11.04.2015

HOW ARMINIAN HAS THE SANCTIFICATION DEBATE BECOME?

One of the great problems in any current controversy is overreaction to a perceived problem. If someone feels that one doctrine is being overemphasized, the way to correct the problem must be to balance things out by emphasizing another doctrine. At times, this is certainly necessary and expected unless, of course, the theological priorities in the correction get lost. In other words, there are certain theological categories that if their logical priority is lost, the pursuit of balance can actually make things worse. 

This is currently happening with many of the discussions regarding sanctification. Many have diagnosed the “grace boys” movement as antinomian. In reaction to what is assumed to be an overemphasis on justification and a narrow definition of the gospel, there has been an aggressive effort to balance things back out by re-emphasizing sanctification.

In the past few years we have seen a plethora of articles by authors emphasizing the necessity of good works for salvation and judgment by works. As I stated elsewhere, the pastoral implications of this are being missed in the zeal to correct perceived antinomianism. All of this has created an unhelpful citation war. Present writers, hoping to regain balance, gain support for their positions by stockpiling quotations from past theologians. While these theologians are certainly worth citing, their work was done in their own contexts and with proper theological ordering. This makes the interjection of their citations, pulled from their own contexts and inserted into our current discussions, well, challenging to say the least.

10.31.2015

WHAT IS THIS TWO-KINGDOMS DEBATE REALLY ALL ABOUT?


A while back Carl Trueman posted an article with a fair concern of the transformationalist ideals.  Trueman writes,  
Surely it is time to become realistic. It is time to drop the cultural elitism that poses as significant Christian transformation of culture but only really panders to nothing more than middle class tastes and hobbies.  It is time to look again at the New Testament's teaching on the church as a sojourning people where here we have no lasting home."

10.19.2015

The Gospel of the Synagogue Versus the Gospel of the Son of God


Years ago I remember hearing an old wise elder say to me that if my sermon could be accepted in a Jewish synagogue then it is not a distinctively Christian sermon.  I’ve thought a lot about that over the years. What makes Christian sermons distinctively Christian? What damage could be done in the life of the Christian church if our sermons lose their distinctively Christian character?  To answer that, of course, one would need to understand and appreciate what makes a gospel message distinctively “gospel”. 

To be sure, the word “gospel” is used differently in the Scriptures.  Robert Godfrey provides a helpful observation:
Sometimes the word gospel refers broadly to all aspects of the salvation and new life that Jesus gives His people, and sometimes it is used narrowly to refer to what Jesus does for us outside of us. In other words, sometimes the term gospel refers broadly to Jesus’ work of justification and sanctification for and in His people, and sometimes it refers narrowly to Jesus’ work of justification. 
Godfrey also makes the case that sometimes the word “gospel” refers more broadly to all the New Testament fulfillment of what was promised in the Old Testament.  It is in this sense that Mark uses “gospel” when he says in chapter 1, “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Mark is explaining the gospel as the person and work of Christ in fulfillment on behalf of his people. 

This is crucial for understanding the overall theological intent and purpose of the gospel of Mark.

9.29.2015

WHAT ABOUT THE LEAST HOLY?

In light of the current debates surrounding the doctrine of sanctification, we should be careful to stay close to the language of our confessions. With that in mind, Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 114 asks the following:

 114. Q.

But can those converted to God
keep these commandments perfectly?

A.

No.
In this life even the holiest
have only a small beginning
of this obedience. 

Nevertheless, with earnest purpose
they do begin to live
not only according to some
but to all the commandments of God.

I have a few questions: If the "holiest" have only a "small beginning" of this new obedience, what are we to say about least holy in this life? Are they in danger with less than a small beginning of holiness?  How can the least holy who lack even a small beginning of holiness find any comfort?

9.28.2015

WHAT'S REALLY AT STAKE IN THIS SANCTIFICATION DEBATE?

I have been following, again, the current internet debates over sanctification.  It's troubling. Have we really not figured this out yet? Did the Reformation not make things clear for us? While it's not unhealthy to have brotherly discourse over these matters, I woke up this morning and read the following by Rick Philips at Reformation 21:

I can think of few messages more urgently needed by our worldly churches today than the necessity of pursuing practical holiness through obedience and good works.  I realize that many even of our Reformed brothers would rather ignore James' teaching than work through its challenges, both doctrinally and practically.  But as my friend insisted, "James is, you know, in the Bible. 

