Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Primer on the Marrow Controversy



If you've heard of the famous book, The Marrow of Modern Divinity, written by the Puritan Edward Fisher, and of the controversy that ensued from it (aptly called "The Marrow Controversy") but have no real foundational information on the subject, then you would benefit from this primer, written by Joseph H. Hall, entitled, The Marrow Controversy: A Defense of Grace and the Free Offer of the Gospel.

I personally have the "Marrow" book but have yet to finish reading it. Spending your money on this book is definitely an instance of money well spent (even more so if you order through the link provided below...hehehe), for you will surely grow in your knowledge, appreciation and application of the Gospel.











Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Irrationalism, QIRE, and Challies



In this recent blog post, mega-blogger Tim Challies reports of another reason for why he left a confessionally Reformed church in favor of an Anabaptist one, this time the rationale being that the former did not have a strong "evangelistic" suit, born, he claims, out of a seemingly deeply-ingrained distaste for the unregenerate.

While his criticism may indeed be valid, his reaction of going from the context of strong, historical, and Reformed confessionalism to the converse does not share the same quality. In fact, I would say that it is irrational. If irrationalism is the claim that all that is true are the particulars around us, and that there are no universals that dictate upon how particulars operate, then Challies' subsequent embracing of more "feely," experience-driven Anabaptism fits the bill of irrationalism very nicely.

While it is possible for him to assert that the confessionally Reformed faith lacks the quality of "universal" (archetypal), based on biblical theological grounds, it is more likely that the reason he "jumped ship" is that, experientially, he was not being satisfied. This reminds me of Dr. R. Scott Clark's QIRE (Quest for Illegitimate Religious Experience):

"QIRE is then the practical dimension of QIRC. It denies that God mediates His interaction with man through the means of grace, namely, the preaching of the gospel and the sacraments. It posits that man is able to connect with God apart from the institutions that God has ordained in Scripture, thereby blurring the Creator-creature distinction. It is easy to spot more glaring instances of this error in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, but subtle variations also occur in the spiritual disciplines advocacies of many notable figures that are common in supposedly Reformed circles." (Underdog Theology, BOOK REVIEW: Recovering the Reformed Confession (Our Theology, Piety, and Practice) by R. Scott Clark—Chapter I, 'Whatever Became of Reformed Theology, Piety, and Practice?' PART 1)

While Challies' regression from Reformed confessionalism to Anabaptism is lamentable, the blessing that his wisdom has afforded many, through his blog and books, is definitely laudable.




Westminster Wednesday: A Couple of Baptism Debates



"Is infant baptism Protestant? In short, yes. All the Protestant Reformers including Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin held to infant baptism. Though these three great Protestants disagreed on many things, they all agreed on the Protestant doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. They also agreed that infant baptism is a biblical practice and the best expression of the Protestant gospel. In fact, infant baptism has been the practice of the historic Christian church since the Apostolic period. Of course the historic practice of the church does not settle the question. Historic practice, however, suggests a certain presumption in favor of infant baptism. Nevertheless, tradition alone is not sufficient reason for any practice in the church. Therefore Reformed Christians practice covenant baptism because we are commanded to do so in both the Old and New Covenant Scriptures.

We believe that the Bible alone is the Spirit inspired, infallible, Word of God written. God's Word alone is the source of our faith. Comparing our ideas with God's clear revelation in the Bible is the only way to safety and certainty." (Dr. R. Scott Clark, A Contemporary Reformed Defense of Infant Baptism)

The links to the Robert Strimple vs. Fred Malone debate here (Part 1), here (Part 2), and here (Part 3), and the link to the David VanDrunen vs. Thomas Schreiner debate here.





Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Resurrection Sneak Preview?



The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many (Matt. 27:52-53).

I've been stumped about how to properly understand this passage, and as there are many takes on it, it behooves me to consult the premier Reformer for his shot at this curiosity. It is another hallmark of Calvin's able treatment of Scripture that he does not rush headlong into speculation but takes the wisdom-driven cautious approach.

