Wednesday, November 30, 2011

new release: theology of edwards

Gerry's new book is out, and already at the top of my wish list. (I like the cover art, as well... they've put some color in JE's cheeks.)  Will have to save a few $ before it goes in the shopping cart.  (I think Oxford's publishing philosophy is "we publish no book under $80.")

The Theology of Jonathan Edwards, by Michael J. McClymond, and Gerald R. McDermott. (Oxford University Press, 2011)

By the way, co-author Michael McClymond, historical theologian at St. Louis University, will be in Roanoke, February 10 (Friday) at 7:30 pm at Antrim Chapel, speaking on, "Jonathan Edwards and the Future of Global Christianity."  (Sponsored by the Blakley Fund for Evangelical Studies.  The public is invited; no tickets are required.)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


"...if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."  (2 Cor 5:17 ESV) 

This truth refers not just to my individual story of conversion to Christ.  Indeed, at age 20 I died to an old life and found new life in Jesus.  But more, as united to Christ by faith and by the Spirit, I am part of the new creation that began at Jesus' resurrection, which will be consummated in fullness at his second advent.

It was the Firstborn and Lord of the new heavens and new earth who stepped out of the tomb that Sunday, and us with him.  Chesterton writes, 

On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away.  In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realized that the world had died in the night.  What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but of the dawn.   (From The Everlasting Man)

Sometimes, I feel old and worn out. I need to remind myself of these things: "The new has come," and it hasn't changed in its newness. The old creation "wears out like a garment" (Heb 1:11)  But I can't wear out the newness of the new creation which is everlastingly new.  

Each and every day, therefore,...

--I am in the eternal new covenant with God through Jesus Christ. (Jer 31; Heb 8)

--I have an unchanging new identity in the righteousness and likeness of God.  (Eph 4:24)

--I have new mercies to receive from God today. (Lam 3:22, 23)

--I have new life from the Spirit to experience. (Rom 7:6)

--I have new songs to sing. (Ps 33:3)

--I am waiting for a brand new world to come. (Rev 21:5)

So, sometimes my body feels old, especially at 6 in the morning, but the new has come, and it is still new!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

such a good shepherd

Listen to this song by Fernando Ortega.  Enter in, and worship the Shepherd!

Wesley on human depravity

Sometimes people think that it is only Calvinists that hold to "total depravity".  Yet this is a biblical doctrine, held also by classic Arminians, too.  It is only in Pelagius (in the 4th century) and later in the Enlightenment and some branches of modern evangelicalism that believe there is some good spark in humanity that is able to respond to the knowledge and goodness of God.  

Case in point is this excerpt from John Wesley's sermon on "Original Sin."

"...we can have no love of God: We cannot love him we know not. Most men talk indeed of loving God, and perhaps imagine they do; at least, few will acknowledge they do not love him: But the fact is too plain to be denied. No man loves God by nature, any more than he does a stone, or the earth he treads upon. What we love we delight in: But no man has naturally any delight in God. In our natural state we cannot conceive how any one should delight in him. We take no pleasure in him at all; he is utterly tasteless to us. To love God! it is far above, out of our sight. We cannot, naturally, attain unto it...Thus are all men atheists in the world...”  
"They knew not that all men were empty of all good, and filled with all manner of evil. They were wholly ignorant of the entire depravation of the whole human nature, of every man born into the world, in every faculty of his soul, not so much by those particular vices which reign in particular persons, as by the general flood of Atheism and idolatry, of pride, self-will, and love of the world. This, therefore, is the first grand distinguishing point between Heathenism and Christianity. The one acknowledges that many men are infected with many vices, and even born with a proneness to them; but supposes withal, that in some the natural good much over-balances the evil: The other declares that all men are conceived in sin, and shapen in wickedness; -- that hence there is in every man a carnal mind, which is at enmity against God, which is not, cannot be, subject to his law; and which so infects the whole soul, that there dwelleth in him, in his flesh, in his natural state, no good thing; but every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is evil, only evil, and that continually."  
(John Wesley, Sermon on Original Sin, #44)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Parker V-S Vacumatic Successor

Great pen. Took many good notes with a burgundy VS in D. A. Carson's class on Hebrews. Eccentric? Yes, I know.

PenHero 365: Parker V-S Vacumatic Successor

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

hard sayings of Jesus

So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink."  (John 6:53-55 ESV)

I'm preparing to preach on the second half of John chapter 6, which includes this statement by Jesus.  His hearers -- both outsiders and his own disciples -- found it difficult and offensive.  As would many today.    

