29 December 2006

2007 Blogging

Resurgence and Together for the Gospel announce their 2007 blogging plans.

20 December 2006

Motivation (24): Murray

John Murray (1898-1975), Scotch-born professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary (who surely wasn't as mean as he looks in this picture):

"'A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you' (Ezek. 36:26). God effects a change which is radical and all-pervasive, a change which cannot be explained in terms of any combination, permutation, or accumulation of human resources, a change which is nothing less than a new creation by him who calls the things that be not as though they were, who spake and it was done, who commanded and it stood fast. This, in a word, is regeneration."

"The regenerate person cannot live in sin and be unconverted. And neither can he live any longer in neutral abstraction. He is immediately a member of the kingdom of God, he is spirit, and his action and behaviour must be consonant with that new citizenship. I the language of the apostle Paul, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away, behold they have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). There are numerous other considerations derived from the Scripture which confirm this great truth that regeneration is such a radical, pervasive, and efficacious transformation that it immediately registers itself in the conscious activity of the person concerned in the exercises of faith and repentance and new obedience. Far too frequently the conception entertained of conversion is so superficial and beggarly that it completely fails to take account of the momentous change of which conversion is the fruit. . . . Regeneration is at the basis of all change in heart and life. It is a stupendous change because it is God’s recreative act."

"The Holy Spirit is the controlling and directing agent in every regenerate person. Hence the fundamental principle, the governing disposition, the prevailing character of every regenerate person is holiness—he is “Spiritual” and he delights in the law of the Lord after the inward man (I Cor. 2:14, 15; Rom. 7:22). This must be the sense in which John speaks of the regenerate person as not doing sin and as unable to sin (I John 3:9, 5:18)."

--Redemption: Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), 96, 104-105, 142.

19 December 2006

Stallone: "Believing in Jesus"

The more I go to church, and the more I turn myself over to the process of believing in Jesus and listening to His Word and having Him guide my hand, I feel as though the pressure is off me now. --Sylvester Stallone

Evidently Stallone had a conference call with a group of pastors to discuss the spiritual themes of the newest Rocky movie, which opens tomorrow, and Stuart Shepard of Focus on the Family believes he heard a sincere profession of faith. There's even been a website started, Rocky Resources, dedicated to helping church leaders "utilize the film as a teaching, preaching, or outreach opportunity."

18 December 2006

Motivation (23): Lewis

C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), Oxford professor, author across literary genres, and Calvinist in cognito (even to himself), writes this on the fundamental change that must happen if we are to be truly morally motivated:

"But what man, in his natural condition, has not got, is Spiritual life—the higher and different sort of life that exists in God. We use the same word life for both: but if you thought that both must therefore be the same sort of thing, that would be like thinking that the 'greatness' of space and the 'greatness' of God were the same sort of greatness. In reality, the difference between Biological life and spiritual life is so important that I am going to give them two distinct names. The Biological sort which comes to us through Nature, and which (like everything else in Nature) is always tending to run down and decay so that it can only be kept up by incessant subsidies from Nature in the form of air, water, food, etc., is Bios. The Spiritual life which is in God from all eternity, and which made the whole natural universe, is Zoe. Bios has, to be sure, a certain shadowy or symbolic resemblance to Zoe: but only the sort of resemblance there is between a photo and a place, or a statue and a man. A man who changed from having Bios to having Zoe would have gone through as big a change as a statue which changed from being a carved stone to being a real man.

"And that is precisely what Christianity is about. This world is a great sculptor’s shop. We are the statues and there is a rumor going round the shop that some of us are some day going to come to life."

--Mere Christianity, 139-140

"I can to some extent control my acts: I have no direct control over my temperament. And if (as I said before) what we are matters even more than what we do—if indeed, what we do matters chiefly as evidence of what we are—then it follows that the change which I most need to undergo is a change that my own direct, voluntary efforts cannot bring about. And that applies to my good actions too. How many of them were done for the right motive? How many for fear of public opinion, or a desire to show off? How many from a sort of obstinacy or sense of superiority which, in different circumstances, might equally have led to some very bad act? But I cannot, by direct moral effort, give myself new motives. After the first few steps in the Christian life we realize that everything which really needs to be done in our souls can be done only by God."

--Ibid, 166

"There are three kinds of people in the world. The first class is of those who live simply for their own sake and pleasure, regarding Man and Nature as so much raw material to be cut up into whatever shape may serve them. In the second class are those who acknowledge some other claim upon them – the will of God, the categorical imperative, or the good of society – and honestly try to pursue their own interests no further than this claim will allow. They try to surrender to the higher claim as much as it demands, like men paying a tax, but hope, like other taxpayers, that what is left over will be enough for them to live on (this idea is also in Mere Xianity). Their life is divided, like a soldier’s or a schoolboy’s life, into time 'on parade' and 'off parade', 'in school' and 'out of school'. But the third class is of those who can say like St Paul that for them 'to live is Christ'. These people have got rid of the tiresome business of adjusting the rival claims of Self and God by the simple expedient of rejecting the claims of Self altogether. The old egoistic will has been turned round, reconditioned, and made into a new thing. The will of Christ no longer limits theirs; it is theirs. All their time, in belonging to Him, belongs also to them, for they are His.

"The price of Christ is something, in a way, much easier than moral effort – it is to want Him."

"Three Kinds of Men," in Present Concerns, 21-22

For sites devoted to Lewis see the C. S. Lewis Institute, Into the Wardrobe, and the C. S. Lewis Foundation.

God and the Marlboro Man

Russell Moore at Southern Sem thinks God may be more like the Marlboro man than does (open theist) John Sanders in the latter's festschrift for Clark Pinnock.

15 December 2006

Water in John

I had never noticed before today the pervasiveness of the theme of water (hydor) in the opening chapters of John. I'm wondering if water is the dominant metaphor for the first half of the pre-passion narrative (ch. 1-7), light the dominant motif of the second half of the pre-passion narrative (8-12), and love that of the passion narrative (13-21). John 1 messes up my theory, though, with no mention of H2O but lots of mention of light. Anyhow . . .

John 2 - Jesus turns water into wine
John 3 - Jesus tells Nicodemus he must be born "of water and the Spirit," and late in the chapter (v. 23) speaks of the "plentiful" water where John was baptizing
John 4 - an extended discussion between Jesus and a Samaritan woman about literal water vs. that which prevents any future thirst
John 5 - the rather sad character, lame for 38 yrs, lying at the pool complaining of having no one to help him into the water (v. 7) (also, the variant which includes v. 4 mentions the pool's hydor 3x)
John 6 - Jesus walks on water
John 7 - as in ch. 4, Jesus reiterates that those who believe in him will have springs of living water flow from the inside-out

Water shows up two other times in the narrative, in ch. 13 where Jesus pours water into a basin and washed the disciples' feet, and ch. 19 where blood and water come out of his side when pierced with a spear. Probably too much to work these in somehow, but I think it is definitely a controlling motif in the first 7 chapters. Remembering the value water held in that dry, pre-plumbing culture is of course integral too.

Bill Mounce: Biblical Training

I just discovered Bill Mounce's website, biblicaltraining.org. It has free resources such as class lectures (such as Thielman's NT theology course), seminar's (such as Bock's on Da Vinci code) and books online (right now, I. Howard Marshall's intro to NT theology). You have to register but it's free. I love it.

Dr. Mounce taught at Gordon-Conwell and then Azusa Pacific and is now a pastor in Washington. He did what in my opinion is the best introductory text to Biblical Greek available; why we don't use it a Covenant Seminary is a mystery.

14 December 2006

JE Missing

If anyone knows what has happened to www.jonathanedwards.com, please let me know. One blogger thinks it has been merged into Yale's site (linked to the right).

Motivation (22): Berkhof

Louis Berkhof (1873-1957), Dutch professor of theology at Calvin Seminary:

"Regeneration consists in the implanting of the principle of the new spiritual life in man, in a radical change of the governing disposition of the soul, which, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, gives birth to a life that moves in a Godward direction. In principle this change affects the whole man. . . .

