2/25/2015

The 500th Post


This is officially the 500th post on “Fear and Trembling.”  I just want to share some random thoughts on blogging and the Christian life.

Preparing blog posts has been a serious pastime, and the research and thought I have put into this blog have changed me for the better.  I have a deeper understanding of theology and apologetics than I had when I started. 

However, when I blog it is easy to think I have done my duty in evangelism / apologetics or teaching.  This is a dangerous thing.  It is much easier to sit in front of a computer and research and type than it is to be actively involved in the ministry of a local church as it confronts an increasingly pagan culture.  My blog has had some impact (over 42,000 page views since 2007 according to Google Analytics and Blogger), but that impact is not easily measurable because few people leave comments.  By contrast, I can clearly see the impact of personal relationships and personal involvement in the lives of others.

I have been able to revise and republish several blog posts as articles for our local newspaper, The Union City, Tennessee, “Daily Messenger.”    Several have commented to me in person about the impact of those articles.  Maybe blogging has been just preparation for something else.  I am considering writing a book based on the latest series of those newspaper articles and seeking publication.  Only God knows how that one will work out.  It may be a very humbling exercise.

I have not resolved the tension in my own mind between the differing schools of thought on Christian apologetics.  I have written from the evidential, classical, presuppositional and reformed epistemological perspectives at some point or another in this endeavor.  I still do not know where exactly I come out in all of that controversy.  I am aware of exactly what I do not know at this point, and if you think about it, that is a step in the right direction.  I will keep praying and studying as the Lord gives me opportunity.

“Fear and Trembling” has documented my struggle over which denomination to join.  I am happy that that has been a difficult choice.  Religious freedom in the USA has allowed me to have choices, and I am very thankful to God for that freedom.  I was Southern Baptist; I seriously considered the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod; and I am now PCA (Presbyterian Church in America).  A Christian can find the gospel in all of those places, but you see where I ended up.  The Westminster Standards won the day.

Lastly, sanctification is rough business.  Think of Aslan’s claws on Eustace in C. S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  My experience in the Christian life has not been the dramatic deliverance from besetting sins that some of my friends claim, but a slow process of little victories and all to frequent setbacks.  He loves much who has been forgiven much. 

What was it John Newton is credited with saying toward the end of his life?  “Although my memory's fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”  I need Christ to be my great Savior because I am a great sinner.

My posts have been infrequent lately, and I expect that to continue.  I am concentrating my effort on my local church, where I am a Ruling Elder, and my family, where I am a husband and father.  I will be back though, Lord willing, when I have something worth sharing.

May God bless you richly in Christ Jesus.

2/10/2015

President Obama, Islam and Christianity


I have carefully avoided involving this blog in politics, but when a sitting U. S. President makes religious comments at a National Prayer Breakfast, then I consider them ‘fair game.’

 The Crusades

Several teachers I respect have made solid cases that the Crusades were a defensive action undertaken to take back lands conquered by Muslims and to prevent their further conquests (see Kevin DeYoung at this link).  But, even if they are wrong, the immoral actions associated with the crusades were against the will of Christ. 

There was a time in the life of Christ when Jesus and His teachings had just been rejected by the inhabitants of a Samaritan village.  His disciples James and John said, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven and consume them?”  Jesus “turned and rebuked them.” (Luke 9:51-56, ESV)  Jesus’ followers should ‘take His lead’ and not engage in religious wars of conquest in this era. 

It is safe to say that Mohamed would not have rebuked the disciples in the story recounted above.  He may have even ‘taken matters into his own hands’ and destroyed the village without divine intervention as is evidenced by these quotes from the Koran:

“Slay them wherever you find them … idolatry is worse than carnage …Fight against them until idolatry is no more and God’s religion reigns supreme” (Surah 2:190).

“Fighting is obligatory to you, much as you dislike it” (Surah 2:216).

“Seek out your enemies relentlessly” (Surah 4:103).

I could go on.  Because the good people at Answering Islam have done so at this link, I do not have to.

Slavery and Racism

I have very little to comment on here accept to say that Christianity is a religion which plainly teaches that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:28-29, ESV).  It is difficult to use that kind of religion to justify slavery and racism.  In fact, it is easy to use that kind of religion to tear down the walls of slavery and the injustice of racism (see the life and writings of William Wilberforce and Martin Luther King, Jr.).  The Koran simply does not have a passage like that.

One Way to Heaven

Yes, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the father except through me” (John 14:6, ESV).  A widely respected moral teacher and moral example said that; not some ‘Bible-thumping,’ uneducated, and backward “fundamentalist.”  So the statement should be respected.  (Not to mention that the aforementioned great moral teacher died and rose from the grave just to make His point.)

