Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Year in Review, MTV Style


This is the last day of 2008 and I thought it might be cool to post a few music videos that would sum up this last your for me. I hope you enjoy.





Book Review: Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek: Part 2


In the first review on Campbell's new book on aspect, I covered the introduction and chapters 1 and 2. In this review, I want to finish the first half of the book by giving a overview of chapters 3, 4, and 5.

Chapter 3 of Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek deals with perfective aspect, which Campbell calls the external viewpoint. The main tense form that Campbell defines as perfective is the aorist tense. After giving a few examples to illustrate his point, Campbell tackles the issue of whether or not the aorist tense-form is a past tense. He concludes that since the aorist is not always past tense, citing Mark 1:11 to prove this point, the context must be used to determine if an aorist verb is indeed past tense. Further, Campbell argues that "remoteness" is a better way of understanding the aorist than always past tense. This is the way, according to Campbell, the aorist is the back bone of narrative. The aorist gives the nuts and bolts of the story while other forms are used to give details of the story.

In chapter 4 Campbell discusses imperfective aspect. This aspect is to be understood as an internal viewpoint, as though the action is happening right before your eyes. The present tense is the tense-form that fits into this category of aspect. Further, the present tense gives a sense of "proximity." In narrative, the present is often found in discourse, this could be due to the fact that discourse is done when near another. The last feature of the present tense that Campbell addresses is the phenomenon of the historical present. In the New Testament, the present tense is often used to denote a past action. In other words, the New Testament often uses the present tense-form to speak of an action in the past. This is done to highlight the imperfective aspect of the verbal action.

Chapter 5, one of the more difficult chapters, deals with the problem of the perfect. The problem is that the perfect is difficult, if not impossible, to define. One solution offered by Stanley Porter to the problem of the perfect is to view the perfect as stative with regard to aspect, which is defined as a general state of affairs. However, Campbell does not like this solution because it is difficult to get a precis definition and it does not find a parallel in any other language. Instead, Campbell opts for the solution that states that the perfect is to be understood as imperfective in aspect, viewed from within. Further, he argues that the perfect is distinguished from other verb forms with imperfective aspect by stating that the perfect has a heightened sense of proximity.

Although I do not agree fully with all of Campbell's conclusions, most notably, his solution to the perfect problem, his book is outstanding. He is a great writer who is able to take a very complicated subject and make it very easy to understand and for that he and this book are to be commended.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Just in Time for the Holidays


Anyone who visits Bring the Books on a regular basis will surely notice the new look. The face lift is my gift to the readers and staff of Bring the Books. Many thanks to the the staff at Tekeme for the hard work and the great design they gave us.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

It Doesn't Get More Christmas-y Than This!


Nothing gets me in the holiday spirit like watching my favorite living author make a snow angel.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Divided Ethic? That's The Price of Freedom


I am opposed to gay marriage bans such as prop 8, and have had many friends asking me why I would oppose such a law since I personally do believe that homosexuality is wrong. I wanted to briefly lay out the reasons why I would hold one position and yet oppose its being introduced into law.

I believe that marriage is meant to be between only one man and one woman, forever. I believe that marriage is permanent, so long as both partners are living; therefore I also believe that divorced couples who remarry are living in sin. I believe that homosexual behavior is wrong, in the same way that sex between unmarried people is wrong. I am indifferent as to whether or not people are born gay. I am open to that possibility, but I consider it irrelevant since people are still responsible for their decisions, even if their proclivities are to do wrong (after all, even straight people are lustful creature who must control their own urges). What I'm saying is that I have a very high view of marriage and a very conservative view of homosexuality. Another part of this is that I believe that any church who approves of homosexual marriage is making a GRAVE error and abandoning the Bible. But my opinion on this matter is religiously informed, and I will not kid myself that I get my beliefs regarding gay marriage simply from general revelation. Thus, I know that these beliefs will not be shared by someone who does NOT believe the Bible to be God's perfect Word.

Now, I could take the position that it is good to make a law against gay marriage right now since I am in the majority. After all, strike while the iron is hot, right? The problem is, people like us will not be in the majority forever (or for much longer, I fear). When this happens, we will have set a bully precedent, essentially setting a painful standard for dealings in this area in the future. The gay community does not forget its mistreatment, as we've seen with their unjust reaction to Prop 8. Do you think that once THEY are in the majority they will not also try to restrict the freedoms and activities of us as Christians? They will remember how they were wronged by laws like Prop 8, and when their time to strike comes WE will be the ones whose freedoms are restricted. Tit for tat.

Rather, I say, let people live freely as they desire, so long as it does not cause harm to another or restrict another person's freedom. After all, there are people out there whom I feel make great errors in theology and philosophy all the time, but I don't go around making laws against their mistaken beliefs. This is what it means to live in a free society. It comes with risks and rewards. The risk is that a gay guy might walk past your family holding his boyfriend's hand causing your son or daughter confusion. The reward is that you are allowed to disagree with his lifestyle, tell your children about this fact, and even speak against it if you like, but then you can freely go down the street to your church and worship God without external influences or coercion from the state because this world of disagreeable people has decided not to create laws against distastefulness or even against immoral behaviors.

So my opposition to laws restricting gay marriage are based upon my (hopefully) consistent belief in liberty. I believe that the function of government is not to make a series of laws restricting beliefs or actions which some of its citizens (including myself) find distasteful or sinful. Rather, government exists to preserve the freedoms of its citizens. This is the same reason why I oppose the government's extremely expensive AND unsuccessful "war on drugs." There are a lot of practical reasons for this as well, but that's for another time.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Interesting Video From Penn Jillette


As someone who is a pretty big fan of Penn & Teller: B.S. I must say that I find this video to be very very interesting.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Two Wills of God


In light of the current discussions that have been going on in the blogosphere concerning hyper-calvinism and the two wills of God I thought I would attempt to, in a very terse fashion, explain how I understand the two wills of God, especially as it pertains to the universal saving desire of God. I remember first being introduced to the two wills of God in John Piper’s work The Pleasure’s of God. I had by that time become fully convinced of the biblical teaching of sovereign grace and was seeking to harmonize scripture without negating or ignoring those scriptures that clearly spoke of man’s responsibility and inability do what is agreeable to God’s holy character. The two wills seemed to the most simplistic and most defensible position to hold to in order to reconcile this conundrum. I was almost satisfied until I came across Turretin’s works that spoke of the compound and divided sense of God’s will. Curiosity took over and I became increasingly intrigued with Turretin’s way of speaking of the will of God. It seemed to house both the perceptive and decretive will of God without making the two wills of God the entire house itself. In other words, the two wills became a subset of the more encompassing hermeneutic of the compound and divided sense of God’s will.

So what is the compound and divided sense of God’s will? Basically the compound sense is the will of God as it pertains to who God is essentially and eternally within Himself, and the divided sense is how he has communicated Himself to us; which would include all language of accommodation, metaphors, symbolism, anthropomorphism, anthropopathism etc. So how does this relate to the universal saving desire of God? Well it gives full affirmation to this truth without putting the decretive will of God in direct contradiction to perceptive will of God. I would argue that the compound sense of God’s will can house God’s desires for the salvation of man as well as His decree to save the elect only; the salvation of all man because God within Himself always desires what is agreeable to immutable holy character, and the salvation of the elect alone since He has eternally determined within Himself to display his justice in judging the reprobate, thus bringing satisfaction to immutable holy character. The difference would then be more of purpose and intention, not so much as desire or will, because desire and will can be spoken of in reference to both His precepts and His decrees.

Therefore by understanding God's will in the compound and divide sense we can logically make room for us to think of God as sometimes desiring things He has not decreed and decreeing things that He does not desire, thus avoiding direct contradiction since both His desires and purposes are satisfied and fulfilled in either the cross or the sinner.

Corrections welcomed, just be kind about it :-)

Gift Ideas and Christmas Wishes


As Christmas approaches, we figured our readers were eager to get the employees of Bring the Books a gift or two. So, I wanted to give you some help to ensure that you know what to get us. We are all very simple men. We have really one like in this world...Books!!! Since this is the case, our Amazon wish lists, which are located on the left side of the blog, would be the best place to look for gift ideas. When you get us a book on our wish list, Amazon ships the books directly to the person you are buying it for. Amazon makes it very easy!

