Archive for April 2011

Calvin as Gadfly: Before that, He was incomprehensible

28 April 2011 by FX Turk

John tells us that Jesus is the Word is God, and He’s an eternal being, and then tells us that He’s a Divine being from a brief account of his works. And this is a very practical approach, very practical knowledge, which we should become very familiar with because simply telling us that the name of Christ is actually “God” doesn’t really affect us. Our faith needs to feel it – to feel that Christ is God – by experience. Referring to the Son of God, John makes a statement which strictly and very correctly applies to His person.

Sometimes Paul declares that “all thing are by God” (as in Rom 11:36), but when the Son is compared to the Father, he is distinguished by His place as creator. Therefore, the normal way of saying it is employed here by John, that the Father made all things by the Son, and that all things are created by God through the Son.

John’s intention here, as I have said elsewhere, is to show that as soon as the world is created, the Word of God came forward and was working in the world. Before that, He was incomprehensible in His essence, and then He became known to everything by the effect of His power. Even some philosophers make God to be the Master Builder of the cosmos, and therefore it calls out His intelligence in doing all this work. They are right as far as they go, because this much agrees with Scripture – but they immediately fly off into esoteric but useless speculation, and it leaves us with nothing to gain from listening to them. We ought to be satisfied with the inspired accounts of the matter, with a serious grasp of the fact that it tells us more than we can understand already.
-- John Calvin, Commentary on John Vol 1, 1.3

Catechism Buzz: Subject To Fall

26 April 2011 by Daniel

Q. 15. What is the work of creation?
A. The work of creation is that wherein God did in the beginning, by the word of his power, make of nothing the world, and all things therein, for himself, within the space of six days, and all very good.

Q. 16. How did God create angels?
A. God created all the angels spirits, immortal, holy, excelling in knowledge, mighty in power, to execute his commandments, and to praise his name, yet subject to change.

Q. 17. How did God create man?
A. After God had made all other creatures, he created man male and female; formed the body of the man of the dust of the ground, and the woman of the rib of the man, endued them with living, reasonable, and immortal souls; made them after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it, and dominion over the creatures; yet subject to fall.

If you have Duplo™ at home, you probably have helped your kids build a tower with all the square pieces. You made a nice strong base to support the structure, and then started building up. Eventually the tower gets tall enough that it is quite fragile - the slightest nudge or tremor will send it careening over and tumbling to the ground under its own weight in a loud, blue, red, and yellow mess.

If all things were ideal, such towers could stand indefinitely, but because we live in a world wherein external forces exists that can act upon the tower, we would say that the tower, however perfect, is subject to fall.

God created us in the same way - subject to fall. We were created in God's image: free from blemish, and contented to love, trust, and obey God. But along comes an outside force (Satan) who acted upon us, and having been nudged by him in the direction of rebellion, we gave into the temptation to be like God, and fell into sin. We were made perfect, yet at the same time subject to a fall.

God knew we were going to fall before He ever created Adam. God could have held Adam back from sinning and prevented the fall entirely. In fact, God has, in the pages of scripture, personally intervened so as to stop a man from committing a sin. I am speaking of how God Himself held Abimelech back from sinning when Abimelech was inclined to consummate a marriage with Abraham's wife Sarah (cf Genesis 20). We know that if God intervened for Abimelech, He certainly had the ability to intervene for Adam - so why didn't He? Why didn't God stop the fall before it happened?

I think it is because God's glory demanded the fall. In order to reveal who He is to Adam and Adam's race, in order to reveal His justice, His lovingkindness, His faithfulness, His deity: man. had. to. fall. God made Adam perfect and therefore only Adam was culpable for Adam's sin. God was under no moral obligation to make Adam in such a way as to be impervious to sin, nor was God obligated to keep Adam from sinning.

... to be continued ...

Thinking like God

24 April 2011 by FX Turk

Jesus and his disciples went to the villages near the town of Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking along, he asked them, "What do people say about me?"

The disciples answered, "Some say you are John the Baptist or maybe Elijah. Others say you are one of the prophets."

Then Jesus asked them, "But who do you say I am?"

"You are the Messiah!" Peter replied.

