Church History MP3 Lectures Are Now Finished 

Pastor R.W. Glenn at Redeemer Bible Church in Minnetonka, MN, has now completed his Sunday School lecture series on church history. In addition to the MP3's available at, I requested a PDF document of all the notes he gave out during the series to go along with the lectures, which is extremely helpful when sorting through all of this information. With his permission, I am posting the PDF in this entry. I have listened to a majority of the lectures now and can't tell you how helpful this is to understanding the history of our faith! As Tommy Nelson from Denton Bible Church has said in his series on church history a while back, "Church history is the plumb-line of theology." Or in other words, church history is the lab as opposed to the lecture (theology). Here is the series in its entirety, enjoy!

Lecture Notes (PDF)
Lecture 1 - Introduction (MP3)
Lecture 2 - 1st Century (MP3)
Lecture 3 - 2nd Century (MP3)
Lecture 4 - 3rd Century (MP3)
Lecture 5 - 4th Century (MP3)
Lecture 6 - 5th Century (MP3)
Lecture 7 - 6th Century (MP3)
Lecture 8 - 7th Century (MP3)
Lecture 9 - 8th Century (MP3)
Lecture 10 - 9th Century (MP3)
Lecture 11 - 10th Century (MP3)
Lecture 12 - 11th Century (MP3)
Lecture 13 - 12th Century (MP3)
Lecture 14 - 13th Century (MP3)
Lecture 15 - 14th Century (MP3)
Lecture 16 - 15th Century (MP3)
Lecture 17 - 16th Century - Part 1 (MP3)
Lecture 18 - 16th Century - Part 2 (MP3)
Lecture 19 - 16th Century - Part 3 (MP3)
Lecture 20 - 17th Century (MP3)
Lecture 21 - 18th Century (MP3)
Lecture 22 - 19th Century (MP3)
Lecture 23 - 20th Century (MP3)
Lecture 24 - 21st Century (MP3)
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The Limits and Necessity of Theological Terms - John Calvin 

Calvin argues in this section of the Institutes for the necessity of employing theological terminology as it relates particularly to the doctrine of the Trinity in the context of this section (as that was the larger subject he was addressing), so as to establish the orthodox doctrine against heretical views of the Trinity (Sabellianism, Modalism, i.e. modern day example: Oneness Pentecostals such as T.D. Jakes' ministry). And yet at the same time he gives warning to those who would go too far in minutely looking for a heretic under every rock where a mere word wasn't used, employed by men, but press people for what they mean and see if it is orthodox. I believe people will find this to be a very balanced perspective on the subject of the employment of theological terminology.

The terms Calvin uses as examples, in our day at least, are probably not the best examples for the average person. You don't have to know what they mean right now to understand what he's trying to communicate, just go with it. But he still makes his point, arguing from church history that terms are important in one sense (for distinguishing meaning and beliefs), and yet in another sense they are not important (and even explains at the very beginning of this section how he wishes we didn't have to use them at all), that so long as people are believing orthodox truth, the term itself is unimportant. It's the content of the teaching/belief/doctrine that matters. Unfortunately though, because of heresy and the number of errors that abound in opposition to Biblcal truth, put forward by Satan, terminology for stated beliefs is one of those "necessary evils," so to speak, that we must make use of to combat the errors.

Many would do well to listen and apply what Calvin has to say concerning this, namely, if someone doesn't like a label or particular title, you can defend it's use in order to distinguish the belief from other doctrines that are unbiblical. But don't bludgeon people over the head with a mere label as if they don't believe it if they don't take the label itself. Just ask people to explain what they mean and what they believe concerning a particular doctrine. I believe this could adequately apply to the use of the term Calvinism: I believe that it should be used to distinguish against the Arminian understanding of how we are saved, and should itself be studied to see how rich are the blessings that are ours through the work of Christ. Yet at the same time, if someone doesn't want the label, that's fine, so long as they adhere to it's doctrinal content and study it's truth intently in the Scriptures.


Where names have not been invented rashly, we must beware lest we become chargeable with arrogance and rashness in rejecting them. I wish, indeed, that such names were buried, provided all would concur in the belief that the Father, Son, and Spirit, are one God, and yet that the Son is not the Father, nor the Spirit the Son, but that each has his peculiar subsistence.

I am not so minutely precise as to fight furiously for mere words. For I observe, that the writers of the ancient Church, while they uniformly spoke with great reverence on these matters, neither agreed with each other, nor were always consistent with themselves. How strange the formula used by Councils, and defended by Hilary! How extravagant the view which Augustine sometimes takes! How unlike the Greeks are to the Latins!

But let one example of variance suffice. The Latins, in translating "homo-ousios" used "consubstantialis" (consubstantial,) intimating that there was one substance of the Father and the Son, and thus using the word Substance for Essence. Hence Jerome, in his Letter to Damasus, says it is profane to affirm that there are three substances in God. But in Hilary you will find it said more than a hundred times that there are three substances in God. Then how greatly is Jerome perplexed with the word Hypostasis! He [Jerome] suspects some lurking poison, when it is said that there are three Hypostases in God. And he does not disguise his belief that the expression, though used in a pious sense, is improper; if, indeed, he was sincere in saying this, and did not rather designedly endeavour, by an unfounded calumny, to throw odium on the Eastern bishops whom he hated. He certainly shows little candour in asserting, that in all heathen schools "ousia" is equivalent to Hypostasis - an assertion completely refuted by trite and common use.

More courtesy and moderation is shown by Augustine, (DeTrinity. lib. 5 c. 8 and 9,) who, although he says that Hypostasis in this sense is new to Latin ears, is still so far from objecting to the ordinary use of the term by the Greeks, that he is even tolerant of the Latins, who had imitated the Greek phraseology. The purport of what Socrates says of the term, in the Sixth Book of the Tripartite History, is, that it had been improperly applied to this purpose by the unskillful.

