Monday, December 31, 2007

A Friend in Need...

A friend of mine is in a bit of a financial pinch and is selling a lot of his books on Amazon. You can read about his situation here. Click the link to his blog and then click the Amazon link to start purchasing a few of his books, some as low as 99 cents!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Bring the Books Guide to Music

Hey, kids! You know when parents are always saying that music today just isn't as good as it used to be? Well they're right! I, therefore, have decided to create this helpful guide to music so that you don't have to fear being misled by all these newfangled styles of music. God wants you to kick it like they did in the 18th century, and I'm here to help guide you down the right path.

The first thing to remember, kids, is that even though David played the harp, shook the tambourine, and banged on his drum all day, it's not necessarily cool with God if you try it.

Remember, it takes a trained professional like David to lay down the kind of riffs that he used to soothe that grumpy King Saul. Some of you may ask, what's the difference between the guitar and the harp? Why does God like the harp, but hate the guitar? Well, the answer is: fret changes. God doesn't like it when people make the pitch of a string change. Additionally, he finds it irritating when He can hear the fingers slide up the strings. Some may call it being picky, but He calls it just being a Baptist.

A little known fact: the devil actually invented the drum (as we know it) in 1908 at a gathering of Satanists. He told them exactly how to assemble the drum, from the drum head to the snare, from the lugs to the hoops, and of course the shell. After it was all put together, he taught Robert Johnson the blues, and gave another guy a pair of drum sticks. The rest is history! Another interesting fact: cymbals were invented by Martin Luther, long before the snare drum ever came around. It may be true that the Psalms command us to celebrate with the drums and tambourine, but that's Old Testament. We don't do that anymore, now that "the perfect has arrived" (and by "perfect" I mean "piano").

-The Bass
The upright bass wasn't made by the devil, as the drums were. But it was still invented by a very bad man. No one knows his name, but trust me. If the guy who invented the bass was a bad man, do you really want to have anything to do with it? I didn't think so.

Now here we go! This is the true instrument of the church! Along with the organ, the piano is probably the most divine and perfect instrument ever invented. I don't want to be guilty of exaggeration, but some say that as the piano plays "And Can It Be," you can actually hear the sounds of angels singing. This is, of course, the opposite of what happens when guitar and drums play the same song. Supposedly, the sounds of Hell can be heard through the mix. Especially if you play it backwards. True story. (Addendum: Some people have abused this beautiful instrument. These people include but are not limited to: Billy Joel, Thom Yorke, Jerry Lee Lewis, Alicia Keys, Ben Folds, Tori Amos, Michael W. Smith, and Aimee Mann. Stay away from them. Though they play the sacred piano, they do bang the keys a little harder than they should. Plus all of them violate the rules set forth in the next section.)

Vocal Stylings:
A few important directives are in order.

1) Emotionally performing a song is not required. This means the voice must remain under 50 decibles, and must not go so high as to be considered yelling. Vocals are to be a) robotic, b) monotone, and c) somewhat detached. Kind of like a Kraftwerk album, only without being evil, German, or techno.

2) Women should sing the high parts, because men singing in falsetto is just not right. And men should sing the low parts, because we don't have an upright bass, and someone has to fill in the low frequency.

3) Experimentalism is not permitted. This means a) keep it in a major key, b) stick to a 4/4 time signature, and c) only use the notes "C, G, D, and E" (and sometimes "A" if the spirit moves you so or if it's holiday season).

Remember: God wants you to have fun with music, but only if it fits into these categories. Mostly, though, He just wants it to sound right. Follow all of these directives, and you can put your guard down as you listen to your music, unafraid of demonic influence. Plus, you can rest safe in the knowledge that you are worshiping God the exact same way the Apostles did in 33 AD: with a piano (and if you're feeling really edgy, an organ).

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Finishing a Book, For Once

Granted, it's only a 92 page booklet, but it still counts as finishing a book. That's right, everyone; I'm not afraid to admit that I am the kind of guy to start a book and never finish. I jump around, read what I want from a book, and then add it to my trophy case.

Well, just a few moments ago, I finished Cornelius Venema's booklet Getting the Gospel Right, and I now feel at least a rough enough understanding of the New Perspective that I'm ready to jump into Piper's response to N.T. Wright, The Future of Justification. I'm pretty enthusiastic about it, and the first paragraph of it already has me impressed.

Pope vs. Devil: Who Will Win?

Pope Benedict has decided that Satan is up to his pesky, mischievous ways again. As such, he is dispensing the exorcism squads, ordering his Bishops to make sure that every diocese has the right number of priests trained to keep Satan at bay. I can only think of how Luther must feel about this, especially since Luther made this biting little statement some time back: "but [we will appear] before the Pope and devil himself, who intends to listen to nothing, but merely [when the case has been publicly announced] to condemn, to murder and to force us to idolatry." I really enjoy the racy language the Reformers used. You just don't see that kind of talk anymore. We Reformed guys are far too polite, I think.

Seriously, though, what do you all think of the Pope's "Exorcism Squads"?

My response: "Worldliness Squads." That's right; groups of men with big hammers who are trained to destroy peoples worldly possessions which are keeping them from the kingdom of God. My little club of goons will just go around clubbing peoples' high-dollar cars or smashing their plasma TVs into tiny pieces. It will only be done in the rarest of instances, of course; but it may still be necessary from time to time.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Preterism for Dummies Like Me (Part 2)

"If I Really HAD to Point to One Verse..."

If I could preface all of this with one command, it would be, "Read Matthew Chapter 24 in its entirety before reading any farther.

... ... ...

Now, did you read it? Good. Now, for years, Christians have claimed that Biblical prophecy buttresses our belief in the reliability of the scriptures. Many unbelievers, however, point to Matthew chapter 24 as an example of unfulfilled prophecy.

In the passage, Jesus predicts a number of things which, according to some Christians, have never happened.

These predictions include:
a) False messiahs (v. 4-5)
b) Wars and rumors of war (v. 6-7)
c) Famines and Earthquakes (v. 7)
d) Times of unmatched persecution (v. 9-14)
e) Lawlessness (v. 12)
f) Gospel preached to the whole world (v. 14)
g) The Abomination of Desolation (Predicted in Daniel 9:24-27; Reiterated in v. 15)
h) The Great Tribulation (v. 21-22)
i) Jesus comes with judgement, on the clouds (v. 29-30)

Now, the short version of it is that in verse 34, Jesus says something very important regarding the timetable for the things he is predicting. "I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened." This really is the clenching idea; did Jesus' predictions come true within the lifetime of those listening to His words, or not? (The Geneva Institute for Reformed Studies has done a nice little study demonstrating how each of these predictions of Jesus have, historically speaking, been fulfilled.)

