Here are the final two sermons in my recent series on the Book of Judges
Judges 17-18: "Everyone Did What Was Right in His Own Eyes"
Judges 19-21, "All the Men of Israel Drew the Sword"
Living in Light of Two Ages
Here are the final two sermons in my recent series on the Book of Judges
Judges 17-18: "Everyone Did What Was Right in His Own Eyes"
Judges 19-21, "All the Men of Israel Drew the Sword"
"These two versions of Jesus--the sketchy historical figure and the abstract theological creation--hold a tragic aspect for me, because I blame them for stealing something precious: the Jesus who taught his followers how to reach God-consciousness. I want to offer the possibility that Jesus was truly, as he proclaimed, a savior. Not the savior, not the one and only Son of God. Rather, Jesus embodied the highest level of enlightenment. He spent his brief adult life describing it, teaching it, and passing it on to future generations. Jesus intended to save the world by showing others the path to God-consciousness."
Who said that? Please, no google searches please. Leave your guess in the comments section below.
This is from Chopra's "The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore."
But then again Chopra's Jesus is a figment of his own imagination, so we must ignore him.
There's a good reason why Scott Clark is stenciling "Maverick" on everything he owns. This is too cool and yes, I am very jealous. Way to go Scott! Click here: Two Landings and One Ground Strike « Heidelblog
Here's another misguided guilt trip to get us to exercise more. This is also a good reason why context and the law-gospel distinction will save us from the tyranny of exercise nannies and the food police. Click here: Bible guides some in fitness routines - USATODAY.com
Since deep down inside Muslims know that the cross always trumps the crescent, the only way to stop the spread of the gospel is to arrest new converts to Christianity. Of course, what they don't know is that Christianity always spreads faster when government authorities try to stamp it out. Hint to Muslim authorities--the way to stop the spread of the gospel is to encourage these new Christians to adopt church growth techniques. That will do it every time. Click here: FOXNews.com - Report: Iran Arrests Suspected Converts to Christianity - International News | News of the World | M
OK, these "top hundred lists" are always flawed. But any list of the top 100 guitar songs which includes the Allman Brother's "Statesboro Blues," Jimi Hendrix's "Machine Gun, the Stones' "Can't You Hear Me Knocking?" can't be all wrong. But how did Prince make this list? And where is Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" and "Speed King"? Click here: The 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time : Rolling Stone
Synod condemns those . . .
VII Who teach that in this life there is no fruit, no awareness, and no assurance of one's unchangeable election to glory, except as conditional upon something changeable and contingent.
For not only is it absurd to speak of an uncertain assurance, but these things also militate against the experience of the saints, who with the apostle rejoice from an awareness of their election and sing the praises of this gift of God; who, as Christ urged, rejoice with his disciples that their names have been written in heaven (Luke 10:20); and finally who hold up against the flaming arrows of the devil's temptations the awareness of their election, with the question Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? (Rom. 8:33).
Like Roman Catholic theology, which argues that any notion of the assurance of salvation inevitably leads to presumption and laxity in the Christian life (the sin of presumption), so too, Arminians have argued that the ground of election is to be located in a Christian’s personal performance (faith and good works).
According to the Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, “No one...so long as he lives this mortal life, ought to regard to the sacred mystery of divine predestination, so far presume as to state with absolute certainty, that he is numbered of the predestined, as if it were true that the one justified either cannot sin any more, or, if he does sin, that he ought to promise himself an assured repentance. For except by special revelation, it cannot be known who God has chosen to Himself.” (Sixth Session, Chapter XII). As Rome sees the matter, no one can know that they are numbered among the elect. This lack of assurance supposedly motivates the faithful to lead godly lives and to persevere in good works to the end of their lives, so that they may be saved. In this scheme, the proper motivation for perseverance and good works is the fear of divine chastisement and/or eternal punishment. Clearly, Rome was afraid that believers who possessed assurance of their salvation would become morally lax, and live lives indifferent to good works and holy living.
Some Arminians have taken a very similar position. According to a work by Calvary Chapel pastor George Bryson, “by reducing perseverance to an inevitability all of the words of encouragement and warning are in a real sense wasted. But in Scripture, perseverance in holiness to the end is seen as the challenge and the goal of the Christian life. It should not be taken for granted. To say that perseverance is what we will do because we are true believers is to radically redefine the meaning of perseverance. Instead we need to see perseverance as what we ought to do because we are true believers. God is more than able and willing to help us persevere in holiness and faith. The question is are we willing to let Him help us persevere?” (George Bryson, The Five Points of Calvinism, 113).
