Reading Our Bibles In Halves

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Matthew Henry states,

“Note, therefore it is that people run into mistakes, because they read their Bibles by the halves, and are as partial in the prophets as they are in the law. They are only for the smooth things, Isa. 30:10. Thus now we are too apt, in reading the prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled, to have our expectations raised of the glorious state of the church in the latter days. But we overlook its wilderness sackcloth state, and are willing to fancy that is over, and nothing is reserved for us but the halcyon days; and then, when tribulation and persecution arise, we do not understand it, neither know we the things that are done, though we are told as plainly as can be that through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God. – Matthew Henry on Luke 18:31-34.”

I once noted to myself that the Prophet Jeremiah was one of my favorite Prophets.  He didn’t see much fruit or revival towards God and he was sent to preach to a people who wouldn’t hear.  And he knew this.

I have been rather bitter lately.  I am an old Navy Veteran with some theological accumen.  I have been the kid in the neighborhood who pillaged things you didn’t know you would miss.  I have smoked my fair share of marijuana and have friends of many different lifestyles.  In all of that I still had a knowledge of what was good behavior and bad behavior.  I didn’t try to justify my behavior.  I liked doing the wrong things but I didn’t need to move the boundaries of truth to justify my behavior.  A pervert is a pervert.  A Wackadoodle is a wackadoodle.  An Adulterer is an Adulterer.  A Thief is a Thief.  A Murder is a Murderer.  An Idolater is an Idlolater.  A Traitor is a Traitor.  Maybe you can see where I am going with this.

In the past decade I have seen the Church and Society redefine things that should never be redefined.  Not many people now days have the courage to stand up and own up.  They all have to feel like God is a kind nice dude who doesn’t care about the things we once thought he cared about.  Sin is no longer a word used to characterize bad behavior as it once was in society.  Mankind has many pills now to help us get over the fact that so many people feel degraded in their consciences.  Guilty feelings are bad.  They hinder growth and really prove nothing.  So what if a person left their mate (spouse) because they didn’t feel good anylonger in the relationship and because the excitement was gone.   So what if they desire another mate?  Adultery and violating a vow taken is nothing.  Time heals all things.  It matters not if you are truly guilty.  Now days we don’t have the Yatzee to just be honest.  Honesty would show we are guilty.  And we can’t have that.  So let’s make everything lawful even to the point of saying that homosexuality may be called marriage.  What a perversion.  And btw, that is perversion.  It perverts the very essence and definition of marriage.  That is why it is called perversion.

Well, as we are being distracted by the decades of divorce, adultery, pot smoking, etc.. etc.. etc.. other things have transpired that have me questioning what in the world happened?  Politicians have gone and endorsed things that haven’t been endorsed since the days of Rome.  We have also gone and allowed the President of the United States to violate the Constitution.  Our Nation is forced to buy things such as Health Care by punitive reinforcement.  We have watched the SCOTUS change the definition of marriage and promote perversion.  We have seen the POTUS’s man John Kerry (the Secretary of State) make a deal with our enemies in Iran that is beyond being a Traitor.  What is happening?  There was a time when God and Country meant something.  These people haven’t tried to remove our foundation.  They have succeeded.  And Nobody seems to be doing anything about it.  I thought we had checks and balances.

It will be interesting to see what Christ is doing through His Church in the next hundred years.  Kid’s now days don’t know they have violated God’s law.  Thanks to Television, their parents, and our wonderful political leaders.  They can’t even call a terrorist a terrorist.  There are so many examples of truth hiding it is over whelming.

I guess I should just be thankful for God’s grace and mercy, keep on telling people the truth concerning God’s Law, and not expect any more than what Matthew Henry has stated.   Maybe God will perform in generations to come as he did after Jeremiah’s time.  I sure pray for it.  I really expect it.  Christ is King and His Gospel is so wonderful.

R2K or not… All Politics are a war for the soul of men

I was taught right and wrong based upon a presumption. I was taught what my Society taught me was true. I freely admit that. My parents were not raised in Church. I wasn’t. But I was raised knowing the Ten Commandments and how they relate to some of my life. I came from a Dutch family that migrated to America for a better life I imagine. My English predecessors (which are a small faction in my heritage) were here for progress as I can imagine. We have cars in our heritage. My German (and I am mostly Dutch / German and Swede) came over for probably religious reasons as some of my heritage suggests. But I am not sure. My Swedish family came over for probably other reasons even though they were strictly Lutheran as I know. But I am an actual descendant of William Bradford (English) the Governor of the Plymouth Plantation who came over for the true reason of seeing Christ’s Kingdom being furthered. Yes, For that purpose. So they could WORSHIP GOD FREELY. FREEDOM. NOT ANARCHY.

Let me say I am an actual descendant of the William Bradford’s line. He helped write and put together the Mayflower Compact which is one of our Nation’s original Governmental Covenantal documents. I think I can prove that.

