Monday, December 31, 2007

Resolutions for a Lifetime

THE RESOLUTIONS of Jonathan Edwards


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Tools for the New Year

Bible Memorization - Here

Family Worship - Here

Bible Reading Calendar - Here

Friday, December 21, 2007

Revealed: The seven great medical myths | Reuters

Revealed: The seven great medical myths | Reuters: "Revealed: The seven great 'medical myths'"

Monday, December 10, 2007

Guard calmly returned fire at church - with the help of the Holy Spirit

Wow - talk about courage!!


By Kieran Nicholson
The Denver Post

Larry Bourbonnais, a combat-tested Vietnam veteran, said it was the bravest thing he's ever seen.

Bourbonnais, who was among those shot by a gunman Sunday at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, watched as a security guard, a woman who has not yet been named, calmly returned fire and killed the shooter.

"She just started walking toward the gunman firing the whole way," said Bourbonnais, who was shot in the arm. "She was just yelling 'Surrender,' walking and shooting the whole time."

Bourbonnais, 59, had just finished up a hamburger in the cafeteria on the sprawling church campus when he heard gunfire, he recalled.

Bourbonnais headed in the direction of the shots as frightened people ran past him looking to escape to safety.

"Where's the shooter? Where's the shooter?" Bourbonnais kept yelling, he recalled.

Near an entryway in the church, Bourbonnais came upon the gunman and an armed male church security guard who was there with his gun drawn but not firing, he said.

Bourbonnais said he pleaded with the armed guard to give him his weapon.

"Give me your handgun. I've been in combat, and I'm going to take this guy out," Bourbonnais recalled telling the guard. "He kept yelling, 'Get behind me! Get behind me!' He wouldn't hand me his weapon, but he wouldn't do anything."

There was an additional armed security guard there, another man, who also didn't fire, Bourbonnais said.

Bourbonnais yelled at the gunman to draw his attention, he said.

"First, I called him 'Coward' then I called him 'S---head' " Bourbonnais said. "I probably shouldn't have been saying that in church."

That's when the shooter pointed one of his guns at Bourbonnais and fired, he said.

Bourbonnais ducked behind a hollow, decorative pillar and was hit in the arm by a bullet and fragments of the pillar.

At about that moment, a female guard with a drawn handgun turned a corner and walked toward the gunman and yelled "Surrender!" Bourbonnais said.

The gunman pointed a handgun at the woman and fired three shots, Bourbonnais said. She returned fire and just kept walking toward the gunman pressing off round after round.

The female guard fired off about a dozen shots.

After the gunman went down, Bourbonnais asked the woman, who has only been identified as a volunteer security guard with the church, how she remained so calm and focused.

Bourbonnais said she replied:

"I was asking the Holy Spirit to guide me the entire time."

Justification by Faith Alone

"This doctrine [justification by faith] is the head and the cornerstone. It alone begets, nourishes, builds, preserves, and defends the church of God; and without it the church of God cannot exist for one hour…. For no one who does not hold this article – or, to use Paul's expression, this 'sound doctrine' (Titus 2:1) – is able to teach aright in the church or successfully to resist any adversary . . . this is the heel of the Seed that opposes the old serpent and crushes its head. That is why Satan, in turn, cannot but persecute it...Whoever departs from the article of justification does not know God and is an idolater . . . For when this article has been taken away, nothing remains but error and hypocrisy."

- Luther

Friday, December 7, 2007

Cautioning Preterism

by JM
pret•er•ist ˈprɛt ər ɪst - [pret-er-ist]
a person who maintains that the prophecies in the Apocalypse have already been fulfilled. Compare FUTURIST (def. 2), PRESENTIST.
It is essential for interpreters to focus on the chronological cues given in Scripture. It’s precisely this norm that has led a body of interpreters to regard many of the New Testament prophecies, which have been largely taken futuristically by modern interpreters, as having already been fulfilled.

So, when we read Jesus catering the prophecies of the Olivet discourse to a particular group of guys in a known historical setting that have clear connection with the events experienced in their lifetimes (e.g., such as the destruction of Jerusalem), it is our interpretative responsibility to view those prophecies as having complete fulfillment in that chronological locale rather then in some distant era which holds so relevance to the audience.

“When you see all these things, recognize that He is near; right at the door; truly I say to you too, this generation will not pass way until all these things take place” (Matt 24:33&34).
Again, this would be true of John who addresses seven existing churches about the book he pens,

“Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near” (Rev. 1:3).
Many more instances could be cited.

I believe that this value for chronological fidelity is one that should be taken seriously and would do much to dispel much extravagant thinking within eschatology, as well as to enrich our understanding of history. However, I think many who support it have adopted an unfortunate and unnatural prophetic reductionism that makes the prophetic portraits of Scripture feel like wearing one’s high school pants – too tight and too restrictive. I contend that genre of language found in places like the Olivet Discourse and the book of Revelation allows for a more flexible reading of chronological markers (e.g., “this generation” “the time is near”), and in fact requires a qualified exception of the interpretive rule which says that the right interpretation is the one the audience would have understood. When I say “qualified,” I mean precisely to keep the Pandora’s box of unbridled subjectivistic interpretation closed. This exception would only apply to particular apocalyptic portions of Scripture, as the context of such portions would demand.

In what follows, I won’t offer a defense for how I believe this to be the case with supposed second coming passages disputed between futurists and preterist. Instead, I offer the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 7:1-16, affirmed by both futurists and preterists as having its fulfillment in the first coming of Christ, as an example of the kind of flexibility allowed for and arguably required for second coming prophecies. In particular, I contend that if preterists are consistent, their principle of interpretation would lead to a rejection of Isaiah 7 from messianic status. This prophecy contains many of same the qualities that lead preterist to their particular stance on most of New Testament prophecies. If I’m correct, then we have strong precedent which allows us to have a futuristically inclined kind of interpretation as an option in dealing with debated second coming passages.

Isaiah 7 starts out setting up the context of the prophecy. We read of a confederation of apostate Israel and Syria joined to oppose Judah (vs.1). It appears that they previously had great success against Judah, deporting a significant number of people to Damascus (2 Chronicles 28:5-8). Emboldened by their previous exploits, and perhaps motivated by a power play against Assyria, they plan to strike again.

When Ahaz hears the news that Syrians had arrived in Israel, preparing for a second campaign against Judah, it is said that “his heart shook as the trees of the forest shake with the wind” (vs.2).

It’s in the midst of this present terror of impending doom that God sends Isaiah to King Ahaz with prophetic hope. God tells Ahaz that though these two kings have planned evil against him, even toppling the Kingdom and setting up another king, “It shall not stand nor shall it come to pass” (vs.7). Not only does God relate the failure of this impending campaign, but also declares that Israel will be shattered within sixty-five years.

We read that King Ahaz was “at the end of the conduit of the upper pool, on the highway to the fuller’s field” when Isaiah gave this prophecy (vs.3). He probably was evaluating the status of the cities water supply, bracing for the imminent attack. As Ahaz stands next to this conduit, having heard the prophetic assurances of Isaiah, he receives an important cue as to the prophecies fulfillment. Though King Ahaz rejects the need for assurances, nevertheless God insists:

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows to refuse evil and choose good. For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken” (14-16).
Notice which event precedes and signals the above mentioned events: A virgin will be with child and bear a son. Before the boy reaches a sense of moral obligation, the treat to Judah will be dissolved. According to this passage,

•This sign will occur in the midst of this particular threat (vss.5-7)
•This sign could occur no later than 65 years after its utterance (vs.8).
Most date this prophecy at 734. We know that this particular confederacy was broken within two years of this prophecy. Tiglath Pilesar III destroyed Damascus in 732, making Rezin the last king of Syria, therefore destroying the confederacy which could have toppled Judah. We also know that twelve years later Assyria would proceed to topple the Kingdom of Israel, and within sixty-five years (vs.8) depopulated it to the point of obscurity, thus bringing into fruition the saying “the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.”

Contextually, therefore, Isaiah 7:14-16 has its fulfillment some six hundred years before the birth of Jesus. If chronologically cues are the decisive determining factor for prophetical placement and fulfillment, as the preterists insist for prophecies like the Olivet Discourse, then one is forced to say that there has been a misreading and misapplication of this prophecy by Matthew.

However, if we instead allow the usage of prophecy to inform our theory of interpretation, it is not at all unreasonable to affirm that some prophecies have multiple layers. Each layer taken by itself fulfills particular elements of the immediate context; however a layer taken by itself will be insufficient to fulfill the totality of the prophecy. In the case of Isaiah 7, it seems that there was a particular young lady that Ahaz knew who was with child and perhaps even gave birth within a few days of his meeting with Isaiah. Whatever the case, this prophecy spoke to him. This sign had immediate relevance. We have to affirm something like this to handle the context properly. However, Matthew records that this prophecy has fuller-fillment in the Messiah.

