31 December 2011

Drawing Near in 2012

My dad's post a few days ago is worth reading, rereading, printing out, putting on the dashboard, whatever--get it.

Looking forward to more of this, and more deeply, with Wheaton College men Ian, Tanner, Erik, Wade, Ben, Bobby, Dave, and Mark. Eight men who make me want to live well.

I get one shot--one shot--at 2012.

30 December 2011

Life Requires Death

In April 1983 Jack Miller, pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, wrote to a young woman named Catherine who was considering going to the mission field in Uganda. She was held back by fear.

Toward the end of that letter Jack said the following, the second paragraph of which I find rebuking, igniting, and illuminating of past and present experience in my own life.
Open up the Scriptures which give us the full picture of the glory of suffering for Christ. What you discover is that there is no permanent joy in Christ apart from a willingness to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. That is, your life cannot have power in it or even salvation if you refuse to be like a grain of wheat that must fall to the ground and die in order to bring forth much fruit. God calls you to greatness, Catherine, but greatness means fruitfulness, and fruitfulness comes as we die to self and our fears and rise from the dead.

I do not presume to know whether you should go to Uganda or not. Only God can finally show you that. . . . But your life must have a death in it if it is to go anywhere. The greatest thing hindering revival at New Life is the way we tend to run away from our own death. The cross can be evaded only so long. Then if we keep away from it we begin to create our own deaths, and we die thousands of times over, killed and rekilled by our anxieties.
--The Heart of a Servant-Leader: Letters from Jack Miller (P&R, 2004), 230

Does that last sentence explain why so many Christians are so weak, so joyless? I want to make my own failings, not others', my biggest concern, so I say it cautiously; but is it not the case that most of us who have had our eyes open to Christ, have truly embraced him and been born again, refuse thereafter to let go of the more immediate security of reputation, or comfort, or career achievement, or _________? Creating a breeding ground for innumerable anxieties? Holding on to hollow 'life' when Life awaits, if we will simply release our hold on a handful of pennies to fill out the blank check being offered us?

There is so much uncrucified Dane in me. Onward to death and joy in 2012. It really is possible.

'I died.' --the apostle Paul

'Die before you die. There is no chance after.' --C. S. Lewis, Till We have Faces

Death and joy. Both or neither.

29 December 2011

Take This With You into 2012

John Owen on the Bible:
O heavenly, O blessed depositum of divine grace and goodness! . . . although every humble soul may learn and receive from it what is absolutely sufficient for itself on all occasions, with respect to its own duty and eternal welfare, yet the whole church of God, neither jointly nor severally, from the beginning to the end of the world, have been, are, or shall be, able to examine these stores to the bottom and to find out perfectly all its truths, in all their dimensions, concerns, and extent, that are contained therein.
--quoted in Sinclair Ferguson, John Owen on the Christian Life (Banner of Truth, 1987), 189-90

Get it.

24 December 2011

Jeremiah Owen Ortlund

The army grows.

'Before I formed you in the womb,
I knew you,
and before you were born
I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.'
--Jeremiah 1:5

'So much as we see of the love of God, so much shall we delight in him, and no more. Every other discovery of God, without this, will but make the soul fly from him; but if the heart be once much taken up with this the eminency of the Father’s love, it cannot choose but be overpowered, conquered, and endeared unto him.'
--John Owen

21 December 2011

Fulfilling Genesis 1:28

No posting for a bit as my wife and I prepare to receive Ortlund son #3 into the world.

Our Fundamental Loyalty

Our business is to present the Christian faith clothed in modern terms, not to propagate modern thought clothed in Christian terms.

Our business is to interpret and criticize modern thought by the gospel, not vice versa.

Confusion here is fatal.
--J. I. Packer, "Fundamentalism" and the Word of God (Eerdmans, 1958), 136

Mighty Weakness

Just the right title--The Mighty Weakness of John Knox--in a book that avoids the hagiography of some other titles in this series.

The author, Doug Bond, writes in the opening chapter:
Who has not felt within him that he was too simple a man with too little to contribute to so great a cause as that of Christ and His church? What young woman, wife, mother, grandmother, or aged spinster has not wrung her hands, fearful and weak against the enemies of her soul and the church? Who has not thought that his gifts were too modest, that others could serve far better, and that he was too frail and timid to help advance the gospel of our Lord Jesus? Or who has not felt that hew was being unjustly maligned by critics, assaulted by the mighty, mocked and insulted by the influential?

So it was for Knox, but as he wrote of the Reformation in Scotland, 'God gave his Holy Spirit to simple men in great abundance.' His contemporary Thomas Smeaton said of Knox after his death, 'I know not if God ever placed a more godly and great spirit in a body so little and frail.'

. . . The Almighty is in the business of raising up simple, frail, and little people, and empowering them to be strong in Christ.
--Douglas Bond, The Mighty Weakness of John Knox (Reformation Trust, 2011), xxi-xxii

19 December 2011

Life from Death

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. -Romans 6:4

(Thanks to Z for pointing us to these pictures.)

Noah and the End of the World

Excellent discussion here from Mike Williams answering the question, Will this world be annihilated one day? Is that what 2 Peter 3 and Matthew 24 teach?

Amen, Dr. Williams.

HT: Joel Hathaway

Zeal without Knowledge

"There is nothing that belongs to Christian experience," wrote Edwards, "so liable to a corrupt mixture as zeal." After three years studying Paul's references to zeal against the backdrop of his Jewish upbringing I've concluded that the apostle would agree. Those conclusions and the exegetical arguments that led to them will be published next year in this volume. Yours for the low low price of $110.

My argument runs somewhat against the grain of the direction NT scholars are increasingly going in understanding the heart of Paul's concerns as an apostle. More and more I discern in NT scholarship an unhealthy over-horizontalization of the core of what animated Paul, prioritizing human reconciliation (Jew-Gentile) over vertical reconciliation (God-human). Zeal-language in Paul is a slice of his thought world that clarifies the priority of the apostle's concerns.

To the degree I've explained Paul rightly I hope students of the Bible will consider and be persuaded. It is not irrelevant to the gospel itself. I believe Paul will be better understood, and therefore Christ and his gospel more deeply cherished, and therefore God more reverently adored, if my arguments are read with genuine openness and textual submissiveness.

So it is gratifying to see three years' work come to fruition in this way. Glory to God.

Your Podcast Is Not Your Pastor

Great word here from our brother Trevin Wax.

Union with Christ

Outstanding brief stuff on the macro-soteriological doctrine of the New Testament with my dad and David Mathis.

16 December 2011

Two of My Favorite Statements on Inaugurated Eschatology

By 'inaugurated eschatology' I mean the launching in the middle of history of that which the OT promised would happen at the end of history. The last things (eschatology) have already begun (inaugurated). NT eschatology is not about the future but about the inbreaking of the future into the present, through Christ.

William Manson, 1953:
When we turn to the New Testament, we pass from the climate of prediction to that of fulfillment. The things which God had foreshadowed by the lips of His holy prophets He has now, in part at least, brought to accomplishment . . .

The supreme sign of the Eschaton is the resurrection of Jesus and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Church. The resurrection of Jesus is not simply a sign which God has granted in favor of His Son, but is the inauguration, the entrance into history, of the times of the End. Christians, therefore, have entered through the Christ into the new age . . . What had been predicted in Holy Scripture as to happen to Israel or to man in the Eschaton has happened to and in Jesus.

--William Manson, ‘Eschatology and the New Testament,’ in Scottish Journal of Occasional Papers 2 (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1953), 6

Joachim Jeremias, 1971:
There is nothing comparable to the resurrection of Jesus anywhere in Jewish literature. Certainly there are mentions of raisings from the dead, but these are always resuscitations, a return to earthly life. Nowhere in Jewish literature do we have a resurrection to doxa as an event of history. Rather, resurrection to doxa always and without exception means the dawn of God’s new creation.

Therefore the disciples must have experienced the appearances of the Risen Lord as an eschatological event, as a dawning of the turning point of the worlds.

