Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Calvinist Crossing

  • Piper on the new birth... his most important book?
    Warnock gives a preview of Piper's forthcoming work, examining the nature of true salvation.
    HT: DG

  • The Writings of John Calvin
    JT on essential reading for sincere Calvinists.

  • Carson in One Spot
    Fellow TMS alum has served us by putting D.A. in one on-line location.
  • Wednesday, November 26, 2008

    Understanding Depravity Encourages Evangelism

    And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, "Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city" (Acts 18:9-10).

    At T4G 2008, John MacArthur presented a searching exposition of the doctrine of total or pervasive depravity. In the panel discussion that followed, Mark Dever commented on how contemplating the doctrine of depravity actually encourages evangelism:
    I was encouraged. Not just in the personally affecting way… but I’m encouraged in my evangelism. Because when I know I’m preaching to corpses, I don’t have to figure out how to make them believe. I just need to work on loving God and preaching the Gospel faithfully.

    You know it is the most amazing thing when people contrast belief in election and say that hurts evangelism. In Acts 18 when Paul was discouraged, what does the Lord give to him? An understanding that “I have many people in this city.” Does He mean there was a lot of population? No! He means He has chosen many people in that city, so Paul, go ahead. There will be response. You don’t have to see any signs of it. Go ahead and preach the Gospel.
    If faith comes by hearing, it cannot be manufactured by coercion. So understanding depravity, among other things, frees us to proclaim. The doctrine of depravity does not inhibit evangelism, it liberates us to evangelize.

    Monday, November 24, 2008

    Calvinist Crossing

    We're back with highlights from better blogs. Look for more original TPC thoughts tomorrow.
  • Voddie Baucham on Calvinism in the SBC
    We try to stay out of the SBC in-fighting, as it always strikes us as more Southern than Baptist, but when brother Voddie speaks, we listen!

    HT: Provocations & Pantings


  • Don't Coast!
    Piper may have convinced us to cancel our Blockbuster membership. "All around me I feel like young people and older people are being eaten alive by the entertainment mindset… As long as you can walk, talk, eat, sing, do something for the King!"


  • If You're Thinking of Cutting the Missions Budget
    First of all... SHAME ON YOU! (Was that sensitive enough?) Secondly, read these helpful thoughts from our friend keeping and teaching the faith in Uganda. Our favorite thought, "God’s heart is for all nations so I doubt that he would sign-off on cutting your budget for the nations."
  • Thursday, November 20, 2008

    Whose Disciple Are You?

    Little children, guard yourselves from idols (1 John 5:21).

    We received a good reminder this morning from an old friend, our former Greek professor during the chapel at TMS. He is a brilliant Greek and New Testament scholar, but often eccentric, to say the least. One of the benefits of eccentricity, however, is the ability to notice the obvious often overlooked by others, such as the implications of that small command which concludes 1 John.

    He observed that the command to "guard" is a call for an urgent action to protect ourselves from "idols," which in the NT, refers figuratively to anything or anyone that takes the place of one's devotion to Christ. For example, Colossians 3:5 and Ephesians 5:4 both refer to greed as such "immaterial idolatry."

    From there, Dr. Farnell reflected on a tendency so common and so dangerous in students of God's Word, and Reformed theology in particular. The temptation to exalt the men who have so faithfully exposited the Word of Christ above Christ Himself,
    John wrote this epistle to deal with men who loved the wisdom of the world, the teaching of men over the teaching of Christ and His Word. Hence, they had idols in their life! Discipleship means devotion! Whose disciple are you?! God's eternal purpose is to make disciples just like Jesus. And He is using you, preacher boy, as a chosen instrument, to assist in making people like Jesus! Not like your favorite figure in church history. Your mission as an under-shepherd is to be a chosen instrument to help in making people like Christ alone!
    Told you he was eccentric. But, you must agree, point taken. Especially for those of us who value the heritage passed on by the hands of martyrs, that its importance pales to the Lordship of Christ. A good echo of some of the first words Spurgeon gave at the Tabernacle,
    I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist. I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist. But if I am asked what is my creed, I reply - "It is Jesus Christ!"
    We will not thank Dr. Farnell, nor Spurgeon, for this reminder, but the Lord to whom they have pointed. May His glory so shine in our hearts as to extinguish the allure of any competitors.

    Tuesday, November 11, 2008

    Expect a Hostile Environment

    Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you (1 John 3:13).

    As we mentioned last week, this election season has meant tension and anxiety for Christians in America. While we wait for a better country (cf. Heb 11:13-16), our present one is changing and the possibility of losing such privileges (note I did not say "rights") as free speech has become more actual than ever.

    Into this atmosphere of fear and apprehension, one of our pastors, Don Green gave a pointed admonition this past Lord's Day. Introducing a series on 1 John, Don identified the false presumption of comfort in American Christians and reminded us what we are to expect from the world:
    God gave birth to Christianity in a hostile environment. Was that the death of Christianity? The truth of the matter is that was the environment in which the faith flourished. Beloved, the sympathy we have experienced in the United States is not typical. The peace we have enjoyed as American Christians is an anomaly. We are told by the Bible to expect a hostile environment. The true dilemma before us is why have we not suffered more up til now?
    Indeed, it was promised by our Lord,
    Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me (Matt 5:11)
    And by Paul, His Apostle,
    Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12)
    That those who follow after Christ will suffer for His name because the world hates Him. The years that come may bring a brand-new Gestapo to wreak havoc and turmoil in our churches and in our families. Yet, as the true nature of our relationship with the world begins to unfold, maybe then we will begin to experience the true nature of our Savior's victory,
    These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
    *For more reflection on the persecution of Christians, see We Cannot Stop Speaking and Suffering for Your Sake.

    Friday, November 7, 2008

    Pray Much for Ministers

    ...pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel,for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak (Eph 6:19-20).

    Here at TPC, we spend most of our waking hours working with pastors. When most people hear that job description, they usually respond with something like, "Sweet, what a cool job!" And though we reply with a polite smile, inside we are usually remarking, "Yeah, try following me around for a day."

    Unfortunately, pastoral ministry has come upon hard times as of late and we confront that reality on a daily basis. Many, if not most pastors are more manager than minister, more therapist than shepherd, and more activities director than preacher. If we had a nickel for every time a pastor gloated to us about the size of his facilities, the variety of his programs, and the worth of his influence, we could, well... quit. So, needless to say, our approval rating for pastors today is at an all-time low. Which is probably what made Edwards' exhortation to a young disciple so striking.

    In 1741 a young woman came to Christ after a revival had come to her town, possibly through the itinerant preaching of Jonathan Edwards himself. She had written to Pastor Edwards shortly thereafter seeking counsel on living the Christian life because her church was without a pastor. What Edwards wrote became a classic (yes, that is a redundant statement) of spiritual counsel for young disciples, reprinted several times over. Near the end of his exhortations, Edwards encouraged her,
    Pray much for the ministers and the church of God, especially, that He would carry on His glorious work which He has now begun, till the world shall be full of His glory.