Hilary (De Trinitat. lib. 2) charges it upon the heretics as a great crime, that their misconduct had rendered it necessary to subject to the peril of human utterance things which ought to have been reverently confined within the mind, not disguising his opinion that those who do so, do what is unlawful, speak what is ineffable, and pry into what is forbidden. Shortly after, he apologises at great length for presuming to introduce new terms. For, after putting down the natural names of Father, Son, and Spirit, he adds, that all further inquiry transcends the significance of words, the discernment of sense, and the apprehension of intellect. And in another place, (De Conciliis,) he congratulates the Bishops of France in not having framed any other confession, but received, without alteration, the ancient and most simple confession received by all Churches from the days of the Apostles. Not unlike this is the apology of Augustine, that the term had been wrung from him by necessity from the poverty of human language in so high a matter: not that the reality could be thereby expressed, but that he might not pass on in silence without attempting to show how the Father, Son, and Spirit, are three.

The modesty of these holy men should be an admonition to us not instantly to dip our pen in gall, and sternly denounce those who maybe unwilling to swear to the terms which we have devised, provided they do not in this betray pride, or petulance, or unbecoming heat, but are willing to ponder the necessity which compels us so to speak, and may thus become gradually accustomed to a useful form of expression.

Let men also studiously beware, that in opposing the Arians on the one hand, and the Sabellians on the other, and eagerly endeavouring to deprive both of any handle for cavil, they do not bring themselves under some suspicion of being the disciples of either Arius or Sabellius. Arius says that Christ is God, and then mutters that he was made and had a beginning. He says, that he is one with the Father; but secretly whispers in the ears of his party, made one, like other believers, though with special privilege. Say, he is consubstantial, and you immediately pluck the mask from this chameleon, though you add nothing to Scripture. Sabellius says that the Father, Son, and Spirit, indicate some distinction in God. Say, they are three, and he will bawl out that you are making three Gods. Say, that there is a Trinity of Persons in one Divine essence, you will only express in one word what the Scriptures say, and stop his empty prattle.

Should any be so superstitiously precise as not to tolerate these terms, still do their worst, they will not be able to deny that when one is spoken of, a unity of substance must be understood , and when three in one essence, the persons in this Trinity are denoted. When this is confessed without equivocations we dwell not on words. But I was long ago made aware, and, indeed, on more than one occasion, that those who contend pertinaciously about words [I assume he means both those who rigidly adhere to terms and those on the other end of the spectrum who rigidly oppose them] are tainted with some hidden poison; and, therefore, that it is more expedient to provoke them purposely, than to court their favour by speaking obscurely.
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The Blurring of Evangelical and Catholic Distinctions 

Modern-day evangelicals are increasingly viewing Catholicism simply as another denomination within the totality of the Christian faith, much in the same way we have historically viewed Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian denominations as evangelical, for example. This lowering of theological arms is a clear indication that we are continuing to stray away from the Gospel path that has historically viewed Catholicism as a heretical eclipsing of the very Gospel itself, in the same way they view us as having heretically strayed from the authority of Rome over us. Much of that Scripturally informed conviction seems to be disappearing now, though.

Within the evangelical church, walls are coming down where more and more churches are participating with Catholic ministries on all kinds of fronts. In the theological realm, evangelical leaders are coming together with Catholic leaders in some form of unity (not sure exactly what kind to be honest). This has been happening for a while and is really nothing new, (based upon the Evangelicals and Catholics Together statement, signed by ministers from both camps) in the 1990's, but it seems to be getting out of control. Confusion abounds.

In the world's eyes though, this is a good thing: moving forward past the highly divisive Reformation issues; getting over "pesky," "outdated," "hair-splitting theological" issues that keep us from the amorphous worldly "unity" that is exalted as a god in our culture. To stand in opposition to such unity, as I am doing, to the world at least, is foolishness. But the Gospel, that is the Biblical Gospel, is foolishness to those who are perishing and makes no sense to the world. To stand against a popular ideology for the sake of the Gospel is highly unpopular, even within the church now unfortunately.

Much of this has come about from a total disregard of theological (Biblical) understanding and education in both the evangelical and Catholic realms (though I will admit more in the evangelical world than the Catholic world, seeing as how Catholics actually require you to go through a confirmation class in which you must learn the faith). This also has to do with evangelicals folding to cultural demands for religious relativism. But this great confusion is also massively propagated by those in leadership within the evangelical community who are either openly in ministry cooperation with Catholic organizations (for a "good cause," forget the Gospel distinctions) or who have left evangelicalism altogether for Rome.

This blurring of distinctions is highlighted the most in the departure of Francis Beckwith from his position as President of the Evangelical Theological Society in return to Rome. Interesting to note though is the title of his new book coming out in the next few months speaking to all of this: Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic. Evangelical Catholic? This type of language sends all kinds of mixed signals to a whole lot of lay people who are deeply confused as to how evangelicals relate to Catholics, both historically and in our modern day. This is just one more reason why theological education and training are vastly important, not just because it helps us grow in our knowledge of the Scriptures for the preparing of our minds for God's glory, but also because it keeps us from error and grants us a great level of discernment when it comes to competing "gospels" out in the world.

The differences between evangelicals and Catholics are not minute: they relate to how we understand the very Gospel itself. They are not unimportant distinctions. We both believe each other, on matters of Biblical teaching concerning how we are saved in particular, to be teaching heresy and literally leading people astray to their eternal damnation (though even the Pope has made clear modern Catholics believe there are many outside of Rome's authority who are saved but acting in disobedience to God by resisting the "infallible authority of The Church" over them ... like me). Sounds like more folding to Western ideologies if you ask me, but nevertheless, it is so.

James White points out something important though on a recent blog entry concerning all of this, and in particular Beckwith's statements, statements he also made on an entry I wrote a while back concerning N.T. Wright, here, that there is nothing new under the sun. I was slow to see this at the time when Beckwith responded to me. In calling himself an Evangelical Catholic, Beckwith, it seems at least on the surface, seeks to bridge a divide that has existed for centuries.

