Thursday, April 30, 2009


“If God desires every knee to bow to Jesus and every tongue to confess Him, so should we. We should be ‘jealous’ for the honor of His name—troubled when it remains unknown, hurt when it is ignored, indignant when it is blasphemed, and all the time anxious and determined that it shall be given the honor and glory which are due to it.

The highest of all missionary motives is neither obedience to the Great Commission (important as that is), nor love for sinners who are alienated and perishing (strong as that incentive is, especially when we contemplate the wrath of God), but rather zeal—burning and passionate zeal—for the glory of Jesus Christ.

Only one imperialism is Christian, and that is concern for His Imperial Majesty Jesus Christ, and for the glory of his empire or kingdom. Before this supreme goal of the Christian mission, all unworthy motives wither and die." ~ John Stott, The Message of Romans


I think we must be obedient to God AND we must love those that are alienated ... but the key here is our primary motive. I've seen those caught up in either of the first two with the result being some kind of perversion. I have yet to find one whose primary purpose is to glorify God who didn't also then bring the balance of obedience and love.

Monday, April 27, 2009

who's that wretched man

I was asked to do some digging into "indwelling sin" considering the idea has been propagated by John Piper and Mark Driscoll - guys I have respect for. I figured I'd post what I came up with here ...

The phrase itself comes from Ro 7.17, "So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me." The key to indwelling sin is to understand who the wretched man in Ro 7 is.

I didn't look to Mark Driscoll. While I like him a lot, I don't see him as a theologian so I just didn't bother.

Interestingly, Wayne Grudem skips Ro 7 ... :)

So, is the "I", i.e., the wretched man, in Ro 7, the pre-Christian Paul, the Christian Paul, or an unbeliever other than Paul? I think that regardless of which side one chooses, we are not in "heresy" or "unorthodox" land. But to keep this from becoming a watershed point, I think it important to view it from a pastoral perspective. Regardless of which side one lands on, it is clear that we sin and the remedy is the same, i.e., forgiveness, redemption, and freedom through Christ Jesus.

It should also be noted the thrust of Ro 7 is not to teach that believers or non-believers sin but rather to defend the rightness of the Law and that we ought not blame it for our failings ... and more gloriously, Jesus Christ our Lord is our deliverer (Ro 7.25a and then particularly Ro 8).

Before unpacking this further, one should first be firmly grounded in the idea of justification. Terry Virgo's God's Lavish Grace and Robert McGee's The Search for Significance are great primers. Both of these lay the necessary foundation although the latter requires a bit of caution because it leaves unguarded or unfinished some points. I'm imagining a construction site where some of stairwells or flooring is not completed. They are out of scope for the book which is fine but these should be boarded up a bit better to keep the untrained from falling in.

Virgo teaches justification is like a base coat in a painting. That is, Biblical principles are like a painting. There are some foundational truths that need to be settled and allowed to dry before the rest of the painting can be done. If the base isn't there, the picture is incomplete with great big holes and just doesn't hang together. But just as bad, if the base isn't allowed to dry, the picture is blurry as one layer blends into the other. If one continues to paint before justification by faith has dried and set-up, we have a mess; it all runs together. Many Christians live in that mess.

Second, in my 20+ years of eldering, pastoring, small grouping, etc. rarely a meeting goes by where someone doesn't throw back to, "Yeah but no one is perfect." "Yeah but we all fail." "Yeah but ..." While true in practice, this is not the message of the Gospel and is the excuse of those who have not grasped its beauty and power.

Focusing on the reality that I will fail to live every moment of my life rightly will in no wise help me attain that prize for which Christ took hold of me. It's a trap. To quote John Piper (who speaks to the pastoral point well even though I think he falls out on the wrong side of the overall question):

[T]he question is: How are we to live in view of this double truth about ourselves? The answer comes from watching the amazing way that Paul speaks to us about our deliverance and our newness in Christ. What he does again and again is to say: This new man is who you decisively and irrevocably are in Christ. This free man is your deepest and truest identity. Now act on it. Look to Christ, trust his help, and by his Spirit become what you are.

If your besetting sin is anger, affirm that in Christ you have died to that identity and in Christ you have his patience and kindness. Look to him and trust in him and rejoice in him. And fight against anger as one who has the victory in him.

If your besetting sin is heterosexual or homosexual lust, affirm that the truth that in Christ you have died to this fallen and distorted identity. I recall many conversations with Joe Hallett who came out of the homosexual life and lived among us with AIDS for 10 years and died a few years ago. He never tired of saying: Do not say "I am a homosexual." Say rather, "I struggle with homosexual desires." That was not a superficial mind over matter trick. It was a profound Biblical insight into Romans 6 and 7: In Christ our old selves have died - whatever their distortion and corruption - and we are decisively and irrevocably new. In Christ Jesus homosexual, fornicator, adulterer, covetous, thief, alcoholic, are not who we truly are. Affirm that by faith in Christ. Trust him as your all-satisfying treasure and look to him for the help to become (as much as possible in this life) who you truly are in Christ.

