Category Archives: BIBLE AND FAITH

Jesus is coming soon if, by “soon,” you mean no sooner than 100,000 years in the future – Kuyperian Commentary

I was getting my hair cut the other day by someone other than my wife, for a change. As a result I got exposed to Christian culture outside my own personal sociological safe room. I am ashamed to say how seldom this happens. Of course, by not “getting out more” I help other Christians form their own little bubbles of idiosyncratic belief and theological naivete.

But not this time. The barber learned, as he cut my hair, that I was a seminary graduate and had pastored in a number of places around the country. So, as he finished up shaving the back of my neck, he let loose with his camaraderie question: “Before I let you go, I have to ask you: Do you think the Lord is coming back soon!”

The sound of his voice alerted me this was, in his mind, a rhetorical question. We were supposed to share in the joy of the soon return of Jesus to earth.

READ THE REST: Jesus is coming soon if, by “soon,” you mean no sooner than 100,000 years in the future – Kuyperian Commentary.

If You Don’t Learn To Obey Orders You Will Never Be Free; Here’s Why: – Kuyperian Commentary

Let me start with a brief story about a society in which some people had slaves and attempted to use those slaves for income:

David thought the interview had gone well so far. Huxley Industries needed a slave to answer phones, keep records, and do other office work. David needed some better income and he had a slave to rent. His slave could easily do the jobs that they needed to be done.

“So can your slave be here by 7:30 am every weekday morning?”

David’s heart lurched. “You start that early?”

Well, we need him ready to go before others come to work. We found this position works better if he starts a half hour earlier.”

READ THE REST: If You Don’t Learn To Obey Orders You Will Never Be Free; Here’s Why: – Kuyperian Commentary.

Self-Righteousness & Exploitation: The Welfare State – Kuyperian Commentary

A question I have been thinking upon: Should we take Jesus description about the one who does his good works to impress others at face value?

Here is the passage:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-4, ESV)

By itself this is a straightforward instruction. However, the people Jesus singled out for us to be sure we do not emulate did more than trumpet their help for the poor. They also exploited the poor and looted from them to add to their own wealth.

READ THE REST: Self-Righteousness & Exploitation: The Welfare State – Kuyperian Commentary.

Are Christian Arguments Against Abortion Any Different Than Atheist Arguments? – Kuyperian Commentary

I believe that God not only exists and that Jesus is His Son raised from the dead and elevated by the Spirit, but I believe all this matters a lot. Jesus is the king of the universe and he will, one day, judge every creature–both the living and the dead.

So why do I find it so easy to agree with (some) atheists and secularists on the issue of abortion?

 

I’ve wondered about this before, but this article recently disturbed me with the question once again:

READ THE REST: Are Christian Arguments Against Abortion Any Different Than Atheist Arguments? – Kuyperian Commentary.

Does God Care About Numbers? – Kuyperian Commentary

Yes, he does.

Here is the prophecy he gave to Isaiah (chapter 49):

 

Listen to me, O coastlands,
and give attention, you peoples from afar.
The LORD called me from the womb,
from the body of my mother he named my name.
He made my mouth like a sharp sword;
in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me a polished arrow;
in his quiver he hid me away.
And he said to me, “You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”
But I said, “I have labored in vain;
I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
yet surely my right is with the Lord,
and my recompense with my God.”

And now the LORD says,
he who formed me from the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him;
and that Israel might be gathered to him—
for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord,
and my God has become my strength—
he says:
It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
I will make you as a light for the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.

It is “too light a thing,” too small a thing” (NASB) for God to save a tiny remnant.

READ THE REST: Does God Care About Numbers? – Kuyperian Commentary.

Biblical Calvinists Acknowledge That God Loves All People: Refuting a Pseudo-Calvinist Fallacy – Kuyperian Commentary

jcalvinOne of the weird problems with correcting Arminianism and, to be crude about it, convincing Christians that Calvinism is true, is that they are easily vulnerable to other errors. I can’t prevent all such problems in one post, but I want to try to point the way forward.

READ MY POST: Biblical Calvinists Acknowledge That God Loves All People: Refuting a Pseudo-Calvinist Fallacy – Kuyperian Commentary.

Be The Christendom You Want To See In The World – Kuyperian Commentary

As someone who has spent quite a number of years as a Christian portapottie servicer, Carl Trueman’s disdain for Kuyper and the “transformers” (though he oddly also holds Kuyper up as a standard for judging others) caught my interest.

READ THE POST: Be The Christendom You Want To See In The World – Kuyperian Commentary.

Death of Death 2: more thoughts on J. I. Packer’s introduction

ji-packer=john-owenContinued from this post.

Frankly, if I write everything that I think is worth mentioning in Packer’s introduction, I am afraid I’ll never get to John Owen’s actual text. So I’m not sure how many more of these I will be posting before I jump into the book.

