Thursday, April 24, 2014

How Divine Immutability Shapes Our Theology

One of the most important, yet often overlooked attributes of God, is the doctrine of God's immutability which asserts that God does not change in essence or character. Although it has seen a small resurgence in Reformed circles, it remains obscure even among defenders of God's sovereignty. Even the Great Reformers themselves, apart from John Knox, though defended, did not see how central it is.

I have written on this doctrine in great detail before and those links are available at the bottom of this post. Here, however, I want to highlight how this fundamental attribute of God informs all other central doctrines of the Christian faith.

Theology Proper - We can never speak with any certainty regarding God's character or nature - from his benevolence to his wrath, from his transcendence to his immanence - if He is not constant. God is perfect and eternal benevolent and always will be. He is perfect and eternally just, provident, simple, and holy and always will be.

Bibliology - If God is mutable, then Scripture is either an ancient record of a progressing God, and thus no longer reliable, or is simply a myth. The line between those two is thin. Instead, if God is constant, then so are His promises and His revelation remains as relevant today as it was when ink first hit ancient papyri. 

Canon - The canon is closed. It is finished. God has perfectly revealed His work of redemption in Christ. There is no need for new revelations because neither God nor His message has changed.

Truth - Truth originates with God and is defined by Him. Truth, then, is nonnegotiable and knowable, because God has revealed Himself.

Marriage - What God creates, let no man redefine.

Christology - Athanasius rightly argued that since God is eternally Father, Jesus must be eternally, and thus immutably, Son. Down goes Arianism.

Pneumatology - The Holy Spirit continues to direct the church to look upon and adore Christ.

Soteriology - The way of salvation remains the same. Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.

Evangelism - The means of salvation are the same: the Persona and Work of Christ. Methods and technology might change, but we are still called to preach the same message.

Ecclesiology - Christ remains the Head and Lord over His church. The church's mission remains the same since its birth.

Preaching - Preaching remains God's primary means of reaching the lost and exhorting the redeemed.

Eschatology - God's promises remain. Jesus is returning to set up His eternal Kingdom.

Hell - It's still there regardless of man's feelings about it.

For more:
Did God Repent?: Jonah 3:10 and the Immutability of God - Part 1
Did God Repent?: Jonah 3:10 and the Immutability of God - Part 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 5 
The Immutability of God:  Its Truth and Relevancy - Introduction (Part 1)
The Immutability of God:  Its Truth and Relevancy - Scriptural Foundation (Part 2)
The Immutability of God:  Its Truth and Relevancy - Scriptural Challenges (Part 3)
The Immutability of God:  Its Truth and Relevancy - Theological Challenges (Part 4)
The Immutability of God:  Its Truth and Relevancy - Practical Implications (Part 5) 
The Immutability of God:  Its Truth and Relevancy - Theological Applications (Part 6)
The Immutability of God:  Its Truth and Relevancy - Theodicy & God's Sovereignty (Part 7)
Does God Suffer?: Aquinas on Divine Impassibility
Repost | Will the Two Become One?: Emergents Turn to Process Theology
Sermon Podcast - April 26, 2010 - The Immutability of God 

Jesus is the Rose!: Matt Chandler on Imputation

From Matt Chandler's book Explicit Gospel:
The preacher took the stage, and disaster ensued. I don't know how else to describe the sermon. There was very little Bible in it. He gave us a lot of statistics about STDs. There was a lot, "you don't want syphilis, do you?" and, "It's all fun and games until you have herpes on your lip." And in the middle of all this moralistic fearmongering, his big illustration was to take out a single red rose. He smelled the rose dramatically on stage, caressed its petals, and talked about how beautiful this rose was and how it had been fresh cut that day. In fact, he said, it was such a beautiful rose that he wanted all of us to see and smell it. So he threw the rose out into the crowd, and he encouraged everyone to pass it around.... As he neared the end of his message, he asked for the rose back. And, of course, when he got it back in his hands, it was broken and drooping, and the petals were falling off. He held up this now-ugly rose for all to see. And his big finish was this: "Now who in the world would want this? Who would want this rose now? Would you be proud of this rose? Is this rose lovely?" His words and his tone were merciless.

