Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hagar & Sarah, or the Law & Gospel

In March 2012, my pastor preached a sermon on Genesis 16 which relates the narrative of barren Sarah (Sarai) giving her handmaid Hagar to Abram (Abraham) to bare him a child.  Hagar conceives Ishmael and despises Sarah.  "And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the Lord judge between me and thee.  But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee.  And when Sarai dealt hardly with he, she fled from her face," (Gen. 16:5-6).

In this story, Hagar represents the Covenant of Works and Sarah represents the Covenant of Grace:  "For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by the bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.  But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise," (Gal. 4:22-23).

Sarah is the first wife, and Hagar is submissive to her mistress; this same relationship of submission is reflected in the Gospel and the law.  "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified," (Gal. 2:16).  "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin," (Rom. 3:20).

I'm currently reading Covenant Theology from Adam to Christ by Nehemiah Coxe & John Owen.  Coxe wrote the first section called A Discourse of the Covenants that God made with men before the Law.  The above exposition came to mind as I read his passage on 'Abraham's Family a Type of the Future Church':
"3. In the process of time the son of the bond-woman who was born after the flesh persecutes the son of the free-woman who was born after the Spirit; that is, in the virtue of the promise.  Because of this the bond-woman and her son are cast out of the family and Isaac remains there as the only heir of his father's blessing.

The apostle [Paul] affirms that these things were ordered by God in a typical relationship to gospel times and applies them as follows.

Hagar was a type of Mount Sinai and the legal covenant established there.  Ishmael was a type of the carnal seed of Abraham under that covenant.  Sarah was a type of the new Jerusalem, the gospel church founded on the covenant of grace.  Isaac was a type of the true members of that church who are born of the Spirit, being converted by the power of the Holy Spirit for the fulfilling of the promise of the Father to Jesus Christ the mediator.  And the ejection of Hagar and Ishmael was to prefigure the abrogation of the Sinaitic covenant and the dissolving of the Jewish church-state so that the inheritance of spiritual blessings might be clearly passed down to the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ."
In his treatise, Cox argues that the Covenant of Grace has no outward sign or seal annexed to it (circumcision or baptism).  The New Testament tells us that circumcision obligates man to keep the whole law, (Gal. 5:3); therefore, circumcision cannot give man an interest in the grace that justifies a sinner before God.  Abraham himself did not obtain the terms of the Gospel by his carnal prerogative but was justified by his faith before he was circumcised.  Abraham received circumcision not as a seal of his righteousness by faith or of the New Covenant,  but of the righteousness of the faith which he had being yet uncircumcised.  It was a seal of his paternal relationship to all believers though they were not circumcised because he is the father of all who believe, (Rom. 4:16).  

"But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.  And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.  Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith," (Gal. 3:10-14).

Friday, December 27, 2013

One Final Adjustment (Block Time Bible Reading)

I currently set aside Bible reading and devotional time in the morning and evening on most days.  Instead of changing that routine, I decided to tailor my block time Bible reading schedule to fit what I currently do.  Therefore, I used the half-hour plan and scheduled an Old Testament (OT) reading in the morning and a New Testament (NT) reading in the evening.  This gives me an hour each day in God's Word.  Over a 15-week cycle, I will read the OT once and the NT three times.  Some weeks I will complete my planned reading early (for example, it should only take 5 days to read Genesis), so I have decided to use any extra time each week in dedicated prayer.

WeekAM (30-minutes)PM (30-minutes)
1GenesisMatthew & Mark
2ExodusLuke & John
3Leviticus & NumbersActs through 1 Corinthians
4Deuteronomy  2 Corinthians through 2 Timothy 
5Joshua & JudgesTitus through Revelation
6Ruth through 2 Samuel
Matthew & Mark
71 & 2 Kings
Luke & John
81 Chronicles through Ezra
Acts through 1 Corinthians
9Nehemiah & Job
  2 Corinthians through 2 Timothy 
10Psalms
Titus through Revelation
11  Proverbs through Song of Solomon 
Matthew & Mark
12Isaiah
Luke & John
13Jeremiah & Lamentations
Acts through 1 Corinthians
14Ezekiel & Daniel
  2 Corinthians through 2 Timothy 
15Hosea through Malachi
Titus through Revelation

