Friday, March 18, 2011

Why I Am A Calvinist

In a letter to my congregation regarding our possible re-plant as a Reformed Baptist Church, I included 4 reasons why I am Reformed. Perhaps they may prove helpful to you.

1. The Clarity of Scripture
-Frankly, I cannot read texts like Dt 29:1-4; Je 31:31-34; Ez 37; Mt 11:20-30; Jn 1; Ac 2 & 4; Ro 9-11; Ep 1 & 2; He 12:1-3; Ja 1:18; 1 Pe 1:1-5, etc, and come to any other conclusion. Salvation is of the LORD, from beginning to end. A study of the lives of the saints of Scripture illustrates this teaching.
2. The Nature of Sin
-Scripture explains the depths of our depravity as so great that we cannot help ourselves in any way. Scripture goes so far as to say, in regard to our spiritual abilities, we are in fact dead (Ep 2:1-10, to name only one text). That is as bad as it could be. The Ephesians text repeatedly describes unbelievers as dead in sin, that is, dead to God (v1 & 5; cf Ge 2:15-17 and Chapter 3). This is what makes Ephesians 2:4 & 8-10 so startling. After laboring to show us as dead in sin and by nature children of wrath and living in the lusts of our flesh, (all Paul’s words), he pens this, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us. . .made us alive together with Christ (for by grace you have been saved).” Paul repeats this last thought in v8, and then explains how salvation happens.
-In 2 Corinthians 4 Paul likens God’s call of an unbeliever to faith to God’s calling light out of the darkness that covered the earth, as we read in Genesis 1. In other words, to be saved, it is not simply a nudge in the right direction that we need, or a persuasive argument, or anything less than to be reborn in the inner person (this is what Jesus means by being “born again” in John 3). In John 3, Jesus credits this work of rebirth to the Holy Spirit and tells us that He is like the wind, moving as He wills. Jesus clearly understood salvation to be wholly and only a Trinitarian work – the Father calls sinners (Jn 6:44; Ac 2:39); the Son pays their penalty (Jn 10:11; Mk 10:45); the Holy Spirit regenerates (Jn 3:5-8; Tit 3:5).
3. The Nature of Faith
-The nature of faith, or belief, is that we find ourselves believing. We do not cause or make ourselves believe. We believe according to evidence. We know this is true from experience. No one decides they want to believe something and then by their will are able to get themselves to believe it. That is not the nature of belief. So Scripture gives us the source of belief – the Word of God (Ro 10:17; 1 Pe 1:23-25). And Scripture gives us the cause of our belief – God the Holy Spirit (texts given in previous paragraph). Why is it that a hundred people can hear the gospel and only one of them believe? Why is it that you believe, but not your spouse, your sister, your children, etc? Do you see why prayer is so important to preaching, evangelism, and missions?
-The “problem”, if I may call it that, of unbelief is compounded by the gospel’s call to bank everything on an invisible reality, namely God Himself. God has certainly not left Himself without witness. He has given us creation (Ps 19; Ro 1), conscience (Ro 2), Christ (He 1), and Scripture (Ps 19:7-11; Jn 20:30-31, 21:24-25; 1 Pe 1:10-12; 2 Pe 1:19-21). And while the evidence is ample, it nevertheless calls us to a Being we have never seen. And it calls us to put all of our hope and confidence in Him alone for our salvation (He 11:1-6). Only the invisible God who calls unbelievers could produce such a faith, so that Peter may write to us, “and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Pe 1:8).
4. The Nature of Glory
-Scripture teaches that God saves people in a way that secures for Him all glory. He does this by excluding all human boasting (Ro 3:21-4:8; 1 Co 1:18-31; Ga 6:14; Ep 2:8-9). Simply put, I cannot come up with any other understanding of Scripture, other than the Reformed understanding, that ensures the glory of God in salvation. People do not work their way into God’s favor, or reason themselves into faith, or persuade themselves into belief by some other means. In the Bible, faith is said to be a gift; and the Giver gets the glory. So, if I am able to contribute to the saving work, even if it is only by my right choice, then I have grounds for boasting. This cannot be.
-God is not in the business of holding a person down and forcing him/her to say yes to Him, as a bully might do on a school playground. God is in the business of making unbelieving people genuinely want Him. He does this by a deep work in the nature of the person (regeneration, as discussed earlier). He acts upon us to turn our natural hostility to His rule into a loving embrace of His presence. He gives us repentance and faith (Ep 2:8-9; 2 Ti 2:25). And again, the Giver gets the glory. And the Christian rejoices in this (Mt 11:20-26; Ro 11:33-36; 1 Pe 1:6-9). We really like when God is magnified. It makes us glad. It is only the sinfully proud that do not delight in the exaltation of God at the expense of their own exaltation.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Give These a Look

Books recently published by my friend Adam Murrell (a member of our congregation). They're available through

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday Post for Shepherds -- God's Presence

The LORD is with me like a dread champion. . .
the Prophet Jeremiah, chapter 20 verse 11

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

R.C. Sproul Jr. on Private Property and Neighbor Love

"The principle of private ownership of property is woven throughout the Scriptures. Two events took place during the exodus from Egypt that illustrate the biblical notion of personal property. The first occurred at Mount Sinai with the formulation of the Ten Commandments. The eighth commandment reads, 'You shall not steal.' Though a relatively simple commandment, it is deemed important enough by God to be elevated to the top ten precepts that establish the foundation of Israel's society. . .What is unusual--indeed, extraordinary--about Israel's Decalogue is the content of the tenth commandment, 'You shall not covet.. . .' How many architects of constitutional law would incorporate into their ten most axiomatic precepts a prohibition of inner lust for another person's property? . . . Coveting and love are incompatible. -- Pages 20-21