--Joachim Jeremias, New Testament Theology: The Proclamation of Jesus (trans. John Bowden; New York: Scribner’s, 1971), 309

This Is the Christ

Get it:

Were earth a thousand times as fair
Beset with gold and jewels rare
She yet would far too poor to be
A narrow cradle Lord for thee
Praise God upon his heavenly throne
Who gave to us his only Son
For this his hosts on joyful wing
A blest new year of mercy sing

15 December 2011

Examining Our Thirst for Social Justice

Doug Wilson:

You have a button in front of you, placed there by a helpful genie. But instead of giving you the standard three wishes (and why doesn't anybody ever wish for ten wishes?), the genie has limited your options.

If you push the button, the real income of all the "have-nots" in the world will double overnight. Their health care will be twice as good as it is now, their disposable income will be twice as large, their houses will be twice as nice, and so on. But another consequence of pushing this button will also be the fact that the "haves" will see their prosperity increase ten-fold. They will all be ten times richer, thus enabling them to swank around all day.

To spell it out, this means that the divide between the rich and poor will widen, but will do so in a way that leaves the poor undeniably better off.

This is your ethical "dilemma," and part of your test is whether or not you even think of it as a dilemma. Would you refuse to push that button out of hard principle? Would you push it, but with a guilty conscience? Or would you, like me, push it while whistling a cheerful air, with your hat on the side of your head?

If you would not push it, or if you would push it reluctantly, then that urgent yearning for social justice that you feel all the time in your gut is not compassion at all, but cancerous envy. It is evil. It is a deadly sin that must be mortified. You don't love the poor at all -- you hate the rich, and you want to use the poor as a club. And why would this malevolent genie want to take your precious club away?

HT: Chris Gensheer

UBS Greek New Testament (GBS/Crossway)

I've read through every reader's Greek New Testament available and this one, which I've had about a month, is the best--readability, brief apparatus for the most important variants, references of OT/LXX quotes, paper quality, choice of Greek font, definitions and parsing of words appearing fewer than 30 times in the NT, definitions of even frequently used words in the back, and, of course, that most crucial of book qualities, which will prevent me from ever owning a Kindle or Nook: smell. And a cover that will last as long as a cow's hide. Because that's what it is.

Here is a downloadable PDF excerpt.

14 December 2011

13 December 2011

The Bible Made Impossible

A few paragraphs from my brother Gavin's brief interaction with Christian Smith's The Bible Made Impossible--

It seems significant to me that Smith, as he mentions in the preface, wrote this book around the time of his conversion to the Roman Catholicism (xiii). Much of the book feels directed against his evangelical upbringing, and I think I understand some of the attitudes towards the Bible at the popular level he is reacting against. A big part of what seems to annoy him, for example, is when people treat the Bible as a universal “handbook” for all kinds of issues, from dating to economics to how to train your pet, etc. Okay, I get that. But I think his book would have had greater value if he had engaged with evangelical treatment of Scripture against the backdrop of the classic Protestant doctrines of Scripture upon which it is founded, such as sola Scriptura (which was not opposed to tradition and creed) or the perspicuity of Scripture (which applied to matters of salvation, not all theological or a-theological topics). Much of what he is arguing against here seems to have less to do with different views of the Bible and more to do with different degrees of intellectual sophistication in practical use of the Bible. Christians of all traditions – including those, like Smith, in the Roman Catholic church – are guilty of treating the Bible in a simplistic way.

The core of Smith’s critique rests upon his thesis about “pervasive interpretative pluralism” – he frequently notes that even those with a high view of Scripture tend to disagree about all kinds of matters, and for him, this decisively argues against biblicism. My question is: why is “pervasive interpretative pluralism” anything more than a hermeneutical issue? Isn’t it simply a result of our finitude and fallibility as human thinkers, regardless of our doctrine of Scripture? Isn’t it just as much of a problem in the Roman Catholic church, for example – or really any sizable, diverse tradition, within or without Christendom? The myriad of different views on any given topic could be cataloged in Roman Catholicism quite easily – whether stretched back historically, focused on rulings and counter-rulings of different Popes and church councils, or seen today in the diverse opinions held on a multitude of issues within the Catholic Church. If one appeals to authoritative rulings from the Church to decide the issue, one must then adjudicate between the numerous interpretations of those rulings – and so on ad infinitum. Any authority source – whether the Bible or the Pope or human reason or the U.S. Constitution – can lead to “pervasive interpretative pluralism.” In no case does that fact as such discredit the authority.

12 December 2011

'Reverting Back to Our Successes'

Fascinating commentary here from Kordell Stewart (3:10-4:02), revealing how we are forced to cope with human disapproval without the gospel.

But I Will Always Help You

'I do really wish to destroy it!' cried Frodo. 'Or, well, to have it destroyed. I am not made for perilous quests. I wish I had never seen the Ring! Why did it come to me? Why was I chosen?'

'Such questions cannot be answered,' said Gandalf. 'You may be sure that it was not for any merit that others do not possess: not for power or wisdom, at any rate. But you have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have.'

'But I have so little of any of these things . . . !'

. . . Sam passed along the path outside whistling. 'And now,' said the wizard, turning back to Frodo, 'the decision lies with you. But I will always help you.' He laid his hand on Frodo's shoulder. 'I will help you bear this burden, as long as it is yours to bear. But we must do something, soon. The Enemy is moving.'
--J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, ch. 2

Ultimate Questions Evangelistic App

Looks very helpful. Free. By John Blanchard.

09 December 2011

He Does Not Run From Our Smelliness

Jack Miller, to a discouraged missionary, directing the dear man's eyes and heart to Jesus--
He is life from the dead. When the tomb was opened, the smell of Lazarus' sin and death came forth. The Lord must have felt like running away, since He hates evil in all its forms. But He stayed there.

He does not run from us in our state of decay and smelliness. I tell you, when Jesus deals with us He does not pretend that we are lovely and odorless, but it is in the midst of our smelly death that Jesus draws near with tears and power and love and called the dead and rotting into new life. . . .

I know of no one else who can help the heart in its deepest needs, who can comfort the soul.
--The Heart of a Servant Leader: Letters from Jack Miller (P&R, 2004), 183

08 December 2011


07 December 2011

Luther on John 1:16 ('we have all received grace upon grace')

Martin Luther's theological thunderclaps are wonderfully refreshing in today's fuzzy, politically correct, intolerantly tolerant, inoffensive-at-all-costs theological atmosphere.
It is a terrible and detestable blindness and a demonic presumption when a person has the audacity, as all work-righteous and hypocrites do, to attempt atonement for sin through works and tries in this way to earn the grace of God. It is wretched arrogance. . . . This is like a poor beggar--lice-ridden, syphilitic, leprous, filthy, stinking, and crawling with maggots and worms over his whole body, but nonetheless proud and arrogant--who vauntingly says: 'Just look at me, a handsome fellow!'

. . . Therefore we have no right to indulge in much bragging and boasting when we step before God. Even if we were members of the highest aristocracy on earth and were prone to take pride in this, before God we would still be nothing but bags of worms or bags of manure, infested with lice, maggots, stinking and foul. . . .
The healing alternative:
But if we do want to boast, then let us boast that we receive from the fullness of Christ, that we are enlightened by Him, attain forgiveness of sin, and become children of God through Him. . . . This fountain is inexhaustible; it is full of grace and truth before God; it never fails no matter how much we draw from it. Even if we all dip from it without stopping, it cannot be emptied, but it remains a perennial fount of all grace and truth, an unfathomable well, an eternal fountain.

The more we drink from it, the more it gives.
--Luther's Works, 22:132-34

06 December 2011

Where the Gospel Takes Us

Jack Miller, 1981, in a letter to another pastor with whom Jack has had some disagreements:
What is the gospel all about? It is the reconciliation of sinners to God through the blood of Christ and the reconciliation of men to one another as the fruit of that reconciliation to God. . . .

It must be greatly offensive to the Lord to see us defending the gospel in a manner that puts us at a distance from one another. . . . I fear that none of us have done all that well in living out [the gospel] as Christian brothers together. What has developed all too often is an adversary relationship among us, much like that in a court system. I am thinking of the tone, the pitting of position against position, the lack of mutual listening, and sometimes a breach of our covenant calling by bitterness and backbiting. . . .

How shall we give an account of ourselves when we are suddenly brought before our all-holy Father and asked to explain our divisions and quarrels?
--The Heart of a Servant Leader: Letters from Jack Miller (P&R 2004), 167-68

05 December 2011

30 November 2011

Let Us Drink our Fill from this Fountain

If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is “of him” [1 Cor. 1:30]. If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects [Heb. 2:17] that he might learn to feel our pain [cf. Heb. 5:2].

