Thursday, August 28, 2008

HOLY SMOKES!

D.A. Carson, in his book "Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church", cites an example of one particular person's move from basic orthodoxy to post-evangelicalism. "(His)...move was from the Brethren Church through Pentecostalism to the house church movement..to his present focus on post-evangelicalism. In his case, this includes Tuesday night meetings of a rather different form of church: the lounge bar of a South London pub, named Holy Joe’s. The atmosphere is relaxed: people can drink or smoke, participate as much or as little as they like in the worship evenings-which place a high value on contemplation, candle, symbols, ambient music-and if they don’t like it, they can move off to the main bar." (pg 25)


Is this a set up for a cartoon...or what? And.....it’s all true. Google... "Holy Joe’s"!!




(click cartoon to enlarge)


Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Leaping Babe.... (Luke 1:44)

After posting my previous blog entry, thoughts began racing through my head about all the evil that is personally endured by so many people in this world. It is one thing to have a proper theological understanding of the doctrine of evil, but it is certainly another to actually be touched by the evil that is so rampant in the world today. So...the question I have to pose for this blog entry is this: "Does a proper theological understanding make it easier to endure the evil that may come our way?" And a related question: "does a proper theological understanding help us to minister and comfort one another when evil things come our way?" As J Vernon McGee used to say, how does it work out.."down where the rubber meets the road".

I also understand that there are innumerable personal examples that could be used as illustrations for this subject. So many, even in our midst, have endured unspeakable evils that are part and parcel of our fallen world. Now, we are all either going to or have already faced the evil of the loss of a dear loved one.
(Rom 5:12) (Heb 9:27) All of us are going to die...sooner or later...unless the Lord returns during our lifetime. I quizzed my wife...Is it easier to deal with the loss of a loved one that has lived a full life and has come to the end.."full of years"..compared with the loss of a newborn or a young person who has just begun the journey of life? Hands down the answer was that enduring the loss of a young person would be much, much more difficult than with one who has lived a full life.

You may be asking at this point, where are you going with this blog entry. Especially given the title..where does a leaping babe come into all this discussion? I would tend to think that the process of ministering to someone who has experienced the evils of this world first hand would include a proper theological understanding. I am thinking mainly of those who have had to endure the loss of a young person, perhaps even an infant, perhaps still-born, perhaps even a regretted and forgiven abortion. What does the bible say about those that die in infancy? The believer inevitably wants assurance that their child is with the Lord in heaven"? Where does one get that assurance? We know about I Cor 1:21..." it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." So the question is this: Is God able to save apart from the preaching of the gospel? Most of us know the "Westminster Confession of Faith" teaching on this subject which says, "Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit,[12] who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth:[13] so also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.[14]"
(12. Gen. 17:7; Luke 1:15; 18:15-16; Acts 2:39; John 3:3, 5; I John 5:12; 13. John 3:8; 14. John 16:7-8; I John 5:12; Acts 4:12)

This is where the leaping babe comes into the picture. God has given us, in His scriptures, an illustration of infant salvation. I think we can all safely conclude that John the Baptist was one of the elect....and that he was regenerated in infancy, even in the womb. Verse 44 of Luke 1 says.."the babe leaped in my womb for joy". Prior to this in verse 15 it is said, "and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb." Can we not rest assured that this child truly experienced regeneration in the womb? (As a side note, regeneration in the womb..should certainly confirm infant baptism.) Now, I cannot imagine one who leaps for joy when His Savior draws near, (no matter his age or his location) and one who is filled with the Holy Ghost in the womb...NOT being regenerated, made alive spiritually, made a child of the King, called, and justified and eventually glorified. The WCF teaching definitely has this story in mind when the above statement was formulated. (cf WCF ref# 12 above, Luke 1:15) Therefore, I think we can safely conclude that God is certainly able to regenerate, save, and justify one of His elect in the womb. And..this regenerated one is saved forever, he has eternal life, whether this little one dies in infancy or reaches the ripe old age of 96.

The final question: Can believers have a certain hope and confidence that their children who die in infancy are eternally secure? I believe the answer to this question is ...yes! This is what the Reformed confessions, which are based on scripture, teach us. The Canons of Dort, First Head of Doctrine Divine Election and Reprobation - Articles of Faith Article 17: "Since we are to judge of the will of God from His Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature, but in virtue of the covenant of grace, in which they together with the parents are comprehended, godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom it pleases God to call out of this life in their infancy." (Gen. 17:7; Acts 2:39; I Cor. 7:14). To God be the glory!