So - who is the wretched man?

Great guys - Piper, Spurgeon, Owen, Packer, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and many others - would say Paul is speaking of the Christian Paul and by inference, you and me. Piper has a comprehensive look at this here (Who is This Divided Man? Parts 1-6 are excellent) and after each time I read these I have to work hard to remind myself why I don't buy into this perspective. I like how he uses verses 15, 22, and 24. These are the words of a regenerate heart. Piper is saying that Paul sees us winning the war on sin and this passage reflects our attitude when confronted with "tactical defeats" - which we all clearly experience.

He also deals nicely with the phrase "sold into bondage" (Ro 7.14b). This is one of the key arguments from the "this isn't speaking of a Christian" camp that Paul must be speaking of the pre-Christian since we cannot be slaves to sin. Piper likens this to Gal 5.1, "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery." He believes Paul is simply saying that when we give in to temptation it is like going back into slavery and we don't want to do that.

This thinking is what allows many to say their true nature is that of "forgiven sinner". It allows one to read verse 21 as there will never be a point in one's earthly life at which one is truly free from sin. But I think this is inconsistent with what Paul says elsewhere. He considers himself a model to be imitated (1 Co 11.1) and reminds us that there is no condemnation in us (Ro 8.1, 33-34).

Some of the better theologians wouldn't say this but some believe Paul can call the "I" fleshly and contrast that with being spiritual because of 1 Co 3.1. Paul refers to spiritual infants as fleshly so some think the "I" is simply those that are spiritually immature. But that couldn't fit Paul. Elsewhere he refers to himself as quite the opposite. He's bold in proclaiming himself as a model and one with spiritual authority.

So I do not agree with the "I" being Paul as a Christian. As for the possibility that this is pre-Christian Paul, that could be but Paul seems quite confident in his pre-Christian performance (Phil 3.2-6). I do not really see that.

I think this "I" is not Paul nor do I think it is a believer. The "I" can be a fictive term or the collective "Adam" apart from Christ, it is more likely a specific fictive "I".

This is the thinking of folks like The Good Doctor (Martyn Lloyd-Jones) and Terry Virgo. They would say the "I" is the unregenerate as only an informed Christian can see it or perhaps a pious person who knows the spirituality of the law and wishes to do what is good but cannot. Paul seems to be musing about the condition of his fellow Jews. They lay claim to the law without understanding what its real purpose is. They try to do good while all the time missing the point of justification by faith in Christ, not by works of the law. This is not a description of the Jew agonizing over their situation - if so, they would change. It is from the vantage point of a converted Jew looking back at the futility of that life. This is why Piper sees some of the verses as from a "Christian" perspective, they are but not that of the "I".

I didn't spend a lot of time looking at NT Wright (pg 16). I'm not sure if he is saying the same thing or taking it a step further. He sees the wretched man in Ro 7 as Israel living under the Torah. I think that's the same but I'm always leery to commit with him.

I just cannot see this as a believer. MLJ states, "When the Christian talks about his sin and failure he does not talk about it primarily in terms of the law; he talks about it primarily in terms of love, about his failure to live to his glory. The Christian does not go on speaking in terms of the law as the man in Ro 7 does. He is no longer ‘under the law’ but ‘under grace.’ Furthermore, as the Apostle will show us . . . the Christian must never allow himself to feel the condemnation of the law . . . the whole object of this great 8th chapter is to emphasise that: ‘No condemnation . . . no separation.’" This reinforces to me why the "I" is not the "forgiven sinner" that the majority of scholars believe.

When Paul confronts sin, I don't read, "yeah, I'm there, we all do it." or "yeah, that happens." Instead I read, "hey, stop that!" Don't you know who you belong to and that He made you new? You are not who you used to be. You are new."

So yes, we still sin. But I have to say, I am not a sinner. Sadly I'm still drawn to old sin patterns, I'm all too familiar and comfortable with these, etc. but that's not who I am. And focussing on who I am is what will set me free.
  • "Our old self was crucified with Christ" (Ro 6 .3)
  • "We are no longer enslaved to sin" (Ro 6.6)
  • "The one who has died is freed from sin" (Ro 6.7)
  • "We are under grace, not the law" (Ro 6.14)
  • "You, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness" (Ro 6.18)
  • "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death" (Ro 8.2)
  • "you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit" (Ro 8.9)
  • "we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh" (Ro 8.12)
I have been so turned around by the power of God that just as I once presented myself as a slave to sin, I am now present as a slave to righteousness leading toward sanctification (Ro 6.19). When I was an unbeliever, telling myself I was good didn't help me. In fact, it kept me from receiving what I need to become right. As a believer, I'm not clear why I would ever speak of sin dwelling within me. It seems counter to where I need to focus my eyes.

In the end, I think Romans 7:14-25 has been read out of context. Chapters 6 and 8 describe the Christian experience and 7:14-25 does not, but it is 7:14-25 that is seen as the normative Christian experience, and chapters 6 and 8 have been relegated to something like "positional" truth (i.e., something true in God's cosmic account book but definitely not true down here on earth). The liberating news of chapters 6 and 8 must not be overshadowed by the helplessness seen in 7:14-25.

