Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Our Glorious God's Law of Love

Christians keep the Law out of loving thankfulness for being saved by grace alone without works; not the Jewish ceremonial laws which were fulfilled and abolished by Christ, our true "Passover Lamb" - but the moral Law, which cannot change, just as God does not change. In contrast, those "antinomians" who despise God's moral commands show that they know nothing of the grace that they boast about.

God loved us, and chose us to be saved from our sins by our Lord Jesus Christ, who purchased us with His precious blood, and atoned for all of our natural wickedness and active disobedience. Since He has redeemed us from hell and all the power of sin, both body and soul, how can we call Him, "Lord," if we do not do what He tells us! We are bondservants of Christ, and of righteousness now, not slaves of the devil to do his evil will.

What was the end to which God graciously predestined us? To be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29)! How could be that this conforming does not begin in this life, here and now, as we are indwelt by the Spirit of God, joined to Jesus Christ by the bond of faith? Does the Holy Spirit not do any work in us today to make us holy? He is Almighty God, and He is faithful! Therefore, He will certainly produce the beginning of this new obedience in us, even though our sinful flesh is still with us in this life.

By grace alone we are saved, and this cannot be without radical effects in our lives. Our obedience is not the root of our salvation (which Christ finished 2000 years ago on the cross), but it is certainly the fruit. Both those who teach that we are saved by means of keeping any law (such as Arminians who teach that we are saved by the correct use of our supposed "free will"), and those who teach that grace is a license to disobey God's commands are wicked heretics who deny the power of Christ's work of redemption.

Against this, we boast only in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The fruit of the Spirit displayed in every true Christian's life testifies to His effectual redemption of all those who believe. By God's grace, our pastor preaches this glorious Gospel of grace alone. You can listen to his sermons online, but better yet, come to the worship service, because it is everyone's duty to worship God, and join a biblical church because He is worthy. He is most definitely worthy.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

"And These Have No Root..."

What about the parable of the sower and the seed that falls on the rocky ground? It is possible for someone to have a certain type of faith (shallow/temporary), and yet not be saved?

That "type of faith" is not really faith at all. It is a counterfeit faith - one which appears to be genuine, yet is not; obviously, since it has no root. If one does not have the root of faith (that bond with Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit), then all the confession and appearance of true faith in life and doctrine are nothing but hypocrisy. Such people are "white-washed sepulchres".

The Good Shepherd did not teach this parable in order to terrify His sheep, but in order to condemn the goats. It is a classic case of stretching the analogies within a parable too far, if people claim that this is speaking about a "type of faith" which is indistinguishable from true faith except by observing the fruit of it (this only serves to make people examine their works in order to find justification, and live in such a way that their perseverance depends upon their works, and removes all their confidence and comfort, so that in the end they cannot even begin to pray as Christ taught us, "Our Father...", so plagued are they by doubts, since our works are always imperfect and polluted with our sin). We understand, even from the parable itself (and the clear testimony of the rest of Scripture) that Christ was speaking of people who appear to "believe for a time", but fall away. The explanation is that they had no root - and therefore we conclude that they actually had no faith - not even a certain kind of faith.

When Christ says that they "believe for a time", it is incorrect to jump to the conclusion that He is teaching that they truly had faith. Rather, the context is the appearance to others. As we observe plants growing up quickly and then withering, so we observe people who initially seem to have faith, but then fall away. Christ delivers us from any doubt or terror by explaining that they withered because they had no root - they were not planted into good soil, and therefore they could not truly believe - they could only give a good show before men - but not before God or in their own consciences (because God leaves the reprobate without excuse before Him, and condemns them in their consciences).

But by the certain knowledge and assurance of the faith which we have in Jesus Christ, we know and are assured by the Spirit in our consciences, through hearing and believing the preaching of the Gospel, that God declares us righteous on the basis of His atoning sacrifice and merits on our behalf.

The solution to ungodliness in the church is never to preach in such a way that doubts are encouraged (rather doubting ought to be condemned because it is sinful!), but Christian discipline must be practised so that those who live impenitently are officially declared outside the kingdom of Christ, unless (and until) the Spirit brings them to repentance. This is the God-ordained means for removing dead branches and to keep wicked leaven from spreading, and also for chastising the elect for their sanctification.

This is important because except one is assured of their eternal salvation, they do not have true faith in Christ, and will not be saved. Such a person cannot pray, or experience anything of the Christian life, because all our blessedness, and the fruit of the Spirit in our lives flows from faith, which itself flows from our election and the atonement made for us by Christ, which the Spirit applies to us individually and corporately, bringing us into communion with God, from whom all our spiritual life flows, and without whom we are nothing but dead branches. All must be exhorted not to doubt, but to believe and be comforted in Christ.

Furthermore, it is wrong, unhelpful, and greatly damaging, to tell a person that their sorrow over doubts or even the slightest work of theirs, be it the smallest tear or sigh, is any part of the means of their justification before God. We are justified by faith alone without any works. True, when we do good works, we are encouraged and our assurance is strengthened, and when we fall into grievous sins, and walk in disobedience for a time, we are plagued with doubts (through the agency of Satan, which God righteously rules over in order to drive us to the cross for admonition, comfort, and power to repent), but the only way to repent is to first of all exercise the faith we have in Christ alone. Even though works strengthen assurance, our assurance itself first of all comes from, and is even an integral part of our faith.

A vital part of a pastor's calling is this: "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD's hand double for all her sins." - Isaiah 40. It is an essential part of the everlasting covenant of God, that God makes known to us, in love and fellowship through the Mediator of the covenant, Jesus Christ, that He is our God, and we are His people. We are united to Jesus Christ by means of the bond of faith produced by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and therefore bound to God in the covenant of grace. Since we are in this covenant of grace, in fellowship with God, God makes known to us that our sins are forgiven, and that we have been saved eternally.

This is the fundamental practical difference between Rome and the Reformation (which of course is rooted in wholly opposite theologies, one resting on free will, the other upon the sovereign free grace of God); one cultivates doubt, the other cultivates faith. And let it be known, that doubt is the work of Satan who seeks to destroy God's people, but faith is the work of the Holy Spirit who effectually seeks their salvation.

