Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Three Song Recommendations

It was cool for me in college that I had the chance to be lead in worship well by both The Navigators worship band and at my church, Grace Fellowship. I've tried to introduce my church to two Navigators favorites (contemporary renditions of Rock of Ages and Holy Hands). I wanted to take this opportunity to recommend three songs to my readers that I was exposed to through Grace Fellowship Chuch:

1. Psalm 130 (From the Depths of Woe) - Christopher Miner. This is a contemporary version of a hymn written by Martin Luther based heavily on Psalm 130. It's similar to Holy Hands in that there aren't really any good recorded versions available unless you buy the CD it's on. There is however this one youtube video with the best version of it I've found available online. Also leadsheets and lyrics here.

2. Jesus, Thank You - Sovereign Grace Music. Available on iTunes etc. Also on youtube.

3. I Will Glory in My Redeemer - Sovereign Grace Music. Also available on iTunes etc. The version I listen to most is from Bob Kauflin's CD Upward. There is also a version on youtube.

These songs are theologically rich and musically moving. To give you just a little taste I've included the lyrics to Psalm 130 (From the Depths of Woe) below:

1. From the depths of woe I raise to Thee
The voice of lamentation;
Lord, turn a gracious ear to me
And hear my supplication;
If Thou iniquities dost mark,
Our secret sins and misdeeds dark,

O who shall stand before Thee?
(Who shall stand before Thee?)
O who shall stand before Thee?
(Who shall stand before Thee?)

2. To wash away the crimson stain,
Grace, grace alone availeth;
Our works, alas! Are all in vain;
In much the best life faileth;
No man can glory in Thy sight,
All must alike confess Thy might,

And live alone by mercy
(Live alone by mercy)
And live alone by mercy
(Live alone by mercy)

3. Therefore my trust is in the Lord,
And not in mine own merit;
On Him my soul shall rest, His word
Upholds my fainting spirit;
His promised mercy is my fort,
My comfort and my sweet support;

I wait for it with patience
(Wait for it with patience)
I wait for it with patience
(Wait for it with patience)

4. What though I wait the live-long night,
And ’til the dawn appeareth,
My heart still trusteth in His might;
It doubteth not nor feareth;
Do thus, O ye of Israel’s seed,
Ye of the Spirit born indeed;

And wait ’til God appeareth
(Wait ’til God appeareth)
And wait ’til God appeareth
(Wait ’til God appeareth)

5. Though great our sins and sore our woes
His grace much more aboundeth;
His helping love no limit knows,
Our upmost need it soundeth.
Our Shepherd good and true is He,
Who will at last His Israel free

From all their sin and sorrow
(All their sin and sorrow)
From all their sin and sorrow
(All their sin and sorrow)

©1997 Christopher Miner Music.

Monday, July 19, 2010

One of the Best Chapters I've Ever Read

If you pay attention to my sidebar on "books I'm currently reading" you know I'm currently reading a book by Greg Bahnsen entitled Presuppositional Apologetics: State and Defended. Today I finished what I consider one of the best chapters I've ever read in a book. It's the third chapter of the book and is entitled "Neutrality and Autonomy Relinquished."

I would not do justice to this chapter to try to summarize it here. Suffice it to say that for anyone desiring to think seriously about apologetics and philosophy from a Christian perspective this chapter is a must read. In it Bahnsen masterfully calls all of us to submit to Christ's Lordship over all areas of life, even our apologetic and intellectual endeavors. He do so with stunning clarity and persuasion. While the rest of the book has also been great, this chapter alone is worth the price of the book.