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Burroughs on the Holy Days of Men

My current trajectory as a reformed Baptist who adheres to the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith began in 2009.  As I studied the reformed faith, I also found the Regulative Principle of Worship, which states that the ordinances of worship are found only in the Bible and that man is not to add or detract from the word of God.  In 2011 it became apparent that Christmas was more about the world and not at all about Christ when many churches canceled their Sunday services because Christmas fell on the Lord's Day.  Celebrations such as Christmas and Easter are not commanded, nor prescribed, in the Bible; therefore, my family and I no longer celebrate these holidays.

Our conviction in this area does not imply that all Christians should do the same or that we think differently of other Christians because they continue to celebrate these holidays.  We celebrate the Lord's birth, death, and resurrection every Sunday when we meet to worship God in His house; so for us, there's no need to single out special days of worship.

As I continue to read the Puritans, I find that many of them upheld the Regulative Principle of Worship as well.  Let's look at an exposition of Hosea 5:5 from An Exposition of the Prophecy of Hosea by Jeremiah Burroughs (edited for length):

"Ver. 5. And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face: therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall in their iniquity; Judah also shall fall with them.

Obs. 1. Ignorance and pride usually go together.

Obs. 2. Idolaters are proud men, and idolatry is a proud sin.

1. Idolaters regard the true worship of God as a mean thing, as a thing beneath them.

2. They presume to put more dignity on a creature than God has, to put more honour on places than God and nature has imposed.

3. They prescribe the form of God's worship.  The worship of God is the dearest thing he has in the world; and for any creature to take upon him to prescribe which way he shall be worshipped, is the most notorious pride in the world.

4. They honour what is a man's own because it is his own, rather than what is God's.  Do not you see it plainly in all superstitious, idolatrous people?  As in that one thing of days?  God has set one day apart for the honouring of himself, and for the celebration of the birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, and of the whole work of our redemption: how is that day slighted and neglected!  But what a horrible wickedness is it accounted not to keep that which man sets apart by himself, that day which is of man's appointment!  Men will set apart a day for the honour of Christ, and insist that Christ is quite forgotten if that day be forgotten, and Christ is much dishonoured if that day be not regarded.  I appeal to you, who sets it apart?  whose is it?  Is it God's, or is it yours?  God's?  Certainly, if such a thing were so acceptable to God as men conceive it to be, we should have some little hint, somewhat in the book of God regarding it."

***
"And he [Jesus] said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition," (Mark 7:9).

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Another Bible Reading Plan Option

Although I desire to read the Bible for an hour each day (preferably in one sitting) as outlined here, it may not be something that  I can consistently do as I continue to homeschool our 3 boys and manage our home.  Therefore, I thought I would also schedule a plan to read at least half an hour each day so that at a minimum, I can read through the Bible in 19 weeks*, and if I stay with my original plan, I'll get it done in about half that time.  My guess is that I'll end up somewhere in between...

Here's the 19-week Block Time Bible Reading Plan:

Week 1
Genesis
Week 2
Exodus and Leviticus
Week 3
Numbers and Deuteronomy
Week 4
Joshua and Judges
Week 5
Ruth through 2 Samuel
Week 6
1 and 2 Kings
Week 7
1 Chronicles through Ezra
Week 8
Nehemiah through Job
Week 9
Psalms
Week 10
Proverbs through Song of Solomon
Week 11
Isaiah
Week 12
Jeremiah and Lamentations
Week 13
Ezekiel and Daniel
Week 14
Hosea through Malachi
Week 15
Matthew and Mark
Week 16
Luke and John
Week 17
Acts through 1 Corinthians
Week 18
2 Corinthians through 2 Timothy
Week 19    
Titus through Revelation

*Even though I'm reading half of the time, it will not take twice as long because I can group more books into 3.5-hour segments than I can into 7-hour segments.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Bible Reading Plan

As we approach 2014, I'm pondering how to schedule my daily Bible reading in light of my 'How to Read Your Bible' post.  Should I stay with what I'm doing now, or should I make a change?  I read the Bible completely through each year, but in accomplishing this goal, I usually follow a Bible reading plan that only requires the minimum amount of reading to finish in 12 months.  For me, this approach does not always help in reading comprehension or seeing the bigger picture presented in the Bible.  I do not read any other book little by little over the course of a year, so why should I read the Bible like this?  As Dr. Lloyd-Jones boldly exposed in my previous post, I'm also guilty of making my daily Bible reading an item to check off a list...