On a more serious note, all the employees of Bring the Books would like to wish you and your family a very merry Christmas. Our prayer is that God will use this time of year to turn your focus to Jesus Christ. May we remember his humbling act of being born as a human baby. Our God is a great God. Let us all worship him this year in truth and spirit. Amen!

Monday, December 15, 2008

What Hath Washington To Do With Northhampton (Or Bush With Westminster)?


In a back issue of Modern Reformation magazine, D.G. Hart reviewed two recent biographies of George Washington (George Washington’s Sacred Fire by Peter A. Lillback and Washington's God: Religion, Liberty, and the Father of Our Country by Michael Novak and Jana Novak). Hart pointed out a bit of irony that a cynical Gen-Xer like me can really appreciate. After remarking that “Washington's conventional Anglicanism is the main reason for Lillback and the Novaks' joint conclusion that our first president was not a deist,” Hart says:

The effort to recover the orthodox Christian Washington has a remarkable unintended consequence…. In building a case for his exceptional character and integrity, [both authors] mention that “it would be a happy event if all presidents conducted themselves, to at least the extent that Washington did, as good Christians ... in private and in public.”
The argument of Lillback and Novak, then, is that Washington’s devout Anglicanism demonstrates the important and beneficial role his Christianity played in shaping his presidency. Yet there’s a problem.
But in recovering a place for orthodox Anglicanism in the formation of the United States, these authors have also unwittingly undermined the heart religion promoted during the revivals of the eighteenth century that continue to set the pace for American Protestantism. For if Washington's faith was sufficient to pass the litmus tests of orthodoxy and sincerity, then the extra credit demanded by revivalists that believers not simply believe but demonstrate faith visibly in their daily lives was unnecessary. In other words, if Founding Father’s faith was truly Christian, then revivalism’s criteria for true holiness was excessive. Proponents of the Religious Right have rarely seen that to have a Christian George Washington is to ignore an enthusiastic Jonathan Edwards, or that to retain born-again Christianity is to abandon the religion of the founding generation of American statesmen. This is the unintended benefit of these books, an outcome that shows again the curiosities that result from mixing politics and religion.
Darryl is absolutely spot-on here. The Religious Right can’t have its cake and eat it too, for if George Washington exhibited true Christianity then Jonathan Edwards was a fanatic, but on the other hand, if Jonathan Edwards described true Christianity then George Washington was merely one of those cold, dead, unconverted pretenders that Whitefield and Tennant made careers out of denouncing.

We see a similar trend in our own day, albeit in the opposite direction. Confessional Reformed types will argue until they’re blue in the face (or red, to be more precise) about the benefits of having a Christian president like George W. Bush, while at the same time their own confessions describe a Christianity that is churchly and covenantal, and that is characterized by such doctrines as infant baptism, Sabbath keeping, and a high view of the work of Christ (things which President Bush shows little sign of esteeming).

And to add to the irony, the same people who will go to the mat to prove the sanctified status of Washington’s soul stood vehemently against Barack Obama and overwhelmingly favored John McCain, though the latter clearly disliked the Christian Right and the former is a devout church-goer.

Maybe the fact of the matter is that we just like who we like, but we are too incapable of arguing for good earthly policies on their own terms that we need to find biblical justification for every extra-biblical preference we have. If we would only recognize two distinct but legitimate kingdoms, we could save ourselves the hassle of joining together what God hath put asunder.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Greek Resources


I ran across a couple of links by Lee Irons a few days ago and have found them very helpful. So I wanted to pass them along to our readers. The first one, which can be found here, is a tool for reading your Greek Bible everyday (which is the best way to keep your Greek up). Irons offers many wise suggestions that will aid anyone who wants to keep their Greek going.

The second link, here, is awesome. It has many of the books of the New Testament with Greek syntax and translation helps. I have found this tool extremely useful. For example, my pastor is preaching through John's Epistles right now, so I printed off the section on 1-3 John and bring it with me to church. It is very useful to have a concise help when looking at a passage.

Thus far I have found both of these tools very helpful and would highly recommend them. And the greatest things about the tools is the fact that they are free. Thank you Lee Irons for making these available to us. I, for one, am very grateful.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

In Defense of James White: Part 2


In the comment section of the latest post at Controversial Calvinism concerning Dr. White, Steve wants those of us who are defending Dr. White to provide a quote that proves that Dr. White has not changed his views with regard to hyper-Calvinism. . I find this very odd indeed. In the original post Steve asserts that Dr. White has changed his views. His argument is that Dr. White has moved from a hyper-Calvinist to what others are calling a "high" Calvinist.

The odd thing is that in his post he offers no quotes or citations where Dr. White changes his views, not one. You would think that Steve would have quotes from Dr. White from years ago that contradict what he is not saying. But there is nothing like that in his post. Further, Steve admits that he has not "read all of his [Dr. White's] work" on this subject. One wonders how much he has actually read. It seems odd to me that a person who gives no evidence of his assertion and has not read the author's works on the subject would expect those who have read all of Dr. White's works on the subject and who have listened to him teach on this subject for 12 years to give evidence. Everything in me wants to leave this post at that. However, to stop the mouth of the naysayers, I will provide a few quotes.

Before that, however, let us review. Steve is asserting that Dr. White has three new beliefs: "1) God loves all men, though God's love is not monolithic; 2) God's will (his revealed will) is that all men obey his commands to repent and believe the gospel; 3) In that context (revealed will and command) we can say that God desires the salvation of all men." Thus, if I can show a quote that affirms anyone of these three points in Dr. Whites written works, the case can be settled that Dr. White has not changed his view.

In his book on the subject of Calvinism, The Potters Freedom, Dr. White says the following in commenting on Acts 17:30, "Actually, the text says that God wills for 'all' to come to repentance, and of course, this is quite true" (TPF, 149, emphasis added). This one quote should be enough to show that Dr. White has held to Steve's second point from at least the time of writing this book. But there is more. On the same page Dr. White goes on to state, "Next Dr. Geisler confuses the prescriptive will of God found in His law, which commands all men everywhere to repent, with the gift of repentance given to the elect in regeneration. It does not follow that if it is God's will to bring the elect to repentance that the law does not command repentance of everyone" (TPF, 149-150). Again, this is a clear affirmation of the second point that Steve seems to think Dr. White has changed on.

While I disagree that the accused should have to provide evidence that he is not guilty, I have provided the above evidence in an attempt to show that, in fact, Dr. White has not changed his views on the issues at hand. Now, the right thing for Steve to do is apologize to Dr. White and rejoice that another person in the Kingdom of God has a proper understanding of the will of God for all to repent, even the non-elect. Will this happen, we will have to keep our eyes on Controversial Calvinism to find out.

Friday, December 5, 2008

In Defense of James White


I am no expert on who is and who is not a hypercalvinist. Sorry, I cannot be an expert on everything. I do not have to the time to parse out all the fine distinctions, but one thing I am an expert on (tongue-in-cheek) is the theology of James White. I have read everything he has written on the subject of Calvinism, even the hard to find out of print books like Drawn By the Father. Plus, I have been a faithful listener to his radio program for over 12 years. In fact, I listened to his show, The Dividing Line, before I was Reformed.

I give this background so I can say with much confidence that James White has not, in any way, changed his views on the subject of Calvinism (God's love for the non-elect and the free offer of the gospel). The reason I say all this is due to this article. The author claims that Dr. White has recently, because of "pressure," changed his views, "kicking and screaming," on Calvinism and by implication has moved from a hypercalvinst to a "high" Calvinist. Once again, I am not an expert on hypercalvinism, so James White may in fact be one (which I highly doubt) but one thing that I am certain on is that Dr. White has not changed his views on these subjects in the last 12 years. It is not Dr. White's fault if you just now understand his views. The right thing to do in this situation is so say "sorry" for the misunderstanding, move on and not to dig your heels in and place the blame at the feet of Dr. White. Many bad things could be said about Dr. White, but that he is unclear is not one of them. His theological views are clear and open to anyone who want to take the time and read his published works on the subject. So, "Steve," author of the article, I am suggesting that you read Dr. White's works on this subject before you blog about him again.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Book Review: The Reason for God by Tim Keller


As a preliminary, I knew nothing about Tim Keller before reading this book except that he had spoken at one of Desiring God's Pastors Conferences. As such, I was intrigued to read a book which seemed to be gaining such national attention and yet was written from a theological perspective that was at least friendly to my own.