For the Arminian, if the Christian believes, repents, and then lives a godly life unto the end, election is seen to be absolute and final. The Arminian argues that this must be the case, or else Christians will mistakenly presume that they are of the elect, and will not live godly lives, nor seek God’s favor as they ought. According to someone like Bryson, the Reformed view of election removes all incentive for both evangelism and good works. It was none other than John Wesley who argued that George Whitefield’s view of predestination (Reformed) was in error, since Whitefield’s Calvinism supposedly undermined the basis for the Christian life, which was, according to Wesley, fear of punishment and hope of reward. It is with this in mind that the Arminians will challenge the Reformed to make sense of the warnings throughout the Scriptures for believers to persevere.
The Canons are quick to point out that the exact opposite state of affairs is taught us in Holy Scripture. It is the believer’s assurance of salvation which serves as the basis for the good works we perform! As the authors of the Canons put it: “For not only is it absurd to speak of an uncertain assurance, but these things also militate against the experience of the saints, who with the apostle rejoice from an awareness of their election and sing the praises of this gift of God; who, as Christ urged, rejoice with his disciples that their names have been written in heaven (Luke 10:20); and finally who hold up against the flaming arrows of the devil's temptations the awareness of their election, with the question Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? (Rom. 8:33).”
This is also the clear teaching of John’s Gospel (John 15:1-16):
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”
According to Jesus, the elect are chosen for the purpose of bearing fruit, not the other way around!
People who live in fear of God are not energized to do good works. Instead, they are paralyzed! They live and act in fear. Since they are never sure of God’s favor toward them, any works they perform are based upon fear, and do come not from the gratitude arising from true faith. Even worse, such works are often performed in an attempt to leverage favor from God. As sinners, we all want more crowns and a bigger mansion! Often times people laboring under the Roman-Arminian misconception, may even end up doing their works with the goal of being saved in the end. Tragically, this leads to the real matter of presumption here, namely someone who believes that their "good" works will actually save them! Now that is the height of presumption!
It is only a Christian, who has the certain hope of heaven, who is truly free to obey the commandments of God! The Reformed have always argued that the warnings in Scripture are indeed valid, and the elect heed these warnings! The elect hear the shepherd’s voice! They believe the gospel. They flee to Christ when they fall into sin or struggle with doubt.
It must also be said that the Bible knows nothing of a person numbered among the elect, who will not be justified, and sanctified, before reaching glorification. At some point, the elect will indeed come to faith and be justified. And through the same act of faith which justifies, the life-time process of sanctification immediately begins. God begins the work (election). God sustains his work in time and space (faith and its fruits, repentance and good works). God sees it through to the end (perserverence)! Indeed, believers persevere not because we are strong enough, but because God is strong enough! We persevere, not because of our faith, but because of God’s faithfulness. We persevere not to be numbered among the elect, but because we are already numbered among the elect.
Tragically, it is Romanism and Arminianism which lead to a life of fear and doubt, not faith and a life of gratitude. As the author to the Hebrews proclaims, “without faith, it is impossible to please God.” Through faith in Christ, we are covered by the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ himself, and therefore every work which we perform--no matter how selfish or tainted by sin that work may be--is pleasing to God. Why? Because God cannot turn aside the righteousness of his Son in which we are clothed!
Former "Issues, Etc.," host Rev. Todd Wilken (along with his producer, Jeff Schwarz) will be back on Christian radio soon with a new daily broadcast. For more information, Click here: A New Issues Etc. is Arising!
The program will be totally independent, and free (blessedly so) from control of the LCMS "ABlaze" types. It will also be listener supported. This means you'll get confessional Lutheran theology along with Todd's sharp analysis of contemporary issues. As a Reformed guy, I can live with that!
Great to see this come about! Welcome back to Todd and Jeff! We missed you!
Evil in the Millennium? A Huge Problem for Premillennialism
No doubt, one of great strengths of premillennialism is its apparently straightforward reading of Revelation 19 and 20. If John depicts the Second Advent of Christ in Revelation 19, and in Revelation 20 he describes the millennial reign of Christ which follows, this would seem to establish some form of premillennialism. On the face of things, this appears to be a formidable argument in favor of premillennialism.
Therefore, when amillennarians attempt to challenge this point by contending that Revelation 20 is part of a different vision which recapitulates the events depicted in Revelation 19, we run headlong into the premillennial argument that amillennarians “spiritualize the Bible.” Supposedly, we don’t take John seriously when he speaks of a “literal” thousand years and a bodily resurrection (the “first” resurrection) associated with the second coming of Jesus Christ.