Therefore, I was intrigued by Dr. Shaw's approach of reading the Bible in chunks, which he posted this time last year.  Dr. Shaw estimated, based on average reading time, that the Bible can be read in 52.50 hours.  I copied his reading times into an excel spreadsheet and rounded them to the nearest quarter hour.  Then I grouped the books into sections that can be read from 5 to 7 hours, a week's worth of Bible reading.  I ended up with 10 groups, or 10 weeks, which means that I will read the Bible completely every 2.5 months by reading at least an hour each day.  Here's what the first cycle in 2014 looks like:

January 5 to 11
Genesis through Leviticus
January 12 to 18
Numbers through Joshua
January 19 to 25
Judges through 1 Kings
January 26 to February 1  
2 Kings through Esther
February 2 to 8
Job through Song of Solomon
February 9 to 15
Isaiah through Lamentations
February 16 to 22
Ezekiel through Zephaniah
February 23 to March 1
Haggai through Luke
March 2 to 8 
John through Colossians
March 9 to 15
1 Thessalonians through Revelation  

I'll reassess this plan in March to see if I need to make any changes or find a new approach.

"Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth," (2 Tim. 2:15).

Monday, December 16, 2013

More Baptist Resources

I posted a list of Baptist resources here, but I've found that I regularly use these resources as well:

Commentaries:
Sermons:

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Authorized Version as God's Preserved Word

Textual criticism of the Bible has been making inroads in the evangelical world since Westcott and Hort wrote their New Testament in the Original Greek in 1881.  Prior to my alignment with reformed theology, I had no idea that this issue is very important to the believer.  It never occurred to me to think about why there were so many translations of the Bible, nor did I have enough knowledge to make an informed decision on which version to read and study.  I usually went along with the translation that my Pastor was using.  However, in the fall of 2011, I became aware of the need to study this issue more thoroughly and make a sound decision based on personal conviction.

In 'The Authorised Version: A Critical Assessment of Three Modern Versions' preached on November 12, 2011, Pastor G.R. Burrows makes a preliminary observation in his introduction that he is not claiming that the Authorized Version is perfect in every minute detail; he states that there are places where certain words or phrases could have been translated differently (for example the use of the word bishop, when elder may be preferred).  In addition, during in the exposition of the word of God, he says that the preacher might for clarification substitute one word for another to clarify its meaning to help the congregation understand.  He also admits that certain words in the text could have been translated more precisely.  But what he is claiming is that the Authorized Version is based on the most accurate, original text and is the most accurate and faithful translation available today.  My husband and I completely agree, which is why our family reads and studies the King James Bible, also known as the Authorized Version (or the Authorised Version, if you are British).

From the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith (LBCF), Chapter 1, paragraph 8 (emphasis mine):
"The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic; so as in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal to them. But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have a right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded in the fear of God to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner, and through patience and comfort of the Scriptures may have hope.  (Rom. 3:2; Isa. 8:20; Acts 15:15; John 5:39; 1 Cor. 14:6, 9, 11, 12, 24, 28; Col. 3:16)"
The on-going, and sometimes confusing, debate between the proponents (including Pastor Burrows above) of the Received Text (which underlies the King James Bible) and the proponents of the Critical Text (which underlies all modern translations) was succinctly summarized by Peairtach on 12/11/13 at the Puritan Board Forum website (NT=New Testament; MSS=manuscripts):
"I think the problem with Warfield and his ilk, from what I'm starting to understand, was that the "Received Text" was, through God's providential preserving of the text of the NT, publically [sic] well known and accepted in the Church, but Warfield et al, were willing to give a place for a different family or families of MSS, with significant differences, some of [sic] MSS which had, for instance, been recently recovered from a waste-paper basket on St Catherine's Monastery, Sinai.