The only way to experience the blessedness of this assurance is by hearing the biblical preaching of the Gospel by ministers of the Word, who have been officially appointed to this glorious ministry, in a true church (which is known by the marks of a true church, biblical preaching, sacraments and discipline). To hear this biblical preaching is to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, and only in this way do we experience to blessings of being in the covenant of grace growing in fellowship with God.
"Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God." - Psalm 92:13.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Defence of Christianity Against a Proud Scoffer

In answer to a believer's query about science and the Bible, I referred to this website:

A scoffer replied by comparing the highly qualified and intelligent authors of the material on this website to "The Banana Man" (so quickly that I concluded that he had in fact not even looked at the website), and advised me to only pay attention to "REAL scientists", by which I supposed he meant, those who attempt to explain the world in a materialistic framework regardless of how awkward and self-contradictory the fit becomes. To answer this challenge for the sake of the believer who had first made the query, not for the professed atheist (since if one denies the Bible outright, it is impossible to prove anything to them, and irrational to try to do so, and therefore argument with them is unprofitable), I responded:
Absolutely, of course I prefer the theories of scientists who dare not contradict God, who created everything and was there when all was created. Since those who deny Him, who is the Author of all truth and history, are nothing but willfully ignorant fools (Rom. 1:18ff), then of course I would be insane to take their proud imaginations seriously. If they deny the very first principle of all knowledge, then surely all their speculation is worthless. What need could I possibly have to pay heed to their vain attempts to ignorantly explain what is now seen, within such a self-contradictory and godless framework, intent on calling God a liar. But while men can lie and be deceived, it is impossible for God to lie. And those who call Him a liar are calling themselves, who are mere creatures, the Authors of truth; yet without God there is no truth. But they were born as wicked men only a few short years ago, are finite, and their lives are like the flower that fades and withers away quickly; they were not there to tell how things came to be. But God is from everlasting to everlasting, infinite in power and knowledge and wisdom, He was there, and none else.
The professed atheist then attempted to criticise the Christian faith on the basis that:
  1. It only believes what reaffirms its presupposed ideas.
  2. These ideas cannot be based upon "tangible evidence".
  3. It is therefore, "deliberate stupidity".
Again, lest anyone be fooled by these empty and self-contradictory words, I responded:
Blind and godless Empiricism is also a presuppositional belief. The difference is that there is no man who has not heard the witness of God in their own consciences (and therefore their denial of it is universally self-evident, no matter how much evil men deny it), and since the Lord has graciously granted me faith, I believe God's testimony which is greater than any other, and indeed is the only way in which I can test all other witnesses, and see the world as He does, and apart from which, all my own interpretations would be merely groundless stabs in the dark. Hence, I have nothing to discuss with such lying fools as you, unless you assert that God alone is the authoritative Author of all truth, and denounce your own feeble understanding, in order to learn from Him how we are to interpret the data and evidence which He has set before us.
Not content with this (of course), the God-hater dug himself a deeper pit, by denying that his empiricism was presuppositional, and calling it rational instead (as if the latter did not demand the former)! And then he gave a definition of empiricism which he presented as a vindication of his philosophy, rather than its very indictment, which it actually was. He then also claimed that his criticism of Christianity was "kind and gentle", and that he was speaking for my benefit, and asked me to do the same as if he were willing to be persuaded (but of course, only upon his own presuppositional grounds of godless materialism, which is the very thing I refuse to do, and would consider wholly irrational), as if I had not already laid before him his errors. Since the believer responded by giving his own definitions of materialism and of theism, which were unsatisfactory, and did not display the folly of the professed atheist, nor the Bible's evaluation of such scoffers and their godless philosophies, I finally responded at length:

Materialism: Trusting in your own experiences and your own interpretations of those experiences, while willfully denying God's trustworthy testimony.

Biblical Theism: Trusting in God alone, by whose Word all our experiences must be tested and interpreted.

"I'd really hope someone would extend a hand of knowledge to me" - the Roman Catholics once put the Bible on their forbidden book list, but to you, I am sure it is readily available - even in your own language. How much less excuse then, you have for inventing your own theories about why the world is the way it is, when you refuse to learn from the Creator who is the only One whose testimony can be trusted altogether.

The natural world indeed speaks powerfully about the greatness of the divinity and power of God (Psalm 19; Rom. 1:18ff), and God has even given us eyes, ears and all the other senses by which we can perceive the created things and thereby know of the wisdom, divinity, and power of the One who created them. This witness is sufficient to leave us without excuse for our wickedness in not glorifying Him as God. No wonder then that many in our day deny this.

Yet if we deny this, by what means do we suppose we can trust anything we observe? What reason would we have to put any confidence in our senses? Would we not simply then we left adrift in nihilism, perhaps "I think therefore I am", and all our experience may be simply a dream? Therefore the atheist contradicts himself, when he speaks of empirical rationality, because if there is no God who does not lie, and who has created all things, and who has given us these senses, then there is no reason to presume that anything is real. This is why atheism, contrary to the popular, yet foolish misconception of it, is actually the death knell to all scientific endeavour, while true Christianity is its very foundation. And this is true both philosophically, and historically. Science was given birth by Christianity which believes in one Almighty God who created all things and orders them according to natural laws which only He may alter by miraculous works which display His sovereignty over these laws. Without this, all is merely proud, blind speculation, as I said.

But He has given a far greater light in the Scriptures by which we might see things as they truly are and understand God's purpose for them in His eternal will to glorify the Son through the salvation of the company of the predestinate by Him. By these Scriptures we understand the origin of the world, and the history of it (including the flood by which the world that then was, perished by water), and the purpose of it for the glory of God. And by these Scriptures too, it is revealed to those whom God grants the gift of faith, how we are to be saved from the terrible wrath which we deserve - and there is no greater blessedness than to have been given the knowledge and assurance of this. Those who believe these Scriptures are the only ones who can really tell about why things are the way they are (but even then, only to a very limited extent), and why things work the way they do.

Furthermore, the study of things as they currently are and as they currently work, cannot tell us how things were in the past, or even how things will be in the future. In Scripture this notion is explicitly denied (II Pet. 3), because God did not leave things to continue as they were from the beginning, but everything changed at the fall of Adam, and about 1500 years later, this wickedness had manifested itself so universally that God destroyed the world by water, in order to preserve the church, and so the world that we now see is the aftermath, and quite different. If a bomb causes a building to explode in to dust, do we suppose that we can tell by looking at the aftermath how things were beforehand? Maybe certain things can be speculated upon, but all is vanity if it is denied that the explosion ever occurred.

This is one example of the proud vanity of those who speculate upon the past.

As for the future, if one denies God's providence in upholding the world by the word of His power (just as they deny that He created it by the word of His power), then they again have nothing but groundless inductive reasoning to go by and it is folly also to presume that all things will also continue as they are. But Bible tells us that though we ought to plan ahead, we ought to do so in the fear of God and prayer, because we do not know what a day will bring forth. We cannot say what will happen tomorrow because it is God who is the author of history not us; we can only say that if the Lord wills, such and such will happen (James 4:13-16), and we must study Scripture to understand the will of God, and we trust in His good providence for His people, knowing that He works all things for the good of those whom He has loved with an everlasting love (Rom. 8:28ff).

