Saturday, 30 May 2009

Is Condemning Homosexual Practice Analogous to Racism?

Read here.

HT: John Thomson

John MacLeod in the Daily Mail

For anyone wishing to read John MacLeod's outstanding analysis of the CofS fiasco, you can now see it here. I was astonished and delighted that such an article would appear in a British tabloid.

HT: Shed

Friday, 29 May 2009

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Response to Nick's post "The Kirk - An Outsider Looking In"

For the avoidance of doubt the views in the post "The Kirk - An Outsider Looking In" are the views of the one and only Mr Nicky Mackison.

I remain under the authority of three courts of the Church of Scotland, one Council of the Church of Scotland, and I have a duty to respect those authorities as far as I am able to in good conscience. When I became a candidate for ministry in the Church of Scotland in 2004 I signed a document promising to uphold the laws of the church. Strangely none of my colleagues remember having to do this.

Perhaps I just have a better memory than they do, but I have at least one conspiracy theory to explain the anomaly. At least one of my placement supervisors was astonished that candidate ministers had to make promises that no minister would willingly make, and make those promises without any of the privileges of office.

I trust that my association with this blog will not be taken as a breach of my respect for all proper authority. I will not comment or reply to the substance of Nicky's post for fear of doing just that, namely, defy the will of the General Assembly by commenting in public on the Scott Rennie case. I believe that all my recent blog posts and comments related to the Church of Scotland have discussed matters of principle rather than the specifics of the relevant General Assembly debates this year.

If anyone has any concerns I will correspond privately by email. This is not an easy time to be part of the Church of Scotland.

David Shedden

The Kirk - An Outsider Looking In

I'm deeply saddened by the goings on in the Church of Scotland. Reading an absolutely cracking article in today's Scottish Daily Mail by John MacLeod helped crystallise my thoughts on the issues.

1. Carl Trueman is right, this was not the hill to die on. A long history of compromising on the plain teaching of Scripture, e.g. female ordination, left the evangelicals with little weight when they finally stood up on this issue. As Ligon Duncan once said, if there was a text in Scripture that plainly stated "You shall not baptise an infant" the paedobaptist debate would never have taken place. Yet we have such a text regarding female ordination (1 Tim. 2:12) and we either produce exegetical back flips to make it say the opposite, or simply crap all over the text by accusing Paul of misogyny to justify the canonising of our cultural sensibilities. If a church is willing to do that with 1 Timothy 2:12, why not do the same with Romans 1:18-32 or 1 Corinthians 6:9 in relation to homosexual practice?

2. Affirming the 'substance' of the Westminster Standards isn't enough. There are debates over how individuals should subscribe the standards. Does one subscribe the standards 'in so far' (quatenus) as that individual believes them to be biblical, or should one only subscribe to the standards if one can do so without mental reservation, i.e. because (quia) they are biblical? Which view is more honouring to Scripture? At first glance, quatenus seems more honouring. Surely refusing to let a confession dictate to us what we believe to be the teaching of Scripture helps to esteem that Scripture as the ultimate court in one's own mind. Yet it is only when you observe how allowing for confessional 'wiggle room' works out in practise that we see the devastating effects of such an approach. Every man becomes his own pope and maverick self-absorbed spirituality abounds.

Is it not a little wiser (and pragmatic) to say that we distrust our own lust for novelty and 'fresh' readings of Scripture due to the fact that our hearts are desperately sick and beyond cure? (Jer. 17:9) Is it not a little more honouring to the Spirit and the sacred text to affirm doctrinal standards that were thrashed out in community, standards around which there was remarkable unity?

3. If evangelical ministers are serious about a united Reformed witness in Scotland, would it not be expedient for them to surrender their own mental reservations to a quia subscription for the greater good? Would finding fellowship with brothers and sisters in the Free Church of Scotland really be that bad? Would ecclesiastical unity with those who confess the historic, Reformed, catholic practice of exclusive Psalmody and unaccompanied singing be much worse than unity with the sexually immoral and liberals? You decide.

4. 'Evangelical' is a meaningless term in this country. If one may affirm female ordination and homosexual practice, while harbouring doubts about penal substitutionary atonement and still retain the label 'conservative evangelical' then I'm a cessationist charismatic.