In my study I came across F. F. Bruce's book, The Hard Sayings of Jesus (IVP Academic, 1983)  His introduction is noteworthy:

Many of those who listened to Jesus during his public ministry found some of his sayings 'hard', and said so. Many of those who read his sayings today, or hear them read in church, also find them hard, but do not always think it fitting to say so.
Our Lord's sayings were all of a piece with his actions and with his way of life in general. The fewer preconceptions we bring from outside to the reading of the Gospels, the more clearly shall we see him as he really was. It is all too easy to believe in a Jesus who is largely a construction of our own imagination - an inoffensive person whom no one would really trouble to crucify. But the Jesus whom we meet in the Gospels, far from being an inoffensive person, gave offence right and left. Even his loyal followers found him, at times, thoroughly disconcerting. He upset all established notions of religious propriety. He spoke of God in terms of intimacy which sounded like blasphemy. He seemed to enjoy the most questionable company. He set out with open eyes on a road which, in the view of 'sensible people, was bound to lead to disaster.
But in those who were not put off by him he created a passionate love and allegiance which death could not destroy. They knew that in him they had found the way of acceptance, peace of conscience, life that was life indeed. More than that: in him they came to know God himself in a new way; here was the life of God being lived out in a real human life, and communicating itself through him to them. And there are many people today who meet Jesus, not in Galilee and Judaea but in the gospel record, and become similarly aware of his powerful attractiveness, entering into the same experience as those who made a positive response to him when he was on earth.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

what to give thanks for

Many families like mine, I know, have a time around the Thanksgiving dinner table where we share "what we are thankful for."  

Sometimes, especially with younger children, there may be long pauses after we've thanked God for our family and pets.  

So, it's time to think ahead and get a running start on gratitude.  Here's what I came up with this morning...

God exists, and you are not him.  God reigns, not chance!  God rules over creation and history, working all things according to the counsel of his most wise and glorious will.  Give thanks for these truths!  

God is unchanging in his essence, nature and purposes. God is good, his steadfast love endures forever, he is infinitely wise and powerful, and he is not capricious or evil. Give thanks that he is trustworthy!

God has made a beautiful creation: trees, mountains, animals, and many other things.  For all things bright and beautiful, great and small, wise and wonderful -- give thanks to God for all that he has made!  

You are created in the image of God: you can think, feel, touch, love, and make choices. Give thanks for this!  If you have chosen poorly, give thanks that God joyfully welcomes back the prodigals who return. 
God cares enough for us that he has revealed himself to us in words.  He wants us to know him!  Thank him for the gift of His Word, the Bible.

God sent his Son into the world that we might be saved.  Give thanks that he came to us when we could not come to him!

Jesus is God and man in one Person.  He knows our weakness, and he is mighty to deliver us.  Give thanks for such a great Savior!  

On the Cross, Jesus bore all your sin, guilt, shame, debt, and brokenness.  He has carried these off, never to be placed to your account again.  Give thanks for this!

The tomb that Jesus was placed in was only a temporary stay for him.  The Father was pleased with his Son's sacrifice, He is risen forevermore, and the new creation has begun.  Give thanks!

In Christ you have forgiveness, new life, adoption into God's family, and a calling to serve his Kingdom.  Give thanks for your position in Christ!

Is God at work in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure?  Give thanks with trembling!

God gives you a spiritual family for fellowship, to encourage and build you up in Christ. Give thanks for the church!  

God is a God of providence.  He guides your life and provides for your needs: food, clothing, shelter, safety, and much more.  Give thanks for many such blessings you have received!

Do you have a family?  If your family life is happy, that is a gift from God -- give thanks for this!  If your family life is not happy, this is a way God draws you to himself to find the happiness that only he can give. Give thanks in all things!

Do you have friends? Give thanks for the wonderful gift of friendship, for those who stick close to us through thick and thin. Are you lonely?  Give thanks that there is a Friend who sticks closer than a brother.    

Are you employed?  Give thanks for this.  Are you unemployed?  Give thanks in all things, and believe that he will never abandon or forsake you.  Give thanks to him who supplies all your needs.   

Are you healthy?  This is a gift from God. Are you in sickness, in pain, or in sorrow?  Give thanks that your Father in heaven cares for you, will never leave you, and will one day wipe every tear away. Give thanks ahead of time!

Finally, God will one day banish evil forever, and will establish a new heavens and earth in truth, beauty and righteousness.  Give thanks for the glorious future we have!  

"In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."  (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NAS)

highlights, from the garden to the city

I am enjoying From the Garden to the City, by John Dyer, which is a readable, yet thoughtful, biblical theology of technology.  Here are some quotes...

“One of the most dangerous things you can believe in this world is that technology is neutral.”