I can imagine some of the arguments against such a proposition. Especially since I have communicated with D. G. Hart, R. Scott Clark, and others of their theological perspective…. Guess how I will end this story as a descendant of our founder in light of recent Modern Reformed discussions? Especially since I am from a Covenanter theological persuasion. Guess what recent controversies we would discuss? Their perspective is called Radical Two Kingdom Theology and what I call Klineanism. They believe in a dualism that is dichotomous. The Government operates from a different foundation than the Church concerning what is Moral. Is it doing us any good as a Church in light of what I may have been taught concerning the Kingdom of Christ: Is this teaching doing anyone’s children any good? Is it opposed to what we have been taught? I believe it is and it has hurt the Church and Society as a whole. I will post what I have been taught in a video below. Some would refer to it as Romanism. I would say it isn’t. It is not like Romanism. It does depend upon the Decalogue though. Why is that bad or not bad? I believe Rome is better than this Society in some ways since I believe some Roman Catholics do find Christ as our Reformers did. I also believe some Roman Catholics are saved. At least they had the whole Law to guide them. This Society in the United States of America has very little if nothing. It even denies the founders now saying they were incorrect in so many ways.

Please don’t bring up the Slavery issue. It is a moot issue. Check your facts.

I believe when the Ten Commandments are denied the soul of men are left to death. There is nothing to point to what is correct or wrong. The Ten Commandments point to life also. Some say they point to death only. I would say they are the way of life for the Christian also. Just try disobeying them and denying them as a Christian. Hold tight to them you will find life in Christ. You can not go against the grain of God’s word and find goodness. There is some truth in both statements concerning life and death. The Law has to understood contextually. It has to be understood contextually. It has to be understood contextually. Everyone says that. Even those who are R2K. I believe DR. Clark would agree with that. But we are losing the battle right now. Politics are a war for the soul of men. Even when others deny it in my estimation. Our Society (Government) tells others what they should be comfortable with. It even enforces it. I think the modern R2K guys have lost sight of that. We started off worrying about Marijuana. But I believe Homosexuality is way worse than any argument over what we put in our bodies. The things we can put into our bodies may lead to debauchery but to endorse homosexuality in any form is reprobate and now the USA has done that. Forget the Marijuana thing. This is even worse.

Even the Rainbow has been perverted. Wow! The very symbol that God cares about a perverse mankind and demands repentance has been perverted.

Affirmations and Denials on the Gospel & Sanctification

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I just want to bring attention to something I would affirm and put my signature on as an endorsement.

The affirmation below is taken from The Gospel Reformation Network.

http://www.gospelreformation.net/

AFFIRMATIONS & DENIALS ON THE GOSPEL AND SANCTIFICATION

The Gospel Reformation Network

ARTICLE I LEGALISM IS A REAL PROBLEM

• We affirm that legalism is a dangerous problem that the church must always address.
• We deny that legalism is the primary enemy of the gospel to the exclusion of spiritual bondage, moral rebellion and a love for sin.

ARTICLE II THE GOSPEL AND TOTAL DEPRAVITY

• We affirm that unregenerate man, being totally depraved, is unable to obey or please God unto salvation.
• We deny that the believer, being regenerated by the Holy Spirit, remains unable to obey and please God, by grace and in Christ.

ARTICLE III THE GOSPEL INCLUDES SANCTIFICATION

• We affirm that the gospel provides salvation for the whole man, including man’s need for both imputed and imparted righteousness.
• We deny that the gospel provides freedom from the guilt of sin in justification without deliverance from the power of sin in regeneration and liberation from the practice of sin in sanctification.

ARTICLE IV UNION WITH CHRIST AND SANCTIFICATION

• We affirm that both justification and sanctification are distinct, necessary, inseparable and simultaneous graces of union with Christ though faith.
• We deny that sanctification flows directly from justification, or that the transformative elements of salvation are mere consequences of the forensic elements.

ARTICLE V GRATITUDE AND MOTIVATION

• We affirm that gratitude for justification is a powerful motivation for growth in holiness.
• We deny that gratitude for justification is the only valid motivation for holiness, making all other motivations illegitimate or legalistic.

ARTICLE VI GOOD WORKS NOT MERIT

• We affirm that believers are not under the Law as a covenant of works, where the believer is required to merit his or her own righteousness before God.
• We deny that Christ has freed the Christian from the moral Law as the standard of Christian living.

AFFIRMATIONS & DENIALS ON THE GOSPEL AND SANCTIFICATION

ARTICLE VII ADOPTION AND SANCTIFICATION

• We affirm that through the finished work of Christ believers are adopted by God as sons and now relate to God as their loving heavenly Father.
• We deny that our adoption precludes God’s fatherly displeasure when His children rebel, or that God’s Fatherly love prevents Him from disciplining Christians who stray from the path of righteousness.

ARTICLE VIII EFFORT AND SANCTIFICATION

• We affirm that God-glorifying, Christ-centered, Holy Spirit-empowered effort to put off sin and put on righteousness is necessary for Christian growth in grace.
• We deny that all practical effort in sanctification is moralistic, legalistic or that the only effort required for growth is that Christians remember, revisit and rediscover their justification.

ARTICLE IX FAITH AND SANCTIFICATION

• We affirm that growth in the Christian life comes through faith, which believes and acts on the promises of God in the Scriptures.
• We deny that faith is wholly passive in sanctification or separated from good works in the same sense that justification is by faith alone.

ARTICLE X PREACHING THE IMPERATIVES

• We affirm that faithful preaching of the Law for use in the Christian life must always be done in the context of God’s provision through the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit.
• We deny that preaching the Scripture’s indicatives without the imperatives is a healthy model for Christian ministry because such preaching fails to conform to the pattern seen in Scripture and is dangerous to the life and ministry of the church.

ARTICLE XI SANCTIFICATION AND ASSURANCE

• We affirm that Christians gain assurance of salvation by cherishing the promise of the gospel and by the fruit of the Spirit’s work in the believer’s life.
• We deny that assurance gained through growth in godliness amounts to a performance-based religion or necessitates an unwholesome spiritual pride.

