Friday, April 29, 2011

What's in a Name? Making the Epistemologically Sound Choice

A friend of mine directed me to this nice blog that suggests something I have long since held:

"My thesis is this: The naming of a child is one of the most important decisions you will make on behalf of your son or daughter, so be deliberate. Make an 'epistemologically self-conscious' choice. Be biblical. Consider your reasons and motivation for the name.

Make sure they are consistent with Scripture. Be prepared to carefully articulate your reasons to others. Consider also the message this name is sending to your child and the world with which he or she will spend the rest of his or her life interacting. When picking names, it is fine to consider sound, meter, popularity, ethnic background, meaning, association, and family history, but, in the final analysis, you should use his name to motivate your child and encourage him to persevere before the Lord. This means selecting names with the understanding that the day will come when you are prepared to give a meaningful, biblical explanation for the name of your child."

My eldest is named "SOPHIA DOMINIQUE," which I chose for its meaning of "divine wisdom"; my second, "JOSHUA DAVID," for its reference to the Lord Jesus Christ and my favorite Old Testament hero of the faith; lastly, my third, who will be seeing the light of day this September, I will be naming "CAUVIN PAUL," in reference to John Calvin and the Apostle Paul.

Somehow, I can't find any biblical significance for "WARREN WILFRED." LOL!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Meredith Kline on Abortion

"When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman's husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe" (Exodus 21:22-25).

The two sides of the abortion debate treat the passage above in quite distinct ways. Firstly, we must recognize two cases involved in the passage: The first being that no harm was caused (Case 1), and the second, that harm was indeed caused (Case 2).

The pro-abortionist sees both cases as involving a miscarriage, with Case 1 having only the fetus as dying and with Case 2 having both the fetus and the mother as experiencing the same fate. It is argued that since only a monetary compensation is prescribed for the loss of the fetus, Scripture does not treat it as already possessing the status of a full human, unlike Case 2, when the "Lex Talionis" principle is enforced for the death of the mother:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It Came in the Morning

"For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning" (Psalm 30:5).

The night time, with its cessation of noise and busyness, is the opportune time for reflection. It is the moment of the day when we come to greater grips with our problems.

Doing Church

Contrast the rantings of this "young, restless, and reformed," Emergent type on his ideals for "doing church" with this treatment of the marks of a true church by Dr. R.S. Clark.

There are three marks of a true church:

1.) The whole counsel of God is preached (Law and Gospel).

2.) The sacraments are faithfully administered.

3.) Discipline is enforced among the membership.

The YRR guy may claim compliance to the first two marks, but his 8th point leaves more to be desired as it relates to the third mark:

"8. If you think this will be a nice little church that stays the same size, where everybody knows your name and you have my cell number on speed dial and we have a picnic lunch together every week (By God’s grace, we want to grow)."

How can discipline be enforced in the form of submission to the rule of elders, as these elders dispense of their God-ordained duties, when anonymity is encouraged and accountability frowned upon? He says they want to grow? By growth it seems is meant the bursting at the seams in terms of population when genuine fellowship then proves impossible.

He does get one thing right, though: I certainly wouldn't want to join his church.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Crux of Christianity: Resurrection

"For Paul, the physical resurrection of Jesus is the essence of biblical religion. Without it, there is no Christian faith. If the resurrection did not happen in the way the original apostles say it did, then instead of being preachers of good news they become 'purveyors of lies.'


Jesus predicts not only his death but also his resurrection, which is an essential part of his message, though it does not take up a large part of his teaching. Resurrection is what he does (really what God does to him). It is an experience, like death, that he undergoes for the purposes of redemption.

The verb Jesus often uses for resurrection means literally 'stand up again.' In the Old Testament it is often employed to describe the Lord engaging in determined action. The Lord reassures the psalmist, 'Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, I will now arise.' The imagery suggests the Lord is seated on his heavenly throne, then stands up to intervene, as in the past, on behalf of the afflicted. So David pleads with the Lord, 'Take hold of shield and buckler and rise for my help!' The verb is applied to human beings, rising from sleep, or from death. David's enemies say of him, 'A deadly thing is poured out on him; he will not rise again from where he lies.' David is as good as dead and will remain that way. But David renews his faith in the Lord and affirms, 'But you, O Lord, be gracious to me, and raise me up, that I may repay them!' Though David here probably means that he will recover from his sick bed to fight again, there is little doubt that he also believed in physical resurrection from the dead. Such a prospect is an almost unthinkable possibility, and in his more 'realistic' moments, the psalmist asks, 'Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do those who are dead rise up and praise you?' While to human view, resurrection is impossible, yet in faith he declares, 'I have set the Lord always before me; ... Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.'

