Friday, September 30, 2011

The Pastor: What He Is and What He Is Not

The news of Yousef Nadarkhani, an Iranian pastor facing possible execution, has made the headlines. A good treatment of his case can be found here.

Now compare him with the brash and insolent Perry Noble:

Noble, who claims to be a pastor, doesn't want to spend time with the people of his pasture (they make him uncomfortable) and abhors the idea of doing hospital visitations while the sick person is still alive (he might agree to visit when they're dead!).

Square that with the words of the Lord Jesus Christ (the One Noble claims to serve!):

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." (Matt. 25:31-40)

Can you come to grips with the idea of Noble being willing to die for his faith? I certainly cannot by any stretch of the imagination! If mere association with Christ's sheep rubs him wrong, then to claim love for the sheep owner is a blatant lie. In fact, "If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen" (1 John 4:20).

By now it must be pretty obvious what a real pastor is, and that Perry Noble does not measure up (not even an inch). If not, then the following lectures from Sinclair Ferguson should bring home the point pretty well, i.e., the pastor is called to give his life for his Master's sheep.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mere Christianity: The Appeal to a Heterodox Past

It is often lamented that modern (or postmodern) evangelicalism does not look to the past for the foundations of its faith and practice. While this is certainly true in a strict sense, there is no escaping the universal truth expressed in Ecclesiates 1:9 and the fact that evangelicals today owe a lot to the legacies of those who've pandered a notion of mere Christianity in the past.

Claiming to get at the kernel and leaving behind the husk, these seemingly "radical" innovators are actually no more than current expressions of a rebellious individualism that has marked heretics of a bygone era. Tradition is stiff, "new measures" are where the Spirit's at, doctrine divides, and a host of other meaningless catch phrases comprise their rhetoric.

In fact, "Christian liberalism" is mere Christianity and this is what J. Gresham Machen fought against, not liberalism per se.

To C.S. Lewis fans this little snippet from Dr. Carl Trueman has much to say:

To Love Is to Know

To know in Scripture can entail the idea of factual knowledge or intimacy (often the marital kind). The latter mode is impossible without the former, and yet we often hear of "loving Jesus" divorced from the idea of theology. In such a case, the lover is infatuated with the idea of love rather than the object of love and is really quite in the throes of self-delusion.

Dr. Michael Horton has some words to say:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Westminster Wednesday: Where Have the Great Men Gone?

Scientific advancement and the industrial revolution have produced a new criterion for judging man as successful. A man is made when he has contributed significantly to industry, and a man who has thus contributed is rewarded handsomely in financial terms. Hence, the impetus for higher education has really not been the desire to know more about God, His creation, and the cultivation of the latter for the glory of the former, but the amassment of wealth. This phenomenon has produced dullards on a wholesale level.

J. Gresham Machen rightly observes:

"Scientific investigation, as has already been observed, has certainly accomplished much; it has in many respects produced a new world. But there is another aspect of the picture which should not be ignored. The modern world represents in some respects an enormous improvement over the world in which our ancestors lived; but in other respects it exhibits a lamentable decline. The improvement appears in the physical conditions of life, but in the spiritual realm there is a corresponding loss. The loss is clearest, perhaps, in the realm of art. Despite the mighty revolution which has been produced in the external conditions of life, no great poet is now living to celebrate the change; humanity has suddenly become dumb. Gone, too, are the great painters and the great musicians and the great sculptors. The art that still subsists is largely imitative, and where it is not imitative it is usually bizarre. Even the appreciation of the glories of the past is gradually being lost, under the influence of a utilitarian education that concerns itself only with the production of physical well-being." (Christianity and Liberalism, Introduction)

The solution? A Christianity that is integrally connected with the past.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pro-Choice Kebabs

This video production by Ray Comfort is worth the half hour:

What struck me off the bat was the sheer stupidity of the American youths interviewed. It could be argued that the sampling was too small to be indicative of the state of the American youngster. I sure do hope that that is the case. However, this inanity is something I see even in the local Filipino youth culture, which convinces me of a pandemic of stupidity among the younger generation.