"Regeneration is that act of God by which the principle of the new life is implanted in man, and the governing disposition of the soul is made holy . . . and the first holy exercise of this new disposition is secured."

--Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1958), 468, 469.

13 December 2006

Motivation (21): Spurgeon

If you think to yourself, "Hmm...this seems to be more about regeneration than motivation...", my response is: exactly. What I'm trying to show with these quotes from church history is that motivation does not come by rational arguments (outside-in) but by a new disposition implanted in the heart, what Edwards calls a new inner relish (inside-out). Regeneration is the foundation for motivation that is "from the heart" (Rom 6:17).

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892), Baptist pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London:

"[R]egeneration consists in this, God the Holy Spirit, in a supernatural manner—mark, by the word supernatural I mean just what it strictly means; supernatural, more than natural—works upon the hearts of men, and they by the operations of the divine Spirit become regenerate men; but without the Spirit they never can be regenerated. And unless God the Holy Spirit, who ‘worketh in us to will and to do,’ should operate upon the will and the conscience, regeneration is an absolute impossibility, and therefore so is salvation. . . . in the salvation of every person there is an actual putting forth of divine power, whereby the dead sinner is quickened, the unwilling sinner is made willing, the desperately hard sinner has his conscience made tender; and he who rejected God and despised Christ, is brought to cast himself down at the feet of Jesus. . . . If you like it not, quarrel with my Master, not with me; I do but simply declare his own revelation that there must be in your heart something more than you can ever work there. There must be a divine operation, call it a miraculous operation if you please; it is in some sense so. There must be a divine interposition, a divine working, a divine influence, or else do what you may, without that you perish, and are undone—'For except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.' The change is radical; it gives us new natures, makes us love what we hated and hate what we loved; sets us in a new road; makes our habits different, our thoughts different, makes us different in provate, and different in public."

--The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit: Sermons Preached and Revised by C. H. Spurgeon, 3:188.

"Regeneration is not the reforming of principles which were there before, but the implantation of a something which had no existence; it is the putting into a man of a new thing called the Spirit, the new man – the creation not of a soul, but of a principle higher still – as much higher than the soul, as the soul is higher than the body. . . . In the bringing of any man to believe in Christ, there is as true and proper a manifestation of creating power, as when God made the heavens and the earth."

--Ibid, 9:566.

"The absolute necessity of the new birth is also a certainty. We come down with demonstration when we touch that point. We shall never poison our people with the notion that a moral reformation will suffice, but we will over and over again say to them, 'Ye must be born again.'"

--Lectures to My Students, 222.

Iain Murray discusses Spurgeon on regeneration in The Forgotten Spurgeon (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1966), 95-97.

12 December 2006

Is anyone else getting a bit weary . . .

. . . of contemporary Christian writers claiming to have discovered the long lost real truth (gnosis?) of the biblical story?

Steve Chalke, The Lost Message of Jesus
Brian McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus
N. T. Wright, What St. Paul Really Said
John Dominic Crossan, The Essential Jesus: What Jesus Really Taught
Stephen Mitchell, Jesus: What He Really Said and Did
Gerd Ludemann, The Great Deception: And What Jesus Really Said and Did
R. A. Bacon, You Won't Believe . . . What the Apostle Paul Really Taught

Have we really been so dense for 2,000 years as not to have grasped the basic thrust of Jesus' or Paul's teaching? I suspect much of this kind of self-alleged innovation is more the result of creativity than faithfulness, more reactionary than balanced. Plus these titles are more marketable?

Motivation (20): Dabney

Robert Lewis Dabney (1820-1898), American Presbyterian theologian sympathetic to the South, who was born the same year as Shedd (1820, below) and taught at the same school (Union Seminary):

"Let us consider, and we shall see that the change of a godless, self-willed, worldly soul into a sincere, believing, joyful Christian, is as truly above the laws of his natural heart as the living again of a corpse is above the powers of matter. . . .

"[T]he saving change of the soul is God’s own almighty work, and is, in that sense, supernatural.

"What is this change? Some, from shallow observation, answer: It is only the sinner’s change of purpose concerning his duty to God. But the Scriptures answer, that it is a change of the dispositions of heart, which prompt and regulate man’s purposes concerning this duty. Note, I pray you, my words, and apprehend the difference, for it is that between light and darkness. . . . That new birth, I repeat, which is necessary to salvation, is some deeper thing than the mere making of a new resolution by the sinner. It is the fundamental revolution of the very dispositions of soul, out of which his purposes were all prompted. Hence, it is not the work merely of reasonings and inducements presented to the mind, but of God’s almighty power, through his Holy Ghost, quickening the soul to feel those reasonings and inducements. . . .

"Well, this heart is, in different degrees and phases, universal among natural men, in all races and ages, under all religions and forms of civilization, whatever religious instincts men may have, and to whatever pious observances they may be driven by remorse, or self-righteousness, or spiritual pride. We perceive that this disposition of soul begins to reveal itself in all children as early as any intelligent moral purpose is disclosed. We observe that while it is sometimes concealed, or turned into new directions by the force of circumstances, it is always latent, and is a universal and controlling principle of conduct towards God. We find that it holds its evil sway in spite of all light and rational conviction in men’s own minds, and of inducements drawn from conscience and heaven and hell, which ought to be omnipotent. Such is every man’s inward history, until grace reverses his career. . . .

"There is, there can be, no case in which mere inducements work in man a permanent purpose contrary to the natural dispositions of the soul. But ungodliness is a native, a universal, a radical propensity. Hence, when we see such a revolution in this as the gospel requires in the new birth, we must believe that it is above nature. This great change not only reforms particular vices; it revolutionizes their original source, ungodliness. It not only causes the renewed sinner to submit to obedience, as the bitter, yet necessary medicine of an endangered soul; it makes him prefer it for itself as his daily bread. . . . Such is the change which makes the real Christian. It is a spiritual resurrection; it is the working of that 'mighty power of God which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead.'"

--“The Believer Born of Almighty Grace,” in Robert L. Dabney, Discussions: Evangelical and Theological, Vol. 1 (London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1967), 484-489. In addition, Dabney's Systematic Theology is available online.

11 December 2006

Motivation (19): Shedd

William G. T. Shedd (1820-1894), American systematizer of Calvinist theology and professor at Union Seminary:

"Regeneration is to be defined as the origination of a new inclination by the Holy Spirit, not as the exertion of a new volition or making a new choice as a sinner. Keeping this distinction in mind, we say that in regeneration God inclines man to holiness and disinclines him to sin. This change of the disposition of the will is attributable solely to the Holy Spirit. The sinner discovers, on making the attempt, that he is unable to reverse his determination to self and the creature. He cannot start a contrary disposition of his will. He is unable to incline himself to God as the chief end of his existence. He can choose the antecedents or preparatives to inclining, but cannot incline. By a volition he can read his Bible. This is a preparative or antecedent to supreme love of God, but it is not supreme love and cannot produce it. By volitions he can listen to preaching and can refrain from vicious actions. These also are preparatives or antecedents to a holy inclination of the will, but are not this inclination itself and cannot produce it. It is a fact of consciousness that while the sinner can put forth single volitions or particular choices that are favorable to a new voluntary disposition because they evince the need of it, he cannot begin the new disposition itself. He cannot incline himself by any volition whatsoever.

"By the operation of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, the man is enabled to incline to holiness instead of sin. In the scriptural phraseology, he is 'made willing' (Ps. 110:3). God 'works in him to will' (Phil. 2:13). . . . By renewing the sinful and self-enslaved will, the Holy Spirit empowers it to self-determine or incline to God as the chief good and the supreme end. This new self-determination expels and takes the place of the old sinful self-determination. From this new self-determination or inclination or disposition or principle, holy volitions or choices proceed, and from the holy choices, holy actions."

--Dogmatic Theology, 3rd ed., ed. Alan W. Gomes (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2003), 765-766.

