Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Good Friday Service

This Friday at 5:30 pm Christ Church of Morgantown will be having their annual Good Friday Service. It will be located here, at the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Morgantown. We read through the Old Testament promises of Christ's coming, as well as the crucifixion account. We also sing many of the best known passion hymns such as "Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted" and "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross."  All told it runs about 30 minutes. Afterwards we will have meal of soup and chili.  If you do not have anywhere to go on Good Friday consider attending our service. It is a wonderful reminder each year of Christ's work upon the cross.

The Session of Christ Church also encourages fasting on that day. You can do it any variety of ways. My family usually eats bread and water for a couple of meals. You can skip a whole meal or a couple of meals. If you are pregnant or nursing you may want to forgo fasting. We also encourage you to spend the time you would normally be eating or preparing food in extra prayer.

Myths About Productivity

I am enjoying Matt Perman's book, Whats Best Next.  It has some of the typical drawbacks of this type of book. But I am at a place in my life where I want to be more effective in the vocation God has called me to, as well as in my family life.  I think this book is going to be helpful in my quest.

Perman begins by stating twelve myths about productivity and then puts the truth underneath it. I thought I would pass on these twelve myths about productivity. Not all of these impacted me equally, but I found #1, 2, and 9 to make me think carefully about my approach to productivity.

Myth #1: Productivity is about getting more done faster.
Truth: Productivity is about effectiveness first, not efficiency.

Myth #2: The way to be productive is to have the right techniques and tools. 
Truth: Productivity comes first from character, not techniques.

Myth #3: It is not essential to give consideration to what God has to say about productivity.
Truth: We cannot be truly productive unless all our activity stems from love for God and the acknowledgment that he is sovereign over all our plans.

Myth #4: It is not essential to make the gospel central in our view of productivity.  
Truth: The only way to be productive is to realize you don't have to be productive. [What Perman means is that we need to realize that we are fully accepted in Christ.]

Myth #5: The only way to be productive is to tightly manage yourself (and others!). 
Truth: Productivity comes from engagement, not tight control; when we are motivated, we don't need to tightly control ourselves (or others).

Myth #6: The aim of time management should be our peace of mind. 
Truth: Productivity is first about doing good for others to the glory of God.

Myth #7: The way to succeed is to put yourself first. 
Truth: We become most productive by putting others first, not ourselves.

Myth #8: We will have peace of mind if we can get everything under control.
Truth: Basing our peace of mind on our ability to control everything will never work.

Myth #9: To-do lists are enough. 
Truth: Time is like space, and we need to see lists as support material for our activity zones, not as sufficient in themselves to keep track of what we have to do.

Myth #10: Productivity is best defined by tangible outcomes. 
Truth: The greatest evidence of productivity come from intangibles, not tangibles. [By intangibles he means relationships developed, connections made, and things learned.]

Myth #11: The time we spend at work is a good measure of our productivity. 
Truth: We need to measure productivity by results, not by time spent working.

Myth #12: Having to work really hard or even suffer in our work means our priorities are screwed up or we are doing something wrong. 
Truth: We will (sometimes) suffer from our work, and it is not sin.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Book Review: By Faith, Not By Sight

By Faith, Not by Sight: Paul and the Order of SalvationBy Faith, Not by Sight: Paul and the Order of Salvation by Richard B. Jr. Gaffin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoy reading Gaffin. His Resurrection and Redemption was excellent. This book is very good as well. He packs a lot into a few pages. He is careful to avoid the either/or idea when it should be both/and. His exegesis is strong and careful. This book revolves to a large degree around II Corinthians 4:16 and what that implies for the anthropology of a regenerate man. He has a great discussion of sanctification, as well as future justification. He avoids the errors of the New Perspective, while still opening up new avenues of thinking. His point about us already being resurrected and our bodies catching up at the end of time was paradigm shifting for me.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

What is an Old-Earth Creationist?

Wikipedia defines a young earth creationist as someone who believes the earth is between 5,700 and 10,000 years old. They believe that the Lord created the world from nothing in six, 24 hour days. They do not believe in evolution. This is all very clear.

But when it comes to the old earth creationist, clarity is lacking.Wikipedia gives no time frame for the old earth creationists. Some believe in evolution and some do not. What is an old-earth creationist? I am not being snarky here. I really want to know. I feel like this term is thrown around with only a very fuzzy definition. So here are some questions for Christians who would describe themselves as old-earthers or those who who have interacted with them.

