. It has brought an ethic into the flow of human history from which even non-Christians benefit. But it does not mean that, so far as the work of salvation itself is concerned, Jesus came into the world specifically to save those individuals whom the Father had given Him, and not others.

From my perspective, the difference between the non-particular and the particular views of redemption is this…

Was the cross primarily a demonstration of God’s love for us (Romans 5:8)? Or, was the cross equally a demonstration of God’s power and ability to redeem all those He intended to save (Matthew 1:21)?

Arminians would answer “love.” Calvinists would answer “both.” How would you answer? Remember, a cross that lacks power to save all God intended to save is really no cross at all!

Redeeming My Vacation, Part 1

I love vacations. Some of my fondest childhood memories are from vacations. For those of you who don’t know…my family (and I) are on vacation in Galena, Illinois. Galena is one great vacation destination. It is the hometown of General and President U. S. Grant. It is a quaint town nestled snugly between the bluffs on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River. Its Main Street is still lined with three-story shops and restaurants that would still look familiar to those who frequented these same buildings around the turn of the twentieth century.

So, what am I doing while on vacation? I’m trying to keep up with the latest controversy in God-blogdom…Limited Atonement. Jason and Scott, of FIDE-O fame, have ‘unleashed’ this controversy due to Jason’s sermon on John 3:16 (please take a listen). Even the Centuri0n himself has joined in the fray. And if you know us here at The World From Our Window, it shouldn’t surprise you that we are willing to jump in the middle of this thing with “both barrels a-blazin’”.

By coincidence (rather, providence), when this thing broke out in the blogosphere, I was reading the chapter entitled “Particular Redemption” in Boice and Ryken’s book, The Doctrines of Grace. This single doctrine is most likely the most misunderstood aspect of Calvinistic theology. For several years, I fought the teaching of Scripture on this point and held a modified four-point view. You may be wondering which Reformed author finally convinced me to embrace Particular Redemption. Surprisingly his name wasn’t Calvin or Boice or Augustine or Boettner. His name? Jesus.

John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd…” We love this verse. It conjures up memories of David’s comforting words in Psalm 23: “The LORD is my shepherd…” In painful and sorrowful times we've lost ourselves in these verses. We have a Shepherd who loves and provides for His sheep. But John 10:11 not only describes Who our Savior is; it describes what our Savior does. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

Hmm...

Monday, March 27

Book Review: "Set Apart" - By R. Kent Hughes

I'm not sure that if there is a word in evangelicalism today that carries more connotations than "separation". Those of us who had our roots in the harmful realms of legalism usually think of that word with some fear and trepidation. And for good reason. The word has been abused in the strictest terms by dictatorial leaders who have abused their influence with man-made rules and standards that stretch far beyond the truth of Scripture. Most of these standards selfishly meet the demands of a movement's leadership, rather than promoting growth in grace that produces subsequent Christ-likeness.

R. Kent Hughes goes about taking this issue from the Scriptural perspective while not succombing to the man-centered approach that many have unfortunately taken over the past 100 years or so in dealing with this issue.

Hughes begins the book dealing with Lot. He points out the fact that by just taking an exegetical look at Genesis 19 one would conclude that Lot was lost. However, with the revelation given to us in 2 Peter we find that Lot was indeed "righteous". We find that Lot had grown comfortable in a world that he should have never grown comfortable in. He allowed himself to become accustomed to the immorality of Sodom and Gomorrah and refused to distinguish himself from the pagan world. Hughes puts much of that in the context of the modern day church.

The book is broke down into 11 different aspects of separation that have become lax in modern day evangelicalism - Materialism, hedonism, sensuality, violence and voyeurism, sexual conduct, modesty, pluralism, marriage, church and the Lord's Day, and the unending yes. He concludes the book by comparing the old Gospel with the new Gospel. Since leaving the world of irrationality that I lived in for much of my life as a believer, this is the first book that I have read on the subject of separation from a conservative evangelical who dealt with the subject from a biblical perspective.

I will not review each of the chapters but I took a special interest in the chapters on materialism where Hughes compared the sin of materialism to that of slavery in the 19th century. Both sins are offenses against a holy and just God but both have been justified to suit our own comforts. He writes that materialism has plagued our church and has duped many believers into worshiping their "things" instead of their God. He also dives into the dangers of the television and our society's infatuation with pleasure and beauty.

In dealing with modesty Hughes took a very straightforward and biblical approach to a problem that has been sickening our churches. He talks about the need to be godly rather than fashionable and the battle that all of us will face who hold modesty in high regards.

The one weakness (if the book has any) would be that I would have liked to see Hughes address ecclesiastical separation. It would have been interesting to read Hughes articulate his position in regards to that topic.

Nevertheless, this is an outstanding book. Hughes is a very gifted writer and boldly proclaims our need to be distinct from this world without injecting harmful legalsim. This would be a worthy investment and I would highly recommend it and use it as a solid reference.

Way to Go Guys at FIDE-O

Some of you may not be aware of the brouhaha taking place over at FIDE-O. It seems like several of the bartenders over at The Boars Head Tavern are not happy with FIDE-O's stand on Particular Redemption (or, Limited Atonement).

Take a look at what's been going on, as we will be entering the discussion here shortly.

So, what do you think? What was the nature and extent of Christ's atonement...did His death only make salvation possible for all men...or did Christ's death actually secure the salvation of those He intended to save (the elect)?

For those of you who believe that Christ's death only made salvation possible for all men, consider this.

What kind of cross will we be preaching if Christ's atonement was intended to cover the sin of all, but failed to do so? What kind of 'good news' is this to the one in need of a Savior...if the majority of those whom God 'intended to save' will spend eternity in hell?