The apostle Peter applies this text to Jesus, described as 'David's greater Son.' He does so in the first post-resurrection sermon ever preached, in Jerusalem, on the Day of Pentecost, seven weeks after the crucifixion of Jesus, in the same city, to prove from Scripture why the tomb of Jesus, just a mile away, was empty. Job has the same faith: 'And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.' The prophet Isaiah, after predicting the death of the Servant, states, 'After his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days.'

This is the scriptural background of all that Jesus says about resurrection" (Peter Jones, Stolen Identity: The Conspiracy to Reinvent Jesus [Colorado: Victor, 2006], 145, 148-149, italics original).

Michael Horton blogs on the resurrection as well.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Christ's Descent Into Hell

The Apostles' Creed declares that Christ descended into hell, "I believe in...Jesus Christ...our Lord: Who was...crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell."

What does it mean for Christ to have descended into hell? Danny Hyde explains:

Also available here

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Epistemological Import of Good Friday

Today is Good Friday, commemorated by Christians as the day when Christ offered Himself up as the penal-substitutionary atonement for the sins of the elect—arising from the Covenant of Redemption, in fulfillment of the stipulations of the Covenant of Works, and the ground for the inauguration of the substantial Covenant of Grace.

In light of this, I believe it would be beneficial to review an aspect of Christology that bears upon the way we know things: Christ's offices:

"Christ is true prophet, priest, and king. The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks,'How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?' (Q.24). The answer is: 'Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by his word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation,' Man set for himself a false ideal of knowledge when he became a sinner, that is, he lost true wisdom. In Christ man was reinstated to true knowledge. In Christ man realizes that he is a creature of God and that he should not seek underived comprehensive knowledge. Christ is our wisdom. He is our wisdom not only in the sense that he tells us how to get to heaven. He is our wisdom too in teaching us true knowledge about everything about which we should have knowledge.

Again the catechism asks: 'How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?' (Q.25). The answer is: 'Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God, and making continual intercession for us.' We need not discuss this point except to indicate that Christ's work as priest cannot be separated from his work as a prophet. Christ could not give us true knowledge of God and of the universe unless he died for us as priest. The question of knowledge is an ethical question. It is indeed possible to have theoretically correct knowledge about God without loving God. The devil illustrates this point. Yet what is meant by knowing God in Scripture is knowing and loving God: this is true knowledge of God; all other knowledge of God is false.

In the third place the catechism asks: 'How doth Christ execute the office of a king?' (Q.26). The answer is: 'Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all of his and our enemies.' Again we observe that this work of Christ as King must be brought into organic connection with his work as Prophet and Priest. To give us true wisdom or knowledge Christ must subdue us. He died for us to subdue us and thus gave us wisdom. It is only by emphasizing this organic connection of the aspects of the work of Christ that we can avoid all mechanical separation of the intellectual and the moral in the question of knowledge" (Cornelius Van Til, Christian Apologetics [New Jersey: P & R, 2003], ed. William Edgar, 47-48).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Divine Providence and the Confessionalism Vs. Pietism Debate

Michael Horton makes the case that if by pietism it is meant that the supposedly pious are those who seek after immediate incursions of the Holy Spirit apart from the ordinary means of grace, often, if not always, marked by private, individual exercises and methods, then it is a piety that finds no ground in the Reformed consensus. Adjacently, if by confessionalism it is meant that the inward working of the Spirit is downplayed in favor of external and mechanical "going through the motions," as it were, with a concomitant minimization of the seeking after of godliness and growth in Christlikeness, then it similarly finds no ground in catholic Reformed thought and practice.

I find this reference particularly helpful:

"Writers like Iain Murray who speak of revival as the Spirit's extraordinary blessing on his ordinary means of grace stand in a long line of 'experimental Calvinism.' If revivalism is antithetical to 'the system of the Catechism' (and I agree that it is), it is nevertheless true also that confessional Protestants have often prayed for special periods of awakening and revival. Pro-revival Calvinists include the Puritans and the great Princetonians (Alexander, Hodge, and Warfield), not just Edwards and Whitefield. So the debate over the meaning and legitimacy of 'revival' is in-house. There is no historical justification for pro-revival or anti-revival Calvinists to write each other out of this heritage."

One may dare to ask, "Does this mean that the Holy Spirit does not always attend the partaking of the means of grace with His blessing, which then is the warrant for revivalistic clamor?" The answer lies in the humble posture that the creature must always have before the Creator. The Lord has promised to provide all our needs, and yet we are admonished in the Lord's Prayer to unceasingly pray for our Benefactor's supplies. Scripture assures us that the Kingdom of God will be unalterably consummated, and yet in the same pattern of prayer set before us, we are commanded to pray for its coming. The certainty of providence never precludes humble, heartfelt prayer.