Keller initially approaches the book as someone who is writing to answer objections which he regularly encounters as a pastor in New York City, where he pastors Redeemer Presbyterian Church. The first seven objections he deals with are as follows:

1. There can't be just one true religion
2. A good God could not allow suffering
3. Christianity is a straitjacket
4. The church is responsible for so much injustice
5. A loving God would not send people to hell
6. Science has disproved Christianity
7. You can't take the Bible literally

I was pleased by Keller's responses to all of the objections except for the one on hell. I would have liked very much to see a more orthodox discussion of God's self-love as being his first commitment, and therefore God must send people to hell if he is to honor himself above all others; otherwise he would be an idolater. But alas, Keller seems to take the C.S. Lewis approach and deal with hell as more of a psychological place where we get just what we want after we die (he frequently quotes from The Great Divorce in this section), if we die apart from Christ.

I know that in the chapter on science and Christianity, many believers will take umbrage with Keller's acceptance of theistic evolution. For my own various reasons, this was less than a concern for me.

As someone who really doesn't consider himself a "full-on" presuppositionalist or a proponent of classical evidential apologetics, I felt that Keller's apologetic approach was both scattered and refreshing. There was no point at which you thought, "Okay, he's quoting Alvin Plantinga. He's an evidentialist," because in the next breath he would begin taking the presuppositional line that everyone already knows there is a God. In contrast to the Van Tilian school of thought, however, Keller merely argues that everyone knows there is a God, whereas the Van Tilian claim is certainly stronger; namely that everyone knows the Christian God exists.

After dealing with these objections, Keller goes on in the second half of the book to make seven positive arguments, rather than just staying on the defensive for the entirety of the book. His chapters include:

1. The clues of God
2. The knowledge of God
3. The problem of sin
4. Religion and the gospel
5. The (true) story of the cross
6. The reality of the resurrection
7. The Dance of God

The chapter on the clues of God, to my mind, was not unique; it was really meant to argue that probabilistically speaking, the existence of God is very likely where, again, I knew that presuppositionalists would want a stronger claim than just that. For my part, I thought this chapter on what was essentially classical apologetics did more good than bad for Keller's case since he really seems to be taking more of an "all things considered and being equal" approach, which still leaves certainty out of the picture. Most people think this way, rather in terms of certainty and knowledge, and on those grounds I appreciated what he was doing.

At the end of the day, Keller has given a strong contribution to the world of mainstream apologetics. The book is readable, it is understandable to almost anyone (it's written for the average person), and it contemporizes such heroes as Jonathan Edwards and C.S. Lewis, putting them in a new and modern context. There are times when I thought Keller seemed to be chasing the rabbit hole a bit too far when he started dealing with some issues (especially near the end of the book), but in the end he always came out showing how his rabbit chase answers the subject under discussion.

A fine book that goes beyond apologetics to encourage people to have a solidly based worldview in an age of skepticism; I only wish I'd written it first.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Why Blog?


I am often asked why I blog. Although I am not a professor, Fred Sanders attempts to answer this question as it realities to those in the academy. His article can be found here.

James White on the John 3:16 Conference


Our readers know that we are not a blog that just posts videos and links all the time, but when a good link or video presents itself, we like to post them. I think this video is one of the good examples.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Top 10


I think it would be appropriate that, on Thanksgiving, I post a list of the top 10 things I am thankful to God for:

10. Warm socks
9. Loving parents
8. A wonderful Church
7. My beautiful and smart wife
6. A place to live and food to eat
5. My Greek Reader's New Testament
4. Great teachers at Reformed Theological Seminary
3. True Friends
2. Did I mention my beautiful and caring wife
1. The life and death of Jesus Christ for me

It would be good for your soul to take a moment today and list at least 10 things that your are thankful to God for.

Book Review: Matter by Iain M. Banks


His first Culture novel in 8 years, Iain M. Banks' Matter begins on a Shellworld known as Sursamen, and its central narrative is a story of revenge. After witnessing his father, the King of the Sarl people, being murdered by his own second in command, young Ferbin flees Sursamen to enlist the help of his sister, Anaplian. Anaplian left Sursamen as a child to become a part of the Culture, and is now an amazingly equipped killing machine working at the employ of the Special Circumstances division of the Culture. This Special Circumstances division bears a striking similarity to our own CIA, since the mission of Special Circumstances is to covertly do whatever is in the best interest of the Culture, throughout the galaxy. Most of the novel revolves around Ferbin's own quest to escape Sursamen and then to return with Anaplian to vengefully remove his father's betrayer, Tyl Loesp.

The title of the novel is derived from a conversation that takes place midway through the book. During his journey to find help, Ferbin meets with a former adviser to his father, Xide Hyrlis who is, himself, an agent of the Culture who is now carrying out death and destruction on another world.

"You know there is a theory...that all that we experience as reality is just a simulation, a kind of hallucination that has been imposed on us." He then goes on to say, "If we assume that all we have been told is as real as what we ourselves experience - in other words, that history, with all its torturings, massacres, and genocides, is true - then, if it is all somehow under the control of somebody or some thing, must not those running that simulation be monsters? How utterly devoid of decency, pity and compassion would they have to be to allow this to happen, and keep on happening under their explicit control? Because so much of history is precisely this, gentlemen."

Hyrlis goes on to say that the reason he gets up each day and takes part in wars and sends people to their death is so that he can continue to convince himself that all this is "real" - that we really are simply matter and nothing more - because if it isn't real, and it is a hallucination, then those running the simulation of the universe are far greater monsters than even we ourselves. "We are information, gentlemen; all living things are. However, we are lucky enough to be encoded in matter itself, not running in some abstracted system as patterns of particles or standing waves of probability." Another character, however, responds that "[o]f course, sir, your god could just be a bastard." Hyrlis' response is correct: "Those above and beyond us might indeed be evil personified. But it is a standpoint of some despair." Quite an understatement!

And so, the novel itself is really a nihilistic treatise on reality, as well as a real life example of it. This is certainly obvious once one sees that the Deus Ex Machina (literally) at the end of the novel forces the entire narrative for 95% of the book to be thrown away in its dramatic and exciting conclusion. In the end, this demonstrates an ironic twist, in that the book's own creator favors the dramatic ending over answering any of the questions about the main characters one might have by novel's end. This is either bad writing, or an object lesson about the agony of life. If this is true, then in Banks' own words, he would be "evil personified," but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and just assume he's a thoughtless writer, since the other option would be "a standpoint of some despair."

So the book is nihilistic. But is it good? My answer is "maybe." If you like excellent writing that is exciting and amazingly composed, this may not be the best book to read. The book itself is over 600 pages, and is filled with page after page of the complexities of the galactic political scene. A massive amount of the narrative, as well, involves discussion the technological innovations which the Culture enjoys. For me, this is the most rewarding and interesting factor in reading this book, because I really delighted in the imagination and thought processes which must have been involved in thinking of all the things which an alien race as advanced as the Culture could actually create. The complexity of the world of the Culture provides almost more pleasure than simply reading the narrative of Matter itself. As such, I find myself very interested in reading Banks' other Culture books; though I would be surprised if I pick up another fiction book for a long time. This one took me 6 months to finish, and its even a miracle that I finished it.

Overall, I have no regrets about reading this book, and I do recommend it to the more patient readers out there.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Happy Birthday, Walker!


If I may, I would just like to take a moment to pay tribute to my good friend Josh Walker on his birthday. It seems we've known each other for a very long time, but we only met a couple of years ago while attending GCU together in what is now the probably defunct Department of Philosophy. I am honored to write alongside of such a like-minded individual. We never fight about politics, we never fight about religion, and we never fight about where we're going to eat (because we live in different states). And that is a rare treat to find in any friend.

So may I wish Josh a very happy birthday, with prayers for many more. Anyone who wants to send Josh a gift may take a glance at his Amazon wish list.

Lookout Providence!

Tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. I will be heading with a fellow RTS student, Jonathan Kiel, and one of my professors, Dr. Miles Van Pelt, to Providence, Rhode Island to attend this year's annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. I am looking forward to this meeting. It will be great to see some good friends I have not seen for awhile. I also have a few important meetings with prospective Ph.D. advisers (scary and exciting). There are a few key papers I am looking forward to hearing. One is Dr. Van Pelt's paper on the days of creation. And another is Andrew Pitts' paper on word order in biblical Greek.