The "L" (as in Limited Atonement) is a precious truth for ALL WHO BELIEVE...for it speaks to God's ability to save those He has intended to save from the foundations of the world. Praise His name! The cross displays as much of God's omnipotence as it does His love! If God was incapable of saving ALL He intended to save through the cross, how could the "whosoever" of John 3:16 really mean "whosoever"?

In the words of Hebrews 7:25 (ESV), "Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them."

Praise God, He is able to save to the uttermost. And who does He save to the uttemost? Those for whom Christ intercedes ... logically, those for whom He died!
Don't you agree?

Saturday, March 25

Our Claim to Exclusivity

If you are like me, you enjoy a wide variety of foods (Italian, French, Mexican, American, and sorry - No Chinese - Yuck!!!). There is no way that Chinese food was in Eden before the fall, I just will not buy into that. All of our lives enjoy a wide array of different types of enjoyments, foods, vacations, and people. However, there is one exclusive claim that holds us together as evangelical believers - the Gospel.

R. Kent Hughes in his book "Set Apart - Calling a Worldly Church to a Godly Lifestyle" deals with this indepth in his chapter regarding pluralism. He quotes the theologically liberal renowned retired pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in California - Robert Schuler. The Chicago Tribune reported on Schuler's invitation to a mosque with Louis Farrakan and Iman Wallace Deen Mohammed -

"For decades, Schuller said, he was a proponent of the kind of proselytizing that pushed Muslims to become Christians. Then he realized that asking people to change their faith was "utterly ridiculous."....Schuler's first interaction with a Muslim group came four years ago, when Mohammed invited him to give the opening sermon at the Muslim American Society's New Jersey convention. And in 1999, he was asked by the grand mufti of Syria to preach in Damascus. "When I met the grand mufti....I sensed the presence of God," he wrote in his autobiography. The two men, he said, focused on similarities, not differences.... "The purpose of religion is not to say, 'I have all the answers, and my job is to convert you.' That road leads to the Twin Towers. That attitude is an invitation to extremists," he said. After Sept. 11, he said, the emphasis should move from proselytizing "to just trying to help everybody who had hurts and hopes."


Wow! To think that Mr. Seeker-Sensitive himself - Bill Hybels just did the commisioning service for Schuler's son who just took over as pastor of the Cathedral and scores of evangelical pastors are reading Hybel's materials and using them faithfully. To think that the attacks on 9-11 are being blamed on (of all people) evangelical Christians like us who take an inerrant and sufficient view of Scripture and claim the exclusivity of the Gospel is out and out blasphemy.

Hughes points out that this news story got little to no attention at all from the local and national media but that when Franklyn Graham made his very concise and accurate comments on Islam it was covered nationally by all three of the left-leaning networks. The outcry was international and many called for Graham to recant on his comments and publicly apologize. I give Graham credit for his bold stand (this is not an all out endorsement of Franklyn Graham but he does deserve credit for this and I admire his boldness, I would like his father to follow suit as well).

Christianity is not exclusive in its message because of what its followers claim. The message of the Gospel is exclusive because of what our Savior Himself proclaimed (John 3:16-18; 14:6; 10:7-9). We do not claim to have the Truth backed into a corner because of our superiority and wisdom, rather, we claim to have been backed into a corner by God's grace and have had our eyes opened and have been "made alive together with Him" (Eph. 2:5).

Yes, our message is exclusive and Christ is the only way not just a way that works for us. This is not arrogance or pride, rather the Truth!!!

The Wet Essays: Credo Answers Pedro

Wow! This has been fun to watch. Having taken on the role of a spectator, I have kindly shut my mouth and let everyone else do the talking (read, typing). Before we move on, here are a few of my observations from the cheap seats.

1) Pedro is to be commended for sticking his paedobaptist neck out in a credobaptist community (I am not isolating the paedobaptists who read here...we enthusiastically welcome you all). Listen, Baptists, we would do well to remember that at one time in history, our necks would've been endangered!

2) The mode of baptism, although extremely precious to us Baptists, is not something that should cause us to break fellowship. As confessional Baptists, we share much in common with gospel-loving Presbyterians. Let us realize and embrace this truth.

3) Although Baptists do not practice infant baptism, we can learn much from our Presbyterian brothers on raising our children as members of the new covenant community. Too many of our churches have bought into the age-segregated method of Sunday School, children's church, and youth ministry. Scripture is very clear that the church and family are to be integrated rather than segregated. Agree or not, the Presbyterian view of children and the covenant nurtures a healthy view of church and family.
One of our loyal readers, Robert McNutt, has answered Pedro's assertions from part 3 of A View From The Other Side. Robert's (I know him as Bob) comments are worth a read, so here they are.
Pedro,

Let me try to address John Piper’s third argument about the difference between “circumcision – which signified a physical relationship, which now will be replaced by baptism – which signifies a spiritual relationship.” I too agree with you that this is his strongest argument. Here is why:

The main problem with the paedobaptist’s argument is their misunderstanding about the similarities between the people of God in the Old Testament and the people of God today. It assumes that the way God gathers both His people from the old covenant and His people from the new covenant are so similar that the different signs of the covenant (baptism and circumcision) can be administered the same way to both peoples. It is my contention that here is where their argument breaks down!

Obviously, there are differences between the Church and Israel. And these differences explain why it was appropriate for Israel to receive the old covenant sign of circumcision for their infants, and why it is not appropriate to give the new covenant sign of baptism to the infants of the Church. Even though as Romans 4:11 teaches there is an overlap in meaning between baptism and circumcision.