I was such and idiot, because during all that, I'd been praying that Kim was listening. I was praying that Kim would really hear what the preacher was saying about this dirty rose. But there was no real climax to the message. His essential message, which was supposed to represent Jesus's message to a world of sinners, was this: "Hey, don't be a dirty rose."

He then explains:

This approach was dramatically effective in producing shame but not really effective in producing hope. On the way home, Kim was quiet, even though we talked about the concert and what had gone on. I asked her on multiple occasions if everything was okay, if she was all right, and what she thought of the message. Throughout our drive she was quiet, which wasn't like her, but I just thought, naively, that maybe the Holy Spirit was convicting her and that we'd talk about it later and she would tell me she was a new creation.

Kim continued to act strangely around me for a while. About a week or two later, Kim didn't show up for class. She didn't show up for class for a week. I called and left several messages but couldn't get hold of her. After about three weeks, I began to get nervous. I wondered if she had dropped out of school. She had a dark past, and I wondered if she had fallen back into some of her old habits. Then I got a phone call from a woman who claimed to be Kim's mum. Kim had been in an accident and had been in the hospital right across the street from the university. So I hung up the phone with her mum, and I walked over to her hospital room. She was all bandaged up, and her face was still swollen. She had fallen out of a car that was going 70 MPH and had struck her head on the concrete and fractured her skull. The swelling wasn't so extensive as to cause long-term damage, but it did cause enough damage to keep her hospitalized for several weeks.

In the middle of our conversation, seemingly out of nowhere, she asked me, "Do you think I'm a dirty rose?" My heart sank inside of me, and I began to explain to her that the whole weight of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that Jesus wants the rose! It's Jesus's desire to save, redeem, and restore the dirty rose.
Chandler included this same parable in a sermon. Here's a clip of it.

Jesus is the rose. Praise God.

For more:
We are Supernaturalits First: What John 1 Has to Say About Creation
"Explicit Gospel": A Sermon Preached by Matt Chandler
Matt Chandler on the Idol of March Madness
Colossians 1:13-23: A Sermon Preached by Matt Chandler

All Around the Web - April 24, 2014

Owen Strachan - The Moral Majority Is No More: Millennials and a New Social Witness
They are born after 1980. They don’t know much about Thatcher, but they do know about Bieber. They take “selfies.” Much discussed, oft-misunderstood, they are the Millennials.

A December 2013 poll of this much-fretted-over demographic offered fresh light on their political views. Harvard University’s Institute of Politics conducted the poll and found that 35 percent of Millennials approve of Democratic congressmen and just 19 percent of Republican congressmen.

This data leads to rumination both sociological and theological. How, exactly, will Millennial Christians—in a jaded generation but not of it—engage with politics, with the public square? The way Millennials answer this question will play a vital role in the public prospects of Christianity in America and the West.

ERLC - VIDEO: Teaching children about sexuality

Tim ChalliesThe Bestsellers: 90 Minutes in Heaven
It is not often that a book races to the top of the bestseller charts and opens up the way for a whole new genre of Christian literature. But such is the case with Don Piper’s 90 Minutes in Heaven, a book that spurred an entire genre of what I refer to as “Heaven Tourism” books.

Don Piper was involved in radio and television ministry when he determined that he had been called to be a pastor. In 1985 he was ordained as a Baptist minister and was soon serving in Houston as a minister of education and single adults. It was shortly thereafter, in 1989, that he had an experience that would forever change his life and ministry. Fifteen years later, in 2004, he would team with Cecil Murphey and Baker Publishers to release 90 Minutes in Heaven, the book in which he described his experience.

On January 18, 1989, Piper was driving through rural Texas, returning from a Christian conference that had ended a little bit earlier than expected. As he was crossing a long bridge with water on either side, an 18-wheeler owned by the Texas Department of Corrections swerved over the center line and hit his Ford Escort head-on. Piper was killed instantly. The steering wheel impaled his chest and the roof collapsed on his head. Emergency medical technicians responded and pronounced him dead, laying him on the road and covering his body with a tarp.

