Wednesday, January 17, 2018

the clash of worldviews - part two

The following words are taken from "Surmounting the Clash of Worlds," a lecture delivered by Carl Henry on July 7, 1989, at the dedication of the new campus of Tokyo Christian Institute (which later became Tokyo Christian University).  This call to wholistic Christian thinking sets naturalism and biblical theism in the sharpest of contrasts...   

"We are self-deceived if we allow naturalistic speculation to parade as something modern, when in fact it was repudiated almost twenty-five hundred years ago by the great philosophers of Greece.  Pagan though they were, the classic Greek sages recognized that naturalism cannot bring into being or sustain a stable society and, in fact, robs human life of distinctive value and meaning.  The Greeks insisted that if time and change control all reality, and if truth and right are subject to ongoing revision, then human civilization becomes impossible; moreover human life loses fixed meaning and special worth.  They found no basis for optimism in ultimate process and change.  It remained for modern evolutionists to argue conversely that change means progress and that human history is headed for utopia.  In this respect secular philosophy borrowed the biblical doctrine of the coming kingdom of God but cannibalized it.  Naturalism's abandonment of unchanging truth and of a fixed good has resulted not in utopia but in a relapse to paganism and barbarianism that increasingly corrupts modern life.

"Christianity's control-beliefs acknowledge the eternal, sovereign, rational, and moral God.  They stipulate that God has revealed Himself intelligibly and verbally.  God created the universe ex nihilo, out of nothing, and governs it for moral ends by His transcendence over it and by His presence in it.  He fashioned the human race in His image for spiritual fellowship and holy service.  Adam's voluntary fall disrupted Edenic harmony and implicated both the cosmos and human posterity in divine judgment.  Through the patriarchs and prophets God graciously promised salvation for penitent humanity.  That promise God mercifully fulfilled by His covenant relationship with Israel and by the incarnation of the eternal Logos (Word) as the God-man Jesus of Nazareth.

"Jesus Christ attested the Triune selfhood of Deity, exemplified ideal spiritual obedience in the flesh, and provided for the sins of mankind a propitiatory atonement to be appropriated by personal faith.  Through bodily resurrection and ascension Christ Jesus became living head of a new society of redeemed and regenerate believers over which the Lord now rules through the inspired Scripture by the Holy Spirit.  Christ Jesus mandates the church to preach the gospel to all mankind and in His name to advance the good and to challenge the forces of evil.  The church lives in expectation of Christ's return and anticipates the final triumph of righteousness, the doom of evil, the punishment of the impenitent, the full conformity of believers to Christ's holy image, and the comprehensive inauguration of God's kingdom in universal vindication of God's moral purpose in history.  The competence with which this biblical revelation is set alongside its competing alternatives is crucially important for our witness in this world.

"The collision of thought worlds, the clash of moral claims, and the conflict of principalities and powers were no less intense in New Testament times that today in ours.  The apostle Paul was concerned about the Christian use of the mind and about the Christian manner of life, that is, about both right thinking and right living.  Christianity is both a doctrine and a way of life; anyone who thinks that  a holy life is unimportant defaces Christian doctrine as well.  Christianity prizes the unity of spiritual truth and moral dynamic.  Our planet is the stage for a cosmic drama whose outcome embraces all realms of being, and which presently involves the angelic hosts, Satan and the world of demons, and all mankind.  God's ethical purpose revealed in the Scripture is exhibited in His incarnation in Christ and will finally be vindicated in divine judgment of humanity and the nations."

~ Carl F. H. Henry, gods of this age or... God of The Ages?  (R. Albert Mohler, ed.  Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994) pp. 81--82.

Read Part one here

Visit the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding here

the clash of worldviews - part one

The following words are taken from "Surmounting the Clash of Worlds," a lecture delivered by Carl Henry on July 7, 1989, at the dedication of the new campus of Tokyo Christian Institute (which later became Tokyo Christian University).  In many ways this is a mandate for Christian education -- that we should not teach Christianity in bits and pieces but toward a comprehensive way of thinking about all of reality.  Henry explains clearly the conflict of Christian theism and atheistic naturalism... 

"The Christian outlook cannot be effectively maintained by piece-meal retention of a few selected and respected tenets and the surrender of other important elements.  The fact is, the naturalism that now pervades many influential universities of the modern world is far less vacillating in what it believes or disbelieves than are some so-called religious institutions.  Naturalism does not selectively dispute only the doctrine of creation, or the human fall, or the singular divinity of Jesus Christ, or His bodily resurrection.  Naturalism's mindset and willset is hostile to the entire body of miracle and the supernatural.  It disputes the Hebrew-Christian view in its totality.

"We must challenge this naturalistic reconceptualization and restatement of existence we must challenge in toto.  It teaches that empirical scientific method alone gives us reliable information.  It categorizes the supernatural as legend and myth.  It reduces ultimate reality to impersonal processes and quantum events.  It limits knowledge to tentative inferences.  It denies the very possibility of ever knowing ultimate and abiding truth.