A “literal” reading of the text will make far more sense to Christians who are rightly suspicious of those who twist the biblical text to suit their own ends. A complicated argument for reading apocalyptic literature in what appears to be a non-literal way faces an uphill battle from the start. Thus it is easy for premillennarians to dismiss amillennialism as a viable alternative because it, apparently, does not comport with the plain sense of the critical millennial passage.
But the problem with premillennialism is that this particular interpretation, if true, creates far more serious theological problems than it solves, problems which are far too often overlooked by premillennarians. Suppose for the sake of argument, we grant that the premillennial understanding of the millennial age is the biblical one. What are the consequences of the premillennial interpretation of Revelation 20:1-10?
If premillennialism is true, this means that Jesus Christ returns to judge the world in Revelation 19 and that in Revelation 20 John is describing Christ’s future millennial reign. But what happens at the end of Christ’s millennial rule over the earth? According to Revelation 20:7-10, Satan is released from the abyss and immediately goes out to the four corners of the earth to deceive the nations (those same nations which have already been judged according to Revelation 19:15). Satan organizes them for battle against the camp of God’s people and the city that he loves–i.e., Jerusalem. This revolt ends when fire comes down from heaven and consumes the rebels along with the devil who deceived them.
But the nagging question remains. “Who are these people who are deceived by Satan, who then revolt against God, only to be consumed by fire from heaven?”
According to premillennarians, one group of people on the earth during the millennial age are the redeemed. No one believes that it is possible for such people who have been raised from the dead when Christ comes back, and who are now glorified, to participate in a revolt like the one depicted in Revelation 20. Therefore, those who revolt during the millennium must be individuals who have not yet been raised from the dead or who have not gone through the judgment when Christ returned to earth when the millennial age began. Dispensationalists believe that these are individuals who come to faith after the Rapture and survive the great tribulation and wrath of the Antichrist, while historic premillennarians believe that these are people living at the time of our Lord’s return who are not raised from the dead or judged, and who subsequently repopulate the earth during the millennial age.
But this conception of the millennial age is highly problematic despite the apparent “literal” reading of Revelation 20. According to premillennarians, the millennium is a period in redemptive history in which people who have been raised from the dead and who now live upon the earth in resurrected bodies co-exist with people who have not been raised from the dead and who remain in the flesh. How can this be? Where is this mixture of resurrected and unresurrected individuals taught, or even implied in the Scriptures? As we have seen, the New Testament writers all anticipate the final consummation to occur at the time of our Lord’s Second Advent. They do not anticipate the half-way step of an earthly millennium before the final consummation such as that associated with all forms of premillennalism.
Perhaps even more problematic is the following dilemma raised by the premillennial insistence upon people in natural bodies living on the earth alongside of Christ and his resurrected saints. How do people living on the earth at the time of Christ’s second coming escape the resurrection and the judgment? The Scriptures are very clear that Christ returns to judge the world, raise the dead and renew the cosmos. According to Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, those who have died in Christ are raised from the dead at his coming. Those who are Christ’s and who are still alive when he comes are caught up to meet the Lord in the air. This includes all believers, whether living or dead. But those who are not Christ’s, we are told, will face his wrath and will be taken away to face final judgment (Matthew 24:37-41). This includes all unbelievers living at the time of our Lord’s return. Therefore, premillennarians must explain just who, exactly, are these people in unresurrected bodies living during the millennium. How do we account for people who are not judged or raised from the dead at the time of our Lord’s Second Advent? This is especially problematic since Jesus himself clearly teaches that in the age to come his people will all be children of the resurrection (Luke 20:34-38). Furthermore, Paul states that “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50). The temporal has passed away, hence the impossibility of people in natural bodies repopulating the earth, after the second coming.
Because of the problem of evil and apostasy during the millennial age, premillennarians must attempt to deal with this problem by contending that the final judgment does not take place until after the thousand years have passed. In passages such as Matthew 25:31-46, where it is explicitly taught that the final judgment occurs when our Lord returns, premillennarians instead argue that there is a gap of one thousand years between our Lord’s return and the final judgment. But recall that premillennarians often insist that they are so, precisely because of the literal interpretation of the Scriptures and a reluctance to “spiritualize” prophetic portions of Scripture. So now we must ask our premillennial friends the obvious question, “where is the one thousand year gap between Christ’s return and the final judgment taught in the Scriptures?” It is not there. The gap must be inserted even though doing so violates the plain sense of the passage and the self-professed premillennial insistence upon a literal interpretation.
