Archive for May, 2007

Insert “Jesus” here

I noticed a recent article in Forbes Magazine (April 23, 2007) entitled “Godly Work.” The article’s author, Rich Karlgaard, asked an excellent question which should have made for an interesting read. He asked, “How should people who call themselves Christians conduct their lives in a secular world?”. Later on in the article he relates the genesis of his thinking about this to a sermon he recently heard.

“Not long ago I heard a surprisingly good sermon, called “Jesus and Your Job,” given by Nancy Ortberg of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Meenlo Park, Calif. (For non-Christian readers, just substitute the name Jesus with that of your preferred Higher Power and proceed.)”

Now I know what you might be thinking but the first thing that caused me to choke on my oatmeal was not the fact that this guy is disregarding the Bible’s teaching on women preaching. I think there is something more rudimentary at stake in this article which I think is reflective of how many people think (including some pastors). Read the quote again. Did you notice the parenthetical part where Jesus is merely an interchangeable fixture to the meaning of the sermon. Sadly, this man went away with the impression that Jesus could easily be substituted for a “Higher Power” like a field general in the game of Stratego.

However, I read this as a sobering reminder that if Jesus is removed from our sermons then the sermon is transformed into nothing more than a nonsensical moralistic tale. If Jesus is cauterized from the core of the sermon then the sermon should fall apart at various levels (exegetically, hermeneutically, theologically, apologetically, etc.). However, preaching Christ is more than inserting “Jesus” at key parts of the sermon. Depending on where you’re preaching in Scripture there is always the anticipation of the Messiah or the revelation of the Messiah so that the Messiah should always be seen. This does not mean that we make Him magically appear through the hocus pocus of forced typology or allegory. There should be, however, what Walter Kaiser calls a “messianic consciousness” that permeates the messages that we preach. If Christ is not there then neither is a Christian sermon. The Apostle said it best in Colossians 1:17 when speaking of the centrality of Christ, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Our sermons should not be an exception to this wonderful truth.

Faith and Repentance: The Inseparable Link in the Book of Acts

The Bible teaches that faith and repentance are inseparably linked as two sides of the same “saving response” to the gospel. In the book of Acts—as elsewhere in the New Testament—sometimes only repentance is mentioned (2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 17:30; 26:20), and other times only faith is (4:4; 10:43; 13:48; 14:1; 16:31). But regardless of which is emphasized in a given passage, the presence of one implies the existence of the other, for a sinner cannot repent without believing, and he cannot believe without repenting.  

This inseparable link is reflected in Acts 20:21 where the apostle Paul states that he testified “to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” In the original Greek, “repentance” (metanoia) and “faith” (pistis) are connected by the conjunction “and” (kai), and the definite article precedes only the first noun. The use of only one article to govern both nouns indicates a unity between “repentance” and “faith.” As Greek grammarian Daniel Wallace explains:  

The evidence suggests that, in Luke’s usage, saving faith includes repentance. In those texts which speak simply of faith, a “theological shorthand” seems to be employed: Luke envisions repentance as the inceptive act of which the entirety may be called [faith]. Thus, for Luke, conversion is not a two-step process, but one step, faith—but the kind of faith that includes repentance. 

This inseparable link is also reflected in how conversions are portrayed in the book of Acts: Peter exhorts Cornelius and the Gentiles to “believe” (Acts 10:43), and later they are described as having come to “repentance” (Acts 11:18); while Paul exhorts the men of Athens to “repent” (Acts 17:30), and in response some of them are said to have “believed” (Acts 17:34). 

What, then, must a sinner do to be saved? Repent and believe. Anything less falls short of a “saving response” to the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Question for you Pastors???

I am back from the FIRE national conference.  During the conference I was able to catch up with many old and new friends (Marc Wragg, Phil Johnson, Scott Christmas, Steve Best, etc, etc).  If your church is Reformed and Baptistic (in theology and practice) you should check out this network of churches.

QUESTION FOR YOU PASTORS: Do any of you own J.C. Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (in 4 volumes)?  If so, would you recommend this set for someone’s pastoral library?  Like most of you guys shelf space (and i have lots of bookshelves) or the lack their of, is becoming a problem.  Because of this i want to be more strategic in my purchases.  If you own this set please share with me your thoughts.

Blessings,

Caleb

Martin Luther on the Necessary Qualities of Good Preachers:

1. They should be able to teach in a right and orderly way.

2. They should have a good head.

3. They should be able to speak well.

4. They should have a good voice.

5. They should have a good memory.

6. They should know when to stop.

7. They should be sure of their material and be diligent.

8. They should stake body and life, goods and honor on it.

9. They should suffer themselves to be vexed and flayed by everybody.

Can we be “good” without God?

