29 January 2007

God Glorified (according to Simonson)

Harold Simonson paraphrases from the first person perspective what Edwards was announcing to the (increasingly Arminian) clerical elite before whom Edwards preached "God Glorified in Man's Dependence" in 1731 at age 28. This sermon was the one that launched him into the public sphere of New England.

Let there be no mistake about the position I will henceforth take, Edwards said in effect. The doctrines I will preach are living and intoxicating because they arise from experiential knowledge. Supreme among these doctrines is the one affirming an inscrutable, immutable Deity for adoration, not for mere speculation. Let us never forget that our relationship with the Deity, who is under no obligation to us, is at best a relationship of dependence, regardless of what our works and reason say to the contrary.

--Jonathan Edwards: Theologian of the Heart, p. 36.

22 January 2007

The Foundation Is Firm

Four years ago my wife Stacey and I decided "How Firm a Foundation" would be our family hymn. We have learned it together and I have sung it hundreds of times on the way to work during these wonderful (and sometime not so wonderful) seminary years. It always brings me back to the great old truths of the faith, rooted in Isaiah 41:10 and 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.


". . . And I hereby vow not to doubt the Bears' defense. Brees had enough grass stains on his uniform to do a laundry detergent commercial." --Gene Wojciechowski

19 January 2007

Light for the Day

I'm in the thick of doctoral applications to universities in 4 different countries and (re)learning that the Lord grants just enough light to see immediately in front of me, just enough to take one or two more steps. My flesh hates that. I would rather be in control. Have a road-map to the future. But no matter what our job security is or our retirement plan or the strength of our friendships or our academic achievement, the company may go bankrupt, the 401K may evaporate, the relationship may sour, the grades prove insufficient. So even if I did have a road-map, it would often prove to be false security. So the Lord kindly presses us, keeps us keenly aware of the precarious nature of life and the way it might turn any direction at any time (a school I was not considering a week ago has become my top choice). He gives us just enough light for the day. I think this is what Jesus meant when he said, "Stop worrying about the future. Trust me. Today has enough to think about. And tomorrow--as surely as the birds of the air will find lunch--will find you as secure in the Father's arms as ever."

The truth is, if I knew today where we were going to be next year, I would invariably slip into finding my identity in that, taking pride in that, looking to that for joy and security, and my gaze would imperceptibly shift from God's governance to mine. So while I am eager to know what the future holds, I am content. It is enough. And it keeps me trusting him. "But seek first his kingdom..." "Do not boast, saying 'Tomorrow we will go to this city...'" "Do not be anxious about anything..." "Cast your cares upon him, because he cares for you."

Pride & Publishing

Sobering word on Christian self-promotion from Carl Trueman at Reformation 21. A word in season to someone who would like to publish a few things in the near future.

(HT: Fire & Knowledge)

Motivation (31): Heidelberg

Heidelberg Confession
- 1563, Germany -

8 Q. But are we so corrupt
that we are totally unable to do any good
and inclined toward all evil?

A. Yes, unless we are born again
by the Spirit of God.

88 Q. What is involved
in genuine repentance or conversion?
A. Two things:
the dying-away of the old self,
and the coming-to-life of the new.

89 Q. What is the dying-away of the old self?

A. It is to be genuinely sorry for sin,
to hate it more and more,
and to run away from it.

90 Q. What is the coming-to-life of the new self?

A. It is wholehearted joy in God through Christ
and a delight to do every kind of good
as God wants us to.

18 January 2007

'Theologian of the Heart'

Today I ordered Harold Simonson's Jonathan Edwards: Theologian of the Heart ($3.50 used on Amazon) after reading Michael McClenahan's thoughts on the book.

17 January 2007

C. S. Lewis on Calvinism

Mark Dever reports on an interesting letter by C. S. Lewis concerning divine sovereignty and human responsibilty.

16 January 2007

Motivation (30): Belgic Confession (1561)

Having listed several individual writers over 1600 years who have affirmed the basic idea that motivation in the life of the Christian is not fundamentally the fruit of the logically reasoned gratitude for past mercies, newly constituted present identity, or future benefits, but rather the fruit of a new inner relish for holiness divinely granted and sustained (through, but not on account of, these other 3 motivations), I close with a few citations from the confessions of the last 600 years which concur.

I begin with the Belgic Confession, drawn up in the Netherlands--the land of the tulips--in 1561.

