Monday, March 26, 2007
How you answer this question has political ramifications. Check out this short but provocative article by Dennis Prager
Saturday, March 24, 2007
by JMI ran across a discussion between John Piper and Bruce Ware on the extent of the atonement. John Piper takes the classical reformed position, and Bruce Ware holds to a modified version which most would regard as a statement on four-point Calvinism. Check out the discussion.
My thoughts on this subject lean towards Ware's formulation. Here's a snippet.
There are traditionally two ways that 5 pointers argue for LA (limited atonement) against 4 pointers.
(1) The first is to show that anyone holding to T.U.I.P must also hold to L if they are logically consistent. That is, L is a logical necessity given the other points. This is a reasonable strategy. If someone were to show me that L is necessitated by T.U.I.P, given that I firmly hold to these other points due to their Scriptural basis, I am quite ready to concede L. In other words, a proponent of LA wouldn’t have to prove that LA is exegetically undeniable or probable, only that it follows from what I already believe to be exegetically undeniable.
(2)The second is to show that Scripture clearly teaches LA.
My position is that I haven’t come across someone yet who can show (1). If I’m right that a 5 pointer’s interpretation is one of at least two possible corollaries of TUIP, then we are forced to discuss what Scripture says. In which case, it is also my position that I haven’t come across someone who has yet demonstrated (2). For now, I’ll give you my thoughts on (1).
Is the “L” logically required?
I will now give my denial of (1). It seems to me that 5 pointers have taken on a tremendous challenge in affirming (1). In order for this affirmation to work, it isn’t enough for them to show that the “L” is probable or feasible, but undeniable. Conversely put, they must show that all other options are logically impossible. That’s a tough task to prove.
I now offer another possibility stemming of TUIP. I will first provide a some basic propositions, to be followed by a more readable presentation of the argument:
I. The basic propositions of my position:
A. In relation to a person, 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. By “appropriated,” I mean that this objective reality has been applied to a subject.
B. What is the relation of A (A=atonement) to the elect:
1. The atonement is at one season an objective reality, but its not an appropriated reality.C. What is the relation of A to the non-elect: If it is possible for A to be an objective reality but not an appropriated reality until the condition of faith is met, then it is possible for A to be an objective reality and never an appropriated reality for the non elect, due to the fact that the condition for making it an appropriated reality has not be met. Consequently, it is possible for atonement to be a reality in one sense and not in another for the non-elect.
2. When faith is given, the atonement is both an objective and appropriated reality.
II. Possible Objections to this view
A. To be saved is to be saved from something (e.g. God‘s wrath). The non-elect are not saved from God‘s wrath. Therefore, they’re not saved in any sense. The term “salvation” is absolutely irrelevant. Here's my response:
First of all, if a man attains a governmental position for a friend, and the friend doesn’t take possession it, this is not the same as saying that there was never a position to begin with. This friend has something that a bum on the street doesn’t. One might say that he has it in right, but not in possession. Or, if a man’s son is offered the estate whenever he would like, and yet the son never takes possession of it, this isn’t the same thing as say that there was never an estate available to this man, or that some stranger had the same relation to the father as his son does.B. If Christ was punished for all the sins of person p, then it would never be right to punish person p, for this results in either the same sin be punished twice or someone innocent being punished, both of which are unjust. Put differently, if Christ bore Roger’s punishment and Roger went to hell and also bore his own punishment, we have two people being punished for sins that only one should be punished for. This is unfair. But God is fair. Therefore, whoever Christ died for will eventually be made right with God. My response is as follows:
Secondly, this argument seems to assume that propitiation that isn’t appropriated is a non thing or unreal. For the objector, what makes propitiation a reality is that it will be applied. A propitiation that is never applied is nothing.
In this scheme, my question is this: how is the fact that it will be applied make it something real now? The fact that something is applied presumes that this thing exists prior to application. As such what is the atonement prior to its appropriation? What we know is that it is not a non-thing.