So I don't see the other views as heretical ... just unhelpful ... and not true. :)

the bible

The Bible’s purpose is not so much to show you how to live a good life. The Bible’s purpose is to show you how God’s grace breaks into your life against your will and saves you from the sin and brokenness otherwise you would never be able to overcome… religion is ‘if you obey, then you will be accepted’. But the Gospel is, ‘if you are absolutely accepted, and sure you’re accepted, only then will you ever begin to obey’. Those are two utterly different things. Every page of the Bible shows the difference. ~ Timothy Keller


Sunday, April 26, 2009

there's a difference

It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.

This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.

Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.

~ Eugene Peterson's The Message, Galatians 5.19-26

Friday, April 24, 2009

global warming - a personal crisis

uh-oh ... I'm in trouble ...

Fatties cause global warming ,,,

“We need to do a lot more to reverse the global trend towards fatness. It is a key factor in the battle to reduce carbon emissions and slow climate change."

And to make it worse, since combating global warming is now akin to promoting civil right, I'm a real bastard bad guy.

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taking our theories too far

I recently posted a couple of quotes/thoughts on penal substitution to which CatholicNick has persisted (nicely) to challenge. I don't follow Nick's theology but I appreciate his sincerity and courtesy in questioning my suppositions. I was reminded of the error we often make as I read Martin Downes' Atonement: Theory or Doctrine?

Downes notes in relationship to atonement (but this is true of any theory or doctrine) that there are two issues before us:

1. The relationship between the "raw material" of Scripture and the doctrinal formulations that we construct out of that raw material.
2. The relationship between explicit statements and implicit, equally authoritative, teaching in Scripture

We should guard ourselves from attempting to read our doctrines out of every text and at the same time it is ok to not "expect Scripture to state the same truth for us in exactly the same way as a creed or confession does."

As I apply this to penal substitution, I have sympathy toward some of Nick's objections and through that have found some sloppiness in my thinking. At the same time, I have not been able to consider the whole of Scripture and make the same conclusions as he does.

I can however find truth and joy in the words of JI Packer based on Galatians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 5:15; 1Peter 3:18 and Isaiah 53:

The notion which the phrase ‘penal substitution’ expresses is that Jesus Christ our Lord, moved by a love that was determined to do everything necessary to save us, endured and exhausted the destructive divine judgment for which we were otherwise inescapably destined, and so won us forgiveness, adoption and glory. To affirm penal substitution is to say that believers are in debt to Christ specifically for this, and that this is the mainspring of all their joy, peace and praise both now and for eternity.

So in the end, we need theories to understand the fact. However, wherever our theories are not explicit in the raw material of the text we must be cautious in both their defense and propagation. Selah.

too familiar

Thanks Nakedpastor ...


ipod v. kindle

Here's the iPod Shuffle versus the Kindle 2 reading from Blade Runner ... let me tell you about my mother ...

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

thinking about scripture

Len Hjalmarson offers an insightful post regarding Biblical literacy.

Theology operates at two levels at once: at the level of belief systems or worldview, and at the level of particular arguments. Norman Peterson calls the first the narrative sequence, and the second the poetic sequence. Bible students always have both in mind. The former we tend to think of as the broader context of Scripture, including its cultural setting. The latter we think of as particular passages and verses.


When we lack ... wider context of understanding and of community, it creates a raft of problems:

* when we work from a particular passage, to the extent that we lack the ability to see the passage in the broader narrative, we distort what we see. We always see in part, and it is only honest to acknowledge this. But we will see in a much smaller part when we don’t know the wider story.
* apart from biblical literacy, we teach propositions and ideas, not theology. I recently noticed this tendency in a membership manual. Baptism was a practice anchored in the New Testament only, and even then only a few passages were referenced. As a result, baptism was abstracted to a religious ritual divorced from depth of meaning and the ongoing life of God’s covenant people.

penal substitution defined

For those following and wondering what in the world penal substitution means, here's the short answer by JI Packer in What did the Cross Achieve? The Logic of Penal Substitution.

The notion which the phrase ‘penal substitution’ expresses is that Jesus Christ our Lord, moved by a love that was determined to do everything necessary to save us, endured and exhausted the destructive divine judgment for which we were otherwise inescapably destined, and so won us forgiveness, adoption and glory. To affirm penal substitution is to say that believers are in debt to Christ specifically for this, and that this is the mainspring of all their joy, peace and praise both now and for eternity.

Jesus anguished over this "cup" in the garden (Mk 14.36; Lk 22.42; cf. Jn 18.11):

  • Isaiah 51:22 Thus says your Lord, the LORD, your God who pleads the cause of his people: "Behold, I have taken from your hand the cup of staggering;the bowl of my wrath you shall drink no more."
  • Jeremiah 25:15-16, "Thus the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: "Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending among them."
  • Psalm 75:8 For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.

