Saturday, July 30, 2005

The toe-hold of Fad-Driven churches...

Yes, my mind does work in strange ways. Also this is a work in progress, so I haven't fleshed out each component.

I was watching PBS's "Ask this Old House" while reading Phil "Pyromanic" Johnson's blog and comments and it got me to thinking about some things. I was reminded of how through watching the guys on ATOH I have been able to do a number of home projects I might not have had the courage to attempt before. Since I was reading Phil's thoughts on the Fad-Driven church at the same time (hey Phil, are you going to copyright that phrase?), I began to have thoughts of how this ties into ministry. I think one area many local churches are failing in, in miserable fashion, is modeling/grooming leadership. I think this is where Fad-Driven things gain their toe-holds in otherwise well intended churches.

Seventh Baptist church has some great leaders, but they are unfortunately of the mindset "If you want it done right, you do it yourself." The result of this is that new leaders are not being trained to replace those who move/die/burn out. As time passes, there are fewer and fewer leaders, and those in leadership are somewhat protective of the positions, as they have always been the ones to take care of everything. This leads to what we see in many churches across the country - atrophy. So along comes a new pastor (the old one took the heat for the atrophy), and he brings in a new set of ideas. He correctly identifies the problems of the church, but he chooses a quick fix to the problems, and employs a Fad-Driven method. Initially there is some success from these changes, but they usually are not sustainable, so they have to move onto the next Fad and so on and so on. It becomes a cycle for Seventh Baptist.

Of course this is just an example, and I could come up with many others. I think the solution to this is intentional mentoring/grooming of new leaders. Christ did this with the Apostles, Paul did this with Timothy. Had Seventh Baptist had a program of developing new leaders, they would not be in this situation.

Another thought I had is that I think a core issue with Fad-Driven churches is laziness or overworked staffs. Some/many pastors are stretched pretty thin. It is often easier to pick up an entire program and just implement it throughout the church. Purpose Driven Life is one such program. That is not to say that every church using these materials is due to laziness or being strecthed to far, but certainly in some churches that is the case.

I have a lot more thoughts bouncing around in my head on these issues at the moment, but I can't seem to get the clarity of thought to put it in print yet. My final thought are a call out to all who read this to begin to examine how their churches groom new leaders. I think this is of top level importance. If you don't have a system currently, get on it. It takes time to develop the system, and then it takes time to begin to identify and develop your future leaders. There's no better time to start than today. Get after it. Do it for God's glory.

Pre-seminary reading...

posted by Ligon Duncan on the Reformation 21 blog. I have imported it here for my own archiving purposes so I can reference it in the future.


We have already heard from a number of seminarians and prospective seminarians who are asking: "what books should I be reading now, or what books should I read before I go to seminary?" The following list is one response to such a query.


This reading listed emphasizes biblical piety, the doctrines of grace, a Reformed view of Church and ministry, and is designed to be a challenge to the student to consecrate his whole heart (not just his intellect) to ministerial preparation. The list gives a suggested order of reading (from 1 to 15), covering issues such as fundamental doctrinal commitments and understanding, ministerial call and godliness, basic Bible knowledge, and critical contemporary concerns. These recommended volumes are intended to help the beginner "catch up" quickly on reading which will feed his soul, strengthen his mind, encourage his walk, warn him of pitfalls, and prepare him for a new world of ideas and terminology which he will meet in seminary training.

1. Westminster Confession of Faith (Free Presbyterian Publications)

substitute the Second London Confession (1689) if you are Baptist

2. Edmund Clowney, Called to the Ministry (P & R)

3. B.B. Warfield, The Religious Life of Theological Students (P & R)

4. J.I. Packer, Knowing God (IVP)

5. Sinclair Ferguson, The Christian Life (Banner of Truth)

6. Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor (Banner of Truth)

7. John Bunyan, Pilgrim's Progress (Christian Library)

8. William Hendriksen, Survey of the Bible (Evangelical Press)

9. Andrew Bonar, Memoirs and Remains of Robert Murray M'Cheyne (Banner of Truth)

10. J.I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness (Crossway Books)

11. A.A. Hodge, Evangelical Theology (Banner of Truth)

12. John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Eerdmans)

13. J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Eerdmans)

14. J.C. Ryle, Holiness (Evangelical Press)

15. David F. Wells, No Place for Truth (Eerdmans)

Friday, July 29, 2005

Made me laugh: From yesterday's Non-Sequitur...

Modalism: TD Jakes and Tommy Tenny's unbiblical beliefs...

Jonathan Moorhead has a great post on the heretical Modalism of TD Jakes. He also has a good post on Tommy Tenny's aberant theology of Modalism.

(definition from CARM)

Modalism is probably the most common theological error concerning the nature of God. It is a denial of the Trinity which states that God is a single person who, throughout biblical history, has revealed Himself in three consecutive modes, or forms. Thus, God is a single person who first manifested himself in the mode of the Father in Old Testament times. At the incarnation, the mode was the Son. After Jesus' ascension, the mode is the Holy Spirit. These modes are consecutive and never simultaneous. In other words, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit never all exist at the same time, only one after another. Modalism denies the distinctiveness of the three persons in the Trinity even though it retains the divinity of Christ.

Present day groups that hold to this error are the United Pentecostal and United Apostolic Churches. They deny the Trinity, teach that the name of God is Jesus, and require baptism for salvation. These modalist churches often accuse Trinitarians of teaching three gods. This is not what the Trinity is. The correct teaching of the Trinity is one God in three eternal coexistent persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

A great post on the mess of Joel Osteen...

Rick Phillips made a great post on the mess of Joel Osteen's "ministry" and related things over at the Reformation 21 blog.

Butter knife or two edged sword...

Phil Johnson of Pyromanic fame astutely writes the following as part of his Fad-Driven church series:

Here's an excerpt from a sermon on Hebrews 4:11:

We need to have more confidence in the ability of the Word of God to penetrate people's hearts. This is one of the real deficiencies in this generation of evangelicals. We don't have enough faith in the power of God's Word to penetrate a hardened heart. Some Christians—and even lots of churches—actually back away from proclaiming the simple Word of God to unbelievers in plain language. They think it's necessary to have musical performances, drama, comedy, wrestling exhibitions, or other forms of entertainment ("pre-evangelism") to soften people up and prepare them to receive the Word. And in most cases those who opt for such a strategy never do get around to declaring the Word of God with any kind of boldness.

The idea is to find some activity or technique that entertains people and tries to make them friendly to Christianity while carefully avoiding the risk of confronting them with the truth of Scripture—as if something besides the Word of God might be more effective than Scripture at penetrating their hearts. That is sheer folly, and all the emphasis given to such gimmickry these days is a tremendous waste of time and energy. Nothing is more penetrating and more effective in reaching sin-hardened hearts than the pure and unadulterated Word of God. All our human techniques and ingenuity are like dull plastic butter knives compared to the Word of God, which is "sharper than any twoedged sword."

Lily pads from CoffeeSwirls...

Doug McHone posted the following at CoffeeSwirls today.

Lily Pads and “The World”

There is a game at the community pool that requires great skill and dexterity. To meet the goal of the game, you need patience and timing, balance and the ability to use imbalance, and just a pinch of luck. It is a game we only know as the lily pads, and the objective of this game is to not get wet. You scurry (some even run) across the floating pads and try not to fall into the water. I have no idea why it is so popular with the kids. On a hot day, I want nothing more than to jump into some water! But no, there is a certain pride in having dry swim trunks.

Isn’t there a certain parallel between this game and the way Christians live their lives? We can easily fall into the trap of making a timed leap from one goal to the next, always trying to land in the middle of dryness, never falling into the world around us. So we only play on the church softball league and we only listen to the Christian radio stations (and Rush Limbaugh. Mustn’t forget Rush!), we avoid the corner of the convenience store where the beer is displayed and are never found anywhere near a tattoo parlor, heaven forbid! Why, what would Jesus think if we were to be seen in such places? Worse yet, what would the people we know from church think if they saw us there? What would Jesus do?

Go HERE for the rest of the post.

Leading yourself

"Leaders should spend fifty percent of their time leading themselves." WHAT? So Suggests Dee Hock, leadership thinker, expert and author of books on chaordic organizations and leadership." When most leaders think of leadership, they think downward (leading those for whom they're responsible).

But in essence you really lead upward (with those to whom you are responsible), horizontally (with those who are your peers), and, perhaps most importantly, you lead yourself. If I am not able to lead myself, how can I lead others (since leadership has a great deal to do with modeling)? So, what is involved in leading yourself?