Article 24: The Sanctification of Sinners

We believe that this true faith,
produced in man by the hearing of God’s Word
and by the work of the Holy Spirit,
regenerates him and makes him a 'new man,'
causing him to live the 'new life'
and freeing him from the slavery of sin.

far from making people cold
toward living in a pious and holy way,
this justifying faith,
quite to the contrary,
so works in them that
apart from it
they will never do a thing out of love for God
but only out of love for themselves
and fear of being condemned.

So then, it is impossible
for this holy faith to be unfruitful in a human being,
seeing that we do not speak of an empty faith
but of what Scripture calls
'faith working through love,'
which leads a man to do by himself
the works that God has commanded
in his Word.

Did Jonathan Edwards really cross his legs like this?

If so, we may have found Charles Chauncey's real beef with Jon.
The Jonathan Edwards blog announces a JE conference in Hungary this May.

12 January 2007

Jeremiah 33:3

(Hillsong United)

Fire Fall Down

You bought my life with the blood that you shed on the cross
When you died for the sins of lost men
And you let out a cry, crucified, now alive in me

These hands are yours, teach them to serve as you please
And I’ll reach out desperate to see all the greatness of God
Let my soul rest assured in you

I’ll never be the same…

I know that you’re alive
You came to fix my broken life
And I’ll sing to glorify
Your holy name, Jesus Christ

You changed it all when you broke down the wall when I spoke
And confessed in you I am blessed
Now I walk in the light, in victorious sight of you

I’ll never be the same…

I know that you’re alive
You came to fix my broken life
And I’ll sing to glorify
Your holy name, Jesus Christ

Professor of Risk Appointed at Cambridge

I'm guessing the newly appointed Professor of Risk at the University of Cambridge in England is not a Calvinist. The university webpage reports:

A new Professorship designed to help improve people’s understanding of the mathematics of risk is being established at the University of Cambridge.

The new Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk will seek to help individuals, institutions and government refine their decisions in risky situations.

Risk is a factor in all human activity and different people react to risks in very different ways. Questions requiring a scientific ability to assess the chances of something happening – or not happening – arise all the time.

Surprisingly, Proverbs 16:33 didn't factor into the decision: "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision if from the LORD."

If you ask me, this is a pretty risky hire by the university.

11 January 2007

Zeal in Paul

It seems that there are 3 basic positions on what kind of "zeal" Paul refers to in Rom 10, Gal 1, and Phil 3.

(1) Trans-national Zeal - zeal for general obedience with an eye toward God (Rom 10:2)

(2) Inter-national Zeal - zeal for the Jewish nation and culture with an eye toward other nations (Phil 3:6)

(3) Intra-national Zeal - zeal for the Jewish nation and culture with an eye toward fellow (less zealous) Jews (Gal 1:14)

The NPP seems to see (1) as a subsidiary consequence of, and therefore subsumed within, (2) and (3); I am increasingly convinced this is exactly wrong: Jewish zeal for the nation is subsumed within moral zeal. Just about every time I read a contemporary book on Paul I find myself thinking that not enough attention is being given to anthropology (human capacity). Sanders and Dunn are overly optimistic on this point, and it sets off their whole thinking (due to a foundation that is a bit off). Specifically, we are wired to be naturally zealous about our own moral achievement. One ramification or illustration of this (deeper) zeal would be a nationalistic zeal. The vertical fuels the horizontal, not the other way round.

Gaffin on Paul

Richard Gaffin's new book on Paul and the ordo salutis is excellent: clear, pointed, balanced. Despite his strange understanding of 2 Cor. 4:16 and weak exegesis of Rom. 2:6-11, I learned a lot from this short book. His central thesis is that union with Christ by Spirit-created faith is the hub of Paul's thought, from which other spokes such as justification and sanctification sprout. He interacts occasionally with the NPP along the way.

Here's an example of what I mean by clear, pointed, and balanced, speaking of the law in Paul (italics orig.).