Randy Alcorn - Walking through Depression: God Is With You
I have known depression first-hand at different times in my life. Several years ago, for no apparent reason, a cloud of depression descended on me. Day after day, it was my constant companion. God used it in my life, teaching me to trust Him, and giving me some intimate times with Him. I studied the life of Charles Spurgeon who battled depression, and found comfort in the fact that godly men and women had walked the same path I was walking.

I saw this experience as part of living under the Curse, and it made me appreciate more deeply the promise of God, “No longer will there be any more curse” (Revelation 22:3). Though I had written a number of books about the world to come, including Heaven, I came to long for it more deeply than ever, clinging to God’s promise for the resurrection and the New Earth.

I blogged about my depression, and in particular about Spurgeon’s experience, and many people wrote me and told their own stories. One morning, after four months of daily depression, I woke up, no longer depressed. I don’t know why it came or went, but I am certain God was involved in both its coming and going.

TelegraphChina on course to become 'world's most Christian nation' within 15 years
It is said to be China's biggest church and on Easter Sunday thousands of worshippers will flock to this Asian mega-temple to pledge their allegiance – not to the Communist Party, but to the Cross.
The 5,000-capacity Liushi church, which boasts more than twice as many seats as Westminster Abbey and a 206ft crucifix that can be seen for miles around, opened last year with one theologian declaring it a "miracle that such a small town was able to build such a grand church".
The £8 million building is also one of the most visible symbols of Communist China's breakneck conversion as it evolves into one of the largest Christian congregations on earth.
"It is a wonderful thing to be a follower of Jesus Christ. It gives us great confidence," beamed Jin Hongxin, a 40-year-old visitor who was admiring the golden cross above Liushi's altar in the lead up to Holy Week.
"If everyone in China believed in Jesus then we would have no more need for police stations. There would be no more bad people and therefore no more crime," she added.

Want to feel old?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

From Lewis' Pen: Joy is the Serious Business of Heaven

From Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer:
I do not think that the life of Heaven bears any analogy to play or dance in respect of frivolity. I do think that while we are in this “valley of tears,” cursed with labor, hemmed round with necessities, tripped up with frustrations, doomed to perpetual plannings, puzzlings, and anxieties, certain qualities that must belong to the celestial condition have no chance to get through, can project no image of themselves, except in activities which, for us here and now, are frivolous. For surely we must suppose the life of the blessed to be an end in itself, indeed The End: to be utterly spontaneous; to be the complete reconciliation of boundless freedom with order – with the most delicately adjusted, supple, intricate, and beautiful order? How can you find any image of this in the “serious” activities either of our natural or of our (present) spiritual life? Either in our precarious and heart-broken affections or in the Way which is always, in some degree, a via crucis [way of the cross]? No, Malcolm. It is only in our “hours-off,” only in our moments of permitted festivity, that we find an analogy. Dance and game are frivolous, unimportant down here; for “down here” is not their natural place. Here, they are a moment’s rest from the life we were placed here to live. But in this world everything is upside down. That which, if it could be prolonged here, would be a truancy, is most like that which in a better country is the End of ends. Joy is the serious business of Heaven.

From Lewis' Pen Series:
From Lewis' Pen: Not Idealistic Gas
From Lewis' Pen: But He's Good
From Lewis' Pen: Read Old Books
From Lewis' Pen: When Love Becomes a Demon
From Lewis' Pen: Until You Fully Love God
From Lewis' Pen: As the Ruin Falls
From Lewis' Pen: Screwtape on Marriage
From Lewis' Pen: Lay Down Your Arms
From Lewis' Pen: Aslan is on the Move
From Lewis' Pen: Lead us, Evolution, Lead us
From Lewis' Pen: Lead us, Evolution, Lead us
From Lewis' Pen: An Exaggerated Feminine Type
From Lewis' Pen: Theology as a Map
From Lewis' Pen: A Lot of Wrong Ideas
From Lewis' Pen: Children Know Better Than Grownups
From Lewis' Pen: The Historical Jesus
From Lewis' Pen: Aim at Heaven
From Lewis' Pen: Satan Speaks