It is also worth noting that there is a movement that is trying to expand the doctrinal bias of ETS. There are many helpful links about this issue on the Founders Blog which can be found here. I am not a voting member of ETS so I cannot vote on this issue, but I would encourage all voters to look into this issue and give it serious consideration. As it stands right now, a person can be a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and have a horrible view about the evangel (the gospel). This seems very odd to me. Anyway, I will try to blog about the conference while I am there, but I do not know how busy I will be, so I cannot make any promises.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Book Review: Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek: Part 1


As a seminary student I have spent quite a bit of time studying Koine (biblical) Greek. I have taken about 4 semesters of Greek in my education and I plan on doing further studies in New Testament, specifically Greek. So, it is no surprise that I was thrilled to receive a free review copy (thanks Jason!) of Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek by Constantine Campbell. This book is great. I am not an expert on the subject of verbal aspect in Greek, but Campbell is a eloquent writer and seems to introduce this subject in a fair and balanced approach. I have read the introduction and the first two chapters, so in this first review I will cover those sections.

So what is verbal aspect and why does this even matter? These are great questions and Campbell does an excellent job answering them. In the introduction he gives an apologetic for why verbal aspect is important. Lane Keister picks up on this theme in his review on Green Baggins. The main thrust of why verbal aspect should be studied by any serious biblical student is that it will enable him to understand the different nuances "encoded" in the verbs of the New Testament. Many commentators misuse and misapply verbal aspect and Campbell points out a few places where commentators have gone astray. Thus, if the subject is grasped New Testament students will not be lead astray and will have a fuller understanding of the text of the New Testament.

Once Campbell sets the stage for why verbal aspect is important, he then moves on to discuss what verbal aspect is in chapter 1. Put simply verbal aspect is "point of view." That is, from what point of view is the action taking place. In Greek, Campbell argues, there are basically two verbal aspects--perfective and imperfective. Perfective aspect is aspect that is viewed from the outside; whereas imperfective aspect is aspect viewed from the inside. Campbell offers the helpful illustration of a parade to illustrate the difference between these two types of aspect. If the parade is viewed from a helicopter it is perfective and if it is viewed from the street it is imperfective. This seems simple enough, but here is where the debate begins.

In chapter 2 Campbell gives a brief but helpful overview of the debate surrounding aspect. The gist of the discussion is the role aspect and tense play in Greek verbs. Is one more predominate than the other? Are they both important in understanding Greek verbs? Campbell argues that both tense and aspect are important to understand Greek verbs, but that aspect takes center stage and is predominate. Others would disagree with Campbell's conclusion at this point. For example, according to Campbell, the Greek scholar Stanley Porter argues that Greek verbs are exclusively aspect based and are not tense based.

After reading these three sections, I am looking forward to reading and mining all the treasure that is in this terrific work. The only critique I have thus far is that the book seems a bit short. I would not want this book to be doubled in size, but at times I would like more examples and for Campbell to spell out his arguments a bit fuller. However, to Campbell's credit, he does give helpful footnotes that point the reader to places to look for further arguments and points of view.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Exclusive Psalmody Debate



Listen to part 1 here and part 2 here

New Covenant Hymnody

I. A Survey of The Regulative Principle of Worship
A. The RPW in the Old Testament
1. Edenic Covenant (Works)
2. Adamic Covenant (Promise)
3. Noahic Covenant (Dominion)
4. Abrahamic Covenant (Royal Land Grant)
5. Mosaic Covenant (Typological Kingdom)
6. Davidic Covenant (Messianic)
B. The RPW in the New Testament
1. New Covenant (All covenants fulfilled in Christ)
- We are now in the semi-theocracy with the Word and the Spirit
- No longer the typological kingdom
- But we still have the RPW
2. New Covenant, New Acts of God, New Songs
- The Psalms instructs us to sing new songs when God does something new
- The New Covenant is new act of God and therefore warrants new songs (Isa 42:10)
C. The New Covenant commands the following elements of worship:
1. The Word (Preached and Taught)
2. Ordinances (Communion and Baptism), Church discipline
3. Prayers, fellowship, offerings
4. The sing of psalms, hymns and Spiritual songs

II. What does Col 3:16 and Eph 5:18 command/Teach
A. We are to meditate on the Word of God to be filled with the Spirit
1. The Word of Christ in Col is the mystery of Christ (Col 1:26-28)
2. In Eph the infilling of the Spirit is be under the influence of the Spirit not infallible inspiration of the Spirit(Eph 5:17)
B. We are then to teach, admonish, and speak to one another in Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs.
C. The context is private not public
1. instruction to Christian households
2. instruction to slaves
3. instruction to inter-personal conduct

III. Exegesis of Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs
A. All wisdom is needed when giving instruction
B. It is in the imperative, so we are commanded to do this
C. Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs are all in the dative; however Psalms and Hymns are masculine, whereas Spiritual Songs is famine.
1. Therefore it is either (a) speaking of different kinds of songs
2. or (b) the same kind of songs having Psalms and Hymns and songs as all spiritual
D. Regardless Spiritual songs in context Col 1:9 means doctrinally pure songs as opposed to worldly songs
E. Therefore Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs is a Triadic expression for New Covenant songs (Col 1:26-28)
F. Psalms are normally personally, Hymns are normally doxological, Spiritual songs are normally both.

IV. The extension to public worship
A. This now can be applied to public worship as a corporate means of fulfilling the same command
B. The New Testament is the full revelation of Christ. Heb 1:1-3 We therefore are to sing the propositional truth found in the New Testament, hence the Word of Christ in Col 3:16 is the lyrical content of the Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Adam Watches Too Many Movies


Our very own Adam Parker is featured over on Reformation 21. This is the second time that Adam has been featured on Reformation 21 and I am sure it will not be his last. His most recent article, "Watching Movies to the Glory of God," can be found here. I highly recommend this article to anyone who would like to understand how their Christian worldview impacts the way they watch movies. Adam has a great gift in this area and offers some solid practical insights.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Quintessential Undecided Voter


Elections can be emotional. For me, this election is more confusing, really, than anything else. Since voting for George W. Bush both times around, I have gone through a lot of different phases. For awhile, I was die-hard Republican Adam with righteous neo-con tendencies. From there, I rebelled and became pacifist Adam, and defended the exclusive use of non-violence from a philosophical and ethical perspective for several years. Now, here I am: Neo-Libertarian Adam. I abhor the use of violence in international situations, I want the government to leave me alone, and I just want the U.S. to have an army to keep Iceland from coming in and taking away all of our popsicles.

So I've been through a lot of positional changes. When this election came around, the question arose as to who I should vote?

What about war? When it comes to international violence, everyone seems to make it sound like Obama wants to end wars. But he's perfectly willing to engage in war, just like the Republicans are. Democrats are only opposed to war, so long as Republicans are the ones who start them. McCain seems a good choice from a pragmatic perspective, since it sounds like he'll tow Bush's international policies for a few more years. But even then, is an internationally interventionist policy really going to help spread freedom by example, rather than coersion? Hardly. It will engender bitterness and harden the enemies of the U.S. even further.

What about health care reform? I'd like the government to stop tinkering and just let everyone take care of their own medical expenses (I'm paying for my son's birth from my own pocket [$8000]), but both candidates want to bring health care to everyone. So I have no horse in this race.

What about Social Security? I can see that in 30 or 40 years (perhaps sooner), it will literally be un-sustainable unless everyone kills the whole army of baby-boomers about to start drawing retirement checks. Both candidates are in denial and won't touch this hot-button issue, and because of this, as a working young person, I will be the one who suffers when the time comes that this whole system collapses.

What about taxes? Currently, my boss gives half the money he makes back to the government, and I'm having a hard time getting him to give me a raise, since he thinks Obama's going to raise his taxes even more. John McCain doesn't seem willing to raise taxes, but he's not willing to cut spending in any major ways. So both candidates are big spenders. McCain wants to increase federal spending by $150 billion, and Obama wants to increase spending by $200 billion, so I'm screwed on this one, too.