As for us, it is high time we stopped griping about the fact that God only provided one way into heaven and start being in awe of the fact that He provided a way into heaven at all whatsoever.  A God who is holy (free from sin and its affects) does not owe a person who is sinful (affected by the evils of sin in all aspects of his / her being) a way into heaven.  All God owes us is a ‘one-way ticket’ to hell for an eternity without a chance of escape.  (See R. C. Sproul’s more eloquent and refined version of this argument at this link.)


May God have mercy on us and bless us, and may all the ends of the earth fear His name.  (Psalm 67)

7/29/2014

Why I Accepted Ordination as an Elder in the PCA

I joined Grace Presbyterian Church, a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America, in 2010.  I have officially made the move from my Southern Baptist (SBC) background after careful theological reflection.  I have also recently accepted ordination as an Elder in that church.  This post will outline the main reasons for my decision.

Justification by Faith Alone

Justification is the doctrine that we are legally credited with Jesus Christ’s suffering for our sin and perfect life lived when we place our faith in Him.  We get credit for being morally perfect when we place our faith in Him even though we do not become perfectly righteous in this life.  This justification is by faith alone in that our good works do not merit justification in any way.  Justification is something that is credited to us because we have faith, not something that is awarded to us because we are good in ourselves.

The Baptist Faith and Message, the closest thing to a confessional statement in SBC circles, implies that justification is by faith alone, but omits the word “alone” from it statements.  This leaves to much room for interpretation, as evidenced by the willingness of some SBC churches to cooperate with the Roman Catholic Church in matters of faith and religious practice. 

Salvation’s Description by Scripture Alone

The description of salvation and the process which leads to it is ultimately described by Scripture alone and not by the traditions of the church.  Church tradition has a secondary role, but Scripture is our ultimate authority.  (I should note that this is not a difference from SBC churches, it’s just something that is important.)

Liturgy

I am tired of an informal worship style that leaves out key elements of biblical worship such as confessing our sins, recitation of The Lord’s Prayer, and formal reading of the Bible. 

The PCA practices a more liturgical style of worship according to the regulative principle.  Briefly stated, the regulative principle says that worship should include only what is used by worshipers in the Bible and that worship should contain all of the elements used by people in the Bible. 

This worship style awakens passion for God in my heart like none other. 

Calvinism

God saves sinners.  God saved me.  I did not help Him do so. 

I once heard J. Vernon McGee tell a story on the radio that is important to relate at this point.  (I will get many of the particulars wrong.  I have not been able to find a written account.)

McGee tells the story of a young black boy who wanted to join a church. He presented himself for church membership and the elders asked the boy, "How did you get saved?" His answer was, "God did His part, and I did my part." They thought there was something wrong with his doctrine, so they questioned further, "What was God's part, and what was your part?" His explanation was a good one. He said, "God's part was the saving, and my part was the sinning. I done run from Him as fast as my sinful heart and rebellious legs could take me. He done took out after me till He run me down."

The only system that safeguards that sentiment is properly understood Five-point Calvinism.  God saves sinners all on His own without their help.

Infant Baptism

Either we are part of the same body of believers with the saints of the Old Testament or we are not.  If we are, then it makes sense to baptize infants since it made sense to circumcise infants.  

An excellent debate on this topic can be found here.

Plural Eldership

The authority in most Baptist churches does not lie with the congregation so much as it lies with the pastor or a set of committees made up of mostly un-ordained church members.  Both of these approaches have issues.
If there is only one pastor who controls most of the authority in a particular church, then no one can check the pastor if he falls into false teaching or begins to make unwise decisions.  Plural eldership, or the vesting of authority in more than one person, avoids these problems.

Vesting authority in a set of committees avoids many of the problems of dictatorial pastor rule, but it does two things: allow for those who do not have a firm doctrinal foundation to run the church and force a congregationally organized church government to become basically presbyterian in form.  As recent doctrinal strife in both the Baptist and Presbyterian denominations over the Bible’s truthfulness shows, any church can drift into false teaching on major issues.  Having ordained leadership that subscribes to a particular set of doctrines outlined in a detailed confession of faith helps to avoid this.

Most Baptist churches which reach a certain size (in my experience about 300 members) begin to delegate major decisions regarding congregational life to a smaller group within the church as a practical matter.  Everyone in the church cannot vote on every decision, as pure congregationalism requires. 

This can be done either with the Deacons or a set of church committees.  Either way, what you essentially form is a presbyterian church government where some decisions are delegated by the congregation to a smaller group of trusted leaders.

Last but not Least: Confessional Statements

I am tired of being a member of a church whose entire doctrinal summary can be placed on a single 8.5 by 11 inch sheet of paper, double spaced.  Most SBC Churches have drifted toward that lack of confessional detail in recent years, despite the existence of The Baptist Faith and Message. 

The WestminsterConfession of Faith and Catechisms provide much more detail in a better organized format.  These Westminster Standards make explicit doctrinal details that should guide the church to avoid error. 

These are the primary issues which have motivated me to abandon the church I was brought up in and embrace a new denomination.  I present them in order to promote beneficial discussion.  

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