Thursday, December 31, 2009

Puritan Classical Education Besmirched

Recently a Reformed magazine re-published Gary North's innocently titled "Classical Education." But the subtitle gives it away: Classical Christian Education is Like Marxist Christian Education, But a Lot More Subtle.

In his typical shocking manner, he contends that "at least a third" of Christian mothers have adopted a curriculum based on the worldview that endorsed homosexuality, polytheism, slavery, and female infanticide--pagan humanism.

Of course, being a short article steeped with unfounded generalizations and assumptions, it is not exactly clear what the author is condemning when he attacks 'Classical Education.' Such an education is a three-step process of grammar, dialectic and rhetoric. And it teaches Latin. But it is the Latin that appears to be the focus of this diatribe:

"To force a child to learn Latin is to encourage him to accept the premises either of medieval Catholicism or the Renaissance"

The unspoken assumption is that learning a little Latin with edited sources will lead the child to read the entire Latin source--the sources being either the original Greeks and Romans or the medieval or Renaissance variations. Then the poisoning of the mind will be complete and humanistic elements will converge into a full-blown pagan worldview (or at least a severely retarded Christian world-view). As though that has not already happened before the popularity of Latin!

Assuming that the typical Christian has a weak grasp on the Biblical antithesis, this is a serious concern. And assuming that Latin is or can only be taught with the classics, this could be a concern as well.

Not only that, the poor near-sided Puritans imbibed the same sewage. North admits that the Puritans used the classical curriculum from the grammar schools to the universities (but fails to mention that Luther, Calvin, Knox, et. al. used it as well). More importantly, he fails to explain the cultural milieu in which the Latin (and the rest of the subjects) were taught.

The English society was homogeneous on a level modern Americans little comprehend. Even when the Puritans were outnumbered (most of the time), many of the laws and social expectations were strongly influenced by the Bible. The same schools that taught Latin, instructed in Bible reading, rehearsed the catechisms and reviewed the Sunday sermon. This religious instruction, integrated with the Protestant Gospel, included the work of the ministers (sermons, catechizing, weekly lectures and home visitations) and especially the household instruction, catechizing and devotions by the parents.

When the young are encircled by such a spiritual phalanx, learning Latin with edited texts was not a means to "separate Christian children from their parents." Not by a long shot.

On the other hand, such a culture no longer exists. And many self-proclaimed Christians are biblically ignorant on a scale that makes the Statute of Liberty appear like a toy doll. So, learning Latin (even without reference to the pagan sources at all) will do little and may even be harmful.

It is claimed that using such a method (or rather learning Latin?) for over 1800 years is a surrendering of education because it violates the Christian antithesis--isn't that what Van Til taught? Using the classical educational approach apparently imported "alien philosophical categories into the Church." Yet these 'categories' are never listed. And the historical "evidence" is vague at best. Many things are linked to unfaithfulness in the rise and fall of churches.

In fact, it is not exactly clear why using some useful tools of unbelievers (like learning a foreign language) is necessarily wrong or will necessarily lead to humanistic compromise. Much of the article is based upon a slippery slope assumption--a logical fallacy taught by unbelieving logicians everywhere. In fact, Aristotle first systematized logic--does that make it suspect? Perhaps the children learning logic may be tempted to read Aristotle?

Such an amazing effort to run Latin into the ground by asserting its negative affects in history leads to a curious logic: the last 150 years has seen the disappearance of Latin with a corresponding increase in secularism and decrease in confessional Protestantism. If this is the fruit of no Latin, give me Latin schools any day!

I do agree with him that a good dose of Calvin's Institutes is more needful than Latin. But then, do I have to have one without the other? Or cannot families and schools teach Latin and Greek (as they used to)?

More significantly, with all this hammering going on North has certainly hit upon something here. It is Calvinism that is needed now, not Latin. It is a renewed knowledge of the Law & Gospel thundered from the pulpit that is the crying need of the hour. To return to the good ol' days of educational superiority, families and churches need to ignore all the educational hype and turn to the good ol' confessions of yesteryear. Rather than hyping up the power of this or that curriculum or method, we ought to return our children to the lost tool of learning that should structure any legitimate method, the Puritan ABCs: Alphabet, Bible & the Catechism.