So to bridge this gap, he is attempting to show us "confused evangelicals" that the problem really isn't as big of a problem as we make it out to be, that the issue at the heart of our debate is how we evangelicals view our justification through the lens of the Reformation imputation model (Christ's righteousness is counted ours through faith alone) versus the infusion model (Christ's righteousness is infused into our spirit whereby we are literally, in this life, made holy unto God, unto justification). Interestingly, N.T. Wright says basically the same thing, but I digress.

But as White points out, this itself, though Beckwith would seem to posit it as a new refining of the argument that we evangelicals haven't already dealt with before, goes right to the heart of the very issue that has been debated between us for 500 something years now, doctrines that people died by torture for during the Reformation, doctrines that explain the very Gospel through which we may be saved.

So, yes, the divide between Catholics and evangelicals is not something to take in a light-hearted manner. Just as an example, evangelical ministry service work must be kept separate from Catholic ministries of service. Why, you say? The Gospel is at stake. How? Well, if we begin to compromise on the idea that there are strong enough Scriptural boundaries setup between us on how we are saved theologically (i.e. the Gospel, to put it bluntly); and compromising in this way in order that we may perform service work alongside Catholics whom we have historically considered outside of the grace of the Gospel ... then it is only a matter of time before we too will slide back to Rome, just as Beckwith has.

Beckwith is a striking example of what happens when we compromise on the great eternal Scriptural truths of the Gospel, recovered from Rome in the Reformation. For Beckwith though, as he has said, this was just "confusion" of what Catholicism was teaching concerning justification ... or rather, he never understood the point of contention to begin with and was always a Catholic maybe?

As far as the evangelical church is concerned, could it be, at least in this area, we are folding under a presupposed cultural norm of relativistic thinking that is now translating into how we view service work between evangelicals and Catholics, that we can come together as "one people" regardless of creeds (Creeds and Deeds - Michael Horton) for the sake of others, nevermind the Gospel by which people are either saved through faith alone or lost forever by unbelief? Should we not instead, with our own resources and talents, form organizations of our own to meet the needs of the poor and helpless, in order to bring them the greatest Aid of all, the Gospel of Jesus Christ that supernaturally changes us from the inside out by His work alone?

This seems to me to be the highest priority of the evangelical church: ministering the Gospel to a dying world. And we should do this through the means of service to others, but service as a means, not an end. Replacing the priority of the Gospel with service as an end is eternally dangerous. Using service as an instrument to further God's Kingdom (which in reality is making disciples through the preaching of the Gospel) is ideal for it is what we see Jesus and the Apostles do over and over in the Scriptures.

We must, for the sake of the Gospel and the glory of God, be very careful, for we are treading on thin ice in regard to the evangelical/Catholic compromise that is taking place. May God, by His mercy in the cross toward us through the justifying work of Christ, continue to preserve us in the truth: that we are saved by grace alone (sola gratia) through faith alone (sola fide) in Christ alone (solus Christus). There is no other hope, for this is what the Scriptures have always taught, for they are the immutable Word of God. This Gospel hope is that God alone saves sinners. Catholics disagree. There can be no consensus on these things between us, for these are things we both believe will separate us for eternity.
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Excerpt from J.I. Packer's Intro Essay to Owen's Death of Death 

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“But wait a minute,” says someone, “it’s all very well to talk like this about the gospel; but surely what Owen is doing is defending limited atonement—one of the five points of Calvinism? When you speak of recovering the gospel, don’t you mean that you just want us all to become Calvinists?”

These questions are worth considering, for they will no doubt occur to many. At the same time, however, they are questions that reflect a great deal of prejudice and ignorance. “Defending limited atonement”—as if this was all that a Reformed theologian expounding the heart of the gospel could ever really want to do! “You just want us all to become Calvinists”—as if Reformed theologians had no interest beyond recruiting for their party, and as if becoming a Calvinist was the last stage of theological depravity, and had nothing to do with the gospel at all. Before we answer these questions directly, we must try to remove the prejudices which underlie them by making clear what Calvinism really is; and therefore we would ask the reader to take note of the following facts, historical and theological, about Calvinism in general and the “five points” in particular.

First, it should be observed that the “five points of Calvinism,” so-called, are simply the Calvinistic answer to a five-point manifesto (the Remonstrance) put out by certain “Belgic semi-Pelagians” in the early seventeenth century. The theology which it contained (known to history as Arminianism) stemmed from two philosophical principles: first, that divine sovereignty is not compatible with human freedom, nor therefore with human responsibility; second, that ability limits obligation. (The charge of semi-Pelagianism was thus fully justified.) From these principles, the Arminians drew two deductions: first that since the Bible regards faith as a free and responsible human act, it cannot be caused by God, but is exercised independently of Him; second, that since the Bible regards faith as obligatory on the part of all who hear the gospel, ability to believe must be universal. Hence, they maintained, Scripture must be interpreted as teaching the following positions: (1.) Man is never so completely corrupted by sin that he cannot savingly believe the gospel when it is put before him, nor (2.) is he ever so completely controlled by God that he cannot reject it. (3.) God’s election of those who shall be saved is prompted by His foreseeing that they will of their own accord believe. (4.) Christ’s death did not ensure the salvation of anyone, for it did not secure the gift of faith to anyone (there is no such gift); what it did was rather to create a possibility of salvation for everyone if they believe. (5.) It rests with believers to keep themselves in a state of grace by keeping up their faith; those who fail here fall away and are lost. Thus, Arminianism made man’s salvation depend ultimately on man himself, saving faith being viewed throughout as man’s own work and, because his own, not God’s in him.