When I began to consider self-leadership, my mind raced back to a verse I memorized many moons ago. Song of Solomon 1:6, "...they made me the keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept." A modern rendering of that might be. They made me responsible for taking care of what belongs to others, but I have not taken care of what belongs to me. I have not done a good job of managing, stewarding, leading myself and yet I am tasked with and trying to lead others.

As I study the two key passages on leadership in the New Testament 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1) it seems to me that they deal primarily with self-management / self-leadership as a prerequisite for leading others.

Could it be that the reason so many leaders fail in leading upward, downward or horizontally is that they have not done a very good job in leading inwardly? Daniel Goleman, the spokesperson for emotional intelligence deals quite extensively with this concept of self-leadership. Goleman believes that successful leaders distinguish themselves by knowing their strengths, limits and displaying self-control in key areas of their lives.

Here are a few areas along with questions to consider that are consistent with I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 as you consider leading yourself.

1. My gifts: How am I doing at leading myself by knowing my gifts, staying within my limits, and developing those gifts to their highest, God-pleasing potential?

2. My character: How am I doing at leading myself by being a person of integrity, following through on promises made, being a person that others can trusted?

3. My Purity: How am I doing at leading myself by being careful of what I allow my eyes to see, my ears to hear and my mind to think about? How are my relationships with members of the opposite sex? Do I have guidelines, safeguards and appropriate and honest, accountability?

4. My pride: How am I doing at leading myself by keeping Christ and not me at the center? Am I the hero of my own stories? Do the words I speak communicate an attitude of arrogance and superiority, or am I characterized by humility and teachability?

5. My Pace: How am I doing at leading myself in the use of my time? Is my schedule writing checks my body can't cash? Am I going at an unbalanced pace that is digging myself, and those whom I lead, an early grave? Do I have a biblical view of work and leisure, or am I a workaholic who gets a sense of self-worth based on my work?

6. My finances: How am I doing at leading myself in the money arena? Do I have healthy protection, checks and balances built in regarding organizational funds that don't belong to me? Are there healthy audits over all financial dealing with which I am associated? Do I resist the lusting, grabbing life-style of my culture choosing instead to be content and satisfied with God's provision? Or, is my happiness at the door of the next purchase?

7. My anger: How am I doing at leading myself emotionally? Do I have a reputation for being a hothead, having a short fuse? Do I keep track of and keep score regarding perceived slights, insults, put-downs? Does resentment, bitterness, lack of forgiveness characterize me? One survey I came across revealed that bitterness is the major cause of burnout for men between 38 and 50 years of age.

Years ago I heard Lorne Sanny (former president of The Navigators) speak about areas of self-leadership that he kept an eye on and prayed about so that he wouldn't self-destruct. I, at that time, developed my own list that I pray over most days: Lust, pride, patience, love of money, anger / bitterness. These are my key areas of "Self-Leadership."

"In a race, everyone runs, but only one person gets first prize. So run your race to win. To win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best. An athlete goes to all this trouble just to win a blue ribbon or a silver cup, but we do it for a heavenly reward that never disappears. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I fight to win. I'm not just shadow-boxing or playing around. Like an athlete, I punish my body, treating it roughly, training it to do what it should, not what it wants to. Otherwise I fear that after enlisting others for the race, I myself might be declared unfit and ordered to stand aside." I Corinthians 9:23-27 (The Living Bible)

© 2003 Dave Kraft, The Navigators Church Discipleship Ministry. Unlimited permission to copy or use is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Pastoral Family Life...

A new study revealed that six out of every 10 ministers said their role as a pastor left them with insufficient time for their family.

A new study conducted for one of the world’s largest providers of Christian products and services reports that pastors see their own families as fairly healthy even though they believe their job limits the time they spend with their family.

While eighty-eight percent of churchgoers often expect pastors’ families to be "better than" other families, six out of every ten ministers said their role as a pastor left them with insufficient time for their family, according to the study conducted by Ellison Research of Phoenix, Ariz. for LifeWay Christian Resources.

The study, which was first published in the July/August issue of Facts & Trends magazine, revealed that 93 percent of all pastors believe there is extra pressure being married to a minister (54 percent feel this strongly), and 91 percent feel there is extra pressure being the child of a minister (46 percent feel this way strongly).

Meanwhile, only 18 percent said the amount of time they had to spend with their spouse was at extremely healthy levels, and 10 percent said this about the amount of time they get to spend with their children.

Despite this, when asked to rate the health of their relationship with their spouse on a scale of 1 to 5, 47 percent of pastors gave the highest possible rating, while 39 percent gave a rating of 4. Similarly, 44 percent of ministers rated the health of their relationship with their children at a 5, while 42 rated it at a 4.

However, ministers who have been divorced did report a less healthy relationship with their children and a lower family health rating than other pastors.

According to LifeWay, the study was conducted among a sample of 870 senior pastors, of which eighty percent had only been married once, while 12 percent had been divorced and remarried. Ninety-three percent were reported as having children. Fourteen percent have fathers who were ministers.

With all of the extra pressure on pastors’ families, and the limitations on the time pastors get to spend with their families, one of the more relevant findings of the study was that 61 percent of ministers believed strongly that if there were a crisis in their family, they would receive the necessary support from their church.

Another 33 percent felt only somewhat confident they would get the support they need; while 6 percent felt no confidence their church would support them in a family crisis.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

My top 5 well known living preachers...

Adrian Warnock has put out a call for us in the Blogosphere to list our top 5 well known living preachers.

So, in that spirit, here are my top ones:

1) CJ Mahaney - Mahaney leads Sovereign Grace Ministries. I had the chance to see him preach in person last fall along with Dr. Wayne Grudem. Mahaney has a way of communication that is unique, engaging, challenging and inspiring.
2) John MacArthur - MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California. I love the way he preaches the truth, pedal to the medal, and does not back down.
3) Leith Anderson - Anderson leads Wooddale Church, Eden Prairie, MN. You may know him from his ministry Faith Matters. There is simply something about his preaching that draws me in. It's simple yet deep. He has incredible sound bites that can really spur thought.
4) John Piper -Piper leads Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN. You may also know him from his Desiring God Ministries. Piper is always deep. I often prefer reading Piper's sermons to listening to them, so I can digest them at my own speed.
5) Bob Merritt -Bob is the lead pastor of Eagle Brook Church, White Bear Lake, MN. I was Bob's Teaching Assistant at Bethel Seminary for two years, so I'm a bit partial. Bob is also the least "famous" of pastors on this list, but he is incredibly gifted as a communicator. Bob has a way of teaching truths in a way that anyone can latch onto them. He has led his church from a modest 350 people to over 6000 in the past 13 years. They are impacting their community in great ways, and equipping people for ministry. There are a number of other people that preach from time to time at Eagle Brook Church that I enjoy, including Dan Rotach and Dave Tilma. I have served with Dave in ministry, and have been a Teaching Assistant for Dan Rotach at Seminary as well.
5a) John Ortberg -Orberg is teaching pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, Menlo Park, California. Every time I listen to Ortberg, he blows me away. He gets to be my 5a in case Merrit doesn't count. He is probably deserving to be in my top 5 anyhow, so I'll leave him.

False doctrines...

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Pelagian Captivity of the Church

The Pelagian Captivity of the Church

by R.C. Sproul

© 2001, Modern Reformation Magazine (May / June issue, Vol 10:3).

Shortly after the Reformation began, in the first few years after Martin Luther posted the Ninety-Five Theses on the church door at Wittenberg, he issued some short booklets on a variety of subjects. One of the most provocative was titled The Babylonian Captivity of the Church. In this book Luther was looking back to that period of Old Testament history when Jerusalem was destroyed by the invading armies of Babylon and the elite of the people were carried off into captivity. Luther in the sixteenth century took the image of the historic Babylonian captivity and reapplied it to his era and talked about the new Babylonian captivity of the Church. He was speaking of Rome as the modern Babylon that held the Gospel hostage with its rejection of the biblical understanding of justification. You can understand how fierce the controversy was, how polemical this title would be in that period by saying that the Church had not simply erred or strayed, but had fallen — that it’s actually now Babylonian; it is now in pagan captivity.

