Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

What is Scary about October 31st?

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

This time of year brings a strange situation that I continue to puzzle about – the non-starter of Reformation Day in almost all Protestant denomination churches.

Fact -> If the pivotal events which Reformation Day embodies and represent had not occurred (by God’s grace, of course), then each and every single person in all Protestant denominational churches would today be either a Roman Catholic or a non-believer, or both.

Fact -> Not only does Reformation Day and the events thereof go largely ignored and uncelebrated in most churches today, but the church seems much more concerned with Halloween silliness than with any awareness of the events that shaped (and contiues to shape) their church history.

What does this mean? What does it say about the church today?

I have, over the years, attended a number of churches – mostly Baptist and mostly Reformed in varying degrees. With one exception, they have proceeded to ignore the Reformation, as if the work of the Reformers of the 1500 and 1600s was largely unrelated to their freedom from Rome and their doctrinal beliefs.

I have no explanation other than willful intellectual hubris and entitlement of the first order, and I just don’t understand it.

They look hither and yon for alternatives to Halloween, running about in many case with great anst over things are for the most part meaningless if one takes the power of Christ seriously. At the same time, they ignore that which formed the foundation of their beliefs and which would provide something real to celebrate in the Lord.

Any questions concerning this to clergy or church leadership generally evoke non-answers, avoidance or clear ignorance of church history, along with a side order of disinterest.

I can only attribute the phenomena to a subtle man centered theology that will concentrate on almost anything of flesh rather than celebrate the reality of spirit that has shaped the church.

Mores the pity since we are all poorer for this…

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Reformation Day 2013

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Next week is Reformation week, containing Reformation Day, October 31 – the celebration of the event that is the source of all Protestant denominations.

Yet in 99% of North American churches, including the one I attend, nary a word will be spoken of this great event. It is truly a travesty and betrayal of all those saints and martyrs who went before us by the Grace of our Lord…

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Giving Offence to God – Part 2

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

So, the big question is, what about the unbeliever who is doing the praying. They are, after all, praying for good things.

As mentioned previously, their prayer is being used by God for both the benefit of the elect and the sanctification and definite redemption of His creation. Does this count as redemptive credit to the unbeliever, in some way bringing them closer to salvation?

The short answer, to steal a phrase from Paul, is “May it never be!”. In other words – absolutely not. In fact, quite the opposite, as we shall see.

Actually there are two groups to consider here: unbelievers passively in the audience and the unbeliever praying.

1.The passive unbelieving attendee.

First, this is not the ‘yet unsaved’ member of the elect. They were dealt with in the Part 1 post.

This is the other passive unbelieving attendees.

The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but he loves him who pursues righteousness. Prov 15:9

Since all of the fallen, that is all of mankind throughout all of the ages since the Fall, are at enmity with God, in active rebellion against Him, and serving Satan, nothing in this situation affects their status. The wicked are all those who are not redeemed.

However, that is not to say that they do not contribute to God’s program of redemption, but only that this contribution (since God uses all things to the benefit of His program) does not benefit their status before Him. The only thing that can change that is salvation.

Further, since this situation, like all of creation, confronts them with the sovereignty of God, they are herein implicitly commanded to acknowledge His sovereignty. Their denial and failure to do so is an ongoing affront (wickedness) to Him.

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Giving Offence to God – Part 1

Friday, April 1st, 2011

In a post some time ago I said “Now, in reference to apparent good verbal acts of the unsaved, these are good in the natural sense. They can not, however, appear good to God since their root does not emanate from God.” I would like to follow this train of thought a bit further. Fasten your set belts please, as the going may get a tad rough.

Let me pose a scenario: You are visiting a group of friends or family, and you sitting down to a meal together. Or you are at a large, primarily secular gathering where a meal is being served. Countless other scenes are possible in your memory I am sure. In line with modern inclusiveness and in deference to you or other ‘religious’ folk in the room, the non-Christian leader says a prayer for the meal and all who are in attendance.

