June 29, 2007

How to Argue

This is frequently what it is like to "debate" on the internet.

June 27, 2007

THE Greatest Sin

While I was on vacation recently, I was watching television with my Dad and we watched recent news about murder and abortion. What was being reported was extremely evil. This prompted me to ask him what he thought was THE greatest evil in the world. I wanted to know what evil thoroughly disgusted him. As I suspected, he brought up the evil of murder. He spoke about a particular murderer who was also given to eating his victims. That is absolutely monstrous and he thought that was THE greatest evil. I told him he was wrong. That is not the greatest evil in the world. How could I be so sure?

If I asked some Christians, they would probably bring up similar issues, but others would no doubt bring up the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Since it will never be forgiven, they would reason that it must be the greatest sin. However, the text does not say that it cannot be forgiven, but that it will not be forgiven. I do not think that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is THE greatest sin, even though it is, according to scripture, a very great evil.

I would argue that, according to Christianity, failure to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength is THE greatest evil. Since loving God with all that we are is the greatest commandment according to Jesus, I think that sinning against that commandment is the greatest evil. Notice what Jesus says:
NKJ Matthew 22:34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" 37 Jesus said to him, " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 "This is the first and great commandment. 39 "And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
NKJ Mark 12:28 Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, "Which is the first commandment of all?" 29 Jesus answered him, "The first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. 30 'And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment. 31 "And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." 32 So the scribe said to Him, "Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. 33 "And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." 34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." But after that no one dared question Him.
Jesus grants the view that some commandments are greater than others, and then points to love of God as the greatest. If that's true (and it must be), then I would argue that the violation of that commandment is the greatest sin. How radically different is that from what people think is the most evil in our culture today? Are we just as disgusted by our failure to love God as we are by murder and other horrible sins? We should be, according to scripture. Failure to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength is the greatest sin. Away with all self-flattery that we can somehow please God and fail to do that constantly and perfectly. Whoever expects to stand before God must either love him perfectly from the day of their birth, or flee to Christ for mercy and grace in order to escape the consequences of committing THE most evil sin in the world.

p.s. I vaguely remember reading that Martin Luther thought the same thing as I do about the greatest sin, but I cannot find the reference. If my readers know where I might find his comments in that regard, please let me know. Thanks.

Two Quotes from a Dr. Daniel Sermon

I have been listening to Dr. Curt Daniel's series through the Gospel of John, and I heard him read the following two quotes in his sermon on The Funeral of Jesus (Streaming, Download):
One Joseph was appointed by God to be guardian of Christ’s body in the virgin womb, and another Joseph was the guardian of his body in the virgin tomb; and each Joseph is called a ‘just man’ in Holy Scripture.—Christopher Wordsworth
Among clothing that belongs to us, Christ put on even the grave-clothes, to make them easy to us, and to enable us to call them our wedding-clothes.—Matthew Henry
This particular sermon is packed with interesting information for meditation.

June 22, 2007

McNeill on Edwards

"Edwards (d. 1758) must be regarded as the most eminent of American Calvinists. As a boy he was gifted with remarkable powers of observation and experienced mystical states. ‘We are to conceive of the divine excellence as infinite, general love,’ he wrote at the age of sixteen, and at seventeen, ‘Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God.’ At twenty, he resolved ‘diligently to look into our old divines concerning conversion.’ These are typical themes of his preaching. Having graduated from Yale at seventeen, he briefly served a Presbyterian church in New York, was for two years a tutor at Yale, and became the colleague and successor of his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, in Northampton, Massachusetts. He preached the wrath as well as the love of God, and his tall, almost motionless form and pale, grave face lent impressiveness to his clear message. In his theology and in his treatment of the emotions he added humane elements to Calvinism, but in his preaching he elaborated the theme of hell as John Calvin never did. For Calvin, hell was alienation from God; for Edwards it was endless physical torment pictured in realistic detail. Yet he never lost his deep sense of the essentially loving nature of God. Even his lurid warnings were uttered in compassion, and his object in all preaching was to lead sinners to grace."

