Saturday, November 24, 2012

Adversity by Terry Johnson


Background Reading:
Romans 8:26-39; Genesis 50:15-21

In 1858, a gifted young Presbyterian missionary named John G. Paton sailed with his wife and infant son to the New Hebrides in the South Pacific to begin missionary work among the islanders. Within a few months of arrival, both his infant son and his wife had died, leaving him to labor alone.

In August 1876, a gifted young theologian names Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield and his bride were honeymooning in Germany. While sightseeing in the Black Forest region, they were suddenly caught in a severe storm, and something that was never quite explained happened to his bride, rendering her an invalid for the rest of their lives together.

In the 1950s the Independent Presbyterian Church of Savannah congregation called a young preacher to take the reigns of a very divided church. He came with his wife and their five children, the youngest only three years old. Within a year and a half, Anton Van Puffelen developed a brain tumor, and in just over two years after he started his work in Savannah the Rev. Van Puffelen was dead.

How do you explain these things? Perhaps just as baffling, how do you explain the responses of these individuals? John G. Patton stayed on the field and reaped a great harvest, later saying:

I built the grave round and round with coral blocks, and covered the top with beautiful white coral, broken small gravel; and that spot became my sacred and much frequented shrine, during all the following months and years when I labored on for the salvation of these savage Islanders amidst difficulties, dangers and deaths. Whensoever Tanna turns to the Lord, and is won for Christ, man in after-days will find the memory of that spot still green – where with ceaseless prayers and tears I claimed that the land for God in which I hand ‘buried my dead’ with faith and hope.

Warfield cared for his wife the remaining forty years of their adult life together, humbly, submissively, without complaint, without self-pity, without justifying a need for his own fulfillment, fulfilling his marital vows, doing his duty toward his wife.

‘Mrs. Van,’ as she was known in Savannah, gentle and meek on the surface, touch as nails underneath, began to teach in the Independent Presbyterian Day School and reared her five children at tremendous self-sacrifice, again without complaint.

What was the key in each of these situations? The key is that each believed in the sovereignty of God. Each understood God’s justice, His mercy, His absolute rule, and each received their circumstances as from his hand for their good and submitted to it.

Still, how do you explain adversity? How do you deal with the suffering that is in the world? Granted that it takes time for our emotions to catch up with our minds, that there are no ‘easy’ answers, and that when we answer the ‘why’ question we must do so not simplistically or matter of factly; yet we do have an explanation for suffering that works and makes room for comfort in the world of pain.

The Problem of Pleasure

From our point of view, much of the discussion of the ‘problem of pain’ and suffering gets started on the wrong foot. As we saw in our consideration of predestination, there is a tendency to begin with the assumption of human innocence. Adversity then is viewed as an unfair or unjust intrusion into the life of one who is undeserving. This is implicit in almost all of the popular discussions of the subject. Thus we regularly question, ‘Why would God have allowed this to happen to such a fine (and undeserving) family?’

Read rest of article HERE

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Imputed Righteousness: The Evangelical Doctrine by R.C. Sproul

From Monergism 
  At the heart of the controversy between Roman Catholic and Reformation theology is the nature of justification itself. It is a debate not merely about how or when or by what means a person is justified, but about the very meaning of justification itself.
Reformed theology insists that the biblical doctrine of justification is forensic in nature. What does this mean? In the popular jargon of religion, the word forensic is used infrequently. The word is not foreign, however, to ordinary language. It appears daily in the news media, particularly with reference to criminal investigations and trials. We hear of "forensic evidence" and "forensic medicine" as we listen to the reports of criminologists, coroners, and pathologists. Here the term forensic refers to the judicial system and judicial proceedings.
The term forensic is also used to describe events connected with public speaking. Schools hold forensic contests or events that feature formal debates or the delivery of speeches.
The link between these ordinary usages of forensic and its theological use is that justification has to do with a legal or judicial matter involving some type of declaration. We can reduce its meaning to the concept of legal declaration.
The doctrine of justification involves a legal matter of the highest order. Indeed it is the legal issue on which the sinner stands or falls: his status before the supreme tribunal of God.
When we are summoned to appear before the bar of God's judgment, we face a judgment based on perfect justice. The presiding Judge is himself perfectly just. He is also omniscient, fully aware of our every deed, thought, inclination, and word. Measured by the standard of his canon of righteousness, we face the psalmist's rhetorical question that hints at despair: "If you, LORD, should mark iniquities, ...who could stand?" (Psalm 130:3 NKJV).
The obvious answer to this query is supplied by the Apostle Paul: "There is none righteous, no, not one...." (Romans 3:10).
God commands us to be holy. Our moral obligation coram Deo (before the face of God) is to live perfect lives. One sin mars that obligation and leaves us naked, exposed before divine justice. Once a person sins at all, a perfect record is impossible.

Even if we could live perfectly after that one sin, we would still fail to achieve perfection.

