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Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

All this hubbub about the US Supreme Court’s recent decisions touching sodomite unions has people wondering if the United States is caput. Many are also wondering what place of the church of Jesus Christ has to speak to all of this political/judicial/moral carnage.

As a Christian (read: Bible-believer), I am opposed to homosexual activity. I don’t think that a man can “marry” another man. By his Word God defines marriage, and that necessarily precludes same-sex marriages. There is A LOT more to say than that, but at least that needs to be said.

Jefe, would you say that we have a plethora of sexual perversions?

Okay, so if the church of Jesus Christ follows the written Word of God, she will be opposed to homosexual perversions (as well as the PLETHORA of other sexual perversions). What shape should that opposition take?

Like everything else, there is a lot to say about this. In the remainder of this post, I want to highlight a very helpful distinction between the church as institution and the church as organism. The institution of the church is the form the church takes in her government and liturgical ministry. The church of Jesus Christ IS an institution: it has officers (elders and deacons), formal discipline (ending in excommunication), and a formal ministry (the liturgical preaching of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments). However, the church is also rightly conceived of as an organism, a living being. The church is a body fit together with all sorts of people, each of whom are gifted and empowered by the Spirit to live out the commandments of God in their own lives, in communion with one another, and in this world.

The concept of the church as institution is roundly hated by many, including many Christians in our day. We read silliness like, “Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship.” The reality, of course, is that it is both of those and more. Regarding our point, the church as organism is dependent upon the church as institution. The regular function of the institutional church empowers and protects the functioning of the church as organism.

Alright, if that distinction makes sense, let’s move on to apply it to the present situation of homosexual “marriage.” How should the church as institution oppose sodomite unions? Should our elders, sessions, bishops, etc. tell us to vote for this or that candidate? Should our pastors stand in the pulpits and say, “Support proposition X” or “Oppose candidate Y”? I do not think so. That’s right. I do NOT think so. I think that the FORMAL ministry of God’s Word should be just that, a ministry of the God’s Word: Law and Gospel. The people who sit under that faithful ministry should go forth, as the organism of the church, and live according to that Word. Thus, the people of God could rightly band together in political/social groups to oppose this issue or support that one. The institution of the church, however, should not engage in that sort of political and social work directly. The institution of the church should continue heralding God’s Word in faithfulness, empowering the organism of the church to apply that Word faithfully in all areas of life.

This distinction, if kept, will allow Christians to live as Christians in EVERY age without making the institutional church the water carrier for any particular age’s political/social agenda. The distinction, if lost, will subject the institutional church to the political/social whims of every age and will rob the organism of the church of her very power house: the ministry of Word and Sacrament.

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Daveed’s Stud Pose

First off, let me mention that I’m very proud of my friend, Daveed. When I first met him, he was a Muslim and well on his way to being a radical one. Since then, by the power of the resurrected Christ, he’s become a Christian. Praise God! This whole process has given him something of a unique perspective on radical Islam, both domestic and international. You can read all about his experience in My Year Inside Radical Islam. A couple of years ago he also authored a book about how America is not winning the war on terrorism called Bin Laden’s Legacy.

Alright, enough pluggin’ his written work. How about Daveed’s recent work on CNN ? Dig this:

A discussion worth watching

As it comes to the content of that discussion, I admit that I know virtually nothing. Even so, one thing stood out to me that seems quite helpful. Daveed distinguished between “radicalization” and the willingness to engage in violence. These two things are most certainly distinct and need to be understood as such.

Let me illustrate how important this distinction is. I would be (and probably should be) viewed as a radical Christian. (more…)

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Augustine and Calvin

This post is mostly a personal recollection about how I came to know “the doctrines of grace” or “Calvinism.” There have been a couple of instances recently that have prompted me to think about how it was that I became a Calvinist. Before I delve into some personal reflection, however, I should like to tidy up things on a terminological level. What’s meant by the terms “Calvinism,” “the doctrines of grace,” “sovereign grace,” and the like?

Typically, people use all of those words/phrases to point to John Calvin’s emphasis on the sovereignty of God in salvation. Calvin, however, was no innovator. The set of teachings that bears his name has very little to do with him specifically. (more…)

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Dig in!!