So at the very least, I’ve removed a principle that leads preterists to immediately dismiss all futurist fulfillments of prophecies which have clear historic fulfillments. This forces the combatants in the overall debate to wrestle with each particular disputed prophecy to identify markers that may suggests a fuller-fillment of an already fulfilled prophecy.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Nehemiah's wall uncovered

Nov 28, 2007 23:17 | Updated Nov 28, 2007 23:21

The remnants of a wall from the time of the prophet Nehemiah have been uncovered in an archeological excavation in Jerusalem's ancient City of David, strengthening recent claims that King David's palace has been found at the site, an Israeli archeologist said Wednesday.

The section of the 2,500-year-old Nehemiah wall, located just outside the Dung Gate and the Old City walls facing the Mount of Olives, was dated by pottery found during a recent dig at the site, said Hebrew University archeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar.

The archeologist, who rose to international prominence for her recent excavation that may have uncovered the biblical palace of King David, was able to date the wall to Nehemiah as a result of a dig carried out underneath a nearby tower, which has been previously dated to the Hasmonean period, (142-37 BCE) but which now emerges was built centuries earlier.

As a result of the excavation, both the 30 meter section of the wall and a six-by-three-meter part of the previously uncovered tower have now been dated to the fifth century BCE based on the rich pottery found during the dig under the tower, she said.

Scores of bullae, arrowheads and seals from that period were also discovered during the excavation.
"This find opens a new chapter in the history of Jerusalem," Mazar said. "Until now, we have never had such an archeological wealth of finds from Nehemiah's period."

Nehemiah, who lived during the period when Judah was a province of the Persian Empire, arrived in Jerusalem as governor in 445 BCE with the permission of the Persian king, determined to rebuild and restore the desolate city after the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians a century earlier, in 586 BCE.

The Persians had conquered the Babylonian empire that had destroyed Jerusalem and taken most of the inhabitants of Judah into captivity in what is now modern Iraq.

The Bible relates that despite the resistance of hostile neighbors who had occupied the area around Jerusalem in the Jews' absence, the whole wall was completed in a speedy 52-day period.

The tower at the site lies on the back of the walls of the palace that Mazar uncovered at the site two years ago, indicating that the palace must have been built first and strengthening the claim that the site was indeed King David's palace, she said.

The three-year-old dig is being sponsored by the Shalem Center, a conservative Jerusalem research institute, where Mazar serves as a senior fellow, and the right-wing City of David Foundation which promotes Jewish settlement throughout east Jerusalem

Friday, November 30, 2007

A.W. Pink, Limited Atonement, and 1 John 2:1&2. Pt. 5

by JM

Here’s a fifth reason Pink gives for thinking 1 John 2:1-2 conclusively doesn’t teach unlimited atonement (You can refer to the previous posts for the other reasons, as well as a little bit of background involved in this debate). Here’s Pink in his own words:

In the fifth place, the above interpretation is confirmed by the fact that no other is consistent or intelligible. If the "whole world" signifies the whole human race, then the first clause and the "also" in the second clause are absolutely meaningless. If Christ is the propitiation for everybody, it would be idle tautology to say, first, "He is the propitiation for our sins and also for everybody". There could be no "also" if He is the propitiation for the entire human family. Had the apostle meant to affirm that Christ is a universal propitiation he had omitted the first clause of verse 2, and simply said, "He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world." Confirmatory of "not for ours (Jewish believers) only, but also for the whole world"—Gentile believers, too; compare John 10:16; 17:20.

Pink argues that his interpretation is the only one that is consistent, seeing that John’s statement would be redundant or unintelligible. If John means by “the whole world” everybody in it, then this would obviously include the “for our sins only.” However, the us seems to be in addition to “the whole world,” therefore one can only take John as meaning Jews and Gentiles.

This seems pedantic. For example, if I gave my daughter a mini pizza sliced four ways, she having eaten one piece, I might firmly command her, “Eat the whole pizza.” This doesn’t negate that there’s ¾ of the pizza left and that my daughter has consumed ¼ of it. It would be silly for my daughter to protest, “I can’t eat a whole pizza in addition to the slice I had,” as if what I meant was for her eat 4/4 of the pizza in addition to ¼ of another pizza. The ¼ is included in my command to eat the whole thing. In the same way, the Christians that John is addressing are included in the whole world. Pink’s charge of idle tautology is true only if John was trying to delineate his claims in formal logic. Everyone concedes that language is far more fluid.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Real Meaning of Christmas

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"It's Not a Hoax: 'The Golden Compass'

It's Not a Hoax: 'The Golden Compass'
Chuck Colson
All of you have probably received the e-mail by now. A lot of Christians have, including many of us here at BreakPoint. One of my colleagues received it from five different people no less!

Listen Here

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Prince Caspian

Here's a preview of the upcoming movie: Here

Divorce and Remarriage

"Time Magazine picks up on the CT cover story on divorce and remarriage by David Instone-Brewer and the ensuing controversy." Here

Friday, October 26, 2007

A.W. Pink, Limited Atonement, and 1 John 2:1&2. Pt. 4

Here’s a forth reason Pink gives for thinking 1 John 2:1-2 conclusively doesn’t teach unlimited atonement (You can refer to the previous posts for the other reasons, as well as a little bit of background involved in this debate). Here’s Pink in his own words:

In the fourth place, when John added, "And not for ours only, but also for the whole world", he signified that Christ was the propitiation for the sins of Gentile believers too, for, as previously shown, "the world" is a term contrasted from Israel. This interpretation is unequivocally established by a careful comparison of 1 John 2:2 with John 11:51,52, which is a strictly parallel passage: "And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad". Here Caiaphas, under inspiration, made known for whom Jesus should "die".

Pink’s forth argument is that his interpretation of 1 John 2:2, namely that John is referring to groups of people and not every individual, is buttressed by John 11:51 & 52. Since these are parallel passages, and given that John 11 displays a Jew & Gentile distinction, then so does 1 John 2:2.

John 11 is certainly relevant in looking at 1 John 2:2. But typically, the interpretive principle to follow would be to look at the immediate context of the book, then investigate other books written by the same author, and finally consult different authors in Scripture. When this is done, it seems reasonable to posit a universality in 1 John 2:2 given the universality in 1 John 5:19. From this, we should proceed interpret John 11: 51 &52 in light of our interpretation of 1 John 2:2 and 5:19. The results of such an approach are quite positive for my position, but more importantly, with maintaining the interpretive flow of each passage taken individually. In John 11:51 & 52,

"Jesus should die for the nation" - the Jews
"and not for the nation only," - but also the Gentiles
"but to gather into one" - the church (Eph 2:14)
"the children of God who are scattered abroad" - Jews and Gentiles who are elect

This rendering is consistent with my position, for one of the intentions in Christ's death is to rescue the elect who are Jews and Gentiles.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Free Audio Book - Biography of David Brainerd by Edwards

From Justin Taylor -

Free Audiobook of the Month: HERE
America's greatest Theologian, Jonathan Edwards, had a heart for missions. And Edwards deeply respected David Brainerd, who gave his life for missions to Native Americans. The Life of David Brainerd is an inspiring tale of one of the most notable missionaries in American history.

Use the coupon code OCT2007 to receive the Download Format of The Life of David Brainerd for free in the month of October.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

The Divine Majesty of the Word

John Calvin: The Man and His Preaching

1997 Bethlehem Conference for Pastors

Speaker: John Piper

Listen | Download

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A.W. Pink, Limited Atonement, and 1 John 2:1&2. Pt. 3

by JM
Here’s a third reason Pink gives for thinking 1 John 2:1-2 conclusively doesn’t teach unlimited atonement (You can refer to the previous posts for the first and second reason, as well as a little bit of background involved in this debate). Here’s Pink in his own words:

In the third place, who are meant when John says, "He is the propitiation for our sins"? We answer, Jewish believers. And a part of the proof on which we base this assertion we now submit to the careful attention of the reader.

In Galatians 2 :9 we are told that John, together with James and Cephas, were apostles "unto the circumcision" (i.e. Israel). In keeping with this, the Epistle of James is addressed to "the twelve tribes, which are scattered abroad" (1:1). So, the first Epistle of Peter is addressed to "the elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion" (1 Pet.1:1, R. V.). And John also is writing to saved Israelites, but for saved Jews and saved Gentiles. Some of the evidences that John is writing to saved Jews are as follows.
(a) In the opening verse he says of Christ, "Which we have seen with our eyes . . . . and our hands have handled". How impossible it would have been for the Apostle Paul to have commenced any of his epistles to Gentile saints with such language!