"The Christian world-life view challenges such naturalistic reductionism at every turn.  It does so not by defending merely the credibility of one isolated miracle on which current unbelief momentarily focuses its hostility.  Far more is at stake, namely, the very definition and delineation of reality and existence.  Does the universe comprising humans and nature have its source and support in a supernatural, self-revealed God?  Does a moral and spiritual purpose overarch all of finite reality?  Does a possibility of redemption exist for fallen humanity?  Is there an afterlife in the world to come?  Or is naturalism right in asserting that the universe has its ground of being in itself, or that it perchance originated in some primal cosmic accident or explosion, so that the human species in consequence is merely an animated confluence of space-time contingencies?

"It bears repeating that in affirming God's intelligible self-disclosure, the Christian view disputes the naturalistic option not simply in respect to isolated issues, but in its entirety.  Christianity propounds a view of God, a view of origins, a view of the nature and worth of humanity, a view of sin and divine rescue, a view of Jesus Christ the ever-living Redeemer, and a view of meaningful history and of eternal moral destiny.

~ Carl F. H. Henry, gods of this age or... God of The Ages? (R. Albert Mohler, ed.  Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994) pp. 80--81.  

Read Part Two here

Image above: A binary-neutron-star merger occurs when two neutron stars spiral together and merge, forming a black hole. Image credit: Dana Berry, Skyworks Digital.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

best books I read in 2017

In no particular order...

Reformation:Yesterday, Today & Tomorrowby Carl Trueman (Christian Focus, Reprint 2011).  In this reprint, Trueman (professor of church history) gives a number of important applications for today's church from the Reformation.  

How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Oddsby Alan Jacobs (Currency, 2017).  Hard to describe this little book, but it is profound. How community  affects the way we think. 

I enjoyed two collections of sermons by Martyn Lloyd-Jones:
Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled, (Crossway reissue, 2009).
The Cross: God's Way of Salvation, (Crossway, 1986) 

Awakening the Evangelical Mind: An Intellectual History of the Neo-Evangelical Movementby Owen Strachan (Zondervan, 2015)  Along with Confessions of a Theologian, by Carl F. H. Henry (Word Books, 1986).  Strachan chronicles the rise of the new evangelicals in the 1950s and beyond.  Carl Henry figures prominently in that movement.  I also finished Volume 4 of Henry's magisterial God, Revelation and Authority, and read portions of Vols. 5 & 6.  Carl Henry (who also founded Christianity Today) is probably the least known, but extremely gifted theologian to impact the church in America in the second half of the twentieth century.  His works are immensely valuable to evangelicals today. 

The Everlasting God, by Broughton Knox (Matthias Media, 2012).  
Excellent (and brief) overview of the nature and character of God by Australian clergyman and former president of Moore College.   

God, Marriage, and Family (Second Edition): Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation,
by Andreas J. Kostenberger (Crossway, 2010).  Thorough, clear, biblical, and much needed explanation of marriage, family, and gender.  

He Is Not Silent, by Albert Mohler (Moody, 2008).  I picked this up at the Basics Conference last May.  Mohler connects God's use of words in making covenant and our use of words in preaching

Seeing the Unseen, Expanded Edition: A 90-Day Devotional to Set Your Mind on Eternityby Randy Alcorn (Multnomah; Expanded edition, 2017)  This is a daily devotional that my wife and I enjoy reading together

I read three smaller works by J. Gresham Machen, best known for Christianity and LiberalismThese were... 
-- The Person of Jesus (radio addresses, 1935)
-- The Christian Faith in the Modern World (1936)
-- What Is Faith (1937)
Machen, former professor of New Testament at Princeton and later founder of Westminster Seminary, had an uncanny ability to take profound theological truths and state them simply, clearly, and forcefully.  

Friday, December 22, 2017

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

and he will be our peace

"And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.  And he shall be their peace."  (Micah 5:4-5a ESV*)

"And he shall be their peace."  (5:5a)  Literally, “this one will be peace”.  By "this one" is understood the Shepherd-King previously mentioned (5:2-4), so some translations have, "and he will be..."  Also translators have varied as to which possessive pronoun should be understood here, whether to add to the text either “their", "our", or "your".  "Their peace" would be those who would trust Messiah in that future generation.  But "our" would be viewing Messiah from the reader's perspective, as the peace of Israel past, present, or future.  And we could certainly apply to ourselves -- "your peace" -- as believers in Christ today. 

And he will not just bring peace or establish it, but he IS peace.  He is the source and essence of peace.   The well-being our hearts long for is found in a Person ("this one").  When Simeon looked upon the baby Jesus, he said, “my eyes have seen your salvation” (Lu 2:30).  He did not say, "savior" but "salvation".   The completed work that Simeon saw was Jesus himself, even as a baby.   He WAS the salvation promised.  Likewise, when Jesus was teaching his disciples later in his life, he did not say to them, “I will show the way, tell the truth, and give the life”, but rather, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)  And so truly, "And he shall be their peace." 