I’ve often wondered if Luther were alive today and came to our culture and looked, not at the liberal church community, but at evangelical churches, what would he have to say? Of course I can’t answer that question with any kind of definitive authority, but my guess is this: If Martin Luther lived today and picked up his pen to write, the book he would write in our time would be entitled The Pelagian Captivity of the Evangelical Church. Luther saw the doctrine of justification as fueled by a deeper theological problem. He writes about this extensively in The Bondage of the Will. When we look at the Reformation and we see the solas of the Reformation — sola Scriptura, sola fide, solus Christus, soli Deo gloria, sola gratia — Luther was convinced that the real issue of the Reformation was the issue of grace; and that underlying the doctrine of solo fide, justification by faith alone, was the prior commitment to sola gratia, the concept of justification by grace alone.

In the Fleming Revell edition of The Bondage of the Will, the translators, J. I. Packer and O. R. Johnston, included a somewhat provocative historical and theological introduction to the book itself. This is from the end of that introduction:

These things need to be pondered by Protestants today. With what right may we call ourselves children of the Reformation? Much modern Protestantism would be neither owned nor even recognised by the pioneer Reformers. The Bondage of the Will fairly sets before us what they believed about the salvation of lost mankind. In the light of it, we are forced to ask whether Protestant Christendom has not tragically sold its birthright between Luther’s day and our own. Has not Protestantism today become more Erasmian than Lutheran? Do we not too often try to minimise and gloss over doctrinal differences for the sake of inter-party peace? Are we innocent of the doctrinal indifferentism with which Luther charged Erasmus? Do we still believe that doctrine matters?1

Historically, it’s a simple matter of fact that Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and all the leading Protestant theologians of the first epoch of the Reformation stood on precisely the same ground here. On other points they had their differences. In asserting the helplessness of man in sin and the sovereignty of God in grace, they were entirely at one. To all of them these doctrines were the very lifeblood of the Christian faith. A modern editor of Luther’s works says this:

Whoever puts this book down without having realized that Evangelical theology stands or falls with the doctrine of the bondage of the will has read it in vain. The doctrine of free justification by faith alone, which became the storm center of so much controversy during the Reformation period, is often regarded as the heart of the Reformers’ theology, but this is not accurate. The truth is that their thinking was really centered upon the contention of Paul, echoed by Augustine and others, that the sinner’s entire salvation is by free and sovereign grace only, and that the doctrine of justification by faith was important to them because it safeguarded the principle of sovereign grace. The sovereignty of grace found expression in their thinking at a more profound level still in the doctrine of monergistic regeneration.2

That is to say, that the faith that receives Christ for justification is itself the free gift of a sovereign God. The principle of sola fide is not rightly understood until it is seen as anchored in the broader principle of sola gratia. What is the source of faith? Is it the God-given means whereby the God-given justification is received, or is it a condition of justification which is left to man to fulfill? Do you hear the difference? Let me put it in simple terms. I heard an evangelist recently say, “If God takes a thousand steps to reach out to you for your redemption, still in the final analysis, you must take the decisive step to be saved.” Consider the statement that has been made by America’s most beloved and leading evangelical of the twentieth century, Billy Graham, who says with great passion, “God does ninety-nine percent of it but you still must do that last one percent.”

What Is Pelagianism?

Now, let’s return briefly to my title, “The Pelagian Captivity of the Church.” What are we talking about? Pelagius was a monk who lived in Britain in the fifth century. He was a contemporary of the greatest theologian of the first millennium of Church history if not of all time, Aurelius Augustine, Bishop of Hippo in North Africa. We have heard of St. Augustine, of his great works in theology, of his City of God, of his Confessions, and so on, which remain Christian classics.

Augustine, in addition to being a titanic theologian and a prodigious intellect, was also a man of deep spirituality and prayer. In one of his famous prayers, Augustine made a seemingly harmless and innocuous statement in the prayer to God in which he says: “O God, command what you wouldst, and grant what thou dost command.” Now, would that give you apoplexy — to hear a prayer like that? Well it certainly set Pelagius, this British monk, into orbit. When he heard that, he protested vociferously, even appealing to Rome to have this ghastly prayer censured from the pen of Augustine. Here’s why. He said, “Are you saying, Augustine, that God has the inherent right to command anything that he so desires from his creatures? Nobody is going to dispute that. God inherently, as the creator of heaven and earth, has the right to impose obligations on his creatures and say, ‘Thou shalt do this, and thou shalt not do that.’ ‘Command whatever thou would’ — it’s a perfectly legitimate prayer.”

It’s the second part of the prayer that Pelagius abhorred when Augustine said, “and grant what thou dost command.” He said, “What are you talking about? If God is just, if God is righteous and God is holy, and God commands of the creature to do something, certainly that creature must have the power within himself, the moral ability within himself, to perform it or God would never require it in the first place.” Now that makes sense, doesn’t it? What Pelagius was saying is that moral responsibility always and everywhere implies moral capability or, simply, moral ability. So why would we have to pray, “God grant me, give me the gift of being able to do what you command me to do”? Pelagius saw in this statement a shadow being cast over the integrity of God himself, who would hold people responsible for doing something they cannot do.

So in the ensuing debate, Augustine made it clear that in creation, God commanded nothing from Adam or Eve that they were incapable of performing. But once transgression entered and mankind became fallen, God’s law was not repealed nor did God adjust his holy requirements downward to accommodate the weakened, fallen condition of his creation. God did punish his creation by visiting upon them the judgment of original sin, so that everyone after Adam and Eve who was born into this world was born already dead in sin. Original sin is not the first sin. It’s the result of the first sin; it refers to our inherent corruption, by which we are born in sin, and in sin did our mothers conceive us. We are not born in a neutral state of innocence, but we are born in a sinful, fallen condition. Virtually every church in the historic World Council of Churches at some point in their history and in their creedal development articulates some doctrine of original sin. So clear is that to the biblical revelation that it would take a repudiation of the biblical view of mankind to deny original sin altogether.

This is precisely what was at issue in the battle between Augustine and Pelagius in the fifth century. Pelagius said there is no such thing as original sin. Adam’s sin affected Adam and only Adam. There is no transmission or transfer of guilt or fallenness or corruption to the progeny of Adam and Eve. Everyone is born in the same state of innocence in which Adam was created. And, he said, for a person to live a life of obedience to God, a life of moral perfection, is possible without any help from Jesus or without any help from the grace of God. Pelagius said that grace — and here’s the key distinction — facilitates righteousness. What does “facilitate” mean?

It helps, it makes it more facile, it makes it easier, but you don’t have to have it. You can be perfect without it. Pelagius further stated that it is not only theoretically possible for some folks to live a perfect life without any assistance from divine grace, but there are in fact people who do it. Augustine said, “No, no, no, no . . . we are infected by sin by nature, to the very depths and core of our being — so much so that no human being has the moral power to incline himself to cooperate with the grace of God. The human will, as a result of original sin, still has the power to choose, but it is in bondage to its evil desires and inclinations. The condition of fallen humanity is one that Augustine would describe as the inability to not sin. In simple English, what Augustine was saying is that in the Fall, man loses his moral ability to do the things of God and he is held captive by his own evil inclinations.

In the fifth century the Church condemned Pelagius as a heretic. Pelagianism was condemned at the Council of Orange, and it was condemned again at the Council of Florence, the Council of Carthage, and also, ironically, at the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century in the first three anathemas of the Canons of the Sixth Session. So, consistently throughout Church history, the Church has roundly and soundly condemned Pelagianism — because Pelagianism denies the fallenness of our nature; it denies the doctrine of original sin.

Now what is called semi-Pelagianism, as the prefix “semi” suggests, was a somewhat middle ground between full-orbed Augustinianism and full-orbed Pelagianism. Semi-Pelagianism said this: yes, there was a fall; yes, there is such a thing as original sin; yes, the constituent nature of humanity has been changed by this state of corruption and all parts of our humanity have been significantly weakened by the fall, so much so that without the assistance of divine grace nobody can possibly be redeemed, so that grace is not only helpful but it’s absolutely necessary for salvation. While we are so fallen that we can’t be saved without grace, we are not so fallen that we don’t have the ability to accept or reject the grace when it’s offered to us. The will is weakened but is not enslaved. There remains in the core of our being an island of righteousness that remains untouched by the fall. It’s out of that little island of righteousness, that little parcel of goodness that is still intact in the soul or in the will that is the determinative difference between heaven and hell. It’s that little island that must be exercised when God does his thousand steps of reaching out to us, but in the final analysis it’s that one step that we take that determines whether we go to heaven or hell — whether we exercise that little righteousness that is in the core of our being or whether we don’t. That little island Augustine wouldn’t even recognize as an atoll in the South Pacific. He said it’s a mythical island, that the will is enslaved, and that man is dead in his sin and trespasses.