(b) "Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning" (1 John 2 :7). The "beginning" here referred to is the beginning of the public manifestation of Christ—in proof compare 1:1; 2:13, etc. Now these believers the apostle tells us, had the "old commandment" from the beginning. This was true of Jewish believers, but it was not true of Gentile believers.

(c) "I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him from the beginning" (2:13). Here, again, it is evident that it is Jewish believers that are in view.

(d) "Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us" (2:18, 19).These brethren to whom John wrote had "heard" from Christ Himself that Antichrist should come (see Matt. 24). The "many antichrists" whom John declares "went out from us" were all Jews, for during the first century none but a Jew posed as the Messiah. Therefore, when John says "He is the propitiation for our sins" he can only mean for the sins of Jewish believers.
Here’s a summary of the above argument: John is writing to Jews. As such, John’s declaration in 2:2 is merely to instruct these Jewish believers that Christ’s propitiation is trans-racial, not that everyone in each race is propitiated for. Pink gives four reasons for thinking that John’s audience was Jewish.

(a) Pink feels that John includes his audience in being eye-witnesses to Christ. So when John says “Which we have seen with our eyes,” “our” refers to both John and his audience. If this is true, then John’s audience were probably Jews.

Response: Pink’s argument is unfounded. In the very text he quotes, John differentiates between those who were eye-witnesses and those to whom he is writing. Note:

1 John 1:3 3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.
John is clearly saying that his audience were not eye-witnesses of Christ. In all probability, John is probably referring to the apostolic witness of Christ’s ministry when he says “we“ “us“, etc.

(b) Pink believes that when John refers the “commandment” which his audience had from the beginning, this commandment is related to the public ministry of Christ. As such, only Jews could relate to this.

Response: However, it’s not clear that “the beginning” has to refer to Christ’s ministry. It can simply refer to the beginning of their faith. To the “children” of the faith (certainly, these are not eye-witnesses), John says:
1John 2:24, “24 As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.”
(c) Pink argues that John must be referring to Jews in that he refers to them as “Fathers” who have known Christ from the beginning.

Response: First of all, this ignores that John was also writing to “young men” and “children” of the faith, people who probably weren’t eye-witnesses to Christ’s ministry and perhaps Gentile. Furthermore, it seems that Pink has misquoted the text. It doesn’t say that the Fathers have known Christ from the beginning, but that the Fathers have known Christ “who has been from the beginning.” John isn’t speaking about the audience’s relation to the beginning, but Christ’s.

(d) Pink argues that the anti-christ is Jewish. That is, only Jews can pose as the Messiah. So when John speaks of propitiation, he can only mean the sins of Jewish believers.

Response: To be honest, this sound incoherent. Suffice it to say, the spirit of anti-Christ that John is referring to is far broader than a Jewish man. In fact, the text deals mainly with a non-Jewish (Hellenistic) heresy of Gnosticism.
Against Pink, it is quite probable that John is writing to both Jews and Gentiles. Many scholars date these epistles as late 1st century works directed towards churches in Asia Minor. If these assertions are reasonable, then John’s attempt to clue in Jewish believers about God’s relation with Gentiles is anachronistic given the "Jerusalem council", Paul's and Timothy's teaching and Paul's letters, common knowledge of the composition of Christ's body universal, the immediate knowledge of the composition of their own fellowships, which most probably included more Gentiles than Jews.

Putting that aside, the immediate context of this book serves to substantiate the contention that "the whole world" refers to something outside of the elect. After a discussion about our belief in Christ rendering us victorious over the "world" and ourseparation from the "world," John says in chapter 5:19,

"We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one."
Certainly we wouldn’t want to import Pink’s interpretation, for this would read, “We know that the Jewish Christians are of God, and that Gentiles lie in the power of the evil one.” This is the same construction we find in chapter 2. Us verses the Whole world. Does the "whole world" in 5:19 include the non-elect? If the answer is yes, then the immediate context of John's letter gives far more credence to chapter 2 also including the non-elect.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Online couple cheated with each other | The Daily Telegraph

Online couple cheated with each other | The Daily Telegraph: "A married couple who didn't realise they were chatting each other up on the internet are divorcing. Sana Klaric and husband Adnan, who used the names 'Sweetie' and 'Prince of Joy' in an online chatroom, spent hours telling each other about their marriage troubles, reported. The truth emerged when the two turned up for a date. Now the pair, from Zenica in central Bosnia, are divorcing after accusing each other of being unfaithful. 'I was suddenly in love. It was amazing. We seemed to be stuck in the same kind of miserable marriage. How right that turned out to be,' Sana, 27, said. Adnan, 32, said: 'I still find it hard to believe that Sweetie, who wrote such wonderful things, is actually the same woman I married and who has not said a nice word to me for years'."

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Making Travel Plans: The Dalai Lama's Itinerary for the Next Life

"At 72, the Dalai Lama, who has lived in India since 1959, is beginning to plan his succession, saying that he refuses to be reborn in Tibet so long as it's under Chinese control. Assuming he's able to master the feat of controlling his rebirth, as Dalai Lamas supposedly have for the last 600 years, the situation is shaping up in which there could be two Dalai Lamas: one picked by the Chinese government, the other by Buddhist monks. "It will be a very hot issue," says Paul Harrison, a Buddhism scholar at Stanford. "The Dalai Lama has been the prime symbol of unity and national identity in Tibet, and so it's quite likely the battle for his incarnation will be a lot more important than the others."

Source: MSNBC

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A.W. Pink, Limited Atonement, and 1 John 2:1&2. Pt. 2

by JM
Here’s a second reason Pink gives for thinking 1 John 2:1-2 conclusively doesn’t teach unlimited atonement (You can refer to the previous post - Sept 7th - for the first reason, as well as a little bit of background involved in this debate). Here’s Pink in his own words:

In the second place, if other passages in the New Testament which speak of "propitiation," be compared with 1 John 2:2, it will be found that it is strictly limited in its scope. For example, in Romans 3:25 we read that God set forth Christ "a propitiation through faith in His blood". If Christ is a propitiation "through faith", then He is not a "propitiation" to those who have no faith! Again, in Hebrews 2:17 we read, "To make propitiation for the sins of the people" (Heb. 2:17, R. V.).
This seems to be Pink’s argument:

(1) Romans 3:25 and Hebrews 2:17 say that God is propitious to those who believe. Conversely put, God is not propitious to those who don’t believe.
(2) 1 John 2:2 says that Jesus is the propitiation for the world.
(3) Yet, not everyone in the world believes.
(4) Therefore, the “world” in 1 John 2:2 does not refer to all people, only the elect.
Pink’s comments assume that propitiation can’t refer to something both objective and subjective. In relation to a person, I believe that the atonement may be an “objective reality” and/or an “appropriated” reality. By “objective reality” I mean that the atonement made by Christ some 2000 years ago is something real apart from my believing it. By “appropriated,” I mean that this objective reality has been applied to a subject. For a person who believes and is regenerated on August 5th 2007, the atonement was an unappropriated but objective reality up until conversion. From the point of faith on, it is both an objective and appropriated reality.

My contention is that the first facets always obtains for all people (Christ’s atonement is an objective reality on the behalf of all people), but the second doesn’t (Christ’s atonement is only appropriated to the elect). The failure to make this distinction leads to a puzzling result for Pink’s argument: If God has propitiated all those whom he has elected, then there was never a time the elect were not believers. Or put differently, the elect have always believed. This is unacceptable. Pink has forgotten about the many passages which indicate that our justification occurs when we believe, meaning in part that we were not right with God prior to this declaration. We were genuinely children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3), which means that we had not be propitiated in some way. Finally, Pink has committed a non-sequitur: To show that in Romans 3:25 and Hebrews 2:17 God is propitious to those who believe is not to show that God is propitious only to those who believe.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Clouds and Oceans: The Role of Emotions in the Christian Life

by JM
Throughout the Scripture, Christians aren’t just encouraged to have joy, but commanded to have it. Strangely enough, this particular form of mental serenity is commanded during times of significant distress. For example,

“6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:6-8).
Peter says, “Even when you feel sad, grief, and pain (that’s the meaning of “distressed” in verse 6), you greatly rejoice with a joy that is unearthly and glorious.”

This seems quite odd that someone can simultaneously experience distressing grief and inexpressible joy. Yet, this appears to be quite normal in the life of a believer. At first this is relieving. Often we are guilted by perpetually happy Christians when we fail to follow their remarkably pathetic disregard for real evil in the world and in our lives. It’s relieving to hear Scripture declare that Christians do and should experience genuine distress of heart.