Jesus warned the disciples not to tell anyone about him, and began telling his disciples what would happen to him. He said, "The nation's leaders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law of Moses will make the Son of Man suffer terribly. He will be rejected and killed, but three days later he will rise to life." Then Jesus explained clearly what he meant.

Peter took Jesus aside and told him to stop talking like that. But when Jesus turned and saw the disciples, he corrected Peter. He said to him, "Satan, get away from me! You are thinking like everyone else and not like God."

So when the time came, the chief priests and leaders took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), "I thirst." A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, "It is finished," and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

At the crack of dawn on Sunday, the women came to the tomb carrying the burial spices they had prepared. They found the entrance stone rolled back from the tomb, so they walked in. But once inside, they couldn't find the body of the Master Jesus.

They were puzzled, wondering what to make of this. Then, out of nowhere it seemed, two men, light cascading over them, stood there. The women were awestruck and bowed down in worship. The men said, "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again." Then they remembered Jesus' words.

They left the tomb and broke the news of all this to the Eleven and the rest. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them kept telling these things to the apostles, but the apostles didn't believe a word of it, thought they were making it all up.

But Peter jumped to his feet and ran to the tomb. He stooped to look in and saw a few grave clothes, that's all. He walked away puzzled, shaking his head.

That same day two of the discples were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But they were not able to recognize who he was.

He asked, "What's this you're discussing so intently as you walk along?"

They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend. Then one of them, his name was Cleopas, said, "Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn't heard what's happened during the last few days?"

He said, "What has happened?"

They said, "The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene. He was a man of God, a prophet, dynamic in work and word, blessed by both God and all the people. Then our high priests and leaders betrayed him, got him sentenced to death, and crucified him. And we had our hopes up that he was the One, the One about to deliver Israel. And it is now the third day since it happened. But now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at the tomb and couldn't find his body. They came back with the story that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of our friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women said, but they didn't see Jesus."

Then he said to them, "So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can't you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don't you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?" Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him.

They came to the edge of the village where they were headed. He acted as if he were going on but they pressed him: "Stay and have supper with us. It's nearly evening; the day is done." So he went in with them. And here is what happened: He sat down at the table with them. Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared.

Back and forth they talked. "Didn't we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?"

So they didn't waste a minute. They were up and on their way back to Jerusalem. They found the Eleven and their friends gathered together, talking away: "It's really happened! The Master has been raised up—Simon saw him!"

Then the two went over everything that happened on the road and how they recognized him when he broke the bread.

A Dangerous Man

22 April 2011 by FX Turk

The people and their leaders all took Jesus to Pilate and began to bring up charges against him. They said, "We found this man undermining our law and order, forbidding taxes to be paid to Caesar, setting himself up as Messiah-King."

Pilate asked him, "Is this true that you're 'King of the Jews'?"

"Those are your words, not mine," Jesus replied.

Pilate told the high priests and the accompanying crowd, "I find nothing wrong here. He seems harmless enough to me."

But they were vehement. "He's stirring up unrest among the people with his teaching, disturbing the peace everywhere, starting in Galilee and now all through Judea. He's a dangerous man, endangering the peace."

When Pilate heard that, he asked, "So, he's a Galilean?" Realizing that he properly came under Herod's jurisdiction, he passed the buck to Herod, who just happened to be in Jerusalem for a few days.

Herod was delighted when Jesus showed up. He had wanted for a long time to see him, he'd heard so much about him. He hoped to see him do something spectacular. He peppered him with questions. Jesus didn't answer--not one word. But the high priests and religion scholars were right there, saying their piece, strident and shrill in their accusations.

Mightily offended, Herod turned on Jesus. His soldiers joined in, taunting and jeering. Then they dressed him up in an elaborate king costume and sent him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became thick as thieves. Always before they had kept their distance.

Then Pilate called in the high priests, rulers, and the others and said, "You brought this man to me as a disturber of the peace. I examined him in front of all of you and found there was nothing to your charge. And neither did Herod, for he has sent him back here with a clean bill of health. It's clear that he's done nothing wrong, let alone anything deserving death. I'm going to warn him to watch his step and let him go."

At that, the crowd went wild: "Kill him! Give us Barabbas!" (Barabbas had been thrown in prison for starting a riot in the city and for murder.) Pilate still wanted to let Jesus go, and so spoke out again.

But they kept shouting back, "Crucify! Crucify him!"