I assert that this would be unfair if Roger were actually justified (i.e. was in an unpunishable state). A person who has been actually declared righteous, and then punished, would result in an unjust distribution of justice. If Roger isn’t justified, he is by definition someone whom God presently regards with righteous distain, presently deserving of God wrath. This means that if all of God’s wrath were to fall upon him that minute, God would be just. This is also true of someone who is elect and unjustified. They are justly deserving of God’s wrath.C Just as the effects of Adam’s sin were not immediate experienced, but eventually would be experienced, the same is true with Christ’s atonement. The effects are not always immediate, but they are eventual. The reason looks like this - A just God must punish Adam for his sin, though he didn‘t immediately. The reason punishment is eventual is that God’s character demands it. When Adam sinned, death would eventually follow. In the case of Christ’s atonement, since Christ truly paid the penalty for our sin, the restoration is eventual. Here's my response.
If the LA argument were true, then justification would need to be immediate, not eventual: For eventual justification still leaves the unjustified elect as the object of God’s wrath, which would also bring the charge of God remaining angry at someone for whom Christ took God’s anger. Let’s say that Roger is an unjustified elect, proponents of LA would say that God would be unjust to pour out all of his wrath upon him at any given time. In what sense is he then not justified?
Proponents of LA might insist that Roger isn’t really an object of wrath. Rather, the wrath of God was stayed in anticipation of Christ’s death. As Paul speaks of in Romans,
Romans 3:25 This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;
Christ passed over the sins committed, meaning, God didn’t unleash his wrath against transgressors. As such, justification wouldn’t need to be immediate, seeing that God’s punishment wasn’t unleashed.
My response to this is that Paul’s point isn’t that God has never exhibited his wrath until the death of Christ, only that this exhibition has been tempered with forbearance. So for Roger, God’s full exhibition of his wrath towards him isn’t removed, but restrained. This implies that if God’s wrath were to fall in full measure upon Roger, it would fall justly. Further one may argue that death and depravity are God’s judgment upon our sin, showing that God‘s wrath is still experienced in some measure upon people who haven‘t experienced it in full measure.
If the argument for LA were adopted, then God would be unjust to allow us to suffer this punishment of death and depravity for any length of time, if Christ truly bore that death? In short, for the elect to bear two-seconds of God’s wrath in any form, is for the elect to experience injustice at the hands of God, for that’s two seconds of wrath that Christ underwent.
All this implies that God’s judgment against sin is a just judgment until Christ’s merit by his death are applied, not procured. Application of his merits is what determines whether God punishing an individual would be just or unjust, not the procurement of those merits. As such, it appears that Christ’s death isn’t something that seals the application, but puts Christ in a position to dispense as he sees fit. Like a man who sees the debt of another, works to accumulate money for that debt, and now is free to remit that debt or not. The fact that he has procured the amount to remit that debt, doesn’t mean upon procurement that the debt is remitted. He is now in a position to remit as he pleases. This seems to fit will with verses that indicate that it is when Christ presents his atonement to the Father for any individual, it is then that this individual his made right. Without this presentation, there is no justification.
Take the Old Testament sacrificial system as an example. A person my lay his hands upon the sacrificial animal, indicating a transference of guilt; cut the throat of that animal, enacting a transference of punishment. But until the priest offers it, this identification doesn’t obtain. Yet, this doesn’t fail to be a true sacrifice. So in one sense sacrifice has been made, but not applied. In the same way, Christ is a propitiation for all sins, yet in particular he is propitious towards us who believe (Romans 3:25).
Take 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 as another example. Paul says, “20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
The “might” is not statement of what will happen, but would could happen. God made Christ to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in him.”
