Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

My Photo

Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Alvin Plantinga on NPR: A Word of Appreciation and Caution

This past Sunday, NPR Weekend Edition aired an interview with Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga.
[A recording of the broadcast may be heard HERE.]
Plantinga made some excellent points in the interview, including:

1. Scientific laws do not preclude miracles, because scientific laws are for closed systems.
2. Science [as we commonly understand it today] arose from what must be broadly termed as a "Christian" society.
3. Science is today often employed by those who try to use it as an offensive weapon to promote atheism.
4. Everyone accepts beliefs that cannot be scientifically proven (for example: Science presupposes a past, it cannot prove that there has been a past).
5. Science does not cover the entirety of the intellectual enterprise.

Plantinga, in this interview and in other talks I have heard him give, seems to think (if I understand his position correctly) that Science and Religion occupy different spheres, and that each discipline is authoritative in its respective sphere. While there is some truth to this view (no one should try to use the Bible as his or her sole authoritative guide for performing brain surgery, for example), sometimes Science (at least as it is commonly practiced today) seeks to make authoritative pronouncements regarding issues addressed by the Bible (such as the origin of the Universe or human life); in these instances the faithful Christian must side with infallible Scripture over against the fallible observations of men.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Dr. Russell Moore Preaches at Idlewild Baptist Church; Newt Gingrich in Attendance

Yesterday, Dr. Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology for the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), preached for the Sanctity of Life service at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, FL.

In addition to his position of Dean, Dr. Moore is also the Senior Vice President at SBTS, and so it is not unusual for him to receive and accept invitations to preach in various churches across the country. (For a large church to ask Dr. Moore to preach their Sanctity of Life service is also not unusual, as Dr. Moore is the author of the excellent work, Adopted for Life.)  The one thing that IS somewhat unusual is for Dr. Moore to have the opportunity to speak before a former U.S. Speaker of the House, who is seeking his Party's nomination for U.S. President.

Though he abandoned the Baptist faith to embrace the Roman Catholic communion of his third wife, Newt Gingrich was in attendance yesterday as Dr. Moore was preaching. (As a mega-church in the Tampa area, Idlewild Baptist is commonly visited by political hopefuls.)

I was certain that Dr. Moore would preach a powerful, gospel-centered sermon as usual. Now that I have listened to the podcast of the sermon this morning, I am in no way disappointed. Though the sermon was not an apologetic against abortion it was, perhaps, the best sermon I have heard on the Sanctity of Life, calling the church to compassionate activity to honor all life and connecting the Sanctity of Life with the gospel.

It may seem odd to ask for prayer for one specific person in attendance for a sermon; certainly there is a sense in which God is no respecter of persons. But we must remember that the Apostle Paul seemed especially eager to preach before Caesar and those in authority and we are commanded to pray for our governmental leaders so that we may dwell in peace and the gospel may be spread freely. So I do ask for anyone reading this to pray for Dr. Moore's message to not be quickly forgotten by Newt Gingrich, but to have its full affect in his life.

[Dr. Moore's sermon from yesterday may be heard HERE.]

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sermon Notes from "The Kind of Pastor This Church Needs" (Part 2). Sermon by Jim Scott Orrick.

[The following notes were taken during the 10:45AM service this morning at Kosmosdale Baptist Church. The sermon should soon be available to hear on-line HERE.]

1 Timothy 3:2-3.

I. Introduction. Like a good chess player, who can anticipate the actions of the other player, a good pastor should be able to anticipate the reactions of his congregation.

II. A Good Pastor's Gifts

A. Respectable: in some sense, respectability is an ability to disappear, neither:
1. Flashy;
2. Careless.

B. Hospitable: hosting people:
1. Opening your home to visitors;
2. Making your resources available to meet the needs of others.
3. Sometimes the pastor must refuse to meet others' wants (example: Jesus refusing to repeat the miracle of the miraculous feeding of the crowd in John 6).