ARTICLE XII SANCTIFICATION AND VICTORY

• We affirm that Christians can and should experience victories over sin, however limited and partial, and that these victories bring glory to God and bear testimony to the power of His grace.
• We deny that rejoicing in victories over sin amounts to spiritual pride or performance religion, although Christians may and sometimes do sin in this way.

Titus 1:6 If Any Be Blameless… Failed But Not Done!

 

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I have been around a few years now. I have seen a few Pastors sin and lose their calling because of sin. I have done grievous things against God also.  So I am not throwing stones here. I have no condemnation for anyone who fails in their calling. I am not immune from sinning against God nor failing in my calling. In fact, today I was reminded by Pastor Nick Batzig how prone to sin I am via Ligonier Ministry’s blog. It is titled ‘Take Heed‘. Despite those facts we need to be reminded that God has set boundaries and made requirements concerning who is able to function in certain capacities with authority. I am speaking about the ordained offices of Elder and Pastor.

Church Government is a gift from God.  It is given to us so that we may grow in maturity and unity.  Church Government is not one Man (a Pastor) who is leading a flock of sheep.  It is a part of the body.  It is usually a group of men who are ordained and meet certain qualifications.  So when a Leader of the Church has disqualified himself we should be able to see Christ doing his work through His ordained means.  A Congregation that belongs to Christ has certain features and it shouldn’t look like a group of people following one single individual.  So when some travesty happens, such as we are observing again via media reports, we should see a Church being Governed by the means Christ has ordained. I am not so sure we should be observing just one man declaring he has resigned because of some impropriety.  We should see a King ruling and running His Church through the means he has appointed.  And that just hasn’t been clearly seen for many of us who have lived through the infamous names of fallen Christians these past 30 years. Need I give examples?  I think not.

The Church is about a King and His reconciling Gospel. It is about what God says through His written word as His Spirit teaches us. What we should be seeing during these times of crisis is Christ making a judgment through His ordained means. We should also see how people are fit into His body no matter what they have done. The weaker parts are just as important as the stronger parts according to St. Paul (1 Corinthians 12:21-26) Watching and guiding people as they fit into the Church is a challenge the Church has to deal with on a regular basis. For many aspire to be useful in the Church. And it needs ministers and laypeople to fit together as they have gifts for ministering. Also remember that everyone needs ministered to. Sometimes this challenge to see how a person fits in is hard. Today a special challenge has been given to a Church where a very caring Pastor has committed adultery. He was going through a deep trial in life and became weak and succumbed to the temptation of forbidden love.

The challenge I mention is now given to Tullian Tchividjian’s Session and Presbytery. A Session and Presbytery are parts of Presbyterian Church Polity or Church Government. That is to whom Tullian Tchividjian is responsible to.  And they are responsible for taking care of his family and dealing with the recent situation as it impacts the Church. Now that may sound callous and cold but from my experience as one who has sat under Church discipline and nurture, it is one of the most freeing and nurturing things I have ever experienced. It was also a place where my family and I received a world of protection from others who opposed me and a Devil who desired to devour me and mine. There is grace, mercy, and protection when one is humble and submits to God and His ordained servants. God gives grace to the humble and He tells us through the book of Hebrews to be careful and listen to our Elders.  (Hebrews 13:7-17)

One thing that has been missed during this type of situation in the past is the need to understood that when an Ordained Man falls into great sin (as a Pastor committing adultery) he is no longer qualified to fill a position of Ordained Elder any longer. I mention this fresh situation because I have seen defrocked men avoid the scriptures and seek to be restored as Elders just a few years after their indiscretion. I have also seen Church Members think they are helping these fallen men by getting them refocused on their abilities and usefulness so that they may return to their Prior Position.  Of course the usual course of events start with what appears to be repentance and confession.  Then the Public Relation campaigns start intentionally or unintentionally as others allow these men back into the pulpit. It seems they are being endorsed as men worthy again to fulfill the office of Pastor / Elder.  Unfortunately, the Church becomes more focused on a man’s talents and ability than upon the requirements God has set.

The Church is weakened because the Church has refused to hear what God says about the station this person is not allowed to occupy any longer.  Either that or they are not informed enough to understand what God’s requirements are concerning the office of Elder / Pastor. Because of those situations God’s grace is presumed where it shouldn’t be. And I would even go as far to say it is a Grace that God hasn’t bestowed.  It is no grace at all to restore a person into an office he is now disqualified to occupy. In fact it is injurious and confusing to many who have had to take part in the past experience, especially when divorce  and remarriage was an end result.  That just compounds the whole thing even worse.  And yes, I have experienced that.

Let me explain with a bit more clarity what I mean by the above. The Church needs to recognize that any man that has this type of failure in his life is now unfit for Ordained Eldership for the rest of his life. That doesn’t mean he can’t be useful to God and be a blessing to the world and the body of Christ. It means he is not qualified to Pastor nor be an Ordained Elder in the Church Christ is building. Let me reiterate, that that doesn’t mean he is not an important part of the Church any longer. It might be quite the opposite. In fact, he may actually become more beneficial and effectual for the Church now. Even more so after he has matured through repentance and reconciliation. But according to Titus 1:6 and a few other places where Eldership qualifications are noted, this man is now unqualified to fulfill the role of Ordained Pastor / Elder.