Though Adam did not experience the ultimate manifestation of judgment, yet surely he immediately experienced God’s wrath towards him: died spiritually, etc…. All of which means that Adam was actually alienated from God from the time he sinned. Proponents of this argument wouldn’t want to argue that Christ’s merits actually make me reconciled to God at conception. This parallel would work only if we maintain that as soon as the elect is conceived, she is declared righteous, and would experience the ultimate manifestation of that right standing in glorification far in the future. If the seeds of death were a reality at the time of Adam’s sin, then the seeds of righteousness have always been a reality for the elect.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Damned or Saved by the Act of Another: Understanding the Connection of Original Sin and Justification
Pt. 2 – Original Sin: The Essential Counterpart
In my last installment, I defined the doctrine of Original Sin as meaning that both the guilt and pollution of Adam’s sin is charged to us such that God justly punishes us for the sin and pollution of another.
Now to say that this is hard doctrine for the natural man to swallow would be an understatement. But I would venture to say that it’s a difficult concept for believers to grasp for the same reason that the natural man rejects it: it’s not fair that a person would be punished for a sin he didn’t consciously and deliberately commit. Though I believe that there are some solid responses one can give to the natural man, I would like rather to iron out the difficulty for the believer. I think this is best done by demonstrating that the principle that they have difficulty with shows up somewhere else in their belief structure; in an area which they will consider essential to their faith. So let’s examine a little closer what we mean by Original Sin and see if we’ve uncovered a principle which is in fact an essential to the Christian Gospel. With Original Sin,
(1) Adam is mankind’s God-ordained representative. Elsewhere Paul would say that “in Adam all die” (1 Cor 15:22). The phrase “in Adam” marks a union that is inherently personal; an intense solidarity of a human being with Adam. This union may be described metaphorically as the relationship of a head to a body.Now for those who are alert, these four propositions mirror a concept regarded as essential for understanding the gospel, namely, the doctrine of Justification by Faith. With the doctrine of Justification,
(2) the union between Adam and his offspring is one in which one man, Adam (the head of the body), decides the fate of the members of the body. If Adam fails, and we are in Adam, then we fail. If Adam dies by sinning, and since we are in Adam, we too die in sin. If Adam is condemned and cursed by God, and we are in Adam, then we are condemned and cursed by God.
(3) we have a union in which one man determines how God will relates to those this man represents. In this relationship of head to body, God will only treat, regard, or relate to the members of the body in the way that God treats, regards, or relates to the head of the body. So given that God treats or regards Adam like a disobedient son, then if we are apart of his body, God will treat or regard us as disobedient sons and daughters, even if we haven’t disobey.
(4) the union is of such intimacy, and the solidarity is so great, that the life of the head becomes the life of the body. Put differently, although God regards and treats us as disobedient sons because God treats us as he treats Adam (even though we were not consciously present when Adam sinned), yet due to the degree of unity we have with Adam, his actual life transforms ours so that in the end we become actual disobedient sons.
(1’) Christ is the God-ordained representative for those saved. Elsewhere Paul would say “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Cor 15:22). The small phrase “In Christ” is found frequently in the New Testament. In fact, it is so frequently used in Scripture that we pass it by with little thought, like curator of art museum who gives little notice to the priceless pieces due the enormity of the collection. Yet, this one little phrase contains a sea of significance, the depths of which we cannot plunge. The phrase “In Christ” marks a union that is inherently personal. It’s a prepositional phrase that marks the solidarity of a believer with Jesus. The intensity of this union, the breadth of what is meant by it, is of such a nature that many great godly men have labeled it a “mystical union.”
So the crux of Justification by Faith is that God presently counts or esteems a person who is presently unrighteous as righteous in virtue of their connection to the righteousness of another. A person enters by faith into Christ and God esteems and treats that sinful person as he would his sinless son. But the union has future implications - due to the nature of the union of sinner and Christ, the man or women will ultimately become righteous as Christ. This is the counterpart of Original sin. The crux of Original Sin is that God presently counts or esteems people who are in Adam as unrighteous in virtue of the unrighteousness of another. Even though we weren’t there, didn’t consent, didn’t rebel, because of the intimate relationship that we have with our original Father, we are counted guilty.Romans 12:4-5 4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.(2’) there’s a union in which one man, the head of the body, decides the fate of the members of the body. If Christ triumphs and we are in Christ, then we triumph. If Christ dies to sin, and we are in Christ, then we die to sin. If Christ is raised from the dead, and we are in Christ, then we shall also rise.