The Synod of Dort was convened in 1618 to pronounce on this theology, and the “five points of Calvinism” represent its counter-affirmations. They stem from a very different principle—the biblical principle that “salvation is of the Lord”; and they may be summarized thus: (1.) Fallen man in his natural state lacks all power to believe the gospel, just as he lacks all power to believe the law, despite all external inducements that may be extended to him. (2.) God’s election is a free, sovereign, unconditional choice of sinners, as sinners, to be redeemed by Christ, given faith and brought to glory. (3.) The redeeming work of Christ had as its end and goal the salvation of the elect. (4.) The work of the Holy Spirit in bringing men to faith never fails to achieve its object. (5.) Believers are kept in faith and grace by the unconquerable power of God till they come to glory. These five points are conveniently denoted by the mnemonic TULIP: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, Preservation of the saints.

Now, here are two coherent interpretations of the biblical gospel, which stand in evident opposition to each other. The difference between them is not primarily one of emphasis, but of content. One proclaims a God who saves; the other speaks of a God Who enables man to save himself. One view presents the three great acts of the Holy Trinity for the recovering of lost mankind—election by the Father, redemption by the Son, calling by the Spirit—as directed towards the same persons, and as securing their salvation infallibly. The other view gives each act a different reference (the objects of redemption being all mankind, of calling, those who hear the gospel, and of election, those hearers who respond), and denies that any man’s salvation is secured by any of them. The two theologies thus conceive the plan of salvation in quite different terms. One makes salvation depend on the work of God, the other on a work of man; one regards faith as part of God’s gift of salvation, the other as man’s own contribution to salvation; one gives all the glory of saving believers to God, the other divides the praise between God, Who, so to speak, built the machinery of salvation, and man, who by believing operated it. Plainly, these differences are important, and the permanent value of the “five points,” as a summary of Calvinism, is that they make clear the points at which, and the extent to which, these two conceptions are at variance.
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Prime Example of Poor Project Management and Deployment 

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"Let's get this software out as fast as possible without setting up the proper infrastructure and implementing a stable design," seems to be the motto for giant proprietary software vendors like Microsoft, in light of Vista's implementation upheaval.

But now Apple is the next "bad management" culprit. It appears today as if the iPhone update to version 2.0 is not going so well. In fact, for many, it could possibly be disastrous, much in the same way many I know have lost their purchased iTunes altogether because of some iPod software issue (in the form of a total software reinstall which wipes out all their content, content that wasn't backed up either, which is a separate issue).

This is one of the reasons I just don't deal with Apple products in general, particularly iPods, iPhones, etc.: they are too dependent upon a system that is unstable in it's deployment of new OS software. When it works it works, when it doesn't it doesn't, then all your data is gone, and you must reinstall the software from the bottom up.

Now I don't have a Mac personal computer, so I don't know about those. From what I've heard, they're great to work with, that's at least what everyone tells me. However, they are way out of my price range when I can get something with the same processing speed for literally a quarter of the cost.

I would like to add too though that I am not very pleased with how poorly Microsoft has been managing their software deployments either, such as Vista and XP SP3. For companies, these deployments have been disastrous and expensive, costing profit. I'm convinced these companies need to start setting their project deadlines back further instead of quickly just throwing something out there and hoping it works for the sake of a dollar. Maybe consider moving away from a profit-centric business model to a more customer-centric model and profits will inevitably increase as a result?
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Instant Gratification as it Relates to Theology 

We live in a society where we have almost anything at our disposal in a matter of minutes or seconds: mass amounts of clean water, mass amounts of clean food, transportation, smooth roads (for the most part), climate-controlled buildings, instant information via the internet, instant everything. We want news in bite-size chunks; we want food made in front of us as soon as we show up in the line (Chipotle? which I love by the way) or quickly available at a drive-up window; we want clothes that we like when we like. We don't want to wait, on anything. We get extremely frustrated in traffic jams. We're not a patient people. We live in a society where because of technology, we think in terms of convenience as it relates to almost everything.

I am including myself in this culture and not trying to make it seem as if I have successfully distanced myself from it, because I haven't. By God's grace, hopefully, I'm on the way. I'm simply diagnosing these things that are good in one sense (the ease of meeting our needs and our wants) and bad in another (what it has done to our character as a culture).

There are ways in which I am petty, short, impatient, frustrated when things don't go my way when these convenient services or products are either cut off or made more difficult to obtain, either in the short-term or the long-term. I am a sinner in need of grace, grace to work in my heart to make me more like Christ, that these things our culture is absorbed in as behavioral patterns of operation would cease to be active in me. I suppose it will take a life time.

All of that to say that unfortunately it seems this instant gratification culture we are absorbed in has made it's way into the Evangelical world, and in particular, Biblical thinking and understanding. Because of our instant gratification, pragmatic, practical, "break it down for me" modus operandi, we tend to think of theology in the same manner.

We are not patient when it comes to the difficult things to understand in the Scriptures. We want to get straight to a complete understanding without having to do the work to get there. "Just give it to me straight." "All we need is Jesus." "I don't need to think through what it's saying, that's what theologians are for. Just give me the broken down, short version." Christianity (the Gospel) doesn't work that way, it just isn't that simple. Now, in one sense it is simple, being that a child can understand it in its simple message that God saves sinners. Yet in another sense, it is infinitely deep, so deep even angels long to look into these things.

Even further though, many times people don't even want the broken down version anymore, so they try to bypass theology altogether and skip straight to the "What should we do?" thinking instead of first thinking through the "What has Christ done to reconcile me to God?" as the basis for moving forward to the "What should we do?"

In many of Paul's writings in particular, he starts with theology before getting to the "What should we do?" portion. Ephesians and Romans are primary examples of this. In Ephesians, chapters one through three are theological primarily. Then chapters four through six are about works and growing in them.

In Romans it's the same deal. Chapters one through eleven are primarily theological. Then chapters twelve through sixteen are practical, or focused on our works in response to the theology presented in chapters one through eleven. Even then though, Paul is constantly relating works back to the Gospel. One necessarily and logically proceeds from the other and it cannot work in the reverse direction (though of course in works we can see that very theology being played out for sure).