There has been an excellent exchange going on at Christianity Today’s website between Christopher Hitchens and Doug Wilson over issues related to atheism and morality. Wilson is giving a fine example of presuppositional apologetics and this exchange should be studied by seminarians and pastors who want to see how such an approach is practically fleshed-out with an actual warmblooded atheist. For my money one of the touchstones of such a conversation is how the atheist can justify morality in a universe that is conceivably without God. Wilson puts his finger right on the pulse of this issue and so far Hitchens has been unable to get anywhere near an answer to such a dilemma (and to be consistent, he wont be able to). Hitchens’ argument is that “morality” comes from what he calls “innate human solidarity.” Here’s Wilson’s response:

“You say in passing that ethical imperatives are “derived from innate human solidarity.” A host of difficult questions immediately arise, which is perhaps why atheists are generally so coy about trying to answer this question. Derived by whom? Is this derivation authoritative? Do the rest of us ever get to vote on which derivations represent true, innate human solidarity? Do we ever get to vote on the authorized derivers? On what basis is innate human solidarity authoritative? If someone rejects innate human solidarity, are they being evil, or are they just a mutation in the inevitable changes that the evolutionary process requires? What is the precise nature of human solidarity? What is easier to read, the book of Romans or innate human solidarity? Are there different denominations that read the book of innate human solidarity differently? Which one is right? Who says?

And last, does innate human solidarity believe in God?”

Review: Monk and Mallet

On 12 May 2007 the Washington Post ran a major story which noted the following:

“The president of the Evangelical Theological Society, an association of 4,300 Protestant theologians, resigned this month because he has joined the Roman Catholic Church.

The May 5 announcement by Francis J. Beckwith, a tenured associate professor at Baptist-affiliated Baylor University in Waco, Tex., has left colleagues gasping for breath and commentators grasping for analogies” (Alan Cooperman, “Evangelical Leader Returns to Catholicism,” Washington Post, 12 May 2007).

Beckwith later admits,

“At the end of the day, the reason for the Reformation was the debate over justification. If that is no longer an issue, I have to be Catholic…It seems to me that if there is not a very strong reason to be Protestant, then the default position should be to belong to the historic church” (Ibid).

Is that all the Reformation was about? Does Beckwith’s move to Rome signal a major torrent of like changes or is his pilgrimage merely an isolated instance? Only time will tell. Adding Beckwith’s move to the well-documented “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” document from a decade ago might cause some evangelicals to speculate if the Reformation of the 16th Century was a mere hiccup in the diaphragm of Christian history or a movement that still shapes how evangelicals think today. Furthermore, Mark Noll’s published suggestion that the Reformation is over might cause some to pause and wonder if the Reformation’s conclusion or demise is indeed upon us (for a helpful overview of this issue see Phil Johnson’s “Is the Reformation Over?” in ­­JoMM, 3:3 Fall 2006). Enter historian and author Stephen Nichols who convincingly declares that “the Reformation matters” (pg. 13). His book could not be more timely or relevant. Nichols’ work is an introductory chronicle of the Reformation that is easy to read and engaging on numerous levels.

See the full review here

Master’s Chorale and FIRE conf

We had the Master’s College Chorale lead our worship in song time today at church.  We were VERY blessed!  They are on their way to the NY to perform at Carnegie Hall in a couple weeks.  Great praise music is so amazing (check this group out at www.masters.edu ). 

Anyways, I leave for Georgia with my family early tom. morning.  I am attending the FIRE National Conference at John Crott’s home church.  Phil Johnson and Tom Ascol will be speaking so it should be great event.  Check the site out at http://www.firefellowship.org/

 Blessings to all-

CK

11 Reasons Why… (pt 2)

11 Reasons why I am not a Amillennialist
By John MacArthur

1. They have a historical grammatical hermeneutic but when they get to the Prophetic sections they substitute some other hermeneutic. In essence, they have a double hermeneutic!

2. They eliminate a future for ethnic Israel

3. They confuse national Israel with the Church.

4. They deny God’s promise to restore God’s people to the land even though the Abrahamic Covenant was unconditional and unilateral

5. They deny Christ’s Davidic kingdom as promised in the Old Testament.

6. They believe Satan is bound now (in the Church Age; See Rev 20).

7. They artificially impose “continuity” on Scripture that allows for no “discontinuity”.

They build this on three covenants that are not found (fully) in the Bible: covenant of redemption; covenant of grace; and the covenant of works.

There is a Noahic covenant, an Abrahamic covenant, a Davidic covenant, a Mosaic Covenant, and a New Covenant but not those three covenantal covenants.

8. They erroneously defend there system by spiritualizing the Old Testament and some prophetic passages.

9. They claim that the curses of Deut. 28 and elsewhere were for Israel and the blessings are for the Church.

10. They deny that the present existence of the Israelites in their land has any significance for the future. (see John Stott’s quote)

Even some secular scholars would agree, “The preservation of the Jews is the greatest ethnic miracle in the world!”

11. They deny the literal rendering of “1000 years” found in Rev 20 (which is used 6x).  Are their any exegetical reasons to interpret 1000 years as something else?  Does a theological system drive one’s hermeneutics here?