Monday, December 28, 2009

IV. Means of Grace: The Power of God

The previous installment demonstrated that the Bible was a beneficial instrument in the hand of the Spirit. Although God could use any means and transform man immediately, He choose to work conviction, conversion, growth, fellowship, sanctification--indeed, salvation as a whole--within the context of the Bible. The Spirit and the Word go together. Thus, to have more of the Spirit is to have more of the Bible.

However, having more of the Bible does not boil down to simply knowing more facts about it, but, like that prophet of old, Ezekiel, we need to consume it into our spiritual bodies (Ez. 3:3). It should move beyond mental assent or even factual acceptance to a heart-felt zeal and motivation. The Word of God is our honey, milk, bread and meat (Ps. 119:103, 1 Pet. 2:1-3, Is. 55:2, 3a, Heb. 5:12ff.). As a matter of fact, our dependence upon the Word of God is our dependence upon the Word of Christ, for the two are one. We cannot live without Christ and
His Word. Physical eating is necessary for physical living; spiritual eating is necessary for spiritual living. Feeding upon Christ is so closely associated with the Word, that to eat the Word is to eat Christ. Jesus declares as much:

"Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you...Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?"...[Christ said] It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. (John 6:52ff).

This means that any other method used by men or Christians to build up the Body of Christ, but bypasses this fundamental truth, is defective and contrary to Christ. Contrary to the Roman Catholic and Lutheran dogmas in which the physical eating of the elements in the Lord's Supper brings spiritual vitality, the Bible declares that the Spirit, through the Word received by faith alone, communicates the life of Christ. Christ declared that it is not the physical act that brings life but that His words bring life. Neither the Sacraments per se nor any other physical act brings spirit and life but only the Words of Christ.

Of course, all of the means, including the Word, depend ultimately upon the grace and power of the Holy Spirit. Yet to create and sustain that union with Christ, one must believe in Christ as portrayed in the promises of the Word. For whatsoever is not done in faith is sin (Rom. 14:23). So, when we pray, fast, fellowship or worship-whatsoever we do--we cling to Christ as found in the Word. He is not separated from the Word, but, as demonstrated previously, is so closely related to it, by the work of the Spirit, that the Word is called milk, honey, bread and even life.

These truths alone should spur us to greater depth of knowledge and breadth of practice. The Bible is the bedrock of our life, yielding a framework of action, a direction in life, and motivation unto holiness. This truth should be instilled in our children so that they might value the Word highly and to hide it in their hearts (Deut.4:9ff.). Why would we wish to have less of the Word? We are sure to eat three meals a day (besides snacks and dessert), or to exercise our bodies, but we don't think twice about how we can arrange our time to hear, read, memorize, study, proclaim and practice the life-giving Word.

Perhaps we don't fully comprehend its power in our lives. Perhaps we are ignorant of how necessary it is for our Christian walk. To receive the Sacraments we need to discern the Christ of the Bible; to pray in faith we need to recognize God's will in the Scriptures; to hide the Word in our hearts we need to know the Bible as we know our car manuals; to lead our families and children we need to accept our duties as expounded in the Word; to fellowship with one another we need the confidence that unity is based upon the Scriptures. Every facet of our life should be hemmed in and supported by, nay energized by, that food which is sweeter than honey, more fulfilling than milk and taster than a fillet-mignon.

Perhaps we don't feel up to the task of feeding upon the Word. One may not be quick on his feet; another may take days to digest what he heard; still others may feel slow and ignorant. These may be true, but God knows what our frailties and weaknesses are and He knows we can
learn from His Word. He gives us helps to expound the Word in teachings and actions. Friends, family and church officers are part of that Family given to us. Yet it is especially the minister who is the head chef (under Christ) in God's kitchen: it is his duty to prepare nutritious and tasty meals from that lovely and fruitful garden of the Word. His office is most important in the Household of God because his duty and responsibilities are intimately tied to the Word
of God.