"When technology has distracted us to the point that we no longer examine it, it gains the greatest opportunity to enslave us." 

“We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.” (quoting John Culkin)

"...a simple, encompassing definition of technology: 'the human activity of using tools to transform God’s creation for practical purposes.'"

"Technology, then, is the means by which we transform the world as it is into the world that we desire. What we often fail to notice is that it is not only the world that gets transformed by technology. We, too, are transformed."

"In this sense, technology sits between us and the world, changing and molding both at once. The world feels the spade, but we feel the handle. We use the tool to dig at the ground, but in another sense the ground uses the tool to chafe at our hands."
"The shovel connects us to the earth, but it also functions to insulate us from directly touching the soil. Our primary connection then is with the tool, not the creation itself, giving the tool the opportunity to simultaneously shape both the world and its user."

"In some sense, all of our technology can be understood as an attempt to overcome the effects of the fall. We create shovels and tractors to help us work the unruly land, and we invent soft bedding and epidurals to help ease the pain of childbearing.  We build air conditioners and heaters to overcome the weather and drive-through windows to overcome our hunger. We invent lightbulbs to overcome the darkness and search engines to overcome our lack of wisdom. Each of these inventions brings us  incredible benefits, and collectively they work to reduce the suffering that we experience from the curses of the fall. And yet, like Adam and Eve’s clothing, our technology never truly solves the deeper problem of sin that came with the fall."

"We use our idols fundamentally as a way of meeting our needs apart from God, and this is our greatest temptation with technology—to use it as a substitute for God."  

"If you ask the average person, 'What is the meaning of your cell phone and what sense of identity and values does it mediate to you?' you might be answered by a confused look. But if you ask, 'How would you feel if you lost your cell phone?' the immediacy of the answer would betray deep beliefs about what it means to be connected. It may be that the cell phone is not just a tool but an integral part of the person’s identity, who they define themselves to be."

" the post-fall world, God not only approves of but even helps with our technological development. At the same time, technology is also one of the chief means by which humans attempt to create a world without God. As our technology grows more and more powerful, the illusion of control becomes increasingly convincing. Today, our powers have grown to the point that in Western industrialized countries, we can go through our entire lives without the slightest physical need for God or other people."

"In his later years, Marshall McLuhan offered us what he called a 'tetrad' that is helpful in understanding how those tendencies emerge and play out within a culture. McLuhan’s tetrad proposes that all media and technology do four things.  First, they extend or magnify something that we do naturally. For example, a mobile phone extends our ability to communicate and enhances our sense of personal identity. Second, they eliminate or amputate something that we used to do. Mobile phones eliminate the need for landlines, and they also eradicate one’s ability to be unreachable and alone. Third, all media retrieves something from the past. Mobile phones retrieve the ability to connect on a regular basis with a frequency and familiarity that people were accustomed to when they lived in small villages. Finally, every technology has the possibility of reversing into a more negative behavior when it’s overused. When we use mobile phones too much, we never deeply connect with anyone, and instead we may maintain surface communication with everyone."

"At one end of this story is a pristine garden prepared by God for humankind to develop and transform. At the other end is a glorious, heavenly city full of human creations, art, and technology. At the center is our Savior Jesus Christ crucified on a cross, the most horrific of all technological distortions, built by transforming a tree from the natural world into a tool of death. Yet in his resurrection, Christ redeemed even that tool, transforming it into the symbol of our faith that eternally portrays his power over death and sin."

John Dyer (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) has been a web developer for more than ten years, building tools for Apple, Microsoft, Harley Davidson, the Department of Defense, and Dallas's NPR affiliate. He currently serves as the Director of Web Development for Dallas Theological Seminary and lives near Dallas, Texas, with his wife and family

Monday, November 21, 2011

we are bracketed

"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."  Blessed are those who wash their robes so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. 

(Revelation 22:13-14 ESV)

"Our lives are bracketed, or, boundaried, not by the decisions and actions of Caesar, not by the rise and fall of Rome, nor by the rise and fall of the United States. Our lives are boundaried by him, ‘the first and the last.’ Whatever else happens in our history and whatever else happens in my history, Jesus is there as the first word and Jesus is there as the last word. And Jesus is here in the middle with the Word that gives us life.”  (--Darrell W. Johnson, Discipleship On The Edge: An Expository Journey Through The Book of Revelation)

Painting above, Christ in the Hagia Sophia as "Pantokrator", which is Greek for "The Almighty (All-powerful) One". 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

amateur + google = scholar?

Here's a quote sent to me from my friend Harry...  