5. In seeking to be relevant the CofS is desperately irrelevant. It's now a sad, dead institution overrun by liberals and idiots who care more about keeping the on the good side of the liberal media (who never attend their churches anyway). The good men, like Willie Phillip and Ivor Macdonald are pilloried as homophobic fundamentalists. In seeking to be compassionate and relevant for a modern Scotland, the CofS has finally and arrogantly broken with the moral teaching of the 'one holy catholic church' passed down over two millennia. They are out of step even with Eastern Orthodoxy and Rome.

6. Why do those who sit in judgement on the Scriptural text have any desire to enter the ministry? I suspect much of it is the lifestyle i.e. nice salary, no mortgage, etc. You get the impression that for many of them their vocation was a toss up between ministry in the Kirk and signing up for the RSPCA to help labradors with thorns in their paws. Please, please, if God's law in Scripture is offensive to you, give the ministry a miss. You're messing with the mighty Christ who bought his church with the price of his blood. If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him (or her) (1 Cor. 3:17) Scott Rennie is an evil man, let's make no bones about it. As winsome and likeable as he comes across to some, he is thumbing his nose at the living God. May God have mercy on him.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

The DTR Ultimatum

Single ladies beware. You better be ready.

Because after reading this post it could be that a young Christian man will decide to grow up. Or he might hit you with a DTR ultimatum.

Do any single women read Restless and Reforming anyway? If so let me know, and I'll send a DTR memo to clarify things :-)
As 2009 passes I continue my reading of Calvin's Institutes. Below is another fascinating little sentence that illustrates that Calvin was not as dogmatic as Calvinists would like him to be. Calvin believed that "duly constituted churches" have no need of apostles, prophets or evangelists. But he also believed that God had raised up such persons in his own day, and in previous periods of post-Apostolic church history.

"Those who preside over the government of the church in accordance with Christ's institution are called by Paul as follows: first apostles, then prophets, thirdly evangelists, fourthly pastors, and finally teachers [Eph.4:11]. Of these only the last two have an ordinary office in the church; the Lord raised up the first three at the beginning of his Kingdom, and now and again revives them as the need of the times demands."

Institutes(1559) IV.iii.4 John Calvin

Monday, 25 May 2009

Saturday, 23 May 2009

And as we worship build a throne
And as we worship build a throne
And as we worship build a throne
Come Lord Jesus and take your place

(Jesus We Entrone You - Paul Kyle)

Friday, 22 May 2009

Reformed Charismatics?

Can one be Reformed and Charismatic? Phillip says no.

Phillip Jensen and Kel Richards - Reformed charismatics? from Audio Advice on Vimeo.

HT: Gordon Cheng

Lex Orandi Lex Credendi

Lex orandi lex credendi is a latin phrase which, I believe when loosely translated, means 'the law of praying is the law of believing'.  It means basically that what you do when worshipping God will inevitably shape what you believe about God.

The Reformers knew this full well and took great pains to be faithful in their gathered worship assemblies.  They read Scripture as saying, "Churches may only worship God in ways that are explicitly commanded in Scripture."  Contrast this with the common evangelical reading of Scripture, i.e. "Churches can worship God in ways not explicitly condemned in Scripture".  In short, the Reformed reading is, does Scripture command it?; the evangelical reading is, does Scripture condemn it?  

Throughout the OT we read of Israel presenting worship to God in ways that were not explicitly condemned.  Nadab and Abihu, Aaron's sons, offered 'strange fire' before the Lord and were barbecued.  Yet this sacrifice offered by the boys was not explicitly condemned by God's word; rather it had not been explicitly required.  Another example is that of the 'high places'.  God commanded that Israel worship God in the place he appointed.  Sometimes that place (Jerusalem) was pretty far away and inconvenient to get to for some Isrealites.  So instead of going to temple, temple came to them in the form of the 'high places'.  The Isrealites were worshipping Yahweh on these hills, but still in a manner not prescribed by Yahweh.  The biblical narrative is clear in its condemnation of such practice.

Why is it important to worship God in only the way he prescribed?  Lex orandi lex credendi.  You are shaped not only by who you worship (Romans 1:18-32) but also by how you worship.  It is clear from Scripture that the gathered worship of God is not a free for all where anything goes.  Now some might raise the objection that these are all old covenant examples I've advanced, and that because we're now under grace we can relax and get out the rainbow strapped guitar and sing love songs to Jesus.  But this objection is futile.  The covenant may change, but Jesus Christ remains the same yesterday today and forever (Heb. 13:8).  Sure, we are not under the OT law as at Sinai, but as at Sinai we must STILL approach with reverence and awe because God is STILL a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29).  If we profane the Lord's Supper, we run the risk of death (1 Cor. 11:30).  We must not go beyond what Scripture says when gathered for worship.