Back to the point of this post and the video: the murder of human babies in the woman's womb. Meredith G. Kline has given treatment to this issue, and I've blogged about it in the past here.

It was from Kline's article where I first learned that the pagan Assyrians (with natural law coursing hot through their veins) had such a disgust for abortion that they made kebabs of the early, pro-choice, women's libbers among their ranks.

"As we observed at the outset, induced abortion was so abhorrent to the Israelite mind that it was not necessary to have a specific prohibition dealing with it in the Mosaic law. The Middle Assyrian laws attest to an abhorrence that was felt for this crime even in the midst of the heathendom around Israel, lacking though it did the illumination of special revelation. For in those laws a woman guilty of abortion was condemned to be impaled on stakes. Even if she managed to lose her own life in producing the abortion, she was still to be impaled and hung up in shame as an expression of the community's repudiation of such an abomination. It is hard to imagine a more damning commentary on what is taking place in enlightened America today than that provided by this legal witness out of the conscience of benighted ancient paganism!" (Lex Talionis and the Human Fetus).

Is there a place for giant-sized meat skewers in our day? I am inclined to answer in the affirmative.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pat Robertson: The Monster-Maker

I'm sure you're aware of the infamous "advice" that Pat Robertson gave this husband about the legitimacy of divorcing his "walking death" wife who suffers from Alzheimer's. See video below:

Square that with Paul's own "advice":

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim. 5:8).

Got me thinking: What sort of being is actually worse than an unbeliever? Van Til's antithesis gives us only two kinds of human being, the believer and the unbeliever, so there must be something outside of this binary construct. Then it dawned on me: DEMONS.

John Calvin deemed this third kind to be MONSTERS:

He says that they who do not care about any of their relatives, and especially about their own house, have 'denied the faith.' And justly; for there is no piety towards God, when a person can thus lay aside the feelings of humanity. Would faith, which makes us the sons of God, render us worse than brute beasts? Such inhumanity, therefore, is open contempt of God, and denying of the faith.

Not content with this, Paul heightens the criminality of their conduct, by saying, that he who forgets his own is worse than an infidel This is true for two reasons. First, the further advanced any one is in the knowledge of God, the less is he excused; and therefore, they who shut their eyes against the clear light of God are worse than infidels. Secondly, this is a kind of duty which nature itself teaches; for they are natural affections. And if, by the mere guidance of nature, infidels are so prone to love their own, what must we think of those who are not moved by any such feeling? Do they not go even beyond the ungodly in brutality? If it be objected, that, among unbelievers, there are also many parents that are cruel and savage; the explanation is easy, that Paul is not speaking of any parents but those who, by the guidance and instruction of nature, take care of their own offspring; for, if any one have degenerated from that which is so perfectly natural, he ought to be regarded as a monster. (Commentary on 1 Tim. 5:8)

So Pat Robertson is actually asking us to become DEMONS and MONSTERS given the right circumstances. Can't get more ANTI-CHRISTIAN than that!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Westminster Wednesday: Beauty

In the following WTJ article, Dr. William Edgar discusses the role that beauty played, and still plays, in the intellectual developments of various contexts.

Noteworthy is the observation that scientific breakthroughs arose not chiefly out of utilitarian consideration but aesthetic.

A typical example is the work of Joe Rosen from the University of Tel Aviv. After explicating extraordinarily complex examples of broken charge symmetry and the like, he asks, 'What makes a theory beautiful?' The answer is something of a tautology: 'Most scientists are prejudiced in favor of (what they consider to be) beautiful theories and feel (albeit irrationally) that nature should be described by beautiful theories.' Far more popular assays by those proclaiming the parallels between theology, science, and cosmology can be cited. For example, there is the work of Jeffrey Sobosan, who argues that the very uselessness of the stars in heaven means they have an aesthetic purpose. We are free to contemplate their beauty, and to be jolted by that into recognizing the true goodness of the cosmos, and, behind that, of its Maker. The enigmatic Stephen Wolfram is currently working on a theory of order in complexity that may speak even more eloquently of intelligence behind the design of things.