The Apostle Paul makes this clear in Romans 9:6-8, “But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, 'In Isaac your seed shall be called.' That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed."

What is relevant in this text for our purposes is that there were two “Israels”: a physical Israel and a spiritual Israel. Yet we see that God ordained that whole, physical, religious, and national people of Israel be known as the covenant people and receive the sign of the covenant and the outward blessings of the covenant – even the promised land (Genesis 17:8).

The covenant people of the Old Testament were intermingled. They were all physical Israel who were circumcised, but within that national – ethnic group there was a remnant of the true Israel, the true children of God (vs. 8). God bound Himself by covenant to an ethnic people so that He could call out a true people for Himself.

Now the question for our discussion is this – is the New Testament Church – the Church today a continuation of the larger mingled group of ethnic, religious , national Israel, or is the Church a continuation of the remnant of the true sons of Abraham who were children of God by faith in Christ?

I think Paul makes this abundantly clear for us in Galatians 4:22-28 “For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar—or this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children—but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written: “ Rejoice, O barren, You who do not bear! Break forth and shout, You who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children than she who has a husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise."

Now who is “we brethren”? They are the Church. The Church is not an intermingled heritage like Abraham’s seed. The Church is not like Israel – a physical multitude and in it a small remnant of true saints. The Church is the saints by definition.

The people of the covenant in the Old Testament were made up of intermingled people, the people “according to the flesh” and the “children of God”. Therefore it was fitting that circumcision was given to all the children of the flesh.

The New Testament Church of Jesus Christ (the people of the new covenant), is being built in a fundamentally different way. The church is not based on an ethnic identity, but on the reality of faith alone, by grace alone in the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the Church is not a continuation of Israel intermingled, it is a continuation of the true Israel, the remnant – not the children “of the flesh”, but the “children of promise”.

Christ’s Church is a new covenant community. It is the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy found in Jeremiah 31:31-34. In fact when we partake in the Lord’s Table we are reminded that – “this cup is the new covenant in my blood”. This new covenant is the spiritual work of God to put His Spirit within us, and write the His law on our hearts, and causes us to walk in His statues. Christ’s Church is a spiritually authentic community! Unlike the old covenant community it is defined by true spiritual life and faith. Being a partaker of these things is what means to be in union with Christ (or belonging to His body, the Church). Therefore to give the sign of the covenant, baptism, to those who are merely “children of the flesh” and who give no evidence of new birth or the presence of the Spirit or His law written in their hearts contradicts the meaning of the new covenant community.

In God’s progressive redemptive history, the Church of Jesus Christ is new; it’s not a rerun of the old covenant. To administer the sign of the covenant as though this progressive revelation never happened is a great error! Credobaptist do not baptize our children “according to the flesh”, not because we do not love them, but because we want to preserve for them the purity and power of the spiritual community that God ordained for the believing church of the living Christ!

Someone has recently told me, “That when you teach, you are to teach to persuade!” Pedro, I pray that you will be persuaded of these things. That if you have been washed in the blood of the Lamb ... If your sins have been forgiven ... If you have died with Christ and have been risen in the likeness of His resurrection ... If you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit ... If His law has been written on your heart; come then and signify this in credobaptism, and glorify God’s great new covenant work in your life!

P.S. Pedro, thanks for sharing with us the covenant paedobaptist view. I’m sure that a lot of us credobaptist thought this issue was cut and dry. It is much more complex that I once thought. Keep serving our King!
Wow! Credo and Pedro can get along after all!

Phil Ryken On The Post-Christian Church

I have become an avid listener and reader of anything 'Ryken'. Dr. Phil Ryken is the Senior Pastor of the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, PA. He is a prolific writer and a gifted expositor of God's Word. Through his books and preaching, Ryken challenges today's church leaders to embrace biblical reform. We would all do well to heed Dr. Ryken's message and emulate his intense passion for the truth.

Here is a quote from pages 22-23 of the book, City On A Hill. Ryken is discussing the contemporary church's infatuation with being relevant to its culture:

When churches make relevance their primary goal, they are vulnerable to the twin perils of postmodernism: relativism and narcissism. They succumb to relativism because they are willing to sacrifice biblical principles for popular success. And they are guilty of narcissism because they crave the acceptance of secular society, as if 'the interests and ambitions of the unconverted can somehow be harnessed to win their approval for Christ."

I do not think for a moment that the church should aspire to become irrelevant. There is always a need for Christians to speak the gospel into their own context. Rather, my concern is with the ever-present danger of over-contextualizing. Consider what happens to a church that is always trying to appeal to an increasingly post-Christian culture. Almost inevitably, the church itself becomes post-Christian. This is what happened to the liberal church during the twentieth century, and it is what is happening to the evangelical church right now. As James Montgomery Boice has argued, evangelicals are accepting the world's agenda, and employing the world's methods. In theology a revision of evangelical doctrine is now underway that seeks to bring Christianity more in line with postmodern thought. The obvious difficulty is that in a post-Christian culture, a church that tries too hard to be "relevant" may in the process lose its very identity as the church. Rather than confronting the world, the church gets co-opted by it. It no longer stands a city on a hill, but sinks to the level of the surrounding culture.

So what should we do? The leaders of the so-called new reformation [i.e., the 'seeker-sensitive' and 'emergent' movements] begin with the future and then look to the present. This is in contrast with traditional church leaders, who begin with the present and then look to the past. So where should we look? If we only look to the future, we run the risk of abandoning our spiritual heritage. However, if we look to the past, then we may live in the past, and thereby fail to serve God effectively in our own times. What we should do instead is live in the present, learn from the past, and anticipate the future, while always looking to the Bible."
Well said, Dr. Ryken. Ecclesiastical fads (claiming cultural relevance) will come and go, yet Christ's true church will continue to shine as a city on a hill.
Matthew 5:14, "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hidden."