By doing this Warfield wasn't treating the Received Text in a biblical way, as his approach and that of modern textual criticism, theoretically means that the settled text of the Bible which God has supposed to have preserved among us - as we learn from Scripture's view of itself, which view we must start and end with in textual studies - can be opened up at any time by new discoveries, thus undermining our confidence in what we have.

Theoretically, according to modernist textual criticism, there might be a Bible out there in the sands, very different to our own, which may yet be much more representative of the autographs. But that wouldn't be God preseving [sic] the text among us, bit [sic] allowing important textual material to languish in a place where few or none of God's people had access to it - which is incompatible with its preservation and perseverance among us."
Detracting from this textual debate are the adherents of the "KJV Only" crowd who, among other claims, insist that the King James Bible is an inspired translation.  This view is not consistent with the 1689 LBCF as seen above.  Therefore, we Christians who stand with the King James Bible as God's preserved Word for His church, not only stand against those who accept the modern translations as God's Word, but also those who attribute divine inspiration in the translation of the King James Bible.  Satan has skillfully introduced many distractions to deceive and divide the Church, (Eph. 6:11; 1 Peter 5:8).

I find it quite ironic that outspoken proponents of the Critical Text will accept many modern translations as God's Word, such as the New International Version, the New American Standard Bible, the English Standard Version, the New King James Version, and even the King James Bible, even though these Bibles are substantially different in many places.  But then they will criticize other versions, such as The Message or The Voice because they are translated using dynamic equivalence rather than formal equivalence; and therefore, they claim that these translations are not true to the text, so these Bibles should not be considered God's Word.  On what basis can they make that judgment?  Once you've allowed for man to determine what God's Word is or isn't, how can you exclude any man from exercising that right? 

"The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.  Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever," (Psalm 12:6-7).

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Does God Repent?

In 'Avoiding Current Errors Within Evangelicalism' preached on September 30, 2009, Reverend Maurice Roberts challenges the notion of open theism by biblically clarifying the idea of God's repentance found in the Bible.  He outlines the puritan view of repentance in terms of God:  Repentance in man is a changing of his will; repentance in God is His willing of a change.  Reverend Roberts states that the problems that sin creates in this world are all foreseen by God (Eph. 1:11).  Nothing takes the almighty God by surprise; He is never perplexed (Num. 23:19).   Therefore, the repentance of God is not the changing of His mind; it is His willing of a change in us so that the judgments we deserve are averted by the grace of God (Jonah 3:10).

"God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, the he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" (Numbers 23:19).

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Dominion Mandate

On November 24, 2013, Pastor Robert Truelove of Christ Reformed Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia, preached a sermon titled 'A Quiverfull of Confusion Part 2'.  This sermon is part of a series he is preaching on the Quiverfull Movement.  My point in this blog post is not to assess the scriptural merit of the quiverfull mentality, but I would like to focus on Pastor's Truelove exposition of the Dominion Mandate, also know as the Creation Mandate, from Genesis 1:26-28.

In general, the Quiverfull Movement is made up of conservative Christians who promote procreation and eschew all forms of birth control.  They contend that children are a blessing from the Lord and man should not interfere with that process, but the criticism of the Quiverfull Movement comes from their legalistic view that you are to have as many children as you can regardless of financial burden or health risks.

Starting out, Pastor Truelove asks:  "Does the Dominion Mandate preclude family planning in the life of a Christian couple?  He answers:  "No, when we do that we add the commandments of men to the Scripture."  The phrase 'be fruitful' is not a command, but a blessing (see Gen. 9:1, 7; 16:10; 17:2, 20), and we can not thwart God's plan for us to be fruitful and multiply (Psalm 127:3).  Having children is not a legal requirement of man, but a blessing from God at His perfect timing.  Pastor Truelove goes on to point out that the animals in Genesis 8:17 should also be fruitful, multiply, and swarm the earth.  However, we (including the Quiverfull proponents) do control animal population.