C. Able to Teach:
1. When a teacher is consistently boring, it is usually due to either:
a. Laziness;
b. Insensitivity.
2. A preacher cannot simultaneously say:
a. 'I am very clever;'
b. 'God is very great.'

III. A Good Pastor's Character

A. Not a Drunkard:
1. Not misusing alcohol;
2. Not misusing physical substances in general.

B. Not Violent:
1. Not insistent on his own way;
2. Not forcing people to act irrespective of their will.

C. Gentle:
1. Not threatening to the congregation;
2. Not belittling the congregation.

D. Not Quarrelsome:
1. Not seeking to establish a reputation through unnecessary arguments;
2. Loving people more than loving to win arguments.

E. Not a Lover of Money:
1. Whether one is wealthy or not;
2. The deceitfulness of wealth chokes out the good things of the Word.

IV. Conclusion. Love God with heart, mind, soul, and strength, then do what you want.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Select Passages on Salvation Based on God's Sheer Mercy

So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
(Romans 9:16 ESV)

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
(Titus 3:4-5 ESV)

God's Mercy is Absolutely Necessary Because, For Example:

See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.
(Ecclesiastes 7:29 ESV)

[W]e were dead in our trespasses,
(Ephesians 2:5b ESV)

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Twelve Quotes from Paul Tripp

[The following quotes from biblical counselor Paul Tripp come via Twitter/Facebook feeds from my friends Timmy Brister and Stephen Newell; I am not sure of the original source(s).]

re: the Bible

"The Bible is not an encyclopedia of topics. It's a story of God's grand redemptive story."

re: sin

"Since sin is driven by self, it will dehumanize people in your life. They will be reduced to being a vehicle or an obstacle."

"Sin causes us to shrink our lives to the size of our lives. It is anti-social in its most fundamental form."

"When you turn a blessing into a demand, nothing good ever happens."

"The kingdom of self functions on earthbound treasures and anxiety bound needs (Matt. 6)."

re: obedience

"Obedience is an act of thankful worship, not a fearful means of trying to gain favor with God."

"The thing you treasure will control your heart, and what controls your heart will control your words and behavior."

"True horizontal love is born in the soil of vertical gratitude"

"No one gives grace better than the one who knows he desperately needs it foremost."

re: words

"The words you say in your marriage always reveal more about you than the person you are living with."

"Your words and behavior are more caused by what's inside of you than what is outside of you."


Friday, January 27, 2012

Live-blogging the "Dividing Line" webcast re: T.D. Jakes

[Notes of highlights from 11:06-12:30.]

I turned on the webcast late, and the first thing that I heard was Dr. White saying, "How can you be angry with a squirrel?!"

I'm still not quite sure what prompted that question. :)

Dr. White: "There needs to be an explanation [from T.D. Jakes] about what he has said in the past."

Dr. White played an audio clip of T.D. Jakes "preaching" from John 14, misquoting the text as saying, "I am the Father."

Another audio clip from Jakes, 1 Tim 3:16: "God was manifest in the flesh" (KJV).

A final clip from Jakes, casting aspersion upon the term "Trinity," emphasizing the oneness of God, and defining Father, Son, and Spirit in terms of God's activity. (Father in creation, Son in redemption, Holy Spirit in regeneration.)

Dr. White: The attitude expressed by Mark Driscoll would have us to conclude that Athanasius was a fool, who was sinful in his defense of the Trinity.

Audio clip from the "Elephant Room" meeting of "evangelicals:" Jakes claims to have been converted to Christ in a Oneness church. [All subsequent quotes from T.D. Jakes are from the "Elephant Room."]

Dr. White: the "Elephant Room" is a "Downgrade Controversy."

Dr. White: previous generations were willing to give up their lives in defense of the truth of the Trinity.

Dr. White: Driscoll will "go off" on Justin Brierly re: complementarianism vs. egalitarianism, but will not scrutinize Jakes on the Trinity? Though complementarianism is important, this is symptomatic of doctrinal imbalance.