The important idea, however, is to understand that Jesus was speaking to a particular audience when he predicted these things. He was not speaking to 21st century Christians, He was speaking to first century Jews. And in the presence of these Jews, in roughly the year 30 AD, he pronounced that all his predictions would come true before they had all died. It seems relatively clear, then, that we ought to look for the fulfillment of these predictions to occur within the lifetime of his audience. The Preterist position, I would submit, offers the clearest, plainest, and most literal understanding of Christ's words possible here in Matthew 24.

A little nugget from our good buddy, John Calvin may be apropos regarding verse 34:

Though Christ employs a general expression, yet he does not extend the discourses to all the miseries which would befall the Church, but merely informs them, that before a single generation shall have been completed, they will learn by experience the truth of what he has said. For within fifty years the city was destroyed and the temple was rased, the whole country was reduced to a hideous desert, and the obstinacy of the world rose up against God. Nay more, their rage was inflamed to exterminate the doctrine of salvation, false teachers arose to corrupt the pure gospel by their impostures, religion sustained amazing shocks, and the whole company of the godly was miserably distressed. Now though the same evils were perpetrated in uninterrupted succession for many ages afterward, yet what Christ said was true, that, before the close of a single generation, believers would feel in reality, and by undoubted experience, the truth of his prediction

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Glory of Limited Atonement

John Murray is one of the great Reformed theologians in history. His thought and work on the doctrine of redemption is without parallel. Yes it is brief, but that is part of its grandeur. He is able to cover a vast topic with great depth, with only a few strokes of the pen.

His chapter on the extent of the atonement is one of the best. In this chapter he takes head on those who claim that Christ died to make salvation possible—a so-called ‘hypothetical universalism.’ He sets his theological arsenal directly at those who use the seemingly universalistic passages and shows that this is a false understanding. He concludes that the very glory of the cross is at stake. Those who claim that Christ did not secure the salivation of the elect on the cross are diminishing the glory of Christ. If Christ did not die in a unique way for the elect, then the cross loses its splendor. He concludes this chapter with these poignant words:

We can readily see, therefore, that although universal terms are sometimes used in connection with the atonement these terms cannot be appealed to as establishing the doctrine of universal atonement. In some cases, as we have found, it can be shown that all-inclusive universalism is excluded by the considerations of the immediate context. In other cases there are adequate reasons why universal terms should be used without the implication of distributively universal extent. Hence no conclusive support for the doctrine of universal atonement can be derived from universalistic expressions. The question must be determined on the basis of other evidence. This evidence we have tired to present. It is easy for the proponents of universal atonement to make offhand appeal to a few texts. But this method is not worthy of the serious student of Scripture. It is necessary for us to discover what redemption or atonement really means. And when we examine the Scripture we find that the glory of the cross of Christ is bound up with the effectiveness of its accomplishment. Christ redeemed us to God by his blood, he gave himself a ransom that he might deliver us from iniquity. The atonement is efficacious substitution.

For Those of You New to the Whole Federal Vision

R. Scott Clark has posted a great summary and "re-cap" of the federal vision controversy. If you are not sure what this is all about this post is for you. Here is a sample,

The FV movement was (and is) disparate. Some of the leaders lack formal theological education (e.g. Doug Wilson). Some have PhDs (e.g. Peter Leithart and Jeff Myers). Their original claim to be recovering historic Reformed Christianity is no longer tenable so now they generally claim to be discovering a “more biblical” form of Christianity, to be carrying on the work of Reformation. The claim to have discovered something new and interesting and to be more biblical, of course, attracts attention from, if I may be blunt, naive evangelicals who don’t know the Reformation or the history of Reformed theology and exegesis in the first place but who are perhaps attracted to the doctrine of predestination and disposed toward novelty already.

The difficulty with the claim to be reforming the Reformed churches, of course, is that the FV ends up advocating views already considered and rejected by the Reformed churches. Most of what the FV is peddling is little different in substance from what the medieval church taught and from what the Remonstrants taught in reaction to the Reformation doctrine of justification sola gratia, sola fide.

Galatians 3:10 and Works of the Law (Part 3)

Galatians 3:10

{Osoi ga.r evx e;rgwn no,mou eivsi,n( u`po. kata,ran eivsi,n\ ge,graptai ga.r o[ti evpikata,ratoj pa/j o]j ouvk evmme,nei pa/sin toi/j gegramme,noij evn tw/| bibli,w| tou/ no,mou tou/ poih/sai auvta,Å

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse, for it has been written that, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in everything that has been written in the Book of the Law to do them.”

It seems best to set forth the meaning of this passage and then to interact with those who depart from the meaning of this text. In other words, we will lay out the Old Perspective on this text and then move to an interaction and critique of proponents of the New Perspective.

After arguing for justification through faith in Galatians 3:7-9, Paul now turns to a negative argument for justification through faith. After showing positive proof for justification through faith, Paul strengthens his case by a negative argument taken from the impossibility of sustaining its opposite—justification through works of the law. Paul does this by employing the Old Testament to show that one who relies on works of the law is cursed.[1]

Verse 10 starts with “for” (Gk. ga.r), which could be loosely translated as “on the other hand.” This shows a contrast with “those of faith” in verses 7, 9.[2] “Verse 9 is about ‘those who have faith,’ while v. 10 concerns those who observe the law.”[3] Paul asserts that “all who rely on works of the law are under a curse.” That is to say, that anyone who holds works of the law as a way to be justified is under a curse. The anarthrous kata,ran has the effect of “cursed as opposed to blessed.” [4] “Paul frequently assembled an argument from contraries and develops his theology in terms of antitheses.”[5] After asserting that those who look to the law for justification are under a curse, he grounds this assertion in the Old Testament.

The exact nature of Paul’s Old Testament citation is under dispute. Is Paul quoting from the Hebrew Old Testament, or the Septuagint (LXX)? Is Paul referring to one verse, or two verses conflated together to make one point? Is Paul citing the Old Testament from memory or does he have a copy of the text he is citing? The reason these questions arise results from the fact that there are words that appear in Paul’s citation that are not in the Masoretic Text (MT) of Hebrew Old Testament: pa/j “everyone,” pa/sin “everything.” Also, Paul substitutes evn tw/| bibli,w| tou/ no,mou “in the Book of the Law” for toi/j lo,goij tou/ no,mou tou,tou “the word of this law.”