Scripture only requires three things of us: word, prayer and the sacraments.  The word prayed, sung, preached, splashed, eaten and drunk; nothing else.  I'm convinced that Sunday by Sunday evangelicals offer strange fire to God and burn incense on the high places in the following ways:
  • By performing drama skits instead of preaching the word.
  • Using grape juice for wine and wafers for bread.
  • By turning sacred worship into puerile and childish entertainment, sometimes even involving puppets (I've mentioned these abominations before)!
  • Praise songs that resemble more N-Sync than the Songs of Zion. 
  • Failure to sing any inspired texts.
  • By displaying videos of anything really, just to keep the people 'engaged'.
  • By permitting pictures representing members of the Trinity projected on DVD, hung on walls, or coloured in by the children in Sunday School.  
  • By relentless hilarity and joking from the platform (I've been guilty more than most of this).
  • By extended praise times to 'enter God's presence' followed by a 15 minute epilogue.  You don't enter into God's presence through a praise time.
  • Celebrity culture in our meetings including boyband worship leaders and smiling DJ-esque chairmen.
  • Regular failure to incorporate confession of sin in assemblies.
  • Preaching only 'positive' messages.
The law of praying is the law of believing.  We approach God with this laze fare attitude and then wonder why our kids don't fear the Lord or take the warning passages of Scripture with any seriousness.  It's time to Reform our churches or lose the next generation.  Judgement begins at the house of God and we're in danger of Jesus snuffing out our light completely.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Which Bible Translation?

Ok, I know I keep going on about this. It seems to be an area that is hard to make one's mind up on decisively. The question is this, which bible translation is 'the one'. Which translation should we use for reading, preaching, memorising and devotions? Should we use just one? My own conviction is yes, we should have one version that is our first line go-to (and perhaps a couple of back ups for reference). D.A Carson shaped my convictions on this matter when he wrote in 1977, in the midst of the KJV-only controversy:

During the past ten or fifteen years I have read quite a few Bible translations right through; and no doubt as a result I have not memorized as much of the KJV as I would otherwise have done. For the past year and a half or so, I have committed myself to memorizing exclusively from the NIV and have tucked a growing number of chapters away in my memory. I think Christians will have to take conscious decisions like that in the years ahead. (p100 The King James Version Debate - A Plea for Realism)

My advice on the matter, for what it's worth is this; it depends on what type of person you are. If you are a stickler for literal translation and get hot and bothered about precision, while not worrying too much about readability, then please, please go for the HCSB. The ESV is big in evangelical/reformed circles, but I really think that while it's great in the epistles, it is just horrible in most other places. Ministers need to live in the real world and realise that your average dude in the pew has no desire to read through words like sojourner, terebinth, haughty, behold while trying to navigate treacle thick sentences. The HCSB, if the church must have a literal bible, should be 'the one'; no doubt in my mind.

If you're not too worried about strict concordance of words and are more into contextual readability, I would plump for the TNIV. My own conviction on the matter is that this translation will probably have greater longevity, despite it presently enduring poor sales. It translates the way your average Joe speaks. When read publicly, it doesn't use words that jar or sound dated; it flows like a nice beer. The TNIV has the added advantage of being not too different from the NIV (only 7% of a change) to make 'the switch' too painful.

One thing is for sure, the NIV is dated sounding and should not be used due to modern advances in biblical scholarship. So again, literal dudes, put your ESVs on the shelf and get an HCSB. NLT users, the TNIV is too far superior to ignore.