Jakes: "[Oneness] is really not the best description of how I now understand the godhead."

Dr. White: "Anybody who believes in objective truth should find this to be offensive." We should reconcile in regard to personal sin, but not compromise in regards to Truth.

Dr. White: Oneness teaching and Trinitarianism are "night and day."

Jakes: [quotes several Trinitarian proof-texts] "made me re-think some of my ideas... there are some things that can be said about the Father that cannot be said about the Son," etc.

Dr. White: every Oneness advocate can and does use this kind of language.

Jakes: "There is very little difference in what I believe and what you believe."

Dr. White: Paul wrote about "false Jesus'." The issue is whether Scripture is clear enough to decide an issue like the Trinity.

Driscoll [from "Elephant Room," question directed to Jakes]: is one God manifested in three ways "successively," or is He three "simultaneously."

Dr. White: Driscoll's question is good as far as it goes, but in the following discussion, note that Oneness literature stresses the distinction between "manifestations" and "persons."

Jakes: "Neither of them totally get it for me... I'm not crazy about the word persons" (citation of 1 Tim 3:16). "So God was manifest in the flesh."

Dr. White: the belief statement of Jakes' congregation is neither clearly Trinitarian or Oneness (it uses the term "manifestations"), and it is insufficient for a defense of the biblical faith.

[A point that Dr. White mentioned previously is that "manifest" is a verb in 1 Tim 3:16, rather than a noun, as Jakes and Oneness advocates use the term.]

Dr. White: we can see when the secular world is being intolerant, while claiming tolerance (for example, in regard to gay marriage), but when those who claim Christ claim tolerance while sacrificing truth, we sometimes fail to see what is going on.

Dr. White [in response to a question re: how we can determine what properly constitutes "heresy"]: we must rely on the consistent testimony of Scripture (the "analogy of faith"). Many passages may be interpreted the wrong way based merely upon the grammar or even in the immediate context of the passage, but we must interpret each passage in light of the entire canon. Orthodoxy is not a matter of "majority wins." For example: "Paul's teaching on grace" will always be a minority opinion. Athanasius was, for a time, in the minority in regard to the Trinity.

Manuel (a Oneness caller) confirmed that he would consider Jakes heretical for his being "comfortable" with Trinitarian language. Manuel (if I understood him correctly) made the point that it seemed like Jakes seemed to be compromising his Oneness beliefs in order to be accepted into a certain "club" [of "evangelicals"].

John Coleman (an African-American caller, who does apologetic ministry, much of which takes place within the African-American community) made the point that Jakes does not ONLY have a problem with the Trinity, but also with "subjectivism" in his preaching. John says that Jakes is adept at accurately using a dialect in order to achieve his own ends; with the economy sliding and people giving less, Jakes is now suddenly orthodox!? "The drastic change, so-called, that has come about is just another dialectical ploy."

Dr. White: I would not want to "crush the bruised reed... I have, obviously, worked with" people who have come out from under Oneness teaching, but Jakes' language is not the language of repentance.

Dr. White: a lot of people do not understand why the Trinity is important in the first place.


In-Depth Commentary on Genesis 28:6-10

TEXT Now Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Paddan-aram to take a wife from there, and that as he blessed him he directed him, “You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women,” and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and gone to Paddan-aram. So when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please Isaac his father, Esau went to Ishmael and took as his wife, besides the wives he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham's son, the sister of Nebaioth.
Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran.
(Genesis 28:6-10 ESV)

Esau is an idiot.

Don't be an idiot like Esau, vainly trying to win the favor of people by violating God's principles.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

C.J. Mahaney Cleared by Sovereign Grace Ministries' Board of Directors

[C.J. Mahaney's ministry has been a blessing to me personally, primarily through his book, The Cross-Centered Life, and so I was extremely happy to read the following report, as quoted on Challies' blog. (Mahaney had been accused by a small, loud group of former Sovereign Grace Ministries members of such seemingly vague indiscretions as pride, deceit, and hypocrisy.)]