For more:
"CS Lewis: A Life" by Alister McGrath: A Review
"If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis" by Alister McGrath: A Review 
McGrath on the Memory of Lewis
"Letters to Malcom" by CS Lewis: A Review
"Screwtape Letters" by CS Lewis: A Review  
"A Mixture of Fool and Knave": CS Lewis on Theological Liberalism
Lewis on Practical Theology
Lewis on the Why of Democracy
From Uncle Screwtape:  Christianity and Politics 
Theology As a Map: Lewis, Practical Theology, and the Trinity
The Most Unpopular of Christian Virtues: Lewis on Chasity - Part 1
The Most Unpopular of Christian Virtues: Lewis on Chasity - Part 2
The Most Unpopular of Christian Virtues: Lewis on Chasity - Part 3 
"Willing Slaves of the Welfare State": CS Lewis on Freedom, Science, and Society - Part 1
"Willing Slaves of the Welfare State": CS Lewis on Freedom, Science, and Society - Part 2
He is Not a Tame Lion: Aslan, Jesus, and the Limits of Postmodern Inclusivism  
To Be Undragoned: Aslan, Christ, and the Gift of Regeneration 
Lewis on Practical Theology  
Lewis on the Why of Democracy
From Uncle Screwtape:  Christianity and Politics      
Theologians I Have Been Influenced By - The Dead
"The Magician's Twin: C.S. Lewis and the Case Against Scientism" Full Documentary

Hump Day Humor: I Love to Laugh

All Around the Web - April 23, 2014

RC Sproul, Jr. - What Are Ten Books Your Teenagers Read as Part of Their Homeschool Education?
10. All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes: The Christian and Pop Culture by Ken Myers.
9. The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis.
8. The Holiness of God.
7. Monsters from the Id by E. Michael Jones.
6. Tearing Down Strongholds by the present writer.
5. The Confessions of Saint Augustine.
4. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis.
3. Biblical Economics by the present writer.
2. Evangelicalism Divided by Ian Murray. .
1. Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton.

The Federalists - Oprah, Rob Bell, And Faux Self-Empowerment For The Self-Centered
Oprah Winfrey has long been the leader in American guru aggregation, rounding up doctors, psychologists, planners, soothsayers, do-gooders, pastors, rabbis, and emotive specialists from all corners of life. Yet amidst the seeming diversity and specialization, the overall themes are rather predictable.

Look inside yourself. Be yourself. Improve yourself. Launch yourself. Love yourself.

And love others, too, I suppose.

Yet lo and behold, Oprah’s Big-Tent Self-Helpism is about to expand its posts once again. This fall, Oprah will rally a handful of preferred prophets and “tastemakers” to embark on an eight-city weekend tour, “The Life You Want,” a celebration aptly titled for the self-obsessed.
Though a tour of this variety is a first for Enterprise Oprah, and despite the booming promise of the promotional trailer — “Oprah like you’ve never seen, heard, or experienced!” — the aim and agenda are rather routine as far as upper-middle-class heart-tingling goes. All the way down to the $99–$999 price tag.

C Michael Patton - Are We Really Held Guilty for the Sin of Another?
The concept of Original Sin has long been a vital part of Christian Orthodoxy, yet is being challenged and redefined by many in the Church today. Some are beginning to question the validity of the traditional Evangelical understanding of the doctrine asking questions of its legitimacy in its current understanding. Most particularly, the doctrine of imputation is being questioned. This is quit understandable. In fact, I would venture to guess that the concepts housed in this doctrine can seem to produce a vital assault on our conscious, rendering any concept of divine justice impotent.

Let us back up a bit . . .

