Saturday, July 21, 2012

Nicene Creed

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, 
Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father before all worlds; 
God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; 
begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. 
Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; 
He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures;
and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Reckless Abandon

Reckless Abandon, by David Sitton, is a memoir of a frontier missionary. In it, Sitton takes the reader with him as he blazes a trail to people who have never even heard the message of the Gospel, many who have never even seen a white man. This book is an engrossing read and I would not be surprised that if you sat down to read it that you did not arise until three or four hours later after completing it.

The most endearing part of this book is what I perceive to be the most endearing part of David Sitton, his ever-present focus on the Gospel of the crucified and resurrected Messiah, the Gospel of our King Jesus. All throughout the book, as Sitton tells of dangerous encounters with hostile tribes, predators stalking his home, hardships limiting his work in an area, theological convictions causing intramural persecution, or the tribulation of speaking in front of thousands of pastors, Sitton is consistent in his Gospel focus and persistent in his efforts to proclaim the Gospel message.

This is a book that God will use in the life of anyone who reads it, primarily because of how saturated it is with the Word of God. In it you will encounter the Holy Spirit working mightily in the lives of many people, and you will see the opposition that is faced when the Gospel message goes forth. It will encourage the believer to know that, while our mission may not be cannibalistic tribal chiefs who throw coconuts at us and threaten our life, the opposition found within them is the same opposition we find in our agnostic co-worker or our “I'm a good person” neighbor or our religious, “Christian” relative.

This is a book that brings the reality of what it means to be a Christian to the forefront of our thinking. Our culture has indoctrinated us with health and wealth prosperity teaching (or the evangelical form of it, the “God's ultimate desire is for you to be happy” gospel). For so many, throughout history and throughout the world today, to follow Jesus is what Bonhoeffer equated to a “call to come and die.” For most of us in the West, this call is simply a spiritual one. Very real, but not bleeding into our physical safety and comfort to a great degree. But for many still, this “call to come and die” is a literal, physical call that will cost them their property, their safety, and ultimately their physical life.

Throughout this book, I found myself getting angry. I found myself weeping in misery and weeping in joy. I was sad, mad, but ultimately greatly encouraged (that the Gospel will go forth to the ends of the earth) and challenged (because God has blessed me and every believer with the burden/opportunity to be the one to take it). It is not just the frontier missionary who has been called to live a life of reckless abandon, but everyone who claims the blood of Jesus as his righteousness and bears the name Christian.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Apostle's Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
On the third day he rose from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from there he shall come again to judge the living and the dead

Friday, July 13, 2012

For Calvinism

For Calvinism, by Michael Horton, was released last year as a part of a simultaneous release with Against Calvinisim by Roger Olson.  I read and reviewed Olson's book at the end of last year/beginning of this year....literally, I believe that is what I did on New Year's Eve.  :-D  I was not in as great a hurry to read For Calvinism as I was Against Calvinism by Olson.  I had already read much by Horton and was already pretty firmly “for Calvinism”, so I figured Olson's book was a good place to start. 

After reading Olson's critique of reformed theology, specifically the doctrines of grace, I was unimpressed with his argument against “Calvinism”.  However, as we are beginning a study of Ephesians at church, and “Calvinism” is flooding convention thought in the SBC, yet again, I thought this would be a good time to read Horton's take on the validity of “Calvinism”.

There is much to take away from this book.  “Calvinism”, or Reformed Theology(preferable), is not a TULIP.  This is significant for a couple of reasons.  First off, the TULIP acronym, was invented after 1900 as a way of summarizing the Synod of Dordt, the five points themself a reaction to the Remonstrants' five points.  Greater still, is the fact that the terminology attached to TULIP leads to great confusion. The TULIP does not define the points to which they are assigned sufficiently or clearly.  This is why, in his book, Horton addresses some of the points with different terminology(ie, Total Depravity=Radical Depravity; Irresitible Grace=Effectual Grace; Limited Atonement=Definite Atonement).  While RUDEP may not be as easy to remember as TULIP, the exchange of a memorable acronym for an accurate one is probably worth the effort.

The greater reason not to equate TULIP with Reformed Theology as a whole is because the Reformed understanding of the Christian faith cannot be reduced to five points of soteriology.  Horton devotes an entire chapter, and sections within chapters, expounding on the riches of Reformed Theology and practice.  He makes an argument for the Regulative principle, Covenant theology, how Reformed theology views the atonement and the extent of the redeeming work of Christ beyond just sinners but unto all of creation, how Reformed Theology interacts with society and creation, etc...  Reformed faith and practice cannot be reduced to the TULIP(or even RUDEP) and, beyond that, the TULIP is not even the central dogma of Reformed theology.   

Horton devotes a chapter to Calvinism and missions/evangelism.  It is a great chapter, and an important one, because so often(as in Geisler's Chosen But Free) the accusation is made that Calvinist theology impedes evangelism and missions. That believing in the sovereign grace of God erases any desire to share the Gospel with a neighbor or labor for the Gospel to reach the ends of the world.  Horton begins the chapter with page after page of historical examples to the contrary.  From the time of Calvin (who trained hundreds of missionaries) on, Horton lays out historical example after example of Christians who held dearly to the doctrines of grace and also labored faithfully, sacrificially, and often unto death to see that the Gospel was proclaimed to those who had never heard the name of Jesus.  Horton shows that statistically, those who hold to Reformed theology, send as much or more money to support foreign missions, and as many or more missionaries onto the mission field.  In fact, citing a PCA News report, the Presbyterian Church in America(Reformed, doctrines of grace, allegedly no desire or need to do missions) supports three times as many foreign missionaries per capita as the Southern Baptist Convention supports foreign and domestic missionaries per capita.  After showing that history and statistics do not match the caricature of the mission/evangelism-hating Calvinist, Horton spends time discussing the theological underpinnings of Reformed missions.