One doesn’t have to read very far in the Gospels to run across the central theme of the Kingdom of God. Not only is the Kingdom front and center, but it is also directly linked with the message and preaching of the Gospel itself. Mark documents the inception of Jesus’ ministry with these provocative words: “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel'” (Mk 1:14-5). Recognizing that this post is a little on the long side, I want to discuss three aspects of “coming” or presence of the Kingdom: 1) the distant, consummate Kingdom, 2) the then-present Kingdom, and 3) the then-immediately-anticipated Kingdom.  Clear as mud? Good. Let’s make some mud pie. First, and by far the most popular, would be the distant, consummate Kingdom. One aspect of the Kingdom was that it was a distant reality, distant from the Apostles, from their time. (Turns out that this aspect is the same for us today, just not quite so far off.) This distant aspect of the Kingdom is, I think, prayed for by Jesus: “Thy Kingdom come.”  It is also revealed in the two-age structure of NT eschatology:

(more…)

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Who’re YOUR best teachers?

I was just in a discussion (online, of course… I rarely get out of the house) in which I asked a brother his major influences in the areas of theology, eschatology, ethics and apologetics. He gave me an excellent response, and then he asked me mine. So, here they are:

Theology: John Calvin – aside from my parents and pastors, Calvin’s been the greatest influence on my views of most things, especially theology proper. Augustine’s De trinitate and Thomas Aquinas have also left deep marks. R.C. Sproul and John Gerstner have also been very influential for me.

Eschatology: Kenneth Gentry’s He Shall Have Dominion rocked my entire world and brought many of the loose ends together. J. Marcellus Kik’s An Eschatology of Victory was a big one (on Mt 24 and Rev 20). Greg Bahnsen’s Victory in Jesus and the preaching of Douglas Wilson helped me out, too. I didn’t know much about eschatology until I went to seminary. My seminary profs were historic premil, my pastor was amil, but I went postmil! Preterism is very important (see Kik’s work for this) to fit the pieces together.

Ethics: The Westminster Standards (esp. the Larger Catechism) were very influential on me, as was the Heidelberg Catechism. The whole Reformed tradition is very heavy into God’s Law, and that’s the heart of ethics; the details are in application. The Reconstructionists (R.J. Rushdoony, Gary North, et al) helped me see the enduring validity of God’s Law. Greg Bahnsen’s Theonomy in Christian Ethics cemented that the details of divine law are both important and still applicable.

Apologetics: In college, I flirted with both Classical Apologetics and Evidentialism (think Josh McDowell). In seminary, however, I found that Cornelius Van Til gave me a thoroughly biblical and Christian context into which both the Classical arguments and all the evidences fit. Greg Bahnsen and John Frame have both helped me sharpen my understanding.

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This is how I distinguish dreaming and waking. When I am awake I can, in some degree, account for and study my dream. The dragon that pursued me last night can be fitted into my waking world. I know that there are such things as dreams; I know that I had eaten an indigestible dinner; I know that a man of my reading might be expected to dream of dragons. But while in the nightmare I could not have fitted in my waking experience. The waking world is judged more real because it can thus contain the dreaming world; the dreaming world is judged less real because it cannot contain the waking one. For the same reason I am certain that in passing from the scientific points of view to the theological, I have passed from dream to waking. Christian theology can fit science, art, morality, and the sub-Christian religions. The scientific point of view cannot fit in any of these things, not even science itself. I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

That sounds a lot like Psalm 36:9 to me: In Thy light we see light.

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So, there I am, in my office (the Starbucks of St. Helens, OR, USA) minding my own business (by which I mean that of everyone around me), and I end up in a conversation with a cute little girl (probably about 7 years old). She’s all dressed up, lookin’ pretty, and she’s flanked by a small crowd of nicely dressed women (and a similarly dressed little boy of about 8 years of age). Okay, so there I am, talking to this little one. I asked her why she was dressed up so nicely. She said (with some help from the little boy and an older girl, probably 16, behind her) that they were off to share the good news with people. Somewhat surprised, I said, “Oh! Good! I believe the Good News that Jesus died on the cross to save sinners. Is that the Good News you’re telling people?” Then retorts the little sweetie, “Well, Jesus didn’t die on a cross; he died on a wooden stake.” This, of course, zeroed me in on the fact that they were not preaching the Good News, at all. Anyhoo, the boy pipes up and says, “The Bible says that it wasn’t a cross, but a stake.” So, I reply: “I bet you’re reading the New World Translation, aren’t you?” He nods.

Okay, so from there, I ask the threesome in front of me: “So, how is it that one can get to heaven?” Again, the boy pipes up and says, “By serving Jehovah.” I reply, “Isn’t it because Jesus died for your sins?!” “Oh, yeah.” That speaks for itself. But the JWs are not alone in propounding this particular soul-damning error. They are renowned, however, for the following one. (more…)

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