The Bible explicitly condemns this notion too in the same passage (II Pet. 3), as coming from the mouths of scoffers who deny the Flood and the first coming of the incarnate Son of God. It explains that Christ will certainly return on the last day, to end history and destroy the world, this time by fire, and to judge the living and the dead. And it explains also that Christ is not slow in coming, but He is carrying out the Father's will, that He will not lose one of those whom the Father has given to Him (how could He since He is omnipotent and has paid fully for their sins by His own infinitely worthy sacrifice? - John 6:37-40; Rom. 5:9). So He is not willing that any should perish; He will bring all His elect to repentance and faith before He returns in judgment.

I have written this in defence of the Christian faith against the scoffers which were prophesied beforehand, which were ordained to this condemnation, but I hope that God would bring all who read this to repentance to the acknowledging of the truth, rather than for greater condemnation to be poured out on them for denying it - but if that is the Lord's will, then so be it.
 I hope that believers readers will understand more fully that the Christian faith has nothing to fear from scoffers who irrationally boast about their rationality. As our Canons of Dordt say in head 3/4, article 4:
There remain, however, in man since the fall, the glimmerings of natural light, whereby he retains some knowledge of God, of natural things, and of the differences between good and evil, and discovers some regard for virtue, good order in society, and for maintaining an orderly external deportment. But so far is this light of nature from being sufficient to bring him to a saving knowledge of God, and to true conversion, that he is incapable of using it aright even in things natural and civil. Nay further, this light, such as it is, man in various ways renders wholly polluted, and holds it in unrighteousness, by doing which he becomes inexcusable before God.
It is sometimes amazing to observe what proud boasts men make with only their mere glimmerings of natural rationality, and how they use it, as with all their remaining "wholly polluted" faculties, in the service of sin and the devil, endeavouring with all their powers to hate God will all manner of contrived blasphemies, and to oppose the work of Christ in the salvation of His people. But every observation of this, rather than puff us up, should instead remind us that we are no different except for the grace of God, and so we ought to take occasion to be more humbled, and to be more grateful to God, and exalt Him alone.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Irresponsibility of the "Evangelical" Supper.

It was the view of the Reformed churches that the Lutheran churches were indeed true churches (in contrast to Rome and the Anabaptist fanatics), but seriously erred on the issue of the Lord's Supper, and therefore believers ought to join Reformed churches, and leave the Lutheran ones. Because of their erroneous view (such that they would not say that Christ's physical body was not present), they ended up teaching the false doctrine of "the ubiquity of Christ's human nature". This was contrary to Scripture, and since a human body by definition cannot be ubiquitously present, when this error developed, it became a form of a denial of the reality of Christ's human nature.

The Reformed churches had a simple and easily understandable answer to this Lutheran view (and indeed the Roman view): the ascension of Christ. It could not be denied that Christ had ascended bodily into heaven, and therefore His resurrected and glorified human body is in heaven, not earth, and therefore not physically present in the Lord's Supper. Instead, they explained, Christ is really spiritually present, and we truly partake of Him only by faith. Except for the actual presence of Christ, the reality of the communion of Christ which is taught in Scripture (I Cor. 10:15-22), and the terrible judgments upon those who eat and drink unworthily (I Cor. 11:17-34), could not be maintained. In contrast Zwingli denied Christ's presence altogether, and as such Luther refused to even shake his hand (a refusal which I believe is too often criticised too harshly).

Today, many "Evangelical" churches are like Zwingli, teaching that Christ is not present at all at the Lord's Supper, and that it is merely an empty remembrance. Consistent with this, they do not guard the table with the oversight of godly elders, to keep away those who live in impenitence in life or doctrine. It is as if "anything goes" is the motto, since permission is given to the individuals themselves to decide whether or not they may partake, regardless of whether they live openly as hypocrites, or promote heresies, or are unbelieving heathen - the table is opened even to atheists. As if there was no communion of Christ whatsoever, and as if God can be mocked. No wonder then that such churches are becoming weaker and weaker in their doctrine, and becoming overwhelmed by ignorance and all manner of heresies - especially Arminianism.

The Lord's Supper is explicitly covenantal - it is a part of our living in fellowship with God in Christ by the Holy Spirit. Therefore we know that Christ is spiritually present in fellowship with us at His table - and so the ungodly may not join in this holy fellowship, and all who do so will receive cursing, not blessing. When Christ took the cup, He said, "This cup is the new testament [lit. covenant] in my blood, which is shed for you." When we take this cup and this bread, we are professing that we, together with all those who eat and drink with us, are partakers of this new covenant together under His headship as His body, and that Christ's blood has been shed for all who partake.

Therefore those who partake are set apart (sanctified) from the condemned world of wickedness as the body of Christ, the church for whom Christ poured out His blood (Eph. 5:25-27). And therefore when an ungodly hypocrite takes this cup and bread, they are counting the blood of Christ as a worthless common thing - a thing that is powerless and that fails to truly cleanse from sin. In effect they slander and blaspheme the Son of God, trampling Him underfoot, as if He is not able to truly and effectually save His beloved people from sin, even though He poured out His precious blood for us on the cross to pay for all our debt of sin. And this is what is referred to in this passage - listen and tremble to the threatenings of God against those profane His name in such a manner, and the serious exhortations to persevere in the faith, especially by assembling together!
"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." - Heb. 10:25-31.
 And when those who demonstrate themselves to be living ungodly lives or professing damnable heresies are welcomed by the overseers of the flock (the elders) to this holy table and holy sacrament are guilty of permitting and promoting this blasphemy!

The blood of Christ is not a common thing. The sacrifice which Christ made on the cross confirms the new covenant in His blood. It is sealed. We, His elect people, are reconciled to God - and the evidence is plain before us, in that we have the Spirit, and know the forgiveness of our sins in our own consciences. This covenant cannot be undone by the rebellious will of man, because the will of man is not more powerful than the oath of the immutably faithful God sealed in the blood of His Son. The sinful will of man is broken and defeated by such omnipotent faithfulness, love, mercy and grace. Once Christ has made atonement for us before God, and clothed us in His perfect righteousness, it is impossible for the Holy Spirit not to come and change us powerfully from the inside out - no matter how stubborn and rebellious we are towards God. While we were yet His enemies, Christ died for us. Being therefore justified by His blood, how shall we not also be saved from wrath through Him (Rom. 5:1-12)?

