Tuesday, July 31, 2007

S. Lewis Johnson: Some of the Best Preaching Online!


I disagree with his dispensational premillennialism, but the man spoke on everything theologically. His sermons on Reformation thought are outstanding, as well as sermons on most books of the bible. Hundreds of them--for free. Load up your Ipod!

Lewis Johnson Institute

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Cry for a Christian Phalanx!

I got this beautiful gem of a quote from Carl F Henry.
A Christian phalanx, however much a minority, can impart a sense of purpose to a nation and to the world on less than the early church did in a former dark age of paganism...By not speaking up in the present cultural debate, we will fail not only the church and society but God as well.
gods of this age or God of the Ages, p. 92.

What is this to do with spiritual warfare? 2 Corinthians 10.5 tells us to tear down strongholds and take captive EVERY THOUGHT TO CHRIST (thus justifying a Christian perspective on everything.)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Refutation of Moral Relativism: Dialogues with an Absolutist

This book is typical Peter Kreeft: it couldn't be boring if it tried. The book gives ten or so arguments, for and against, moral relativism. The moral absolutist is played by a Muslim. The relativist by a liberal feminist.

Ben Isa argues that relativism is the most serious crisis to civilisation. He documents from history that all civilizations have presupposed some absolute moral code. Any civilization that operated on relativism, he argues, commits suicide.

The key arguments, that I have found most persuasive:
1) relativism has an absolutist premise in it: it argues that it is *good* to be relativist and *bad* to be absolutist. These are normative, absolutist judgments which are not consistent with the relativist claim.

2) The notion of progress demands an absolutist standard. If there is no absolute standard, and values are relative, how can a society make progress? To what is it progressing?

3) If relativism is true, then we must condemn men like Martin Luther King Jr, Ghandi, and abolitionists--people who are usually championed by relativists (I would have chosen different examples, but that's beside the point). They are known as cultural prophets, calling the evils of a society to account. But do you see the problem? If a society is the source and norm for values, and a society determines what is right and wrong (like slavery and the oppression of women), then who is the prophet to blame them? All of the cultural prophets have assumed a moral law to which society must be judged. This moral law, obviously, is absolutist.

4) Kreeft's arguments from the history of philosophy were quite impressive.

Pros: the book was extremely well-written. It was very insightful and covered the standard arguments used in the debates. Some pages were so good one had to stand and applaud.

Cons: his choice of a Muslim will no doubt bother some readers. I, personally, would have chosen a different hero. True, Islamic morals are absolute, but if consistent, they look a lot different than biblical revelation. 2) Kreeft sold the farm on evolution. He masterfully refuted it and then in the next paragraph affirmed it. I know what he is getting at but this is a poor way to phrase it.

I recommend this book.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Pictures of my dog

Book Review *Evangelicals in the Public Square*

Budziszewski, J. Evangelicals in the Public Square. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006. 218 pp.

Evangelicals have come out of political hiding. Whatever faults they may have, they have captured the minds and hearts of the majority of American Christians. Despite some shallow appeals to political action—for instance, the less promising elements of the Moral Majority—Evangelicals were forced to draw upon older intellectual streams, notably those of the Reformers. It is Budziszewski’s contention that for all the good Evangelicals have done in politics, they have harmed themselves by failing to draw from the natural law tradition (37). Budziszewski outlines four major thinkers as representative of the Evangelical political tradition: Carl F. Henry, Abraham Kuyper, Francis Schaeffer, and John Howard Yoder.

Budziszewski’s Analysis

Budziszewski launches into a 100 page essay dealing with the pros and cons of the Evangelical political tradition. He begins with Carl F. Henry. Henry’s notable achievement was sounding the trumpet for Evangelical engagement with his The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, uneasy because it had no voice to say to the world. Henry was quick to point out that the biblical message involves both personal regeneration and social transformation. Budziszewski, however, critiques Henry on the grounds that Henry’s system, while allowing for the possibility of general revelation, in practice denied it. With this downplaying of general revelation comes a denial of natural law. And if natural law is denied, on what grounds will Henry engage the secular man? Budziszewski objects that Henry’s call for Evangelical action amounts to little more than “evangelize.” Henry could appeal to the “shared conscience” but in the next breath said that conscience applied only to the regenerate (53-54).