"One of the most disastrous illusions of the internet age is that an amateur plus Google is equivalent to a scholar. A search engine offers information, more or less relevant according to the skill of the searcher. But it does not sift that information; it does not sort fact from fancy, wheat from chaff. It does not explain which facts are relevant and which are beside the point. It does not weigh the merits of competing arguments and tell the user where the balance of evidence lies. A bright amateur armed with the internet may at best be better informed than he would otherwise have been, and he may occasionally catch a real scholar in a factual error. But it will not turn him into a scholar himself. There is no such thing as effortless erudition."

(- Dr. Timothy McGrew, Professor of Philosophy at Western Michigan U  

Saturday, November 19, 2011

not at all natural

"And [God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him." (Acts 17:26-27 ESV) 

An age-old question of philosophers is, "why is there something rather than nothing?"  Another question easily overlooked is the follow-up, "why is there this something rather than something else?" 

Sixty years ago, in an article titled "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences," Physicist Eugene Wigner, who received a Nobel Prize for theoretical contributions to nuclear physics, remarked, "it is not at all natural that 'laws of nature' exist, much less that man is able to discover them."

Here are some other things he wrote:

"The enormous usefulness of mathematics in the natural sciences is something bordering on the mysterious and that there is no rational explanation for it... 

"The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve. We should be grateful for it and hope that it will remain valid in future research and that it will extend, for better or for worse, to our pleasure, even though perhaps also to our bafflement, to wide branches of learning...

"It is difficult to avoid the impression that a miracle confronts us here, quite comparable in its striking nature to the miracle that the human mind can string a thousand arguments together without getting itself into contradictions, or to the two miracles of laws of nature and of the human mind's capacity to divine them." 

Albert Einstein said something very similar, when he said, "How can it be that mathematics, being after all a product of human thought which is independent of experience, is so admirably appropriate to the objects of reality?"

Einstein summed it up this way: "The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible."

We have a world we can see and measure and explain.  Natural laws are a blessing of creation.  Even the very laws of identity, non-contradiction, and excluded middle are miraculous gifts which testify to our Creator God, and lead us onward that we might come to know him.  

on athanasius

"[Athanasius] stood for the Trinitarian doctrine, 'whole and undefiled,' when it looked as if all the civilized world was slipping back from Christianity into the religion of Arius – into one of those 'sensible' synthetic religions which are so strongly recommended today and which, then as now, included among their devotees many highly cultivated clergymen. It is his glory that he did not move with the times; it is his reward that he now remains when those times, as all times do, have moved away."  

(--C. S. Lweis on the influence of Athanasius, from his introduction, On The Incarnation)

real hope

“Christian hope is not about wishing things will get better. It is not about hoping that emptiness will go away, meaning return, and life will be stripped of its uncertainties, aches, and anxieties. Nor does it have anything to do with techniques for improving fallen human life, be those therapeutic, spiritual, or even religious. Hope has to do with the knowledge of ‘the age to come.’ This redemption is already penetrating ‘this age.’ The sin, death, and meaninglessness of the one age are being transformed by the righteousness, life and meaning of the other. What has emptied out life, what has scarred and blackened it, is being displaced by what is rejuvenating and transforming it. More than that, hope is hope because it knows it has become part of a realm, a kingdom, that endures. It knows that evil is doomed, that it will be banished. This kind of hope has left behind it the ship of ‘this age,’ which is sinking.”

(--David F. Wells, from The Courage to Be Protestant)

Monday, November 14, 2011

a prayer

Martyn Lloyd-Jones mentions in his sermon "What is a Christian?" a stanza that Hudson Taylor had written on a slip of paper that he used as a bookmark. When Taylor, founder of China Inland Mission, died in 1905, this was discovered in his Bible: 

Lord Jesus make Thyself to me
A living bright reality
More present to faith’s vision keen
Than any outward object seen
More near, more intimately nigh
Than e’en the sweetest earthly tie.
--Attributed to Charlotte Elliott (1789-1871)

excerpts, os guinness on evil and modernity

Interviewer: Do you think the American church is heading down the wrong path with its concert-style worship and feel-good lectures that are part of many services?

Os Guinness: I think that evangelicalism in America at the moment has lost its way. It is profoundly worldly. It is almost as deep in what Martin Luther called a Babylonian captivity as the pre-Reformation church was.  And much what we have here is more American than it is really Christian.  And there are different examples.  If you look at the religious right, that has become an ideology that practices things that are anti-Christian. They do demonize their enemies, they do stereotype their enemies. I've been horrified this year as you do and Stuart does and Ravi does, we love apologetics, the defense of the faith. But it's to win people. Whereas the current tendency in the American church is to turn apologetics into culture warring. Us/them, we/they, those dreadful liberals or those atheists or those liberal leftists or whatever it is. That's not apologetics.  We should be winning them to our Lord because we love Him and we want them to know Him too.