He tried a third time. "But for what crime? I've found nothing in him deserving death. I'm going to warn him to watch his step and let him go."

But they kept at it, a shouting mob, demanding that he be crucified. And finally they shouted him down. Pilate caved in and gave them what they wanted. He released the man thrown in prison for rioting and murder, and gave them Jesus to do whatever they wanted.

As they led him off, they made Simon, a man from Cyrene who happened to be coming in from the countryside, carry the cross behind Jesus. A huge crowd of people followed, along with women weeping and carrying on. At one point Jesus turned to the women and said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, don't cry for me. Cry for yourselves and for your children. The time is coming when they'll say, "Lucky the women who never conceived! Lucky the wombs that never gave birth! Lucky the breasts that never gave milk!' Then they'll start calling to the mountains, "Fall down on us!' calling to the hills, "Cover us up!' If people do these things to a live, green tree, can you imagine what they'll do with deadwood?"

Two others, both criminals, were taken along with him for execution.

When they got to the place called Skull Hill, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right, the other on his left.

Jesus prayed,

"Father, forgive them; they don't know what they're doing."

Dividing up his clothes, they threw dice for them. The people stood there staring at Jesus, and the ringleaders made faces, taunting, "He saved others. Let's see him save himself! The Messiah of God--ha! The Chosen--ha!"

The soldiers also came up and poked fun at him, making a game of it. They toasted him with sour wine: "So you're King of the Jews! Save yourself!"

Printed over him was a sign: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

One of the criminals hanging alongside cursed him: "Some Messiah you are! Save yourself! Save us!"

But the other one made him shut up: "Have you no fear of God? You're getting the same as him. We deserve this, but not him--he did nothing to deserve this."

Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom."

He said, "Don't worry, I will. Today you will join me in paradise."

By now it was noon. The whole earth became dark, the darkness lasting three hours-- a total blackout. The Temple curtain split right down the middle. Jesus called loudly,

"Father, I place my life in your hands!"

Then he breathed his last. When the centurion there saw what happened, he honored God: "This man was innocent! A good man, and innocent!"

All who had come around as spectators to watch the show, when they saw what actually happened, were overcome with grief and headed home. Those who knew Jesus well, along with the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a respectful distance and kept vigil.

There was a man by the name of Joseph, a member of the Jewish High Council, a man of good heart and good character. He had not gone along with the plans and actions of the council. His hometown was the Jewish village of Arimathea. He lived in alert expectation of the kingdom of God. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Taking him down, he wrapped him in a linen shroud and placed him in a tomb chiseled into the rock, a tomb never yet used. It was the day before Sabbath, the Sabbath just about to begin.

The women who had been companions of Jesus from Galilee followed along. They saw the tomb where Jesus' body was placed. Then they went back to prepare burial spices and perfumes.

They rested quietly on the Sabbath, as commanded.


Not Greater

21 April 2011 by FX Turk

Just before the Passover feast, Jesus knew that his time had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now loved them to the very end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, that he should betray Jesus. Because Jesus knew that the Father had handed all things over to him, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, he got up from the meal, removed his outer clothes, took a towel and tied it around himself. He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel he had wrapped around himself.

Then he came to Simon Peter. Peter said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"

Jesus replied, "You do not understand what I am doing now, but you will understand after these things."

Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet!"

Jesus replied, "If I do not wash you, you have no share with me."

Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!"

Jesus replied, "The one who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not every one of you." (For Jesus knew the one who was going to betray him. For this reason he said, "Not every one of you is clean.")

So when Jesus had washed their feet and put his outer clothing back on, he took his place at the table again and said to them, "Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and do so correctly, for that is what I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you too ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example – you should do just as I have done for you. I tell you the solemn truth, the slave is not greater than his master, nor is the one who is sent as a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand these things, you will be blessed if you do them."


Proof Positive

20 April 2011 by Daniel

How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. - Romans 6:2b-7 [NASB]

The phrase, "our union with Christ" comes from the language and meaning put forth here by the Apostle Paul. Here Paul describes the new birth as a spiritual baptism - each believer has been baptized (literally: immersed) into Christ, but not like the dunking under water where we go down and come up - this baptism is a never ending union - an immersion that cannot be undone even by death (whether ours or Christ's). Through that spiritual baptism that scripture elsewhere describes as being born "from above" (cf. John 3:7, often translated as born "again"), we remain "in" Christ - united together with Him.