Do you believe the world is millions of years old or tens of thousands? (Are there even Christians arguing that the earth is 25,000 years old? 50,000 years old? 100,000 years old? I have not heard this. This is not what secular old earthers argue for. My understanding is that old-earth creationists believe the earth is millions/billions of years old, not tens of thousands.)

If you believe the earth is only thousands of years old, why? (Again I have not heard this theory said or implied in any of the study I have done of old earth creationists.)

For those who believe the earth is millions of years old:

Do you believe that only land +water has been around for millions of years (Creation days 1-2)? Or do you also believe that plants, fish, birds, and animals have been around for millions of years (Creation days 3-6)? (I have not heard anyone argue that only the first two days are millions of years, but I guess this is possible.)

Do you believe man has been around for millions of years? If you believe men lived prior to Adam, when did Adam come into existence and did those men who lived prior to Adam die ? If you don't believe men lived prior to Adam and you do believe there are millions of years between us and Adam where do you find the millions of years in the Biblical chronology?

Do you believe evolution is part of the process by which God populated the globe? Do you believe man evolved from a lower species?

There are two reasons I would like to see these questions answered. First, old earth creationists need to be clear about what they are and are not saying. Saying, "I believe in the Framework Theory" or "Yom can mean great ages of time" is insufficient. It allows one to slide out the back door without really stating his opinion on what is really the point: the age of the earth and evolution. Old-earth Christians need to clearly explain their position on these two things. If they say they do not know how old the earth is, then I will ask, "Could it be less than 10,000 years?" If they answer, "No" then I will know they are not age of the earth agnostics. They do know how old they think the earth is, they just won't say.

The other point is that in secular science the age of the earth and evolution are two sides of the same coin. The reason the earth needs to be millions/billions of years old is to support the theory of evolution. Without evolution, why posit an earth that is millions of years old? I think old earthers want to say the earth is old without saying they believe in evolution. It is possible to say this. I know many evangelical men do. But can one logically separate an old earth from evolution?

I know there is variety among the old-earthers, but clarity on the age of the earth, evolution, and the link or non-link they see between the two would be very helpful.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Death of the Cloister

Steven Ozment on how the Reformers went about destroying the idea that a nun was superior to a housewife.
In challenging the celibate ideal, the Protestant critics were particularly concerned to expose the repressive nature of the nunnery, to free nuns from the cloisters, and allow them to rejoin society.
Unlike many modern takes on nunneries, the Reformers viewed them as detrimental to what women were called to do by God and by nature: be wives and mothers.

Also going to the convent did not help women escape male rule. Ozment describes how the monks would often descend upon the nunneries and require the women to do their laundry, cook them food, etc. He noted that most nunneries were run by monks on some level.
Not only did the nunnery offer no safe escape from male rule, it imposed sexual self-denial an created guilt among the unsuccessful, burdens no honorable wife was forced to bear.
One nun, "recalled having watched with horror as sisters in the cloister died uncertain of God's mercy and in fear of his judgment, having failed to find consolation in their vows and religious works."
No propaganda proved more effective in exposing the cloister than the testimony of former nuns, whom the reformers encouraged to write and publish accounts of their lives under vows.
By the end of the Reformation age, "both experience and belief had set Protestants unalterably against the celibate life. To them it contradicted both the Bible and human nature, and created more personal and social problems than it solved; as an alternative vocation to homemaking, the cloister was deemed inhumane and antisocial."

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Initial Thoughts on the Age of the Earth

I have been doing some study on the age of the earth. I am just beginning to scratch the surface of the research out there. I have my assumptions about its age. These assumptions come from a straight forward reading of Genesis 1-3 and related texts. However, I know many evangelicals disagree on this point.  Here are some of my initial thoughts on this subject. These are a bit random but they put fences around my further exploration of the topic.

The three books I have used so far have been Jim Jordan's Creation in Six Days, Douglas Kelly's Creation and Change, and Henry Morris' The Genesis Record. I have also read some articles that deal with this including Kline and Waltke. I read some of Philip Johnson a long time ago. I have also read various secular men who are working to refute or at least modify the prevailing views of evolution.

