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)

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

Saturday, February 25, 2017

R.C. Sproul on the Necessity of Classical Apologetics

[From the video found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksFL0roNnIE&t=9m17s , which was pointed out to me by Trey Jadlow.]

"[Formal certainty for the existence of God] can only be arrived at through a logical proof that is irrefutable. Classical Apologetics says that the case for the existence of God can be proven demonstrably, rationally, formally, and compellingly. So it's a little stronger than evidentialists [those who focus on observations from nature, history, and accounts of prophecies and miracles], who are more empirically-oriented. [Classical Apologetics] is the way apologetics ought to be done: you don't just say to the scientific community, 'Well, you're working on the wrong presuppositions,' or, 'You have the wrong worldview.' That's true, but you have to begin to show them that the conclusions they've drawn from their own evidence are formally invalid."

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Classical Apologetics: Summaries of the Ontological, Cosmological, and Teleological Arguments

[The following excerpts are from Classical Apologetics by R.C. Sproul, John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsley.]

The Ontological Argument [the argument from being]: Infinite being must exist because we cannot conceive of its not existing.

The Cosmological Argument [the argument from order]: The world is not only being, but orderly being, a cosmos. If so, its Author must be an orderly mind. Order sometimes seems to happen by chance, but it would not happen all the time by chance (or really any of the time, as we will see when we discuss teleology), for then it would not be a chance happening but an ordered one. The chance would be taken out of chance. Regular order is the order of the day and the years and the ages in the universe.

God alone has the power of being within Himself. He alone has ultimate causal power. Without something or someone who has the power of being intrinsically, we are irrefutably left with some type of notion of self-creation which... is an analytically false concept. The notion of self-creation is manifestly irrational as it blatantly violates the law of non-contradiction. We have an either/or situation. Either we must postulate necessary, self-existent being, or we must flee to the absurdity of self-creation, committing intellectual and scientific suicide. The law remains intact, ex nihilo nihil fit: out of nothing, nothing comes.

But does not Christianity assert a doctrine of ex nihilo creation? Yes, in a certain sense. The great difference between the Christian concept of creation and opposing views is at the point of self-creation. Within the concept of self-creation is the idea that once there was nothing--pure non-being (which, to labor the point [from the ontological argument] is unthinkable)--and then, "poof" [or: BANG!], there was something, like the rabbit out of the magician's hat. Only what happens [according to opposing views] is more stupendous that the feats of prestidigitation. In this magic show, the rabbit comes forth from nothing by himself. Thee is no magician to bring him forth, no hat out of which to pull him, and no concealed (or even partially becoming) rabbit who emerges. There is nothing. Pure potentiality. Absolute nothingness. The "Genesis 1:1" [first word] of self-creation would read: "In the beginning, nothing created the heavens and the earth." There is no sufficient cause for the rabbit, no efficient cause, no material cause, no instrumental cause, no formal cause, and no final cause. We have the pure effect with no cause.

The Christian view is not without its difficulties. It remains a mystery how a self-existent eternal being actually does His work of creation. The ex nihilo is limited in scope, however. It has primary reference to the fact that God did not use some pre-existent, external matter out of which He fashioned a world as a sculptor fashions a statue out of a mass of stone. But there is nothing analytically problematic about the notion of a self-existing eternal being. Far from Falsifying the concept, logic demands it. Christianity does have a sufficient cause, an efficient cause, a formal cause, and a final cause for the effect of this world.

The Teleological Argument [the argument from purpose]: Could purposive creatures be from a being without purpose? ... Could the source of all beings purposelessly populate the cosmos with purpose-seekers?

Creatures, as we have seen, can causally argue to orderliness and structure in the Creator. The question is: Did Being unintentionally make things which revealed Himself? Being omniscient, He would have at least foreseen it [whatever comes to pass, along with the possibility of arguing for the Creator]. If He did not want it to happen, He could have prevented it. Therefore, He must have wanted it to happen. That is, He intended or purposed it. Since He has willed everything to come to pass that comes to pass (or it would never have come to pass), He must have purposively ordained everything to come to pass. He not only purposed the [self-sonsciously] purposive but everything, whether it has a purpose in itself or not.

