Drinking Deeply

Wednesday, November 30, 2005 at 11:45 AM

Inerrancy and Infallibility

I stumbled upon an interesting post about the terms "inerrancy" and "infallibility" and I must say I don't entirely agree, at least with not how I understand the post.

First off, some personal definitions:

Inerrant - Does not have error
Infallible - Cannot have error

The distinction to me is that I can produce something that is inerrant. 1+1 = 2 is an "inerrant" statement (under base 10 with 1 representing the algebraic concept denoting the multiplicative identity... yadda yadda), but I cannot produce something that is infallible. There is nothing I could do or say to make something I made infallible. Only God can produce something infallible.

Returning to the post:

To summarize my view of what the post is saying, I read it as a warning against using the terms "inerrancy" and "infallibility" to apply to Scripture because they give a static view of the Bible.


Quoting:

And there’s a deeper problem. The deeper problem is that the words inerrancy and infallibility, they tend to kind of give you a static view of the Bible. And the Bible proclaims of itself it is not static it is dynamic, it is active, it is alive. I mean this is not some kind of a carcass you can perform an autopsy on. The Bible is living and active.

Now, I agree that Scripture is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). Additionally I do also see how inerrancy and infallibility do not necessarily lead us to understand Scripture as "living and active." But the reason I disagree is I feel that inerrancy and infallibility are taught by Scripture, and while they do not lead explicitly to "living and active," they are right alongside them and are not contradictory to them. Thus, both should be taught and preached.

I don't think the author of the post (or the speaker quoted in the post) is throwing out the concept inerrant and infallible, but rather the terms "inerrant and infallible."

Quoting:

Of course the word the Bible uses to define itself with regard to its authority is inspiration. All Scripture is inspired of God. But the Greek word, the Greek word is theopneustos which literally means God-breathed. That’s what the Bible says of itself, all Scripture is God-breathed. The breath of God is on this book.

Along those lines, I don't agree with the last sentence. It isn't merely that the breath of God is on this book (I assume he's talking about the Bible), but that the book (words and concepts, not the ink and paper) is the breath of God. This means it's not just that people wrote down some words and God decided to imbue it with His breath, but it's God decided to write some words, and used people to do so. This is directly tied in with the authority of Scripture. When Scripture speaks, it is God's very words (Romans 9:17 and Exodus 9:13-16 (emphasis on 16)).

Thus while I am sure I agree with the author of the post on the living and active vs. the inerrant and infallible terms (we must understand and believe both), I don't think it is appropriate to throw out the terms "inerrant and infallible" per se. This is simply because those terms are terms (though constructed) are useful to describe specific doctrines. Sure, I could throw out the terms "infallible" and "inerrant," but I would still believe that the Bible teaches that it itself is the highest authority, without, and cannot be with, error. It's kind of like using the term "Reformed" or "Calvinist." Are they labels that can be dispensed with? Of course. If they lead people astray should they be redefined, and maybe disposed of? Of course as well. But should we not use them at all because there is a possibility of leading people astray? I don't believe so. Especially now when people are redefining terms like "inerrancy" and "infallibility" it is necessary to stand up to defend and teach what they do mean, and correct and rebuke those who teach otherwise. To do otherwise would simply give the theological field to those who redefine the term, and affirm their definition to reject a biblical doctrine. (The redefinition of the term infallible to exclude inerrancy comes to mind)

One final comment that isn't on the original post, but is on a comment (and so may not have been the original poster's intent).

Quoting:

I think Jim Dixon's warning is a needed corrective and balance to the stagnant view of Scripture. But we must remember that what makes the Bible living is the Holy Spirit: it is nothing in the printed word itself that is salvific or sanctifying apart from the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. There are many non-Christians who read the Bible and come away (a) unenlightened and (b) non-Christians. No Holy Spirit, no living (written) word.

Otherwise, it seems we teeter on the verge of making an idol out of the written word. God gives life: to you, me, and His word.

Of course, I could be wrong - but I don't think so.

One sentence that jumps out immediately is "What makes the Bible living is the Holy Spirit. it is nothing in the printed word itself that is salvific or sanctifying apart from the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit."

While I agree that there is nothing in the paper and ink that makes the Bible living and active, I would loudly assert that the Bible is the Word of God, living and active, even if one does not believe it (aka one does not have the Holy Spirit illuminating it). Remember the second half of that quote from Hebrews "sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

One cannot make an idol out of the Bible if we are ascribing to it what it ascribes to itself: that it is the very breath of God. It isn't given life by God, it is life-giving.

Once again, I don't think the original poster was saying that the Bible was not infallible or not inerrant, merely that the terms do not lend themselves to a proper view of Scripture. While I agree that it is possible to come to that conclusion, it should only give us greater motivation for preaching the whole Word as infallible and inerrant (and thus living and active) in order that those who hear and understand would come to a fuller understanding of Scripture, not to throw out the terms entirely.

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Monday, November 28, 2005 at 11:42 PM

Book Review: Twelve Ordinary Men

I just finished Twelve Ordinary Men by John MacArthur and I wanted to post a few thoughts on it:

1) It's not a typical John MacArthur book. The other books I've read by him have all been solid exegetical and biblically grounded. He would examine a problem, present Scripture to support his points, and exegete the Scripture. This book is markedly different. Though everything that he says is backed up by Scripture citations (and they're taken in context! *gasp*), he does not necessarily exegete the passages.

2) There were a few passages that I had heard differing interpretations on and was unsure which ones I agreed with (since no reasons were given for either). There are a couple passages where John MacArthur reads a bit of his own understanding into the text to make a point. While the points may be well intentioned, some of them are mere guesswork (though he does openly admit that they are guesses, which is a far cry from many other people who simply assert their opinions as fact (like I am right now! =p ) ).

3) In spite of point 2, the areas which are directly derived from Scripture (the first couple chapters on the better known Apostles), are excellent. They are filled with solid insights, demonstrating the complete failures of the Apostles, and how God used His Spirit to transform Him for His glory. It really gave me a lot of hope because I was like "wow! I have all these weaknesses, maybe God can use me too!"

