If we are fortunate…

… But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams.
Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves.
By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world.

— Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, Chapter 1 “Community”, p. 26

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Burger & chips

It is becoming increasing difficult in these crazy days to lampoon what Christian leaders get up to. Take for example this missive from Rick Warren where we read about a fairly innocuous sounding health plan for 2011…

… except that among the doctors guiding this process are Dr. Daniel Amen who has the dubious credentials of co-authoring Hindu mystic tantric sex training with TJ Bartel a “Taoist, Vedic and Tantric” trainer. He also promotes Kriya Kirtan Yoga meditation in his book Making a Good Brain Great.

And then we have Dr. Mark Hyman who advocates Buddhist meditation in his book The Ultramind Solution, followed by Dr. Mehmet Oz who is a leading Reiki proponent and a transcendental meditation practitioner. [Reiki is Really Bad Stuff(tm) just in case you didn't know.]

Where does he find these people? Ironically the health plan is called the Daniel Plan (probably because of Daniel’s holy diet as recorded in Daniel 1:8-16). Ironic because Daniel kept himself pure and worshipped only the one true and living God even when surrounded by rampant idolatry and witchcraft in Babylon (Daniel 1:20, 2:2). But Daniel would recommend a burger & chips and the worship of the one true God, rather than vegetables, vitamins and demons. That is the point, no?

But alas, here we have promotion, by a respected Christian leader, of non-Christians who promote, between them: Hindu/Vedic tantric sex, Buddhist meditation and Reiki and thus including chakras and kundalini yoga! He is leading people to demons and telling them to have fellowship (1 Corinthians 10:20-22), all in the interests of health and wellness… People are being saved out of this dark stuff, delivered and filled with the Holy Spirit and then… Rick Warren leads them back!? Words fail, how do you even begin to lampoon this?

Makes me want to cry… Lord Jesus have mercy on your little ones! (Matthew 18:1-14)

– HT: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=5580… (Worth a read with extra info about this and tantra and reiki and more)
– PS: our family is also a bit health-nut like in some ways, but God first! That’s the point, no?

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The Blind Courage of Jan Zizka

To follow the DVD on Jan Hus I had bought a documentary on one of his followers: Jan Zizka. This was absolutely amazing — a fantastic story and history that I would highly recommend. The general who never lost a battle, the general who never faced a fair fight (best odds he faced was being outnumbered 2:1, he won being outnumbered 10:1 a few times), the general who’s army was mostly peasants but fought knights, the general who was blind in one eye, and then half-way through his career he was made totally blind by an arrow — and he carried on leading the troops and winning battles! What this man achieved is astounding, his integrity is astounding. A giant of a man.

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Jan Hus: Truth Prevails

Continuing our “honouring the fathers” we watched the Jan Hus: Truth Prevails documentary. While informative this was not great, somehow it wasn’t encouraging in the manner of the Wycliffe story. It was bracketed by the Roman Catholic Church launching of an investigation into the condemnation of Hus at the Council of Constance in 1991, and an apology in 1999 as read out by Pope John Paul II. Somehow the actual teachings and distinctive nature of them seems to have gone missing — the heart of the matter has been lost to an extent I think.

An exonerationapology 600 years later by the Roman Catholic church which still doesn’t stand with him doctrinally comes across as “nice”, and even “well meaning”, but fundamentally missing the point, and downright sad (apparently he is still considered a heretic, but Pope John Paul II expressed “deep regret for the cruel death inflicted”). Would Jan Hus have been a Roman Catholic if he had been alive in 1521? Now? To top it off there is the final editorial piece where we are informed that the chief papal investigator into the matter of Hus’ wrongful condemnation and execution was later exposed as a StB (Czech secret police) informer. It is sad, but almost fittingly so — this whole RC dealing with Hus doesn’t ring true.

I will be investing in the older Vision Video produced movie on Hus. Hopefully that will come closer to the mark.

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News: Persecution in Pakistan

Yesterday, a governor in Pakistan was murdered (or BBC) by his own security guard, angered by the governor’s support of a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, as report in the BBC last month.

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Link: Boot Camp for Christian Students

This article The Professor: Why Are You a Christian? by Ray Bohlin is excellent. He details a session of hard-core apologetics training where he will “impersonate an atheistic college professor doing research on the religious beliefs of young people. Sometimes the students know I am playing a role with them, but occasionally I play the professor and the students are none the wiser.”

Great stuff! Nice and aggressive, cuts through the jargon, I wish I had some conversations like this occasionally to sharpen me up.