It is Pastor Truelove's next correlation that caught my attention and prompted this post.  In Genesis 1:27 God created man in His own image.  He states that man's function or purpose was to bear forth the divine image declaring by his own very life and being the glory of God and His kingship over creation.  Man was to multiply God's image in the Dominion Mandate, but sin came into the world through the Fall and man could not longer fulfill the mandate because the image of God in man was marred by his sin nature.  Therefore, as fallen men, we cannot revitalize Eden through having as many children as possible.

However, as New Testament believers, the Dominion Mandate is now fulfilled in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20), which commands believers to spread the gospel to all nations and make disciples baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Pastor Truelove contends that man bears the image of God after the Fall through Jesus Christ.  Christ is the image of God (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15), and God predestinated the elect to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29).  Therefore, the fulfilling of the Dominion Mandate is not fulfilled simply by having children, but it is fulfilled by the proclamation of the gospel where sinners come to Christ through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.  The believer conforms to the image of Jesus, who is the image of God; thereby restoring the image of God in man and making us the image bearers we were created to be.  Apart from Christ, man cannot fulfill his purpose to glorify God by bearing the image of God and declaring His sovereign rule over creation.

***
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.  And God blessed them, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth," (Gen. 1:26-28).

Friday, December 6, 2013

Hermeneutics

I'm participating in a free audit of the Baptist Covenant Theology course at the Founders Study Center.  In Session 4, Dr. Fred Malone lectures on the Hermeneutics of Baptist Covenant Theology.  He gives a brief overview of the general principles of biblical hermeneutics (the methodology of interpretation):
  1. Inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible
  2. Literal & historical-grammatical methods of understanding Scripture
  3. Scripture (not tradition) interprets Scripture
  4. Perspicuity of Scripture
  5. Unity of Scripture
  6. Diversity of Scripture (progressive revelation)
  7. Finality and clarity of the New Testament
  8. Priority of the New Testament interpreting the Old Testament
  9. Typology in the Old Testament fulfilled by Jesus Christ in the New Testament
  10. Hermeneutical priorities:
    • The nearer context is more determinative than distant context
    • Explicit teaching is more significant than implied teaching
    • Literal passages are more determinative than symbolical passages
    • Later passages reflect a fuller revelation than earlier passages

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Reading Proverbs Properly

In The Doctrine of Sanctification, A.W. Pink defines sanctification as the "great promise of the covenant made to Christ for his people" and goes on to say that the promises of God to believers are designed and accomplished to make us holy.  To that end, he shows us how to rightly read the Book of Proverbs:
"The supreme excellency of sanctification is affirmed in Proverbs 8:11, 'For wisdom is better than rubies; and all things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.' Everyone who has read the book of Proverbs with any attention must have observed that Solomon meant by "wisdom" holiness, and by "folly" sin; by a wise man a saint, and by a fool a sinner.  "The wise shall inhere glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools" (Prov. 3:35): who can doubt whether by "the wise" he means saints, and by "fools" sinners!  "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom" (Prov. 9:10), by which he means to assert that true "wisdom" is true piety or real holiness.  Holiness, then, is "better than rubies", and all things that are to be desired are not to be compared with it."

Monday, December 2, 2013

Grieving the Holy Spirit

In Spurgeon on the Holy Spirit, Charles Spurgeon defines grief as a "sweet combination of anger and love.  It is anger, but all the bitterness is taken from it."  Paul exhorts believers not to grieve the Holy Spirit.  But what does it mean to grieve the Holy Spirit?  The Prince of Preachers responds:
"How can we grieve the Spirit?  I am now, mark you, speaking of those who love the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Spirit of God is in your hearts, and it is easy indeed to grieve Him.  Sin is as easy as it is wicked.  You may grieve Him by impure thoughts.  He cannot bear sin.  If you indulge in lewd expressions, or even if you allow your imagination to dwell on any impure act, if your heart is covetous, if you set your heart upon anything that is evil, the Spirit of God will be grieved.  I hear Him speaking, "I love this man.  I want to have his heart, and yet he is entertaining these filthy lusts.  His thoughts, instead of running after Me, after Christ, and after the Father are running after the temptations that are in the world through lust."  And then His Spirit is grieved.  He sorrows in His soul because He knows what sorrow these things must bring to our souls."
"And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption," (Eph. 4:30).