If there are any who demonstrate by their life or doctrine to be unsaved, then they demonstrate that there are not members of this invisible true church, and that not one drop of Christ's blood was shed for them, and it would be a horrible evil for the elders in a church to knowingly allow such people to dare to partake of the bread and wine which are signs and seals of the covenant made in His blood and by His body broken for us. They may be saved people, for the Lord may bring them to repentance, but until He does so, they would add to their impenitence this grievous blasphemy by participating in the Lord's Supper. By doing so in such an unworthy manner, they say that Christ died in vain, as a hopeless, powerless sacrifice. But the prophet Isaiah tells us: 
"Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities." - Isa. 53:10-11.
No wonder then that Paul teaches that those who eat or drink unworthily bring condemnation and judgments upon themselves - for God not only punishes the wicked for this, but He also chastises His people to bring them to repentance. Therefore if it is the Lord's will, may the "Evangelical" churches be delivered from this horrible blasphemy and denial of the efficacy of the cross of Christ by such gracious yet painful chastisement. But if He will not bring them to repent of this, may they know that judgment will come upon them, especially upon the irresponsible and ungodly elders who allow this, and may they know why such judgment is coming from the good hand of our holy and righteous God who will not be mocked.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Denominations and the Unity of the Church

Since the time of the Reformation of the sixteenth century, by which the outward bond of the Romish hierarchy was broken, and the Church returned to her position of liberty in Christ, the Church in the world has been and still is divided into many denominations and sects. This was to be expected. Always there is the carnal seed in the Church in the world. False teachers must needs sneak into the Church and inculcate their false doctrine into her members, seducing them to a carnal life. The manifestation of this evil may be suppressed and covered up by the power of an outward hierarchical yoke, but as soon as the yoke is removed, and the Church recognises no other bond than that of the Word of God, it is bound to reveal itself. Hence, what is called Church in the world is hopelessly divided. Every denomination has its own creed, every sect its own particular doctrine. Those that call themselves undenominational, or those that sail under the slogan, "No creed but Christ," insist upon their own peculiar doctrinal hobby perhaps more than those that adhere to and confess their creed.

Now, this division of the the Church into many different denominations and sects is frequently, but falsely, called the multiformity of the Church. It is argued that in all these denominations is found the holy catholic Church, so that they are, essentially, all one in Christ. It is further argued that all these different churches with their different creeds have the truth as it is in Christ. Only, they all know in part, and none of them can claim to know and proclaim the truth in all its purity. Hence, they are all imperfect manifestations of the true Church. And as they present different aspects of the one Gospel, and all reflect the abundant glory of Christ in their own way, they represent the Church in its multiformity. They are to be compared to so many spokes of one wheel: all these churches are centred in the hub, which is Christ, yet none of them has actually reached the centre. They all point to Christ; they strive to reach His fulness; but they are all imperfect. In the consciousness of this imperfection, no particular church on earth dare claim to be the pure Church in distinction from others. Rather, we must assume the position that the Church in which we have our membership is, together with all the others, but one imperfect form and manifestation of the holy catholic Church, no purer than others.

This conception of the multiformity of the Church on earth is as pernicious as it is false.

It is false, because it denies that the pure preaching of the Word of God is, indeed, the distinguishing mark of the true Church. According to this view, the truth of the Gospel is vague and ambiguous. Scripture cannot serve as a clear and definite criterion to determine where the truth is confessed and preached. Hence, the preaching of the sovereign grace of God and of absolute predestination together with the Arminian error of man's free will constitute an approach to the truth; both are aspects of a truth that lies on a higher plane, too high for us to grasp. If one Church believes in infant baptism, and the other opposes this truth, while a third must have nothing of "water baptism" at all, they are all fundamentally agreed, only, they are striving to reach a height of truth that is beyond them. In such a view there is no room for discipline exercised upon those that introduce false doctrines. But this is quite contrary to the whole Word of God which everywhere exhorts us to stand fast in the truth, and to watch against the false prophets and teachers, that would seduce the saints from the way of righteousness. False this view is, too, from a historical viewpoint. For it is simply not true that all the existing denominations and sects represent so many forms of the Church, simultaneously striving to attain to the fulness of the truth in Christ.

Such is not their history.

That history is not to be compared to a movement along the spokes of a wheel towards its hub.

It does not present the picture of a number of different churches, equally imperfect in their apprehension of the the truth as it is in Christ, but simultaneously approximating it.

On the contrary, it was a development from a definite starting point, along a straight line, from which, however, under the influence of the carnal element in the Church, in the course of time, many departed, to follow after their own philosophy, and to establish various denominations and sects.

From the beginning of the new dispensation, the one, holy, catholic Church was built upon the foundation of the prophets and the apostles of which Jesus Christ is the chief corner stone. In the doctrine of the apostles and prophets, as contained in the Holy Scriptures, was clearly indicated the line along which the Church must develop and grow in the knowledge and grace of her Lord. And along this line of revealed truth there was, indeed, development, but always in the face of much opposition by heretics. These heretics did not innocently wander from the path of truth: they were evil men, motivated by the flesh, loving the world, and seeking to seduce the Church from the way of righteousness, and thus to lead her to destruction. Thus the Scripture always presents them, and ever warns the Church against their seducing influence. The apostle Paul exhorts believers to grow in the knowledge of Christ, "that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive." Eph. 4:14. And the apostle Peter warns the Church against false teachers that shall arise, "who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not." II Pet. 2:1-3.

Hence, the history of the Church is a constant struggle to maintain the truth over against the inventions of evil men. It is the history of progress in the face of opposition, of constant deformation and reformation.

It presents the picture, not of spokes in a wheel, but of one central line of progress from which many lines more or less sharply diverge.

In these divergent lines, one dare not see the true multiformity of the Church of Christ. The lie is never a form of the truth.

It is the sacred calling of every believer to seek and to determine, in light of Holy Scripture, where the central line of the truth runs, and ever to remain on that line, or to return to it. In other words, it is his most solemn duty, to join himself to the purest manifestation of the Church in the world, and with her to remain.

This does not mean that the believer who takes this calling seriously imagines that no one is saved outside of the particular church in which he has his membership. But it does mean that he abhors all deviations from the truth as it is in Christ, and that he refuses to go along with those that move in the direction of the false church.

Only the truth of Holy Scripture may be his criterion.

Where the Word of God is preached, there is the Church!

Quoted from Hoeksema's Exposition of the Heidelberg Catechism, "The Triple Knowledge". From pages 243-247, treating the doctrine of the communion of the saints (LD21, Q55).

