Social Network Links
Powered by Squarespace
Search the Riddleblog
"Amillennialism 101" -- Audio and On-Line Resources

 

Living in Light of Two Ages

____________________________

Thursday
Nov132008

Got Plans for Friday Night Yet?

Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim is holding our Fall, 2008, Author's Forum. Our speaker is Dr. Scott Clark, Professor of Church History and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary California.  Dr. Clark (who needs little introduction on this blog) will be discussing his new book, Recovering the Reformed Confession (P & R).

This is a great chance to meet Dr. Clark, learn more about his book, and even get him to sign a copy for you!

The Author's Forum will be held Friday night (November 14) @ 7:30 p.m.  The Author's Forum is free of charge, and refreshments will be served.  For more information, Click here: Christ Reformed Info - Directions to Christ Reformed Church

Thursday
Nov132008

The Canons of Dort, Second Head of Doctrine, Rejection of Errors, Article Three

Synod condemns those . . .

III Who teach that Christ, by the satisfaction which he gave, did not certainly merit for anyone salvation itself and the faith by which this satisfaction of Christ is effectively applied to salvation, but only acquired for the Father the authority or plenary will to relate in a new way with men and to impose such new conditions as he chose, and that the satisfying of these conditions depends on the free choice of man; consequently, that it was possible that either all or none would fulfill them.

For they have too low an opinion of the death of Christ, do not at all acknowledge the foremost fruit or benefit which it brings forth, and summon back from hell the Pelagian error.

_________________________________

The third error promulgated by the Dutch Arminians to be dealt with by the authors of the Canons, is an error which is also tied to the modified governmental theory of the atonement, typical of Dutch Arminianism.  As devotees of the governmental theory see it, the death of Christ does not merit or accomplish anything in particular. Rather, through the death of Christ, God’s love and moral governorship of the universe is displayed, since the death of Christ supposedly shows us how seriously God regards human sinfulness.

As the Arminian theologian Limborch states, “the death of Christ is called a satisfaction for sin; but sacrifices are not payments of debts, nor are they full satisfactions for sins; but a gratuitous remission is granted when they are offered.” Notice the slippery use of language by the Arminian, since the Arminian declares that the death of Christ is a "satisfaction."  But when doing so, they mean something far different than do the Reformed and the biblical writers when they use the same term. For Limborch and the Arminians, “the atonement is a satisfaction.” But it is a "satisfaction" because it demonstrates how seriously God takes sin, and because God has arbitrarily determined to accept it as such.

Notice in the Arminian scheme what the atonement is not. The death of Christ is not the payment in full of the debt
we owe to satisfy God's holy justice because of our sins.  Nor is the atonement a payment for sin which is in any sense directly connected to the retributive justice of God--in which sin must be punished to the exact degree that it is an offence to God's holiness.

Remember, the Reformed have previously argued in great detail that even a single sin requires infinite punishment, since even a single sin is an offence to God’s infinite holiness. For the Arminian, however, God arbitrarily decides to accept the sacrifice of Christ as a "satisfaction," just as he arbitrarily decided to accept the blood of bulls as a sacrifice for sin under the Old Covenant.  These are not seen as a payment, or necessary to satisfy his retributive justice. Instead, God’s arbitrary decision to accept these things means that the purpose of the sacrifice and the satisfaction is simply to demonstrate that God takes sin seriously, and that in the cross his justice is displayed.  In the Arminian scheme, there is no necessity whatsoever for Christ to die if sinners are to be saved.  The cross may be the best way, but not the only way.

An additional bit of fall-out from Arminian's governmental theory of the atonement arbitrarily linking the death of Christ to God’s saving purpose, is now addressed by the Canons. This is the notion that the atonement is not necessary if any are to be saved, and that the death of Christ is not required to secure faith for the elect.  According to the Arminians, even after the Fall, men and women supposedly retain some measure of free-will. 

In classical Arminianism, the cross, as a demonstration of God’s love and justice, is not effectual, only provisory.  Since the atonement secures prevenient grace for all, the Arminian contends that the death of Christ is for all people in general, but for no one in particular.  Therefore, the cross of Christ does nothing for anyone until such time as a person uses their free-will and "appropriates" and "co-operates" with this universal grace, which then enables them to come to faith. This means that the death of Christ is of no avail for anyone.  It merely makes provision for all who choose to believe. Those who use their free-will and co-operate with grace, can thereby come to faith in Christ, and finally receive the benefits of his death. This, of course, finds no support in Scripture.