It is this union that put our "old self" on the cross with Christ, a union so profound that scripture describes God as making Jesus, who knew no sin to -be- sin on our behalf (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21a). Most of us allow for the notion that Jesus took our disembodied sins upon Himself on Calvary - but few of us are willing to go as deep as the scriptures and say that our union with Christ made Christ, however personally innocent, nevertheless entirely culpable for our sin. Culpable because by that union, our old self was united with Christ. Like spiritual Siamese twins, our guilty, sinful self was bound to Christ so that though he was innocent, the only way to punish us, was to punish Him also - lest we go unpunished on His account.

Christ was crucified for us, that is, He was crucified on our account. He wasn't crucified for everyone mind you, but only for those who were united together with Him in His death. It was the sin of those who were united with Christ that made Him culpable, not for everyone's sins, but only for the sins of those who were united with Him - even as all the while He remained personally innocent. Christ, because of His union with the elect, drank the cup of wrath that had been set aside for them, and this He did in order to bring about their salvation.

Yet our union with Christ served another, deeper purpose: to provide a way for God's elect to pass through the judgment of death, and be justly raised into life with Christ. "Justly" being the key word there. Christ was our "ark" - we passed through the flood of God's wrath through our union with Christ; through that spiritual baptism that placed us in Christ. Do you understand, dear reader, that it was this same spiritual union that made our resurrection possible? We were in Christ when God raised Him from the dead - this fact declares to us the inescapable reality of our salvation. It isn't that we will be raised - the fact is we have already been raised in Christ. It's a done deal.

Here is where the empty tomb is the victory song of the Christian - that Christ has carried His children through death, and into life through a spiritual union with Him - through the "new birth". We possess a life that cannot be denied us because we were in Christ when God raised Him up from the dead. It is this very raising up of Christ, and us with Him, that demonstrates the inescapable truth that God acknowledges us as righteous. Not that we were righteous in this life, but that God condemned our old self - and now our life (the one that is righteous) is actually Christ's life - the one that we were joined to through baptism into Chirst; the one that was raised from the dead!

Rejoice therefore, all you who are in Christ, for the resurrection of Christ is the proof positive that you are accepted by God - for if you were not accepted, if your sin stain still clung to you - God could not have raised Christ from the dead. The very fact that Christ lives, declares your release!


Cathechism Buzz: What He Does with Awesomeness

19 April 2011 by Matt Gumm

Q. 15. What is the work of creation?
A. The work of creation is that wherein God did in the beginning, by the word of his power, make of nothing the world, and all things therein, for himself, within the space of six days, and all very good.

Q. 16. How did God create angels?
A. God created all the angels spirits, immortal, holy, excelling in knowledge, mighty in power, to execute his commandments, and to praise his name, yet subject to change.

Q. 17. How did God create man?
A. After God had made all other creatures, he created man male and female; formed the body of the man of the dust of the ground, and the woman of the rib of the man, endued them with living, reasonable, and immortal souls; made them after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it, and dominion over the creatures; yet subject to fall.

To answer the question "What is God," the authors of the Catechism pile adjective atop adjective to describe this magnificent, incomprehensible being. And one question which would naturally follow from the very existence of such a being is (with apologies to Kung Fu Panda) "What does He do with that sort of awesomeness?" The answer is that He creates. And the focus of the catechism turns from general creation to angels and men, because of God's unique relationship with them amongst all of His creation, particularly as it relates to His providence.

The popularity of angels fluctuates a bit, but on the whole, they are up there. Lots of people have opinions on them; there are many references to them in popular culture, including one of America's most beloved movies. There are whole theologies which focus on them. In the Scriptures, though, they are presented in a simple, straightforward manner, which is summarized by this Catechism answer.

Angels have an appearance which makes mortals tremble with fear and awe. When angels appear to men, men are terrified (Luke 2:9). and also want to worship them (cf. Rev. 22:9).
These beings are God's heralds—messengers announcing news from the heavens—chief of which are the birth and resurrection in the Gospels of Jesus the Messiah (Matt 1:20-24; Luke 1:26-38; Luke 2:9-13; Matt 28:5).