4) On a personal level, I will say that this book brought me to repentance many times. Many times I saw how my own failings were just like those of the Apostles, how I doubted, had false confidence, was unrighteously angry, wanted to call down fire, lacked love, desired authority rather than desiring to be made worthy, it was just a checklist of my sins at times. Through all of it, the book constantly pointed to the steadfastness of God's grace, the depth of His transforming power, and the power of His Word. MacArthur's warnings on Judas the traitor were incredibly apt too.

My recommendation: Borrow it

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Sunday, November 27, 2005 at 8:05 PM

Yeah, I'm still alive

Computer fan decided to fritz up.

oogah blarrgh =p (if one can imagine mickey throwing a fit of semi annoyance, that would be it)

Wrestling with a lot of things.

Some things on my mind:

1 Thess. 5

1Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father.

Job 32:

1So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. 2Then Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, burned with anger. He burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God. 3He burned with anger also at Job's three friends because they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong. 4Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were older than he. 5And when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, he burned with anger.

2 Timothy 4

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

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Thursday, November 24, 2005 at 10:40 PM

Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving. Stop reading blogs and get back to your family =)

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005 at 8:39 PM

Expressing God

So I mentioned in the last post that the only way to know God is through that which is expressible in prepositions and statements.

Thinking about that a little more, I recalled a few verses that seem to contradict this:

There are passages in the Bible that talk about the peace of God that "surpass understanding" (Phil. 4:7), prayers "too deep for words" (Rom. 8:26) and the "love that surpasses knowledge" (Eph. 3:19).

Hmmm. Does that mean that there is something about God that is inexpressible in human words? Surely God is not comprehensible, we cannot possibly wrap God up in a collection of prepositions, but does that mean that there are aspects of God that cannot possibly be expressed in human words and require something else?

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005 at 5:54 PM

Music

What is the value of music in Christianity?

For me, the value of music lies within its words. Music leads us to God only so far as the lyrics lead us to God. We do have a lot of examples in the OT of music being sung and so on, but the only thing that God deemed necessary to pass onto us was in the form of words and prepositions. I don’t think we can ever have biblical justification of something outside of statements and prepositions that can lead us to God because the Bible is composed of statements and prepositions.

Thus any sort of knowledge that comes from something outside of propositions (if such a knowledge were even possible), must come from outside of Scripture, and that seems to be an implicit denial of the sufficiency of Scripture.

I’m not condemning music or art, in fact, I think there is a deep need for Christian musicians and Christian artists to be lights into this world. This is not to say that every song has to be about Jesus and grace, and every painting be that of a biblical story, but that everything note, every drop of paint, should flow out of a desire for God’s glory and an expression of their clearly Christian worldview.

There is also something that can be said for the hymns that are so packed with theological truths that sometimes they put the sermon to shame. Some examples:

'Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear,
And Grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

What a beautiful depiction of God’s sovereignty in opening eyes to point to their own sinfulness, and then in pointing to the cross.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

A simple confession of how much the sinfulness of man has consumed our author, and a confession of dependence upon God to seal the heart, and keep it.

Now, I’m not saying that we should do our theology from our songs, because that would be undermining the whole point of the “Scripture Alone,” but what I am saying is that we can (and should!) find music that is packed with theological truths. Even something as simple as:

Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong,
They are weak but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

Why do we know that Jesus loves us? Because the Bible tells us! It doesn’t get any easier than that.

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Monday, November 21, 2005 at 10:48 AM

Reading Deeply

Frank Martens is wondering if he's doing "Too Much Thinking."

Tim Challies has two cool posts. One on the value of words, phrases, and metaphors in the original texts and another on a longing for spiritual mentorship. I definitely know how he feels with that one.

Dustin Curlee is still working through devotional style thoughts on Romans. Check out Romans 2:3-4 (split up)

Reformation Theology Blog answers: Why should we go to church?

Over at Solo Femininity, we learn "why should we pray?"

CoffeeSwirls mentions that all too often when we start our gospel presentations, it starts with the Total Depravity, when instead it should start with Creation. Good point.

Blog of the post: A new blog, The Reformed Worldview just started up, and it's first series is putting the Biblical worldview through it's intellectual paces. Check it out.

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Sunday, November 20, 2005 at 4:38 PM

Statement of Faith (2.2)

II. Scripture
B. Inspiration

The 66 books of the Holy Bible in it’s original texts are not merely words imbued with God’s power, but they are God’s very own words. In this sense, when Scripture speaks, it is exactly the same as when God speaks. The Holy Bible was not dropped out of the sky as a completed manuscript, but was written down when God’s Spirit used writers who were perfectly prepared by the Spirit so that they would speak from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

2 Timothy 2:16-17

16All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

2 Peter 1

19And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 21For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

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Saturday, November 19, 2005 at 4:31 PM

Common Grace (3)

A few final thought on Common Grace before I move on to less heretical stuffs. It’s something I’m going to wrestle with, but not something I feel comfortable getting into debates about, though it is interesting to note that there have been denominations that have split over this issue.

1) The issue seems to hinge on whether the term “grace” can refer to a general kindness and patience that God does show towards the unregenerate. For me, I am not too sure on that. Grace (for me right now) is tied to salvation.
Acts 15
11But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.

Romans 3

23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
2) A denial of common grace and/or that God loves everybody (I view them as the same issue) shouldn’t change my treatment of other people, regenerate or non. While there does seem to be a special preference in the Bible towards those that are part of the body, one’s treatment of people is governed by the “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Romans 12 (emphasis added):

14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. 17Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." 20To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
3) For me, the way I speak to other people (especially in doing evangelism), will not change. I have never liked the “God loves you” sentence simply because I felt like it was much too likely to be misinterpreted and misunderstood, even if common grace is true. I hope to continue to proclaim a gospel of grace and forgiveness.
Acts 17:

30The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."
4) If we do use the term “common grace” or talk about “God demonstrating His love” it seems that an important thing to do is to explain what we mean by it and how it can and will lead to judgment if we don’t turn in thankfulness for the patience of God. That should clear up the whole issue and render this debate that has split churches moot.
Romans 2:

4Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.
5) Whatever we decide regarding this issue, I think the fact that it has split churches should make us carefully consider it so that we can make an informed opinion on it, so that every man is fully convinced in his own mind.

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Friday, November 18, 2005 at 2:53 PM

Common Grace (2)

Continuing from the previous post, some further thoughts to try to clarify.

