f The Wittenberg Door: April 2014

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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Truth as Proof for God's Existence

Over at the Christian Theology blog, Doug Eaton posts a page out of Ronald Nash's book, Faith and Reason, explaining Gordon Clark's argument for the existence of God from truth. Here's how Doug kicks it off . . .

Gordon Clark being a presuppositionalist normally did not argue for the existence of God, but in this case he thought it was valuable. Taking his cue from Augustine, he developed this argument. This argument is also given by Alvin Plantinga in a slightly different way. The following is Ronald Nash’s explanation of Clark’s argument.

Clark’s account of the argument from truth utilizes six steps:

1. Truth Exists
2. Truth is immutable
3. Truth is eternal
4. Truth is mental
5. Truth is superior to the human mind
6. Truth is God
Click here for Ronald Nash's explanation of the six steps.

--The Catechizer


Monday, April 28, 2014

What is Saving Grace?

Before considering the nature of saving grace it’s appropriate to recall why saving grace is necessary:

Our first parents, through the instigation of the Devil (Rev. 12:9), chose to rebel against our most holy God (Gen. 3:1-6). The result of this rebellion was the entrance of sin into the world (Rom. 5:12-14). The nakedness for which Adam and Eve were ashamed extended far beyond mere clothing—they and their progeny were now separated from God and in need of reconciliation (Rom. 5:12-21).

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”
Genesis 2:16-17

As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God. All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong; no one does good, not even one.”
Romans 3:10-12

Saving Grace

Grace (Latin: Gratia; Greek: Charis; Hebrew: Chen) refers to the undeserved favor shown from one to another, particularly from a greater to a lesser.

“. . .grace is an attribute of God, one of the divine perfections. It is God’s free, sovereign, undeserved favor or love to man, in his state of sin and guilt, which manifests itself in the forgiveness of sin and deliverance from its penalty. It is connected with the mercy of God as distinguished from His justice. This is redemptive grace in the most fundamental sense of the word. It is the ultimate cause of God’s elective purpose, of the sinner’s justification, and of his spiritual renewal; and the prolific source of all spiritual and eternal blessings.”

Louis Berkhof (1873-1957)

Man can do nothing to earn (merit) God’s grace. If he could then it would be a wage, not a gift, and thus would be grounds for boasting before God.

8) For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
9) not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

Mankind has rebelled against God, and, as a result, stands condemned. But God, for His own good pleasure, chooses to spare some—to show mercy. By its very nature grace does not come about by anything man does—we don’t pray our way into it, chose our way into it, or anything else. It is completely, from first to last, an underserved gift from God. Thus the appropriate response is to fall down before a gracious God who does not give us what we deserve.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness
Romans 1:18

When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.”
Acts 11:18

When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
Acts 13:48

This message of grace, therefore, is essential to the gospel message, as Puritan John Owen explains:

Gospel promises then are: (1) The free and gracious dispensations; and, (2) discoveries of God’s good-will and love: to, (3) sinners; (4) through Christ; (5) in a covenant of grace: (6) wherein, upon his truth and faithfulness, he engageth himself to be their God, to give his Son unto them, and for them, and his Holy Spirit to abide with them, with all things that are either required in them, or are necessary for them, to make them accepted before him, and to bring them to an enjoyment of him.

John Owen (1616-1683)


Because of the fall man is separated from God. And left to his devices he’ll continue in his sin and rebellion. But God, in His great mercy, chooses to grant a stay of execution to some—not only that, He chooses to adopt the condemned! This message of God not giving us what we deserve should make us fall to our knees and sing along with John Newton . . .

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

--The Catechizer


Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Four Year Old’s Trip Heaven?

Heaven Is for Real is the true story of the four-year old son of a small town Nebraska pastor who during emergency surgery slips from consciousness and enters heaven. He survives and begins talking about being able to look down and see the doctor operating and his dad praying in the waiting room. The family didn't know what to believe but soon the evidence was clear.

Colton said he met his miscarried sister, whom no one had told him about, and his great grandfather who died 30 years before Colton was born, then shared impossible-to-know details about each. He describes the horse that only Jesus could ride, about how "reaaally big" God and his chair are, and how the Holy Spirit "shoots down power" from heaven to help us.

Told by the father, but often in Colton's own words, the disarmingly simple message is heaven is a real place, Jesus really loves children, and be ready, there is a coming last battle.