Ironically, the Church condemned semi-Pelagianism as vehemently as it had condemned original Pelagianism. Yet by the time you get to the sixteenth century and you read the Catholic understanding of what happens in salvation the Church basically repudiated what Augustine taught and Aquinas taught as well. The Church concluded that there still remains this freedom that is intact in the human will and that man must cooperate with — and assent to — the prevenient grace that is offered to them by God. If we exercise that will, if we exercise a cooperation with whatever powers we have left, we will be saved. And so in the sixteenth century the Church reembraced semi-Pelagianism.

At the time of the Reformation, all the reformers agreed on one point: the moral inability of fallen human beings to incline themselves to the things of God; that all people, in order to be saved, are totally dependent, not ninety-nine percent, but one hundred percent dependent upon the monergistic work of regeneration in order to come to faith, and that faith itself is a gift of God. It’s not that we are offered salvation and that we will be born again if we choose to believe. But we can’t even believe until God in his grace and in his mercy first changes the disposition of our souls through his sovereign work of regeneration. In other words, what the reformers all agreed with was, unless a man is born again, he can’t even see the kingdom of God, let alone enter it. Like Jesus says in the sixth chapter of John, “No man can come to me unless it is given to him of the Father” — that the necessary condition for anybody’s faith and anybody’s salvation is regeneration.

Evangelicals and Faith

Modern Evangelicalism almost uniformly and universally teaches that in order for a person to be born again, he must first exercise faith. You have to choose to be born again. Isn’t that what you hear? In a George Barna poll, more than seventy percent of “professing evangelical Christians” in America expressed the belief that man is basically good. And more than eighty percent articulated the view that God helps those who help themselves. These positions — or let me say it negatively — neither of these positions is semi-Pelagian. They’re both Pelagian. To say that we’re basically good is the Pelagian view. I would be willing to assume that in at least thirty percent of the people who are reading this issue, and probably more, if we really examine their thinking in depth, we would find hearts that are beating Pelagianism. We’re overwhelmed with it. We’re surrounded by it. We’re immersed in it. We hear it every day. We hear it every day in the secular culture. And not only do we hear it every day in the secular culture, we hear it every day on Christian television and on Christian radio.

In the nineteenth century, there was a preacher who became very popular in America, who wrote a book on theology, coming out of his own training in law, in which he made no bones about his Pelagianism. He rejected not only Augustinianism, but he also rejected semi-Pelagianism and stood clearly on the subject of unvarnished Pelagianism, saying in no uncertain terms, without any ambiguity, that there was no Fall and that there is no such thing as original sin. This man went on to attack viciously the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement of Christ, and in addition to that, to repudiate as clearly and as loudly as he could the doctrine of justification by faith alone by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. This man’s basic thesis was, we don’t need the imputation of the righteousness of Christ because we have the capacity in and of ourselves to become righteous. His name: Charles Finney, one of America’s most revered evangelists. Now, if Luther was correct in saying that sola fide is the article upon which the Church stands or falls, if what the reformers were saying is that justification by faith alone is an essential truth of Christianity, who also argued that the substitutionary atonement is an essential truth of Christianity; if they’re correct in their assessment that those doctrines are essential truths of Christianity, the only conclusion we can come to is that Charles Finney was not a Christian. I read his writings and I say, “I don’t see how any Christian person could write this.” And yet, he is in the Hall of Fame of Evangelical Christianity in America. He is the patron saint of twentieth-century Evangelicalism. And he is not semi-Pelagian; he is unvarnished in his Pelagianism.

For the rest of the article go HERE. It's worth your time.

Wish I had something witty to say...

...but I don't. So instead I'll share with you what I've been thinking about and how life is going. This is more vent than insight...

First, I've been trying to cram Koine Greek into my brain all summer long. I have a serious problem with learning languages. I have struggled all my life with English, I tried to learn Spanish for 4 years, and Greek has been killing me throughout Seminary. I started Greek my first semester of Seminary (taught by the highly esteemed Dr. James Brooks), and discovered just how hard it was. I got a "C" only by the grace of the professor. We are required to have a minimum of a "C" in our language classes for it to count toward our MDiv. I was really struggling, so I decided it would be best to take some time off from the Greek. This past year I started Greek again, taking the first course over as an audit course, and then taking the second course for credit. I got a pretty good grade, again by the grace of the instructor (taught by the delightful Ms. Holly Feia). The problem is by the middle to the end of the semester I was sinking not swimming...well my head WAS swimming. My grade rode the back of the easier tests of the early part of the semester added to my in class participation. This September 2nd I have to take what is effectively an enterence exam, which if I pass allows me into the 3rd (and final!) Greek course. I would still have to take my New Testament courses in Greek, but that is focused on the NT and not so much the language. My dillema is I'm doing my best at reviewing and trying to learn all that stuff that slipped out or through over the past semester, but it doesn't seem to be sticking. I am seriously worried about the test in September, because I am just a little over a year from graduating, and the only thing that could hold me back at this point is this test. I know thousands have made it before me, but we don't ever seem to hear about those who didn't make it. The sole example of those who didn't pass that I am aware of is Doug Padgett from Solomon's Porch, and that is only because Doug joked about it while giving a talk about his church last year. So every day I carry around flash cards in my pockets. Every day I try to remember paradigms. And every day I am hating my life because of it. Summers are supposed to be relaxing, time to enjoy life and be re-energized so we can make it through another year of school. Not this year, or at least not for me. Pray that I remember stuff. Pray that the stuff sinks in at a faster rate for me. Pray that God gives me the gift of tongues, and that the language I am given is KOINE GREEK!

The other thing going on in my life at the moment is that my fiancee Banana tore her tibial tendon in her right foot/ankle. Tomorrow I am taking her into a specialist to see if surgery is required, and it appears that is a high likelihood. She's been on crutches for the better part of a week because of this, and it's been pretty tough on her. The timing of it was really good as far as silver linings go though. If it had to happen in the next 4-8 months, it could not have hit a better time for her/us. Pray for good results and speedy healing. She's already stressed because of wedding planning, this isn't helping calm her any. She's frustrated about her physical health in general, as this is just the most receint in a string of strange injuries.

I do still have plans on a second post summarizing Dr. Wayne Grudem's thoughts on Election. I might try to get to that on Wednesday.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Want to remain humble...

Check out Steve Camp's post today on 17 marks of a sound Christian from Thomas Hooker.

Below is a copy his post, but if you don't already read it, check out Steve's blog.


1. If you can mourn daily for your own corruptions and failings committed, yet so as to be thankful for the grace received.
Romans 7:24–25: “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord . . . So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.”

2. If you are grieved for the sins of the times and places wherein you live.
Ezekiel 9:4: “And the Lord said unto him, ‘Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh, and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.’”

Psalm 119:136: “Rivers of water run down mine eyes because men keep not Thy law.”

2 Peter 2:8: “For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day, with their unlawful deeds.

3. If when you mourn for the sins of the times, you take heed that you are not infected with them.
Philippians 2:15: “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.”

Acts 20:40: “And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this untoward generation.’ ”

James 1:27: “Pure religion, and undefiled before God and the Father, is this: to visit the fatherless and widow in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”

1 Peter 4:4: “Wherein they think it strange that you run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you.”

4. If you endeavor to get victory over your corruptions, and are daily more circumspect over your ways, and more fearful to fall in time to come.
1 Corinthians 9:27: “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means when I have preached to others I myself should be a castaway.”

Psalm 39:1: “I said I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue. I will keep my mouth with a bridle while the wicked are before me.”

Job 40:5: “Once I have spoken, but I will not answer thee; yea twice, but I will proceed no further.”

Philippians 2:12: “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in mine absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

Proverbs 28:14: “Happy is the man that feareth always.”

5. If you can chide your own heart for the coldness and dullness of it to good duties, and use all holy means for quickening it up afterwards.
Psalm 42:5: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquietted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance and my God.”

Psalm 57:8: “Awake, my glory, awake psaltery and harp. I myself will awake early.”

Isaiah 64:7: “And there is none that calleth on thy name that stirreth up themselves to take hold of thee.”
Judges 5:12: “Awake, awake, Deborah, awake, awake, utter a song. Arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam.”

6. If you can be patient under afflictions and better for afflictions.
Hebrews 12:5: “And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaks unto you as unto children, my son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him.”

