Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Catholic Prespective on the Federal Vision

Here is a fascinating post:

"I was a young Calvinist who set to reading the post-Theonomy authors (James Jordan, Jeffrey Meyers, Peter Leithart, Ray Sutton, et al.) They were on the edge of things – robes, weekly communion, Old Covenant typology, realized eschatology, high ecclesiology, etc. This is the same pond that produced the covenantal Catholic theologian Scott Hahn, which nearly all American Catholics have celebrated."

[more here]

Friday, March 26, 2010

Federal Vision Friday: Outside Perspective on the Siouxlands FV Controversy

For the next few months Fridays will include writings from my fellow pastor, Wes White. These articles are mostly informative and sometimes provocative. I cannot speak of some of the issue first hand, but I implicitly trust his research (since I researched the FV issues a few years back first hand).

This article in particular is the place to start to know the happenings out West:

"The article below was published in The Standard Bearer, Vol. 86, Issue 11, 3/1/2010, the denominational magazine of the Protestant Reformed Church. Rev. Spronk provides such an excellent critique of the issues in Siouxlands that I asked their permission to republish it on my blog. They agreed. Here it is.

Update: Federal Vision on Trial in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)

[continued here].

FV Friday: Discerning Federal Vision's Roman Catholic Tendencies

My friend and fellow minster, Wes White, has had providential opportunity to investigate Federal Vision first hand. And he has given me permission to reprint his postings.

Here is the first post--a personal post:

Discerning Federal Vision's Roman Catholic Tendencies When They Hit You in the Face like a 2X4

Back in the 1990's, I went down to Monroe, Louisiana because I was "courting" a girl there. I really enjoyed my time down there. I stayed at the Wilkins' home, and they were very gracious hosts. I was thinking of doing seminary at the Dabney Center there in Louisiana. I got to know some of the people. I also visited Auburn Avenue's sister Church, Knox PCA in Ruston, Louisiana (about a half an hour away). I remember sitting in the Church talking to their Pastor, Jeffrey Steel. These Churches were closely aligned. It seemed to me that Steel was the right hand man of Steve Wilkins in the Louisiana Presbytery.

Well, things didn't work out with the girl down there. So, I didn't end up moving down there. The next year, though, I met a wonderful woman in Grand Rapids where I lived, and we got married. I decided to go to one of the closest Reformed seminaries, Mid-America Reformed Seminary. I was firmly in the FV camp when I went to Mid-America. I was even on the Biblical Horizons list, per the suggestion of John Barach. I began to realize that the Reformed Church was not the place for me. I started seriously considering the Reformed Episcopal Church. At some point, I actually called Jeffrey Steel to ask him about the Episcoapl Church because he had some connection to it, which I cannot remember.

Well, I found out today the sad news that Jeffrey Steel has joined the Roman Catholic Church. I found the report on a site by Kevin Branson. Branson was a former member of Auburn Avenue who became Roman Catholic. He linked to Steel's page where Steel gives some information. I'm reproducing Branson's report here because it is so telling: [continued here]

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Five Points of Political Calvinism Summarized

"A summary from a Dartmouth historian Herbert Foster about a century ago noted the following as hallmarks of Calvin’s political legacy, and most are exhibited by the works of his closest disciples referenced above:

(1) The absolute sovereignty of God entailed that universal human rights (or Beza’s “fundamental law”) should be protected and must not be surrendered to the whim of tyranny.

(2) These fundamental laws, which were always compatible with God’s law, are the basis of whatever public liberties we enjoy.

(3) Mutual covenants, as taught by Beza, Hotman, and the Vindiciae, between rulers and God and between rulers and subjects were binding and necessary.

(4) As Ponet, Knox, and Goodman taught, the sovereignty of the people flows logically from the mutual obligations of the covenants above.

(5) The representatives of the people, not the people themselves, are the first line of defense against tyranny.