Dave Harvey: “In July 2011, Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) installed an interim Board of Directors. Our primary task was to determine C.J. Mahaney’s fitness to serve SGM as President in light of accusations made against him by a former SGM leader. … After examining the reports of these three review panels, we find nothing in them that would disqualify C.J. from his role as President, nor do they in any way call into question his fitness for gospel ministry. Therefore the Board has decided unanimously to return C.J. to the office of President, effective immediately.”


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Images from the Hubble Telescope

Observe that the "deep field" pictures-- the final images-- are not showing stars, but galaxies.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Selected Notes Re: Genesis 4:1

 Now Adam knew Eve, his wife, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain. Then she said, "I have acquired a man from the LORD." (Genesis 4:1)

[Re: "from the Lord."] That is, according to the Lord's promise, as Gen. 3:15... [Geneva note]

"Eve seems plainly to express her hope in and dependence of that promise [given in Gen. 3:15], in what she says at the birth of Cain (Gen. 4:1), 'I have gotten a man from the LORD;' that is, as God promised, that my seed should bruise the serpent's head, so now has God given me this pledge and token of it, that I have a seed born. She plainly owns that this, her child, was from God, and hoped that her promised seed was to be of this her eldest son; though she was mistaken, as Abraham was with respect to Ishmael, as Jacob was with respect to Esau, ans as Samuel was with respect to the first-born of Jesse." [Jonathan Edwards, A History of the Work of Redemption (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2003), 31-32.]

"The woman's seed could be identified with the totality of humanity. However, the immediately succeeding section in Genesis narrates Cain's murder of his brother Abel (Gen. 4). The New Testament explicitly determines the significance of these two persons in the cosmic struggle between God and Satan. Cain originates from "the evil one" (1 John 3:12). Though descended from Eve just as his brother, he cannot be regarded as belonging to the 'seed' of the woman as described in Genesis 3:15. Instead of being opposed to Satan, he is the seed of Satan. The 'seed' of the woman cannot be identified simply with all physical descendants of womankind." [O. Palmer Robinson, The Christ of the Covenants (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1980), 98.]

"...Eve was mistaken in supposing that the son thus born to her was the Messiah. The language of inspiration only asserts that she said this, without admitting that she was correct. Indeed, the record shows that she was not[, but] she had believed the promise of God, was looking forward to its fulfillment, and had learned in some way to associate the name of Jehovah with the expected seed of the woman." [James P. Boyce, Abstract of Systematic Theology (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2006), 261.]


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sermon Notes from "The Kind of Pastor This Church Needs" (Part 1). Sermon by Jim Scott Orrick.

[The following notes were taken during the 10:45AM service this morning at Kosmosdale Baptist Church. The sermon should soon be available to hear on-line HERE.]

1 Timothy 3:1-2.

I. Introduction

A. "Does a fish know that it is in water?"

B. Like a fish, we are unable to discern our environment until we are exposed to a contrast.

C. Through books from the past, we may have our cultural biases challenged.

D. Kosmosdale Baptist Church is part of a very small percentage of people in this country who are interested in serious public discourse.

II. Confirming a Call to Ministry

A. Desire

B. Gifts

C. Opportunity

III. Two Major Qualifications from These Verses [a third to be addressed next week]

A. Above Reproach

1. NOT sinless, but

2. NOT characterized by reproach

B. Self-controlled

1. A one-woman man:
a. NOT
i. a polygamist
ii. a "serial monogamist"
b. Marriage is designed by God as an illustration of Christ and the Church.
c. Misunderstandings of marriage either result from or lead to a misunderstanding of the gospel.