The HCSB - Some suggestions

The HCSB, if it is to prize the mantle from the NIV as the modern 'authorized version' must get a serious marketing makeover. Among other things the following might help:
  1. Get some decent endorsements from respected scholars. Go across the spectrum and get some Reformed guys, Lutheran guys, Baptist guys, Methodist guys etc.
  2. De-capitalise pronouns relating to deity. Nuff said.
  3. The Bible Experience is simply the greatest audio offering of the bible anywhere. B&H should commission a recording of comparative quality and sell it as a dirt cheap download. The opposition would be on its knees.
  4. Have anglicised text so that us Brits get to feel honoured, not honored. We are a sensitive bunch.
  5. Get a good blog. The NLT and ESV have good blogs, the HCSB is superior to both, so it should have a spiffing website letting us know why.
  6. Sponsor some podcasts. The White Horse Inn would be a start. It is a program with an eclectic mix of confessional protestants. Such a move would put to bed the mis-conception of the HCSB as a baptist bible.
  7. Drop the 'H' from the HCSB. Can you imagine a Zondervan Standard Version? The CSB is a good name; why not use it?
  8. Commission a variety of editions. On the classy side, have some tasty goatskin/calfskin/pig skin, etc. On the cutting edge side, do something like the Books of the Bible and have a bible without chapters and verses. Have some tasty wee hard backs too with single column text and san-serif font. Heck, talk to this guy.

Here endeth the marketing lesson.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Coming soon... (again)

That fire in His eyes is His love for His bride
And He's longing that she be with Him
Right by His side
That fire in His eyes is His burning desire
That His bride be with Him, right by His side
And He's calling out to us right now,
"Will you ride with me?"

Yes Lord, yes Lord, yes Lord, yes Lord
(We Will Ride - Andy Park)

Imagine singing this chestnut with the youth group?

Thou Christ of burning, cleansing flame,
Send the fire, send the fire!
Thy blood bought gift today we claim,
Send the fire, send the fire!
Look down and see this waiting host,
Give us the promised Holy Ghost;
We want/need [delete as appropriate] another Pentecost,
Send the fire, send the fire!

Love the tune. Wish I loved and believed the words.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

A Federal Vision Critique

Mark D. Thompson, head of theology at Moore College, Sydney has three essays of critique on the Federal Vision controversy here, here and here.

HT: Paul Rees

The HCSB - Hurdles to Dominance

In a previous post, I waxed lyrical about the glories of the Holman Christian Standard Bible and affirmed it's quality to the extent that it should be the successor to the much loved NIV. There are signs that this could be the case. For instance, the HCSB was second on the CBA Best Selling List in February for dollar sales in the US. Nevertheless, I also expressed doubts as to whether the HCSB would ever achieve this global type of dominance. Why?

First is the fact that the HCSB is not yet truly an 'international' version in the same way that the NIV is. There are not yet any editions with anglicised text. If the HCSB is to be taken seriously by Brits and Aussies as well as Americans, the publishers need to get serious about producing top quality British texts. Look at the plethora of British NIVs or even ESVs and you will see my point.

Second, the HCSB has a kind of a 'fundy' feel about it. What do I mean? Well, for instance, pronouns relating to deity are all upper case. I know that this is intended to inject a certain reverence into the text, but it just leaves one with the unnecessary impression that this bible translation is a bit..well...fundy-ish. It may seem like a minor point, but if the text just came in a classy san-serif font with lower case pronouns, I'd take it a lot more seriously.

The fundy feel continues with the plethora of red-letter text editions. Why publishers feel the need to wrongly divide the word of truth in this way is beyond me. Are Jesus words more inspired than the Holy Spirit inspired narratives of the OT? The HCSB publishers have to get a grip on this one.

Fundy suspicion is exacerbated when one notes the cheap and nasty looking binding and boxes this excellent translation is marketed in. But it's when one comes to the endorsements that fundy-itis climaxes. On the ESV website, they have R.C Sproul and Ed Clowney endorsing their translation. On the HCSB website they have Pat Robertson among others. AAAAAAAH.

The HCSB needs serious rebranding, marketing and a classier feel. There are a variety of things that could be done, and thankfully, HCSB customer services are very attentive and respectful of customer feedback. What is the way ahead for the HCSB? That is for another post.