Ephesians 1:22-23 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
Galatians 3:28-29 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise.
(3’) God establishes a union which determines how God relates to us. God will only treat, regard, or relate to the members of the body in the way that God treats, regards, or relates to the head of the body. So, given that God treats or regards Christ like an obedient son. If we are apart of his body, then God will treat or regard us as obedient sons and daughters, even if we really aren’t obedient.
(4’) God establishes a union that is of such intimacy and solidarity that the life of the head becomes the life of the body. Put differently, although God regards and treats us as obedient sons even though we aren’t obedient sons, yet due to the intimacy of union we have with Jesus, his actual life transforms ours so that in the end we become actual obedient sons. God, who regards us as he does Christ, is forming and fashioning us so that we really become like Jesus.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
According to the latest Barna survey, if all of the unchurched people were to leave America and form their own country, they would form the 11th most populated nation on earth. Click here to read more.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
In his new book, Radical Reformission, Mark Driscoll provides a helpful way of identifying the specific ways that the church has failed to balance the gospel, church, and the culture (or God, brother, and neighbor) Here’s the summary.
1. The Gospel + The Culture – The Church = Parachurch Organizations
There are some who are rightly frustrated with the church’s insularity and have ventured into enterprises that are disjointed from the local church. These organizations do much by way of conversions, but the weakness is that these same organizations fail to assimilate these converts into the discipleship making structures of the local church. Consequently, we have the preservation of immature believers. Furthermore, these organizations reinforce the unbiblical conception held by church and within parachurch organizations that there are people who are called to do and be what local churches and church members aren’t. So, Campus Crusade for Christ is called to do the evangelism that the 20 local churches surrounding University X aren’t called to. The mentality is, “Why be on mission when we have missionaries? – The professionals who assuage my conscience for not being a missionary to my neighbor. There’s the weakness of Loving God and our neighbor, but not our brother.
2. The Church + The Culture – The Gospel = Liberalism
Of course, mainline denominations embody this heroic but spiritually impotent endeavor to mobilize the church to address and aid her needy culture. However, they do so without the gospel. They’ve abandoned the notion of soul-damning sin, and consequently they’ve abandoned the notion of a soul-saving Jesus. This theological liberalism relegates them to address humanitarian needs with little thought of heaven or hell; they are treating skin abrasions when the artery has been severed. They’ve attempted to save the culture with the church without the gospel; as foolish as a physician attempting to save his patient with a syringe that contains no substance. They’ve loved their neighbor and brother, but not in the way commissioned by God.
3. The Church + The Gospel – The Culture = Fundamentalism
Then we have a swath of evangelical churches who believe that in order to preserve the stability of the church and the purity of the gospel, the church must maintain a sub-culture that is far removed from the culture. Culture is viewed as enemy. Every production and person within is viewed as pernicious threats to her members and doctrine. Whenever a church ventures out of her sub-culture in attempts to woo the lost, they are looked upon by fundamentalist as compromising fundamentals. If the world would be saved, she must convert to the churches sub-culture. This includes dress, talk, rules, music, entertainment, etc…. And when they make a convert, they make them twice the legalist and twice as ineffective as they are. The love God and their brother, but ignore their neighbor.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Damned or Saved by the Act of Another: Understanding the Connection of Original Sin and Justification
Pt. 1 - Am I Damned to Hell Because of Another Man’s Sin? – The Biblical Basis of Original Sin.
Original Sin is often mistakenly defined as the first sin committed by our parents. Part of this misunderstanding comes as a result of a terribly misleading term like “Original Sin,” and part of this misunderstand stems from the challenging concept meant by it. By Original Sin, I mean that both the guilt and pollution of Adam’s sin is charged to all of his offspring, such that God justly punishes his offspring for the sin and pollution of Adam.
