Friday, June 29, 2007

The first twenty years

Phil Ryken wrote an exellent piece, reflecting on the first 20 years of his marriage to his wife, Lisa. I was surprised and amused by our similarities! (So much so that I emailed the link to my wife so that she could get a chuckle). The most important similarity was how Ryken closed his reflection:

If there is one practical principle that Lisa and I would insist on for marriage it is the absolute necessity of resolving any conflicts the same day they occur. We have taken Paul’s words to the Ephesians very literally: “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Eph. 4:26-27). In order to prevent Satan from ever getting the chance to divide our partnership, we have sometimes stayed up late into the night. But in twenty years, by the grace of God, we have never gone to bed without being totally reconciled.

In nearly 14 years of marriage, my wife and I have followed this same principle. It made for some late nights (2 or 3 in the morning; yikes!). And yet, I think it has been important for us/me to pursue repentance and reconcilation so that we/I would not grow bitter. The other key principle has been the verse at the end of Ephesians 4: "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another just as Christ has forgiven you" (4:32). Extending forgivenness freely and maintaining tender-heartedness toward each other, especially when we've sinned against each other, has been hugely important for us as well.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Edwards on the nature of justification

From Jonathan Edwards, "Profitable Hearers of the Word," in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 14: Sermons and Discourses, 1723-1729, ed. Kenneth P. Minkema (Yale University Press, 1997), 266-7:

...I would premise, negatively, that there are no degrees of imputed righteousness, but that all saints are alike justified in the sight of God by the righteousness of Christ. As there are no degrees in the same person with the represent to this, but he is as much justified the first moment of his conversion as ever he is, how much soever he may increase in holiness afterwards; so neither is there any difference in this respect in different persons.

The weakest saint is as much justified in the sight of God as the strongest. He that has but a spark of grace in his heart, the lowest degree of the sanctifying spirit, has his sins as much pardoned, and Christ's satisfaction and righteousness as much imputed to him, as Moses or Elijah or the apostle Paul had, yea, as much as the saints of heaven have.

'Tis very evident because all the sins of every believer, as soon as ever he believes, are pardoned; and if they are all pardoned and blotted out, cast into the depths of the sea, so that they shall be remembered no more, then there can be no degrees of pardon. If sins are so pardoned that God's anger is all ceased, they can't be more pardoned. Christ's death has fully satisfied for the sins of all believers, is of as much virtue to satisfy for the sins of one as of another. So his righteousness is wrought out for one saint as much for another.

'Tis the same perfect righteousness imputed to everyone, and if it be really imputed to all, there is as much as it can be; there can be no degrees of imputation of the same thing. If it be one covenant by which they have their righteousness, then their righteousness must be the same.

"Where'd all these Calvinists Come From..." the question that Mark Dever is trying to answer here. I think his first of ten answers is right: Spurgeon had an important influence on me. I hope that #2 will be Banner of Truth because reading Spurgeon led me to reading various Puritan authors, which led me to Jonathan Edwards, which led me to realize I was a "five-point Calvinist" and set me on this journey to being Presbyterian.

Gaffin on Future Acquittal and Present Justification

From Richard Gaffin, "The Vitality of Reformed Systematic Theology," in The Faith Once Delivered (P&R, 2007), 16-7:

For justification, it is fair to say that, in general, Reformation theology has grasped, at least intuitively, the escathological "now" empathically asserted, for instance, in Romans 5:1 and 8:1. It has perceived with sound instinct that the verdict pronounced on believers, declaring them righteous and entitled to eternal life, involves, judgment, already realized, that is final and irrevocable. But it has been much more inhibited, no doubt because of polemics with Rome, in recognizing and incorporating into its doctrinal formulations the still-future aspect of justification clearly implied if not explicitly taught in the New Testament. The Westminster catechisms, for instance, confess that believers will be 'openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment.' Such language is thoroughly forensic, and acquittal is at the heart of justification.

The integral tie between that future acquittal and present justification needs to be made clear. As a single justification by the sole instrumentality of faith and based exclusively on the imputed righteousness of Christ, the one is the consummation of the other, as its open manifestation. For now until Jesus comes, the believer's justification is most certainly settled and certain but not uncontested. Romans 8:33-34, for instance, is clear in that regard. The faith that justifies perseveres in love (Gal. 5:6). No doubt, as so often in our theologizing, the proverbial razor's edge between the truth of the gospel and serious error presents itself here, a narrow ledge that will have to be negotiated with care.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Which theologian are you?

I too did this fascinating assessment: I rated out as Anselm (I was just thankful that I was not Karl Barth; I was pulling for either Calvin or Edwards, but am satisfied with Anselm. I'm a little troubled, thought, by my high Finney quotient...):

You scored as a Anselm
Anselm is the outstanding theologian of the medieval period.He sees man's primary problem as having failed to render unto God what we owe him, so God becomes man in Christ and gives God what he is due. You should read 'Cur Deus Homo?'

Anselm 100%
Karl Barth 80%
Jonathan Edwards 80%
Martin Luther 73%
John Calvin 67%
Charles Finney 60%
Augustine 47%
Friedrich Schleiermacher 40%
J├╝rgen Moltmann 20%

Paul Tillich 20%

Post 300: George Herbert, "The Altar"

[For Posts 100 and 200, I wrote about Wendell Berry. For Post 300, I offer a poem by my other favorite poet, George Herbert: "The Altar"]

The Altar.
A broken A L T A R, Lord, thy servant reares,
Made of a heart, and cemented with teares:
Whose parts are as thy hand did frame;
No workmans tool hath touch’d the same.
A H E A R T alone
Is such a stone,
As nothing but
Thy pow’r doth cut.
Wherefore each part
Of my hard heart
Meets in this frame,
To praise thy Name;
That, if I chance to hold my peace,
These stones to praise thee may not cease.
O let thy blessed S A C R I F I C E be mine,
And sanctifie this A L T A R to be thine.