A sample from Bahnsen's own words as he summarizes much of the chapter:

"The foregoing articles have been given to demonstrating this presuppositional position from epistemological considerations. We have noted the unavoidable interdependence of metaphysics and epistemology (or method), the fact that all argumentation appeals to an ultimate (and unproved) authority, and the impossibility of neutrality. We have discussed the possibility of a man being ignorant of items of which he really has knowledge (but will not acknowledge). We have contrasted the necessity of revelational epistemology with the hopelessness of autonomous epistemology. It has been observed that the unbeliever's intellectual schizophrenia makes a presuppositional approach to him legitimate, just as the possibility of a meaningful argument makes a presuppositional approach necessary. Moreover, an analysis of language usage and informal logic shows presuppositional apologetics to be the only workable and promising approach to the non-Christian." - Greg Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended, pg. 124-125

P.S. This made me think of other chapters I really like from other books. I'd like to post on these eventually as the come to mind.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Doubts About Whether what God's Word Says is True

In my previous post on thinking about doubt I introduced three types of doubt. This is the second of those. In the first type of doubt, our main goal is to find out what God's Word says on a given subject. Until we find out, it is legitimate if not necessary to doubt the truth of something. However, once we find out what God's Word says on a given subject, sometimes we still doubt.

This type of doubt is sinful. The fall of man began with this sin when Eve doubted God's Word in the garden (Gen. 3:1-6). What we are essentially saying at this point is: "I know God says this is true, but I doubt it is true." To do so is to doubt God's knowledge or God's truthfulness. We're saying either God doesn't know correctly or that He is deceiving us in His Word. It is an attack on the very nature and character of God, and as such it is sin.

If that is the case, then why do we do it? I think there are two main reasons I observe in myself and others: either we don't understand it, or we don't like it. Take God's sovereignty over salvation (a.k.a. predestination, unconditional election) for instance, the example I used in the first post. Let's say you've heard about it and doubted it at first (which is fine), but after examining the scriptures you've concluded the Bible teaches the doctrine of predestination.

Now you still have to decide whether you yourself will believe it or not. At this point originally I responded by saying "well I don't see how this doctrine coud be true, and evangelism still matter, man still be free, God still be good, etc. Therefore I won't accept it." That is a sinful response. It is saying "I don't understand, therefore I don't believe." It is trusting in myself and leaning on my own understanding as the ultimate standard of truth rather than God and His Word (cf. Proverbs 3:5-6). What's particularly sad about this kind of doubt is that in many Christian circles it is condoned and encouraged. "Good, doubt it, God can handle your doubts, He's a big boy." "Question everything." Certainly it's true that God is not shaken by your doubts, but it is also true that your doubt in this area is sinful and needs to be repented of. God's Word is never to be doubted or called into question.

The second reason I mentioned was we simply don't like what God's Word says. Most people won't come out and say "I choose not to believe this because I don't like it," but I would argue many of us operate in this realm. When studying the charismatic gifts of the Spirit I would often doubt their validity simply because I thought speaking in tongues was weird, not because God said it had ceased. This doubt is obviously sinful and needs to be likewise repented of.

Now, let me make myself clear: I am not saying we should not talk about such doubts. I am not saying we need to pretend we believe perfectly when in fact we don't. This is just compounding sin. First we sin by doubting the truthfulness of God's Word, then we sin by hiding and lying about it. We should seek to create a gracious community where we can confess this sin to one another (Jas. 5:16), but still call it sin and encourage one another in repentance, not acceptance or encouragement of this sin (cf. Rom. 1:32).

God's Word is perfect because Godknows all and never lies (Num. 23:19, Titus 1:2). Once we know what it says, our only legitimate response is faithful acceptance of its content. But the reality is we may still not understand it or like it. While these are not valid reasons to reject it, they still need to be discussed. I hope to do so in a future post.

Friday, July 16, 2010

More Good Stuff on Doctrine

Just this week upon the heels of my last post on how we should handle doctrine John Piper gave some quick advice to the "new reformed" movement.

His advice boils down to the same thing Keller and Lloyd-Jones were saying in my previous post. As we grow to love theology and right thinking about God, we are in danger of loving thinking about God more than we love God. On the other hand, the pendulum too often swings the other way to the point where we disregard doctrine. In this case we end up worshipping a God of our imagine, rather than the true God as He has revealed Himself in scripture.

I'd encourage you to watch Piper's video and continue to grow with me in knowing God, not just knowing about God.

HT: Justin Taylor

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How Should We Think of Doubt?

Doubt is a real experience in the life of any honest Christian. However, I think it can be hard to know how we should think about our doubt. Is it good or bad? Necessary or sinful? What do we do about it? Should we embrace it or repent of it? Should we talk to God/others about it or hide it? Should we question God or just submit? Doubt has played a major part in my Christian life, so I'd like to add some clarity to this topic from the Scriptures and my experience.