Theology is for doxology, orthodoxy is for orthopraxy, or to break that down even further, right thinking and believing necessitates right living and doing. You cannot divorce the two and in addition to that, right living always proceeds from right believing (with the heart) and thinking (with the mind), just as wrong doing and living always proceeds from wrong believing and thinking.

In the American Christian culture, we want to skip the difficult thinking and go straight to the pragmatic, practical doing. But it just won't work or last. We will burn out because our believing and thinking isn't firmly grounded in the source of power and vast truth that is in Jesus Christ, revealed in the Scriptures. Skipping over proper thinking and believing concerning the Scriptures is, at its heart, legalism, or it will inevitably always give rise to that if it hasn't yet. Why? Because then the focus of our faith is no longer the glory of what Christ has won for us at Calvary, but is now what we're doing.

We don't want to sit down, quietly, and patiently think through what the Word of God says and wait upon the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts and minds that which is true from the Scriptures. This has to do much with our convenience mentality. Or we don't want to sit down and take the time to work through a theological work someone has put a ton of effort into to help us understand it.

So what do we do in place of this? We take single verses, many times out of their respective context, that are easy to understand and reduce the entire Christian faith to a few summed up statements in the Scriptures. There is so much more to it though than just a few commonly known verses like John 3:16, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23 and so on. Those are great summation verses, don't get me wrong, and they should be employed in the service of sharing the Gospel. Why? Because they are God's word. But they certainly do not express all that is said concerning salvation. And for many of us, we just stop at these verses and proceed no further in understanding all that God has said to us.

That's why there are chapters and chapters of Scripture speaking directly to these things, even if they are hard to understand at first. We must fight the tendency to conveniently sum up Scripture into these bite-size chunks and dig deep into His Word like a miner digging for gold. As much as we would like the Scriptures to be a few sentences, the fact of the matter is they are not and it is complicated. It takes us a lifetime to work through all that has been said to us. And even then, we couldn't even begin to exhaust His Word to us.

Theology is careful thinking about what the Bible says to us concerning the truths of God in the Scriptures. It is also relating one passage to other passages. For instance, how do we understand Paul's statements in Romans 4 and 5 with James' statements in James 2:14-26? Paul says we are justified by faith alone. But James says we are "justified" by faith and works. Yet we believe Scripture does not contradict itself because it is the inerrant Word of God. So what are we to make of these passages in regard to justification? That is theology. And it is vastly important that we get it right. This is just one example. All of this is important because it shapes how we view Christ and His work on our behalf, which then, depending on our comprehension of it, ultimately works itself out into how we serve Him and others.

So at the same time that we're pursuing people with works intentionally, that seek to show them the Gospel (ultimately), we need to constantly be diligent in studying the Scriptures and thinking through what others in our present day and in the 2000 year history of the church (that the Lord has graciously blessed us with) have had to say concerning them. You cannot skip over theology as if it can be ignored because it is difficult. No. Wrong thinking and believing about God, man, salvation, and a host of other points of theology will always result in works that dishonor Him, that esteem His value to be worthless.

You will always be doing theology in everything you say, even when you want to skip over it. There is no question about that. Every time someone asks you a question concerning what the Scriptures have said, and you give them a response, you have uttered theology, even if it is a summed up, shortened statement. As R.C. Sproul has said, the question is not whether you have a theology or not, the question is whether you have correct, truthful theology.

Now to be clear, this does not mean you need to study twelve hours a days like Jonathan Edwards or someone like that. Let's be reasonable. Most of us do not have that kind of time with jobs, school, and the pressures of everyday industrialized, technology-saturated life in a world like ours. But this does mean that we all need to be diligent and persistent, everyday, in actively pursuing the truths of God in the Scriptures.

If we fail to do this, our thinking about God will not be conformed to the Scriptures and we will conceive of God in the way we want to think of Him (which amounts to idolatry according to Romans 1), not how He's revealed Himself in Scripture. This will ultimately affect how we make decisions on a daily basis, which then ultimately affects all of what we do, practically speaking.

If we were as diligent in pursuing the unlimited spiritual knowledge within the Scriptures (given to us by God Himself!) as we are in pursuing business degrees, law degrees, masters degrees, careers, etc., think about how much we could mine that would be valuable unto eternal life, not just this life that is passing away before our very eyes according to Ecclesiastes. is a great place to start with all of this. They have topics on possibly every area of theology or question you may have pertaining to our faith.
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Totally Misses the Point of the English/Spanish Debate 

For Obama, it's more important to learn English in order to be bi-lingual than to learn English in order to assimilate into a culture. Try telling that to the citizen's of Miami where the people now speak a majority Spanish instead of English. Businesses are being forced to close because they don't speak Spanish and are thus losing business.

For attempting to unify a nation, Obama is doing very little of it. As the issues come out here, the marketing fanfare is taking a back seat and the real Obama is being exposed. He wants to separate himself from all the other politicians, yet he is just like them. Yes, McCain is as well. They are both politicians. But my point is that Obama is attempting to market himself as this middle of the road kind of guy, when he is anything but that. He'll say whatever it takes to get into office.

So, back to the video ... Obama is more embarrassed by us, the American people, who don't all speak multiple languages, than embarrassed by the tragedy of Miami and their majority use of Spanish instead of English? Or that someone like Barbara Walters considers the leader of Syria to be an honorable man? ... ntelligent Probably more so than her own President? Typical East Coast, elitist snobbery, coming from both Obama and Walters.

Only in America is this kind of non-sense permitted. And for that, Obama and Walters should be thankful. But instead they'll just attack the nation where they find refuge from the extremist ideologies that exist in other parts of the world, through bad logic and a corrupted moral compass.
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Why We're Not Emergent - A Review 

This was a great read. The back and forth style between a writer for ESPN (Ted Kluck) and a pastor at a church in East Lansing, MI (Kevin DeYoung) has made for an excellent combination of perspectives on the emerging church movement. On the one hand, Kluck is coming at it from a very down-to-earth, journalistic, street level perspective, giving you a cultural view from all kinds of sources and personal interviews. And on the other hand, DeYoung is taking apart the movement from a theological point of view, affirming the things that are positive about it, and denying the things that are Scripturally contradictory.