08 December 2006

Packer and Spurgeon: Atonement

J. I. Packer defines penal substitutionary atonement:

“Jesus Christ our Lord, moved by a love that was determined to do everything necessary to save us, endured and exhausted the destructive divine judgment for which we were otherwise inescapably destined, and so won us forgiveness, adoption and glory.”

--“What Did the Cross Achieve? The Logic of Penal Substitution,” Tyndale Bulletin 25 (1974): 25.

Charles Spurgeon says the following, not defining it but illumining its importance, which I find helpful in light of current discussions (Gundry, Chalke, EC).

"Brethren, there will be no uncertain sound from us as to the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot leave the blood out of our ministry, or the life of it will be gone; for we may say of the gospel, 'The blood is the life thereof.' The proper substitution of Christ, the vicarious sacrifice of Christ, on the behalf of His people, that they might live through Him—this we must publish till we die."

In another place he presses his point home just as strongly: “Beloved brethren, we must be most of all clear upon the great soul-saving doctrine of the atonement; we must preach a real bona fide substitutionary sacrifice, and proclaim pardon as its result.” Spurgeon then explains why he is so adamant about this:

"Cloudy views as to atoning blood are mischievous to the last degree; souls are held in unnecessary bondage, and saints are robbed of the calm confidence of faith, because they are not definitely told that 'God hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.' We must preach substitution straightforwardly and unmistakably, for if any doctrine be plainly taught in Scripture it is this."

--Lectures to My Students (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1954), 222, 339.

07 December 2006

Dorsett Interview: Lewis

Speaking of Dr. Dorsett, here's an interview he did on C. S. Lewis. Dorsett described his own conversion this way:

"I was afraid of becoming a Christian because I was afraid I'd change. And I thought I'd never have fun again. But just the opposite was true, I got drawn in, I finally got free to have a really good time."

Dorsett later describes a fascinating story representing Lewis dealt with his increasing wealth:

"There was one woman that wrote to Lewis and said, 'I can't take this money you are going to give me. I just, I just can't do that.' And he said, 'Don't be silly. You need it, I have it, take it, and thank God for it.' Her response was, 'Well, I will and thank you. No wonder God has blessed you with so much money.' Lewis' answer was, 'Be careful what you say there. Nowhere in my New Testament do I see that money is a blessing. Jesus tells us something quite different. He says it's almost impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. He talks about the deceit of riches.' And he said, 'I need to give this money away, or it will destroy me.'"

Brooklyn Tab

Whenever I start to slide into thinking the Reformed Church is the present-day equivalent of the remnant, I remind myself of The Brooklyn Tabernacle in NYC.

Jim Cymbala is the pastor. His book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire is kindling for just that.

He's not a Calvinist (though see his comments on 9/11 in this interview).

For that matter, neither is the man who has had a greater personal impact on my own spiritual development, outside my family, among those living--Lyle Dorsett.

06 December 2006

Cherishing, Assuming, Losing the Gospel

I read this fascinating anecdote in D. A. Carson's The Cross and Christian Ministry (p. 63):

I have heard a Mennonite leader assess his own movement in this way. One generation of Mennonites cherished the gospel and believed that the entailment of the gospel lay in certain social and political commitments. The next generation assumed the gospel and emphasized the social and political commitments. The present generation identifies itself with the social and political commitments, while the gospel is variously confessed or disowned; it no longer lies at the heart of the belief system of some who call themselves Mennonites.

Dr. Carson then makes the observation, Whether or not this is a fair reading of the Mennonites, it is certainly a salutary warning for evangelicals at large. We are already at the stage where many evangelical leaders simply assume the message of the cross, but no longer lay much emphasis on it. I want to keep quoting but I'll leave off and you can pursue it for yourself if you want.

In other words, we are never more than two generations away from losing the gospel. Some would say one, but it is perceptive to note that we don't go straight from cherishing to ignoring, but from cherishing to assuming to ignoring. Somehow, our cherishing of the gospel unto cultural engagement slowly begins to skip the gospel to get to the cultural engagement. I am thankful to be studying at a seminary where these two are not divorced.

C. J. Mahaney's Living the Cross-Centered Life is just the kind of accessible book that will help us everyday people avoid fatal gospel-assumption.

05 December 2006

Westerholm on Luther

Stephen Westerholm comments (in regard to the New Perspective):

Students who want to know how a Rabbinic Jew perceived humanity's place in God's world will read Paul with caution and Luther not at all. On the other hand, students who want to understand Paul, but feel that they have nothing to learn from Martin Luther, should consider a career in metallurgy. Exegesis is learned from the masters.

--Israel's Law and the Church's Faith, 173 (HT: Theopedia)

I had to look up "metallurgy." According to Wikipedia, it is "a domain of materials science and of materials engineering that studies the physical and chemical behavior of metallic elements, their intermetallic compounds, and their mixtures."

04 December 2006

Doctoral App's Off

Four months after starting them (getting references back took a while) and 3 years after beginning conversations with potential supervisors, PhD applications are in the mail as of an hour ago (Aberdeen, St. Andrews, Durham, Wheaton, McMaster).

All praise to God. The keys are in his hand, to open doors or to close. I am content.

'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

Bauckham for Kids

I loved seeing this children's book out from Richard Bauckham, professor of New Testament at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

Motivation (18): Ryle

J. C. Ryle (1816-1900), Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, England:

"True Christians are what they are, because they are regenerate, and formal Christians are what they are, because they are not. The heart of a Christian in deed has been changed. The heart of the Christian in name only has not been changed. The change of heart makes the whole difference."

"Scripture describes regeneration as a great radical change of heart and nature – a thorough alteration and transformation of the whole inner man, a participation in the resurrection life of Christ, or, to borrow the words of the Church Catechism, 'a death unto sin and a new birth unto righteousness.'

"This change of heart in a true Christian is so complete that no word could be chosen more fitting to express it than that word ‘regeneration’ or new birth. Doubtless it is no outward, bodily alteration, but undoubtedly it is an entire alteration of the inner man. It adds no new faculties to a man’s mind, but it certainly gives an entirely new bent and bias to all his old ones. His will is so new, his taste so new, his opinions so new, his views of sin, the world, the Bible, and Christ so new, that he is to all intents and purposes a new man. The change seems to bring a new being into existence. It may well be called being born again."

J. C. Ryle, Regeneration (Fearn, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2003), 12, 14

29 November 2006

Motivation (17): Hodge

Charles Hodge (1797-1878), American Presbyterian theologian of Princeton Seminary:

"A beautiful object in nature or art may be duly apprehended as an object of vision by an uncultivated man, who has no perception of its aesthetic excellence, and no corresponding feeling of delight in its contemplation. So it is with the unrenewed man. He may have an intellectual knowledge of the facts and doctrines of the Bible, but no spiritual discernment of their excellence, and no delight in them. . . .

"Out of the heart proceed all conscious, voluntary, moral exercises. A change of heart, therefore, is a change which precedes these exercises and determines their character. A new heart is to a man what goodness is to the tree in the parable of our Lord.

"In regeneration, therefore, there is a new life communicated to the soul; the man is the subject of a new birth; he receives a new nature or new heart, and becomes a new creature. As the change is neither in the substance nor in the mere exercises of the soul, it is in those immanent dispositions, principles, tastes, or habits which underlie all conscious exercises, and determine the character of the man and of all his acts."

--Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1946), 3:33, 35.

27 November 2006


Is this the way to think of sin in believers?

The Presence of Sin: Completely Present

The Penalty of Sin: Completely Gone

The Power of Sin: Progressively Weakened

A Christian, then, is someone who has had the condemnation of sin removed, while experiencing increasing freedom from sin's hold, while not knowing total freedom until the next life. That is, the penalty of sin has been killed in the past, the power of sin is being killed in the present, and the presence of sin will be killed in the future.

