Monday, March 30, 2009

Because of God's Choice

This video is funny, honest, odd, and true to how absurd evangelicalism has become about the doctrine of Sovereign Election. The video also talks about the logical results that follow from denying unconditional election.

This video is interesting because Elder D.J. Ward is not a calm white guy professing the Doctrines of Grace. He is black and gets pretty into it. I hope you enjoy!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Consequences of Ideas: Arriving at Absurdity

This article was featured in the latest issue of Christianity Today. Wow.

Staring into the Abyss
Why Peter Singer makes the New Atheists nervous.
Dinesh D'Souza

I write this fresh from debating bioethicist Peter Singer on "Can we be moral without God?" at Singer's home campus, Princeton University. Singer is a mild-mannered fellow who speaks calmly and lucidly. Yet you wouldn't have to read his work too long to find his extreme positions. He cheerfully advocates infanticide and euthanasia and, in almost the same breath, favors animal rights. Even most liberals would have qualms about third-trimester abortions; Singer does not hesitate to advocate what may be termed fourth-trimester abortions, i.e., the killing of infants after they are born.

Singer writes, "My colleague Helga Kuhse and I suggest that a period of 28 days after birth might be allowed before an infant is accepted as having the same right to life as others." Singer argues that even pigs, chickens, and fish have more signs of consciousness and rationality—and, consequently, a greater claim to rights—than do fetuses, newborn infants, and people with mental disabilities. "Rats are indisputably more aware of their surroundings, and more able to respond in purposeful and complex ways to things they like or dislike, than a fetus at 10- or even 32-weeks gestation. … The calf, the pig, and the much-derided chicken come out well ahead of the fetus at any stage of pregnancy."

Some people consider Singer a provocateur who says outrageous things just to get attention. But Singer is deadly serious about his views and—as emerged in our debate—has a consistent rational basis for his controversial positions.

To understand Singer, it's helpful to contrast him with "New Atheists" like Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Richard Dawkins. The New Atheists say we can get rid of God but preserve morality. They insist that no one needs God in order to be good; atheists can act no less virtuously than Christians. (And indeed, some atheists do put Christians to shame.) Even while repudiating the Christian God, Dawkins has publicly called himself a "cultural Christian."

But this position creates a problem outlined more than a century ago by the atheist philosopher Nietzsche. The death of God, Nietzsche argued, means that all the Christian values that have shaped the West rest on a mythical foundation. One may, out of habit, continue to live according to these values for a while. Over time, however, the values will decay, and if they are not replaced by new values, man will truly have to face the prospect of nihilism, what Nietzsche termed "the abyss."

Nietzsche's argument is illustrated in considering two of the central principles of Western civilization: "All men are created equal" and "Human life is precious." Nietzsche attributes both ideas to Christianity. It is because we are created equal and in the image of God that our lives have moral worth and that we share the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Nietzsche's warning was that none of these values make sense without the background moral framework against which they were formulated. A post-Christian West, he argued, must go back to the ethical drawing board and reconsider its most cherished values, which include its traditional belief in the equal dignity of every human life.

Singer resolutely takes up a Nietzschean call for a "transvaluation of values," with a full awareness of the radical implications. He argues that we are not creations of God but rather mere Darwinian primates. We exist on an unbroken continuum with animals. Christianity, he says, arbitrarily separated man and animal, placing human life on a pedestal and consigning the animals to the status of tools for human well-being. Now, Singer says, we must remove Homo sapiens from this privileged position and restore the natural order. This translates into more rights for animals and less special treatment for human beings. There is a grim consistency in Singer's call to extend rights to the apes while removing traditional protections for unwanted children, people with mental disabilities, and the noncontributing elderly.

Some of Singer's critics have called him a Nazi and compared his proposals to Hitler's schemes for eliminating those perceived as unwanted and unfit. A careful reading of his work, however, shows that Singer is no Hitler. He doesn't want state-sponsored killings. Rather, he wants the decision to kill to be made by private individuals like you and me. Instead of government-conducted genocide, Singer favors free-market homicide.

Why haven't the atheists embraced Peter Singer? I suspect it is because they fear that his unpalatable views will discredit the cause of atheism. What they haven't considered, however, is whether Singer, virtually alone among their numbers, is uncompromisingly working out the implications of living in a truly secular society, one completely purged of Christian and transcendental foundations. In Singer, we may be witnessing someone both horrifying and yet somehow refreshing: an intellectually honest atheist.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I am Second

"Christ is never fully valued, until sin is clearly seen. We must know the depth and malignity of our disease, in order to appreciate the great Physician."
J.C. Ryle. The Gospel of Luke, 1858.

"I believe that God will save His own elect. And I also believe that if I do not preach the Gospel, the blood of men will be laid at my door."
C.H. Spurgeon

This week has been an odd week. As of late, I have had a rather joyous season of life albeit the momentary ups and downs of daily living are something from which a person can never be truly separated from. About a week ago, a fierce restlessness settled in, something of a cross between anxiety, discontent, and hormones strong enough that if my thoughts were to propagate into actions I could have fathered a small village of some sort. One of my friends told me that women are not the only ones who go through a regular hormone cycle of sorts, a fact unbeknownst to me, as men on the whole do not discuss this. Who knew?

Well, apart from some of the mild mental disturbances of this past week, I have had many thoughts come to me that have been quite beneficial to me. The recurring them of the week has been how much people need to hear the Gospel. After all of the "stuff" connected with being a Christian is out of the way. the question(s) we come back to are: "What is the Gospel?", and "What must I do to be saved?".

