February 2006


A friend of mine mentioned something interesting to me at the end of last week. It was that their disciplee did not think the Psalms or epistles should be read at the same level as the gospels. The argument was that the gospels gave eyeswitness accounts of Jesus, while the rest were just man’s words of wisdom. Since I used to feel the same way about Paul’s letters, this comment got me thinking… and writing.
First of all I would like to say that without faith it is impossible to plesae God if you do not believe that God rewards those who seek him (Heb 11:6).
The objections to the Psalms and epistles are, first of all, ones that only God can answer. I struggled with the epistles too before I became a Christian and even in my early days. “Why are Paul’s writings so emphasized at the cost of Jesus’ words?” “Doesn’t Paul contradict what Jesus says here?” “In all, it seems Paul just has some good words of advice that I do not need to follow here because MY situation is different.” Those were some of my thoughts!
The Psalms are Scripture because we see their prophecies fulfilled and they were reverenced by Jesus and the early Christians.
For example, Psalm 34:20, “he keeps all of his bones; not one of them is broken” (which the NRSV and gender neutral Bibles wrongly translate “their bones”) is fulfilled in John 19:36, “…So that Scripture would be fulfilled, not one of HIS bones will be broken.” Or Ps 22… fulfilling 1) the casting of lots for the division of Christ’s clothing (Ps 22:18 to John 19:23-24); 2) Jesus’ words on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Ps 22:1 to Matt 27:46 and Mark 15:34); 3) Jesus’ words, “I thirst” to “my tongue sticks to my jaws…” Ps 22:15 (also Ps 69:21 to Luke 22:36); 4) Ps 22:16 “They have pierced my hands and feet,” crucifixion (Luke 23:33 and Luke 24:40). And all these are things David was describing years before!
Jesus’ veneration of the Psalms is seen in his use of them to answer the Pharisees. Among other places, He saw himself as fulfilling a verse, quoting in Matthew 22:44, “The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hands, until I put your enemies under your feet,'” which is directly from David (Ps 110:1). Go to the verse right before, Matthew 22:43, and point out that Jesus himelf (in the eyewitness testimony) said that David was “in the Spirit” when he said these things. Later, Stephen personalizes the Psalm as he is about to be martyred, “[I see] the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56).
Next time, let’s discuss the grounds for the epistles being Scripture!
By His Grace,
Larry

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So as you may have already read, John Piper’s surgery went well. Praise God for these answered prayers, and pray for his recovery.

Recently in a conversation of the ‘doctrines of grace’ with a coworker, the topic of effectual calling, or irresistible grace came up. I was surprised when my friend said he was a Calvinist, but did not agree with the 5 points. (Yes, I know that Calvinism is more than the “5 points”…) So of course I think, oh, Specific Atonement, right? He must be offended by Larry. Surprisingly no! He claimed God’s calling is not effectual, and he provided Matthew 11:20-24 as a prooftext. So to Matthew 11 I went.

The Lord is speaking in this passage, denouncing cities that he has performed miracles in. (I know, I know, “What of the wider context Mark?” Just let me have my foil, we’ll look at the context next time…)

Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” (ESV)[Emphasis mine]

I will summarize his argument and evaluate his point for myself.

1.) If the works done in Chorazin and Bethsaida were performed in Tyre and Sidon, then they (people of T&S) would have believed.
2.) This belief is based on the seeing of the works and hearing Jesus’ teaching.
3.) The grace of Christ is the showing of the signs and proclaiming of his teaching.
4.) Since one (city of people) believes (or would have believed according to Jesus) and one (city of people) does not, in spite of the same evidence or grace…therefore believing is a heart decision of the person and is apart from some “effectual or irresistible grace.”
5.) Therefore it is biblical to stand with the remonstrants on the ‘I’ of TULIP.

I am very glad that this friend brought up this discussion topic and this text. It took me a little while to sort through what he was saying and see his argument (which I have attempted to distill above.) Once I wrote out what he was saying, it just clicked.

I was startled when over at The Head of the Moor I found a conversation that went into the “Middle Knowledge” view of God, hence the link to “Molinism.” I was further surpirsed when I found the example of Matthew 11 in Wikipedia as a proof-text for Molinism!

At first I thought I was looking at an example of Synergism, and indeed I was, but since then I’ve been blessed by these resources (and others) to see this is Molinism at the heart driving this interpretation that results in the synergism of the above argument.

So what is wrong with this view of God’s knowledge and our will?

Well, I hope to write about that next time, starting from Matthew 11 and discussing what some smarter/wiser folks have said about it…

This is the final post in my brief and rather brief series on my thoughts that were spurred by A.B. Caneday’s contribution (“Veiled Glory…”) to “Beyond the Bounds.”

I’ve been reading in the blogosphere, and picked up this the other day from the comments at the Mongrel Horde (they are just mutts you know.)

Now the reason that was important is simply that it demonstrates quite perspicuously how much of a neophyte I am in theology. I do plan however, to comment as I learn new things.