Another important variable, when we enfold unbelievers into the discussion, is the image of God, which is manifestly present in all, believer and unbeliever. This helps us avoid extremes. Remembering the presence of sin in believers keeps us from over-optimism regarding the Christian life, while remembering the imago dei in unbelievers keeps us from over-pessimism regarding the non-Christian life. Unbelievers are not as bad as they might be; believers are not as good as they will be.

Still pondering.

Motivation (16): Chalmers

Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), Free Church Scottish pastor known for his sermon "The Expulsive Power of a New Affection":

"There are a thousand things which, in popular and understood language, man can do. It is quite the general sentiment, that he can abstain from stealing, and lying, and calumny—that he can give of his substance to the poor, and attend church, and pray, and read his Bible, and keep up the worship of God in his family. But, as an instance of distinction between what he can do, and what he cannot do, let us make the undoubted assertion, that he can eat wormwood, and just put the question, if he can also relish wormwood. That is a different affair. I may command the performance; but have no such command over my organs of sense, as to command a liking, or a taste for the performance. . . . I may accomplish the doing of what God bids; but have no pleasure in God himself. The forcible constraining of the hand, may make out many a visible act of obedience, but the relish of the heart may refuse to go along with it. . . . The poor man has no more conquered his rebellious affections, than he has conquered his distaste for wormwood. He may fear God; he may listen to God; and, in outward deed, may obey God. But he does not, and he will not, love God; and while he drags a heavy load of tasks, and duties, and observances after him, he lives in the hourly violation of the first and greatest of the commandments."

--“An Estimate of the Morality that is Without Godliness,” in Thomas Chalmers, Sermons and Discourses, Vol. II (New York: Robert Carter, 1846), 34.

"[T]he love of gratitude differs from the love of moral esteem. . . . There is a real distinction of cause between these two affections, and there is also between them a real distinction of object. The love of moral esteem finds its complacent gratification, in the act of dwelling contemplatively on that Being, by whom it is excited; just as a tasteful enthusiast inhales delight from the act of gazing on the charms of some external scenery. The pleasure he receives, emanates directly upon his mind, from the forms of beauty and loveliness, which are around him. And if, instead of a taste for the beauties of nature, there exists within him, a taste for the beauties of holiness, then will he love the Being, who presents to the eye of his contemplation the fullest assemblage of them, and his taste will find its complacent gratification in dwelling upon him, whether as an object of thought, or as an object of perception. 'One thing have I desired,' says the Psalmist, 'that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.' Now, the love of gratitude is distinct from this in its object. It is excited by the love of kindness; and the feeling which is thus excited, is just a feeling of kindness back again."

--“The Principle of Love to God,” in Chalmers, Sermons and Discourses, 64-65.

20 November 2006

Motivation (15): Whitefield

George Whitefield (1714-1770), British Calvinist evangelist and, according to Arnold Dallimore, the primary fuel for the spread of 18th-century Methodism (even more than John Wesley), says this:

"It is true, we may flatter ourselves, that supposing we continue in our natural corrupt state, and carry all our lusts along with us, we should, notwithstanding, relish heaven, was God to admit us therein. And so we might, was it a Mahometan paradise, wherein we were to take our full swing in sensual delights. But since its joys are only spiritual, and no unclean thing can possibly enter those blessed mansions, there is an absolute necessity of our being changed, and undergoing a total renovation of our depraved natures, before we can have any taste or relish of those heavenly pleasures. It is, doubtless, for this reason, that the apostle declares it to be the irrevocable decree of the Almighty, that ‘without holiness, (without being made pure by regeneration, and having the image of God thereby reinstamped upon the soul,) no man shall see the Lord.’ And it is very observable, that our divine Master, in the famous passage before referred to, concerning the absolute necessity of regeneration, does not say, Unless a man be born again, he shall not, but ‘unless a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’ It is founded in the very nature of things, that unless we have dispositions wrought in us suitable to the objects that are to entertain us, we can take no manner of complacency or satisfaction in them. For instance, what delight can the most harmonious music afford to a deaf, or what pleasure can the most excellent picture give to a blind, man? Can a tasteless palate relish the rich dainties, or a filthy swine be pleased with the finest garden of flowers? No: and what reason can be assigned for it? An answer is ready: Because they have neither of them any tempers of mind correspondent or agreeable to what they are to be diverted with. And thus it is with the soul hereafter: for death makes no alteration in the soul, than as it enlarges its faculties, and makes it capable of receiving deeper impressions either of pleasure or pain. If it delighted to converse with God here, it will be transported with the sight of his glorious majesty hereafter. . . ."

"The sum of the matter is this: Christianity includes morality, as grace does reason; but if we are only mere moralists, if we are not inwardly wrought upon, and changed by the powerful operations of the Holy Spirit, and our moral actions proceed from a principle of a new nature, however we may call ourselves Christians, we shall be found naked at the great day, and in the number of those who have neither Christ’s righteousness imputed to them for their justification in the sight, nor holiness enough in their souls as the consequence of that, in order to make them meet for the enjoyment, of God.”

--“On Regeneration,” in George Whitefield, Sermons on Important Subjects (London: Henry Fisher, 1832), 547-550.

"[B]efore you or I can have any well-grounded, scriptural hope, of being happy in a future state, there must be some great, some notable, and amazing change pass upon our souls. I believe, there is not one adult person in the congregation, but will readily confess, that a great change hath past upon their bodies, since they came first into the world, and were infants dandled upon their mothers’ knees. It is true, ye have no more members than ye had then; but how these are altered! Though you are in one respect the same ye were, for the number of your limbs, and as to the shape of your body, yet if a person that knew you when ye were in your cradle, had been absent from you for some years, and saw you when grown up, ten thousand to one if he would know you at all, ye are so altered, so different from what ye were, when ye were little ones. And as the words [of Matt. 18:3] plainly imply, that there has a great change passed upon our bodies since we were children, so before we can go to heaven, there must as great a change pass upon our souls; our souls considered in a physical sense are still the same, there is to be no philosophical change wrought upon them; but then, as for our temper, habit, and conduct, we must be so changed and altered, that those who knew us the other day, when in a state of sin, and before we knew Christ, and are acquainted with us now, must see such an alteration, that they may stand as much amazed at it, as a person at the alteration wrought on any person he has not seen for twenty years from his infancy."

--“Marks of a True Conversion,” Whitefield, Sermons, 270.

Seminary Exhortation

A needed message from Zack Eswine for seminarians which I found very convicting--as someone who has difficulty loving people.

17 November 2006


22 causes for praise in my life these past four years in St. Louis.

16 November 2006

Seminary Reading

If I had (which I don't) only 300 pages (which I wouldn't) to assign for a seminarian to read before beginning a pastorate, I think I would assign:

15 November 2006

Motivation (14): J. Wesley

John Wesley (1703-1791), pastor, author, organizational genius, founder of Methodism, key figure in the Great Awakening of the 1740’s, and 3 months Edwards' elder, would not be the first to come to our minds as someone who preached a robust view of the supernatural change wrought in regeneration by which a new set of desires are imported into the heart. But while he may differ as to our role in bringing such a change about, he did not differ on the change itself. Indeed, he may be closer to biblical orthodoxy on this subject than many Calvinistic pulpits today.

"But as soon as he is born of God, there is a total change in all these particulars. The 'eyes of his understanding are opened' (such is the language of the great Apostle); and, He who of old 'commanded light to shine out of darkness shining on his heart, he sees the light of the glory of God,' His glorious love, 'in the face of Jesus Christ.' His ears being opened, he is now capable of hearing the inward voice of God, saying, 'Be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven thee'; 'Go and sin no more. . . .' He 'feels in his heart,' to use the language of our Church, 'the mighty working of the Spirit of God' . . . he feels, is inwardly sensible of, the graces which the Spirit of God works in the heart. He feels, he is conscious of, a 'peace which passeth all understanding.' He many times feels such a joy in God as is 'unspeakable, and full of glory.' He feels 'the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost which is given unto him'; and all his spiritual senses are then exercised to discern spiritual good and evil."