Therefore, the apparent strength of premillennialism is actually its biggest weakness. If premillennarians are correct about their reading of Revelation 20, the millennial age will be one in which Jesus rules upon the earth over people in resurrected and unresurrected bodies. Our Lord’s millennial rule will end with a massive Satanic deception of the nations and a revolt against Christ and his church after they have reigned upon the earth for a thousand years. If true, this millennial apostasy is tantamount to a second fall and not even resurrected and glorified saints are safe from the future wrath of Satan and the unbelieving nations. Although at first glance premillennarians may appear to have the plain sense of the passage on their side, the consequences of the premillennial interpretation cannot be easily dismissed.
Therefore, a second glance at the passage is in order, especially given the nature of apocalyptic literature. The scene in Revelation 20 is indeed a recapitulation of Revelation 19 and as such, constitutes a new vision distinct from that in Revelation 19. The language of Revelation 20 is highly symbolic, depicting not a future state of affairs, but the present victory of Christ, who ensures that his people come to life and reign with him in heaven, despite the persecution and martyrdom faced by the faithful on the earth. Elsewhere, the New Testament clearly speaks of a coming apostasy at the end of the age (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12), and the same event is likely depicted by John from a different perspective in Revelation 20:7-10.
The interpretive choice is obvious: either we take John’s depiction of the millennium to be a description of the present reign of Christ and the triumph of God’s people over those who seek to destroy them (amillennialism), or else we must see Revelation 20 as depicting a millennial age after Christ’s return in which people co-exist in resurrected and unresurrected bodies and which ends in a Satanically-energized apostasy, interrupted by fire from heaven consuming those rebellious apostates who have lived under Christ’s earthly rule only to fall victim to Satanic deception (premillennialism). The presence of evil and the mixing of redeemed and unredeemed individuals living together on earth during the millennial age makes the premillennial interpretation highly untenable--a point premillennarians too often ignore.
This is an edited excerpt from my book, A Case for Amillennialism. For more information, Click here: Riddleblog - A Case for Amillennialism - Understanding the End
We often speak of the "Keswick Movement" on the White Horse Inn. Here are a series of lectures detailing the history of the Keswick movement, along with an analysis of some of its weaknesses (h.t. Lee Irons). Click here: Andy Naselli » Blog Archive » Keswick Theology
So, Rick Warren's Peace Plan version 2.0 is ready to go. Warren tackles everything from spiritual emptiness to poverty. I don't know much about how to fight world poverty, but I do know that the biblical solution to "spiritual emptiness" is word and sacrament--emphasis upon which is missing, of course, from Warren's cure for "spiritual emptiness." Click here: Rebooting PEACE | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction
I hate the nanny state. Here's another reason why. Click here: Health and safety zealots tell youngster her 2ft paddling pool needs a lifeguard | Mail Online
Dr. Phil likes T. D. Jakes. So Dr. Phil is helping Jakes get his own national T.V. talk show in the Fall. Swell. How will Jake's version of modalism and his prosperity gospel help TV viewers? I can just see Jakes now, walking back and forth, wiping his sweaty brow, ranting, "Viewer, Thou Art Loosed Loosed!" "Reposition Yourselves." Click here: Dr. Phil eyes Potter's preacher.
Although this is a busy time of year for me, I was finally able to get to the one book I've been dying to read--John Muether's biography of Cornelius Van Til (John R. Muether, Cornelius Van Til: Reformed Apologist and Churchman, P & R, 2008).
I won't bore you with another book review. There are several outstanding reviews already. But I will, however, exhort you to get this book and read it! Thanks to John Muether, I was at long last able to connect a bunch of dots that I had never been able to connect before. Not only that, this is a well-written and appreciative look at very complicated and important man.
There's a reason why this book was so helpful to me. Back in the day when I was making the difficult transition from dispensational evangelicalism to Reformed theology, I'll never forget finding these ugly gray syllabi by some "Dutch guy." The clerk at the venerable "Christian Discount Book Center" in Norwalk, CA. (which introduced countless Southern Californians to Reformed theology), told me this stuff was must reading. I bought and read Van Til's Defense of the Faith, and came way with far more questions than answers. Van Til's Survey of Christian Epistemology was next. Now, that was a tough read for a newbie.