By the way, you can find Packer’s essay here (with one important difference I’ve noticed; see below).

Re-reading further, I am wondering how I could be so lacking in basic critical thinking or discernment.

Here is the point where I gave in to such an unholy thought:

The Spirit’s gift of internal grace was defined by the Arminians as “moral suasion,” the bare bestowal of an understanding of God’s truth. This, they granted—indeed, insisted—does not of itself ensure that anyone will ever make the response of faith. But Calvinists define this gift as not merely an enlightening, but also a regenerating work of God in men, “taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by His almighty power determining them to that which is good; and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.” Grace proves irresistible just because it destroys the disposition to resist. Where the Arminian, therefore, will be content to say: “I decided for Christ,” “I made up my mind to be a Christian,” the Calvinist will wish to speak of his conversion in more theological fashion, to make plain whose work it really was:

“Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night:
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke; the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off: my heart was free:
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

Clearly, these two notions of internal grace are sharply opposed to each other.

Packer sets up a basic theological contrast that I believe is correct. Because he is speaking at as a “Calvinist,” an Arminian might object. I haven’t kept up with Arminian responses lately, so you should bear that in mine. Nevertheless, from what I (think I) know, Packer isn’t saying anything too controversial.

But at the point where I inserted some boldface in the above quotation, his argument takes a surreal turn.

His argument can be summarized:

  • Arminians will say X
  • Calvinists will say Y
  • Those who say X rather than Y and vice versa are holding opposed theological convictions.

But Packer’s choice of Y is incredible. The hymn he quotes is from a notorious anti-calvinist and Arminian: Charles Wesley.

The web page of Packer’s essay unhappily leaves out the footnote wherein Packer acknowledges to the reader that he is quoting an Arminian. Here it is:

Granted, it was Charles Wesley who wrote this; but it is one of the many passages in his hymns which makes one ask, with “Rabbi” Duncan, “Where is your Arminianism now, friend?”

So then, with the footnote, here is the argument in all his glory:

  • Arminians will say X
  • Calvinists will say Y
  • And Y was said by a notorious and self-conscioius Arminian
  • But that just proves that he tended to speak like a Calvinist many times.

Hello?

What Packer has just shown us is that at least one firm Arminian is not only prone (not just once but in “many passages”) to give glory to God in a way that Packer not only approves, but holds forth a a great example of the piety which he wishes us all to emulate.

And yet he continues on as if he has demonstrated a point in his case.

And when I read this as a recent convert to Calvinism I extolled this essay as pure gold that every Arminian should read to see how wrong they are.

Did I not know how to read?

I may have some ideas about how Calvinists and Arminians find it difficult to talk to one another, but this will do for now.

Do Evangelicals Need To Be Reborn? Reacting to D. A. Carson’s Article on the Kingdom – Kuyperian Commentary

crosscrownI found this article by Dr. D.A. Carson really difficult to understand or profit from. I simply don’t think the Kingdom of God should be such a difficult problem. The fact that it spawns such verbiage is itself evidence that there is something wrong with Evangelicals.

Can I, off the top of my head, convince you, the reader, that you cannot possibly have a general grasp of the Bible if the Kingdom of God is a riddle that remains to be solved?

Like most things, it begins in Genesis One. God creates the world by his sovereign word, but he does so with the intention of ruling through delegated sovereignty.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

So Genesis 1 is a story about, yes, a God who has power. But it is the story of the beginning of the Kingdom of Humanity–a kingdom that is at the same time the Kingdom of God. The whole point of the story of the Bible is that God prefers for us to exercise authority on his behalf rather than doing it himself.

READ THE REST: Do Evangelicals Need To Be Reborn? Reacting to D. A. Carson’s Article on the Kingdom – Kuyperian Commentary.

Death of Death 1: Some thoughts on starting J. I. Packer’s introduction

ji-packer=john-owenI have decided to re-read John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. I’m reading the Banner of Truth paperback scan with the introduction by J. I. Packer.

J. I. Packer makes it clear that the Gospel is at stake in John Owen’s defense of “Limited Atonement.” This is the kind of thing where, if Packer is right, then the issue is really important. But if Packer is wrong, then he is being highly schismatic.

I may deal more with that later. What I want to notice in this blog post is that Packer has what a reader could interpret as two different versions of limited atonement in the first few pages of his introduction. On page 4 he sets out the five points:

(1.) Fallen man in his natural state lacks all power to believe the gospel, just as he lacks all power to believe the law, despite all external inducements that may be extended to him, (2.) God’s election is a free, sovereign, unconditional choice of sinners, as sinners, to be redeemed by Christ, given faith, and brought to glory. (3) The redeeming work of Christ had as its end and goal the salvation of the elect. (4.) The work of the Holy Spirit in bringing men to faith never fails to achieve its object. (5). Believers are kept in faith and grace by the unconquerable power of God till they come to glory.