    - Edwards, "Letter Addressed to a Young Lady," Memoirs, liv.
    Edwards corrects our attitude by assuming two important truths: (1) The Lord works through pastors and (2) pastors, therefore, need prayer. This is important counsel for those of us who may too quickly express frustration before we pray for God to grant faithfulness. If Paul the Apostle asked his disciples, "pray on my behalf," how much more do the pastors over us and alongside us need our fervent intercession!

    As disciples learn to pray, may they learn to thank God for the pastors He has given and may they learn to ask God to give them boldness, faithfulness, and fruitfulness in their ministry. Pray much for ministers.

    Tuesday, November 4, 2008

    We're Back... And Waiting for a Better Country

    All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth… But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them (Heb 11:13, 16).

    Well, what can we say... it's been awhile. Partly due to the demands at work, including substantial international travel. Partly due to other ministry opportunities that have arisen and required time. And partly due to a semi-intentional "media fast" to spend more time growing in orthodoxy and orthopraxy, rather than in the Technopoly. So, although all five of our readers have probably moved on to greener blogstures, we figured today would be a good day to relaunch our meager effort in considering the therefore of God's sovereign grace.

    All of America (and most of the world) will be watching today's election with anxious anticipation long into the night. As is apparent to all but the most obtuse, if the candidate from the Democrat party becomes the next President, Christians may face a loss of the freedoms that we have hitherto taken for granted. So, for American Christians, this campaign season has brought no shortage of frustrations and fears. Yet, as it climaxes in today's election, we who serve the sovereign Christ also have an opportunity for faith... for a better country (No, not this one).

    As we are exhorted to persevere with faith in the only Savior by Hebrews (see 10:35-39), we are given examples of such faith in chapter 11. These saints of old persevered in faith through great suffering without (and here's the point) any visible confirmations of their faith, that is, "without receiving the promises" (11:13).

    From this significant text, Mr. Edwards has charged those who will hear,
    Be persuaded to travel in the way that leads to heaven: viz. in holiness, self-denial, mortification, obedience to all the commands of God, following Christ’s example [and] in a way of a heavenly life, or imitation of the saints and angels in heaven. Let it be your daily work, from morning till night, and hold out in it to the end. Let nothing stop or discourage you, or turn you aside from this road. And let all other concerns be subordinated to this. Consider the reasons that have been mentioned why you should thus spend your life: that this world is not your abiding place, that the future world is to be your everlasting abode, and that the enjoyments and concerns of this world are given entirely in order to another.

    - Jonathan Edwards, The Christian Pilgrim, emphasis added.
    So, on the eve of what may be great political, economic, and social change in America, persevere in faith. Do not grow weary in praying for our country. Do not cease doing good for God's glory for our country. And, chiefly, do not desist from proclaiming the glories of Christ in the Gospel to our country. We have been called to live in this country by desiring a better one.

    Tuesday, July 22, 2008

    Calvinist Crossing

  • Wicked Contamination of the Word
    A challenging reminder from Calvin's in the Epistle Dedicatory to his Commentary on Romans.

  • The Calvin 500 Blog
    Promising new blog from Beeke and friends in anticipation of the quincentenary of Calvin’s birth.

  • Edwards, Cross-Centeredness, and Application
    Edwards, we love him! "Consider that great part of your happiness in heaven, to all eternity, will consist in this: in praising of God, for his free and glorious grace in redeeming you; and if you would spend more time about it on earth, you would find this world would be much more of a heaven to you than it is."

  • Individualism's Not the Problem--Community's Not the Solution
    Perceptive and insightful remarks on an over-emphasis in much contemporary evangelism.
  • Thursday, July 10, 2008

    Calvinist Crossing

    Happy Birthday, John Calvin!
  • The Glory of Preaching the Bible
    "Thank you, John Calvin, for believing in the majesty of the word and for demonstrating by your life the glory of preaching the Bible."

  • John Calvin (1509-1564)
    "Why do Calvin’s massive works live on? Charles Spurgeon wrote: 'Calvin is a tree whose "leaf also shall not wither;" whatever he has written lives on, and is never out of date, because he expounded the word without bias or partiality.'"

  • If You Can Be Godly and Wrong, Does Truth Matter?
    "Since there are some Arminians who are more godly than some Calvinists and some Calvinists who are more godly than some Arminians, what is the correlation between true knowledge of God and godliness?"

  • Quick and Dirty Calvinism
    Phil brings some of his earlier posts back into the light... "Yes, Calvinism is virile; it's relentless when it comes to truth; and it's not always easy to swallow. But it is full of truths that should humble us and fill us with compassion rather than swagger and conceit. The best Calvinism has always been fervently evangelistic, large-hearted, benevolent, merciful, and forgiving. After all, that's what the doctrines of grace are supposed to be all about."

  • The Will to Debate
    "The issues at the heart of the Calvinist-Arminian controversy are intimately related to the Gospel. The controversy deals with the nature of God's sovereignty and human free will, the impact of sin upon human beings, the meaning of the atonement, the definition and power of God's grace, the possibility of assurance, and much more. Clearly, such doctrines lie at the heart of the Christian faith."
  • Monday, July 7, 2008

    Boycott the Olympics

    For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward (Heb 10:34-35).

    In previous posts we have explained how suffering for the Gospel is normal Christianity and encouraged remembering the persecuted church as though suffering with them. Well, now we have a small opportunity to put some legs to this by boycotting the Olympics in Beijing this year. For further explanation, we include a lightly-edited e-mail from our friend of Romans 10 Fellowship fame:


    I am writing to inform and ask you to seriously consider (1) boycotting the Olympic games in China, and (2) informing/educating others and even writing your congressman to express disapproval.

    Did you know China was turned down in 2000 for its Olympic bid because of human rights violations? What about now, in 2008 when China has not improved?

    First of all, if you are a Christian, you probably know that China has been persecuting Christians for a long time (see Persecution.com). I'm not suggesting everyone stop buying Chinese products because then we end up hurting normal civilians just like ourselves who happen to live in China. However, the Olympic games bring a lot of media attention, a lot of money to a corrupt government, and create an atmosphere and attitude toward China from the rest of the world that China is an okay country, a great place for tourism, etc.

    Maybe you are an athlete or you know an athlete that will be watching (and thus supporting) or maybe even playing in the Olympic games. Please confront them with these facts and exhort them to consider boycotting and thus taking a stand against China so the world can see and reprimand China. Chinese officials cannot keep making the world believe they are a civilized country. Eyes are on North Korea but they should not be off China. No doubt the Chinese economy will enjoy a boost during and after the Olympics due to travel and tourism. Please connect with others you were thinking of watching the Olympics with and decide to do something more effective with that time. Hopefully, one of you reading this will be in the Olympics and will decide to not play so that the basic human rights of the people of China might prevail.

    China is one of the worst human rights violators in the world and this would not be the first Olympics to be boycotted for similar reasons.

    See Amnesty International for updates and their 2007 report on China.

    I'm not talking about a "right" to housing, education and those things that are nice to have. I'm talking about horrible atrocities that China commits against anyone the government deems "against them."

    As Christians we pray for leaders so we can live peaceful and quiet lives, working with our own hands and living godly lives (1 Tim 2:1-2; 1 Thess 4:11-12). However, we also have freedom of speech in our country and tremendous impact because of our influence (and our pocketbooks).

