December 2005


You might have been expecting a posting on the noble Biblicist doctrine of Unconditional Election. Instead, I would like to take a look at another doctrine called unconditional love.
What brings me to mention this is that in my experience, the use of the word love has largely been misconstrued. What I see and hear, when mention is made of unconditional love, is more of something else, namely, unconditional acceptance. Unconditional love says that your love for a person is not motivated by their performance. Unconditional acceptance says that whatever you do, you must be embraced, greeted warmly, spoken well of, and anything short of that is not loving. Unconditional acceptance says that if someone reproves your behavior, exhorts you, or admonishes you, and that their doing so sits uncomfortably with you or is disagreeable to you, that they are not loving you and that they are judging you. In short, they are not obeying the words, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”
Now I oppose the doctrine of unconditional acceptance, but embrace that (or what I know of it) of unconditional love. Now, looking at Jesus, the one who loves, let me draw my examples. First, Jesus was not afraid to use abrasive language against the religious leaders and lawyers of his day. “You hypocrites…” He said also to send the message to the king, “You go and tell that fox…” John the Baptist warned some of those coming out to see him, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come.” Yet God tells us that no man born of a woman was greater than John the Baptist- certainly one like this would have love. Jesus certainly loved people, but one time when he was asked about blood being mingled with sacrifices, he bluntly stated, “Do you think those on whom the tower of Siloam fell were any worse offenders… No, but unless you repent, you will likewise perish.”
Why do I bring these verses and these points up. Part of love is NOT accepting everything that someone does. A friend who was rather cynical one night remarked to me seriously that he, “could just step out in front of a car, and if they hit [him], then [he] would go to heaven sooner.” I was told by one that he could be seeking “special” friends and a gay lifestyle, and could still worship God with a true (or was it pure?) heart and get to heaven. When, after numerous times, patience, examples from Scripture, he would not listen to Scripture, I told him I could not accept the lifestyle he was pursuing. He lamented that his other friends accepted it, and why couldn’t I. Later he accused me of not being a real friend. A girl once told me someone she knew could just kill themself and get to heaven faster. The words that come out of a person’s mouth reveal what is in their heart, and where the ship of their soul is sailing. The fruit of a person’s mouth is a pouring out of their soul- if it is good, it will be wholesome and pure; if it is bad, it will be corruption, rot, and filth.
So we get to love. Part of it is being honest- certain actions, desires, and followings are not an example of a heart that is seeking God. Certain behaviors, though present in the sinful flesh, are not to be tolerated in a regenerated person. A pastor or confessing follower of Jesus is not to be engaging in sex out of marriage, giving themselves to drunkness, stealing, or other forms of behavior. Christians should be cautious of those who confess to be Christians and are unrepentant in engaging in this lifestyle. To simply accept their actions and associate with them is weak, appeasing, and ultimately unloving. Warn them, show them, explain to them, love them, but if they will not listen, I would recommend not to associate with them.

I would like to come back to this and put in more Scripture references, flush out my thoughts more thoroughly, and accept my own reproof where words have been too harsh or inaccurate. If I knew now what was wrong I would changs it, but I end with the words of a hero of mine, “To confess that you were wrong yesterday is only to admit that you are wiser today.” -Charles Spurgeon

Learning to love,
Resolving to love,
Larry

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Limited Atonement
This is the most contested of the five points. I will try to explain it simply, and I will refer you to the references at the bottom for more information. Limited atonement states that the death of Christ did not pay for (atone) for the sins of the whole world. It paid for the sins of those in Christ. An immediate objection that arises may be John 3:16, “For God so loved the WORLD that he gave his only Son…”
For God 1) loved the world that 2) He gave his only Son. We could say that God loved the world so that he gave his Son to die for the world.
But the second part of the verse is critical in understanding, “… that WHOever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” So, those who believe in Christ will not perish but have eternal life. On the contrary, it is implied that those who do not believe in the Son will perish and not have eternal life. So the giving up of God’s Son does not pay for the sins of the whole world. It blots out the sins of those who identify themselves in Christ. If Christ’s death pays for the sins of the whole world, then it would not just be the believers who would be forgiven. His death would also pay for the sin of unbelief among those who rejected him. But then everyone would be saved, which is obviously not the case. The reference of weeping and gnashing of teeth, and those whose names are not written in the Book of Life are too numerous to reference. Those who do not come to Christ are still in their sins. Only by believing and confessing Christ does one have eternal life (Romans 10:9). Or as God himself said, “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but UNLESS you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5). Unbelief and an unrepentant heart are both two sins which Christ did not die for.
When Paul speaks to the Colossian believers he tells them that, “… he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him” (Colossians 1:21). Before they were drawn to Christ, they were hostile and alien to God. Their sins were not reconciled at that point in time.
References and Additional Readings
Ephesians 1-2, Romans 8:28-30, Romans 9, John 15:16, John 6:65, II Timothy 2:25-26, Hebrews 6:2-3, Acts 13:48
http://www.tenth.org/fileadmin/files_for_download/New_Member_Articles/5pointsofcalvinism.pdf – The most basic breakdown of Calvinism and Arminianism I have seen. Each point summarized in 3 sentences or less. No scripture to explain points though.
http://www.desiringgod.org/library/topics/doctrines_grace/tulip.html – A free online resource explaining the five points of Calvinism followed by testimonies of those who have loved and embraced these doctrines.
Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul- A simple book explaining and defining the terms
The Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin- This can be read in its entirety for free at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.htm Chapters 21-24 explicitly address election and predestination. You won’t find the TULIP acronym in Calvin’s work, that was added after as a way of summarizing and understanding the points.