First, the Biblical chronology from Adam to us is a few thousand years. Even if we put gaps in the genealogies (and it must be proven they exist), we cannot get thousands (much less millions) more years. If you look at Genesis 5, 11, and other genealogies, such as Luke 3, it is clear that they are intended to be pretty straight forward accounts of who was born to whom. For example, compare Genesis 5:1-24 with I Chronicles 1:1-3, Luke 3:36-38, and Jude 1:14. All of these show that Enoch was the seventh generation after Adam. There may be gaps (and there may not be) but these gaps are not thousands of years. Thus from Adam to us will be around 6,000 years maybe a bit  more. If thousands or millions of more years are to found they must be found earlier than Adam. One cannot posit an old earth (unless by old-earth one means 10,000 years or less!) from the Biblical chronology post-Adam. In other words, from the day six creation of Adam to us is not very long.

Second, the Bible treats the creation account as history. It assumes a literal Adam and Eve with a literal fall in the garden that happened exactly as the Genesis account says it does. Christ assumes the creation account is accurate in Matthew 19:3-9. Paul assumes the creation account in I Corinthians 11:8-9 and I Timothy 2:13-14. Henry Morris has an extensive list of New Testament allusions and quotations to Genesis. Not all of these are from the first few chapters of Genesis. But the list proves that New Testament treated Genesis as real history.

Third, Adam was created from the dust of the earth. He did not evolve. Eve was created from his side. She did not evolve either. There is nothing in the Genesis text to point to the animals evolving either. Theistic evolution is compromise of highest order.

Fourth, death came with Adam's sin. There was no death prior to Adam's sin. This is clear in the New Testament passages which refer to Adam (Romans 5:12-21 and I Corinthians 15:21-22). The phrase, "It was good" throughout Genesis 1 could point to this as well. To say there was death prior to Adam is to undo the fabric of Scripture.

Fifth, the concept of evolution necessarily involves death. I understand this is simplistic. But evolution means organisms that do not adapt die. For evolution to be a part of the creation week there must be death. But death does not come until Genesis 3. What about plants? Did they die prior to Adam's sin? There is no reason to assume that to be the case. It would appear there is a difference between plants and animals in this regard. Plants could be eaten prior to the fall and may be eaten in the New Heavens and Earth (Isaiah 11:6-9, 65:25). (These passages in Isaiah probably involve some type of symbolism. But even if that is the case the symbol is one of peace. Thus eating straw implies peace, not death.) Another thought is eating a plant does not require it dying. Eating an animal usually does.

Sixth, God created all things from nothing (See Jeremiah 32:1, Acts 4:24, Colossians 1:16-17, and Hebrews 11:3). Matter is not eternal (See II Timothy 1:9 and Titus 1:1). Only God is. There was a time when there was only God.

Seventh, there is no reason to pit literary form against literal chronology. The Bible often punctuates historical narratives with literary structures. For example, the entire book of Genesis is structured by the idea of generations (See Genesis 2:4, 5:1, 6:9, etc.). Does this literary device make the story non-chronological or unhistorical? Does a chiasm in I Kings make it unhistorical and non-chronological? My point here is that to argue for a literary/poetic reading of Genesis 1 does not have to lead one away from a 24-hour, six day creation. It must be proven that the literary structure denies a 24-hour, six day creation.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Book Review: Godly Seed

Godly Seed: American Evangelicals Confront Birth Control, 1873-1973Godly Seed: American Evangelicals Confront Birth Control, 1873-1973 by Allan C Carlson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my first Carlson book, though I have read many of his articles. Carlson plots the change in the evangelical view of birth control from 1873 and the Comstock laws to 1973 and Roe v. Wade. It is a very dense book, with a lot of end notes. I would love to see an expansion of some of the themes. Also Carlson does not give any real clear answers as to what we should do. Yet it is clear he thinks we have gone astray on this issue. Several things stood out to me.

First, this is a very short amount of time for such a dramatic change in Christian views of sexuality.

Second, Christianity Today played a substantial role in making birth control acceptable among evangelical Christians.

Third, soft eugenics and postmillenialism played a large part in the acceptance of birth control between 1915 and WWII. After that the key factor for evangelicals was the population explosion. Billy Graham, as well as many other Christians, used the coming population explosion as sufficient proof that we need to use birth control.