"From hence it manifestly appears, what is the nature of the new birth. It is that great change which God works in the soul when He brings it into life; when He raises it from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. It is the change wrought in the whole soul by the almighty Spirit of God. . . ."

"[E]xcept he be born again, none can be happy even in this world. For it is not possible, in the nature of things, that a man should be happy who is not holy. . . . The reason is plain: all unholy tempers are uneasy tempers: not only malice, hatred, envy, jealousy, revenge, create a present hell in the breast; but even the softer passions, if not kept within due bounds, give a thousand times more pain than pleasure. . . . Therefore, as long as they must reign in any soul, happiness has no place there. But they must reign till the bent of our nature is changed, that is, till we are born again; consequently, the new birth is absolutely necessary in order to happiness in this world, as well as in the world to come."

--Edward H. Sudgen, ed., Wesley's Standard Sermons (London: Epworth, 1951), 2:233-236.

"A . . . scriptural mark of those who are born of God, and the greatest of all, is love; even 'the love of God shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto them' (Rom. v. 5). 'Because they are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into their hearts, crying, Abba, Father!' (Gal. iv. 6). By this Spirit, continually looking up to God as their reconciled and loving Father, they cry to Him for their daily bread, for all things needful, whether for their souls or bodies. They continually pour out their hearts before Him, knowing 'they have the petitions which they ask of Him' (I John v. 15). Their delight is in Him. He is the joy of their heart; their 'shield,' and their 'exceeding great reward.' The desire of their soul is toward Him; it is their 'meat and drink to do His will'; and they are 'satisfied as with marrow and fatness, while their mouth praiseth Him with joyful lips' (Ps. lxiii. 5)."

--Wesley’s Standard Sermons, 1:292.

13 November 2006

Motivation (13): Francke

August Hermann Francke (1663-1727), German Lutheran who carried on the torch of Pietism in Spener's wake, on the new birth:

"Nor is it enough to explain that first and mighty Change, which is at once made in a Sinner at his Conversion, when he comes to love that God which before he hated, and to hate the Evil which he before loved; when from being an Unbeliever he becomes a Believer; or when his false and dead Faith is changed into a true and saving one: But that further progressive Change should also be much recommended, in which the Christian must be improving to the very End of his Life."

--Dale Brown, Understanding Pietism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), 96.

"[N]o doctrine in Christianity is more necessary than the doctrine of rebirth. This is the very ground upon which Christianity stands. A person without this is not to be called a Christian. Just as the article of creation is the first, without which the others would not be (for if man were not created, how could his redemption and sanctification occur?), so if the person is not created anew or born of God, it does not help at all that Christ died for him; nor does it help at all that he has sent the Holy Spirit, and so forth. But when new birth occurs, we enjoy all the more the heavenly Father, our Savior, and the dear Holy Spirit."

--God’s Glory, Neighbor’s Good: A Brief Introduction to the Life and Writings of August Hermann Francke (Chicago: Covenant, 1982), 135, 142.

MacArthur at Southern

John MacArthur gave the Mullins Preaching Lectures at Southern Seminary last week. The message on Luke 15 is especially excellent.

10 November 2006

Motivation (12): Henry: "Happily Disabled for Sin"

Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Nonconformist English pastor known for his commentary on the entire Scripture, from which the following two quotes are drawn:

"What it is that is required: to be born again. We must live a new life. Birth is the beginning of life; to be born again is to begin anew. We must not think to patch up the old building, but begin from the foundation. We must have a new nature, new principles, new affections, new aims. We must be born anothen, which signifies both again, and from above. We must be born anew. Our souls must be fashioned and enlivened anew. We must be born from above. This new birth has its rise from heaven, it is to be born to a divine and heavenly life." (commenting on John 3:3-8)

"To be born of God is to be inwardly renewed, and restored to a holy rectitude of nature by the power of the Spirit of God. Such a one committeth not sin, his seed remaineth in him. Renewing grace is an abiding principle. Religion is not an art, an acquired dexterity and skill, but a new nature. And thereupon the consequence is the regenerate person cannot sin. He cannot continue in the course and practice of sin. And the reason is because he is born of God. There is that light in his mind which shows him the evil and malignity of sin. There is that bias upon his heart which disposes him to loathe and hate sin. There is the spiritual disposition, that breaks the force and fullness of the sinful acts. It is not reckoned the person’s sin, in the gospel account, where the bent and frame of the mind and spirit are against it. The unregenerate person is morally unable for what is religiously good. The regenerate person is happily disabled for sin." (commenting on 1 John 3:4-10)

--Leslie F. Church, ed., Matthew Henry’s Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1960)

09 November 2006

Motivation (11): Van Mastricht

Peter Van Mastricht (1630-1706), the Dutch theologian whose writings Edwards called "much better than Turretin, or any other book in the world, excepting the Bible, in my opinion," wrote a Theoretical and Practical Theology, from which Soli Deo Gloria has published a portion under the title A Treatise on Regeneration.

"[R]egeneration, strictly so called, finds man spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:2, 5), into whom it infuses the first act or principle of the spiritual life, by which he has a power or ability to perform spiritual exercises."

"[A] man who is spiritually dead can hear spiritual truth; he can also, grammatically at least, understand what he hears. He can moreover approve in his judgment, at least speculatively, what he understands; and lastly he can, in a general manner, have some kind of affection toward what he approves. Nor does the Holy Spirit in the work of regeneration and spiritual treat the elect as stocks or brutes, but as rational creatures, to whose reception, the Redeemer, with the terms of salvation, has been already offered by the external call. To receive this, the Spirit has invited them by the most pressing motives. Yea, it is possible that persons who are as yet spiritually dead may, if not by the powers which they naturally possess, yet by the assistance of common grace arrive to certain attainments not accompanying salvation (Hebrews 6:4-5, 9), or that are not inseparably connected therewith. So that we are not to think that there is nothing to be done with the unregenerate. However, while they perform all these things, they do nothing at all which is spiritual, or at least nothing in a spiritual manner (1 Corinthians 2:13-14)."

"As this spiritual life, bestowed in regeneration, is seated in the will, it is called a new heart (Psalm 51:12), a heart of flesh, or a heart easily affected (Ezekiel 36:26), a heart on which God has written His fear (Jeremiah 32:39-40; Hebrews 8:10), by which the regenerate walk in His statutes (Ezekiel 11:19-20). For the Holy Ghost implants in the heart or will by regeneration a new inclination or propensity towards spiritual good. For although the will naturally has a kind of propensity toward moral good in general (Romans 2:14-15) and toward external religious duties (Luke 18:10-12; Philippians 3:5-6), whereby in duties with which salvation is not connected an unregenerate person may sometimes perform things that are really wonderful (Mark 10:19-21; Hebrews 6:4-5), yet as for their propensity towards spiritual and saving good, mankind has utterly lost it by sin; hence they are said to be dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1, 5), and insufficient to think even the least thought that spiritually good (2 Corinthians 3:5). Wherefore it is absolutely necessary that a new propensity toward spiritual good be restored to the will (Romans 7:22; 2 Thessalonians 3:5). For although the will naturally follows the last dictate of the practical understanding, so that were the understanding but sufficiently illuminated an immediate renovation of the will might seem unnecessary, yet this is to be admitted as truth only when the understanding, in its last dictate, judges agreeably to the inclination of the will."

--A Treatise on Regeneration, ed. Brandon Withrow (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 2002), 7-24. First published 1699.

JE: Happiness

The JE Blog cites a great statement by Edwards on happiness. Part of it:

"The great enquiry of the world in general in all ages of it, is after happiness. It was a great enquiry among the wise men of the world wherein men's happiness consists and a thing that they were exceedingly at a loss, though it be a matter that so universally and so highly concerns mankind. Yet there is scarce anything that the world is more deceived about. . . ."

07 November 2006

Motivation (10): Howe

John Howe (1630-1705), English Puritan pastor, preached a series of 13 sermons on regeneration, based on 1 John 5:1, in which he makes statements directly pertinent to an understanding of the foundation of Christian motivation. Notice in paragraph 2 that God's promises are instruments used, but not the foundation itself, to effectual motivation.

