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"Amillennialism 101" -- Audio and On-Line Resources

 

Living in Light of Two Ages

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Sunday
Sep162018

"I Will Fill This House With Glory" -- Haggai 1:12-2:9 

Here's the audio from this morning's sermon on the Minor Prophets from the Book of Haggai. 

Thursday
Sep132018

Apologetics in a Post Christian Age (Audio) -- Recap

Here's the audio from the Wednesday Night Bible Study; a recap of the ground we've covered so far, a look at where we are going next, and a discussion of apologetics resources: Click Here

Wednesday
Sep122018

"Let the Word of Christ Dwell in You Richly" -- Colossians 3:12-17

The Eighth in a Series of Sermons on Colossians

Nothing feels better after working out or finishing a grimy project than to take a shower and escape out of our sweaty or dirty clothes.  This image is not far from what Paul has in mind in Colossians 3:10, when he speaks of the Christian life as putting off the “old self” (what we were in Adam–enslaved to the flesh) and the putting on of a “new self” (what we are in Christ–dead to sin, but alive to God).  As Paul explains, those who trust in Jesus and are united to him through faith, will die to certain conduct (sexual immorality and covetousness–which Paul calls idolatry), and will “put away” other sinful conduct, such as wrath, anger, slander, and lying.  These behaviors characterize the old self and its practices.  But all those united to Jesus Christ have put on a new self, so their conduct as Christians grows out of the renewal of the divine image within us (which results from regeneration).  It is this new behavior, characteristic of the new self, which Paul continues to describe in Colossians 3:12-17, our text.

We are resuming our series on Paul’s letter to the Colossians, one of Paul’s “prison letters,” identified as such because they were written during that time when Paul was under house arrest in Rome, awaiting his appearance before Caesar Nero.  The Colossian church had been founded several years earlier in the Lycus Valley of Asia Minor.  One of the pastors from the Colossian church (Epaphras) made his way to Rome to seek advice from the apostle about a serious new challenge to the churches in the region–the so-called “Colossian Heresy.”  From what we can glean from Paul’s response, this heresy was a mixture of Judaism and paganism.  Adherents worshiped angels, sought visions, and practiced a rigorous form of asceticism grounded in obedience to the law of Moses.

The letter to the Colossians is Paul’s response.  The apostle reminds the Colossians of the supremacy of Jesus (chapters 1 and 2)–who is the creator, sustainer, and ruler of all things.  It is Jesus who has reconciled sinners with God.  And it is Jesus whose death frees us from the guilt and power of sin.  All believers are united to Jesus who rules and reigns over all things from the right hand of God–symbolic of Jesus’ authority and power.  Furthermore, believers have been buried with Jesus and then raised with him in newness of life in their baptism (Colossians 2:11-12).  Because of this union with Christ, Paul exhorts the Colossians in 3:1, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”  

The best way to defeat the challenge of those who seek to disqualify them from the prize earned for them by Jesus, Paul tells the Colossians, is to focus upon their union with Christ so as to gain a heavenly perspective on earthly things.  In doing so, we will indeed begin to do the things Paul exhorts to the Colossians to do–we will strive to put to death sexual sin and idolatry, and we will strive to put off the sinful conduct mentioned in the previous verses.  Why?  Because we are united to Jesus Christ by faith and indwelt by his Holy Spirit.  This is what those in union with Jesus do–fight against sin.

The doctrinal error spreading throughout the Lycus Valley was typical of Greco-Roman religion of the first century.  This pagan impulse can be seen in the stress upon learning secret religious techniques and rules (the latter taken from Judaism and the commandments of God), so as to gain authority over the invisible forces of the world (spirits).  Apparently, those teaching the Colossian heresy taught that the worship of angels (mere creatures–not the creator) and the quest for visions (in an effort to gain knowledge of secret things) would give the followers of this heresy the spiritual energy needed to live a life of rigorous self-denial–avoiding certain foods, keeping Jewish feasts and holidays.  All of this was done in an effort to master the sinful flesh–human lust and desire.

