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

05 October 2011

The Eternal Name

In 1855, at age 20, Charles Spurgeon preached a sermon entitled 'The Eternal Name.'

Many years later his wife reminisced on the end of that sermon. She said--
I remember, with a strange vividness at this long distance of time, the Sunday evening when he preached from the text, 'His name shall endure forever.' It was a subject in which he reveled, it was his chief delight to exalt his glorious Saviour, and he seemed in that discourse to be pouring out his very soul and life in homage and adoration before his gracious King.

But I really thought he would have died there, in the face of all those people! At the end of the sermon, he made a mighty effort to recover his voice; but utterance well-nigh failed, and only in broken accents could the pathetic peroration be heard--'Let my name perish, but let Christ's name last forever! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Crown him Lord of all! You will not hear me say anything else. These are my last words in Exeter Hall for this time. Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Crown him Lord of all!' And then he fell back almost fainting in the chair behind him.
--described and quoted in Iain Murray, The Forgotten Spurgeon (Banner of Truth, 1966), 41

04 October 2011

Christ Will Be a Friend to Truth

It is, of course, the most easy to flesh and blood to deal in generalities, to denounce sectarianism, and claim to be of an ultra-catholic spirit; but though rough and rugged, it is required of the loyal servant of King Jesus to maintain all His crown rights and stand up for every word of His laws. Friends chide us and foes abhor us when we are very jealous for the Lord God of Israel, but what do these things matter if the Master approves?

The words of Rutherford, in his letter to William Fullarton, ring in our ears: "I earnestly entreat you to give your honour and authority to Christ, and for Christ; and be not dismayed for flesh and blood while you are for the Lord, and for His truth and cause. And howbeit we see truth put to the worse for the time, yet Christ will be a friend to truth, and will act for those who dare hazzard all that they have for Him and for His glory. Sir, our fair day is coming, and the court will change, and wicked men will weep after noon, and sorer than the sons of God who weep in the morning. Let us believe and hope for God's salvation."
--C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 2:6; quoted in Iain Murray, The Forgotten Spurgeon (Banner of Truth, 1966), 17-18

01 October 2011

Love, Pride, and Speaking Truth

We live in a world, and a Christian world, in which offending another is, in the realm of human relationship, the supreme vice. Confronted with the choice to actively speak what one believes to be true or passively let sleeping dogs lie in the name of love, we often choose the latter.

All we say must be done in love. That is non-negotiable. But even what that means has been hijacked in some ways by the world, softness being mistaken for love. When called for, neither Moses nor the prophets nor Jesus nor Paul nor Peter nor even the gentle-hearted John (see 1 John 2:4; 3:8, or the 'arrogance' of 4:6) refrained from non-subtle, non-manipulating, non-face-saving words of piercing truth, spoken in love yet doubtless perceived as harshness. And note that almost all of them were accused of arrogance, even Jesus. Were they unloving? No; it was their love itself that fueled such penetrating language.

May we examine ourselves? Asking if, at times, what we deem to be kindness on our part is cowardice? 'I don't want to be seen as offensive' can feel like 'I want the best for my brother.' Self-guarding is mistaken for love. It is in fact love of self. The devil smiles.

Luther is a massive breath of fresh air in these things. Such defibrillating clarity. In the letter to Pope Leo X that prefaces Luther's The Freedom of a Christian, Luther says:
Now I will admit to attacking false or unchristian teachings. I have not criticized the bad morals of my opponents but rather their ungodly doctrines. I am not going to repent of this! After all, I am only following the example of Christ, who did not hesitate to call his opponents such things as 'a brood of vipers'. . . . And think of the stinging criticism of the prophets! However, our ears have become more finely attuned to the empty praises of the endless lines of flatterers. As a result, we protest when any of our opinions meets with disapproval. . . .

Therefore, blessed Leo, when you read this letter and understand my intentions, I hope you see that I have never meant ill toward you personally. I have only the best wishes for you. I have no argument with any person with regard to morals. But I am unyielding when it comes to contending about the word of truth. In all other things, I will gladly yield, but I have neither the power nor the will to deny the word. If others view my motives differently, they either are not thinking straight or have failed to understand what I have said. (The Freedom of a Christian, p. 35)
Pride is frightfully pervasive, in my heart and yours. And this is a love-starved world. But let's be sure we understand what it means, truly, to renounce pride and love others.

That Most Mighty Giant

Luther, lecturing on Galatians 4:6--
Now, we are sure that Christ pleases God, that he is holy and so on. Inasmuch, then, as Christ pleases God and we are in him, we also please God and are holy.

Although sin still remains in us, and although we daily fall and offend, grace is more abundant and stronger than sin. The mercy and truth of the Lord reign over us forever. Therefore, sin cannot make us afraid or make us doubt God's mercy in us. For Christ, that most mighty giant, has abolished the law, condemned sin, and vanquished death and all evils.

So long as he is at the right hand of God making intercession for us, we cannot doubt God's grace and favor toward us.
--Martin Luther, Galatians (Crossway, 1998), 205