Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Analogy of Poor Street Kids

Traversing the pathways and hallways of the metropolis, one cannot help but be confronted with the sad sight of children of various ages, in rags that pass off as clothes, pandering services that range from wiping off otherwise clean windshields of phantom grime, hawking sampaguita buds, to just plain begging for scraps and loose change. When I am thus confronted, I think of my own kids.

I noticed that ever since I became a father, my compassion for children underwent a deepening. I cannot look at them without thinking of my own. My heart is ripped from my chest when I see these street kids, and I think to myself that if not for the providence of God, it could have been Sophia and David sticking their faces on side car windows, wide-eyed, with that trademark sad look plastered on to all the more entice the parting of one's negligibles from oneself.

And then I am reminded of God the Father. Is it not the case that when He looks at those whom He has redeemed, He sees His own Son? He, nonetheless, sees our filth, the odiousness of the sin that we have wrapped ourselves in as with tattered rags, and yet His heart is tugged and pulled, and love and compassion are drawn from Him as He hearkens back to His Son, to His dear Son who obeyed Him at every point for the redemption of these pitiful "street kids" called the elect. What a wonderful analogy of the tenderness of a father's heart the Lord has seen fit to present to us in what would otherwise be an unequivocally tragic scene.

I am a poor street kid, adopted into the family of God because of what Christ the Son did on my behalf. At the present time, the stink and dirt of sin still emanate from me, perceivable by the Father. And yet, even as I cry inside for these impoverished children of the cities, longing for the alleviation of their condition but powerless to do anything about it, the Father, in the grandest of scales, feels the same, sees and thinks of His own Son as He sees me, and in fact will do something about it—when I am freed from this mortal coil and clothed with glorious immortality at the coming of Jesus Christ, my Lord, my Savior, my God, my Brother.

"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are" (1 John 3:1).

Friday, July 29, 2011

Next to the Bible, What Is the Second Most Important Book?

According to Carl Trueman, it is J. Gresham Machen's Christianity and Liberalism, a book that tackled an issue that will stay an issue up until the eschaton finally breaks in.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Goodness of Gandhi and the Like?

Cast a doubt on whether Mohandas Gandhi (or even Mother Teresa and Cory Aquino) is in heaven, enjoying eternal bliss in the presence of Christ, and more often than not, you will be met with fierce antagonism from those who do not properly comprehend the biblical doctrine of Total Depravity—because these people were good.

Calvin offers us a timely reminder that it is only by God's restraining providence, through common grace, that not every one of us are as evil and barbaric as our totally depraved natures provide potential for us to be, and that ultimately, it is not our goodness that saves us but the goodness of the One who lived and died in the place of the elect:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dream Theater Song Reminds Me of John Calvin

"If I seem superhuman, I have been misunderstood."

Westminster Wednesday: DVD vs. RubeRad on Images of Christ

Today's WW features a debate that took place between two doctors on the issue of images of Christ (or God), with Dr. David VanDrunen on the anti-images side, and Dr. Ruben Settegren (RubeRad) on the pro-images side.

Note that both sides are against the use of images in the context of public worship, as both adhere to the Reformed Regulative Principle of Worship. The debate hinges on whether depicting Christ's image outside of worship (normative) is forbidden by Scripture. DVD says yes, while RubeRad says it is adiaphora.

I personally enjoyed listening to this debate, as the atmosphere was cool and relaxed, oozing with camaraderie (though possibly offensive to pietistic teetotalers), while still maintaining the erudition that good debates are made of. This debate is part of periodic debates that go on at Hoagies and Stogies. Enjoy!

Part 1: Debate Proper

Part 2: Q & A

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Way to the Unregenerate's Heart Is Through His Stomach?

While it is certainly the duty of the Christian to do good to his neighbor inasmuch as his capacity allows, there is a predominant view among many that it is the unqualified duty of the Church to help in the alleviation of poverty, and this as a pretext for evangelism.