Perhaps John Calvin defines Original Sin most concisely as “The deprivation of a nature formerly good and pure.” More specifically, from a Reformed Evangelical perspective, it refers to the fall of humanity from its original state of innocence and purity to a state of corruption and guilt (distinguished later). It is the cause of man’s translation from a state of unbroken communion before God to one of spiritual death and condemnation.

The term “Original Sin” is not found in Scripture; Saint Augustine coined it in the 4th century. The primary passage used to defend the doctrine of Original Sin is Romans 5:12-21. Most specifically, Romans 5:12 gives us the most explicit reference to this concept: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” The “one man” is Adam. The “all men” is all of Adam’s posterity—the entire human race.

Ed Stetzer - Saved from Hate: An Interview with Mark Phelps, Son of Westboro Founder Fred Phelps Sr.
Ed Stetzer: First, tell us a little about your background.

Mark Phelps: I left my family and my father's "church" in 1973. I graduated college in 1976 with a degree in business finance. I married my wife of almost 38 years in August 1976. We started a business in 1978.

My wife and I lost three boys to miscarriage during the first 10 years of our marriage. I began doing business consulting in 1986. We adopted two little girls, one in 1987 and one in 1992. We lost our business of 32 years in 2010, and I am currently recovering from lung disease. I look forward to continuing my consulting business when my health allows.

Ed: How did you come to understand God as you do now?

Mark: The Lord saved me during a sermon at a Bible Conference in Ashland, Kentucky, in 1965, when I was eleven years old. I left my family and my father's "church" in 1973. My future wife, and her father and mother, were a loving support to me from the day I left my family.
Though the fear was paralyzing, from the treatment and teachings of my father, by 1983 I was able to start thinking about God again and begin attending church again. There were a group of godly men where I was attending church. I joined their Bible study and began to slowly open my heart, and learn the truth about the Lord.

I was finally able to start formal healing therapy in 1988 and worked toward healing and restoration, overcoming the horrible pain and fear from the 19 years of living with my father. I completed formal therapy in 1994 and I was baptized again, on purpose and with great delight, in the local church I attended. Not because I believed I had to, but because I wanted to celebrate what the Lord had done in my life.

I have continued to grow in my faith and relationship with the Lord the past 20 years.

WORLD Magazine - Sexual propaganda
“It is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret” (Ephesians 5:12). But what if they do them in the open? What if they do them in Room 206 of the campus Physical Education Center and are graded on them? And what if you’re footing the bill, Mom and Dad?

I borrowed 20-year-old Ella’s textbook and syllabus for her Human Sexuality class. Crooks and Baur, 12th edition—the hefty paperback costs $200, of which Ella will only recoup $12 at semester’s end—boasts ponderous double authorship, but the contents bear no resemblance to rigor of scholarship, notwithstanding a plethora of charts and graphs.

A sample of sex “science”:

“Physical attractiveness often plays a dominant role in drawing lovers together.” “Jealousy is an uncomfortable feeling that often harms a relationship and stifles the pleasure of being together.” “Facial expressions of emotion are often a powerful component of nonverbal communication.”

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I Don't Think This is What Easter Means

I apologize to regular readers of this blog who are as tired of this unplanned series as I am regarding Brian McLaren and his understanding of the events of Passion week, but some of his recent blog posts deserve at least a brief response. McLaren is releasing a new book and thus he has a lot of self-promoting to do. Nothing surprising (or new) there. McLaren rarely writes anything on his personal website without plugging one of his books.