If you want to grow, mature and fortify your soul, you need that weak and beggarly vessel of God. Ephesians 4:12ff. explicitly declares this truth. If you wish to grow from the Word, then you must take seriously those whose specialty is that Word. Thus, Catechism classes, Sunday School, and Bible Studies (and any other means to achieve more of Christ & His Word) have been the mainstay of many churches. We would do well to use these times--or make new times (lunch, breakfast, special meetings, etc.)--to aid our learning and living out of the Bible.

The Bible does not come down from heaven onto our laps and through the miracle of osmosis generate spiritual maturity and perseverance. Rather, the power of God is manifested through imperfect vessels, especially ministers. And of the many tasks of the minister in bringing the Word of Christ to His people (counseling, teaching, writing, living, etc.), preaching is one of the most potent and important tasks.

[Next: The Foolishness of God]

Means of Grace Series:
I.   What Are They?
II.  Passion for the Word
III. Benefits of the Word
IV. Power of God
V.  The Foolishness of God
VI. The Initiatory Rite

Friday, December 25, 2009

My Favorite Christmas Song

The text itself was composed in Middle Ages to both remember how ancient Israel waited for the first coming of the Lord into the world and to encourage New Testament believers to wait for His second coming in glory.

1. O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.


Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

2. O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory o'er the grave.

3. O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight!

4. O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

5. O come, O come, Thou Lord of Might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai's height
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud, and majesty, and awe.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Some Thoughts About Christmas

Over the last few years I have posted some observations about the devolution of Christmas. Here is a collection of those articles. I hope they are edifying and thoughtful.

1. The Other Side of Christmas: "...Like watching a play without a background and underlying plot, many unbelievers observe the nativity with a vague sense of something missing. "What's the big deal?" they ask..."

2. Regeneration "Christmas" Style: "TV shows can be easy blog fodder. But why? The simple reason resides in the fact that many shows manifest the cultural icons and beliefs of the populace at large--the religion of society...."

3. Slaves to Christmas: "Accidentally going out for lunch today, I realized it was Black Friday as everyone and their mother (except my mother) trampled passed me for the best deals..."

4. Yes, Virginia, There is a Satan: "A Macy's commercial recently promoted the same tripe Americans have heard since the New York Sun published a lie to a little 8-year-old..."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Some Gift Ideas for Calvinists

What can you give your old-school Calvinist friend?

You want to find something that is both godly and unique. Something that says, "I am not ashamed to be a Calvinist!"

Here are some great gift ideas (from cafepress):

How about a cute baby outfit for that newborn Calvinist? Something that says, "Hey, I'm not an ordinary baby here!"

Or a bib for a cranky Presbyterian baby...

If your friend is a little shy, try this imprint on a t-shirt...

Perhaps you have a teenager or two? Try a twist on a old theme or two:

Maybe your friend is a little ornery before his first cup of joe?

Maybe your family member likes to shock her audience? Try a long-sleeve with this imprint!

Or you can give a simple inconspicuous gift for your tardy pastor...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Year of Calvinism: Calvinism & the Future

A church without Christ is a dead church.
And a dead church poisons the society around it.

A church with half a Christ is a church half-dead--if not completely dead already. Such churches teach that man and God cooperate in some aspect of salvation. They teach a baptized humanism masquerading as the Gospel truth. Such teaching temporarily assuages the guilt of the parishioners, usually offering self-help techniques or guiding them toward some social good as an offering to their guilty consciences.

So, the churches and the people become more aware of social, political and economic woes and correspondingly unaware of doctrinal deviations. 'Ministries' multiply focusing on saving America from the next liberal onslaught. "No creed but Christ" becomes their watchword. The culture wars their battleground.

All the while men inside and outside the church are in bondage to sin. The guilt comes back. And men seek out other religious and secular ways to avoid their sin. Christian defection increases. The churches become more irrelevant and society slowly disintegrates.