Perhaps this debacle over "confessionalism vs. pietism" can best be resolved by keeping ever before us the doctrine of providence, in that God works through ordinary means and that the Creator-creature distinction will never permit the outmoding of prayer.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Common to Both the CoW and the CoG: Justice

"Grace is of course the term we use for the principle operative in the gospel that was missing from the pre-Fall covenant. Properly defined, grace is not merely the bestowal of unmerited blessings, but God's blessing of man in spite of his demerits, in spite of his forfeiture of divine blessings. Clearly, we ought not apply the term grace to the pre-Fall situation, for neither the bestowal of blessings on Adam in the very process of creation nor the proposal to grant him additional blessings contemplated him as being in a guilty state of demerit. Yet this is what Fuller and company are driven to do as they argue for a continuum between the pre-Fall and the redemptive covenants. Only by thus using the term grace (obviously in a different sense) for the pre-Fall covenant can they becloud the big, plain contrast that actually exists between the two covenants (cf. Rom. 4:4).

Not grace, but simple justice, was the governing principle in the pre-Fall covenant; hence, it is traditionally called the covenant of works. God is just, and his justice is present in all he does. That is true of gospel administrations, too, for the foundation of the gift of grace is Christ's satisfaction of divine justice. If you are looking for an element of continuity running through pre-Fall and redemptive covenants (without obliterating the contrast between them), there it is—not grace, but justice. Recognizing that God's covenant with Adam was one of simple justice, covenant theology holds that Adam's obedience in the probation would have been the performing of a meritorious deed by which he earned the covenanted blessings" (Meredith G. Kline, Covenant Theology Under Attack, italics original).

More here.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Pipameister

It was one of those rare afternoons when I was able to get off from work early and visit the Cubao-Edsa branch of Philippine Christian Bookstore (PCBS), the largest Christian bookstore franchise in the country. They close shop at 7PM, and I think I started rummaging through the "Sale" section at around 6:30. It didn't take long for me to discover treasure.

If I'm not mistaken, the phenomenon of discovering confessionally Reformed books in Christian mega-bookstores is as much enigmatic in the Philippines as it would have been in the U.S. (as enigmatic as hearing confessionally Reformed preaching in megachurches). On this trip, however, I was in the Twilight Zone—I found a copy of Joseph Pipa, Jr.'s "The Lord's Day!"

I discovered the book early on in my having embraced the confessionally Reformed faith and it formed the foundation of my understanding of the Sabbath—its creational warrant and eschatological import, to name just a couple of points (I still owe my pastor a book review!).

In gratitude, I'd like to share Joseph Pipa, Jr.'s Sermon Audio page, with 278 of his sermons available for your download and edification.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Truth Bearers

"Here then, in the last analysis, lies the significance of Dordt for today. The followers of Dordt, together with their brethren, the followers of Westminster, alone have the wherewithal with which to proclaim the gospel of the sovereign grace of God at all. Today the battle of Armageddon is on. It is up to those who prize their heritage as children of the Reformation and, more specifically, of the Reformed Reformation to lead all the true followers of the self-identifying Christ of Scripture against unbelief without and against unbelief within the church"

Cornelius Van Til, "The Significance of Dordt for Today," in Crisis in the Reformed Churches, Peter Y. De Jong, editor, Reformed Fellowship, Inc., p. 195.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Better "Daily Devotional"

I'm not certain if the case is the same in the U.S., but I think it would not be a hasty generalization to state that RBC's "Our Daily Bread" is the staple pietist "devotional" literature here in the Philippines. I used to be one of the consumers (stacks of the booklet still bedeck a part of our storeroom). Needless to say, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone desiring their daily dose of spiritual high. In fact, I wouldn't recommend seeking such highs.

Lest I be taken wrongly, I am not advocating the notion of the unimportance of private devotion. Private Bible study and prayer are indeed important—but they take a back seat to the corporate expression of piety that is manifested in the context of the visible church (read: attending the Sabbath meeting, expecting the covenant of grace renewed through preaching and ratified through the Sacraments). Approaching private devotion in the attitude of seeking emotionally-charged theophanies is a recipe for grounding one's sense of assurance on oneself (subjectively) rather than on Christ's person and finished work (objective), and that would be precarious.

But if you must insist, I can recommend D.A. Carson's "For the Love of God" for your daily devotional needs (just beware of Baptistic innuendos every now and then)—AND THIS(!):

Also available here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Response to Donald Miller's Anti-Intellectualism

In this recent blog post, Donald Miller makes some proposals. I'd like to interact with them on a per paragraph basis.