I think we can group doubt for the Christian into three broad categories: 1.) doubts about what God's Word says, 2.) doubts about whether what God's Word says is true, and 3.) doubts about how what God's Word says can be true.

1. Doubts about what God's Word says - This is an ok kind of doubt. Someone like me comes to you and says "God is in control of everything, even individual salvation." You say: "I'm not sure about that" That's ok. You shouldn't just take my word or anyone else's on things. An example of this is the Bereans. The Bible says this of them:

"Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so" - Acts 17:11

They are called noble because they received the word with eagerness and examined the scriptures daily to evalute whether what they were hearing is true. Notice here what they do with their uncertainties: they test them against the inerrant words of scripture. This is what we need to do with any truth claim. We examine the scriptures to see if its true. Until we have decided what God's Word says about the truth claim, we can say we "doubt" its truth, and in fact we should. But once we see what God's Word says about the claim, either affirming or falsifying it, that should settle the matter. That brings us to a second type of doubt, which I'll take up in Part 2.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Keller (and Lloyd-Jones) on Doctrine

Tim Keller recently blogged about the place of doctrine in the Christian life by quoting Martin Lloyd-Jones. I would recommend just reading that post, but I'll offer some of my own comments on it here. He started by responding to churches who tend to de-emphasize doctrine. This can come out in alot of ways: "deeds not creeds" is probably the most popular tagline of today. As I've been involved with campus ministry I see it come out in Bible study when the application of the text for some is always something to the effect of: "I feel like the church today is so judgmental and divisive. Why do we debate stupid meaningless stuff like predestination? We just keep majoring in the minors and minoring in the majors. We just need to get along and get back to what Jesus was really all about." I'll simply add Lloyd-Jones' rebuke:

"Whether you like it or not, to speak like that is, in and of itself, to speak in a doctrinal manner. To make statements along that line is, in actual practice, to commit yourself to a particular doctrine… the doctrine of works and, in a sense, of justification by works. ‘Ah,’ but they reply, ‘we are not interested in such a term as ‘justification by works.’ But whether they are interested in such terminology of not, that is exactly what they are saying… In other words, whether we like it or not, we cannot avoid doctrine. … There is no such thing as an irreligious person; everyone has his or her religion, if you mean by religion that ultimate philosophy or view of life by which people live."

There is no avoiding doctrine. To say that it doesn't matter is a doctrinal statement, and the doctrine it teaches is that all God is concerned about is whether we are rightly motivated to seek Him or something like that, which is works righteousness. As Christians we should oppose such a sentiment. However, Keller makes sure to point out Lloyd-Jones' teaching on how we can handle doctrine wrongly in the other extreme:

"[Lloyd-Jones] speaks of some Christians and says, 'There is nothing they delight in more than arguing about theology' and they do this in 'a party spirit.' One of the signs of this group is that they are either dry and theoretical in their preaching, or they can be caustic and angry. They have 'lost their tempers, forgetting that by so doing they were denying the very doctrine which they claimed to believe.' In short, ministers who go to this extreme destroy the effectiveness of their preaching. What is the cause of this? Lloyd-Jones answers that they have made accurate doctrine an end in itself, instead of a means to honor God and grow in Christ-likeness. 'Doctrine must never be considered in and of itself. Scripture must never be divorced from life.'"

Man, that cuts right to my heart. I must confess that "I am the man" (2 Sam. 12:7) whom Lloyd-Jones is rebuking here. Often arguing theology and proving someone else wrong is where I can get my jollies. I often find myself angry and judgmental of those who don't accept things like the inerrancy of scripture, substitutionary atonement, and calvinism. In doing so I am making doctrine an end rather than God's glory. To add to Lloyd-Jones, I think I also do this so I can feel better about myself as I put others down. It is my own works righteousness: I feel right before God because my doctrine is right, and I get assurance of this salvation every time I put someone else down. To do so is to nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained by right doctrine, Christ died for nothing (Gal. 2:21).