Friday, March 24

Friday Frivolity...Happy Spring!

I realize this greeting is a few days late, but here's what I was doing on the second day of Spring in Southern Illinois! I was preparing for the 2010 Winter Olympiad in Vancouver. Yep, I was working on my downhill and bobsledding techniques, with the help of some rather young training partners! I thought you would enjoy taking a peek at the training routine of America's next great boblsedder. So here they are...proof that an old man can still have a good time in the snow!

Here we are stretching at the top of the hill ...err... BOBSLED RUN!



Here we are just getting warmed up!



Here's what I look like just before I hop on the sled (at approximately 28 mph)!



Maybe this whole bobsled thing is a bit overrated!



What happened to all the air in this thing?



Well, at least the kids had fun (Fields & Poehlein's)!
(My kids prayed all winter for snow and God answered their prayers on the first day of Spring!)

As for the 2010 U.S. Boblsed team ... do they offer that in the Senior Olympics?

Oh, well...

HAPPY SPRING FROM THE FIELDS AND POEHLEIN'S!!

Thursday, March 23

The Repackaging of 1930's Liberalism

Today's evangelicalism needs a good dose of H. Richard Neibuhr. Although I certainly do not subscribe to all of his theology, Neibuhr makes a remarkable (and contemporary) observation in his book, The Kingdom of God in America (1937). Charles Bellinger summarizes Neibuhr's book this way...

"(In this second work) Neibuhr discusses the motifs of religious revolution which have had a great impact on American culture. This is a counter-balance to the first work which showed the impact of the world on the church; here it is the church which has influenced the world. He interpreted Christianity as a dynamic process in history rather than as simply a set of institutions. He noted a dialectical interplay between the relativism of human cultures and the basic beliefs of the Christian faith. This book contains a very famous one sentence critique of theological liberalism:

"A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through a Christ without a cross."
This 'gospel' sounds strangely familiar, doesn't it? Maybe, then, the seeker-sensitive and emergent movements aren't so radically cutting-edge after all. Maybe they've simply repackaged 1930's liberalism with a bit of a 'postmodern twist'.

So if this isn't new and innovative; if it isn't postmodern and progressive, revolutionary and radical -- then what is it? I'm not sure what it is...but I'm sure what it isn't. It isn't the gospel of Jesus Christ. It wasn't in the 1930's, and it isn't today!

Pro-Family, Pro-Faith, Pro-Choice - Yeah Right!

This website is a link to that very claim. Out of curiosity, I did a search today on Google for "liberal theological blogs". Much to my own surprise, we in the Christian blogosphere are represented by a wide variety of those with different theological views. I'm not sure how many times I read words "diversity", "unity", "not claiming to have an exclusive truth", or "feeding and sheltering others in the name of the Gospel". Not that any of those things in and of themselves are wrong (with the exception to the claim that we have an exclusive truth) it is just wrong in the context that the theological liberals of our day have put it in.

But then I came across this website that claimed that you could be pro-family, pro-faith, and pro-choice. WHAT!?!? What an absurd assumption! But then again, this is the Christianity that is represented by liberal theology which teaches that we have no claim to absolute truth and no truth that is absolutely authoratative and sufficent (Scripture). The social gospel of the late19th century and early 20th century is still being propogated by the non-innerrants of our day who simply want to use certain tid-bits of what the Bible teaches in order to spread a gospel with absolutely no life-changing power whatsoever.

One of the blogs referred to Dr. Albert Mohler as a bigot and went ahead and included Franklyn Graham in there as well for their recent comments regarding Islam. For some unknown reason, attacking Islam has become one of the most politically incorrect things to do. Perhaps that is due to a fear of being attacked or causing attacks on others, I am not sure. Nevertheless, people around the world seem to have a free pass when it comes to landblasting and belittling evangelical Christians who hold to the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture. All of a sudden, those of us who claim to have the absolute truth (Jesus Christ) are lumped together as bigots. Never mind the fact that Islam teaches the very same thing in regards to having the truth and refers to those who do not hold to their false system of beliefs as "infidels".

Yet, it is this very message of religioius inclucivism that the theological liberals of our day are still attempting to immerse our culture in. Frankly, for them to try and reconcile supporting abortion in light of what Scripture teaches is downright repulsive. Abortion is a trecherous act that has become one of the deepest scars that our nation has suffered. Because Christians have taken this issue too lightly, our nation has elected two different (Carter and Clinton) pro-abortion presidents since the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 (the year before I was born). Latest statistics show that over 40 million babies have been massacred since that time in the U.S. alone. Being "inclusive" is not what the message of our Lord was. In fact, the message for God's people throughout the pages of Scripture is to come out from the unbelief of the world and to be distinct as His people.

Preaching and teaching against abortion is not political activism, it is what we are commanded to do if we are to preach the "whole counsel of God." Not having a view of Scripture that accepts to what Scripture itself attests to - inerrancy - will do nothing more than muddy an inerrant message to promote a social agenda. A social agenda and a spiritual agenda can never be reconciled simply because of the fact that a social agenda is man-centered and a spiritual agenda will always be God-centered (when adhered to by God's Word). This is not a plea for political activism. Rather, it is a plea that we continue to call sin what it is and continue to reach the lost with the Gospel! Call that what you want - narrow minded, pig-headed, judgmental, or shallow, it is the truth!