It is undoubtedly true that almost always when Paul refers to "law" or "the law," he has in view the body of legislation given by God through Moses to Israel at Sinai, that legislation marking out the period of covenant history until Christ. He is also clear that, as a specific codification belonging to that era, the law has been terminated in its entirety by Christ in his coming (e.g. Rom. 6:14; 7:6; 10:4; 2 Cor. 3:6-11; Gal. 3:17-25). At the same time, however, it seems difficult to deny that in a statement like Romans 7:12 . . . or in Romans 13:9, where several of the ten commandments function as exhortation incumbent on the church, or in 1 Corinthians 7:19 ("God's commandments"), Paul recognizes that at its moral core, the "Torah in the Torah" as it could be put, the Mosaic law specifies imperatives that transcend the Mosaic economy. Included within that law are imperatives that are bound up with the indicative of the creator-creature relationship from the beginning and, so, are enduring because of who God is. In its central commands the law given at Sinai, notably the Decalogue, reveals God's will, inherent in his person and so incumbent on his image-bearing creature as such, regardless of time and place, on non-Jew as well as Jew.

--By Faith, Not by Sight: Paul and the Order of Salvation (Waynesboro, GA: Paternoster, 2006), 31-32.

I think that is exactly right. It strikes the right balances, and says in short compass what needs to be said in summary about Paul on the law (but what would take a book to adequately argue!).

10 January 2007

Motivation (28): I. Murray

Iain Murray (1931-), Scottish pastor, author, one-time assistant to Lloyd-Jones, and founder of the Banner of Truth Trust publishing company:

"[O]nce the Biblical doctrine of regeneration is grasped it means that no man can be a true believer who does not possess a new life 'created in righteousness and true holiness' (Eph. 4:24). According to Scripture it is quite impossible to be justified by faith and not to experience the commencement of true sanctification, because the spiritual life communicated by the Spirit in the act of regeneration (which introduces the new power to believe) is morally akin to the character of God and contains within it the germ of all holiness. Thus saving faith is never found in isolation."

--The Forgotten Spurgeon (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1966), 108-09.

"To claim as the work of the Holy Spirit anything that does not show itself first by purity of life is to undermine the real meaning of Christianity. What made the revivals of the early nineteenth century so powerful in the conviction and silencing of unbelief was their indisputable effects in changing men’s habits, subduing their selfishness and pride, and rendering visible the apostolic assertion, 'if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new' (2 Cor. 5:17). Joshua Bradley, writing in 1819, gives testimony to this:

"God has delivered his cause from reproach, and laid waste the systems of infidels. These are confounded, and stand with silent astonishment, to see such a striking alteration, as evidently appears in many old hardened sinners, who they thought, were inaccessible to the influences of religion. But they are not more astonished than many of the converts are themselves, to find such a change in their own feelings, views, motives, and desires. Who can behold the blessed effects of the religion of Jesus, and not be convinced of its divine original?"

--Revival and Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism: 1750-1858 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1994), 217.

The Exhaustively Comprehensive Activity and Resplendence of God

That, I think, is the main thing I long to communicate to my generation. May it be.

09 January 2007

The Article That Almost Got Piper Fired...

...(according to his Passion message). The title is "Missions and Masturbation." Desiring God posted it here.

Motivation (27): Packer

J. I. Packer (1926-), Anglican theologian, author, professor at Regent College in Vancouver:

"Regeneration is . . . God renovating the heart, the core of a person’s being, by implanting a new principle of desire, purpose, and action, a dispositional dynamic that finds expression in positive response to the gospel and its Christ. . . . Regeneration is a transition from spiritual death to spiritual life, and conscious, intentional, active faith in Christ is its immediate fruit, not its immediate cause."

"[Sanctification is] a divinely wrought character change freeing us from sinful habits and forming in us Christlike affections, dispositions, and virtues. Regeneration is birth; sanctification is growth. In regeneration, God implants desires that were not there before: desire for God, for holiness, and for the hallowing and glorifying of God’s name in this world; desire to pray, worship, love, serve, honor, and please God; desire to show love and bring benefit to others. In sanctification, the Holy Spirit 'works in you to will and to act' according to God's purpose; what he does is prompt you to 'work out your salvation' (i.e., express it in action) by fulfilling these new desires (Phil. 2:12-13)."

--Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1993), 157-158, 169-170.

JE Blog: FAQs

The Jonathan Edwards blog answers some FAQs about the JE Center at Yale, the ongoing publication of a critical edition of JE's Works (currently 26 vols), and other things.

08 January 2007

Passion Videos

Passion took down their Passion 07 videos of the conference last week in Atlanta, but have now posted them again, available here Jan. 8-12. They have both the worship and the preaching.