1) There is a special grace given to believers. This is something that saves them. Redemptive grace (this is what I’ll call it) saves. It is purchased upon the cross by the act of Jesus Christ. Along with this redemptive grace come (but is not limited to): faith, sanctification, marriage, good gifts, blessings, fellowship, church, and eternity.

2) Those predestined to destruction seem also to enjoy momentary blessings in life as well. These include (but not limited to): Existence, marriage, pleasure, sun, and rain.

The issue at hand (for me at least) is: Do we call the gifts given to those predestined to destruction acts of “grace?” Truly those things are undeserved and unmerited. They are also acts of God’s kindness and patience.

BUT, and this is the big “but” for me, the end of all these things is to store up wrath in destruction for these people so that God’s glory may be shown in their destruction.

To put this in an analogy: Say I have 10 dollars. I know you’re going to spend it on Bibles for the poor or something and give generously in faith. I give you the 10 dollars. Cool. That’s nice of me, it leads me to worship God, and it leads to God being glorified. Everyone wins.

Now, say I have 10 dollars, and I know if I give it to you, you’re going to spend it on alcohol and drugs, and ruin yourself. Now, I give you the 10 dollars because I want you to do that so that those who see you will learn a lesson (and learn to fear God and so on).

Now, of course analogies (especially with regard to God) are very poor arguments, but this is how I’m currently seeing it.

The question is: Though I was being nice to both people, my chief intent was kindness and love towards one, and desire for destruction towards the other.

Was the second one an act of grace?

Of course, this idea of “grace” is also tied to “Does God love everyone?” If we take the idea of common grace, then we say, “Yes, God loves everyone, but not equally.” If we take the view that I am currently leaning towards, we say, “Well… no, at least, not in the way the Bible defines love. It looks like kindness to us, but in the end He doesn’t.” Is that scary? Yeah it is. But no more scarier than “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated.” Or “I will call them Lo-ammi (which means not my people).” ::shrug:: more thoughts

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Thursday, November 17, 2005 at 3:13 PM

Common Grace

Ok, here’s what I’m wrestling with in regards to “Common Grace.”

A few disclaimers:

1) This is an issue of terminology. I am not denying that God lets the rain fall and the sun shine upon both the righteous and the wicked. I am not denying that God upholds and maintains the universe by His hand, which includes both the righteous and wicked alike. I am not denying that God’s Spirit restrains evil through what we term our “consciences.”

2) I am in the vast minority in this issue. Because of that, I am very highly inclined to believe that I am in the wrong, but I (currently) cannot understand how.

3) I was tempted to not post on this issue at all, but I figured to do so just so I could hear people’s views.

Ok, the issue for me, is “should I use the term “common grace” to refer to all those things I referenced above in point 1?”

The only issue with using it (to me at least) is if it would be misleading, implying something that is not there, namely the “grace” aspect.

Thus the question must arise: How does a person understand “grace?”

A few definitions from online:

1) the free and unmerited favor or beneficence of God

2) Grace is unmerited favor.

3) The undeserved favor bestowed upon sinners, a gift from God giving us Christ's riches which we do not deserve nor can earn.

Seems pretty reasonable. What’s referred to by “common grace”? Well, it’s those things I referenced in the beginning. Things like God’s general providence in rain, upholding the universe, restraining evil and so on.

So here is my thought process:

1) God is sovereign over everything. This means that everything happens in accordance to God’s declaration. The coffee I spilled on my shirt this afternoon, the donut that I bit into. It’s happening by God’s decree.

2) As a corollary to the above, since everything that happens is in accordance to God’s sovereign plan, then the wickedness of the wicked resulting in their condemnation is also in accordance to His plan.

3) Since He knows that His favor and “grace” in sun and rain and restraining evil will not result in repentance and faith with those that he had predestined to reprobation, they will result in sin since without faith it is impossible to please God.

4) Thus what is grace to us: just scales, sun, rain, marriage, and the like, does not result in grace for them, but rather results in things that they will be judged for and held accountable for. Maybe some more than others because of their greater or lesser knowledge, but they are all without excuse.

5) To me, this idea that they will be judged for the honor they did not ascribe to God for the rain given to them really precludes the idea of me calling it grace. At least, not without a lot of qualifications.

I think this is summed up in:

Romans 2)

4Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.

God is kind, forbearing, patient, but it’s supposed to lead us to repentance. If it does not (our hearts are hard) then we are storing up wrath.

Is it proper to call this kindness, forbearing ness, patience: “grace”?

That’s what I’m wrestling with here. To reiterate, I am not denying the existence of God’s general kindness, patience, and so on, but I hesitate to call it “grace” (or for that matter “love”) for those that are predestined to destruction.

A few ways I can see out of this mess:

1) Disprove God’s sovereignty over all things

2) Redefine grace

3) Establish a distinction in the “two wills of God” (which John Piper has tried to do http://www.desiringgod.org/library/sermons/87/040587.html but I’m not entirely sold on it)

4) Use the term “grace” knowing that I’m not being entirely intellectually honest.

5) Give up on the term “grace” in this respect.

http://www.theopedia.com/Common_grace

http://www.prca.org/pamphlets/pamphlet_89.html

http://www.tulipedia.org/Common_Grace

http://www.rmiweb.org/books/authorsin.pdf

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 5:26 PM

What's wrong with TULIP?

Common grace maybe tomorrow. Something interesting came up and I wanted to post on it:

Following up with yesterday about the "issues" with short statements, the acronym TULIP has many of the similar problems.

But first, a short history lesson (basically from the Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible).

The five points of Calvinism, typically referred to by the acronym TULIP were not formulated by John Calvin. Rather, they were formulated by the Synod of Dordt in response to the 5 points of the Remonstrance brought forth by the followers of Jacob Arminius in which they set forth a belief that: Election was based upon foreseen faith, there was a universal atonement, people were partially depraved, grace was resistible, and there was a possibility of a lapse from grace. The Synod of Dordt, after some time of deliberation, formally declared those five points to be inconsistent with Scripture and set forth the five points we now know as TULIP as consistent with Scripture.

This post is not a defense of TULIP, but rather an examination of the terminology in another example of how hard it is to reduce biblical concepts to a few words.