I have summarized the five points of political Calvinism slightly differently, referring to:

Depravity as a perennial human variable to be accommodated;
Accountability for leaders provided via a collegium;
Republicanism as the preferred form of government;
Constitutionalism needed to restrain both the rulers and the ruled; and
Limited government, beginning with the family, as foundational.

The resulting mnemonic device, DARCL (though not as convenient as TULIP), seems a more apt summary if placed in the context of the political writings of Calvin’s disciples."

David Hall

(full article here)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hysterical Health Care

The recent vote in the House on health care is already being christened "historical".

What the media and others miss is that this event should be dubbed "hysterical".  And I do not mean funny ha-ha.

I mean that socialized health care is being pushed through by a hysteria--an almost uncontrollable outburst of the fear of death.

Romans chapter one should remind Christians that such flagrant disregard for God's Law is at root a spiritual problem.  All men and women know that God is their Creator and especially their Judge. And that they are sinners themselves, making excuses for their transgressions.

And unbelievers do more than make excuses, they sometimes create entire fairytales to flee the reality of the coming judgment. In verse twenty-one and following Paul declares that men know God but reject that knowledge by worshiping the creation rather than the Creator.

This worship of false gods is an approach to life that that seeks physical and spiritual health from anyone and anything other than God and His way.

And communism, socialism and other -isms that Americans flirt with are religions disguised as philosophies, but false religions nonetheless. And these modern false economic and political religions promise a healthy world and a healthy life.

And why promise a healthy life? So that they can avoid judgment now and in the life hereafter.

For many today's health care issue reflects a fundamental problem. It is a problem of historical proportion, all right, but also a problem of hysteria--of an outburst of fear and loathing, reflecting a nation's desire to save their physical health even as they lose their souls.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Faith of Atheists

Everyone has faith--even atheists.

Naturally, this observation relies on the definition of 'faith'.

There are different meanings and usages of this word. In a cynical sense, faith is but an excuse to do whatever one desires. Sometimes it refers to an innocuous belief about a trivial subject (I believe that to be the case...). Atheists may use the word to describe irrationality--that which has no proof, justification or reason. Or, more humorously, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”

The online Webster dictionary has a range of meanings:

"2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust
3 : something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs"

When it is asserted that atheists have faith, point 3 is in mind. Many atheists have a strong conviction about the non-existence of God or believe in the value of the empirical method, etc. At other times atheists are convinced of the integrity of researchers they quote or the methods they use. Another way to write this is to assert that atheists have a belief--a belief in their worldview. Belief is a synonym for faith. Webster's definition of belief is similar to faith:

"3 : conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence."

It is interesting that the definition of faith appends "a system of religious beliefs" and the entry on belief omits this phrase. The use of the word "especially" does not mean "uniquely". In fact, the third definition of faith includes the word 'belief'. And belief should be based on reasonable evidence. (For those more philosophically minded, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has an in-depth article on belief--that attitude we have about what we regard as true).

This usage of the word(s) is important because when this claim is made it is not meant to be a vacuous idea. There is substance to the claim. Faith--conviction or trust based upon reasonable evidence--is common to all mankind because of creaturely finitude. It is meant to remind the detractor that the debate between Christians and non-Christians is between competing faiths--worldviews--between different evidences, proofs and justifications and the very philosophy of knowledge and justification itself.

It is unfortunate that too many Christians present faith in antithesis to reason. They are using faith in a way that traditional Protestant leaders and creeds have not. Reason is a tool. And its usage and limits are determined by the framework in which it is used and defined.

Yet it is hoped that atheists and others may realize that many a Christian (leader) do believe there are good and sufficient reasons for Christianity and Christianity's God. Although the faith of a Christian must include trust and rest in Christ, faith as such is not irrational by this definition. When faith is defined as irrational at the outset of a discussion (thus defining out of existence intelligent Christians), it must be vigorously denied.

All men and women believe in truth as they understand it. Atheists have such a faith. And so do Christians. The debate between the two is over which faith is best justified.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Some Interesting Military-Civilian Developments

This is a transcript of the issue of using military (instead of local civilian police) for "crowd control". It is from 2008 but it is something that ought to be known.