"22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body" (Romans 8:22-23).
On the other hand, this is also puzzling. How can someone be joy-filled when they’re undeniably joy-less? Is the apostle telling us, “Saints, don’t worry about your depression since you’re happy and don’t yet know it.” Like the women in World War II who said that the bread shortage wouldn’t affect her because she ate toast. This would be a denial of the worst kind, and one forbidden by Scripture. So how do we make sense of the simultaneity of joy and grief?

I think that to make sense of this, it would serve us well to distinguish between emotion and affection. I want to suggest that though our emotions are subjected to the ups and downs of life, both to the pinnacles of ecstasy and the depths of depression at different times, our affections are to be the unmoved abiding anchor whether our emotions are storm-tossed or still. Happiness relates to emotions, Joy relates to affections.

I want to hold that emotions are more of a surface phenomenon, whereas the affections seem to refer to something abiding, deeper, and more significant. By "emotions", I refer to our natural reflex to external circumstances. For example, “I’m depressed because of the eviction notice.” “I’m elated because of the tax return.” These are built in natural reflexes to life. By "affections", I refer to the product of a certain conditioning of the soul that enables a person to process the outside world so as to give the subject perspective. This is that unnatural poise that we find in a few amazing people who can cope with the most difficult life situations, situations which would easily send one of us to an asylum. Emotions are formed and fueled by instinct. Affections are formed and fueled by values. What we value shapes how we respond, interpret, and face circumstances in life. The less we fail to cultivate our affections positively, the more we will be driven by our emotion (or the more we’ll reinforce and strengthen our visceral emotional reactions by our mismanagement of our affections/values).

Jonathan Edwards contends that we always do what is our greatest affection (or what we value the greatest); that is, the will is always the same as our affections. Emotions, however, are often very different from what we will. I may hate rigorous exercise, but something deeper moves me to do what I hate: my value of good health. My value of good health (or my affections for good health) trumps the emotional allergy to exercise.

Emotions are to the affections what clouds are to the ocean. Certainly, the deep is far more abiding than the puffy white heights. Clouds come and go; they morph and shift from the least perceptible whisper to the most ominous roar. The ocean, on the other hand, is relatively stationary. These are two things that appear very different from each other, yet they have a concrete causal relationship. Who hasn’t witnessed the ocean whipped up into a life-threatening frenzy by the sky above? With that said, all admit that the ocean is causally primary in the relationship. Clouds (most of them) have the ocean to thank for their existence. From the harmless shade-giving cloud cover above, to the perilous hurricane, we have the ocean to thank for each. Master the sky and you may impact the ocean. Control the ocean and you command the sky

In a similar manner, emotions may flux between tranquility and turbulence. But whatever their condition, their impact on the affections is marginal compared to the impact that the affections have on the emotions. Master the affections, and you control the impact of your emotions on your will. The affections will largely determine the degree to with the emotions impact a person as a whole.

Here’s another illustration to help. Consider a mangled marriage. In the case of one spouse cheating on another, a spouse may be thrown into an emotional hurricane; wrestling with feelings of anger, betrayal, and sometimes hatred. Yet, we’ve often seen the offended spouse do something quite remarkable, something quite opposed to what emotions are demanding: we’ve see a spouse forgive and give extraordinary effort to rebuilding the marriage. They are simultaneously loving and hating. Emotionally, they want to kick, bite, scream, and maim; they hate. Yet, they choose forgive, mend, love, and restore; they love. This love is rooted in a deeper part of their soul which enables the spouse to manage the emotion.

When we look at the passage in Peter, we see the secret of what enables believers to experience joy in the midst of grief: the same occasion for temporary grief is the occasion for eternal joy. The same persecution that injures the emotions complements the affections or values. Or put differently, the same challenge that is life-destructive is soul-building. The persecution that stifles the freedom and liberty of life is certainly a drag. Yet Peter says, “as much as you value comfort, freedom, and life, you have a far greater value: the condition of your soul. God is using discomfort to strengthen what you value more. As such, you have inexpressible joy in the midst of suffering.”

When Scripture mandates that we have joy in his world, this is none other than the command to put all of our energy into shaping our affections with the values of heaven. It’s the mandate to diffuse that natural reflex to come undone when the world comes undone. This is accomplished by allowing God-entranced affections to give us a God-like perspective on what appears to be godless circumstances. This is that unworldly and unnatural peace and stillness often referred to in Scripture.

Philippians 4:7-8 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Americanized View of Sovereignty

by JM
"The Puritans in early America dwelt on the sovereignty of God's grace and the inability of sinful individuals to influence God's will. Jonathan Edwards, for example, when he analyzed religious experience made clear that the 'divine and supernatural light' that a Christan perceived was not contingent on the agency of a free human will, but on the prior gracious work of the Holy Spirit who granted the ability to see and respond to that light. After Edwards's time revivalist theology in America moved steadily toward emphasizing the human side of religious experience. This tendency was manifested in various ways of positing the free and decisive character of the human free will. Free will was virtually an American dogma; indeed it was practically an unassailable article of faith for most of Western Culture."

Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism 1870-1925 George M. Marsden.

A.W. Pink, Limited Atonement, and 1 John 2:1&2. Pt. 1

by JM
In the debate on the scope of the atonement, 1 John 2:1-2 appears to support an unlimited view of the atonement.
1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
An unlimited view of the atonement will hold that Christ made propitiation (in some significant way) for people who ultimately experience eternal wrath. In the appendix of his work, The Sovereignty of God, A.W. Pink gives several reasons for why he believes that 1 John 2:1-2 does not support an unlimited view of the atonement, thereby seeking to secure the reformed doctrine of limited atonement from the allegation of being unfaithful to Scripture. Of his treatment of 1 John 2:1-2, he says
“Below we offer a number of conclusive proofs to show that this verse does not teach that Christ has propitiated God on behalf of all the sins of all men.”
You can view his short treatment on the topic here: Appendix 4. 1 John 2.2 My conclusion from examining Pink’s treatment is that he has severely overstated his case, and at some points is irrational. In next few blogs, I’ll present the what I believe to be his arguments to support the above contention, and then follow up with some analysis. Let's hear Pink in his own words.

“In the first place, the fact that this verse opens with "and" necessarily links it with what has gone before. We, therefore, give a literal word for word translation of 1 John 2 :1 from Bagster’s Interlinear: "Little children my, these things I write to you, that ye may not sin; and if any one should sin, a Paraclete we have with the Father, Jesus Christ (the) righteous". It will thus be seen that the apostle John is here writing to and about the saints of God. His immediate purpose was two-fold: first, to communicate a message that would keep God’s children from sinning; second, to supply comfort and assurance to those who might sin, and, in consequence, be cast down and fearful that the issue would prove fatal. He, therefore, makes known to them the provision which God has made for just such an emergency. This we find at the end of verse 1 and throughout verse 2. The ground of comfort is twofold: let the downcast and repentant believer (1 John 1:9) be assured that, first, he has an "Advocate with the Father"; second, that this Advocate is "the propitiation for our sins". Now believers only may take comfort from this, for they alone have an "Advocate", for them alone is Christ the propitiation, as is proven by linking the Propitiation ("and") with "the Advocate"!”
This is what I discern his first argument to be:

(1) John is only writing to comfort believers about forgiveness.
(2) This comfort is grounded in Christ’s intercession and Christ’s propitiation.
(3) Given that only believers are addressed, therefore only believers can have the comfort of forgiveness.
(4) Therefore, only believers are interceded for and propitiated.
For point of clarification, I do not believe that it is necessary for someone who holds to unlimited atonement to affirm that Christ intercedes for the non-elect. In my view, everyone interceded for is also propitiated, but not everyone that is propitiated is interceded for.

Now to the argument. (4) doesn’t follow from (3). It doesn’t follow that since only believers can have the assurance of salvation, then only believers are propitiated. What about the elect who have not yet been granted faith and therefore have no comfort or assurance of their soul’s state? Are we to say that they are neither propitiated nor interceded for? In fact, Pink’s reasoning seems to lead to the follow contradictory statements:

In order to be believer, one must be interceded for by Christ (which I think Pink would concede).

In order to be interceded for by Christ, one must be a believer.
Since it is obvious that one can be interceded for without being a believer, it seems possible that one can be propitiated for without ever being a believer.

Let me make the same point in a slightly different way.

Pink’s reasoning leads to a conclusion that Pink doesn’t want to adopt, namely, “in order to be interceded for by Christ, one must be one of the elect who is also believing.” Pink argues that since only believers are addressed about the comfort they can derive from Christ's intercession and propitiation, therefore only believers are interceded and propitiated for. This is the conclusive proof he gives to undermine the unlimited thesis.