Budziszewski then turns to Abraham Kuyper. Kuyper’s most notable concept—sphere sovereignty—led him to posit a “principled pluralism.” Kuyper argued that human reality is divided into God-ordained spheres: family, school, church, state. No one sphere has dominance and authority over the other. This is to protect the liberty and freedom of conscience of those within the spheres. So far, so good. Budziszewski, however, gives a telling critique of this move. Kuyper posits two principles concerning man’s relation to the state. 1) No citizen may be compelled to remain in a church he considers mistaken and 2) different churches must be granted legal standing (67). If Kuyper is speaking of “churches,” the point is granted. But if Kuyper is speaking of “religion,” then we must demur. After all, on what grounds would we prohibit Satanists from practicing their religion?

Next we move to Francis Schaeffer, with whom most Evangelicals will identify. It is hard to critique Schaeffer, given the man’s love for the lost and for culture. Budziszewski focuses much of his critique on Schaeffer’s political ethic expressed in A Christian Manifesto. Here Schaeffer, following Samuel Rutherford, argues that when Caesar goes beyond his authority Christians are to, in increasing levels of intensity and in this order: 1) protest in the public square, 2) flee to different lands, and finally 3) resist by armed force led by the lesser civil magistrate. Budziszewski critiques this along the lines that it presupposes a Constitutional government found in Western countries. Furthermore, given the American context, if Congress has refused to impeach the Supreme Court by legal means, what guarantees they will do so by armed means?

Finally, Budziszewski dialogues with John Howard Yoder, the Anabaptist theologian. Yoder argues for a church-centered political theory. Budziszewski is most critical here. Yoder doesn’t seem to answer the question of Romans 13, given his commitment to pacifism. Yoder wants to posit a good creation with good structures (as he should), but given Romans 13 and the fact that God commanded wars in the Old Testament, how can one then critique Just War Theory and the use of the sword? This is Budziszewski’s best analysis.

After this essay follows four rejoinders by four scholars. In my opinion, William Edgar of Westminster Seminary had the best essay (“Francis Schaeffer and the Public Square”). I do not think that Schaeffer had the strongest political ethic, but Edgar’s response is most enlightening. In short, he agrees with Budziszewski’s construction of Schaeffer. He defends Schaeffer on resistance saying that we need a vague resistance ethic, since not all cases are clear-cut. While this may appear to dodge the issue, it is actually wisdom. Edgar then focuses on Budziszewski’s contention that Evangelicals, particularly presuppositionalists, have downplayed natural law and general revelation. Edgar, a student of Cornelius Van Til, says this is the bedrock of the presuppositional apologetic. We can appeal to general revelation and the unbeliever’s use of it because we maintain that the unbeliever can only interpret it rightly through “the lens of Scripture.” Furthermore, general revelation doesn’t deliver what its advocates promise. Unbelievers distort the truth, not just special revelation (185).

Pros and Cons

This book, like most of Budziszewski’s work, was well-written and to the point. Budziszewski skillfully exploits holes in arguments. He has done us the favor of pointing out our weaknesses where we would miss them. He shows how we often take general revelation for granted. However, this does not necessarily conclude a natural law, as Edgar has pointed out. Sure, one can appropriate truths from general revelation. I think the problem, and Budziszewski implies this, is that Evangelicals have posited and either-or position on Scripture and natural law. Will this book convince you of natural law? No. Does it make a good case for natural law? While that is not the point of the book, it can encourage Evangelicals to see for themselves whether the same truths are found in general revelation that are found in special revelation.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Luther's Anfechtung

The terror of the Holy, the horrors of Infinitude, smote him like a new lightning bolt...Luther's tremor was augmented by the recognition of unworthiness...Before God the High and Holy Luther was stupefied...The word he used was Anfechtung, for which there is no English equivalent. It may be a trial by God to test man, or an assault by the Devil to destroy man. It is all the doubt, turmoil, pang, tremor, panic, despair, desolation, and desperation which invade the spirit of man.

In consequence the most frightful insecurities beset him. Panic invaded his spirit. The conscience became so disquieted as to start and tremble at the stirring of a windblown leaf. The horror of nightmare gripped the soul, the dread of one waking in the dusk to look into the eyes of him who has come to take his life. The heavenly champions all withdrew; the fiend beckoned with leering summons to the impotent soul

Thursday, July 26, 2007

10 Theses Toward an Evangelical Political Theology

I am taking these from J. Budziszewski's Evangelicals in the Public Square, pp 23ff. JB is a Roman Catholic Natural Law theorist--that is his background. These are his theses; I am witholding comment for a while.

The Evangelical Dilemma

1. God is the true sovereign; he ordained allhuman government fo rthe good of man, whom he made in his own image.

2. Although God originally chose only one nation, he desires ultimately to draw all nations in the light of his Word.

3. He disciplines the nations according to their deeds.

4. He also disciplines their rulers.

5. In general, disobedeince to human government is disobedience to God; indeed, government deserves not only respect but honor.