As we have seen throughout Dort's Second Head of Doctrine, the saving operations of God are nowhere in Scripture
said to be directed to the world in general, but always directed to the specific individuals whom God intends to save. We have also seen that the Scriptures teach that the wills of all men and women are not free, but remain in bondage to the sinful nature. Therefore, they cannot exercise their free-will and come to faith in Christ, since they are enslaved to sin. They do not want to believe the gospel, nor embrace the Savior through faith.

The Scriptures clearly teach that until we are “made alive in Christ” (Ephesians 2:1-5; Colossians 2:13), until we are drawn to Christ (John 6:44; 65), until we are born again (John 3:3-6), and unless and until we are transformed from bad trees into good trees, we cannot believe (Matthew 7:15 ff). It is the death of Christ, which, in a certain sense can be said to purchase faith for the elect.  This does not mean that God believes for the person who comes to faith, but it does mean that God alone can change the human heart from a heart of stone into a heart of flesh.  God alone can change us from a tree which can only bear bad fruit, into a tree which bears fruit in keeping with repentance.  He does this for all those for whom Christ has died.  In that sense then, it is the death of Christ which secures for the elect faith and repentance, since it is the death of Christ which effectually turns aside God’s wrath toward his elect, thereby enabling him to grant them eternal life and the new birth, which inevitably manifests itself in conversion, i.e., “faith and repentance.”

And yet the Arminian stubbornly refuses to admit this.  They cling to the notion that for the cross of Christ to be of any benefit whatsoever, the sinner must use their own free-will and "appropriate" the death of Christ and apply its saving benefit to themselves.  What the Arminian will not accept is that this is the very thing sinners cannot do!  Paul puts it rather plainly, I think.  “
No one seeks for God” (Romans 3:11).

Fortunately, the Scriptures tell us that it is God who seeks sinners.  He seeks them through the proclamation of Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:18 ff), which effectually secures for God’s elect—all those who believe—a satisfaction of God’s wrath and anger toward these elect sinners, thereby purchasing faith and repentance for all of his elect.

Arminians leave us with a God who cannot save unless we willingly co-operate with his grace.  They leave us with a cross that does not forgive our sins until we appropriate it for ourselves.  The Arminian atonement only makes provision for us to use our free-will and come to Christ.  Therefore, the Arminian has “too low an opinion of the death of Christ.”  They “do not at all acknowledge the foremost fruit or benefit which it brings forth, and summon back from hell the Pelagian error.”

While this was certainly a problem in 17th century Holland, one liberal Protestant theologian has written this about our own age--“America is very much in favor of this Pelagian idea that every individual can always make a new beginning, that he is able by his individual freedom to make decisions for and against the divine.” The transformation of much of Evangelical theology into psychology--coupled with the American notion that the essence of all religion is to be located in personal morality and spirituality and is not a matter of belief and doctrine--is also a pernicious fruit of the Pelagian heresy. Since “Pelagianism said that good and evil are performed by us; they are not given. If this is true, then religion is in danger of being transformed into morality” (Paul Tillich, A History of Christian Thought, 124-125).

If Christianity is essentially a matter of the exercise of the will, and the focus falls upon the correct choice, it is almost inevitable that Christianity will degenerate into a system of ethics without emphasis upon a preached gospel.

This certainly helps explain, in part, why so much of the American religion focuses upon choices and action (not sin and grace), and why the Reformed distinctives of total depravity, unconditional election, and particular redemption, rub against the deepest grain of the fabric of American life, which is intrinsically optimistic and Pelagian.