Its part of their Student Mind Games Conference. They have what looks like an excellent Survival Guide

(Locals could look at Biblical Worldview Summit for something similar, not that I’ve been — yet)

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Narnian discipleship

We are just about to complete The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. We have been reading about one book a week, and while its always a blessing to read with my children, this is something more. The Chronicles of Narnia are not just great stories, they are richer. They contain wonderful insights into “intangible things” which are difficult to communicate by direct teaching or precise definition, and they contain these wonderfully illustrated in colour and “atmosphere” by C.S. Lewis. Things like nobility, courage, honour, authority, grace, our relationship to God in Christ’s humanity and his transcendence, sin, betrayal, confession and restoration, diligence, fear and how to face it, duty, appearances versus reality, longings for things wholly outside of our world, love, respect, fear of God, faithfulness, joy, dancing, feasting, merriment, solemnity, hard tasks, disappointments, stories of individual lives and larger stories of times and peoples, facing mystery, things that God won’t explain to you because its not your story or what would have happened, heaven, good battles and dastardly ones, bad leadership and good, fighting, what witches sound like, temptation, beauty, providence… There are more things; and to write about them all, at my snails pace, would take many days and besides others have done it better.

I highly recommend to fathers to read these stories with their children regularly. Not to dissect the books by many explanations, nor to kill them by preaching through them, but simply to enjoy and delight in them together. They then become a rich store of parables and experiences that you share with your children, from which you can draw parallels to events and happenings. In describing certain temptations as “the Witches’ turkish delight” draws in all that “atmosphere” and colouring of that event, that trap and snare and the betrayal it lead to, Eustace’s self-deception — all which one couldn’t explicitly define without being terribly tedious. In describing duty as Caspian having to go back to Narnia because he was king (therefore bound in duty) instead of doing what he wanted to do (go with Reepicheep), is again vastly improved by the simple comparison. Why does Peter have to kill the wolf, how does he feel about it? How does Digory get what he most wants? What kind of person was Eustace in his “stinker” phase? Why does Trumpkin go on what he believes is a fool’s errand? Why did Bree not want to enter Narnia after all? Who pushed Shasta to shore to live with the fisherman, and was this a “nice” life? What is so lovely in the character of Trufflehunter? What does a Calormene Tisroc want the world to look like? Why would the old Eustace prefer it to Narnia? How does King Lune behave with mercy and justice? How should one respond to the taunts of Rabedash? Why do Caspian and Edmund nearly come to a fight at Deathwater?

Douglas Wilson has written a book What I learned in Narnia which I highly recommend even though I haven’t exactly read it. He wrote several blog posts which became parts of the book, and all of them are excellent. Please read them and prepare yourself for delightful dialogue and analogy and comparisons with your children. It will enrich both their lives and yours with a wonderful Godly “atmosphere” of understanding which you couldn’t teach half as well if you tried:

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Why are we so un-sacramental?

From Calvin’s Short Treatise on the Supper of Our Lord, section 12:

We begin now to enter on the question so much debated, both anciently and at the present time—how we are to understand the words in which the bread is called the body of Christ, and the wine his blood. This may be disposed of without much difficulty, if we carefully observe the principle which I lately laid down, viz., that all the benefit which we should seek in the Supper is annihilated if Jesus Christ be not there given to us as the substance and foundation of all. That being fixed, we will confess, without doubt, that to deny that a true communication of Jesus Christ is presented to us in the Supper, is to render this holy sacrament frivolous and useless—an execrable blasphemy unfit to be listened to.

From Knox’s The Scottish Confession of Faith, section 21:

And these sacraments (as well of the Old as of the New Testament) were instituted of God, not only to make a visible difference betwixt his people, and those that were without his league; but also to exercise the faith of his children and, by participation of the same sacraments, to seal in their hearts the assurance of his promise, and of that most blessed conjunction, union, and society, which the elect have with their head, Christ Jesus.
And thus we utterly damn the vanity of those that affirm sacraments to be nothing else but naked and bare signs. No, we assuredly believe that by baptism we are engrafted in Christ Jesus, to be made partakers of his justice, by the which our sins are covered and remitted; and also, that in the supper, rightly used, Christ Jesus is so joined with us, that he becomes the very nourishment and food of our souls. (1 Cor. 10:16; Rom. 6:3-5; Gal. 3:27.)