"But here a question arises. Why did God determine that only some should arise, since a participation in the resurrection of Christ belongs equally to all believers? I reply: As the time was not fully come when the whole body of the Church should be gathered to its Head, he exhibited in a few persons an instance of the new life which all ought to expect. For we know that Christ was received into heaven on the condition that the life of his members should still be hid, (Colossians 3:3,) until it should be manifested by his coming. But in order that the minds of believers might be more quickly raised to hope, it was advantageous that the resurrection, which was to be common to all of them, should be tasted by a few.

Another and more difficult question is, What became of those saints afterwards? For it would appear to be absurd to suppose that, after having been once admitted by Christ to the participation of a new life, they again returned to dust. But as this question cannot be easily or quickly answered, so it is not necessary to give ourselves much uneasiness about a matter which is not necessary to be known. That they continued long to converse with men is not probable; for it was only necessary that they should be seen for a short time, that in them, as in a mirror or resemblance, the power of Christ might plainly appear. As God intended, by their persons, to confirm the hope of the heavenly life among those who were then alive, there would be no absurdity in saying that, after having performed this office, they again rested in their graves. But it is more probable that the life which they received was not afterwards taken from them; for if it had been a mortal life, it would not have been a proof of a perfect resurrection. Now, though the whole world will rise again, and though Christ will raise up the wicked to judgment, as well as believers to salvation, yet as it was especially for the benefit of his Church that he rose again, so it was proper that he should bestow on none but saints the distinguished honor of rising along with him." (John Calvin, Commentary on Matthew 27:52)





Unicron



I grew up loving the old Transformers cartoon (even shed a few tears when Optimus died in the first animated movie—LOL). Given that the action figure was quite pricey for my parents at the time, I ended up owning only the cheapest of the lot. Nonetheless, I still have a fondness for the franchise and am excited about the upcoming Transformers 3 (Dark of the Moon) movie, which I heard features Unicron!

The vid below is some piece of magnificent, menacing music, often called "Unicron's Theme." Enjoy!




Monday, June 27, 2011

Machen on the Perichoresis Between Evangelism and Apologetics



Getting on a street corner (or the other side of the globe), oozing with enthusiasm, is not enough. J. Gresham Machen explains why:

"We are all agreed that at least one great function of the Church is the conversion of individual men. The missionary movement is the great religious movement of our day. Now it is perfectly true that men must be brought to Christ one by one. There are no labor-saving devices in evangelism. It is all hand-work.And yet it would be a great mistake to suppose that all men are equally well prepared to receive the gospel. It is true that the decisive thing is the regenerative power of God. That can overcome all lack of preparation, and the absence of that makes even the best preparation useless. But as a matter of fact God usually exerts that power in connection with certain prior conditions of the human mind, and it should be ours to create, so far as we can, with the help of God, those favorable conditions for the reception of the gospel. False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel. We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation or of the world to be controlled by ideas which, by the resistless force of logic, prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion. Under such circumstances, what God desires us to do is to destroy the obstacle at its root.....What is today a matter of academic speculation begins tomorrow to move armies and pull down empires. In that second stage, it has gone too far to be combatted; the time to stop it was when it was still a matter of impassionate debate. So as Christians we should try to mold the thought of the world in such a way as to make the acceptance of Christianity something more than a logical absurdity.....Is it not far easier to be an earnest Christian if you confine your attention to the Bible and do not risk being led astray by the thought of the world? We answer, of course it is easier. Shut yourself up in an intellectual monastery, do not disturb yourself with the thoughts of unregenerate men, and of course you will find it easier to be a Christian, just as it is easier to be a good soldier in comfortable winter quarters than it is on the field of battle. You save your own soul—but the Lord's enemies remain in possession of the field." (J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Culture)





The Psalter in Calvin's Piety



"Calvin views the Psalms as the canonical manual of piety. In the preface to his five-volume commentary on the Psalms—his largest exposition of any Bible book—Calvin writes: 'There is no other book in which we are more perfectly taught the right manner of praising God, or in which we are more powerfully stirred up to the performance of this exercise of piety.' Calvin's preoccupation with the Psalter was motivated by his belief that the Psalms teach and inspire genuine piety in the following ways:

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Covenantal Apologetics: Waking Up the Already Awake

It is virtually impossible to wake someone up who is feigning sleep. It is also futile to attempt to convince the natural man of the existence of God because He already knows that God exists by virtue of being created in God's image. Romans 1:19-21 states:

"For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened."