Here is Saint Paul’s word to Titus.

For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:  If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. (Titus chapter 1:5,6)

This is how John Calvin explains the prepositional phrase, if any man be blameless.
“When he says, that a bishop must be ἀνέγκληος, blameless, he does not mean one who is exempt from every vice, (for no such person could at any time be found,) but one who is marked by no disgrace that would lessen his authority. He means, therefore, that he shall be a man of unblemished reputation. 218″   John Calvin Commentary on Titus

In the past I have seen the body Christ be overly anxious to pull up along side and help mend the fallen. That is very commendable and even commanded by God.

Galatians 6:1-3

1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. 3 For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.

But church members might desire to go too far in a fallen Pastor’s life.  They might have so much affection for this person they may actually desire for that person to be restored to their previous life and position.  But that is going against God’s will. I have made that mistake before also.  It is easy. Especially when a person has played a significant part in our growth as a Christian and as a person.

So what needs to happen now? Well, that is for the Church to decide.  They will pull up along side and have to take care of all the congregation as well as Tullian and his relationships. Accountability and discipline will be set in order so that he may become useful and mature through this very hard trial in life.

I have seen an anti-nomian spirit take over the Church. Many have disregarded Titus 1:6. It seems ok to some to restore men who aren’t blameless as Pastors. It is okay in their minds eye if a Pastor falls into adultery and is restored back into Ministry. After all God forgives sin doesn’t he?  Isn’t the Gospel about restoration? They shouldn’t waist their talents and gifts should they? They claim God has forgiven and restores ministry. But my experience is that kind of thinking only makes a mockery of the Church as they neglect Titus 1:6 and similar passages. It neglects the inspired scripture of God.  It also spreads a truncated false gospel message. My kids now can say, “Well what about so and so Dad? He got away with it. (Adultery, Divorce, Remarriage) If God will forgive him, he will forgive me.” Time heals all wounds doesn’t it?  We are commanded to forgive as we have been forgiven.  Of course I don’t allow my boys to understand the Gospel that way and they know the hypocrisy of that anti-nomian position.

I will note that a lot of those quotes above are taken out of context and don’t relate to the topic at hand.  Of course there is forgiveness in Christ.  There is deep love and care to be overjoyed by.  But also know that there are a lot of talented and gifted people who are not called to fulfill ordained positions.  But that doesn’t take away from there ability to be used of God.

It seems presumptuous sin has crept into the Church and a little leaven has leavened the whole now. It breaks my heart. I hope God is merciful toward TT. I hope TT realizes what he has done and is genuinely able to repent. A hardened anti-nomian theology and heart is hard to overcome. I have seen it too many times in my life.  But all things are possible through Christ.

For more reading on previous posts concerning topics related to this you can click here.
Tullian Tchividjian, Michael Horton, David Murray / Depraved Christianity / Antinomianism

 

In light of Tullian Tchividjian, mourn but be encouraged.

In light of recent events I hope to be an encouragemet.  Another Spot Light Pastor / Leader has given in to his sensual desire and the World is going to point fingers at how we are no better off than they are.  I tend to disagree of course.  Especially in light of eternity.  We are sinners justified before God through Christ our Savior.  Those who do not believe are still in bondage to sin’s debt or wages.  The unbeliever only has the wrath of God to experience after death.  I wrote a piece a few years ago that took the fingers that pointed out the hypocrisy of others and used them to point back at theirselves, the cross of Christ, His Church, and His Kingdom.  I hope you receive encouragement from the words I shared before.

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Sinners, Truth, and a Fallen Church Leader

A Pastor friend of mine made the following comment concerning a fallen Pastor of a very large church back in 2009. “In this crucial time of war within the fabric of our culture this will be a severe blow regardless of outcome.”  Evidently it is applicable again today as another Church Leader has fallen into difficult times.

The News of that Church Leader’s fall years ago definitely devastated his family, friends, and the many lives he had influenced. Some people also seemed to think it gave ammunition and fodder to those who wanted to discredit Christianity.  That may seem to be true but I always like to mention that this is an opportunity for us to point to the countless many faithful brothers who are not neglecting their souls nor the souls of their parishioners whom they shepherd. It also gives us opportunity to show what grace, mercy, discipline, and truth are.  This terrible situation gives us opportunity to show why the Church of Christ is a wonderful body and organization in rebuttal to those who say they hate organized religion.  This is where the early verses of John 15 become applicable and where we see God’s Word is true.

When this kind of thing is mentioned and thrown in my face I appreciate the condemnation that is expressed because it shows that God doesn’t tolerate sin and we shouldn’t.  It reveals we are all discerners and can place judgment in a sphere where it belongs. I believe it is actually a reflection of God’s character in mankind.  Most of the time it also reveals that the very people I am talking to are in fact ratifying that they know there is right and wrong.  This condemnation points to everyone’s need for a Saviour.  I like pointing that out to those I discuss such matters with.  I also like pointing out the fact that God has already told us what to do when this happens.  There are noted measures to take when offences are committed.  Nothing takes God by surprise and He has given us instruction concerning what to do in these situations. These situations actually prove that God exists and He does care and communicate with us per His instruction on what to do when these situations do arise.

Many of our Bible heroes were utter failures at some point. We all are. The Bible was written to show us this and call us back to God because we do fail and sin. The Scriptures are about God reconciling great sinners to Himself so that they can be conformed to the image of Christ.  It is a process and we all stumble and fall as we are growing up.  That is why God gave us means for living and growth.  It is why he gives us means to perform and point to forgiveness, reconciliation, discipline, and accountability.  But I am not writing this to discuss those means at this time.