My point, in part, is that this comfort (assurance) can't be given to all the elect (like the unbelieving elect). It doesn't follow then that the unbelieving elect are neither interceded nor propitiated for. If Pink wants to insist on this, then he’s forced to say:

The non-believing elect are neither propitiated for nor interceded for, seeing that they can’t have the assurance of salvation, given that they are not believers.
I think that the natural reading of the texts strongly suggests that the scope of the phrase “not only our sins, but the sins of the whole world” includes group people outside of the immediate audience, regardless of their believing status, thus undermining the force of Pink’s argument.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Ben Stein vs. Evolution

by JM
Ben Stein, in the new film EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed

His heroic and, at times, shocking journey confronting the world’s top scientists, educators and philosophers, regarding the persecution of the many by an elite few.

In theatres near you, starting February 2008

Ben travels the world on his quest, and learns an awe-inspiring truth…that bewilders him, then angers him…and then spurs him to action!

Ben realizes that he has been “Expelled,” and that educators and scientists are being ridiculed, denied tenure and even fired – for the “crime” of merely believing that there might be evidence of “design” in nature, and that perhaps life is not just the result of accidental, random chance.

To which Ben Says: "Enough!" And then gets busy. NOBODY messes with Ben.

Here's the Trailer: Expelled

Thursday, August 30, 2007

World Clock

Talk about getting perspective. Click Here

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Romans Revolution

We've started a series on the book of Romans entitled, The Romans Revolution. Here are the first few messages:

The Gospel of God Concerning His Son -Rom 1:1-17 07/29/07 Pastor Jake Listen

Is God Angry? - Rom 1:18-23 08/05/07 Pastor Steve Listen

When God Gives Up - Rom. 1:24-32 08/12/07 Pastor Steve Listen

The Imposter: Unmasking Hypocrisy - Rom. 2:1-3 08/19/07 Pastor Jake Listen

Misinterpreting Mercy- Rom. 2:4-11 08/26/07 Pastor Jake Listen

Richard Dawkins Interviews Alister McGrath


This interview was filmed for the TV documentary "Root of All Evil?" but was left out of the final version.

Here it Is

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Target Employee Strikes Back

One clandestine believer strikes back at Christopher Hitchens' book, God is not Great.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

America Takes on Humility in Changing Global Mission Landscape

By Audrey Barrick
Christian Post Reporter
Tue, Jul. 31 2007 05:58 PM ET

More countries that have been receiving Christian missionaries from the United States are recognizing that they need to send more missionaries to America, a national campus fellowship leader said.

"We (America) certainly are no longer the center of the universe in terms of the Christian world," said Alec Hill, president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship U.S.A.

Like many evangelical leaders, Hill predicts that the United States will increasingly become a mission field for foreign evangelists and he welcomes it.

Hill recently came out of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students' world assembly in the Canadian city of Ancaster, Ontario, earlier this month when more than 600 representatives from 140 countries convened for the network's flagship meeting. Attendants represented movements reaching 400,000 students.

Representatives from North America found themselves in the minority among conference participants which Hill thought was "obvious and wonderful."

"When you look at countries like South Korea and Brazil and certainly African nations, Europe is already receiving them (foreign evangelists). It's a mission field," said Hill, according to InterVarsity. "There are huge populations of immigrants. Missionaries are being sent to reach those populations, but I think there’s recognition in many of these countries that they need to send more missionaries here."

More believers in the 2/3 world realize that the church in the West is on the decline and the majority of Christians are now found in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Oscar Muriu, senior pastor of Nairobi Chapel in Kenya, has named America the third largest mission field and the third largest pagan country in the world.

Meanwhile, the U.S. population becomes more diverse with refugee and immigrant populations. Hundreds of thousands of foreign students are on U.S. college campuses, Hill pointed out, making it accessible for U.S. Christian students to participate in "world missions" without going overseas.

Thankfully, InterVarsity began to seriously move towards a multiethnic approach 20 to 25 years ago, said Hill.

American Christians have been and continue to be an integral part of world missions, but this time, they're taking a more humble approach.

"I think what I saw at World Assembly was that we as American InterVarsity have played a critical role in world missions and in the development of world changers," said Hill. "But at the same time, and this is a very important point, there was an appropriate humility among the American delegation. We were not front and center. We were very much in the service mode. "

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Darkness of Depression

from the Al Mohler show

What is a biblical understanding of depression? Is it simply a biochemical malfunction? On today's program, Russell Moore is joined by David Powlison, of the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation, for a helpful conversation on the subject.

Listen Here

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Billy Graham Preaches "Sinners In The Hands of An Angry God"

from the JE blog at Yale: link

"In the Fall of 1949, at the height of his famous Los Angeles "Canvas Cathedral" Crusade, Billy Graham preached Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. That night, America's most famous sermon was preached by the man who was to become America's most famous evangelist. This was no ordinary revival meeting!

The Jonathan Edwards Center has worked in conjunction with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the Billy Graham Center Archives in Wheaton, Illinois to present an engaging digital exhibit on this remarkable event in American religious history.

Check the exhibit out at "

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tiny tablet provides proof for Old Testament

For the full story, see Telegraph News U.K.
Here's an excerpt:

"Searching for Babylonian financial accounts among the tablets, Prof Jursa suddenly came across a name he half remembered - Nabu-sharrussu-ukin, described there in a hand 2,500 years old, as "the chief eunuch" of Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon.

Prof Jursa, an Assyriologist, checked the Old Testament and there in chapter 39 of the Book of Jeremiah, he found, spelled differently, the same name - Nebo-Sarsekim."

Monday, July 16, 2007

The New New Atheism

"Attacking "God" has become a lucrative book business. But there's not much substance behind the latest atheist tracts."

Here's the full article in the Wall Street Journal: Opinion Journal

Sunday, July 8, 2007

11 Questions for Reformed Theology - A Response

by JM

The Answers in Action site posted 11 questions for those who subscribe to Reformed Theology. Here's the Link.

I put together a response a few years ago. Here are my answers:

1. It is often said by Calvinists that dead men can’t respond. As you say, “you are dead in your trespasses & sins.” Eph 2:1. In Romans 6, it says that “in the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” If being dead in sin means one can’t respond to God then does being dead to sin mean that the Christian cannot respond to sin?

Response: Notice how this question fails to distinquish justification from sanctification. Ephesians 2 refers to the point of conversion and justification, while Romans 6 clearly refers to sanctification. In regeneration, were are made alive by the monergistic act of God, whereas in sanctification, Christians cooperate with God in putting to death the deeds of the flesh. We are dealing with two different categories and two different prepositions. Paul does not say that a Christian can’t respond, but rather that he or she should not respond. Christians should considered themselves dead to sin, meaning that they should no more respond to the tempting call of sin than a dead man responds to the call of anyone. In other words, when sin comes snooping around, play dead and don’t respond.

2. Even though God does perfectly know all human thoughts, can man have thoughts that have never been thought before (i.e.ex-nihilo thoughts)? If these thoughts are not free (e.g., they are determined) then has God caused all thoughts, including evil ones, which would make God the author of sin and evil and man not responsible? If , on the other hand, these thoughts are free, then how can God remain sovereign according to the Calvinist definition of sovereignty?

Response: In question two we have a loaded question. First of all, it seems that the question is assuming philosophical determinism, which is quite different from Classic Reformed Thought. Secondly, the question assumes a particular notion of freedom not espoused by the Reformed believer. Thirdly, it assumes that if anything is determined by God’s sovereignty, it is determined effectually by God, which does not represent the Reformed position. So the question is loaded. Just as a note, it appears that the authors of these questions are confusing Calvinism with Hyper-Calvinism.

3. The Bible says in 1 Timothy 2:4, “God wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” It also states that God wants all men to be saved in 2 Pet 3:9, Matthew 23:37 and Ezekiel 33:11 and 18:30. Obviously not all men are saved. How does Calvinism explain this? Does the God of Calvinism have two wills that are in direct contradiction and hence have a multiple personality disorder?

Response: Bible-believers are compelled by Scriptures to assert that God has “two wills” in some sense. Some have distinguished the two wills as his moral and sovereign will, efficent and permissive will, or secret and revealed will. Scriptures abound with evidence. Note:

Psm 33:11, “The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation.”

Isa 46:9-10, "Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure';”

Dan 4:35, "But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, 'What hast Thou done?'”

Job 23:13, “¶ "But He is unique and who can turn Him? And what His soul desires, that He does.”