While classical apologetics has sought to wake up the already awake, covenantal apologetics realizes that man's problem before God is not intellectual/epistemological but moral/covenantal. The natural man denies God's existence, not because of a lack of proof, but because of the desire to live autonomously, apart from the rule of God and creaturely dependence on Him. The love of sin and the love of God are mutually exclusive, and up until the Holy Spirit regenerates the sin-hardened heart in order that, through repentance and faith in Christ, man might be in the favorable side of the covenant, man will never wake up from his fake slumber.

Evangelism and apologetics stand in perichoresis to each other, and the way to engage the unregenerate is as follows:

"Here then are the facts, or some of the main facts that the Reformed apologist presents to the natural man. There is first the fact of God's self-contained existence. Second, the fact of creation in general and of man as made in God's image in particular. Third, there is the fact of the comprehensive plan and providence of God with respect to all that takes place in the universe. Then there is the fact of the fall of man and his subsequent sin. It is in relation to these facts, and only in relation to these facts, that the other facts pertaining to the redemptive work of Christ are what they are. Their very factness as facts would not be what it is unless the facts just mentioned are what they are." (Cornelius Van Til, Christian Apologetics [New Jersey: P & R, 2003], ed. William Edgar, 193)

More on covenantal apologetics here.





Saturday, June 25, 2011

Punch-Drunk on Grace?

How many times have you heard someone claim that "Rules and regulations, do's and dont's, these don't apply to me—I'm under grace!"? While it would be too damning to call them antinomians (some may just be too punch-drunk on the notion of grace), I believe the preceding sentiment is really born out of the ignorance of the enduring significance of the law in the life of the Christian. If the law is the expression of God's moral will, then as long as God endures, the law follows suit.

Dr. Joel Beeke, talking about Calvin's doctrine of piety, offers some profitable insights on the matter:

"To promote piety, the Spirit not only uses the gospel to work faith deep within the souls of his elect, as we have already seen, but he also uses the law. The law promotes piety in three ways:

1. It restrains sin and promotes righteousness in the church and society, preventing both from lapsing into chaos.

2. It disciplines, educates, and convicts us, driving us out of ourselves to Jesus Christ, the fulfiller and end of the law. The law cannot lead us to a saving knowledge of God in Christ; rather, the Holy Spirit uses it as a mirror to show us our guilt, shut us off from hope, and bring us to repentance. It drives us to the spiritual need out of which faith in Christ is born. This convicting use of the law is critical for the believer’s piety, for it prevents the ungodly self-righteousness that is prone to reassert itself even in the holiest of saints.

3. It becomes the rule of life for the believer. 'What is the rule of life which [God] has given us?' Calvin asks in the Genevan Catechism. The answer: 'His law.' Later, Calvin says the law 'shows the mark at which we ought to aim, the goal towards which we ought to press, that each of us, according to the measure of grace bestowed upon him, may endeavor to frame his life according to the highest rectitude, and, by constant study, continually advance more and more.'" (Calvin's Piety, Mid-America Journal of Theology 15 [2004], 45)





Friday, June 24, 2011

Calvin Had a Sweet Tooth



"This article is based on two theses: one general, one more specific. The general one is that one's vocabulary reflects one's character. Or, to put it a little differently, the words we choose to describe our ideas and our emotions reveal more about our personality than we usually realize. The second, more specific, thesis is this: Calvin's fondness for and frequent use of the noun sweetness and its cognates reveal not only something about Calvin's style and personality, but it also has theological ramifications.