Instead of just hearing one authors' perspective and critiques, by having two authors with differing angles, it really gives you a more well-rounded understanding of what it's all about. It is an easy read and really pulls you in. As D.A. Carson describes the book, it is "breezy." It's one of those books where you don't get bogged down in a section because of its thickness. Points are explained with exceptional clarity and not made theologically overbearing.

By no means do they cover absolutely every single point of view in the movement (to do so would be next to impossible), but they cover the major teachers and forces driving the movement, both theological and cultural. The summed up thesis is that we have a lot to glean from the emerging church and their critiques of evangelicalism and where it's gone, and yet they, like their liberal forebears 100 years ago, have swung the pendulum too far the other way. In many ways, the movement has the same taste as modernistic theological liberalism, and oddly enough, some of the almost exact quotes. Therefore the answer is not to "reimagine" Christianity under the shadow of postmodern (as the liberals attempted and failed at 100 years ago under the shadow of modernism), but to recapture historically faithful, evangelical (Gospel-centered), Reformational Christianity.

I don't want to give too much more away because, well, you just need to read it yourself. I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to know more or understand what this whole movement is about, why it's appealing, what's positive, but also show us all a better way. Get this book. You will not be let down by the content, nor the style.
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The Danger of Debating Absolutely Everything 

First of all, from the outset, I'm all for a good debate, when it's done in charity and love, as many of you know. I believe debates are necessary and that scholarly, formal debates are becoming a lost art in the West. Dr. James White summarizes the problem our culture has with debates and why:

"So many I speak with fear the word 'debate.' Why? Because it assumes the very thing our culture denies exists: right and wrong, truth and error. We've become so concerned about the offense caused by someone who abuses the truth that we have abandoned those categories completely. The result is a neutered Christianity that has absolutely nothing to say to the world."

Right on! I love this quote because it nails where our culture (and the Evangelical church unfortunately) is falling short. We must reclaim the truth that there are absolute truths and absolute lies, right and wrong. Debating is a necessary thing to engage in, in order to filter through issues of truthfulness and falsehood. When you share the Gospel, you are engaging (hopefully in a charitable manner) some form of debate, opposing false ideas and setting up a case for presenting the absolute truth of the Gospel from Scripture. There is no place where charitable debating is more important than in theology, because eternity is at stake, a truthful (or false) understanding of God, who He is, and what it took for Him to save us. So debating in some form is unavoidable for everyone because everyone takes positions on everything. The question is are you going to debate charitably (in love) or arrogantly?

However, what happens when a debate is done just for the sake of a debate, to argue your view with no intention of humbly bringing someone to see the truth of what you are saying, for their own good, instead of just proving your point and being right? Unfortunately I see this way too often on the team, and in particular Dr. James White. Don't misunderstand me here. I love the site, the great commentary, and I love Dr. James White. He is a hero of mine in many ways. I agree with him theologically on every point within the London Baptist Confession of Faith from 1689. I consider myself, in fact, a historic Reformed Baptist in my beliefs, aligning with him on these things.

But over the past couple of years, I've seen this shift with Dr. White toward increasingly arid, dry, loveless, merciless, (but nevertheless) truthful arguments that have made me uncomfortable (in regard to the approach) for the sake of those hearers who disagree with him theologically. I do not disagree with the theological content in any way. It's the approach I'm concerned about. Again, I'm all for debating someone on the truthfulness of the Scriptures and what they say to us concerning the Gospel. Eternity is at stake in these things.

But even Paul said, "And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:2). Paul then goes on to describe what love looks like in this famous passage, a passage that even New Agers read from in their wedding services. And it can all be described in one word: humility. Christ-like humility.

Though I'm for Dr. White's pursuit of challenging others on what they believe (for the sake of the Gospel and the exaltation of Christ), I see a lack of humility, grace and mercy on his part in his ministry toward those he differs with, not all the time, but many times. I'm trying to be fair and if I fail, well I apologize in advance. I'm not Dr. White's judge, nor do I pretend to be, nor are my assessments in any way definitive, and yes, I could very well be wrong because who can know the heart? I don't even know my own!

But as a leader himself in the Reformed Christian community, with those young Calvinists he knows are increasing in numbers and prone to a sort of "Reformed arrogance" to begin with (because they lack the humility of Christ in bringing the Gospel to people), it seems it would be wise of him to exhibit a great deal more mercy toward those he disagrees with, as an example to all of us Reformies.

All that to say I don't see a whole lot of mercy coming from his ministry toward outsiders. It's just hard truth, air-tight arguments alone for the Gospel without any affection and compassion for those he's involved in debates with. And I know he would probably tell me (at least I can only speak of what I think he would say to me) that the most loving thing to do is tell people the hard truth. But my question is, can this not be done in an affectionate, caring, patient, humble way that seeks not to ravage the opponents, particularly on his blog?

I just don't think it's a good example to set for mainstream Reformed people. I don't view Dr. White as weeping over Jerusalem and at the same time still in opposition to her Pharisaical tendencies (just an analogy). It's just opposition it seems. I see him angry, frustrated at his opponents, more like a lion and less like a lamb, whereas Christ is the lion-like lamb, and the lamb-like lion. Again, my assessments could be wrong. I'm willing to admit that.

And I must say, in honesty, that attitude of his, being the fact he is one of my heroes in regard to upholding the truths of the Christian faith, has affected me negatively, causing me to become angry myself (which I take full credit for my own actions). I'm not blaming him for my own wrongs. I'm making the point that whether he likes it or not, he is affecting people by the way he interacts with his opponents (and his proponents unfortunately, more on that in a minute).