Hebrews 12:11: “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby.”

Psalm 119:67: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I have kept Thy words.”

Jeremiah 5:3: “O Lord, are not Thine eyes upon the truth! Thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved. Thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction. They have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return.

7. If your conversation is in heaven, that is, if your thoughts and the course of your life are heavenwards.
Philippians 3:20: “For our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Colossians 3:2: “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”

Hebrews 11:15: “And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.”

8. If you delight to speak to God in your praises, and that God should speak to you in His Word.
Romans 8:26: “Likewise also the Spirit helpeth with our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”

John 8:47: “He that is of God heareth God’s words; ye therefore hear them not because ye are not of God.”

9. If you are as content to submit your heart and life to God’s Word in all things, even when it crosses you in your profits and pleasures, as you are content to come and hear it.
Isaiah 2:3: “And many people shall go and say, ‘Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.”

Ezekiel 33:32: “And lo, Thou art to them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument, for they hear Thy words, but they do them not.”

10. If you can rely constantly by faith on the promises of God in Christ when you are in any strait or temptation, as well for your present provision and preservation in this life, as for your salvation in the life to come, abstaining from the use of any unlawful or unwarrantable practices.
Genesis 22:8: “And Abraham said, ‘My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering’; so they went both of them together.”

Exodus 14:13: “And Moses said unto the people, ‘Fear ye not; stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, what He will show to you today; for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more forever.’ ”

11. If you can find in your heart that you love God sincerely, although you could never love Him except that He loved you first.
1 John 4:19: “We love Him because He first loved us.”

Romans 5:5: “And hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

12. If you can heartily love good Christians, and others who have helped you on to heaven; and, on the contrary, if you hate and avoid wicked and dissolute men, but most of all such as withdraw others from the faith or, by scandalous lives, have caused the faith to be blasphemed and evil spoken of.
1 John 3:14: “We know we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.”

13. If there is a fight between the flesh and the Spirit.
Romans 7:23: “But I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members.”

Galatians 5:17: “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other, so that you cannot do the things you would.”

14. If we long for the appearing of Christ.
Revelation 22:20: “He which testifies these things saith, ‘Surely I come quickly.’ Amen, even so come, Lord Jesus.”

2 Timothy 4:8: “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto them also that love His appearing.”

15. If you make conscience of secret sins which no eye sees, such as a hard heart, a secure and proud spirit; if you do not look to much to the matter of good duties as to the manner; if they are done in truth and sincerity; also if you apply both the promises and the threatenings to yourself in the Word of God, and love and admire grace more in others than in yourself, and hate sin in all, but mostly in yourself. You may take comfort from these if you can do them in a holy manner, namely:
1. With uprightness of heart
2. With continuance
3. With daily growth in the practice of them

And to this end two things must be practice:
1. Often examine, try, and search your heart and all your actions.
2. Often take account of your life concerning your progress in the course of godliness. For lack of this examination, many life and die as hypocrites, and do not know it, but suppose their case is good.
1 John 3:18: “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and truth.”

1 Chronicles 29:17: “I know also my God that Thou triest the heart and hast pleasure in uprightness; as for me, in the uprightness of my heart, I have offered all these things.”

16. If you desire to keep no corruptions, or if your endeavors are constant in the use of all means against every corruption.
Colossians 3:5-10 "Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him."

17. If you desire Christ for His holiness’ sake, which, if you do, then you will take all that comes with holiness, whether it is shame, disgrace, or persecution.
2 Corinthians 6:3-10 "giving no cause for offense in anything, in order that the ministry be not discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things."

10 Commandments and Expository Preaching...

The follow two segments come from an email from Preaching Magazine's

Why the Ten Commandments matter

In his book Written in Stone: The Ten Commandments and Today's Moral Crisis (Crossway), Philip Graham Ryken observes, "Good teaching on the law and the gospel has never been more badly needed than it is today. We are living in lawless times, when disrespect for authority has led to widespread disdain for God's commandments. People are behaving badly, even in church.

"Part of the problem is that people don't know what God requires. Even among Christians there is an appalling lack of familiarity with the perfect standard of God's law, and of course the situation is far worse in the culture at large. This ignorance undoubtedly contributes to the general lowering of moral standards in these post-Christian times, but it does as much damage to our theology. People who are ignorant of God's law never see their need for the gospel. As John Bunyan explained it, 'The man who does not know the nature of the law cannot know the nature of sin. And he who does not know the nature of sin cannot know the nature of the Savior.'"

Can evangelistic preaching be expository?

In the book Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship (P&R Publishing), Mark Dever writes, "Expositional preaching is all about giving God's people God's word. It is preaching in which the point of the biblical passage is the point of the preacher's message. This is what it means to preach expositionally — to expose God's word.

"Christians are obviously to be fed with God's word. As our Lord said to the tempter: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God' (Matt. 4:4; Luke 4:4) . . . Non-Christians too, though, need God's word. Those who do not yet believe the gospel need to be told of their hopelessness apart from Christ. They need to have God's word presented to them; they need God's Spirit to convict them of their own sin and desperation. Being so liable to God's judgment, they need to hear of God's grace.

"All this can happen through expositional preaching. Through such biblically faithful sermons, non-Christians can have Satan's lies exposed, God's truth revealed, their own hearts searched, and Christ's grace magnified to them."

Thursday, July 21, 2005


The following is taken from Dr. Wayne Grudem's fantastic Systematic Theology. What I have done is summarize his thinking, and picked out a few quotes to get you thinking on this subject. His treatment is enormously more indepth that this overview.

The Order of Salvation
1. Election (God's choice of people to be saved)
2. The gospel call (proclaiming the message of the gospel)
3. Regeneration (being born again)
4. Conversion (faith and repentance)
5. Justification (right legal standing)
6. Adoption (membership in God's family)
7. Sanctification (right conduct of life)
8. Perseverance (remaining a Christian)
9. Death (going to be with the Lord)
10. Glorification (receiving a resurrection body)

Items 2-6 and part of 7 are all involved in becoming a Christian.

Election: Election is an act of God before creation in which he chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any foreseen merit in them, but only because of his soverign good pleasure.

Does the New Testament Teach Predestination?
Several pasages in the New Testament seem to affirm quite clearly that God ordained beforehand those who would be saved. Acts 13:48, romans 8:28-30, Romans 9:11-13, Romans 11:7, Ephesians 1:4-6, Ephesians 1:12, 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 2 Timothy 1:9, Revelations 13:7-8, Revelations 17:8

How does the New Testament present the teaching of election?
1. As a comfort. Romans 8:28-30
2. As a reason to praise God. Ephesians 1:5-6, Ephesians 1:12, 1 Thessalonians 1:2, 4, 2 Thessalonians 2:13
3. As an encouragement to evangelism. 2 Timothy 2:10

Misunderstandings of the Doctrine of Election
1. Election is not fatalistic or mechanistic.
God's act of election was neither impersonal nor mechanistic, but was permeated with personal love for those whom he chose. God also does not have pleasure from the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11). Paul did not know who was going to be saved before he went on his missions trips. He followed God's direction, and endured a life of incrdible hardship in order to bring the gospel to those whom God had chosen. (2 Timothy 2:10)
2. Election is not based on God's foreknowledge of our faith. (Romans 8:29)
Scripture never speaks of our faith as the reason God chose us. In Romans 11:5-6 Paul stresses that God's grace and the complete absence of human merit in the process of election. Election based on something good in us (our faith) would be the beginning of salvation by merit. If the ultimate determining factor in whether we will be saved or not is our own decision to accept Christ, then we shall be more inclined to think that we deserve some credit for the fact we were saved. But once we begin to think this way then we seriously diminish the glory that is to be given to God for our salvation.

Conclusion: Election is unconditional. The reason for election is simply God's sovereign choice - he "destined us in love to be his sons" (Ephesians 1-5).

The next post in this series will be addressing some objections to the Doctrine of Election.

Five Points of Calvinism...

This is a continuation of the subject of a previous post.


Bethlehem Baptist Church Staff
March, 1985
Revised March, 1998

Historical Introduction

John Calvin, the famous theologian and pastor of Geneva, died in 1564. Along with Martin Luther in Germany, he was the most influential force of the Protestant Reformation. His Commentaries and Institutes of the Christian Religion are still exerting tremendous influence on the Christian Church worldwide.