John T. McNeill, The History and Character of Calvinism (Oxford Univeristy Press, 1954), p. 362.

I saw the above quote referenced in Dr. Glenn Kreider's excellent article, "Sinners in the Hands of a Gracious God." Dr. Kreider wrote his doctoral dissertation on Jonathan Edwards' Interpretation of Revelation 4:1-8:1.

June 12, 2007

How To Hyper-Link

These instructions are for those in the blogosphere who keep forgetting how to create hyper-links to their blog posts (you know who you are). So, for the sake of that forgetful Australian, here are some directions for him to bookmark.

HTML uses the < > (anchor) tag to create a link to another document.

An anchor can point to any resource on the Web: an HTML page, an image, a sound file, a movie, etc.

The syntax of creating an anchor:

The < > tag is used to create an anchor to link from, the href attribute is used to address the document to link to, and the words between the open and close of the anchor tag will be displayed as a hyperlink.

This anchor defines a link to my blog:

The line above will look like this in a browser:

These instructions will work when you are commenting on someone else's blog and want to leave a link for those who wish to do further research.

June 7, 2007

Free Course Audio from Reformed Theological Seminary at iTunes U

Click below to open up iTunes.RTS.edu:

iTunes.RTS.edu (press "Click to Launch iTunes")

One can find a 36 track series by Dr. John Frame on the History of Philosophy and Christian Thought, 42 tracks on Pastoral and Social Ethics, as well as his 26 tracks on Christian Apologetics. Hundreds of other lectures are there as well.

June 6, 2007

Richard Baxter (1615–1691) on 'Does an Unlimited Expiation Implies an Imperfect Redeemer?'

Prop. LIX Those that dare say, that Christ is an imperfect Redeemer if he do not procure Faith itself for every Man that he Dies for, (which is their Master Argument) may as well say, that God is an imperfect Creator, because he maketh not Worms to be Men; or that he is an imperfect Conservator because he preserved not man from Mortality, Damnation and Antecedent Calamities; especially from Sin: Or that he is imperfectly Merciful, because he permits Men to sin; and Condemns them: Or that Christ is an Imperfect Redeemer of the Elect, because he suffers them after his Redemption to Sin, Suffer and Die: Or, that the Holy Ghost is an imperfect Sanctifier and Caller, because many wicked Men are Sanctified and Believe imperfectly (so as will not suffice to Salvation) and because they resist and quench the Spirit, and fall from that Faith and Sanctification which they had. Or that the Spirit is an imperfect Comforter; because so many Saints Live and Die in such uncomformitable sadness: Or that Scripture is an imperfect means, because the Effect is so imperfect. In a word, they may as well say, that where God doth not overcome mens wicked dispositions, he is an imperfect God to them in regard of his Mercies: All which beseem not the Tongue of a Christian.
Richard Baxter, Universal Redemption of Mankind by the Lord Jesus Christ (London: Printed for John Salusbury, 1694), 65–66.

Jesus is no more of a wasteful, imperfect Redeemer for shedding His blood for the non-elect (whom God did not decree unto salvation) than He is a wasteful, imperfect Creator for providing Adam with the Tree of Life in the garden when He did not decree that Adam would partake of it.


Screwtape on Noise

Music and silence—how I detest them both! How thankful we should be that ever since our Father entered Hell—though longer ago than humans, reckoning in light years, could express—no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all has been occupied by Noise—Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile—Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end. We have already made great strides in this direction as regards the Earth. The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end. But I admit we are not yet loud enough, or anything like it. Research is in progress.
C. S. Lewis, "Letter XXII," in The Screwtape Letters (New York: Collier Books, 1982), 102–103.

June 4, 2007

R. C. Sproul vs. John MacArthur Baptism Debate

Dr. R. C. Sproul and Dr. John MacArthur had a debate/discussion on the subject of baptism. The tapes/mp3s are available at Ligonier Ministries. They write:
From Ligonier Ministries' 1998 National Conference, Drs. John MacArthur Jr. and R.C. Sproul discuss their views on the Biblical meaning and mode of Christian baptism. Dr. MacArthur presents the credo-baptist position and Dr. Sproul presents the historic paedo(infant)-baptist position.
I've spoken with many people who didn't know about this Sproul/MacArthur dialogue, so it deserves to be highlighted here.