    I think the most impacting thing would be to send this message as far and wide as possible and hopefully it will reach an Olympic athlete who will definitely get coverage if they don't participate... remember Eric Liddell?

    From forced abortions to no religious freedom to funding the Government of Sudan's genocide in Darfur....please consider not only not supporting the Olympics in China, but writing your congressman/woman, writing your friend who is an athlete either in or supporting the Olympics and ask them to reconsider.

    For further information see:
  • Human Rights Torch Relay
  • Leading Chinese Lawyer Urges Boycott
  • House Lawmakers Urge Bush to Boycott Olympics
  • China: Lhasa Torch Relay Tarnishes Olympic Movement
  • Tuesday, July 1, 2008

    Calvinist Crossing

  • Sovereign Grace in Proverbs
    Careful exegesis and reflection indicate that Solomon was a Calvinist too!

  • What is 9Marks?
    The guys in D.C. have a new video that we thought was worth noting. "Churches that reflect the character of God." Simple. Profound. True.

  • Standing Firm
    "When the truth of the Gospel is faithfully proclaimed, somebody is going to get beaten up or thrown in prison... The church must again realize that our strength for standing firm and for daily faith and obedience depends just as much on 'the grace that is in Christ Jesus' as our initial salvation did."

  • Is Google Making Us Stupid?
    Reminder from JT that your reading of The Prostrate Calvinist should not replace reading the man himself.
  • Thursday, June 26, 2008

    A Mandate to Prepare

    It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do (1 Tim 3:1).

    Any first-year Greek student can tell you that "desire" in 1 Timothy 3:1 translates epithumei, a word that you usually find translated as "lust" in your English Bible. It denotes a longing that, depending upon its object, can either be sinful (i.e., lust, covetousness) or godly (i.e., desire, passion). So Paul is here expressing of what any man called to the role of overseer (episkopes) in Christ's flock is acutely aware, that his calling is a passion and desire he longs to fulfill!

    Yet, Dave Harvey from Sovereign Grace has helpfully put this God-given desire in perspective with God's gracious providence (cf. Rom 8:28; Eph 1:11). Confronting the "called" with the reality that calling to ministry is a mandate to prepare and not a summons to launch, he asks these very challenging questions:
  • Do you recognize the hand of God the Caller in placing the burden of calling in your life?

  • Do you trust that where you are in life today – no matter how far it is from where you think you should be – does not limit God’s ability to accomplish his will in your life?

  • Are you responding to your present situation with faith?

  • Would you be known as a grateful man?

  • Do you trust God to both clarify your call and confirm his direction?

  • Are you content with the process you are in?

  • Are you watching your doctrine and life closely (1 Ti 4:16), making the kinds of investments in both the process of sanctification and the deepening of your doctrine that would testify that you are using this season of life to its maximum benefit?

    - Dave Harvey, Am I Called? Discerning the Summons to Ministry, p. 43.
  • May the Lord help us who long to serve the Church of Christ as an undershepherd to protect our souls from the sin of presumption and to give ourselves to the process of preparation, that He might be glorified in our lives and future ministries.

    Tuesday, June 24, 2008

    Sheer Prayerlessness

    I beseech You, O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You; I and my father's house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses (Neh 1:5-7).

    We have recently read through Alexander Strauch’s Leading with Love. In chapter 13, he confronts “Laboring in Prayer” as a fundamental aspect of Christian leadership. Strauch attributes our prayerlessness today to a lack of love and, admittedly, he has a point here. Yet, a far more fundamental cause of prayerlessness in the Western church may be another anemia… the shallow, superficial, and self-centered engagement with the God to whom we are praying. As a recent survey has made us all the more painfully aware, most evangelicals care little for the evangel for which they are supposedly named.

    Strauch does not overlook this, noting Carson's similar observation:
    What is both surprising and depressing is the sheer prayerlessness that characterizes so much of the Western church. It is surprising, because it is out of step with the Bible that portrays what Christian living should be; it is depressing, because it frequently coexists with abounding Christian activity that somehow seems hollow, friviolous, and superficial.

    - Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, 9, emphasis added.
    Western evangelicalism was infected with a trite, therapeutic approach to its theology long ago. This has birthed an empty emotionalism in the stead of faith. David Wells warned us of this (and he faithfully continues to do so):
    The reality that we have to face today is that we have produced a plague of nominal evangelicalism which is as trite and superficial as anything we have seen in Catholic Europe…

    An evangelical faith that is not passionate about truth and righteousness is a faith which is a lost cause. All that it will be living for is simply its own organizational preservation…

    If we do not recover the sufficiency of the Word of God in our time, if we do not relearn what it means to be sustained by it, nourished by it, disciplined by it, and unless our preachers find the courage to preach its truth, to allow their sermons to be defined by its truth, we will lose our right to call ourselves Protestants, we will lose our capacity to be the people of God, and we will set ourselves on a path that leads right into the old discredited liberal Protestantism.

    - David Wells, "The Bleeding of the Evangelical Church"
    Wells was right. Evangelicals today are liberal Protestants and if you peruse their contemporary publications, you will observe that all we have to contend for is, in fact, “organizational preservation.” Bold expositions of the Gospel, predicated upon the sufficiency of the Word, have largely been abandoned as irrelevant. No longer exulting in the glories of our sovereign Creator and Redeemer, the absence of bold and robust prayer is just one of the chickens coming home to roost.

    We seem content to wallow in our own psyches. Observe how often evangelical prayer meetings include “I feel” rather than “Lord, You are.” There is only so much you can say about yourself, so prayer itself is moved to the periphery. It is likewise difficult to communicate with the Lord when your knowledge of Him is confined to trite phrases (e.g., “Let go and let God!”) and your diet in His Word is restricted to self-help sermonettes.

    Strauch does offer us valuable help… reading through the prayers of Scripture. Meditating on such prayers as Neh 1:5-7, John 17, Eph 1:16-19, Phil 1:9-11, Col 1:9-10, 1 Thess 3:12-13, and 2 Thess 1:11-12 will drastically affect one’s own prayer life. Even more, by observing such texts one cannot help but notice how our prayers and the depth of our theological reflection are inextricably intertwined. It is impossible to give heart and voice to that of which you are ignorant.

    May the Lord bring us back to His Word and, as a result, back to prayer. Maybe we should begin with the prayer of Nehemiah, "O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God... We have acted very corruptly against You."

    Friday, June 20, 2008

    Calvinist Crossing

    Our apologies for the infrequent posting as of late, we've been sharpening our Resolve, but more about that in later. For now, read these other guys:

    Limited Atonement (HT: Strange Baptist Fire)
    More on limited atonement from a young Puritan.

    Grow Up. Be a Man
    An excellent exhortation from Phil for our emerging friends... who do tend to be weenies.

    Preaching the Solas
    Addressing Roman Catholic World Youth Day with the truth!

    What's Happened with Starbucks?
    While not theological, nevertheless vital to good theology... coffee. Our friend and fellow Calvinist, Fred Butler, raises valid concerns of Starbuck's new strategy and why "Coffee is probably one of the few things hippy doofuses do competently."

    Monday, June 9, 2008

    Calvinist Crossing

    The Foolishness of Preaching
    "God is pleased to save sinners through the clear proclamation of gospel truth... We have no mandate whatsoever to use any other strategy —especially a strategy that attempts to harness aspects of worldly wisdom for influence under the misguided belief that these are more powerful than the gospel itself to transform our culture."