Now let us look Biblically at the attitude of God to and efficacy of this praying.

We know that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28). First, this covers the believers in attendance. This is not qualified and is irrespective of the current circumstance. It is also exclusive. That is, God works in the interests of His elect only. As such, they are blessed. I think that I would even extend this to any yet unsaved elect in attendance, since they are headed for the Lord, so to speak.

Next, “all things work together for good” is inclusive of all circumstances working for the ongoing sanctification and redemption of the elect in God’s purposes. So we have not only individual benefit to the elect but also to the Lord’s “purposes” in creation. This would included the benefit to the earth of eventually being released from the effects of the Fall, under which it continually suffers. Again, this is irrespective of circumstance or in this case who is the active agent in the scenario.

So God uses all circumstances for the good of His elect and His creation, all in the movement forward of His program.

Since He is absolutely sovereign in all things, there are no surprises or variances to Him. His program can not be thwarted and even the worst scenario will be used in the interest of the elect and towards Heaven.

Next, the sticky part…

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Five Points and Luke 6:45-49

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” Luke 6:45.

Some time ago I heard a sermon on this and several following verses from Luke. I actually wrote about it elsewhere. The sermon made a number of good points surrounding human communications difficulties. The thrust of the sermon was that when words are exchanged (whether good or bad), it is not just the words that are important, but the fact that they implicitly reveal the state of the speaker’s heart. As such, communications problems (in this particular sermon, those between the sexes, often in the heat of the moment) must be addressed as heart issues as much as, if not more than, issues of verbal technique. A very good point! And to take it to the obvious next step, to alter the symptomatic expressions in a vacuum is unlikely to yield real, long lasting success.

Thinking about this, both then and later, it would seem that this principle should be extended to other communications, possibly even less direct modes of communication.

For the moment I wish to address only the case of the believer. For the believer, it struck me that one can delve beyond the initial reality that words expose the heart. The tone of that heart, expressed implicitly through the words, is a reflection or barometer of the speaker’s level of confidence in the Grace of our Lord, in a very personally sense. Surely the major component of the good treasure that is stored up in our hearts is the conviction and confidence that not only are we the Lord’s by His power and not our own, but also that in this belonging is an unchanging reality that was established by Him, not us.

If this is not the case, and if indeed the good or even the bad treasure of our hearts is established even marginally by us, then problems arise and our eternity exists on very shaky ground indeed. Scripture states that by virtue of its fallen nature the heart is bad (evil) and that none are worthy to be saved, not one. We are both collectively and individually portrayed as utterly lost in our trespasses and sin. These trespasses and sins are always against God, irrespective of the external circumstance, since He is the standard beyond all circumstance. Since (again from Scripture) bad can not create good of itself, we are without any ability to alter our basic nature. That being the case, intervention from outside our natural state is required for change to occur. There is no other possibility.

If whatever treasure is in the heart is established by us, outside His intervention, it can not be of Him and thereby can not be truly good – that is, of Him. In that case, any apparent good treasure must be from who we are naturally, and be jaundiced by that natural state from which it springs. What subsequently issues forth from that heart, appearances not withstanding, in the form of words can not be other than similarly jaundiced. This can in no way truly glorify a totally holy God.

Now, in reference to apparent good verbal acts of the unsaved, these are good in the natural sense. They can not, however, appear good to God since their root does not emanate from God. They must therefor fall short before Him no matter how they might appear in the world or what temporal benefit they might exact. They are based in the natural world and its standards of good. They are based on the standards of heaven, which are only achievable through the representation of Christ.

On the other hand, once the heart is changed by the Spirit (again, by the Spirit because the natural man is defined scripturally as completely lost, unable to create good from evil, and thereby unable to change himself) the good exists as the core of his nature, though not completely perfected until sanctification is completed. That path of sanctification, from imperfection to perfection, is certainly one of progressive and at times even faltering change. However, within is the heart claimed by God and regenerated with a core of good. Even at the beginning, but more as the process unfolds, the heart is progressively purified, and so must be the result in the words issuing from it, irrespective of the topic or situation.