Every society is based upon a common creed. And every creed is founded upon a common religion. That common religion is manifested in the public institutions of society.

One such powerful public institution used to be the churches in Western Civilization. And that religion used to be Protestantism, especially the Reformed faith. Her creeds were the Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster Confession of Faith. Various societies were being leavened by such creeds for over two-hundred years. And America was especially the long-awaited fruit of these creedal seeds of truth.

Now, after another two-hundred years the seeds of defection are bearing fruit. Not only in the societies of the West but especially in the churches. This problem did not arise from without the church (although it did tempt her) but from within. It is a dangerous distraction to focus upon the woes of society and the revolution of humanistic culture if these enemies were already in the midst of the church.

And only the classic Protestantism of the old rugged cross can purge her system. Only a clarion call back to the basic proclamation of repentance and faith can save her. Such a call must include an unequivocal proclamation of man's deplorable and depraved nature: that men hate God and His Christ, loving their own bondage to Satan instead. Such a call must include an unequivocal proclamation of God's stupendous and sovereign salvation: that grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ alone is the only covenantal salvation offered by God's good pleasure alone.

This is Calvinism plain and simple. It is not the closet Calvinism that meekly hides this truth. Nor the cantankerous Calvinism that rips churches asunder. No, by the power of the Holy Spirit, it is the old Gospel preached at the Reformation and the First and Second Great Awakenings.

The future of that Gospel may look uncertain. On the one hand, those who believe and practice such a truth are a super-minority in America. And even a smaller minority in Europe. On the other hand, the power of secular humanism is a Goliath waiting to wreak havoc upon the feeble church.

Yet God has always used the foolishness of this world and the weakness of men to strengthen His kingdom. Such an abysmal hour as this should not cast our hearts to the ground. We should not look with fear upon our woeful condition, giving up all hope and compromising our birth-right.

We of all families of the Christian faith should have the most hope! It is God Almighty who is in charge not the impotent American electorate or the feeble conspiracies of men. As Van Til titled one of his letters, "We are not ashamed to be Calvinists!"

The future of Calvinism is one of triumph. God's omnipotent will is already swaying nations and directing peoples toward their final end: the glory of God. He has promised that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against His Bride.

Yet we must remember that our future is tied with our repentance and faith. Repentance from private and corporate sins and continuing faith in Christ our Righteousness. Christians do not need more culture wars; they need more spiritual armor for spiritual warfare. They need pastors to equip them and churches willing to live up to the Reformed faith.

A church with Christ is a living church.
And a living church purifies the society around it.

(part of the Year of Calvinism series)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

I am the Denver Christian Apologist

A go-get-'em church member recommended me to a national news source,

She suggested I write as the Denver Christian Apologist since I have had experience discussing the faith with all types of college students down at the campus. Having bible studies during the college semester hours has certainly helped.

So, I signed up. And they signed me on. I even have my own page.

How many Calvinists do you know who write for a national news source what they want to write?

Even so, just because I am from Denver it does not follow that my articles are not germane to Christians elsewhere. So, here are some articles you may find useful, interesting or thought-provoking:

Why I Must Believe in God

Falsifying Scientific Presumption

Basic Questions about Apologetics Answered

The Connection between Atheism & Communism

God: The Failed Hypothesis, A Review

Halloween Versus the Reformation

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Balmy 4 Degress Outside...

NOAA reports 4 degree outside.
My thermometer reports 5 degrees (its hiding high up behind a post).

Either way its COLD.

Although not necessarily way below seasonal average, it has been colder than the last few years here in Colorado.

And the vast majority of us are blessed by God with a roof over our head and heat at our feet.

Even so, I got out to stretch my legs and check the mail...about a block away (those terrible 'community' mailboxes...). It is cold.

But we don't have humidity like the hometown of my wife, Kansas City.
Now there's a cold place!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Year of Calvinism: Consequences II

October 31st is the historical catalyst of Western liberties.

