27 February 2007

Movie: Prince Caspian: Summer 2008

According to Christian Today, the second Narnia movie, Prince Caspian, has beguin filming in New Zealand and will be coming out next summer (see here for cast). Those quoted in the article affirm that all 7 movies will be done, about one every other year. The Last Battle would come out in 2017 if things go as planned.

Eternity Is Coming

Maybe it's just where I'm at, but this message by Zack Eswine on Philippians 3, called "Eternity Is Coming: What Do You Most Want?" is one of the best I've ever heard.

All praise to GOD.

26 February 2007

Gifting, Knowledge, Faith, Sacrifice . . . and Love

McCheyne's Bible reading plan had me in 1 Cor 13 today, which this past year I have come to cherish and cling to in new measure. How fundamental love is. The first 3 verses disrupt all my idolatries and bring me back to Gospel priorities once again. I'm grateful also to study at a place where this is lived out.

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

From this I learn:

Gifting is emptied of profitability without love and is, in the end, annoyance (v. 1);
Knowledge is emptied of insight without love and is, in the end, ignorance (2a);
Faith is emptied of power without love and is, in the end, impotence (2b);
Sacrifice is emptied of virtue without love and is, in the end, worthless (3).

22 February 2007

Motivation (33): Westminster Standards

This is the last post I'll make on motivation. It comes from the Westminster Catechisms and Confession of Faith, drawn up in England in the 1640's.

Westminster Confession of Faith

IX. Of Free-Will

4. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, He freeth him from his natural bondage under sin; and, by His grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so, that by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly, nor only, will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.

X. Of Effectual Calling

1. All those whom God hath predestined unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by His word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.

XIII. Of Sanctification

1. They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them, the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed , and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

XVI. Of Good Works

3. [Believers’] ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. And that they may be enabled thereunto, beside the graces they have already received, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit to work in them to will, and to do, of His good pleasure: yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them.

The Larger Catechism

Q. 67. What is effectual calling?

A. Effectual calling is the work of God’s almighty power and grace, whereby (out of his free and special love to his elect, and from nothing in them moving him thereunto) he doth, in his accepted time, invite and draw them to Jesus Christ, by his word and Spirit; savingly enlightening their minds, renewing and powerfully determining their wills, so as they (although in themselves dead in sin) are hereby made willing and able freely to answer his call, and to accept and embrace the grace offered and conveyed therein.

16 February 2007

Paul Washer

A very disruptive sermon (you can watch, listen, or read) from Paul Washer, missionary and founder of HeartCry Missionary Society. May God give more of us the courage, faithfulness, and farsightedness one sees here.

Message Description:
This is a shockingly powerful and biblical message preached to about 5,000 youth in a day when youth are appealed to through shallow and worldly means. At one point in this sermon the 5,000 youth are clapping and yelling, but then the preacher makes a comment that changes the whole atmosphere to where you could have heard a pin drop... As you can imagine, the preacher was never invited back.

08 February 2007

Motivation (32): Canons of Dort

Two final posts on motivation, this one from the Canons of Dort and the next and last one from the Westminster Standards.

The Synod of Dort met in the Netherlands in 1618-19, for the purpose of responding officially to the five points of contention arising out of the influence of Jacob Arminius (pictured). The resulting Canons of Dort include the following statements on conversion and regeneration, which I find pertinent to the motivation which, I believe, is necessarily concomitant with the new birth.

The Third and Fourth Main Points of Doctrine:
Human Corruption, Conversion to God,
and the Way It Occurs

Article 11: The Holy Spirit’s Work in Conversion
Moreover, when God carries out this good pleasure in his chosen ones, or works true conversion in them, he not only sees to it that the gospel is proclaimed to them outwardly, and enlightens their minds powerfully by the Holy Spirit so that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God, but, by the effective operation of the same regenerating Spirit, he also penetrates into the inmost being of man, opens the closed heart, softens the hard heart, and circumcises the heart that is uncircumcised. He infuses new qualities into the will, making the dead will alive, the evil one good, the unwilling one willing, and the stubborn one compliant; he activates and strengthens the will so that, like a good tree, it may be enabled to produce the fruits of good deeds.

