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.