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Revivalism: A carnal discontent with the biblical means for church reformation

"Revivalism and the unceasing desire for revival in the church all come from the desire for a 'quick fix' for the church's problems and weaknesses. Rather than insisting on the necessity of true holiness, of living faith in Jesus Christ, and of sincere repentance for sin, the desire is for some excitement which will give the appearance of bringing the church back to her spiritual moorings, however temporary such excitement may be. Rather than the hard work of preaching the gospel and of calling for these things in the church, the easy way is sought."
- Rev. Ron Hanko (2009) "Another Look at the 1859 Revival in Ireland", British Reformed Journal, 51, p26.
Revivalism brews when the preaching of the gospel in a church falls to the ground, and is replaced by vain stories, amusing platitudes, and entertaining nonsense, and the sacraments are corrupted by no longer being explained biblically in the preaching, and church discipline is wholly neglected, such that the most profane adulterers and idolatrous unbelievers are not only treated as if they had nothing to fear on the Day of Judgement, but are regularly, and unashamedly welcomed to the Lord's table.

People in this environment often don't see that the solution to these problems is for the church to diligently and zealously return to Scripture, not to seek the misguided and ignorant enthusiasm and excitement of Revivalism. And if the church opposes the biblical protests for her to correct her doctrine and practice in these areas, then believers must flee and seek to join a church which does submit to God's Word. An institution which rejects the authority of Scripture is not a true church of Jesus Christ at all, but a syngogue of Satan.

We are naturally lazy and weak, and prone to every kind of carelessness and foolishness because of our sinful nature. We are prone to not believe in the power of preaching of the Word of God, and instead search for all manner of unclean gimmicks, godless tools, and every other kind of imagined means instead of the means that God has appointed for us in His Word - which is primarily biblical expository preaching. In this way, Revivalism is actually a lack of love for the truth, despite all the passion it boasts of. Love must be demonstrated in action, and if heartfelt passions do not lead one to search the Scriptures and insist on its authority alone, then such passions are an abomination before God. All our passions and the thoughts of our minds (along with every other aspect of our beings) must be conformed to the image of Christ through the knowledge of God which is eternal life (John 17:3).

Yet it is also God's sovereign decision whether a church falls further into apostasy or reforms (and we have no right to insanely protest against His good and perfect will). It is nothing but pride, rebellion, and stubbornness, stemming from a stiff neck, to pray for the Almighty, sovereigng and only wise God to change His mind (which is impossible for Him to do). Our calling is to submit to His will and to be "reformed, and always reforming", and to join churches which manifest the marks of a true church, and to leave whatever institution which claims to be a church yet does not bear the marks of it, when it refuses to hear godly biblical protests.

May God give His beloved elect believing saints in Limerick, and throughout the world, the grace to do so.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Logic and the Use of Language

Logically speaking, is a metaphor a self-contradiction (a lie)? If I say, "God is light" (I John 1:5) - and since light is a part of creation while God is not - am I telling a lie?

If one doesn't understand language, one would have to conclude that I have committed a logical fallacy. But a child can see that I was not being illogical or irrational. And yet again, if a man were looking for a way to condemn me, he might say that I was teaching a form of pantheism, and that I am irrational - he might even be able to convince others with his argument if my statement was taken out of context and told to someone who was unfamiliar with how I would deny pantheism vehemently.

I've learnt recently that such a disregard of the conventions of language, coupled with the pretence of being logical, is a tactic commonly employed by those who are searching for a way to condemn someone. This perverse tactic is commonly used by atheists trying to "debunk" the Bible as self-contradictory. A cursory read through the classic "Skeptic's Annotated Bible" confirms this. It is their number one strategy. It is a Satanic strategy, because Satan is the accuser, the slanderer, and the father of lies.

While not being naive, our attitude ought to be to seek to understand a person's words in a positive way. Extreme caution is required to guard from judging or condemning too harshly or unjustly. We ought to begin with the assumption of a person's innocence until they are proven guilty. A good understanding of the conventions of language and literary devices is important, and these things are usually understood somewhat intuitively at a rudimentary level from a very young age by all people unless they have a particular communication disability.

We ought to look at the context of what a person has said to try to understand their intended meaning. There may be a few possible meanings to their words (although usually the ambiguity is removed entirely by the context), and it would be wrong to immediately jump to the meaning which would condemn their words. If there is any doubt or ambiguity, the person themselves must be asked to clarify what they mean. This is why our Heidelberg Catechism says, regarding the ninth commandment:

Question 112. What is required in the ninth commandment?
Answer. That I bear false witness [a] against no man, nor falsify [b] any man's words; that I be no backbiter, [c] nor slanderer; that I do not judge, nor join [d] in condemning any man rashly, or unheard; but that I [e] avoid all sorts of lies and deceit, as the proper works [f] of the devil, unless I would bring down upon me the heavy wrath of God; likewise, that in judgment and all other dealings I love the truth, speak it uprightly [g] and confess it; also that I defend and promote, [h] as much as I am able, the honor and good character of my neighbor.

[a]: Prov. 19:5,9; Prov. 21:28
[b]: Psa. 15:3
[c]: Rom. 1:29,30
[d]: Mat. 7:1ff; Luke 6:37
[e]: Lev. 19:11
[f]: Prov. 12:22; Prov. 13:5
[g]: 1Cor. 13:6; Eph. 4:25
[h]: 1Pet. 4:8

I can think of many occasions in which I have not put this into practice as I ought. I pray that we would all put this into practice more and more.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The horrific blasphemy of an dishonest offer from God

This is a response to the quote-mining of a once staunch supporter of Calvinism, who has now started to prolifically promote the self-contradictory theology of the "free offer". This is idea that even though God has eternally willed only to save some, that nevertheless He sincerely and earnestly desires the salvation of all without exception, and expresses this desire in the preaching of the Gospel, which they suppose to be an invitation to, or offer of salvation in Christ (who they nevertheless believe died only for the elect). I'm aware that most sensible people will already see the absurdity of this position, but nevertheless, here is the quote:

"The Gospel is to be preached indiscriminately to the elect and to the reprobate: but the elect alone come to Christ, because they have been taught of God. (Isaiah 54:13) God invites all indiscriminately to salvation through the Gospel, but the ingratitude of the world is the reason why this grace, which is equally offered to all, is enjoyed by few." ~ John Calvin.

John Calvin heavily criticised how the Romish theologians would dig through the writings of the early church fathers to find and pull out the dung instead of the gold. I don't think he would be impressed with your attempt to do the same with his writings. In his later days, when he wrote specifically dealing with the subject against a heretic, he said:

"God is not like a mortal man, who is ever flexible and variable, and changes his mind and purposes every hour! Why, the very thing against which the monk so violently fights is that the adorable God is ever of one mind and consistent with himself!" (p. 178).

