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Charismatic Puritan

Right doctrine leads to right thinking, and right thinking leads to right living.

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Location: Gaithersburg, MD, United States

Jealous for the truth, beauty and majesty of our glorious risen Savior.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

95 Theses

Brad Hightower is a pastor in Artesia, California. His blog is 21st Century Reformation. He is asking the questions: “What are the most vital areas that we the church are in need of change?” and “ How can these vital few areas be expressed in a series of theses in much the same way as Luther presented his call to reformation?” He is initiating the 95 Theses Project. I have been eagerly watching and will now share some ideas. I have not researched this and apllied links to articles as Brad has, though I will be in the near future. Despite that, from what I have read, heard on Christian radio and ministry programs and what I have learned from people in the church, I think I speak with some accuracy.

This clearly will not apply to every church body. I have been blessed by God to part of a congregation that holds the Word of God to be the only standard and does an excellent job of living that out by His grace. I also know we are not the norm.

4. Despite that much of the church confesses Scripture to be the Word of God, inspired and even inerrant, she does not regard Scripture to be the source of all morals, ethics, principles and ideals for the congregational as well as the secular life.

5. Because of this lack of normative biblical morality, the church either does not know it is to be profoundly distinct from the world, or does not know how to live a life that is profoundly distinct from the world.

6. Because of this lack of normative biblical morality, the church is filled with people who confess Christ as savior with their mouth yet confess Satan as master with the rest of their lives.

7. Because of this lack of normative biblical morality, our congregants, and in particular our children, are religious in sentiment but without doctrinal foundation and so, in most regards, are indistinct from those in open rebellion to God.

8. Because of this lack of normative biblical morality, the church has embraced heretical doctrines and the errors of natural materialism and secular humanism into its religious life rather than being salt and light to a dark and dying world. This is most easily seen in regard to Christian opinions regarding such things as psychology and psychotherapy, homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia and infanticide, and perhaps most dangerously, the use of human life and human genetic material as a commodity.

9. There has been a general failure of the clergy to hold itself or its congregants to biblical standards of morality and to impose appropriate church discipline for those who violate the Word of God as a matter of habit or course and not just part of the ongoing sanctification process.

10. This is of exceptional grievousness in the realm of marriage and divorce, where the church has not instilled biblical concepts of marriage, either to its youth before marriage or its adult members in marriage, nor has it applied biblical principles of divorce and remarriage. In this matter, the church is today no different from the world that is careening towards hell.

11. The clergy does not teach, nor is it held accountable, to the biblical standards of marriage and divorce such that divorce, while a confessing born-again believer, should be disqualification for pastoral ministry and church office except perhaps in the most heinous circumstances of unrepentant sexual immorality or abandonment on the part of a spouse. Yet even these should have occurred far distant from a man's seeking church office and even then must be weighed heavily against clear demonstration of sanctification since that divorce, with particular attention to the realm of marriage, personal relationships, and sexual morality.

12. The church has failed to hold Paul's teachings on qualifications for leadership as the absolute requirement for serving in a church office. Rather than divorce and sexual immorality or the rebelliousness of a leader's children being disqualifications for church office, they are now considered an unfortunate but expected part of family and church life, such that pastors and ministers who have been divorced, committed sins of sexual immorality, or who have had children that have abandoned the faith while under their parents’ authority are not removed from office but are allowed to continue in defiance of God's Word.

As always, your comments and criticisms, and especially your biblical accountability is appreciated and encouraged.

Soli Deo Gloria

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Sovereignty and Responsibility

First, I would like to say that I invite and appreciate comments on what I write here. I have no formal theological training, and so expect that I will make mistakes and say things that are in error. I ask you, whoever you are, as a brother or sister in Christ, to help hold me accountable to the truth of God’s Word.