Friday, November 29, 2013

Book Review: A Traitor Within

On the Puritan Board Forum, Pastor Damon Rambo of First Baptist Church in Markham, Texas, offered free electronic versions to anyone who would read his new book A Traitor Within: How our Feeling Driven Minds are Undermining Our Purpose (And What We Can Do to Stop It) and review it on their blog.  I offered to do a review, and Pastor Rambo sent out his book on Monday, November 25, 2013.

The foiling began from the outset; in the first five words of A Traitor Within ("If you are a guy"), Pastor Ramon excludes half of his readers.  The first paragraph and first two sentences of the second paragraph are trite, and I found that they did not really encourage me to continue reading his book.

The thesis of A Traitor Within is clearly stated in the introduction:  "This book is about the feeling driven tendencies that have captured western society, me included, and in turn infiltrated the mainstream, traditional church."  However, this statement is vague and cannot be proven because of the subjective nature of feelings, which is why Pastor Rambo ends his introduction with the stress that this book is his answer; implying that it may or may not be my answer, and in my mind begs the question of why I should continue reading his book.

In the second paragraph of the introduction, Pastor Rambo implies that he is talking to true Christians and states that the traitor within leads us astray.  I agree; even as Christians we still struggle with a sin nature, and we do sin.  However, he goes on to identify the traitor as "our postmodern, politically correct, feeling driven minds."  From thefreedictionary.com:  Postmodern is characteristic of a school of thought that rejects the dogma and practices of any form of modernism; politically correct is demonstrating progressive ideals by avoiding vocabulary that is offensive; and feeling is having the ability to think or act emotionally.  Even though these three adjectives are very subjective, they are amoral in and of themselves.  It is our sin nature that corrupts them through our mental and physical actions.

In the introduction, Paster Rambo states that "feelings are good" and "God designed us to be feeling creatures."  Where is the biblical support for this?  The ESV (the cited source for his book) does not use the word 'feeling' or 'feelings'; the KJV and NASB use the word 'feeling' twice (and not in the way he stated), but never the word 'feelings'.  The author seems to equivocate the term 'feeling(s)' with our inherent sinful nature.  He says that we "seek after feelings that are pleasurable at the expense of doing the right thing" and claims that this is "why men cheat on their spouses and workers steal from their employers"  This terminology downplays the idea that Christians struggle with sin, not just the feeling of sin or "sinful tendency".  He goes on to say that he is being tempted to "seek pleasure", he is "pulled by various feelings", and he is being led "to do things that I should not do"; these phrases are just a soft sell for sin in his life.  Equivocating on the biblical word 'sin' is the politically correct thing to do...

The author cites 2 Timothy 3:4 as evidence that people will be lovers of pleasure in the last days.  In context, the men referred to in verses 2 through 5 are not true believers, but false believers.  Therefore, this verse cannot be applied to support the claim that believers have become pleasure-seekers rather than end-seekers.

I think that part of the problem may be the unclear definition of Christian in A Traitor Within.  Pastor Rambo definitely divides the sheep and the goats when speaking of the believer and the heretic, but it seems that he is not clear as to whether the "Christian" he is talking about is truly regenerated or just a cultural Christian.  I agree that there are many purpose-driven churches that rely on emotion to manipulate and deceive their members and the members of those churches are led by their feelings.  However, Pastor Rambo self-identifies with the feeling-driven group in his book; therefore, the purpose-driven group must be excluded in his assessment.

Mr. Rambo pastors a Southern Baptist Church with a high view of the sovereignty of God.  He states that his book is not directed toward emergent or mystical churches, but then he talks about churches that have "embraced feelings and placed them alongside the Bible as a director of action and determiner of truth".  What reformed church, or even traditional church for that matter, is exalting feelings in this way?  Maybe individually, feelings have become a biblical hermeneutic, but it's not an accepted hermeneutical principle, and I would say that this subjective practice is promoted by the prevalence of relativism in our culture, and not because feelings are being exalted.