So I really AM an undecided voter. I have three options:

1. Vote as an idealist for Bob Barr and the Libertarians (this is my current plan, but it is tentative, once I get IN the actual voting booth).
2. Vote for John McCain because (a) He stands a realistic chance of winning, and every little vote helps, (b) I'd hate for Obama to win, since he is the BIGGEST of the big government candidates, and (c) I'd hate to see riots and "blood running in the streets" as democrats keep threatening if McCain wins the electoral but not the popular vote.
3. Vote Obama (a) to punish Republicans for their big government policies and their near doubling of U.S. federal spending since Bush took office, or (b) to cure my "white guilt" (I'm told I have plenty to feel guilty for).

I'm also tempted to vote for McCain just because I absolutely without a doubt know for a fact that the news media is pulling for Obama, and it makes me sad that there is no objective news media anymore. It is sad to think that for the last month every major news outlet has been declaring Obama the winner, and not even one vote has been counted. So either way, I won't vote for Obama out of spite against the media elite who think they can have the nerve to tell me who I should vote for. They're about to make me decide NOT to throw my vote away on Bob Barr, so they'd better watch it; I'm not as stupid as I look (debatable), and there HAVE to be other people out there who think the same way as me on this one.

A Word About Once The Election Is Over:

No matter who wins this election, it will be a disaster. I've already come to terms with this fact. A McCain win will be a sorrowful day full of defeat, and the same is true for an Obama win. As I said before, I literally have no horse in this race. Once the election is over, the new President elect will line up his cabinet, and we'll be in for another couple years of government bloating and new programs before ANOTHER annoying election cycle.

When Jesus spoke to Pilate, he explained that he is a King. However, he made clear that His kingdom is not of this world. Too many Christians THINK that they're building the kingdom here and now. They believe that this planet and habitable land in which we dwell must resemble heaven as closely as possible. Few things could be further from the truth. As Christians, we live in both kingdoms - as our own Master Stellman is has made abundantly clear. Besides - from a spiritual perspective, what is a greater impediment to spiritual activity than material gain? Perhaps a spell of failures would reinvigorate our sleepy and dead churches, motivating us to once again invest in the long-lasting realm of evangelism.

Whatever happens - whether McCain takes us to war with the entire world, or whether Obama turns our country into a communist police state where it's cool to be gay but not to evangelize - I, as a Christian, will persevere in my faith. I will follow God, fight to make disciples, and worship God, no matter what the situation (even if it someday became ILLEGAL, I would still worship Him!).

My faith transcends the corrupt political world in which we live, and Jesus is the King of the Earth; not our political leaders. That won't change, even when America does abandon its libertarian roots once and for all. I hope the rest of you will join me in acknowledging that Caesar is not Lord, and he cannot save us.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Federal Vision Debate: The Covenant of Grace




Do all New Covenant Members Persevere onto Final Salvation?

I. The Nature of the Triune God (Isa 6:3)
Holy and Just
Personal and Relational, which includes love and goodness
Therefore His Relationship to His creation most be holy and just

II. Bicovenantalism
Covenant of Works
Covenant of Grace
Mono-covenantalism denies Law – Gospel distinction

III. Overview of Covenants
Edenic Covenant (Works)
Adamic Covenant (Promise)
Noahic Covenant (Dominion)
Abrahamic Covenant (Royal Grant)
Mosaic Covenant (Typological Kingdom)
Davidic Covenant (Messianic)
New Covenant (Salvation)

IV. Ordo Salutis and Historia Salutis (Gal 3:29)
Man is always saved the same way (ordo salutis)
But the Covenant of Grace matures in redemptive History (Historia Salutis)
Old Testament Covenants fulfilled in Christ

V. Constitution of the New Covenant (Heb 8:10-12)
In Christ’s blood
Entirely salvific
All in the covenant are saved
No covenant breakers

VI. Therefore all New Covenant Members will persevere onto to final salvation

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

John the Calvinist: Part 3


As we work through examples in the Gospel of John that show that John the Apostle was a "Calvinist," we now turn to John 3. In this chapter Jesus is teaching a man who is schooled in the Old Testament, Nicodemus. Jesus tells him, "Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again. The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit'" (3:7-8).

The first thing of note from John 3 is that Jesus teaches that a person must be born again if they want to see the kingdom of God. That is, they must be born a second time. They must have a physical birth and spiritual birth (3:5-6) if they want to enter the kingdom of God. Secondly, Jesus explains that, just as the wind blows where it wants, the Spirit, who brings life, goes where he wants. This is Jesus' way of saying that the life giving Spirit gives life to who he wants to. In other words, salvation is something that is in the hands of the Spirit of God. The new birth is not something that we are involved in; we are passive. Just like we are passive in our first birth, we are passive in our second birth. The Spirit moves where and when and how he wants. It is not up to us.

It is true that believers respond after the Spirit moves, but not before. In other words, once the Spirit causes the new birth in a person, that person responds with faith and repentance. The Calvinist view is the same as John's in John 3. First a person is born again (3:3), then they believe and repent (3:16). To change this order is to go against the biblical order and it is to rob God of his glory in salvation. God is glorified in the fact that salvation is in his hands and not ours.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Federal Vision Debate: The Covenant of Works






Covenant Of Works Defended
Listen to Part 1
Listen to Part 2


I. Adam under a Covenant of Works Hosea 6:7
A. Like Adam Israel broke the Covenant
B. Job 31:33 as Adam
C. Rom 5:14 Solidarity between Adam and Christ

II. Works of the Law (Gal 3:5,12)
A. Works is obedience to the commandments (Gal 3:12)
B. Not based upon faith
C. Faith is antithetical to works
D. Faith is an empty hand

III. Strict Justice (Gal 3:10-12)
A. Cursed is He who breaks the Law (Jam 2:10-11)
B. Eternal Punishment is strict justice (Rev 20:11-15)
C. Wages for work rendered is not grace but justice (Rom 4:4)

IV. Meritorious (Rom 5:18, 7:10)
A. The Law is ordained to life (Rom 7:10)
B. Can earn eternal life by keeping all the law (Mark 10:17-21)
C. Full obedience would have resulted in Adams justification (Rom 5:18)

V. The Covenant Grace
A. Only exists in the context of satisfied justice (Rom 3:25)
B. Covenant of Grace is demerited favor (Eph 2:1-8)
C. Justification is not maintained through faithful obedience (Phillip 3:7-10)
D. Justification is not eschatological (Rom 5:1)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New Edition


The staff of Bring the Books is proud to announce that a new member has joined the ranks of our staff, Jonathan Goundry. Jonathan was born and raised in England, County Durham to Christian parents. His father has been a pastor and missionary since Jonathan was a young child. Consequently Jonathan grew up around the church and the ministry. His parents proved to be a great Christian influence in his life and when Jonathan was fifteen, having recognized his desperate need for salvation in Christ, he was converted.

Jonathan arrived in the US when he was eighteen with his family; his father at that time began pastoring in Boca Raton, Florida. At that time Jonathan enrolled at an Assemblies God bible school and graduated after two years. This became a catalyst to a vigorous study in the Scriptures and Church History, which eventually brought Jonathan to a Calvinistic understanding of God's Word. With this being the case, Jonathan relinquished his credentials with Assemblies of God and transferred to the Southern Baptist Convention, allowing him to minister without an immediate conflict of conscience and doctrine. Following this Jonathan relocated to Temecula, Southern California to be Elder at Great Oak Church. Currently, Jonathan is the co-host on the webcast the Narrow Mind.

I would like to the first to welcome Jonathan to the staff and I for one look forward to his posts.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Peter Leithart and the Pacific Northwest Presbytery


As you probably all heard, the Pacific Northwest Presbytery overwhelmingly voted to approve the theology of Federal Visionist Peter Leithart this past Friday. I'd like to give a brief snapshot of what went down.

Before I do, however, I would like to say that I have great respect for Peter Leithart and consider him a sincere brother in Christ. He has demonstrated nothing but humble patience and forthrightness during this process, for which he is to be commended. If everyone on both sides demonstrated a similar attitude we would all be better off.

As acting chairman of the study committee, I first moved the recommendations of the Majority Report and then immediately presented a substitute motion consisting of the Minority Report’s recommendations. I then spent about 30 minutes presenting the findings of the Minority Report, which highlighted six areas in which the minority of the committee felt Leithart to be out of accord with the system of doctrine contained in our Standards. These areas concerned: (1) the covenant of works, (2) baptismal efficacy, (3) the imputation of Christ’s obedience, (4) the relationship of justification to sanctification, (5) union with Christ, and (6) final justification.