2. Sober-minded:
a. Mentally in control with regard to outside influences
b. May be applied to:
i. preaching
ii. fads
iii. eating
iv. sleeping
v. entertainment

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Translation of Genesis 4:1

[The following translation is made as the first step in a Bible study I am preparing. As always, the reason I am placing the translation on this blog is to invite discussion/feedback from any friends of mine: especially those, in this case, who know Hebrew.]

Now Adam knew Eve, his wife, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain. Then she said, "I have acquired a man from the LORD."


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Disembodied Fellowship

The church is the body and bride of Christ (1 Cor 12:27; Col 1:24; Eph 5:22-33).

A professing Christian who consistently neglects the fellowship of the church has, at very best, a relationship to Christ that is analogous to a wife trying to have a relationship with her husband only over the phone. Over the phone, a wife may hear her husband's voice [as a Christian may hear the voice of Christ through the private reading of Scripture or through hearing sermons on the radio, etc.], but she will not receive her husband's embrace unless she is physically with him. A wife may have a good cause to be separated from her husband for a lengthy period of time (I think of my aunt, whose husband-- my uncle-- is serving with the Army in Iraq), but if she loves her husband this separation will be considered unusual and she will want to physically be in his presence at the earliest opportunity. Similarly, the Christian may be away from the church by necessity (through disease, etc.), but such separation should be considered unusual; the Christian should long to be with the fellowship the church: Christ's body on earth.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Closing Your Prayers With Gospel Consideration

People do not choose to do things that they find boring. And repetition-- doing the exact same thing in the exact same way-- is one of the surest paths to boredom. One of the reasons that some Christians falter in their duty to pray is because, after awhile, prayer gets boring: the same basic prayers are brought before God again and again, and the prayer is ended with "in Jesus' name, amen;" thus, prayer becomes a rote exercise.

One opportunity for a greater degree of variety in our prayers, which many of us may miss, is at the end of our prayers. Christians should certainly pray in the name of Jesus. But instead of simply rattling off "in Jesus' name" at the end of your prayers, consider giving serious attention to who Jesus is and what He has done as you pray.

In considering who Jesus is when you pray, think of who He is in your personal experience. For example: if you have found Jesus to be dear to you, you might end some of your prayers with, "in the precious name of Jesus I pray;" if you have found Jesus to be mighty in answering prayer, you might end some of your prayers with, "in the powerful name of Jesus I pray."

Also, pay close attention as you read your Bible day-by-day. If you have just read Genesis 1, for example, you might end your prayer with, "in the name of Jesus-- the Word through whom the worlds were created-- I pray;" if you have just read Genesis 3, you might end your prayer with, "in the name of Jesus-- the true seed of Eve-- I pray." One benefit of ending your prayers in this way [or in including this type of consideration at any point when you pray] is that it will help you to see how all Scripture points you to Christ, and it will help you to get to know the incarnate Word through means of His written Word.

Additionally, give attention to categories of Systematic Theology as you pray. When you think about perseverance, for example, you might end your prayer with, "in the name of Jesus, who keeps my soul safe safe until the end, I pray;" as you think about imputation, you might end your prayer with, "on the basis of Christ's righteousness alone I pray."

Prayers using terms from the Bible and from systematic theology will also lead you to think about what Jesus has done as you pray. Thinking of Jesus' obedience to the Father on our behalf-- obedience to the point of death-- and thinking of Jesus' victory over death, can also invigorate your prayers. And so you might end some prayers with, "in the name of Jesus-- who died for our sins, and was raised for our justification-- I pray." Speaking to God in such gospel terms will train your heart and mouth to speak the good news of Jesus Christ before the people for whom you are praying.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Do the work of prayer

Brethren, pray for us. (1 Thessalonians 5:25)

“Sickness, age, obscurity, illiteracy, and poverty cannot hinder the power of prayer.” - Charles Spurgeon

If you are a Christian-- if you have confessed Jesus as Lord-- then, since He is your Lord, you wish to serve Him. But all who wish to serve God struggle, at least at times, with the question of how we can best serve Him; you will face questions such as: what job should I pursue? where should I live? etc.