Thomas Kuhn, of course, has worked with a similar notion since the mid twentieth century, noting that the paradigm shifts leading to scientific revolutions were often experienced because of aesthetics, not measurement. To be precise, it was in large part out of a sense of 'admirable symmetry,' that is, the 'clear bond of harmony in the motion and magnitude of the spheres,' that drove Copernicus to question the older, earth-centered astronomy and to suggest a sun-centered system. As Kuhn puts it, 'Copernicus’ arguments are not pragmatic. They appeal, if at all, not to the utilitarian sense of the practicing astronomer but to his aesthetic sense and to that alone.'

Commenting on the phenomenon of the seeming mass migration of individuals from modern evangelicalism to more "traditional" expressions of Christianity, Dr. Edgar notes:

A variety of factors have stimulated churches to rethink the issues of beauty. One of them is the relatively modest delivery of seeker-friendly worship. It is significant to note that many churches which had become 'post-traditional' in an attempt to adapt to contemporary tastes in order to reach outsiders are now reconsidering. They found they missed the mysterious, the prophetic, and the beautiful, especially the rich musical heritage of the church of the ages. Even advocates of 'blended' worship and other attempts to reach out to different social groups find themselves defending the importance of aesthetics and making disclaimers about selling-out. The exodus from Protestant Evangelicalism to the other major communions, Roman Catholic and Orthodox, is due in part to aesthetics. Among the top reasons given for former evangelicals who take the 'Canterbury trail' is the perceived dearth of artistic sensibility in the typical low-church culture.

I haven't finished going through the whole article and have yet to get to the really juicy parts. I will be posting more about these wonderful revelations in the coming days, God-willing.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rage On!

In his trademark wit and humor, Dr. D. G. Hart responds to Justin Taylor's newest inveighing against "angry Calvinists" here (labeling Driscoll as clairvoyant was like fly on flypaper!).

***I had to take down the Heidelblog-derived content at the request of Dr. Clark***

Dr. Carl Trueman exhorts us to rage where rage is required:

And, while it may salve the surprisingly sensitive aesthetic consciences of some to convince themselves that our critiques are simply in bad taste, nothing more than the routine rants of rabid Reformed rottweilers, this is simply not the case.....Rather, we do what we do because we simply refuse to allow to go unchallenged the received mythology concerning the evils of Reformed Orthodoxy; we do what we do because we love the Reformed faith as much as we dislike shoddy historical writing; we do what we do to make our own small contribution to criticism of the bland aesthetic tastes of modern evangelical theology; and, above all, we do what we do because to remain silent at such a time as this would be to abdicate our moral responsibility to the church. In short, we do it because it is right for us to do so. The light may well be dying, but we will rage, rage against it; and be assured, we will never go gentle into that good night. (Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light, WTJ 70 [2008]: 18)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Great Minds Reject Univocity

Contra Gordon Clark, Carl Trueman, speaking of the archetypal/ectypal distinction in epistemology, indicates how the Reformed have always thought of this distinction:

"In Reformed theology, the distinction functions in such a way as to delimit human knowledge of God and to underline the fact that theology is utterly dependent upon God's act of condescending to reveal himself. This acknowledgement ensures that theological statements are only apprehensive, not comprehensive, of the truth as it is in God. Language can thus be referential, but there is no simple one-to-one correspondence between human words and divine realities as they exist in God himself. The presence and function of this distinction in, say, the Leiden Synopsis, or Francis Turretin or, later, in Herman Bavinck, denotes a theological sensitivity to the innate weakness of human language when talking of God; and it roots such God-talk not in any true rationalism but in the free, condescending, revelatory acts of God himself. Such language is still referential; and truth still has a non-negotiable objectivity; but it is not rationalism in any recognizable Enlightenment sense." (Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light, WTJ 70 [2008]: 10, 11)

I can imagine Trueman and Van Til sharing beer over this.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Westminster Wednesday: Is History Important? True, Man!

Dr. Carl Trueman makes the case here.

I haven't finished going through the whole piece, but what I've read thus far has convinced me of its blog-worthiness.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Holy, Holy, Holy Is the Lord!