7.13.2015

ON PRETENDING AND PULPITEERING

The Pretender in the Pulpit

In his excellent book, “The Courage to be Protestant”, David Wells opens chapter two with a startling account of an Easter worship service.  Wells writes, “It’s Easter morning 2006. And there lurking in the shadows, is a figure rarely seen in church. It’s Superman. Yes, Superman! He who leaps tall buildings in a single bound as he pursues evildoers.  No, wait a minute. It’s not him. Actually it’s only the senior pastor all decked out as Superman ready to communicate the gospel to a new generation…”  If this were playing on my MP3 player I’d hit stop at this point.  Does that really occur anymore? Seriously?  I think enough critique has happened by now that people have told their senior pastor to take off the Superman mask.  Aren’t we done now with the superficial, ear-tickling pastor? 
I have for some time been concerned that many churchgoers view the megachurch practices as so far out there that ignorance now prevails among Christians as to how subtle Satan is working in churches that claim to hold fast the truth.  More needs to be said of what I have observed as artificial imitation or, as Martyn Lloyd Jones used to call it, pulpiteering, in churches that are proud of their doctrinal heritage.  Did you know that a preacher could be nothing more than a good actor? I’m hoping this brief write-up will help the churchgoer to be able to distinguish between those ministries that are sincere from those that are artificial imitations.  There is a great difference between preaching and pretending to preach. 


Who Was That Masked Man?
Philip Doddridge in his work “On the Delivery of Sermons” provides an extensive warning against theatrical preaching and its destructive consequences in the life of the church. Theatrical preaching occurs when a preacher attempts to “transport into the views, the feelings, and the circumstances of the person represented.”  Theatrical preaching is the practice of acting what one is saying. It’s extremely detrimental to the spiritual life of the church. 

6.27.2015

WHAT THE GAY MARRIAGE MOVEMENT SHOULD KNOW ABOUT GOD'S RAINBOW


What The Gay Marriage Movement Should Know About God’s Rainbow

This last Friday is already designated as one of the most historic victories in our nation’s history as a divided Supreme Court on Friday ruled that same-sex couples can now marry nationwide.  This landmark opinion, as it’s being described, now opens the door for all gay and lesbian couples to have legally recognized marriages in all fifty states.  As soon as the announcement was made, gay and lesbian couples swarmed the streets with victory screams and chants. In short order, President Obama unequivocally spoke of the decision as a victory for America.  Within just a few hours, America itself seemed to be enveloped with the symbol of gay pride: the rainbow. 
Within the last twenty four hours, the rainbow has appeared everywhere.  I’ve seen pictures of the White House painted with the colors of a rainbow.  Silicon Valley companies are implementing all sorts of creative ways to use the rainbow as a sign of victory for the decision. Facebook has declared a celebration allowing members to add a rainbow filter to their profile picture to make clear those who support the decision.  Twitter has added a rainbow heart icon with the hash tag: Love wins. From Google to Starbucks to At&T, the rainbow has become the new flag for America, from sea to shining sea, America is now draped with the rainbow. 

5.20.2015

CALVIN to KNOX on CEREMONIES: MODERATE YOUR RIGOR!

What a great reminder from Calvin's letters to John Knox that we should moderate our rigor with regard to worship principles and ceremonies. 

First Letter of 1555:

"Certainly no one I think who is possessed of sound judgment, will deny that lighted tapers, and crucifixes, and other trumpery of the same description, flow from superstition.  When I lay it down for certain, that those who from free choice retain these things, are but too eager to drink from polluted dregs.  Nor do I see for what reason a church should be burdened with these frivolous and useless, not to call them by their real name, pernicious ceremonies, when a pure and simple order of worship is in our power.  But I check myself, lest I should seem to stir up a new strife, respecting a matter which, as I hear from, is happily set at rest." 

Third Letter of 1561:

"With regard to ceremonies, I trust, even should you displease many, that you will moderate your rigor. Of course it is your duty to see that the church be purged of all defilements which flow from error or superstition...But with this exception, you are well aware that certain things should be tolerated even if you don't quite approve of them

I am deeply afflicted, as you may well believe, that the nobles of your nation are split into factions, and it is not without reason that you are more distressed and tormented, because Satan is now plotting in the bosom of your church...but God is to be entreated that he may heal this evil also...For though your discord should spread no farther, already more than sufficient mischief has been done.  It will then belong to your wisdom and equity, in order that kindly affections be kept up, sedulously to disperse whatever remains there may be of estrangement. "


We all need this reminder.