    Slaves, not Rulers
    More timely, and much needed, exhortations from Phil Johnson's keyboard, "Service, not dominion, is the most effective way to win people in any culture."

    What Does "Social Action" Look Like?
    The final installment of good thoughts on good works from the Sola Panel. (Parts One and Two, in case you missed the first links).

    The Wonder of Idiotic Perseverance
    Challenging chronicle from the old French Calvinists, the Huguenots, who suffered much for their faith.

    Friday, June 6, 2008

    Prophets Must Obey God

    Now go, write it on a tablet before them
    And inscribe it on a scroll,
    That it may serve in the time to come
    As a witness forever.
    For this is a rebellious people, false sons,
    Sons who refuse to listen
    To the instruction of the LORD;
    Who say to the seers, "You must not see visions";
    And to the prophets, "You must not prophesy to us what is right,
    Speak to us pleasant words,
    Prophesy illusions.
    "Get out of the way, turn aside from the path,
    Let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel."
    Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel...
    (Isa 30:8-12).

    With the current flood of evangelical manifestos, we have been considering what it means to stand and speak "prophetically," that is to bring the Word of God to the people of God with integrity. After some frustrated reflection, it eventually dawned on us that it may help to actually read a prophet. So, while reading through Isaiah, we noted especially the characteristics of Isaiah's prophetic ministry in Isaiah 30.

    Ministering in Jerusalem during the Assyrian aggression, Isaiah particularly chastised Judah for their unholy alliance with Egypt (cf. chs. 28-35) and, therefore, adding "sin to sin" (30:1) by seeking the Egyptians rather than repenting and resting in their Lord (cf. 30:15). In such a context of sin and compromise, how does God's prophet respond?

    By revealing sin (30:8-9). Isaiah is to write a visible witness to God's warning for the instruction of future generations (even us!). Sometimes, the prophet must just point to the lemmings as they leap over the cliff (cf. Isa 6:9-11) for it only confuses people as to the character of God to let public sin go unmentioned.

    By refusing to compromise (30:10). Not that people explicitly love to live in falsehood, but they assume their actions to be the standard of righteousness, making God's truth intolerable. God's prophet, however, must bring God's Word to God's people, he does not survey God's people and then tell God His Word!

    By receiving rejection (30:11). God's prophets received a lot of rejection (cf. Acts 7:52)! Isaiah even gave his life for his prophetic ministry (cf. Heb 11:37). There is a painful solitude in prophetic ministry, for the prophet who sees the Lord of glory, must also endure the blasphemy of His name.

    By rendering judgment (30:12-17). Notice that Isaiah spoke the very thing his hearers refused, the word of the Holy One of Israel. The prophet's chief and singular concern is to stand with integrity and faithfulness before His Lord. Or as another "prophet" has written:
    ...the Prophet must obey God, though he should become the object of men’s hatred, and though his life should be in imminent danger. Here we ought to observe his steadfastness in dreading nothing, that he might obey God and fulfill his calling. He despised hatred, dislike, commotions, threatenings, false alarms, and immediate dangers, that he might boldly and fearlessly discharge the duties of his office. Copying his example, we ought to do this, if we wish to hear and follow God who calls us.

    – John Calvin, Commentary on Isaiah, Vol. 2, p. 355
    While God's prophets are privileged to speak of His glory in redemption, they desert their post when they refuse to speak what God has spoken, regardless of the response. May the Lord help each one to stand prophetically in a day of compromise.

    Thursday, June 5, 2008

    Calvinist Crossing

    Mark Dever on Personal Bible Reading
    Dever on devotions, good stuff.

    How to Waste Your Theological Education
    Some very convicting reminders about the privilege of formal theological study.

    Iain Murry on "Our Present Needs"
    A helpful analysis from our favorite biographer... pay special attention to his six exhortations to young men.

    Spurgeon: Read Fewer Blogs
    Of course, Spurgeon does not include The Prostrate Calvinist.

    Wednesday, June 4, 2008

    Theologians are First Grammarians

    Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all (I Tim 4:15).

    At The Prostrate Calvinist, we are spending much of our summer brushing up on Greek reading. We have been especially helped by Lee Iron's reading method and calendar for the Greek New Testament.

    An encouragement to "taking pains" with those pedantic rules of Greek grammar, we have also recently begun reading The Minister and His Greek New Testament by that venerable Greek grammarian and New Testament commentator, A.T. Robertson. His exhortations to develop intimacy with the Greek New Testament are compelling and convicting:
    But the chief reason why preachers do not get and do not keep up a fair and needful knowledge of the Greek New Testament is nothing less than carelessness, and even laziness in many cases (p. 8).

    The real New Testament is the Greek New Testament. The English is simply a translation of the New Testament, not the actual New Testament. It is good that the New Testament has been translated into so many languages… One needs to read these translations, the more the better. Each will supplement the others. But, when he has read them all, there will remain a large and rich untranslatable element that the preacher out to know (pp. 9-10).

    The Greek compels one to pause over each word long enough for it to fertilise the mind with its rich and fructifying energy. The very words of the English become so familiar that they slip through the mind too easily. One needs to know his English Bible just that way, much of it by heart, so that it will come readily to hand for comfort and for service. But the minute study called for by the Greek opens up unexpected treasures that surprise and delight the soul (p. 11).
    It is our hope that we who glory in the riches of Biblical theology know well the language in which that theology was originally penned. Again, Mr. Robertson recalled the words of A.M. Fairbairn, "he is no theologian who is not first a grammarian."

    (For more on the importance of study in the Greek New Testament, see:
    Henry Thiessen, "Should New Testament Greek Be 'Required' in Our Ministerial Training Courses?"

    F.F. Bruce, "The Greek Language and the Christian Ministry"

    John Piper "Brothers, Bitzer was a Banker!"
    And lest we be accused of imbalance by some of our less grammatically-inclined readers, be encouraged by Greenlee's "No, You Don't Have to Know Greek.")

    Tuesday, June 3, 2008

    Calvinist Crossing

    The Hardest Aspect of Pastoral Ministry, Part 2
    Dan Phillips explains further that there is no interim report card for ministry.

    Christ Alone
    Helpful reminder of the implications of Solus Christus.

    10 Ways to Know Whether a Blog is Reformed
    Guilty as charged... for the most part.

    Study. Live. Preach.
    Lig Duncan reminds us that "Practicing the truth is a prerequisite for preaching the truth, and all our power in the latter is caught up in the former."

    J. Gresham Machen
    Tony visits the bodily resting place of an original fightin' fundy.

    Thursday, May 29, 2008

    Calvinist Crossing

    The Hardest Aspect of Pastoral Ministry, Part 1
    Phillips from TeamPyro reminds us that pastoral ministry has no way to quantify success...

    How a Roman Catholic Anti-Calvinist Can Serve Today's Poet-Calvinists
    Piper on how Chesterton's "Calvinism-abominating" Orthodoxy made him a happier Calvinist.