Monday, April 20, 2009

no more penal substitution

Under the guise of fair and balanced, here is Penal Substitution Debate - Negative Constructive Essay by CatholicNick. I didn't come to the same conclusion Nick does in all points of his essay (in fact I have significant issue with some) and there are a number of passages that I cannot square with his position but I wanted to say that he raised some excellent objections to which (in the absence of my willingness to invest significant time in this) can only say, "I dunno".

My good friend Randy Noblog reminded me how we often come up with fanciful explanations for theological things that aren't always as sound as we would imagine. I think CatholicNick did a good job in poking at that. Not sufficient enough for me to change my position but sufficient enough for me to add this to my ever growing list of things I want to learn more about ... until then, peace and blessing to Nick.


Preterism-70AdI'm not one (at least not right now) but Virgil (who is one and is proud of it) facebooked this link to everything you wanted to know about Preterism but were afraid to ask.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009


Danny MacAskill doin' his thing ...

don't stop believing

I'm beginning Michael Wittmer's Don't Stop Believing. I already love the introduction:

I'm caught in the middle. On my right are some conservative Christians who demand lockstep allegiance to their narrow doctrinal statements. Even though I agree with many of their conclusions, they are not satisfied unless I hold all of their beliefs with tenacity and certainty. They interpret doubts, questions, or even appreciation for the other side as the first signs of a long slide toward liberalism.

On my left are some postmodern Christians who attempt to pry open the minds of conservatives by questioning many of their traditional assumptions. But the way they often go about it - offering new and unusual interpretations of key biblical texts, poking holes in conservative views while only vaguely hinting at their own positions, and brushing aside difficult questions as unworthy of their attention - discredits their arguments.

It's not surprising that the dialogue between these two camps tends to drive them further apart.

How sadly true. We looked at Luke 15, the parable of the Prodigal Son, this morning.Each time I read this, the rebellion and sinfulness of both sons but more strikingly evident. I imagine more clearly the scene. The younger son taunts and pokes at the meaningless and ultimate futility of the weight of the rules induced by the old son. He sees the older trapped in rules and regulations and empty of real relationship with the father. He sees the hypocrisy and contradiction. At the same time the older son beside himself due to the brazenness of the younger son who imagines himself as free thinking and above the older ... all along not realizing he is an immature child having a tantrum by throwing out all that is good along with the evil that he rightly saw in the older. He even forgets that the older brother was also once young and that he himself hasn't found anything new. Both are wrong. They have lost sight of the their true relationship with the father. Both are rebellious placing themselves and their imaginations above the father.

And here we sit today with the same drama taking place. The evangelical side leaning toward the older brother and the postmodern/emergent side leaning toward the younger. The older making it difficult for the younger to stay in the family and the younger imagining they have found some new freedom that generations before them somehow missed ... [sigh] ...

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bible contradictions

Bart Ehrman and Stephen Colbert ... brace yourself ...

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
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people get ready

i dedicate this one to Nick ...

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finding life

In order to become myself I must cease to be what I always thought I wanted to be, and in order to find myself I must go out of myself, and in order to live I have to die. ~ Thomas Merton

Saturday, April 18, 2009

penal substitution

“The penal substitution model has been criticized for depicting a kind Son placating a fierce Father in order to make him love man, which he did not do before. The criticism is, however, inept, for penal substitution is a Trinitarian model, for which the motivational unity of Father and Son is axiomatic. The New Testament presents God’s gift of his Son to die as the supreme expression of his love to men. ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son’ (John 3:16). ‘God is love, . . . Herein is love, not that we love God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins’ (I John 4:8-10). ‘God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us’ (Rom. 5:8). Similarly, the New Testament presents the Son’s voluntary acceptance of death as the supreme expression of his love to men. ‘He loved me, and gave himself for me’ (Gal. 2:20). ‘Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends . . .’ (John 15:13f.) And the two loves, the love of Father and Son, are one: a point which the penal substitution model, as used, firmly grasps.”

- J.I. Packer from his classic article “What Did the Cross Achieve? The Logic of Penal Substitution.”

HT:TP via PC

Friday, April 17, 2009


Ray Ortlund reminds us of the strong link between smoking and friendship ...

the kingdom

[T]he Kingdom of God is the redemptive reign of God dynamically active to establish his rule among men, and that this Kingdom, which will appear as an apocalyptic act at the end of the age, has already come into human history in the person and mission of Jesus to overcome evil, to deliver men from its power, and to bring them into the blessings of God's reign. The Kingdom of God involves two great moments: fulfillment within history, and consummation at the end of history. ~ George Ladd, The Presence of the Future

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bible translation

How does your version stack up?

HT:EK via PC

protestants split

When 1000 Protestant Pastors were asked, "I believe global warming is real and man-made," the responses were evenly split (Ed Stetzer). I'm not sure this proves anything although in my mind it reinforces what I already think which is we believe what we already tend to believe and will change only through some crisis event or a long time submerged in another culture. Because I have not bought the theory of global warming as a result of anthropogenic greenhouse gases, I'm told I'm in the minority. I think that is becoming more true but only because the idea of being in the minority influences people. I think that like many things, there's a tipping point here and more people will find it hard to present reason for disbelieving the theory. None of that makes it true, it's just how people work.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Josh Garrels Freedom

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bitter or sweet?