Knowing about angels helps us to understand the surpassing greatness of this God we serve, where even the creatures in His service are mighty and powerful, and our own place, created a little lower than the angels, and crowned with glory and honor.

Catechism Buzz: An Alternate Beginning

12 April 2011 by David Regier

Q. 15. What is the work of creation?
A. The work of creation is that wherein God did in the beginning, by the word of his power, make of nothing the world, and all things therein, for himself, within the space of six days, and all very good.

Q. 16. How did God create angels?
A. God created all the angels spirits, immortal, holy, excelling in knowledge, mighty in power, to execute his commandments, and to praise his name, yet subject to change.

Q. 17. How did God create man?
A. After God had made all other creatures, he created man male and female; formed the body of the man of the dust of the ground, and the woman of the rib of the man, endued them with living, reasonable, and immortal souls; made them after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it, and dominion over the creatures; yet subject to fall.

1 Fifteen billion years ago, give or take, WHWH* watched the heavens begin to form. Earth would come later.
2 (This verse left intentionally blank to allow for date changes due to mathematical, scientific, or philosophical error)
3 The spirit of Weh-weh hovered in the midst of the aftermath of the Big Bang and said, “Since Time’s already underway, let there be Chance!” Chance was already there too.
4 And Weh-weh attempted to separate the Time from the Chance, but they could not be separated. And Weh-weh cried, “Nooooooooooo!”
5 And there was Time, and there was Chance, one Aeon.

6 Some billions of years later, Weh-weh noticed that the earth had formed somewhere in the lower left of the heavens.
7 Since there was carbon in its primordial soup, Weh-weh sought to persuade Time and Chance to get to work making some proteins so there could be life.
8 Time and Chance said, “This could take a few billion years.” And Weh-weh cried, “Nooooooooooo!”
9 And there was Time, and there was Chance, the second Aeon.

10 After a few more billion years, Weh-weh awoke to find that the earth was now teeming with life. Dinosaurs roamed the earth, preying on one another.
11 And Weh-weh saw that it was harsh.
12 So Weh-weh begged Time and Chance to make something fuzzy.
13 Therefore Time and Chance slammed a meteoroid into the earth, causing a drastic cooling, wiping out most of the life, except for the fuzzy ones. And Weh-weh cried, “Nooooooooooo!”
14 And there was Time, and there was Chance, the third Aeon.

15 And Weh-weh saw that Time and Chance were speeding things up a bit, and he began to be pleased.
16 And he said to them, “I would like to make something of my own now. In my own image I would like to make it.”
17 And Time and Chance chuckled and said, “As if! We’ll take care of the heavy lifting, thank you very much.” And Weh-weh cried, “Nooooooooooo!”
18 And there was Time, and there was Chance, the fourth Aeon.

19 After another million years had passed, Time and Chance brought forth a man before Weh-weh. "Kinda hairy," said Weh-weh, "and kinda dumb."
20 Time and Chance said to him, "You know how we work." And Weh-weh said, "It will have to do. Keep going."
21 And there was Time and there was Chance, the fifth Aeon.

22 After another hundred thousand years, Time and Chance brought the man before Weh-weh and said, "We have now made him into your image, for we have given him Reason."
23 And Weh-weh said to the man, “Behold your god!”
24 And the man spoke to Weh-weh and said, "Who are you? I worship Time and Chance, for it is they who made me." And Weh-weh cried, “Nooooooooooo!”
25 And there was Time and there was Chance, the sixth Aeon.

26 By the seventh Aeon, all was underway. On the seventh Aeon, Weh-weh slept, and he slumbers still.

* In all probability pronounced Weh-weh, with a nasal whine like a fussy baby’s cry. Some scholars prefer Wha-wha, in descending tones, similar to the sad trombone sound.

Catechism Buzz: I have Bigger Problems

11 April 2011 by Brad Williams

Q. 15. What is the work of creation?
A. The work of creation is that wherein God did in the beginning, by the word of his power, make of nothing the world, and all things therein, for himself, within the space of six days, and all very good.

Q. 16. How did God create angels?
A. God created all the angels spirits, immortal, holy, excelling in knowledge, mighty in power, to execute his commandments, and to praise his name, yet subject to change.