We are talking about God as the source of purpose. And if God is the source of purpose and the only one who could be the source of purpose, then He is the source of moral purpose as well. He would also have to be omniscient to arrange everything in a purposeful way. Consequently, being God, He would be incapable of error either in planning or in intention or morality. We do not want to labor this point at the moment  We simply not it lest there be some misunderstanding. If God is the purposer, He cannot do any nonpurposeful activities.

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

"Today" in Hebrews 1:5/Psalm 2:7

[The following was originally posted on November 7, 2006.]

On November 1, 2006, John MacArthur was the guest on Albert Mohler's radio program.During that program, MacArthur graciously took calls from listeners. One of these calls (starting at 31:29 in the program) concerned MacArthur's teaching on "incarnational sonship." Addressing this issue, MacArthur said the following:

Let me make it real simple. He is eternally God. Jesus Christ is and always will be the eternal God- a member of the Trinity. He is eternally One of Three. And I don't have any problem with calling Him the eternal Son therefore. But I do understand that there is a uniqueness to His incarnation in that the Scripture says, "This day have I begotten Thee." And that's related to His incarnation.

Now, I entirely agree with the above quote (as well as the rest of MacArthur's statements on this radio broadcast), except for the last two sentences of the quote.

But before I explain why I disagree with these sentences, I must mention that MacArthur, more than any other, is like a modern day John Calvin in terms of his careful exegesis of Scripture. Like Calvin, MacArthur has explained God's Word in such a way to provide spiritual nourishment for his congregation, truly engaging in pastoral ministry week after week. Like Calvin, MacArthur's pastoral ministry has yielded a set of commentaries on the Bible that have been beneficial to the Church as a whole. MacArthur truly deserves to be announced- as he once was by Albert Mohler when he spoke at SBTS chapel- as the expositor.

So, having said all that, to attempt to correct MacArthur's understanding of a verse of Scripture feels a bit like trying to show Lennox Lewis how he should throw a punch.

But, as they say, 'Biblical and Theological Studies students at Southern Seminary rush in where angels fear to tread.' So I'll go ahead and say that in this case I think MacArthur got it wrong.

The verse MacArthur mentioned was Hebrews 1:5 (the verse that, for him, started the original "incarnational sonship" controversy, as he points out in the article linked above), which is a quote from Psalm 2:7.

The question that must be answered about this verse is, "What day is 'Today'?" In other words, when the Scripture says, "TODAY I have begotten You," what day is in view? Now common sense informed by the basic story of Jesus would indicate that this refers to the incarnation. But common sense is no substitute for allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture. So, what day is Today according to the verses in the immediate context of "Today I have begotten You"?

When viewing these verses in context, these references to the Day that the Son is begotten do not seem to refer to the incarnation, but rather to the resurrection and the specifically the coronation (the time after His ascension when Jesus is crowned as the universal King, seated at the right hand of the Father).

1. In Acts 13:33, Psalm 2:7 is also quoted and it is clear that the day that the Son is begotten is related to the resurrection of Jesus, as is indicated by the immediate context, and even within this verse with the phrase, "raised up." Jesus is spoken of as being begotten "today" in terms of the resurrection in a similar way as He is referred to as the firstborn from the dead in Colossians 1:18.

2. We must remember that “begotten” can carry the sense of being “brought forth.” In this sense, Jesus was begotten as God's Son on the Day that He "sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high," for on this Day His glory was brought forth before all the heavenly hosts. Psalm 2:7 also uses the phrase “this Day I have begotten You” to refer to the coronation of the Son, as seen in the context of Psalm 2:6,

"But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain."

The coronation is also seen to be the Day in Hebrews 1:5, which flows from Hebrews 1:3b-4:

"When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they."

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

"Reconciling Your 'Wants' with God's 'Oughts'" by John Piper

[The following article appeared on the Crosswalk website in January of 2006. This excellent article by John Piper is as convicting and encouraging today as when I first read it, and so I am happy to re-post it here.]

If your "want to" does not conform to God's "ought to," what can you do to have peace? I see at least five possible strategies.

1. You can avoid thinking about the "ought to." This is the most common strategy in the world. Most people simply do not devote energy to pondering what they should be doing that they are not doing. It's easier to just keep the radio on.