The case I was attempting to make was that the threads of Leithart’s deviations on these core doctrines, when woven together, form a single cloth that is not recognizably Reformed (see the Minority Report for details). In other words, this is not a matter of a mere slip of the pen or the use of infelicitous language, but a very consistent system of doctrine that bears little resemblance to what is taught in the Standards to which Leithart has vowed submission.

The response of the majority, given by Rob Rayburn, was that if the PCA proceeds to squash theological innovation and refuses to allow the Bible to take precedence over our Confession when the two are in opposition, then we will lose our vitality and relevance as a church and run the risk of sinking into ever-increasing obscurity. Furthermore, Rayburn's contention is that unless Leithart admits to explicitly denying what the Standards affirm, or explicitly affirming what they deny, then there can be no basis for finding him out of accord with the Standards on the matters in question.

From where I sat there wasn’t much by way of substantive response to the case that the minority made. The real concern on the part of the presbyters who spoke in favor of Leithart was that we not become overly narrow and that we do not discourage bold, pioneering theology.The next step will be for some of us to formally complain against the presbytery, which, we expect, the presbytery will dismiss at our January meeting. If/when that happens, our complaint will go to the General Assembly level.

Continued prayers are asked for all involved.

Friday, October 3, 2008

"Man, I Just Believe The Bible"


"About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil." (Heb 5:11-14)

"Man, I don't know. I just believe the Bible."
"This deep stuff you're talking about is just way more than I think God wants us to know."
"I just preach Christ and him crucified."
"I just feel like God wants us to minister to the hurting."

I heard some of these things from someone last week. I have heard this from people before. I have heard this for so long, that I'm thinking of creating a categorization for this "uber-simplistic" school of theology. If anyone has any ideas, I'm open to them.

I was going to approach this subject (which has been brewing in my head for some time) in a traditionally Reformed way, but at the last minute decided not to. In other words, I hope to hold your attention and make you laugh a time or two. (Unless you disagree with me, then you'll just think I'm ranting.)

It seems like I have been at war with this school of thought which favors simplicity and milk over theology and meat for as long as I have believed that God is a very important person. It is a point of pride for these people that they have started on the "ABCs" of the Gospel and stopped at "G". Heaven forbid someone else moves on from the milk and has to reach, instead, for a bottle of A-1 and a knife!

Here we go: when you deride someone for delving into the "deep things" of the Gospel, or when you criticize someone's interest in high theology, soteriology, pneumatology, ecclesiology, etc, you are literally taking on the Apostles and authors of Scripture themselves!

The very same Apostle who wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:2 that "I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" also wrote an entire book of high theology about what exactly that meant (aka "Paul's Letter to the Romans"). Incidentally, Paul explains in the verse before what he meant by knowing "nothing," and what he meant was that "I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom." Here, Paul is referring to his method of communication to the church in Corinth. He was not saying that believers shouldn't know anything except the raw materials of the Gospel. If this were the case and Paul only desired his readers to pursue simplicity of faith and raw, milk-like belief, then let me suggest that Paul would have been enabling sinful attitudes by setting pen to parchment for his letters to the churches in Rome, Galatia, Ephesus, etc. These letters are rife - I repeat, rife - with soteriology, Christology, and other fancy high-falootin' theological concepts that many today consider disdainful.

Or let me approach this from another way: if you love someone, don't you want to know them as well as you possibly can? How would my wife feel if I came home from work each day and said, "well you're my wife, I think we can agree on that, but don't tell me any more about yourself. Oh wait, what's that? You have these photo albums showing me all the things you did in High School and College? Not interested. What's that? Family history? Keep it to yourself." I hope you can all see that there is a patent absurdity - perhaps even a contradiction - in saying that you love someone and desire to know nothing more than the most superficial facts about them.

If we love God, then we ought to desire to know Him as much as possible, and you don't get to know God to the exclusion of His acts in history. This goes for the particulars of God and his character, too. If God tells us that He is just and saves some and not others - by His free choice and good pleasure, then to say so out loud is not shameful - it is liberatingly true!

Now this way of thinking is clearly nothing new. Almost every week, when I discuss this frustration of mine with my elders at church, every one of them let me know that they are having the same sort of frustrating encounters with people week in and week out.

Let me suggest that this anti-intellectual plague which is sweeping the churches of our land (and has probably always been there in some measure) is not only un-biblical, but is exactly the opposite attitude which will bring the church through the cultural storms which lie ahead. How can we say, "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved" if we aren't willing to ask ourselves how it is that this can happen, or how it even works. I'm not saying that an exhaustive understanding of every aspect of God and his salvation is necessary (we can only know as much as has been revealed in Scripture), but I am saying that you are in direct disobedience of Hebrews 5:11-14 and you are ignoring the example of the Apostles if you stubbornly - even pridefully - refuse to go any further than "Jesus loves me, this I know." Especially if there is more, and the Bible tells you so.

Friday, September 19, 2008

John the Calvinist: Part 2


Since we had an overwhelming response to the first post in this series and I do not know how to get to all the passages that our readers brought up (read that statement as sarcasm), the best approach to see John the Apostles "Calvinism" seems to be by working our way through John's Gospel chapter by chapter hitting all the high lights.

With this approach, the first passage to consider is John 1:11-13.
11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

The first thing to note about this passage is that some people do not receive Christ (that is the "him" in the passage) while others do receive Christ. Calvinism holds this to be true. People have to receive Christ to be saved and all who are not saved do, in fact, reject (i.e. do not receive) Christ. Because of mankind's fall into sin all people, by nature, will not receive Christ. This is something they do freely and willingly. It is not forced. While at the same time, all who receive Christ do it freely and willingly. But why is it that some receive Christ and others do not? Is it something within the person? It is their will? Their free will?

John answers these questions for us. All who receive Christ are made children of God. As it states in John 3, they are born again. But who is the agent in this "being born process"? John first tells us how this did not happen. Those who receive Christ were not born again of blood or by the will of the flesh or by the will of man. In other words, it is not because of anything the person who receives Christ did. The individual who is born as a child of God did nothing to be born of God. If the person does nothing to be born of God, how are they born of God?

John is clear on this point, all who are born again are brought to new life by God and God alone. In other word, the act of regeneration (being born again) is an act done solely by God. Just as a baby who is born into this world does nothing to cause this birth. So to, a Christian is born again without doing anything to cause their birth. Just as a new born baby freely breathes and eats once it is born. So to, a new born Christian freely receives Christ and feeds on him once they are born again by the act of God.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Meaning in Life?


I just watched the video below and I am wondering how an Atheist would respond. Any takers?


Friday, September 12, 2008

John Murray's Exceptions


It's been said,
many times,
many ways...


I have heard, mainly from those in the so-called "Federal Vision," many times that John Murray took a number of exceptions with the Westminster Standards. The story goes that Murray took, some say 5 and others 95, exceptions with Standards. I have looked for these exceptions, but to no avail. Does anyone know where, if at all, this story can be shown true or false?

John the Calvinist: Part 1


I am currently taking a class on the Gospel of John. As I read through this wonderful Gospel I am struck afresh at how "Calvinistic" this book really is. So, I thought I would start a series of posts looking at different passages in the Gospel of John that teach the doctrines known as "Calvinism," or the term I prefer, "the doctrines of grace."

In this first post I need your help. In the comments let me know what passages you would like me to discuss. It can be passages that are overtly Calvinistic or passages that you, the reader, thinks show Calvinism to be wrong. I am an equal opportunity blogger.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Why Aren't You Dedicating Your Son?


The following is an excerpt from a letter I recently wrote to a family member regarding our decision not to have a "dedication" ceremony for our newborn son, Amos.

