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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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Justification by Works and Faith in 1 Clement

Clement of RomeWhile reading through 1 Clement, I found a nice example of justify (δικαιόω) being used in two different senses (in very close proximity), which nicely parallels its use in the New Testament.

Justified by Works

In this first example, Clement is calling his readers to personal holiness and speaks of their being justified by works (ἔργοις δικαιούμενοι). He seems to have in view a demonstration rather than imputation of righteousness.

30 Seeing then that we are the portion of the Holy One, let us do all the things that pertain to holiness, forsaking slander, disgusting and impure embraces, drunkenness and rioting and detestable lusts, abominable adultery, detestable pride. (2) “For God,” he says, “resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (3) Let us therefore join with those to whom grace is given by God. Let us clothe ourselves in concord, being humble and self-controlled, keeping ourselves far from all backbiting and slander, being justified by works and not by words [ἔργοις δικαιούμενοι καὶ μὴ λόγοις]. (4) For he says: “He who speaks much shall hear much in reply. Or does the talkative person think that he is righteous? (5) Blessed is the one born of woman who has a short life. Do not be overly talkative.” (6) Let our praise be with God, and not from ourselves, for God hates those who praise themselves. (7) Let the testimony to our good deeds be given by others, as it was given to our fathers who were righteous. (8) Boldness and arrogance and audacity are for those who are cursed by God; but graciousness and humility and gentleness are with those who are blessed by God.

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“If you die in unbelief, Christ did not die for you.”

Ambrose of MilanI’ve seen Calvinists quote this (along with others like it) to demonstrate that the notion of limited atonement didn’t originate with Calvin or his followers. But I’m having a hard time tracking down the source. Neither Logos Bible Software nor the Internet have been able to get me any earlier than 1979.

Michael Horton quoted it twice in Putting Amazing Back into Grace: Embracing the Heart of the Gospel (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002). Unfortunately, he didn’t cite his source. Even worse, he attributed it to two different people: Ambrose of Milan (c. 337–397) and Anselm of Canterbury (c. 1033–1109).

Ambrose, a church father, said, “If you die in unbelief, Christ did not die for you.” Don’t think that didn’t make people think twice about the offer of Christ! (118)

Anselm lost a lot of friends over this one:

If you die in unbelief, Christ did not die for you. (247)

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Warfield on Eternal Subordination in the Trinity

Those who reject the notion of hierarchy in the imminent Trinity often point to B. B. Warfield as a supporter of their position. In his article in ISBE on the Trinity,1 Warfield discusses at length his reservations about reading what we see in the economic Trinity back into the immanent Trinity.

19. The Implications of “Son” and “Spirit”

. . . To the fact of the Trinity—to the fact, that is, that in the unity of the Godhead there subsist three Persons, each of whom has his particular part in the working out of salvation—the New Testament testimony is clear, consistent, pervasive and conclusive. There is included in this testimony constant and decisive witness to the complete and undiminished Deity of each of these Persons; no language is too exalted to apply to each of them in turn in the effort to give expression to the writer’s sense of His Deity: the name that is given to each is fully understood to be “the name that is above every name.” When we attempt to press the inquiry behind the broad fact, however, with a view to ascertaining exactly how the New Testament writers conceive the three Persons to be related, the one to the other, we meet with great difficulties. Nothing could seem more natural, for example, than to assume that the mutual relations of the Persons of the Trinity are revealed in the designations, “the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” which are given them by Our Lord in the solemn formula of Mt. 28:19. Our confidence in this assumption is somewhat shaken, however, when we observe, as we have just observed, that these designations are not carefully preserved in their allusions to the Trinity by the writers of the New Testament at large, but are characteristic only of Our Lord’s allusions and those of John, whose modes of speech in general very closely resemble those of Our Lord. Our confidence is still further shaken when we observe that the implications with respect to the mutual relations of the Trinitarian Persons, which are ordinarily derived from these designations, do not so certainly lie in them as is commonly supposed.

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  1. Trinity,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, edited by James Orr (Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company, 1915), 5:3,012–22.

Did the Incarnation Improve God?

Earlier this week, the Gospel Coalition blog featured a post on the Incarnation and God’s immutability, which caught my attention. An individual asked,

How do we hold together the idea that God doesn’t change with what happened at the incarnation and resurrection—where Jesus was united to a human nature and took on an earthly body and ultimately a resurrection body? It’s hard to understand that God[’s] taking on a human nature and all that he experienced in the flesh is not [a] fundamental change for him.

James Anderson, Assistant Professor of Theology and Philosophy at RTS in Charlotte, blogger, and Van Tillian, responded with a several considerations that help to lessen, though not remove, the tension.

  1. “[T]he biblical statements about God[’s] not changing needn’t be taken in a way that rules out change in any sense.”
  2. One possibility is that, as William Lane Craig argues, “God is timeless apart from a creation but temporal with a creation.”
  3. “An alternative solution is to deny that God can experience intrinsic change while recognizing that God appears to change from the temporal standpoint of his creatures.”
  4. “[W]e can make a distinction between divine causes and divine effects. God’s actions take effect in time (and space) but God acts from timeless eternity.”
  5. “God the Son is timeless and unchangeable with respect to his divine nature but temporal and changeable with respect to his human nature.”
  6. “Perhaps the best solution here is to say that talk of ‘becoming’ human is really a loose way of speaking, one conditioned by our temporal perspective, and isn’t to be taken in the most literal sense.”