The Wet Essays: A View From The Other Side, Part 3

Here it is. This is what you've been waiting for...the final installment in A View From The Other Side chapter of our ongoing series on baptism. For those of you who are new to this series, please take time to read my preface to this chapter [click here]. Again, my purpose in posting Pedro Baptist's view of baptism is to inform credobaptists of the rationale behind the paedobaptist view. With that in mind, please read carefully and discerningly.

Here are the concluding words (unless we ask him back for further clarification...or maybe we should we should ask him to discuss the Lord's Table as a 'means of grace') of Pedro Baptist...

Answering credobaptist arguments against covenantal paedobaptism

There are basically three credobaptist arguments against the practice of covenantal paedobaptism. I will try to engage these arguments as they are laid out by John Piper in his article “Brothers, Magnify the Meaning of Baptism”. [click here to read this article]

Credobaptist argument #1: “every baptism recorded in the Bible was the baptism of an adult who had professed faith in Christ.” Piper considers this to be a weak argument because it is “only suggestive, not compelling.” He is right. This argument (and the related “nowhere in the New Testament are we told to baptize infants”) are arguments from silence, and while they may be “suggestive” should not be used as the basis for theology and practice. (There is also no direct example of an infant baptism in the New Testament, but this is not strange since the New Testament describes a first-generation Christian context.)

But while I agree with Piper that the above argument is “suggestive”, I believe that it suggests covenant paedobaptism. It seems strange that there is no New Testament command not to baptize children. At the time of Pentecost, believers had been giving the covenant sign to their children for 2000 years. If there has been a change in the 2000-year-old rule about who receives the covenant sign, it is strange that the apostles do not say so.

To sum up, it is true that there is no proof text that says “baptize your children” or (vice versa) “do not baptize your children”, but it seems to me that unless we have been explicitly told by Scripture to change our practice, we should refrain from doing so.

Credobaptist argument #2: the New Testament directly links baptism with faith. Piper cites Colossians 2:12 and 1 Peter 3:21 to argue that baptism is “the cry of faith to God.” This seems so close to me to Piper’s third argument that I will address it there. Only let me say that covenant paedobaptists would say “amen!” to these passages. Baptism is about faith.

Credobaptist argument #3 (Piper’s strongest argument): “circumcision – which signified a physical relationship, will now be replaced by baptism – which signifies a spiritual relationship.” But Romans 4:11 explicitly contradicts this argument. Circumcision did not signify a physical relationship – it signified and sealed the “righteousness which [Abraham] had by faith.” And if circumcision was a sign and seal of the righteousness of faith, and baptism is also a sign and seal of the righteousness of faith, then there is biblical warrant for the baptism of the children of believers.

In other words, Abraham believed and was circumcised, but he was commanded to give the covenant sign to his children who had not yet believed. So also we, who have believed and been baptized, are supposed to give the covenant sign to our children as well.
So, do we have any votes for Pedro?

Wednesday, March 22

Albert Mohler on Biblical Authority

Many think that this was only an issue at the turn of the 20th century (Scriptural authority and inerrancy). I wish that were true. One of the saddest commentaries of our day is the fact that many actually attempt to use the Bible to defend their sinful ambitions. Take a look at how Albert Mohler tackles this issue head on in dealing with many of the contemporary issues of our day - especially in regards to homosexuality.

I figured that it had been at least a month since either Ken or myself had quoted Mohler so I think the grace period has ended. Enjoy!

Where Does the Time Go?

It was Monday afternoon and I was playing catch with my four year old daughter for the first time. We signed her up for T-ball so we had to subsequently get her a new glove (in Cubbie blue of course!) and then teach her how to hit, catch, and throw the ball properly. It made me think back to the day she was born, her first steps, and the fact that she is now in the beginning processes of learning how to read and write. It seems like just yesterday that I was holding her in the hospital room after Christina had given birth to her. Our children have impacted our lives a great deal and they are truly gifts from the Lord. My daughter, for example, is about the most honest child you could ever meet. She very candidly tells me - "Daddy, your preaching is boring." Sadly, she is probably right! My son (8yrs old) is never at a shortage for questions and brings incredible amounts of joy to our lives as well. With no reservation whatsoever, I can honestly say that I find great joy in being both a husband and a father.

Scripture tells us in I Timothy 4:4 - "For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude" (NASB). This basically repeats what was said in the creation account of Genesis 1 when God saw what He created and declared that it was "good". I'm afraid that far too many of us in the world of Christendom have gotten it mixed up with what is truly "good". Much to our dismay, we have allowed the unregenerate world tell us that more "things", money, influence, power, and status is good. And if the truth be told, you can see much of this in the evangelical churches of America.

Our generation is one that must be entertained at all costs, and many times the entertainment isn't enough. There must be more and it cannot be too simplistic. Whatever happened to just enjoying a sunrise or a sunset? Or, just enjoying one another's company. My wife and I enjoy a good 15 to 20 minutes every morning just talking and conversing before our day begins. We try to do the same thing with our children and many of our friends. We had a special Sunday evening service this past Sunday where we had a short message from Psalm 62 and then shared praises and testimonies from God's people. The people left (I believe) refreshed and encouraged as they were able to share what God is doing in their lives as well as in the lives of others.

What does it take to create enjoyment in the lives of us who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ? Do we need the same emotional highs that the world does? Do we still enjoy a time of quiet solitude with the Word of God that has transformed our lives and speaks to us every time it is opened and read? A close look at our hearts finds us so many times distant and aloof when it comes to just enjoying God Himself and the pleasure that He offers.

If any group of people should enjoy life, it should be us! If anyone should enjoy our spouse and children, it should be us. We should also enjoy the wonderful fellowship and company of belonging to a local community of believers. We should enjoy not only the Creator but also the creation.