A later point made in the same sermon was that, in the end, the heart issue comes down to the issue of rightness with God – that is, salvation. Clearly this is true, since it is from the movement of the Spirit, as evidenced in salvation, that the change of heart occurs.

All this is to say that though words are a good barometer for the heart, they are an even better barometer for self analysis and accountability within ones self, and within our close family in the Lord. What is required is the courage to examine both aspects of our communications and their implications. Only we will truly see the dichotomy between our own heart, how we would like it to be, and the evidence of its expression. A powerful tool in the process, and one that should humble us.

Accordingly, the remedy for the communications slips that we all exhibited in our imperfect state is not communications training, but heart training. Since we, as natural men (or women) are incapable of exacting change from our natural state and can not train our own hearts, the only remedy is to humbly seek change from the Lord, in prayer and the Word. That is the only venue for this development.

Further, in this we can only seek His face. Since it is His sovereign hand that exacts the continued change, on His timetable, we can only bring supplication and worship in obedience. Therein lies the solution, the final part being to rest in confidence in His eternal plan, sufficiency and preservation of the elect.

And once again, I never said easy.

“the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart” Matthew 15:18

Further, for those who would object that we might be in some way entitled to understand the situation more completely, I would cite one of my favourites.

“”The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Deuteronomy 29:29

I will pursue this more in due course…

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Yikes, modalists among us!

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

A few weeks ago I taught about the Trinity in our Basic Theology group. As part of the discussion we covered a number of significant heresies that had dogged the church in its early days (200~500BC). These erroneous beliefs had been declared as heresy and put to rest by various church councils. At least that is what we thought about them. They were well outside of the foundational orthodoxy and heterodoxy of all of the orthodox church landscape. But the work of the evil one is persistent.

One of the key errors concerned the Trinity, and was known as Modalism.

Okay, so there I was visiting a local nursing home this afternoon. I was chatting with a lady, and in brief the significant part went something like this (with the small talk left out):

Me: Where are you from?

Her: The ….. (a Pacific Rim country)

Me: I have a number of friends from there. I know them from church. Are you a Christian?

Her: Yes

Me: Do you go do church?

Her: Back home I did, but not here.

Me: Oh, what church?

Her: The Church of the One God.

And then she added “We don’t believe in the Trinity.”

Well, I don’t know if she saw my ears perk up or the “Say what?” expression on my face but…

Without being too pushy, I trolled a bit more and realized that I was in the presence of a real, live Modalist! I was back in the early church era!

Folks, just to be clear, this is not squabbling about drums in the worship service. This is serious stuff that can affect the very grounds and sufficiency of the Gospel.

Now, admittedly, there are lots of people in today’s evangelical church who hold slightly Modalistic views without realizing it. They have never been exposed to the biblical truth (shame on their church and Pastors – but that is for another post some time later). For example, they regard the Holy Spirit as only an extension of God’s power, rather than a full person of the Godhead with the same being, power and authority as the Father and Son. This, however, appeared to be much more than that. This was flat out denial of the Trinity, period.

I am still somewhat in dis-belief.

I will certainly meet this lady again and I will plum the depths of this some more. At her relatively young age, it is most certainly a result of bad and heretical teaching, but it does show that there are large groups of people who have run seriously amuck and into dangerous territory.

The doctrinal wolves among the sheep indeed.

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What is the specific error?

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

The local church in this case is saying that we choose Christ, triggering (that is, causing)  Him to appoint us to eternal life. There is not mention of any prerequisite work of the Spirit. This means that we are at some point in the process completely responsible for initiating our salvation and that we are capable of doing so as we stand. This is the error.

This vests the decision of who is save and who is not solely in the hands of a man, making him sovereign in initiating his ascension to eternal life. One can argue semantics but that is what they are saying.