It is time to re-consider the vitality and viability of Christianity once again. Pragmatism is the only native American philosophy. And Americans live it to the hilt. Yet if we follow what 'works' why not follow Christianity?

This series is directed at encouraging American Christians to reconsider their roots and modern detractors to reconsider the historical significance of Protestantism. America is one of the best socio-historical evidences for Christianity.

Our freedoms were forged in the fires of the Reformation. And expanded through her children. And yet too many Americans wish to divorce these freedoms from the framework in which they were erected. They want the fruits without the Christian roots. If there is any cause and effect in the world, then this spells disaster for future generations.

Freedom & the Reformation

How is that so? Let a liberal historian from Yale explain the logical and psychological connections in a three-fold manner:

"How is it, then, that Calvinism is acknowledged, even by foes, to have promoted powerfully the cause of civil liberty? The reason lies in the boundary line which it drew between church and State. Calvinism would not surrender the peculiar notions of the Church to the civil authority. Whether the church, or the Government, should regulate the administration the Sacrament, and admit or reject the communicants, was the question which Calvin fought out with the authorities at Geneva, in this feature, Calvinism differed from the relation of the civil leaders to the Church, as established under the auspices of Zwingli, well as of Luther, and from the Anglican system which originated under Henry VIII…"

Thus, separation of church and state (a legal term not clearly defined until last century) began budding during the Reformation.

"A second reason why Calvinism has been favorable to civil liberty is found in the republican character of its church organization. Laymen shared power with ministers… Men who were accustomed to rule themselves in the Church would claim the same privilege in the commonwealth…"

The Presbyterian model is three-fold: a layer of courts (local church, regional church (Presbytery) and a national church (General Assembly)), joint-rule by laymen (elders) and ministers, and a written constitution. The people vote for their leaders and local issues. The people's voice is exercised through their elders at the regional and national levels. This republican system pre-dated America's by over two-hundred years.

"Another source of the influence of Calvinism, in advancing the cause of civil liberty, has been derived from its theology. The sense of the exaltation of the Almighty Ruler, and of his intimate connection with the minutest incidents and obligations of human life, which is fostered by this theology, dwarfs all earthly potentates. An intense spirituality, a consciousness that this life is but an infinitesimal fraction of human existence, dissipates the feeling of personal homage for men, however high their station, and dulls the luster of all earthly grandeur. Calvinism and Romanism are the antipodes of each other." (George Park Fisher, The Reformation, revised, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1920), 207ff.)

In fact, historian and founder of Annapolis, George Bancroft (son of a Unitarian minister and no friend of Calvinism) declared:

"The fanatic for Calvinism was a fanatic for liberty; and, in the moral warfare for freedom, his creed was his most faithful counselor and his never-failing support. The Puritans...planted...the undying principles of democratic liberty" (A History of the United States, vol. 1 (New York: Harper & Brothers), 464)

He even declared:

"Calvin infused enduring elements into the institutions of Geneva, and made it for the modern world, the impregnable fortress of popular liberty, the fertile seed-plot of democracy."

(Literary and Historical Miscellanies, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1855), 405-406)

The Point of It All

The influence of the Reformation was not monolithic. And other factors were involved. And historians do debate on how and to what extent Calvinism influenced early modernity. Yet influence it did.

The theological influence of Luther and the Reformers is the most fundamental factor. As such I must mention again that the Gospel calls men to repent of their wayward actions and beliefs. Men, being bound in their sin, have guilty consciences they try to assuage, even to the point of creating entire new worldviews whole-cloth. But the Gospel of Christ, that He died for the sins of those who believe in Him and His work, can free such fettered consciences.

And a free conscience is a free man.

This entire series can be summed up by a modern encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics:

"In general it may be claimed for Calvinism that its influence has been an elevating and invigorating one. Abasing man before God, but exalting him again in the consciousness of a newborn liberty in Christ, teaching him his slavery through sin, yet restoring his freedom to him through grace, and leading him to regard all things in the light of eternity, it contributed to form a grave but very noble and elevated type of character, and reared a race not afraid to lift up the head before kings."