Wednesday
Nov122008

"The LORD Was Moved to Pity" -- Judges 2:16-3:6

The Fourth in a Series of Sermons on the Book of Judges

That generation which entered Canaan under the leadership of Joshua has now died off and has been gathered to their fathers. Their children–the first generation born in Canaan–have now risen to prominence. The difference between these two generations could not be greater. The generation of Joshua and the elders who led Israel into Canaan saw first hand the mighty deeds which YHWH performed to redeem his people. Joshua’s generation obeyed the LORD and enjoyed the covenant blessings of victory over the Canaanites as well as material prosperity. But most of that first generation born in Canaan had not heard about these things. Somehow the faith of Joshua’s generation was not handed down to that first generation born in Canaan. This is why we read of the sad state of this generation in Judges 2:10–“there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.” And this is why we should not be surprised that in the first 15 verses of Judges 2, the author recounts how the people of Israel had abandoned the LORD and then worshiped and served Baal and Ashtaroth, the pagan “gods” of the Canaanites. As a consequence of their actions, God brought down the covenant curses upon the people of Israel and they soon found themselves “in terrible distress.” Despite Israel’s distress–the direct result of the people’s sin and apostasy–God took pity on Israel. Time and time again he will rescue them from their dire predicament.

We continue our series on the Book of Judges, which is one of the most remarkable and difficult books in all the Bible. The Book of Judges recounts those tumultuous days in Israel’s history between the time of the death of Joshua until David becomes Israel’s king. No doubt, the reason why the Book of Judges is so difficult and why so many avoid preaching through this book has to do with the fact that the behavior of God’s people during this period of redemptive history is rather shocking. We will also see proof of the old adage that the Lord works in mysterious ways as we will witness God rescue his people from one disaster after another in the most remarkable of ways. In the Book of Judges we see the stark reality and ugliness of human sin in both God’s people (Israel) as well as in the practices of the pagans who surround them and who dwell in their midst (the Canaanites).

The behavior of the Canaanites depicted throughout the Old Testament is gross and disgusting to those of us with Christian sensitivities. We will also find it shocking that God’s people are so easily and strongly attracted to Canaanite practices. In this, we see that the Jews of that era are just like we are. There is nothing new under the sun. As we lament the plague of pornography, celebrity worship, the sexualizing and coarsening of our own culture, we will see much of the same thing in Judges. We are not the first to face such temptations springing from the lusts of the flesh. While technology has improved beyond all measure, none of the things which trouble us today are really new. We will see that people of Israel faced very similar challenges and temptations to those with which we are all too familiar.

That being said, we must not miss the fact that throughout this graphic display of human sinfulness, we will also see God’s faithfulness and grace. God will preserve his people despite their attraction to paganism and he will deliver them from their enemies despite their sin and their struggle to remain faithful to him. God sent judges to Israel. Therefore, while Judges graphically describes Israel’s sin and its consequences, the Book of Judges is, ultimately, the story of God’s grace. Although Israel as a nation has broken that covenant God established with Israel at Mount Sinai, and therefore will come under the covenant curses, don’t forget that God’s grace will triumph for those who, like Abraham, believe that God will provide some means to deal with their sin and who believe that somehow God will save his people apart from their works or their merit.

to read the rest of this sermon, click here

Wednesday
Nov122008

A Kenneth Copeland Study Bible???

In all the excitement over the release of the ESV Study Bible, we might be tempted to overlook some of the other "Reference" Bibles which are available.

Yes, there really is a Kenneth Copeland "Reference Edition Bible." And of course, it is KJV--the language of Jesus and the apostles ( Click here: Amazon.com: Kenneth Copeland Reference Bible: Books) (H.T. PLW).

My guess is that the Kenneth Copeland references highlight the following word-faith essentials:

  • That we are all little "gods"
  • That we can create personal wealth by simply claiming it--an important doctrine considering the possibility of a recession
  • That Jesus saved us, not on the cross, but in hell by taking back his authority from the devil
  • That God wants Kenneth Copeland to have several brand new executive Jet aircraft to fly out of his own personal airstrip in Texas-someone has to take the word-faith message to exclusive resorts and five-star hotels, places often overlooked by poorer word-faith evangelists
  • That God will prosper all those who "sow a seed" by sending their hard-earned money to Brother Copeland

You can even bid on the less-sanctified NKJV version on eBay. Click here: KENNETH COPELAND STUDY BIBLE/NKJV-Softcover/New - eBay (item 170269790942 end time Dec-05-08 18:15:36 PST)