Are we to extend aid to all the poor? Do we not prioritize the poor brethren over the poor unregenerate?

My pastor, in this excellent article, answers these questions and more.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Man Behind Luther's "Pics"

Ever wondered about the identity of the artist behind most, if not all, of Martin Luther's image depictions?

Wonder no more. The man who rendered his artistic acumen to the cause of the Reformation was Lucas Cranach the Elder.

Wikipedia describes him as a "court painter to the Electors of Saxony for most of his career, and is known for his portraits, both of German princes and those of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation, whose cause he embraced with enthusiasm, becoming a close friend of Martin Luther."

More of his works here.

Theology and Philosophy: Husband and Wife or Employer and Employee?

"Theology rules over philosophy, and this latter acts as a handmaid to and subserves the former." (Francis Turretin, Institutes, I:xiii:2)

The vid below, courtesy of Reformed Forum generosity, contains over an hour of profitable, erudite discussion on the relationsip between theology and philosophy. Enjoy!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Stop Studying Theology

Is my love for theology grounded on the desire to grow my gratitude to God by gaining deeper knowledge of who He is and the marvelous works that He has done, for the hastening of my conformity to Christ and the benefit of my family and the Church—or is it because of less nobler motivations (more blog fodder!)?

Carl Trueman sets me straight:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Motley Crü

Campus Crusade for Christ is changing its name to "Cru."

The change comes short of true relevance and hipness. For that you need the touch of Dr. Feelgood (yeah!) by adding a metal umlaut on the letter "U"—Crü!

Now you're ready to conquer the world (tour?)! LOL.

Paul Helm on Piper

Paul Helm offers a gentle criticism of Piper's "Christian Hedonism" here.

I think one problem with Piper's approach is that it does not deal with piety covenantally. Whereas Scripture, and the Reformed confessions, teach that piety is born out of the gratitude that is created in the heart and mind of the redeemed sinner by virtue of being made right with God, Piper proposes that piety is born out of an "appreciation" of the excellencies of God that is not so much mediated through the preaching of the Word and the Sacraments but through an immediate, predominantly emotional, awareness of God's perfections.

The Heidelberg Catechism states:

Question 86. Since then we are delivered from our misery, merely of grace, through Christ, without any merit of ours, why must we still do good works?

Answer: Because Christ, having redeemed and delivered us by his blood, also renews us by his Holy Spirit, after his own image; that so we may testify, by the whole of our conduct, our gratitude to God for his blessings, and that he may be praised by us; also, that every one may be assured in himself of his faith, by the fruits thereof; and that, by our godly conversation others may be gained to Christ.

The neo-Platonism is as evident in Piper as it is in his hero, Jonathan Edwards.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Westminster Wednesday: "Unionism"?

There is somewhat of a "debate" within Reformed circles, one that sees the "unionist" up against the "justificationist." While the doctrines of union with Christ and justification are both unequivocally propounded in Scripture and the Reformed confessions, there has been a tendency in the unionist camp to diminish the importance of the forensic aspect of the redemptive transaction in its wholesale insistence that every God-bestowed blessing is ours solely by virtue of union with Christ.

This view would be in error if it was referring to the mystical/existential union with Christ wrought by the Spirit after justification by grace, through faith. This is precisely the case with the unionist who does not cozy up to the notion of the abstract category of "union with Christ" as being particularized in three aspects: decretal union (election), federal union (active and passive obedience of Christ), and mystical/existential (individualized application of the merits of Christ's active and passive obedience).

The classic Reformed view is that mystical/existential union, by which we are made to be partakers of all that is ours in Christ, is preceded by justification, but grounded in both decretal and federal union. There is a way to uphold union with Christ without sacrificing the Reformed consensus on the priority of justification.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Calvin on the Essential, the Important, and the Indifferent

There are those who are debate trigger-happy, and those who, though embracing valid debating, know the difference between the essential, the important, and the indifferent.