2. You can reinterpret the "ought to" so that it sounds just like your "want to." This is a little more sophisticated and so not as common. It usually takes a college education to do this with credibility, and a seminary degree to do it with finesse.

3. You can muster the willpower to do a form of the "ought to" even though you don't have the heart of the "want to." This generally looks pretty good, and is often mistaken as virtue, even by those who do it. In fact, there is a whole worldview that says doing "ought to's" without "want to" is the essence of virtue. The problem with this is that Paul said, "God loves a cheerful giver," which puts the merely "ought-to givers" in a precarious position.

4. You can feel proper remorse that the "want to" is very small and weak - like a mustard seed - and then, if it lies within you, do the "ought to" by the exertion of will, while repenting that the "want to" is weak, and praying that the "want to" will soon be restored. Perhaps it will even be restored in doing the "ought to." This is not hypocrisy. Hypocrisy hides one of the two contradictory impulses. Virtue confesses them both in the hope of grace.

5. You can seek, by the means of grace, to have God give the "want to" so that when the time comes to do the "ought to," you will "want to." Ultimately, the "want to" is a gift of God. "The mind of the flesh is hostile to God . . . it is not able to submit to the law of God" (Romans 8:7). "The natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God . . . because they are spiritually appraised" (1 Corinthians 2:14). "Perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 2:25).

The Biblical doctrine of original sin boils down to this (to borrow from St. Augustine): We are free to do what we like, but we are not free to like what we ought to like. "Through the one man's disobedience [Adam] the many were made sinners" (Romans 5:19). This is who we are. And yet we know from our own soul and from the Bible that we are accountable for the corruption of our bad "want to's."

Indeed, the better you become, the more you feel ashamed of being bad and not just doing bad. As N.P. Williams said, "The ordinary man may feel ashamed of doing wrong: but the saint, endowed with a superior refinement of moral sensibility, and keener powers of introspection, is ashamed of being the kind of man who is liable to do wrong" (First Things, #87, Nov. 1998, p. 24).

God's free and sovereign heart-changing work is our only hope. Therefore we must pray for a new heart. We must pray for the "want to" - "Incline my heart to Your testimonies" (Psalm 119:36). He has promised to do it: "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes" (Ezekiel 36:27). This is the new covenant bought by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 8:8-13; 9:15).

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Balloon Incident: A Confession


[This is re-posted; the original post was written on 2/14/12.]

Last night Abby and I went on a Valentine's date (beating the rush) to the Grape Leaf on Frankfort Avenue here in Louisville. (It was excellent!) On the way home, Abby suggested that we stop by Kroger and pick up some Valentine's balloons for the children. We bought Georgia a balloon shaped like a dog, and we bought Christian a heart balloon that played music when hit. Upon arriving back at the house, it was apparent that Abby's balloon idea was a stroke of genius; Georgia was utterly fascinated by the doggy balloon, and Christian seemed to enjoy his balloon as well.

But then...

All of the sudden, Christian decided that he was no longer happy with his balloon, and he decided that he would rather have Georgia's balloon instead. Georgia was still happily playing with her balloon, and so I had to reprimand Christian when he tried to take her balloon away. Then Christian began loudly complaining about his balloon. Abby warned Christian that if he continued complaining about the balloon, then she would pop it and throw it away. I agreed with her, and-- when Christian continued complaining-- I finally took a knife, popped the balloon, and threw it in the garbage. I was not feeling particularly angry when I popped the balloon (I did not yell at my son), but I was disappointed, and I wanted Christian to know that he should not complain about gifts given to him.

Upon having his balloon popped, Christian went ballistic: screaming and crying.

After Christian spent some time in his room, Abby decided to give him a shower and get him ready for bed.

I went downstairs to change into night-clothes. As I was changing, I began to think and pray about what had taken place. The Holy Spirit impressed Ephesians 6:4 upon my conscience, and I realized that Christian's anger at having his balloon popped was entirely predictable. It was late at night (from Christian's perspective) and I should have had compassion for his fragile emotional state due to his tiredness. There was a certain justice in what I had done, but I could have handled the situation better (by, perhaps, putting the balloon downstairs in "time out" until the morning, when a rested Christian may be more reasonable, rather than shocking Christian by popping the balloon).

