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Rob Bell and Andrew Wilson Discuss Homosexuality and the Bible

Rob BellOr perhaps I should have titled that “Rob Bell Discusses Homosexuality and Andrew Wilson Discusses the Bible,” because there was a disturbing lack of Bible in Rob Bell’s answers and arguments. Instead, Rob argued along these lines (and I’m paraphrasing):

  • People don’t like Christianity. Therefore, we should change the parts they don’t like.
  • The modern world affirms homosexuality. Therefore, we should too.
  • Monogamous homosexuals aren’t hurting anyone. Therefore, they’re not sinful.
  • Monogamy is better than promiscuity because the latter is dangerous and destructive.
  • Because homosexuals want to share their lives with each other, they should be able to.

I wasn’t familiar with Andrew Wilson prior to watching this video, but I appreciate the way he interacted with Rob. He was direct, logical, kind, persistent, and uncompromising.

Watch it for yourself.

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Warfield, Vos, and Van Til: Is God One Person?

Shield of the TrinityOrthodox trinitarianism typically refers to God in terms of three persons or subsistences (personas, subsistentia, or ὑποστάσιες) and one essence or substance (essentiasubstantia, or οὐσία). But is there a sense in which God is one person? To put it another way, is God’s oneness personal?

Here’s how three Princeton theologians addressed this topic.

B. B. Warfield (1851–1921)

The elements in the doctrine of God which above all others needed emphasis in Old Testament times were naturally His unity and His personality. The great thing to be taught the ancient people of God was that the God of all the earth is one person. Over against the varying idolatries about them, this was the truth of truths for which Israel was primarily to stand; and not until this great truth was ineffaceably stamped upon their souls could the personal distinctions in the Triune-God be safely made known to them.

Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, “The Spirit of God in the Old Testament,” chapter 3 of Biblical Doctrines, vol. 2 of The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield (New York: Oxford University Press, 1932), 127 (emphasis added).

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John Murray on Union with Christ

Redemption Accomplished and AppliedJohn Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied is one of my all-time favorite books. I highly recommend it as a biblical and Reformed study on the atonement and the ordo salutis.

I’m preparing to teach on union with Christ at my church in a couple of weeks, and I decided to reread Murray’s chapter on the subject. It was time well spent.

Here are some highlights:

Nothing is more central or basic than union and communion with Christ. . . . [U]nion with Christ is in itself a very broad and embracive subject. It is not simply a step in the application of redemption; . . . it underlies every step of the application of redemption. Union with Christ is really the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation not only in its application but also in its once-for-all accomplishment in the finished work of Christ. Indeed the whole process of salvation has its origin in one phase of union with Christ and salvation has in view the realization of other phases or union with Christ. (161)

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The Doctrine of the Trinity in Five Theses

Shield of the TrinityHere’s how Geerhardus Vos articulates the core affirmations of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity:

  1. There is only one divine being. Scripture expresses itself decisively against all polytheism (Deut 6:4; Isa 44:6; Jas 2:19).
  2. In this one God are three modes of existence, which we refer to by the word “person” and which are, each one, this only true God. In Scripture these three persons are called, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  3. These three persons, although together the one true God, are nevertheless distinguished from each other insofar as they assume objective relations toward each other, address each other, love each other, and can interact with each other.
  4. Although these three persons possess one and the same divine substance, Scripture nevertheless teaches us that, concerning their personal existence, the Father is the first, the Son the second, and the Holy Spirit the third, that the Son is of the Father, the Spirit of the Father and the Son. Further, their workings outwardly reflect this order of personal existence, since the Father works through the Son, and the Father and Son work through the Spirit. There is, therefore, subordination as to personal manner of existence and manner of working, but no subordination regarding possession of the one divine substance.
  5. The divine substance is not divided among the three persons as if each possesses one-third. Neither is it a new substance beside the three persons. Finally, neither is it an abstraction of our thinking in a nominalistic sense. But in a manner for which all further analogy is lacking, each of these persons possesses the entire divine substance.

Geerhardus Vos, “The Trinity,” chapter 3 of Theology Proper, vol. 1 of Reformed Dogmatics, ed. Richard B. Gaffin, trans. Annemie Godbehere (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013), 38–39.

By the way, today is Vos’s 151st birthday. In honor, Logos Bible Software just posted a 14-volume collection of Vos’s works on Pre-Pub. They’re also working on the first ever English translation of Vos’s Reformed Dogmatics, from which the above quotation comes.

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John Piper on Alcohol Consumption

John PiperJohn Piper’s view on alcohol consumption is encapsulated in these four sources:

  1. Total Abstinence and Church Membership,” a sermon preached on October 4, 1981
  2. Flesh Tank and Peashooter Regulations,” a sermon on Colossians 2:16–23 preached on January 17, 1982
  3. Is It Okay to Drink Alcohol?Ask Pastor John podcast, May 8, 2010
  4. Is Drinking Alcohol a Sin?” Ask Pastor John podcast, October 23, 2013

Total Abstinence and Church Membership

Total Abstinence and Church Membership,” though delivered nearly 32 years ago, is his most extensive treatment on the subject (that I’ve come across). In it he gives four main reasons that he personally abstains from alcohol consumption:

  1. “. . . because of my conscience.”
  2. “. . . alcohol is a mind-altering drug.”
  3. “. . . alcohol is addictive.”
  4. “. . . to make a social statement.”

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D. A. Carson on Assurance of Salvation

D. A. CarsonYesterday Andy Naselli highlighted six resources by D. A. Carson on assurance of salvation. It reminded me of Carson’s article “Reflections on Christian Assurance,” which is one of my favorites on the subject. Carson skillfully holds together what many tear asunder. If you haven’t read it, I’d strongly encourage you to. The balance he strikes is exemplary. I can’t speak to whether some of his other treatments are better, but this one is superb.