"[T]hat holy rectitude which is effected by regeneration, or this new birth, takes place in every thing belonging to the nature of man. Therefore be not so vague as to imagine, that if there be somewhat done in some one faculty, this is regeneration, or that this speaks a man new born. If now and then there be a right thought injected and cast in, if there be an inclination, some motion or desire; if something of convictive light be struck into a man’s conscience; is this regeneration? Is this being new born? No, that makes all things new: ‘If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are done away, all things are become new.’ There is a new mind, a new judgment, a new conscience, a new will, new desires, new delights, new love, new fear, every thing new."

"Here is a change to be wrought in his nature, a nature that is corrupt, depraved, averse from God, alienated from the divine life; this nature is now to be attempered to God, made suitable to him, made propense and inclined towards him. This might be done, it is true, by an immediate exertion of Almighty power, without any more ado. But God will work upon men suitably to the nature of man. And what course doth he therefore take? He gives 'exceeding great and very precious promises,' and in them he declares his own good will, that he might win theirs. In order to the ingenerating grace in them, he reveals grace to them by these great and precious promises. And what is grace in us? Truly grace in us is good will towards God, or good nature towards God; which can never be without a transformation of our vicious, corrupt nature. It will never incline towards God, or be propense towards God, till he make it so by a transforming power. But how doth he make it so? By discovering his kindness and goodness to them in 'exceeding great and precious promises,' satisfying and persuading their hearts. . . . Thus the 'exceeding great and precious promises' are instruments to the communicating a divine nature to us, though that divine nature be ingenerated by a mighty power."

"It is a creature of a very peculiar benignity and goodness. . . . This goodness shows itself in . . . an habitual propension thereunto, so as to do good with complacency and delight; so this goodness imitates the Divine goodness; he exerciseth loving-kindness in the earth, because he delights therein; so doth the good man do good even with delight, tasting and relishing his own act in what he doth. Oh, how sweet is it to do good! He tastes and the relish of it more than the receiver of it doth, incomparably more; according to that motto of our Lord, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ A more blessed thing, a thing that carries more sweet and savour in it. . . . Oh, what a pleasant savour hath grace and goodness! Oh, the sweet relishes of it! . . . when regeneration makes a man good, produceth a divine creature, his delight is in doing good as God’s own is."

--Edmund Calamy, ed., The Works of the Rev. John Howe, (London: William Ball, 1838), 895-910. Calamy also wrote a biography of Howe.

06 November 2006


New Life Church posted Ted Haggard's letter that was read to the congregation yesterday morning, and his wife's. James Dobson spoke with H. B. London, Al Mohler, and Ravi Zacharias about the whole ordeal on this morning's radio broadcast.

Amid the surprise and sadness, I find my main reaction in the wake of this to be renewed resolve, more than ever, to guard my own mind and wage war on the impure intrusions which present themselves as so harmless. O the deceitfulness of sin!

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water . . .

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ . . .

03 November 2006

Motivation (9): Scougal

Henry Scougal (1630-1657), professor of divinity at Aberdeen University until dying of tuberculosis at age 28 (oddly similar to Brainerd), wrote a letter to a friend which was later turned into a small book called The Life of God in the Soul of Man. It was instrumental in the conversion of George Whitefield. Scougal writes these words, relevant for Christian motivation:

"[R]eligion may be designed by the name of life; because it is an inward, free and self-moving principle; and those who have made progress in it, are not acted only by external motives, driven merely by threatenings, nor bribed by promises, nor constrained by laws; but are powerfully inclined to that which is good, and delight in the performance of it."

"The love which a pious man bears to God and goodness, is not so much by virtue of a command enjoining him to do so, as by a new nature instructing and prompting him to it; nor doth he pay his devotions as an unavoidable tribute, only to appease the Divine justice, or quiet his clamorous conscience; but those religious exercises are the proper emanations of the Divine life, the natural employments of the new-born soul. He prays, and gives thanks, and repents, not only because these things are commanded, but rather because he is sensible of his wants, and of the Divine goodness, and of the folly and misery of a sinful life; his charity is not forced, nor his alms extorted from him, his love makes him willing to give; and though there were no outward obligation, his 'heart would devise liberal things'; injustice or intemperance, and all other vices, are as contrary to his temper and constitution, as the basest actions are to the most generous spirit, and impudence and scurrility to those who are naturally modest."

"The love of God is a delightful and affectionate sense of the Divine perfections, which makes the soul resign and sacrifice itself wholly unto him, desiring above all things to please him, and delighting in nothing so much as in fellowship and communion with him, and being ready to do or suffer any thing for his sake, or at his pleasure. Though this affection may have its first rise from the favours and mercies of God toward ourselves, yet doth it, in its growth and progress, transcend such particular considerations, and ground itself on his infinite goodness, manifested in all the works of creation and providence."

"When we have said all that we can, the secret mysteries of a new nature and divine life can never be sufficiently expressed; language and words can not reach them; nor can they be truly understood but by those souls that are enkindled within, and awakened unto the sense and relish of spiritual things."

--The Life of God in the Soul of Man (Fearn, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2001), 43-55.

01 November 2006

Motivation (8): Charnock

Stephen Charnock (1628-1680), chaplain to Henry Cromwell (son of Oliver) and Puritan pastor in London:

"[Regeneration] is a universal change of the whole man. It is a new creature, not only a new power, or new faculty: this . . . extends to every part, understanding, will, conscience, affections, all were corrupted by sin, all are renewed by grace. Grace sets up its ensigns in all parts of the soul, surveys every corner, and triumphs over every lurking enemy."

"It is principally an inward change. It is as inward as the soul itself. Not only a cleansing the outside of the cup and platter, a painting over the sepulcher, but a casting out the dead bones, and putrefied flesh; of a nature different from a pharisaical and hypocritical change. . . . If it were not so, there could be no outward rectified change."

"[T]his new creation consist[s] in gracious qualities and habits, which beautify and dispose the soul to act righteously and holily. . . . God hath put into all creatures such forms and qualities, whereby they may be inclined of themselves to motions agreeable to their nature, in an easy and natural way. Much more doth God infuse into those that he moves to the obtaining a supernatural good, some spiritual qualities, whereby they may be moved rationally, sweetly, and readily to attain that good: he puts into the soul a spirit of love, a spirit of grace, whereby as their understandings are possessed with a knowledge of the excellency of his ways, so their wills are so seasoned by the power and sweetness of this habit, that they cannot, because they will not, act contrary thereunto."

--The Doctrine of Regeneration (Welwyn, Hertfordshire: Evangelical, 1980, reprint), 103-124.

31 October 2006

Motivation (7): Owen

John Owen (1616-1683), Puritan theologian, chaplain to Cromwell, and congregational Nonconformist pastor, explains that there is a difference between rational, logical, sensible motivations and the work of the Spirit to fire these with holy energy and effectual desire:

"We do not . . . suppose that the motives of the word are left unto a mere natural operation, with respect unto the ability of them by whom it is dispensed, but, moreover, that it is blessed of God, and accompanied with the power of the Holy Spirit, for the producing of its effect and end upon the souls of men. . . . Now, concerning this whole work I affirm these two things—

"1. That the Holy Spirit doth make use of it in the regeneration or conversion of all that are adult, and that either immediately in and by the preaching of it, or by some other application of light and truth unto the mind derived from the word; for by the reasons, motives, and persuasive arguments which the word affords are our minds affected, and our souls wrought upon in our conversion unto God, whence it becomes our reasonable obedience. And there are none ordinarily converted, but they are able to give some account by what considerations they were prevailed on thereunto. But— 2. We say that the whole work, or the whole of the work of the Holy Ghost in our conversion, doth not consist herein; but there is a real physical work, whereby he infuseth a gracious principle of spiritual life into all that are effectually converted and really regenerated, and without which there is no deliverance from the state of sin and death which we have described. . . ."