To read the rest of this sermon:  Click Here

Monday
Sep102018

Yet Again, Micki and I Are Pleased to Announce . . .

My wife Micki and I are thrilled to announce the engagement of our oldest son, David Clayton to Ms. Nancy Robles.

David is a graduate of CSULB (B.S.), and USC (M.S.).  He is a senior engineer in advanced project planning for Honda R & D America.  Nancy is a graduate of CSUN (B.A.) and is a senior market research analyst for American Honda.  Nancy is in the process of joining Christ Reformed Church.

David surprised Nancy with a ring at the same spot in the Malibu Hills where they went hiking on their first date.  She was totally surprised and thrilled.  Dave and his younger brother Mark (Mark and Bee) both inherited some rogue romance gene their father clearly does not have.

From cubicle mates (at Honda) to engagement!  Great story.

BTW--if you drive a 2017 (or newer) Honda CR-V, or a 2018 Acura RDX, David was on the refresh team.

We are thrilled and we rejoice in God's goodness to us!

Monday
Sep102018

This Week at Christ Reformed Church (September 10-16)

Sunday Morning, September 16:  As part of our series on the Minor Prophets, we are working our way though the Book of Haggai.  We will be discussing the importance of the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem (Haggai 1:12-2:9).  Our worship service begins at 10:30 a.m.

Sunday Afternoon:  We are studying the Belgic Confession, and will be taking up article 21 which focuses upon Christ's atonement.  Our catechism service begins @ 1:15 p.m.

Wednesday Night Bible Study (September 12) @ 7:30 p.m.  We are resuming our series, Apologetics in a Post-Christian Age.  We'll be doing a brief bit of review and talking about apologetics resources.  

The Academy:  Resumes on September 28, when we wrap up our lecture/discussion series based upon Allen Guelzo's Teaching Company Course, The American Mind. 

For more information on Christ Reformed Church you can always find us here (Christ Reformed Church), or on Facebook (Christ Reformed on Facebook).

Sunday
Sep092018

"The Word of the LORD Came By the Hand of Haggai"

Here's the audio from this morning sermon on the Minor Prophets from the Book of Haggai: 

Thursday
Sep062018

Recovering Reid’s Common Sense Epistemology–the Implications for Doing Apologetics (Conclusion)

Recovering Reid’s Common Sense Epistemology–the Implications for Doing Apologetics

I hope that the points which follow will serve to place Reid, and by implication, Old Princeton, in a more objective and favorable light, and as a consequence, help Reformed Christians recover confidence in the proper use of Christian evidences when engaging in the apologetic enterprise.

First, Reid was a Christian philosopher whose necessary and contingent first principles and common sense notions of the truth of the external world and the importance of ordinary facts have profound theological implications.  Reid’s Christian commitments are well-worth noting.  Throughout his writings, Reid makes consistent appeal to God as the author of human nature, and without whom, the external world and human nature would not exist.  Ontologically, we must assume God’s existence as the basis for all things.  Epistemologically we must start with ourselves, assume the certainty of the external world, and operate with the awareness that we are creatures with agentic powers.  Reid is right, I think, when he argues that this is how ordinary people actually live their daily lives.

There is in Reid’s common sense epistemology, the basis for an effective transcendental argument.  When non-Christians argue against the Christian truth claim, they must invoke Reid’s common sense first principles (or categories much like them) to argue against Christianity.  How is such a thing even possible on non-Christian presuppositions–especially those of materialism?  How does logic work in a chance universe with no creator or designer?

Several additional points are worth making.  Plantinga frames Reid’s first principles in terms of belief in God as “properly basic.”  If we can believe that other minds exist without any reasons whatsoever–a belief we cannot prove–on what basis then is belief in God declared irrational?  Plantinga uses this “unprovable starting point” to argue against “foundationalism” (i.e., the notion that we must have sufficient evidence which “proves” the validity of our starting point).  But is not Reid’s "soft" foundationalism much better?  When we seek to get behind our common sense first principles, we immediately encounter the God who made us capable of using them.