I need to hear this as I start a series on dispensationalism, a system of doctrine I disagree with. I also know I'm not alone. Would you join me in repentance so that we don't disregard doctrine, but hold it in its proper place, as means to God's glory and Christ's likeness in our own lives?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Tribute to the Albert Mohler Show

Aaron tells me my blog posts are generally too long for most people to actually read. I tend to agree with him. The length of the posts also prevents me from doing them as often because they're such a time commitment. So rather than always writing an article with a more obvious analytical theological bent, I'd like to start including a few short blurbs as well.

One blurb for today is on the Albert Mohler Show. The Albert Mohler Show is a radio program that's been on air for the last 9 years, until this past week when it aired its final episode. Dr. Mohler, the host of the show, is President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I started listening to the show a couple years ago online and since getting my iPod touch and finding podcasts I've been a subscriber on there as well.

The tagline of the show is "intelligent Christian conversation" and I can say that I have certainly had the privilege of listening in on much of that as I've listened to Dr. Mohler's show. I consider Dr. Mohler one of the leading theologians of our time, especially when it comes to developing a Biblical worldview. His analysis of current events and cultural commentary from a Biblical perspective have been instructive and edifying for me and many others. It is a true encouragement and challenge to me to see such an intelligent, public figure taking a stand for the gospel.

So here's to you Dr. Mohler! Thank you for your service to the body of Christ; I look forward to continuing to benefit from your teaching ministry through other mediums.

P.S.: you can listen to the final episode by clicking here. I'd also recommend Dr. Mohler's website

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What is Dispensationalism? (Introduction)

Lately for whatever reason I feel like I've had alot of conversations with people where the theological system known as Dispensationalism comes up. Dispensationalism is a system of doctrine. There are alot of facets to this system, so I must admit I lack the time/energy/blogspace and the expertise to fully address it. I'm not that well read on it, but I've interacted with it enough that I feel I can at least make some introductory remarks on it to help others recognize it. I think this is somewhat significant because it is the majority view in the evangelical world, and because I find it largely unbiblical.

Now I don't think it's unbiblical like liberal theology or the prosperity gospel. Dispensationalists are Christian brothers and sisters. They hold to the inerrancy of scripture and the basics of the gospel. The early founders believed in the sovereignty of God (e.g. John Nelson Darby), though I don't think that's as widespread now. In this series of posts I will try to answer the question of "What is Dispensationalism?" by discussing what I consider its most distinctive features, why I disagree with them, and what I see as the practical impact. In this post I'll simply give a brief historical introduction, but in future posts we'll look at the Dispensational view of:
  1. The Church and Israel
  2. Grace and law
  3. The Bible
  4. Salvation/sanctification
  5. The end times

The historical roots of dispensationalism as a system can probably be most reasonably traced back to the early 1800's in the Plymouth Brethren movement and the aforementioned J.N. Darby. In the United States the movement gained steam with adherents such as D.L. Moody and C.I. Scofield. With the publishing of the Scofield Reference Bible in 1909, Dispensationalism found a wide audience in America.

Dispensationalism has institutional support at a number of major Bible colleges and seminaries, most notably Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), which is really the epicenter of Dispensational teaching in America (so if you're one of the many people who's told me to go there, this is one of the main reasons I won't). Other institutions include Biola University, Moody Bible Institute, Philadelphia Biblical University, Baptist Bible Seminary, Liberty University, and Word of Life Bible Institute. Influential dispensational Bible teachers other than those already mentioned include Lewis Sperry Chafer, John Walvoord, Charles Ryrie, Chuck Swindoll, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Tim LaHaye, Darrel Bock, Daniel Wallace, and Norm Geisler. While denominational influence is harder to track it tends to have influence in some Baptist, E-Free, churches that end with "Bible church," and many pentecostal/charismatic circles (though hardcore dispensationalists tend to be cessationists as well).

So dispensationalism is alive and well in American Evangelicalism today. Though its proponents vary in a number of places, especially recently with the advent of Progressive Dispensationalism (e.g. Bock, Wallace, much of DTS today), there are a number of unifying features. I won't be dealing with all the variations, but I hope we can get a look at the things that tie them together in this series of blog posts.