DM: "The church in America is led by scholars. Essentially, the church is a robust school system created around a framework of lectures and discussions and study. We assume this is the way its supposed to be because this is all we have ever known. I think the scholars have done a good job, but they’ve also recreated the church in their own image. Churches are essentially schools. They look like schools with lecture halls, classrooms, cafeterias and each new church program is basically a teaching program."

ME: If only that were the case, but as J.P. Moreland states,

"Since the 1960s, we have experienced an evolution in what we expect a local church pastor to be. Forty years ago he was expected to be a resident authority on theology and biblical teaching. Slowly this gave way to a model of the pastor as the CEO of the church, the administrative and organizational leader. Today the ministers we want are Christianized pop therapists who are entertaining to listen to" (Love Your God With All Your Mind - The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul, ch.10, pg.188-189, emphasis mine).

So we have a bit of hasty generalization here on the part of Miller, a fallacious statement which he will go on to elaborate as a problem. I wish he had been more specific as to how the "scholars" had done a "good job" in his view.

Friday, April 8, 2011

John Calvin's Influence on Reformed Apologetics

In no way exhaustive, the following 3 points derived from John Calvin's thought enumerate the ways in which he has contributed significantly to Reformed apologetics:




More below:

The Relationship of Apologetics, Philosophy, and the Doctrine of Scripture to Each Other

Dr. K. Scott Oliphint discusses (a 3-part video):

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Divine Preference for the Ordinary

"But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, 'Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord'" (1 Corinthians 1:27-31)

Why do movie stars, athletes, and politicians get paid tons of money doing "work" that gives off seemingly ephemeral results, while those in occupations that truly contribute something of lasting value to society receive meager compensation? I believe it's because fallen human nature crave God-like glory and independence, and will do everything it can to forget that man is situated in a world totally submerged and embroiled in pain, ugliness, suffering, destruction, and sin and that he is ultimately accountable to his Creator. Movie stars, athletes, and politicians appear immune to the effects of the Fall and so we feed the illusion machine with more money-fuel to keep the party going.

In the church, this tendency is all too apparent. Whereas the Lord, in His classic underdog and lowly style, chose to mediate Himself to His people through such ordinary and mundane means as Scripture spoken, bread broken, and water whisked, the showbiz (escapist) fanatic in many in the church give off the impression that adrenalin and endorphins are the 4th and 5th objective means of grace.

Seeking ecstasy in extraordinary experiences in an attempt, perhaps, to prove to himself that he is indeed saved and being sanctified, the radical measures his "encounter" with God by how much emotional fervor and excitement is stirred up. To be sure, the whole man must be involved in the worship of God, but could it be that the desire for heightened experiences of emotional delight, which can only be satisfied in ways other than the ordinary means of grace, is an indication of a fallen taste rather than a pious palate?

John Calvin interjects, bringing to the fore the rationale behind God's preference for using base and meek artifacts:

"We see that God from the beginning ordered matters so, that, the gospel should be administered in simplicity, without any aid from eloquence. Could not he who fashions the tongues of men for eloquence, be himself eloquent if he chose to be so? While he could be so, he did not choose to be so. Why it was that he did not choose this, I find two reasons more particularly. The first is, that in a plain and unpolished manner of address, the majesty of the truth might shine forth more conspicuously, and the simple efficacy of his Spirit, without external aids, might make its way into the hearts of men. The second is, that he might more effectually try our obedience and docility, and train us at the same time to true humility. For the Lord admits none into his school but little children. Hence those alone are capable of heavenly wisdom who, contenting themselves with the preaching of the cross, however contemptible it may be in appearance, feel no desire whatever to have Christ under a mask. Hence the doctrine of the gospel required to be regulated with this view, that believers should be drawn off from all pride and haughtiness" (Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1:14-20).

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Union Then Faith or Faith Then Union?

R. Scott Clark writes, "Historically and confessionally considered, however, the Reformed have taught that this third aspect of union, existential or vital or personal union with Christ is the consequence of faith, which is the consequence of Spirit-wrought new life...God justified the ungodly, not those sanctified definitively by union with Christ. It is the justified who are united to Christ. Existential union, like many other benefits of the covenant of grace, comes through faith in Christ."

Friday, April 1, 2011

Life Lessons from a Calvin Bio

I have the book and have begun to read it last year but got sidetracked by other reading projects.

The following by Kevin DeYoung on some life lessons derivable from Calvin's life is a worthy reminder for me to not forget picking up Bruce Gordon's "Calvin" again: Some Lessons Learned from Calvin’s Biography

Related Posts with Thumbnails