"If the Holy Spirit works no otherwise on men, in their regeneration or conversion, but by proposing unto them and urging upon them reasons, arguments, and motives to that purpose, then after his whole work, and notwithstanding it, the will of man remains absolutely indifferent whether it will admit of them or no, or whether it will convert itself unto God upon them or no; for the whole of this work consists in proposing objects unto the will, with respect whereunto it is left undetermined whether it will choose and close with them or no."

"[M]oral persuasion, however advanced or improved, and supposed to be effectual, yet confers no new real supernatural strength unto the soul; for whereas it worketh, yea, the Spirit or grace of God therein and thereby, by reasons, motives, arguments, and objective considerations, and no otherwise, it is able only to excite and draw out the strength which we have, delivering the mind and affections from prejudices and other moral impediments. Real aid, and internal spiritual strength, neither are nor can be conferred thereby. And he who will acknowledge that there is any such internal spiritual strength communicated unto us must also acknowledge that there is another work of the Spirit of God in us and upon us than can be effected by these persuasions."

"The most effectual persuasions cannot prevail with such [unregenerate] men to convert themselves, any more than arguments can prevail with a blind man to see, or with a dead man to rise from the grave, or with a lame man to walk steadily."

"[Regeneration] consists in a new, spiritual, supernatural, vital principle or habit of grace, infused into the soul, the mind, will, and affections, by the power of the Holy Spirit, disposing and enabling them in whom it is unto spiritual, supernatural, vital acts of faith and obedience."

--The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, reprint (London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1966), 3:307-329.

30 October 2006

Motivation (6): Baxter

Richard Baxter (1615-1691), Puritan pastor and author, on regeneration and the motivational metamorphosis which ensues:

"The word regeneration signifies the same thing with conversion, but with this small difference. 1st. The term is metaphorical, taken from our natural generation; because there is so great a change, that a man is as it were another man. 2d. The word is, in scripture sense, I think more comprehensive than conversion, repentance or vocation; for it signifies not only the newness of our qualities, but also of our relations, even our whole new state."

After speaking of the first part of regeneration/conversion as being upon the mind, Baxter writes:

"The second part of the work of conversion is upon the heart or will, to which this change of the mind or understanding is preparative: and in this change of the heart, there are these several parts observable. (1.) The will is brought to like what it disliked, and to dislike what it liked before. (2.) It is brought to choose what it refused; and to consent to that which it would not consent to. (3.) It is brought to resolve, where it was either resolved on the contrary; or unresolved. (4.) The several affections are changed, of love and hatred; desire and aversion; delight and sorrow; hope and despair; courage and fear; and anger with content and discontent.

"1. The first change that God maketh on the heart or will in the work of conversion . . . is in the complacency or displacency of it: he causeth that to savour or relish as sweet to the will, which before was as bitter: the soul receiveth a new inclination; it liketh that which before it disliked, not only by a mere approbation, but by a willing agreement of the heart therewith. . . . Before conversion the very bent of man’s mind is toward the things below, and his heart is against the things of God: he relisheth the things below as sweet: and it pleaseth him to possess them, or to think of possessing them, but he hath no pleasure in God, nor in thinking or hearing of the life to come: all things please or displease a man, according as they agree or disagree to his inclination; and as they seem to him either suitable or unsuitable.

"Yet a wonderful change is made on them: they that had no savour of God and glory before, do now savour nothing else so much; they can truly say, as David, though perhaps not so feelingly as he, ‘Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none on earth that I can desire besides thee?'"

--“A Treatise on Conversion,” in The Practical Works of Richard Baxter: Select Treatises (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981), 291-297.

C.J. at Southern

I don't think I've ever laughed so hard at the beginning remarks of a chapel service as at this one (Oct 24) by C.J. Mahaney at Southern Baptist Seminary this past week. He spoke three times (the one on leadership is a Q & A).

I love this man.

27 October 2006

Motivation (5): Sibbes

Richard Sibbes (1577-1635), Puritan pastor and author (on whom Mark Dever did his doctorate), writes this in Glorious Freedom, which is a book-length exposition of 2 Cor 3:18:

"When we are drawn to duties out of wrong motives or fear or custom, and not from a new nature, this is not from the Spirit, and their performance is not from the true liberty of the Spirit. For under the liberty of the Spirit, actions come off naturally, not forced by fear or hope or any extra motives. A child does not need other motives to please his father. When he knows he is the child of a loving father, it is natural. So there is a new nature in those who have the Spirit of God to stir them up to duty, though God’s motives of sweet encouragement and rewards may help. But the principal is to do things naturally, not out of fear or to appease other people.

"Consider, then, the necessity of a change in the inward man, of the powers of the soul. . . . And the change is especially in the will, which some would say is not touched. They would say the will is free and would give grace no more credit than necessary. But grace works upon the will most of all. For the bent and desires of the will carry the whole man with it. If the choice, and bent, and bias are the right way, by the Spirit, it is good. If the will is not inclined and formed to go the best way, there is no work of grace at all. Though all grace first comes in through the understanding being enlightened, it then goes into the will. That is, it passes through the understanding into the will, and it puts a new taste and relish upon the will and affections. You see, then, that the grace in the gospel is not mere persuasion and entreaty, but a powerful work of the Spirit entering into the soul and changing it, and altering the inclination of the will heavenward."

--Glorious Freedom (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2000), 55-56, 105-106.

Questions in Edwards

The JE Blog raises an interesting observation about JE's use of questions in his sermons.

25 October 2006

Motivation (4): Aquinas

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), Italian church Doctor and philosopher-theologian, would perhaps surprise many of us Protestant evangelicals who react so ascerbically to dry scholasticism and have written off Aquinas as such (at least I did until I actually read him):

"As the intellect is moved by the object and by the Giver of the power of intelligence . . . so is the will moved by its object, which is good, and by Him who creates the power of willing. Now the will can be moved by good as its object, but by God alone sufficiently and efficaciously. . . .

"A thing moved by another is forced if moved against its natural inclination; but if it is moved by another giving to it the proper natural inclination, it is not forced; as when a heavy body is made to move downwards by that which produced it, then it is not forced. In like manner God, while moving the will, does not force it, because He gives the will its own natural inclination. . . .

"Rectitude of the will is necessary for Happiness . . . final Happiness consists in the vision of the Divine Essence, which is the very essence of goodness. So that the will of him who sees the Essence of God, of necessity, loves, whatever he loves, in subordination to God; just as the will of him who sees not God’s Essence, of necessity, loves whatever he loves, under that common notion of good which he knows. And this is precisely what makes the will right. Wherefore it is evident that Happiness cannot be without a right will. . . .

"God is the last end, as that which is ultimately sought for: while the enjoyment is as the attainment of this last end. And so, just as God is not one end, and the enjoyment of God, another: so it is the same enjoyment whereby we enjoy God, and whereby we enjoy our enjoyment of God. And the same applies to created happiness which consists in enjoyment."

--Summa Theologica, 1:604ff.

"Just as it is through the virtue of faith that a man partakes of the divine knowledge by means of the power of his intellect, and through the virtue of charity that he partakes of the divine love by means of the power of his will, so it is through regeneration or recreation of his soul’s nature that he partakes of the divine nature by way of a certain likeness."

--A. M. Fairweather, ed. and trans., Nature and Grace: Selections from the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas, 163.

I can't resist adding this fascinating historical anecdote by Sam Storms (my old Wheaton theology professor who in 2004 started Enjoying God Ministries), found in his notes on Aquinas:

"Lest one regard Thomas as a coldly intellectual theologian, devoid of godly passion, consider the story told of him by one young man. During his final years at Naples, Thomas was working on the conclusion of the Summa (which he never concluded!). A young man entered the room to find Thomas deep in prayer, allegedly floating above the ground (!). A voice was heard coming from the crucifix which Thomas held in hand: 'Thomas, you have written well of me. What reward can I give you for all your labours?' To which Thomas replied: 'Nothing, Lord. Nothing, but You.' Some time later, on Dec. 6th, 1273, he had an experience during Mass that so profoundly affected him that he wrote nothing more. When urged by his friends to complete the Summa, he replied: 'I cannot, for compared with what I have seen and what has been revealed to me [evidently, during the Mass], everything I have written seems like straw.'"