If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross [Gal. 3:13]; if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood, if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same; if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; if protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings, in his Kingdom; if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given him to judge.

In short, since rich store of every kind of goods abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other.
--John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.16.19

HT: Robert Peterson

Confusion or Complexity?

Mike Hyatt:
In my experience, confusion sometimes masquerades as complexity. Listening to an explanation, you might be tempted to think that you’re just not smart enough to understand the issue. But in reality, the presenter doesn’t understand it well enough to make it simple.
In my experience, too.

HT: James Kinnard

28 November 2011


Bad pictures. Glorious words.

HT: Dan Orr

23 November 2011

A Pastoral Charge

A good and wise charge from Zack Eswine to a newly installed pastor.

22 November 2011

Bavinck on the Conversions of Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin

Calvin came to the Reformation along similar paths as Luther and Zwingli—a deep religious-moral experience also characterized his conversion.

Yet, amidst the similarity there was also distinction. Luther experienced deep guilt and discovered the joy of God’s forgiving grace in Christ. Zwingli experienced the gospel as a liberation from legal bondage toward the glorious joy of adoption as God’s child. Calvin experienced a deliverance from error to truth, from doubt to certainty.

The German Reformer held on for dear life to the Scriptural word: “The just shall live by faith.” The Swiss Reformer’s favorite verse was the invitation from Jesus: “Come to me all who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest.” The Reformer who was born in France found his strength in Paul’s boast: “If God is for us, who can be against us.”
--Herman Bavinck, "John Calvin: A Lecture on the Occasion of His 400th Birthday," trans. John Bolt, The Bavinck Review 1 (2010): 62

21 November 2011

We do all for joy

Richard Sibbes:
We do all for joy. All that we do is that we may joy at length. It is the centre of the soul. As rest is to motion, so the desire of all is to joy, to rest in joy. So that heaven itself is termed by the name of joy, happiness itself. . . . What is our life without joy? Without joy we can do nothing. . . . A Christian, which way soever he look, hath matter of joy; the state of a Christian is a state of joy.
HT: Theoblog

14 November 2011

Off to San Francisco for ETS/IBR

Back in the blogging saddle next week!

The Consolation of Fairy Stories

The consolation of fairy stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous "turn" (for there is no true end to any fairytale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially "escapist," nor "fugitive." In its fairytale--or otherworld--setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur.

It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence) universal and final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.

The peculiar quality of the "joy" in successful fantasy can then be explained as a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth. It is . . . a "consolation" for the sorrow of this world. . . . But in the "eucatastrophe" we see in a brief vision that the answer may be greater--it may be a faroff gleam or echo of evangelium in the real world.
--J. R. R. Tolkien, "On Fairy Stories" (evangelium = gospel)

HT: Jerram Barrs

Reflections on William Cowper's Poems

From my brother Gavin.

An excerpt:
Cowper’s life compels me to interpret life differently than I previously have. Two things emerge in my mind as I struggle with it. First, there are wounds, there are trials, there are agonies in this fallen world that cannot be described with words or contained within concepts. They stretch and bend and even break our ability to understand. They draw us into the realm of extremity, to the utter brink. But second, and without at all downplaying the reality of the first point, God can heal the deepest wounds and redeem the most broken life. I don’t believe that Cowper’s despair is the sum and total of his life. In his letters, and much more in his poetry and hymns, another strand of thought emerges, one of hope, patience, and faith.

12 November 2011

Rightly Directed Rage

What Jerry Sandusky did was a horror. If that was my boy who came home with wet hair, and had been brutalized in that way, I am not confident that I would be able to restrain myself from calmly killing Sandusky in the middle of the night. Slowly. I am not trying to be funny. If that were my son--God help him.

Now--brothers and sisters--that horror we feel is right. The thirst for personally executed revenge is not right. But the revulsion, and thirst for justice, is right. We would be wrong not to feel it.

But the horror we feel over this is not only appropriate, it is also a glimpse into the horror of our own sin. I am not leveling out all sins. Some are worse than others. But the revulsion, the rage, that we rightly feel toward that sick man is a picture of the repulsiveness of our own sick rebellion against an infinitely beautiful One, and the rage he would be right to direct toward us.

That desire for an hour, just one hour, with Sandusky in a sealed off room with nowhere for him to run, and the rage that I would like to pour out on him, is a glimmer of the rage that ought to be poured out on me by my Creator. And was poured out on his Son.

I am more like Sandusky than different from him.

God help me.

He did.

11 November 2011

Beware Lest Humility Become Sadness

C. S. Lewis, writing to his priest, December 1951--
So great is the difference between mere affirmation by the intellect and that faith, fixed in the very marrow and as it were palpable, which the Apostle wrote was substance (Hebrews 11:1).

This emboldens me to say to you something that a layman ought scarcely to say to a priest nor a junior to a senior. (On the other hand, out of the mouths of babes: indeed, as once to Balaam, out of the mouth of an ass!). It is this: you write much about your own sins. Beware (permit me, my dearest Father, to say beware) lest humility should pass over into anxiety or sadness. It is bidden us to "rejoice and always rejoice" (Phil 4:4). Jesus has cancelled the handwriting which was against us (Col. 2:14-15). Lift up our hearts!
--The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Vol. 3 (Harper, 2007), 151-52

HT: Wade Urig

10 November 2011

Fires in Our Basements

Jack Miller writes in the 1990s to a church he had recently spoken at--
Jesus knocks at the front door of our heart (Rev. 3:20). In response we do not immediately open the door via our free will. Instead, we quickly put locks on the door and push furniture against it. The Lord then sends the Holy Spirit to slip in the back door. He goes down into the basement, where He turns up the heat and sets fires until the rising heat forces us to remove the barriers and open the front door and let Christ in. I believe that the Lord keeps right on using this backdoor approach in our growth in grace.
He sets fires in our basements by putting us in limiting and painful circumstances.
--The Heart of a Servant Leader: Letters from Jack Miller (P&R, 2004), 90

09 November 2011

Any Chance?

On the lighter side . . .

In the mid-1930s C. S. Lewis was given the great honor of being invited to contribute a volume to the massive multi-volume project undertaken by Oxford University Press, The Oxford History of English Literature, affectionately referred to by Lewis as O HELL. Lewis' volume was to cover the 16th century.

Lewis did eventually finish the book--700 pages of technical literary scholarship. Shortly after agreeing to do it, though, Lewis wrote the editor, Frank Wilson--
The O HELL lies like a nightmare on my chest. . . . I shan't try to desert . . . but I have a growing doubt if I ought to be doing this. . . . Do you think there's any chance of the world ending before the O HELL appears?

Yours, in deep depression,
C. S. Lewis
--The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, vol. 2 (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 221-22

08 November 2011

Passing By

'I will make all my goodness pass before [LXX parerchomai] you. . . .' The Lord passed before [parerchomai] him and proclaimed, 'The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious. . . .' -Exodus 33:19; 34:6

'I will never again pass by [parerchomai] them; the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate. . . . The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again pass by [parerchomai] them.' -Amos 7:8; 8:2

And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by [parerchomai] them. . . . -Mark 6:48

07 November 2011

Like a Greenhouse

The Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because he loves us; just as the roof of a greenhouse does not attract the sun because it is bright, but becomes bright because the sun shines on it.
--C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book 2, chapter 5

Hallelujah! What a Savior

An Irony

Jack Miller, in a 1988 letter to another pastor who had been emphasizing that sanctification takes place as the gospel of grace softens and transforms hearts--
One irony that strikes me is that so often people who emphasize the third use of the law are really not great law-keepers themselves. For example, I have noted that sometimes church members given heavy doses of the third use of the law have little idea of the inner nature of the law as a delighting in God. I have also noted a tendency to exclude the tongue and a critical spirit from consideration as well, so that you can get the irony of believers defending the laws with a harshness that itself breaks the law! What sinners we can be!

But I do think that the Heidelberg Catechism and the Belgic Confession have an excellent emphasis on faith and sanctification. . . .

I suspect that Reformed people, especially in the English Puritan tradition, have been especially prone to nomism.
--The Heart of a Servant Leader: Letters from Jack Miller (P&R, 2004), 59

06 November 2011

A Civil War

Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel.