The “T” stands for Total Depravity. Now, this can be easily misunderstood to mean “we are as evil and sinful as we can possibly be,” but that’s really not the case. All it teaches is that man is completely dead in sin and thus cannot turn to God on his own.

The “U” stands for Unconditional Election. This doesn’t mean that salvation does not have conditions! Salvation is conditioned on a lot of things like repentance, faith, showing fruit, and so on. There are a lot of things that the Bible states will keep us from the kingdom of Heaven. What unconditional election states is that those conditions will be completely fulfilled by God’s grace, and not by our doing. If God chooses to save, He does so with no regard towards what we will do. What we end up doing (coming to faith, showing fruit, so on) is as a result of what God has previously chosen. In that sense, our election is unconditional.

The “L” stands for Limited Atonement - Limited Atonement doesn't mean that Christ's death is limited in its power to save, but rather it's limited in its application. A much better term for this would be definite atonement, which would be that Christ knows who He died for and His death purchases their life, completely. He doesn’t die for a general non-specific group of people and then people chose to be part of that group through faith, but rather that he dies for specific people where their faith, repentance, and all of their good fruits are purchased through His death.

The “I” stands for Irresistible Grace – This one is kind of hard to explain as well. In some senses the Holy Spirit is said to be resisted in Scripture. But the point of irresistible grace is that it’s saying that God can choose to completely tear down all barriers between Him and us and thereby regenerate our souls. Addition to this, because of Total Depravity, we need God to woo us with an irresistible grace because anything short of that we would, by our sinful dead nature, reject.

Finally, the “P” stands for Preservation of Saints - This isn’t a “once you walk down the aisle you’re saved no matter what you do” but a “God will preserve His people. If he chooses you, He won’t lose you.” Some people like “perseverance of saints” and it has the same idea: Those that God chooses will persevere, not because of what they are able to do, but because of what God does in them.

Thus each of these 5 simple phrases required at least a paragraph for me to explain. Of course, this would be a lot easier if everyone agreed with me what the terms meant! *laughs* but that is often not the case (and oftentimes I don’t agree with what I myself state and need to go back to restate things!). This also goes back to the whole "be clear" point I brought up earlier. We all bring baggage to the table, and if I think "this" means "that" but you think "this" means "that" then we need to first figure out what "this" really means. (or at least, agree on how we use the terms.)


If TULIP has such issues, why do we still use it?

1) It is fairly comprehensive in distinguishing Calvinism from Arminianism. Though some argue that Calvin did not hold to all 5 points, from what I’ve read of him I’ve seen nothing to convince me of that. Additionally, it doesn’t really matter what Calvin believed so much as “is it in the Bible?” I believe it is, but that’s another post.

2) It provides for a decent dialogue point. There are times when people have been like “what? You believe that I am totally depraved? Why aren’t I out there on the streets murdering people then?” to which it’s easy to smile and (patiently) explain what I mean by the terms.

3) It’s better than “predestination.” If Calvinism has negative connotations, predestination has worse.

All in all, it’s a great way to remember the points, it’s a great way to emphasize the distinctiveness, but it’s probably necessary to remember that it’s a helping mechanism, and if it doesn’t help, don’t use it. I personally call myself Reformed more often than Calvinist, because that doesn’t really have all the negative connotations of Calvinism (and has many of the benefits of opening it up for questions that TULIP has).

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005 at 3:11 PM

Watching your language

One of the most difficult things to do is to properly explain things. No matter what terminology we use, people will never have the exact same understanding of the terms.

For example, just today I had a discussion with a friend about the Inspiration of Scripture. I stated that Scripture is infallible, and he pointed out that it could be infallible but not be inerrant. Of course, to me, that was incomprehensible because I understood infallible as "cannot have error" but inerrant as "without error." Thus we were forced to backtrack and redefine our terms and repeat that until we could understand one another.

As difficult as it is to explain things, it becomes even harder when we use terms that are ambiguous and easily misunderstood. There are a lot of phrases that I really don’t like because I know it will be misinterpreted and misunderstood. A few examples:

"God is love" - This is entirely biblical, and I do support using it as the Bible states. What I don't like about this phrase is that it's used to justify many unbiblical understandings of the term "love." Love biblically is not just about feeling good about people. It's not these emotions. Rather, it's an action.

1 John 5:3 states:

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
"Love the sinner, hate the sin" - I actually am not a big fan of this at all simply because it assumes an unbiblical distinction between a person and his actions. If we are a sinner at the root, we produce sinful fruit. Our sin is what God hates; our sinful nature is also what God hates. In one sense we are to show our love for God by loving our neighbors, sinners and saints alike, but in another sense, we hate sinners to the core because they stand for everything that is not God. What fellowship can light have with darkness?

"Total Depravity" - Ok, it is part of an excellent acronym, but the "total" seems to imply that "we are as bad as we can be" which clearly is false. It's supposed to denote that we are dead in sin and cannot rescue ourselves, thus our depravity is total.

"Once saved, always saved" - I believe that if God saves someone, He will carry it to completion, but this phrase has been the source of such great abuse that I don't like it.

"Perseverance of the Saints" - I personally prefer the "Preservation" simply because the idea of Perseverance implies it's "on me." Of course, Preservation could also denote the “once saved, always saved” mentality, so we’re really stuck here!

“Free will” – Even if we use the term “free will” it seems so misleading. We have to define the term “free will” as “free from something.” I have free will from my parents as to when I go to sleep now, but since I think that ultimate meaning is defined in relation to God, the question being considered is: are we free from God? To me the answer is always “no.” That’s why I don’t like the term, even used in the Reformed presentation of “Compatabilist freedom.” It’s not really “freedom” if I still believe that God is still sovereign over all of it.

What is the point of all of this? Simply to point out that we have to watch what we say. We can say something entirely biblical (Mormons quote Scripture too!) but without the proper understanding in the other person, we are not communicating as best as we should be. Of course, we cannot explain every single term we use, but we want to remain clear and as unambiguous as we possibly can. Does God use poor presentations of the Gospel to call His children? Of course! But there are also a lot of people in the church that don't understand the true Gospel and need to do so! (There also are a lot of people that are in the church that would reject the true Gospel if they heard it!)

Something else: Preach the full Gospel. We cannot summarize the Gospel in four points and an altar call. The Gospel is about a life of seeking and learning. When we come in with false assumptions, it becomes incredibly difficult to learn anything new, but when those false assumptions are torn down and replaced with Scriptural ones, then the floodgates of knowledge, can open.

