Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Aim My Smiling Skull at You

Grungeheads may be familiar with where the title of this post hails from. Hehehehe. Like me, they may also have a peculiar taste for skull imagery, but perhaps for different reasons.

I own a couple of skull rings and a skull bracelet. My sister, misunderstanding my motivation behind the ornamentation, once remarked that I was such an ironic guy. I think what she meant was the paradox of how I could be so into theology and, at the same time, be into symbols of eviiiiiil!

What is my motivation? This post may shed some light.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Rev. Allen Vander Pol on the Doctrine of Scripture at PCovRC

Dr. K. Scott Oliphint, in this wonderful ReformedForum broadcast entitled, Nature and Scripture, remarked that the Reformation's chief contribution, arguably, is the regrounding of epistemology on Scripture.

In line with this, Rev. Allen Vander Pol of Miami International Theological Seminary will be conducting a seminar at Pasig Covenant Reformed Church on the doctine of Scripture entitled, "That Word Above All Earthly Powers."

This is a FREE seminar on a very important topic, so you wouldn't want to miss it!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Personal Tragedy to Apostasy

I write this post from a position of not having experienced a personal tragedy of the magnitude that would rock the foundations of my faith to the core. In a way, I speak from ignorance, and yet the lives of some of those who have gone before me seem to speak ministration on this issue.

John Calvin lost his wife and son.

John Owen had eleven children. All died in early youth, except one daughter.

Francis Turretin had four children. Only one survived.

More recently, Michael Horton discloses in "A Place for Weakness" how one of his prematurely-born triplets, when older, experienced an accident wherein this elongated toy got jammed down the child's throat. The doctor gave a grim prognosis, but thankfully, the child survived.

As a father, I have often ruminated on the idea of the Lord taking back one of my kids. The same with Him taking back my wife. I have often wondered what my reaction would be. I do not know my heart well enough.

In a way, such thoughts are unwise, for it smacks of the attempt to peer into God's decretive will, and yet it is also wise in that reflection on one's faith, on one's devotion to the Lord, on the depth of one's love for Him, at the time when all is calm, may just be one of the ways in which stability may be had when the storms do come.

There's no minimizing the devastation of losing a family member. Imagining the possibility has often brought me to tears. But should it lead to apostasy? Should it drive one to the despair that leads to destruction? If the Lord Jesus Christ is our treasure, then we should mourn for the loss of a loved one with the passion that is due that love, but then that excruciating pain must be turned sacramental. It should lead us to Christ, whose life and death have redefined "death" for the Christian, with the promise of life forever restored in the future age of glory. Even if we think that the departed is lost by virtue of not being a Christian, our affinity with Christ and His promise of embodied eternal life should prove the stronger tug to renewed rejoicing.

May I love my Lord Jesus Christ more than my wife and children, that I may love them truly while they are here with me in this present age.

Dennison on Vos' Eschatological Sabbatarianism

To say that eschatology has primacy even over soteriology is to say that God's final goal in creation is ultimate in all our theologizing.

James T. Dennison, Jr. offers some explanation on Geerhardus Vos' view on the Sabbath and the way eschatology bears upon his understanding:

Vos on the Sabbath: A Close Reading

Geerhardus Vos provides an exposition of the Sabbath in biblical theological perspective as he comments on the fourth commandment in Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments.1

I am providing a close reading of Vos's remarks in the interest of a careful "exegesis" of his Sabbath position. The clarion call of all responsible scholarship is ad fontes—"to the sources." Thus, I define Vos's views a fontibus—"from the sources."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Seven, Sloth, and Bavinck

The movie, Seven, starring Brad Pitt and Kevin Spacey, has got to be one of the most tragic movies that has ever been made to pass before my eyes. It showcases this serial killer (Kevin Spacey) who goes about snuffing the life out of those he deems as prime incarnations of each of the classic "seven deadly sins." The movie concludes with the protagonist (Brad Pitt) putting a bullet in the antagonist's head, thereby giving the latter his desired ending, i.e., having the former succumb to rage (one of the seven deadly sins) and, consequently, suffer the legal consequences of extra-judicial killing (as if the brutal and grotesque murder of his wife and prenatal baby in the killer's hands was not suffering enough!). Of course, one of the victims was a supposedly slothful man who was tied up on his bed for a year, allowing his inactivity to kill him!