    Of Coffee, Gospel, and Social Action and Social Action and the Last Day
    At The Prostrate Calvinist we appreciate coffee, we love the Gospel, and we spend our days in social action, so this was an interesting read from the Sola Panel. Especially the counsel that "We should engage in social action because the world is going to be destroyed" and "We should therefore be cautious about grand schemes."

    Wednesday, May 28, 2008

    The Highest Court on Earth

    ... but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God (II Cor 4:2).

    For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you (II Cor 1:12).

    Yesterday, my pastor spoke at my work about endurance in ministry from II Corinthians 4. Apart from the conviction and edification that always comes from his faithful expositions, he was right on target in applying v. 2 to our work:
    The highest court on earth is your own conscience, it will either slaughter you or pat you on the back. Paul’s conscience was clear. Take some time to follow Paul’s use of “conscience” throughout his epistles, and you will see that the only defense against public criticism is the testimony of your conscience. Long-term ministry faithfulness is a result of winning the battle on the inside.
    What a true and terrifying reminder for anyone, let alone a para-church organization. How do you measure success? Donor dollars? Expansion of staff and programs? Glad-handing from public officials? No... the testimony of your conscience.

    Only John Murray-like "heroic honesty" will validate success (read, "faithfulness"). This is terrifying because "honesty" requires a heroism unheard of in today's squishy, evanjellybean world. Success, regardless of popular conceptions, is not a matter of accumulated numbers and programs. It is a matter of conscience and its verdicts should bring pause. Lord, help us to listen.

    (For more about enduring in ministry from II Corinthians 4-5, see Certainties that Drive an Enduring Ministry, Part 1 and Part 2).

    Monday, May 26, 2008

    Losing Friends and Influencing People

    And who is adequate for these things? For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God (II Cor 2:16-17).

    Granted extra time by Memorial Day Weekend, we began reading The Life of John Murray. An inaugural professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, John Murray was one of the leading Reformed commentators and theologians of the last 100 years. Instrumental to J. Gresham Machen during the fundamentalist - modernist schism of the early 20th century Presbyterian controversy, he was a stalwart of orthodox teaching until his death in 1975.

    Yet, it was Murray's steadfast refusal to violate his conscience before God, even when it meant forsaking his vocational desires and valued associations, that most strikes contemporary eyes as an artifact of bygone eras. His clarity of commitment in Christian leadership is strangely unique to the present-day, as evangelical leaders frequently demonstrate negotiable consciences and varied allegiances (see this previous post for an example).

    It may be that John Murray learned such "heroic honesty" from Machen, his mentor and friend:
    A true Reformation would be characterized by just what is missing in the Modernism of the present day; it would be characterized above all by an heroic honesty which for the sake of principle would push all consideration of consequences aside.

    - What is Faith?, p. 103.
    Or maybe Murray was just a Christian leader. And so he understood that the watershed of God-glorifying influence was pursuing integrity in personal conviction over personal convenience.
    It would sometimes be to our apparent advantage to suppress the testimony to certain aspects of truth, to soft-pedal on matters which wake the dissent and even provoke the ire of many people. Many things for which we stand are unpopular and we lose friends. Sometimes we are tempted to stand for things which the counsel of God does not warrant and we could gain a great deal of popular support by standing for them. We cannot do it, for we must not go farther than the counsel of God. The whole counsel of God but nothing more. The counsel of God and nothing less.

    - John Murray, quoted in The Life of John Murray, p. 84.
    The mantle of Christian leadership is not a matter of personal sufficiency, for all say with Paul, "And who is adequate for these things?"! Rather, it is a grace to so refuse to be "not like many" and to speak sincerely from a sufficient Word, to speak conciously of the all-glorious God, and to speak under the Lordship of the only Christ. May He grace many of this generation to be leaders and to pursue the integrity of conviction of John Murray... even if they must do so alone.

    (More lessons from The Life of John Murray to come, but take some time to peruse some of his writings and sermon audio through the external links at his Wikipedia entry).

    Thursday, May 22, 2008

    Calvinist Crossing

    Christ Alone
    Helpful reminder of the implications of Christ's sufficiency and uniqueness.

    What Manner of Men Will They Be?
    Stirring prayer for a new generation of heralds by Dallimore (Read his definitive biography of Whitefield to be greatly challenged by one of those rare lives thoroughly devoted to the cause of Christ).

    John Piper On...
    Four interesting interviews with one of our favorite Calvinists. Especially the fourth, speaking about why he left academia for the pastorate... "I felt God saying to me, 'I will be proclaimed and not just analyzed.'"

    "What Does 'God-Centered' Mean?"
    A little more from JP on the satisfaction of God-Centeredness.

    Tuesday, May 20, 2008

    We Cannot Stop Speaking

    But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward (Heb 10:32-35).

    Although a bit of a departure from our normal fare at The Prostrate Calvinist, we have been unable to overlook Franklin Graham's purported comments in China:
    While some Christian groups have said they plan to proselytize during the August games, Graham said he was against that because Chinese law does not permit such actions. "I would not support any illegal activity at all," Graham said.

    - Associated Press, "No Missionary Work During Beijing Olympics"
    It appears that Graham hopes appeasing the Chinese government will garner official support for evangelistic work in the future, for he was also quoted as saying, "I'm not here to condemn, I'm here to work with them and help to build better bridges of understanding between Christians and government." Assuming these reports are accurate, Graham, on behalf of American evangelicals, has communicated much to the Chinese church and the rest of the world:

    Suffering for the Gospel is a fool's errand. Yet, the Scripture would have us
    Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body (Heb 13:3).
    The persecuted church in China has been suffering shackles, bleeding, and dying at the hands of their government for generations. To these saints, Graham has said, in effect, that we prosperous, comfortable, and influential American evangelicals do not suffer with you and that your disobedience to the atheistic government of China is unwise. May the Lord save His people from "political savvy."

    Spiritual ends are achieved by worldly means. Graham has betrayed a common misconception in American evangelicalism, that we achieve influence and progress by pleasing the world. Paul reminded the Corinthians of being enamored by the unbeliever's applause long ago:
    Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (I Cor 2:6-8).
    Paul goes on to say that the world is completely unable to understand the message of the cross apart from God's Spirit (v. 14). Spiritual ends are achieved spiritually, that is, by the illumination of God's Spirit. Christians are therefore called to be disciples, not diplomats.

    Christ is not so glorious and all-powerful as being worth our very lives. Probably most egregious of all, is the insinuation that our hope and comfort lay in smooth relationships with the powers of this world. When Christians speak and act as though submitting to Christ is negotiable when faced with loss of life and limb, they falsely testify to the supremacy of Christ and communicate an impotent Gospel of a weak hope that is not worth inconvenience, let alone death. In contrast, Paul declared:
    Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions (Col 1:24).

    But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24).
    "I rejoice in my sufferings"? "I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself"? The sweetness and surpassing hope of Jesus Christ is broadcast to the watching world when His followers joyfully suffer for His name. This is why Tertullian wrote,"the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

    Although such circumstances try even the most faithful, God has not left us without guidance in responding to state-sponsored persecution or government restrictions on proclaiming the message of His Son. The Apostles Peter and John replied to such prohibitions by answering,
    'Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard' (Acts 4:19-20)
    And,
    'We must obey God rather than men' (Acts 5:29).
    And they responded to suffering at the hands of their leaders by
    …rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ (Acts 5:41-42)
    And they prayed in the midst of state-sponsored persecution,
    'And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence' (Acts 4:29)
    It is therefore my sincere prayer that, if these reports are true, the Lord would lead Franklin Graham to repent and to publicly recant. May all who follow Christ remember the persecuted church, as though suffering with them, for the cause of the Gospel, the sake of the Church, and the glory of Christ.