However, on page 7 he specifies that, the redeeming work of Christ actually accomplishes the salvation of the elect in a significant way.

Calvinists, however, define redemption as Christ’s actual substitutionary endurance of the penalty of sin in the place of certain specified sinners, through which God was reconciled to them, their liability to punishment was forever destroyed, and title to eternal life was secured for them.

In my opinion, the most natural reading of the second description–the understanding I remember deriving from these words when I first read Packer in my youth–is plainly wrong.

When Saul of Tarsus was on the road to Damascus he was chosen by God for eternal salvation, but he was also an enemy of God, liable to punishment for his sins, and had no title to eternal life. God had decreed to bring him to repentance and faith and union with Christ to grant him that title, but he had no claim on it yet. God had not given it to him yet.

On the formula offered above, if Stephen called out to Saul, as he saw him overseeing the garments of the Sanhedrin, and warned Saul he was under God’s wrath for his hardness of heart and violence against the Church, Stephen would be making a claim that was not true. The penalty for Saul’s past, present, and future sins had already been paid. The wrath of God was already satisfied for him.

The Westminster Confession contradicts this position:

God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification: nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them. (“Of Justification” – Chapter 11, paragraph 4).

I remember reading the Confession and yet never really thinking about what this paragraph was telling me. If memory serves (and it may be inaccurate) part of the reason I couldn’t really acknowledge this paragraph was precisely because I had read J. I. Packer’s introduction to The Death of Death by John Owen. It blinded me. I remember the recruiter from Westminster Theological Seminary, talking to me at Houghton College (late 80s) and mentioning that Arminians had no theory of the atonement at all. And I of course thought that made perfect sense at the time. Now I realize I had implicitly denied justification by faith.

What I find odd is that Packer wants to affirm a Trinitarian salvation. On page 6:

For to Calvinism there is really only one point to be made in the field of soteriology: the point that God saves sinners. God–the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power, and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father’s will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of the Father and the Son by renewing.

But if Jesus has already given us title to eternal life, and made us no longer liable to eternal punishment, then I don’t see how this Trinitarian salvation holds up. The Spirit then, is not working to achieve salvation but is, in fact, simply an effect of salvation. He works to prevent unregenerate unbelievers from dying and going to heaven because God has already removed his wrath from them.

I have other problems with this second description. Allow me to quote it again with the next sentence included:

Calvinists, however, define redemption as Christ’s actual substitutionary endurance of the penalty of sin in the place of certain specified sinners, through which God was reconciled to them, their liability to punishment was forever destroyed, and title to eternal life was secured for them. In consequence of this, they now have in God’s sight a right to the gift of faith, as the means of entry into the enjoyment of their inheritance.

That is simply not what Calvinists believe, it is not logically demanded from Calvinism, and (unless John Owen can prove otherwise) it is not biblical. People are not adopted at the cross–in billions of case, before they actually exist–and then discover the enjoyment of this inheritance later in life when they are converted to faith by the Spirit. Anyone who has memorized the Westminster Shorter Catechism knows this is the case:

Q. 34. What is adoption?
A. Adoption is an act of God’s free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges of, the sons of God.

And when are we adopted? The Catechism gives us the time frame:

Q. 29. How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?
A. We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.

Q. 30. How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?
A. The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.

Q. 31. What is effectual calling?
A. Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.

Q. 32. What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?
A. They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption and sanctification, and the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them.

No one has legal benefits, rights, or privileges before God as unbelievers who are not justified, even though God has chosen them for salvation and sent Christ to die and rise for them with their salvation as the end or goal of that work. We become heirs when we repent and believe. We don’t do this ourselves, God’s Spirit gives us faith by grace.

Since Packer is declaring what “Calvinism” is, I’m going to suggest it might be helpful to go to the source. Here is John Calvin, Book 3, of The Institutes of the Christian Religion:

THE WAY IN WHICH WE RECEIVE THE GRACE OF CHRIST: WHAT BENEFITS COME TO US FROM IT, AND WHAT EFFECTS FOLLOW

Chapter I: The Things Spoken Concerning Christ Profit Us by the Secret Working of the Spirit

1. The Holy Spirit as the bond that unites us to Christ. WE must now examine this question. How do we receive those benefits which the Father bestowed on his only-begotten Son–Not for Christ’s own private use, but that he might enrich poor and needy men? First, we must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us. Therefore, to share with us what he has received from the Father, he had to become ours and to dwell within us.

Calvin’s words immediately line up with the Westminster Standards from a century or so later. They don’t work that well with Packer’s description of the work of Christ–the one he insists all Calvinists believe in.