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Hatred for History

Posted on March 28, 2012

For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear, some new thing (Acts 17:21) . . . they soon forgot . . . (Psalm 106:13) Richard Weaver said in Ideas Have Consequences: “It has been well said that the chief trouble with the contemporary generation is that it has not read the minutes of the last meeting. Most modern people appear to resent the past and seek to deny its substance for either of two reasons: (1) it confuses them, or (2) it inhibits them. If it confuses them, they have not thought enough about it; if it inhibits them, we should look with a curious eye upon whatever schemes they…

After God’s Silence — What?

Posted on March 25, 2012

by Oswald Chambers   “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When He had heard therefore that he was sick, He abode two days still in the same place where He was.” John 11:5-6. Jesus stayed two days where He was without sending a word. We are apt to say—’I know why God has not answered my prayer, it is because I asked for something wrong.’ That was not the reason Jesus did not answer Martha and Mary— they desired a right thing. It is quite true God does not answer some prayers because they are wrong, but that is so obvious that it does not need a revelation from God to understand it. God wants us to stop understanding in the…

Two Gospel Heresies

Posted on March 24, 2012

Salvation by works is heresy.  Salvation without works is heresy.  Both are damnable.  In the history of the Church the battle for the gospel has often centered on two extremes that eviscerate it.   They are equally damning. Moralism First, there is the heresy of moralism. This is the horridly humanistic idea that man can somehow obtain salvation by his merits, virtue, or “good works.”   Many of the Jews during the time of the New Testament had apostatized and had adopted this false teaching.   They believed that their physical lineage and their circumcision and their external law-keeping could save them (the Old Testament never taught this).   Paul attacked this heresy with great vigor in the book of Romans, but particularly in the book of Galatians.  …

Theologies to be Skeptical About

Posted on March 23, 2012

Christian systematic theologies abound today, and the themes around which one may orient any theology are legion: Protestant, Roman Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal, feminist, dispensationalist, Afro-American, liberation, liturgical, evangelical, Marxist, Asian, Indian, and on and on.   On the basis of Biblical revelation, I thought it might be useful to list 10 traits of theology that should inspire us to be skeptical when we detect them. Be skeptical of any theology that: 1.   Situates the Person of Jesus Christ anywhere except at its absolute center (Col. 1:15-19; Heb. 1:3). 2.   Prefers knowledge to love (1 Cor. 1:8; 13:8). 3.   Assumes one can know doctrine without first obeying Christ (Jn. 7:17). 4.   Produces cruel, pharisaic people (Mt. 7:1-20). 5.   Pits personal revelation against propositional revelation (Jn. 1:1-3;…

Prophetic Preaching or Expository Preaching?

Posted on March 23, 2012

Over the past thirty years or so, there has been a big emphasis on “expository” or “expositional” preaching. This is the practice of preaching straight through the Bible (or a portion of it) sequentially, exegeting a particular portion and expounding it. This surely is an acceptable way to preach, and it has a long history. For instance, Chrysostom in the ancient church preached this way. Advocates of this sort of preaching, however, often criticize those who do not preach this way. Anything but their way is considered substandard or even not preaching at all. But this is hardly the case. In the Bible itself, there are not unambiguous examples of this type of preaching. In the Old Testament, Ezra stood up publicly and read…

Toward a Catholic Calvinism

Posted on March 22, 2012

I put myself on guard whenever I observe speakers and writers neatly classifying individuals into distinct, mutually exclusive, and seemingly airtight categories. One factor that makes individuals what they are is their own distinctiveness, a fact that renders most attempts at classification somewhat arbitrary. Nonetheless, the Bible itself classifies individuals again and again (saved and unsaved, carnal and spiritual, Jews and Gentiles, weak and strong, foolish and wise, and so forth), and any attempt to chart characteristics and trends that involves individuals demands classification of some sort. The categories of blond-haired people, self-taught people, two-income people, and gregarious people are relevant categories. The fact that these categories have fuzzy edges, and the fact that they can be used for foolish or malicious purposes, do…

Christianity as Empire

Posted on March 21, 2012

And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Daniel 2:44  If evangelical Christians are to have an impact for the transformation of this society, in which they constitute one of the largest and most highly motivated minorities, but in which their influence is largely felt by default, it will be necessary to kill the sacred cow of pluralism.   Harold O. J. Brown[1]   A Tale of Two Pluralisms Perhaps no word more accurately describes the modern and postmodern[2] age than pluralism.  Pluralism is the peaceful…

Man Without a Movement

Posted on March 21, 2012

Dedicated to John M. Frame, who for four decades has successfully resisted the lure of movements What is a movement?   As I am defining it here, a movement is an informal association of individuals united by adherence to a particular ideology (a highly structured, generally comprehensive view of reality) dominated by one or more influential personalities.   The Protestant Reformation, the French Revolution, Marxism, National Socialism, and Neo-Conservatism are all movements.   Almost all movements, even those radically secular, manifest religious characteristics.   Each has its own apostles who communicate revelation, its sacred texts that preserve that revelation, its community that creates and fosters a sense of belonging, its ethical system that stipulates acceptable behavior, and its threat of ex-communication that enforces an orthodoxy. While movements are…

Questions for The Calvinist International

Posted on March 19, 2012

I was pleased to see that my old friend Peter Escalante (as gracious as he is bright) had joined Steven Wedgeworth (whom I’ve not yet have the privilege of meeting) in launching not simply a new web site, The Calvinist International, but also a new (or, rather, as will presently be seen, reviving a very old) theological school of thought. When my son Richard and I met Peter for a delightful lunch in Berkeley last week, Peter was putting his finishing touches on this web site, and it is has been well worth waiting for. It represents a serious foray into recent developments in American Reformed Christianity, and, despite its laudable commitment to irenics, is clearly in a reactionary mode against specific theological developments.…