11 Reasons Why MacArthur is not Amill

This is taken from a lecture John MacArthur gave at the Master’s College a number of years back.  These are my notes that (I hope) capture his major points…

Let me say up front this is not an issue that should divide true Believers.  This is not a mark of orthodoxy.  Case and point: MacArthur and Sproul are very good (personal) friends.   (There are many examples of biblical friendships between men who strongly disagree over eschatology).  The Together for the Gospel conference is a perfect example of how we should interact w/those who disagree with us over secondary matters.  Eschatology is a “secondary” Biblical issue because the heart of the gospel is not at stake.  This is an issue (none the less) because the Bible contains tons of prophetic passages.   Our convictions need to be interpreted through the grid of Scripture. All of us must strive to do biblical exegesis and thus have a truly biblical theology.

One things is certain: the Bible can not teach both Premillennialism and Amillennialism.  Realize upfront there are some mistaken notions of Premillennialism (and Amill. too).  Make sure you don’t build straw man arguments when trying to defend your convictions…

MacArthur thinks the following are some of the key passages that need to be understood: Study OT passages like Ezekiel 40-48; Zech 12-14, etc. And study NT passages like Rom 9-11, Revelation 20-21, etc.

Historically: Roman Catholic eschatology could be labeled Amillennial.  Luther did not reform completely from all of his R.C. heritage (see his views on baptism, eschatology, communion, etc).

If you use a consistent (normal) hermeneutic you come up with Premillennialism; even some Amillennialist state this (note what Floyd Hamilton, L. Boetner, and O.T. Allis say, all of whom are Covenant Theologians).  Historical grammatical hermeneutics need to be employed throughout all the genres in Scripture.

The promise in Gen 17:6 (of Kings) was literally fulfilled; Dan 2, 7, 8 predictions were also literally fulfilled. Spiritualizing prophetic literature is not prudent.  Habakkuk predicted the Babylonian captivity and it was fulfilled literally. The promise in Gen 49 (tribe of Judah) was fulfilled literally as were many other OT prophetic passages.

The future for Israel will be fulfilled literally as well!  Israel is only temporarily set aside as Romans 9-11 clearly teaches.

3 more things to consider:

1. The Earthly reign of Messiah (It is an EARTHLY Reign)
READ…… Rev 5:10; 11:15-18; 20:3, 8.

2. The Future Restoration of Israel (Jer 30:3, 11, 22; 31:35-37; Zech 12-13)

3. The Promises of the Davidic Kingdom (Psalm 89; Jer 33; 2 Sam 7; Is 7:14; Luke 1; Acts 1:8).

 To be continued (the 11 reasons will come tomorrow)…

End Times & Doctrinal Statements

Most people i know (who are Reformed) have an experience that is very similiar to mine (so i will share)…In the words of R.C. Sproul, no one is born a Calvinist. We are born Palagians or at best, Semi-Pelagians. When God opens our hearts to recieve the gospel obv. our theology is normally very incomplete. We understand the essentials of the gospel but normally not a whole lot more. Hopefully, we find ourselves in a good Bible church and through this and our own personal studies we grow in understanding. In reading through the Old and New Testaments people will encounter lots of ‘Calvinistic words’ like predestined, foreknowledge, etc. At some point we ask ourselves the difficult questions: I know i was saved by grace through faith alone but how does election fit into this picture. Did I choose God or did He choose me or is it a combo of both? Who should get the credit for my salvation? Are we capable of cooperating with God’s grace?

Many of us realize that salvation is really all of God (esp. once we understand biblical depravity). In time, someone introduces us to the works of “Reformed” writers like Hodge, Calvin, the Puritans, etc. We are convinced that the doctrines of grace are Scripturally sound and we have a new badge. We are no longer just Christians we are now Reformed Evangelicals.

In college i realized that when people say they are “Reformed” that it doesn’t mean the same thing to every person. Some say if you are not “Covenantal” then you are not truly Reformed. Inevitably this opens up a whole new field of study. What is the relationship between the New and Old Testaments? What method of hermeneutics is most accurate? What about the OT Law? And of course end times (Eschatology) theology is always a big question.

I started to question my premillennial convictions when i read books like “Wrongly dividing the people of God” and other works by faithful Covenant theologians. I realized that all of us (pre and amill theologians alike) affirm the authority of the Scriptures. What i needed to do was to have my Eschatological convictions forged in the Text (through study and exegesis). When i went through the minor prophets and then Romans 9-11 in this fashion i realized that their has to be some sort of future for National Israel. Replacement theology (in my humble opinion) was just not able to answer the tough questions that arose from the Old and New Testament texts.

I try not and say that I am a Biblicist that’s why i am Premill because i dont think that is really fair to my Covenantal brethren (who also claim to be biblicists).  Eschatology should never be the litmus test for orthodoxy.

Eschatology is a secondary matter but that does not mean a church should nec. omit it from their doctrinal statement. If we carried out that logic (consistently) then we would not talk about the mode of baptism, or the whole issue of how to view the Lord’s table, church polity, or even matters pertaining to the doctrines of grace(after all historic Arminians like John Wesley are Evangelicals).

Some churches (like the one i currently pastor at) choose not to include end times theology in their doctrinal statement. That is a fair choice as well. Each church (leadership team) must make there own decision. 

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