For those enemies and detractors of Calvin who allege that he knew little or nothing about the love and grace of God, this will come as a shock. However, even for Calvin's admirers and those who are familiar with his theology this may come as a surprise. Much has been made by Calvin scholars of his favorite metaphor, the mirror and his frequent references to a labyrinth and abyss, but as far as I know, no one has noted how frequently the Reformer uses words such as sweet, sweetly, and sweetness to depict fundamental theological themes. This is surprising in view of the fact that such words occur approximately sixty-seven times in the McNeill-Battles edition of the Institutes. Battles is far more consistent in his translation of the two key words dulcêdo and suavitas and their verbal and adjectival forms as sweet and sweetness than were Beveridge and Allen, the earlier English translators. Further research has discovered hundreds of occurrences of these words in Calvin's commentaries, sermons, and treatises. Granted, these words are sometimes used in a more literal sense of taste, e.g., when Calvin contrasts something that is sweet with that which is bitter. In the majority of cases, however, Calvin uses these words to designate a quality of God's goodness or the believer's experience thereof. Here we see a side of Calvin's personality and theology that I believe deserves special attention.

We may not gain any new theological insights from Calvin's use of these words, but this investigation will, I submit, show an affective or emotive dimension of Calvin's theology thus far overlooked and will also fill out and complement his treatment of certain doctrines in a particularly delightful way." (I. John Hesselink, Calvin, Theologian of Sweetness)








Thursday, June 23, 2011

Graduation Day



"But, most strange to say, many who boast of being Christians, instead of thus longing for death, are so afraid of it that they tremble at the very mention of it as a thing ominous and dreadful. We cannot wonder, indeed, that our natural feelings should be somewhat shocked at the mention of our dissolution. But it is altogether intolerable that the light of piety should not be so powerful in a Christian breast as with greater consolation to overcome and suppress that fear. For if we reflect that this our tabernacle, unstable, defective, corruptible, fading, pining, and putrid, is dissolved, in order that it may forthwith be renewed in sure, perfect, incorruptible, in fine, in heavenly glory, will not faith compel us eagerly to desire what nature dreads? If we reflect that by death we are recalled from exile to inhabit our native country, a heavenly country, shall this give us no comfort? But everything longs for permanent existence. I admit this, and therefore contend that we ought to look to future immortality, where we may obtain that fixed condition which nowhere appears on the earth. For Paul admirably enjoins believers to hasten cheerfully to death, not because they a would be unclothed, but clothed upon,' (2Co 5: 2). Shall the lower animals, and inanimate creatures themselves even wood and stone, as conscious of their present vanity, long for the final resurrection, that they may with the sons of God be delivered from vanity, (Rom 8: 19); and shall we, endued with the light of intellect, and more than intellect, enlightened by the Spirit of God, when our essence is in question, rise no higher than the corruption of this earth? But it is not my purpose, nor is this the place, to plead against this great perverseness. At the outset, I declared that I had no wish to engage in a diffuse discussion of common-places. My advice to those whose minds are thus timid is to read the short treatise of Cyprian De Mortalitate, unless it be more accordant with their deserts to send them to the philosophers, that by inspecting what they say on the contempt of death, they may begin to blush. This, however let us hold as fixed, that no man has made much progress in the school of Christ who does not look forward with joy to the day of death and final resurrection, (2Ti 4: 18; Tit 2: 13): for Paul distinguishes all believers by this mark; and the usual course of Scripture is to direct us thither whenever it would furnish us with an argument for substantial joy. 'Look up,' says our Lord, 'and lift up your heads: for your redemption draweth nigh,' (Luk 21: 28). Is it reasonable, I ask, that what he intended to have a powerful effect in stirring us up to alacrity and exultation should produce nothing but sadness and consternation? If it is so, why do we still glory in him as our Master? Therefore, let us come to a sounder mind, and how repugnant so ever the blind and stupid longing of the flesh may be, let us doubt not to desire the advent of the Lord not in wish only, but with earnest sighs, as the most propitious of all events. He will come as a Redeemer to deliver us from an immense abyss of evil and misery, and lead us to the blessed inheritance of his life and glory" (John Calvin, Institutes 3.9.5, emphasis mine).