After a thorough look at the introduction, I quickly read through the entire book just in case my issues were clarified, but that did not happen.  Pastor Rambo's personal anecdotes and hasty generalizations are not founded upon fact, but conjecture; there's no citing of surveys, polls, research, etc.  In addition, saying that the Bible rejects a postmodern outlook is anachronistic.  The lack of clarity of who he is talking to (it appears to be the evangelical church as a whole--regenerated and unregenerated), prohibits the reader from agreeing with the problem and applying the biblical solutions he provides.

Pastor Rambo rightly identifies that the chief end of man is to glorify God.  I think it's commendable that he referenced the Shorter Westminster Catechism, but the evangelical church will not recognize that work, nor give it any credence due to their unfamiliarity.  The logical flow of how a postmodern, politically correct mindset thwarts the purpose of a believer to glorify God is missing from this book.   The current cultural acceptance of abortion and homosexuality does not prove that true Christians have feeling driven minds.  Some believers do not have a clear understanding of the Bible; therefore, they need pastors and elders who can rightly divide the word of God every Lord's Day.  He also mentions the importance of the gospel, but fails to explicitly express the gospel, which assumes that he is writing to regenerated Christians (again, it is difficult to determine the audience of the book).  

The solution to the thesis is to "be purposeful every second of every day in our rejection of postmodern thought and politically correct language" by properly reading & studying the Bible.  A true Christian is a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17), who is transformed by the renewing of his mind (Rom. 12:2).  Applying proper hermeneutical principles is part of the discipleship process, which I agree is lacking in many churches, not because they are postmodern, but because they are unregenerate and/or deceived.  This problem has been around since the serpent deceived Eve in the garden.  Paul tells us that they have itching ears, but they cannot endure sound doctrine (2 Tim. 4:3).

To combat the problem of feeling driven minds by proper Bible study, Pastor Rambo states that "we also need to understand the languages (Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic) in which the Bible was originally written."  Requiring the understanding of Greek, Hebrew, & Aramaic in order to truly understand the Bible puts an unbiblical stumbling block in front of the believer much like the Roman Catholic Church prior to the Reformation.  He also exhorts pastors to "do a sermon series on the dangers of postmodernism, political correctness, and the feeling driven culture."  A sermon series focused on the dangers of the world's philosophy is not what the church needs; Pastors should focus on the Lord Jesus Christ as found in the Bible because "the promise of Christ, and salvation by Him, is revealed only by the Word of God" (London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chap. 20, paragraph 2).

In the introduction the author describes the inherent sin nature as a set of feelings, but fails to follow-up with a clear gospel presentation as a solution to that sin nature.  He proposes that both saved and unsaved people can have a postmodern, politically correct worldview.  If the person is saved, he needs to be sanctified by God's word, and if he is not saved, then he needs to hear the preaching of God's word.  Either way, the legalism that is presented in A Traitor Within lacks God's grace and will not produce the result that Pastor Rambo is hoping for.

In summary, preaching the cross to them that perish is foolishness; but to us who are saved it is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:18).  No amount of self-imposed purposeful thinking to counteract worldly thoughts will change anyone.  I think A.W. Pink sums it up in his book, The Doctrine of Sanctification:  "...if your heart is still unsanctified, you are still unsaved; and if you pant not after personal holiness then you are without any real desire for God's salvation."  

I don't agree with the premise or conclusion of A Traitor Within; therefore, I cannot recommend this book.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Baptist Distinctives (The Conclusion)

After reading Pascal Denault's The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology:  A Comparison Between 17th Century Particular Baptist and Paedobaptist Federalism, I decided to collect my thoughts and make some chapter-by-chapter observations.  You can find my post on the Introduction here, Chapter 1 here, Chapter 2 here, Chapter 3 here, and Chapter 4 here.  For a general overview of the covenants found in the Bible, see my post on Redemptive History here.  Now let's look at the last chapter titled 'Conclusion'.

The fundamental distinction between Baptist and Presbyterian federalism is determined by covenant theology.  Mr. Denault argues that Presbyterian beliefs were artificially constructed to justify their tradition of paeodobaptism.  In exposing Presbyterian faults, Baptists embraced reformed theology and harmonized credobaptism with the doctrines of the grace of God.

