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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Profound Theology 

Question: "Why did God make you and all things?"  Answer: "For His own glory."

It struck me today, though not for the first time, that this is a truly profound and crucial theological statement.  It's from our little Children's Catechism, and kids have been learning this truth for centuries.  But I think if we really knew that truth, really knew it down in our bones, we would avoid a lot of errors.  There is more that needs to be known, for sure- it is not sufficient.  But it is necessary- without this piece of information, you'll misunderstand and misconstrue everything.  That statement right there cures the Arminian error, I believe.  That's just one example.

How many times in the Bible do you see God saying something like, "So that you will know that I am God" or "for My holy name's sake" or something similar?  These are all statements about God's self-revelation and how fundamental it is to the whole existence of the universe.  This is why everything exists.

Good theology is the reason we don't have slavery anymore, and is the reason why you have cell phones and cars and democracy.  That's not to say of course that the company that built your cell phone is Christian, but it is to say that we as a culture and civilization are still reaping from the long trail of benefits from the building of our civilization in northern and western Europe by people who were Christians.  They believed that God had made all people in His own image and that God made the universe orderly and understandable, and made man to understand it.  These ideas led to the scientific revolution, the concept of human rights and all the rest.  That's not to say they were all perfectly worked out instantly.  Some might cite slavery in the US or Europe as a counterexample.  But the remarkable thing wasn't that slavery existed.  Slavery has existed everywhere for all of history.  The remarkable thing, the thing that requires explaining, is the push to end slavery, which happened entirely in places with a long Christian heritage. 

Because they knew God.  And they knew that God had created the very universe to reveal Himself.  They wanted to know Him better, and they paid attention.

In a society rapidly rejecting Christianity and the civilization which sprang from it, I expect we'll be finding out soon whether this thesis is correct, whether a liberal, free, scientific society can long exist without the theological framework which gave rise to that society.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Arguing about theologians 

I love reading the Bible.  No end of profit there, of course.

I like reading godly theologians writing about the Bible.  That is very helpful too, as those wiser than me help me understand the Bible.

I find some interest in reading people who are writing about the theologians who write about the Bible.  This is interesting from a historiographical perspective and helps me see the outline of the great debates we've engaged in over the centuries.

When we start arguing about the theologians, whether they did or did not in fact teach this or that doctrine, I find myself rapidly losing interest.  What are we interested in, here?  We want to know what the Bible says.  That's ultimately what matters.  The further we get in our discussions from that, the less value those discussions truly have.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Meditations on Reformed Worship 

My new book is available!  It's on the subject of worship, from a Reformed perspective.  I'll post the description from the book page:

Worship matters. We were created to be in relationship with God, in fellowship with Him, and to do so together with His people. The basic, bedrock promise of the Bible story from beginning to end is, "I will be your God, and you will be My people, and I will dwell in your midst." Corporate worship at its best is the closest experience of that eternal reality we will experience in this life. Over time the most accurate insight into a church's theology is their worship- what they do, what they sing, what they say, and the heart with which they do it. When you believe you are going to meet with God, you show everyone most accurately what you think about Him.  
God being God, and we being creatures, and especially creatures in a sinful and fallen state, it must be the case that God will define how that relationship looks. Therefore we look to Scriptures to define worship for us, and not our own imaginations or the opinions of men. A child does not define his relationship with his father; much less can we tell our Creator how we will relate to HIm! But He has graciously and lovingly instructed us in His Scriptures in the principles that should drive our worship.  
God is glorious, and good, and beautiful! And He has done marvelous things for us. Worshiping Him is an honor, a joy and a privilege, and carries great benefits for us as well. Interfacing directly with God through Biblical worship reveals our own nature, since we are in His image, and what we learn and experience in worship will shape our very hearts, to be more like Him in every way. And that is the purpose of our existence.  
This book is a series of essays on the subject of worship. Why do we worship? What principles drive and inform our worship? What are the different elements of a worship service and why do we do them? Throughout, we intend to go beyond going through the motions to see the heart of why we do what we do in worship. The theology of the Reformed branch of the Protestant Reformation informs us throughout.