Furthermore, you may feel discouraged in your work for Christ. You may think you lack intelligence or boldness or passion. You may feel that you lack the time or the health to commit yourself to Jesus.

And so what can you do?

First, you can pray. Prayer-- calling out to God for His will to be done in your life and in the lives of others, bringing our requests before Him-- is commanded. And it cannot be stopped. As long as a believer is conscious, he or she can call out to God. The bedridden saint dying of cancer can perform the service of prayer. The one who is homeless, uneducated, and despised by the world can render the service of prayer. The businessman can call out to God on His way traveling to and from appointments each day. And you can pray, coming daily before the throne of grace.

Even if you find yourself unable to personally travel to a foreign nation, you can be part of seeing Christ's kingdom manifested throughout the earth as you pray for missionaries.

Even if you cannot give large sums of money to the needy, you can call out to God, who owns everything, that He will open up His storehouses.

The only major hurdle to prayer is that we often do not value prayer as we should, and so we allow our time to be filled with other things, robbing ourselves of this great opportunity for service.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A short reflection on what Christianity is NOT and what it IS.

Often American evangelicalism focuses on the feelings that people experience in worship. And we should feel JOY as Christians. But the Christian faith is not primarily about working ourselves up into a certain emotional state.

In the Reformed tradition, we often focus upon honoring God with our minds, and rightly so. But the Christian faith is not primarily an intellectual exercise.

Rather, the Christian faith is first and foremost a relationship with a Person: the living Lord Jesus.

Now, neither I nor anyone reading this post has ever yet seen the resurrected Christ face-to-face. And so we must take hold of Him by faith. This faith itself is a gift from God, coming through the gospel, which is found in God's Word: the Holy Bible.

For this reason, the Christian faith returns again and again to Scripture, the vehicle of the Holy Spirit.


Sunday, January 08, 2012

Still time to resolve to read the Bible this year

If you have never read through the Bible, if it has been a while since you have read it, or if you are re-reading any book this year, there is still time to resolve to read the best-selling book of all time-- the book that has so fundamentally shaped all English literature and Western thought in general-- this year. If you simply read 4 chapters a day (and a couple extra on the Lord's Day) for the next 3 weeks, then you will be on track to cut back to 3 chapters a day, and 5 on the Lord's Day, and complete the Bible in a year. (Most chapters in the Bible are shorter than typical chapters in modern books.)

I type this encouragement especially to those who may have thought about reading the Bible through this year, and either failed to begin or have fallen behind.


Saturday, January 07, 2012

Books Bought Yesterday

Yesterday, I spent the last of a gift card, used some exchange credit from Christian Book Nook, and a coupon from LifeWay, and bought three new books:

Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament by G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson;

God's Indwelling Presence by Jim Hamilton;

A History of the Work of Redemption by Jonathan Edwards. [Thanks to my friend Mitch Chase, who helped me find this book.]

These books, plus those I mentioned yesterday, equal six of the eleven books from my Christmas Wish List. This is significant because, unlike many of my friends at Southern Seminary, who are seeking to basically reproduce Dr. Mohler's library in their own homes, I have a fairly limited number of books that I want to keep in my house.

I also bought some books for the Kosmosdale Baptist Church library as well. I've been given/taken the responsibility for our church library, and so, as different members have donated their old books, I have added some of them to the library, and have taken others to the Christian Book Nook and sold them in order for store credit in order to fill out sections of the library in need of more material. Right now, I am trying to get more Puritan works (we have a shelf set aside for the Puritans, but currently only about half-a-dozen books on that shelf), so yesterday I bought:

A Sure Guide to Heaven by Joseph Alleine;

The Death of Death in the Death of Christ by John Owen.

[The teachings found in both of these works are, somewhat remarkably, uncontroversial in our congregation.]