Is it any wonder then that the Christian life is replete with suffering and pain, for these things that trouble us are there in order that we may be weaned off from the allurements of the world, thereby gaining a disgust for them and a deeper longing for the heavenly blessings that God has prepared for those who love Him, which "no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined" (1 Cor. 2:9), so that we may be prepared for graduation day.

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).




The Muller-Meister Asks, "Was Calvin a Calvinist?"



"Abstract: Answering the perennial question, 'Was Calvin a Calvinist?,' is a rather complicated matter, given that the question itself is grounded in a series of modern misconceptions concerning the relationship of the Reformation to post-Reformation orthodoxy. The lecture examines issues lurking behind the question and works through some ways of understanding the continuities, discontinuities, and developments that took place in Reformed thought on such topics as the divine decrees, predestination, and so-called limited atonement, with specific attention to the place of Calvin in the Reformed tradition of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries" (Richard A. Muller).





Also available here





"Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry": A Trash Review Trashed



There is an imminent possibility that I would be in possession of this book.

It is quite unfortunate that a review of the book such as this, which fails on many fronts (exegetical, historical, etc.), exists.

It is, however, refreshing that a correction, or clarification, of the errors propounded by the review also exists.

Many thanks to a dear brother in Christ who will be God's means of giving me the book and who led me to the two articles above.





Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Westminster Wednesday: The Taming of God and the Church Growth Movement

Dr. W. Robert Godfrey, giving an excellent talk on the Church Growth Movement, discussing its dangerous nature and the aberrant theological foundation that make it so:





Source: A Portrait of God: 2004 National Conference (Message 3, A Tame Lion)





The Gospel is Deep



"Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment" (Heb. 6:1-3).

Some regard the injunction above as meaning a leaving off of the Gospel (in consideration of it as "basic") in pursuit of "deeper" things, more often than not an invitation to moralism.

In this post, Nick Batzig sets this false notion aright, reminding us once more that the Gospel is the stuff of everything that pertains to the Christian life and that realizing Christ as the substance and fulfillment of OT typology is key to spiritual maturity.




Monday, June 20, 2011

Goat Membership for More Buck



Kevin DeYoung wrote the following letter to a colleague who was thinking of establishing two sets of memberships in his church, one for believers and another for unbelievers.

While Scripture tells us that external membership to the church is validated by public profession of faith in Christ, pressure to rake up the numbers has prompted many to accept as bona fide members those who do not even show the slightest hint that they have been acted upon by the Spirit through a faith that expresses itself in confession (Rom. 10:9), thereby deconstructing beyond recognition what it means to be a part of God's covenant people.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Well-Rested Archer



This Father's Day I'd like to interact with a Psalm that keenly speaks to fathers, Psalm 127.

The first two verses state:

"Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep."

The natural law of fathers providing for their children is very much at work in the heart of every father, be him regenerate or otherwise. But in both cases, that which is good is often the occasion for the expression of the sin of autonomy—the bedrock of all sin. Men labor, toil and compete with each other, often with the rationalization that they are embroiled in all this for the welfare of their families, all the while concealing the sin of the pride of life. What better anthem for this than Sinatra's "My Way." And yet, the Word of God does not allow the Christian father to forget that it is only by divine providence that any creature is able to engage in anything, let alone achieve heights of success in any endeavor.

Calvin comments on verse 1:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Westminster Wednesday: Who Was WSC's First President?



The following is a short biographical sketch of Westminster Seminary California's first president, Dr. Robert B. Strimple, written by Dr. W. Robert Godfrey:

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the reception of the Rev. Dr. Robert Benson Strimple into the ministry of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church by the Presbytery of Philadelphia. It also marks forty-one years of his service as teacher and administrator at Westminster Philadelphia and Westminster California. It has been my privilege to work closely with Bob Strimple for over thirty-five years and to enjoy his faithfulness, keen insight, and good humor which has greatly encouraged me and many others.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Calvin the Van Tillian



In his letter to Martin Bucer entitled, Consolations to Be Found in the Study of Divine and Everlasting Truth, dated February 1549, Calvin shows himself to be the Van Tillian that he truly is (barring the anachronism):