I now invite you to be among the latter group by reading through this short article by Stephen Doe, an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and pastor of Bethel Reformed Presbyterian Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Westminster Wednesday: The Artistry of Meredith Kline

I apologize for the delay of this week's Westminster Wednesday. However, it is my opinion that this week's offering all but makes up for the hold up, as it is a short but profound insight on a key character aspect of one of the giants of the Reformed faith—Meredith Kline the artist.

As an artist myself (I have some aptitude for drawing, drumming, and scribbling poetry), knowing of Kline's musical inclinations made me love him even more. But barring this commonality, art, if not in its creation but in its appreciation, should figure predominantly in the life of the Christian, most especially the minister, as T. David Gordon proposes, "In addition to studying the scriptures in the original languages, the reading of poetry is most helpful in cultivating literary sensibility," which most certainly is significant to the preacher's task.

So here, for your enjoyment and inspiration, do I repost Gregory Edward Reynolds's article on Meredith George Kline:

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Anabaptist/Baptist Confusion

Many are perplexed as to how the Reformed can tie OT circumcision with NT baptism and how infant baptism, practiced by the universal Church of Christ for 1500+ years prior to Anabaptism, is biblical, both on theological and exegetical grounds.

The fretting will cease (at least it must for the thinking Christian!) after one goes through this essay by Rev. Professor-Emeritus Dr. Francis Nigel Lee, entitled, From Circumcision to Baptism " Baptism" – Colossians 2:11-12 (Biblical refutation of the baptismal views of Baptists and Anabaptists).

The material can be accessed here or here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Trinity in Everything

To be Christian is to be Trinitarian. To be anything otherwise and still claim Christianity is to be in a state of damnable error and deception. In fact, the whole of created reality bears the stamp of the-One-and-the-Many as evinced in the universal-particulars relationship inherent in every created object. God's Trinitarian "seal of approval" is emblazoned on creation as it is on redemption.

Robert Letham, a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and teacher of Systematic and Historical Theology at Wales Evangelical School of Theology, explains how our whole being must possess an utterly Trinitarian thrust in terms of the expressions of our piety—in prayer, preaching, the worship service, and the Sacraments:

My "Testimony"

I'm sure we've all witnessed this peculiar aspect of broad evangelicalism wherein people go up the stage in order to narrate their own personal "testimonies." Usually, this would consist in the person having received some blessing, either positively or negatively (the former taking the form of additional assets, the latter rescue from loss).

While proclaiming the goodness of the Lord in our lives to others is warranted, it should always be remembered that our lives are not the Gospel, and that we should not fall into the seeker-sensitive mistake of assuming that our "attractive" lives are enough to snatch others from the flames apart from the doctrinal preaching of the person and work of Christ.

With that said, allow me to direct you to my own personal "testimony"—my journey from error into the historic, catholic, and confessionally Reformed faith:

Truly Reformed

The Joy of Being Confessionally Reformed

Hidden Treasure

Proud to Be a Member of Pasig Covenant Reformed Church

Monday, July 11, 2011

All Trinitarian Baptism is Valid—Hence, the Invalidity of Anabaptism

Christian baptism is not a baptism into a denomination, group, etc., but a baptism into the Christian faith, as grounded upon the ontological Trinity. This speaks of the universality (catholicity) of the true Church of Christ, marked by its confession of the Trinity, and that baptism in any of the different denominations, groups, etc. that have this Trinitarian confession is a valid baptism, as it is a baptism into the Trinity. Hence, Anabaptism (rebaptism) is definitely error of an egregious sort, if not utterly sinful (as absurd as regrowing foreskin for recircumcision!).

Dr. Francis Nigel Lee explains:

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Sum of Salvation is Christ

If the title's proposition is true, then why would there be ringing in the pulpits devoid of the declaration of the person and work of Christ? If the Christian life is held afloat by the gratitude that is formed by the realization in heart and mind of what Christ is for us, then why do bare platitudes and niceties blare from the mouths of those who supposedly are Christ's mouthpieces?