By the way, this is how I am using the word means…
Noun
1.  Usually, means. (used with a singular or plural verb) an agency, instrument, or method used to attain an end: The telephone is a means of communication. There are several means of solving the problem.

We should be mindful of these things and not be overcome nor shrink back when these things happen.  Yes, they do damage and hurt us emotionally.  But when they do happen we can know that God is building His Church and that he does display His parental love over his Church.  He has gone to great lengths to exhibit that He is the Truth.  In my thinking, this kind of situation should make us point to Him with more confidence.  What Love, what forgiveness, what an awesome God we have!  He is building His Church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail. I believe these situations actually prove His existence.  They prove that He has dominion and nothing is taking Him by surprise.

St. Paul’s prayer is that we may know…
(Eph 1:19) … what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
(Eph 1:20) Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
(Eph 1:21) Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
(Eph 1:22) And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,
(Eph 1:23) Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

Truth is truth and Christ is risen. He is Risen Indeed!  He is building His Church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail as He proclaimed in Matthew chapter 16. He is in Control and we can be confident that this is nothing that should shake our faith in Him.

At the same time I think it is beneficial to recognize and heed the warnings of 1 Corinthians chapter 10.

Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.  Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.”  We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.  We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.  Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.  Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.(1 Corinthians 10:6-12)

 Be Encouraged, God is ruling and on His throne.  He is the Most High.  Our faith is in Him. He promised us tribulation.  He also promised that He would discipline us if we were his children.  Hebrews chapter 12 makes that plain.  While discipline (chastisement) is an unpleasant thing to experience it does prove He cares.  I also believe that this proves a fallen leader can’t be used as ammunition against the truth.  It confirms truth.

So take heart and be encouraged,  God has given us Himself as a Loving Father.  He has adopted us into his family if we believe.  Also know he is working in us to will and do His good pleasure.  Therefore we ought to be believing and striving more as we are being conformed to the image of His dear Son.  That entails learning how to be humble and repent continually.

Remember the song of the sweet song writer of Israel, Psalm 51. It was written after this Great Leader of God had a major Moral lapse.  God was merciful toward him because he definitely deserved the death penalty for what he did.  But God picked him up, cleaned him up, and pushed him onward.

http://www.esvbible.org/Psalm+51/

RMS

Reformed Church in the United States on Creation

In the Beginning

http://www.rcus.org/days-creation/

I have had a lot of appreciation for this position paper on Creation.  May it be a source of edification for you also.

Here are the topics and introduction.

Please click on the link to read or download it.

http://www.rcus.org/days-creation/

Table of Contents

Introduction

The 252nd Synod of the Reformed Church in the United States erected a special committee “to articulate the RCUS’s position on God’s creation in six normal chronological days of light and darkness as adopted by the 75th annual session of the Eureka Classis and confirmed by the 76th annual session of the Eureka Classis, together with a recommendation as to where in the governing documents of the RCUS this position may best be placed for use” (1998 Abstract, p.53).

Our responsibility, therefore, is not to formulate a new statement on six-day creation, but to defend the one we already have, namely, “that God created the heavens and the earth in six normal days which were chronological periods of light and darkness as recorded in the book of Genesis” (1985 Abstract, p.105). Your committee was also asked to find an appropriate place in our standards for our position statement in order to minimize questions about its authority.

Writing our report was relatively simple. We wanted our report to be a positive expression of our doctrine. Though it was necessary at times to evaluate and criticize alternate views, our goal was to do so only to the degree necessary to clarify and defend our own position. Your committee was in full agreement with the position of the RCUS regarding this doctrine. The only ambiguity noted in our 1985 statement concerns the word normal. It has sometimes been alleged that the days of creation were anything but “normal” since the events of those days were so unique. Doubtless, this argument amounts to little more than a red herring, but in forming a doctrinal statement we should be as clear as possible. Your committee understands “six normal days” as “six days of normal duration” or “six sidereal days.”

Each member of the committee was assigned part of the report. Our topics include the importance of the orthodox doctrine of creation for sound theology, the history of the doctrine in the church, herraeneutics, the meaning of the word day in Genesis 1 and in the fourth commandment, and heretical views of creation.

Finding a suitable place for our position in the governing standards has been more challenging. Part of our difficulty arises from the fact that Synod has not yet adopted the report of the Special Committee on the Authority of Position Papers. Until this is done we do not even know whether there is a need to amend our standards to include our position on creation. Even so, your committee believes that the best approach would be to recommend that the position taken by the RCUS in 1985 is the correct interpretation of our creeds (specifically Questions 92 and 103 of the Heidelberg catechism), and that our report be adopted as an exposition of the creeds. In this way our report would be useful as evidence in any judicial proceeding that may involve this issue.

Our thinking on this is as follows. To begin with, we do not believe that a doctrinal position on an matter of this importance should be placed in the Constitution. Our doctrinal and governmental standards should remain distinct. On the other hand, we hesitate to suggest that our confessions be tampered with – either by amending one of the Three Forms or by adopting the 1985 statement as an additional confession dealing only with the doctrine of creation. However, if a stronger affirmation of six-day creation is necessary, this may be the only way to go. Altering Article 12 of the Belgic Confession would probably serve that purpose best. The amended article would read, “We believe that the Father by the Word, that is, by His Son, has created of nothing the heaven, the earth, and all creatures, in the space of six days of normal duration (which were chronological periods of light and darkness as recorded in Genesis 1), when it seemed good unto Him….” Your committee had considered the possibility of annotating the creeds in some way, but this has the disadvantage of complicating our standards by adding a tertiary layer. The same problem would occur if Synod decides to give its positional statements a quasi-confessional status. The reasons for doing so may be laudable, but the results, to say the least, would be confusing.