The above description is from the Heaven is for Real Website which exists to promote a book, now a movie, by the same title. In my misspent years in Word of Faith Pentecostalism, my understanding of heaven was shaped by those who had claimed to have visited, such as Roberts Liardon in his book I Saw Heaven. His book reads like a child’s visit to Disneyland, with magical creatures (". . . it seemed as if they were talking among themselves"), water fights with Jesus in the River of Life ("He dunked me! I got back up and splashed Him, and we had a water fight"), and our own personal mansions filled with gadgets too advanced for earth ("I sat down on a black velvet couch - it was alive - and comfort just reached up and cuddled me"). Todd Burpo’s description is much the same, and since this is a New York Times #1 Bes Seller many are buying what this kid and his parents are selling.

Ann Childress, member of Christ Presbyterian Church (PCA) in New Braunfels, TX, (also my home church), has written a brief, but insightful, book review. In it she not only provides the review, but she also reminds us of the problems posed by the types of claims . . .

Extra-biblical revelations and prophecies are problems because they deny both the completeness and the sufficiency of Scripture. It is only “all Scripture” that has the claim of being “inspired by God,” God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16). With the coming of Jesus and His apostles, the day of God speaking “to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways” ceased (Heb 1:1-2, 2:2-4). While we acknowledge the Holy Spirit’s ongoing illumination of Scriptural truth, we deny new, extra-Biblical revelations and prophecies. Because our Bible is the inspired Word of God, the church has received it as such, and it has come to us sufficient and complete. . . .

. . . Of utmost importance is the fact that Colton’s extra-biblical revelations of heaven do not match the Bible exactly by any means (although his father gives many Scriptures trying to make them parallel). Colton’s revelations not only add many things about heaven that the Bible never reveals, but at one or (perhaps) two points contradict Scripture. Keep in mind that while some of these are silly, that does not lessen the offense against the sufficiency and completeness of Scripture. Colton’s revelations include (but are not limited to):

  • Jesus has a rainbow colored horse. (His father notes that there are horses and rainbows in the Bible, so this must be true.)
  • Before Christ’s Second Coming and the bodily resurrection, people have physical bodies in heaven. (If this is the correct understanding of Colton’s revelation, this is a contradiction of revelation. Indeed, Jesus is in heaven in His resurrected body, but before His body was resurrected, He yielded up His spirit and His spirit went to heaven as His body was laid in the tomb, Matt. 27:50, Luke 22:43. When we die, our spirits go to heaven, but our physical bodies are buried awaiting Christ’s Second Coming, at that moment our bodies will be resurrected and glorified, 1 Cor. 15:20-26, 35-49; Rev. 6:9-10.)
  • All people in heaven are either in their late twenties or early thirties (as his father notes, just like Jesus when he died) or they are children. Everyone (except Jesus) has wings of differing sizes, halos, and sashes of differing colors.
  • It is Gabriel who is sitting on the throne to God’s left.
  • Colton saw God on His really big throne and God is really big. (In heaven, we will behold God, but God is spirit. How did Colton see God? Interestingly, while his pastor father presses him about Jesus’ appearance for years, he never mentions pressing or even asking him about God’s appearance. This is either another contradiction of Scripture or it comes perilously close.)
  • Colton watched the Holy Spirit shooting down power to his father when his father was preaching at church. (And this occurred during the three minutes of Colton’s visit to heaven when his father was at the hospital?)
  • “The angels carry swords so they can keep Satan out of heaven.” (What of Christ Jesus’ defeat of Satan? What about God’s allowance of Satan’s approach to His throne in Job? Is the only reason we’ll have no reason to fear Satan and his hordes in heaven attributed to angels?)
  • Jesus wouldn’t let Colton have a sword in heaven as he would “be too dangerous.” (Assumedly, this would only be true if people had physical bodies in heaven.)

You can read the entire the review here.

--The Catechizer

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

What Does it Mean to be Salt and Light?

Phil Johnson penned a fine article for Table Talk on what it means to be salt and light (Matt. 5:13-16). He has also posted it at the Pyromaniacs blog. Here’s an excerpt:

That text [Matt. 5:13-16] is often cited as if it were a mandate for the church to engage in political activism—lobbying, rallying voters, organizing protests, and harnessing the evangelical movement for political clout. I recently heard a well-known evangelical leader say, "We need to make our voices heard in the voting booth, or we're not being salt and light the way Jesus commanded."

That view is pervasive. Say the phrase "salt and light" and the typical evangelical starts talking politics as if by Pavlovian reflex. But look at Jesus' statement carefully in its context. He was not drumming up boycotts, protests, or a political campaign. He was calling His disciples to holy living.