Motivation (26): Stott

John R. W. Stott (1921-), Anglican theologian, clergyman, author, international statesman of a unified and theologically mature evangelicalism:

"But can human nature be changed? Is it possible to make a sour person sweet, a proud person humble, or a selfish person unselfish? The Bible declares emphatically that these miracles can take place. It is part of the glory of the gospel. Jesus Christ offers to change not only our standing before God but our very nature. He spoke to Nicodemus of the indispensable necessity of a new birth, and his words are still applicable to us: 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God . . . Do not marvel that I said to you, "You must be born anew".' Paul’s statement is in some ways even more dramatic, for he blurts out, in a sentence which has no verbs: 'If anyone in Christ – new creation!' Here then is the possibility of which the New Testament speaks – a new heart, a new nature, a new birth, a new creation. This tremendous inward change is the work of the Holy Spirit. The new birth is a birth 'from above'. . ."

"This is not arid theological theorizing; it is the daily experience of every Christian. We continue to be conscious of sinful desires which are tugging us down; but we are now also aware of a counteracting force pulling us upwards to holiness."

--Basic Christianity (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 1958), 99, 101.

"Regeneration or new birth . . . is the inward work of the Holy Spirit, who then remains as a gracious indwelling presence, transforming the believer into the image of Christ, which is the process of sanctification."

--The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 1986), 188.

05 January 2007

Piper at Passion 07, Jan 3:

"What do you do at 9 a.m. after sinning sexually at 2 a.m.? What do you tell yourself? Forget about the morning-after pill. We need the morning-after gospel."

Update 1/8: Here is the whole message.

JE: Original Sin

Matt Harmon cites a passage of Edwards' Original Sin very pertinent to regeneration and the necessarily accompanying motivation.

03 January 2007

Passion '07

Passion '07, in Atlanta Jan. 1-4, is streaming all events and they are viewable online. Louie Giglio did the first 2 sessions. Piper is on later.

Update 1/4: First 4 sessions are up on video: Louie Giglio, Beth Moore, Francis Chan, John Piper.

Idolized Misery

In the last few weeks, as a faithful devotee of espn.com and lover of all sports everywhere, I note with sadness:

--Tank Johnson, Bears defensive lineman, is arrested for possession of 550 rounds of aummunition, unlabeled pills, and marijuana, and his bodyguard is shot and killed at a bar while he is present 2 days later

--Terrell Owens, Dallas Cowboys receiver who earlier in the year "accidentally" overdosed on pills, spits in the face of a defensive back during a game

--Allen Iverson, NBA star, complains about his team and then is ejected from his first game playing his old team (76ers), announcing to the press after the game that referee Steve Javie is out to get him

--Broncos defensive back Darrent Williams is shot in a drive-by at a party in Denver

--Michael Jordan divorces his wife

--brawl erupts between Knicks and Nuggets at the end of a basketball game

Could it be that the men we idolize in our culture are not as happy as we think they are? Could it be that there is a strange and wonderful and paradoxical joy in service and in other-elevation instead of self-elevation? Could it be that not only does lots of $$ not necessarily bring happiness, but it invariably brings misery, if not channeled on to others and thereby prevented from becoming an idol?


02 January 2007

Together Again

Last week Al Mohler had the Together for the Gospel guys on his radio show to discuss 2006 church events.

Motivation (25): Hoekema

Anthony Hoekema (1913-1988), Dutch professor of systematic theology at Calvin Seminary last century:

"It is at the moment of regeneration that the dead sinner becomes spiritually alive, that resistance to God is changed to non-resistance, and that hatred for God is changed to love. Regeneration means that the person who was outside of Christ is now in Christ. Hence this is a radical, not just a superficial change. . . .

"[R]egeneration is a total change—a change which involves the whole person. In Scriptural terms, regeneration means the giving of a new heart. And the heart in Scripture stands for the inner core of the person, the center of all activities, the fountain out of which all the streams of mental and spiritual exercises flow: thinking, feeling, willing, believing, praying, praising, and so on. It is this fountain which is renewed in regeneration. It should be added, however, that this does not mean the removal of all sinful tendencies. Though regenerated persons are new, they are not yet perfect."

--Saved by Grace (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 103-104.

Ligon Duncan on Packer on the Puritans on Worship-Prep

Ligon Duncan at Together for the Gospel records J. I. Packer's comments on the lost Puritan priority of Saturday preparation of the heart for Sunday worship. It is something I've never considered before. I love it. And I think what Packer suggests would, as he says, correctly redirect much of the angst among those of us who may mistakenly see the form (rather than the substance) of Sunday worship as the key to heartfelt worship.