James Hastings, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Part 5, (Kessinger Publishing, 2003), 153.)

Part 1, October Revolution
Part 2, Education
Part 3, Birth of America
Part 4, Early America
Part 5, Political Roots
Part 6, October 31st

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Book of Proverbs: The Preacher

Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, William Arnot, Scottish Presbyterian minister, 1858.



The Proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel.

GOD'S word is like God's world: it combines unity of pervading principle, with endless variety in detail The whole Bible, considered as one book, stands entirely apart from all other writings; and yet every several portion of it is distinguished from every other portion, as much as one merely human writing is distinguished from another. This combination results from the manner in which it has pleased God to make known his will One Divine- Spirit inspires; hence the unity of the whole. Men of diverse age, taste, and attainments write; hence the diversity of the parts. Although the books are written by Moses, David, Solomon, they are all alike the word of God: therefore they exhibit a complete separation from all other writings, and a perfect consistency among themselves.

Again, although they are all one as being the word of God, they are as much

the genuine product of different human minds, as the ordinary writings of men are the work of their authors: therefore there is in matter and manner, an unconstrained, natural, life-like diversity.

It was God who "spake unto the fathers," but it was " by the prophets" that he spoke; not by their tongues only, but their understandings, memories, tastes ; in short, all that constituted the men. There is as much individuality in the books of Scripture as in any other books. There is as much of Moses shining through the Pentateuch, as of Gibbon in the Decline and Fall As are the articulating lips to the soul whose thoughts they utter, so are the prophets to the Holy Spirit, whose mind they reveal Every writer was chosen by God, as well as every word. He had a purpose to serve by the disposition, the acquirements, and the experience of each. The education of Moses as one of the royal race of Egypt was a qualification necessary to the leader of the exodus, and the writerof the Pentateuch. The experience of David, with its successive stages, like geologic strata, touching each other in abrupt contrast, first as a shepherd youth, then as a fugitive warrior, and last as a victorious king, was a qualification indispensable to the sweet singer of Israel God needed a human spirit as a mould to cast consolation in,for every kindred in every age. He chose one whose experience was a compound of meekness and might, of deep distress and jubilant victory. These, when purged of their dross, and fused into one by the Spirit's baptism of fire, came forth an amalgam of sacred psalmody, which the whole church militant have been singing ever since,and " have not yet sung dry." Solomon did not, like David, pass his youth in pastoral simplicity, and his early manhood under cruel persecution.

Solomon could not have written the twenty-third psalm— "The Lord is my Shepherd;" nor the fifty-seventh—A psalm of David when he fled from Saul in the cave. His experience would never have suggested the plaintive strains of the ninetieth psalm—A prayer of Moses the man of God—" Lord, thou hast been our dwelling-place." But, on the other hand, Solomon went through a peculiar experience of his own, and God, who in nature gives sweet fruit to men through the root sap of a sour crab, when a new nature has been engrafted on the upper stem, did not disdain to bring forth fruits of righteousness through those parts of the king's experience that cleaved most
closely to the dust. None of all the prophets could have written the Proverbs or the Preacher; for God is Dot wont, even in his miraculous interpositions, to make a fig-tree bear olive berries, or a vine figs: every creature acts after its kind. When Solomon delineated the eager efforts of men in search of happiness, and the disappointment which ensued, he could say, like Bunyan, of that fierce and fruitless war, " I was there." The heights of human prosperity he had reached: the paths of human learning he had trodden, farther than any of his day: the pleasures of wealth and power and pomp he had tasted, in all their variety. No spring of earthly delight could be named, of whose waters he had not deeply drunk. This is the man whom God has chosen as the schoolmaster to teach us the vanity of the world when it is made the portion of a soul, and He hath done all things well The man who has drained the cup of pleasure can best tell the taste of its dregs.