For a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water however suddenly jolted. ~ Amy Carmichael, If

The jolt doesn't change the water; it only brings out what is already there ...

Monday, April 13, 2009

blue yodel no. 9

In remembrance of Luis Armstrong and Johnny Cash remembering Luis Armstrong and Jimmie Rogers playing Blue Yodel No. 9. HT:GS

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When it comes to suffering, the question we have to ask ourselves is not if or when we will suffer; it is when we suffer, will we do so in a way that is purposeful or purposeless (Heb 12.1-6).

E. Stanley Jones said, "Don't bear trouble, use it. Take whatever happens - justice and injustice, pleasure and pain, compliment and criticism - take it up into the purpose of your life and make something out of it. Turn it into a testimony."

And clearly, if ever there is a model for how we are to endure suffering, it was Jesus (Heb 5.7-9; cf. Matt 16.21; Heb 2.9-10; 12.2; 13.12; Rev 1.9 and 1 Pet 2.20-24).

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

death and resurrection

“The atoning death of Christ, and that alone, has presented sinners as righteous in God’s sight; the Lord Jesus has paid the full penalty of their sins, and clothed them with His perfect righteousness before the judgment seat of God.

But Christ has done for Christians even far more than that. He has given to them not only a new and right relation to God, but a new life in God’s presence for evermore. He has saved them from the power as well as from the guilt of sin.

The New Testament does not end with the death of Christ; it does not end with the triumphant words of Jesus on the Cross, ‘It is finished.’ The death was followed by the resurrection, and the resurrection like the death was for our sakes.

Jesus rose from the dead into a new life of glory and power, and into that life He brings those for whom He died. The Christian, on the basis of Christ’s redeeming work, not only has died unto sin, but also lives unto God.”

—J. Gresham Machen, Christianity & Liberalism


Friday, April 10, 2009

more on the kingdom

I am now an "amillennialist". To be fair, I still haven't listened to the series (HT:Philip) of 10 one hour messages (93-102) by Jim McClarty reviewing weaknesses and inconsistencies in Anthony Hoekema's amillennialism. McClarty represents the Premillennial/Pre-Tribulational position. I should hope to give these a listen and probably I should spend a little time looking at preterism if for no other reason than fellow cigar smoker Virgil Vaduva is passionate about it. For me, I haven't been able to square dispensationalism with my understanding of Scripture and while I formerly held to the premillennial view, I was always post-tribulational - I never got the pre and mid-trib thinking.

That aside, as I read Kim Riddlebarger's A Case for Amillennialism, I am very impressed with his take on the Kingdom of God (some which I think runs counter to at least preterism and post-millenialism. With that, here's more from Riddlebarger.

On the one hand, Christ's kingdom is a present reality, it arrived in Jesus' person (Matt 3.2; Mark 1.15). It was evidenced by Christ's power over the demoniac (Matt 12.28; Luke 11.20); by the fall of Satan (Luke 10.17-20), by miracles and the preaching of the gospel (Matt 11.2-19). Even though the kingdom is present, it is, as Jesus said, "not of this world," for his kingdom is "from another place" (John 18.36). In fact, when the Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come, he replied: "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17.20-21). This is why Paul could say, "The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom 14.17). The unshakable nature of this kingdom means that Christians can face that which Paul called the "last days" - in which some have "shipwrecked their faith" (1 Tim 1.19), "will abandon the faith" (1 Tim 4.1), persecute the church (2 tim 3.11), and "reject sound doctrine" (2 Tim 4.3). Paul's warnings about the future course of "this age" do not sound like a description of "spiritual prosperity ... characterized by increasing peace and economic well-being," ...

Let us not forget that this present, spiritual kingdom also has an eschatological consummation yet to come. Thus, "not every one will enter" (Matt 7.21-23), and those outside the kingdom will "weep and gnash their teeth." Only the redeemed participate in the blessings of the "age to come." Indeed, the parables of the marriage feast (Matt 22.1-14), the wheat and the weeds (Matt 13.24-30, 36-43), the net (Matt 13.47-50), and the talents (Matt 25.14-30) all speak of the present spiritual kingdom as finally consummate in "the age to come" but not before.

Paul also made reference to this future consummation of the present kingdom as an age in which the wicked will not receive its blessings (1 Cor 6.9; Gal 5.21; Eph 5.5) and which cannot be inherited by flesh and blood (1 Cor 15.50). It is the already/not yet tension, the present spiritual kingdom in tension with the future consummated kingdom, which forms the interpretive grid through which we must interpret those texts cited by postmillenarians as describing a victory of the kingdom of God in the present. Though the kingdom of God spreads to the ends of the earth throughout the course of this "present evil age," it spreads through word and sacrament and is a spiritual kingdom "which is not of this world." When men say "here it is" or there it is," we must say that "the kingdom of God does not come visibly" (Luke 17.20).

