Category Archives: Theology

On Predestination

“Through mortal sins the elect may altogether lose and banish the Holy Ghost, faith and the grace of God, and thus for a time become subjects of condemnation, yet they cannot be wanting to the end, and perish eternally. Total loss of grace is one thing, final loss of grace is another. That is total, by which any one is entirely deprived of the grace of God; that is final, by which any one, shortly before death, departs from the faith, and dies in unbelief.” — Johannes Quenstedt

Look…

When the earth is soft, the plough will enter. Take a man when he is under affliction, or in the house of mourning, or newly stirred by some moving sermon, and then set it home, and you may do him good. Christian faithfulness requires us not only to do good when it falls in our way, but to watch for opportunities of doing good. — Richard Baxter

The Importance of Sex

Human dignity itself, the meaning of being a human, is assaulted and desiccated when sex is trivialized. When sex is treated as a ‘mere’ biological function, like urination or defecation, then human beings truly become mere brute beasts and the imago dei is utterly obliterated.

The Church in the Genevan Confession of John Calvin

calvin_bookWhile there is one only Church of Jesus Christ, we always acknowledge that necessity requires companies of the faithful to be distributed in different places. Of these assemblies each one is called Church.

But in as much as all companies do not assemble in the name of our Lord, but rather to blaspheme and pollute him by their sacrilegious deeds, we believe that the proper mark by which rightly to discern the Church of Jesus Christ is that his holy gospel be purely and faithfully preached, proclaimed, heard, and kept, that his sacraments be properly administered, even if there be some imperfections and faults, as there always will be among men.

On the other hand, where the Gospel is not declared, heard, and received, there we do not acknowledge the form of the Church. Hence the churches governed by the ordinances of the pope are rather synagogues of the devil than Christian churches.*

Bam!  Take that, Francis!  And Pentebabbleists!  And Emergents!

___________________
*Calvin: Theological Treatises (p. 31).

Origen Was An Unhinged Lunatic

As Jerome remarks to a friend,

It is impossible that you should hold the opinion of Origen, Priscillian, and other heretics that it is for deeds done in a former life that souls are confined in earthly and mortal bodies.

You have to be a loon to think that deeds in a previous life (as though there were such a thing) is what ‘dooms’ people to human-ness.  Origen was a real unhinged madman who knew virtually nothing of authentic, orthodox, Christian faith.

How does he have admirers?

On Mother’s Day: My Ambivalence

People love Mother’s Day.  And I don’t mind it.  But it does make me a bit pensive about the women who have either chosen not to be mothers or who can’t be.

And it also makes me pensive concerning those whose experience with their mother’s wasn’t exactly memorable for any positive reason.

What are people to make of Mother’s Day- a day honoring dear old mom, when mom was mommy dearest?  Are the children of alcoholic and abusive mothers supposed to be glad that mom was a massive failure?

Mother’s Day is, for a lot of people, just a painful reminder of their own childhood- when mother would rather drink and carouse than care for her children.

To be sure, a good mother is a treasure.  But by the same token, a bad mother is a curse.  And in spite of Hallmark’s dizzying fixation on the glories of motherhood it must, it has to be said, that not all moms can be called mothers.

So on Mother’s Day, to those of you who have had the great fortune of having Mothers worthy of the name, have a great day and be very, very thankful.  To those of you who had or have the misfortune of drawing a woman without any true mothering instincts, my most heartfelt condolences.

Jan Hus Was Right in 1504 and Nothing Has Really Changed

Seht, liebe brüder, die ignoranz der priester ist schuld daran, dass die kirche trauert und in ihren kindern zugrunde geht, die verlorengehen, da der teufel, der feind, stark geworden ist, gewiss wegen der sünden ihrer propheten und ihrer priester . Die kirche krankt an ihren gliedern, und daher spricht gott, der herr: siehe mir, ich bin geworden wie einer, der im herbst nach der weinlese nur noch beeren erntet, es gibt keine traube mehr zu essen. — Jan Hus

The Prayer Hus Asked His Congregation to Pray As He Began To Preach

Helft mir durch eure Gebete, dass ich das Nötige auch immer mutig sagen und das, was ich sage, zum Nutzen mit Tatkraft erfüllen kann.  Darum wollen wir einmütig den allmächtigen Herrn bitten, dass er meinen Mund und alle Herzen fruchtbringend öffne, umsein Wort zu verkündigen. – Jan Hus

Quote of the Day

One man praises the Lord because He is mighty; another because He is good unto him; and, again, another simply because He is good. The first is a slave, and fears for himself; the second mercenary, and desires somewhat for himself; but the third is a son, and gives praise to his Father. — Bernard of Clairvaux

Heinrich Heppe: A Super Introit into Reformed Theology

If you’re interested in Reformed Theology a very, very good place to start is with this newly published Logos version of Heinrich Heppe’s Dogmatics.  You may not know his name, but he’s spectacular.  He does a superior job discussing the issues and he does so in a really engaging way.