The challenge immediately arises,
“How can God justly hold people accountable for the sins of another?”Now before I address that challenge, let’s first establish that this is derived from Scripture. There’s no reason to worry ourselves about a challenge made to an unbiblical statement on Original Sin. So what does Scripture say? Most will turn to Romans 5:12-21 to establish this doctrine. Let’s take a look.
12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned--Paul declares that through Adam sin made its entrance into the world. In this phrase, we’re not yet clear to what degree it made its entrance. Was the universe constitutionally different - like shockwaves sent out to every corner of creation by this one sin? Or, is it just the bland statement that insofar as Adam sinned, the door had been cracked open? Paul continues by saying that through Adam’s sin, “death entered.” Certainly the day that our parents ate of the fruit they had died in a spiritual way. But at this point of the text, we still have yet to understand this man’s sin and consequential death in relation to his offspring. In particular, is this sin and death communicated to his sons and daughters?
Now the next two phrases, by themselves, do little to help us answer this question:
“and so death spread to all men, because all sinned--.”Here we see that the consequence of someone’s sin is that death spreads to all men. So at this point, we see that the effects of sin, namely death, are communicated to Adam’s seed. But still, the basis of this universal death isn’t spelled out. Specifically, death is the consequences whose sin: Adam’s sin, or the sin of each person born from Adam? Paul continues,
“and so death spread to all men, because all sinned--”Now on the surface, it would seem like death spreads to each individual because of each individual’s sin. However, this will run aground in the next verse.
13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
Paul declares that from the time period between Adam and the giving of the Mosaic law, though individuals sinned, God didn’t impute these individual sins to the individuals sinning. God chose not to treat people in an ultimate way on the basis of their personal sins. Consequently, God did not punish people in an eschatological way on the basis of their personal sin. Yet in verse 14, we read
14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.We know that death is a punishment of sin (6:23), and yet according to verse 13 God did not punish individuals during this time for their individual sins. But, in verse 14 we see the presence of death (or punishment) on these individuals that God will not visit with death for their individual sins. So if the punishment isn’t the result of their sins, but we know that it’s always the result of somebody’s sin, then it must be the sin of another, namely Adam. Paul says that the same death reigns over those who had not even sinned like Adam did. That is, the particular punishment by God on humanity wasn’t the result of the “lesser sins” committed by his offspring, but of the unique treason committed by Adam. Adam, in virtue of his unique position, committed a particularly horrible act, the punishment of which is transferred to us.
Revisiting verse 12, if “death spread to all men because all sinned,” this must mean something like “death spread to all men because all were accounted sinners in virtue of Adam’s sin.” Or put simpler, “because all sinned in Adam.”
The remainder of the chapter seals the classic position on Original Sin:
“15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. 16 The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. 17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. 18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 19 For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. 20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:15-21).Whatever problems we may have of the doctrine of Original Sin, it’s derivation from Scripture isn’t one. A clear reading of Romans 5:12-21 obligates the Bible-believer to hold to the doctrine. I’ll demonstrate in the next installment that Original Sin is powerfully reinforced by what some may think to be an unlikely place - the basic and essential ingredients of the gospel.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
While the Emergent movement gains great press and attention with its theologically left leanings which have taken the form of skepticism, silence, or disavowal of doctrine, “the new Reformed movement may be larger and more pervasive phenomena” among the young.