With that said, McLaren offers the following quote from his new book:
What might happen if every Easter we celebrated the resurrection not merely as the resuscitation of a single corpse nearly two millennia ago, but more - as the ongoing resurrection of all humanity through Christ? Easter could be the annual affirmation of our ongoing resurrection from violence to peace, from fear to faith, from hostility to love, from a culture of consumption to a culture of stewardship and generosity . . . and in all these ways and more, from death to life. What if our celebration of Easter was so radical in its meaning that it tempted tyrants and dictators everywhere to make it illegal, because it represents the ultimate scandal: an annual call for creative and peaceful insurrection against all status quos based on fear, hostility, exclusion, and violence? What if we never stopped making Easter claims about Jesus in AD 33, but always continued by making Easter claims on us today - declaring that now is the time to be raised from the deadness of fear, hostility, exclusion, and violence to walk in what Paul called "newness of life"? What if Easter was about our ongoing resurrection "in Christ" - in a new humanity marked by a strong-benevolent identity as Christ-embodying peacemakers, enemy lovers, offense forgivers, boundary crossers, and movement builders? What kind of character would this kind of liturgical year form in us? How might the world be changed because of it?
A few words in response. First, Christians do not believe in the resuscitation of Christ but His resurrection. The difference between resuscitation and resurrection cannot be overstated. Resuscitation describes the raising of body back to life temporarily. In this sense, Lazarus and the others raised in the Bible were resuscitated. They would eventually die again. Resurrection means to never die again. Jesus, then, was resurrected eternally. He reigns, in flesh, right now at the right hand of the throne of His Father.

The difference is important. From the Fall in Genesis 3 to the final consummation in Revelation 22, there are three main enemies that must be defeated: human depravity (both individually and corporately), death (and its awful sting), and the Devil. All three must be defeated. As the story of Scripture unfolds it is clear that Jewish legalism will not work. Neither will nationalism (give us a king!), libertarianism (everyone did what was right in his own eyes), or anything else could defeat these transcendental foes. As the first genealogies of Genesis makes clear, we all are born, and then procreate, and finally die - a tragic story consumed by a lust for sin. Our only hope is Christ who conquers all three. Regarding death, he defeats this ancient foe by being raised from the dead. Death no longer has power over Him nor does it have power over us since we will all be raised in Christ bodily on the last day.

Secondly (and this post is already longer than I had anticipated), McLaren continues his propagation of the social gospel.  Nowhere in the New Testament do we see resurrection described in the way he does here. McLaren promotes a systemic theology, not a systematic theology. But the truth is, unless the resurrection of Christ deals with the depravity of human souls there will be no turning from violence to peace, from fear to faith, from hostility to love, from a culture of consumption to a culture of stewardship and generosity.

This is why Easter must be about Jesus in AD 33, because by doing so we can see the work of Christ - who lives and reigns forevermore! - today. McLaren seems to fail that the historic invasion of Christ into the world two thousand years ago was a war in which He won by walking bodily out of the tomb. The solutions of the world is not good policy or good diplomacy as McLaren wants it, but good news.

I Don't Think That is What Palm Sunday is All About
I Don't Think This is What Good Friday Means
I Don't Think This is What the Empty Tomb Means
I Don't Think This is What Easter Means

For more:
I Don't Think That is What Palm Sunday is All About
Farewell Old Friend: Saying Goodbye to the Emergent Church
Thesis | Brian McLaren and Emergent Soteriology: From Cultural Accomodation to the Kindgom of God - Full Series
McLaren on Hell and Universalism . . . Again
Hades, Hell, and McLaren's Eisegesis
The Clarity of Ambiguity: The Erosion of the Perspicuity of Scripture in the Emergent Church - the Complete Series
Where to Begin?: 10 Emergent Must Reads 
"A New Kind of Christianity" - A 11 part review and critique of McLaren's book
Revelation and the Ambiguity of Justification: McLaren Adds to the Confusion
Does McLaren Reject Penal Substitution?: A Review of the Evidence
Hamilton: McLaren and Whole Foods Stores
SBTS and McLaren: A Response to SBTS Panel Discussion
The Evolving God: McKnight's Critique of McLaren
The Future of the Emergent Church: McLaren Weighs In
Repost | Occupy Wal-Mart?: So This is What the Kingdom of Heaven Looks Like
Repost | Pinata Theology: Ignore the Issue and Swing at the Distraction - What Piper Has Taught Us About the Church
Emergent Panentheism: The Direction Towards Process Theology Continues
Will the Two Become One?: Emergents Turn to Process Theology
God's Many Names?: Emergent Pluralism in the Extreme
Theology Thursday | Don't Be Fooled: The Conversation Is Not Open To Everyone