6. But there are exceptions: Any government edict that contradicts the commands of God must be disobeyed.

7. The just purposes of human government include the commendation of good, the punishment of evil, the maintance of peace, and the protection of the oppressed.

8. In pursuance of these purposes, God authorizes human government to use force on his behalf and in grave cases even to take life, though never delibeartely take the life of the innocent.

9. Yet human government cannot fully or permanently redress wrong, because it cannot uproot sin from the human heart; this van be done only be the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ.

10. MOrever, the community of redemption is not the state but the church. No matter how much respect is due the state, the church is never to be identified with it.

Problems with the above theses

A. Granted that all human government is ordained by God, it does not follow that God requires the continuance of the present regime or magistrates; we are told neither how rulers should be chosen nor what forms of government are preferable.

B. Granted that God disciplines the nations and rulers, SCripture explicitly denies that all good is reward or that all ill is punishment; only prophets can with certainty discern God's mind in unfolding events.

C. Granted that government edicts that contradict God's must be disobeyed, we are not instructed as to whether an unjust government may be resisted.

D. Granted that the just purposes of government include the commendation of good, punishment of evil, maintanece of peace, and protection of the oppressed, whether government may systematically pursue additonal purposes is not spelled out.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Books that formed me

Every now and then someone gives a list of books that were influential for that person. These lists are never perfect-they always leave someone out. But they are fun and biographical. These books are in no particular order. And I will deliberately leave some out: Calvin, Van Til, Bahnsen, and Rushdoony. Not because they are unimportant, but that it would be obvious that these men have influenced me and aren't needed on the list.

(In no particular order)
10. God, Revelation, and Authority 6 volumes by Carl F. H. Henry. I went to an undergraduate school that in many ways was hostile to historic Christianity. Henry gave me a comprehensive worldview and response to the challenges of the faith (*I have only read volumes 1-3).

9. Lectures on Calvinism by Abraham Kuyper. The opening shot in the battle for the Christian worldview. Kuyper was a brilliant rhetorician.

8. Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards. I read this in college. It showed me how to unite both head and heart, as well as steering me away from unbiblical spiritualities.

7. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland Bainton. This book got me excited about the Reformation and gave me the intellectual fortitude to face the attacks in college.

6. The Kingdom of Christ by Russell Moore. Moore went beyond Carl Henry. It was a call for political theology while avoiding both theological masochism and naive triumphalism.

5. Jonathan Edwards: A Life by George Marsden. A challenging read that forced me to look at tensions I had in my own life concerning authority and new moves in the theological world.

4. Paul: An Outline of his Theology by Herman Ridderbos. An exciting work that affirmed justification by faith but also gave emphasis to other Pauline themes that were important to the apostle.

3. God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams by David Wells. Any book by Wells will count. Wells shows how we have remade God in our own image. This God demands little, has no hard angles, but can't save us.

2. Reformed Theology in America: A History of its Modern Development edited by David Wells. Opened my eyes to different traditions in the Reformed faith. The section on Dutch theology introduced me to Cornelius Van Til.

1. Beowulf by some Celtic bard. I read this poem whenever I need to feel a North wind blast against the fog in my brain.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Criswell on Apocalyptic Preaching


An unveiling of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Watchman, cries the world, what of the night? What of the night? What of the grave and what of the judgment, what of eternity and what of the night? We who believe in the inspiration of this book, and we who believe in the great apocalypsis--the great unveiling of Jesus Christ--we have a message for this world. The same Lord God who n the beginning revealed to us the creation of the universe and the earth on which we stand. The same Lord God revealed the great consummation of the age that no man can see without the unveiling of Jesus Christ.

And when a man stands with an apocalyptic message, he stands with solace for the sorrowing heart. God wipes away our tears and we live in infinite faith and the hope and conquest and triumph. Some day, by the word of the Lord, Satan shall be bound. Some day, these asleep in the dust of the earth shall be raised from among the dead. Some day God's people shall be raptured from this earth of judgment and live in the presence of our Lord.

Oh glorious apocalyptic and final day when the righteous are vindicated, when the kingdom shall come and when Christ shall reign over the earth and all creation--our blessed Savior! Oh, the day that is coming in the promise and in the word of the Lord. It may be at mid day, it may be at twilight, it may be perchance that the blackness of midnight shall burst into light in the blaze of his glory when Jesus comes for his own. Oh joy, oh delight, shall we go without dying? No sickness, no sadness.

My brother, in the pulpit I can tell you this: after 47 years of experience, the man who stands in that sacred place, and deliver to his people an apocalyptic message shall victory and triumph in the word that he brings!