Chesterton in his Orthodoxy shared the parable of a man who sets out to discover a new isle, and by small mistake lands back in the British Isles ready to stake a claim on the uncharted land. He realizes of course that he is a few centuries late to the civilization…so it is with me and the things of God, I’m a few millenia late to the truths of God and uncounted thousands have already explored such sites.

So I hope to continue following these trails of thought marked out by explorers before me and learning from thier finds… Lord willing I’ll post on analogy in greater depth after reading further on the subject. Don’t hold your breath for it though, it might be a while.

-mark

Currently Reading:

*Gospel account of Luke
*Augustine: Confessions
*The London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689
*G.K. Chesterton: Four Faultless Felons

My wife and I watched “Yours, Mine, and Ours” last night after polishing off our favs from the Happy China (or was it China Garden?) Regardless we invested about 155 minutes in entertaining ourselves with a film. The YMAO that we watched is the Henry Fonda/Lucille Ball, 1968 version (not the Steve Martin et al, remake). The film follows two widowers (and their large broods) who chance upon each other, fall in love, and bring thier families together to make, eventually, a 21 member clan.

One of my favorite parts of watching films recently has been the ensuing discussions. Some dear friends of ours had a practice of stopping the film just before some climactic moments to break for tea and cookies, or the occasional ice cream treat. I think it’s a great idea by the way, and you might want to take a few such breaks if you are indulging in say Lawrence of Arabia, or an LOTR extended edition member.

A further encouragement of critically watching and discussing films came from Prof. John Frame (no I don’t personally know John Frame, sigh) but his Theology at the Movies is very thought provoking, especially his questions chapter.

[A brief side-note; The practice of asking questions immediately following or during a brief brake of a film has caused my wife and I to see more clearly a films message, content and effect on us so that we enjoy films more critically and avoid the passive viewership that is ignorant of the sludge it is feeding on. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not any more holy because we ask questions after a film, rather I have been pleasantly blessed by my wife’s insights, that I would have missed, and am more attentive to what is being said in a film and how we both receive it and are induced by it.]

Coming into YMAO, I thought I would enjoy it greatly…a nearly 40 year old family flick, what’s not to like? I was very disappointed. The casual nature of references to alcohol, sex, and suicide were troubling to say the least. Neither one of us were expecting such a godless worldview as we found in the film. Regrettably we didn’t think about the effect of the late 1960’s on the film industry and how that zeitgeist would now be aired in our home.

I don’t share just frowns after YMAO. The development of some of the characters was delightful, specifically Phillip, the little boy who gets lost in the shuffle of the 21 person family. Also, the bond of the family members for one another (after the initial growing pains of the 2 family merger…) is endearing and it is clear that the enjoyment of, and emphasis on the family has not completely left pop culture at the end of the 60’s.

Other things I took away from the film were the positive view of the military, providing for and protecting one’s family, and the sacrifice the father made in his career for the sake of his kids following his first wife’s passing.

I don’t recommend the film, and I am not under any inducement from this film to see the remake that is now in theatres (or is its run done? not sure)

So, my investment: 155 minutes, yours: 2.5 minutes of reading my rant. And our combined time is probably better spent reading the meta at Purgatorio on the Teen Jesus kitsch scandal of 2006.

-mark

Fear of God is, I believe, a real sense of trembling, dread, and quaking that go far beyond simple awe and reverence. Give me a man who is or has been in love and he will understand what I mean. Any honorable man coming before the woman he loves will be seized with trembling. This creature he admires so has stunned him with her beauty and dealt another blow by her purity. His previous strength, no matter how great, is now captivated by her mere presence. The weaker sex has shown herself to recruit more strength than any physical might can enlist. And if the complement to man can do this, causing knocking of the knees, gasping, and palpating of the heart, how much more will God, whose beauty and purity transcend that of any woman a thousand times, cause these things to happen? Can anyone coming before those qualities of radiance in God and allowed to see them for what they are not be seized with a fit of unworthiness or be driven to their knees in submission? As with a mere word, smile, or nod of approval, a woman may dispel much of the fear she instilled, so too and much more can God take a man, prostrate as though dead, say, “Do not be afraid,” and grant him the ability to stand and live much more than ever before. This very real fear of God will, I believe, lead to a submission to God and death of fear to worldly things.

I think it no accident that William Cowper (pronounced Cooper) author of the poem God Moves in a Mysterious Way was greatly encouraged by John Newton- the writer of Amazing Grace. Here is one of the mysterious ways that Newton recounts God’s moving in, and one that has encouraged me to find my rest and hope in God alone:

I asked the Lord, that I may grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of his salvation know,
And seek more earnestly his face…

I hoped that in some favoured hour,
At once he’d answer my request;
And by his love’s constraining power,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, he made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry powers of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with his own hand he seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“‘Tis in this way,” the Lord replied,
“I answer prayer for grace and faith.

“These inward trials I employ,
From self and pride to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou mayst seek thy all in me.”

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