You can read the entire post here.

--The Catechizer


Monday, April 21, 2014

Don’t be Bamboozled by “Christian” Movies

Over at Gospelspam.com, Marcus Pittman has written a review of the film, "Heaven Is For Real." In the review, he decries the pandering of Hollywood to its evangelical consumer base. The saddest part, he goes on to elaborate, is that evangelicals eat it up. Some seem to think as long as Hollywood is making movies with so-called Christian themes it's a good thing in and of itself. What is overlooked, however, is that it is the content of the message, not the intention of the producers of the content, which matters most.

Paul expounded on this truth in his letter to the church in Philippians. In verses 15-18 of Chapter 1 he says the message of the Gospel is effective, irrespective to the motives of the proclaimers of that message. Notice how differently this reads when current reasoning is applied: "Some, to be sure, are preaching a different Christ than the one revealed in Scripture (in fact the message they preach is absolute heresy!), but some preach Christ accurately. Both know that I am appointed for the Gospel and both mean well. The latter proclaim carefully exegeted truth with good intentions, while the former proclaim their heresies with similar good intentions in mind. What then? Only that in every way, whether falsehood or truth, as long as some sort of Christ is proclaimed, and that from good intentions, in this I will rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice."

The whole of the law is to "...love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your soul, and all of your MIGHT" (Deuteronomy 6:5, ESV - emphasis added, Heidelberg Catechism question and answer #4). If the heart and soul were all that were mentioned, one could entertain the thought that consideration of intentions alone would be sufficient; but , when all of one's MIGHT is added, actions have to be taken into account. So, the ends no longer can be a justification for the means. It is of utmost importance that WHAT is done and WHY it's done are harmonious with GOD's commands. The second chapter of the book of James is dedicated to the idea of one who proclaims to believe but whose actions do not conform to that proclamation. The Prophet Joshua, in his last recorded address to the Israelites, exhorted the people to serve God in "sincerity and truth" and also to conform their practices in accord with GOD's commands (Joshua 24:14).

Be mindful of the content of the media you consume and avoid being bamboozled by the Christian window dressing. The entire movie review can be read here.

Grace & Peace - The Deacon

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Friday, April 18, 2014

How Much Does the Soul Weigh?

In case your subscription to the American Medicine journal has lapsed, you’ve missed the findings of Dr. Duncan MacDougall regarding the weight of the soul.

Published in 1907 (I’m a little behind in my reading), the journal records that Dr. MacDougall, son of a mortician, was able to measure weight change upon death. He did so by building a bed that doubled as a scale, and then by successively tucking-in six terminally ill patients.

By measuring their weight before, during, and after death, and by accounting for air, bodily fluids, etc, the good doctor was able to record a decrease in body weight of 21 grams. (He performed the same test on dogs, but recorded no such weight change—sorry Lassie.)

There you have it: the soul weighs 21 grams.

Modern Soul-Weighers

Dr. MacDougall’s study, and his subsequent attempt to X-Ray the soul, strikes us as silly today. It’s silly to the Christian because the category error is obvious: the soul can’t weigh anything because it isn’t physical (and it can’t be photographed because it’s shy). To the modern skeptic, the soul can’t weigh anything because it doesn’t exist—nothing immaterial exists.

The interesting thing is that today’s skeptics have more in common with Dr. MacDougall than they think.

Whatcha Talkn Bout, Willis?

Consider the following from mathematical physicist Casey Blood, Ph.D (no relation to the Errol Flynn character). . . .

. . . we need to sketch how the brain works. For our purposes, it consists of long nerve cells called neurons. Each neuron has a long branch on one end that receives electrochemical signals from other neurons, a cell body in the middle, and a second long branch on the other end that passes electrochemical signals on to other neurons. If the receiving end of a neuron receives enough input from other neurons, an electrochemical wave runs the length of the cell. In that case, the neuron is said to be “firing.” Each thought (or emotion or perception or initiation of a bodily action) corresponds to a particular set of firing neurons. So from a materialist’s point of view, we essentially are our pattern of firing neurons. (Emphasis in original.)

A key word in the explanation is “corresponds.” To the materialist, thoughts, emotions, intuitions, etc, are the firing neurons. But for those who believe in the existence of the soul, like Dr. Blood, “corresponds” is much more accurate. To put it another way, to the materialist there is only the brain. To those believing in an immaterial self, there is the mind and the brain, which work hand-in-hand; hence the use of “corresponds”: thoughts (produced by the mind) correspond with the firing synapses, but are not themselves the firing synapses or caused by the firing synapses.