Enemy-occupied territory--that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.
--C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book 2, chapter 2

05 November 2011

Bavinck on Calvin

Men sometimes speak as if Calvin knew of nothing else to preach but the decree of predestination with its two parts of election and reprobation. The truth is that no preacher of the gospel has ever surpassed Calvin in the free, generous proclamation of the grace and love of God. He was so far from putting predestination to the front, that in the Institutes the subject does not receive treatment until the third book, after the completion of the discussion of the life of faith. It is entirely lacking in the Confessio of 1536.
--Herman Bavinck, Calvin and Common Grace (New York: Westminster, 1909), 18

04 November 2011

God Must Do It

If for insignificant, guilty, and impure persons there is to be a possibility of true religion, that is, of genuine fellowship with God, of salvation and eternal life, then God on his part must reestablish the broken bond, again take them into fellowship with him and share his grace with them, regardless of their guilt and corruption.

He, then, must descend from the height of his majesty, seek us out and come to us, take away our guilt and again open the way to his fatherly heart. If God were to wait until we—by our faith, our virtues, and good works of congruity or condignity—had made ourselves worthy, in part or in whole, to receive his favor, the restoration of communion between him and ourselves would never happen, and salvation would forever be out of reach for us.
--Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 4:204-5

03 November 2011

One Central Conviction

In August 1988 Jack Miller wrote to a pastor in Ireland. He said at one point:
One central conviction has come to me: it is that pride and self-centered ambition crowd the love of God out of my life. Therefore I constantly need to repent of pride and self-importance and to have the love of God as seen in the golden message of grace crowd out wicked stuff like self-importance. I pray; I believe; Lord, help me with my unbelief!
--The Heart of a Servant Leader: Letters of Jack Miller (P&R, 2004), 62

How God Became King

Eager to read this next Spring.

Triumph, even in Weakness

Love this.

We have been cast down many times in this conflict, and still are; but we do not perish, for Christ has always triumphed and does triumph through us. Therefore, we firmly hope to obtain the victory against the devil through Jesus Christ.

This hope brings us sure consolation, so that in the midst of our temptations we take courage and say, 'Satan has tempted us before and by his deceit has provoked us to infidelity, contempt for God, despair, and so on; yet he has not prevailed, nor shall he prevail from now on (1 John 4:4). Christ is stronger and has overcome and continues to overcome that strong one in us, and he will overcome him forever.'

Still, the devil sometimes overcomes us in the flesh. But even then we may experience the power of a stronger person over that strong enemy and may say with Paul, 'When I am weak, then I am strong' (2 Cor 12:10).
--Martin Luther, Galatians (Crossway, 1998), 120

Does God Send Trouble?

It is because we cannot be robbed of God's providence that we know, amid whatever encircling gloom, that all things shall work together for good to those that love him. It is because we cannot be robbed of God's providence that we know that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ--not tribulation, nor anguish, nor persecution, nor famine, nor nakedness, nor peril, nor sword. . . . Were not God's providence over all, could trouble come without his sending, were Christians the possible prey of this or the other fiendish enemy, when perchance God was musing, or gone aside, or on a journey, or sleeping, what certainty of hope could be ours?

'Does God send trouble?' Surely, surely. He and he only. To the sinner in punishment, to his children in chastisement. To suggest that it does not always come from his hands is to take away all our comfort.
--B. B. Warfield, 'God's Providence Over All,' in Selected Shorter Writings of B. B. Warfield (2 vols; ed. J. E. Meeter; P&R, 2001), 1:110; quoted in Paul Helseth, 'Right Reason' and the Princeton Mind: An Unorthodox Proposal (P&R, 2010), v

02 November 2011

Defeat in Victory

My brother Eric--
I was talking with a brother struggling with sin once. He told me he had managed to resist temptation the night before. "Good!" I said. "But whether you gave in or not, are you still able, looking beyond yourself, to rejoice in Christ's perfect obedience on your behalf?" He hung his head. That was a more difficult question--even more difficult than resisting temptation.

If a Christian resists temptation and then focuses on their victory, is pleased with it, and the joy of it carries them onward--that may be a defeat at a deeper level.

Ultimate Meaninglessness Is Un-Discoverable

If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe . . . we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.
--C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book 2, chapter 1

One Reason We Love Nature

What indeed can we imagine heaven to be but unimpeded obedience?

I think this is one of the causes of our love of inanimate nature, that in it we see things which unswervingly carry out the will of their Creator, and are therefore wholly beautiful: and though their kind of obedience is infinitely lower than ours, yet the degree is so much more perfect that a Christian can see the reason that the Romantics had in feeling a certain holiness in the wood and water.

The Pantheistic conclusions they sometimes drew are false: but their feeling was just and we can safely allow it in ourselves now that we know the real reason.
--C. S. Lewis, in The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume 2 (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 177-78

The Tragedy of Spiritual Impotence

Tim Dalrymple, on the institution founded by Archibald Alexander--
Surely it says something that when I drove back to Princeton Theological Seminary from my chaplaincy work with the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, it felt as though I were leaving behind a place where God was real and urgent and present to a place where God was formally honored but rarely dynamically present. And surely it says something that, when I was suddenly struck with the fear of death before a surgery, I went around to my professors, essentially begging them for assurance that there was an eternity with God to be enjoyed, and the most affirmative answer I received was: “I think there’s an eternity with God; but if not, this life has been a wild ride.”
Sobering and sad.

Brothers considering seminary: I can't speak for other seminaries because I only went to one, and no place is perfect. But you will find the opposite of this at Covenant Seminary. And a dozen other schools that quickly come to mind.


01 November 2011

The Benefits of Sorrow

Wise, strengthening words from our brother Zack Eswine.

Lewis' Advice to Young Men

C. S. Lewis, in a letter to Arthur Greeves, Dec 29, 1935.
Friendship is the greatest of worldly goods. Certainly to me it is the chief happiness of life. If I had to give a piece of advice to a young man about a place to live, I think I should say, 'sacrifice almost everything to live where you can be near your friends.' I know I am very fortunate in that respect...
--Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Vol 2, ed. Walter Hooper (Cambridge University Press, 2004), p. 174

31 October 2011

The Temporariness of Life

Jack Miller, to his daughter Keren as she and her husband consider going to the mission field, April 1986--
You wouldn't believe Morocco between Casablanca and Fez. The valleys are just splendid with green grass and flowers. The verdant land is singing the praises of its Maker, and so shall we in fullness when Jesus brings in the big springtime of His new world. This old world is such a mess when you get to know it: so much hatred in it, so much revenge, so much greed, and an almost endless supply of human foolishness. It makes it a mystery that we mortals cling to it with such strong fingers when we are really holding on to winter's fog, mist, damp, rot, and mud. Lord, give me a longer view. . . .

Get a good view of the temporariness of life and--believe it or not--you will enjoy it more. When we get our footsies so mired down in time that we think it is eternal, we become subject to all the ups and downs, the vagaries, of time. Our loves are so easily disturbed because we are loving only what is changing and finally will be replaced altogether.

But to see this temporariness of many of our dreams isn't bad. We cannot remain adolescents forever. God's will is for us to become adults, and the heart of being an adult is the capacity to put away the toys and put on the love and joy and peace of Christ. The mind of Christ brings such quietness where otherwise the life would be ruled by discontent and all kinds of defenses and ambitions.
--The Heart of a Servant Leader: Letters from Jack Miller (ed. Barbara Miller Juliani; P&R, 2004), 32-33; with thanks to Drew Hunter for giving me this treasure of a book!

29 October 2011

The One Man Who Could Do It

Truly no man can ransom another,
or give to God the price of his life,
for the ransom of their life is costly
and can never suffice,
that he should live on forever
and never see the pit. (Psalm 49:7-9)

There is one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, who gave himself as a ransom for all. (1 Timothy 2:5-6)

28 October 2011

The Potent Gale of Grace

A good and powerful expression of the I in TULIP, which I believe is biblical and beautiful. Spurgeon is preaching a message entitled 'A Revival Sermon' in January 1860:
The Lord, when he means to save sinners, does not stop to ask them whether they mean to be saved, but like a mighty rushing wind the divine influence sweeps away every obstacle; the unwilling heart bends before the potent gale of grace, and sinners that would not yield are made to yield by God.