As believers we, with confidence and hope, anticipate that we will one day be reunited with our sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and grandchildren who have died in infancy of godly parents.
Meanwhile we will shed the tears, we will be sorrowful, we will cry and feel the pain, we will attempt to comfort one another and....even acknowledge that death is the evil enemy of God (ICor 15:26)... that is until that day when God shall finally and forever.......wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Rev 21:4)

Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. (Rev 22:20)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Theodicies

I have a bad habit! (well, maybe a few..but I only want to talk about this one today) I am a "quote collector". Say what? Yes, I collect quotes.....on various subjects. Now here is the problem. Where did these quotes come from? Who said that? I have recently changed my bad habit in that when a quote is collected on any subject I reference the subject, the source, and the author. However, the quotes that I am placing before you today....may or may not have the source OR the author, just the quote. So...if any of you recognize either the source or the author, please feel free to click on the comment link below and inform me of these missing details.

Most of these quotes, I have since determined, come from HERE.

My subject is "Theodices" which is based on the following syllogistic format. But first, the definition of a Theodicy...." A vindication of the justice of God in ordaining or permitting natural and moral evil". (Webster)
  1. The world was created by an all-powerful and all-loving God.
  2. Evil exists in the creation.
  3. If God were all-powerful, he could immediately destroy evil.
  4. If God were all-loving, he would immediately destroy evil.
  5. Therefore, God cannot be both all-powerful and all-loving.

EVIL—(collected quotes)

  • That is a very, very compelling point coming from the rabbi. In other words, to argue against the existence of God based on the existence of evil forces us into saying something like this: Evil exists, therefore there is no God. If there is no God then good and evil are relative and not absolute, so true evil doesn't exist, contradicting the first point. Simply put, there cannot be a world in which it makes any sense to say that evil is real and at the same time say that God doesn't exist. If there is no God then nothing is ultimately bad, deplorable, tragic or worthy of blame. The converse, by the way, is also true. This is the other hard part about this, it cuts both ways. Nothing is ultimately good, honorable, noble or worthy of praise. Everything is ultimately lost in a twilight zone of moral nothingness. To paraphrase the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer, the person who argues against the existence of God based on the existence of evil in the world has both feet firmly planted in mid-air.

  • If God wiped out all the evil in the world tonight at midnight, where would you and I be at 12:01? See, the fact is that God's going to do a complete job when he finally deals with evil. C.S. Lewis makes the point when he says, "I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realize what it will be like when He does....When the author walks on the stage the play is over." Evil deeds can never be isolated from the evil doer. Our prints, yours and mine, are on the smoking gun.

  • What's curious to me in dealing with this issue is that no one raises the issue of whether one ought to continue to believe in the goodness of man after these kinds of tragedies. We see things like the Holocaust, the crime level, the innocent suffering at the hands of other human beings more often than not, and instead of shaking our fists at humankind who perpetrate the action we shake our fists at God. I don't get it.

  • Dennis Prager says, "Whenever I meet someone who claims to find faith in God impossible, but who persists in believing in the essential goodness of humanity, I know that I have met a person for whom evidence is irrelevant." ( Ultimate Issues , July- September, 1989) I like that. I think that hits the nail on the head. The last thought I will offer is just another curious one from my perspective as I hear these kinds of responses. We live our lives in rebellion to God, constantly disobeying Him, constantly disregarding him, refusing to live according to His precepts and according to His rules, and then we wonder where He is when things go wrong. Let that one sink in a little bit.

  • For example, certain virtues couldn't exist without evil: courage, mercy, forgiveness, patience, the giving of comfort, heroism, perseverance, faithfulness, self-control, long-suffering, submission and obedience, to name a few. These are not virtues in the abstract, but elements of character that can only be had by moral souls. Just as evil is a result of acts of will, so is virtue. Acts of moral choice accomplish both. Augustine knew that evil was real. Independent evidence (natural theology) was enough to convince him that God existed and that everything He created would be good. Evil, then, must be something real, but not a "thing" in the conventional sense. Evil is not a created thing, but spoiled goodness made possible by the free moral agency of rational creatures. Evil is not something present, but something missing, a privation. ---Gregory Koukl, Augustine on Evil

  • Job had learned this simple lesson long before his testing. In answer to his wife's reflection on God, he replied "What? Shall we receive good from the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" We can almost hear someone shout "Blasphemy!" when they read this. But the divine comment is, "In all this did not Job sin with his lips" (Job 2: 10). "Out of the mouth of the Most High proceedeth not evil and good?" (Lam.3:38).