Friday, January 06, 2012

Books Received from My Christmas Wish List

I am genuinely grateful for every single gift I received this Christmas. I was blessed with clothes, gift cards, candy, etc. But since I placed some books on a “Wish List” before Christmas, I wanted to place a post on this blog mentioning the books I received.

From my wonderful Mother-in-law I received G.K. Beale’s New Testament Biblical Theology and James White’s Forgotten Trinity.

From my beloved sister Allison I received Dan Phillips’ God’s Wisdom in Proverbs and Bruce Ware’s Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

It was interesting to compare the two books on the Trinity: White’s work focuses on the basics of Trinitarian doctrine in distinction from errors such as the modern Arianism taught by the Jehovah’s Witnesses (White gives a great exposition, for example, of some passages in John); Ware’s work seems to have the complementarian/egalitarian debate in view, demonstrating that there are eternal roles of authority and submission within the essentially co-equal Persons of the Trinity (Ware gives special attention to passages such as 1 Cor 15:24-28 [interested readers may wish to check that passage; I do not have the book in front of me as I type this]).

At present, I am particularly excited about Phillips' work on Proverbs because we at Kosmosdale Baptist Church have been studying through Proverbs as part of our Wednesday night prayer meeting.


Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Reflection on "The Prodigal God" for Dorothy Sayers Classical School

[This year, tutors at Dorothy Sayers Classical School in Louisville, KY were required to read The Prodigal God by Tim Keller. We were then required to write a 2-3 page reflection paper on how this book can impact our school and the teaching in our particular classrooms. Below is my reflection.]

The most obvious way that The Prodigal God may be applied at Dorothy Sayers Classical School is in terms of classroom management and student discipline. When it comes to student behavior, it is easy for tutors and administrators to focus on outward conformity. But, as we are reminded from the example of the elder son in the parable of the Two Lost Sons from Luke 15, students can live as the very picture of moral uprightness, and yet miss the whole point of the true Christian faith. In all of our rule-giving– an activity that is absolutely necessary for a school to run according to proper order– we must stress that our following guidelines neither constitutes the basis upon which we are accepted by God nor the goal to which we are striving as a school. Rather, our focus is (as Keller explains) faith in Jesus, resting in His work, and receiving a new identity and relationship with God. A sensitive conscience, and (in the case of our students) a proper submission to authority, is to be an outworking of our identity in Christ, as we, in gratitude for what He has done, seek to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matt 22:37).

            In many ways, I have seen the principals mentioned in this book already put into practice at DSCS. In our tutor meetings, the concept of dealing graciously with students is commonly mentioned. However, The Prodigal God is a good reminder. Furthermore, Keller’s exploration of the parable of the Two Lost Sons is beneficial in that it concretizes “grace,” which can tend to be an amorphous concept in our thinking. We can clearly imagine two students: one who tends to act like the younger son, and one who tends to act like the older. Part of our responsibility at DSCS is to realize the need for grace in the life of the “older son” as well as the younger.

            In my classroom, as a tutor, I can apply the content of The Prodigal God first through direct instruction. One blessing of teaching at DSCS is that the students are expected to memorize Scripture as part of their education. This year, the students are memorizing Matthew 5, which is the first part of the Sermon on the Mount. In this chapter, Jesus is constantly pointing to heart issues in a similar way as He does in the parable of the Two Lost Sons. Through leading my students in discussing the implications of Jesus’ words such as, “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:20), I can (with the help of the Holy Spirit) point my students to their need for grace.

            In addition to direct instruction, I can apply the content of The Prodigal God in my classroom by means of example. As I begin each class in prayer, I can model prayers that not only ask God to meet our temporal needs (though such requests are important and necessary), but that also praise God for who He is as a gracious Father who has secured redemption for His people in Christ.