Ps 115:3 “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.”
These passages clearly teach that God does everything he desires and pleases. Well, according to 1 Tim 2:4, God desires for all to be saved, therefore either all are saved or we have a genuine contradiction. Some might object that it is impossible for God to violate the “free will” of man, thus God cannot do what he wants to with his creatures. To this I simple refer you back to Dan 4:35, where Nebucadnezzar states (after God sent him to the fields to act like a wild beast, probably against his wishes) that God does His Will among the inhabitants of the earth (men), and no one can thwart his will, including the will of man.”

Here are a plethora of passages that clearly teach that there are two wills of God, his Moral and Sovereign:

Death of Christ: Luke22:22;Acts 2:23&24;4:27&28;Isa 53:4,10.

War against the Lamb: Rev 17:13-17

The Hardening Work of God: Exo 8:1 with Exo 4:21; Duet 2:26-30; Josh 11:19-20; Rom 11:7-9,25-26,31-32; Mark 4:11&12; Pro 21:1 with Gen 20:6; 1 Sam2:22-25; Ezek 18:23,32 with 2 Sam 2:25.

Misc: 1 Kings 12:15; 2 Chron 21:16;25:30; Psm 105:25;2Sam 16:10-12:17:14.
5. Jonah 2:8 says that “those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” If, as Calvinism teaches, God determines before time began who would be reprobates, and therefore does not extend the grace to them by which they could be saved, how logically can we understand this verse’s statement that these reprobates, “forfeited the grace that could be theirs?”

Response: The NASB, as well as other translations state,"Those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness.” In other words, by virtue of regarding idols they have forsaken their faithfulness to the true God.

6. The Bible says in John 6:44, “no one can come to me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” The same word “draw” is used in John 12:32 which says, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth will draw all men unto myself.” Matt 23:37 says that men can resist God’s will. How do you answer this problem in Calvinism?

Response: Notice how this question rests upon an misunderstanding of God’s will. This has been answered previously. Also, Jesus makes a clear reference to election in verses 37-40. All of those that are given to Jesus will come to him, and he will raise them up on the last day. This obviously doesn’t refer to every individual. In John 6:44, Jesus makes a connection between those whom he draws, and those whom he will raise. In other words, this text seems to suggest that everyone that Jesus draws, he will also raise gloriously. If this a correct connection, and the Arminian notion of drawing be true, then every person will be raised gloriously because they were previously drawn.

Also, note the order of events.

1. One must be given by the Father to the Son.
2. The Father draws to Jesus those whom he has given to Jesus.
3. They come to Jesus.
The non-reformed want to change the order substantially.

1. God draws everyone to the same way.
2. Some come to Jesus.
3. The Father, on the basis of their coming to Jesus, gives those individuals to Jesus.
Even from a cursory reading of the text, it is evident that this second scenario seriously strains the text. The reason for the change of order is because of a particular notion of God’s justice and human freedom. The non-reformed feel that God must draw everyone in the same way, but that in the end, it is up to the individual to respond to this wooing. Yet, this notion cannot be found in this passage, and as a matter of fact, is contradicted by this passage. In verse 41, in response to the teaching of Jesus, the Jews began renouncing the credentials of Jesus by pointing out that they knew his father, mother, and brothers. “How in the world,” the Jews complained, “could you come down out of heaven?” To the unbelief of these Jews, Jesus makes the declaration, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him;” In other words, Jesus is saying “Guys, you are skeptical and unbelieving because Father has not drawn you to Me.” This is further attested to when Jesus reiterates this very statement in verse 65. In this passage, some of his own disciples walked away from following Jesus. To this Jesus says, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father.” In essence, the notion that God draws all men is controverted in this passage where clearly not all people were granted or drawn to Christ.

This reminds me of the exchange that Jesus had with the Jews in John 10:24-26. They said to Christ, “Tell us plainly if you are the Christ. Don’t keep us in suspense.” Jesus responds to them that He had told them plainly by his words and works. The evidence was staring them in the face. Jesus says to them, “but you don’t believe because you are not my sheep.” He doesn’t say, you are not my sheep because you don’t believe. Here, he distinctly states that something needs to be in place in order to believe and not vice versa. Also, Jesus had used this word “sheep,” as well as the concept, to describe those whom the Father gave to him as is evident in John 10 and 17.

When we arrive to John 12:32-33, we read the words that follow: “’And I, if I be lifted from the earth, I will draw all to Myself.’ But he was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which he was to die.” We can take this text to mean at least six different things:

1. This word “draw” is to be defined exactly as it is in John six. Therefore, every individual will come to Christ.

2. This word “draw” is still to be defined exactly the same in both contexts, but “all” does not mean every individual in chapter twelve, but rather the elect.

3. The word “draw” means something different in chapter twelve than it does in chapter six.

4. John chapter six is to be taken to mean something differently than what Calvinist have taken the chapter to mean. We must strain to read an Arminian interpretation into chapter 6, in order to account for chapter 12:32-33.

5. John six does refer to unconditional election, but John 12:32 states that after the crucifixion election will be changed from an unconditional election to a conditional election.

6. We have a contradiction in the Bible.
Of all the possibilities, number two and three seem the most plausible. Number one and six are disregarded instantaneously by bible believing Christians. The forth seems to violate the hermeneutical principal of interpreting the implicit in light of the implicit. The reason being that John chapter twelve isn’t quite clear in what is meant by the words “draw” and “all,” whereas Jesus in chapter six takes great pains to describe what “draw” means, and to whom this concept does and does not apply. As a side note, the same word for “draw”is translated as “drag,” meaning, to “come with irresistible superiority” in John 21:6, Acts 16:19, and James 2:6. This fifth possibility seems to works against the Arminian’s cause, for they work vigorously to defend “freewill” and to reject the “arbitrary” nature of unconditional election. For them, these concepts are antithetical to the God of the Bible. Well, if this system of election once existed, then the God of the Bible operated at one time within these “deterministic” and “arbitrary” categories. But even if this radical change were granted, it seems to be an unsound hermeneutic to deduce such a radical change in God’s decrees on the basis of John twelve which is not clear.

Option two is a good possibility. If chapter twelve is interpreted in the light of chapter six, and it is not delineated for us what “all” and “draw” means in chapter twelve, one could say that “all” refers to the same group that Jesus spoke of when he said, “All that the Father gives to me, will come to me.”

Option three is also a good possibility. Even if one would seek to press the point that “all” must mean every person in the world, the context doesn’t demand that the word “draw” mean the same thing as is found in chapter six. One could hold that everyone is drawn to Christ, in the sense that now they relate to God differently by virtue of the atonement. While this could be maintained, it could also be maintained that God has a special effectual call to save his elect from this broader group. For example, 1 Tim 4:10 states that God is the “Savior of all men, particularly of believers.” Likewise, 1 Tim 2:6 states that Christ “gave Himself as a ransom for (on the behalf of) all.” Paul says to the Athenians in Acts 17:30-31, “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a man whom he has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

From my perspective, there is no inconsistency of saying that every person is closer to Christ by virtue of the atonement, and yet some are left to refuse the offer.

7. You say that even the “good” acts of sinners are “bad” because they come from a completely depraved nature. Is it a “bad” act to rationally apprehend the truthfulness of apologetics? If so, why has God commanded us to practice apologetics to sinners, which causes them to do a bad act? Doesn’t that mean that God causes sinners’ bad acts? If you say “yes,” doesn’t that make God a bad guy?

Response: This question seems to confuse the categories of moral actions and cognitive apprehension. Is it a “bad” act to rationally apprehend the truthfulness of apologetics? No. No more than it would be bad to apprehend the truthfulness that 2 plus 2 = 4 or understand that the sky is blue. Such propositions are self-evident and appear to be something different from a moral action. The depravity of people is not to be applied to their apprehension of the truth, but their response to it. Romans 1 clearly states that unbelievers are without excuse, for the manifold creation of God unmistakably points to its Creator. Paul is telling us that unbelievers have apprehended the truth. Yet, unbelievers do not acquiesce to this truth because of their sinful condition. Of course, this is where the Calvinist would insist upon God’s work of changing a sinner’s disposition to one that will submit to the clear evidence.

In reference to the terms “good” and “bad,” I think it is in our best interest to understand how such terms can be used. Is it good for an atheist to help an old lady across the street? It depends on what you mean be good. If I use the term good univocally in reference to God, of course not. For example, I call my dog “good” because she is potty trained and doesn’t tear up the furniture. Now, when I call my wife a “good” wife, do I mean that she is potty trained and doesn’t tear up the furniture? No! Or, if I call God good, do I mean he is good like my dog? Of course not. What is employed here is analogical language; where the terms change proportionately to the difference of the beings. So, in one sense, it is a good thing for an atheist to help old ladies across streets, yet that “good”action severely fails that standard goodness which is found in God.