Some have suggested that the reason for this is that Paul is conflating two verses into one citation—Deuteronomy 27:26 and Deuteronomy 28:1.[6] They argue that “Paul may simply have conflated the two texts into a single quotation as he did earlier in [Galatians] 3:8 with Gen 12:3 and 18:18.”[7] Though this is a plausible explanation of the data, it seems there exists an explanation that is to be preferred, namely, Paul quotes, from memory, the LXX translation of Deuteronomy 27:26a.[8] “Paul’s twofold ‘all’ is probably the result not of his fusing two quotations but more simply of his following the LXX text of Dt. 27:26a, which by inserting the two instances of pas adds emphasis to what is expressed in the MT.”[9] This explanation accounts for Paul’s use of pa/j “everyone” and pa/sin “everything,” because they are in the text of the LXX. Also, it accounts for why Paul substitutes evn tw/| bibli,w| tou/ no,mou “in the Book of the Law” for toi/j lo,goij tou/ no,mou tou,tou “the word of this law:” since he quotes from memory, without the text in front of him it is easy for Paul to use synonyms. Further

By substituting “everything that is written in the Book of the Law” for the Septuagint’s “all the words of this law” (MT also has ‘this law’ [taZOà]), Paul further generalizes the original denunciation of “the man who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out”… into a curse on “every one who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law and do them”…whereas “this law” refers to the twelve curses pronounced from Mount Ebal (the “Shechemite dodecalouge”; Dt. 27:15-26), “the law” is in Paul’s mind a reference to the written Torah (cf. Dt. 31:26; Jos. 1:8) in all its details.[10]

Therefore, what Paul is communicating in this passage is that all who hold to works of the law as a means of justification are under the curse declared by the law itself because all who do not do everything in the law are under a curse.

A more fundamental question lies behind this question of what Paul is quoting; why does he quote this passage? In other words, in what way does it advance his argument that those who rely on works of the law will not be justified? The key to understanding the answer to this question is the phrase Paul inserts at the end of this passage: tou/ poih/sai auvta, (to do them).

This phrase shows that Paul is in the realm of performance. Paul quotes this passage to illustrate the fact that e;rgwn no,mou is in the sphere of performance. This LXX quote shows that Paul thinks of e;rgwn no,mou as something that is done or performed by an agent. This sets forth the idea that justification is not based on an individual’s performance of works of the law, but rather that justification is through faith in the one who performed on behalf of his people.[11] Further, it needs to be understood that Paul does not have in mind just certain Old Testament laws, i.e. circumcision or the dietary laws. Rather, it is clear that Paul has the entire demands laid out in the Old Testament.

In order for Paul’s argument to carry any force there is an underlying, implicit, premise that must be true. This premise is that no one can fulfill the entire law. Paul’s argument may be put like this: 1) Unless one does everything that is in the law they are under a curse; 2) No one can fulfill everything that is in the law; 3) Therefore, everyone is under a curse.[12] John Calvin puts the syllogism as, “Whoever has come short in any part of the law is cursed; all are held chargeable with this guilt; therefore all are cursed.”[13] Thus, in order for Paul’s argument to be effective his implicit premise, which he assumes to be true, must in fact be true. “This argument of Paul would not stand, if we had sufficient strength to fulfill the law; for there would then be a fatal objection to the minor proposition.”[14]

Some have argued that Paul is not implying this premise. Some have argued that Paul could not have thought that a single infraction of the law would place one under the curse of the law because the law makes provision for infractions done against the law.[15] The way this difficulty is resolved is by understanding the nature of the Old Testament sacrificial system. The Book of Hebrews explains that sacrifices in the Old Testament were never intended to remove guilt from those who were under the curse of the law. Rather, the cultic sacrifices in the Old Testament were a shadow and type of the one to come who would in fact remove the guilt from their transgressors.[16]

Others have argued against this premise that no one can keep the whole law by pointing to Paul’s words in Philippians 3:6, where he describes himself as being blameless before the law. In this text, some claim, Paul is saying that he is blameless with respect to legal righteousness.[17] Again, this difficulty is not insurmountable if one sees Paul’s words in Philippians 3:6 as the words of a self-righteous Pharisee. When Paul says he is blameless before the law, these are the words of a Pharisee who has not yet seen that the law is more than external actions. In addition, this idea that no one can do all that is in the law is not unique to Paul here in Galatians. It is found in a number of rabbis and Jewish teachers of Paul’s day, especially those of the school of Shammai.[18] Further, it is found elsewhere in the New Testament: James 2:10 and Romans 3:23.

With this understanding of Galatians 3:10—namely, that anyone who tries to find a right standing before God on the basis of works done or performed in conformity to the Old Testament law, in part or whole, will not be justified—we turn to those who have seen works of the law as not a means of a right standing before God, but as a way to distinguish those who are and who are not the people of God.


[1] Lightfoot, 136.
[2] Ronald Y.K. Fung, The Epistle to the Galatians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988), 141. J. Gresham Machen, Machen’s Notes on Galatians: Notes on Biblical Exposition and Other Aids to the Interpretation of the Epistle to the Galatians (Birmingham: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2006), 177.
[3] Timothy George, The New American Commentary: Galatians (Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 229.
[4] William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995), 127. Frederick William Danker, ed., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Ed.. (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1957), 525.
[5] Timothy George, The New American Commentary: Galatians (Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 229.
[6] Ibid., 230. Guy Waters, The End of Deuteronomy in the Epistles of Paul (Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2006), 80-86.
[7] George, 230.
[8] John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Galatians (Chicago: Moody Press, 1987), 77. James D. G. Dunn, Black’s New Testament Commentary: The Epistle to the Galatians (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1993), 170. Martin Luther, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Galatians (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1998), 143. Lightfoot, 137. Fung , 141. Machen, 177. Though this text says “Deut. 27:16” this seems to be a misprint since this passage does not have the some content as Deuteronomy 27:26.
[9] Fung, 141.
[10] Fung, 141.
[11] Venema, 27-92. Waters, The End of Deuteronomy in the Epistles of Paul, 177-178.
[12] Machen, 177-178. George, 230.
[13] John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2005), 89.
[14] Ibid., 89.
[15] George, 231.
[16] Hebrews 8, 10.
[17] Fung, 142.
[18] George, 230.

Anthony Flew: Tool?

My first memory of Anthony Flew involved a debate he had with William Lane Craig regarding the existence of God. I remember very clearly that I was in a very formative stage of my life, and was still "searching" in many ways for the truth about God. William Lane Craig argued that because Jesus' resurrection is such an historically attested fact, God had to exist, because in naturalistic terms, resurrections do not happen. Ever. An interesting approach to say the least, I thought.

Fast forward, and it's virtually all over the Christian world that Anthony Flew is no longer an atheist. He is, by all accounts now, a deist. My lovely wife gave me a copy of Flew's newest (and probably last) book, There Is A God: How The World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. I immediately started reading, and have been tearing through it. The nice thing is, reading the book is making me thankful for my philosophy degree because I feel very comfortable with the discussion and the language that is being used. Granted, the book is not exactly over-the-top with the complex philosophical nomenclature, but you've got to remember, I'm getting rusty after only a couple years out of school.