I briefly discussed the situation with Abby, and then spoke to Christian; calming him down (because he was still somewhat upset), I told him that we were disappointed in how he acted regarding his gift. I also told him that I knew I had made him mad by popping the balloon, and that I was sorry. I told him that it was not our goal to make him angry, but to teach him right from wrong. Finally, I told him that I would buy him another balloon (though not the doggy one that he had been whining for), and that his mother and I expected him to be grateful for the gift. He seemed to accept this speech very well, and when he received his new balloon in the morning, he played with it without complaining. (BTW: Valentine's balloons from Kroger are rather expensive.)

This whole incident reminded me of the Youtube video of the dad who shot up his daughter's computer. An edited version of this video, which has gone viral, can be seen below: 
Regarding this video, Phil Johnson has commented:
I cannot endorse gun violence as an appropriate teaching tool for the father of a teenaged daughter... The first principle of biblical fathering is pretty straightforward: "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). Deliberately embarassing a child in public is one of the most egregious ways of violating that principle. "The discipline and instruction of the Lord" is described in Hebrews 12:5-11. "He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness" (v. 10).
I'm still not sure that I agree with Mr. Johnson's statement regarding "embarassing [sic] a child in public" simply because in the case above the daughter's rebellious action was public, so it seems acceptable that the rebuke was also public. On the other hand, Mr. Johnson may be right, and it does seem like the shock of seeing one's computer shot-- like the shock of Christian seeing his balloon popped-- may be an action that would automatically provoke a child to anger. Parenting is a tremendous responsibility, and sometimes it is hard to avoid both indulging a child on the one hand, and unnecessarily frustrating the child on the other.

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Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Relationship of the Mosaic Covenant to the Work of Christ

Ryan McGraw, "John Owen and Reformed Orthodox Trinitarian Theology," The Reformed Forum, 27 January 2017 [podcast]: http://reformedforum.org/ctc474/

"The covenant with Moses was neither the Covenant of Works, nor the Covenant of Grace, but a super-added covenant... [Owen] argued that the Mosaic Covenant cannot be the Covenant of Works, because that covenant passed away under Adam when he fell, but the same Law is present and its curses proclaimed against those who are outside of Christ... [Owen said] Israel is not directly related to the Covenant of Grace by virtue of the Mosaic Covenant, so what they [the Israelites] have is the Law proclaiming the perfections of God and that they're dead in Adam, but you also have the primary idea that Christ the Mediator would one day fulfill the Law, and so the primary aim, then, of the Mosaic Covenant is to present the legal conditions that Christ would fulfill in [bringing about] the Covenant of Grace to save His people from their sins....

"This entire construction comes out of [Owen's] wrestling with Hebrews 8-9, and trying to figure out how to contrast the Old and New Covenant... the Covenant of Works could not be, strictly speaking, re-administered of republished under Moses, because that era is gone. But, at the same time, there is such a strong contrast between the New Covenant and the Old Covenant that it can't be the Covenant of Grace either. So the only [option] we're left with is something of a parenthesis in redemptive history that's setting forth the legal conditions for Christ to fulfill....

"The 17th century Baptists tended to pick up this particular view."

NOTES:

1. In the above quotes, Dr. McGraw presents John Owen's view on the  relationship between the Mosaic Covenant and the work of Christ. I know that this is controversial within Reformed circles. However, Dr. McGraw's reading of Owen reflects my own reading of Owen. Also noteworthy: Dr. McGraw says that, in direct contrast to Owen, he tends to view the Mosaic Covenant as an administration of the Covenant of Grace, so he is not bending his presentation of Owen to fit his own view. So, I tend to believe that Dr. McGraw is accurately reflecting John Owen.

2. Even if those who disagree with Dr. McGraw's understanding of Owen's view can be proven correct (even if it can be shown that Dr. McGraw is misunderstanding Owen or that Owen changed his view over time), I believe that the relationship between the Mosaic Covenant and the work of Christ that is presented above is itself correct, reflective of the Bible's presentation of this issue.

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