What Does This Have to do With the Price of Butter?

There are a few problems with the “soul-weighing” being done by modern skeptics regarding thoughts. The first problem has to do with a reductive fallacy known as “Nothing-Buttery.” This fallacy is committed when you reduce something to one of its parts. For example, if I refer to my truck as “nothing but a bunch of nuts and bolts” I would be committing this fallacy, for my truck is much more than that.

Here’s another problem: If your thoughts are nothing but firing synapses, how could you know that without transcending it? For example, if I was a fish in a bowl, how would I know that without somehow transcending the bowl?

Also, if only material things exist, then our thoughts are material (i.e., extended into space). This brings us to another problem: Imagine a gold fish swimming in a fish bowl. How much does that thought weigh? How long is it? Moreover, if we cracked open your head, would we find the gold fish? If the materialists are right, we should find Mr. Limpet swimming around in there.


Thoughts are information, and information isn’t physical. If you grabbed today’s San Antonio Express-News and took it to the lab, you could determine all of the chemical and organic compounds that make up the paper—but none of that would ever tell you what it says. The information transcends the paper’s material constituents. Likewise, thoughts—and souls, for that matter—transcend our physical selves. Otherwise you might find Mr. Limpet hiding behind your Occipital Lobe.

--The Catechizer


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Should We Seek Extra-Biblical Revelations?

One of the issues resolved by the Reformers was that of final authority, i.e., Are the Scriptures sufficient for doctrine and life? The Reformers, of course, answered in the affirmative. Louis Berkhof summarized their case as follows:

In Scripture each succeeding book connects up with the proceeding (except in contemporary narratives), and is based on it. The Psalms and the Prophets presuppose the Law and appeal to it, and to it only. The New Testament comes to us as the fulfillment of the Old and refers back to nothing else. Oral traditions current in the time of Jesus are rejected as human inventions, Matt. 5:21–28; 15:4, 9; I Cor. 4:6. Christ is presented to us as the acme of the divine revelation, the highest and the last, Matt. 11:27; John 1:18; 17:4, 6; Heb. 1:1. For the knowledge of the way of salvation we are referred to Scripture only, to the word of Christ, and the apostles, John 17:20; I John 1:3 . . .

Both Rome and the Anabaptists rejected the sufficiency of Scripture. Rome put as Scripture’s rival her church councils and traditions, with the ultimate authority residing in the pope. The Anabaptists, however, had a low view of Scripture for other reasons: they sought guidance from an “inner light” and direct revelations from God, resolving that the Spirit worked apart from the Word because the Word was dead.


Renting the Spirit from the Word by claiming direct revelations from God was something the Reformers could not abide. For that reason, Martin Luther derisively referred to them as “swarmers” because they were “swarming everywhere, deranged by the devil, regarding Scripture as a dead letter, extolling nothing but the Spirit and yet keeping neither the Word nor the Spirit.”

Likewise, in speaking of the link between the Spirit and the Word, John Calvin wrote . . .

Two things are connected here, the Word and the Spirit of God, in opposition to the fanatics, who aim at oracles and hidden revelations apart from the Word.

The Sufficiency of Scripture

The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men . . .

Westminster Confession, chapter 1, article 6(a)

The confession states that everything we need to know for doctrine and life is either expressly or by consequence set forth in Scripture. Moreover, because it is the “whole counsel of God” there is nothing left to be revealed in this life. In other words, the Scriptures are sufficient for all men at all times and therefore can’t be added to.

Incomplete to the Complete

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son . . .

Hebrews 1:1-2

The writer of Hebrews juxtaposes the patriarchs and prophets to Christ. The point being that their writings were partial, incomplete; this is why there was a succession of prophets and books of the Bible. Christ, however, being the pinnacle of revelation, was truth in its entirety (John 14:6; Col. 2:9).

No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.