To make a long story short, I ended up studying under John Warwick Montgomery (at the now defunct Simon Greenleaf School of Law) before attending the brand new Westminster campus in California in 1981 (at Montgomery's urging, by the way). At Westminster Seminary California, I learned Van Til at the feet of John Frame. Given my personal interest in Old Princeton (generally) and B. B. Warfield in particular, I found myself in an apologetic "no-man's land" of sorts. I knew Warfield, Machen, and Van Til did not have an Arminian bone in their bodies. Hence, Van Til's critique of Warfield struck me as odd. I also knew that Montgomery's apologetic was more like Warfield's and Machen's than Van Til's. I had read enough of Van Til to know that Frame had modified Van Til significantly. Then, there was Francis Schaeffer. Frame and Montgomery loved him (each with some methodological concerns). But Van Til had grave reservations. Confused? I was.
I ended up teaching apologetics for a number of years at Simon Greenleaf with Montgomery, Walter Martin (a big fan of J. O. Buswell), Harold Lindsell, and of course, my dear friend Rod Rosenbladt. Listening to these men talk about their personal affection for both Buswell and Gordon Clark (while dismayed about their "rationalism") was interesting. Van Til was universally praised for his response to Barth, but his apologetic "under-appreciated" Christian evidences.
So with that bit of history and with my "unconnected dots" in mind, I ran into Muether's fine book. Among the connections Muether made for me:
As I say, there is much here to think about. That is why I urge you to read this book.
And thanks to John Muether for connecting so many dots!
The Fifteenth in a Series of Sermons on the Book of Joshua
Just as he promised he would do, YHWH fought on the side of Israel. After an extended military campaign, the armies of Israel wiped out two large Canaanite armies. Joshua’s men captured thirty-one Canaanite cities, killing everyone in them including their kings. At long last, God’s people dwell in peace in that good land God which had promised to give them. But this comes only after Israel was delivered from four hundred years of bondage and slavery in Egypt, after entering into a covenant with YHWH at Mount Sinai, after wandering throughout the Sinai desert for forty years, after crossing the Jordan River on dry ground and then conquering Jericho, as well as defeating two large Amorite armies and a host of other Canaanite tribes. In Joshua 11:23, Joshua simply says, “the land had rest from war.” With these words, we have reached yet another turning point in the great redemptive drama. The land once promised to Israel is now their home. The promise has become reality. We now shift from the account of battle (the Conquest) to a distribution of the spoils of war as YHWH gives his people legal title to the land.
We now fast-forward from the end of chapter 11 (where we left off last time), to verses 1-9 of chapter 20. The reason for skipping so far ahead in our study of Joshua has to do with the structure of the book itself. In Joshua 12, we find a detailed list of the thirty-one kings defeated by Moses and Joshua. Chapters 13-21 contain a lengthy and very detailed description of how the land of Canaan was divided up among the various tribes of Israel and their families. Understandably, most readers find themselves drawn to the dramatic first half of the book, while these detailed lists in the next section of Joshua are not as interesting. The materials in these chapters are, in effect, legal documents (deeds), which ensure that the land of Canaan is properly distributed to each tribe jut as Moses commanded. This entire section of Joshua stands as a glorious testimony to the fact that God is faithful to his promise and that he will give his people their inheritance. If you have read through this section of Joshua, you know that preaching through these chapters would be like the reading of a will in which someone’s massive estate was divided up among family members. Very important stuff. But not very preachable. So, we now fast forward to chapter twenty.
Although we are skipping over this lengthy description of the “divvying up of the land,” there are several important things mentioned in these chapters which are well-worth highlighting.
The first of these is the mention of Joshua’s advanced age and a reference to several outlying areas still to be captured by Israel. In Joshua 13:1, we read that “now Joshua was old and advanced in years, and the LORD said to him, `You are old and advanced in years, and there remains yet very much land to possess.’” This is not merely a declaration that Joshua was old–by now that was certainly the case–this is also an important announcement to the people of Israel that there was still much to do. In order for the people to possess legal title to the land, this must be done while Joshua, the covenant mediator, is still alive. The armies of Israel must capture the remaining outlying areas and Joshua must apportion the land among the twelve tribes so that the promised inheritance is actually realized before he dies.
To read the rest of this sermon, click here
"I know, I know, it says in the Bible that homosexuality is an abomination. But isn’t that the same Bible that says you should stone to death heretics or anyone who doesn’t believe the same things you do? Isn’t that what we call terrorists, fanatics, or fundamentalists in another country?"
You know the drill. Leave your guess in the comments section below. Please, no google searches or cheating!
This hermeutically-challenged diatribe comes from Sally Quinn--famous reporter for the Washington Post. This was Quinn's response to the religious outcry regarding the California Supreme Court's recent decision on gay marriage. This comes from a regular column "On Faith" which can be found here: Click here: Sally Quinn: What's Wrong with Gay Marriage? - On Faith at washingtonpost.com