Here it is.

Monday, March 08, 2010

God Preserves His People (John 6:44)

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.
In this verse alone the mystery of God's sovereignty is revealed to His servants.

It is a verse that many reject at face-value; and many more simply do not know it at face-value.

To better understand the import of this verse patience is need to survey the background context. The opening verses of chapter six describe the miracle of the bread and fish. Having but little food to feed the multitudes, Christ miraculously feeds them, with food to spare.

The people were amazed, ready to "take Him by force to make Him king"(v.15). But it was an earthly king they sought and not the heavenly King who should rule their hearts. In fact, when they tracked Him down later (v.24), they were not seeking spiritual bread either. Christ rebuked them accordingly (v.26, 27):

"Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you..."

Thus begins the famous Bread of Life discourse.

And the people still did not understand, asking: "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" It was the same old question about what they could do to inherent heaven by doing works pleasing to God. And Jesus answered: "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent" (v.29, see my posting).

He tells them to eat the heavenly bread. They ask for this bread. And Jesus rebukes them again: "I am the Bread of Life...but I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out." (v.35-37).

Here, in verse 37, we have a similar statement to verse 44. It is the Father who gives the Bride to Christ, and that Bride will come to Him. The verb 'will' (cp. 2 Pet. 3:10) means just that: God will bring His people so that they will cling to Christ. This is in marked contrast with the crowd surrounding the Bread of Life yet still seeking food from heaven.

Verse 39 echoes verse 44 as well: "of all He has given Me I should lose nothing," but shall raise them up on "the last day." Verse 40 similarly promises that Christ will raise them up. This clearly refers to the Resurrection and the Great White Throne of Judgment. And as with the previous verses, it is God who is acting upon, preserving and otherwise guaranteeing the salvation of the saints.

In contrast, it is not the saints who are said to preserve themselves. Elsewhere in the Bible, saints are described as striving to be faithful to God but that is because God is faithful to them. They persevere because God preserves them.

Christ states these facts succinctly: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day."

God's people will come out of the kingdom of darkness to the light of Christ's Gospel only if the Father draws them to Christ. That is the meaning of this verse.

A host of questions certainly arise from many Christians: how can this be? Do I not have free will? What about God's promise to save everyone? and the like.

Dear reader, it is not uncommon that we have more questions than the answers given in the Word. For the Bible was not created for our idle amusement but as a declaration of God's truth. And the truth and mystery of God's mighty power in our salvation is the point of these verses.

Consider: the fact of God's active preservation and protection of His people is asserted by Christ (who cannot lie) in vs. 37, 39, 40 and now in verse 44. If you are God's and He is yours, then you will be raised at the last day unto everlasting life. You are given to the Son by the Father. And you will come to Christ (v.37).

Although Christ does not answer these questions directly, the face-value reading of verse 44 is bore out by the context I carefully summarized. In fact, the persistent unbelief of the Jews--seeking an earthly king, earthly food and earthly works--simply reinforces the proper reading of this text. Men are so dead in their sins that when Christ is before them in the flesh they will not believe (Eph. 2:1,2; Rom. 3:10ff.).

But the evidence of God's sovereign might drawing His people with bands of love is not complete.

After the disciples complain about these hard saying, Christ reminds them that the flesh (physical eating) profits nothing but " 'the words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.' For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him." (v.63ff.)

And Christ continues: " 'Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.' 66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more."

What amazing words! What a stupendous mystery. When Christ says 'therefore' he is connecting their unbelief with the fact of God's sovereignty: they cannot come to Christ unless such a movement has been granted to them by the Father.

Dear Christian, do you praise God for His marvelous mercy in granting you the ability to come to Christ? to persevere until the last day? Do you hope to enter heaven because God is drawing you or because you are drawing yourself?

I pray the wonderful love of the Father will draw you yet closer to His Son.