Q. 17. How did God create man?
A. After God had made all other creatures, he created man male and female; formed the body of the man of the dust of the ground, and the woman of the rib of the man, endued them with living, reasonable, and immortal souls; made them after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it, and dominion over the creatures; yet subject to fall.

I believe in miracles. I believe in miracles because I have experienced at least one bona fide, life-altering, crowd-bewildering sign from God. That particular miracle, the miracle of my re-birth, makes it simple for me to be a joyous and child-like believer in a young earth. Though I confess that sometimes the journey to simple faith is paved with hard-work and much consideration.

In seminary, I was privileged to take Biblical Hebrew for three years, and beyond the grammar classes, I also had the opportunity to take book studies that were based in the original language. I concentrated my study in the book of Genesis. I still have the first verse of Genesis memorized in Hebrew. I did this because I wanted to understand God's Word. I did this because God, in his mercy, allowed me to study.

Beyond my Hebrew labors, I studied the Gap Theory, the modified Gap Theory, I read an out-of-print copy of Dr. Sailhamer's Genesis Unbound. I talked to godly Young Earthers, ungodly Young Earthers, godly Old Earthers, ungodly Old Earthers, and people who were not certain that they were on planet earth. I talked to those who cared deeply about the issue, and I talked to those who could care less. I tried to see Genesis One as poetry, allegory, and literal. I studied. I labored. I worried. What would I say to a congregation about these things? How could I have a serious discussion with an unbeliever if he outs me as a dude who thinks the universe is maybe 20,000 years old? The horror! The shame!

I write all of this, not to impress you with my great learning or seminary degrees or even that I came to my position legitimately by way of angsty worry. I write all of this to say that none of this really helped me at all. Rather, it plunged me further into worry and doubt. If my Hebrew studies did anything, they demonstrated that Genesis One was patently not written as poetry or allegory. Moses meant what he said there. Moses believed the earth and everything else was made in six days. My certainty meter hovered at 95% certainty on this fact, and the 5% uncertainty was coming from me wishing that Moses had written something other than what was on the page.

Then, one day,I had finally had enough. I believe I was in a conversation with a guy whom I really wanted to come to Christ Jesus. I was sharing my faith in Christ, and the guy sort of blurts out, "Dude?! You aren't one of those guys that thinks the world is like 10,000 years old, are you?" I was irked, not because he had outed me as an unthinking, fundy, Luddite, but because I was talking about Jesus here! I had just telling him that Jesus rose from the grave after being stone cold dead for three days and he goes and jumps to something inane like the age of the earth...

Peace like a river flooded my soul. I am so thankful for that rascal. I smiled and said, "Friend, I have bigger problems than a young earth. I believe that a fellow was born of a virgin in Palestine 2,000 years ago. I also believe that this man was fully the Infinite Almighty God, and yet still fully a human like you and me. I believe that he ate bread, cried, had friends, healed the sick, healed the lame, and made the blind see. I believe that this man died for my sins, on purpose, and that he came back from the dead three days later. I believe that this man ascended into heaven, sat down at the right hand of God (God is One, but in three persons, by the way), and that even now he is taking keen interest in me and you as we have this conversation. I believe and know all of this, because God revealed it to me by his Holy Spirit."

Now think about that, dear brother or sister. Think about what I believe about Jesus. Dead men tell no tales. Dead men do not rise from the grave. Men are not born from virgins. A Triune God sounds like nonsense. I am holding out on the hope that a Jewish guy named Jesus will one day split the sky with a shout, shake the earth with his glory, and speak my name that I might burst out of my grave. I hang all of my hopes on the absurd. I have dedicated my life to foolishness. Six day creation? No problem for me, friend. No problem here at all. If Jesus is not risen from the dead, I am a man to be pitied.

And so are you.

Calvin as Gadfly: Our God-ward Anxiety

08 April 2011 by FX Turk

This is why Scripture uniformly tells us with alarm and amazement that holy men were mortified and overwhelmed whenever the presence of God was revealed to them. When we see those who previously stood firm and secure literally quivering and scared even to the point that they were afraid they might die, or even that they might be swallowed up in judgment or complete destruction, we should understand something seriously: men will never know or understand their own insignificance until they have compared themselves with the royal, divine supremacy of God and discovered how much they themselves lack.