The Goodness and Severity of God in the New Testament

Posted on March 19, 2012

Question: Hi Andrew, Once again, a superb sermon chock full of practical application. Thank you for bringing us the Word so faithfully each and every week. … [I]n light of today’s sermon (and amazingly the opening Psalm we read about the Israelites in the wilderness), I have a question. It pertains to God’s dealings with the Israelites. He provided for them performing miracle after miracle and yet they grumbled, murmured, and longed to go back to Egypt. They even started worshipping a Golden Calf after all God had done. I was particularly astounded by how they begged for meat and God sent the flock of quail. He sent it and simultaneously sent a plague so that some would die as a punishment for their…

Boil the Frog Slowly

Posted on March 18, 2012

Most of us have heard the morality tale of the frog that leapt from the boiling pot when tossed in but allowed himself to be placed in a pot of cool water over a stove and boiled slowly to death.  Myth or not, it describes the pernicious deceptiveness of apostasy.  The unwary, foolish young man mentioned in Proverbs 7 allowed himself to be enticed by a harlot.  He did not begin his ultimately fatal odyssey by considering the end of the apostate road he’d chosen (“the chambers of death,” v. 27).  But little by little the harlot led him to his spiritual doom:  Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, Or as a fool to the correction of the…

Liberals Are Smarter Than Conservatives

Posted on March 18, 2012

It’s remarkable that conservatives don’t understand how Genesis (creation) and John 3:16 (redemption) hang and fall together, because liberals understand it all too well.  In one of the most quoted liberal works of the first part of the 20th century, Harvard Professor of Church History Kirsopp Lake writes:  [T]he Fundamentalists are perfectly right in thinking that Genesis is the keystone of all biblical theology (p. 86) …. Apart from a belief in the historic Fall, an historic redemption is meaningless (p. 88).   The Religion of Yesterday and Tomorrow (1925)

The Gauntlet Tossed to “The Grace Movement”

Posted on March 17, 2012

It is perhaps surprising that an essay published by group with such a fully deserved reputation for vilifying other Christians as the Trinity Foundation should be so theologically on target, not to mention uncharacteristically judicious and charitable as Timothy F. Kauffman’s “Sanctification, Half Full: The Myopic Hermeneutic of the ‘Grace Movement.’” Can a leopard change his spots and an Ethiopian his skin?  In this case, it appears so. Kauffman puts his finger on the heart of the issue: whether a gracious soteriology eliminates the need for an obligatory (intentional) obedience.  The Lutherans (not Luther!) have long said that sanctification is “getting used to justification” and that if the former becomes more, the latter becomes less.  I’ve never considered Kauffman’s conceptual handle that in “The Grace Movement”…

Are We Really Bible-Believers? Synchronic versus Diachronic Theology

Posted on March 17, 2012

In contemplating Christian theology, it’s vital to distinguish synchronic from diachronic theology. The Bible is not chiefly about theology (as in “systematic theology”), but about God’s revelation in history, centered in the Person of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.   However, the Bible does set forth theology (John’s account of Jesus’ teachings, Paul’s interpretation of Jesus’ redemptive work, etc.), and there can be no Christianity without it.   When Jude exhorts his hearers to contend vigorously for the Faith once for all delivered to the saints (v. 3), he assumes a body of belief without which the Faith cannot exist. Two Kinds of Theology We may call this synchronic theology, theology as it was originally given to the apostles and recorded in God’s inspired Word,…

John R. W. Stott on Temperamental Versus Theological Conservatism

Posted on March 17, 2012

We are conservative evangelicals. But let us make sure our conservatism is a theological conservatism and not a temperamental one…. We are conserving, preserving the unique revelation of God in Christ and in Scripture. But let us be clear that we are not conservative temperamentally, or in our prejudices, or in our lifestyles, or in our resistance to change. If we must be conservative evangelicals, let us also be radical evangelicals at the same time. Now the radical is somebody who asks awkward and irreverent questions of the Establishment. The radical is somebody who scrutinises [sic] tradition and convention with a critical eye…. Nothing is sacrosanct to the radical conservative evangelical except Scripture itself, by which all our traditions and our conventions are going to be tested and tried

John R. W. Stott on Temperamental Versus Theological Conservatism 

The False Teaching of “Transitioning” into Discipleship

Posted on March 16, 2012

Not all false teachings in the church are properly classed as theological heresies, such that they would violate a specific doctrinal statement or confession of faith.  Some of the most pernicious false teachings, ordinarily more implied than explicated, can pass muster at the bar of almost any traditional confession of faith — and in fact are found in almost all kinds of churches.  These are often procedural assumptions about the Faith and the Christian life that, lying just beneath the surface of a church’s vocal teachings, are never uttered but always presupposed.  In many cases, it is these assumptions, and not explicit heresy, that pollute the church and eventually drive it into apostasy. A prime example of such teaching is the error of assuming…

Spontaneous Obedience

Posted on March 16, 2012

In his otherwise helpful essay defending the traditionally Reformed view of justification, Michael Horton writes, “The gospel of free justification gives rise to a spontaneous embrace of the very law that once condemned it” (105).  Horton is explicitly countering the argument that if one situates justification at the center of Pauline soteriology, he is hard pressed to explain how Paul can draw ethical imperatives from anything other than antithetical judicial indicatives.  In short, if it’s all about justification by faith alone apart from works, what part do good works (of sanctification), in opposition to justification, play in salvation?   Calvin’s answer solved the problem. Neither justification nor sanctification is central, but rather union with Christ, in which one equally receives justification and sanctification.  Calvin…