Recently the topic of the sinfulness of humanity has arisen in conversation with friends. Strangely this delights me. What kind of sick misanthrope am I, talking about a topic like this, with glee even?

Well, I haven’t always embraced this T in TULIP. But when I began reading the Bible in college the fundamental change in my heart began, and I was really convinced that I am a sinner.

Romans 1:10-12:
“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 become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (ESV)

It is a blessed thing when the Holy Spirit moves on the Word, and convicts our hearts of sin, death, and destruction. I think it is at such an hour that the Spirit may enable us to love Christ, bringing us from spiritual death to spiritual life.

I write this as probably the simpliest introduction to Total Depravity, our utter sinfulness before God as self-loving, God hating, debtors. This coincidentally is how I was introduced to the TULIP, and so naturally I think it a fine way of being introduced to reformed thought.

I hope this post can act as a talking point for biblical theology. Perhaps Larry would be willing to post on the L of TULIP during the process. 🙂

Two brief suggestions I joyously make on this topic are from John Piper and R.M. McCheyne.

-Mark

Lyrics get me too.
Inevitably, the songs I really find run through my head, I end up being able, at a later date, to trace back to Scripture; usually this is ends up being a verse, or a paraphrase of a set of verses.
Sometimes songs run through my head that I find to be exactly counter to Scripture. One popular contemporary piece has the words, “My sacrifice is not what You can give, but what I alone can give to you… A thankful heart I give, a prayerful prayer I pray, a wild dance I dance before You.” It has a very catchy beat, but stands in contrast to Romans 11:35-36 “Who has given a gift to [God] that he might be repaid? For FROM him and THROUGH him and TO him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Amen Paul. Or again we see the theme echoed in Job 35:7, “If you are righteous, what do you give to [God]? Or what does he receive from your hand?” and Job 41:11 “Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.” Amen Job. We cannot give God something he has already given us. If we give God a thankful heart, it is because he has allowed us to be thankful. God has loosed feet to dance, lips to sing, and hands to be raised and celebrate. Imagine the mother after giving birth to a son exclaiming, “this joy is not what You can give, God, but only what I can give back to You,” all the while not considering that God gave her the child and the spontaneous emotion of delight in it.
I also love the tune Amazing Love, yet find myself silent during the chorus, “in all I do, I honor you.” I know no Christian of whom that is true.
This bugs me because it is wrong. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like to have an elevated feeling when I worship, but not at the cost of contradicting scripture. If there is no root of truth in the praises we sing and in the emotions we feel, the branch of woship we seek will dry up, wither, and die.
There are thousands and more great songs, and God is calling for himself worshippers in spirit and truth. These worshippers will come and go along with skewed worship tunes, with little harm, but further rejoicing in God. This short discourse just reminds that there are tares sewn in among the wheat of worship songs, and wolves disguised as sheep within the flock. The words look right and feel right, but if believed, they dangerously contradict the Scripture and can prop the door of deceit open for the entry of further untruths. Let us seek out those doors and bar them shut with the Light of Truth by reading, praying, memorizing, and studying the Bible and by trembling before God.

Amen to your words Mark.