The choice of Solomon as one of the writers of the Bible, at first sight startles, but on deeper study instructs. We would have expected a man of more exemplary life—a man of uniform holiness. It is certain that in the main, the vessels which the Spirit used were sanctified vessels. " Holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." But as they were all corrupt at first, so there were diversities in the operation whereby they were called and qualified for their work. There were diversities in the times, and degrees of their sanctification. Some were carried so near perfection in the body, that human eyes could no longer discern spot or wrinkle; in others the principle of grace was so largely overlaid with earthliness, that observers were left in doubt whether they had been turned to the Lord's side at all But the diversity in all its extent is like the other ways of God; and He knows how to make either extreme fall into its place in the concert of his praise. He who made Saul an apostle, did not disdain to use Solomon as a prophet. Very diverse were the two men, and very diverse their lifo course; yet in one tiling they are perfectly alike. Together in glory now^they know themselves to have been only sinners, and agree in ascribing all their salvation to the mercy of God.

Moreover, although good men wrote the Bible, our faith in the Bible does not rest on the goodness of the men who wrote it. The fatal facility with which men glide into the worship of men may suggest another reason why some of the channels chosen for conveying the mind of God were marred by glaring deficiencies. Among many earthen vessels, in various measures purged of their filthiness, may not the Divine Administrator in wisdom select for actual use some of the least pure, in order by that grosser argument to force into grosser minds the conviction that the excellency of the power is all of God ?

If all the writers of the Bible had been perfect in holiness —if no stain of sin could be traced on their character, no error rioted in their life, it is certain that the Bible would not have served all the purposes which it now serves among men. It would have been God-like indeed in matter and in mould, but it would not have reached down to the low estate of man—it would not have penetrated to the sores of a human heart. For engraving the life lessons of his word, our Father uses only diamonds: but in every diamond there is a flaw, in some a greater and in some a less; and who shall dare to dictate to the Omniscient the measure of defect that binds Him to fling the instrument as a useless thing away ? When God would leave on my mind in youth the
lesson that the pleasures of sin are barbed arrows, he uses that same Solomon as the die to indent it in. I mark the wisdom of the choice. I get and keep the lesson, but the homage of my soul goes to God who gave it, and not to Solomon, the instrument through which it came. God can make man's wrath to praise him, and their vanity too.

He can make the clouds bear some benefits to the earth, which the sun cannot bestow. He can make brine serve some purposes in nature which sweet water could not fulfill. So, practical lessons on some subjects come better through the heart and lips of the weary repentant Icing, than through a man who had tasted fewer pleasures, and led a more even life.

Two principles cover the whole case. " All things are of God ;" and " All things are for your sake" We can never be sufficiently familiar with these two: (1.) The universality of God's government; and (2.) The special use for his own people to which he turns every person and every thing. All Solomon's wisdom and power, and glory and pleasure were an elaborate writing by the finger of God, containing a needful lesson to his children. The wisdom which we are invited to hear is Divine wisdom; the complicated life-experience of Solomon is the machinery of articulation employed to convey it to the ears of men. In casting some of the separate letters, the king may have been seeking only his own pleasure, yet the whole, when cast, are set by the Spirit so that they give forth an important page of the word of truth. The thought recurs, that the king of Jerusalem was not from his antecedents, qualified to sit in the chair of authority and teach morality to mankind. No, he was not: and perhaps on that very account the morality which he taught is all the more impressive. Here is a marvel:


How do you account for this? The errors and follies were his own; they were evil. But out of them the All-wise has brought good. The glaring imperfections of the mar's life have been used as a dark ground to set off the lustre of that pure righteousness which the Spirit has spoken by his lips."

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

III. Means of Grace: Benefits of the Word

III. Understanding the Means of Grace: Benefits of the Word

The first and foremost theological relationship of the Word is with the Spirit. The Bible, either preached or read, is mightily used by the Holy Spirit to convert, sanctify and preserve the elect. As Ezekiel 37 demonstrates, the Spirit of Christ is pleased to use this humble tool of the Word to even resurrect spiritual Israel from the dead.

