Tuesday, March 29, 2016

D.A. Carson on the Universe, Science and Miracles

Here is a valuable reflection from D.A. Carson on the wonderful works of God.


“The modern, frequently unvoiced view of God is that he is in charge of the big things, the major turning points; it is less clear that he is in charge of anything beyond that. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount argues just the reverse (Matt. 6). Jesus assumes his heavenly Father sovereignly watches over each sparrow and each flower, and argues from the lesser to the greater: if God cares for even these things—surely of relatively little account on the eternal and cosmic scales of things!—should we not trust him to provide men and women, made in his own image, with all that we need? The sad truth is that science has taught many of us to adopt some version of the ‘God-of-the-gaps theory.’ In this view, God sets everything in motion and allows it to chug along in line with the laws that he himself sets in place. But every once in a while God intervenes. He actually does something. We call that a miracle. Biblically speaking, of course, this is nonsense. I would never deny that God has created an ordered universe. But the biblical view of God’s sovereignty is that even now, at every second, he sustains that universe. Indeed, he now mediates every scrap of the infinite reaches of his sovereignty through the Son (1 Cor. 15:25), who even now is ‘sustaining all things by his powerful word’ (Heb. 1:3). A miracle is not an instance of God doing something for a change; it is an instance of God doing something out of the ordinary. That God normally operates the universe consistently makes science possible; that he does not always do so ought to keep science humble. Above all, this view of God’s sovereignty means that we should draw comfort and faith even by observing the world around us—as Jesus did.” – D.A. Carson

Monday, February 29, 2016

Ye Shall Know Them By Their Fruits

To all my Mormon friends:

Matthew 7:15-20 does NOT mean that you will know a teaching or a teacher is true or false based upon the good or bad RESULTS of the teaching (i.e. good works, good feelings, fruit of the Spirit, etc).

Jesus explicitly explained what He meant in Matthew 12:33-37,

"Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.
O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.
But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned."

And also in the parallel passage in Luke 6:43-45,

"For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh."

In other words, Jesus meant that we will know a teaching or a teacher is true or false based upon the TEACHING, not based upon the results of the teaching. The question is: "what do they teach?" Not, "what is the result of what they teach?"

This is in keeping with the Old Testament test of a false prophet,

"If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,
And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;
Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.
And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee." (Deuteronomy 13:1-5)

"To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. (Isaiah 8:20)

It is high time for you to start listening to Jesus and to test a prophet by the content of his teaching rather than by the results of his teaching.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Mormonism is Not Just Not Christian, It is the Opposite of Christianity

Debate has raged about whether Mormonism is Christian or not. Mormons--who are baffled by the debate--claim that they are Christians, appealing to the fact that they believe in "Jesus", while traditional Christians--long accustomed to dealing with heretical counterfeits--hold that Mormons are not Christian, despite their oft-repeated appeal. The reader is encouraged to reflect upon 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, Matthew 24:24, and the entire book of Galatians. In light of what Biblical Christianity is all about, it is plain to me (and to anyone else who wishes to look) that Mormonism is not Christian at all.

However, I would like draw attention to something even more interesting: not only is Mormonism not Christian, it is in fact the opposite of Christianity. Let no one here object by appealing to the superficial similarity of terminology used between Mormons and Christians. Such agreement is only surface deep; underneath is a world of difference. In reality, Mormonism and Christianity are theological opposites.

Christianity is all about the story of the one and only God, who created all things visible and invisible for the glory of His Name. Consequently human beings are His creatures who exist--like all of God's creatures--to praise and glorify the Creator. Christianity is all about how human beings traitorously sinned against God, incurring the wages of sin: death. Christianity is all about how God gloriously redeemed His helpless and ill-deserving enemies through His amazing grace; how He came to earth, He died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again on the third day in order to provide salvation for everyone who will simply believe in Him. Christianity is all about how the redeemed will spend eternity celebrating the beauty and victory of God, for the great things He has done, to whom alone belongs all the glory for ever and ever. The beginning, middle and end of Christianity is the one true God. Christianity is all about the abasement of humanity and the glorification of God.

In stark opposition to this, Mormonism is the story of everybody; in fact, it is precisely the idea that God is not at all unique. Our particular God is one of us, and is one of many. Mormonism is all about realizing your human--or I should say divine--potential. It is about recognizing that you are not all that helpless or wicked, and that with the help of God you can personally overcome sin and achieve perfection. Jesus, our literal brother, came to earth to bring about a set of conditions through which we can--if we work hard enough--work our way into a new and exalted state of being. Mormonism is all about self-reliance, self-effort, and personal glory. The goal of Mormonism is to be a God yourself, just like our particular God and the many others who have succeeded before us. Consequently the center of Mormonism is not the one and only God (for there is no such God), but oneself. The God of this earth exists for you and not you for him.

Thus Christianity and Mormonism are opposites. To Christians, Mormonism is blasphemous. To Mormons, Christianity is boring. Yet it is Christianity, not Mormonism, that is Biblical. As Anglican theologian Harry Blamires put it: "God is not the bolsterer of our human wisdom, the buttress of our self-sufficiency. He is the despoiler of our human self-reliance. His Name does not head the list of contributors to the fund for extending our empire of mastery; rather his Signature seals the death-warrant of our egotism."