"As truth is most precious, so all men confess it to be so. And yet, since God alone is the source of all good, you must not doubt, that whatever truth you anywhere meet with, proceeds from him, unless you would be doubly ungrateful to him; it is in this way you have received the word descended from heaven. For it is sinful to treat God’s gifts with contempt; and to ascribe to man what is peculiarly God’s is a still greater impiety. Philosophy is, consequently, the noble gift of God, and those learned men who have striven hard after it in all ages have been incited thereto by God himself, that they might enlighten the world in the knowledge of the truth. But there is a wide difference between the writings of these men and those truths which God, of his own pleasure, delivered to guilty men for their sanctification. In the former, you may fall in with a small particle of truth, of which you can get only a taste, sufficient to make you feel how pleasant and sweet it is; but in the latter, you may obtain in rich abundance that which can refresh the soul to the full. In the one, a shadow and an image is placed before the eyes which can only excite in you a love of the object, without admitting you to familiar intercourse with it; in the other, the solid substance stands before you, with which you may not only become intimately acquainted, but may also, in some measure, handle it. In that, the seed is in a manner choked; in this, you may possess the fruit in its very maturity. There, in short, only a few small sparks break forth, which so point out the path that they fail in the middle of the journey, — or rather, which fail in indicating the path at all — and can only restrain the traveler from going farther astray; but here, the Spirit of God, like a most brilliant torch, or rather like the sun itself, shines in full splendor, not only to guide the course of your life, even to its final goal, but also to conduct you to a blessed immortality. Draw then from this source, wherever you may wander, and as soon as he finds you a settled abode, you ought to make that your place of rest..."


Christianity and Computer Science



An insightful article by Harry Plantinga on Christian perspectives toward Computer Science entitled, "Christianity and Computer Science at Calvin College":

Computer Science

Computer science is a discipline with two aspects. On the one side it is an engineering discipline: it involves the planning, design, construction, and maintenance of computer systems. Its subject matter is a corpus of techniques for analyzing problems, constructing solutions that won't collapse, guaranteeing and measuring the robustness of programs. (It is an immature engineering discipline, one realizes, when Microsoft Windows crashes yet again.)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Targeting Tradition



In many, if not all, branches of "born-again" evangelicalism, tradition has gained a notorious reputation. The battle cry of the misinformed masses is "fallible!", and so they carry on, unmindful of the rich legacy of the past, while propagating their own traditions. Indeed, even as they rail against tradition, they pander their own twists on it, unwittingly falling prey to all sorts of errors that could have been avoided had the voice of catholicity been listened to.

Ned B. Stonehouse, in the 1957 Evangelical Theological Society presidential address entitled, The Infallibility of Scripture and Evangelical Progress, states:

"In insisting upon the distinction between Scripture and tradition and in pleading for greater consistency in working out the implications of this Protestant principle, I would not indeed suggest that we should despise tradition or in general minimize its historical significance. Tradition, in truth, is a factor of great significance within the history of special revelation itself. This is bound up especially with the fact that the special revelation of the Bible is a revelation in history. As such the truth of revelation is often presented as that which, on the one hand, is received and, on the other hand, is delivered over. To make this point more specifically it may now suffice to recall the words of Paul in I Corinthians 15:3, 'for I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received'.

In addition to the tradition within Scripture there is the tradition beyond Scripture, the tradition of the church. And though this tradition is on a different level from that of which Paul has spoken, it remains true that for one who recognizes the providence of God, the kingship of Jesus Christ and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church, historical tradition may oftentimes be of very great significance. To put the matter in a somewhat different way, it must be recognized that Scripture itself has made a profound impact upon the life and thinking of the church, and this is of course especially true as it has been accompanied by the operations of the Spirit in the hearts of men.

Nevertheless, the distinction between Scripture and tradition must prevent us from absolutizing tradition. No matter how high our estimate of the scriptural significance of any phase of history, including for example the Reformation, we may not make the judgments and practices of any such phase our startingpoint for our evaluations of truth or our standard concerning it.