To the above bad habit, I have now added, "collector of videos". Here is one that I ran across that puts a conclusion on this blog entry:


Final Quote
If there is no God then there is no answer to the pastoral question of personal suffering and evil . It 's not there--your suffering is meaningless. But if there is a God, and if that God is the God of the Bible, then at least we have the potential of an answer. There's some kind of comfort there. God is ultimately good and just, and one day the accounts will be perfectly balanced. We can place ourselves in the hands of a powerful Creator who, by all other evidence, loves us, cares for us and comforts the afflicted. One Who will not break off a bent reed and Who will not put out a smoldering wick. One Who will hold us close to Himself. There is at least the possibility that this suffering and pain can make sense because God can use it for good in our lives. (Greg Koukl)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Pete Pete and Repete

I know that most folks have endured seemingly endless praise choruses in youth services or perhaps even in regular worship services. I, in fact, visited a church one Sunday and the worship team began with the singing of praise chourses and the singing didn’t cease for 35 minutes, all while standing. My wife and I had to sit down after about 20 minutes. We were exhausted. It was a real test of physical endurance. Age may have had something to do with it! Now, I love to sing, even if I can’t. Dogs’ ears perk up when I make an attempt. Nevertheless, an attempt is made to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. So..don’t get me wrong with the cartoon I am posting. And don’t inform me that there are angelic beings that exist simply for the purpose of saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. (Rev 4:8) I know that!

The cartoon is an exaggeration of the endless repetition that is a part of so many worship services in the modern church. When I created the cartoon, I had what I thought was the perfect caption as the lady in the first row turns to the man next to her and declares....something????? After thinking about my caption for a day or so, I thought maybe this is not so perfect; maybe someone else may have the perfect caption....so that’s where you my loyal reader(s) come in. It’s your turn to provide the "perfect caption". Are you up to the challenge? Just post your caption in the comment section. If you’re in Gibsonia, Houston, Baton Rouge, Olathe, Shawnee, Zelienople, Kansas City...wherever I want your input. It’s up to you!


(click to enlarge)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Incongruity

I recently heard the following statement expressed by a Calvinist: "I worship like a Calvinist, but minister like an Arminian." Now I am quite sure that this statement may have, at least, raised the eyebrows of the likes of Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards, Pink, Hodge, Sproul and many, many others who found it not incongruous to worship AND evangelize like Calvinists. The following video is the 10 minute conclusion of a debate by Dr James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries, a Calvinist. I think you will find it an extremely worthwhile 10 minutes.



Hat Tip Deutero Q

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Monday, August 4, 2008

Atonement

My wife and I went to see the movie “Atonement” when it was first released. It is a movie I would highly recommend. One caveat. Spend some time before viewing with any old Monty Python or Benny Hill episodes to acclimate yourself to the common language that separates us from our English brethren. OK..OK.... “Upstairs Downstairs” and “Fawlty Towers” episodes will work equally well. Without this acclimation one will find it very hard, at times, to understand the English language as it is so proficiently spoken.... by the English.

Without giving away the entire story, it is the tale of a pre-adolescent girl who secretly sees a scene unfold before her eyes between her older sister and her sister’s boyfriend. As is often the case she makes a hasty judgment about what she has just witnessed and in the course of the events, which immediately follow, accuses the boyfriend of an atrocious deed, which, in reality, was not committed. Because of this accusation the course of three lives, including her own are radically changed forever. The rest of the movie, which spans a time period of approximately 65 years, is spent attempting to make atonement for this sin committed when she was merely thirteen years old.

All of which brings me to another Atonement, one with eternal consequences. As a layman and a student of the Word, here is my understanding. This was an atonement made for many, an atonement for the Church, the ekklesia. This was an atonement for His sheep. And.... this is the basic Gospel...Christ died for His sheep. “I am the Good Shepherd, and I know my sheep,.... I lay down my life for the sheep.” (Jo 10: 14-15) In John chapter 17 he says, “I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.” Here we see two priestly functions, one sacrificial and one intercessory. The scope of both are identical. He prays for the sheep which the Father has given Him and He lays down His life for the sheep which the Father has given Him. Unlike the atonement in the movie in which a futile attempt is made to atone for a single wrong, the atonement Christ made is not only efficient, i.e., it accomplishes exactly what it intends to accomplish..(for He shall save His people from their sins, Matt 1:21), but also is sufficient for all the sin of those for whom it was intended. (All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; Jo 6:37) (....the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. Matt 20:28) (..Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. Rom 4:7-8)

Now, I love a lot of folks that have come into my life. But,....there is one very special love that I have. I love my wife like I love no other. My love for her is a ”special love” that cannot even compare to my love for any other. Christ also has a special love that is reserved only for those whom the Father has given Him. The apostle Paul admonishes husbands, “love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;” (Eph 5:25). His is the example of a discriminating love that lavishes itself only upon those whom the Father has given Him, His Bride...the Church. He says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (Jo 10:27, 28) The gospel call goes out to all....Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins;.. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. (Acts2:38ff)

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal
no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not
atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
(From “Rock of Ages”-Augustus
Toplady)

The glory of the LORD shall endure for ever: the LORD shall rejoice in his works. (Ps 104:31)