John 15:15

All that the Father wanted revealed was made known to the Biblical writers. This information, and only this information (Jn. 21:25), was later codified into the Scriptures by the work of the Spirit (Jn. 14:26). It is this completed, inscripturated word that is to be taught (I Tim. 4:13), and it is by this completed work of revelation that we are fully equipped:

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Furthermore, because God’s revelatory work is complete, we are able to proclaim “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), and we are able to rest in the knowledge that what we have in the Scriptures is “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” (Jude 1:3)

Modern Swarmers

Modern “swarmers” abound. Some, like Harold Camping, Pat Robertson, or the late David Wilkerson, are well known to us, and so is the shame they brought on the body of Christ because of their claims of revelations. But these “God whispers” don’t only occupy leadership roles in major ministries, nor do they only fill the gaudy stages of “Christian” TV programs. Pentecostals, Charismatics, and many Evangelicals seek revelations apart from Scripture. For those seeking these revelations I have two things I’d like you to consider:

First, think about what you’re saying when you say something like, “God spoke to me,” or “God is giving me a word for you,” or, as a former “pastor” of mine would say mid-sermon, “Yes, yes, lord, I’ll say that.” God doesn’t take kindly to those who claim to be speaking on His behalf when He has not spoken. As a matter of fact, this crime is so heinous that, in Old Testament times, God commanded that the offenders be put to death (Deut. 13, 18:20-22, 13:12-13; Ez. 13:1-9; Zech. 13:3).

Second, what’s wrong with the revelation that He already provided? Considering the case made above, why do you think the Scriptures are incomplete? Why are they not sufficient for you? Instead of seeking a new “word,” how about mastering the revelation you’ve been provided (2 Tim. 2:15)?


All those seeking extra-Biblical revelations must stop trying to find a back door to God (or, as Martin Luther put it, stop trying to view God in the nude). God has spoken, and still speaks, through the Bible—and those same Scriptures remain sufficient for doctrine and life. Not the Spirit working apart from the Word, but the Spirit working through the Word.

The Bible is something more than a body of revealed truths, a collection of books verbally inspired of God. It is also the living voice of God. The living God speaks through its pages. Therefore, it is not to be valued as a sacred object to be placed on a shelf and neglected, but as holy ground, where people’s hearts and minds may come into vital contact with the living, gracious and disturbing God. . . .

James Montgomery Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith, pg 48

--The Catechizer

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Inclusivism and John 14:6

Kevin DeYoung makes a great point against the inclusivistic interpretation of John 14:6 over at his blog . . .

Inclusivists believe that everyone who is saved is saved through the person and work of Christ. They do not, however, insist that conscious faith (on the part of sentient adults) is necessary to appropriate this saving work. Some Buddhists or Hindus or good people in our neighborhoods drawn to the true and the beautiful might be saved through Christ without knowing it. But what about John 14:6? Inclusivists understand “no one can come to the Father except through me” to mean through my saving work. Faith may not be necessary.

No doubt, it’s true that no one can be saved apart from the work of Christ. But the “through” in John 14:6 means “through faith in me.”

Look at the immediate context. Jesus begins the chapter by telling the disciples “believe in me” (14:1). Then verse 7 talks about knowing the Father by knowing the Son. Verse 9 makes clear that whoever sees Jesus has seen the Father. Verses 12 and 13 repeat the exhortation to believe in Jesus. The point of the whole section is that if you know/see/believe in Jesus you know the Father. And conversely, you cannot go to the Father or follow Jesus to his heavenly glory unless you know and believe in Son.

You can read the entire post here.

--The Catechizer


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Fear and the Last Judgment

I became a Christian in 1987 at the age of 18. I wasn’t looking for God, but He was clearly looking for me. An ex-girlfriend of my roommate invited me to go to church with her. She was hot; I was board; so why not? Worship was not on my mind as the service began, but something happened. I suddenly became aware that I was lost; that God was terribly angry with me; and that I needed to be made right with Him. I sat in the seat and wept bitterly. Everything had changed.

Peter Hitchins, brother of famous atheist Christopher Hitchins, also had an unexpected conversion. Kevin DeYoung posts an excerpt from Peter Hitchin's book describing the event at his site:

What I can recall, very sharply indeed, is a visit to the Hotel-Dieu in Beaune, a town my girlfriend and I had gone to mainly in search of the fine food and wines of Burgundy. But we were educated travelers and strayed, guidebook in hand, into the ancient hospital. And there, worth the journey according to the Green Michelin guide, was Rogier van der Weyden’s fifteenth-century polyptych The Last Judgment.

I scoffed. Another religious painting! Couldn’t these people think of anything else to depict? Still scoffing, I peered at the naked figures fleeing toward the pit of hell, out of my usual faintly morbid interest in the alleged terrors of damnation. But this time I gaped, my mouth actually hanging open. These people did not appear remote or from the ancient past; they were my own generation. Because they were naked, they were not imprisoned in their own age by time-bound fashions. On the contrary, their hair and, in an odd way, the set of their faces were entirely in the style of my own time. They were me and the people I knew. One of them — and I have always wondered how the painter thought of it — is actually vomiting with shock and fear at the sound of the Last Trump.