    Monday, May 19, 2008

    Hearts Better Than Heads

    ... if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation (Rom 10:9-10).

    It is a testimony to His grace that theological consistency is not needed to merit salvation.
    A man may be evidently of God’s chosen family, and yet though elected, may not believe in the doctrine of election. I hold there are many savingly called, who do not believe in effectual calling, and that there are a great many who persevere to the end, who do not believe the doctrine of final perseverance. We do hope that the hearts of many are a great deal better than their heads. We do not set their fallacies down to any willful opposition to the truth as it is in Jesus, but simply to an error in their judgments, which we pray God to correct. We hope that if they think us mistaken too, they will reciprocate the same Christian courtesy; and when we meet around the cross, we hope that we shall ever feel that we are one in Christ Jesus

    - C.H. Spurgeon, "Effects of Sound Doctrine"

    Calvinist Crossing

    Don't worry, we're still here! Just been a little busy lately... "maybe I need some new duties."

    Don't Waste Your Pulpit
    Piper on story-telling and ear-tickling. (Be sure to watch the whole thing, the last line is the most perceptive and penetrating).
    HT: Provocations & Pantings.
    Querying Calvinism
    Speaking of Piper, here's the best exegetical and winsome defense of five points you'll come across or watch or listen...

    Jesus - The Powerful and Perfect Savior
    Speaking of defending the doctrines of grace, James White does an excellent job summarizing the Gospel (Note especially his rebuke of allowing presupposed methodology to drive one's theology).

    Introducing the Sola Panel
    A promising new blog from the guys who make you choose between two ways to live.

    Tuesday, May 6, 2008

    On Their Shelves Unused

    But Jesus answered and said to them, "You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God" (Matt 22:29).

    Serapion, a desert monastic, once challenged the owner of several books:
    The prophets wrote books. Then came our ancestors who lived by them. Those who came later understood them from the heart. Then came the present generation who copied them but put them on their shelves unused.

    (HT:CT)
    Serapion's profound exhortation brought to mind Jesus' rebuke to the Sadducees, that you may possess the truth of Scripture and still not own it.

    Wednesday, April 30, 2008

    Theological Depth Perception

    The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth (2 Tim 2:24-25).

    A former professor of mine has dropped some worthwhile counsel on theological disagreement in a recent book review:
    Within the broader evangelical community we should heed basic principles of respect and integrity. This especially applies when we offer critiques of views held by other believers. We may disagree with another Christian over the issues of cessation of the sign gifts, millennial views, rapture views, limited and unlimited atonement, etc., but there are certain things we should never be guilty of. This includes misrepresenting our opponent’s view with straw man arguments, using sarcastic and belittling language, and presenting our theological opponent in the worst light possible. This should be true even if our opponent does not always play by the rules. Responsible scholarship also entails putting theological issues into proper perspective. We need a ‘theological depth perception,’ a wisdom that allows us to discern issues that are at the core of Christianity and those issues that are important but are not salvation issues or threats to historic Christianity.

    - Michael Vlach, "My Thoughts on Hank Hanegraaff’s Apocalypse Code"
    Why is it that while defending "the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints" (Jude 3), the saints often treat each other like pagans? I have often been served and convicted by Paul's instruction to Timothy on dealing with troublesome teachers... "with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition."

    Note well that it this defender of orthodoxy, the gentle and self-controlled, whom God uses to sovereignly draw their opponents to repentance. It is fitting that theological unity is never won by the fervor of an argument, but through the power of God's Word and the illuminating ministry of God's Spirit, that the glory may belong to Him alone.

    Tuesday, April 29, 2008

    Calvinist Crossing

    Timmy Brister: The Face of Calvinism in the SBC
    Those Southern Baptist Calvinists just cannot stay out of trouble.

    Baptist Standard On Calvinist Resurgence
    If you are particularly interested in Calvinism in the SBC...

    Are You Bored with Good Preaching?
    When Biblical expositions are normal.
    (HT: Challies).

    Two Cheers for the Resurgence of Calvinism
    Support for the Calvinist resurgence from an... Arminian (We trust that his examples of theological arrogance are not true of any of our readers).

    Theologian Trading Cards
    Finally, a market for my John Knox rookie card!
    (HT: Challies).

    Monday, April 28, 2008

    He Will Judge Rightly

    For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life (John 5:22-24).

    ... He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead (Acts 17:31).

    Yesterday, in the Lord's Day gathering, my pastor concluded his exposition of the illegal trial of Jesus in Luke 22:63-71. Quite possibly the most stirring remark was his final comments on the reality of Jesus' lordship amidst such a miscarriage of justice:
    Judges who are criminals, judged as a criminal the One who will judge them. Those who judged Him are even now suffering eternal judgment in Hell. Everyone who judges Him wrongly will suffer the same penalty. Judge Him rightly, for He will judge you rightly.

    - John MacArthur, "Perverted Justice," 27 April 2008.
    What an oft forgotten dimension of Solus Christus that need infuse our own faith and our evangelism! Salvation is found in no one or nowhere else, than union with Christ alone through faith. Yet, I am so desperate for salvation because there is judgment in no one else. He will judge rightly.

    Thursday, April 24, 2008

    A Place to Stand in the World

    For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen (Rom 11:36).
    I therefore think of myself as Reformational in the sense that I affirm its solas: in Scripture alone is God's authoritative truth found, in Christ alone is salvation found, it is by grace alone that we are saved, and this salvation is received through faith alone. Only after each of these affirmations is made can we say that salvation from start to finish is to the glory of God alone. These affirmations do not stand simply as solitary, disconnected sentinels, but they are the key points in an integrated, whole understanding of biblical truth. This is what gives us a place to stand in the world from which to understand who we are, what the purposes of God are, and what future lies before us. These are the things that historic Protestants believe, and that is what I am.

    - David Wells, The Courage to be Protestant
    The solas, more than remnants in the development of historical theology, they are how one sees and lives in Christ. Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, and Soli Deo Gloria, are holistic Christianity.

    Wednesday, April 23, 2008

    Suffering for Your Sake

    Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions (Col 1:24).

    Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us (Rom 8:35-37).

    Do you ever struggle to put flesh on certain passages of your Bible as I often do? Until it spreads from "sea to shining sea," connect via our brothers and sisters around the world. Try starting with:
    Persecution Blog

    Voice of the Martyrs
    This is normal Christianity... we are the peculiar ones.
    The greatest gift to God’s service will not fit in an offering plate. When we view our entire lives as offerings to God, our resources to benefit his kingdom are unlimited. Many of those who have been persecuted like Mary share a similar story. They continue to offer their lives to serve those who oppress them as an act of worship. Therese of Lisieux once noted, “Sufferings gladly borne for others convert more people than sermons.” The majority of Christians will find it easy to make the usual excuses for offering their lives: “too busy” and “too much going on.” However, God can reveal unique ways that we can be witnesses for Him.