I am also of the opinion that Reid’s doctrine of first principles helps clear up the primary weakness permeating Van Til’s version of presuppositionalism.  Van Til’s apologetic is built upon the conflation of the order of knowing (epistemology) and the order of being (ontology).  I agree fully with Van Til, when he insists we could know nothing properly if there were not a God who created all things and made us as his image-bearers.  Van Til, however, insists that a truly Christian epistemology begins with the ectypal knowledge of God given in and through God’s self-revelation (Scripture).  

But this raises two seemingly insurmountable problems.  The first is that it is psychologically impossible to begin the knowing process outside of ourselves, apart from any prior self-consciousness.  Only God can start the knowing process with himself in this sense.  As his creature, and despite Van Tilian protests to the contrary, I simply cannot start where Van Tilians insist that I must (with the revelation of God).  As a creature who receives this revelation externally, I can only begin with self-awareness, knowledge of the world around me, and of my own agentic powers.  Unless the knowledge of God which Van Til insists upon is innate and hard-wired within me, and is available and clear to me from the first moments of my self-consciousness, I need all such external revelation confirmed as revelation coming from God.  Descartes’ ugly question resurfaces at this point.  “How do I know this revelation is from God and not from the devil?”  My own doubts will emerge as well.  “How do I know this knowledge is from God and not the product of my own vain imagination?”  Completing religious claims also surface.  “Why the Bible and not the Book of Mormon or the Koran?”

At this point, it is helpful to distinguish general from special revelation.  Paul speaks of God’s revelation in nature as plain to all (Romans 1:19-20) as well as God’s law as written upon the human heart (Romans 2:14-15).  This is general revelation.  Furthermore, we bear the divine image and retain the sense of divinity.  But does such knowledge of God given through the natural order include knowledge of the Trinity, the person of Jesus and his redemptive work on my behalf?  No.  The nature of God and his saving work in Christ is revealed to me externally in God’s word, which is the record of his redemptive words and deeds (special revelation).  As B. B. Warfield once put it when addressing this very issue, “it is easy, of course, to say that a Christian man must take his stand point not above the Scriptures, but in the Scriptures.  He very certainly must.  But surely he must first have the Scriptures, authenticated to him as such, before he can take his standpoint in them” (Warfield, “Introductory Note,” to Francis Beattie’s Apologetics, 98-99; note: this same statement appears almost word for word in Warfield’s “Review” of Bavinck’s De Zekerheid des Geloofs,” 115).  

As Van Til made plain his allegiance in this regard, declaring “I have chosen the position of Abraham Kuyper” (Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, 264-265), so too, I must declare that I have chosen the position of B. B. Warfield.

Reid does not ask us to begin with a theory of ideas or a priori categories (as with Kant), or even by presupposing the entire system of Christian doctrine (Kuyper, Bavinck, and Van Til).  Instead, Reid asks us to start with an epistemological method, or better, with a particular kind of awareness of the external world and how it works common to all.  When John Frame raises the presuppositionalist challenge that “`starting with the self’ leaves open the question of what criterion of truth the self should acknowledge, so `starting with reason’ leaves open the question of what criterion of truth human reason ought to recognize” (Frame, “Van Til and the Ligonier Apologetic,” in The Westminster Theological Journal, Volume XLVII, Fall 1985, number 2, 285-287), Reid would likely answer, we utilize “those criteria [first principles] we are born with, given us by our Creator.”  These criteria are not a matter of a choice of a priori interpretive categories, but rather an appeal to recognize those rational faculties with which we are born, and which we spontaneously utilize.

Embracing Reid’s common sense first principles allows us to begin the knowing process with human consciousness, while at the same time asserting that such would not be possible apart from a creator.  This is, I think, a healthy corrective to Van Til’s presuppositionalism.