There are many examples of this God-ward anxiety both in the Book of Judges and throughout the Prophets. Indeed, it was a common expression among the people of God to cry out, "We shall die, for we have seen the Lord!" The primary argument from the book of Job for getting men to be rightly humble and convince them or convict them of their weakness, foolish ways, and their complete moral mess is always a description of God’s own Godly wisdom, and virtue, and purity. Abraham himself acknowledges that he is nothing but dust and ashes as he gets closer to the glory of God, and Elijah had to cover his face as God passed by – because the sight of God to man is a terrifying thing.

What else can man do, who is far beneath God, and rotten from sin, if even the angels must cover themselves with their wings at the sight of God who is “Holy, Holy, Holy!” This is exactly what Isaiah is talking about (Isaiah 24:23) when he says, “The moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of Hosts shall reign!” When God exhibits himself completely, and gives us a closer view of himself, every other allegedly-bright object will be, by comparison, covered with darkness.

In this way, the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves are bound together by a singular lash: we must first know the greater and treat it with its right place among all things, and then descend to the question of ourselves.

-- John Calvin, Institutes I, 1.3

Catechism Buzz: Quite a Character

07 April 2011 by David Regier

Q. 14. How doth God execute his decrees?

A. God executes his decrees in the works of creation and providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will.

I step out of my extended quiet time, that sweet hour of prayer, when the dew has just barely evaporated from the roses – O! joyous bliss! — back into the house where my beloved is up to her eyebrows in a steaming stew of screaming progeny. She asks where on earth I’ve been, and when I answer, “In the garden . . . alone . . .” her eyes suggest that I have somehow been remiss in tarrying there.

A gentle answer turneth away wrath, so I gently suggest that if perhaps she got up earlier to have her own quiet time, she might better display the peace that passeth understanding like I am right now, and is breakfast ready? At which point the bluebird on my shoulder springs aloft for safer environs.

It goes without saying that the aforementioned quiet time was filled with prayers that I would be attentive to my wife, a strong and loving father, a forgiving and blameless head of my household. These supplications were carried to the heavens on the waxy wings of sincere intentions. And yet, moments later, having flown too close to the sun, the wings melted, and they crashed on the thorny rosebush of regret. My intentions were not matched by my ability to carry them out in forethought and love.

It is the nature of the universe that word and action arises from character. We, having been once created in the image of God, demonstrate this image, even in our fallen state. We speak to our loved ones, do our work, and make our plans according to who we are. Our Lord spoke of good trees and good fruit, bad trees and bad fruit, words flowing from the abundance of the heart. He then, on the cross, secured our re-creation and the making of all things new.

This reconciliation has come to us by the decree of One whose character is unfathomably Good. Better than ours, not by degree, but in its very nature. His intentions cannot be thwarted, because they arise from exactly Who He is. To hold to this doctrine of God’s decrees, we must believe that He is incomparably, unchangeably, inexhaustibly good.

Potent Prooftexts: it stands fast

06 April 2011 by David

Q. 14. How doth God execute his decrees?

A. God executes his decrees in the works of creation and providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will.

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
And by the breath of His mouth all their host.
He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap;
He lays up the deeps in storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the LORD.
Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
For He spoke, and it was done;
He commanded, and it stood fast. —Psalm 33:6–9

I have built houses — whole houses, from a bare hole in the ground to a turn-key home. I’ve formed and poured the footings down in the ground, and set forms on top of them and poured the basement walls. I’ve bolted plates down on top of those walls and nailed the floor joists to them. I’ve screwed the sub-floor to the joists, and framed walls on top of them. I’ve set the rafters, sheeted the roof and walls, installed the windows and doors, and shingled, sided, and soffited the shell of the house. Then, following the electrician and plummer, I’ve gone inside, insulated the exterior walls and hung the drywall. I’ve installed the kitchen and bathroom cabinets and countertops, hung the interior doors, and trimmed the whole works.

Impressive? Not really. On every job, I was taking orders, along with at least two others. Every wall I raised had another man at the other end, and maybe a couple in the middle. Lumber was measured and cut, and nails, screws, and glue held it all together. Thousands of dollars worth of tools and who-knows-how-many kilowatts of electricity got the job done. All that, plus hundreds of man-hours, put another family in a house.