John Bunyan and Imputation

The following is an excerpt from a sermon by John Piper on imputation:

...the experience of God's people through the centuries has shown what a treasure this truth (imputation) is in bringing people from the darkness of unbelief to the light of hope and joy in Christ. One example is John Bunyan, the writer of Pilgrim's Progress, who struggled terribly before he came to a settled faith in Christ. Here's what he wrote:

"One day as I was passing into the field . . . this sentence fell upon my soul. Thy righteousness is in heaven. And methought, withal, I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God's right hand; there, I say, was my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was doing, God could not say of me, he wants [lacks] my righteousness, for that was just before [in front of] him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself, "The same yesterday, today and, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).
Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed. I was loosed from my afflictions and irons; my temptations also fled away; so that from that time those dreadful scriptures of God left off to trouble me; now went I also home rejoicing for the grace and love of God." (John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, [Hertfordshire: Evangelical Press, 1978, orig. 1666], pp. 90-91)

Monday, 18 May 2009

The HCSB - The NIV You've Always Wanted

I like to talk a bit about bible translations. I love Scripture and have a passion to see it translated accurately AND clearly. Since 2001, the English Standard Version has been hailed as a kind of Messianic-like translation (e.g. here and here) that would sort out all of the problems raised by the pesky NIV. It was also seen as something of a conservative reaction in the face of the rise of gender-neutral translations. A who's-who of Reformed evangelicals have endorsed it, hailing it as the greatest thing since the Chicken Royale with cheese. It is regarded by many as the perfect 'all in one' for studying, memorising with the family and devotional reading. Yet there are many who disagree as to the pedigree of the ESV.

I personally find that reading the ESV in places is like stirring a bowl of overheated porridge, treacle, syrup and tar with a rubber spatula in a cement mixer. Recently I read a passage of Jonah where the LORD said to Jonah "Do you do well to be angry?" (4:4 ESV) This passage sums up all I dislike about the ESV i.e. unnecessarily archaic, stilted and unnatural. What's wrong with just saying "Is it right for you to be angry?" (As a friend told me, his lecturer at Oak Hill Theological College remarked that it seems English was a second language for the ESV translators! Ouch!)

Nevertheless, ESV advocates will affirm that archaisms and turgid prose are the price of accuracy. I'm no linguist nor the son of a linguist, but I always felt this argument was deeply flawed. But now (to quote the apostle), having discovered the HCSB (the Holman Christian Standard Bible), I feel I have, in this translation, proof positive of this gut feeling.

The HCSB is a committee translation made up of scholars from a variety of backgrounds (contrary to popular belief, it is not a Southern Baptist translation). It was released in 2004 after almost 20 years in the making. The translators sought to find a common sense route between the two ends of the translation spectrum i.e. formal equivalence (word for word) and functional equivalence (thought for thought). They named their approach "optimal equivalence". I always wondered why more translations don't take this more mediating approach as opposed to seemingly letting their philosophy govern common sense renderings of many passages.

After spending just a little time with this translation, I am convinced that it is 'the one' that the Reformed/evangelical world is looking for. Clearly the ESV is inappropriate for use across the board. Why turn kids off to Scripture by re-enforcing the worldly prejudice, through unnecessary archaisms, that Christianity is outdated? The NIV, on the other hand, has been roundly criticised for being too free in many places. For instance, the NIV handling of the Greek term sarx (lit. flesh) has exasperated many preachers and scholars. Furthermore, given the outrage over the gender inclusive language of the TNIV, it is clear that the church is not ready to adopt this type of translation.

The HCSB seems to embody all that is good about the NIV and the ESV without resorting to overly free renderings or poor readability and archaisms. For instance, look at the MAGNIFICENT rendering of Phillipians 2:5-11:

5 Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus,
6 who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God
as something to be used for His own advantage.
7 Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave,
taking on the likeness of men.
And when He had come as a man in His external form,
8 He humbled Himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death—even to death on a cross.
9 For this reason God also highly exalted Him
and gave Him the name that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow—
of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth —
11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

The HCSB manages also to retain concordance with important words like sarx, while avoiding semantic illegitimate totality transfer. Look at the rendering of 1 Peter 3:18:

For Christ also suffered for sins once for all,
the righteous for the unrighteous,
that He might bring you to God,
after being put to death in the fleshly realm
but made alive in the spiritual realm.

Compare that with the NIV which states:

He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit

As to gender inclusive language, the HCSB is fairly conservative without being overly stodgy. It expects its readers to use and understand classical masculine pronouns where necessary. (I'm still in a state of flux with this one. Although nowadays one rarely hears someone speak using masculine pronouns, sometimes the use of a masculine pronoun as a literary device is unavoidable.)

It is also pretty cutting edge in many places and not hide bound by tradition. For instance, in many places it translates LORD as Yahweh (and this will become more prominent in the 2009 revision), not to mention John 3:16:

For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

Despite hearing that passage read thousands of times in other translations, I only understood the passage after reading it in the HCSB. The passage is not speaking of magnitude (i.e. God loved the world sooooo much) but rather quality (here's how God showed his love).