Anyway, I have so far been finding the book very encouraging and engaging (it's especially insightful with regards to the "new atheists"). Recently, I came across an article by Mark Oppenheimer in the New York Times where he gives a review of Flew's book, focusing more on the authorship of the book than on any of Flew's arguments. The saddest part is, I am a little confused as to who is right. Did Flew simply let his co-author write the whole book and then simply stamp it? Is Flew getting old and senile as Oppenheimer would like to portray? I simply don't know, and I haven't read enough of Anthony Flew's books or arguments to be able to tell whether the book is even written in Flew's ordinary language.

In contrast to the NY Times piece, what might be termed a "counter-article" from Crosswalk can be found here. I'm still doing alot of thinking about this book, so I'm far from settled. I'll let you all know what I think of the book when I'm done with it.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Uniquely Lovable

There was a unique bond between the Father and the Son, arising from the fact that th Son was uniquely lovable and the Father was uniquely affectionate. God could not have made a greater sacrifice. His love is astonishing precisely because at this point he put the world before his Son. The statement, ‘God gave the world for his Son’ would evoke no wonder. The statement, ‘God gave his Son for the world’ borders on the incredible. Conversely, the Son could not have suffered a greater loss. To have ‘lost’ the Father, as he did in the dereliction (Mark 15.34), was the greatest of all possible pains.
The Person of Christ, Donald MacLeod, p. 73

Friday, December 21, 2007

Some Vintage Jesus

I don't normally do this, but I know you will all love these.

Vintage Jesus #1

Vintage Jesus #2

For those with particularly sensitive consciences regarding the second commandment, you may want to steer away. You have been warned. But also, these videos ARE in fact, funny. That's my 2 cents.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Are We To Prefer Faithless Israel?

I was reading Thomas Ice's review of The Apocalypse Code by Hank Hanegraaff and just wanted to offer a few comments on the rhetoric and spin Ice uses in his review.

Ice says:
This book is not only filled with factual error throughout, but teaches that most Bible prophecy has already been fulfilled and advocates the following preterist viewpoints: Nero was the beast of Revelation (i.e., the antichrist), Christ's Olivet discourse and most of the Book of Revelation were fulfilled by events surrounding the a.d. 70 destruction of Jerusalem, and the tribulation was also fulfilled in the first century.
So far, so good... A nice summary. Ice continues:

Hanegraaff is certainly no lover of Israel since he teaches that God divorced the harlot Israel (he needs to read the end of Hosea) and took a new bride-the church, supports the pro-Palestinian claims against Israel, and even accuses Israel of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Hanegraaff embraces and argues for many viewpoints that are detrimental to sound Bible study and interpretation.
Just because Hanegraaff isn't actively supporting and exalting everything Israel does does not mean he is no lover of Israel. We, as Christians are called to love everyone, including those who are not in the faith - and therefore outside of the family of God. I am certain that even though Hanegraaff isn't waving the Israeli flag outside his house, it is fair to say that Hanegraaff doesn't hate Israel. He is simply saying that we, as Christians, should stop preferring one group of people because of their genetic lineage. That is racism, as he points out. Rather, all of the human race is on equal footing with God, in that our DNA does not decide whether he loves or hates us.

Also, the Bible does not teach that God has taken a new bride. Rather, God is staying true to the same covenant that He has always promised to follow: that he would be with his people. Who are his people? Those who love him and follow his commandments. If Israel has violated this agreement (by rejecting their Messiah), but many who are Gentiles have been "grafted in" (by believing in their Messiah) as it were, is it not safe to say that God is staying true to the same bride He has
always stayed true to?

Additionally, with regards to Ice's review, I would say that once one abandons this racist notion that Israelis are preferred by God because of their genetics (in spite of their rebellion against the Messiah) Hanegraaff's accusation of ethnic cleansing seems to make sense, to a certain degree.

This will possibly be (depending on who reads this) the most controversial thing I've said, but I agree with Hanegraaff that we as Christians now possess the full revelation of God, and as such, we know that God desires faith, and that His covenant between Abraham and his descendants is only for those descendants who are "true descendants" who have faith in the same savior whom Abraham looked forward to (Gal. 3:7-9).

[Edit: I would like to point everyone to a couple of articles on this subject. One is by Michael Horton entitled Remnant: Who is Israel? Another interesting article by Gary DeMar points out that given the dispensational hermeneutic, there is a massive holocaust awaiting the Jews in the Holy Land. I also want to clarify that my actual position is not that Israel is permanently cut off from ever being saved (many Jews become believers every day around the world, I'm sure). Rather, my point is that ethnic Israel now receives no special treatment if they persist in unbelief.]

A Bit Cooky

Doug Wilson has a new post on his blog, here. It is a response to David Gadbois' latest article which can be found here.

In Gadbois' post he argues that the Federal Vision "seems to have to marginalize adult baptisms, because it doesn’t fit nicely into what they view as the 'norm' for baptismal efficacy. Various manifestations of the doctrine of baptismal regeneration (and, yes, I realize there is no uniform definition of this doctrine) seem to depend on making infant baptisms paradigmatic." Gradbois says this is because when a adult is baptized it is done after a profession of faith. Thus, the adult being baptized is already justified before baptism (assuming his faith is God given, saving faith). This shows, as Gradbois argues, that the adult baptism does not effect his justification.

This argument seems straightforward and difficult for the Federal Vision position. Pastor Wilson sets out to defend the Federal Vision from this charge by quoting the Westminster Standards:
The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongs unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in His appointed time (28.6).
Wilson argues that baptism can work even before it is applied. That is, the act of saving faith done on the part of the adult is done because they will in the future be baptized. God is working in the adult in light of what will happen in the future.

All who hold to the Westminster will gladly agree that an infant's baptism can work after the baptism. This is clear in the section of the Confession quoted. But working backwards? This response of Wilson's is clever, I must admit that, but it seems to be lacking exegetical warrant. I am unaware of any passage that speaks of baptism working retroactively. More exegetical work needs to be done before this should be seen as a valid response. Further, is there any evidence that the Westminster Divines saw baptism working retroactively? If not, why are we to read this section of the Confession that way?

This response seems to be grasping for straws. It would appear that this is just another problem with the FV position. I am not sure how many "wholes" need to be shown in this view before it is abandoned, but one more cannot hurt.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Virgin Birth in Luke's Gospel

There are some in High Critical Circles that want to discredit Luke's account of the virgin birth because, as they argue, Luke gives two different concepts of divine sonship. In verse 32 of Luke chapter 1 Jesus' sonship is linked to the fact that his is the Messiah. That is, Jesus is God's son because he is the messiah. Three verses later in verse 35, his sonship is linked to his miraculous conception. In other words, Jesus is God's son because he is born from the power on High.