But when the last trumpet sounds, the kingdom of the world will at long last become the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ (Rev 11.15). It is then, and only then, that our blessed Lord Jesus will hand his kingdom over to his Father (1 Cor 15.24-25). Our last and greatest enemy, death, will finally be destroyed.

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hoekema on the kingdom

[T]he kingdom of God [is] the reign of God dynamically active in human history through Jesus Christ. Its purpose is to redeem God’s people from sin and from demonic powers, and finally to establish the new heavens and the new earth. ~ Anthony Hoekema in Amillennialism, A Brief Sketch of Amillennial Eschatology

Kim Riddlebarger adds the following.

Kingdom language expresses the absolute sovereignty of God over both his creatures and his creation. It not only underlies both the covenant of works and the covenant of grace but also underlies both law (as divine command) and gospel (as divine promise).

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tony on why jesus died

As with so many things emergent, I found Tony Jones' post for today a mixed bag. I love how Jones reminds us of the humanity of Christ. I especially appreciate this part of his analysis. It brings much needed balance to a culture that tends to focus on Christ's deity.

Another key to my understanding of the end of Jesus' life is what he did with the three previous years of his life. It seems to me that he did just a few things: 1) He taught about the Kingdom of God; 2) He performed miracles; 3) He developed a following that included 12 close followers and, by the end, hundreds of others.

The importance of 1) and 3) are pretty obvious to Jesus' mission. The significance of the miracles, however, is sometimes misunderstood. They were not significations of Jesus' divinity (as evidenced by the other magicians and sorcerers on the scene in Jesus' day). Instead, they were little in-breakings of the new age that Jesus, as the Messiah, was inaugurating.

Especially in the healing miracles, Jesus touched the people who had been condemned as "unclean," and thus unworthy of Temple worship -- woman with an issue of blood, blind men, lepers, paraplegics, a crazed demoniac -- and cleansed them. He upset the order of things by bringing the people who had been marginalized -- now you can include tax collectors and whores -- by the dominant religion of his time and place and making them "right" with God again.

But like many other emergents, he steps too far and begins to redefine God and love in mans own image to the point of seeming to ignore Scripture. Jones writes the following.

Some people today may find it compelling that some Great Cosmic Transaction took place on that day 1,980 years ago, that God's wrath burned against his son instead of against me. I find that version of atonement theory neither intellectually compelling, spiritually compelling, nor in keeping with the biblical narrative.

Instead, Jesus death offers life because in Christianity, and in Christianity alone, the God and Creator of the universe deigned to become human, to be tempted, to reach out to those who had been de-humanized and restore their humanity, and ultimately to die in solidarity with every one of us. Yes, he was a sacrifice. Yes, he was "sinless." But thank God, Jesus was also human.

The hope he offers is that, by dying on that cross, the eternal Trinity became forever bound to my humanity. The God of the universe identified with me, and I have the opportunity to identify with him.

Today, and every day, I hang with him on that cross.

I just don't get this innate aversion folks have to the sacrificial aspect of Christ's work on the cross. Kevin DeYoung provides a simple response to Jones.

Leviticus 16:20-22 "And when he has made an end of atonement for the Holy Place and the tend of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness."

Isaiah 53:4-6 "Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned--every one--to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all."

Mark 10:45 "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Hebrews 2:14-17 "Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people."

voca people

By popular demand, The Voca People ...

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the blood

RC Sproul writes the following in Now, That's a Good Question!

The idea that there's some intrinsic or inherent power in the blood of Jesus is a popular concept in the Christian world. It even crops up from time to time in various hymns and praise songs. This idea reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of the blood as it relates to atonement from a biblical perspective.

I once heard my dear friend John Guest, who is an Anglican evangelist, preach on the cross of Christ and on the blood of Christ. He asked this question: "Had Jesus come to this earth and scratched His finger on a nail so that a drop or two of blood was spilled, would that have been sufficient to redeem us? That would have constituted the shedding of blood. If we're saved by the blood of Christ, wouldn't that have been enough?" Obviously the point John was trying to make is that it's not the blood of Christ as such that saves us.

The significance of blood in the sacrificial system is that it represents life. The Old Testament repeatedly makes the point that "the life of the flesh is in the blood" (Lev. 17:11). Therefore, when the blood is poured out, the life is poured out. That's significant, because under the covenant of works in the garden, the penalty that was laid down for disobedience was death. God required that penalty for sin. That is why Jesus had to die to accomplish the atonement. When the blood is shed and the life is poured out, the penalty is paid. Nothing short of that penalty will do.

Thursday, April 09, 2009


Making the rounds on the net today ... this bit on evolution.


Steve Addision posts the following. I believe the conclusion to be true and can be applied to the individual believer, a small group, or a larger community.

Addition: starting a new church.


Reproduction: a new church starts a new church.


Multiplication: a new church starts a new church starts a new church.


Movement: when churches starting churches becomes the norm.


The size or shape of the new churches is unimportant. As long as they can multiply disciples and new churches, the job will get done.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

belly dancer

Joe Satriani plays Belly Dancer almost as well as I do [in my mind].