I know this, that if the Lord willed it, there is no man so desperately wicked here this morning that he would not be made now to seek for mercy, however infidel he might be; however rooted in his prejudices against the gospel, Jehovah hath to will it, and it is done. Into thy dark heart, O thou who hast never seen the light, would the light stream; if he did but say, 'Let there be light,' there would be light.

Thou mayest bend thy fist and lift up thy mouth against Jehovah; but he is thy master yet.
--quoted in Iain Murray, The Forgotten Spurgeon (Banner of Truth, 1966), 91

27 October 2011

Time to Say Goodbye

Andrea Bocelli (who has been blind since age 12) and Sarah Brightman (whose on-stage snuggliness is a bit much). Both of whom have been given an incredible, stirring, God-echoing gift.

26 October 2011

The New Testament's Multi-Dimensional Fulfillment of the Old

Seems to me that while it need not be the main point of every NT book, nevertheless every NT book in some way fulfills the hope of the OT, though each from its own perspective. One former prof of mine used to say that the NT is a 27-volume commentary on the OT. Truth to that.
Matthew fulfills the OT’s hope for a Messiah, a Christ, an anointed son of David who would save God’s people (1:21).

Mark fulfills the OT’s hope for a coming Son of God who would inaugurate God’s kingdom (1:1, 14–15).

Luke fulfills the OT’s longing for God to come and set right the world’s injustices—reversing rich and poor, oppressors and oppressed, satisfied and hungry, outsider and insider (19:10).

John fulfills the OT’s longing for the tabernacle/temple to do decisively what it was always meant to do—unite God and man in restored fellowship (1:14; 2:21; 14:6).

Acts fulfills the OT by bringing God’s mercy to the nations (1:8; 9:15).

Romans fulfills the OT by showing the supreme manifestation of the righteousness of God, in Jesus, bringing resolution to the constant OT tension between God’s justice and his mercy (1:17; 3:21–26).

1 Corinthians fulfills the OT by showing, in Christ, the climactic way in which God destroys the wisdom of the wise (1:19).

2 Corinthians fulfills the OT’s repeated pattern of strength through weakness (12:9–10), supremely in Christ (13:4), in whom all the promises of God are clinched (1:20).

Galatians fulfills the OT by showing that Jesus’ atoning work (3:13) at just the right time (4:4–5) is the reason that the real children of Abraham are those who are of faith (3:7–9).

Ephesians fulfills the OT by revealing the “mystery” long hidden—that Christ, by virtue of his death and resurrection, unites Jews and Gentiles in one renewed people of God (3:5–6).

Philippians fulfills the OT by showing that the church is the real circumcision (3:2–3).

Colossians fulfills the OT by showing that another Adam, likewise the image of God (1:15), has fulfilled the creation mandate of Genesis 1:28 to bear fruit and increase, so that we who are united to this second Adam can now do what the first Adam failed to do—bearing fruit and multiplying (1:10).

1 and 2 Thessalonians fulfill the OT’s hope of judgment on God’s enemies by showing that Jesus received this judgment, so that God’s punitive judgment, which is surely coming, now will fall only on those who reject Jesus (1 Thess 5:1–10; 2 Thess 1:5–12).

1 and 2 Timothy fulfill the OT by showing that the true warfare of God’s people is not against the Amalekites and Amorites and others but against sin and Satan (1 Tim 1:18; 6:12; 2 Tim 2:3–4), a war that cannot be lost because of the Savior anticipated in the OT (2 Tim 3:15).

Titus fulfills the OT’s underachieved efforts to redeem a people for God who are his own possession, zealous for good works (2:11–14).

Philemon fulfills the OT’s insistence that love be from the heart (v. 14).

Hebrews fulfills the OT’s longing for a perfect priest and final sacrifice to usher in the new covenant (8:1–13).

James fulfills the OT’s call for obedience to the law by showing that such obedience is fulfilled in one thing—active love (1:12; 2:8–26).

1 and 2 Peter fulfill the OT’s calling to Israel to be a royal priesthood and a holy nation (1 Pet 1:4–12)—a corporate fulfillment that happens only because of another fulfillment that is not only corporate but also individual, this time of Isaiah 52–53 (1 Pet 2:22–25).

1, 2, and 3 John fulfill the OT by showing that through Christ we are once more, like Adam, sons of God, and now able to fulfill the OT law through love (1 John 3:1 and passim).

Jude fulfills the exodus in the OT by showing that ultimately is was Jesus who provided this rescue (Jude 5; cf. 1 Cor 10:4).

Revelation fulfills the OT by showing that Jesus has conquered our great enemy, death, which was introduced in Eden (Rev 1:18; 21:4).

Vainglory and Shame

A good reflection from our brother Nick Nowalk.

24 October 2011

M'Cheyne on Revival

One effect of revival, from the sermon 'The Cry for Revival' from Robert Murray M'Cheyne--
The Lord's children rejoice in Him. They rejoice in Jesus Christ. The purest joy in the world is joy in Christ Jesus.

When the Spirit is poured down, His people get very near and clear views of the Lord Jesus. They eat His flesh and drink His blood. They come to a personal cleaving to the Lord. They taste that the Lord is gracious. His blood and righteousness appear infinitely perfect, full, and free to their souls. They sit under His shadow with great delight. They rest in the ceft of the rock. Their defense is the munitions of rocks. They lean on the Beloved. They find infinite strength in Him for the use of their soul -- grace for grace -- all they can need in any hour of trial and suffering to the very end.

Then go by Him to the Father. "We joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ." We find a portion there -- a shield, and exceeding great reward. This gives joy unspeakable and full of glory.

Now, God loves to see His children happy in Himself. He loves to see all our springs in Him. Take and plead that. Oh, you would pray after a different manner if God were to pour water on the thirsty. You would tell Him all, open to Him all sorrows, joys, cares, comforts. All would be told to Him.

21 October 2011

How to Spell 'Grace'

Spurgeon, in a sermon during his later years--
I have known some that, at first conversion, have not been very clear in the gospel, who have been made evangelical by their discoveries of their own need of mercy. They could not spell the word 'grace.' They began with a G, but they very soon went on with an F, till it spelt very like 'freewill' before they had done with it.

But after they have learned their weakness, after they have fallen into serious fault, and God has restored them, or after they have passed through deep depression of mind, they have sung a new song. In the school of repentance they have learned to spell. They began to write the word 'free,' but they went on from free, not to 'will' but to 'grace.' And there it stood in capitals, 'FREE GRACE'. . . . They became clearer in their divinity, and truer in their faith than ever they were before.
--quoted in Iain Murray, The Forgotten Spurgeon (Banner of Truth 1966), 69-70

20 October 2011

What Have We to Do with Consequences?

Spurgeon, preaching toward the end of his ministry, in the 1880s--
If a deed done for Christ should bring you into disesteem, and threaten to deprive you of usefulness, do it nonetheless. I count my own character, popularity, and usefulness to be as the small dust of the balance compared with fidelity to the Lord Jesus. It is the devil's logic which says, "You see I cannot come out and avow the truth because I have a sphere of usefulness which I hold by temporizing with what I fear may be false."

O Sirs, what have we to do with consequences? Let the heavens fall, but let the good man be obedient to his Master, and loyal to his truth.

O man of God, be just and fear not! The consequences are with God, and not with thee. If thou hast done a good work unto Christ, though it should seem to thy poor bleared eyes as if great evil has come of it, yet hast thou done it, Christ has accepted it, and He will note it down, and in thy conscience He will smile thee His approval.
--quoted in Iain Murray, The Forgotten Spurgeon (Banner of Truth, 1966), 205-6

What to Show the Devil

I recall during my twelve year-old salvation crisis (brought on by my developed fear of the rapture) being told the illustration of a young girl who was being hounded by the Devil every day. The evil accuser challenged her salvation, lying to her about her conversion and shaking her assurance. An angel of the Lord came to her and took her to a tree in which she had carved the date of her decision, three years earlier. The angel said, “The next time the devil comes to accuse, you show him what is carved in this tree.”