Article 12: Regeneration a Supernatural Work
And this is the regeneration, the new creation, the raising from the dead, and the making alive so clearly proclaimed in the Scriptures, which God works in us without our help. But this certainly does not happen only by outward teaching, by moral persuasion, or by such a way of working that, after God has done his work, it remains in man’s power whether or not to be reborn or converted. Rather, it is an entirely supernatural work, one that is at the same time most powerful and most pleasing, a marvelous, hidden, and inexpressible work, which is not lesser than or inferior in power to that of creation or of raising the dead, as Scripture (inspired by the author of this work) teaches. As a result, all those in whose hearts God works in this marvelous way are certainly, unfailingly, and effectively reborn and do actually believe. And the will, now renewed, is not only activated and motivated by God but in being activated by God is also itself active. For this reason, man himself, by that grace which he has received, is also rightly said to believe and to repent. . . .

Article 16: Regeneration’s Effect
However, just as by the fall man did not cease to be man, endowed with intellect and will, and just as sin, which has spread through the whole human race, did not abolish the nature of the human race but distorted and spiritually killed it, so also this divine grace of regeneration does not act in people as if they were blocks and stones; nor does it abolish the will and its properties or coerce a reluctant will by force, but spiritually revives, heals, reforms, and—in a manner at once pleasing and powerful—bends it back. As a result, a ready and sincere obedience of the Spirit now begins to prevail where before the rebellion and resistance of the flesh were completely dominant. It is in this that the true and spiritual restoration and freedom of our will consists. Thus, if the marvelous Maker of every good thing were not dealing with us, man would have no hope of getting up from his fall by his free choice, by which he plunged himself into ruin when still standing upright. . . .

Rejection of the Errors
Having set forth the orthodox teaching, the Synod rejects the errors of those

Who teach that in the true conversion of man new qualities, dispositions, or gifts cannot be infused or poured into his will by God, and indeed that the faith by which we first come to conversion and from which we receive the name “believers” is not a quality or gift infused by God, but only an act of man, and that it cannot be called a gift except in respect to the power of attaining faith. . . .

Who teach that grace and free choice are concurrent partial causes which cooperate to initiate conversion, and that grace does not precede—in the order of causality—the effective influence of the will; that is to say, that God does not effectively help man’s will to come to conversion before man’s will itself motivates and determines itself. . . .

And, from a statement quoted by Francis Turretin in his Institutes of Elenctic Theology:

“When God follows out this his good pleasure in the elect, or works true conversion in them, he not only sees that the gospel is preached externally to them, and powerfully enlightens their minds by the Holy Spirit, that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God, but the efficacy of the same regenerating Spirit penetrates to the inmost recesses of the man, opens the closed heart, softens the hard heart, circumcises the uncircumcised, and infuses new qualities into the will, makes it alive from dead, from evil good, from unwilling willing, and acts upon and strengthens it, so that as a good tree it may bring forth the fruits of good actions. And it is that regeneration, new creation, raising from the dead, and vivification, so greatly spoken of in the Scriptures, which works in us without us.”

--Turretin, Institutes, 2:528. Cited as Acta Synodi Nationalis . . . Dordrechti, Head III-IV, Theses 11 and 12 [1619-20], 1:303.

06 February 2007

JE at Master's Sem

Scott Christensen reflects on Jonathan Edwards and the affections in a two-part post (scroll down) on his recent class on JE at The Master's Seminary taught by John Hannah, professor of historical theology at Dallas Seminary.