In responding to this charge, Donald MacLeod states:
It is difficult to see any inconsistency between the two views. The Davidic sonship is surely no more incompatible with the divine sonship than it is with his being David's Lord. To invoke the idea that verse 32f. and 34f. represent two different sources is a desperate expedient. It is reasonable to assume that any discrepancy would have been as obvious to Luke as to modern scholars: and certainly difficult to believe that something so obvious would have taken 2,000 years to discover.
Further, I would add, that if Luke was trying to make a case for the virgin birth and the Messiahship of Jesus, it seems odd that he would contradict himself 3 verse apart. This argument wants the reader to believe that Luke was careless or perhaps dumb. I am not buying what the Higher Critics are selling.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Before Jumping Ship

There is a great book review of John Piper's new book, The Future of Justification, on Reformation Theology's blog. In this article an insightful comment is made about how to handle new teachings in the Church.
Anytime a new idea begins to challenge an entrenched understanding within the Church, whether that idea is right or wrong, much serious consideration ought to be employed before accepting it.
I fear that this is not being done in many quarters. It seems as if people are signing on the dotted line of confessions they have not read simply because this or that theology said to. This is dangerous! If a key doctrine of the Christian faith, such as Justification, is being altered, there should be years of study before a changed should be made. As the Apostle Paul reminds us,

He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Galatians 3:10 and Works of the Law (Part 2)

e;rgwn no,mou in the Pauline Corpus[1]

Paul uses the terms e;rgwn no,mou and/or no,moj at times interchangeably[2] and in different ways—sometimes favorably and other times negatively. When looking at the Pauline corpus at least four distinct uses of “works of the law” or simply “law” can be discerned: the Old Testament, as a “principle,” a moral law given to all mankind, or the Law of Moses. We will look at each of these in turn.

The first use is that of the Old Testament. Paul employs no,moj often to point to the whole of the Old Testament or sometimes more particularly as a designation for the Pentateuch—the first five books of the Old Testament. Thus, when Paul refers to no,moj he is referring to a body of inspired literature (1 Corinthians 9:8-9; 14:21, 34; Romans 3:19; Galatians 4:21-31). The clearest example of this is 1 Corinthians 9:8-9, “Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? For it is written in the Law of Moses…” In these verses Paul refers to the Law and he lets his readers know what he means by “the Law,” namely, “the Law of Moses.”

The second use of no,moj is that of a principle. That is, when Paul utilizes the word no,moj he has in mind a “principle” or “rule” that refers to a rule that governs human life and conduct. Paul makes use of this meaning primarily in the book of Romans (Romans 3:27; 7:21, 23, 25; 8:2). “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.”[3]

The third use of no,moj refers to a moral law that is given to all people. This use is similar, yet distinct, from the second use. They are both moral standards, but they remain distinct because the third use is given to all mankind and thus different in content from the second use, since all mankind is not given the same moral law.[4] Consequently, this third use is broader and less specific in content as the second use (Romans 2:14-15; 26-27). The classic text for this moral law is Romans 2:14-15, “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.”

The fourth use of no,moj is that of the Law of Moses. This use has two distinct understandings—a broad sense and a narrow sense. The broad sense is the most important use of no,moj in Paul’s writings because it is Paul’s term for the Mosaic administration (a period of time) and this is central to Paul’s understanding of works and their role in justification (Romans 2:17-27; 5:13-14; 7; 10:4-5; Galatians 3:10-12, 17-24; 5:3-4). Romans 3:20 shows this use clearly, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight.” This also illustrates that in Paul e;rgwn no,mou and no,moj can be used interchangeably because Paul goes on in verse 21 to assert that “now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law.” In verse 20 the contrast is between e;rgwn no,mou (works of the law) and dikaiwqh,setai (will be justified), whereas in verse 21 the contrast is between no,mou (law) and dikaiosu,nh (righteousness). Notice that in verse 20 the verbal form is used and in verse 21 the noun form is used. Thus, it is apparent that Paul is making the same distinction in verse 20 as he is in 21, but he is using different words to express the same point. This shows that Paul uses e;rgwn no,mou and no,moj, in certain contexts, as synonyms.

Though the broad sense is the most significant, the narrow sense, which refers specifically to the obligations and demands of the law, is also important in that it helps us focus on a precise meaning of no,moj in Paul’s writings (1 Corinthians 9:8; 15:56; Romans 2:12-13, 23-27; 3:20-21, 28; Galatians 2:16, 19; 3:10). This narrow sense is evident in Galatians 2:16, “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”

This fourth use has a broad and a narrow sense, and as such, a passage can carry with it both of these meanings as in the case with our passage Galatians 3:10, which we will show to be the case. That is, a passage can refer to the law in general and to the demands of the law in specific. With this broad understanding of Paul’s overall use of the phrase e;rgwn no,mou and no,moj, we can now turn to our specific passage and grasp what Paul means by “works of the law” and the role they play in Paul’s view of justification and his over all argument in Galatians.


[1]The author is indeted to the work of Cornelis Venema for this section. Cornelis P. Venema, The Gospel of Free Acceptance in Christ: An Assessment of the Reformation and ‘New Perspectives’ on Paul (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2006), 171-173.
[2] There are some, such as James Dunn, who argue that the two phrases, e;rgwn no,mou and no,moj,
should be viewed as having different meanings. We do grant that Paul uses these phrases in different ways, but, as our discussion will show, at times time uses these phrases interchangeably—that is as synonyms. In other words, these phrases, in many places, are used to denote the same reality.
[3] Romans 7:21.
[4] The Old Testament sets out a moral standard that is quite different from the moral law written on the heart of all people (Romans 2:15), in that it is more specific in what it demands of those under it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Once for All

Justification takes place once for all. It is not repeated, neither is it a process; it is complete and for all time. There is no more or less in justification; man is either fully justified, or he is not justified at all.
Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, pg. 513.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Golden Compass: Why The Protests Did Not Work

Analysts predicted that the Golden Compass needed to make between $30 and 50 million this weekend in order to be considered a feasible success. It fell short over the Friday to Sunday weekend, taking in only around $25 million domestically (counting overseas ticket sales, though, it has made around $80 million). The real question is, did the objections and protests by Christian advocacy groups work?

The answer depends upon whether you were one of those protesting the film. For The Catholic League, the protests were a rousing success, keeping a big-budget blockbuster from even lifting off the ground. For many film critics and industry analysts, however, it was the largely poor reviews which kept many families away.

I would submit, however, that, for Christians, the real victory happened when the script was being written. When Chris Weitz was first commissioned to write the script, he declared that the anti-religious themes of the books would have to be toned down. Why would this be, except that he knew the film could never survive in Western cinema while speaking clearly and pungently against the Christian religion. Indeed, New Line Cinema could not afford to hang their hat on such an expensive project only to have it labeled as anti-Christian and religiously offensive in a nation where so many moviegoers consider themselves (in one form or another) to be Christians.