This has made me take a break from Dr. White for a while, because I realized I myself lack humility in many ways (which makes me sad) and much of it was being fed by the way Dr. White engages people. I've been looking more to the examples of men like Dr. Al Mohler, John Piper, and Tim Keller as role models for how to engage people. Yet I still at times go to Dr. White his great logic and air-tight argumentation. But something is lacking in my opinion: humility in how we respond to those who oppose us.

This really all came to a head for me with two issues in the past couple of months with Dr. White.

One incident was when I was in the chatroom with Dr. White. I hopped in there to ask about a book written by Marcus Borg (do not read anything by that guy by the way unless you are seeking to understand "Atheistic Christianity;" he is a blatant unbeliever writing against historic Christianity) that Courtney was reading which someone in her book club had interjected into the rotation. First of all, I was not the least bit worried about Courtney being carried away by the atheistic assumptions plaguing Dr. Borg's "Christian" writing. In fact, I thought it would be educational to see where guys like Borg are coming from in attacking Christ and the Gospel. Dr. White had debated Dr. Borg a while back. So I was very interested in what he had to say concerning it and if there was any information regarding the debate.

Then he asked why. And that's when it started. I explained Courtney being in a book club in which there are apparently one or two unbelievers. This apparently shocked Dr. White to the point where he felt privileged to oppose my allowance of her to participate in such a "worldly thing": (a book club?). I saw it more as an opportunity to interject some Piper into people's reading. I was taken aback a bit. Now I could be skewing the picture, I do have to admit, in his defense. You are only hearing my side and I also have no printed evidence this ever even took place. But regardless, I felt like I had to start defending myself, giving the explanation above as to why I thought it would be beneficial for Courtney to read Borg, that is, for apologetic educational purposes.

He eventually saw what I was saying but still thinks woman book clubs are nonsense (I guess maybe in the Oprah book club fashion?). Okay, fine, I'm glad he's convicted that way. But that's not why I showed up in the chatroom to start with and I wasn't really interested in engaging in a debate over women's book club's to start with. Just wanted him to point me in some direction to find some material that dealt with Borg and his cronies. This really turned me off to showing up in there anymore and turned me off from frequenting the site quite as much. This reaction just bothered me.

I point this out to say, here I come, agreeing with him on every point of theology, loving what he's doing and yet he feels inclined to come at me on something that is, in my opinion, a very trite point, and missed the whole reason of why I was asking for some of his own apologetic information in the first place. I mean good grief, I was seeking his input on resources to oppose the arguments of people like Borg (lovingly of course)! I know Courtney very well (she's my wife after all) and know she will not be the least bit influenced by Borg's worldly, atheistic, God-hating philosophies.

(For the record, Courtney had a very hard time finishing Borg's book in frustration because of the blatant attacks on the character of Christ, His work, and a ton of other things that make Christianity unique from every other religion in the world: you know, the Gospel, Borg was attacking the Gospel.)

But Dr. White still felt he must take me to the intellectual wrestling floor on the matter of book club's where unbelievers are involved (that seems like a kind of anti-missional position to me). It just seems to be this modus operandi for him or something to debate absolutely everything, even when it's people who agree with what he's saying, theologically at least.

Another thing that really caused of all this to come to a head, today in fact, the very thing that prompted me to write this post, was a recent response I read on Dr. White's blog rebutting John Piper pertaining to gun ownership after the recent Supreme Court ruling (which you can read both Piper's initial statements here: ... martyrdom/ and then Dr. White's response: My question is, was this really necessary to respond to at all? Sure he can and has the right to, but I guess my question is, why?

Regardless of whether you think owning a gun is a legitimate right or not (which the Supreme Court has ruled it is from the Constitution, so you don't really have a choice in the matter now, and I personally am for owning a gun for the record), is Dr. White not in agreement with Piper over giving money to missionary families and using our stimulus checks to do that? I would think he could at least agree with Piper on that. Why not affirm that instead of opposing him on something that's subjective to begin with? But instead he felt he should oppose him, the very thing he felt he needed to do with me. Just silly.

Are there not more important things (and people) to engage in a debate with besides me and Piper, to show the Gospel to besides those who are engaged in the very same battle you are engaged in? The advancement and proclamation of the Gospel? I know he loves Piper, I don't doubt that. But just the very fact he would reply to someone on his side of the fence shows to me that it seems, at least on this matter, that Dr. White is engaging in debate for the sake of debate, not for the sake of the Gospel necessarily (though I would say most of the time he does debate for the sake of the Gospel).

This seems to be an increasing pattern I've noticed with Dr. White, an unhealthy one that I would advise many who read his site to be aware of (though I'm still recommending his site as a tremendous source of knowledge and insight for believers!). Yes we need to oppose our culture with the life-transforming power of the Gospel with air-tight arguments from Scripture. Not denying that. But you also need to be sensitive, caring and loving to where people are coming from in our culture at the same time, do you not? Especially our culture of hyper-sensitivity!

If we are going to be missional in our approach with hard truths, do we not need to meet people on their own ground, in love, though it can be dreadfully difficult for us at times? I just don't see this with Dr. White many times now and it's no wonder non-Reformed people will not listen to Reformed arguments from the Scriptures on Calvinism, Covenant Theology, the Five Solas, Reformed apologetics, etc. I wouldn't want to hear it either if that's what it produces (which historically it doesn't by the way).

So not only is Dr. White opposing those who are against the Gospel (which I'm all for, if done humbly), but now he's opposing people on his own side. I guess more than anything I just don't understand the whole thing. And so my main point is that there is a great danger in debating absolutely everything. The danger lies in making ourselves out to be more superior than our opponents, even if that's not our intent. We need to pick our battles and not take out those who love the same truths we love. There are things we can address if we see error, but we need to love those who love the same Lord and Savior. They are our brothers and sisters! I'm sorry but that's opposed to the very Gospel we preach. Sin is deceitful. Just read John Owen's works on sin and temptation: ... 6170.html.