Phil. 1

9And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

I was going to post something on common grace, maybe that’ll come tomorrow.

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Monday, November 14, 2005 at 9:37 PM

Reading Deeply

On preaching:

Anti-Itch Meditation asks the question: What are we attracting people to? (HT: Transforming Sermons)

Vincent Cheung shares what we need to preach. This is part of his ongoing series on Scripture. It’s pretty cool.

Reformation Theology Blog is wondering: Are our churches preaching the Gospel?

Phillip Johnson gives a quick description of a John Piper sermon.

Today's message from Piper is the middle lecture of a three-part series on Athanasius, the hero of the Arian conflict in the fourth century. Piper's observations are brilliant and priceless. He says it's not enough to profess love for the Person of Christ; we must fight for true propositions about Him as well. He demonstrates why extrabiblical language is sometimes vital in the defense of biblical truth. He shows a lot of parallels between the methodology Arius employed in peddling his heresy and the way people with questionable orthodoxy today are maneuvering to try to commandeer the mainstream of the evangelical movement. In all, it's one of the best historical studies I've ever heard Piper deliver. You can listen to the whole three-day series at Oneplace.com.

I just finished listening to John Piper’s TULIP series. Excellent stuff. A clear and biblical defense of the 5 points of Calvinism. He doesn’t pull any punches, he doesn’t avoid any texts. Highly recommended. I have the mp3s and I’m allowed to distribute freely, so if you’re interested I’d be more than willing to share.

Blog of the post:

Joe Loughery of “The Potter’s Clay” just put up a new look. I figured I’d double his readership by linking his blog here and sending all 3 of my readers over to check it out. Looks ok. His posts are good too =)

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Sunday, November 13, 2005 at 1:32 PM

Statement of Faith (2.1)

II. Scripture
A. Necessity

Since all of creation reveals God's nature and authority, man is inexcusable and condemned for their refusal to worship God as He demands. But, since creation is insufficient to reveal the gospel of Jesus Christ, God has chosen to do so through Scripture. Scripture is thus God's chosen means to reveal truth in His gospel, enabling those who He calls to come to a fuller knowledge of Him.
Romans 1: 19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Hebrews 1:
1Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

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Saturday, November 12, 2005 at 4:50 PM

New Template!

Not really, but I just wanted to mess around. Let me know what you think!

This is what it used to look like.

Oh, and because I forgot to include a featured blog last "Reading Deeply," I figured to include one today:

James White maintains an excellent blog. It is generally a counter-cult ministry devoted to refuting claims made by cults like Roman Catholicism, King James Only-ism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and many more, but he does an excellent job presenting a clear Reformed view on salvation. Promoting the authority of Scripture, the Supremacy of Christ, and all those awesome things that I love.

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at 4:38 PM

Rethinking memory verses 2 Timothy 2:13

2 Timothy 2:13 reads:
13if we are faithless, he remains faithful-- for he cannot deny himself.
This has always (for me at least) been used as a reassurance that "oh, don't worry, God is still faithful even when we are not." It is even used (by me) to reassure those who are stuck in sin. Used by some (not me) to reassure those who have fallen away that God will bring them back.

Well, all of these understandings of this verse are wrong. A simple reading of the context will quickly show a correct (more correct if you prefer) interpretation that lends no hope to the sinner, no hope to the backslidden. I'm not saying that there isn't hope for the sinner or backslider, but just that it isn't in this verse.

2 Timothy 2:11-14)
11The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13if we are faithless, he remains faithful--

for he cannot deny himself.

A few things to observe:

1) v. 11b - Those who died with Christ will also live with him. This is our assurance of perseverance and preservation. If we have been born again, if God has put to death our sinful natures in baptizing us into Christ's death, that same Spirit by which we have been baptized will bring us to life, just as God has raised Christ to life.

2) v. 12a - IF we endure, we will reign with him - We must endure in order to be raised up at the last day. "But wait, if you are saying "IF" then isn't there no preservation of saints?" My response would probably carry me far afield of this post, but I do believe that we must endure, but it is also God who causes us to endure. I think v. 11 can show marginal support for this (though it is a lot more explicit in other verses like Romans 8:28-30, John 6:35-40, la la la).

3) v. 12b - "if we deny him, he also will deny us;" - Contrasted with enduring and being lifted up to reign with him, we see that IF we deny Christ, then Christ will deny us. However we twist and turn, this verse makes it obvious that we cannot interpret v. 13 to mean that no matter what we do God is faithful and He'll take care of us. Rather we must understand it to say:

If we are faithless (to God), He will be faithful (to Himself, and deny us), because He cannot deny Himself.

There is no hope for the sinner in this verse. There is no hope for the backslidden. There is no hope for those who have rejected God. God will turn His back upon them. Rather the message is always "repent and turn! Maybe God will have mercy" (Joel 2) We can never presume ourselves on God's good graces.

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Friday, November 11, 2005 at 12:14 PM

Elijah and the prophets of Baal (2)

Continued from previous post.

Now was the time. Today the Lord's Name would be proclaimed victorious and he would triumph over these false Gods. He called the people to him, closer. Then slowly and surely the sought out twelve stones from the ground. Well-formed and solid stones. Each one had it'’s own marks and imperfections, but with them, he built his altar. It was an altar that had been tumbled long ago, but today it would arise anew. He started digging, borrowing some tools from the people around him. He dug a trench all the way around the altar, nice and deep. People were getting impatient. Why was he taking so long? But he knew that God demanded perfection, everything was going to be perfect, so he took his time. Cutting the wood, he laid it carefully upon the altar. The bull, cut in pieces, was placed upon the wood.

"“Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood," he ordered the crowd. Quickly, four buckets of water appeared and were dumped upon the altar. "Do it a second time." They did it again. "“Do it a third time."” And they did it once more. The water overflowed and filled the trench around the altar.

Now was the time. Elijah turned to the heavens and raised his arms. A hush fell over the crowd.

"O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back."”

*BOOM* The crowd was astonished to see a streak of fire fall, and then another, and then another, right on top of the altar. Quickly the bull and the wood were consumed, and the water boiled away, then the altar itself was consumed in the heat.