I would argue that many parents hold their children to much higher ideals than they hold themselves to. For example, parents will go and see an anti-religious film if it looks entertaining, but most wouldn't dare introduce such offensive ideas into their children's sensitive minds. The audience for this film is parents and their children, and most parents (speaking generally) want their children to be religious in some sense. In essence, the film could not remain true to the book and financially survive.

However, upon word that the movie would be watered down, Weitz received a flood of negative comments from those who wanted to see the atheistic elements of the books clearly presented in the film(s). Consider this article where anti-religious groups accuse Weitz of "white-washing" the books. Some anti-censorship groups were outraged, as well. Consider this quote from the Atlantic Monthly: "With $180 million at stake, the studio opted to kidnap the book’s body and leave behind its soul."

Simply put, the mere presence and strength of Christian moviegoers was enough for New Line cinema to change the essence of The Golden Compass so that families would attend. This is why I say that the victory for Christian advocates happened long before filming even began. Again, it is true that anti-Christian films are made all the time, but few of them are marketed to children.

Now, at this point, I am merely speculating, but the protests of The Catholic League and Focus on the Family would not have been enough to keep me away from the film, but I have few qualms about watching most films. I only went to see the film, initially, because I was asked by to do a review of it. What was keeping me (and several friends) away was the largely negative reviews of the film. If even a fraction of the moviegoers out there are of the same mind as me, then I can pretty much guarantee you that the movie killed itself, without the help of protesters. Of course, victory laps by the Christian advocacy groups are to be expected, but they should not get cocky. If this film were being unanimously declared movie of the year from critics everywhere you can bet that I wouldn't even be writing this article (or at least the title would have to be changed). I'd be sipping my heavily-creamed coffee and talking about how I can't wait for the next film in the trilogy, The Subtle Knife. Right now, I'm not so sure we'll ever see it.

Our Very Own

It may be hard to believe, but our very own Adam Parker has an article posted at Reformation 21 about the new movie The Golden Compass. The article can be found here.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Waitress: Defeating Love for Sin With a Greater Love

I just saw the movie Waitress moments ago, and I was struck by an apt object lesson which I'm sure the filmmakers had no intention of conveying.

In the film, Jenna (played by Keri Russell) is a waitress who is in a marriage to a horrible human being named Earl. On top of that, she is having his baby. Throughout the movie, he is physically abusive, verbally abusive, emotionally abusive, and clearly a degenerate, selfish human being. Anyway, on to the object lesson...

Jenna is never able to muster the courage to tell him that she doesn't love him and that she wants to leave him and have a fresh start (I will decline a commentary on the ethics of divorce). The film follows her through the ups and downs of her pregnancy. Finally, when her daughter is born, she is completely fixated with the child and is utterly captivated by the child's beauty. She realizes that she loves this child. At this moment of perfect rapture, Earl reminds Jenna that she promised never to love the baby more than she loves him.

This time, Jenna now has the courage to tell Earl that she hasn't loved him for years and that she wants a divorce. It is because of her newfound love for the child that she is able to say no to her controlling and wicked husband.

The object lesson here can be applied to sin, I think: The only way to stop loving sin is to replace it with a love for something greater. At this point, in our spiritual life specifically, we need effectual grace to overcome our love for sin and replace it with a greater love. In the same way that Jenna needed a greater love for her child to say no to her old way of life, so we too as human beings need to be captivated with a love for God if we are to stop loving sin.

I will still resist the urge to comment on whether Jenna was justified in leaving her husband. Maybe I'll follow this up with such a post. The important thing here is the object lesson: love for sin must be squelched by a love for God. It's as simple as that. Really! (We can make it complicated if we want, of course.)

My 30 second review of the actual movie (here goes): The movie was too sugary sweet for me. The pie-making imagery got on my nerves. The character's marriage may have been horrible, but that never justifies an affair (which to her credit she does end). Again, the film was not nearly sour enough for my tastes. I like to see people learn their lessons in movies, and I just don't think happy endings are the way for that to happen. Clearly all my favorite movies end in death. Now that I think of it, that's true. 2 out of 5 Stars, but chicks would probably give it a 4 or 5. My wife loved it, anyway.

Hodge on the Atonement

It many seem an odd thing to need to prove the full Calvinistic credentials of a man such as Charles Hodge, but there are some in the blogoshpere who are claiming he did not hold to the "L" in Tulip. So, I am undertaking the task to up hold the theological integrity of my fully Calvinistic forefather. In this life Hodge wrote many great works. But it is fair to say that his magnum opus is his three volume work on systematic theology. In the second of these works he undertakes the doctrine of Anthropology. In chapter eight of this volume he ask the question, "For Whom did Christ Die?" In answering this question he states,
There is a sense, therefore, in which He [Christ] died for all, and there is a sense in which He died for the elect alone. The simple question is, Had the death of Christ a reference to the elect which it had not to other men? Did He come into the world to secure the salvation of those given to Him by the Father, so that the other effects of his work are merely incidental to what was done for the attainment of that object? That these questions must be answered in the affirmative, is evident.
He then goes on into 7 section as to why this must be the case. Section five is of particular note. In this section, entitled Argument from the Believers Union with Christ, Hodge argues Christ was "the federal head, not of the human race, but of those given to Him by the Father."

His argument in this section goes:
1) a certain portion of the human race was given to Christ by the Father
2) this group was given to Christ before the foundation of the world
3) this group will of necessity come to Christ and thus be saved
4) this certain portion of humanity is federally united to Christ
5) Christ was the federal head for this group alone

After arguing for the specific and particular nature of the atonement, Hodge make this interesting comment, "Whatever reference it [the work of Christ] had to others was subordinate and incidental." From this alone it should be abundantly clear that Hodge held to a robust, thoroughgoing five point Calvinism. I for one will go with Hodge on this issue any day of the week!

Galatians 3:10 and Works of the Law (Part 1)


When it comes to interpreting the book of Galatians there are many difficult interpretive issues that shape one’s understanding of Galatians. Was the letter written before or after the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15?[1] Was it written to South Galatia or North Galatia?[2] In Galatians 2:16, is the genitive an objective or a subjective genitive?[3] What does Paul mean by “law” or “works of the law” in Galatians? How one answers these questions will, of necessity, impact the way one understands Paul’s letter to the Church of Galatia.[4] It is the final question listed that we will take up here. That is, what does Paul mean by e;rgwn no,mou or no,moj specifically in Galatians 3:10? There are two main interpretations that carry sway in New Testament studies today—what has been called the “New Perspective on Paul” and what could be called the “Old or Reformed Perspective on Paul.” We will set forth both of these views on Galatians 3:10 and defend the classic or Reformed view on this passage. But before we turn to this text, it would be helpful to see how Paul uses this phrase in his broader corpus.[5]

[1] J.B. Lightfoot, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (London and Cambridge: MacMillan and Co., 1869), 36-56.
[2] Ibid., 1-35
[3] pi,,stewj VIhsou/ Cristou/.For a discussion on this issue see: Arland J. Hultgren, “The Pistis Christou Formulation in Paul,” Novum Testamentum XXII, no. 3 (July 1980): 248-263. D.A. Carson, Peter T. O'Brien, and Mark A. Seifrid, eds., Justification and Variegated Nomism: Volume 2 The Paradoxes of Paul (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 217-248. Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 115-116.
[4] Galatians 1:2
[5] We are working from the conclusion that the Pauline corpus includes: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. For Pauline authorship questions relevant to this discussion see: Guy Waters, Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul: A Review and Response (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 2004), 5-6 and 167. D.A. Carson, and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005).