It seems anymore in the scientific community, if you do not bow the knee at the altar of Darwin, you are called a myriad of names, the nicer of which is “not a real scientist.” In fact, a biology professor started talking about fact one class, and distinguished it from faith in that faith is, “Believing in something that there is absolutely no evidence for.” So when a community, with entrenched indoctrinators like that is asked to give a ruling, there is not a good chance to get an objective view.
And furthermore, I cannot think of any advantages given from this ruling. If the community deceives itself it is not being watched and held accountable to a higher standard, it is free to experiment with life, human life more and more, and to abuse all matters of gifts, such as sex. Just think about it, if you are watched on a surveilance camera, you are not likely to steal, but if all cameras are taken away, and the police are decomissioned, what holds you back?
The ideas for evolution are not new as many claim, but they date to 300 years before the birth of Christ and were postulated by Epicurus. Epicurus taught, “when we are, death is not; and when death is, we are not.” According to this philosophy, the universe is just a random gathering of atoms, that in themselves have a will. “We are going forward?” I ask. “Are we really not going backwards?” Now don’t get me wrong, but to dredge up ideas from 3oo years before Christ (about 2300 years ago) gives us a more primitive system than the way put in place by Jesus (about 2000 years ago).
To paraphrase John Owen’s first book, “Of Arminianism: Being a Discovery of the Old Pelagian Idol Free Will with the New Goddess Contingency…” I would like to suggest my own, “Of Darwinism: Being a Resurrection of the Ancient Epicurean Carnality, Disguised and Advancing Itself Under the Veil of Postmodernism, Believing in the Exercise of All Freedoms and Opinions, excepting that those freedoms do not disagree or threaten their position, as they further the agenda of demons, devils, and the dragon.”

Disappointed with this ruling and the scientific community, but not suprised,
Larry

We probably all read the headlines…(here and here) the Circuit Court bans ID in Dover, PA.

So I began reading the document. Sadly, the case while reasoned in places, seems bent on error. Through the panel of ‘expert witnesses’, the court established by the rule of scientific naturalism that Intelligent Design Theory is not science, as it requires supernatural causation. Furthermore, the court went on to say that ID can not be science as it is not accepted in the scientific community, published in peer-reviewed journals, nor is it researchable or testable. In a community dominated by die-hard Darwinians, it is no wonder that ID can’t get a fair hearing, research money, or air-time in peer-reviewed journals.

I’m sure Baal worshipers had reasoned arguments to support their Baal worship, and astrologers had arguments for worshiping stars.

I’m sure there will be a flood of comment on this in the blogosphere.
Saddened by the day’s events.
-mark

Have you ever been in the grocery store, and as you are carefully selecting your green and red peppers, you realize without trying, that you know every word of the song playing overhead?

Or perhaps you’ve been in the barber’s chair and you say to the sheerer “You know Oz never did give nothing to the Tin-man, that he didn’t, didn’t already have.” At this point, the scissors come to a complete halt, and you get a blank stare through the mirror, and you look back, as if to say ‘what’s the problem?’

Well, even if you can’t relate to being lyric-centric, you can suppose what it’s like. And for whatever reason, I always find myself focusing on the words. Sure I enjoy a good guitar lick or the booming praise of the pipe organ, but it’s the lyrics that go straight to my heart, and head.

So I was reminded this week of a popular “praise and worship” song that I sang often in a college ministry I was a part of, the bridge goes something like this:

“I’ll never know how much it cost, to see my sin upon that cross.”

Something about that line has always made me uncomfortable. Most of the tune however, is great; for example:

“King of all days, oh so highly exalted, glorious in heaven above. Beauty that made this heart adore you, all for love’s sake became poor.”

But there is that bridge that I just can’t get over. Something about eternal ignorance when it comes to our worship of God doesn’t sit right with me. My thoughts then turn to one of my favorite poems turned hymns.

Consider Robert Murray McCheyne’s handling of the subject when we praise The King in “I am debtor”:

“When I stand before the throne,
Dressed in beauty not my own,
When I see thee as thou art,
Love thee with unsinning heart,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know –
Not till then – how much I owe.

The contrast is interesting.

The first song in a desire to praise God attempts to say; “so great is this salvation, and so high it’s price, I can never know and understand it, I will never be able to fully take it in.” I think this is admirable, as it seeks to elevate God by saying ‘as high as the heavens are above the earth, so are my affections above your heart’s capacity to know them.’

So what is wrong with this?

While I do admit that these things are true of us now, will they be true of us in heaven? Will we actually “never know the cost?”

McCheyne takes the other route. Instead of magnifying God’s deeds and character by setting it above us, McCheyne magnifies them further by pointing to our receiving it in full through God’s work of glorification.

This is perhaps more evident from the entirety of the poem. Taking us through differing experiences after death, we see “how much we owe”, and only then can comprehend this power in God’s grace.

So McCheyne points to our knowing God as we are fully known, in heaven as the work of the glorification of the saints as the point where we will “know how much we owe” from Christ’s work on the cross. I think this presents God as more glorious as (IMO) it points to heaven.

So where does this leave us now? Humming while hunting cantaloupe? No, I’d like to close with McCheyne again, pointing us back to the cross, this time for earthly purposes…

Chosen not for good in me,
Wakened up from wrath to flee,
Hidden in the Saviour’s side,
By the Spirit sanctified,
Teach me, Lord, on earth to show,
By my love, how much I owe.

Amen.

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