This is a neat little story, and at the time, as dubious as my conversion at six years of age seemed to me, it prompted me to say the sinner’s prayer again and mark the new date. But looking back now I find it theologically tenuous and practically useless for the cause of assurance. My decisions are a shallow hope indeed. These days when the devil comes to accuse, I show him what is carved on my Savior’s hand. I rebuke him not with some sentimental tree memorializing my own spiritual movements but the tree upon which the Son of God was sacrificed for me.
--Jared C. Wilson, Gospel Wakefulness (Crossway, 2011), 30

19 October 2011

What Is True Conversion?

When the Word of God converts a man, it takes away from him his despair but it does not take from him his repentance.

True conversion gives a man pardon, but it does not make him presumptuous.

True conversion gives a man perfect rest, but it does not stop his progress.

True conversion gives a man security, but it does not allow him to leave off being watchful.

True conversion gives a man strength and holiness, but it never lets him boast.
--quoted in Iain Murray, The Forgotten Spurgeon (Banner of Truth 1966), 112

A Perennial Oscillation

I found this statement interesting in light of recent discussion concerning the relationship between justification and sanctification. It's from Bill Evans' published dissertation on union with Christ in reformed theology since Calvin, which rightly wants to re-establish the centrality of union with Christ (subsuming both justification and sanctification) for reformed soteriology.
If there is both a federal union and a spiritual or mystical union, the question of the relationship between the two will inevitably be raised, hence the endless debates over various ordo salutis constructions in which the precise sequential order of the soteriological benefits was at issue. It is interesting to note that the British Reformed communities were torn by recurrent conflicts between Antinomians and Neonomians from the mid-seventeenth until the mid-eighteenth centuries, with antinomian parties emphasizing the priority and supremacy of justification at the expense of sanctification, and Neonomians reacting to antinomian excesses by emphasizing sanctification at the expense of forensic justification (note that this period was the heyday of the ordo salutis/federal theology model). Given the dualistic character of the federal paradigm, satisfying answers to this dilemma were difficult to find, and the Reformed federal tradition has tended to oscillate between the twin poles of legalism and antinomianism ever since.
--William B. Evans, Imputation and Impartation: Union with Christ in American Reformed Theology (Wipf & Stock, 2008), 82

18 October 2011

What to Remember When Fighting Temptation

On September 12, 1933, 35-year-old Clive Staples Lewis wrote a letter to his dear friend Arthur Greeves. The letter is located in the Wade Center at Wheaton College--just down the street from where I am typing right now.

Greeves had written to Lewis asking about the degree to which we can speak, if at all, of God understanding evil in any kind of experiential way--as Greeves had put it, 'sharing' in our evil actions.

Lewis begins with an analogy (all emphases original)--
Supposing you are taking a dog on a lead past a post. You know what happens. . . . He tries to go the wrong side and gets his head looped round the post. You see that he can't do it, and therefore pull him back. You pull him back because you want to enable him to go forward. He wants exactly the same thing--namely to go forward: for that very reason he resists your pull back, or, if he is an obedient dog, yields to it reluctantly as a matter of duty which seems to him to be quite in opposition to his own will: tho' in fact it is only by yielding to you that he will ever succeed in getting where he wants.

Now if the dog were a theologian he would regard his own will as a sin to which he was tempted, and therefore an evil: and he might go on to ask whether you understand and 'contained' his evil. If he did you could only reply 'My dear dog, if by your will you mean what you really want to do, namely, to get forward along this road, I not only understand this desire but share it. Forward is exactly where I want you to go. If by your will, on the other hand, you mean your will to pull against the collar and try to force yourself in a direction which is no use--why I understand it of course: but just because I understand it (and the whole situation, which you don't understand) I cannot possibly share it. In fact the more I sympathise with your real wish--that is, the wish to get on--the less can I sympathise (in the sense of 'share' or 'agree with') your resistance to the collar: for I see that this is actually rendering the attainment of your real wish impossible.'
Lewis then goes back to the original question to bring his analogy home:
I don't know if you will agree at once that this is a parallel to the situation between God and man: but I will work it out on the assumption that you do. Let us go back to the original question--whether and, if so in what sense God contains, say, my evil will--or 'understands' it. The answer is God not only understands but shares the desire which is at the root of all my evil--the desire for complete and ecstatic happiness. He made me for no other purpose than to enjoy it. But He knows, and I do not, how it can be really and permanently attained. He knows that most of my personal attempts to reach it are actually putting it further and further out of my reach. With these therefore He cannot sympathise or 'agree.'
Lewis then relates his point to how we think about past sins, and then how we think about future sins (temptation).
I may always feel looking back on any past sin that in the very heart of my evil passion there was something that God approves and wants me to feel not less but more. Take a sin of Lust. The overwhelming thirst for rapture was good and even divine: it has not got to be unsaid (so to speak) and recanted. But it will never be quenched as I tried to quench it. If I refrain--if I submit to the collar and come round the right side of the lamp-post--God will be guiding me as quickly as He can to where I shall get what I really wanted all the time. It will not be very like what I now think I want: but it will be more like it than some suppose. In any case it will be the real thing, not a consolation prize or substitute. If I had it I should not need to fight against sensuality as something impure: rather I should spontaneously turn away from it as something cold, abstract, and artificial. This, I think, is how the doctrine applies to past sins.

On the other hand, when we are thinking of a sin in the future, i.e. when we are tempted, we must remember that just because God wants for us what we really want and knows the only way to get it, therefore He must, in a sense, be quite ruthless towards sin. He is not like a human authority who can be begged off or caught in an indulgent mood. The more He loves you the more determined He must be to pull you back from your way which leads nowhere into His way which leads where you want to go. Hence MacDonald's words 'The all-punishing, all-pardoning Father.' You may go the wrong way again, and again He may forgive you: as the dog's master may extricate the dog after he has tied the whole leash around the lamp-post. But there is no hope in the end of getting where you want to go except by going God's way. . . .
And in a final, powerful, delightful reminder--
I think one may be quite rid of the old haunting suspicion--it raises its head in every temptation--that there is something else than God--some other country into which He forbids us to trespass--some kind of delight which He 'doesn't appreciate' or just chooses to forbid, but which would be real delight if only we were allowed to get it. The thing just isn't there. Whatever we desire is either what God is trying to give us as quickly as He can, or else a false picture of what He is trying to give us--a false picture which would not attract us for a moment if we saw the real thing.
--Walter Hooper, ed., The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume 2: Books, Broadcasts, and the War, 1931-1949 (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 122-24

How the New Testament Describes Salvation

Here are the more important ones, noting which sphere of life from which they are drawn.
Justification – the lawcourt metaphor (Rom 5:1; Titus 3:7)

Sanctification – the cultus metaphor (1 Cor 1:2; 1 Thess 4:3)

Adoption – the familial metaphor (Rom 8:15; 1 John 3:1–2)

Reconciliation – the relational metaphor (Rom 5:1–11; 2 Cor 5:18–20)

Washing – the physical cleansing metaphor (1 Cor 6:11; Titus 3:7)

Redemption – the slave market metaphor (Eph 1:7; Rev 14:3–4)

Purchase – the financial transaction metaphor (1 Cor 6:20; 2 Pet 2:1)

Wedding – the marriage metaphor (Eph 5:31-32; Rev 21:2)

Liberation – the imprisonment metaphor (Gal 5:1; Rev 1:5)

New Birth – the physical generation metaphor (John 3:3–7; 1 Pet 1:3, 23)

Illumination – the light metaphor (John 12:35–36; 2 Cor 4:4–6)

New Creation – the redemptive-historical metaphor (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15)

Resurrection – the bodily metaphor (Eph 2:6; Col 3:1)

Union with Christ – the organic or spatial metaphor (Rom 6:1–14; 2 Tim 1:9)
Inexhaustible richness. Luther was right--
If a person is without warmth about matters pertaining to God and salvation, as the common man does, then the devil merely laughs. But if your words are aglow in your heart, you will put the devil to flight. (LW 22:357)

Documentary on Spurgeon

HT: Theoblog

17 October 2011

The Macro-Significance of Union with Christ

John Calvin:
We must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless. (Institutes, 3.1.1.)
Jonathan Edwards:
The Scripture is very plain and evident in this, that those that are in Christ are actually in a state of salvation, and are justified, sanctified, accepted of Christ, and shall be saved. . . . But those that are not in Christ, are not united to Him, can have no degree of communion with Him. For there is no communion without union. The members can have no communion with the head or participation of its life and health unless they are united to it. (A Treatise on Grace)
Adolf Schlatter:
[T]he spiritual process occurring in us through faith can never by itself provide the grounds for God’s justifying verdict. It can do so only because it establishes our union with Christ. The believer’s righteous status is based on the placing of his confidence in Christ. Because he has been laid hold of by Christ and clings to him and has been made his possession, the believer is justified. (Theology of the Apostles, 235)

How to Be Radically Insecure

A fascinating statement from Lovelace illuminating both my own soul and why playing hoops with unbelievers is often more enjoyable than with believers.
Much that we have interpreted as a defect of sanctification in church people is really an outgrowth of their loss of bearing with respect to justification.