Fourth, prior to 1973 abortion and birth control were linked by evangelicals. Their acceptance of birth control led to many leaders also considering if not outright supporting abortion. After Roe v. Wade views on abortion were revisited and modified. However, the birth control issue was not.

Fifth, the elevation of companionship as the primary reason for marriage was a key component in getting evangelicals to accept birth control.

Finally, Margaret Sanger and later Christianity Today used the Roman Catholic-Protestant divide to get Protestants to accept birth control.

I found the book very fascinating with a lot of excellent detail. For example, Carlson got access to boxes of notes, etc. at Christianity Today that have not been published. He also does a good job in showing the shifts in mindset that resulted in certain practical outcomes. I am looking forward to doing more reading on the subject, but this was a good start.

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Carlson on Comstock

Allan Carlson on what Anthony Comstock would think if he were dropped into 21st century America.
If Anthony Comstock and his Evangelical supporters might somehow be brought forward in time to 2011 America, their reaction could be easily predicted. They would, no doubt, be appalled by the dominant sexual ethics of this, the Age of Hustler, Norplant, and Viagra. Legalized abortion, even more refined methods of contraception, ubiquitous pornography, the broad commercialization of sex, the celebration of nonprocreative sexuality, fourteen-year-olds on birth control, same sex marriage, all would confirm their worst fears. In his own mind, Comstock would find fully justified his linkage of obscene pictures and objects on abortion and birth control. He would find equally justified his equation of birth control and abortion. All these things were of one package. When one had come, so had the others.
This connection between abortion and birth control is a tight one in Carlson's book. They are not equal. Contraception does not equal murder unless the method is an abortifacent. However, it is interesting that as Carlson studied 1873-1973 he found that no matter how hard people tried when contraception became the norm, abortion followed. Admittedly, that is only a 100 year sample, but it is still a correlation worth considering. After reading his book, the question that I asked is can we get rid of abortion in America without also saying, procreation is an obligation, as well as a privilege of marriage?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Most Fearsome Specter

More from Steven Ozment:
It is a great, self-serving myth of the modern world that the children in former times were raised as near slaves by domineering, loveless fathers who owed them nothing, the home a training ground for the docile subjects of absolute rulers. To the contrary, from prenatal care to their indoctrination in schools, there is every evidence that children were considered special and were loved by their parents and teachers, their nurture the highest of human vocations, their proper moral and vocational training humankind's best hope. Parenthood was a conditional trust, not an absolute right, and the home was a model of benevolent and just rule for the "state" to emulate.
In the sixteenth century children were raised and educated above all to be social beings; in this sense they had more duties toward their parents and society than they had rights independent of them. This did not mean that the family lacked an internal identity or that loving relationships failed to develop between spouses, between parents and children, and among siblings. Privacy and social extension were not perceived contradictory. The great fear was not that children would be abused by adult authority but that children might grow up to place their own individual rights above society's common good. To the people of Reformation Europe no specter was more fearsome than a society in which the desires of individuals eclipsed their sense of social duty. The prevention of just that possibility became the common duty of every Christian parent, teacher, and magistrate. 
How striking this last paragraph is when compared to modern rhetoric about rights.  Almost every child in this country is raised to think about themselves, their needs, their wants, and their desires. The fundamental question they ask is, "What can you do for me?" They come not to serve or do their duty to family, state, and community. Rather they come to be served. Service to their fellow man is the least of their concerns. Their own rights their greatest concern. In that way children of today are raised to have a fundamentally different orientation that children of the previous generations. The blame for our children turning out this way is to be found in Ozment's last sentence. Parents, teachers, and magistrates fail to teach selfless duty and fail to model it.

Friday, March 28, 2014

God's Displeasure and Assurance: More from Antinomianism

I understand that many of my readers will not get to read the books I do. It is one of the privileges and duties of pastoral ministry to read widely and wisely and to allow that reading to force one to think more clearly about various topics. Reading is an essential part of the task of a minister of the Gospel. When one loves something he does not keep it hidden. He wants people to see what he sees or in my case to read what I read. This is my justification for posting quotes and interacting with books on my blog.  I know many of you will not pick up Mark Jones' book Antinomianism, but I still would like you to eat some of the meat I got from the book.  So here are a few more quotes from the book with some comments by me along the way.