Tuesday, March 21

Today's Purpose Driven Devotional

Here is the Purpose Driven devotional I received via email today (I spared the $3.99). If you are looking for the spiritual application, you'll have to really look for it. And if you are expecting Scripture in this devotional, you'll be disappointed.

For the love of the game
by John Fischer

Last Thursday night, my son, Chandler, and I checked into a hotel near the Los Angeles International Airport in order to meet my wife who was due in late from a business trip. I was surprised to find the lobby bustling with people. It seemed like an odd hour for so many to be checking into a hotel. They were definitely traveling as a group and many of them were toting large duffle bags. When I saw baseball bat handles sticking out of one bag, I assumed they were some kind of team, but they were not a very well-heeled team in that they could not afford team bags. They were all traveling with their families. Kids were running all over the lobby and it did not take Chandler long to join them. Finally, I caught the red and green colors of Mexico on a laminated ticket pass that one of them was wearing around his neck and I wondered if this was Mexico's team in the World Baseball Classic – the guys that hours earlier had knocked Team USA out of the games with a convincing win. I would have expected much more of a display of color and uniformity from an international team.

“Are you guys on Mexico's baseball team?” I asked two families in the elevator. They nodded. “Are you still in it?” Yes, they shook their heads. “So, you just knocked us out?” They grinned ear to ear with satisfaction. “Well, congratulations!” I said as they spilled out onto their floor – women, children, players, and bats. One guy had signatures all over his jacket. Two others had Team USA hats signed, I assumed, by Major League players.

These were no-names from nowhere who had just knocked off their millionaire heroes and gotten their autographs in the process. These guys were playing only for pride and the love of the game, and they were carrying their own bags. You can bet that USA players never touch their own equipment outside the ball field.

I want to remember that picture: the smiles, the kids, the players, and the equipment bags strewn all over the lobby. Something about it seems true and pure – the kind of thing that will keep this game alive.

Something about this also seems right about our relationship with God. When you serve God, you carry your own stuff. No one is above being a servant. And we're in it for the love of the game, only this game is life. It's the real thing.

That guy may have autographs of big league players all over his jacket, but in his heart, he's got something better than all their million-dollar contracts combined – he's got the real game and the real reason to play it. And look who won.

For those interested in some substantial spiritual nourishment, click here. You will find Spurgeon's daily devotional, Morning And Evening, refreshing and filling!

"Hysteric Fundamentalism"

This is the term that my friend Matthew Richards used to describe the brand of fundamentalism that is portrayed at the Pastor's School at First Baptist Church of Hammond Indiana.

Both Matt and I can speak from personal experience - Matt having grown up there nearly his whole life and I having spent nearly six years of my life there. To call that experience anything but traumatizing would be putting it mildly. The "Hyles" persuasion of militant fundamentalism has pinned down a highly sectarian group of churches in this country into a shallow hole of King James Onlyism, ridiculous legalism, blind loyalty to fundamental kingdoms, man-centered theology, decisional regeneration, and theological ineptness. It looks as though this trend has continued under their new pastor Jack Schaap. The emphasis on numbers has remained along with the demand for blind loyalty to an institution that has been known for covering up sin for decades now.

This brand of "performance enhanced" Christian living has caused its fair share of road kill over the years. One of the most detrimental hindrances that it has caused has been the notion that we can live outside of the power of God's grace (a.k.a. Finneyism). If we could not be saved due to our performance what makes us think that we can gain God's approval by our performance (e.g. big numbers, budgets, buildings, and influence).

This week has also seen someone whom I respect a great deal speaking at the annual Pastor's School at FBCH - Dr. Jim Binney. I have only met Dr. Binney on two different occasions but I have grown to appreciate the clear warnings that he publicly makes about the type of ministry that is represented at FBCH. Binney himself was at one time an ardent follower of Hyles and broke away from that loyalty due to a biblical insight that caused him to see the irrational methodology that is represented at HAC and FBCH. So to say the least, I was shocked and disturbed to hear that he accepted Schaap's invitation to speak at pastor's school. But I wanted to wait and get the whole picture before making a comment known publicly. I can honestly say that I am thankful that the Lord did not allow me to hasten my judgment.

I read this morning on ShaperIron that Binney took advantage of the situation by speaking out against "idolatry", "big numbers", and "true ministry success". I also heard that he was going to speak to the delegates there about personal purity and marriage. Having personally once been an ardent supporter of Hyles and the movement that he represented I said a hearty "Amen" to that because I know that sort of substantive preaching from the Word is needed at a place like that where good expository preaching is something of a novel idea. Though I cannot say that I would personally do what Binney is doing this week (not like I would ever be invited anyway) I can understand the personal connection that Binney has had with Schaap (he was Schaap's pastor when Schaap was a teen-ager). So I pray that Binney made an impact there and I pray that some sort of rationale from the Word made it through to those who for the most part, have had an incredible reputation for being man-centered and numbers centered.

Purpose Driven Gone Mobile...

[Preface: I hadn't planned on posting another Purpose Driven piece until this ad caught my eye while I was checking out smartchristian.com -- you'll find it in the left sidebar]

Or better said -- Purpose Driven gone mad. For only $3.99/month you can receive "a short devotional thought from The Purpose Driven Life on your mobile phone daily. Now you can take the Purpose Driven Life with you anytime, no matter where you are." Here's the sales pitch you'll be bombarded with after clicking on the Find Out More link...