Christians who are no longer sure that God loves and accepts them in Jesus, apart from their present spiritual achievements, are subconsciously radically insecure persons--much less secure than non-Christians, because they have too much light to rest easily under the constant bulletins they receive from their Christian environment about the holiness of God and the righteousness they are supposed to have.
--Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal (InterVarsity, 1979), 211-12

Whatever one sows, that will he also reap (Gal 6:7)

Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.
--C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 87

15 October 2011

A Huge Void

NBA great Jerry West, now 73:
People look at me and say you've got fame, you've got admiration, you've done this, you've done that. As far as I'm concerned, I haven't done anything. I've just fulfilled a dream of competing. I could be special in some ways. Even though I felt at times, 'My goodness, you're among the upper echelon,' there is still a huge void there. A huge void. It is about self-esteem. That's a thing that has always been a real complex part of my life.

I see people that have success and I see how poised and polished they are and how they handle it. I wonder inside if they feel the same way that I feel.
HT: Sean Lucas

'Come to me . . .' --Matthew 11:28

The Terrible Fix We Are In

The trouble is that one part of you is on His side and agrees with His disapproval of human greed and trickery and exploitation. You may want Him to make an exception in your own case, to let you off this one time; but you know at bottom that unless the power behind the world really and unalterably detests that sort of behaviour, then He cannot be good.

On the other hand, we know that if there does exist an absolute goodness it must hate most of what we do.

That is the terrible fix we are in.

If the universe is not governed by an absolute goodness, then all our efforts are in the long run hopeless. But if it is, then we are making ourselves enemies to that goodness every day, and are not in the least likely to do any better tomorrow, and so our case is hopeless again. We cannot do without it, and we cannot do with it. God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies. Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion. Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger–according to the way you react to it.

And we have reacted the wrong way.
--C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Part 1, chapter 5

'But God . . .' -Ephesians 2:4

14 October 2011

Laughter and Faith

Should we not see that lines of laughter about the eyes are just as much marks of faith as are the lines of care and seriousness?

Is it only earnestness that is baptized? Is laughter pagan?

We have already allowed too much that is good to be lost to the church and cast many pearls before swine. A church is in a bad way when it banishes laughter from the sanctuary and leaves it to the cabaret, the nightclub, and the toastmasters.
--Helmut Thielicke, Encounter with Spurgeon (Fortress, 1963), 26

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.” --Psalm 126:2

Is it Legitimate to Compare the Divine/Human Nature of Scripture to the Divine/Human Nature of Christ?

The question has been hot in recent years as several men have written books on Scripture answering the above question 'yes,' often making the accompanying point that just as we do not want to play down the true humanity of Christ, neither do we want to play down the true humanity of the Bible--which compels us to concede in honesty (it is then argued) minor matters of historical error in Scripture. Bob Yarbrough wisely interacted with several of these books recently.

But the point of this post is to note that Packer had already given us marvelously clear guidance to the above question 50 years ago in his "Fundamentalism" and the Word of God. Some had been arguing that the evangelical view of Scripture, with its view of inerrancy etc, is like the Monophysite heresy, which denies the real humanness of Jesus.

Packer writes:
1. At best, the analogy between the divine-human person of the Word made flesh, who is Christ, and the divine-human product of the Word written, which is Scripture, can be only a limited one.

2. If the point of the analogy is merely that human as well as divine qualities are to be recognized in Scripture, we can only agree, and add that it should be clear from what we have already said--which is no more than Evangelicals have said constantly for over a century--that we do in fact recognize the reality of both.

3. If we are to carry the analogy further, and take it as indicating something about the character which the human element has by virtue of its conjunction with the divine, we must say that it points directly to the fact that, as our Lord, though truly man, was truly free from sin, so Scripture, though a truly human product, is truly free from error. If the critics believe that Scripture, as a human book, errs, they ought, by the force of their own analogy, to believe also that Christ, as man, sinned.

4. If we are to carry the analogy further still, and take it as indicating something about the reality of the union between the divine and the human, we must say that it is in fact the approach of Evangelicals to Scripture which corresponds to Christological orthodoxy, while that of their critics really corresponds to the Nestorian heresy. Nestorianism begins by postulating a distinction between Jesus as a man and the divine Son, whom it regards as someone distinct, indwelling the man; but then it cannot conceive of the real personal identity of the man and the Son.

The right and scriptural way in Christology is to start by recognizing the unity of our Lord's Person as divine and to view His humanity only as an aspect of His Person, existing within it and never, therefore, dissociated from it. Similarly, the right way to think of Scripture is to start from the biblical idea that the written Scriptures as such are 'the oracles of God' and to study their character as a human book only as one aspect of their character as a divine book. Those who start by postulating a distinction between the Bible as a human book and the word of God that is in it are unable, on their own premises, to recognize and exhibit the real oneness of these two things, and when they try to state their mutual relationship they lapse into an arbitrary subjectivism. This is what happens to the critics. (Incidentally, once we see this, we see why they are so ready to accuse Evangelicals of Monophysitism; for Nestorians have always regarded orthodox Christology as Monophysite.)

We must dissent, therefore, from [the] assertion that our task is to discern the divinity in Christ's humanity and the word of God in the fallible words of man, and suggest that it is rather to appreciate the true manhood of the divine Word incarnate and the authentic human character of the inerrant divine Word written.
--J. I. Packer, "Fundamentalism" and the Word of God (Eerdmans, 1958), 82-84

Who Is God?

Here's the conclusion to Gordon Lewis' essay on God's attributes in the endlessly fascinating resource volume Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, edited by Walt Elwell.
In summary, God is a living, personal Spirit worthy of whole-soul adoration and trust (because of his many perfect attributes), separate from the world, and yet continuously active in the world.

Unlimited by space, God nevertheless created and sustains the cosmos, scientific laws, geographical and political boundaries.

Beyond time, God nevertheless actively relates to time, to each human life, home, city, nation, and to human history in general.

Transcendent to discursive knowledge and conceptual truth, God nevertheless intelligently relates to propositional thought and verbal communication, objective validity, logical consistency, factual reliability, coherence and clarity, as well as subjective authenticity and existential integrity.

Unlimited by a body, God is nevertheless providentially related to physical power in nature and society, industrially, agriculturally, socially, and politically. God knows and judges human stewardship in the use of all the earth's energy resources.

God transcends every attempt to achieve justice in the world, but righteously relates to every good endeavor of his creatures personally, economically, socially, academically, religiously, and politically. Although free from unworthy and uncontrolled emotions, God is caringly related to the poor, the unfortunate, the lonely, the sorrowing, the sick, the victims of prejudice, injustice, anxiety, and despair.

Beyond all the apparent meaninglessness and purposelessness of human existence, God personally gives significance to the most insignificant life.
--Gordon R. Lewis, "Attributes of God," in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (ed. W. Elwell; 2d ed.; Baker, 2001), 499

Sowing to the Spirit

A good word from our brother Tom Schreiner, on Galatians 6:7-8, from a recent Southern Seminary chapel.

'We are not saved by our good works,' Tom reminds us. 'But we're also not saved without them.'

Sow to the Spirit from Southern Seminary on Vimeo.

13 October 2011

Coming Home

In the second to last chapter of The Last Battle, the children from all the stories (minus Susan, who forsook child-likeness) look on from the warm, sunlit inside world of the stable door as Aslan wakes Father Time, calls the stars home, and puts out the sun. Narnia dies, frozen over. Peter's hands grow numb from the cold as he shuts the stable door once and for all.

