May 2007

25 May 2007

Lutheran Rev. Paul McCain, who I quite enjoy reading on most topics and who I respect for taking on that which he considers error, has written an absurd article on Calvinism. Take your meds before reading it, my friends. The greatest hits are all there: Calvinists care more about God’s sovereignty than the Cross, “dreary” double predestination (including a misunderstanding of the term), Calvinists are responsible somehow for New England, Calvinists can never have assurance, Calvinists deny the real presence, etc.

You don’t really need the atoning sacrifice of Christ in this system. You see the Sovereign God simply is Sovereign. That settles it. I’m not really sure what point there was for Him to send His Son anyway [my emphasis], but I guess that too is just to be chalked up to the Sovereign God.

I can see aiming this at liberals, but Calvinists? Oy. (By the way, it is a very good question to raise to people when explaining the cross. Why did God need to send his Son? If “God is love,” why didn’t He just say “all is forgiven” and be done with it? Romans 3:25 tells you why.)

24 May 2007

I was reading a Baptist post somewhere talking about improper Presbyterian administration of the sacrament of baptism, and I (a confessional Presbyterian) began to wonder: What is the Baptist argument against the fact that the church universally practiced infant baptism until the 16th century? Isn’t “believer’s baptism” as much an innovation as pastorettes, dispensationalism, pentecostalism, and Mormonism? (Not that all these are equally bad, of course.)

One may say, “Well, yes, but Scripture teaches believers baptism.” But if that were the case, wouldn’t the Holy Spirit see to it that a remnant was practicing such baptism over the first 1500 years of the New Testament church?

Comments are open. This is not the place to argue the Scriptural case for believers baptism or infant baptism, but I would be grateful if someone could summarize Baptist opinion about “the gap.”

20 May 2007

It strikes me that Ecclesiastes 7:1-4 would be a good text at a funeral sermon, but I have never heard it raised at one.

A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

16 May 2007

It’s interesting how many films, from Spiderman to 28 Days Later, have destruction as their context. Watching previews recently at a theater, I noted that every film involved it: Great monuments exploding, cities depopulated, and sandy ruins the only beacons of a once-great civilization. There is an unease in so much of our entertainment, a feeling that calamity awaits despite peace and serenity (of course, the wishful thinking, the lie, in all these films is that civilization will recover via the efforts of heroes).

For the history student, this preoccupation with calamity may be related to what Nock stated so hauntingly:

A dozen empires have already finished the course that ours began three centuries ago. The lion and the lizard keep the vestiges that attest their passage upon earth, vestiges of cities which in their day were as proud and powerful as ours – Tadmor, Persepolis, Luxor, Baalbek – some of them indeed forgotten for thousands of years and brought to memory again only by the excavator, like those of the Mayas, and those buried in the sands of the Gobi. The sites which now bear Narbonne and Marseilles have borne the habitat of four successive civilizations, each of them, as St. James says, even as a vapour which appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away. The course of all these civilizations was the same. Conquest, confiscation, the erection of the State; then the sequences which we have traced in the course of our own civilization; then the shock of some irruption [internal collapse] which the social structure was too far weakened to resist, and from which it was left too disorganized to recover; and then the end. -Our Enemy, the State, ch. 6, p.144

However, I don’t think most people are that interested in history. So why the preoccupation? Ecclesiastes 3 says that we have eternity in our hearts. I think our consciences are also stamped with a sense of pending judgment, the day of the Lord, and this is the real cause of the unease. The viewer may pass it off as harmless entertainment as he exits the theater, but our fairy tales and stories often speak to eternal truths moreso than the news (as Lewis put it in The Weight of Glory: “[T]he ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy”).

Reading the prophecies of Isaiah, it’s hard not to ponder the great glory and sudden ruin of empires.