Scripture, on the other hand, is unequivocal that the decision of who is to be save and who will believe is made solely by God BEFORE creation.

Further, Scripture makes it clear that man can NOT turn to Christ in his natural, unchanged state. Only the work of the Holy Spirit BEFOREHAND changes a man’s heart so that he can turn to Christ.

The Scriptural truth places the decision of who is saved, as well as how and when, solely in the hands of  God.  God is therefor solely and wholly sovereign in the ascension of the sinner to eternal life.

By take a ‘high view’ for man’s sovereignty, the belief under review demeans the sovereignty of the Creator. Man is conceived as not only sovereign over himself, but since his action causes God to act, God is in fact obligated to act on man’s behalf subsequent to the belief  ‘decision’.

Man is no longer the humble clay before the potter, but the sovereign clay who controls the potter’s action. This is a recipe for pride and hubris in man and for the believer to feel exalted in himself.

Once a believer casts himself  into this salvation creating role, the proper biblical attitude of obedience and acceptance toward God will surely evaporate over time. Man’s role will expand in significance to one assuming a God who is not omnipotent but limited.

This is an afront to and direct challenge to the God of the Bible. Throughout redemptive history, such attitudes have not been well received before the Lord…

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Subtle but dangerous error…

Monday, August 9th, 2010

I came across the quote below in the Doctrinal statement of an unnamed emergent church plant…

“When we put our faith in Christ, it triggers a spiritual chain reaction. We become the Temple of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 6:19). Our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 3:5).”

Sound pretty good? Appears to be based in Scripture? Looks can be deceiving. Please read it again.

It denies the foundational and critical sovereignty of God as clearly stated in the bible. Let’s see how…

Reducing their statement to the logic and intent we have  “When we put our faith in Christ, it triggers a spiritual chain reaction…Our names are written…”.

Action -> Result 1 and Result 2

You put our faith in Christ resulting in your inclusion in the Book of Life

I honestly can’ t see that anyone could interpret this any other way.

Well, to be blunt, that is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Let’s look at the truth of Scripture in Ephesians 1:4-6
“even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (italics mine)

Their statement stays that the believer was were chosen after they believed and because they decided to believe.

Scripture says that the believer was  chosen (and thus written in the Book of Life) before creation. These verses contain no caveats, individual conditions or other provisions for later causation.

These are two opposite positions, and they can’t both be correct. If the Bible is the sole statement of truth (Sola Scriptura), then this doctrinal statement is in error and at completely odds with Scripture.

So what? Next, we will examine why this is significant for all believers…

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Beyond the Good-O-Meter

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

In the previous post containing the Good-O-Meter clip, I mentioned that the theology had some issues. What issues, you might ask?

Well, the meter implies in its evaluations that each of the lost individuals has some amount of good credited to them at judgment. It surges up to as much as the half way mark, then falls back to the level assigned by judgment – that of ‘bad’. Though this works well dramatically, it is very important to understand that this is not the case in reality. There is an implication that the ‘good’ parts of the individuals have some value before God. That is completely wrong.

Scripture is clear that all are tainted in every aspect, having no good at all unless they are regenerated in Christ. Works or virtues outside of Christ have no value whatsoever before God.

Isaiah 64:6 states it clearly “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment”

Even the finest virtues and character of the unregenerate are a ‘filthy garment’ before God. All of the virtues and any good that is done by the unregenerate is tainted by the imputed sin that is passed on to every one of Adam’s seed. That makes every human being (past, present and future) that has not been saved unacceptable before a righteous and holy God. Scripture is again clear that nothing of them is counted as of any value.

So, in this clip, the meter should not move at all from initial ‘bad’ position except in the case of the regenerated.

That said, however, the most important point is made very clearly – salvation is through Christ Alone.

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The Good-O-Meter…

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

The truth can be told in many forms. Though the theology of this is not perfect, it does make the essential point well – Christ Alone.

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