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