Check out the article:
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Pt. 2 – Beware of Mushroom Revivals
Charles Spurgeon, no stranger to powerful moves of God, gives us this caution:
“Things are allowed to be said and done at revivals which nobody could defend. Do you notice, at the present moment, the way the gospel is put? I am uttering no criticism upon anyone in particular, but I continually read the exhortation, "Give your heart to Christ." The exhortation is good, but do not suffer it to cover over the gospel word: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." In the Sunday-school, the teaching often is, "Dear children, love Jesus." Now, this is not the gospel. The love of Jesus comes as a fruit, but the gospel is, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." If we think that we shall do more good by substituting another exhortation for the gospel command, we shall find ourselves landed in serious difficulties. If, for a moment, our improvements seem to produce a larger result than the old gospel, it will be the growth of mushrooms, it may even be the growth of toadstools; but it is not the growth of trees of the Lord” (Spurgeon, An All-Round Ministry, http:// www. spurgeon.org/misc/aarm12.htm).I don’t think it’s reading too much into Spurgeon to assume that after warning of mushroom revivals, he would have added that we pray for, aspire after, and promote those moves or seasons of heightened religious sensitivity which nurture tree-like growth; growth derived from roots sent deep into the gospel; moves that produce everlasting fruit for the glory of God. As if to say, to promote and protect such powerful moves of God, this 19th century prophet pleads for us to watch for the subtle seduction, sedition, and the self-destructing nature of rival – revivals, as well as to plead with God for the genuine. These two efforts should be married.
As for the seduction, much like true-rival, the imposter initially flourishes with energy and pomp; with people swayed into an extraordinary excitement and resolve towards the things of religion. Almost as by default, we are tempted to infer from this shimmering effect a glorious cause. Spurgeon would say that this inference might be similar to people, who cloistered from basics of botany, concluding that the quick and impressive immergence of mushrooms and toadstools must be clear evidence of their enduring nature; a faulty inference indeed. In the same way, those accustomed to the word of God do not see energy, pomp, and interest in the things of religion as sufficient earmarks of revival, though they may be accompanying earmarks. Rather, they look beneath these things for sure signs of renewal - “repentance towards God, and faith in Christ Jesus,” or as John the Baptist would search for in his respondents, “Fruits appropriate for repentance.”
The sedition, though subtle, looms when revivals are sown in the ground of shallow doctrine. Spurgeon feared in his own day that such movements made ambiguous those things essential for salvation. In these revivals, clarity of doctrine seemed irrelevant, distracting, or sometimes opposed to the movement of God’s Spirit. “Give your heart to Jesus” replaces “Plead for mercy from an angry God.” “Love Jesus” replaces, “repent and be saved.” Clarity of understanding or thought is portrayed as ruinous to the emotional fervor of the moment. The grand project is, “can we move their hearts,” regardless of what is in the mind. Much like days gone by, today there is no small number of people who will respond to the gospel filtered and twisted by their natural mind. When asked what they propose to accept about Christ, often it is a Christ who saves from financial ruin or relational ruin. Christ is either embraced “as a purpose for living,” or a reason “for not giving up.” There’s very little sin-saving in these moves. The preachers and promoters of biblical revival will spend much of their effort untwisting and undoing the inevitable false interpretations of the gospel made by the respondents. They will preach the guilt and depravity of man, and declare the sole-sufficient atoning death of Christ as the satisfaction for that guilt. They’ll endeavor is to preach the simplicity of the gospel in a way (to use words of Martin Lloyd Jones) to “reach the mind, awaken the emotion, and move the will.”
The self-destruction of imposter revival is present from inception. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, but that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.” Earthly productions will burn with her. Heavenly productions will endure with her. Earthly repentance contains the curse of Adam, which leads to death. The repentance which reflects the will of heaven, endures forever (2 Cor. 7:9-10; 1 John 2:17). This is not to say that we have to wait for the eternal state to part through the sheep and goats of putative God-movements. Even within the scope of the work of revival, one will begin to detect the true nature of the work by the endurance of those worked upon in it, namely does the devotion outlast the emotion? Gamaliel’s advice seemed applicable to something wider than the vindication of the new-born Christian movement when he said, "So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God" (Acts 5:38-39).