8. When Calvinism is shown to have logical contradictions, Calvinists usually reply that God’s thoughts are unsearchable, and therefore the logical problems that Calvinism has, for example divine election and human responsibility, exhaustive sovereignty and human free will, and God’s having two contradictory wills, are solved by invoking the phrase , “well that’s a mystery.” If you can solve you logic problems by copping out with the term mystery, why can’t Arminian types, atheists and others pull the same move?

Response: It seems that the authors use the term “contradiction” loosely. When a person claims that two propositions are contradictory, one is claiming a specific thing. The charge is that the law of non contradiction is violated, that is, A is non A at the same time and in the same relationship. I know of no such proposition of contradiction within the Reformed world view. Are there things within Christian doctrine which we cannot comprehend and yet are not contradictory? Of course. The doctrine of the Trinity states that God is one essence and three persons. We do not say that there is one God and three Gods, for this would be contradictory. So likewise, if the Reformed believer would assert that God’s Sovereign Will is that all people would be saved and not all people would be saved, this would be contradictory. Yet, this is not our position. We assert that Scripture teaches that God has a sovereign will and a moral will, which is delineated for us in the response to question three. This is not a violation of the law of non-contradiction. Furthermore, if the authors assert that “exhaustive sovereignty” means that God effectually brings about every action, they have confused Calvinism with hyper Calvinism and our attacking a straw man.

9. The Bible says in 2 Thessalonians 2:10 that reprobates “perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” From your Calvinistic world view, how can it logically be said that a reprobate refuses to love and so be saved, when your God determines that the reprobates can’t love the truth, can’t be saved, and therefore doesn’t refuse God at all?

Response: Most of what I have seen in these questions are crass misrepresentations. It is plain to me that the authors of these questions don’t understand the basic of Reformed thought. First of all, the doctrine of total inability states that the unregenerate willfully and blatantly refuse the things of God by virtue of their fallen nature. God does not work unbelief and reprobation within their hearts, rather, he chooses not to visit them with the grace of regeneration, allowing them to do what they want which is based on their natural disposition. They hate God by nature, and God allows them to act according to their nature. In other words, unless God intervenes with regeneration, they refuse to love the truth and refuse salvation and are held accountable for such a refusal.

Some might press the issue further by stating that God would not be just to command of someone something they couldn’t do. So, if God commands unbelievers to repent and believe, and they do not have that ability, God is crude and less than holy. Yet, we know that God demands total conformity with the law. God commands everyone to be perfect as himself. Scripture also teaches that it is impossible for us to keep the law perfectly and that God holds us accountable for this. Yet, we don’t lay the charge of unjustness to God because of this. Luther, as he debated Erasmus on this very issue, made an important distinction between a possible inference and a necessary inference. It is not a necessary inference that we have the ability to do something if God commands us to do so; its simply a possible inference. Sproul rightly notes that “according to the laws of immediate inference, one can infer from the statement ‘If you are willing..’ nothing about who has the power so to will” (Willing to Believe, pg99). In conclusion, just because people can’t believe the gospel doesn’t mean that they cannot be held accountable for not believing.

10. You have said that nothing thwarts the will of God, and you also have said that a man’s will cannot be free or else God would not be absolutely sovereign. Doesn’t this mean that God determines (or is the cause of) evil and the evil acts of men for his sovereign pleasure?

Response: Again, this question rests upon a particular notion of freedom and sovereignty which are not held by Calvinist. We believe that man’s will is free, in that a person is not compelled to do something that they do not want. We do not believe that man’s will is morally neutral, meaning that choices are not made without a prior motive. Motive is crucial to moral responsibility. If a person chooses a bad thing without any prior motivation, what is the moral worth of that choice? Edwards has argued extensively that if such were the case that there would no moral worth, and thus no responsiblity. On this basis, God would be unjust to punish sinners who acted with no motive. Also, we do not believe that man is absolutely sovereign, as if God’s decrees are thwarted by man’s decree. Does God decree the sinful acts of men? Of course. But what do we mean by “decree” in this instance? Obviously, God does not effectually decree the sinful acts of humans, rather he permits them. Yet, if he permits people to sin and doesn’t hinder the exercise of their sin, this is tantamount to saying that God has determined to allow people to sin. It’s going to happen; its a part of his decree or determination. As Martin Luther rhetorically asked, “Do you suppose that He does not will what He foreknows, or that He does not foreknow what He wills?”

11. Question: “In Romans 9 where God says, ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy’ why do you automatically assume that God does not want to have mercy on all but only have mercy on the select few when God clearly tells us in Romans 11:32 that, ‘God has bound all men over to disobedience so that He may have mercy on them all?” If you say that all means all classes of men, but not all men in every class, then why does it not mean all classes of men but not all men in every class in Romans 3:23 where it says, ‘all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God?” Does this mean some have not sinned? Perhaps, for instance, the Virgin Mary?

Response: We do not assume this automatically, as if we simply sought to pour in our own meaning into the text. Our belief rests upon the context of Romans 9 that clearly teaches that mercy is neither obligated to all, nor is it extended to all. Paul gives the example of Jacob and Esau, though both were rotten to the core and both deserving of justice, God chose Jacob to be the object of his mercy according to his own sovereign plan and left Esau as he was. This choice was not dependent upon Jacob, but solely on God. God could have had mercy on Esau, but he didn’t choose to. In verse 15, Paul raises the objection that many non-reformed raise, “God must be unfair!” Paul’s reference from Exodus proves the above question faulty, “I will have mercy upon whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion upon whom I have compassion.” If God wanted to have mercy upon all, he would have mercy upon all. Some might respond, “Well, he will only have mercy upon those who choose to accept mercy.” To this I ask the question, “So then it does depend upon the man who wills or the man who runs, and not on God who gives mercy?” (see verse16) Once someone says mercy is dependent upon the person who is to receive it, it ceases to be mercy. Also, if it were the case that Paul wanted to communicate that mercy is dependent upon the acceptance of the individual, why does Paul go on to defend this “false notion” that God’s mercy doesn’t depend on man’s will? Paul raises the objection to this teaching, “You will say to me then, ‘Why do you still find fault? For who resists His Will?” If Paul were an adherent to Arminian theology, he could have simply corrected this , “No, your misunderstanding me, his mercy is extended to all, and its up to each individual to appropriated it. People resist His will all the time.” But Paul does not answer this objection like an Arminian, instead he progresses to teach that which aligns classic Reformed Theology.

Paul then proceeds to use the illustration of a potter, and how the potter has a right to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use. No person can raise the objection “Why did you make me this way?” For God has the right to pass over some with his mercy, thus demonstrating his wrath, and to bestow his mercy upon those whom he chose beforehand for glory.

Secondly, in chapter 9:23-27 we see some clarification to the Romans 11:32, which states that God “might have mercy on all.” Paul had just pointed out that God is not obligated to give mercy to all, nor does he give it to all. With this in mind, speaking about those who have received mercy, Paul states that God has been gracious to some who are Jews and others who are Gentiles. This forms the backdrop to understand Romans 11:32, for this passage appears after a long discussion on how Jews and Gentile are saved. Notice 9:27 and 11:2-7. In these passages, there are references to the remnant of Jews which are the objects of God’s mercy, in contrast those the majority of Jews which perish apart from Christ. Now in 11:25, it states that when the fullness of the Gentiles come in, then “all Israel will be saved.” Here is a crucial question for our understanding of the passage which states, “that he might have mercy on all.”: In order for all Israel to be saved, doesn’t God need to extend mercy to all of Israel? But, does Paul mean that every Jew will be saved? No he doesn’t. Nor does the “all” used here mean every individual in the world. He is referring to all of the remnant, not all Jews. In other words, all of the elect. Likewise, Paul also refers to the fullness of the Gentiles, that is all the Gentiles whom God has chosen beforehand (11:25;9:24). So, using the language of Paul, all of the Gentiles will be saved. This doesn’t mean that every Gentile will be saved, no more than “all Israel” means every Jew. Therefore, when we read Romans 11:32, the “all” doesn’t mean every human individual, but rather all the remnant of both the Jews and Gentiles.

Some might press the point that Paul says that God has shut up all in disobedience, meaning that God has shut up every human being in disobedience, thus the all, when referring to mercy, must mean every human being. I believe the context points to the fact that God has shut up all of the remnant of both the Jews and Gentiles so that he might demonstrate his mercy towards them. Some might point out my folly by showing that my interpretation must mean that there are human beings, like Mary, who are not sinners. But this is an argument from silence. Just because Paul states that the remnant of both the Jews and Gentiles have been shut up in disobedience, doesn’t mean that every individual is not also a sinner . We know that one gospel writer only records one angel as being at the tomb, but does that necessarily mean that there could not have been two, as another gospel writer clarifies. In the same way, Romans 3 clarifies for us what Paul didn’t in Romans 11:32.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

For His Name's Sake

by JM

Today, I ran across a soul-stirring treatment of Romans 1:5 by John Stott.