I did not have a “religious experience.” Nothing mystical or inexplicable took place — no trance, no swoon, no vision, no voices, no blaze of light. But I had a sudden, strong sense of religion being a thing of the present day, not imprisoned under thick layers of time. A large catalogue of misdeeds, ranging from the embarrassing to the appalling, replayed themselves rapidly in my head. I had absolutely no doubt that I was among the damned, if there were any damned.

You can read the entire account here, as well as pastor DeYoung's comments.

--The Catechizer


Friday, April 11, 2014

Avicenna and the Law of Non-Contradiction

Many Postmodern thinkers have taken to denying the law of non-contradiction. This law of thought states that A cannot be non-A at the same time and in the same sense.

Despite their protestations, Postmodern-types violate this law when they claim that truth cannot be known. Since they mean for this claim to be taken as true (despite their verbal smoke and mirrors), they are saying that it’s the case that truth can be known and it’s the case that truth cannot be known.

Folly Revealed

With all the ills Islam has brought to humanity, I’ve found something commendable. Muslim philosopher Avicenna (Ibn Sina) deftly shows the folly of denying the law of non-contradiction.

Anyone who denies the Law of Non-contradiction should be beaten and burned until he admits that to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten, and to be burned is not the same as to not be burned.

Avicenna (980-1037)

I recommend setting this to memory for use next time you encounter someone denying the law of non-contradiction—or if you simply want to recite flowery Islamic prose.


Wednesday, April 09, 2014

The Priesthood of All Believers

At the time of the Reformation, a two-tier hierarchy of believers was in place. In the upper class were the spiritual elites, such as priests, monks, and nuns. It was believed that they were able to attain perfection, mostly by completing spiritual rituals and ceremonies. In the lower class were the laymen. These were thought of as being spiritually inferior, only being able to perform natural works. Thus “sacred” work, done by the religious professionals, was pleasing to God, while “secular” work, done by those in the pews, was not.

The Origin of the Sacred/Secular Split

This dichotomy was primarily due to Thomas Aquinas’ view of God’s grace and of the nature of man. Aquinas taught that human nature was not fit for a relationship with God. It needed something more—a donum superadditum—a gift that was added on.

In the state of pure nature man needs a power added to his natural power by grace . . . in order to do and to will supernatural good.

Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)

Thus, according to Aquinas, man needed this “add on”—this infusion of power—to have fellowship with God. Reason being, man’s nature was inherently defective and incapable of having such fellowship.

But how was man to get this supernatural power? Rome’s answer: Monasticism—a life of self-denial, poverty, pilgrimages, doing penance, obeying Rome, etc—in other words, sacred work.

Donum Superadditum Rejected

The Reformers rightly rejected the doctrine of donum superadditum, as well as the claim that man’s nature is inherently defective. Instead they believed that “. . . God created man good, and after His own image, that is, in righteousness and true holiness; that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love Him, and live with Him in eternal blessedness, to praise and glorify Him.” (Heidelberg Catechism)

The true problem is that man has fallen from his first state, becoming corrupt and alienated from God. Man, therefore, does not need an additive—he needs restoration. This restoration comes not by any work of man, but is a free gift of God (grace), through the work of Christ.

The Sacred/Secular Split Rejected

Along with the rejection of donum superadditum came the rejection of its offspring: the sacred/secular split. In its place the Reformers taught the Biblical doctrine of the priesthood of all believers.

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light

1 Peter 2:9

Far from Monasticism, which required the rejection of secular work, the Reformers taught that all legitimate work done in faith pleases God. Furthermore, when we are performing that work, we are rendering worship unto the Lord—we are acting in our capacity as priests unto the Most High God. There is, therefore, no spiritual elite, and there certainly is no divide between sacred and secular work.

This is a wonderful thing, that the Savior of the world, and the King above all kings, was not ashamed to labor; yea, and to use no simple an occupation. Here he did sanctify all manner of occupations.

Hugh Latimer, English Puritan and Martyr

--The Catechizer


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

A Little Levity

What do you get when you combine an insomniac, agnostic, and a dyslexic?

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

A person who stays up all night wondering if there is a dog.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Do Same-Sex Couples Deserve a Chance to Get Married? - Part 3 (Conclusion)

Continued from part 2 . . .