"We, however, with greater reverence and sobriety, say ‘that God always wills the same thing; and that this is the very praise of His immutability.’ Whatever He decrees, therefore, He effects; and this is in Divine consistency with His omnipotence. And the will of God, being thus inseparably united with His power, constitutes an exalted harmony of His attributes …" (p. 179).

The command to repent and believe, and the promise of salvation to all who believe is certainly not a universal invitation - if it were this would mean that God has a universal will for all without exception to be saved, and whatever God wills is done, because He is always faithful to Himself in the exercise of His omnipotent power.

This doctrine that the Gospel is an invitation militates against total depravity because for the invitation to be universal, every hearer must be equally capable of responding to the invitation. But we believe that humanity is dead in trespasses and sins, and cannot respond apart from the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. How can God invite sinners to come to Him, when He has not given them the power to come?

It also contradicts unconditional election, because if few are chosen, then the others cannot honestly be invited to that for which they have not been chosen. It is a cruel, dishonest and unjust invitation that invites someone where the invitor has already eternally decreed that they cannot come. How can God invite sinners to come to Him, when He has decided that they cannot come?

It tears apart limited/particular atonement, because a man cannot be honestly invited to banquet in which no place has been prepared for him, and where no room or provision has been made for him. That would be a vile, evil, wicked and abominable invitation. How then, can our righteous God invite sinners to come to Him, when He has not paid for their sins by the death of His Son?

God will not offer that which He has willed eternally not to give. Throughout all Scripture, the Gospel is never preached as an offer to all without exception. The preaching of the Gospel to all without exception is a command to repent and believe, and an unconditional promise that those who believe are saved eternally.

"The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." - Jer. 31:3. The love of God is as unchangeable and eternal as He is (Mal. 3:6).

Since Christ is loved before the foundation of the world (John 17:24), then so too are all who were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). Before Jacob was born, he was loved by God, and likewise, before Esau was born, he was hated by God. There is no hatred in love, and there is no love in hatred. Denying these things and saying that God loves those who are not chosen in Christ, and sincerely desires their salvation (despite not having chosen them) is a horrible blasphemy against the righteous character of God. If God loves wicked-doers who He has determined not to save, what does that say about His love? Or what does that say about His Being? Can a righteous God love the wicked, except He makes them righteous through Christ's atonement? To say so, is to God loves wickedness, and that God is wicked. A more absurd and devilish blasphemy could hardly be contrived except by the inspiration of Satan who delights in tearing the church apart by heresy.

Judge for yourselves, but I say (not myself alone, but also the ministers of the churches I belong to) this nonsense that God loves everybody, desires to save everybody, invites everybody to salvation, offers salvation to everybody is a denial of the Scriptures, and an Arminian heresy condemned by the Synod of Dordt 1618-19. And they are many others who take this position too.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Who is wise?

Malcolm Forbes says, "The dumbest people I know are those who know it all."

But Christ said, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32. Not as if anyone knows it all (I Cor. 13:12), but we must confess what God has revealed to us about Himself, or else we are denying Him. So who do we believe? The Bible which tells us that God is the truth and He has revealed Himself to us and the rest of the world is in prideful ignorance, or Malcolm Forbes who claims that those who confess that they are not ignorant, are stupid?

And Christ also promised, "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into *ALL TRUTH*: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you." - John 16:13-15.

The false spirit of Pentecostalism opposes the Spirit of truth, because it is a spirit of falsehood, ignorance, and confusion. It says, "doctrine divides! be content to live in uncertainty! simplicity is godliness! knowledge is the source of pride because 'knowledge' puffs up! humility is to profess ignorance! emotionalism is true spirituality! the intellect is unspiritual! love the lack of knowledge! do not seek wisdom! the truth is harsh! speaking the truth is unloving! love is a feeling! worship is a feeling! don't read the Bible too much because the 'letter' kills! logic is unspiritual! mystical self-contradicating confusion is spiritual! etc." The false spirit of pentecostalism seems to never tire of twisting Scripture to keep people in darkness.

I have met pagans and atheists who understand the Bible better than most Pentecostals, though they are damned by their denial of it. And the solution to this, is to bear witness to who the Holy Spirit really is, and identify the spirit of pentecostalism as an unclean spirit and a lying spirit from Satan who comes to steal, kill and destroy. How can one declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvellous light if one is still dwelling in the darkness (I Pet. 2:9)?

"For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." - II Cor. 4:6. And Paul the Apostle was sent to the Gentiles by Jesus Christ for this purpose: "To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me." - Acts 26:18. And this is exactly the work which the false pentecostal spirit works so busily to oppose. Faith is not ignorant or uncertain, and it grows in knowledge of its object, since faith is the certainty of things hoped for, and the knowledge of things not seen (Heb. 11:1).

But speaking of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding; the Bible says:
Proverbs 4
"4He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live.
5Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.
6Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee.
7Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.
8Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her.
9She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.
10Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many.
11I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths.
12When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened; and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble.
13Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life."

And the Bible is filled with this teaching. And the warning to those who do not heed this call is terrible:
Proverbs 8
"1Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice?
2She standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths.
3She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors.
4Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man.
5O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.
6Hear; for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things.
7For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
8All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them.
9They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge.
10Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold.
11For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it."
"35For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD.
36But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death."

And Proverbs 1
"20Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets:
21She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying,
22How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?
23Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.
24Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded;
25But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof:
26I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh;
27When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you.
28Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me:
29For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD:
30They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.
31Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.
32For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.
33But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.

I believe God has revealed the truth about His Holy Spirit to His church, and I will NOT deny this! To deny this would not merely be false modesty (I Cor. 2:9-16), it would be for me to renounce my faith entirely - because it is a denial of God's grace in salvation. When a Christian says, "I know", it is not a confession of pride, it is boasting in the Lord who has shown us the light (I Cor. 1:24-31). Who is Malcolm Forbes to attempt to silence our praise for our Saviour?

To despise knowledge and wisdom is no different than to despise the Holy Spirit of God.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

John Piper's Doctrine of a Common Ineffectual "Atonement"

A friend sent me this link to a question and answer session by John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist Church:

I've heard him preach this false doctrine before, so I thought it was worth commenting on as follows:

I hope you will read and receive this comment with the understanding that I mean this as an encouragement and as a helpful, edifying, and God-glorifying comment both for Piper (whom I have strongly criticised) and for all the other readers.