In emphasizing this point as I do I am deeply concerned with a tendency which seems to me to be widely prevalent among evangelicals to obliterate or obscure this basic distinction."





Friday, June 10, 2011

Spartacus and Submission to Authority



I've begun watching Spartacus: Blood and Sand, a TV series about the exploits of a certain gladiator given the nickname of "Spartacus." Once a free man, he was forced into gladiatorial servitude by unfortunate circumstances. Though the show is drenched in violence and immorality, I was reminded by it of a certain passage of Scripture, written by the Apostle Peter, which reads:

"Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly" (1 Pet. 2:18-19).

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Reformed Rap

There's this discussion over at The Reformed Pinoy about whether "Christian rap" is permissible in the context of the corporate worship of the church.

The Reformed Regulative Principle of Worship immediately informs us that the biblical reply is No.

Simply put, the RPW is sola scriptura applied to the corporate worship of God's people during the Sabbath assembly. It is not that, where Scripture is silent, we are free to devise our own schemes as pertaining to the elements of worship, but that we are to implement only those which Scripture explicitly mandates.

The elements of worship consist substantially of the Word of God and formally of the Word preached, the Word prayed, the Word sung, and the Word eaten and drunk. The circumstances of worship are those peripherals that do not impinge upon the nature and character of the dialog that ensues between God and His people (marked by reverence, awe, and humility), such as the building where the assembly is held, microphones, pews, etc. It is a universal phenomenon, and not cultural, that heavy, crunching guitars, slamming drums, and screaming (or rapping) vocals do not make for reverential, awe-struck, and humble expression.

Click here for the biblical arguments for RPW, and here for Calvin's take on worship.

Now that I'm at it, here's how a "Reformed rap" might look like (my own "composition"):

Hey, everybody, have you got a flowah
That changes lives, ooooh, what a powah
Comin' from mah homies, number one is Piper
But he's Baptistic, ooooh, makes me shudder

TULIP is the flowah everybody's pickin'
Even heretics, just look at Rick Warren
It's so cool, jump on the bandwagon
Just so you know, that's not the Reformation

TULIP! TULIP! TU-TU-TU-TULIP!
Not the Reformation
TULIP! TULIP! TU-TU-TU-TULIP!
Just look at Rick Warren
TULIP! TULIP! TU-TU-TU-TULIP!
Number one is Piper
TULIP! TULIP! TU-TU-TU-TULIP!
Ooooh, it makes me shudder

(Repeat indefinitely until crowd frenzy ensues)




Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Korea's Got Underdog

Korea has a good underdog within its borders, Choi Sung-Bong:



About "Westminster Wednesday"

 


I've decided to run a weekly blog post every Wednesday, called Westminster Wednesday, which will showcase the theological insights of the faculties of both Westminster Theological Seminary Philadelphia and Westminster Seminary California. This will consist mostly of information that is available to me through the books that I currently have (or will have) and the Net.

The preceding blog post is the first offering.

Click here for the history of WTS and here for the history of WSC.

Westminster Wednesday: Trueman on Bog Standard Evangelicalism



The idiom, "bog standard," is of British origin, essentially meaning "ordinary." As an adjective to the term, "evangelicalism," it gains a positive connotation.

Carl Trueman writes:

"Now, I am a confessional Presbyterian, but at my core I am what, to use British idiom, we would call a bog-standard evangelical, nothing fancy, someone with a central commitment to what the seventeenth century divines would have called 'fundamental articles:' prosaic, simple stuff like the Trinity, the Chalcedonian definition, justification by faith, penal substitution, bodily resurrection, final judgement etc. Just your standard theological meat and potatoes - no doctrinal equivalents of your poncey ciabattas or effeminate moccacino espressos."

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Faith for Good and Bad Works



Imagine your best good work for God and your most heinous act. What do the two have in common? Sin. Both are tainted with it, the latter with it more apparent and yet the former undeniably has it crouching underneath, most likely veiled in self-righteous pride.

What is the solution to this dilemma? Faith.