I wrestled with how to reconcile my Christian faith with my desire for Will to have the same opportunities to pursue happiness and fulfillment as his brother and sister. Ultimately, it came down to the Bible’s overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God.

Senator Portman asserts that love and compassion are the overarching themes of Scripture. I would take umbrage with the good Senator’s negligence of some of the other major themes within Scripture: judgment, sin, God’s sovereignty, wrath, holiness, and sanctification, just to name a few. These cannot be excluded when considering the topic at hand. I often hear people overemphasize the qualities of God which they deem beneficial (or more palatable) in negligence of those which they would rather not talk about.

God’s Love

While God’s love is an overarching theme in the Bible, it is only properly understood when coupled with His hatred for sin. God’s love is most poignantly demonstrated in the outpouring of His eternal wrath - or anger, hatred, and punishment - against sin. God’s love is manifested most clearly as He forsook His eternally beloved Son for the purpose of expunging the guilt and debt incurred by man. That guilt and debt required, indeed demanded, punishment!

What you do not see in Scripture is Jesus coming into the world proclaiming, “All is well. My Father loves you and is willing to let bygones be bygones.” Jesus did not come into the world to give the world a hall pass, a get out of jail free card, a mulligan. Jesus came into the world “Because the justice of God requires that the same human nature which has sinned should make satisfaction for sin” (Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 16). No other human could “bear in His manhood the burden of God’s eternal wrath” against sin; but Jesus was able to do so “by the power of His Godhead” (Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 17, emphasis added).

God’s Justice

God’s justice is another overarching theme of Scripture. His justice demands that good be rewarded and evil be punished (Ezekiel 18:4-9). For either to go unrequited is an aberration of His justice. Often we would like to think that God will let our sin slide because, after all, as the popular saying goes, “nobody’s perfect.” Scripture puts it this way, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). But that’s not the end of the matter. Elsewhere the Bible reads, “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

God has set His standard before us - His moral law, summarized on two tablets, and expounded upon in the whole of Scripture. This standard is an expression of His moral character. We are to follow this law because as our Creator, He has the right to demand of us what He wills. He has laid before us, clearly, the consequences of breaking His law. He has provided a means of reconciliation for law-breakers, via the incarnation, righteous life, and atoning death of His Son. He has given His Spirit to indwell within the hearts of those whom He has predestined, called, justified, and glorified (Romans 8:30a). We are not at liberty to set this law aside for our own enrichment, vengeance upon our enemies, or even the happiness of our children. Our public representatives would do well to consider the standard from which they reason, especially when they claim the standard of Holy Writ. Senator Portman should take heed.

--The Deacon


Sunday, April 06, 2014

Is Christianity Left, Right, or Nether?

Dr. Brian Lee, pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Washington DC, wrote an interesting opinion piece over at The Daily Caller. It’s part of a series where one writer makes the case for Christianity being politically conservative, one that it’s liberal, and one that it’s neither (Rev. Lee’s view).

Warning: If you go on to read the “liberal” article I recommend a belt of whiskey first. It’s a long, rambling invective that offers no discernible arguments; all we learn is that the author hates Christianity, even though the Christianity he hates is a product of his own imagination.

Here’s how Rev. Lee kicks it off . . .

Both the Christian Right and the Christian Left get the question of Christianity and politics wrong.

Christianity is not politically conservative or politically liberal — though Christians may be either. Christianity is not political at all. It is in a sense politically agnostic. But in another sense it calls into question the basis of every earthly power, including politics.

You can read the entire article here.

--The Catechizer


Thursday, April 03, 2014

John Calvin: Theologian and Pastor

John Calvin was such an extraordinary theologian, we often overlook—or are simply unaware—that he was also a dedicated pastor. New Horizons offers a fine article, penned by James Edward McGoldrick, showing the various sides of Calvin. Here’s an excerpt related to his pastoral work . . .

The major theme of Calvin's theology was always the glory of God. In his zeal to promote the divine glory, he demonstrated deep concern for human beings, God's image-bearers, whom he longed to enlist in the cause of reformation. The eternal and temporal well-being of people occupied his attention, for he understood he could do nothing for God directly, but could honor God by assisting others to know their Creator and to realize their obligations to love and obey him. As a scholar, he lectured to candidates for the ministry in Latin; but as a pastor, he preached in French to communicate with common people. To learned and unlearned parishioners alike, he proclaimed, "The whole life of Christians ought to be a sort of practice of godliness." He defined godliness as a "pure zeal which loves God as a real Father and looks up to him as a real Lord; it embraces his righteousness and detests offending him more than it does dying."