    - I Choose God - Go Ahead and Shoot

    Tuesday, April 22, 2008

    Calvinist Crossing

    I know, we're getting lazy. An original post tomorrow, Lord willing... I promise.

    Martin Luther Taught Limited Atonement
    Andrew of Strange Baptist Fire reminds us that Lutherans are Calvinists too!

    The Nature of the Atonement
    But so is one of my shepherds in GraceLife (admittedly less surprising than Luther).

    What's So Great About the Doctrines of Grace?
    Phillips' new book is finally available! A biblical explanation of the spiritual benefits of the doctrines of grace... perfect for both of our readers (If I can ever get on the stick, I'll post a review here shortly).

    Caricatures of Calvinism
    Mr. Ascol exposes some recent public caricatures of Reformed soteriology. This post made me think of a Rabbi I know. He actually understands Calvinism better than most Christians (sad, but still very true).

    The Joy of the Faithful

    Yet I will exult in the Lord,
    I will rejoice in the God of my salvation
    (Habakkuk 3:18).
    If you have been paying attention recently, you know there is a global food crisis. Millions of people are now in need of food assistance. Even rice in Asia can no longer be assumed.

    Our global distress is not far from that which Habakkuk imagined for himself. In verse 17, he wrote:
    Though the fig tree should not blossom
    And there be no fruit on the vines,
    Though the yield of the olive should fail
    And the fields produce no food,
    Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
    And there be no cattle in the stalls
    Habakkuk writes of a time when everything assumed failed. The trees that you assume will bear fruit are barren. The fields that you assume will sprout food are dry. The cattle that you assume will help in the toil of farming and give protein are absent. Just insert your assumption and its lack and you will understand Habakkuk's sorrow.

    Yet in this state of total collapse, Habakkuk confesses joy? Exactly. The Genevan reformers made this note in the first study Bible:
    He declares in what the joy of the faithful consists, though they see ever so great afflictions prepared.

    - Note on Habakkuk 3:18, 1599 Geneva Study Bible
    Universally, we wrap our joy around the assumed rhythms of life. Birth. Growth. Health. Age. In our assumptions we forget that none of it is assured. There is only One who is constant. There is only one hope that is assured. There is only one joy unassailable... and it is not in this life. So when even the floor drops out from beneath us, our joy consists in Him.

    Friday, April 11, 2008

    Calvinist Crossing

    My apologies to both of our regular readers... it has been hit and miss for The Prostrate Calvinist recently. I hope this week will rectify the situation, but so as not to get too carried away, we are going to ease into it with a little "Calvinist Crossing."
    The Tide of Unbelief Martin Downes points out that sound doctrine for the present is not a guarantee for the future.

    A Calvinist by Any Other Name Tom Nettles and Co. cover Reformation from the heart.

    Bonar on Keeping Abreast of the Age Taylor quotes Lucas who quotes the old Scotsman who remains unpersuaded by calls for relevance.

    Is Calvinism Dangerous? The guys at Grace Christian Assembly address this burning question. I don't know about you, but if it's not dangerous, I'm becoming an Arminian.

    Zen Calvinism Veith takes a swipe at Trueman's attempt to describe serenity in sovereignty. (HT: DQ)

    When I Measure Him by My Sense

    I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;
    But now my eye sees You
    (Job 42:5)

    It has been a rough year for my wife and I. And it does not appear that the seas are going to calm anytime soon. So, for now, the temptation we most face and most need to fight against and most need to meditate against and most need to pray against is that slippery presumption that our present sense of deep pain is an accurate perception of our Savior and Lord and His purposes for our lives.

    Job confronted this temptation. Convinced of his own moral innocence in view of his great suffering, Job began to question God’s justice and presence and care. In a flood of presumption, then, Job summoned the Lord to answer his claims (chs. 29-31):
    Oh that I had one to hear me!
    Behold, here is my signature;
    Let the Almighty answer me!
    And the indictment which my adversary has written
    (Job 31:35)
    Interestingly enough, the Lord answers Job. But not with a legal argument or a with philosophical defense or even with a moral justification. In fact, the Lord's answer never addresses any of Job's charges directly nor does He ever fully explain the backdrop to Job's suffering (cf. chs. 1-2). The Lord gave Job something entirely different and, yet, altogether more wonderful than anything Job had requested.

    Job’s despair, and my despair, is so often aided by the blinders that great sorrow draws over one's faith. And so the mercy of God is revealed, not with a detailed theodicy, but in something quite simple... the removal of the blinders and the revealing of God Himself.

    God granted Job exactly what he needed, to see Him. The neglect of the eternal verities of God’s person and character is soil from which hopelessness grows. So that as I suffer, what I most need is to see my God:
    His immensity surely ought to deter us from measuring Him by our sense, while His spiritual nature forbids us to indulge in carnal or earthly speculation concerning Him. With the same view He frequently represents heaven as His dwelling-place. It is true, indeed, that as He is incomprehensible, He fills the earth also, but knowing that our minds are heavy and grovel on the earth, He raises us above the worlds that He may shake off our sluggishness and inactivity.

    - Calvin, The Institutes, I.13.1 (emphasis added)
    This is why I believe that the account of Job is a record of hope. When I suffer, and I begin to measure Him by my pain, I most need and am most desperate to see God. I need such a vision of Him that all those creeping doubts and presumptuous motives for despair are quenched by His glory.

    Thursday, April 10, 2008

    Calvinist Crossing

    This week, some hits for those who are given to extremes:

    ◉ For those who ignore the obvious, Andrew at Strange Baptist Fire notes the oddity of criticizing Total Depravity for missing the supposed degrees of death.

    ◉ For those who do not believe until they see, Reformation Theology attempts to visualize the Solus Christus in TULIP with a Chiasmic View of Calvinism.

    ◉ For those who expect masses of people to be reading this blog soon, Challies notes Scott Lamb's reminder... let's not get too excited about the apparent resurgence of Calvinism.

    ◉ For those who are enthralled with fiddle players, Calvin exhorts us to seek the Savior, not His servants.

    Tuesday, April 8, 2008

    Thieves in His Storehouse

    Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love (Eph 4:1-2).

    The Doctor once wrote that "preaching is logic on fire." But it is also true that the fire often enlivens the logic.

    At least that's what happened while I was preaching to the saints at Sunriver Community Church this past Lord's Day (if you're looking for a Christ-centered and Biblically-grounded fellowship in Fresno, CA, join them!).

    Working through Ephesians 4:1-6, I noted that the character qualities enjoined by the Apostle in vv. 2-3 are inextricably bound to the salvation exposited in Ephesians 1-3 (connected by that weighty "therefore" in v. 1). That is, since the Lord initiated salvation in Christ that we would be "to the praise of the glory of His grace" (1:6, 12, 14), since the Lord applied salvation in Christ to dead and hopeless sinners that "He might show the surpassing riches of His grace" (2:7), and since the Lord has given the message of salvation in Christ that "the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church" (3:10), Christians are to glorify God by living together in humility, gentleness, patience, and tolerance (4:2).