He makes a telling statement about the whole fuzzy construct of common grace and free offer theology when he says towards the end, "You're alive!" This is totally wrong, and a wrong way of thinking about the non-elect, and God's attitude towards them. The sinner is dead is trespasses and sins, and therefore does not have a "chance" (and chance is not a word in the dictionary of a Reformed Christian). A "chance to believe"? Is not the very idea undiluted Arminianism?

It's very true that God gives people greater judgment for rejecting the preaching of the Gospel - Christ speaks about this (Matthew 11:21ff). But notice that God's judgment of sinners is with regard to their disobedience, not their rejection of a gracious offer (since how could God offer what He had not purposed to give them?). As II Thessalonians 1:7-10 makes totally clear, Christ will return "In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel..." It is for disobedience that the wicked reprobate receive greater condemnation. Of course it is true that God gives the wicked many good things in this world, and holds them guilty for their misuse of these things and unthankfulness, but while His purpose in giving good things to the elect is for their good, His purpose in giving the very same things to the reprobate is to bring them under further condemnation (Rom. 11:9; Psalm 73) - not an attitude of grace at all (Psalm 5:4-6; 11:5-7; etc).

It's important because God is just and simple. It is not possible to say that a man who ends up in hell has received any grace at all - because God's grace is one of His perfect attributes, which must necessarily be in harmony with all His other attributes. God is also sovereign, and omnipotent, and infinte. And therefore His grace must also be sovereign, and omnipotent, and infinite.

And in regard to the above message, is very important not to err on this because of the nature of Christ's atonement. A Christian believes that Christ is His Saviour because Christ is the Head of the Church, His body. His is the legal representative of His people by means of the bond of faith worked by the power of the Holy Spirit which indwells every believer, "For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. " (Eph. 5:30, cf. Eph. 2:1ff). So a Christian believes that Christ died on the cross as our substitute. He died in our stead/place, as the corporate head of all His elect which were given to Him by the Father.

Because of this substitutionary atonement it says, "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (II Cor. 5:21). So, the only people who can receive any benefit from the atonement are those for whom He was a legal representative before God, which can only be those who are united to Him by faith. And furthermore, if united to Him as a member of His body, then we receive the effect of the atonement. And either it was a full atonement, or no atonement at all. There cannot be measures of atonement because we are all "one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28). All those in Christ have received exactly the same grace and are equal with respect to salvation - "all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1:3). In Christ, "all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God" (II Cor. 1:20).

And all this must be the case because by means our union with Christ, there is a "swap". All our sins (past, present, future, and of every member in Christ, since there is no difference) were imputed to Him, just as all His righteousness was imputed to us (again, II Cor. 5:21). And God poured out His wrath upon the Son, such that Christ received in His own self, the full measure of punishment due to us for our sins (I Pet. 2:24; Gal. 3:13). And His resurrection for our sakes is absolute proof of our full justification in Him, that He made a complete payment for the sins of all those for whom He was a legal representative. If He has risen, then anyone who receives the benefit of the atonement must also be risen (I Cor. 15:22), and has no sin left to be paid for - we are "dead to sin".

And all this is even further proved because only in Christ can our righteous God love sinners with His infinite love. If we are in Christ, God beholds us, as He beholds Christ - as beloved children with whom He is well-pleased (Matt. 3:17)! And since we are beloved in Christ, it cannot be that God could cast us into hell, just as He cannot reject His only begotten Son (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27).

Piper says here that the non-elect receive some grace from the atonement, but only those united to Christ can receive any benefit from the atonement, and if united to Christ - all the Father's infinite love and grace toward Christ, is also then toward us. So, it's all or nothing with God. If not elect, there is no basis for having any part in the atonement, and if any has a part in the atonement at all, they have full and complete salvation as a beloved child of God. To believers He promises full redemption and assurance of salvation in Christ the only begotten Son, yet to unbelievers He promises both temporal and eternal judgment and nothing but wrath and holy vengeance against them that "obey not the Gospel".

In conclusion, I can't see how Piper's doctrine here is not undermining all that we believe about the particular atonement of Jesus Christ. There is only two conclusions to including the non-elect in the atonement (which is really a contradiction in terms), either all are saved without exception (which is the most blatant universalist heresy), or the cross is a mere crutch by which we must save ourselves by means of the determinant addition of our will/work (which is the proud religion of the Pelagian and Arminian heretics - and wholly dethrones God). We have already seen that it is quite impossible for any who are in Christ to receive variant effects from the atonement - and everything about the nature of the atonement (that it is penal, and substitutionary, and involves full double-imputation, and is applied to those united to Christ, first of all by sovereign unconditional election, and also in time and in our consciousness by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which produces faith in all the elect, and finally in our complete sanctification and glorification with Christ when we go to be with Him in heaven).

Preaching ought to separate light from darkness, as God does, to sanctify the elect and build them up in assurance, and declare to the wicked what God's attitude is toward them unless they repent, and therefore teach indeed without equivocation that, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."
 - Sam W.

P.S. There's more to say about this - but it ought to be clear just how impossible it is to believe in any kind of common grace, and yet still defend the doctrine of particular atonement. The difference between the Arminians and Calvinists on that point is after all, especially with regard to what the atonement actually is. The consequences for distorting the simple biblical teaching about the atonement are massive.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Beauty Regime

I always thought the words of this song are interesting:
Of course, as an unbeliever he presents the completely wrong solution, much like Joel Osteen's religion of self-esteem. A Christian believes that true beauty is that of inner condition of the heart, not of the outward appearance, and therefore the only beauty we have is in Christ. God is the implication of all perfections, and as such only He is truly beautiful, and everything else is a parody and mockery of His perfection.

Isaiah 53:2-3 "For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath
no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not."

The world knows nothing about true beauty and so vainly chases after and obsesses about the outward appearance, which at the end of the day - is just eaten by worms. I wish Christians would be better witnesses against this kind of godlessness - but all too often they live in bondage to the same lies.

Friday, February 26, 2010

A brief Christian perspective on "Sustainable Development"

Sustainable Development is a popular concept these days - it is a buzz word that is driving significant changes in global policies, legislation, and economics. This is especially true in the European Union. It is important for Christians to look at the things that the world is obsessed about very carefully. As Christians, we do have a responsibility to be faithful and good stewards with what God has given us - to not use things wastefully or recklessly, and (as with everything) to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. And this is not an earthly kingdom, and so we view our responsibilities in that light, liberally giving to the work of the Gospel and supporting it by whatever means we have, especially in the local church and for the good of "the household of faith" (Gal. 6:10). But because this is only a proximate care that we have over these things, whereas God has the ultimate control over all, we ought not be anxious and worried about tomorrow. We also know that ultimately this present world is reserved for fire when Christ comes again, and until that time it will grow worse and worse until it is finally ripe for judgment (II Pet. 3).