Friday, September 04, 2015

The Protestant Principle of Sola Scriptura

A response to the accusation that the Reformer's gospel was newfangled doctrine, due to failure to abide by church tradition.

Our goal is indeed to believe what the apostles believed, and---lo and behold!--they left us some writings of their very own, their very own thoughts recorded on pages intended for us to read. If we desire to believe what the apostles believed, then our sources are the apostolic writings themselves (obviously), not a handful of contemporaries who can at best provide us with second-hand information that may or may not be accurate. Ad fontes. In the Scriptures is where the minds of the apostles are found. The Scriptures are given to us for our learning (therefore they are sufficiently perspicuous), and whatever does not agree with the Scriptures is error. This is the common sense wisdom of Sola Scriptura.

This is especially important to grasp in light of the fact (a fact you admitted) that many contemporaries of the apostles were heretics and/or greatly confused. Proximity is no guarantee of truthfulness. The New Testament itself attests to that.

Martin Luther was faithful to the tradition of the Catholic church, by which faithfulness he never obtained peace nor the true knowledge of Christ and God. It was only when he studied the Scriptures for himself and allowed them to speak to him that he was enlightened and set free.

If you examine the heart of Protestant theology and compare it to the Bible, you will see that what Protestants hold dearest is no 16th century novelty but the very heart of the Christian Gospel as found in the Scriptures: salvation by grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ. This doctrine is plainly taught in the Bible. "But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is manifested... the righteousness of God which is by faith in Jesus Christ unto all and upon all who believe." (Romans 3:21-22). "For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9). "Knowing that a man is not justified by the deeds of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ." (Galatians 2:16). There are too many to cite in this comment. There is no anachronism. Your charge is unjustified and unjustifiable. But if you want to prove your charge of anachronism true, you must (interestingly) end up doing biblical exegesis, the very thing Protestants insists we do, and have been tenaciously doing for the last 500 years.

To me, the irony of the accusation of anachronism against Protestants is that those who aggrandize church tradition and then proceed to read that tradition back into Scripture are the ones who are guilty of anachronism. Anachronism doesn't take much time to happen, and fidelity to Scripture can happen after a long time has passed. I can personally see nothing but anachronism in how non-evangelicals handle the Bible (ex. Chrysostom says, therefore the Bible says). Evangelicals don't say "Luther or Calvin says, therefore the Bible says", but rather, "Luther or Calvin says, therefore let's go to the Bible to see if this is true." Which method best safeguards us against anachronism? I believe a child can answer this question.

May God make this plain to you,

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Isaiah 59:20 - The Banishing of Ungodliness from Jacob

Hi C----,

Isaiah 59:20 essentially is saying that the Deliverer (Christ) will come and deliver those in Jacob who turn from pesha ("transgression" or "rebellion"). When Paul points to this verse in Romans 11:26, he utilizes the Septuagint translation which has a slightly different take on this prophecy. Two things are different: the Deliver will come and 1) banish 2) ungodliness from Jacob.

Which is it? Does Christ come and deliver those in Jacob who turn from transgression/ungodliness, or does Christ Himself do the work of banishing transgression/ungodliness from Jacob? The answer is: both. Christ will deliver those who turn, but it is also His own work of banishing that causes them to turn. Paul's flexible quotation is highlighting both aspects of that deliverance.

But what do they turn from? Transgression or ungodliness? The Hebrew word pesha here means rebellion, violating a covenant boundary in a presumptuous and high handed way. Both the Septuagint translation and Paul pick up on the sense of the word here by using the Greek word "asebeia", translated "ungodliness", which means irreverence against God. So what Isaiah is saying is that rebellion/irreverence against God will be banished from Jacob by Christ, and that those turn from rebellion/irreverence will be delivered.

Having said all that, I understand the rebellion/irreverence against God not to be the mere act of sinning against God, but rebellion against God's word and truth. God's word declares that the only kind of righteousness He accepts is the perfection of love, and that therefore all humankind are sinful, guilty and worthy of death. God's word further declares that in His Son Jesus Christ an atonement has been made and the everlasting righteousness that He requires has been provided, and that we must trust ourselves to this finished work of Christ alone in order to be saved. Those who refuse to believe that they are damnable sinners and will not trust in Christ are the rebellious/irreverent ones, and those who tremble at God's word, accept His verdict on their lives and trust in Christ alone for deliverance are those who are not rebellious/irreverent against God. Yes, everyone sins, and so in a sense all are rebellious/irreverent, but this verse is referring not to the general sins of mankind, but to the rebellion/irreverence that refuses to accept guilt and humbly trust in Christ. Think of all the passages in the literature of John that talk about this specific rebellion/irreverence (John 1:11-13, 3:19-21, 5:24-47, 7:7, 17-18, 8:37-47, 12:35-50, 17:6-16, 18:37, 1 John 1:5-10, 2:22-23, 4:5-6, 5:9-12, 19-21, 2 John 1:7-11, etc.).

Thus I take Isaiah 59:20 to be referring to the banishing of unbelief in the gospel from Jacob, and, that those who turn to Christ from their rebellious unbelief will be delivered. Both aspects--the banishing and delivering--is the work of Christ.

I'm asking us to think more deeply about rebellion than the mere act of sinning in general, but rather that deeper rebellion against God's truth that refuses to admit sin and believe in Christ. 

The connection with metanoia I trust is obvious.

I hope this helps you, C----,