Elijah turned around as face after face realized the astonishing reality: Elijah serves the One True God.” Which came right alongside of the thought "“we'’re doomed."” They bowed down and said, "“The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God."”

"“Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape,"” Elijah said. God had demonstrated His power, now He wanted to punish the worst offenders. Quickly, a swarm of people massed over the false prophets. They gave up quickly, knowing their cause was lost, their god dead, and their lives forfeit.

Elijah showed no mercy. The prophets must be killed. God would not stand for false prophets in His land. The prophets were slaughtered.


Hebrews 11) 32And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets-- 33who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated-- 38of whom the world was not worthy--wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

39And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

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Thursday, November 10, 2005 at 10:45 PM

Elijah and the prophets of Baal

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is that of Elijah and the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:20-46. Just the faith and complete trust in Elijah for deliverance before all the opposing servants of false Gods encourages me and always convicts me of how too often I lack faith and are not bold about who I serve.

Random fact: Elijah - Eli jah - "God (my)" "YHWY" -> My God is Yahweh. What a great name.

Because I love the story so much, I decided one day to try to write it from a first person perspective. Of course, I read a lot of my own thoughts into this, so it is by no means Scripture, but a fun excercise none the less. I've only got half of it finished, will finish the second half tomorrow.

He stood silently, robe flapping in the wind. He was weary. He had traveled a long road to get to where he was, and he knew a long road awaited him. But today he was here.

A crowd was gathered. Thousands watched. People meeting up old friends, old enemies. A fight occurred and people started shoving, but it was soon quieted.

The false prophets filed in. In two slow moving columns they parted the crowds and approached where he stood. They numbered around 450. They carried with them their tokens and ritual staffs and other relics, cheap pieces of pottery crudely molded by old men who had nothing better to do.

He was alone. He turned to the crowd and a hush fell over them. "How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him."

He was angry. But sad at the same time. These people had been led astray, they had turned from the one true God to those that were false. They committed idolotry. To the things that slandered and blasphemed God. Who did they think they were?

But today that was all going to change. He wasn’t afraid. As he saw the 800 priests milling about preparing their rituals, he smiled. Victory was at hand.

Silence. No one answered his challenge. No one offered up a word. He knew they were going to do that. They were all afraid. They felt like something was wrong, but that was the way it was always done, and these priests didn'’t do anything wrong anyways. Elijah spoke again again, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the LORD, but Baal's prophets are 450 men. Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.

The gauntlet was laid. The challenge set. A collective gasp went through the crowd. Some didn't understand, they thought it was some show.

No, it wasn'’t just entertainment, he was serious. Deadly serious. Finally, someone stepped forward and answered him, "“It is well spoken."”

Preparations began in earnest. "Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it." He said to the false prophets. A bull was quickly brought forth and was given to the prophets of Baal. They prepared it, chopping it, laying it upon wood, and began to chant. And chant. The crowd watched and waited. 10 minutes passed, 15, no response. They got louder and louder, soon the noise could be heard from a mile away. People started whispering to one another, but no one could tell over the yelling and screaming that was going on. O Baal, answer us!" But nothing happened.

He smiled. He knew. There was nothing behind the relics, there was nothing behind the chants, the prayers, the staves. There was nothing. But the people didn'’t know, at least not yet. He decided to stir them up a little bit and said, "Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened." The prophets shot him angry glances, wanting to run over and kill him right there, but the muttering of the crowd stayed them. They yelled louder, the pulled out their swords and lances and cut themselves. Still silence. The bull sat there, collecting flies and doused in oil. Nothing.

(finished tomorrow)

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005 at 6:39 PM

Logic and Christianity

Just a quick note.

Logic is necessary to Christianity. The instant we tolerate an inconsistency in the Christian worldview (I am not saying our worldview, because we will always be inconsistent because we are sinners), that is the instant Christianity falls apart and is no longer Christianity.

This is why the Westminster Confession of Faith states: (emphasis added)

VI. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.

As we learn more about Christianity, we will continually run up against perceived inconsistencies. These are always failures in us, and never in the Bible.

The issue of course is: Well, what if we come up against two things that seem contradictory?

Well, that means that at least one of our interpretations of the things is wrong (or maybe our logic is wrong). Thus, if we truly see something as contradictory we cannot affirm both sides properly because we are misinterpreting at least one.

If free will (in my mind) contradicts divine sovereignty, then I cannot possibly say that both are true. At least, they cannot be true the way I understand them. Either one of them is true and one of them is false, or/and I am misunderstanding one (or both). But if the Bible teaches clearly that they are compatible, then at least one of my perceptions of it must be wrong.

This is why we must strive to eliminate inconsistencies in our worldview in seeking to take every thought captive. As long as something is inconsistent, then we know something is wrong. If everything is consistent, at least there isn't a 100% chance of something being wrong (though there certainly isn't a guarantee that it's right if it's consistent).

2 Cor. 10)4For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

For a similar topic (one that agree with as well!) check out this link It seems like we're arguing opposite sides, but what is the difference? (one that allows me to say "amen!" to his post as well)

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005 at 2:47 PM

Statement of Faith (1.1)

This is really kind of aside from the statement of faith kind of business, but there are a few things brought up in the comments that I thought it would be good to address:

1) There is a distinction between "knowledge" and "true knowledge." The reformers made the distinction at: Knowledge, Assent, and Truth. Apparently it's head knowledge to heart knowledge to acting out in body (according to my pastor).

Of course, since I don't think the Bible teaches a distinction between the head and the heart, I don't like the terms "head knowledge" and "heart knowledge." Additionally, I don't think the Bible teaches a distinction between heart knowledge and living out the faith so I'll dispense with that too. I guess I referenced the reformers just to say I don't agree with them. *laughs* How presumptuous of me!

I will phrase it this way: It is entirely possible to have a knowledge of something, to be able to repeat the words properly, to know the answers to the question, without actually understanding the underlying concepts. I can say all day that Calvinism is true, I can prove it from Scripture, I can do all sorts of stuff, but without God quickening my heart and opening it to the true depth of meaning (and it's implications to my life), my knowledge is not really knowledge, but rather it is a bare repetition of words devoid of the concepts that are attached to them.

This is "bare knowledge."