Update on 5-11-10: A commentator has posted two links where one can hear and read both MacArthur's and Sproul's presentations for free. For MacArthur, see here [click]. For Sproul, see here [click].

Update on 11-12-14: The exchange can be heard on YouTube here (or directly at the Ligonier site here):

MacArthur's session in MP3 format: Here
Sproul's session in MP3 format: Here

Update on 3-22-18:

See also the 1997 debate between Alister Begg and R. C. Sproul on baptism here (click).

Begg on Believers Baptism (mp3)
Sproul on Infant Baptism (mp3)
Q&A (mp3)

Disunity in the Godhead?

I've quoted this before on my blog as a side note, but it deserves an exclusive post for future reference since the issue keeps coming up.
Then there is the argument from the Trinity. It is argued that if Christ died for all men equally, then there would be conflict within the Trinity. The Father chose only some and the Spirit regenerates only some, so how could the Son die for all men in general? Actually, this argument needs refinement. There are general and particular aspects about the work of each member of the Trinity. The Father loves all men as creatures, but gives special love only to the elect. The Spirit calls all men, but efficaciously calls only the elect. Similarly, the Son died for all men, but died in a special manner for the elect. We must keep the balance with each of these. If, on the one hand, we believe only in a strictly Limited Atonement, then we can easily back into a strictly particular work of the Father and the Spirit. The result is Hyper-Calvinism, rejecting both Common Grace and the universal Free Offer of the Gospel. On the other hand, if the atonement is strictly universal, then there would be disparity. The tendency would be towards Arminianism – the result would be to reject election and the special calling of the Spirit.
Curt Daniel, The History and Theology of Calvinism (Springfield, IL: Good Books, 2003), 371.

Richard Baxter (1615–1691) on Faith as a Fruit of Christ's Death

Prop. XL. Faith is a fruit of the Death of Christ, (and so is all the good which we do enjoy): But not directly as it is a Satisfaction to justice; but only Remotely, as it proceeds from that jus Dominii which Christ has received, to send the Spirit in what measure and to whom he will, and to succeed it accordingly; and as it is necessary to the attainment of the further ends of his Death, in the certain gathering and saving of the Elect. So that most directly it floweth from the good pleasure of God and the Redeemer, which we call Predestination. So that it is an unmeet Speech (and such as Scripture never uses) to say, that [Christ died to purchase us Faith] though it be a Fruit of his Purchase. As if a Prince should Ransom or Buy a condemned Malefactor, agreeing and resolving that yet he shall not be saved, if he will spit in his Redeemers Face and refuse him and his kindness. And if it be known that this Malefactor is so desperately wicked, that he will thus reject and abuse his Redeemer and refuse his kindness, except the Prince send a bosom Friend to persuade him, who is the most powerful and unresistable Orator in the World: If the Prince because he is resolved neither to lose the Man, nor his Price of Ransom, doth send this Orator with a Charge that he shall take no denial, nor cease till he have procured the Malefactors consent; is it a convenient Speech to say, that he gave his Ransom Money to purchase the Malefactors consent to be delivered? Or to cure his wicked nature? No: Yet it is true that his Price was a ground-work and Preparative to this effect; so is it in our present Case.
Richard Baxter, Universal Redemption of Mankind by the Lord Jesus Christ (London: Printed for John Salusbury at the Rising-Sun in Cornhill, 1694), 42–43.


