Friday, May 29, 2009
Join me in celebrating his birth!
Get the John Calvin birthday clock at Calvin 500
It's important to remember that these kinds of questions are usually not from someone who wishes to learn, but rather someone who wishes to tell you what they think to puff themselves up. God's thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. Not only are these kinds of questions ridiculous (especially since God is the author of morals and ethics), but they are arrogant, presumptuous, and very dangerous.
Rather than dealing with the specific issues, such as slavery, polygamy, war, etc. I would rather offer some important considerations regarding God's character, what the Bible says about it, and some guidelines to go by when facing these issues in scripture.
In regards to who or what God is it is clear from scripture that He is how the Westminster Larger Catechism describes Him in question #7:
"God is a Spirit, in and of himself infinite in being, glory, blessedness, and perfection; all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, everywhere present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth."
Whether or not this is true is irrelevant to the person who "critiques" the Bible. If you are going to critique the Bible then you must critique its whole and accept what it says about who God is. Taking into account what the Bible says about God and His character you must enter into question with the premise that if God looks as if He is doing something unrighteous, then it must not be unrighteous. In fact, it must indeed be just and righteous and an act to carry out the greater good for those that love Him and are called according to His purpose.
It's too easy to take a passage which talks about killing a slave and judge God unrighteous and evil. Conversely, it is too easy to take a passage like that and simply say that God must have had a good reason for doing that. Where that is true in a simple and elementary way we must be prepared to give a more complete answer not only for the benefit of the questioner, but for our own benefit at understanding better the God we serve. God does not want blind servants and there are answers to these difficult questions.
God does not "condone" anything. For God to condone something would suggest He is not actively involved in the situation. That, of course, is not what scripture teaches us about God's involvement in every detail of life. I think there are two main ways that God works His providence:
1. God commands
2. God uses
This may be of a surprise, but God does not condone slavery- He, in fact, commands it! Man in his sinful state has taken this idea of slavery and perverted it and distorted man's thinking and behavior in it. When you study slavery in the Bible with proper hermeneutics and biblical presuppositions in place you will find that this is indeed true. What's more, any of man's perversions of God's ways He uses to carry out His perfect will- man means it for evil, but God means it for good. In fact, in His providence God may even look as if He is unrighteous for a time to carry out His purpose. Our lack of foreknowledge of this purpose is not unrighteousness on the part of God Himself, but rather it is the freedom of God and another example of His sovereignty and omniscience.
We must accept the fact that God exists, He is sovereign, He is holy, and His word is infallible and inerrant in order to properly handle difficult questions about topics which modern, natural man would see as totally and enequivicolly unrighteous. Natural man cannot see past his own ambition toward autonomy to properly understand the acts of the Creator he wishes to renounce.
Christians need not be afraid of these kinds of questions about God and His word because there are answers and we should not be afraid of those answers either. What we need is better understanding and technique in studying. God wants us to know Him and obey Him. We do both by learning and having an answer for the hope that lies within us.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
"For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it."
Faith is an assurance of what we already know to be true about God- that He is perfect and His promises are always kept. He has promised salvation to those whom He has elected before the foundation of the world. Should I, still living, have any question in my mind that God will carry out His promise to me when I die to be with Him in heaven? It would be the only promise He ever broke! Am I so special for Him to deny His character and commit such an impossible act of evil? May it never be, Paul would say!
When things are difficult, suffering is plaguing me, and things all look completely contrary to what I know to be true I must hold onto and refuse to let go of what I know to be true about God because He has never ever failed. This is not a pie-in-the-sky, hope-so kind of hope. This is hope and faith based upon knowledge- knowledge of who God is and how He works. How can we have true faith without knowledge?
I have faith in Christ because I have good reason to have faith in This which I cannot see. "Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.", Christ said to Thomas. This is not blind faith- it is the foresight of things promised by One who cannot break a promise as man does.
"'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' declares the LORD. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.'"- Isaiah 55:8-11
Biblical and true Christian faith is based on much reason and knowledge. Faith based on anything else is a shallow, hope-so faith which cannot withstand the attacks of the evil one and the wiles of this world. Saving knowledge of Christ given to us freely by grace alone is the only firm foresight into the future we have and is one we can firmly count on. To God alone be the glory.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
I'll go to my grave with this verse on my lips. This verse means everything and without its implications we have no reason to live before or after conversion. It tells us the only means to eternal life- the Word of Christ- the Gospel.
Most of the Evangelical church today preaches all kinds of messages to people in regards to Christianity and living the Christian life. They'll tell you how to live, how to treat one another, what to do, what not to do, what's right, what's wrong and they'll tell it to you with "legitimate" Bible talk which sounds very Christian and, in many cases, is biblically sound. However, the gospel sadly is missing from the modern pulpits of America and, therefore, renders their messages powerless and useless.
What reason does anyone have to live a right life before God without the message of the gospel? What reason does anyone have to treat others as they would have others treat them without the power of the gospel behind it? What motivation does anyone have to do what is right before God without the gospel in full view? What power does anyone have to resist evil without the example and testimony of the gospel working in their heart and mind? What reason do we have to live other than sheer pride and arrogance without the gospel reigning supreme in our lives?
Are these hard questions? I'll give you an easy answer- none. When faced with our Almighty and Holy God who is just and must punish sin juxtaposed with us who have sinned and come short of His glory, what hope do we have to do anything right or good enough to bring meaning to our lives and honor to God? Christ is the only answer. He is the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us. He has preeminence over all things and through Him all things have come into being. He is the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life and through Him our lives have meaning. Everything we do unto Him and for His glory is all that matters and all that lasts.
Our message to all people must begin and end with Christ crucified. It must begin and end with the offer of free grace alone from God alone through faith alone. Any message which instructs people in the ways of life and faith is nonsense without it. May God have mercy on the modern Evangelical church and on me. May I and all people decrease so that Christ may increase. I lift Him up today like the firey serpent and look to Him to live and have life. To God be all the glory. Amen.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Friday, March 28, 2008
This word rings in my ear often, and every time it does I am moved and humbled. Christ- the infinte God-man became a curse to save the likes of me and all those whom God chose to have mercy on. What a God we serve. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!