When people are in despair or have half their dreams ripped apart, people don't usually say "All I know is Christ, the cross, and pretribulation premilleniumism." This might be the case in some Fundamental/Independent Baptist churches, but it is not the norm. People who are going through crazy things in life cling to the cross and to that alone.

It is easy to get lost in the various things in life that come up, and a person will never get to a place where they don't need to know and hear the Gospel. The cross of Christ and being freely justified by grace alone through faith alone through it is where the church stands or falls. If we do not have free and abundant grace from God to save us, we have nothing; there is no good news apart from that.

It is odd to see how much we need to hear the Gospel, how good it is to hear it, and how easy it is to forget about it when the feelings of discontent or restlessness settle in. I remember a long time ago when I was starting to date a girl I liked I was having another week where I was feeling quite restless and thoughts began to flood my mind about how this girl would bring contentment and satisfaction to my life. I was deluded enough to believe that this person would in time be a large source of satisfaction in my life and that I would not longer feel restless the more we got to know each other. I remember having a dream one night that week that deeply disturbed me but revealed a lot to me about what I was believing in my heart.

I remember seeing this girl in my dream with a voice speaking in the background telling me that she would bring satisfaction to my soul. The voice went on and on, and was almost believable until it got to a certain point. The voice in my dream spoke saying:

"In fact, she will be such a source of satisfaction that she will even die for your sins."

The next thing I know I saw her on a cross, and the voice said:

"Behold, your God!"

This dream has always disturbed me in ways beyond what is expressible in words. This dream revealed that my heart had made this girl my god, a source of worship for my soul. The dream revealed that I had forsaken the only place where true satisfaction can come from.

The dream still flashes through my mind even up to this today whenever I begin to build my alter "to an unknown god". Our idolatry isn't always as obvious as us demanding X (whatever X may be for us at the moment) to die for our sins to restore our souls.

Jeremiah tells us something quite interesting about this.

"My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water."
(Jeremiah 2:3, NIV)

The older I get, the more I am realizing that I need the Gospel every second of every day. I cannot live without it. I need to be a Gospel-centered person, both for my sake and for the sake of a dying world around me. My future, the world's future, depends on it.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Present State of the World

This was originally written in Dutch and the English translation was made in the 1950's, so this is not exactly the easiest read due to the language and the content of the excerpt. However, this is an amazing excerpt of an even more amazing book (by an even more amazing author), which will give deep nourishment to anyone willing to wade through what Bavinck is saying.

The Present State of the World

“When the first man and woman have transgressed the commandment of God in Paradise, their punishment does not follow immediately nor in full force. They do not die on the self-same day they have sinned, but remain alive; they are not sent into hell, but instead find themselves entrusted with a task on earth; their line does not perish: they receive the promise of the seed of the woman. In short, a condition now sets in which God had known and which God had established, but which man had not been able to anticipate. It is a condition which has a very special character. It is one in which wrath and grace, punishment and blessing, judgment and long-suffering are mingled with each other It is the condition which still exists in nature and among men and one which comprehends the sharpest of contrasts within itself.

We live in a strange world, a world which presents us with tremendous contrasts. The high and the low, the great and the small, the sublime and the ridiculous, the beautiful and the ugly, the tragic and the comic, the good and the evil, the truth and the lie, these all are heaped up in unfathomable interrelationship. The gravity and the vanity of life seize on us in turn. Now we are prompted to optimism, then to pessimism. Man weeping is constantly giving way to man laughing. The whole world stands in the sign of humor, which has been well described as a laugh in a tear.

The deepest cause of this present state of the world is this: because of the sin of man, God is continually manifesting His wrath and yet, by reason of His own good pleasure, is always again revealing His grace also. We are consumed by His anger and yet in the morning we are satisfied by His mercy (Ps. 90:7, 14). His anger endures but a moment, in His favor is life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Ps. 30:6). Curse and blessing are so singularly interdependent that the one sometimes seems to become the other. Work in the sweat of the brow is curse and blessing at once. Both point to the cross which at one and the same time is the highest judgment and the richest grace. And that is why the cross is the mid -point of history and the reconciliation of all antitheses.”

Our Reasonable Faith. Herman Bavinck. Baker Book House. 1956. Pages 44-45.

Awesome Testimony

"The first lessons I ever had in theology were from an old cook in the school at Newmarket where I was an usher. She was a good old soul, and used to read The Gospel Standard. She liked something very sweet indeed, good strong Calvinistic doctrine, but she lived strongly as well as fed strongly. Many a time we have gone over the covenant of grace together, and talked of the personal election of the saints, their union to Christ, their final perseverance, and what vital godliness meant; and I do believe that I learnt more from her than I should have learned from any six doctors of divinity of the sort that we have nowadays. There are some Christian people who taste, and see, and enjoy religion in their own souls, and who get at a deeper knowledge of it than books can ever give them, though they should search all their days. The cook at Newmarket was a godly experienced woman, from whom I learned far more than I did from the minister of the chapel we attended. I asked her once, “Why do you go to such a place?” She replied, “Well, there is no other place of worship to which I can go.” I said, “But it must be better to stay at home than to hear such stuff.” “Perhaps so,” she answered; “but I like to go out to worship even if I get nothing by going. You see a hen sometimes scratching all over a heap of rubbish to try to find some corn; she does not get any, but it shows that she is looking for it, and using the means to get it, and then, too, the exercise warms her.” So the old lady said that scratching exercised her spiritual faculties and warmed her spirit. On another occasion I told her that I had not found a crumb in the whole sermon, and asked how she had fared. “Oh!” she answered, “I got on better tonight, for to all the preacher said, I just put in a not, and that turned his talk into real gospel.”
-C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography: The Early Years, 1834-1859