The HCSB is readable, contemporary, clear AND accurate. It is a joy to read and should become the standard English speaking bible of the 21st century. There are just a few hurdles to this, which I'll look at in another post.

PS this interview with the lead editor Ed Blum is well worth a look.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Do not let this post distract you from reading Garry and the Outrage of Grace.

I listened again this evening to a song that sounds very pleasant. The sentiment of the song must be fine too because it is a Christian song. Or, perhaps a better way of putting that, it is a song about living for Jesus.

When it's all been said and done contains the following lyric:

When it's all been said and done
There is just one thing that matters
Did I do my best to live for truth?
Did I live my life for you?

Interesting lyric given Nick's current obsession with justification.

But I listened to another song straight after When it's all been said and done:

And do you wanna
Do you wanna
Do you wanna make love to me
I know you wanna
I know you wanna
I know you wanna make love to me

The Kooks usually sound better than Robin Mark. Given the neo-Calvinist obsession with sex I do not feel so bad these days about liking The Kooks.

Which song is the most misleading? Or are both good? Can I do my best for Jesus by listening to a Kooks style serenade?

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Garry and the Outrage of Grace

Garry is a good friend.  I met him a couple of years back through a choir I used to sing in.  Around 13 years ago, Garry was sentenced to life imprisonment for stabbing a man in the throat during a street-fight.  His case was a sad example of the mindless violence that blights Glasgow's housing schemes.  The victim was an innocent man in his 40s who was merely trying to break up a ruck.  His was truly a hateful and wicked act. 

Prison wasn't the easy ride everyone suspects it is.  One of Garry's earliest experiences was witnessing a man next to him in a communal shower having his face slashed open with a razor.  Fear and terror gripped him as he realised what these guys were capable of without the influence of drink and drugs.

When in prison, Garry came to a saving faith in Christ through the ministry of Prison Fellowship.  The testimony of a reformed hitman blew him away and the knowledge that God would be the Father to him that he always needed melted his heart.  In prison, Garry went on to study music and OT Hebrew.  After 11 years in prison, he was released on parole.

Since his release, Garry has been touring churches, giving his testimony and singing songs to the God who saved him.  He has also been working in Glasgow schools, warning pupils over the menace of drink, drugs and knives.

On Sunday evening, Garry appeared on BBC1's Songs of Praise, told a bit of his story and sang a song about God's grace in the sacraments.  The fallout in the media has not been good.  The Daily Record and The Sun tabloids have printed less than flattering stories about him.  The victim's family are understandably outraged.  The media, which so flagrantly promote lewd views of sex, twist facts to sell stories and enjoy salacious descriptions of violence to pander to the bloodlust of it's readership, has manipulated a grieving family, exacerbated their pain and put Garry at the risk of vendetta.  Here is the scandal of the cross working itself out in the nitty gritty of life's seeming futility.

Contrary to the stories, Garry is deeply sorry, but feels saying so would be insulting to those close to the victim.  Pray for Garry and his family.  Pray for the grieving family of the victim.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

John Owen on Holiness

Who says the (Reformed) gospel is antinomian?  Here we have the Reformed of the Reformed speaking on Hebrews 12:14, i.e.  "Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." (ESV).  You don't have to become a papist or federal revisionist to preach holiness.

[the] future sight of the Lord doth depend peremptorily on our present holiness.  It doth not do so as the meritorious cause of it; for be we never so holy, yet in respect of God we are "uprofitable servants," and "eternal life is the gift of God by Jesus Christ."  But it doth so on a double account: (1.) Of an eternal, unchangeable, divine constitution.  God hath enacted it, as an eternal law, that holiness shall be the way of our attaining and coming to blessedness.  (2.) As it is a due preparation for it, the soul being by holiness made meet and fit to come to the sight of the Lord, Col. 1:12, 13.  And therefore... in whom this holiness is not, he shall never see the Lord.  And - 
Obs. II.  They are much mistaken in the Lord Christ, who hope to see him hereafter in glory, and live and die here in an unholy state.  It is not privileges, nor gifts, nor church office or power, that will given an admission to this state.
Obs. III  If this doctrine be true, that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord," the case will be hard at last with a multitude of popes, cardinals, and prelates, who pretend that they have the opening of the door into his presence committed unto them.  
(John Owen, Hebrews Volume 7 Banner of Truth)

Signs and Blunders

More wackos, claiming to have apostolic power, exposed.