To encourage the piety of God's people, their pastor taught them from Scripture, for he knew spirituality requires the truth of divine revelation as the basis for personal life and its healthful development. As the Holy Spirit leads Christians to accept sound teaching, that knowledge must regulate all of life. Even in his Institutes, Calvin sought to promote sincere piety as well as sound theology, and to demonstrate the connection between them.

With sympathy and compassion, Calvin sought to help believers as they struggled with temptation in their quest for spirituality, that is, for "reverence joined with love of God which the knowledge of his benefits induces." Calvin recommended regular reading of Scripture as the principal means of progressing in sanctification. As the Holy Spirit creates faith in the Word of God, piety requires believers to organize their lives around Scripture, applying its teachings in all areas of their endeavors. They must participate in public worship to hear the Word expounded, and they must reinforce that with private study and meditation on biblical teachings.

You can read the entire article here.

Along these same lines I recommend the article John Calvin: Servant of the Word published in the Ordained Servant.

--The Catechizer

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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Freedom is the Problem

In salvation, freedom is the problem, not the solution.

Could I choose never to eat Brussels sprouts? Yes. Could I choose never to sin? No

In the first, I can choose to eat that foul vegetable or I could choose not to. In the second, I can choose to sin, but I can't chose not to sin (although I can choose not to commit certain sins).

What Does This Tell Us About Our Freedom?

As fallen creatures, we are in rebellion against God. Our will is set against His. So it's nothing outside of us that is keeping us from choosing Christ (or causing us to sin), but something with in us—our will. It's not that we are kept from choosing Christ, it's that we won't. (Gen. 2:16–17, 3:1–7; Ecc. 9:3; Jer. 17:9; John. 8:34; Rom. 3:10–12, 5:12, 6:20, 8:7–8; 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 2:1–3; Col. 2:13; 2 Tim. 2:25–26; Tit. 3:3; 1 John 3:10)

When we exercise our freedom, we choose what we want. I choose not to eat Brussels sprouts; however, this is a matter of taste, which can change. But when it comes to choosing Christ, I will not choose Him because it's against my nature as a rebel. My freedom is the problem.

What's the Answer?

God, by His great mercy, changes the direction of my heart from that of a rebel to that of a son. Acting consistently with my nature, I rebelled; now, acting consistently with my nature, I obey, albeit imperfectly. (Due. 30:6; Ezk. 36:26–2; John 5:21; Acts. 11:18, 16:14; Rom. 6:1-14, 21–22; Cor. 5:17–18; Gal. 6:15; Eph. 2:1, 5, 10; Col. 2:13; 2 Tim. 2:25–26; Phil. 1:29, 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:3)

Therefore, if God doesn't intervene, we will continue to make our free choice: rebellion.

--The Catechizer


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Unique? It Really Is!

From Great Commission Publications:

Many authors have been captured by a noble theme; we call them inspired. Many books have stirred hearts and even changed lives; we call them inspiring. Paul speaks of Scripture in a completely different sense. Whatever power exists in the written word to move the soul or redirect a life—and that power is considerable—it is different from that of the Bible. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16:17).

First, look at the Bible’s source. It is breathed out, as it were, by God himself. God’s agency is direct and intimate, not merely providential. God’s agency is direct and intimate, not merely providential. God did more than guide the authors of Scripture in producing the final result. The human authors varied in their literary skills, education, and background, note of which God bypassed in using them. But, as Peter notes, “no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21). As B. B. Warfield wrote, “The men who spoke from God are here declared, therefore, to have been taken up by the Holy Spirit and brought by His power to the goal of his choosing.” It was not their goal or their agenda they were promoting, but God’s. Whatever the Bible says, God says. And therefore, to quote Warfield again, the writers of Scripture looked on their work as “divinely safeguarded in even its verbal expression, and as divinely trustworthy in all its parts, in all its elements, and in all its affirmations of whatever kind.”

The Bible’s source is the key to its power. Because it is God-breathed, the Bible is therefore “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” Scripture does what no merely human writing can do. It reveals the totality of God’s will concerning everything we need to know on earth about the righteousness that God demands. And in doing that, it is the perfect instrument for equipping the Christian minister completely for his work—and the Christian layperson too.

The questions for you today are these: What are you doing with God’s word? Are you in it daily, even if briefly? Are you letting the Word “dwell in you richly”? (Col. 3:16). If it is God’s Word, dare we treat it as optional reading?

May God give us perseverance in his Word.

--The Catechizer