Sloth may be defined as the antithesis of industry, and what I have for you below is Herman Bavinck's theology of work:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Better Than a Pre-Fall Adam

Herman Bavinck explains how Adam, in his pre-Fall state, lacked "absolute certainty" regarding his present state of bliss and its continuity, whereas the believer in Christ, now in this present sin-ravaged age, possesses it:

Still, on the other hand, the state of the first man should not be exaggeratedly glorified as is so often done in Christian doctrine and preaching. No matter how high God placed man above the animal level, man had not yet achieved his highest possible level. He was able-not-to-sin, but not yet not-able-to-sin. He did not yet possess eternal life which cannot be corrupted and cannot die, but received instead a preliminary immortality whose existence and duration depended upon the fulfillment of a condition. He was immediately created as image of God, but he could still lose this image and all its glory. He lived in paradise, it is true, but this paradise was not heaven and it could with all of its beauty be forfeited by him. One thing was lacking in all the riches, both spiritual and physical, which Adam possessed: absolute certainty. As long as we do not have that, our rest and our pleasure is not yet perfect; in fact, the contemporary world with its many efforts to insure everything that man possesses is satisfactory evidence for this. The believers are insured for this life and the next, for Christ is their Guarantor and will not allow any of them to be plucked out of His hand and be lost (John 10:28). Perfect love banishes fear in them (1 John 4:18) and persuades them that nothing shall separate them from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus their Lord (Rom. 8:38-39). But this absolute certainty was lacking to man in paradise; he was not, together with his creation in the image of God, permanently established in the good. Irrespective of how much he had, he could lose it all, both for himself and for his posterity. His origin was Divine; his nature was related to the Divine nature; his destiny was eternal blessedness in the immediate presence of God. But whether he was to reach that appointed destination was made dependent upon his own choice and upon his own will.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, 'For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39)

What a Gospel!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Bavinck Contra NL2K/R2K

In this post, I argue that to be human is to be in need of both natural and special revelation.

In this article, Dr. Cornelis P. Venema discusses Herman Bavinck's view of the image of God. He quotes the following:

In this [Lutheran] theology the lines of demarcation between the spiritual and the worldly, between the heavenly and the earthly, are so sharply drawn that the result is two hemispheres, and the connection between nature and grace, between creation and re-creation is totally denied. The supernaturalist [or dualist] view is still at work here; the image of God stands alongside nature, is detached from it, and is above it. The loss of the image, which renders man totally deaf and blind in spiritual matters, still enables him in earthly matters to do much good and in a sense renders him independent from the grace of God in Christ . . . [In Reformed theology] sin, which precipitated the loss of the image of God in the narrower sense and spoiled and ruined the image of God in the broader sense, has profoundly affected the whole person, so that, consequently, also the grace of God in Christ restores the whole person, and is of the greatest significance for his or her whole life and labor, also in the family, society, the state, art, science, and so forth (RD 2:553–4)

He then makes a footnote comment:

Though it is anachronistic to put it this way, Bavinck offers in his criticism of the Lutheran view of the image of God an insightful assessment of what today is sometimes called the "two kingdom/natural law" view. Bavinck's point is that, just as sin pervasively corrupts all of human life "before God," so God's grace in Christ restores and perfects all of human life under Christ's lordship. To be restored and perfected as an image bearer of God is not to be elevated to a higher plane of supernatural life and existence, but to be perfected in the fullness of natural (that is, creaturely) human life in communion with God.

It is interesting to see how NL2K/R2K owes much to Roman Catholic nature/grace dualism.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Trueman on Bavinck as Model

I am blessed to own Herman Bavinck's 4-volume "Reformed Dogmatics" and the John Bolt-edited, "The Last Things." And though Cornelius Van Til chides Bavinck for instances of excursions into autonomous reasoning, still the latter's influence on the former is undeniable.

In this short article, Dr. Carl Trueman extols the virtues of Bavinckism.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Orthodox Prosperity Preachers?

Dr. Carl Trueman makes the case that one can vehemently trumpet confessionalism and still be a cultic, money-hungry, devourer of the sheep.

He writes:

So just because somebody preaches the gospel, uses the name of Jesus every other sentence and cries when they talk about the lost does not guarantee that they are not a cult leader or simply in it for what they can get out of it.