No preaching is true, biblical preaching unless it is redemptive-historical. Christ Himself testifies, "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me" (John 5:39). Preachers who have a penchant for serving "10 steps to this" or "being a better that" think they are preaching life, but the Law kills. "Do this and do that" preaching is Law-preaching. Indeed, the Law must be declared from the pulpits, but apart from an ensuing proclamation of Christ in the Gospel, the Law will only be capable of doing one thing: bring despair. Why? Because God demands perfect obedience to the Law.

But how can the Law be made lovely? Only by the knowledge that Christ has perfectly obeyed the Law and paid its penalty in our stead, and that grateful for this, the Law becomes our guide for expressing this gratitude through its obedience.

Calvin says it best:

"When we see that the whole sum of our salvation, and every single part of it, are comprehended in Christ, we must beware of deriving even the minutest portion of it from any other quarter. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that he possesses it; if we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, we shall find them in his unction; strength in his government; purity in his conception; indulgence in his nativity, in which he was made like us in all respects, in order that he might learn to sympathise with us: if we seek redemption, we shall find it in his passion; acquittal in his condemnation; remission of the curse in his cross; satisfaction in his sacrifice; purification in his blood; reconciliation in his descent to hell; mortification of the flesh in his sepulchre; newness of life in his resurrection; immortality also in his resurrection; the inheritance of a celestial kingdom in his entrance into heaven; protection, security, and the abundant supply of all blessings, in his kingdom; secure anticipation of judgement in the power of judging committed to him. In fine, since in him all kinds of blessings are treasured up, let us draw a full supply from him, and none from any other quarter. Those who, not satisfied with him alone, entertain various hopes from others, though they may continue to look to him chiefly, deviate from the right path by the simple fact, that some portion of their thought takes a different direction. No distrust of this description can arise when once the abundance of his blessings is properly known." (Institutes 2.16.19)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Westminster Wednesday: The TV Church

What is the 'electronic church'? If you turn on your TV, you will find a variety of religious broadcasting, from Roman Catholic masses to traditional Presbyterian services to charismatic talk shows. Some of these programmes are rather amateurish local broadcasts of local worship services. Others are sophisticated and expensive programmes syndicated all over the world. Some of these programmes are produced by honest, earnest people trying to be helpful to others. Others seem to have questionable messages and methods. In one sense, all these programmes are part of the electronic church.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Primer on Francis Turretin

Francis Turretin is arguably the greatest Protestant Scholastic of the 17th century.

What is scholasticism?

"A discourse is 'scholastic' only when it follows scholastic method–specifically, only when it concentrates on (1) identifying the order and pattern of argument suitable to technical academic discourse, (2) presenting an issue in the form of a thesis or question, (3) ordering the thesis or question suitably for discussion or debate, often identifying the 'state of the question,' (4) noting a series of objections to the assumed correct answer, and then (5) offering a formulation of an answer or an elaboration of the thesis with due respect to all known sources of information and to the rules of rational discourse, followed by a full response to all objections. When that form or its outlines are not observed in a work, that work is not scholastic. By way of example, Thomas Aquinas's Summa theologiae is certainly a scholastic work–but his commentary on the Gospel of John is not, even though its content stands in strong and clear relation to the content of the Summa. Another example, taken from a place somewhat closer to home: Ursinus's Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism is, arguably, scholastic. The catechism itself is clearly not–even though the theological content of the catechism closely reflects that of the commentary written on it" (Richard Muller, After Calvin, 26 [found at Richard Muller on 'What Makes Something Scholastic?'])

Who was Francis Turretin?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Biblical Counseling is Van Tillian

"I would say that if you were to look at primary sources for what biblical counseling is, that Scripture, orthodox theology are gonna be what you'd first say. But from a deep structure standpoint, it is Van Tillian utterly from beginning to end." (David Powlison)

More here.

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