God speed us as we stand there with God's message, as God's messenger

Authentic, this is it!
Authoritarian, this is it!
Absolute, this is it!
Apocalyptic, this is it!

Friday, July 20, 2007

On Revelation 20 and the Vindication of Martyred Saints

C. Marvin Pate writes,

"A spiritual resurrection can hardly explain the compensation provided for the martyrs in verse 4. From John's perspective they are physically dead but spiritually alive. What they need is a bodily resurrection. (b) The best understanding of the verb esezan (they lived) in verse 4 is that it refers to a bodily resurrection" (Pate, "A Progressive Dispensationalist View of Revelation" in Four Views on the Book of Revelation

Sunday, July 15, 2007

My journey to premillennialism

Several part series

The case for a millennial kingdom rests on three arguments: 1)The Old Testament prophets speak so emphatically of a coming universal age of earthly peace and justice that to transfer this vision wholly to a transcendnet superterrestial kingdom is unjustifiable; 2) because the historical fall of Adam involves all human history in its consequences it requires an historical redemption that extends 'far as the curse is found' to complete Christ's victory over sin; 3) the most natural interpretation of Revelation 20 seems to suggest an earthly, millennial reign prior to the inauguration of God's eternal kingdom" (Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, 6 volumes. [Waco, Tex.: Word, 1983; reprint, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1999], 6: 504).

Friday, July 13, 2007

Rage Against the Dying of the Light

I stole the title from Dr Carl Trueman
Petitionary Prayer as Rebellion against Status Quo

I read the following quote from David Wells and found it of much encouragement:

"It is in essence, rebellion--rebellion against the world in its fallenness, the
absolute and undying refusal to accept as normal what is pervasively
abnormal...It is the refusal of every agenda...that is at odds with the norm
established by God."

In other words, it is war against that which resists the plan of God. Wells writes that

prayer flousirishes only where there is a twofold belief: first, that God's name
is hallowed to irregularly, his kingdom has come too little, and his will is
done too infrequently; second, that God himself can change the situation.
Petitionary prayer is the expression of the hope that life as we meet it, on the
one hand, can be otherwise, and on the other hand, ought to be otherwise.

Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, 143.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Review of Russell Moore's *The Kingdom of Christ*

Carl Henry launched an Evangelical Renaissance and gave intellectual credibility for Evangelical social endeavors. Russell Moore continues that legacy.

Moore argues that Evangelicalism, for having all the right theology, has failed to put that into practice (Here he is following Carl Henry's *Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism*). He critiques both Reformed and Dispensational thinkers (the reviewer is Reformed). Moore argues for the Kingdom of Christ as a legitimate fulcrum for making social and political moves without losing the need for personal regeneration. Dispensational thinkers, argues Moore, make kingdom preaching irrelevant because it preaches an earthly, future kingdom which has no relevance to the Church. Covenant theologians, on the other hand, preach a kingdom that is *now* but when pressed, end up with a spiritual, heavenly kingdom--which again has no relevance for the church.

Moore argues to the contrary that the Kingdom is now, has earthly ramifications, and presently finds its culmination in Christ. Kingdom language, for Moore, is warfare language. He follows much of Kuyper in arguing that Christ claims are binding on the whole order. He follows Ridderbos in positing a "cosmic" redemption. If sin is cosmic in its reach, so is redemption. Well said.

While it may be true that Moore skews the discussion in favor of progressive dispensationalism, he does give credit to more biblical forms of amillennialism. He rightly notes that recent amillennialists, A. Hoekema and Vern Poythress, stress an "earthiness" about the future state that is sadly lacking in traditional amillennialism. This has important ramifications for current kingdom activity: our present endeavors for the kingdom are of eternal significance, for the "glory of kings" will enter the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:22-27). This world is not a timebomb waiting to go off.

Criticisms and Personal Comments:
1. Moore comes from a premillennial background. He rightly critiques Amillennialism as being neo-platonic. His interpretation of Isaiah 65:20 ends most discussions of amillennialism. However, it is not clear how his interpretation of Isaiah 65:20 actually proves historical premillennialism and not postmillennialism?

2. He critiques theonomy when he should actually be critiquing Gary North.

3. The book is endnoted, not footnoted. The actual text is less than 200 pages. I read it in about a day.

This book promises much and leaves the reader wrestling with tough issues. The current reviewer is excited that Southern Baptists are getting involved with "kingdom issues" in a way that does not denigrate either the gospel or modern culture. One hopes that many conservative Presbyterians will take note. Aside from a few doctrinal criticisms, the current reviewer recommends this book without qualifications.