No, Logos didn’t send me the book, I bought it. And no, they didn’t ask me to mention it. I wanted to point it out to you because you’ve probably never heard of Heppe but he’s better than 95% of the Reformed theologians working today.

Quote of the Day

This will surely he known as the Age of Credulity. Television advertisements can safely assume in viewers a fathomless credulity, compared with which the most outrageous superstitions and supernatural manifestations seem credible. Believing nothing results in believing anything. –  Malcolm Muggeridge

Dogmatics Matters

The ignorant and immature like to poo poo dogmatics but dogma is the means by which heresy is kept at bay and that’s important because heresy ruins lives. Real lives. In real ways. Just ask those sucked dry financially by hucksters like Joel Osteen and John Hagee and the other wolves in sheep’s clothing fleecing the foolish and doctrinally ignorant.

The next time some Millennial snorts at dogma you will know instantly one fact about her or him- he or she knows nothing about the subject.

Careless Theologians Are Worthless Theologians

If theologians aren’t careful in the words they use they can cause all manner of false teaching to abound. know words and use words in a proper manner or don’t do theology.  Please.  Thank you.

A Word of Cheer and Encouragement

“Death eternal or damnation is that most unhappy state in which, from the just judgment of God, men who remain unbelieving to the end, being excluded from the beatific sight of God, and associated in the infernal prison with devils, will be tortured eternally (in soul, immediately after its departure from the body, and in both parts of their composite being, at length when sentence has been passed at the final judgment) with the most severe and ineffable torments, to the praise of the divine truth, and the glory and exultation of the godly.” –  Hollazius

Contra the Pentebabbleists and their ‘Private Revelations’

John Owen fells them with one tiny sentence:

Via Randy Blackateer.

Approaching the Study of Theology: An Introduction to Key Thinkers, Concepts, Methods & Debates

From the opening pages of the Bible, we learn of God as one who communicates with humankind—offering us first steps toward knowledge of the divine, the very foothold of theology. On this basis, Approaching the Study of Theology presents an engaging introduction to the breadth and depth of the study of theology, mapping the significant landmarks as well as the main areas of debate.

The book is divded into three parts:

Part I (Approaches) describes the major approaches to theology that have emerged and developed over time.

Part II (Concepts and Issues) explains the major concepts and issues, identifying theologians associated with each.

Part III (Key Terms) provides a helpful glossary of all the key terms that readers need to understand in order to better understand theology.

IVP have sent along a prepublication draft of this new work by Professor Thiselton.  In my review please note that no page numbers will be included because the draft manuscript includes none.

The work consists of an overview of theological trends in the introduction.  This overview discusses the biblical roots of theology and a description of  the major periods of theological development. Part One is very much akin to a ‘bible dictionary’ which lists, in alphabetical sequence, methodological approaches to theology including biblical theology, hermeneutical theology, political theology, and systematic theology among others.  Part Two adopts the same alphabetical sequencing but it’s concern is ‘Concepts and Issues’ like Atonement, Authority of the Bible, Justification, Resurrection of the Dead, etc.  These discussions, like those of part one, tend to be full and ‘encyclopedic’.  Indeed, part two is the bulk of the volume.  The third part of the volume, Key Terms, is simply a glossary.

The presentation is, necessarily, very general.  That is, each concept, term, method, etc. is described in quite sweeping terms.  The work aims to introduce, and merely introduce, the basics of theological enquiry.  The details are relatively accurate overall but sometimes they are incredibly inaccurate.

One glaring problem is what Thiselton writes about the Marburg conference:

In 1529 it became clear that there were disagreements among the Reformers on the nature of the Lord’s Supper.  Deeply concerned for Reformation unity, Luther sought a friendly conference with Zwingli, Melanchthon, and Bullinger (sic !)at Marburg. He did his best to achieve a united witness but Zwingli and others held firm in their beliefs…

The problems here are multiple: Luther didn’t seek any conference, friendly or otherwise, with Zwingli.  He was essentially forced into meeting with Zwingli and the others by Prince Philip.  He never wanted to participate and told friends on numerous occasions that the whole thing would be a waste of time.  He even wrote the Margrave thusly

I am indeed absolutely convinced that Your Sovereign Grace is completely sincere and has the best of intentions. For this reason I, too, am ready and willing to render my services in this, Your Sovereign Grace’s Christian undertaking, though I fear [my services] may be futile and perhaps dangerous for us. (Luther’s Works, Vol. 49: 230.)

Luther wasn’t interested in the meeting and thought it was a bad idea.

Further, Bullinger wasn’t there (see below).  And it wasn’t Luther who wanted to achieve a united witness but, again, the Prince and neither was it the others who were most intransigent- it was Luther.  In sum, then, the portrait of Luther here is totally wrong.  Thiselton simply misstates nearly every fact.

As mentioned just above, the draft contains one particular error that I have reported to the publisher in hopes that there is still time before printing to correct it: Thiselton remarks, wrongly, that the conference in Marburg included Zwingli, Luther, and Bullinger (!).   Bullinger will be quite surprised to learn that.  Having offered a correction I’m happy to say that, thankfully, the editor has indeed agreed that this is an error (in consultation with the author) and have asserted that it will be corrected before the printing is completed.