We hereby submit our report with the hope that Synod will find it acceptable. May our sovereign God use it to the advancement of his kingdom and glory! Amen.

Two Different Definitions of Merit

REDEFINITION-04

Two Different Definitions of Merit

pp.36-41 of the Merit and Moses paper presented to the OPC Northwest Presbytery.

This booklet has been published now. Please get the booklet.

http://www.amazon.com/Merit-Moses-Critique-Doctrine-Republication/dp/1625646836

Part 2: The Republication Paradigm

The Republication Paradigm: Merit Divorced from Ontology

In the Republication Paradigm, merit is not defined ontologically, but covenantally. This redefinition of merit (which will be explained below in more detail) is central and foundational to the doctrine of republication. Shepherd (along with Daniel Fuller and FV proponents) have formulated a theology that categorically rejects the concept of merit in God’s covenantal arrangements. In so doing, they have appealed to the Biblical principle of the ontological disproportion between man and God. Yet, they have rejected the traditional doctrine of the covenant of works. They have deemed the idea of Adam’s merit to be an inconsistent compromise of the Reformation’s insistence of salvation and eternal life by God’s grace alone. We believe that Kline (among many others) was correct in expressing concern over the categorical rejection of Adamic merit and the merit of Christ. The Bible’s two-Adam covenantal structure demands that we account for the unique theological parallel between the two Adams and their mutual ability to perform perfect, personal obedience. We believe this was done in a careful and theologically balanced way through the traditional distinction between “covenant merit” and “strict merit.” By confusing or failing to account for these two, many have gone as far as to reject the merit of Christ. In Part 1, we observed that Norman Shepherd did eventually reject the necessity of Christ’s imputed active obedience, and thus undermined the doctrine of justification.

Nevertheless, in his reaction to Shepherd’s pendulum swing away from the ideas of “merit” and the “covenant of works,” we believe Kline swung the pendulum too far in the other direction (as was presented in Part 1). Yet, the editors of TLNF have stated their position clearly; they agree with Kline’s conviction that the republication view is necessary, and will better serve the church by guarding against the errors of Shepherd. Instead of seeking to recover what we regard to be the balanced and Biblically faithful view of merit and the covenant of works in our Confession and other creeds of the Reformed church, Kline and many of his followers have found it necessary to reformulate these ideas apart from ontological considerations. In our view, the resulting paradigm has serious repercussions on other important elements in the Reformed system of doctrine.

The Klinean reformulation includes three key elements, which will be considered below, point by point.

1. The conflation of creation and covenant (essentially eliminating the logical distinction between the two).

2. The rejection of the necessity of God’s voluntary condescension to establish the covenant with man.

3. The redefinition of merit and justice along covenantal lines to the exclusion of Ontology.

1. Man is in Covenant with God at the Moment of Creation

The republication view teaches that man was in covenant with God at the very moment of creation. This is an important shift from the traditional viewpoint. Ontological considerations demand that there be at least a logical distinction (rather than a chronological or historical sequence) between God’s creating man and his entering into covenant with him. The republication teaching now erases this confessional distinction (which is based upon the “great disproportion” between the Creator and creature), and thereby turns God’s providential work of establishing the covenant into an aspect of the work of creation. Thus, we may say that the two distinct acts have been conflated or collapsed into essentially one act in this new view. For all intents and purposes, the relationship between God and man is not first that of sovereign Creator over his finite creature, but is from the point of creation a relationship of “God-in-covenant-with-man.” For Professor Kline and those who have followed his lead in the republication position, it is improper to even consider man’s existence apart from covenant. Thus, man’s covenantal status seems to “trump” his creaturely status. Professor Kline makes this clear in Kingdom Prologue.

Man’s creation as image of God meant, as we have seen, that the creating of the world was a covenant-making process. There was no original non-covenantal order of mere nature on which the covenant was superimposed. Covenantal commitments were given by the Creator in the very act of endowing the mancreature with the mantle of the divine likeness. …The situation never existed in which man’s future was contemplated or presented in terms of a static continuation of the original state of blessedness (Kingdom Prologue [2000], p. 92).

A recent book, Sacred Bond,10 written on the popular level concerning Reformed covenant theology, has put the Klinean reformulation in simple terms.

“…God is the one who made the covenant, and he did so at creation. For Adam and Eve to be made in the image of God is for them to be in covenant with God” (Sacred Bond [2012], p. 43).

The obliteration of the distinction between creation and covenant is extremely significant for laying the foundation of a new paradigm of merit—one that is divorced from ontological considerations.
We have already observed that the Creator-creature distinction lies at the center of the doctrines of God, man, and of the covenant in the history of Reformed theology. This distinction is also central to the traditional understanding of merit, as the differences between Adam’s covenant merit and Christ’s strict merit rest on ontological factors. It is apparent that the adherents to the Republication Paradigm have followed Professor Kline in their departure from the tradition in this regard. Professor David VanDrunen shows his agreement with Kline in TLNF.