In the Old Testament "peace" is shalom.  It denotes well-being, or dwelling securely.   More than just a feeling of peace, or of peaceful circumstances, it means the restoration of relationships, and the absence of war or conflict.  Sometimes it is translated as “completeness, soundness, welfare, peace, 
tranquility, safety, or comfort.”  

We, like the Israelites, tend to equate peace either with feelings of well-being (we are secure, all is right) due to circumstances, or to a confidence that things will turn out well because of capable political leadership, a strong military, a thriving economy, having good harvests and weather, and religious activity, usually pluralistic in form (idolatry).   In Micah's day the popular (false) prophets were proclaiming "peace" (at least when they were paid well) (Micah 3:5).  But the Lord says through Isaiah, "'There is no peace,' says the LORD, 'for the wicked'." (48:22)

Peace, or actual well-being, comes from God and involves a restoration of good relationships with God, with others, and with the land (creation).  Hence, peace is never considered apart from righteousness.  See, for example, Isaiah 9:6-7 ... "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given...  and his name shall be called ... Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore."  

There is true security and lasting peace only under the reign of God's Messiah, Jesus Christ. 

At his second advent (coming) he will end all injustice, judge the nations, and bring an end to history as we know it.  This will be the peace which will be restored over all creation (Isaiah 11:1-9; Philippians 3:20-21; 2 Peter 3:11-13), where the wolf lies down peacefully with the lamb.  Just as Jesus said, “Peace, be still” and stilled the storm and sea he can do this for all of creation.  

Meanwhile, we live between the two advents.  He has come as a baby born in Bethlehem (Micah 5) and he will come again upon the clouds of heaven (Daniel 7).  How do we experience his peace today, between these two comings of Jesus?

(1)  The peace of being reconciled to God.  "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." 
(Romans 5:1; cf. Isaiah 53:5)  We can have assurance that Christ’s death is the answer not just for sins, but for our sins, my sins, your sins.  And thereby we are reconcile to the Father, who gives us peace that we belong to him forever as his children.  The Lord Jesus says to us today what he said to the woman in Luke 7... "Your sins are forgiven... Your faith has saved you; go in peace." (Luke 7:48-50)  In the words of Charles Wesley, "Glory to the newborn King: peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!"  (“Hark the Herald Angels Sing.")

Further, when we proclaim the gospel to others we are "publishing peace".  In evangelism we work for reconciliation of others with God.  "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns.'"  (Isaiah 52:7)   Once again, peace comes with righteousness, when we come under the reign of God, not when we seek to be apart from it.

(2)  Confidence in facing trials and the opposition of the world.   In Jesus' last discourse with his disciples before being arrested (John 14-16) he spoke much about the peace he gives.  "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. " (John 14:27; see also 16:33)  He gives a peace unlike the world.  The world promises security through power, self-confidence, wealth, good health, having powerful friends or politicians, etc.  However, he promises a well-being which doesn't come from changing circumstances, but rather from the unchanging character and power of the Lord Jesus Christ.  

Further, when we face needs and anxieties, we can, through prayer and thanksgiving, experience his peace.   The Apostle Paul wrote from jail, "
not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  (Philippians 4:6-7)

(3)  When we work for the upbuilding and unity of God’s people, he gives us grace to live in harmony with others:  "So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding."  (Romans 14:19)  We are to be "eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:3)  When we work for reconciliation between people and other people, when we forgive and receive forgiveness, when we work that others may have justice and fairness in life... we are acting as peacemakers.  (Matthew 5:9)  When we are careful not to promote racial, ethnic, cultural, or moral superiority, then we are helping to break down dividing walls:  "For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility..."  (Ephesians 2:14)  

Where others find their peace in wealth, good health, military, power, politics, education, science, culture, and technology, we know that lasting, true, 
eternal, objective, and righteous peace is only found in the Prince of Peace.   As valid as these things may be in their place for our well-being, they do not in themselves bring us lasting security, or a peace with God that will enable us to face him in the final day of judgment.

Is the Lord Jesus himself -- himself alone -- your peace? 


*All Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2007 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

remembering r c sproul

“We are secure, not because we hold tightly to Jesus, but because he holds tightly to us.” – R. C. Sproul (1939–2017)

A great theologian and teacher has passed to glory.  R. C. Sproul has been a strong help to so many in this confused generation, including me.  I first read The Holiness of God, which struck a vital chord missing from modern and post-modern evangelicalism.  

Then, too, I was blessed by his work, Chosen By God, which clarified Reformed principles for me, and is still one of the first books I recommend to those seeking to understand Calvinistic theology.  I found R. C. Sproul so capable of expounding great truths in simple ways.  

He loved God in his greatness, and he also loved the church.  He wrote the following words for the bicentenary of the First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina:

The church of God triumphant
Shall in that final day
Have all her sons and daughters
Home from the well-fought fray.

Then come, O saints of Zion
In sweet communion wed
The bride awaits her Glory
Lord Jesus Christ, her Head.

~ From the hymn, "Saints of Zion", by R. C. Sproul.

Indeed, he is now "home from the well-fought fray."  Lord, send more men like him!