In the final chapter, Horton unpacks some of the strengths of Reformed theology, and some of the dangers we can stumble upon if we embrace the doctrines of grace.  This chapter is a gentle rebuke for some who are in the “cage stage" and may be using this book as ammunition to attack brothers and sisters who may not agree with their flower of choice. It is also a good reminder for those of us who have grown out of the “cage stage”, lest we necessitate a re-caging.

I am a Horton fan, from the White Horse Inn to Modern Reformation, to his systematic theology and his preaching, and I am a fan of this book.  I will admit, as with everything I have read by Horton, at times I get left behind in the text, a little lost.  Olson's writing style is much more suited to introductions to issues.  Against Calvinism, while not watered down, was a much easier read for me than For Calvinism was at a few parts.  Being said, I would commend this book to all and encourage any who may get bogged down at parts to keep working through it.  The payoff from this book is worth the effort.  I would agree with Roger Olson, mostly, on his recommendation of the book from the foreword.
Anyone interested in reading the best case possible for Calvinism must read this book.  It is informative, engaging, clear, and self-critical.  It helpfully contributes to the ongoing discussions and debates about God's sovereignty among evangelicals...After reading this book I can recommend it wholeheartedly with the reservation that I strongly disagree with its central claims...It is possible to be committed and fair, critical and generous.  For Calvinism proves it and my hearty endorsement reveals it.--Roger Olson

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Glory of God by Shai Linne

Not to us, not to us But to Your name be the glory! (repeat)

Verse 1
Let us begin: How should we start?
Brightness shining out of the dark
It shines in our hearts, providing a spark
His might incites the light to impart
Takes us back to Genesis 1
Angels clapped, and hymns—they were sung
Face the facts—He’s second to none
In the beginning positioned the sun
Up in the sky, hovering high
The light’s too bright—over your eyes
Type of sights that none can devise
This Righteous Knight is lovely and wise
It’s seen in the stars
Seen in the galaxies, seen in quasars
Neptune, Uranus and Pluto and Jupiter Mercury, Saturn and Venus and Mars
Back to the earth, it shows in the trees
Each of the leaves blows in the breeze
Locusts and bees, ocean and seas
All the result of Jehovah’s decrees
Observe the way His Word creates,Preserves and shapes, determines fates
Reverberates at urgent rates
The earth—it shakes with fervent quakes!
Imagine it
I can’t explain the half of it
Our brains can’t even fathom it
And language is inadequate
To characterize the Lord on the throne
With spiritual eyes, the story is known
From Him and through Him and to Him is everything
Surely to God be the glory alone!

Verse 2
Let us consider the God who is there
Possessing a glory that’s not to be shared
God versus anyone—not even fair
How could you dare to try to compare
The self-existent, self-sufficient Omnipotent, Beneficent Faithful God whose Word we can trust Perfectly Holy and perfectly just
His beauty, there’s no end to it
Transcendence is infinite
Knowledge and wisdom—intricate
Steadfast love is intimate
We see in His laws—He is the Boss
Nothing about Him is evil or false
Pure perfection, zero flaws
All of His attributes meet at the cross!
The place where Jesus Christ was smashed
To satisfy God’s righteous wrath
Rose from the grave on my behalf
Through faith in Christ, He lights our path
Makes believers part of His fam
How does a Holy God pardon a man?
Perhaps even harder to understand
From the beginning was part of His plan
Imagine it
I can’t explain the half of it
Our brains can’t even fathom it
And language is inadequate
To characterize the Lord on the throne
With spiritual eyes, the story is known
From Him and through Him and to Him is everything
Surely to God be the glory alone


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Athanasian Creed

Whosoever wants to be saved, before all things it is
necessary that he hold the catholic faith.
Which faith except everyone do keep whole and
undefiled, without doubt he shall perish
everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this, that we
worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity,
neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the
Substance. For there is one Person of the Father,
another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son and of the
Holy Ghost is all One, the Glory Equal, the Majesty
Co-Eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and
such is the Holy Ghost. The Father Uncreated, the
Son Uncreated, and the Holy Ghost Uncreated.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Perfection of Beauty by Blaire Linne

Beauty is sold in exchange for a “dime” Nothing to attract us to You,
yet we worship Your creation as fine
Captivated by its forbidden fruit
Pleasing our senses, so we suppress
the truth And eat the lie
Media’s fig leaf deadening our soul and mind
Sin blinding us to You
The only objective Beauty that’s truly absolute
Hidden in the symmetry of Your
goodness, glory and truth
Each attribute working harmoniously
Justice with patience, wrath with
graciousness Omnipotence with
humility, long-suffering with
Each a note to a sweet melody
The ultimate hymn entitled “God’s  Beauty” Immutable, no change Because “dimes” get lost daydreaming in dark gutters Unable
to hear the call to wake up
They, the noose, dripping honeysuckle Lips
pasted on with Mac makeup
If they truly beheld Your beauty You’d
make magazines and Mattell go
You sent Your Beloved to be lifted up On a beautiful, seemingly ugly cross
The visible image of Your hiddenness Only You are beautiful and yet invisible
True beauty is spiritual Therefore,
sanctify our worldly minds Your
complexion is unappealing to lustful
Besides, apart from new birth
in Christ Sinners beholding Your
Holy beauty would die
Therefore, beauty residing in the eye of the
beholder is a lie
It is found in the Beautiful One—The Most High