Behold, the Lord will empty the earth and make it desolate,and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants. And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the slave, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller;as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the creditor, so with the debtor. The earth shall be utterly empty and utterly plundered; for the Lord has spoken this word. The earth mourns and withers; the world languishes and withers; the highest people of the earth languish. The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched, and few men are left. The wine mourns, the vine languishes,all the merry-hearted sigh. The mirth of the tambourines is stilled, the noise of the jubilant has ceased, the mirth of the lyre is stilled. No more do they drink wine with singing; strong drink is bitter to those who drink it. The wasted city is broken down; every house is shut up so that none can enter. There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine; all joy has grown dark; the gladness of the earth is banished. Desolation is left in the city; the gates are battered into ruins. -Isaiah 24:1-12

12 May 2007

Reading another excellent post on creeping egalitarianism by the Bayly brothers reminded me of this Martyn LLoyd-Jones passage:

[The] process of change is never a sudden one. It is always a subtle and slow process.. Perhaps the clearest demonstration of this that one can give is what happened in the [19th] century in connection with the so-called Higher Critical movement. At the beginning of that century there were a numbr of evangelical denominations and bodies. Then gradually a change came in, a change of emphasis, a change of teaching, but the striking thing about it was the slowness and the subtlety with which it came.

There were, of course, men who were very extreme, and who made bold statements, and almost everybody could see that they were wrong. They did not do the harm. They never do the harm. The obvious, open, arrogant heretic generally produces a reaction, and he is not the dangerous person. The really dangerous man is the man who introduces some very slight or very subtle change … Now the great Charles Haddon Spurgeon saw all this, but when he began to denounce what he called the ‘Downgrade’ movement he was attacked ferociously by evangelical people. They said, What is the matter with Mr Spurgeon? He’s become hypercritical; he’s turning molehills into mountains; he’s exaggerating! History has proved that he was not exaggerating. He saw these subtle changes. Others said of the men whose influence Spurgeon feared, They are still evangelical; they say this and they say that, but they are truly evangelical. They did not pay attention to some of the other things that these men were beginning to say, and therefore they missed the very subtle process which was insinuating itself into the life of the churches. -from What is an Evangelical, Ch. I

10 May 2007

Say not, Why were the former days better than these? For it is not from wisdom that you ask this. -Eccl. 7:10

Matthew Henry:

Take it not for granted that the former days were better than these, nor enquire what is the cause that they were so, for therein thou dost not enquire wisely, since thou enquirest into the reason of the thing before thou art sure that the thing itself is true; and, besides, thou art so much a stranger to the times past, and such an incompetent judge even of the present times, that thou canst not expect a satisfactory answer to the enquiry, and therefore thou dost not enquire wisely; nay, the supposition is a foolish reflection upon the providence of God in the government of the world.’’ Note, (1.) It is folly to complain of the badness of our own times when we have more reason to complain of the badness of our own hearts (if men’s hearts were better, the times would mend) and when we have more reason to be thankful that they are not worse, but that even in the worst of times we enjoy many mercies, which help to make them not only tolerable, but comfortable. (2.) It is folly to cry up the goodness of former times, so as to derogate from the mercy of God to us in our own times; as if former ages had not the same things to complain of that we have, or if perhaps, in some respects, they had not, yet as if God had been unjust and unkind to us in casting our lot in an iron age, compared with the golden ages that went before us; this arises from nothing but fretfulness and discontent, and an aptness to pick quarrels with God himself. We are not to think there is any universal decay in nature, or degeneracy in morals. God has been always good, and men always bad; and if, in some respects, the times are now worse than they have been, perhaps in other respects they are better.

06 May 2007

When the waters saw you, O God,when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled. -Psalm 77:16

even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you. -Psalm 139:12

You never quite know what’s going to come in from the deep when you snorkel in the ocean. I’ve been surprised by sea turtles, grouper, barracuda, and small jellyfish (sadly, no reef sharks!). I remember floating once over a shallow shelf being startled to see an eel lurking out of a hole about a foot under my stomach. There was no room to paddle, so floating was the only option; it seemed to take forever to steer clear as I watched the little fellow ominously grinning the way eels do.

Once I joined a night manta dive in Hawaii. Never having learned to scuba, I snorkeled alone while the divers went to the bottom. They shot floodlights from there. From the dark, silent waters, huge mantas eerily wandered into the lit areas. Some majestically glided a few feet beneath where I floated.

I eventually became more interested in looking away from the rays, the boats, and the shoreline, and out into the murky blackness all around. The water was lapping about me. I thought about what lurks out there. Was a hammerhead sizing me up? I looked down and was startled to not see the lights any longer. The divers had gone back to the ship and I was alone! For a brief moment the terror of the deep hit me. How horrible it’d be to be left floating in the vast ocean alone at night! I can’t describe it, but I’ll never forget it.

To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, our God is not a tame lion.

03 May 2007

Disgraced ex-governor Jim McGreevey, who spurned his wife for a man, has entered seminary. You get one guess on the denomination.