It will be available on Amazon.com shortly as well.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Board games 

I got a new board game a couple days ago- Stone Age.  I've played it twice with the kids and it's great.  It's a resource management and worker placement game, and I really enjoy it.

I love playing games with the kids.  I think it's really valuable.  There's all sorts of things to learn and benefit from in a good game.  In Stone Age, you have to roll dice and divide by different numbers depending on what resource you're collecting.  So it works math skills, strategic thinking and planning ahead.  But besides that, most games I play with the kids give opportunities for lots of character building.  How to win and lose gracefully, how to follow rules, how to control temper and pride- I think these are all really valuable lessons.  I can observe my kids and see areas of their character where they need some growth.  And we just get to spend time together and have fun as a family.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Boredom 

What if you never got bored of things?  What if the same sunset that delighted you one day delighted you just as much the next day?  Or even more?  What if one particular piece of music just never got old?  What if you could pick a well-balanced meal that you loved and eat it and only it for a hundred years and never get tired of it?

Would that not significantly change the way one perceives the prospect of eternal life?  Perhaps the very existence of boredom, of the thirst for novelty, is a product of man's fall into sin.  I don't know.  I can't think of any Scriptures to support this one way or another.  It's just a thought.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fellowship 

If you are not learning to get along with other Christians, then you are not learning to be a Christian at all.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Values that Shape Us 

The Atlantic has published a really valuable article for understanding ISIS.

One thing that makes Protestantism superior to Catholicism is the burning of heretics.  Now of course the Protestants burned heretics along with the Catholics, but a Protestant can denounce the action, while a Catholic can't.  Heretics were burned by order of popes and councils, for example the Council of Constance which burned John Huss to death.  And in Roman Catholic theology, councils of the church are infallible.  I can say that the Genevan church was wrong to burn Servetus.  But the Roman Catholic can say no such thing about the Council of Constance.

Muslims have a similar problem.  No matter how modern and moderate a Muslim becomes, he cannot escape the example of Allah's true prophet, who held slaves, who married a nine year old, who practiced all sorts of barbarities.  The Islamic State says that anyone who rejects crucifixions and slavery rejects Islam, because it is to reject the practice of Muhammad and the teachings of the Koran, and they have a point.  As Christians, however, we can never go wrong by returning to the example of our founder, Jesus, whose values and teachings have shaped the modern world, values by which the members of that modern world judge people like ISIS even if they do not acknowledge the source of those values.

The Christian church at its very best attempts to emulates the true principles and practices of its founder.  Muslims at their best ignore the values of Islam's founder and adopt the values of the founder of Christianity instead.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

The New Testament Sabbath 

The purpose of the Sabbath Day was never intended to teach people to rest in God one day of the week and to trust their own hard work the other six.  That day was a token, a sign teaching them to trust God every day.  It is to me so sad to see that just like the Pharisees of Jesus' day, some of the most careful and scrupulous observers of Sabbath days today think that by their effort to scrupulously keep the Sabbath they are earning God's blessings, and their legalistic attitudes are seen the rest of the week in their frantic activity trying to do everything perfectly.

The New Testament Sabbath is the reality of which the Old Testament Sabbath was just a sign.  The New Testament Sabbath is the resting in Christ and His salvation every day, and doing it whether one is at church, at work, at play, or wherever.  It is not the observance of a day- those ceremonies passed away with Christ.  It is the observance of a mindset, one of faith and trust with God, every day.

Peace with God is the Key to Everything Else 

Most of what people spend their lives doing is trying to overcome the effects of the curse without ever actually dealing with the curse itself.  The reason we are separated from one another, why people are hateful and envious of one another, why people are at war with themselves, engage in destructive behaviors of substance abuse, drunkenness, promiscuity and the like, why nations go to war, why people wreck the planet, wreck their families, wreck their own bodies- all of it is because they are alienated with God.  The rest of that is God's curse on us for rebelling against Him.  So it is absolutely futile to try to solve any of those other problems without solving the one big problem.  We're not stronger than God, and we will never defy His curse against us.  So people work hard, or chase pleasure, or get educations, or lose themselves in entertainment,  all to try to feel peace and happiness in their lives, or at least avoid pain.  But they will fail, because God is God and He will execute His judgment.  If we accept reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ, though, the rest of it will all fall in line.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Political Correctness Built-in Self-Justification 

The great thing about political correctness is, that as long as your social experimentation continues to produce bad results and therefore produces people who sensibly point out the failures of your social experimentation, you can continue to blame the failures of your social experimentation on the bigotry of the people with the temerity to point it out.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Bet on the Proven Winner 

Two thousand years ago, when Christianity first came into the world, all the smartest, most educated, most powerful, richest and most admired men around believed it to be ridiculous nonsense, and said so loudly.  With long tradition, majority opinion and all the latest thinking behind them, they argued that men ought to worship the gods of the Roman pantheon as these had obviously led to the success of the Roman Empire, and that all the world believed in either the Roman gods or something very similar, and that this new religion was suitable only for the most ignorant and weakest in society, that it was a religion for slaves and women.

Now, two thousand years later, those arguing against Christianity are often the most educated, most powerful and most successful.  They have the wealth and prestige of the universities and governments of the world behind them.  Most of the most famous artists and musicians and scholars agree.  And they argue that Christianity is a religion for the ignorant and hateful, that it is absurd and cannot be taken seriously.  Yet their views of ethics and reality are far closer to Christianity than were those of Christianity's opponents from two thousand years ago.  Christianity's opponents have conceded much ground to Christianity, while Christianity continues as it always has.  Christianity has drastically altered the intellectual landscape of the world, and continues to do so.  People will continue to mock, but historically it has been the worldview of those who mock and ridicule Christianity which ends up on the dung-heap of history.

Christianity, this religion of women and slaves, is pretty much the same as it was two thousand years ago, and continues to cast down all opposition, continues to spread into all the world, not because of the prestige and status of those that champion it, but because it is true.  Jesus said that His kingdom would prevail and the gates of hell would not stand against it.  We have a two thousand year track record of victory, from 120 believers representing less than a millionth part of the world's population to two billion believers representing a third of that population, to confirm the truth of what He said.  Remember that the next time some rich, famous or prestigious person calls Christianity ridiculous and predicts its imminent demise.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

What Are You Looking Forward To? 

From Jay Adams:

Forget your New Years’ resolutions; they come from you. These wonderful events mentioned by Peter are no resolutions—they are the promises of God. 


Confession 

"Show your wounds to the Lord, the most excellent physician, and seek remedy from Him.  Show them to Him, who does not reproach but most gently heals."  John Chrysostom, on the value and importance of confession of sin to God.

Irony 

It's kind of funny when atheists post amazing pictures of the natural universe on Facebook or their websites and think that's supposed to detract somehow from the glory of the One who made the universe.  The more incredible we realize the universe to be, the less likely it is that it just accidentally happened.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Desperate Counter-attack 

From the Aquila Report, here's a great example of the dishonest tactics so often used to attack Christianity.  I think it should be taken as an unintended compliment, a tribute to the importance of Christianity.  If Christianity were irrelevant and dying, there'd be no need to go to all this effort.  That someone is willing to throw away their own intellectual credibility to make attacks like this just shows that it really does matter, and that the author of such attacks has very personal, non-intellectual reasons for being so desperate to find reasons not to submit to Jesus Christ.  Why not just ignore Jesus?  Because they can't.  This article feels to me like Hitler's last desperate attempts to defend Germany when his own generals all knew they were defeated.

At any rate, Michael Kruger does a great job of dismantling arguments that anyone with even a passing familiarity with church history would know were nonsense.  This is one really important reason to study church history, as we are doing at Christ Reformed- to recognize the foolishness of these kinds of slanders.

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