CofE or Sea of Evil?

About 13 mins in - very funny.

HT: Gadget Vicar

Friday, 8 May 2009

Theonomist Bible

It's been a great meeting at the theonomist Mount Sinai Reformed Church. The Pastor/Rabbai has just ratified a decision by the local Sanhedrin to stone Brother John Ben-Jesse's wife for adultery. After praying an imprecatory Psalm over abortion clinics, Rabbi Smith delivers a reading from Romans 13 in the NRSV (New Reconstructionist Standard Version) . It reads:

1Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. Of course I'm only speaking of those governments that protect the unborn, outlaw same-sex unions, keep Sunday special and who are nice to Christians. 2Therefore whoever resists these good authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. Nevertheless, you should try to oust the bad authorities and get a born-again believer on the throne. It's clear that Cesar is a sexually immoral adulterer who tells lie after lie. He's insane. God's law condemns him. Therefore he is not fit to run an empire in the way that God desires.

3For good rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in a godly authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the just servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. Nevertheless, by all possible peaceful means, prayerfully oppose this Roman dictatorship. It doesn't qualify as a 'godly authority'. Get your foot in the public square. Emperors should be appointed from within the church. Before I have said and once I say again, one day we will have a Christian ruling the empire. Then we can end injustice, protect the unborn, outlaw sexual deviancy, and forbid idolatry. Then what the prophets say will come true:

Where O society is your liberal fascism?
Where O earth is your egalitarianism?

6Make sure the taxes you pay are not going to be used by the government to fund ungodly causes, for the authorities are ministers of God, men whom he uses to bring his kingdom. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. I'm not at all supposing that you pay homage to that lying deviant ruling the empire though. To do so would be to dishonour the Christ he persecutes and the Christians he murders.

Hmm, that was good. Now, it's time to bring up the question as to why the church curtains are made of mixed fabric...

The Joy of Presbyterianism

Yes folks, you read it correctly the first time. Carl Trueman explains.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Justification: Understanding the Reformed Doctrine - Part 8 The Nature of Christ's Obedience

Fesko continues chapter 5 by exploring the nature of Christ's obedience.  Fesko affirms the helpfulness of the historic distinction between Christ's passive and active obedience and of the fact that it is a thoroughly confessional distinction that necessitates the safeguarding of justification (p147).

Yet there are challenges to this distinction, which moves the chapter in the direction of a didactic polemic.  In answering the first challenge that justification is merely the forgiveness of sins without the need for the imputation of Christ's righteousness, Fesko writes:

...we may say that God..initially judged Adam after his creation and declared him righteous; nevertheless he also set before him the work of the covenant.  Upon completion of that work, God would have once again declared him righteous.  He would have been righteous by both, negatively, abstaining from the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and positively, fulfilling the requirements of the dominion mandate.  It is evident then, that man requires both the absence of sin and the presence of righteousness, or obedience to the law, to be declared just by God. (p152)

Those who would argue that one cannot make a distinction between active and passive obedience because Scripture views Christ's obedience as all of a piece, are not really paying attention to the purely pragmatic nature of the distinction.  No one who holds the distinction would deny that all of Christ's obedience was active, e.g. on the cross Christ dismissed his own spirit.  Yet it is merely a useful distinction in order to distinguish Christ's positive fulfillment of the law from his atoning death.

Holding to the covenant of works as fulfilled by the last Adam where the first Adam failed is necessary to safeguard justification apart from works:

If one does not account for the failed obedience of the first Adam, which completely closes off the path to justification by works for fallen man, then he will likely reintroduce works into postfall justification.  Justification will not be by faith alone in Christ alone, grounded upon the obedience of Christ, but instead will be a combination of faith and obedience, or works. (p157) 

The covenant of works is not just some quaint and dusty piece of Reformed theology that we can admire with a patronizing air of biblical/theological superiority.  It is at the very heart of the Reformed doctrine of justification.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

The Church of Scotland

Carl Trueman thinks the CofS is doing too little too late in its opposition to gay ordination here.

Michael Bird thinks Trueman is undermining the good evangelical efforts in the CofS here.

Darryl Hart agrees with Carl Trueman here.

Phil Ryken disagrees with Carl Trueman here.