I really wish Jones had brought in more contemporary writers/pastors to illustrate his points. I understand his desire to not be slanderous or create unnecessary strife in the body of Christ. But antinoianism is prevalent. I don't think it would have been that hard to come up with other examples. I believe the only man he mentions by name is Tullian Tchividjian. Here is what he says about his book Jesus+Nothing=Everything
His whole book is one lengthy antinomian diatribe, and it bears a striking resemblance to the content and the rhetoric of various seventeenth-century antinomian writings.
One of the new ideas introduced to me in Jones' book was God's displeasure with the sin of Christians.  Jones makes a good argument that God's love for us as his elect does not exclude his displeasure over our sins. Initially this thought was jarring for me. Doesn't God love me the same all the time? Is his love mutable? After thinking about it, the Scriptures do clearly show that at times God is displeased with his people. The three situations that came to mind as I read were David's sin with Bathsheba, Christ rebuking Peter, and Hebrews 12:5-11. II Samuel 11:27 even says that God was displeased with David. God does rebuke us, even as Christians. This requires displeasure with our sin even after conversion. The block quote immediately below is from Jones while the internal quotes are from John Flavel.
Flavel argues that God must necessarily hate sin, even in light of Christ's satisfaction. For the Christian, however, God loves the person. "His hatred to their sins, and love to their persons are not inconsistent." Moreover, the antinomians fail to make a crucial distinction between "vindictive punishments from God" which are the effects of his wrath upon the non-elect, and his "paternal castigations," which are the "pure issues of the care and love of a displeased Father." 
It is also interesting that Jones says the phrase "Love the sinner, hate the sin," applies only to Christians. God does not love the non-believer, but hate his sin. I think this statement requires some unpacking, but it is true to the tone the Scriptures take. Before conversion we were God's enemies (Romans 5:10). Jones quotes Psalm 5:5 as a proof text.

Assurance of salvation was a huge issue between the orthodox and the antinomians.
By and large, the antinomian theologians rejected the idea that believers may be assured of their justification by the evidence of their sanctification.
For the antinominans:
Those who have the strongest assurance are not necessarily those who are most righteous, but those most strongly believe they are justified.
One key part of the assurance debate was the tension between God's objective promises given to us in Christ and our subjective experience of those promises. Do you emphasize both? Do you emphasize one to the exclusion of the other? Antinomians emphasize the first; the promises of God given to us Christ. Thus they tend to focus on sheer belief as the sign of true conversion. If one struggles with sin the answer is to believe more and more. In contrast to this, the Reformers and their heirs emphasized both. Joel Beeke, quoted by Jones, sums it up this way:
the "best resolution of the objective-subjective tension in assurance is that both owe everything to Christ, receive all from Him, and end with all in Him. In Christ, objective promises and subjective experience are complementary."
Here is a similar quote from Richard Muller's Calvin and the Reformed Tradition:
Beza like Calvin, "did anchor assurance in Christ and, specifically in union with Christ. Arguably the basic point made by Calvin and shared by Beza was that the basis for personal assurance is not Christ standing extra nos  in the sufficiency of his saving work, but rather the personal or subjective recognition of the effects of Christ and his work in the believer as the basis for assurance." 
The point made in Jones's book and in these quotes is a vital one for true assurance. Too often when works are brought up as the basis for assurance in Christ one is accused of legalism. However in Scripture and in the Reformed tradition works are an essential part of assurance. If no growth is seen, if I am not seeing sin die in my life, if those around me cannot see me maturing in Christ then maybe I need to look at my relationship with Christ. There are dangers with over emphasizing works. But there are also grave dangers with not emphasizing them. These dangers are regularly ignored by antinomians, as if any focus on works and any attempt to lead a holy life are signs of a Pharisaical heart.

Here are two final quotes from Jones on assurance.
On the subjective side, obeying God's commandments (I John 2:3-6), which necessarily includes loving God and his people (I John 3:11-24) cannot but aid the believer in the quest for full assurance. To deny this would be to overthrow the Christian religion. 
The truth is, to the degree that a person fixes his or her eyes upon Christ, he or she will burst forth with gospel obedience. And obedience, if it is gospel obedience, cannot help but draw us back to Christ in faith, hope, and love. For this reason, the objective and subjective aspects of the Christian life are complementary and necessary.  
Let the saints be joyful in glory, let them sing aloud on their beds, let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind the kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron. Psalm 149:5-8