Second, although there are several areas in Reid’s thought which orthodox Reformed Christians might find problematic–especially Reid’s endorsement of natural theology, along with the telling absence of any discussion of the effects of Adam's fall upon human nature–we do not need to follow Reid in every area of his thought to appreciate and draw upon his insights regarding first principles and the related common sense tests for truth.  As Paul Helm points out, there is nothing intrinsic to Reid’s common sense philosophy which is antithetical to Reformed doctrine (Helm, “Thomas Reid, Common Sense and Calvinism,” in Hart, Van Der Hoeven, and Wolterstorff, eds. Rationality in the Calvinian Tradition, 86-88).  Whatever theological weaknesses may exist in Reid’s overall philosophy can be mitigated by considering how the Old Princetonians (especially Warfield) were able to utilize SCSR as modified in light of the Reformed doctrine of the noetic effects of sin, and the necessity of regeneration as prior to faith.

Warfield was, to my mind, on the right track when he argued that the certitude of the truth of Christianity “is at bottom nothing other than the conviction that God is in Christ reconciling the world with himself . . . . It is only by the direct act of faith laying hold of Jesus as redeemer that we may attain either conviction of the truth of the Christian religion or the assurance of salvation.”  Such a faith is not a blind or ungrounded epistemological leap into the dark.  “For ourselves,” Warfield writes, “we confess we can conceive of no act of faith in any kind which is not grounded in evidence: faith is a specific form or persuasion or conviction, and all persuasion or conviction is grounded in evidence” (Warfield’s “Review” of Bavinck’s De Zekerheid des Geloofs,” 112-113).
      
We can hear the loud echo from Thomas Reid in Warfield’s conception that faith requires sufficient grounds in evidence.  But this echo also requires additional biblical qualification.  The reason why people do not believe the gospel is not that there are insufficient reasons given by God to provide grounds for faith.  God gives evidences which meet the needs of our “common sense” tests for truth–Jesus was raised from the dead, or he wasn’t.  This claim is intelligible to Christian and non-Christian alike.

The reason why people reject a gospel with sufficient grounds to believe it is because of human sin–a point not directly addressed by Reid.  The biblical record is crystal clear that all the members of Adam’s race inevitably suppress God’s truth in unrighteousness (to use Paul’s language).  Like Reid, Warfield believed that all humans possess the innate capacity to believe the gospel because the evidence demonstrates that Christianity is objectively true.  But Warfield also understood full-well the damage wrought upon us by the Fall.  Warfield speaks to this directly when he describes the pre-fall consciousness of humanity as reflecting a “glad and loving trust” in the Creator.  After Adam’s fall, human consciousness was distorted to the point that it now reflects a profound sense of distrust, unbelief, fear, and despair in relation to the Creator.  As a consequence, we sinful humans no longer possess the subjective ability to respond to Christian truth claims in faith (116).  

The problem is not a lack of evidence for the truth of Christianity, but rather a universal and sinful unwillingness to believe that the facts of God’s revelation which are in themselves worthy of our trust.  It is the Holy Spirit’s supernatural work to give the sinful human heart a new power to respond to the grounds of faith given by God (i.e., Christian evidences), which are sufficient to persuade anyone and already present in the mind (115).

The subjective certainty of faith of which Scripture repeatedly speaks therefore must be supplied by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the elect, through the preaching of the gospel, a message grounded in the God-given evidences for the truth of Christianity.  The Holy Spirit creates this subjective ability not through additional evidences for the truth of Christianity (as though the evidences God has given are insufficient), but through a supernatural act of new birth.  People who are dead in sin will not believe until made alive.  Yet as Warfield reminds us, “the Holy Spirit does not produce faith without grounds” (115).  Those grounds include those Christian evidences associated with the preaching of the gospel.
      