The churches which have inherited the teachings of Calvin are usually called Reformed as opposed to the Lutheran or Episcopalian branches of the Reformation. While not all Baptist churches hold to a reformed theology, there is a significant Baptist tradition which grew out of and still cherishes the central doctrines inherited from the reformed branch of the Reformation.

The controversy between Arminianism and Calvinism arose in Holland in the early 1600's. The founder of the Arminian party was Jacob Arminius (1560-1609). He studied under the strict Calvinist Theodore Beza at Geneva and became a professor of theology at the University of Leyden in 1603.

Gradually Arminius came to reject certain Calvinist teachings. The controversy spread all over Holland, where the Reformed Church was the overwhelming majority. The Arminians drew up their creed in Five Articles (written by Uytenbogaert), and laid them before the state authorities of Holland in 1610 under the name Remonstrance, signed by forty-six ministers. (These Five Articles can be read in Philip Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, vol. 3, pp. 545-547.)

The Calvinists responded with a Counter-Remonstrance. But the official Calvinistic response came from the Synod of Dort which was held to consider the Five Articles from November 13, 1618 to May 9, 1619. There were eighty-four members and eighteen secular commissioners. The Synod wrote what has come to be known as the Canons of Dort. These are still part of the church confession of the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church. They state the Five Points of Calvinism in response to the Five Articles of the Arminian Remonstrants. (See Schaff, vol. 3, pp. 581-596).

So the so-called Five Points were not chosen by the Calvinists as a summary of their teaching. They emerged as a response to the Arminians who chose these five points to oppose.

It is more important to give a positive Biblical position on the five points than to know the exact form of the original controversy. These five points are still at the heart of Biblical theology. They are not unimportant. Where we stand on these things deeply affects our view of God, man, salvation, the atonement, regeneration, assurance, worship, and missions.

Somewhere along the way the five points came to be summarized under the acronym TULIP.

T-Total depravity

U-Unconditional election

L-Limited atonement

I-Irresistible grace

P-Perseverance of the saint

NOTE: We are not going to follow this order in our presentation. There is a good rationale for this traditional order: it starts with man in need of salvation and then gives, in the order of their occurrence, the steps God takes to save his people. He elects, then he sends Christ to atone for the sins of the elect, then he irresistibly draws his people to faith, and finally works to cause them to persevere to the end.

We have found, however, that people grasp these points more easily if we follow a presentation based on the order in which we experience them.

1. We experience first our depravity and need of salvation.
2. Then we experience the irresistible grace of God leading us toward faith.
3. Then we trust the sufficiency of the atoning death of Christ for our sins.
4. Then we discover that behind the work of God to atone for our sins and bring us to faith was the unconditional election of God.
5. And finally we rest in his electing grace to give us the strength and will to persevere to the end in faith.

This is the order we will follow in our presentation.

We would like to spell out what we believe the Scripture teaches on these five points. Our great desire is to honor God by understanding and believing his truth revealed in Scripture. We are open to changing any of our ideas which can be shown to contradict the truth of Scripture. We do not have any vested interest in John Calvin himself, and we find some of what he taught to be wrong. But in general we are willing to let ourselves be called Calvinists on the five points, because we find the Calvinist position to be Biblical.

We share the sentiments of Jonathan Edwards who said in the Preface to his great book on THE FREEDOM OF THE WILL, "I should not take it at all amiss, to be called a Calvinist, for distinction's sake: though I utterly disclaim a dependence on Calvin, or believing the doctrines which I hold, because he believed and taught them; and cannot justly be charged with believing in every thing just as he taught."

Total Depravity

When we speak of man's depravity we mean man's natural condition apart from any grace exerted by God to restrain or transform man.

There is no doubt that man could perform more evil acts toward his fellow man than he does. But if he is restrained from performing more evil acts by motives that are not owing to his glad submission to God, then even his "virtue" is evil in the sight of God.

Romans 14:23 says, "Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." This is a radical indictment of all natural "virtue" that does not flow from a heart humbly relying on God's grace.

The terrible condition of man's heart will never be recognized by people who assess it only in relation to other men. Romans 14:23 makes plain that depravity is our condition in relation to God primarily, and only secondarily in relation to man. Unless we start here we will never grasp the totality of our natural depravity.
Man's depravity is total in at least four senses.
(1) Our rebellion against God is total.

Apart from the grace of God there is no delight in the holiness of God, and there is no glad submission to the sovereign authority of God.

Of course totally depraved men can be very religious and very philanthropic. They can pray and give alms and fast, as Jesus said (Matthew 6:1-18). But their very religion is rebellion against the rights of their Creator, if it does not come from a childlike heart of trust in the free grace of God. Religion is one of the chief ways that man conceals his unwillingness to forsake self-reliance and bank all his hopes on the unmerited mercy of God (Luke 18:9-14; Colossians 2:20-23).

The totality of our rebellion is seen in Romans 3:9-10 and 18. "I have already charged that all men, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, as it is written: None is righteous, no not one; no one seeks for God....There is no fear of God before their eyes."

It is a myth that man in his natural state is genuinely seeking God. Men do seek God. But they do not seek him for who he is. They seek him in a pinch as one who might preserve them from death or enhance their worldly enjoyments. Apart from conversion, no one comes to the light of God.

Some do come to the light. But listen to what John 3:20-21 says about them. "Every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God."

Yes there are those who come to the light—namely those whose deeds are the work of God. "Wrought in God" means worked by God. Apart from this gracious work of God all men hate the light of God and will not come to him lest their evil be exposed—this is total rebellion. "No one seeks for God...There is no fear of God before their eyes!"
(2) In his total rebellion everything man does is sin.

In Romans 14:23 Paul says, "Whatever is not from faith is sin." Therefore, if all men are in total rebellion, everything they do is the product of rebellion and cannot be an honor to God, but only part of their sinful rebellion. If a king teaches his subjects how to fight well and then those subjects rebel against their king and use the very skill he taught them to resist him, then even those skills become evil.

Thus man does many things which he can only do because he is created in the image of God and which in the service of God could be praised. But in the service of man's self-justifying rebellion, these very things are sinful.

In Romans 7:18 Paul says, "I know that no good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh." This is a radical confession of the truth that in our rebellion nothing we think or feel is good. It is all part of our rebellion. The fact that Paul qualifies his depravity with the words, "that is, in my flesh," shows that he is willing to affirm the good of anything that the Spirit of God produces in him (Romans 15:18). "Flesh" refers to man in his natural state apart from the work of God's Spirit. So what Paul is saying in Romans 7:18 is that apart from the work of God's Spirit all we think and feel and do is not good.

NOTE: We recognize that the word "good" has a broad range of meanings. We will have to use it in a restricted sense to refer to many actions of fallen people which in relation are in fact not good.

For example we will have to say that it is good that most unbelievers do not kill and that some unbelievers perform acts of benevolence. What we mean when we call such actions good is that they more or less conform to the external pattern of life that God has commanded in Scripture.

However, such outward conformity to the revealed will of God is not righteousness in relation to God. It is not done out of reliance on him or for his glory. He is not trusted for the resources, though he gives them all. Nor is his honor exalted, even though that's his will in all things (1 Corinthians 10:31). Therefore even these "good" acts are part of our rebellion and are not "good" in the sense that really counts in the end—in relation to God.
(3) Man's inability to submit to God and do good is total.

Picking up on the term "flesh" above (man apart from the grace of God) we find Paul declaring it to be totally enslaved to rebellion. Romans 8:7-8 says, "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God."

The "mind of the flesh" is the mind of man apart from the indwelling Spirit of God ("You are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God really dwells in you," Romans 8:9). So natural man has a mindset that does not and cannot submit to God. Man cannot reform himself.

Ephesians 2:1 says that we Christians were all once "dead in trespasses and sins." The point of deadness is that we were incapable of any life with God. Our hearts were like a stone toward God (Ephesians 4:18; Ezekiel 36:26). Our hearts were blind and incapable of seeing the glory of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). We were totally unable to reform ourselves.
(4) Our rebellion is totally deserving of eternal punishment.

Ephesians 2:3 goes on to say that in our deadness we were "children of wrath." That is, we were under God's wrath because of the corruption of our hearts that made us as good as dead before God.

The reality of hell is God's clear indictment of the infiniteness of our guilt. If our corruption were not deserving of an eternal punishment God would be unjust to threaten us with a punishment so severe as eternal torment. But the Scriptures teach that God is just in condemning unbelievers to eternal hell (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9; Matthew 5:29f; 10:28; 13:49f; 18:8f; 25:46; Revelation 14:9-11; 20:10). Therefore, to the extent that hell is a total sentence of condemnation, to that extent must we think of ourselves as totally blameworthy apart from the saving grace of God.