The key is the culture. One must ask cultural questions of such men, not simply doctrinal ones. Is the culture of their church or organisation transparent? Are there clear lines of accountability which flow both ways, from the leadership to the grassroots and from the grassroots to the leadership? Is opposition to leadership decisions addressed in an open fashion or via thuggish backroom manoeuvres and public derision and isolation of critics? And one interesting question which I remember a pastor once asking in a pulpit when I was college student: how far above the average economic level of the congregation or funding constituency does the leadership live? That little old lady putting her ten dollars in the plate each Sunday or sending in her pledge -- is she funding a lifestyle for functionally unaccountable leaders which is lavish beyond words and built on gospel rhetoric, on not-for-profit tax breaks and on an overwheening sense of entitlement? That can be quite an interesting gauge of whether the church or ministry takes seriously its role as steward of the money it receives. It is, after all, easy to prostitute yourself to the prosperity gospel when your own prophecies of material wealth are effectively underwritten by the desperate dreams of the poor and destitute which you yourself have helped to create and upon which you prey with a depraved and insatiable hunger.

Cultists and con-men are identifiable only by their culture, not by their confessions.

This is another reason for the desperate need for more confessionally Reformed churches. Why so? Because the best thing to do if you find yourself in the clutches of such a pastor is to leave.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Special Providence: Soul Alert

If Francis Turretin and the Post-Reformation Reformed theologians in general are known for their technical precision, then my sentiment that Reformed theology and progressive metal/jazz/classical music are very much analogous and complimentary may not be that far-fetched after all. LOL.

With that I leave you with the music of a band that I now consider as one of my favorites, Special Providence (what an awesome band name!):


Whenever Fridays come, the social networking sites are awash with "TGIF" posts. Notwithstanding the casual and irreverent use of God's name, the sentiment speaks of the innate longing of man for rest. While work itself is not part of the curse (work is a creational mandate), the world wherein this work is done, after the Fall, is indeed cursed and makes work not devoid of pain.

What may not be privy to many who spew this banal phrase is that the weekend heralded by it is actually founded on another creational principle: the Sabbath. The 4th Commandment was kept by the Israelites even before the Mosaic Covenant was ratified, which speaks of its enduring validity, going beyond the abrogation of the said covenant.

The following posts speak of what the Sabbath is for the worn-out pilgrim: Westminster Wednesday: Refreshment for the Weary and The Weekly Antidote to Worldliness

Whereas the unbeliever exults in the opportunity to indulge more of his autonomy over the weekend, the Christian sees this time as a privilege and blessing afforded by God for making His people have a foretaste of heaven, to which they may exclaim with true reverence and gratitude, "Thank God It's Sunday!"

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Antithesis a New Species Doth Not Make

Man, as made in the image of God, is intrinsically (by default) "wired" as a covenantal being. He knows of himself as a covenantal being and, though after the Fall, the sinner lives and moves in suppression of this fact, still he cannot escape it in the voice of his conscience and in the testimony of creation all around him.

What this covenatalism further presupposes is that both natural and special revelation bear upon man's conception of anything. Natural revelation both reveal the grace and wrath of God in the consistency of life-support systems in creation as well as the death dynamic that is at work in it, just as special revelation reveal the grace and wrath of God in the person and work of Christ and in the final, eschatological death that is alluded to by physical, temporal death. Man, as man, needs both natural and special revelation.

This realization has given me pause about NL2K (Natural Law Two Kingdoms Theology, or sometimes R2K). Sure, the baker does not need special revelation in order to engage in his baking, but this is merely speaking at a practical level. The baker, as an ontological human being made in the image of God, has upon himself the covenantal duty to reckon with both God's natural and special revelation at every turn. Is there an occasion wherein the baker does not bake as a human being? If not, then even in his baking, special revelation is required if he is to bake as a human being. What NL2K seems to imply is that there are two species of human beings, one for whom both natural and special revelation are of import and another wherein natural revelation will do. But the Fall did not create two different ontological classes of human beings but two different covenant relations to God in which man could either be a covenant-keeper or covenant-breaker (the antithesis). So when the baker bakes unmindful of God in special revelation, he bakes as a covenant-breaker and in fact sins in his baking.

To be sure, God uses the covenant-breaking baker to provide carbohydrate energy to both sinner and saint alike, but this is merely an outworking of His patience, intending the order and consistency in the present age to facilitate the smooth unfolding of redemptive history that will culminate in the age of glory characterized by revelational integrity.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Jay E. Adams on the Organic Dynamics of Church Eldership

The Word of God, through Paul, states the following as the qualifications of church elders (Christ's undershepherds, functioning at the local church level, ministering to His sheep):

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:1-7)

But what now after the church leadership (session or consistory) has been organized? Jay E. Adams offers valuable wisdom (sourced from Ordained Servant [vol. 1, no. 2 (April 1992)]):

Come Share In Our Joy

Pasig Covenant Reformed Church's 4th Anniversary pictures.

See last year's anniversary greetings from Dr. R. Scott Clark and Dr. Michael Horton.

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