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Before You Think You Have it All Figured Out...

There are many in blogdom who think they know everything about dead theologians and can put them into a nice neat box. But then there is always that passing comment that you cannot fit into your system. This is the case with John Calvin. There are many, who are all over the map theologically, who try to make Calvin fit into their theological camp.

I am not one who thinks Calvin fits perfectly in my theological camp. I try to let Calvin stay in the 16th century, where he belongs. This by no means is to say that we cannot read Calvin and gain insight. We should read him! Calvin is great and he has many great insights, but the problem comes when we try to pull Calvin out of the 16th century and drop him into the 21st century. This happens, for example, when people try to make Calvin pick sides in the atonement debate. Many in blogdom insist that Calvin held a view of the atonement that includes Christ dying for all people of all times. They muster many Calvin quotes to show this to be the case. But then there is alway that passing comment that throws a monkey wrench in to the whole endeavor.

[T]he first thing to be explained is, how Christ is present with unbelievers, as being the spiritual food of souls, and, in short, the life and salvation of the world. And as he adheres so doggedly to the words, I should like to know how the wicked can eat the flesh of Christ which was not crucified for them? and how they can drink the blood which was not shed to expiate their sins? I agree with him, that Christ is present as a strict judge when his Supper is profaned. But it is one thing to be eaten, and another to be a judge.

This quote will make you scratch your head. Did he just say that Christ was not crucified for the wicked? It seems that way to me. Now, I am not trying to say Calvin held a limited atonement. But what I am saying is that Calvin was not in the 17th and 18th centuries when the debate of the extent of the atonement hit its climax. This issue was not of the front-burner of Calvin's mind. This quote should do at least one thing, it should make us stop and think before we shove dead theologians into our modern theological boxes. Read them in their context, this includes their historical context.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Polls Decide Truth, So Amillenial It Is!

We are relieved to announce that our eschatology poll has come to an end. Since the poll has ended, an overwhelming majority of you have spoken. 54% of you voted in favor of amillenialism. And now that we have a consensus, we at Bring the Books are able to officially announce that this is the place to come whenever you feel that you are not welcome in your premillenial, dispensational, and yes, even in your postmillenial churches. That's right, because we listen to the crowds and have little or no mind for ourselves, we are officially christening this blog Amillenial World. This will, of course, be used as a nickname or unofficial title, since Josh and I still really like Bring the Books.

And, because popular vote decides truth (polls don't lie, after all), we are also pleased to announce that amillenialism is the official biblical position. It's been debated for thousands of years, and there's been alot of tough studying done by everyone involved, but you all knew there had to come a day when some resolution would finally be reached. That's right: this poll has settled it.

And in keeping with thousands of years of Church tradition, we have the difficult task of announcing that everyone who voted amill will be allowed to stay in their respective churches, while those who voted otherwise have until the end of the month to get their theology straight or vacate their posts.

It's a difficult time for everyone, and though this announcement is easier to make because we are, ourselves, amillenial, we know this will be best for everyone.

Again, you have until January 2nd 2008 to convert to the majority position of amillenialism. After that date, if you have yet to shift your eschatology, Adam will start posting Monty Python quotes, and Josh will be forced to upload videos of himself performing Social Distortion songs, acapella.

Again, we're sorry it has come to this point, but we feel the church is better served if we just pull off the band-aid quickly rather than drawing it out slowly and painfully. In ten years, you'll all look back at this moment and realize this really was the right way to go about it.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Please Pray!

I do not have all the details, but I just received a phone call from my co-author, Adam Parker, who asked for prayers for his wife and 2 year old daughter. They were both in a car accident. The news I received was that Adam was on his way to the hospital where the ambulance was taking his wife and daughter. He thought that both of them were alright, but his little girl had a bloody nose.

Please take a few moments and pray for Adam and his family at this time. More information about this situation will follow.

[Update from Adam]: My wife and daughter are fine, but for a few bruises and scratches. Our car is totalled, but that is a temporal thing which can be replaced. My brother was driving the car, and thankfully he is alright, as well. I will not be sharing alot of the details, but the most important information is that my wife, daughter, and brother are all okay. I am very thankful to know that God is sovereign is situations like this. On my way to pick them up, I drove without the radio on, and all I could do was speak thanksgiving to God for his power, and his sovereign control over every detail of his universe. I am so comforted to know that everything which occurs is intended to bring God the maximum glory. I am also comforted to know that, as believers, our family can always count on any situation to be controlled by God for our ultimate good. Atheists and Open Theists are in the same boat in a situation like this. They can count on the randomness and confusion of the universe to leave them with no assurances. But we Christians know that our God is sitting on his throne, and not one "maverick molecule" is running free out there.

Thank you all for your prayers.

Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry

In the October issue of the OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church) publication Ordained Servant, OPC pastor the Rev. Dr. Mark Garcia published a review of Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry that was sharply and almost entirely negative. In this month's number of the Ordained Servant, the Rev. Dr. W. Robert Godfrey, President of Westminster Seminary California, and the Rev. Dr. David VanDrunen, Robert B. Strimple Professor of Systematic Theology at WSC, have published a response.
Taken from R. Scott Clark's blog, Heidelblog.

Westminster on Baptism

Westminster Confession of Faith 28:6
The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, not withstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in His appointed time.
The confession makes a point to state that the grace in baptism is only given to those "that grace belongs unto." This seems to fly in the face of the so-called 'Federal Vision.'

As best I can discern, this view says that the grace of baptism is given to all that are baptized. That is, that baptsim is the means God uses for justifying people. For example, Rich Lusk makes this comment in his article Faith, Baptism, & Justification,

The Westminster Standards point in this same direction. On the one hand the Confession says no one is actually justified until Christ is applied to them (11.4). But the Shorter Catechism specifically says one function of baptism is to apply Christ to the believer (92). Putting these two statements together yields this conclusion: Baptism is the instrument through which Christ is applied to us unto justification.

Thus, we can say that faith is the instrument of justification on our end, while baptism is the instrument on God’s side.