June 3, 2007

D. A. Carson on Christ's Sufficiency and God's Love

I argue, then, that both Arminians and Calvinists should rightly affirm that Christ died for all, in the sense that Christ’s death was sufficient for all and that Scripture portrays God as inviting, commanding, and desiring the salvation of all, out of love (in the sense developed in the first chapter). Further all Christians ought also to confess that, in a slightly different sense, Christ Jesus, in the intent of God, died effectively for the elect alone, in line with the way the Bible speaks of God’s special selecting love for the elect (in the fourth sense developed in the first chapter).
D. A. Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2000), 77.
This approach, I contend, must surely come as a relief to young preachers in the Reformed tradition who hunger to preach the Gospel effectively but who do not know how far they can go in saying things such as “God loves you” to unbelievers. When I have preached or lectured in Reformed circles, I have often been asked the question, “Do you feel free to tell unbelievers that God loves them?... From what I have already said, it is obvious that I have no hesitation in answering this question from young Reformed preachers affirmatively: Of course I tell the unconverted God loves them.
Ibid., 77–78.

June 2, 2007

James White on Amyraldianism

The following comments occur between minutes 54:19–56:34 on The Dividing Line broadcast last Thursday, May 31st. In the context of the discussion, James White is talking to a caller about some people (self-described "four pointers") who claim to have an issue with limited atonement, but most likely have an issue with the other points as well, particularly with unconditional election. White said that these self-described "four pointers" are usually ignorant about Amyraut and what he actually believed. In other words, they're not really Amyraldians. White said:
And that's why folks who run around calling themselves four pointers who do not know who Amyraut was and cannot exactly tell you what Amyraut actually believed. That's "Amyraldianism" and that's not actually four pointism, by the way. Some people think it is, but... (Caller speaks for a moment)...Amyraldianism is not technically four pointism. There's different takes and I think Amyraldians need to be a little bit more honest in their recognition that Amyraut was not the easiest person to read, and there are different takes even on his particular understanding. But they make a concerted effort--let's give the Amyraldians this much credit--they make a concerted effort to continue to believe in unconditional election while taking a different understanding of the relationship of that decree to the sacrifice of Christ. And, you know, I don't have any problem with discussions about the fact that the sacrifice of Christ has impact outside of just the redemption of the elect. There is a cosmic sense in which God's justice is demonstrated in the sacrifice of Christ. There's no question about that, but that's not actually addressing the real issue, which is: What was the intention of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit in the sacrifice of Christ in reference to the redemption of mankind? Who was united to him in his death? Where is the wrath of God propitiated? Is it propitiated in the death of the Son...ALONE? Which, I would argue, eventually leads, rather inevitably, to universalism in many forms. Or is it that Christ suffers wrath AND all unbelievers will likewise suffer wrath for the same sins that allegedly he already atoned for? That's where the issue comes in. I recognize that there are other aspects that we can talk about, but until we get that one down, I'm really not sure that we've addressed the important subject, and certainly important in regards to the perversion of those things by Roman Catholicism and the Mass and all these other things, which is why it's so very important that we really do have a solid understanding of the cross.

June 1, 2007

William Farel (1489–1565) Quote on the Atonement in J. H. D'Aubigne

Let all therefore, whether priests or preachers, have respect to the great shepherd Jesus Christ, who gave his body and his blood for the poor people. Let us prefer to be nothing, if only the poor sheep, gone so far astray, may find the right way, may come to Jesus and give themselves to God. That will be better than if we should gain all the world and lose those for whom Jesus died. If any man will exalt himself against Jesus, if any man will fight against the faith, it would be better for him if he had never been born. Let us not despise our neighbor. Let us not mock him. Let us not shut the door of the kingdom of heaven and take away the key of knowledge. Let us be free from all hatred and rancor. Let us love all men, pray for all men, do good to all men. Let us visit the poor and the afflicted, that is the true pilgrimage. Those little ones are the images of God, and it is to those images that we ought to resort, to them that we should carry food and candles... My dear brethren, when you hear the bell ring, present yourselves here, in God´s name, in peace and unity, without disturbance or murmuring.
J. H. Merle D'Aubigne, History of the Reformation (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 2000), 6:238–239.

Also in J. H. Merle D'Aubigne, History of the Reformation in Europe in the Time of Calvin, trans. by William L. B Cates (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1877), 6:238–239.