    And this is when the fire of His Spirit enlivened the logic of His text for this preacher:
    As we have been redeemed in Christ to bring glory to God and to display His calling in our conduct, when we lift ourselves up to one another in pride... we steal glory from God. The prideful Christian is a thief in the storehouse of the Lord of glory. When you or I shun humility, gentleness, patience, or tolerance in our life together, we wrongly claim for ourselves the praise that belongs to God alone.
    I was convicted even as I spoke, the Spirit illuminating the implications of the passage in my own soul. Steal from God?! Never! Really? With every angry retort, every impatient display, and every intolerant, unloving exchange... we thieve from His storehouse.

    Friday, April 4, 2008

    Stand in Marked Contrast

    ... according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted (I Tim 1:11).
    The Reformation was not merely a tempest in a teacup. Jerome once said that when he read the letters of the apostle Paul, he could hear thunder. That same thunder reverberates through the writings of the reformers as well. Contemporary theologians would do well to listen afresh to the message of these courageous Christians who defied emperors and popes, kings and city councils because their consciences were captive to the Word of God. Their gospel of the free grace of Almighty God, the Lord God Sabaoth, as Luther's great hymn put it, and their emphasis on the centrality and finality of Jesus Christ stand in marked contrast to the attenuated, transcendence-starved theologies which dominate the current scene.

    - Timothy George, The Theology of the Reformers
    Sola Scriptura. Sola Fide. Sola Gratia. Solus Christus. Soli Deo Gloria. They are not just cute Latin phrases, they are a well of transcendence and significance. But drink carefully... they will water a life of marked contrast.

    Wednesday, April 2, 2008

    Calvinist Crossing

    At the Prostrate Calvinist we not only value blogging for the glory of God, but also reading blogs for the glory of God. Since the blogs we read are typically more helpful than the one you are currently reading, we've decided to add a new feature to our weekly posting... Calvinist Crossing.

    This will briefly detail other posts or on-line articles that are helpful in understanding and connecting Biblical theology to life. So, here's the first installment (which, admittedly, is a bit of a review of some helpful blogging over the past year or so):

    ◉ Mark Dever clues us in on where exactly all these Calvinists came from (and why hip, young guys like me have pretentious blog titles like “The Prostrate Calvinist").

    ◉ The CT article, "Young, Restless, and Reformed," that prompted Dever’s blog survey.

    ◉ Tim Challies reviews the new book by Collin Hansen spawned from that CT article.

    ◉ And for something completely different... Michael Haykin clears up some of the confusion regarding John Calvin and missions.

    Self-Love: No More Violent Emotion

    The second is like it, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF" (Matt 22:39).

    In my field of employment, we talk about loving our neighbor a lot. And rightly so. Yet on this point someone will often smuggle a piece of pyschology they have borrowed from one of our less-than-discerning preachers or from the "Christian Self-Help" - now there's a theological oxymoron for you - section at their local bookseller (that's the one by the potpourri). That is that in order to love others, we must first learn to love ourselves and develop self-esteem.

    But read again Jesus' words. He did not say, "You shall love your neighbor as you need to love yourself." He simply added the comparison, "as yourself." It really is astounding when you think about it, especially for us Americans who base our worldview on the pop-presuppositions of Oprah and Dr. Phil... Jesus presumes that we love ourselves. Even more, He presumes that we love ourselves so much that He uses it as the ultimate standard by which all other human love is to be based!

    No pyschologist would have fooled Calvin on the depth of self-love presumed by Jesus:
    Since men were born in such a state that they are all too much inclined to self-love - and, however much they deviate from truth, they still keep self-love - there was no need of a law that would increase or rather enkindle this already excessive love... Indeed, to express how profoundly we must be inclined to love our neighbors [Lev 19:18], the Lord measured it by the love of ourselves because he had at hand no more violent or stronger emotion than this.

    - Institutes, II.8.54 (emphasis added)
    The truth is we love ourselves more than anyone, even violently so (cf. Jas 4:1-3). In fact, I am desperate for His grace to so violently love Him and love those made in His image.

    Spend at Least Some Time of Your Life

    Just try it. Read Calvin. He won't bite.

    (HT: Theology Network)

    Seeing Ourselves as He Sees Us

    Then I said,
    'Woe is me, for I am ruined!
    Because I am a man of unclean lips,
    And I live among a people of unclean lips;
    For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts'
    (Isa 6:5).

    I am a poor participant at dinner parties, staff meetings, or any other gathering requiring a lot of enthusiasm. I tend not to be encouraged by myself nor by the work of my generation. Turns out this really handicaps good banter.

    I think Mr. Hamilton explained this phenomenon well:
    When Isaiah 'saw' God as he is, he was not left standing - he was not left proud and dispassionate - he was deeply humbled! There is little doubt that Isaiah already was a believing servant - but a stranger to the pulse-quickened sense of God's ineffable greatness - Isaiah was seeing himself as God saw him - this is experimental Calvinism... his encounters with "the King" caused him to see through the fa├žade of Israel's religion cf 1:10ff. - onlookers would have complimented Israel on the 'healthy state' of its religion - but when a man has had a sight of the majesty of God, he sees not only his own sinfulness, but the sinful state of his own generation - of his own.

    - Ian Hamilton, "Heart-Warming Calvinism"
    Once your formal principle is established as unconditionally worshipping whom God reveals Himself to be, you are, to put it mildly, disappointed with everything else. I would venture to guess that the holy Sovereign is not as impressed with our retarded obedience nor our corporate accomplishments as we would like to think.

    When the stain of sin is fading from sight, I try to remember how He sees it. This may ruin me for peppy chit-chat, but it seems good for life... just ask Isaiah.

    Tuesday, April 1, 2008

    He is Our Formal Principle

    Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! (Rom 11:33).

    "For-mal Prin-ci-ple": the authority from which a system of thought is shaped or formed.

    In a brief but helpful article, Ian Hamilton reclarifies Calvinism's formal principle:
    B.B. Warfield, the great Princeton theologian, said that the fountainhead of Calvinism does not lie in its theological system, but in its 'religious consciousness'. What he meant is that the roots of Calvinism are planted in a specific 'religious consciousness,' out of which unfolds (as day follows night) a particular theology... This is what so many miss in their assessment of, or espousal of, Calvinism. It is not first and foremost a theological system; it is more fundamentally a "religious attitude", an attitude that gives inevitable birth to a particular, precise, but gloriously God-centered and heart-engaging system of theology.

    - Ian Hamilton, "Heart-Warming Calvinism" (HT: Ligonier Ministries).
    It is sometimes suggested that we who adhere to the Calvinist system do so because we are either “stuffy” (i.e., a pedantic concern for coherence in theological minutia) or “irrelevant” (i.e., an anachronistic affinity for antiquated authors and writings). True Calvinism, however, does not begin with such personal predilections.

    True Calvinism grows from embracing and from marveling at the work of God and the God who works with child-like awe. Our system is rooted in an unprejudiced and an unconditional worship of whom God reveals Himself to be because He is so strikingly glorious.

    This is Warfield’s “religious consciousness,” and even more, Paul’s exuberant doxology, “Oh, the depth!” Calvinism simply flows from an intoxicating glance at the glory of God. He is our formal principle.

    (We may spend more time with Hamilton's article this week as he explains “experimental Calvinism”).