Meredith Kline (1922-2007) follows his Reformed predecessors closely in affirming the works principle operative in the covenant with Adam and in associating this works principle with the reality of the image of God. He resolves the ambiguity patent in many of his predecessors, however, by refusing to separate the act of creation in the image of God from the establishment of the covenant with Adam. For Kline, the very act of creation in God’s image entails the establishment of the covenant, with its requirement of obedience and its prospect of eschatological reward or punishment. …God’s creating Adam in his image and the establishment of the covenant are aspects of the same act, and thus Adam’s image-derived natural human knowledge that obedience brings eschatological life was at the very same time covenantal knowledge of a special relationship with God (VanDrunen, TLNF, p. 291).

It is debatable whether Kline’s “Reformed predecessors” actually taught this conflation of creation and covenant, and whether it is fair to characterize the tradition as having “ambiguity” on this point. In his review of TLNF, Venema seeks to set the record straight.

VanDrunen’s characterization of this “ambiguity” in historic theology is rather puzzling. There is little evidence that many covenant theologians in the orthodox period simply identified the covenant of works with man’s creation in God’s image and subjection to the moral law of God. Rather than being an ambiguity in Reformed covenant theology, the distinction (without separation) between the creation of man in God’s image and the institution of the prelapsarian covenant of works is nearly the unanimous opinion of the covenant theologians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. VanDrunen’s claim that there is an ambiguity in Reformed covenant theology on this point is belied by the express language of the Westminster Confession of Faith, when it describes the covenant as a “voluntary condescension” on God’s part. Rather than being an ambiguity in the history of Reformed covenant theology, the consensus opinion expressed in the Confession views the covenant of works as a sovereign and voluntary initiative of God (“The Mosaic Covenant.” Mid-America Journal 21 [2010]: 95).

We will address the idea of “voluntary condescension” in the next point. Here, it is important to underscore that the conflation of creation and covenant within the republication position is a departure from the formulations of the Westminster standards. What is clear in the Standards is that God “entered into” the covenant of works with man as the result of his work of providence, rather than from his work of creation. Shorter Catechism, Q&A 12, explicitly identifies the making of the covenant of works with Adam and Eve as a “special act of providence”—not an act that coincides or co-originates with the work of creation (see Shorter Catechism 10). The Republication Paradigm rejects this formulation of the Standards when it teaches that the covenant relationship is an aspect of creation.

2. Voluntary Condescension Is Eliminated

In the above quote, Venema shows that voluntary condescension is clearly affirmed within the mainstream Reformed position when he writes, “Rather than being an ambiguity in the history of Reformed covenant theology, the consensus opinion expressed in the Confession views the covenant of works as a sovereign and voluntary initiative of God.” The Confession’s articulation of the doctrine appears to be the obvious answer to any claims of “ambiguity” in the tradition. Westminster Confession of Faith 7:1 makes the doctrine of voluntary condescension foundational to God’s covenant with man as an expression of how God bridged the gap of the “great disproportion” between God and man. The Confession indicates that this doctrine is integrally connected to man’s hope of heaven. Even sinless man “could never have any fruition of [God] as their blessedness and reward” without voluntary condescension. One may wonder why TLNF is silent on this integral part of covenant theology. We believe this omission is consistent with the previous point (1 above).

Although the authors of TLNF do not explicitly reject WCF 7:1, as Kline did (cf. Part 1, p. 19), it becomes clear that this is the logical and necessary conclusion of Kline’s viewpoint. Lee Irons wrote extensively about this in the article “Redefining Merit” for the Kline festschrift.

It is therefore incorrect to speak of God voluntarily condescending to the creature to make a covenant. For the very fact of creation itself has already constituted man in a covenant relationship with his creator. This formulation of the mutual reciprocity of creation and covenant shows more clearly than ever that the covenant of works is not a matter of grace but simple justice toward the creature made in God’s image (Creator, Redeemer, Consummator [2000], p. 267).

It is evident that WCF 7:1 becomes problematic for the republication position. Even if an explicit rejection of God’s voluntary condescension (such as the one by Irons) is absent in TLNF, an implicit one remains. The republication view’s “erasure” of the historic distinction between the work of creation and the establishment of the covenant necessarily leads to the rejection of the doctrine. Irons has told us the reason in the above quote. Since the republication position entails that creation itself is conflated with the covenant relationship, there is no need (in this system) to bridge an ontological divide between God and man through voluntary condescension. As Irons clearly states, “For the very fact of creation itself has already constituted man in a covenantal relationship with his creator.”

Thus, in the Republication Paradigm, the doctrine of condescension actually gets in the way. As is reflected in the quote from Irons, adherents of the republication view are concerned that the doctrine of voluntary condescension opens the door to Shepherd’s error. How might this happen? Voluntary condescension would seem to allow for the claim that the covenant relationship between God and Adam is founded on love or grace rather than on a works principle (“simple justice”). This paradigm therefore rejects the idea that God’s goodness, benevolence or unmerited favor is foundational for the establishment of the covenant relationship. Such a rejection of voluntary condescension, in our view, is to throw out the proverbial baby with the bath water, and will lead to catastrophic alterations within the system of doctrine. One cannot remove a foundation stone (“voluntary condescension” in WCF 7:1) without a significant shift occurring—one that will inevitably damage the structure (covenant theology) resting upon it.