If you’re a lover of genuine moves of God, then you’ll be a hater of her counterfeits. Let’s beware of Mushroom and Toadstool revivals. Let’s pray for tree-like growth from heaven.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Pt. 1 – Towards a Definition
It has been of late that God has been stirring within the hearts of many within our church a longing for revival. As for me, the seeds were implanted within my heart through reading George Marsden’s biography on Jonathan Edwards in 05’, and then through reading Arnold Dallimore’s and Michael Haykin’s biographies on George Whitefield at the end of 06’. Edwards and Whitefield were men who both embodied and perpetuated one of the great revivals of Church History: The Great Awakening of the 18th century. These were men of spiritual depth, passion, knowledge, and compassion for the lost; they inhaled sweet devotion with Christ, and exhaled Christ-exalting, soul-winning, and church-edifying preaching and teaching. Whether it’s the theological acumen and precision of Edwards, or the unmatched eloquence of Whitefield, no one could doubt that these were men whose souls burned with white-hot passion for Christ. Edwards and Whitefield were 2 of a number of “revived” men who saw no small work of God’s Spirit in their lives and ministries. We could go on to name Edward Griffin, Asahel Nettleton, Lyman Beecher, Gardiner Spring, Samuel Davies, and a host of others who like a cloud of witness surrounding us, give us fresh legs and new wind to run the race set before us.
As with all good gifts, Satan has his counterfeits: for God’s Christ, Satan commissions his anti-christs; his false christs with external similarities to the true, but housing poison for the soul and inordinate glory to man. In particular, to counteract God –given revival, Satan has distracted many with what Iain Murray labels “Revivalism.” Yet, we all know that God is in the habit of taking the wicked intentions of demons and demon-like people and channeling these for His greater promotion. And so it is with counterfeit revival. Counterfeit revival, when compared to the genuine, give us occasion to see the real work in its grandeur. For it’s in the contrast that we have greater clarity of the subtle yet monumental differences. What is at first imperceptible and seemingly insignificant assaults us as the very heart of the matter. Much like Satan’s alleged facsimile of God’s command to Eve in Genesis 3, so it is with the differences between revival and revivalism.
To highlight the genuine given the backdrop of the spurious, let’s settle ourselves to provide a working definition of what is meant by revival:
Revival is a sovereign, irregular, and temporary act of God whereby, through the operation of the Holy Spirit,By way of clarification, this move of the Holy Spirit has been often described as the “out-pouring of the Spirit,” “baptism of the Spirit,” “effusion of the Spirit,” “infilling of the Spirit, “greater measure of the Spirit,” and other phrases like these. This operation of the Spirit is believed to be displayed at Pentecost and during subsequent “infillings” described for us in the apostolic narrative.
(1) certain churches experience a heightening of things believed, an acceleration of processes that are typically slow paced, and a greater success of those things endeavored,
(2) the communities in which these churches reside are affected by this movement unto salvation in far greater numbers than at ordinary times,
(3) the effects of (1) and (2) are long-lasting upon individuals, churches, and communities; fruit consistent with individuals, churches, and communities who have imbibed fully of the power of the gospel, and
(4) Christ is exalted primarily through conversion and the sanctification of His people.
By “a heightening of things believed,” among a number of things, I mean; a greater awareness and hatred of sin; a greater desperation for Christ and dependence on His meritorious work; a greater preoccupation with God’s glory; a greater sense of the transiency of life and imminence of the kingdom of God; a greater fervor in the work of the Lord.
By “an acceleration of processes that are typically slow,” I mean that God accomplishes in a quicker way what he normally does in a prolonged manner. Remarking on this phenomena in his own ministry, Edwards says,
“When God in so remarkable a manner took the work into his own hands, there wasas much done in a day or two as at ordinary times, with all endeavor that men can use, and with such a blessing as we commonly have, is done in a year” (Edwards, A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God, 350).Earlier, Edwards gives particulars to what he means.
“God has also seemed to have gone out of his usual way, in the quickness of his work, and the swift progress his Spirit has made in his operations on the hearts of many. It is wonderful that persons should be so suddenly and yet so greatly changed. Many have been taken from a loose and careless way of living, and seized with strong convictions of their guilt and misery, and in a very little time old things have passed away, and all things have become new with them” (Ibid.).By (2) and (4), I mean that the chief goal or end of this operation of the Spirit is the exaltation of Christ as Savior through an extraordinary harvest of soul’s saved and set aflame with aspirations for and exploits of holy living. This is also what I meant in “a greater success in things endeavored.”