However, one must keep in mind that justification can be lost, not for the decretaly elect, but the non-elect, in this sense, can have justification and lose it. This is what leads to saying that the grace in baptism is for all baptized.

This group would do better to use all the qualification on baptism that the confession gives.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Oh Nero, You Rascal!

I've been doing a little reading on Nero, and I thought I would share a few snippets regarding the rationale (besides hermeneutics) of why many Christians believe that Caesar Nero was the Antichrist.

Nero reigned from 54AD to 68AD. Not only was he infamous for his torture and hatred of Christians who refused to bow down and worship him as God, but he also killed the Apostles Peter and Paul, and he instituted the first large-scale persecution of Christians. If Nero were alive today, doing these things, these acts alone would have Pat Robertson and Hal Lindsey speculating that Nero is the Antichrist (contemporary events have a way of seeming more exciting and immediate than history, don't they?). Additionally, there is an interesting reference in the book of Revelation to a number, by which the beast could be identified by his contemporaries: 666.

Now, I am no Hebrew scholar, but I will do what I can, here. Every letter in the Greek and Hebrew alphabets also has a numerical value.

The Name "Neron Qe[i]sar" transliterated, in Hebrew as נרון קסר adds up numerically in this way:

Resh: 200
Samekh: 60
Qoph: 100
Nun: 50
Waw: 6
Resh: 200
Nun: 50
TOTAL: 666

I might touch on the textual variations of 666 (namely 616) as further evidence, but I don't want this post to be all numbers. So chew on this one for awhile. Also, I was tired of using the word "contemporary" and feared I might use it again.

PS: An amazing resource I just came across offers not only a good overview of Preterist Eschatology, but a decent exegetical apologetic for the position.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Doug Wilson Got it Right!

I was on safari in the blogosphere and came across this old post by Doug Wilson.

With regard to the atonement and Amyraldianism, I believe that Jesus Christ, by His death on the cross, absolutely secured the salvation of an innumerable host, each member of that host being known by name to God before the foundation of the world. I believe that the number of those so known and numbered by God can neither be increased or diminished by anything conceived by the mortal mind of man. With regard to the atonement and Arminianism, I believe that when Christ died to pay the penalty for someone, the penalty for that someone is actually paid. As a result, there is no one in hell for whom that redemptive penalty was paid.

It is good to see that Doug Wilson still is holding to, what seems to be, a traditional understanding of particular redemption.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Difference a Word Makes

An article was posted a few weeks ago by the Salt Lake Tribune. This article reports that one single word of the Book of Mormon has been changed. The word 'principal' was changed to 'among,' so the new reading is now: "After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians."

A brief historical background for this change would be helpful. The Book of Mormon taught that the ancestors of the Native Americans were a group of Jews named the Lamanites that left from Egypt during the time of the Jewish persecution in Egypt and fled to the Americas.

But due to the advance in DNA testing, it has been shown that the Native Americans are not descendants of the Jews. Thus, the LDS Church needs to respond to this. This change is one way that the LDS Church is dealing with these new findings.

No takers...?

I see that we have no takers for "Unorthodox Preterist" on our eschatology poll. Well, I suppose we couldn't expect a hymenaen preterist to admit that their position is unorthodox. That one's my fault, really. You can't bring a dog to the table with cat food, after all.

Please pray, everyone, for my wife and I. We have been attending an independent Bible church which is dispensational in its theology for some time, now, and we are looking for a good reformed church (not Baptist) in the central Kansas area to begin attending. We'd love any suggestions, as I have a strong desire to exercise my gifts in a theological environment where my positions aren't necessarily controversial (understatement).

Also, I know I'm about 2 years behind the times, but I started reading Hank Hanegraaff's book The Last Disciple, and I'm not exactly impressed by the writing, but I am impressed with the novelty of demonstrating the validity of the preterist view of the end times by recounting historical events (particularly dealing with Nero and his identity as the Beast of Revelation) alongside of the Scriptures. I think that someone who finds preterist eschatology to be challenging or inexplicable may just have an easier time if they read this series of books. After all, not everyone has their Ph.D. in hermeneutics.

Also, on a sad note, we at Bring the Books have decided to drop Theolax as our sponsor as of today. Sadly, it turns out that our own Adam Parker has been taking Theolax for about a year and a half and it hasn't worked out well for him. Only after reading the side-effects listed did Adam realize that Chinese food had nothing to do with his inverted spleen symptoms. Apparently it is safe to eat dog and study soteriology after all.

Current Distortions of Biblical Justification

How disheartening it is to see both of these saving doctrines misunderstood or even denied in the evangelical church today. I refer in part to evangelical leaders who embrace a doctrine of justification that is hard to distinguish from the Roman Catholic position that we are accounted righteous by infusion rather than imputation. I refer also to advocates of the New Perspective on Paul who believe that the Reformation doctrine of justification was mistaken in fundamental ways. To use J. I. Packer’s analogy, Atlas has shrugged.

These distortions take a number of different forms, which I mention only briefly. Some evangelicals are simply saying that justification is by grace, and leaving it at that. By avoiding saying that justification is based on grace alone or received by faith alone, they are able to make common cause with Catholicism, which has always said that justification is by grace. Other evangelicals want to say the same thing about Judaism at the time of Christ. It was not a religion of legalistic works-righteousness, they say, but a religion of grace. Therefore, the Reformers were mistaken to see Paul as standing against a religion of works rather than faith. Others are saying that justification is not so much about our standing before God as it is about our relationship to the church as a covenant community. Or they say that justification does have something to do with our standing before God, but our real and ultimate justification will only take place on the last day, when our good works will serve as part of the basis for (and not simply the evidence of) our righteousness before God. Thus our present justification is only provisional, which has the unhappy result of turning salvation into probation.

It is sad that these misunderstandings of biblical justification are having an influence on the church, especially at the seminary level, where any theological confusion will be multiplied many times over. It is sad but also strange—strange because these theologians are setting justification in opposition to union with Christ, whereas the Reformation position has always been that these doctrines are inseparable.

As a case in point, consider John Calvin, who said that our union with Christ “makes us sharers with him in the gifts with which he has been endowed. We do not, therefore, contemplate him outside ourselves from afar in order that his righteousness may be imputed to us but because we put on Christ and are engrafted into his body—in short, because he deigns to make us one with him. For this reason, we glory that we have fellowship of righteousness with him.” In other words, for Calvin it is the doctrine of union with Christ that provides the very context for justification by imputation. Calvin made this explicit when he said that God does not absolve us “by the confirmation of our own innocence but by the imputation of righteousness, so that we who are not righteous in ourselves may be reckoned as such in Christ.” John Owen said the same thing more succinctly, but equally emphatically: “The foundation of imputation is union.”

This is taken from Justification and Union with Christ by Phillip Ryken.