In summary, total depravity means that our rebellion against God is total, everything we do in this rebellion is sin, our inability to submit to God or reform ourselves is total, and we are therefore totally deserving of eternal punishment.

It is hard to exaggerate the importance of admitting our condition to be this bad. If we think of ourselves as basically good or even less than totally at odds with God, our grasp of the work of God in redemption will be defective. But if we humble ourselves under this terrible truth of our total depravity, we will be in a position to see and appreciate the glory and wonder of the work of God discussed in the next four points.


Sorry to leave you hanging. Find the rest of the article HERE.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A great prayer ministry idea...

The following is an excerpt from a recient (7-12-05) Bethlehem E-Star newletter, from Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN (John Piper's Church). This is a great ministry, and a great ministry idea that is transportable almost anywhere.


"Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding feast is ready, but those
invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the
wedding feast as many as you find.' And those servants went out into the
roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding
hall was filled with guests." Matthew 8:8-10

A handful of yellow-shirted Bethlehem folks scatter weekly along Hennepin
Avenue between 5th and 6th Streets asking lunch-hour passers-by, "Can we
pray for you?" As people hear this question some reply with a smile and a
polite, "No thanks." Others, tight-lipped, keep on walking. Some turn and
sneer. A few, however, stop and ask, "Did you say pray?"

Seeking to bring the good-news of God's all-satisfying supremacy to the lost
in our cities by praying that God, in His mercy and by His grace would
reveal His glory by meeting the expressed needs of the people on our streets
and ultimately their eternal need for salvation, "Prayer Place" volunteers
recognize that the Lord is using this simple question as a means of
initiating many Christ-centered conversations. Take Mike, as an example,
dressed in black from head to toe, with shoulder length hair. When asked if
we could pray for him, his response was a terse, "Pray for my soul." As the
Bethlehem team member began to pray, Mike's hardened exterior began to
soften and afterwards he walked away paging through a Bible-saturated tract.
Or Susan, a thin, redheaded 40-something who, when approached, allowed a
faithful Prayer Place team member to pray. Her eyes quickly filled with
tears and she was open to hearing more of Christ and was eager to take some
of the material we willingly give away.

What else have we learned while on the street this summer? We have learned

1. God hears and answers the prayer of faith when we pray in Jesus' name.
"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he
will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My
Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may
be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it." (Jn.
14:12-14) We prayed with a mother and son, asking God to supply a job for
the boy. Within a week we received a phone call from the mother saying, "My
son got a job!"

2. People are desperate - and many know it - apart from Christ. "Many are
the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts
in the Lord." (Ps. 32:10) Drug abusers, alcoholics, the homeless know their
soul-deep desperation and are receptive to prayer and gospel hope.

3. When we pray with people in the name of Jesus Christ through the power
of the Holy Spirit, God is manifestly present. "But you will receive power
when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses." (Ac.
1:8) A young, post-modern couple who knew nothing of Jesus paused for
prayer. As the BBC volunteer focused prayer on the expressed needs the Lord
began to move in their hearts so that tears began to flow and their faces
became radiant. They were very open to further gospel-saturated

4. Persecution is to be expected. "Blessed are those who are persecuted for
righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Mt. 5:6) Sneers,
cursing and open hostility to offers of prayer make us realize that whitened
harvest fields are also spiritual battlegrounds.

5. In His kindness God offers salvation freely to all who repent and
believe and is storing up wrath on the impenitent. "Or do you presume on
the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that
God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard
and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of
wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed." (Ro. 2:4-5). Our
response to Christ's Great Commission is to go and through Prayer Place
freely offer this good news of salvation to all who will repent and believe.

Would you consider joining us on Mondays throughout the remainder of the
summer at 11:00 a.m. at the Downtown Campus in room 114? No training
necessary, just an authentic love for Christ and a willingness to step out
in faith. Or, if you are unable to join us, would you consider fasting and
praying through your Monday lunch hour that the wedding hall of heaven would
be filed with many guests who come from Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis?

Monday, July 18, 2005

Simpsons unplugged...

For all you Simpsons fans, or fans of acoustic guitar. This is pretty cool.

Keeping the right ministry focus...

Mark Waltz is doing an interesting series on "issues" in ministry. If you are in ministry, these are an interesting read.

Here are Mark's three posts:
Part 1 -- how do silos form
Part 2 -- preventative maintenance
Part 3 -- 5 bad moves you'll want to avoid

Divine Election and God's Desire for All to be Saved

My fiancee and I had an interesting discussion about God's fore knowledge and man's free will. I think I will be doing a series of posts on this as I suspect it will be on my mind for a while. Below is some clear thinking (in my opinion) put forward by John Piper on the subject.


Divine Election and God's Desire for All to be Saved
Written by John Piper

My aim in this chapter is to show from Scripture that the simultaneous existence of God's will for "all persons to be saved" (1 Tim. 2:4) and his will to elect unconditionally those who will actually be saved is not a sign of divine schizophrenia or exegetical confusion. A corresponding aim is to show that unconditional election therefore does not contradict biblical expressions of God's compassion for all people, and does not nullify sincere offers of salvation to everyone who is lost among all the peoples of the world.

1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9, and Ezekiel 18:23 might be called the Arminian pillar texts concerning the universal saving will of God. In 1 Timothy 2:1-4 Paul says that the reason we should pray for kings and all in high positions is that this may bring about a quiet and peaceable life which "is good, and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who wills (thelei) all persons to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." In 2 Peter 3:8-9 the apostle says that the delay of the second coming of Christ is owing to the fact that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day. "The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not willing (boulomenos) that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." And in Ezekiel 18:23 and 32 the Lord speaks about his heart for the perishing: "Do I indeed delight in the death of the wicked, says the Lord GOD, and not rather in his turning from his way that he might live? . . . I do not delight ()ehephoz) in the death of the one who dies, says the Lord; so turn and live" (cf. 33:11).

It is possible that careful exegesis of 1 Timothy 2:4 would lead us to believe that "God's willing all persons to be saved" does not refer to every individual person in the world, but rather to all sorts of persons, since the "all persons" in verse 1 may well mean groups like "kings and all in high positions" (v. 2). It is also possible that the "you" in 2 Peter 3:9 ("the Lord is longsuffering toward you, not wishing any to perish") refers not to every person in the world but to "you" professing Christians among whom, as Adolf Schlatter says, "are people who only through repentance can attain to the grace of God and to the promised inheritance."

Nevertheless the case for this limitation on God's universal saving will has never been convincing to Arminians and likely will not become convincing, especially since Ezekiel 18:23, 32 and 33:11 are even less tolerant of restriction. Therefore as a hearty believer in unconditional, individual election I rejoice to affirm that God does not delight in the perishing of the impenitent, and that he has compassion on all people. My aim is to show that this is not double talk.

The assignment in this chapter is not to defend the doctrine that God chooses unconditionally whom he will save. I have tried to do that elsewhere and others do it in this book. Nevertheless I will try to make a credible case that while the Arminian pillar texts may indeed be pillars for universal love, nevertheless they are not weapons against unconditional election. If I succeed then there will be an indirect confirmation for the thesis of this book. In fact I think Arminians have erred in trying to take pillars of universal love and make them into weapons against electing grace.

Affirming the will of God to save all, while also affirming the unconditional election of some, implies that there are at least "two wills" in God, or two ways of willing. It implies that God decrees one state of affairs while also willing and teaching that a different state of affairs should come to pass. This distinction in the way God wills has been expressed in various ways throughout the centuries. It is not a new contrivance. For example, theologians have spoken of sovereign will and moral will, efficient will and permissive will, secret will and revealed will, will of decree and will of command, decretive will and preceptive will, voluntas signi (will of sign) and voluntas beneplaciti (will of good pleasure), etc.

Clark Pinnock refers disapprovingly to "the exceedingly paradoxical notion of two divine wills regarding salvation." In Pinnock's more recent volume (A Case for Arminianism) Randall Basinger argues that, "if God has decreed all events, then it must be that things cannot and should not be any different from what they are." In other words he rejects the notion that God could decree that a thing be one way and yet teach that we should act to make it another way. He says that it is too hard "to coherently conceive of a God in which this distinction really exists"

In the same volume Fritz Guy argues that the revelation of God in Christ has brought about a "paradigm shift" in the way we should think about the love of God—namely as "more fundamental than, and prior to, justice and power." This shift, he says, makes it possible to think about the "will of God" as "delighting more than deciding." God's will is not his sovereign purpose which he infallibly establishes, but rather "the desire of the lover for the beloved." The will of God is his general intention and longing, not his effective purpose. Dr. Guy goes so far as to say, "Apart from a predestinarian presupposition, it becomes apparent that God's 'will' is always (sic) to be understood in terms of intention and desire [as opposed to efficacious, sovereign purpose]."