Third, Reid’s “common sense” tests for truth fit quite nicely with the kind of truth claims the biblical writers actually make when they use arguments from contingency and causality (God made the world) as does Paul in Acts 14:15-17.  Reid’s stress upon the objectivity of facts (grounded in our direct perception of the external world) seems to square with Paul’s appeal to Jesus’ resurrection as confirmation of the truth gospel he preached to the Athenians (Acts 17:31).  The biblical writers never seek to prove the existence of God, although they do point out that God is the ultimate cause of all things and the Author (to use Reid’s term) of human nature.  Paul is not shy about telling the Athenians gathered on Mars Hill that one of their own poets had declared, “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

Neither Paul, nor any other biblical writer for that matter, asks his audience to “assume Christian presuppositions for the sake of argument,” so that they can understand the content of what is being proclaimed.  Paul’s appeal is to a God whom his audiences already know and to a knowledge they presently possess but which is sinfully suppressed.  When Paul proclaims that the resurrection (as an historical event) is the proof that his preaching about Jesus is true, Paul need not explain what he means, nor defend the possibility of miracles.  It is a very “common sense” kind of claim to preach that Jesus was crucified on a Friday and raised bodily from the dead three days later.  Everyone who heard Paul preach–without prior critical reflection or philosophical sophistication–grasps the significance of that claim.  

Impossible as it may seem, if Jesus was raised bodily from the dead, then Paul and his gospel are vindicated.  His message is to be believed and embraced.  His claims can be rejected, or dismissed, only upon on self-consciously prejudicial grounds.  People do not like the implications of Paul’s preaching precisely because they do understand the all-encompassing nature of Paul’s truth claim.  People, then, as now, do not like to acknowledge they are guilty before God and in desperate need of a Savior.  They may reject Paul’s gospel, but Jesus' tomb is still empty.  The “proof” which God has given still stands over them like the proverbial “Sword of Damocles.”  This fact alone establishes the truth of Paul’s claim and will convict those who reject until they die, or they manage to shove it from their consciences, or until they embrace it.

Finally, Reid’s notion that common sense is universal gives us an important way to establish non-neutral common ground with non-Christians.  Instead of the “us” (regenerate) against “them” (unregenerate) a priori categories, Reid begins with universal common ground–the external world and everything which happens in it.  But the non-Christian must live and operate in a world which cries out that it was created by God and we as creatures can navigate that world only because this is how God made us.  There is common ground (as Paul was able to find with Jews and Greeks) but no neutrality (also seen in Paul’s direct challenge to Greek pagans).  This opens wide the range of effective apologetic arguments.

Conclusion:

Although long overlooked, Thomas Reid’s philosophy of common sense offers a very useful way of establishing non-neutral common ground directly in human nature.  This is important in an age of supposed self-authenticating religious truth claims such as ours.  Transcendental arguments such as Reid’s are especially helpful because they force non-Christians to justify their arguments against Christianity.  From where do these arguments against Christianity come, and how can they be justified?  Non-Christians struggle to answer these questions.  Reid gives us a helpful and practical way to exploit this weakness.

Reid’s notion of truth as objective and immediate (i.e., apart from a priori categories and ideal theories) clearly echoes the approach taken by the Apostle Paul and provides an epistemological footing for the chief argument in defense of Christianity, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.  For those who wish to integrate apologetic arguments into evangelistic contexts, Reid offers a suitable (and non-philosophical) epistemological justification for Christian truth claims.  Should someone predict their own resurrection and then rise again (Jesus), the only conclusion is that proclaimed by Paul; God has given us proof, proof which is grounded in the facts of revelation (Acts 17:31).  The declaration "He is risen!" requires nothing but "common sense" to fully understand.  But only the Holy Spirit can enable those who understand to truly believe.

May the Reid resurgence continue!

The series can be found in its entirety here:  Thomas Reid and His "Common Sense" Philosophy

Wednesday
Sep052018

"Set Your Minds on Things That Are Above" -- Colossians 3:1-11

The Seventh in a Series of Sermons on Colossians

A new church had been established in the village of Colossae–a small, backwater town in the Lycus Valley in Asia Minor.  The church was doing well, but was facing a group of false teachers advocating what is known today as the “Colossian Heresy.”  This heresy combined elements of local pagan religion and Judaism.  Its adherents worshiped angels, sought visions, practiced a rigorous asceticism (self-denial), but also observed Jewish feasts, new moons, and the Sabbath.  All of this would have made sense in first century Greco-Roman culture–where syncretistic religions (various religions mixing together) were common–but antithetical to biblical Christianity.