This is too funny...As I tried to explain to Rodney Trotter via email, my parents were not yet married when Rob was born and so my grandmother forced my mom to give him up to adoption; his real name is Gareth.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


You know blog advertising (or "blogvertising") has gone a bit far, when you are reading a fairly sophisticated Reformed theological blog and the banner ad from Google reads, "Faith Baptist Church: Free to join. 1000s of pictures & of Beautiful Baptist Singles." Huh?

Monday, June 18, 2007

John Piper on Christ's obedience and death

John Piper from the Desiring God website:

Our only hope for living the radical demands of the Christian life is that God is totally for us now and forever. Therefore, God has not ordained that living the Christian life should be the basis of our hope that God is for us. That basis is the death and righteousness of Christ, counted as ours through faith alone. All the punishment required of us because of our sin, Christ endured for us on the cross. And all the obedience that God required of us, that he, as our Father, might be completely for us and not against us forever, Christ has performed for us in his perfect obedience to God.

This punishment and this obedience (not all obedience) is completed and past. It can never change. Our union with Christ and the enjoyment of these benefits is secure forever. Through faith alone, God establishes our union with Christ. This union will never fail, because in Christ, God is for us as an omnipotent Father who sustains our faith and works all things together for our everlasting good. The one and only instrument through which God preserves our union with Christ is faith in Christ—the purely receiving act of the soul.

The Place of Our Good Works in God’s Purposes
Our own works of love do not create or increase God’s being for us as a Father committed to bringing us everlasting joy in his presence. That fatherly commitment to be for us in this way was established once for all through faith and union with God’s Son. In his Son, the perfection and punishment required of us are past and unchangeable. They were performed by Christ in his obedience and death. They cannot be changed or increased in sufficiency or worth.

Our relationship with God is with One who has become for us as an omnipotent Father committed to working all things together for our everlasting enjoyment of him. This relationship was established at the point of our justification when God removed his judicial wrath from us, and imputed the obedience of his Son to us, and counted us as righteous in Christ, and forgave all our sins because he had punished them in the death of Jesus.

Therefore, the function of our own obedience, flowing from faith--that is, our own good works produced as the fruit of the Holy Spirit—is to make visible the worth of Christ and the worth of his work as our substitute-punishment and substitute-righteousness. God’s purpose in the universe is not only to be infinitely worthy but to be displayed as infinitely worthy. Our works of love, flowing from faith, are the way Christ-embracing faith shows the value of what it has embraced. The sacrifices of love for the good of others show the all-satisfying worth of Christ as the One whose blood and righteousness establishes the fact that God is for us forever.

All the benefits of Christ—all the blessings that flow from God being for us and not against us—rest on the redeeming work of Christ as our Substitute. If God is for us, who can be against us? With this confidence—that God is our omnipotent Father and is committed to working all things together for our everlasting joy in him—we will love others. God has so designed and ordered things that invisible faith, which embraces Christ as infinitely worthy, gives rise to acts of love that make the worth of Christ visible. Thus, our sacrifices of love do not have any hand in establishing the fact that God is completely for us, now and forever. It’s the reverse: The fact that God is for us establishes our sacrifices of love. If he were not totally for us, we would not persevere in faith and would not therefore be able to make sacrifices of love.

Our mindset toward our own good works must always be: These works depend on God being totally for us. That’s what the blood and righteousness of Christ have secured and guaranteed forever. Therefore, we must resist every tendency to think of our works as establishing or securing the fact that God is for us forever. It is always the other way around. Because he is for us, he sustains our faith. And through that faith-sustaining work, the Holy Spirit bears the fruit of love.

Avoiding the Double Tragedy
There would be a double tragedy in thinking of our works of love as securing the fact that God is completely for us. Not only would we obscure the very reason these works exist—namely, to display the beauty and worth of Christ, whose blood and righteousness is the only and all-sufficient guarantee that God is for us—but we would also undermine the very thing that makes the works of love possible—namely, the assurance that God is totally for us, from which flows the freedom and courage to make the sacrifices of love.

Our obedience does not add to the perfection and beauty and all-sufficiency of Christ’s obedience in securing the reality that God is for us; it displays that perfection and beauty and all-sufficiency. Our works of love are as necessary as God’s purpose to glorify himself. That is, they are necessary because God is righteous—he has an eternal and unwavering commitment to do the ultimately right thing: to make the infinite value of his Son visible in the world.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Valley of Vision

Slow to most parties, I just started listening to two recent CDs from Sovereign Grace Ministries: Upward and Valley of Vision. My new favorite song is on the Valley of Vision disc, "Heavenly Father, Beautiful Son":
Father, you loved me; sent your Son to redeem
Jesus, you washed me; by your blood I am clean
Spirit, you've opened these blind eyes and brought me to Christ

Heavenly Father, Beautiful Son, Spirit of Light and Truth
Thank you for bringing sinners to come to you (2x)

Father, you gave me to Jesus to keep
And Jesus, you love me as a Shepherd his sheep
Spirit, you've given me faith in the Son and made our hearts one


Father, you're waiting to hear my requests
Jesus, your loving open hand is outstretched
Spirit, you're in me, you intercede and help in my need


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

On Being Presbyterian: Ordained Servant review

I'm so grateful for friends who generously engaged with things about which I write and think. D. G. Hart's review in the OPC's Ordained Servant online magazine thoughtfully raises appropriate questions and honors what On Being Presbyterian was trying to accomplish. His review also sets forward the place where we probably see the way in which Christian (general) and Presbyterian (specific) identity correlate a little differently, although probably not as differently as he suggests.