The children begin to move westward, further up and further in. But they are perplexed. Lewis' description of why is wonderfully strengthening and hope-giving, and straight out of Isaiah and Revelation. Best read in a few moments of undistracted stillness.
They kept on stopping to look round and look behind them, partly because it was so beautiful but partly also because there was something about it which they could not understand.

“Peter,” said Lucy, “where is this, do you suppose?”

“I don’t know,” said the High King. “It reminds me of somewhere but I can’t give it a name. Could it be somewhere we once stayed for a holiday when we were very, very small?”

“It would have to have been a jolly good holiday,” said Eustace. “I bet there isn’t a country like this anywhere in our world. Look at the colors! You couldn’t get blue like that blue on those mountains in our world.”

“Is it not Aslan’s country?” said Tirian.

“Not like Aslan’s country on top of that mountain beyond the Eastern end of the world,” said Jill. “I’ve been there.”

“If you ask me,” said Edmund, “it’s like somewhere in the Narnian world. Look at those mountains ahead--and the big ice-mountains beyond them. Surely they’re rather like the mountains we used to see from Narnia, the ones up Westward beyond the Waterfall?”

“Yes, so they are,” said Peter. “Only these are bigger.”

“I don’t think those ones are so very like anything in Narnia,” said Lucy. “But look there.” She pointed Southward to their left and everyone stopped and turned to look. “Those hills,” said Lucy, “the nice woody ones and the blue ones behind--aren’t they very like the Southern border of Narnia?”

“Like!” cried Edmund after a moment’s silence. “Why, they’re exactly like. Look, there’s Mount Pire with his forked head, and there’s the pass into Archenland and everything!”

“And yet they’re not like,” said Lucy. “They’re different. They have more colours on them and they look further away than I remembered and they’re more . . . more . . . oh, I don’t know . . .”

“More like the real thing,” said the Lord Digory softly.

Suddenly Farsight the Eagle spread his wings, soared thirty or forty feet up into the air, circled round and then alighted on the ground.

“Kings and Queens,” he cried, “we have all been blind. We are only beginning to see where we are. From up there I have seen it all--Ettinsmur, Beaversdam, the Great River, and Cair Paravel still shining on the edge of the Eastern Sea. Narnia is not dead. This is Narnia.”

“But how can it be?” said Peter. “For Aslan told us older ones that we should never return to Narnia, and here we are.”

“Yes,” said Eustace. “And we saw it all destroyed and the sun put out.”

“And it’s all so different,” said Lucy.

“The Eagle is right,” said the Lord Digory. “Listen, Peter. When Aslan said you could never go back into Narnia, he meant the Narnia you were thinking of. But that was not the real Narnia. That had a beginning and an end. It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia which has always been here and always will be here: just as our own world, England and all, is only a shadow or copy of something in Aslan’s real world. You need not mourn over Narnia, Lucy. All of the old Narnia that mattered, all the dear creatures, have been drawn into the real Narnia through the Door. And of course it is different; as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream. . . .”

It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right forehoof on the ground and neighed, and then cried:

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this.”
--C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle, ch. 15

. . . he has put eternity into man's heart . . . --Ecclesiastes 3:11

. . . and the ransomed of the LORD shall return . . . --Isaiah 35:10

I will bring them home . . . --Zechariah 10:10

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life . . . --Revelation 22:1

12 October 2011

Moving Ahead


The best way – not the only way, but the best way – to steward the historically significant blessing God is giving in our time – this delightful nexus of TGC/T4G/SGM/A29/etc – is to bow down before the Lord, give him thanks humbly, confess our sins honestly, listen to one another carefully, monitor our own hearts constantly for that impulse toward self-exaltation and bring it crashing down immediately in self-rebuke.

The Lord will do all he has promised.

The Ineradicable Sense

Robert Cunningham, professor of church history at Edinburgh 150 years ago, on the doctrines of grace--
There is not a converted and believing man on earth, in whose conscience there does not exist at least the germ, or embryo, of a testimony in favour of the substance of the Calvinistic doctrine of election.

This testimony may be misunderstood, or perverted, or suppressed; but it exists in the ineradicable sense which every converted man has, that if God had not chosen him, he never would have chosen God, and that if God, by His Spirit, had not exerted a decisive and determining influence in the matter, he never would have turned from darkness to light, and been led to embrace Christ as his Saviour.

This is really the sum and substance of Calvinism. It is just the intelligent and hearty ascription of the entire, undivided glory of their salvation, by all who are saved, to the sovereign purpose, the infinite merit, and the almighty agency of God--the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
--Robert Cunningham, The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation (T&T Clark, 1862), 209

Without Money and Without Price

We do not like to be saved by charity, and so to have no corner in which to sit and boast. We long to make provision for a little self-congratulation. You insult a moral man if you tell him that he must be saved in the same way as a thief or a murderer, yet this is no more than the truth. For a woman of purity to be told that the same grace which saved a Magdalene is necessary for her salvation is so humbling, that her indignation is roused, and yet it is the fact, for in every case salvation is 'without money and without price.'
--Charles Spurgeon, 'Without Money and Without Price,' 1871

HT: Jean Larroux

11 October 2011

The Reluctant Revolutionary

An hour-long BBC documentary on Luther, including air-time with Alistair McGrath.

HT: Theoblog

10 October 2011


The Internet world we live in today is awash in narcissism and vanity, with some people taking their clothes off literally, because exposure gives them a rush, and others doing it spiritually--because the addicting power of talking about yourself, where anyone in the world can read it, is overpowering.

I put Philippians 2:3 before me regularly with its piercing word kenodoxian (vainglory): 'Do nothing from rivalry or vainglory [kenodoxian], but in humility count others more significant than yourselves' (Phil. 2:3 AT). The love of human praise--human glory--is universal and deadly.
--John Piper, 'The Pastor as Scholar,' in The Pastor as Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Ministry by John Piper and D. A. Carson (ed. Owen Strachan and David Mathis; Crossway, 2011), 24 (HT: JT)

A blog is no place for spiritual stripping.

A Real Originator

You have to go outside the sequence of engines, into the world of real men, to find the real originator of the Rocket. Is it not equally reasonable to look outside Nature for the real Originator of the natural order?
--C. S. Lewis, 'Two Lectures,' in God in the Dock (Eerdmans, 1970), 211

08 October 2011

Christianity Is Christ

James Dunn argues that the much-disputed 'center' of Paul's theology is, simply, Christ. Dunn writes--
For Paul Christianity is Christ. Any restatement of his theology, any theologizing which seeks to sustain a dialogue with Paul will simply have to recognize this.

The centrality of Christ, as showing what God is like, as defining God's Spirit, as the channel of Israel's blessing for the nations, as demonstrating what obedience to Torah means, as the light which illumines Israel's scriptures, as embodying the paradigm of creation and consummation, his death and resurrection as the midpoint of time, as the magnet for faith, as the focus of all sacramental significance, as determining the personal and corporate identity of Christians, as the image to which the salvation process conforms, is simply inescapable in the theology of Paul the apostle. (729)
--James D. G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Eerdmans, 2006), 729


God cannot be praised enough, for he makes us his children and heirs.

By this gift a Christian is greater than the whole world, for he has such a treasure in his heart that despite its apparent smallness it is greater than heaven and earth, because Christ is this gift.
--Martin Luther, Galatians (Crossway, 1998), 90

07 October 2011

To Contend for Obscurity

Iain Murray:
The brief doctrinal articles of modern evangelicalism--as distinct from the Reformed confessions of the 16th and 17th centuries--have nothing to say on these issues [of the order of regeneration and faith, and other Calvinistic tenets], presumably because it is no longer thought to be necessary. The prevalent attitude has been to frown on distinct and definite propositions of truth and to contend for obscurity and indefiniteness as though the latter were more spiritual and biblical, and more preservative of unity.
--Iain Murray, The Forgotten Spurgeon (Banner of Truth, 1966), 63

The Message Is the Method

06 October 2011

The One Thing Christianity Cannot Be

Having finished last year a slow (almost three years), deeply enjoyable walk through volume 3 of Lewis' collected letters (beautifully published by Cambridge University Press), I found myself in recent days heading toward bed wishing I had more of his letters to read. So I ordered volume 2, which covers the years 1931-1949. So, Clive Staples will once more be making regular appearances around here. Here's a gem I read a few nights ago--
Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and, if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.
--The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume 2 (Cambridge University Press, 2004), xi