True knowledge requires this "bare knowledge." I cannot live something out if I do not actually know what that "living out" is or what I am "living out." But it's also something more. True knowledge as I'm using it is accompanied by God's opening my mind to actually understand what my mouth is saying. A true knowledge is the knowledge that I was talking about in my previous post. This is a knowledge that is always accompanied by good works, for faith without works is dead (As a side note, this is why I didn't like the heart -> body connection, if it's in the heart, it will bear fruit in the body). But it can be distinguished apart from the good works because it is the root of the works, and not the other way around.

2) "If we treat theology as the end of theology, then we risk becoming self-inflated: rather, humility before God and others is the end of theology."

While I agree that proper theology should result in humility (James 3), I don't agree that humility is the end of theology. I still believe that theology is an end in itself. It should (properly done) result in good works and moral uprightness, but it is the study of the ultimate. To know God is the highest end of man and theology is that very exercise.

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Monday, November 07, 2005 at 5:25 PM

Reading Deeply

More reads from the week:

Tim Challies posts on having confidence in the Bible. Parts 1 and 2

The topic of spiritual gifts have come up a lot. It seems like it was a topic at the message last Sunday. Some perspectives:

David Wayne (PCA pastor) is a cessationalist (and he's got a huge link post on the whole conversation in 2.0)

Adrian Warnock (pastor in London) is charismatic (but still reformed!)

Both of these people are bloggers I highly respect and read often (though sometimes I feel like Adrian is just a tad obsessed over his hits per day, *chuckles but I'm just the same!)

Phillip Johnson posted Spurgeon's views

James White is doing an excellent series on "The Da Vinci Code" Parts: [1][2][3][4][5]

(OK, I shamelessly stole this from Frank Martens because I wanted to link them but didn't want to go searching through the posts)


Steven Camp on the sufficiency of preaching. How I wish the world would awaken to it's need to be teaching sheep and not entertaining goats! An excerpt:
THE PREACHER

“And when he’s burned out by the flaming Word, when he’s consumed at last by the fiery grace blazing through him, and when he’s privileged to translate the truth of God to man, finally transferred from earth to heaven, then bear him away gently and blow a muted trumpet and lay him down softly. Place a two-edged sword on his coffin, and raise the tomb triumphant. For he was a brave soldier of the Word. And ere he died, he had become a spokesman for his God."

With regards to books, I've just started Christian Baptism by John Murray. No thoughts yet (though it's really deep on the original languages, which is hard for me because I know nothing!)

Just finished "Putting the Amazing Back Into Grace" - Michael Horton. An excellent introduction into the Reformed faith. It doesn't deal with problem text so much as make a clear biblical presentation of the Reformed faith. If you don't know what the Reformed faith is, read this. If you do but don't know what's the big deal about it, read this. If you do and hate it because you learned in Sunday school that it condemns people to hell, read this. It isn't an apologetic so much a presentation, and a fairly clear one.

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at 11:48 AM

Judge lest ye be judged (8)

Matthew 18)

17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Recall: Tell it to the church -> tell it to the representatives. The disciplining body. I would call them the elders (but I guess some churches call them deacon boards or something).

"let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."

Basically, treat him as a pagan, an unbeliever. Now, this doesn't mean that we don't still demonstrate love to him as we should to our enemies. Nor does it mean that he is not saved. Just to treat him as if he wasn't. What is different between how we treat a believer and how we treat an unbeliever? I believe at the core it's one of fellowship.

Don't associate with them:

2 Thess. 3:6, 14

6Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.

...

14If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.

1 Cor. 5:9-11

9I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people-- 10not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler--not even to eat with such a one.

Notice also, that in order for we as believers to obey this command properly, we must identify those that are under the judgment of this verse. That is why it is necessary for the church, if the matter is serious enough, to make public the person's unrepentance and warn the members against associating with them.

We get a bigger glimpse of what this looks like in 1 Cor. 5:4-7

4
When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.[a]

Deliver him to Satan! Cleanse the church! Expel the immoral brother. A little yeast works through the whole dough.

What is our hope through this process? We get a picture of what can happen if we faithfully follow this process in 2 Cor. 2:6-11 when Paul writes about the restoration of a fallen brother:

6For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

Forgiveness is still possible! If they repent, God will have mercy. Let us willingly and boldly rebuke and correct one another, that we may encourage one another to good works. Let us pursue church discipline, that God may bring us to repentance. Let us cast out our immoral brethren, that, through testing, they may find their way through God's grace back to the fold where healing and restoration occurs.

I am all too thankful of those who have pulled me aside and said "no, you are wrong about this, and this is why." I am thankful to those who challenge me on my views (though I always think I'm right, because if I didn't think I was right, I'd change my mind). I am thankful to those who have openly rebuked me of my sin, and have extended forgiveness in light of repentance.

Let us be a body that does the same to one another. In doing so we glorify God and encourage one another. Soli Deo Gloria


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Sunday, November 06, 2005 at 2:40 PM

Statement of Faith (1)

One of my friends from back home challenged me to write a statement of faith, beginning from the basics. Well, I don't know how far I'll get, but I figure I'll do bits and pieces of it every Sunday or so. Maybe I'll be able to look back in 10 years and be like "wow, I was a pretty solid heretic!"

Looking at other statements of faith, it seems to be like the basics of what they hold to. Ok, lets keep this basic then.

I. The primacy of theology (strongly adapted from Vincent Cheung's Systematic Theology)

God is the ultimate. Therefore, the study of God, the knowledge of God is the greatest thing a person is called to. It is of upmost importance to understand God and to know God. Since God is the ultimate reality, all of our understanding of God has a direct impact on our interpretation of reality itself.

We cannot love God and love our neighbors without knowing how God commands us to do such things. We cannot fear God and keep His commandments without knowing what it means to fear God and what His commandments are.

Theology, whether we claim to be a theologian or not, comes first.

Jeremiah 9) 23Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD."

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Saturday, November 05, 2005 at 11:42 PM

Judge lest ye be judged (7)

The next question I'd like to address is: What does church discipline (judgment within the church) look like? This will be a mixture of a pile of verses I've already touched on and (since I'm lazy) pretty short.

1) church discipline begins with an examination of ourselves:

Recall Matthew 7

1"Judge not, that you be not judged. 2For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

Our first key is to examine ourselves. Are we guilty of what we ourselves are speaking up against? If we are, then our own vision will be colored and we will be unable to correct someone properly.