Sin deceives and can take down even the best of us. Being a Reformed antagonist, nit-picking every little thing just for the sake of being right is not what Christ has called us to. He has called us to patiently enduring and pursing people with the radical truth of the Gospel, the sovereign Savior who can save the most downtrodden of us. Opposing them? Absolutely. But doing so in a gentle, respectful, loving way.

There's just a constant negativity among many of the Reformed that needs to cease and I feel people like Dr. White are feeding it by the way they debate people. This is something I've been convicted myself about recently. This is also part of the reason I've had a writers block lately: I've realized how much negativity has pervaded areas of my life and affected my writing as well.

To sum up, I love Dr. White, I love his ministry, his site, I love his apologetic arguments, but I really pray and desire for him to show a greater love and genuine affection for those he is in opposition with, just as Christ loved him and gave Himself up for him at the cross, and to stop nit-picking those who are engaged in battle with him for the Gospel. How far did the Lord have to bend to rescue us sinners? So in the same manner we should bend in the service and love of others who are lost, by His power working so mightily within us. But how much more should we lovingly pursue those who are engaged in the same battle we are engaged in?

We in the Reformed camp would do well to take Dr. White's arguments in battle with us in sharing the Gospel. But I'm just not convinced we should imitate his style of battle. Look to Mohler, Piper, and Keller for how to do this. But this is just one sinful, redeemed persons' opinion on the matter and I could be very wrong.
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The Operating Principle of a Believers' Life 

"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." - Philippians 2:3-11

Every one of us operates in our lives off of some set of principles, presuppositions, and some form of a worldview framework. If you are human, these things are simply unavoidable, inescapable. These principles affect the way we make long-term as well as short-term decisions in every realm of our lives. They come in thousands of different forms, in many variations, and are often very complex and intricate, to the point where sometimes we don't even know or realize the principle upon which we are making the decisions we do. In addition, most of these principles are culturally informed, and therefore they are just assumed things with how we operate.

For believers though, Christ has broken into our respective cultural context, invaded our lives (in the positive sense obviously) and given us a principle upon which we can now make decisions that glorify Him and produce positive results in our own lives as well as the lives of those we affect with this truth. This is called the Gospel Principle. And this verse in Philippians is a great illustration of exactly this principle that Paul wants to convey to us. "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." But how do we do this? By merely following Christ's example? Not exactly.

Now I want to make clear that yes, Christ is our example for how we should live and obviously we should model our lives after His way of life. That is a "duh" sort of statement. The Gospel Principle goes further though because it does not simply say "Do this and you shall live." That is Law. Have we not seen the history of Israel, how miserably a majority of Israelites failed at this? We are all sinners and cannot measure up to the demands of the Law by our own power.

This is exactly where the Gospel principle for believers comes in though. We look not at "What would Jesus do?" for our motivation (though I have absolutely no problem with anyone wearing a WWJD bracelet as a reminder to pursue Christ for our strength and power), but rather we go further with the Gospel and ask "What has Jesus done?" "What would Jesus do?" as great as it is of a reminder, in itself, does not give us any power to do what Paul commands, which is, "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit." It is Law. There is no power in the Law to give us life. The Law is good (Romans 7) but it gives no life, and instead produces only death in us, because we are sinners and fail its demands.

Only the Gospel gives life. And by asking ourselves everyday, "What has Jesus done," instead of "What would Jesus do?" we are reorienting ourselves with the power of what was accomplished at Calvary on our behalf to enable us to carry our the very thing Paul is commanding of us. Then and only then, by coming before Christ and looking to His work in His life, death, and resurrection can we do what is commanded in the Law. Apart from Him we can literally do nothing that is pleasing to Him. We are utterly reliant upon Him.

This is what Paul lays out for us. He does not give commands without it being under the power and principle of the life-giving Gospel of Christ, that He submitted Himself humbly to the cross, to bear our burden and free His people from hell. Paul's commands and the Gospel itself are always interconnected in what he says in the Scriptures. Watch what he does.

"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Yes, Jesus is an example, and this passage itself is a great picture of how that is so. But the passage is more than an example. If it's merely an example, we're back to the Law again. The Gospel though is that Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Law out of love for us and frees us now (giving us the power through Him) to carry out its demands. Paul relates doing "nothing from rivalry or conceit," with the principle of Christ emptying Himself on our behalf.

It is this finished work upon which we can come and find power in Him to perform that which is impossible for us to perform out of ourselves and our sinful nature. In fact, outside of this work is simply moralistic working and toiling that is in fact sin, according to Romans 14:23. There is no power in us and what we bring to God through our self-righteous, self-generated works. Paul is very careful to show that when he commands something it is always related to this Gospel Principle, because he knows no one will be able to accomplish what he commands outside of the power available in what Christ has accomplished for us.

So as believers, though we have many competing principles telling us how we should make decisions coming from our surrounding worldly culture, we have this principle, the Gospel Principle, that we can keep coming back to every moment of every day because the Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. As Tim Keller says, the Gospel is not only the way we're saved at conversion, but it is also the way we're changed progressively into the likeness of Christ. The Gospel is not merely the A-B-C's of the Christian life, but the A-Z of the whole thing. Paul never leaves the Gospel behind when talking about how we should live in response to it, because it's only through its power that we can do perform it.

This passage and others show that to be an inescapable fact. We love because He first loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins, our wrath-bearer and our life-giver. Praise the Lord Jesus Christ for His matchless work to deliver us from hell and give us power and life in the here and now to do what is pleasing in His sight! May we daily return to Him and this Gospel Principle to base all our decisions upon.

"Have this mind [doing nothing from rivalry or conceit] among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus [the Gospel Principle], who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Come to Christ and remind yourself of the power of what was definitively accomplished at Calvary for you, in order to live a life pleasing to Him. There is no power or hope without Him and His work. There is power only in the blood of Christ. Bow before your Lord and Savior who has completed His work for you, who sits at the right hand of the Father now, and let Him satisfy the deepest core of your being by His Spirit and allow Him to give you life through His death and resurrection. It is our only hope for doing anything that glorifies Him and brings Him honor.
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