Scott Clark agrees with Carl Trueman here.

Carl Trueman agrees with Carl Trueman here.

Nick Mackison agrees with Carl Trueman, but that's about as (in)consequential as a fart in a tornado.

The Courage to Be Protestant

Scott Clark makes the point that to divide initial justification and final justification disqualifies one from bearing the honourable title "Protestant". To insist on two stages of justification in this manner is a Papist error.

In N.T Wright's latest book, he presents justification in just this way when he describes it as being declared "in the right" now, through faith, and being declared "in the right" on judgement day according to the whole life lived. Nowhere does NTW give an explanation as to HOW this works.

Is God the god of bait and switch? By no means. Does God say, "I forgive you and forget your sins by grace through faith apart from works" before saying at the judgment "Okay, when I said you were saved by faith apart from works, I didn't really mean it. Now, let's take a look at your performance. Oh dear..." If this is were the case, assurance of salvation would be impossible. One could never say, "There is now NO condemnation." You would need to take a pair of scissors to John 5:24 "Truly, truly I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgement, but has passed from death to life." (ESV)

It seems that many "Protestants" view God as a Protestant in this life and a Papist at the Great White Throne.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Judgement According to Works and the Good News

I used to really stumble over passages in Scripture which told me I'd be judged according to works. They just like, I don't know, stuck in the back of my mind every time I heard a sermon on the amazing grace of God in Christ. I could never really inwardly let go and enjoy God's Fatherly protection and care. It seemed to me that all those passages, like the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25, seemed to have been put in Scripture by the Holy Spirit to stop you really resting on your laurels and enjoying full assurance.

Whenever well meaning Christian friends, who were trying to counsel me out of despair tried to impress upon me the glory of God's unconditional love, I just thought, "Have you ever read Romans 2, James 2 and Matthew 25? Probably not, because you don't seem to have a bowel problem."

When I had my Reformed conversion, I still had questions about these passages, yet I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was saved solely by "receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness through faith". Yet these 'judgement by works' passages continued nagging at me. How do these passages retain their force without gutting the gospel of good news?

First a preliminary observation, why is it that our minds are so powerfully drawn to such passages? Why not Romans 4:1-5, or Ephesians 2:8-10? It's because we are profound moralists at heart. Our reflex is to jump to the passages which seem to suggest it counts on us. The gospel really is counter-intuitive. Dare I suggest that N.T Wright's formulation of justification and those of the FV camp are pandering to the fallen Pharisee in us all?

We will be judged by works, that's not in doubt. Nevertheless, we will be judged as ALREADY glorified humans. The NT gives evidence that as soon as Christ appears, we will receive our resurrection bodies:

When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Col. 3:4 ESV)

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. (1 Cor. 15:52 ESV)

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage on another with these words. (1 Thess. 4:16-18 ESV)

As soon as Christ appears, we'll be glorified and will meet him in the air. He'll then come to earth and separate his people from the nations as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. When Christ judges his people, he will be judging glorified-saved-by-grace-through-faith-saints! It will be a gracious judgement, with ridiculous rewards given for merely providing a fellow Christian with a drink of water (Matt. 10:42). When Christ rewards us for all that WE'VE done for him, there will be puzzlement on behalf of the saints (Matt. 25:37-39). We'll not remember even half of the deeds that Christ will lavish reward upon.

e.g. THE LORD: "Well done Nick for giving the parched preacher a glass of water when his throat dried in 1998."

NICK: "Eh? My motives were so impure when I did that. I mean, I wanted to please you Lord, and the preacher was coughing really bad, but I also thought his daughter was really hot and she was watching."

THE LORD: "Nick, sure you had mixed motives, but it was I who worked in you to will and act according to my good pleasure. I condemned your flesh in the body of my Son and covered you with his righteousness. Now go and rule over the West End of Glasgow."

This is good news. Sin polluted idiots and failures like me need this message. Don't listen to N.T Wright or the FV moralisers. If they are correct that we'll be judged by the 'whole life lived' do you think that the dying thief will stand up to this? (I thought he was in paradise, or maybe I'm wrong?) Would Samson? Abraham? David? Peter?

Jesus paid it all because I am broke and one day, I'm going to get a big fat bonus because of, erh, I really can't think of anything...

Ripping it out of the P&W Movement

This is brutal. Well worth watching. HT: Danny