Tuesday
Nov112008

Obama, Billy Graham, and Other Interesting Stuff from Around the Web

Now that Billy Graham is 90, and just not up to the rigors of travel, he will not go to Washington to meet with President Elect Obama.  Perhaps have we finally come to the end of the tradition that our president needs some sort of "pastoral" relationship with Rev. Graham, who, by the way, is not anyone's pastor (technically). Yes, I know this is the end of an era and that Dr. Graham, no doubt, saw his role as supportive. But why should every American President from Eisenhower to Bush 43 need to meet with Billy Graham? Especially when a number of presidents had pastors in their home churches. That said, lets hope that Jeremiah Wright stays far, far away from the White House.  Click here: Son: Billy Graham's work with presidents is ending - Yahoo! News

If you are a justified sinner, you can count on an eternity in heaven. Here's a group "rehearsing" for that eternity to come.  Since it was already held on November 1, you'll have to settle for the DVD Click here: Heaven's Rehearsal

And we wonder why the Church of England is dying? When the current Archbishop of Canterbury--who was in New York, not far from ground zero during the chaos of September 11, 2001--tells a frightened New Yorker that "God is useless in times like this" we start to get a sense of why the C of E is in such a sad and rapid state of decline. Click here: Rowan Williams: September 11, where the hell was God? -Times Online

The brawling monks are at it again, this time engaging in a smack down right next to Jesus' tomb.  Amazing. Click here: FOXNews.com - 2 Clergymen Arrested After Brawl Between Monks Next to Jesus' Tomb Site - International News | News

Monday
Nov102008

Who Said That?

"The writings of Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556), especially `Rules for the Discernment of Spirits' contained in his Spiritual Exercises, exhibit a care, a depth of insight, and a profundity of guidance about the inner life that is completely off the radar screen among contemporary Evangelicals. We neglect this literature at the cost of our own impoverishment."

Leave your guess in the comments section.  Please, no google searches or cheating.  The whole point is to make a guess!

Sunday
Nov092008

Amillennialism 101 -- "The Two Age Model, Part One"

Here's the link to Friday's academy lecture.  This is the first of three lectures, Lord willing, which will deal with the "two-age model," which lies at the heart of the case for amillennialism.

http://links.christreformed.org/realaudio/A20081107-Amillenialism.mp3

Sunday
Nov092008

"Until the Coming of the Lord" -- James 5:1-12

Here's the link to this morning's sermon.

http://links.christreformed.org/realaudio/KR20081109-James.mp3

Friday
Nov072008

Tonight's Academy Class -- "The Two Age Model"

The Academy resumes this evening (November 7).  Lord willing, I'll be continuing my series, "Amillennialism 101."  Tonight's lecture is entitled "The Two-Age Model" (Part One).

Academy lectures begin @ 7:30 PM, are free of charge, and are followed by a time for questions and refreshments.

I am utilizing my two books on eschatology, A Case for Amillennialism (Baker, 2003), and The Man of Sin (Baker, 2006).

Thursday
Nov062008

The Canons of Dort, Second Head of Doctrine, Rejection of Errors, Article Two

Synod condemns the errors of those . . .

II Who teach that the purpose of Christ's death was not to establish in actual fact a new covenant of grace by his blood, but only to acquire for the Father the mere right to enter once more into a covenant with men, whether of grace or of works.

For this conflicts with Scripture, which teaches that Christ has become the guarantee and mediator of a better--that is, a new-covenant (Heb. 7:22; 9:15), and that a will is in force only when someone has died (Heb. 9:17).

_______________________________

The Canons now turn to some of the more technical and specific errors of the Dutch Arminians. The first of these errors is the Arminian notion that the death of Christ did not actually establish a covenant of grace between God and his elect, but that the atonement merely makes a provision for God into enter into a covenant with his creatures on the ground of God's choosing—whether that be faith or works.

This is fallout from the Arminian view of the atonement, which is really a species of what is known as the governmental theory of the atonement, in which the death of Christ supposedly demonstrates God’s love, along with his right to order his universe as he sees fit.  In this scheme, the cross of Christ is not seen as a satisfaction of God’s justice, and therefore, a necessary act if sinners are to be saved.  Instead, the cross is instead understood in terms of God’s arbitrary decree that a sacrificial death would be accepted as a payment for sin.