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

visionary preaching

David Wayne posts some interesting thoughts regarding the balance of the imperative versus the indicative. In particular, the following statement is powerful.

Our response to the gospel is always that of repentance and faith, not action. We do not "do" something to apply the gospel, the gospel "does" something to us.

In his post, Wayne quotes T. David Gordon from Why Johnny Can't Preach.

I believe that as people's confidence in Christ goes they do, ordinarily and inevitably, bear fruit that accords with faith. Thus, there is no need for some trade-off here, or some alleged dichotomy suggesting that we need to preach morality if we are to have morality. No; preach Christ and you will have morality. Fill the sails of your hearers' souls with the wind of confidence in the Redeemer, and they will trust him as their Sanctifier, and long to see his fruit in their lives. Fill their minds and imaginations with a vision of the loveliness and perfection of Christ in his person, and the flock will long to be like him. Impress upon their weak and wavering hearts the utter competence of the mediation of the One who ever lives to make intercession for them, and they will long to serve and comfort others, even as Christ has served and comforted them.

Very consistent with the earlier quote of Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

these last days

Kim Riddlebarger writes the following in A Case for Amillennialism.

It is clear throughout the New Testament that the "last days" commenced with the coming of Christ and his triumphant resurrection(Acts 2.17; Heb 1.2). These last days are also the time of salvation (2 Cor 6.2), for with the coming christ, the new creation began. The old had gone, and the new had come (2 Cor 5.17). Paul said that certain blessings of "the age to come," including reconciliation, were won for us by Jesus Christ through his death and resurrection (Rom 4.25; 1 Cor 15.20-28). Paul spoke of these blessings as the present possession of those in union with Christ, for they no longer belong to "the old," that is, this present evil age. And yet it is equally true that these blessings are not fully realized until the consummation, when creation itself is finally released from bondage (Rom 8.18-25) and when the earthly at last puts on the heavenly (1 Cor 15.53). Paul said, "If we hope for what we do not have, we wait for it patiently" (Rom 8.25). It is the possession of the blessings of the eschatological "not yet" in this evil age that gives Christians hope until these things become a visible reality at the end of the age. In fact, Paul said, God has given us his Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance, which is not a temporal victory in this age but our ultimate redemption (Eph 1.13-14). It is this eschatological dimension that gave Paul a theological basis for the hope Christians need in the face of suffering until this present evil age comes to an end - "the fellowship of sharing in his [Christ's] sufferings" (Phil 3.10). Indeed, we may be, as Paul said, crushed but not perplexed. We are not abandoned or destroyed, though we may be stricken down by our enemies. As Christians, we are to "carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake" (2 Cor 4.7-12).

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resurrection disproved

Dr. Edwin Barkley has disproved the resurrection. As I read this I thought how similar reason is used by so many in so many different arguments. Barkley's claim? "It simply cannot happen." He has "looked at 10,000 deaths recorded in the United States over the past three years. None of those people came back to life. Therefore, Jesus couldn't come back either."

For the full article read here.

Ok - it's a satire but again, how many do you know (or perhaps yourself) that have used similar rationale?


In preparation for Passover this year (9-15 April), here a little humor from Bitter Herb.

a band of enemies

Daryl Dash quotes DA Carson:

I suspect that one of the reasons why there are so many exhortations in the New Testament for Christians to love other Christians is because this is not an easy thing to do. Many fellow Christians will appear to be, at least initially or to the immature, "little enemies." To put the matter differently, if Christians love Christians, it is not exactly the same thing as what Jesus has in mind when he speaks rather dismissively of tax collectors loving tax collectors and pagans loving pagans. What he means in these latter cases is that most people have their own little circle of "in" people, their own list of compatible people, their friends. Christian love...must go beyond that to include people outside the group. The objects of our love must include those who are not "in": it must include enemies.

Ideally, however, the church itself is not made up of natural "friends." It is made up of natural enemies. What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common nationality, common accents, common jobs, or anything of the sort. Christians come together, not because they form a natural collocation, but because they have been saved by Jesus Christ and owe him a common allegiance. In the light of this common allegiance, in light of the fact that they have all been loved by Jesus himself, they commit themselves to doing what he says - and he commands them to love one another. In this light, they are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus' sake. (Love in Hard Places)

Agreed. Remember, it is through the church that the manifold wisdom of God is made known to rulers and authorities in heavenly realms (Eph 3.10).

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music videos

There's a couple of music videos making the rounds that I really like.

The first is John the Revelator by Gov't Mule with The Dirty Dozen Brass Band. For me, I don't think I've heard a version I didn't like - this one is no exception.

The second is about Matza (Matzah, Matzoh, Matsah, Matzo, Matzoh, or Matze). 20 Things To Do With Matzah is a fun song and I like Michelle Citrin's (a.k.a "Rosh Hashanah Girl") voice.

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introducing christ

Ok, I don't fully get what this is about but I think Melinda asks a good question, "How would you introduce Christ to a room full of people?"

woman at the well

Sunday, April 05, 2009

warming or not?