These criticisms are not new. Jonathan Edwards wrote 250 years ago, "The Arminians ridicule the distinction between the secret and revealed will of God, or, more properly expressed, the distinction between the decree and the law of God; because we say he may decree one thing, and command another. And so, they argue, we hold a contrariety in God, as if one will of his contradicted another."

But in spite of these criticisms the distinction stands, not because of a logical or theological deduction, but because it is inescapable in the Scriptures. The most careful exegete writing in Pinnock's Case for Arminianism concedes the existence of two wills in God. I. Howard Marshall applies his exegetical gift to the Pastoral Epistles. Concerning 1 Timothy 2:4 he says,

To avoid all misconceptions it should be made clear at the outset that the fact that God wishes or wills that all people should be saved does not necessarily imply that all will respond to the gospel and be saved. We must certainly distinguish between what God would like to see happen and what he actually does will to happen, and both of these things can be spoken of as God's will. The question at issue is not whether all will be saved but whether God has made provision in Christ for the salvation of all, provided that they believe, and without limiting the potential scope of the death of Christ merely to those whom God knows will believe.

In this chapter I would now like to undergird Marshall's point that "we must certainly distinguish between what God would like to see happen and what he actually does will to happen, and [that] both of these things can be spoken of as God's will." Perhaps the most effective way to do this is to begin by drawing attention to the way Scripture portrays God willing something in one sense which he disapproves in another sense. Then, after seeing some of the biblical evidence, we can step back and ponder how to understand this in relation to God's saving purposes.
Illustrations of Two Wills in God
The Death of Christ

The most compelling example of God's willing for sin to come to pass while at the same time disapproving the sin is his willing the death of his perfect, divine Son. The betrayal of Jesus by Judas was a morally evil act inspired immediately by Satan (Luke 22:3). Yet in Acts 2:23 Luke says, "This Jesus [was] delivered up according to the definite plan (boule) and foreknowledge of God." The betrayal was sin, and it involved the instrumentality of Satan; but it was part of God's ordained plan. That is, there is a sense in which God willed the delivering up of his Son, even though the act was sin.

Moreover Herod's contempt for Jesus (Luke 23:11) and Pilate's spineless expediency (Luke 23:24) and the Jews' "Crucify! Crucify him!" (Luke 23:21) and the Gentile soldiers' mockery (Luke 23:36) were also sinful attitudes and deeds. Yet in Acts 4:27-28 Luke expresses his understanding of the sovereignty of God in these acts by recording the prayer of the Jerusalem saints:

Truly in this city there were gathered together against thy holy servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel to do whatever thy hand and thy plan (boule) had predestined to take place.

Herod, Pilate, the soldiers and Jewish crowds lifted their hand to rebel against the Most High only to find that their rebellion was unwitting (sinful) service in the inscrutable designs of God.

The appalling death of Christ was the will and work of God the Father. Isaiah wrote, "We esteemed him stricken, smitten by God . . . It was the will of the LORD to bruise him; he has put him to grief" (Isaiah 53:4,10). God's will was very much engaged in the events that brought his Son to death on the cross. God considered it "fitting to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings" (Hebrews 2:10). Yet, as Jonathan Edwards points out, Christ's suffering "could not come to pass but by sin. For contempt and disgrace was one thing he was to suffer."

It goes almost without saying that God wills obedience to his moral law, and that he wills this in a way that can be rejected by many. This is evident from numerous texts: "Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord, will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will (thelema) of my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21). "Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother" (Matthew 12:50). "The one who does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:17). The "will of God" in these texts is the revealed, moral instruction of the Old and New Testaments, which proscribes sin.

Therefore we know it was not the "will of God" that Judas and Pilate and Herod and the Gentile soldiers and the Jewish crowds disobey the moral law of God by sinning in delivering Jesus up to be crucified. But we also know that it was the will of God that this come to pass. Therefore we know that God in some sense wills what he does not will in another sense. I. Howard Marshall's statement is confirmed by the death of Jesus: "We must certainly distinguish between what God would like to see happen and what he actually does will to happen."
The War Against the Lamb

There are two reasons that we turn next to Revelation 17:16-17. One is that the war against the Son of God, which reached its sinful climax at the cross comes to final consummation in a way that confirms what we have seen about the will of God. The other reason is that this text reveals John's understanding of God's active involvement in fulfilling prophecies whose fulfillment involves sinning. John sees a vision of some final events of history:

And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the harlot; they will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and giving over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled (Revelation 17:16-17).

Without going into all the details of this passage, the relevant matter is clear. The beast "comes out of the abyss" (Revelation 17:8). He is the personification of evil and rebellion against God. The ten horns are ten kings (v. 12) and they "wage war against the Lamb" (v. 14).

Waging war against the Lamb is sin and sin is contrary to the will of God. Nevertheless the angel says (literally), "God gave into their [the ten kings'] hearts to do his will, and to perform one will, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled" (v. 17). Therefore God willed (in one sense) to influence the hearts of the ten kings so that they would do what is against his will (in another sense).

Moreover God did this in fulfillment of prophetic words. The ten kings will collaborate with the beast "until the words of God shall be fulfilled" (v. 17). This implies something crucial about John's understanding of the fulfillment of "the prophesies leading up to the overthrow of Antichrist." It implies that (at least in John's view) God's prophecies are not mere predictions which God knows will happen, but rather are divine intentions which he makes sure will happen. We know this because verse 17 says that God is acting to see to it that the ten kings make league with the beast "until the words of God shall be fulfilled." John is exulting not in the marvelous foreknowledge of God to predict a bad event. Rather he is exulting in the marvelous sovereignty of God to make sure that the bad event comes about. Fulfilled prophecy, in John's mind, is not only prediction, but also promised performance.

This is important because John tells us in his Gospel that there are Old Testament prophecies of events surrounding the death of Christ that involve sin. This means that God intends to bring about events that involve things he forbids. These events include Judas' betrayal of Jesus (John 13:18; Psalm 41:9), the hatred Jesus received from his enemies (John 15:25; Psalm 69:4; 35:19), the casting of lots for Jesus' clothing (John 19:24; Psalm 22:18), and the piercing of Jesus' side (John 19:36-37; Exodus 12:46; Psalm 34:20; Zechariah 12:10). John expresses his theology of God's sovereignty with the words, "These things happened in order that the scripture be fulfilled." In other words the events were not a coincidence that God merely foresaw, but a plan which God purposed to bring about. Thus again we find the words of I. Howard Marshall confirmed: "We must certainly distinguish between what God would like to see happen and what he actually does will to happen."
The Hardening Work of God

Another evidence to demonstrate God's willing a state of affairs in one sense that he disapproves in another sense is the testimony of Scripture that God wills to harden some men's hearts so that they become obstinate in sinful behavior which God disapproves.

The most well known example is the hardening of Pharaoh's heart. In Exodus 8:1 the Lord says to Moses, "Go in to Pharaoh and say to him, 'Thus says the LORD, "Let my people go, that they may serve me."'" In other words God's command, that is, his will, is that Pharaoh let the Israelites go. Nevertheless from the start he also willed that Pharaoh not let the Israelites go. In Exodus 4:21 God says to Moses, "When you go back to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in your hand; but I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go." At one point Pharaoh himself acknowledges that his unwillingness to let the people go is sin: "Now therefore forgive, I pray, my sin" (Exodus 10:17). Thus what we see is that God commands that Pharaoh do a thing which God himself wills not to allow. The good thing that God commands he prevents. And the thing he brings about involves sin.

Some have tried to avoid this implication by pointing out that during the first five plagues the text does not say explicitly that God hardened Pharaoh's heart but that it "was hardened" (Exodus 7:22; 8:19; 9:7) or that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Exodus 8:15,32), and that only in the sixth plague does it say explicitly "the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart" (9:12; 10:20,27; 11:10; 14:4). For example R.T. Forster and V.P. Marston say that only from the sixth plague on God gave Pharaoh "supernatural strength to continue with his evil path of rebellion"


For the rest of the article go HERE.