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sunday Post for Shepherds -- Proclamation

Get yourself up on a high mountain,O Zion, 
bearer of good news; Lift up your voice mightily,O Jerusalem, bearer of good news; Lift it up, do not fear. 
Say to the cities of Judah, "Here is your God!"
Isaiah 40:9

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Church and State with Martin Luther (1483-1546)

We should wash the fur of the magistrate and clean out his mouth whether he laughs or rages. Christ has instructed us preachers not to withhold the truth from the lords but to exhort and chide them in their injustice. Christ did not say to Pilate, "You have no power over me." He said that Pilate did have power, but he said, "You do not have this power from yourself. It is given to you from God." Therefore he upbraided Pilate. We do the same. We recognize the authority, but we must rebuke our Pilates in their crime and self-confidence. Then they say to us, "You are reviling the majesty of God, " to which we answer, "We will suffer what you do to us, but to keep still and let ii appear that you do right when you do wrong, that we cannot and will not do." We must confess the truth and rebuke the evil. There is a big difference between suffering injustice and keeping still. We should suffer. We should not keep still. The Christian must bear testimony for the truth and die for the truth. But how can he die for the truth if he has not first confessed the truth? Thus Christ showed that Pilate did exercise authority from God and at the same time rebuked him for doing wrong.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Few More Remarks on Our Government

1. A chief reason entitlement money is missing is because over the past 40 years we have aborted (murdered) one in three of the people who would today be paying into the system (social security, medicare, etc).
2. I am not for this "system" because I don't understand Scripture to be for it. I understand Scripture to teach that the family takes care of the family. Where there is no able family, then the church steps in, as in the care of widows who have no children (1 Ti 5:3-10). And when I say the family takes care of the family, I mean that fathers are responsible to God for the provision, education, and spiritual progress of those under their care, including their aged parents.
3. The public education system, and our dependence on it, is the abdication of parental duty concerning education. I went through the public school system and I would not put my children in it. The education philosophy of the system is not conducive to actual learning and understanding, but a regurgitation of information, much of which is not even true. In addition, the public education system is dominated by women who expect young boys and men to behave as young girls and women. Within the system, in which a student will spend an average of 35 hours per week, the males have almost no model. Their models are mostly women who think like women, reason like women, feel like women, work like women, behave like women, etc, because they are women and consequently do not have the natural understanding of how young boys and men learn. The boys and men, therefore, are expected to be girl-like, and when they are not they are punished.
4. I place no saving hope in any political party or elected official. That would be idolatry no matter the party or official. But when the officials are too desperate and weak to answer a "yes" or "no" question with a "yes" or "no", well then to put any hope in them would simply be foolish. God give us men and women that say what they mean and do what they say. This is called integrity.
5. I am no one's judge, not in the sense that I know their hearts or can say whether someone is a Christian or not. What I am allowed to do, and must do, is make deductions rooted in their words and deeds. I am not permitted to state their motives with any full certainty unless they have expressed them. What I am permitted to do is examine the fruit of their choices -- what does this person produce? What is the outcome of their ways? These are the questions with which we must wrestle.
6. During a campaign interview with pastor Rick Warren, Mr Obama was asked questions in regard to faith and practice. But the one question that would have given us the most insight into his heart and life and ways and loves, was not asked. Pastor Rick did not ask Mr Obama, or Mr McCain, what role the Bible plays in their lives. This is the question. Far too many people who say they are Christians couldn't explain John 3:16 if you gave them 6 months and a Bible dictionary. They simply live in ignorance, and with apathy, toward the Word of God. So for our president to say he is a Christian really means close to nothing, unless he defines Christian according to the actual Christian documents. Christianity according to its own founding documents is the only kind of real Christianity there is.
7. I'm against the ongoing war in Iraq and Afghanistan, not because I don't believe in just war but because we, as a nation, cannot afford it, just or not. If you have to borrow money to wage war, you probably shouldn't wage it. The idea of America as the world police should be re-examined.
8. Related to #7, who are we to assume that every nation should be a democratic nation? Democracy is not how God established Israel. Nor did He move them toward it. When Israel rejected God as their good and rightful king and cried for a human one, God gave them a human one -- a monarchy, not a democracy. The issue of government is not primarily one of form, but substance. What is central is that whomever governs does so in righteousness. So in a democracy, if the elected officials are godly, then national life goes well for the people. But this is equally true in a monarchy, or dictatorship, or oligarchy. As long as the rulers are pursuing righteousness, the nation is blessed. We as Americans do not know this. We have basically equated democracy with righteousness. Arrogant.
9. Brent, what do you think governments should be busy with? Well, in my opinion, very very little; things like establishing an efficient and useful military, maintaining a just court system, printing money for which it has valuables to make what it prints valuable, collect just taxes. I currently can't think of anything else. What the government should not do is create thousands of programs and projects that are burdens to their people. It is not the work of government to educate people, to created jobs for people, to save money for people (social security), to provide medical care (medicare, medicaid), to regulate the economy, or a thousand other duties we're happy to depend upon them for. The more we allow them to do for us, the more dependent upon them we become. The more responsibility we forfeit to government, the more power they have over us. It seems to me this is precisely what our government wants.