If this "debate" was in full-swing in the 17th century, why are Baptist rediscovering their reformed heritage today?  Mr. Denault answers:  "The Baptist theology was relatively well preserved until the twentieth century where many Baptist churches slid into Arminianism and Dispensationalism."  Like Mr. Denault, I hope to clarify my own understanding of covenant theology, and my prayer is that this blog series has helped you do the same.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Kingdom of God Explained

I'm participating in a free audit of the Baptist Covenant Theology course at the Founders Study Center.  In Session 9, Dr. Fred Malone lectures on The Spiritual Nature of the Kingdom of God.  Here are my notes from that session (Dr. Malone's explanation supports my understanding of the definition of New Covenant members found in my post here).

Jesus taught that the kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom. The kingdom of God is made up of those who are born from above by the Holy Spirit.  One enters the kingdom of God when the heart has been opened to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and comes to Him in submission as King.  Christians are citizens of the kingdom of God.

Jesus said that (1) His kingdom is not of this world, (2) the kingdom of God has come, (3) the kingdom of God is within you, and (4) the kingdom of God is made up of those who have entered into it by the new birth.  It is equivalent to the church invisible; the church made up of the regenerate of all ages.

The kingdom of God forms the local church, but the visible church is not the kingdom of God.  The church is only an outpost and a visible manifestation of the kingdom of God.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Baptist Distinctives (Chapter 4)

After reading Pascal Denault's The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology:  A Comparison Between 17th Century Particular Baptist and Paedobaptist Federalism, I decided to collect my thoughts and make some chapter-by-chapter observations.  You can find my post on the Introduction here, Chapter 1 here, Chapter 2 here, and Chapter 3 here.  For a general overview of the covenants found in the Bible, see my post on Redemptive History here.  Now let's look at Chapter 4 called 'The New Covenant'.

Jeremiah 31:31-32 depicts two distinct covenants and describes the unconditional nature of the New Covenant (emphasis mine):

"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was a husband unto them, said the Lord:"

It's important to note that the New Covenant is unconditional for all of its members, but it was conditional for its Mediator, Christ Jesus, who kept all of the law and is the perfect sacrifice for God's elect.

An obvious characteristic of the New Covenant is that it is new.  The Baptists agree that it is new because of its unconditional nature and the fact that its members participate in the substance (the salvation in Jesus Christ) of the Covenant of Grace.  However, as we saw in Chapter 1 on 'The Covenant of Works', Presbyterians believe that the New Covenant is a new administration of the Covenant of Grace and not a substantially different covenant.  They believe that the New Covenant, like the Old Covenant, includes regenerate and unregenerate members; therefore, members should baptize all of their infants under the New Covenant just like members should circumcise their male infants under the Old Covenant.

Pascal Denault writes:  "The Scriptures declare that the substance of the New Covenant can be summarized in three blessings:  the Law written on the heart (regeneration), the personal and saving knowledge of God, and the forgiveness of sins which constitute the basis of the other two blessings and of the whole New Covenant."

***

As I read this chapter, I struggled with Mr. Denault's statement on pages 152-153:  "The Scriptures do not provide any possibilities of being visibly in the New Covenant without participating effectively in its substance."  The parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13:24-30 immediately came to mind along with John's statement that 'they left us because they were not of us' in 1 John 2:19.  I had difficulty reconciling his statement to God's word.  The dichotomy of the visible church on earth and the invisible Church made up of true Christians loomed large in my thoughts, so I decided to dig further.  In Webster's 1828 dictionary, substance is defined as the essential part, the main or material part.  The key to understanding Mr. Denault's sentence rests in his short, but profound statement that the substance of the New Covenant is salvation in Jesus Christ.  Therefore, attendance and/or membership in a church does not guarantee or imply membership in the New Covenant.  A member of the New Covenant has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit to faith in Jesus Christ and repentance of sins.  Conversely, Presbyterians believe that their baptized infants are not saved by baptism, but the infants are members of the New Covenant; therefore, the covenant is mixed in nature.  I do not believe that the Bible supports this view.

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast," (Eph. 2:8-9)