Carl Trueman, Hero Worship, and God’s Gifts

Carl TruemanCarl Trueman wrote several provocative posts critiquing conservative evangelicalism in America and its purportedly unhealthy promotion of its prominent preachers and teachers—particularly as it relates to conferences like The Gospel Coalition.

Here they are:

  1. Home Thoughts from Abroad
  2. What hath Jerusalem to do with Hollywood?
  3. Thoughts on Marketing and Conferences
  4. Not guilty!
  5. The Lady Doth Protest Too Much
  6. Truly Honoured
  7. Fascinating Week
  8. An interesting email

Trueman makes some good points worth pondering, but I think his take is a little imbalanced—as did Thabiti Anyabwile:

  1. Really Trueman? Only in America?
  2. Uncle… Uncle!
  3. A Solution I Had Not Considered

For example, he said in his third post,

First, market conferences on the basis of content not speakers. Send a clear signal—from the design of the webpage to the wording of the fliers—that it is what is to be said, not who is saying it, that is important. Indeed, maybe one could be really radical: do not even let people know who is speaking; just tell them the titles of the talks. “Ah, but then no-one will come!”, you say. Well, if that is true, then the case for saying that conferences are all about idolising celebrities would seem to be irrefutable.

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How Do the Father, Son, and Spirit Differ?

The Systematic Theology of John Brown of HaddingtonIn recent debates about the Trinity—particularly the ones that stem from the gender debate—the question of the differences among the persons of the Trinity comes to the forefront. How do the Father, Son, and Spirit differ from each other?

John Brown of Haddington answers this way:1

  1. By their names of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Mt 28:19; 2 Co 8:14; Mt 3:16–17; 1 Jn 5:7; Jn 14:16–17.
  2. By their order of subsistence; the Father the first; the Son the second; and the Holy Ghost the third, 1 Jn 5:7; Mt 28:19. But to mark their equality, they are sometimes mentioned in a different order, 2 Co 8:14; Re 1:4–5; 1 Th 3:5.
  3. By their different order of operation. The Father acts from himself through the Son and by the Spirit. The Son acts from the Father and by the Spirit: And the Spirit acts from both the Father and the Son, Jn 2:16; 1:1–3; 5:17–19; 15:26; 14:26; 16:7.
  4. By their different stations, which, in a delightful correspondence with their natural order of subsistence, they have voluntarily assumed in the work of our redemption:—the Father as the Creditor, Judge Master, and Rewarder;—the Son as the Mediator, Surety, Servant, Pannel, &c.;—and the Holy Ghost as the Furnisher, Assistant, and Rewarder of the Mediator, and the Applier of the redemption purchased by him, Zech 3:8; 8:7; Is 42:1, 6–7; 49:1–9; 53:2–12, Jn 16:8–15; Eph 1:17–18; 3:16–19; 4:30; Ezek 36:27.
  5. And chiefly by their personal properties.—The Father is neither begotten by, nor preceeds from any other person, but, being first in order, he begets the Son, and hath the Holy Ghost proceeding from him. The Son is begotten by the Father, and hath the Holy Ghost proceeding form him. The Holy Ghost neither begets, nor is begotten, but proceeds from both the Father and the Son, John 1:14, 18; 3:16; 14:26; Ga 4:4–6; 1 Pe 1:11.

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  1. The Systematic Theology of John Brown of Haddington (Fearn, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2002), 142. First published in 1782 as A Compendious View of Natural and Revealed Religion. I updated the format of the Bible references to make them more readable and added bold to the five italicized terms.

What Is the Most Convincing Proof of the Deity of Christ?

My immediate response would probably be God’s special revelation in His authoritative and inerrant Word.

Here’s what B. B. Warfield had to say in “The Deity of Christ”:

The Scriptures give us evidence enough, then, that Christ is God. But the Scriptures are far from giving us all the evidence we have. There is, for example, the revolution which Christ has wrought in the world. If, indeed, it were asked what the most convincing proof of the deity of Christ is, perhaps the best answer would be, just Christianity. The new life He has brought into the world; the new creation which He has produced by His life and work in the world; here are at least His most palpable credentials.

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What Is the Gospel?

Here’s a helpful new video from Knox Theological Seminary featuring Tullian Tchividjian and Warren Gage on how they’ve come to understand what the gospel is and how it relates to the everyday experience of Christians.

HT: Kendell Stellfox

Announcing the Best Book of 2011

I haven’t gotten my copy of The Christian Faith yet, but I’m pretty confident that it’s great based on the feedback it’s getting.

However, it seems a tad premature to announce it as the best book of 2011 not even two months into the year, does it not?

Monergism Announced The Christian Faith As the 2011 Book of Year

It’s kind of like announcing the winner of the Super Bowl after the first touchdown.