Paul’s instructions to the Colossians as to how to respond to this heretical teaching was crystal clear.  Do not allow false teachers who do not the have the mind of Christ to pass judgment upon you when you refuse to follow their rules or spiritual principles.  Religious rules and regulations taught by these false teachers may have the appearance of wisdom, but can do absolutely nothing to restrain the indulgence of the flesh (the sinful nature).  In the face of this challenge, Paul exhorts the Colossians to stand firm and not allow themselves to be disqualified from the inheritance already won for them by Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection.  

Paul’s answer to the Colossian heresy may be crystal clear but his response raises a question which lurks in the background of all discussions of the Christian life.  If the Colossians were not to be taken in by what Paul calls deceptive philosophy and humanly invented rules and spiritual principles–which he says are contrary to God’s revelation in Jesus Christ–then what standard are the Colossians to follow when seeking to live as the new creatures they now are in Christ?  The answer is equally clear–the standard of conduct for the Christian is law of God as revealed to Israel on Mount Sinai.  In Colossians chapter 3, Paul will exhort the Colossians to adopt a heavenly perspective while living the Christian life–in contrast to the Colossian Heresy which focuses upon earthly things which are destined to perish.  This heaven-focused perspective will enable them to do those things pleasing to God and beneficial to our neighbor  (as revealed in the law of God) and yet obey in such a way that they do not re-enslave themselves to the flesh (the sinful nature) which dominates all Christians before they are united to Christ.  

We are now well into the second half of Paul’s letter to the Colossians (we will be considering chapter 3:1-11), which, as we have saw last time, comes in that section of Paul’s letters usually devoted to commands and instructions for all those who trust in Jesus Christ (as explained in the first half of his letters).  In his death and resurrection, Jesus has already broken the power of sin (which Paul also speaks of as the “flesh”) which enslaved us to sinful desires, caused us to be drawn to false religion, and stake our eternal hopes on earthly things destined to perish.  

Keeping the indicatives (statements of fact–i.e., who Jesus is and what he has done for us) and the imperatives (the commands and instructions which come to those already participants in the new creation through their union with Christ) distinct, is vital in making proper sense of Paul’s letters.  The distinction between what is promised (gospel/indicative) and what is commanded (law/imperative) is the basis for the distinction between law and gospel which is so fundamental in understanding both justification (the once for all declaration that we are righteous before God) and sanctification (the process through which God renews us more and more into the image of Jesus Christ).

As we turn to our text (verse 1 of chapter 3), Paul reminds the Colossians of the indicative of the new creation before exhorting them to think and do certain things which reflect who we are in Christ (the imperative).  Notice how the imperative (the command) flows directly of the indicative (promise).  The apostle writes, “if then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”  The “if” here is rhetorical.  It should be understood in the sense that “since you have been raised with Christ,” a statement of fact, not something which is still an open question.  Paul is referring to our union with Christ, a major theme in his theology.

To read the rest of this sermon: Click Here

Monday
Sep032018

This Week at Christ Reformed Church (September 3-9)

Sunday Morning, September 9:  We continue with our series on the Minor Prophets, and we come to the Book of Haggai.  We will introduce the book and then focus upon the necessity of the people of God to complete the work of rebuilding the temple.  Our text is from the opening chapter of Haggai (vv. 1-11).  Our worship service begins at 10:30 a.m.

Sunday Afternoon:  As we work our way through the Belgic Confession, we now come to article 20, which deals with the justice and mercy of God.  Our catechism service begins @ 1:15 p.m.

Wednesday Night Bible Study:  Resumes on September 12, when we return to our series, Apologetics in a Post-Christian Age.  

The Academy:  Resumes on September 28, when we wrap up our lecture/discussion series based upon Allen Guelzo's Teaching Company Course, The American Mind. 

For more information on Christ Reformed Church you can always find us here (Christ Reformed Church), or on Facebook (Christ Reformed on Facebook).

Sunday
Sep022018

"The Vision of Obadiah" -- Obadiah 1:1-21

There's the audio from this morning's sermon on the Minor Prophets from the Book of Obadiah: 

 

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