This means that it was not necessary for Christ to die if God’s elect were to be saved, but that God determined to do things in this way, since his rule over the universe, and his love for sinners would be most clearly manifest.  In other words, God as the moral governor of his universe, saw fit to save in this way.  But he was under absolutely no necessity of doing so.

Let us be careful to not lose sight of the forest through the trees. The essence of the Arminian view of the cross is that the death of Christ is not a satisfaction of God’s justice in punishing sin—the Arminians believe this would make God a cruel God who must exact his pound of flesh.  The cross is a demonstration of God’s love for a lost and fallen world, as well as a display of his wisdom and justice. God did not have to save sinners in this way, but he did determine that if he were to save, this would be the best way to do it.

This view stands in sharp contrast to the Reformed view, in which it is argued that God did not have to save any, but in his grace he determined to save some, and once he did so, the cross was the only possible way for any to be saved because God’s holy justice must be satisfied. While no Reformed Christ would want to argue that the death of Christ was anything less than a picture of God’s love for a lost and fallen world, the cross is certainly that and more. For the cross is also a glorious demonstration of God’s justice in punishing Christ for the sins of the elect. In the cross both the love and justice of God is openly displayed for all to see. We need not, as the Arminian does, sacrifice God’s justice to supposedly magnify God’s love.

For the Arminian, the cross of Christ is not at all necessary. The death of our Lord is merely the best way among a number of possible choices for God to display his love and moral governorship over the world that he has made. Therefore, it was not necessary for Christ to die.  Rather, it was an arbitrary choice on God’s part, and this means was chosen since it accomplished what God wanted to accomplish.

Let us be perfectly clear here. The Arminian notion of the death of Christ cannot at all be seen to magnify the love of God, since if there were any other way to save, and then God sent Christ to die in unspeakable anguish, God is not loving, but utterly cruel.  In demonstrating the weakness of this position, one theologian uses the following analogy.  It would make no sense at all for someone's parents to kill their siblings in their presence as a means of demonstrating how much they loved them, and to demonstrate how seriously they regarded their sin.

Basically, that is the Arminian view of the cross. Christ dies a horrific death to show God’s love and moral governorship, yet the cross does not actually accomplish anything or satisfy God’s wrath and anger toward sin. So, while the Arminian argues that the Reformed Christian believes in a cruel God who elects some and not others, a God who must exact a precise payment for sin, in reality it is the Arminian who has a cruel God.  The Arminian God punishes his own son, needlessly, when there were other possible ways to do the same thing. As B. B. Warfield once reminded us, if the cross were not necessary to satisfy God’s justice, why did God not accept some other way, such as our repentance or our good works. God could have done so, and accomplished the same thing without Christ having to die? That these possible ways of salvation were not chosen, shows how arbitrary the whole Arminian conception actually is.

To be more specific, the section of the refutation of errors is dealing with the fact that the Dutch Arminians were arguing that the covenant of grace was just such an arbitrary way for God to save his people. God arbitrarily determined that the death of Christ would establish the covenant of grace as the best way for God to save. But the Canons are quick to note that the Scriptures speak of Christ’s mediatorial work, not as an arbitrary decision by God, but as an absolute necessity if any were to be saved. “For this conflicts with Scripture, which teaches that Christ has become the guarantee and mediator of a better--that is, a new-covenant (Heb. 7:22; 9:15), and that a will is in force only when someone has died (Hebrews 9:17).”

Here again, the critical factor is this.  Why does Christ die?  According to the Reformed Christian, Christ's death is a necessity, and it is absolutely effectual in that it accomplished exactly what God intends--the salvation of his elect. But for the Arminian, the death of Christ is arbitrary and merely provisory.

Clearly, we are dealing with two different approaches to the gospel.  In the Reformed estimation, God’s grace and love are magnified in the fact that he goes to such remarkable lengths to satisfy his justice toward sinners who do not all at deserve it.  This preserves grace alone.  The other way is that of the Arminian, who argues that Christ did not need to die, but that God thought it the best means of enticing sinners to exercise their free-will and believe in Christ. Since the latter is “synergistic,” grace alone is sacrificed, and the cross does not actually save anyone.

Sadly, this is the religion of modern America and it fails miserably to account for all the Scriptural teaching about the death of Christ.