The world on the other hand is very worried about tomorrow. And it is also only interested in using its resources for furthering the earthly kingdom of Antichrist. The key questions to ask about "sustainable development" are, "Sustainable for whom?", and, "Development of what?" The world has its own ideas about that, but we are interested in the reason that the world exists - the salvation of the church in Christ, made up of God's elect from every tongue, tribe and nation.

I once asked one of my lecturers (I studied Environmental Science) whether sustainable development was not simply an admirable but impossible goal, based on the second law of thermodynamics (neatly expressed as "rust and rot doth corrupt"). The truth is that this world bears witness of itself that it is "wearing away like a garment" and cannot last - and therefore our hope ought not to be in this world, but in "the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God". But for the academics, economists and politicians of the world, their only hope is in this present evil age - and this is why they so strenuously fight for the idea of sustainable development.

As for climate change - it is not really scientific. This was the subject of my final year thesis at university, which I can send to anyone who is interested in reading more about it. Climate change is convenient hype to enforce more and more laws and policies in line with the world's philosophy of sustainable development. Things like this are likely to make living as a Reformed Christian very difficult in the days to come, as our freedoms are gradually eroded, and the world unites more and more in global governance for the kingdom of Antichrist. The influence of these philosophies is more evident in the EU than anywhere else in the world, in my opinion.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

I love catechism!

It's the new year and nearly February and I still haven't updated my blog. Rather than fabricate something for this purpose, I thought I would just repost here an article of mine that was published in Beacon Lights. For those unfamiliar with this publication, this might a good occasion to check it out in more detail. It's a young people's magazine for the PRC filled to the brim with edifying and instructive material. Next time I'll give more detail about how the new year has been for a Reformed Christian living in Limerick.

Church Family by Samuel Watterson

Samuel is a member of Limerick Reformed Fellowship in the Republic of Ireland.

The Privilege of Catechetical Instruction

“The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot.
The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.
I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel; my reins also instruct me in the night seasons.”
Psalm 16:5-7.

For Protestant Reformed young people, the Heidelberg Catechism is an ordinary part of growing up. We reach a certain age, and we study and learn it in catechism classes. It is good and right that this should be the ordinary experience of the covenant child. Covenant children are born and brought up in the light as their believing and godly parents are in the light. Godly parents know that God saves his elect children, and keeps his people from apostasy, in the way of spiritual instruction and discipline (Hosea 4:6). Yet for others it is not so ordinary.

The importance of this is simply an historical fact. It is the sad story of most of the Jewish nation, such that when the Lord of glory was set before them, they cried with the ungodly Gentiles, “Let him be crucified. His blood be on us, and on our children.” It is also the sad story of many of the regions which are now thoroughly under the grip of Islam. It is the story of much of continental Europe now too, in which there is scarcely a faithful Reformed church to be found any longer. And of course, it is the story closer to home, of my own forebears, the Irish and Scottish Presbyterians and Anglicans (and the legacy of Patrick is long gone). What Isaiah lamented concerning Israel could be said of Ireland and Great Britain too: “Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah” (Isaiah 1:4-9).

Growing up within a modern Irish Presbyterian church (as well as in other groups in certain years, especially the Methodist church), I had no idea of how far we had fallen. Instruction was limited to a superficial five-minute “children’s address,” coupled with a few uninspired songs (which were at the least terribly inappropriate and imbalanced if not utterly heretical) and then for the rest of the service the children were banished from the congregation to take part in “Sunday School.” To call it school was perhaps false advertisement.

In some ways this was good for the children. They did not have to stay to be corrupted even further by the ambiguous and sensational platitudes of the hopeless Arminian “gospel” that was commonly put forward by the minister. Sunday school usually involved harmless crafts and games with cartoon Bible characters. However, it has been said that such cartoons place the Bible in the same realm as the trash that the children see on the television.[3] Children learn to equate Jesus Christ with Santa Claus; as something to grow out of. Seeing Noah’s ark depicted as a round bathtub-like object with a giraffe’s head poking out of a porthole is more likely to evoke laughter than awe. This is especially so when the child is simultaneously inculcated with the secular worldview for most of the rest of the week, at home and at school. The ark was not “cute.” It was provided graciously by God to save his elect church from the terrible destruction that he was going to rain down upon the entire world for their wretched wickedness.

All this meant that a young child in the Protestant Reformed Churches knew far more of the Bible and biblical doctrine than myself when I was of the age at which confession of faith would usually be made. Yet now, my eyes having gradually been opened, I am amazed and astounded. Most of all, I am awestruck and humbled at the sovereignty of God’s grace, that amidst such widespread apostasy, and despite the total depravity of my own heart making me as worthy of hell as any other, God spared me. God brought me to his ark to be saved through the day of evil (I Pet. 3:18-22).

My own experience of the Heidelberg Catechism is quite different. I did not grow up with such precious instruction. Instead I floundered through a morass of lies and vanity in confusion and ignorance for years before God lifted me out of the mire to see the truth of biblical Reformed doctrine. The heresies I laboured under sinfully and foolishly for years were many; Pentecostalism, Arminianism, and Anabaptism are the three main categories. These divisive, horrible and detestable poisons ought always to be exposed and condemned by antithetical instruction in the biblical truth. When I encountered the Heidelberg Catechism, it was with great skepticism and pride, but it was also with great earnestness and seriousness thanks to the patient and faithful labors of Rev. Angus Stewart. It is right that we ought to search the Scriptures to confirm whether these things are true, and thankfully the references and the many articles and pamphlets available on the CPRC website were so many signposts and maps to direct us to the light. But we ought to do this in the spirit of prayerful humility and meekness.

It is a terrible and heinous thing when covenantal instruction is so neglected and corrupted in an institution claiming to be a church of Christ. It is also evil when the children of the church despise and reject godly instruction when they ought to cherish it dearly as the very air they breath and the bread they eat. It is all too easy in our carnality, to take for granted the things that God has graciously provided us with. Official catechetical instruction by lawfully ordained ministers of the Word, given biblically, is the chief means of grace to covenant young people, and as such ought to be received as the voice of Jesus Christ as much as the rest of the biblical preaching. By his voice we are inwardly called to him, and united more and more with him through the Spirit which assures us who believe of everlasting salvation. His words are spirit and life, and without them, it follows that we neither have spirit nor life. Delight in the peculiar privilege of receiving catechetical instruction!