24 October 2006

Motivation (3): Augustine

"If that commandment is observed out of fear of punishment, not out of the love of righteousness, it is observed in the manner of a slave, not in the manner of someone free, and for that reason it is not observed. For there is lacking the good fruit that springs up from the root of love. But if faith that works through love is present (Gal 5:6), one begins to find delight in the law of God in the interior human being. This delight is a gift, not of the letter, but of the Spirit. . . ."

"The Lord is the Spirit, but where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Cor 3:17). This is the Spirit of God by whose gift we are justified; by his gift there comes to be in us a delight in not sinning so that we have freedom. So too, without this Spirit we find delight in sinning so that we are enslaved.

"Are we then doing away with free choice through grace? Heaven forbid! Rather, we make free choice stronger. . . . through faith we obtain grace to struggle against sin; through grace the soul is healed from the wound of sin; through the good health of the soul we have freedom of choice; through free choice we have the love of righteousness; through the love of righteousness we fulfill the law. The law is not done away with, but strengthened by faith, because faith obtains the grace by which we fulfill the law. In the same way, free choice is not done away with by grace, but strengthened, because grace heals the will by which we freely love righteousness."

--“The Spirit and the Letter,” in The Works of Saint Augustine, Vol. 23

23 October 2006

Parched New England

New England Theological Seminary gives a telling chart of the relative number of evangelical churchgoers per capita in the USA.

I spent a year in Connecticut and can testify to the spiritual coldness that pervades the area. When I visited Northampton (Mass.), for example, where Edwards lived and ministered, I was told the town now has one of the highest populations of homosexuals in the country.

Pray with me for a third Awakening in the land which needs it most.

Motivation (2): Calvin

A statement from the French reformer as I continue to comb history's best thinkers on what motivates Christians to obey. Interesting - both Calvin and Turretin (below) draw on Augustine.

"God’s grace, as this word is understood in discussing regeneration, is the rule of the Spirit to direct and regulate man’s will. The Spirit cannot regulate without correcting, without reforming, without renewing. For this reason we say that the beginning of our regeneration is to wipe out what is ours. Likewise, he cannot carry out these functions without moving, acting, impelling, bearing, keeping. Hence we are right in saying that all the actions that arise from grace are wholly his. Meanwhile, we do not deny that what Augustine teaches is very true: ‘Grace does not destroy the will but rather restores it.’ The two ideas are in substantial agreement: the will of man is said to be restored when, with its corruption and depravity corrected, it is directed to the true rule of righteousness. At the same time a new will is said to be created in man, because the natural will has become so vitiated and corrupted that he considers it necessary to put a new nature within."

--Institutes 2.5.15

20 October 2006

Motivation (1): Turretin

In the coming days I'll be listing some statements from well-known theologians on Christian motivation and where it comes from.

Francis Turretin (1623-1687), the Swiss theologian known for scholastically formulated Calvinism, says this of regeneration:

"The Spirit in our conversion operates both powerfully and sweetly, pleasingly and invincibly. It pertains to a physical mode that God by his Spirit creates, regenerates, gives us a heart of flesh and infuses into us efficiently the supernatural habits of faith and love. It pertains to a moral mode in that it teaches, inclines, persuades and draws to itself by various reasons as if by the chains of love. Hence Augustine is accustomed everywhere to express it by the phrase 'delightful conqueror' who has conjoined with the highest pleasantness and sweetness, the greatest efficacy and power which expels all the obstinacy of the heart. Thus neither that strength nor efficacy compels the man unwillingly, nor sweetly moves him now running spontaneously; but each joined together both strengthens the weakness of man and overcomes the hatred of sin. It is powerful that it may not be frustrated; sweet that it may not be forced. Its power is supreme and inexpugnable that the corruption of nature may be conquered, as well as the highest impotence of acting well and the necessity of doing evil. Yet still it is friendly and agreeable, such as becomes an intelligent and rational nature . . .

"[U]nless that grace by which we are converted were furnished with the highest power, sin (which has struck its roots so deeply in us) could not be overcome and rooted out. Unless the same would yield fruit of the sweetest joy so that the most loathsome delight of sin might be overcome by the opposite pleasure, the man would be drawn not voluntarily, but unwillingly and in a manner little suited to his nature.

". . . there is always need for a twofold grace in the conversion of man: the one objective and extrinsic, consisting in the proposition of the object; the other subjective, acting immediately upon the faculty to render it capable of receiving the object, not only that it may be able rightly to elicit its own acts in reference to it, but also to elicit them actually. Each depends upon the Holy Spirit working in two ways – both in the word and in the heart; in the word as the objective cause; in the heart as the efficient cause of faith. In the word, acting morally by the revelation of the object and suasion; in the heart, working efficaciously and hyperphysically by an infusion of good habits, the creation of a new heart and the powerful impression of the proposed object."

--Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 2:522-525.

19 October 2006

JE Online

It is now possible to search the entire corpus of the Works of Jonathan Edwards online. This is thanks to Yale University. You have to create an account, but it's free. This is all especially helpful in light of the price of the 24 printed copies.

As you punch in words, you get a link to the piece in which it is found, including the year it was written and the total number of words in that piece--whether it's short (a miscellany), medium (a sermon), or long (a treatise). 47 matching documents on "regeneration" just about made my blood boil. You can also search by Scripture text, which is especially valuable (particularly for preachers) since almost no JE works have included Scripture indeces.

12 October 2006

Three Kinds of Men

C. S. Lewis writes a very short essay called "Three Kinds of Men" in a collection of essays entitled Present Concerns.
There are three kinds of people in the world. The first class is of those who live simply for their own sake and pleasure, regarding Man and Nature as so much raw material to be cut up into whatever shape may serve them. In the second class are those who acknowledge some other claim upon them – the will of God, the categorical imperative, or the good of society – and honestly try to pursue their own interests no further than this claim will allow. They try to surrender to the higher claim as much as it demands, like men paying a tax, but hope, like other taxpayers, that what is left over will be enough for them to live on. Their life is divided, like a soldier's or a schoolboy’s life, into time “on parade” and “off parade”, “in school” and “out of school”. But the third class is of those who can say like St Paul that for them “to live is Christ”. These people have got rid of the tiresome business of adjusting the rival claims of Self and God by the simple expedient of rejecting the claims of Self altogether. The old egoistic will has been turned round, reconditioned, and made into a new thing. The will of Christ no longer limits theirs; it is theirs. All their time, in belonging to Him, belongs also to them, for they are His.

And because there are three classes, any merely twofold division of the world into good and bad is disastrous. It overlooks the fact that the members of the second class (to which most of us belong) are always and necessarily unhappy. The tax which moral conscience levies on our desires does not in fact leave us enough to live on. As long as we are in this class we must either feel guilt because we have not paid the tax or penury because we have. The Christian doctrine that there is no “salvation” by works done to the moral law is a fact of daily experience. Back or on we must go. But there is no going on simply by our own efforts. If the new Self, the new Will, does not come at His own good pleasure to be born in us, we cannot produce Him synthetically.

The price of Christ is something, in a way, much easier than moral effort – it is to want Him. It is true that the wanting itself would be beyond our power but for one fact. The world is so built that, to help us desert our own satisfactions, they desert us. War and trouble and finally old age take from us one by one all those things that the natural Self hoped for at its setting out. Begging is our only wisdom, and want in the end makes it easier for us to be beggars. Even on those terms the Mercy will receive us.
Is this not the heart of Mark 7 and John 3 and Luke 15 and 18:9-14 and so many other statements Jesus makes to the religious elite? And 2 Corinthians 4:6 and 1 John 3:9?

Update: See others chime in similarly on the three (not two) ways to live here, here, here, here, and here. I interact with Lewis' essay in this book.