I think that it’s safe to assume that pseudo-revival will equivocate, redefine, or reject more than one of these elements this definition. We’ll turn to this in the following enstallments.
Friday, March 9, 2007
Civil War of Soul: Some Thoughts on the Inner Battle of the Believer
In surveying Romans 7:14 – 8:17, we find that the feature that distinguishes believer from non-believer is a renewed mind that has as its primary bent or disposition a regard and a life lived for the promotion the glory of God. Such a person is regarded as possessed by the Holy Spirit. If a person is possessed by the Spirit of God, this inborn inner principle of Spirit-born righteousness marks him or her as God’s possession (8:9), as pleasing to God (8:8), and as possessing life and peace (8:6). Furthermore, a “mind set on the Spirit” is a mind imbued with a new-born inertia or momentum towards righteousness and holiness.
Those devoid of the Spirit of Christ are described as having a “mind set on the flesh,” by which I take a life that has as its primary bent or disposition a disparagement of the glory of God. Paul describes this fallen condition as of such disrepair that those within this condition are innately hostile towards God (8:7), unable to please God (8:9), and incapable of obeying his commands (8:7). Such a fallen person is pulled by this inner Adamic riptide into unrighteousness. The mind is “set,” or “settled” on the flesh.
Herein lays the recipe for the kind of despair that we find verbalized by Paul when he cried, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” This cry concludes a description of a civil war taking place within his soul- a soul that’s been renewed by the Spirit. Which is to say, upon regeneration we experience the birth of a new principle of holiness which does not eradicate the old principle of godlessness. Upon the new birth, a person is thrown in the middle of two opposing forces; the new-born inertia or momentum towards righteousness clashes with the native Adamic riptide of unrighteousness.
It’s important to note that this clash is not between equally opposing forces. Upon rebirth, a believer does not have both “a mind set on the flesh” and “a mind set on the Spirit.” Remember, by “set,” we mean a primary bent of nature, or a chief inclination to do certain things. One cannot have two opposing inclinations that are primary at the same time. In the new-birth, the Spirit of God implant in the heart of man a disposition towards righteousness that is, by default, greater than the native disposition towards unrighteousness.
“For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit” (8:5)
One can “focus” the mind on the flesh, but now the default is a mind focused on righteousness. Further, one can nurture the flesh such that the desires rival and overwhelm, at times, the new-born principle of righteousness.
Again, we must recognize that although a fundamental component of the “new man” has been transformed, not every part of our nature has enjoyed this grace. From these unchanged but redeemed parts, ungodly desires will rush from the bottom-up, competing with the desires of the mind which flow from the top-down. The result is a clash within a believer that is captured for us in Romans 7:14 – 8:17. This clash will remain so long as the body hasn’t experienced the fruition of redemption (8:11). From these things, I make the following observations:
(1) An unregenerate person will experience conviction of sin, but never to the degree that a believer does. More often than not, the natural man looks on with perplexity at the angst of a believer over their condition.
(2) A regenerate person will always be (in this life) a hypocrite – or one who does not practice what she preaches. But this inconsistency causes him deep sorrow. She hates her hypocrisy. She hates the part of her that remains fallen. She clings to Christ more fervently because of this. She longs for the completion of God’s work of redemption in her.
(3) A regenerate person will never resign himself to the presence of sin in his life, no more than a patriot makes friends with an enemy who has invaded and occupied his land. He hates the occupier, curses it, and does whatever he can to undermine his operations. He implements guerilla warfare tactics on those fallen parts of his soul. He does whatever he can to minimize its influence, waiting eagerly for complete liberation.
(4) As a result, a regenerate person should be noticeably different than the unregenerate. His moral progress flows inevitably in the midst of this inner struggle, for he fights from a new heaven-born disposition towards holiness. We should see a progressive distain of sin in his life, as well as moral progress. We should see a progressive regard God’s glorification in his world, as well as in his life. We should see a growing intensity of future hope for ultimate liberation.