05 February 2007

Thoughts on Religious Experience

I just started Thoughts on Religious Experience by Archibald Alexander (1772-1851), founder of Princeton Seminary in the early 1800's, for my sabbath-reading. I'm struck by how similar it is to Edwards; the opening sentence, for example, is:

There are two kinds of religious knowledge, which though intimately connected as cause and effect, may nevertheless be distinguished. These are the knowledge of the truth as it is revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and the impression which that truth makes on the human mind when rightly apprehended. (p. 5)
That is the same theme struck by Edwards in "The Importance and Advantage of a Thorough Knowledge of a Divine Truth," "A Divine and Supernatural Light," Religious Affections, and Distinguishing Marks.

Here's another statement, on something I've been thinking and writing about lately: the vital relation between right doctrine and affective experience (theology and doxology):

There is reason to believe that all ignorance of revealed truth, or error respecting it, must be attended with a corresponding defect in the religious exercises of the person. This consideration teaches us the importance of truth, and the duty of increasing daily in the knowledge of our Lord and Savious Jesus Christ. This is the true and only method of growing in grace. There may be much correct theoretical knowledge, I admit, where there is no impression corresponding with it on the heart; but still, all good impressions on the heart, are from the truth, and from the truth alone. (p. 9)
And on regeneration, the new birth (a word which helps put the glories of the Super Bowl in perspective):

There is no more important event, which occurs in our world, than the new birth of an immortal soul. Heirs to titles and estates, to kingdoms and empires, are frequently born, and such events are blazoned with imposing pomp, and celebrated by poets and orators; but what are all these honours and possessions but the gewgaws of children, when compared with the inheritance and glory to which every child of God is born an heir!

. . . the implantation of spiritual life in a soul dead in sin, is an event, the consequences of which will never end. When you plant an acorn, and it grows, you expect not to see the maturity, much less the end of the majestic oak, which will expand its boughs and strike deeply into the earth its roots. The fierce blast of centuries of winters may beat upon it and agitate it; but it resists them all. Yet finally this majestic oak, and all its towering branches, must fall. Trees die with old age, as well as men. But the plants of grace shall eevr live. They shall flourish in everlasting verdure. They will bear transplanting to another clime--to another world. (pp. 35-36)

01 February 2007

JE: Blogger

According to the Acton Institute, Jonathan Edwards' Miscellanies ought to be ascribed as the first ever blog.

(HT: JE Blog)

The Counterintuitive Crucifixion

I've been reflecting recently on the way in which Jesus wove teaching on his death into his earthly ministry in ways the Gospel writers have picked up on but which we (at least I!) have not. Two examples of this are fresh on my mind from recent reading in Mark and John.

(1) Mark 3:22-27

22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, "He is possessed by Beelzebul," and "by the prince of demons he casts out the demons." 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.
It strikes me that it would appear that Jesus is referring to Satan as the strong man and to himself as the binder of the strong man. Yet how did Jesus do it? How did he bind the strong man? By being bound. Later in Mark we read of a demon-possessed man being bound (5:4), and then of John the Baptist being bound and thrown in prison (6:17). And then we read, at the end, of Jesus himself being bound (15:1), and the same word is used throughout (deomai).

Jesus bound Satan not by taking away his power to afflict but by taking away his power to condemn. And Jesus' means of emptying Satan of his power was by emptying himself of his power (cf. Phil 2:5-11). Counterintuitive indeed!
(2) John 13:36-38
36 Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus answered him, "Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward." 37 Peter said to him, "Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." 38 Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times."

Faced with the prospect of Jesus' suffering and death, Peter blurts out his admirably loyal but naively optimistic response: "I will lay down my life for you!" It is an astonishing thing to read that sentence in the Greek, in which all the critical words used are the very ones used by Jesus throughout John's Gospel to speak of his own death.

Peter said: I will die for you! Jesus said: No, dear Peter, my dear, beloved Peter, you will not die for me. I will die for you. You have it exactly wrong. You will not lay down your life for me. I will lay down my life for you - and take care of the threefold denial later tonight. The very reason you cannot follow me now - the sin which leads you to do things like deny me - is the reason I go now to suffer. You've got it precisely backward, Peter. The crucifixion and the divestment (instead of manifestation) of divine power there was counterintuitive to Peter then, and it is counterintuitive to me today.