Climate Change: A Guide for the Perplexed ... the title already indicates I am not the target audience and therefore the article may not have the force required. While I may be perplexed, I am more pessimistic. Admittedly I'm not pessimistic based on data regarding global warming, I'm pessimistic because of my opinion of its champions. Therefore my friend Geoff Mattheson thought I might be swayed and has convinced me to read it.

So here goes, the first sentence hit me as a good start, "Our planet's climate is anything but simple." Agreed. Then comes the thesis,

Yet despite all the complexities, a firm and ever-growing body of evidence points to a clear picture: the world is warming, this warming is due to human activity increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and if emissions continue unabated the warming will too, with increasingly serious consequences.

We'll see, I'm not there. The first link is to a guide to assessing the evidence. This was good in that it recognized that most of us don't know much and that the first question to ask about a claim is to look at who is making it. I like that. And frankly, this is still where I get bogged down. This article has a section called the "global swindle" in which it proffered that global warming is true and attributable to human activity ... and that arguments to the contrary have been debunked. The report is honest in saying that "few people have the time to wade through the scientific literature weighing up the evidence and trying to work out which findings have or have not stood up to scrutiny." But then it provides the IPCC as help for that ... which brings me back to the earlier point, why would I believe them over others? I haven't seen the irrefutable evidence and I haven't heard from someone(s) that I would consider inerrant.

There's a good blog reference with a lot of data again, as I skimmed the articles, if I believe New Scientist it all makes sense. If I do not, then it just doesn't hunt. Everywhere I searched was simply reinforcement of the original suppositions by New Scientist. I could not find data that changed my mind. To be fair, knowing myself as I do, I'm not even sure I know what that would look like.

So without belaboring the rest, there are many links in this overview piece. In the end, I remain unconverted.

But I don't get why that is important to Christians. As redeemed image bearers, we are to have dominion of the earth in a way that humanity clearly has not practiced. And as with all other ways that we humans fail, I find it fruitless to point toward those failings. Rather fruit is born by pointing people toward Christ Jesus. I desire to live rightly toward all creation and I am open to help seeing where I could do better. But targeting something such as global warming seems less than helpful. And that's about all I have to say ... I think ...


In an effort to help me see more clearly regarding global warming, my friend Geoff Matheson sent me a link to Climate change: A guide for the perplexed. I haven't read enough to comment but one of the articles in the sidebar caught my eye. The title was "Bacterium eats electricity, farts biogas". The aging process has affected my eyesight. The "i" in biogas looked like an "l" to me. I read "Bacterium eats electricity, farts blogas." And then I felt rather guilty, I was consuming electricity to create blogas ... and honest, many blogs like mine seem to be nothing more than that, gas ... [sigh].

the conversation

If you have an hour and a half, here is Kevin DeYoung, Tony Jones, Scott McKnight, and Brett and Alex Harris discussing the Emergent Movement. While Jones and McKnight had some good things to say, I think Jones, in talking the strength of the movement, touches on exactly what I see is the issue with it. He states:

[The emergent conversation] is not a set of beliefs or style of worship, It is an ethos, a general sensibility that is shared among people who decide to live together in a local community of faith and then to somehow network with other communities of faith who share that same sensibility though they may not share the same theology.

While some in the movement seem quite sensible, e.g., TSK, many seem to prefer inclusion over sensibility. Jones implies that this sensibility he speaks of is a preference of community over right v. wrong. On one hand I get that, many (since beginning of time - this is not a postmodern discovery of the human psyche) have said they have faith but have not love. This is a lie. True faith manifests in love.

On the other hand, as I've noted many times before, love has been redefined by many in this conversation and has come to mean universalism and/or an unwillingness to press in to truth. We can agree that we may not know absolute comprehensive truth but pressing into it seems to be avoided under the guise of "love". Scripture clearly demonstrates that in Christ we can have both. As the Harris twins ask, "timeless truth, sound doctrine, and biblical orthodoxy on one side versus really living out the life and teachings of Jesus Christ on the other ... why do I have to choose?" Good news - we don't. We can must have both. I see many in the emergent movement reacting to those who have erred toward the former alone by trying to live in the latter alone. True, the former without the latter is of no value. But the latter without the former is a lie.

DeYoung understands Jones to define emerging as a mood that emphasizes belonging over believing, down play doctrinal distinctions. He quickly outlines 2 Tim 1.8:

  • Paul believed his theology enough to herald it
  • Paul was willing to suffer for the proclamation of his theology ... the message about the power of God to save us ... not other things, i.e., telling everyone that God is love, that people needed to forgive each other, that he tried to fund people's unique spiritual journeys, etc...
  • Paul's confidence in God came from knowing whom he believe; he had confidence in the person of God defined by propositions anchored in promises
  • Paul treasured an orthodox standard of gospel truths
  • For Paul the task of the church is to guard this deposit
  • Paul believed that championing this theology must be done in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus; the way in which we defend this faith is as important as the faith itself but not before it.

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Friday, April 03, 2009


If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery