Archive - July, 2007

Women in Ministry and the Home

I did a series of posts on Calvinism – Arminianism last week. I thought I’d proceed to the topic of my more recent (and final) TBI paper: the complementarian – egalitarian debate. This time, Wayne Grudem gave the five-hour seminar (as he was in town visiting, normally John Piper teaches it following these notes). Grudem unpacked the main points in his book Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth: An Analysis of More Than 100 Disputed Questions. As usual, we were asked to read a book representing “the other side” and then respond. I choose to read Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy. The book, a fair and articulate expression of egalitarianism, is a collection of essays on various issues pertaining to the debate.
For my paper I decided to interact with the views of William Webb, who wrote a very interesting book entitled Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis. Webb contributed twop essays to Discovering Biblical Equality. Here is the executive summary of my paper responding to Webb:

William Webb argues that the Bible prescribes the continuance of slavery and the subjugation of women to male leadership in marriage and the church. On both issues, the Bible, while more progressive than the culture of its day, only points to God’s “ultimate ethic” on these matters. Consequently, modern-day Christians have recognized the “redemptive spirit” in the biblical texts and (appropriately) emancipated slaves. By the same logic, Webb argues, women should be viewed as functional equals in marriage and the church, such that gender-based leadership restrictions are completely lifted.
Webb’s hermeneutic is severely flawed by a failure to apply biblical theology. The New Testament is the final revelation of God (Heb. 1:1-2) and, as such, possesses final moral authority for Christians today. Though it regulates slavery, the New Testament never commands Christians to own slaves and actually implies that freedom is preferable (I Cor. 7:21; Philemon). Marriage (unlike slavery) is a creation ordinance, and the apostles root their instruction on gender-based roles in marriage and the church on the order of creation and the Christ-church dynamic, both of which are transcultural.

In subsequent posts I will (as last time) provide a (hopefully) fair and succinct representation of Webb’s view, and then my response. The page limit on this paper was twice as long as for my Calvinism – Arminianism paper.

John Piper on “Future Justification”

The Future of Justification 2.JPG John Piper will be “weighing in” on the important, controversial topic of justification and the works of believers with a significant book called The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright–which, in case you missed it, is a play on words, since Wright and others like to talk of justification as being “future” (pronounced at the end of a believer’s life, and based on one’s faith in Christ and the works that flow from that faith). The other day DG posted a portion of the conclusion chapter. Here’s an excerpt:

Our only hope for living the radical demands of the Christian life is that God is totally for us now and forever. Therefore, God has not ordained that living the Christian life should be the basis of our hope that God is for us. That basis is the death and righteousness of Christ, counted as ours through faith alone. All the punishment required of us because of our sin, Christ endured for us on the cross. And all the obedience that God required of us, that he, as our Father, might be completely for us and not against us forever, Christ has performed for us in his perfect obedience to God.
This punishment and this obedience (not all obedience) is completed and past. It can never change. Our union with Christ and the enjoyment of these benefits is secure forever. Through faith alone, God establishes our union with Christ. This union will never fail, because in Christ, God is for us as an omnipotent Father who sustains our faith and works all things together for our everlasting good. The one and only instrument through which God preserves our union with Christ is faith in Christ—the purely receiving act of the soul.

I was blessed to have been able to read an early version of the manuscript. This book is a tour de force that will make a substantial impact on this crucial issue.

Mohler on Homosexuality

Dr. Mohler explains that even though our society is increasingly accepting of homosexuals, we nevertheless have a deep-rooted, intuitive understanding that intimate same-sex relationships are neither natural or normal.

Global Church Advancement (GCA) Conference

In the midst of getting ready to move to Riverside, CA, my wife allowed me to sneak out of the house on Friday to catch the last two sessions of The Global Church Advancement conference (geared for church planters) was held at the north campus of Bethlehem Baptist Church. The long list of speakers included John Piper, Ed Stetzer, Randy Pope, and Steve Childers, and there were both large-group sessions as well as many advanced training workshops.
The banner over the entire conference was that the advancement of the church is the hope of the world. The leadership held out a beautiful, robust vision of church planting in America with a view to the nations both in our midst and beyond our borders–all undergirded and motivated by the supremacy of God’s glory in Christ, the One who is building His church. The importance of church planting today is clear: Even the USA, once assumed Christianized by many, has now become one of the largest, most fertile mission fields in the world. Since 1990, when there were 27 churches for every 10,000 people in the U.S., the spread of churches has fallen behind demographic growth so that there are now only 12 churches for every 10,000 people (Ref: Lost in America, T. Clegg).
The last session, entitled “The Main Thing,” featured Steve Childers walking us through the eight things that every church planter should know before planting a church. The following is not an authoritative blog by any means; just my scribblings as best as I can now read them. I thought I’d pass them along for whatever it may be worth.

1. A biblical view of success

Childers defined success as “faithfully pleasing God with all the resources and responsibilities He has given you.” Leave the results up to God, and find joy in who you are in Him, not in what they do for Him. Don’t sacrifice others on the altar of success. The book Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome by Kent Hughes was recommended. (Steve elsewhere mentioned that every church planter should have the book The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict to deal with inevitable interpersonal conflict as it arises.)
2. Managing Your Time vs. Managing Your Life
The key is not to prioritize your schedule but to schedule your priorities. The urgent easily crowds out the important. An exalted sense of self-importance (a.k.a., pride) drives workaholicism. The root of anxiety and fear is likewise pride.
Steve recounted that he was personally advised to have one hour a day with his family, totally unplugged (no media). In addition, one day/week. And once a month, two days in a row (with intentional inclusion of his wife). And a minimum of two weeks/year. It takes at least three days away from the stress of a job to really be on vacation.

3. Understand the difference between goals and desires.

Goals are things that are in your control. Desires are things that are outside your control. Work hard on your goals. Pray for your desires. Examples of goals include daily Bible reading and prayer for one’s self, wife/kids, and church. Examples of desires include things like “ten conversions over the upcoming year.”
4. God is a Father, not just a General and a Master.

5. The way up is the way down.

God is opposed to the proud. God shows strength primarily via human weakness (I Cor 1). God can glorify Himself by your lack of resources or by your renouncing your dependence upon those resources.
6. People or programs
It is hard to lead (programs), but it is harder to love (people). The latter is more vital.
7. Process living vs. product living
Discontentment is sometimes cast in the form of objectives (we can’t be happy until we accomplish X). Joy in process lasts longer than joy in the product. Most of life is process. Enjoy the process.

8. Make the main thing the main thing.

Behold the beauty of God. Keep the Great Commandment central.

SBJT on the Atonement

From a Southern Seminary press release:

Essayists in the Summer 2007 edition of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology (SBJT) interact with both evangelical and non-evangelical scholars who reject the penal substitutionary view of the cross, and contributors defend the historic orthodox view of Christ’s atoning death in the place of wrath-deserving sinners.

Another excerpt:

“Sadly, some of the standard objections to penal substitution outside of evangelical theology are creeping their way into evangelical treatments of the cross,” Wellum writes.
“[Some evangelicals] are embracing a typical, yet awful caricature of penal substitution, by arguing that a substitutionary view of the cross does not present us with a loving God but a sadistic one who delights in the abuse of his Son—a kind of divine child abuse. All of these criticisms are groundless and usually reflect a caricature of substitutionary atonement as well as the impoverishment of the critic’s own theology and understanding of Scripture.”

The Atonement in Focus
Vol. 11, No. 2, Summer 2007
Editorial: Stephen J. Wellum “Articulating, Defending, and Proclaiming Christ our Substitute”
Gregg Allison “A History of the Doctrine of the Atonement”
Peter J. Gentry “The Atonement in Isaiah’s Fourth Servant Song” (Isaiah 52:13-53:12)
Derek Tidball “Songs of the Crucified One: The Psalms and the Crucifixion”
Simon Gathercole “The Cross and Substitutionary Atonement”
Barry C. Joslin “Christ Bore the Sins of Many: Substitution and the Atonement in Hebrews”
The SBJT Forum “The Atonement under Fire”
Only limited articles are available online. For the complete journal, please order the print copy from the office of The Southern Baptist Theological Journal (journaloffice@sbts.edu).

Albert Mohler on Mormonism

Dr. Mohler has been debating with Orson Scott Card on the question “Are Mormons ‘Christians?'” His concluding post includes this excerpt:

The debate is not over the right of Mormons to hold their faith, promote their faith, and spread their faith. That, too, is a constitutional right – the same right that protects the religious liberty of all persons of all faiths and no faith.
For me, and as the question was posed to me, the issue is theological. That is why I cannot answer the question except as I have from the start.
Here is the bottom line. As an Evangelical Christian – a Christian who holds to the “traditional Christian orthodoxy” of the Church – I do not believe that Mormonism leads to salvation. To the contrary, I believe that it is a false gospel that, however sincere and kind its adherents may be, leads to eternal death rather than to eternal life.

Read the whole thing.
Related: Important new book on the humanity and deity of Christ.

Calvinism vs. Arminianism – IV

I previously summarized the position of Walls and Dongell.
Response to Walls and Dongell
Walls and Dongell make three unwarranted assumptions: (1) that God cannot love people whom He allows to remain in sin; (2) that God cannot have two levels of “wishing,” whereby He simultaneously desires that all be saved (I Tim. 2:4), but decrees that not all receive electing love (Rom. 9:20-24); and (3) that God is obligated by His character to show saving mercy to everyone. They distort the Scriptures by reading these philosophical commitments into the biblical texts. In short, they reject Calvinism because they cannot understand why, given compatibilism and electing love, God would not save everyone. But our discomfort ought not to be mistaken for inconsistency within Calvinism. On the contrary, the doctrine of election, properly understood, is a comfort to Christians (Rom. 8:28-30), a reason to praise God (Eph. 1:5-6), and a motivation for evangelism (since God guarantees some will be saved, II Tim. 2:10). It is by God’s wisdom that the elect do not differ from the non-elect, except that He chooses them (Deut. 7:7). God is glorified by our total dependence upon Him for salvation (I Cor. 1:21-31). The elect receive mercy, and the non-elect receive justice. None receive injustice. Biblically, it is incorrect to conclude that God is obligated by His character to show saving mercy to all (Ezek 36:22-32). As sinners we are not in a position to presume upon grace.
Electing grace is explicitly taught in the Bible (Acts 13:48; 16:14; Eph. 1:12; I Thes. 1:4-5; II Thes. 2:13; II Tim. 1:9; I Pet. 2:9; Rev. 13:7-8). Predestination is in love toward the elect (Eph. 1:3-12). John 6:37 speaks both of our coming to Christ, and of our being given to Christ by the Father (cf. John 17:2, 6, 9, 24). This is compatibilism, just like the account of Joseph, whom God “sent” to Egypt (Ps. 105:17) by the means of his wicked brothers, who meant evil in the same act in which God intended good (Gen. 50:19-20). On the one hand, humans act freely (i.e., according to their desires). On the other hand, God sovereignly accomplishes His objectives through these very same acts (cf. Acts 2:23). In salvation, God causes us to be born again (I Pet. 1:3), so that we are made alive spiritually (Eph. 2:1-4), and therefore freely choose to embrace Christ as our indescribably beautiful Savior, Lord, and Treasure (Mat. 13:44).
Indeed, nothing ultimately stops God from saving everyone, except for His divine prerogative, by which not all are the recipients of His electing love. But God nevertheless loves the non-elect, for God is love (I John 4:8). This does not mean that love is God or that God is nothing but love, but rather that love is central to God’s being and therefore present in all His attributes and dealings with man, including His anger toward sin and sinners (Ps. 7:11; 11:5; 78:62). Christ’s death on the cross flowed from a salvific, loving posture toward a wicked world in full, open rebellion against Him. Out of this love, God showers undeserved blessings upon everyone—blessings which are meant to encourage repentance (Matt. 5:44-45; Acts 14:17; Rom. 2:4). And out of this love, God has chosen an innumerable array of people from every nation and tribe to be adopted into His family (Rev. 5:9). In terms of God’s intention, Christ died effectively for the elect—in the same way the Bible consistently speaks of God’s saving love for the elect only (Deut. 7:7-8; 10:14-15; Mal. 1:2-3; Eph. 5:25).
It is not contradictory for the world to be under both God’s condemnation and love. For example, Moab is so wicked that God says: “Make her drunk, for she has defied the Lord. Let Moab wallow in her vomit…” (Jer. 48:26), but for this same Moab God also “wails” and “cries out” and “moans like a flute” (Jer. 48:31-36). In His sovereign will, He approves of her judgment; as a loving Creator, He grieves that it must be so.
It is not contradictory to speak of God desiring that all men repent and be saved, while only willing that this occur for the elect. Consider Pharaoh, whose heart was hardened by God, such that he disobeyed God’s wish (expressed via Moses) that he let Israel go to worship. Or Eli’s sons, who lay with the women serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting and when warned that their wickedness would have consequences, “would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death (I Sam. 2:22-25).” So while God surely did not condone their sexual immorality, it was (in another sense) His will that it persist. Moreover, the same Hebrew word for “willed” (haphez) used in I Sam. 2:25 is used in Ezek. 18:23,32 and 33:11 where God asserts he has no “pleasure” in the death of the wicked. So while God may not desire (in one sense) that wicked people die, He may (justly) deem that it be so. The biblical witness is that it is sensible to speak of God having a sovereign will (which always comes to pass) and a moral will (which reflects those things which accord with His character).
By analogy, it is reasonable to make a genuine gospel offer to everyone. Not all will respond and be saved. The offer is legitimate in that all who respond affirmatively will be received. Statements such as, “Christ died so that everyone who trusts in Him will escape the wrath of God, have their sins forgiven, and enjoy everlasting life” are biblically accurate and not disingenuous: God generally longs for everyone to be saved (I Tim. 2:4, II Pet. 3:9, Ezek. 18:23). Further, these statements express not just what God has done, but what man must do to receive the benefits: man (not God) does the repenting and believing. God ordains not only the salvation of the elect, but that their saving faith be awakened by the means of faithful gospel proclamation to all (Acts 16:14; Rom. 10:14). Since only God knows who will be saved, we are prohibited from discriminating.
Finally, Walls’ and Dongell’s view leads to justifiable boasting, since the elect differs from the non-elect only due to the prudent choice of the former, God having provided them both with an identical measure of graceful wooing to Himself. This directly contradicts God’s plan to retain all the glory in salvation (I Cor. 1:28-31; Isa. 48:11; Eph. 2:8-9).
By either view, God allows many to suffer eternal torment. For Walls and Dongell, God’s will to save all is restrained by the higher good of relationships with God only possible via human self-determination. For Calvinists, the greater value is the manifestation of the full range of God’s glory in both mercy and wrath, so that the saints’ rejoicing is intensified by the exhibition of wrath that they, too, deserved (Rom. 9:22-24). The latter is both biblically defensible and not contrary to God’s genuine love and saving posture toward every person.
—————————————————————————————————————————————-
Read the entire paper in PDF format (five pages; includes some foot notes).
Resources Consulted
1. D.A. Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, Wheaton: Crossway, 2000.
2. Wayne Grudem, SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994. (partially reviewed here and here)
3. Hywel R. Jones, “Is God Love?” Banner of Truth Magazine 412 (Jan 1998), 10-16.
4. John MacArthur, The Love of God: He Will Do Whatever It Takes to Make Us Holy, Dallas: Word, 1996.
5. John Piper, “Are There Two Wills in God?” Pages 107-131 in Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge, and Grace. Edited by Thomas R. Schreiner and Bruce A. Ware.
6. Jerry Walls and Joe Dongell, Why I Am Not A Calvinist, Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press,
2004.

Online ESV Bible Launches iPhone Site

From a Crossway press release:
Crossway Celebrates 5 Years of Online ESV Bible by Launching iPhone Site
Crossway Bibles celebrated the fifth anniversary of its dedicated ESV Bible web site on July 22 with the launch of a free web site optimized for the new Apple iPhone. The web site offers the complete, searchable text of the ESV Bible plus a variety of daily Bible readings.
A Crossway partner has also developed an ESV iPhone application. AcroDesign Technologies last week launched iBibleSpace, which offers the complete ESV Bible text plus a daily Bible verse, several podcasts, and other features. “At the present time, iBibleSpace is far and away the best Bible app available for the iPhone,” wrote Rick Mansfield of the blog “This Lamp” in a review just after the launch of iBibleSpace.
Geoffrey Dennis, Crossway Vice President of Sales and Marketing, says, “Apple’s iPhone revolutionizes the mobile phone market, and we want the ESV to be at the forefront of that revolution. Crossway and our partners are committed to providing the ESV Bible in many formats on many devices—we want people to be able to access the ESV wherever, whenever, and however they want to.”
“Apple has made developing iPhone web applications easy by integrating a full-fledged web browser into the device: Apple instantly turned every web developer into an iPhone developer,” says Crossway Webmaster Stephen Smith. “Visits by mobile devices to Crossway’s family of web sites have grown significantly over the past few months, and we expect iPhones and other next-generation devices to further popularize mobile web browsing.”

Calvinism vs. Arminianism – III

The Central Message of Why I Am Not a Calvinist by Jerry Walls and Joe Dongell
Note: Jerry Walls was kind enough to read and approve this summary of their book’s message.
Jerry Walls (a philosopher) and Joe Dongell (a biblical scholar) of Asbury Seminary have teamed up to write a provocative book entitled Why I Am Not a Calvinist. Their central message is:

The character of the Calvinistic God is severely maligned by the fact that His need to glorify Himself comes at the expense of the damnation of a significant percentage of His sinful human population throughout history, whom He could save (with their compatibilist freedom intact) with the same relative ease that He exercises in the saving of other sinners, from whom they differ in no significant way. Such a God, who arbitrarily subjects endless misery on creatures for failing to love Him when they could not possibly do otherwise, cannot be worthy of our reverence, awe, and adoration.

Four key aspects of this message:
I. Compatibilism makes the general offer of salvation insincere, since (a) the non-elect are unable to affirmatively respond; (b) it cannot genuinely be said that Christ died for everyone; and (c) God is unwilling to save all. Given these difficulties, Calvinists are (unconsciously) inconsistent in their message, suggesting that the gospel offer can be responded to by all (when it cannot), and that God truly wants everyone to be saved (which apparently He does not). The pervasive acceptance of such inconsistencies makes Calvinism’s credibility unwarranted.
II. Calvinism argues that God must display wrath in order to show forth the full spectrum of His attributes, and so God, though able to save all, has ordained some to experience wrath (Rom. 9:20-24). But this makes God (ironically) dependent upon man; He needs evil creatures to be the just recipients of wrath in order to glorify His Name. By implication, God cannot be said to love the non-elect in any meaningful way. The Arminian God truly does not want to display wrath on any of His creatures; He is doing everything He can to see them repent and be saved (short of coercing their will, which would render a genuine relationship impossible).
III. Accountability and responsibility only extend as far as human ability. Since God is love, He is obligated (not by man’s merit, but by His own internal nature) to try to do all He can to help humans flourish. If hell is a consequence of rejecting God, then He must enable man to at least have the ability to accept Him. But Calvinism’s view that electing grace is withheld from the non-elect makes God cruel and arbitrary when He later condemns them.
IV. Scriptural passages that assert the universal saving will of God (I Tim. 2:4, II Pet. 3:9, Ezek. 18:23) and the general love of God (John 3:16, I John 2:2, Luke 15:1-7) imply that God must be making genuine efforts to save everyone from everlasting wrath (rather than helping just a select few with electing grace, and leaving the rest to persist in their sins).
Note: Compatibilism is the view that God’s sovereignty and man’s free agency are not contradictory, but compatible. God’s sovereign will is accomplished by the means of humans acting according to their desires. Effectual grace means that God woos sinners to Himself in such a way that they freely come. God does not reject people who come to Him (John 6:37). Nor does He drag people into heaven against their will.
In my next post, I’ll give my response to Walls and Dongell.
Related: Previous posts on Calvinism vs. Arminianism (Part 1, Part 2)

Mark Dever on Calvinism and Arminianism

Speaking of the Calvinism – Arminianism debate, Mark Dever offers this important reminder:

The real front line is not between Calvinist evangelicals and Arminian evangelicals. It is between those who are lost in their sins and those who have been saved by God’s sheer grace in Christ.

Read the whole post, in which Dever discusses his church background and involvement in Together For the Gospel. BTW, why is Dever the only one blogging over at the T4G blog?

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