Note, just because we are guilty of it as well does not mean that our correction is wrong. Remember what Jesus says to his disciples regarding the Pharisees in Matthew 23

1Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2"The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, 3so practice and observe whatever they tell you--but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice.

The Pharisees are hypocrites! But yet they still say the right things (sometimes!). Thus as we receive a rebuke, we cannot first turn our eyes upon them (though they should examine themselves prior to correcting you), but rather we must examine ourselves. If the rebuke is biblical, then we must humble ourselves before the Word and not brush it off lightly.

2) Church discipline begins as a private matter.

Matthew 18)

15"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.

If the person has sinned against us, then we are not to proclaim it loudly and gossip about them or be bitter and resentful, griping to people, but rather we are to faithfully and graciously confront them, in hopes of winning over a brother.

3) Church discipline escalates in face of unrepentance.

Matthew 18)

16But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

As people are more and more hard-hearted, the issue involves more and more of the community. We take one or two others along so that the charges may be formally established (OT law requires the testimony of two or three witnesses). Then if he refuses to listen even in the face of a formal charge, then we are to bring it to the church. Now, taking it to the church certainly does not mean that we are to tell everyone in the church, but rather we are to speak to the representatives of the church, those who carry authority: The elders.

The buck stops there and I'll continue this Monday on what the final step is.

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Friday, November 04, 2005 at 2:57 PM

Judge lest ye be judged (6)

To follow up that post, it probably is necessary to address the possible question: "How is this loving to my neighbor?"

A few observations:

1) Even if it wasn't loving to our neighbor, it's still commanded by God. It may be entirely possible that excommunication is not loving by even God's definition, but this command to cast someone out of the church overrides it.

2) The question sinfully presupposes a definition of "love" that is made against the Bible. If God is our ultimate judge of love and justice, then if God commands us to hate what is evil (Romans 12), then that is a perfectly just and loving thing to do.

These things pointed out, there are ways by which we can address the issue at hand and show that church discipline is loving our neighbor.

It is necessary to observe that another reason that church discipline exists is to bring a brother to repentance and restoration.

Recall the beginnings of church discipline in Matt. 18)
15"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.
Paul says the same thing in 1 Cor. 5)

3For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. 4When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

Thus another reason we are to pursue church discipline is as an act of ultimate love, saying that "we love your soul more than your fellowship, this is for your good and God's glory."

Now I will be very clear in saying that it is very rare that we should make this distinction (spirit vs. body) because the Gospel now only renews our soul, but it manifests itself in renewing other bodies as well.

(James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.)

Along the same lines, the second greatest commandment "Love your neighbor as yourself" is directly in the context of correction in it's original quotation from Lev. 19)

17"You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

The quotation is from the ESV, and the NIV translates it "rebuke" instead of "reason frankly," but whatever the translation, the context of loving our neighbor is in that of lovingly correcting them. This is what godly rebuke is all about.

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Thursday, November 03, 2005 at 2:13 PM

Judge lest ye be judged (5)

So I'm going to try to give an idea of the answer to the question, "what's God's purpose in church discipline?" Many of these ideas come from John MacArthur's Ashamed of the Gospel. It's a good book, I strongly suggest you check it out.

Acts 5(ESV)

Ananias and Sapphira
1But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. 3But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." 5When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.

7After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8And Peter said to her, "Tell me whether you[a] sold the land for so much." And she said, "Yes, for so much." 9But Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out." 10Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

In Acts chapter 5, church discipline is exacted immediately by God. A simple sin, a simple (and immediate) punishment. Why such a harsh punishment for something that seems so small? All they did was lie about how much they donated. They wanted to appear better to the people around them so they said it was all the money when it wasn't. But why is this such a big deal? Why did God respond so harshly to something seemingly so trivial?

Their sin was that they lied. The lied to the congregation, they lied to God. Instantly Peter rebukes them. He doesn't figure that though their heart was in the wrong place, it was still a large sum of money, but he calls them out on their hypocrisy and lie. Why? Because God hates sin. He hates hypocrisy. When we lie to one another, we are sinning against God, and it is perfectly within God's justice to call down judgment upon us in the exact same manner as with Ananias.

Thus through this story, we see a powerful truth. Church discipline exists because God is Holy. God isn't about how good we look to other people. God is about God. What is the result of church discipline? "11And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things." This isn't some casual thing to trifle with. Church discipline is also about showing to the world that we are called to be different. It's about the purity of the church and the holiness of God.

**Note** This isn't the whole picture, there is another reason for judgment in the church that I will address in my next post, but this certainly is the main one.

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at 3:43 AM

Judge lest ye be judged (4)

So I finally got to the post I originally wanted to make, but realizing I had to clear away some objections (lest I be instantly stoned), got detoured.

Church discipline is a difficult issue nowadays. We want to say "how is this being loving?" "didn't Christ call us to bear with one another in love and humility?" I'm sure we can all multiply passage after passage that tell us to love our neighbor, to treat one another higher than ourselves, and so on and so forth.

So why church discipline?

Well, for a brief history lesson: The reformers considered the 3 marks of a true church to be 1) Proper preaching of the Word, 2) Proper administration of the sacraments (Baptism, and the Lord's Supper) and 3) Proper administration of church discipline.

Now, a few caveats:

1) Church Discipline isn't just about kicking people out of the church. It was about church oversight and shepherding. It's about making sure the proper theology is taught, it's about guarding fellow believers from gross sin, and it's about rebuking (and restoring) those who have fallen.

2) These are not necessarily what should be considered the marks of a true church by everybody, they are merely what the reformers believed. (Though I do agree with them to a large part, though now I'm not sure how restrictive the "proper" must be. I do welcome Baptists as brothers, though I don't think I agree with their thinking behind believer's baptism (namely, the rebaptism of those infant baptized or not fully immersed). )

Thus if church discipline was one of the marks by which the Reformers considered a church to be a true church (and we don't have any reason to disagree), it behooves us to examine church discipline. A few questions. I'm going to restrict myself to the very limited usage of church discipline to mean the casting out (excommunication) of a member of the church from the church.

What is God's purpose for church discipline?

What is the process of church discipline?

What happens after someone has been disciplined out of a church?

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