He originally presented “Reflections on Christian Assurance” as a paper at Tyndale House in June, 1990 as the Annual Biblical Theology Lecture. Two year later it was published in Westminster Theological Journal 54, no. 1 (Spring 1992): 1–29. In 2000 it was republished as “Reflections on Assurance,” in Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge, and Grace, ed. Thomas R. Schreiner and Bruce A. Ware (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), 247–76.

Here’s the outline of his article:

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Does Matthew 5:48 Require Sinless Perfection?

Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).

This is often interpreted as a call to sinless perfection, something that Christians cannot attain prior to glorification. As such it’s used as a hermeneutical key to understanding the Sermon on the Mount as a whole. In this view, Jesus is not laying out the way of life for his followers. Instead, he is setting the bar so far out of their reach that they must turn to him for mercy and find acceptance in his righteousness.

I fully embrace the theological conclusions of this position: Christians cannot live sinlessly in this life and can only be accepted by God on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Jesus. However, I don’t think this text teaches that.

There are three reasons for understanding this verse as something that every Christian should and can obey.

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Piper on Calvinism, Arminianism, and Logic

TulipsI think John Piper is on target with this assessment of Calvinists, Arminians, and logic:

It is a great irony to me that Calvinists are stereotyped as logic-driven. For forty years my experience has been the opposite. The Calvinists I have known (English Puritans, Edwards, Newton, Spurgeon, Packer, Sproul) are not logic driven, but Bible-driven. It’s the challengers who bring their logic to the Bible and nullify text after text. Branches are lopped off by “logic,” not exegesis.

Who are the great enjoyers of paradox today? Who are the pastors and theologians who grab both horns of every biblical dilemma and swear to the God-Man: I will never let go of either.

Not the Calvinism-critics that I meet. They read of divine love, and say that predestination cannot be. They read of human choice and say the divine rule of all our steps cannot be. They read of human resistance, and say that irresistible grace cannot be. Who is logic-driven?

For forty years Calvinism has been, for me, a vision of life that embraces mystery more than any vision I know. It is not logic-driven. It is driven by a vision of the ineffable, galactic vastness of God’s Word.

Let’s be clear: It does not embrace contradiction. Chesterton and I both agree that true logic is the law of “Elfland.” “If the Ugly Sisters are older than Cinderella, it is (in an iron and awful sense) necessary that Cinderella is younger than the Ugly Sisters.” Neither God nor his word is self-contradictory. But paradoxes? Yes.

We happy Calvinists don’t claim to get the heavens into our heads. We try to get our heads into the heavens. We don’t claim comprehensive answers to revealed paradoxes. We believe. We try to understand. And we break out into song and poetry again and again.

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What Is the Righteousness Required to Enter the Kingdom?

When the Time Had Fully Come: Studies in New Testament TheologyJesus said in Matthew 5:20, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus here identifies a necessary condition for entering the kingdom, which is synonymous with gaining eternal life (cf. Mt 19:16, 23), so it’s important that we understand what “your righteousness” refers to.

Some believe that Jesus has in mind his own perfect righteousness, which is imputed to sinners by faith. It is often argued that no other righteousness could surpass the righteousness of the most religious people of that time. However, good reasons exist for understanding it a different way—as a reference to the internal, inherent righteousness of heart commenced at regeneration, continued in sanctification, and culminated in glorification.

Three points support the latter view:

  1. The immediately following context unpacks righteousness by contrasting false, external righteousness with true, internal righteousness.
  2. The other uses of righteousness in the Sermon on the Mount are best understood as righteousness of life.
  3. The Gospels don’t use righteousness to refer to imputed righteousness.

This interpretation coheres with Jesus’ teaching on the conditional nature of entrance into the kingdom (e.g., Mat 7:21; 12:50; John 15:14) and is theologically consistent with other Scriptural statements about the necessity of regeneration (John 3:3, 5), sanctification (Heb 12:14), and perseverance (Heb 10:36) for entrance into the kingdom—all of which intersect conceptually with righteousness.

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Does God Have Dreams for His People?

The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His NameTalk of God’s having dreams seems to be growing in popularity—not the fall-asleep-and-see-strange-things kind, but the wishful, hopeful, I-really-want-this-to-happen kind. You won’t find this kind of language in (any?) English translations of the Bible. And you won’t find it in the writings of previous centuries’ theologians (e.g., Luther, Calvin, Owen, Edwards, Hodge, Spurgeon, and Warfield). But it’s all throughout the popular Christian literature of the last several decades.

I was reminded of this while rereading Sally Lloyd-Jones’s The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name with my wife and daughter during our family Bible time. There’s much to like about the book, but I’m not sold on the talk about God’s having dreams for His people—even in a book for children.

Here are three examples:

But God saved the best for last. From the beginning, God had a shining dream in his heart. He would make people to share his Forever Happiness. They would be his children, and the world would be their perfect home. (25)

God loves his children too much to let the story end there. Even though he knew he would suffer, God had a plan—a magnificent dream. One day, he would get his children back. One day, he would make the world their perfect home again. And one day, he would wipe away every tear from their eyes. (36)

That’s the end of that dreamer! they thought. But they were wrong. God had a magnificent dream for Joseph’s life and even when it looked like everything had gone wrong, God would use it all to help make the dream come true. God would use everything that was happening to Joseph to do something good. (78)

It’s obvious that she’s using dream synonymously with plan, but I’m uncomfortable with some of the connotations and implications dream carries with it.

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