Traditionally, my family - as well as your side of the family - has dedicated their children to the Lord when they are born, and while I do believe that dedicating one's children to God and promising to raise them up in His ways is a good thing - in principle, anyway - I do not believe it is Biblical. Our son is not circumcised, and part of the reason we have chosen not to circumcise him is because God has given us as His people a covenant symbol in place of circumcision. He desires for his people to have hearts which are circumcised, but he has given us baptism as the new sign of the covenant. In the same way that the Old covenant was symbolized by circumcision, the new covenant is symbolized by baptism. Because we believe this, we believe that our son is a part of the Christian covenant community, and should be baptized to symbolize his inclusion in it. This does not mean that he is automatically saved, of course (none of us believes that baptism saves anyone), but it does mean that he is set apart from the rest of the world with the benefits of being included as a part of the Church until the day when he can either have his baptism confirmed or decide to turn away from the covenant symbol he was given. What this means is that we probably see baptism as two different things: whereas most of our family sees baptism as an outward sign that we have decided to follow Jesus, we see baptism as being an outward sign of the covenant of God. Because this covenant applies to us, as believers, as well as to our children, Arryn and I baptize our children for very much the same reason that the Israelites circumcised their children.

If a first century Jew had been following Jesus' teachings and then decided to become a Christian, they would have found it strange to exclude their children from the New Covenant, considering that they used to be included under the Old Covenant as part of the "church." Rather, let me suggest, that the idea of baptizing rather than dedicating one's children arose - in part - from the early church's belief that conversion to Christianity does not simply affect someone who is the head of the family alone, but that it affects the entire family - from the parents to the children.

This is certainly more than you asked for, but it basically summarizes our beliefs as far as dedicating our children, rather than baptizing them. If anything, we would very much like to have Amos baptized, but in the meantime we have decided together that the salvation of our children is the highest priority for us to pursue. In this way, we have already dedicated Genesis and Amos to the Lord.

Here is a serious question for everyone: I am a paedobaptist attending a reformed baptist church. Should we pursue a baptism through some other church, or simply give in and dedicate since that is our church's way?

Friday, September 5, 2008

He's Here!


Our son was born earlier today! His name is Amos Augustin Parker (my wife chose to spell his middle name without the "e" on the end so people wouldn't make the mistake of calling him "August-een"), and he was 9lb. 12oz. Labor started around 8am, and ended at 5:40, when he was finally born.

I want to just say that my wife is amazing. She has done the greatest thing I have ever seen before, and she did it without an epidural, without drugs, without any pain killers. She did it au naturale, and I couldn't be prouder. She feels a great sense of accomplishment for having done this, and that sense of accomplishment is well deserved.

Praise God that Amos has no birth defects, that he has no medical problems, that he is in good sound condition, and that the Lord blessed us with a great delivery team. Though we were not able to have him at home (due to the fact that we needed pitocin to get the contractions going), God still brought us a hospital staff that was respectful of Arryn's desire for a natural birth, and we just think the world of our midwife, Michelle, our nurse, Theresa, and our doctors, Dr. Jensen and Dr. Smothers.

Here is a video of Genesis meeting her little brother:

This is the first photo we took after he was born:


Hey; it was warm in there!


A proud father, once again:


Genesis holds her baby brother:


I have more pictures, but I don't want to swamp our page with photos and videos, so perhaps I'll save anything else for later. Praise be to God for His provision of safety and wise counsel.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What is the Gospel?


I have been having a conversation with a few of my fellow seminary students. We have been discussing what are the necessary elements of the Gospel. In other words, what must be given and said in order for the Gospel to be preached? So, I wanted to let our readers join in on this conversation. I ask you, the reader, what are the necessary pieces of the Gospel? What truths must be given to a person so that at the end we can say that the Gospel has been preached?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Worship in All We do


As a new semester begins, I am reminded that as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are to do everything we do with an eye to the glory of God. All we do needs to be an act of worship to the great God of the universe.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Apologies and Invitations


I'm sorry that I have not written much lately (some may be grateful, rather choosing to eagerly await the Rev. Stellman's or Mr. Walker's next entry). I have been putting more focus into my work on my side-project, which I again want to invite everyone to peruse as you have time. It is The Geneva Gazette, and I hope it's funny enough that you will all subscribe in your RSS feeds, and also comment on. I realize that we Calvinists are not known to be funny people, and I am probably no exception.

Josh Walker Reviews Fee's Pauline Christology


Our own Josh Walker has written a review of Gordon Fee's Pauline Christology for the esteemed website Reformation 21. You can check it out at Reformation 21 right now!

Go read it, guys; Josh read this 700 page book so that you wouldn't have to!

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Transcendental Argument (Part 4)


Conclusion

Whether or not the transcendental argument succeeds is beyond the scope of this paper. We attempted to demonstrate that the arguments leveled against the transcendental argument by Michael Martin and Sean Choi do not stop the weightiness of the presuppositionalist’s argument. Martin’s arguments seem to either: (1) miss the point of the transcendental argument, or (2) misunderstand a basic teaching of the Christian faith; while Choi fundamentally misunderstands the nature of a worldview. These arguments are helpful in showing areas that the TAG can be improved, or at the very least, areas where the TAG can be bolstered. But they do not put forth a significant challenge to the TAG.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Dr. Derek Thomas on Christ the Center


One of my bosses, Dr. Derek Thomas was on the podcast of Castle Church, Christ the Center. The program, which can be found here, deals with the relationship between the academy and Christ's body, the Church. Dr. Thomas, since he is both a pastor and a professor, had many insightful things to say. This is one podcast I look forward to every week.

Mondays with Mounce


I am rarely exited about new blog, however a recent blog by Zondervan, Koinonia (the Greek word for fellowship), has me really exited. The list of contributes looks great, including one of my bosses Dr. Miles Van Pelt. The thing that has me most exited is a column by William Mounce, author of Basics of Biblical Greek, called Monday with Mounce. The first one, it what will sure be a great series of posts, can be found here.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Announcing a Side-Project


Now, Bring the Books will always be my baby, but I do have another one on the way (both metaphorically and literally speaking). In the blogosphere world, I have chosen to start a side-project which I am entitling The Geneva Gazette.

Over time, I will be adding graphics and other visual flares, but until then, it will simply be an outlet for my own weird brand of humor. If you think like me, then you'll like it. If you don't think like me, then you're better off watching The Hills or Flava of Love.

I won't be writing on it constantly, so I recommend subscribing to the RSS feed from it, and reading whenever I post new ones. Also, if you like what I put up on the GG, drop me a comment and let me know you're reading it; it'll make me feel good.

Campaign Update


For those of you who follow the blog on a regular basis, you will remember that Adam's bike was stolen. After hearing this horrible news, the staff at Bring the Books... jumped into action and started a campaign to get Adam a new bike. It has been about three weeks since the beginning of the campaign and I am pleased to report that we have raised or pledged a total of $50 for a new bike (we have in hand $30 and $20 is yet to come in). We are almost to our goal of $90, if you can help please email me at johnny dot redeemed at gmail dot com.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Have a Laugh


A great new article over at Larknews.com:

After 50 Years in Pulpit, Retired Pastor Finally Has a Beer.

Keep your eyes peeled, because in the next few days, I plan on launching my own comedic news blog (very much in the spirit of The Onion and Larknews, but less dirty than The Onion). I'm still working on some names, but I think I like the name The Sunflower Gazette. Stay Tuned.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Transcendental Argument (Part 3)


Response to Critics of the TAG

With this brief outline of the transcendental TAG, we can turn to the main objective of this paper, which is a response to critics of this argument. In this section a response will be given to two main critics of the TAG: (1) Michael Martin, atheist professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Boston University since1975 and (2) Classical Apologist Sean Choi, Ph.D. candidate in philosophy at the University of California. Martin has written or co-written 13 books and over 100 articles in the areas of: philosophy of religion, philosophy of social science and philosophy of law. Two of his articles are of specific interest: 1) “Does Induction Presume the Existence of the Christian God?” and 2) “The Transcendental Argument for the Non Existence of God.” Choi has a chapter on the TAG in Reasons for Faith: Making a Case for the Christian Faith. Each of these will be looked at in turn.

a. A Brief Response to “Does Induction Presume the Existence of the Christian God?”[1]

Martin begins his discussion of the transcendental argument by giving an overview of the TAG. His overview is not one of the strongest overviews on the subject, but he does hit the essence of the presuppositional argument.