Just yesterday, a package arrived at my doorstep. Even before glancing at the sender information, I already had a solid hunch about from whom it came, and I was right. My good friend from the U.S., Joel de Leon, had sent me another "bag" of Reformed goodies! Among them was a 3-CD goody from Ligonier containing R.C. Sproul's classic teaching series on the the holiness of God, aptly entitled The Holiness of God.

I haven't finished going through the whole set, but the second lecture entitled, "The Trauma of Holiness," struck a chord. In the lecture, Sproul exposits Isaiah 6, specifically, verses 1 to 8.

The following are the gems that I've gleaned:

Friday, September 9, 2011

Michael Horton on PCovRC's 3rd Anniversary

In celebration of Pasig Covenant Reformed Church's 3rd Anniversary, Dr. Michael Horton, in typical gracious fashion, offered up the following words of edification:

We are cordially inviting everyone to come and share this day with us. See details here.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Westminster Wednesday: Trueman on a Much-Abused Phrase

Anti-confessionalists almost always have this phrase, "semper reformanda," ready on their lips. As a justifying smokescreen for almost every innovation in the area of church polity, worship, preaching, evangelism, etc., it really is anemic.

The thing that strikes me as funny is that so much of this has been going on for quite a while now that the impetus behind the movement has all but been negated. Wanting to shed the outmoded garb of "traditionalism," these trendy churches are now the norm, and people are finding out that it really does not deliver. Being different is now the "tradition," and like the man who built his house on sand, the inevitability of collapse is undeniable.

Carl Trueman reminds us that the church is "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord" (Eph. 2:20, 21), thereby historic, catholic, and Reformed (ad fontes!).

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Idolization of Children Is the Hatred of Them

"Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him" (Prov. 13:24).

"Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6).

I must admit that I grew up fearing my mom (quite typical of the Filipino household wherein the father is mostly concerned with putting food on the table). I rendered obedience mostly out of fear of chastisement than love and respect.

While I am of the opinion that the ideal scenario should be that children obey their parents out of love, respect, and gratitude, discipline (be it physical or otherwise) is nonetheless warranted. I can honestly say that I am better off on account of my mom's strictness than I would have been had she "idolized" her children to the point of neglecting this key aspect of a parent's job.

In the article reproduced below, Carl Trueman offers some good commentary on the predicament of "child idolatry" that is all too prevalent in present society.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Was Man's Reason Unaffected by the Fall? Turretin Denies

Gordon Clark and his followers believe and proclaim the affirmative. They assert that the human intellect remained in its pristine condition even after man's descent into sin and that the sin problem is one solely of an ethical nature.

While the sin problem is indeed ethical, an immediate observation is the undue and coerced bifurcation made between reason and the will (an assumed independence). What the position seems to be saying is that the will can act independently of what the mind deems as good and fitting. Even in the case of addictions, where it seems that the will and emotions are acting in rebellion against the mind, the intellectual involvement is ever present in its estimation of the pleasure to be derived from engaging in the illicit act.

But what does one of the prime exponents of Reformed Orthodoxy have to say about the state of reason in unregenerate man? Let us reckon with Francis Turretin's words:

The Book of Psalms, the Book of Christ

What could be a better way of starting a Saturday than to have the beauty of the Book of Psalms extolled through a clear, gentle, and lucid explanation of the Regulative Principle of Worship (except a Saturday when Turretin's Institutes arrives and someone tells you that he's gonna give you Bavinck's 4-vol Reformed Dogmatics for free!)?

Watch and listen to Ptr. Jeff Stivason of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church talk about the beauty of worshiping God in the manner that truly pleases him.

Friday, September 2, 2011

My Credo, by Cornelius Van Til

If you want to know what Cornelius Van Til was all about and where he was coming from, as narrated by the man himself, and be thoroughly refreshed and inspired in the process, then read on.

How can I express my appreciation adequately for the honor you have conferred on me by your contributions to this Festschrift? I shall try to do so first by setting forth in this, my "Credo," a general statement of my main beliefs as I hold them today. Then I shall deal separately with the problems and objections some of you have raised in respect to my views in separate response to the essays themselves. I hope that by doing this we may be of help to one another as together we present the name of Jesus as the only name given under heaven by which men must be saved.
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