My Pathetic Piety

I missed two successive Lord's Day services due to sloth and sluggishness. I even lied to my pastor about the reasons. I've repented of my lying and of having profaned the Sabbath, and I've confessed to both him and the Lord. In other words, my piety is pathetic. I feel like Peter humiliated by Paul for hypocrisy—and rightly so.

I found this essay by Joel Beeke entitled, "Calvin's Piety." I need the first use of the Law to weigh down on me and the Gospel to remind me of Christ's active and passive obedience (and the imputation of their merits) in order to impel me to walk gratefully in the Law's third use.

"Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin" (Rom. 7:24-25).





Monday, June 6, 2011

The Perichoresis Between Study and Prayer



"As an ex-pietist one of the most vicious laws under which I was placed early on in my Christian life was the 'quiet time.' I was taught to carry a 'verse pack' and to keep a 'quiet time' journal. The younger Christians were to use the '9:59 Plan' and the more mature were to use the '29:59 Plan.' As you can see, a search reveals that it's back.

Recently, as I gathered with the student prayer group (I'm not against prayer!) and again today in Med-Ref, as I tried to explain the rise of monasticism and its appeal, I recounted my early Christian experience with pietism and the law of the quiet time. To have a quiet time, not attendance to the means of grace, was the mark of piety.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Calvin's Prosperity Gospel



"It is not just those enamored with the prosperity gospel who have pursued health, wealth, and happiness as if they were divine rights and signs of God's blessing. Or who have avoided adversity and poverty as if they were curses. But God's ways are more mysterious than we perceive.

God so governs the universe by his secret providence that while nothing happens apart from God's decree, his hand remains largely hidden from us. What could be more natural than the changing seasons? Yet there remains such unevenness and diversity that every year, month, and day is seen to be governed by a new providence of God.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Reformed and the Pitbull



This blog post here further reinforces the parallelism between being truly Reformed (Confessionally Reformed) and the Pitbull in that, though intrinsically endowed with exquisite virtue, a mental malignancy brought on by misconception and misinformation has served to mar the reputations of both, especially in the area of "niceness."

Another point of parallelism here.

And Dr. R. Scott Clark talks about "Reformed niceness" here.



(A 2004 or 2005 breeding)




Friday, June 3, 2011

Calvin Loved Animals



I've been a lover of nature, and of animals specifically, for as long as I can remember. I've had a monitor lizard, a water snake, an iguana, a sulcata tortoise, many red-eared sliders, rabbits, birds, fish (Bettas, Arowanas, Oscars, etc.), a rhesus macaque, a host of mutts, a couple of German Shepherds, a couple of Rottweilers, a Bullmastiff, and about 10 or more American Pitbull Terriers at a single time (discounting the results of my breeding efforts) for pets—and that's just off the top of my head right now! All that is to reiterate: I love God's creation generally and animals specifically. And it seems Calvin did too:

"One reoccurring element of Calvin's theological language of nature—even overlooked by contemporary theologians reevaluating his theology of creation—is his fascination with the animal kingdom.....Calvin saw every living thing, no matter how humble or harmful, as a vehicle for the self-disclosure of its Maker.....Nature for Calvin was not a bare environment for humanity, but a theater alive with non-human creatures clamoring for God as their true end and possessing dignity in their own right. Nature also functioned as the rich seed bed for human language, a 'vast dictionary and grammar' (to use Bushnell's terms) for figures that enhance our comprehension of human existence and contemporary affairs. The animal kingdom in air, land, and sea may be a channel for the natural knowledge of God and a blessing to the life of humanity, but for Calvin it was also a living lexicon from which to cull provocative metaphors for the animation of human self-understanding and the quickening of theological debate." (Peter A. Huff, CALVIN AND THE BEASTS: ANIMALS IN JOHN CALVIN’S THEOLOGICAL DISCOURSE, JETS 42/1 [March 1999])

I do believe that if Calvin had lived in our day and age, he would've been glued to the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet or National Geographic during those times that he would pause from his tome-writing (which were probably few and far between). :-D





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