Read rest of post HERE

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Limited Atonement, Double Jeopardy, and the Bible’s Answers - By Chris Roberts

From SBC Focus

There are two basic views of the atonement: limited and unlimited.

Unlimited atonement is held largely by people who do not consider themselves Calvinists. They say that Jesus died for all the sins and sinners of the world. He paid the price for all people so that all might have life. His work is not automatically applied to everyone, but is rather made available, possible, for all. We receive his work when we trust in him by faith. A common analogy is that Jesus’ blood can be said to be in a bank. It is there, it is provided, it is available for us. He has paid the price. What is lacking is our receipt of what he paid. When we trust him by faith we are in essence
withdrawing from the bank what he deposited, taking from him the price he paid for our sins. If we never trust him, we never receive the price he paid and we must therefore pay for our own sins. 1

One of my criticisms of this view is that it presents God as accepting double payment for sins. In this view, Jesus really has paid the price for all sins. The debt is paid in full. If Jesus’ death is the same for all people, then he has satisfied the Father’s wrath for each and every person. That satisfaction may be held in escrow, so to speak, but it is nonetheless a real satisfaction. If God then condemns an unrepentant sinner to Hell, he is demanding from that sinner payment already satisfied by the Son. Going back to our banking analogy, it would be akin to me owing a great debt and Bill Gates paying off the debt on my behalf. He writes a check to the creditor, completely satisfying what I owe. Nonetheless, I choose not to acknowledge what Gates has done and as a result I am hauled before the creditor to make restitution. Unable to pay, I am thrown in prison. If a situation of this sort were to happen in real life, we would let out a cry of corruption. We would quickly recognize the creditor has demanded a payment already paid. Whether or not the debtor acknowledges the payment is irrelevant: the one owed a debt has been satisfied, and he knows it.

Turning tables, the view of limited atonement says that Jesus died specifically for the elect. His atoning (saving) work was not carried out for all people but specifically for those the Father had appointed for salvation. The debt is paid only for those who would actually be saved.

Critics respond that this makes God into an unfair and capricious tyrant, that it makes God out to be the cause of sin and disbelief since he chooses to extend saving mercy only to some while withholding it from others. They would say that it seems to undermine God’s love to say that Jesus did not do the same thing for all people or pay the same price for all souls.

Read rest of article HERE

Thursday, November 15, 2012

President Obama and Persecution Complexes

From The American Vision

Since President Obama won re-election as our nation’s president, the chatter on Facebook has been somewhat amusing. In response to that chatter, I posted the following status update:

“All of this talk about Christian persecution coming under four more years of Obama is amusing. The only Christians who get persecuted are those who: (1) share the gospel when the government says not to (check the book of Acts) or (2) stand against evil when the majority are toeing the line (see the book of Daniel). If you haven’t already been doing these things when you had the freedom to do it, what in the world makes you think you will do it when you don’t have those freedoms? The government WILL NOT CARE if you keep the gospel inside your church walls and only vote against evil. Every oppressive government has allowed churches to meet just as long as they keep their mouths shut (Nazi Germany, Soviet Union, China even has State-controlled churches). If persecution is coming, don’t worry, you won’t see any of it so long as your Christianity is limited to your church attendance.”[1]
I’ve been somewhat pleased to see this get reposted on Facebook. I hope it goes fully viral and people think seriously about these statements because they reflect a reality that few in church leadership are willing to admit. What we do in the church building is not impacting society because the church membership is not taking what they know outside the four walls. If they do, it is thickly masked under the guise of friendship evangelism which involves no real gospel proclamation in most cases (not all).

As long as this is the case, we cannot expect any persecution.

Read rest of post HERE

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Calvinist Evangelist?

From Ligonier Ministries

If I have heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: “A Calvinist evangelist? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Calvinism undermines evangelism.”

This accusation has been repeated so many times that few make the effort to argue it. Instead, it is simply assumed. Never mind that some of the church’s greatest evangelists have been Calvinists. One need only be reminded of men such as George Whitefield, David Brainerd, or “the father of modern missions,” William Carey. “Yes,” we are told, “these men were great evangelists and Calvinists, but that is because they were inconsistent.”

But is this true?

The fact of the matter is that Calvinism is not inconsistent with evangelism; it is only inconsistent with certain evangelistic methods. It is inconsistent, for example, with the emotionally manipulative methods created by revivalists such as Charles Finney. But these manipulative methods are themselves inconsistent with Scripture, so it is no fault to reject them. In order for evangelism to be pleasing to God, it must be consistent with the whole system of biblical teaching. But what does such evangelism look like?

A classic answer to that question is found in R.B. Kuiper’s little book God-Centred Evangelism. This book surveys the entire biblical scope of teaching on the subject of evangelism. Kuiper defines evangelism quite simply as “the promulgation of the evangel.” It is, in other words, the proclamation of the gospel. Kuiper explains that his book “is a plea for God–centered, in contradistinction to man-centered, evangelism.”

The book, then, presents a theology of evangelism.

Read rest of article HERE