Sometimes, when my back and feet were tired and hurting, I wished I could be God for a day. I wished I could show up on the job site one morning and say to my boss, “Watch this,” and to the dirt, “Let there be a house.” I reckon I could have gotten a pretty good raise out of that.

That’s how God executes his decrees. From creation to the carrying out of his will for the creation, he executes his decrees by the sheer power of his will. He speaks, and it is done; he commands, and it stands fast.

Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created. —Psalm 148:5

Cathechism Buzz: Haiku

04 April 2011 by Daniel

Q. 14. How doth God execute his decrees?

A. God executes his decrees in the works of creation and providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will.

Through providence snow,
falling soft by His command,
reveals His decree.

Catechism Buzz: Not to hit us in the mouth

01 April 2011 by Brad Williams

Q. 13. What has God especially decreed concerning angels and men?

A. God, by an eternal and immutable decree, out of his mere love, for the praise of his glorious grace, to be manifested in due time, has elected some angels to glory; and in Christ has chosen some men to eternal life, and the means thereof: and also, according to his sovereign power, and the unsearchable counsel of his own will, (whereby he extends or withholds favor as he pleases,) has passed by and foreordained the rest to dishonor and wrath, to be for their sin inflicted, to the praise of the glory of his justice.

How do you take your decrees? What sort of lapsarian are you? Do you take your decrees with a side of Supra? Infra? Are you an Amyraldian? If you have no idea what any of that means, then there may yet be hope for you to get through this post without having an apoplexy. If you do understand what those things mean, then I beg you to understand that it is my hope to post devotionally on God's prerogatives as God, not just cerebrally. Give me some space here; I'm a Baptist.

As a man who is deeply affected in all parts by the rebellion of Adam, I temper my approach to the sovereign authority of God with great trepidation. I have serious authority issues due to my constant desire to usurp God and be my own god. So, even if God had decreed something inane like peanut butter and jelly for March 12th, I would want ham and eggs that day. How much more shall I shake my fist over His pleasure in election?

Instead of quarreling with God over His own business of running the world however He likes, I'd like to try something different. I do not believe that God inspired Paul to write about foreknowledge, predestination, sovereignty, and election so that you and I would get sick worrying about our children and the fate of Joe Pagan in the heart of Africa who has never heard the gospel. I know that the Holy Spirit isn't interested in hearing about how free our will is in response to reading Ephesians chapter one. So what did he tell us all this stuff for?

Look at Revelation 13:1-10. Seriously, look at it. It's full of lions, leopards, and bears, oh my! There's even a dragon. All these terrible, powerful, beastly predators are smashing, thrashing, and devouring the Saints of God. And how is the hero of chapter 13 described? He's a lamb?! Are you kidding me? We have a beastly lion, leopard, bear thing backed by a dragon and we get a lamb? And look at the decree! "If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes, if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword he must be slain" (Rev. 13:10). Are we getting that fuzzy, warm, devotional feeling yet? Is it possible that God would decree that I be slain by a sword-bearing blasphemer? How is that encouraging? (Acts 14:22).

Here's the point: God isn't aiming to hit us in our rebellious mouth with His decrees; He aims to comfort our hearts. I need God to be sovereign over my salvation in every way He can be. I know my heart. I do not want an offer of salvation; I want a salvation accomplished. If a seven-headed, ten-horned beast kicks in my door and threatens myself and my family with the sword, I want to know that I am in the embrace of a sovereign God who marked my going in and coming out from the foundation of the world. I want to wear the badge of "elect of God" in that time, and I want to know in that moment that my position in Christ isn't as fickle as my faith or as precarious as my circumstance. I want to feel the power of these words, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine" (Isaiah 43:1). This is fore-ordination. This is the joy of predestination and election. I have been summoned by name; I have been bought by Christ; I have been fashioned for honor, and everything that befalls me is ordained for my good, for my joy, and to redound to God's glory so much so that upon my redemption the angels of heaven shouted with joy.

Beloved, God has been moved by mere love to save you. He is ready and willing to save. I hold Him to that. I pray it over my precious babies. I trust my God to do what is good and right, and I work each day to subdue that rebel who would question or scoff at the decrees of my Sovereign Lord.