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”).