3. Merit and Justice Are Determined ‘Covenantally’

The previous two points lead to the third and final element of the Republication Paradigm shift. In light of the conflation of creation and covenant and the removal of voluntary condescension, it becomes evident that the historical Reformed concept of merit must be replaced with a new model. Merit must not be defined ontologically. Merit and justice are no longer to be governed by God’s nature (ontology) or considered in light of the Creator-creature distinction. Nor is the distinction between strict and covenant merit a legitimate or relevant one to make. Instead, merit and justice are to be determined “covenantally.” What does this mean in the republication view? Only the terms of a particular covenant may decide what is “just” and “meritorious.” Merit, in this new paradigm, may be defined as follows: one performs a meritorious work when he fulfills the stated stipulation (i. e., condition or requirement) of a given law-covenant.

This might be confusing to some readers because this redefined notion of merit uses the term “covenant merit” in a novel way. This term has been used historically in one way, but is now being used with a different meaning. What are the precise differences between the Klinean version of “covenant merit” and the traditional view?

The traditional paradigm affirms that Adam’s merit was considered to be covenant merit in distinction from strict merit. In other words, Adam’s perfect obedience, as a creature, is being contrasted with Christ’s obedience as the God-man. On the one hand, Adam’s obedience was counted as meritorious on the basis of the covenant which had been established as an expression of God’s voluntary condescension. He had the ability to perform perfect, personal obedience to the law as the ground of his reward. (This stands in contrast to the covenant of grace, which requires faith in Christ as the way of salvation.) However, Adam’s finite works of obedience could never be considered as valuable as the infinite gift of eternal life. On the other hand, Christ’s obedience could be counted as strictly meritorious since it was inherently worthy of receiving such a reward. Thus, the traditional definition of covenant merit is dependent on ontological considerations. In the traditional view, “covenant merit” only possessed meaning as it stood in contrast to “strict merit.” It existed as part of a Biblical and systematic theology that not only took into account the Creator-creature distinction, but viewed it as foundational for its theology. Nevertheless, strict and proper merit did actually exist in the history of redemption. It is hardly an example of theological abstraction or speculation that would detract from a concrete Biblical theology of justice and merit. Instead, “strict merit” serves to uniquely identify the merits of Jesus Christ which were historically accomplished on behalf of his people, in the fulfillment of his active and passive obedience.

Within the new Republication Paradigm, “covenant merit” is used to communicate a different concept than what has been understood by the customary use of the term. The new use of “covenant merit” no longer serves to communicate the importance of the ontological divide between the Creator and creature. In fact, the Klinean-republication version of “covenant merit” is no longer based upon, defined by, or understood in reference to ontology at all. Points 1 and 2 above have laid the groundwork for understanding why the Republication Paradigm has removed all ontological considerations from the definition of merit. The pathway has been cleared for a new paradigm of merit.

In the republication view, merit is defined in terms of God’s revealed will as specified by the terms of the covenant. Simply stated, merit is whatever God says it is. According to the republication position, the nature of the specified condition is ultimately irrelevant for determining its meritorious or non-meritorious character. The condition may be perfection (as in the covenant with Adam), or it may be something less than perfection (as in the Mosaic covenant). A work is meritorious, therefore, simply when God decides to accept it as such through the stated stipulations or conditions of a particular covenantal arrangement. Kline referred to this as “simple justice.”

In keeping with the nature of God’s covenant with Adam as one of simple justice, covenant theology holds that Adam’s obedience in the probation would have been the performing of a meritorious deed by which he earned the covenanted blessings (Kline’s unpublished version of “Covenant Theology Under Attack” at http://upper-register.com/papers/ct_under_attack.html).

If God gives a particular condition in a particular covenant, and that condition is met through obedience, then it is a matter of God’s simple justice that he reward that obedience as meritorious. As Kline says elsewhere, “…God’s covenant Word is definitive of Justice” (God, Heaven and Har Magedon, p. 64). Note what follows. In this redefined view of merit, there is no longer any need or place for the previous distinction made between Adam’s covenant merit in contrast to Christ’s strict merit. In terms of the definition of merit, Adam and Christ can equally earn the rewards of their respective covenants according to the principle of simple justice.

It is also important to note another ramification of this new paradigm. Just as the respective obedience of Adam and Christ would be deemed equally meritorious according to the definition of “simple justice,” so also the works of others, beyond (or between) the two federal heads, may equally be counted as meritorious. The Republication Paradigm allows for only one category or definition of merit (“covenant merit”) which is applied equally to Adam, to Christ, as well as to other figures after the fall (such as Noah, Abraham, and Israel). This explains why meritorious works of obedience are possible for sinners between Adam and Christ in this new paradigm. The redefinition of merit “allows” God to make another meritorious arrangement outside of the ones made with the two Adams. After the fall, in the Mosaic covenant, for example, God may decide to make an arrangement in which he promises temporal-typological blessings on the basis of Israel’s imperfect, sincere, national obedience, instead of the perfect, entire and personal obedience which was required of the two covenant heads (see following diagram).

Simple Justice

Adam———————————–Israel———————————Christ

Perfect Obedience–Imperfect National Obedience–Perfect Obedience

The redefinition of “covenant merit” does not require any ontological considerations. In fact, it does not even require moral perfection on the part of man. Thus, the fact that Israel’s works are those of fallen sinful creatures is completely irrelevant. They are meritorious because God says so. All that matters is that they fulfill God’s covenant Word, which alone defines and determines what constitutes merit and justice in any given covenantal arrangement.