Human responsibility and divine sovereignty must be correlates in the relationship with God. This is an extension of the relationship of Father and Son within the Trinity. Christ was completely responsible for His actions and His submission to death on the cross was a totally voluntary submission. Yet simultaneously, His heavenly Father had complete sovereign control over the situation, including Christ’s choice, so that the Father’s plan for redemption would be executed perfectly. Jesus’ choice was a completely voluntary choice end God’s control was a completely authoritative control. This is necessary, for if Jesus went to the cross by coercion or manipulation, or was somehow programmed to do so, such that His choice was not autonomous, then His death was murder; and if Jesus went to the cross without total assurance of His Fathers complete control over all things, and the knowledge that God would accomplish His plan of redemption, then Jesus’ death was a hopeful suicide. As it is, because these two seemingly opposed principles are actually, mysteriously, correlated, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was a propitiating sacrifice: propitiation being God’s sovereign response to Jesus’ willing self-sacrifice, and Jesus’ submission to death being His voluntary action in response to the knowledge of God’s sovereignty.

This correlation of autonomy and sovereignty exists for us who are in Christ as well as those in the world. The significant difference is that, because we are set free from sin in Christ, we have the choice to obey God or not. This freedom is given by the regeneration of our hearts and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Prior to that miraculous conversion we are completely enslaved to sin and our choices, though completely ours for which we are fully responsible, can only be sinful. In both situations, regenerate in reprobate, God is sovereignly, mysteriously, works all things such that our individual choices accord His master plan. Ultimately, our “free will” is a subordinate free will, which exists only within the context of God’s sovereignty. So then, we are equally responsible as God is sovereign, yet the mystery is that His sovereignty is “more equal.” No human action, despite the fact that the human agent is completely responsible, occurs outside of the context of God’s authority such that God would be wondering or anticipating the results. This must be! For every human action, from a single breath to the most historic achievement, all occurs within the context of complete dependence on God to sustain the existence of the universe.

How glorious is this? You and I are free to act as we choose, yet not one of our choices, though they be opposite God’s will and therefore sin, could ever thwart God’s sovereign design for all time.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Question of Evil, again…

Last Sunday, a registered sex offender confessed to killing 3-year-old Sarah Lunde, saying he got into an argument with her and choked her to death in her home. He then dumped her body in a fish pond. Oh, yeah, he also dated Sarah’s mom.

As I read the article on FOXNews.com, I was struggling with many emotions and I began to pray. I prayed for David Onstoot, the 36 year-old previously convicted rapist and now confessed killer, that God would bring him the gift of repentance and save his soul from hell, and that God would be publicly glorified by that conversion. I prayed for Sarah's family. I prayed for the members of Sarah's congregation at the First Apostolic Church in Ruskin, Florida. And I thanked God for that little girl's death. I thanked God for taking her to be with Him. Don't get me wrong, I don't go around praying that God will kill people, but when the Sovereign Lord of the universe decides to end the mere breath of a life of one of His children in this world to bring them to eternal glory with Him in heaven, be absolutely certain that I rejoice.

From the small amount of evidence I've gathered, Sarah was a Christian, the only one in her house, a house which she ran away from to her church on several occasions. At her church she found love, people that cared for her and something that made this young girl want to give up her time off from school to walk around town, knock on people's doors and hand out Bibles. What do you think that was? Of course I can't be certain, and I strongly suspect it was the saving love of Jesus Christ.

And so the question will come up again, as it always does, and unfortunately from so many people in the church: "Why do bad things happen to good people?" This is a theologically inaccurate question. It is built on the premise that there is such a thing as a good person. The right question would be, "Why do good things happen to anyone?"

A biblically accurate view of the world recognizes that all people - I mean all, even 13 year old girls, even 13 month old girls, even a little baby girl that just took its 13th breath - are sinners, vessels of God's wrath and worthy of destruction. Yes, even the newborn is lumped in with the whole sloppy mess of the rest of us sinners. It's called Federalism, it's the doctrine that says one man can be the perfect legal representative for all others, and it is absolutely necessary if you are to be saved from your sin. Because in the same way Adam is our federal representative in sin, making all humanity guilty in God's legal, judicial eyes, so also is Christ our federal representative in righteousness making all of God's elect perfectly pure and worthy of love. You can't have one without the other.