Sign up now

Now you can take The Purpose Driven Life with you anytime, no matter where you are. Have special daily devotionals from The Purpose Driven Life sent right to your mobile phone. For only $3.99/month, you can:
  • Receive a new inspirational message every weekday
  • Save your favorites and keep them with you wherever you go
  • Share the messages with those around you
Sign up below to begin receiving The Purpose Driven Life daily devotionals.
What a deal! For $3.99/month (which happens to be a penny less than a dial-a-sermon download from pastors.com) you can take the inspiring words of Warren with you ... and even share them via the text messaging option. [This is also available from The Purpose Driven Life website...click here.]

The Purpose Driven Life website also lists several personal testimonials persuading you to snatch up this life-changing book. Here are a couple of the testimonials that seem to be rather revealing. Take special notice of what (or, whom) gives these readers guidance and direction, and which book has changed and transformed their lives.

Transformed

I have read many self help books that promise to guide me to fulfill my dreams and reach my goals. They are sitting on a shelf and I have had no inclination to re-read them. This book is like an old friend. It gives me guidance when I need it. It reassures me when I have doubt. It gives me honesty about my life direction. This book teaches me what other books do not. To fulfill my God Purpose not just my goals and dreams.

I feel that my life is changing through this book and that my Purpose will be clearer. It is like a metamorphosis. God has given me wings and through this book I have been transformed and have learned to fly.

A New Beginning!

My wife and I received a copy of TPDL the day after Ash Wednesday from our church upon joining its discussion group. We'd had a few very dismal months prior, dealing with a job loss, my father's death, and the loss of our unborn daughter. My wife ran into an old friend from church, whose husband happened to be the leader of the aforementioned discussion group. He brought the book to our home, and I thought I would be supportive of my wife, and attend the group to help her deal with her grief.


After we began reading the book aloud together, the change in me was absolutely astounding, and we've attended every group meeting, the last one being tonight. We were both transformed by this book's wisdom, like a spiritual rebirth. With spring on the near horizon, it will truly be a season of rebirth. I can't say enough positive things about the joy and closeness to God we've experienced anew, and hope to continue to grow. I would encourage everyone to read this book, and follow the 40 day cycle. I'll truly never be the same again, and will face life with a revitalized spirit, in both good times and bad.

These testimonials reveal a troubling trend among Purpose Driven adherents: allegiance seems to be sworn to a book authored by a man rather than to the Book authored by God.

Now hold on...let me say something (before you hop on over to my profile page and shoot me a scathing email). I do not question these individuals' sincerity. I have no doubt that, through this book, God has regenerated sinners in spite of its watered-down, weak presentation of the gospel. And although we should never judge a book by its cover (which we have not done, even with the PDL), it does seem expedient to judge a book by its product, which in this case, troubles me.

I know many of these testimonials are coming from non-Christians or very young Christians, and I realize they won't converse in over-used 'Christian cliches' (which isn't a bad thing). But when testimonial after testimonial [you can read more here] gives credit to a book and its author rather than to God and His grace, something must be wrong.

So what's wrong? After skimming through the PDL website, I found these quotes, which seem to diagnose the problem... [You can read the entire advertisement here.]

"(This book is) A groundbreaking manifesto on the meaning of life." (emphasis added)

"This long-anticipated book is the life-message of Rick Warren, founding pastor of Saddleback Church." (emphases added)

This is the problem with the numerous pop-psychology, self-help, 'Christian' books of today: each new book claims to be a "groundbreaking manifesto" of a man's "life-message".

So, how can we differentiate between a book that tells a man's life message and writing that proclaims God's gospel message; maybe by the readers' response? It appears that many of Warren's readers are quoted as saying, "Wow! What a book!" Yet God's message seem to elicit a much different response -- something like Paul's reaction in 1 Timothy 1:15-17 (ESV),

"The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen."
"Wow! What a God!"

LATE ADDITION: Check out today's Purpose Driven devotional in this post.

Monday, March 20

The Wet Essays: A View From The Other Side, Part 2

This is part two of a three part series on the subject of paedobaptism, from a Presbyterian perspective. If you have yet to read my introductory comments to this series, please take time do do so now [click here]. Again, let me reiterate, the purpose of these posts is to educate credobaptists of the rationale behind the paedobaptist view. Many Baptists are ignorant when it comes to the reasons why Presbyterians baptize infants, and what this baptism symbolizes.

So here is Pedro Baptist and his case for paedobaptism.

The biblical argument for Covenantal Paedobaptism

If the New covenant is the basis of the Abrahamic covenant and believers in Christ are truly the “seed of Abraham”, then we should expect there to be continuity between the covenant sign given to Abraham (circumcision) and the covenant sign given to the New Testament church (baptism). The Bible demonstrates this continuity in three ways:

First, both baptism (Matt 28:19, Eph 4:5) and circumcision (Gen 17:9-11) are initiatory rites. In other words, they are “once-for-all” ceremonies that mark the entrance into the covenant community.

Second, both baptism and circumcision are primarily spiritual. It is a given amongst credobaptists that baptism is an “outward sign of an inward reality” (Rom 6:3-4). Circumcision also was to be symbolic of an inward state: “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart…” (Deut 10:16; cf. Jer 4:4). It is necessary to state this, because many credobaptists believe that circumcision was mainly physical or ethnic as opposed to a primarily spiritual New Testament baptism. However, both circumcision and baptism are primarily spiritual.

And third (and this point grows out of the second point), both baptism and circumcision are signs and seals of faith. Once again, credobaptists affirm (rightly) that baptism is a sign of faith. But circumcision as well was a sign of faith: “[Abraham] received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith…” (Rom 4:11; emphasis mine). It is wrong to separate the purpose and point of baptism from the purpose and point of circumcision; they function together within a biblical-theological continuity. What should be recognized at this point is that Abraham received the sign and seal of faith, but also was commanded to give it to his children as well.