The Confession clearly echoes the Bible's own insistence that the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17). It is an instrument so closely aligned with the work of the Spirit that Paul claims that those who call upon God need the Word preached (Rom. 10:14ff.), for "it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe" (1 Cor. 1:21). Indeed, the power of preaching the Word is the power of the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:4). Turretin explains:

He [the Spirit] is not given to us in order to introduce new revelations, but to impress the written word on our hearts; so that here the word must never be separated from the Spirit (Is. 59:21). The former works objectively, the latter efficiently; the former strikes the ears from without, the latter opens the heart within. The Spirit is the teacher; Scripture is the doctrine which he teaches us.

Thus the Word has no intrinsic power but only that which the Spirit is pleased to bestow through it. Through the history of redemption, we find the Word of God commanding, explaining, transforming, admonishing and even chiding the people of God. It brings revival, reformation, renewal as well as discipline, rebuke and judgment. We see the transformation of Israel under Josiah's discovery of the Pentateuch (2 Kgs. 22:1ff). The New Testament Israel exemplifies this fact by its life-sustaining growth through the Word (Acts 4:4; 6:7; 8:4; 13:49; 19:20).

Of the various means of grace (Sacraments, prayer, family worship, etc.), only the Word of God inscripturated is the means of grace par excellence; it is the means of the Spirit upon which the other means depend. Any conscience event in the life of the believer--prayer, worship, fellowship, Bible study and all other means broadly considered--necessarily builds upon and requires the Word. From it flows the efficacy of the Spirit: whether the Sacraments, public or
private worship, prayer or any other means of Christian growth, the Bible as read, and especially preached, is the foundational and continuous primary instrument of spiritual growth. This is manifested in the nature of the Word and its functions.

Firstly, the nature of the inscripturated Word is that it is the will of God to the Church. It is the mind of God in written form and as such is infallible, inerrant and God-breathed (1 Tim. 3:15ff.). It abides forever (Is. 40:8); it is living, active and sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12); it is sanctifying truth (John 17:17); and it is spirit and life (John 6:63). These characteristics set it apart from the other means of grace: the power and energy of the Spirit is closely aligned with the Word. Indeed, faith operating in the environment of the other means, whether public or private, cannot exist without the object of Christ, and Christ is found nowhere else than in the truthful and inspired Word.

Secondly, the Word functions in a much broader manner than the other means of grace. Broadly it is profitable for every aspect of the Christian's life: "...that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16). Narrowly, as it contains the Law of God it convicts, restrains and guides. It exposes sin, holds back wickedness in society and shows the will of God for believers. As it contains the Gospel of God it calls men to salvation, converts the sinner, and strengthens believers in the Spirit of Christ.

The Spirit is the prime mover and energizer in the life-birthing and spiritual growth of Christians, but He is pleased to ordinarily utilize the Word as the foundation of the believers who were "born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of
God which lives and abides forever..." (1 Pet. 1:23). The Word convicts sinners and calls them to repentance, and it places Christ and Him crucified vividly before the sinner as the object of faith and conversion (1 Cor. 1:18ff; Gal. 3:1). Within this context regeneration by the immediate hand of the Spirit marvelously transpires. Moreover, the Word continues its function through initiation into the covenant by the Spirit who seals with the Word (Eph. 1:13). The Church, by Christ's power, is sanctified and cleansed by "washing of water by the word" (Eph. 5:26). Her fellowship and unity are based upon it (Acts. 2:46). The Bible as used by the Spirit of Christ guides believers into a closer walk with God (Prov. 3:1ff). Pointing out the depths of sin and the wiles of the devil, it lightens the path of godliness (Ps. 119:105, 130).

These truths alone should attract us to the Word and to find ways to learn more about Jesus as He is in the Scriptures. The Spirit is the energizing power of the Church, but He works in an environment of His choosing. And that is the Word heard, read, memorized, studied,
proclaimed and practiced. Thus, why would we wish to spend less time in the Word?

Next: The Power of God

Means of Grace Series:
I.   What Are They?
II.  Passion for the Word
III. Benefits of the Word
IV. Power of God
V.  The Foolishness of God
VI. The Initiatory Rite