People will also ask the question, "Why did God let such a terrible thing happened to this young girl if she was a Christian and he is a God of love? Why did God let her die?” These questions also are built on a premise of theological ignorance. Forgive me if I am sounding harsh right now, but this is a question that the church should not need to answer to its own flock because we should know the answer already. We need to know the doctrine of suffering, and recognize that Christ didn't die on the cross to give us a happy-go-lucky carefree life in this world. He died to give us a blissful eternity after this life, specifically after we die in this life.

This life is a breath. In Sarah's 13 years she received the most important gift a human being could ever receive, adoption into the family of God. Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean you get a free ticket to die peacefully in your sleep, surrounded by your family at the ripe old age of 86, without ever suffering from gout, or Alzheimer’s or having been beaten or raped. It means that whatever God does to you in this life is for your discipline and your good, not your punishment.

To be honest, I envy Sarah. She is with Jesus, and I want to be with Jesus. She will never suffer a single pain, not even a splinter in her finger, forever. Brothers and sisters, we need to have an eternal view. Otherwise, when God takes our wife or husband or child or parent, we will not have a right attitude of heart, we will not fall on our knees and worship Him as he deserves, but will shake our puny fist at the Sovereign God of the universe, and incur His wrath.

Monday, April 25, 2005

On Creeds

Rear Admiral Ann E. Rondeau, as commander of Commander, Naval Service Training Command, instituted a policy whereby each morning all students in the command, officer and enlisted, would recite the Sailor’s Creed. Some, especially some officers, have dissented, for various reasons. What I found disturbing about several of the cited opponents was a disregard or even distain for authoritative institutional values. The admiral rightly responded that people are dying every day for the things that we believe, so we ought to know what we believe.

I whole heartedly agree.

Definition of a creed:

A Creed, or Rule of Faith, or Symbol, is a confession of faith for public use, or a form of words setting forth with authority certain articles of belief, which are regarded by the framers as necessary for salvation, or at least for the well-being of the Christian Church.
John Brokhoff asks, “Why bother with the Creeds? Why not let each Christian decide what to believe?” He answers, “The Creeds have at least a three-dimensional purpose: Definition, Defense, and Declaration.”

With creeds we define our belief system, consolidating the themes and doctrines expounded upon by the sum of Scripture into concise statements of truth. They help us know what it is we say we as Christians are supposed to believe. They equip us to defend ourselves and our religion against attacks from heretics and false teachers. They are tools for fulfilling the Great Commission, giving us simple but accurate messages to communicate to the unbelieving world. They range from Peter’s simple statement, “You are the Christ” (Matt. 16.16)to the almost universally accepted Nicene Creed to the Westminster Confession.

From “The Case for Creeds,” on the website of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland:

“The need for confessions and symbols did not cease with the close of the canon of Scripture…While there would have been creeds even if there had been no doctrinal controversy, most of the historic Christian creeds and confessions were hammered out on the anvil of controversy. These creeds…were statements of doctrine in which the imperiled Church sought to express truths that were vital to her very existence… There have always been those who wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction and to that of others (2 Pet.3:16)…As summaries of biblical doctrines and aids to their understanding, creeds edify the Body of Christ. The purpose of the early creeds was that of popular instruction. The more detailed confessions of later date are also useful in the instruction of the members and prospective members of the Church and the catechisms were designed expressly for this purpose.”

I frequently use the Nicene creed as a foundation for my prayers, as I pray to and worship God for who He is in all His triune glory. It is a tool, when my mind drifts to worldly things, to remind just how awesome is the truth of Christianity, how amazing and unhuman its doctrines. It continues to convince me that men did not make this up.

These creeds are girds for our faith. I spent half my life believing most every pluralistic, relativistic, post-modernist lie. I thank God that He has blessed His church with doctrinal statements that declare firmly the truth from His word. Learn them, teach them to your children, consider them as a model for your prayers. “Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” (Titus 2.15)