The basic idea of TAG when used against atheists is easy to understand and state. It maintains that certain things that atheists assume are true can only be true if there is a God. Primarily these atheistic assumptions are the beliefs that logical reasoning is possible, that scientific inference is justified, and that objective moral standards exist. So if an atheist uses logic to refute a theistic argument, uses scientific evidence to undermine some biblical position, or argues that God’s omnipotence and moral perfection are incompatible with evil in the world and consequently that God does not exist, TAG maintains that he or she is implicitly assuming God’s existence.[2]

After Martin’s overview of the TAG, he moves to a response to this argument. His main point is that even if the transcendental argument is sound it fails to show that the Christian God exists. He states the argument in this form, “To say that A presupposes B is to say that we could not ‘make sense’ of A without assuming B. However, supposing we grant that one must assume B to make sense of A, it does not follow that B is true.”[3] Martin is right here, however, this is not the claim made by the TAG. The TAG adds that everyone accepts “B” to be the case. This is why the TAG is so forceful. But Martin misses this point and it is seen in his counter example: “For example, if I am trying to communicate to an audience by speaking to them in English, my action makes no sense unless they understand English. But it does not follow that they do. They might only understand Chinese.”[4] Martin’s example illustrates that he has missed the weight of the transcendental argument. First, in the example given by Martin, the person speaking in English, in order to communicate (which is a speakers primary goal), must assume that the hearers know English. To apply this to the realm of the transcendental argument, if a person uses induction then that person must assume the Christian God. Martin fails to see that the very example he uses helps support the presuppositional argument. For if the communicator did not believe that his audience spoke English, he would not be speaking it. Granted, this does not mean that the audience does speak English (or God exists), but it does mean that the speaker believes this to be the case. To apply this to our situation, the non-Christian, must think that the Christian God is real in order to uses, say, induction.

Second, the claim made by the transcendental argument is not only that the non-Christian believes in the Christian God (which the transcendental argument does claim), but that the Christian God must be true in order for induction, or any other fact, to be true. Martin’s counter example fails to address the full claim of the transcendental argument. In other words, his counter example does not do justice to what the TAG is trying to address. Martin has set up a rather easy straw man to knock down. If Martin wanted to uses a better analogy (or illustration) for the TAG, the following would work better. The speaker in standing on a stage in front of an audience and the whole point of his speech is way he is not standing on a stage. The speaker is standing on the very thing he is attempting to deny.

Again, Martin fails, as he does many times in this article, to see the weightiness of the transcendental argument. In addition to this, Martin says, “[The transcendental argument] would not establish the truth of the Christian worldview but only the inconsistency of atheists [non-Christians] who presuppose science, logic and objective ethics.”[5] This statement by Martin fails to understand that the strongest logical argument that can be made in favor of a proposition is reductio ad absurdum. That is to say, that demonstrative proof for p can be made by assuming ~p and showing that a contradiction follows, thus proving the truth of p. But Martin assumes that this form of argument, reductio ad absurdum, does not prove anything; rather only shows the falseness of atheism. Martin is wrong in this assumption, and thus by admitting that if the transcendental argument is true the atheist would be inconsistent, he shows that this is a positive proof for the Christian worldview.

b. A Brief Response to “The Transcendental Argument for the Non Existence of God”[6]

Martin endeavors to show that the truth of logic, science and morality presuppose the falsehood of Christianity. “I will show how one can argue exactly the opposite conclusion [of the TAG], namely, that logic, science and morality presuppose the falsehood of the Christian world view or at least the falsehood of the interpretation of his world view.”[7] Martin’s best transcendental argument for the nonexistence of God is based on the law of logic.

Consider logic. Logic presupposes that its principles are necessarily true. However, according to the brand of Christianity assumed by TAG, God created everything, including logic; or at least everything, including logic, is dependent on God. But if something is created by or is dependent on God, it is not necessary—it is contingent on God. And if principles of logic are contingent on God, they are not logically necessary. Moreover, if the principles of logic are contingent on God, God could change them. Thus, God could make the law of noncontradiction false; in other words, God could arrange matters so that a proposition and its negation were true at the same time. But this is absurd.

There is no disagreement that the principles of logic are necessary, in fact, the necessity of logic is one of the arguments for God. But they are necessary for humans, not God. This is a fundamental problem in Martin’s worldview. He seems to think that God is a creature, as he is, and as such that God is bound (if he exists) to logic. This is the exact opposite of what is claimed by the Christian worldview. God is the creator and we are his creature. This is a fundamental metaphysical distinction in the Christian concept of reality. The “Eimi/eikon” distinction is central to the way the universe is ordered.

We must, then, begin with this basic and fundamental distinction—the Eimi/eikon distinction—the distention of the “I am” and his image. If we begin in that way, then all of our discussion about “reality,” “individuality,” “externality,” “objectivity,” “knowledge,” “truth,” and the like has that distinction as its context and as its defining character.[8]

Martin fails to understand this central principle of the Christian faith. His unbelieving worldview leads him in this direction, and on one level he cannot be faulted for the conclusions he comes to. However, on another level, he misses this critical distinction and as such misses the whole point of the TAG and can be faulted for misunderstanding the argument he is trying to engage. Though his argument is original, it fails to do any substantial damage to the presupposition argument because he fails to see the “Eimi/eikon” distinction, which leads him to wrongly conclude that God would be held in subjection to logic.

c. A Brief Response to “The Transcendental Argument”[9]

Unlike Martin, Choi does a much better job of setting forth the TAG. However, his criticisms still fall short. Choi’s criticism of the TAG demonstrates that he understands the ‘heart’ of the TAG when he argues that: “It is possible that: there is a worldview distinct from Christian theism and which is such that if it were true, it would provide a sufficient justification for the laws of logic.”[10] In arguing this way, Choi basically grants the validity of the TAG,[11] but he argues that the primes that states the Christian God is the only way to account for intelligibility is false. Choi does this by attempting to provide another worldview that would satisfy the preconditions for intelligibility.

As a specific illustration of such a worldview, consider Fristianity, which is a theistic worldview that holds to the doctrine of the quadrinity (one God in four persons) and is otherwise identical to Christianity, or as similar to Christianity as possible (given its qaudrinitarian tenet).[12]

Thus, Choi offer “Fristianity” as an alternative worldview to Christianity that, as he claims, would account for the preconditions for intelligibility. This argument is not substantial to the TAG for at least two reasons. First, we are not concerned about hypothetical worldviews that can be made up to fit the preconditions; rather, we are interested in actual worldviews. In other words, the TAG is concerned with actual worldviews that can stand this criticism. If no one holds to “Fristianity”, at the end of the day, it is really irrelevant to the presuppositional project.

Second, and much more substantial, Choi has failed to provided a coherent worldview to account for intelligibility. The worldview that Choi sets forth is identical to Christianity with one major alteration, the Trinity is gone. But what Choi does not understand that worldviews are not disconnected propositions—as if one doctrine can be changed and the system remains largely in tack. Instead, worldviews are organic. One part flows into the other. By changing one part the whole system will change. Thus, if the doctrine of the Trinity is changed the entire worldview is altered. Take for instance the doctrine of the Scripture. The Christian worldview teaches that the Bible is the final and complete revelation from God about himself. If the Trinity were altered, the Christian Bible would have to be altered significantly to make room for the “quadrinity.” At the very least, sections would have to be added introducing us to this fourth person. Or take the doctrine of salvation; it would have to be changed. As it stands, Christianity holds that all three person of the Trinity are directly involved in the salvation of God’s people—the Father chooses his people, the Son dies for his people and the Holy Spirit sanctifies his people. If a fourth person were added to the Godhead, a role for this person would need to be added to the doctrine of salvation. These are but a few of the many examples that could be given to show that adding the “quadrinity” is not as nice and neat as Choi would like it to be and as such, Choi fails to understand the organic nature of worldviews.



[1] Martin, Michael. “Does Induction Presume the Existence of the Christian God?” Skeptic Vol. 5, #2: 71-75.

[2] Ibid., 72.

[3] Ibid., 72.

[4] Ibid., 73.

[5] Ibid., 73.

[6] Martin, Michael. “The Transcendental Argument for the Nonexistence of God.” 1996. [April 30, 2008.]. .

[7] Ibid., pp. 1

[8] Scott Oliphint, Reasons for Faith: Philosophy in the service of Theology (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2006) 180.

[9]Choi. “The Transcendental Argument.”

[10] Choi. “The Transcendental Argument.” 243.

[11] In fact, from page 236 to 242 Choi goes to length to show a valid form of the TAG.

[12] Choi. “The Transcendental Argument.” 243 (emphasis mine)