From the Westminster Confession of Faith, sections 27, 28, 29:

I. Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace,[1] immediately instituted by God,[2] to represent Christ and His benefits; and to confirm our interest in Him:[3] as also, to put a visible difference between those that belong unto the Church and the rest of the world;[4] and solemnly to engage them to the service of God in Christ, according to His Word.[5]

II. There is, in every sacrament, a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified: whence it comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other.[6]

I. Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ,[1] not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church;[2] but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace,[3] of his ingrafting into Christ,[4] of regeneration,[5] of remission of sins,[6] and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in the newness of life.[7] Which sacrament is, by Christ’s own appointment, to be continued in His Church until the end of the world.[8]

I. Our Lord Jesus, in the night wherein He was betrayed, instituted the sacrament of His body and blood, called the Lord’s Supper, to be observed in His Church, unto the end of the world, for the perpetual remembrance of the sacrifice of Himself in His death; the sealing all benefits thereof unto true believers, their spiritual nourishment and growth in Him, their further engagement in and to all duties which they owe unto Him; and, to be a bond and pledge of their communion with Him, and with each other, as members of His mystical body.[1]

VII. Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements, in this sacrament,[13] do then also, inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally but spiritually, receive and feed upon, Christ crucified, and all benefits of His death: the body and blood of Christ being then, not corporally or carnally, in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet, as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses.[14]

I don’t know… we are uncomfortable with what is a vital part of sacraments to Calvin, Knox and the Westminster divines, we are very “spiritual”, they are both spiritual but also more “earthy”? Why are we so Zwinglian?

– HT: Robert Letham in his thought provoking talk on Reformed Sacramentology, part of the The Faith of Our Fathers conference.

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Charles Finney Redux

Coming back to the topic of Mr Finney the Pelagian heretic in the light of R.C. Sproul’s excellent Willing to Believe (also @google books)

Some quotes from the 8th chapter on Charles Grandison Finney:

“Later in the same article [Robert] Godfrey says “B. B. Warfield once observed of the theology of Charles Finney: ‘God might be eliminated from it entirely without essentially changing its character.’ The same might be said of contemporary evangelicalism.” (p170)

“Godfrey’s criticism is only slightly more severe than Warfield’s when, as a historian, he charges that in all of church history ‘there is probably not a theologian as Pelagian as Finney.” (p170-171)

“At the heart of Finney’s theology is the conviction that man has a free will: Man has not only the natural ability to make choices, but also the moral ability to make proper choices. He categorically rejects Jonathan Edwards’s view of moral inability, and by implication Augustine’s distinction between free will and liberty. ‘The human will is free,’ he says, ‘therefore men have power or ability to do all their duty. The moral government of God everywhere assumes and implies the liberty of the human will, and the natural ability of men to obey God. Every command, every threatening, every expostulation and denunciation in the Bible implies and assumes this.
Finney fiercely opposes the distinction made by Edwards in The Freedom of the Will between natural and moral ability, seeing it as a distinction without a difference. ‘Let the impression, then, be distinct,’ he says, ‘that the Edwardean natural ability is no ability at all, and nothing but an empty name, a metaphysico-theological fiction.’ Finney does not like Edwards’s insistence that all choices are determined by prior inclinations or motives.” (p183)

And yet in the light of objections by B.B. Warfield and Charles Hodge in the day, and Robert Godfrey and R.C. Sproul today and the very clearly heretical writings of Finney we see people saying, Continue reading

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Good read: Willing to Believe

Out of the same God Alone series by RC Sproul in his Renewing Your Mind broadcasts which prompted my own mini investigation and polemic against Charles Finney came a recommendation for his book Willing to Believe subtitled The Controversy over Free Will which I ordered from CBD.

This book is very readable, full of interesting insights as expected, charting the history of the controversy from Pelagius, through Augustine, Cassian (semi-Pelagian), Luther, Calvin, Arminius, Edwards, Finney and Chafer. This is just what I needed to get a handle on the differences and developments of the the understanding of grace and the monergistic work of God in salvation vs the various synergistic heresies developed along the way.

Luther particularly was delightful to read in the lengthy quotations and I shall definitely be ordering The Bondage of the Will (his polemical to response to the Diatribe of Erasmus of Rotterdam) which is full of passion and precision. The other person I was introduced to in this context was Edwards — his writing is clear and exceedingly precise. He is also a thorough going Augustinian in his theology not withstanding some comments by Rick Joyner to the contrary who spoke of his “softening” of the hard doctrines of Augustine/Calvin, but it appears that while they may be put in a very clear way they are not compromised at all, but rather established. Jonathan Edward’s books Freedom of the Will and The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended are also now added to my to-read list.

The chapter on Finney is devastating — I didn’t not know the book had a chapter on Charles Finney else I doubt I would have written on him, but more on Finney later… James Arminius was also well met, he seems a very godly and insightful man who had adopted a misguided assumption and was trying to defend the justice of God from that vantage point’s accusations. Some of his followers into modern times are on a path to outright heresy by following this assumption to the logical God-sovereignty-denying conclusions of Open Theology.

My one gripe with this book is that the footnotes are at the back of the book — nothing is more annoying than desiring to read every single footnote one has to flip back and forth. I much prefer the footnotes right there at the bottom of the page where I can view them in context, if I want to or not, without any intrusion in the reading experience.

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