            Finally (at least, “finally” in terms of this reflection), I can apply the content of The Prodigal God in my classroom by challenging my students to analyze their literature in terms of biblical categories of thought. Keller provides a wonderful model of how to do this in the seventh chapter, as he examines the storyline of Babette’s Feast, and then he demonstrates some unresolved tensions in the book: tensions that can only be resolved through the work of God’s grace in Christ. Much of the great literature that we examine at DSCS– such as the tales of Shakespeare, which my students are currently reading– contain similar unresolved tensions, drawing (at least partially) upon biblical categories, and showing some of the confusion of this fallen world, but not pointing readers directly to the work of Christ. One of my responsibilities in teaching reading comprehension is to help students understand what the author is conveying, and then to help students understand what the author may leave out: the grand resolution that comes in Christ Jesus.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Critique of Father Stephen's "The Slow Work of Grace"

Recently, one of my friends applauded a blogpost titled, "The Slow Work of Grace" by "Father Stephen."

I would argue that Stephen's post is not commendable, however, for a number of reasons:

  • Though the main subject of Stephen's blogpost is a corrective understanding of "grace," within the post, Stephen never offers a definition of grace.
  • I would assert that the definition of grace against which Stephen argues-- a "legal concept," which is instantaneous-- is not a definition held by *any* published theologian, and I would challenge anyone agreeing with Stephen to produce a work wherein grace is defined according to these terms. 
  • Furthermore, Stephen confuses the concepts of "grace" and "salvation."

Now the Protestant tradition, building on Augustine's understanding of Paul's doctrine of grace, has commonly defined grace as God's "unmerited favor" toward sinners. As David Powlison has pointed out, rather than "unmerited favor," grace is better understood as God's "contramerited favor," i.e., instead of simply denoting God's unearned lovingkindness, "grace" actually signifies God's lovingkindness toward those who have, through our sins, earned the exact opposite of His favorable disposition. However it is stated, this understanding of "grace" makes grace a disposition within God: as Martin Luther also explains, "grace actually denotes God's kindness or favor which He has toward us..."

"Grace" should not be confused with "salvation," for we are saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:8). God's contramerited favor is the basis upon which He saves us through the instrumentality of faith.

Grace, thus properly understood, is no more a "life-long process" (as Stephen seeks to argue) than it is 'instantaneous.' Both of these terms are utterly irrelevant when speaking of grace, for grace is a disposition within the eternal God.

Confusion about grace leads to a multitude of errors. As seen in Stephen's blogpost, such confusion tends to depersonalize grace. Instead of being about God, glorifying God's lovingkindness to undeserving us, grace becomes about something that happens to us. Then, taking verses like Philippians 2:12 and James 1:4 out of context (the verses cited by Stephen), grace starts to look like something that we do. And so, through confusion about how grace is to be defined, the emphasis of grace is taken off of God and put onto Man. Furthermore, once grace is depersonalized, it can become treated as an impersonal force. Unchallenged, this confusion can lead to a system where men-- dressed in ostentatious clothing never imagined by simple Galilean fishermen, and insisting on being called "Father" in direct contradiction of Jesus' teaching (Matt 23:9)-- claim the right to parcel out grace through religious rituals.

Grace, properly understood should focus us on God, and should specifically lead us to consider Jesus, who-- as the ultimate expression of God's contamerited favor-- died for our sins and was raised again for our justification (Rom 4:25).


Sunday, January 01, 2012

Sermon Notes from "Finding Joy in a Cursed World." Sermon by Jim Scott Orrick.

[The following notes were taken during the 10:45AM service this morning at Kosmosdale Baptist Church. The sermon should soon be available to hear on-line HERE.]

Psalm 90.

I. Introduction. The abundance of dystopian tales in popular stories reflect an important truth about the world.

II. God is eternal; we long for stability.

III. The aim of sin is to become like God; the result of sin is to become dust.

IV. Due to sin, people are naturally like:
A. One swept away in a flood,
B. A dream,
C. Grass.

V. God's Wrath Against Sinners

VI. What are we to do?
A. Recognize the brevity of life.
B. Look to God for mercy.
C. Seek your satisfaction in God.
D. Seek to have an impact on following generations for God.