The classic text that demonstrates this fundamental continuity between baptism and circumcision is Colossians 2:12-13:

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

In this passage Paul calls baptism the “circumcision of Christ” and claims that those who have been baptized have been circumcised “with a circumcision made without hands”. The clearest explanation of this text is that there is a correspondence and continuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament covenant signs.

Which brings me to the main point: the New Testament assumes infant baptism. In light of the continuity between the Abrahamic covenant and the New covenant (see the first post), in light of the continuity between the Old Testament and New Testament covenant signs, and in light of the fact that the church was never commanded in the New Testament to stop giving the covenant sign to children, there is no exegetical reason to reject infant baptism as unbiblical and many good reasons to accept it as such.

So, Baptists (and other advocates of credobaptism), what think ye?

This Phenomenon We Call Blogging

Blogging is a strange and fascinating phenomenon. Through it, I have developed several edifying relationships with people I know only by name...and not by face. What's interesting about these relationships is that they are, for the most part, one-sided. Having read most of what these people have written over the last five months, I have become acquainted with their likes and dislikes, their family happenings, and their theological tendencies. I've benefited from their wisdom and envied their writing prowess. Yet most of these fellow bloggers (whom I would consider friends) have no idea who I am.

To many of them, I am nothing more than a visit number on their SiteMeter (on which I appear as netlogic.net from Jerseyville, Illinois). Others know me by name due to my commenting on their site, while others have developed a bit of a relationship with me through frequent commenting or emailing. I'm hoping to meet some of these fellow-bloggers at the upcoming Together For The Gospel Conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

Establishing relationships is one of the many blessings of belonging to the evangelical Christian blogging community. We do enjoy one another's online company (although, at times, it may seem otherwise). Yeah, we like controversy. We poke fun. We may even carry on a rather heated theological debate. Yet we respect each other, enjoy one another's blog-company, and are convinced that blogging for the glory of God is both our privilege and responsibility.

This phenomenon we call blogging has instilled within me a desire I'm not sure will be realized this side of heaven -- I would like to meet each of the bloggers I regularly read. Realistically, this will never happen. So, instead of meeting each of these friends, I would like to introduce them to you, and explain why I've befriended them. So here's my list of fellow bloggers I'd like to meet (please understand these are in no particular order). I encourage you to click on the links...and make some new friends!

Bob Kauflin of Worship Matters ... Bob is a great musician, writer, and possesses a great passion for God. We desperately need more Bob's in today's world of Christian music.

Dan Edelen of Cerulean Sanctum ... Dan is a writer from Ohio, who is one of those rare Reformed Charismatics. Dan is driven by a passion for his God and people, and his writing is both uplifting and convicting!

Cameron Cloud of Nephos ... Cameron is a pastor in Cumberland, Virginia, whose writing is encouraging and uplifting. It would be a great privilege to sit under Cameron's ministry and I'd love to meet him someday.

Jim Bublitz from OldTruth.com ... Jim is a self-described "refugee from the Seeker Sensitive / Purpose Driven movement." He is a gifted apologist and is fond of Spurgeon. Jim's site is being added to our blogroll, and I strongly encourage you to check it out. Be sure to read the about page to read of Jim's medical condition. May God give each of us this man's faith!

Jason Janz and Greg Linscott of SharperIron.org ... I met Greg while he was serving at Altoona Regular Baptist Church in Altoona, Iowa, but would love to renew his acquaintance. Both Jason and Greg are pastors and gifted writers. They are the secret behind the success of the largest fundamentalist forum on the web. May their tribe increase!

Ingrid Schlueter of Slice of Laodicea ... Ingrid is an 18-year veteran of Christian radio who loves Christ's church and is passionate about its purity. Ingrid is a gifted apologist with rare insight into the pragmatic methodology of today's American church. Slice of Laodicea is a daily must- read.

Tim Challies of Challies.com ... Tim is a hero of many Christian bloggers and is the standard by which all bloggers are measured (he is too humble to admit this, but nevertheless, it's true). He is a gifted writer and avid reader. Tim reads more books in a month than I've read in my life. He is a web designer by trade, and is a true asset to Christian blogdom.

Steve Camp of Camp On This ... Steve is a Christian musician and Reformed theologian. He is a Calvinist to the core, and enjoys the works of yesteryear's great theologians and pastors.

Frank Turk (aka, Centuri0n) of ...and his ministers a flame of fire ... Frank's site not only has the longest name in Christian blogdom, he also has the most fun. He possesses the unique ability to be both sarcastic and engaging at the same time. Frank is a rare find, even if he is a citizen of Bill Clinton's home state (of which Frank is proud -- not Bill, but Arkansas).

The guys at FIDE-O ... Jason, Bret, and Scott are fellow Baptists who 'dog' false teachers and unbiblical methodologies. These guys are supporters of Calvinism's resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention (Founders). May their tribe increase (and it is, especially among younger evangelicals)!

Justin Taylor of Between Two Worlds ... Justin knows everything that's happening in evangelical and fundamental Christianity. He is a gifted writer and a strong Calvinist.

Phil Johnson of PyroManiacs ... Phil is a co-worker of Dr. John MacArthur, and is the editor of many of Dr. MacArthur's books. He is a gifted wordsmith and writer, and oversees one of the most helpful sites on the web, Spurgeon.org. Phil loves the local church and is committed to historic, reformed Christianity.
Go ahead and invite yourself on over to the front porches of these men. You'll be warmly welcomed, so plan on sticking around for awhile. You can even kick off your shoes and put your feet on the coffee table. Just be sure to bring an extra glass of tea ... for me!

P. S. -- A question for you: which bloggers would you like to meet?