And so there are so many examples. You look at say how the prosperity doctrines are coming to Africa. Tragically. I mean the Africans have no money at all and pastors driving Cadillacs based on these things which they get from the United States. There's so much of the American church. We've got to call our fellow believers to renewal and revival and reformation. Evangelicals used to be the reviving, renewing force. Now we're second only to the Protestant mainline as worldly and thoroughly captive to the culture. It's time to wake up.

Interviewer: Os, you wrote in that book [The Last Christian on Earth] that the Christian church is becoming its own gravedigger. Explain what you mean by that.

Os Guinness: Well, it's a very simple idea in the social sciences. The Christian faith, not so much the church by itself, but the Christian faith and its ideas is the single strongest idea that has made the modern world. Think of its links to democracy, to the rise of science, and all sorts of things. The Christian faith is the single strongest idea that has made the modern world. But we've fallen captive to the modern world we've helped to create. So the more captive we are, the more the church becomes its own gravedigger.  

Os Guinness:  I personally don't think there are more secularists in America. I think people are more open about acknowledging they are or identifying themselves with secularism because they're fed up with what they see of Christians. 

There's no question that just like a house eaten by white ants, looks terrific, until suddenly it starts to crumble and fall. Much of evangelicalism is a house eaten by white ants, and the rot is there.

Evil and Modernity, part 2.  [Transcribed by H. Kriz, 11/2011]

Monday, November 7, 2011

the gospel visualized

Trevin Wax has made a helpful graphic explaining the three-legs of the gospel according to his book, Counterfeit Gospels.  The three legs are the Gospel Story, the Gospel Announcement, and the Gospel Community...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

walking on the water

When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. 

But he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." 

Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. 

(John 6:19-21 ESV)

"Christ Walking on the Water" was painted about 1901 by Russian landscape artist, Julius Sergius von Klever (1850-1924). 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

the gospel begrudged

"The world bears the Gospel a grudge because the Gospel condemns the religious wisdom of the world. Jealous for its own religious views, the world in turn charges the Gospel with being a subversive and licentious doctrine, offensive to God and man, a doctrine to be persecuted as the worst plague on earth. As a result we have this paradoxical situation: The Gospel supplies the world with the salvation of Jesus Christ, peace of conscience, and every blessing. Just for that the world abhors the Gospel." 

--Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

sunday notes and quotes

This passage answers these three questions: “Who is Jesus? Why should I believe him? And what does he want from me?”  

1) The unique relationship of the Son to God the Father is described in 5:16-30: 

He does whatever the Father does (19)
He knows all that the Father is doing (20)
He gives life like the Father gives (21, 24-26)
He is the Judge of all (22, 27-30)
He is to be honored in the same way as the Father (23)
His word believed gives eternal life and rescues from judgment (24)

“The Son’s will is to please his Father, not just to save us; and the Father’s will is to have all men honor the Son, not just to forgives us. To grasp the divine relationships in the drama of redemption is to humble our pride and heighten our sense of speechless privilege. To be saved and renewed, to be recipients of new life, to be forgiven, all because we are caught up in the perfection of love among the Persons of the Godhead, is unutterably solemn, ecstatically wonderful.”  (D. A. Carson, The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus)

There is a direct relation between the deity of Christ and salvation by grace through faith.  Athanasius reasoned that Christ's deity and humanity was seen in the kind of salvation that the Lord Jesus accomplished.  To be a perfect substitute, he must be human.  To have such power and eternal consequence to the salvation he accomplished means that he must be God.  We can also run that the other way.  Given that Jesus was human and divine, and that he was sent to us from the Father, would indicate that the kind of salvation we needed was total and gracious.  He did not come as a prophet to show us how to be better people.  Or as a fellow human just showing us how to get to God.  He came as a mighty Redeemer to save us from our guilt, sin, death and bondage.  

2) Those who testify to the Son (31-47):
John the Baptist (33-35)
The Father, through his works (36-38)
The Scriptures (39-44)
Moses (45-47)

3) What he wants from me: faith

  • Faith means believing all that Christ says about himself (5:24)
  • Faith means coming to Jesus for life (5:39-40)
  • Faith means finding my source of significance in God (5:44)

“There is no other rule or test for who is a member of the people of God or the church of Christ than this: where there is a little band of those who accept this word of the Lord, teach it purely and confess against those who persecute it, and for that reason suffers what is their due.” (Martin Luther, Commentary on Psalm 110:3)