"through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake"

"We should be 'jealous' (as Scripture sometimes puts it) for the honour 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 honour 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 incetive is, especially when we contemplate the wrath of God, verse 18), but rather zeal - burning and passionate zeal - for the glory of Jesus Christ" (John R.W. Stott, The Message of Romans)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Interview - J.P. Moreland


J.P. Moreland is interviewed on the Converse with Scholars Program. CLICK HERE to download and listen.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Group Pics

Wednesday Night - June 20th

Saxophones, 5 inch Floppies, and Training Wheels - 1 Corinthains 13:8-12 (Week 5)

by JM
I’ve sat down with a number of couples facing significant relational stress in their marriages. Often the man and/or women have invested considerable time, money, and energy in something regarded as important: usually, but not exclusively, a job or education. It can easily be a passion or a calling different from career: ministry or marionette making. Such endeavors are sometimes met with degrees, certifications, awards, or something like this. Now of course, these things are quite important for living a fulfilled life, yet as the counseling session soon reveals, these things occupy too much importance. Imagine with me such a session.

“So Bob,” I say “you have a degree in engineering?” “Yep.” Bob responds. I continue, “I bet that means you’ve read a ton of books on the topic?” “More than I wanted to” he sighs. I retort, “But probably no less than you needed.” “You’re right” he says, “in fact, periodically I’ll take night courses to keep up with the industry.” “Bob, I imagine you’re good at what you do?” Bob, with half-suppressed but glaring pride says, “Well, I consider my job my calling.”
At this point, the conversation takes a revealing turn.

“So Bob, how many books have you read on marriage?” Silence………. “They make books on that,” Bob says with inappropriate humor trying to alleviate the painful, glaring, and undeniable reality to which he was oblivious to up to the question. I prod. “You haven’t answered the question: how many books?” He turns to his wife and asks with desperation, “Honey, didn’t we read a book by John Dobson; you know that Families in Focus ministry, right before we got married? You know the one, ‘Men are from Mars, and Women are from Venus.’”

Now, certainly Bob would have admitted that his wife is far much more important than the job, and at some level we might even believe him. But he’s certainly not convincing his wife nor the counselor trying to repair years of dysfunction.

This little illustration isn’t a spring board for a discussion on marriage, but on all things that matter in life, including marriage. In keeping with Paul’s overall thought in 1 Corinthians. 13, I want to address the following problem: There are certain matters in life which are very important, but not most important. Due to some flaw in our vision, we gravitate towards elevating very important matters as most important matters, and most important matters as of lesser importance. In addressing this problem, I’m going to import the temporally important matters of life (e.g., car, credit, career, clout, comfort) into Paul’s discussion of spiritual gifts in chapter 13. To illustrate Paul’s thought, I will use a Saxophone, a 5 inch Floppy Disk, and Training Wheels.


During a fundraising event at our church, one of our members donated a saxophone to be displayed and bid on in an auction. This seemed to be an ordinary saxophone: it produces sounds when you exhale into it in a certain way; it has knobs which when operated properly provide soul-stirring notes; it came with a case to be used, as it appeared to have been use before - for travel purposes. But when someone purchased it and brought it home for use, something wasn’t right. They tried and they tried to produce sound, but to no avail. It then became apparent to the new owner that there was an obstruction in the saxophone. They placed their hand into the instrument and pulled out a bag of marijuana. One can only image the reaction at this point: “I don’t think that this was in the bidding description at the church?” Of course, it wasn’t. In the exoneration of our altruistic member who donated the sax, it was from a time long ago when he knew not Christ. Nevertheless, it was no longer a secret that the saxophone was used a bit differently than it was designed to be used.

Paul says this in verses 8-13

1 Corinthians 13:8-13 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
If I may paraphrase the thought, Paul is saying

“One day you will shed your gifts. When they are removed, what will remain? Sure, they are on display now, and what they do is obvious. Oh, certainly, it appeared that your prophecies, tongues, and teaching were all meant to sound a glorious tune for God’s fame and love for neighbor. But not so fast, Oh Corinthians, you might have fallen into the trap of elevating the very important function of your gift above their most important function and God-designed intention: loving God and others. Are you blowing your own horn? Are you inhaling when you should be exhaling? What’s at the core of your instrument?”
Or take ones’ car, career, credit, clout - the important things of life: a person may keep telling others that all these important matters are pursued out of love and devotion to others, family, church, or God. “The reason I work so hard is for you…for them..for...” That’s the appearance; that’s the claim; that’s the supposed function of our lifes’ activities. But when these things are shed, will love remain, or self-love? Paul says that one day one’s motives will be revealed – will it be elating, or embarrassing?

5 Inch Floppy Disks

I imagine a man who had the inside scoop on the cutting edge technology of floppy disks. I also image that such a man might have believed this invention to be one which will have enduring affect and place in all future technology. “The Floppy disk is the wheel of the 20th century.” Of course, he invests heart and money into the budding technology, and when the 80s rolled around, all hopes and aspirations were confirmed beyond his wildest imaginations. “The plane, the wheel, the 5 inch Floppy disk!” was his cry of joy. By the early 90s, we find him mourning. You see, the burgeoning information technology roared passed the unsophisticated and clumsy floppy disk. One can no more retrofit the floppy to the new and ever-changing technology than one can retrofit a covered wagon with hydraulic breaks. The wagon, as well as the floppy, must be scrapped.

Here was his mistake. Certainly the man should have invested in the floppy, but he should have also positioned himself for long term success by putting his attention in the technology under girding the floppy. Put differently, he failed to see the difference between the temporary floppy-disk wave of technology, and the oceanic reservoir that would toss up other waves like CDs, Flash drives, and the like.

In addressing the church, Paul says,

1 Corinthians 13:8-10 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
Spiritual gifts, or those temporally important matters of life have a shelf-life; they are designed to become obsolete. Their present glimmer and shine makes one think that they will endure, yet as quickly as are born, they will die. “The world is passing away… (1 John 2:17). Love, on the other hand, is eternal. As such, I must discern the difference between the transient waves of love (be it prophecy, knowledge, or some human endeavor), and the oceanic reservoir of love that fuels every wave that rises and falls. If I master love, I’ll be prepared for whatever expression that God establishes in time or eternity. If I master temporary expressions or shells of love, and not the love itself, I’ll be ill-equipped for new and heavenly dimensions awaiting.

Training Wheels

My 4 year old daughter is under the delusion that she has mastered bike riding because she has training wheels. It’s the exact opposite. The fact that she has training wheels is powerful evidence that she has accomplished anything but mastery in bike riding. Because of her delusion, she attempts to handle her bike in ways unfit for bikes with training wheels. We all know that training wheels help, but they can easily harm. She’s safe so long as she rides slow and avoids dips into driveways, but as soon as she reaches a certain speed or drops into a drive way, the occasions are ripe for serious injury.

We all know that a little age will clear up her misperceptions of her bike-riding ability. Right about nine years of age, she’ll see her childish ways - her misplaced pride in training wheels - as well as her ‘mastery’ of bike-riding, and then shed the training wheels and truly experience the joy of the sport.

1 Corinthians 13:11 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
Paul relates this chapter to a group of people who believe that they had mastered the Christian life because of their possession and use of spiritual gifts. Paul saw the absurdity of that view. The fact that the spiritual gifts were in operation was clear proof that they had not arrived. The fact that prophecy is in operation shows that we know very little of what we need to know. The fact that knowledge and tongues are in use shows that we only see faint glimpses of glory and perfection. Spiritual gifts are crutches, or training wheels for people who aren’t even remotely ready for glory. If we boast in the gifts, we glory in our deficiency.

Spiritual gifts are to love what training wheels are to a bike. One day we will shed the gifts. When that day comes, did we take advantage of the training wheels to learn some rudiments of love? Or will we have missed the lesson altogether to our embarrassment.

Let’s use the important matters in life as an application. How many people are under the delusion that if they get these things in life in place (e.g. cash, credit, car, career, comfort, clout) and are managing them well, then they have arrived? The fact that one would boast in such an accomplishment discloses the childish overestimation of earthly things. Success is rooted in how well we do in taking the important matters of life and wielding them in service of the most important matters of life: loving God and others. Life and its blessings are meant to hang on these two things:

Matthew 22:35-40 35 One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" 37 And He said to him, "'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' 38 "This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 "The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' 40 "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."