The rest of the volume is not free of such egregious mistakes either, though.  For instance, in his treatment in part 3 of terms, Thiselton writes

The Greek words daimon and daimonion occur over 1200 times each and the verb daimonizomai over 1200 times in the Synoptic Gospels.

This is simply untrue.  ‘daimon’ doesn’t occur at all.  δαιμόνιον occurs only 15 times. δαιμονίου occurs 4 times.  And the verbal form δαιμονίζεται occurs but once.  In fact, δαιμον* in all its various forms only occurs 78 times in the entire New Testament.

Thiselton has written a volume that contains much that is useful.  But readers should fact-check his assertions via other resources.  He isn’t always accurate.

If You’re ‘Sending Your Prayers’ To People, You’re Doing It Wrong

The only proper recipient of prayers is God, because God is the only one who can do anything about what you’re asking.  If you’re sending your prayers to George Bush, or anyone else, it just means that you don’t understand what prayer is.

It’s Time For Christianity to Say ‘This is Who We Are: Take it Or Leave it’

The chief weakness of Christianity is and always has been its sometime willingness to acquiesce to the demands of society in order to find acceptance, ‘tolerance’, or whatever.  From time immemorial, as soon as the Church has agreed to the world’s terms, it was weakened.   As Adolf von Harnack noted, the Church’s mission was to go into the world but instead the world came into the Church (in the era of Constantine the Foul), and that was when disaster struck.

In our own time churches are caving in to the cravings of culture and ‘giving the people what they want’ instead of what they need- the Gospel.  Nothing could be less appropriate, or less Christian.

Accordingly, it really is time for Christianity to say to the World: this is who we are, this is what we believe, this is how we behave, and if you don’t like it or want no part of it, good riddance.

Enough of the pandering and the whining and the capitulating; enough of the lying!  The Church needs to be the Church and remember that as the Bride of Christ the very gates of Hell cannot prevail against it.  Why, then, should a whiny Millennial?  Or a sniveling ‘seeker’?

Church, just be the Church, and to Hades with those who demand you surrender.  The world needs the Gospel.  The Gospel doesn’t need the world.  Pastors need to be Pastors, not capitulaters.

Heinrich Bullinger: On the Sub-Christian Nature of Polygamy and the Nature of Marriage

450px-Zwingli_und_BullingerBullinger writes

But it is not appropriate that in lawful matrimony any more should be than two alone, to be joined together under one yoke of wedlock.

For the use of many wives, which our fathers usurped without any blame, may not stablish polygamy for a law among us at these days. The time of correction is now come to light, and Messiah now is come into the world, who teacheth all rightly, and reformeth things amiss.

He therefore hath reduced wedlock to the first prescribed rule and law of matrimony. “Two,” saith the Lord, “shall be one flesh.” And the apostle saith: “Let every man have his own wife, and every woman her own husband.”

The multitude of Solomon’s concubines therefore appertain not to us. We have not to follow the example of Jacob, who married two sisters.

For Christians, even marriage takes its cue from Christ and not from culture.  For Christians, marriage consists of the joining together of one man and one woman.  Period.

But what about divorce?  Bullinger, along with the rest of the Reformers, frowned on it, though they saw it as a concession to the weakness of many.  Still, the divorced were not free to remarry.  Period.

But what if the spouse dies?  Bullinger writes

And yet, notwithstanding, the word of truth condemneth not the second, third, or many marriages which a man maketh, when his wife is deceased.

Marriage, for Christians, means something more than it does for the larger society.  The culture may root like pigs in the trough but Christians are called to a better, less porcine, life.

Richard Baxter’s Advice to the Prideful #HumbleBrag

‘Be sure you mistake not the Spirit of God and its motions, nor receive, instead of them, the motions of satan, or of your passions, pride, or fleshly wisdom.’—It is easy to think you are obeying the Spirit, when you are obeying satan and your own corruptions against the Spirit.

By these fruits the Spirit of God is known:

  • 1. The Spirit of God is for heavenly Wisdom, and neither for foolishness nor treacherous craftiness.
  • 2. The Spirit of God is a spirit of Love, delighting to do good; its doctrine and motions are for love, and tend to good; abhorring both selfishness and hurtfulness to others.
  • 3. He is a Spirit of Concord, and is ever for the unity of all believers; abhorring both divisions among the saints, and carnal compliances and confederacies with the wicked,
  • 4. He is a Spirit of Humility and self-denial, making us, and our knowledge, and gifts, and worth, to be very little in our own eyes; abhorring pride, ambition, self-exalting, boasting, as also the actual debasing of ourselves by earthliness or other sin.
  • 5. He is a Spirit of Meekness, and patience, and forbearance; abhorring stupidity, and inordinate passion, boisterousness, tumult, envy, contention, reviling, and revenge.