far be it from us to be bereft of a bit of seasonal humor. In homage to Reformation Sunday, here’s a little ditty–a polka actually–’bout the firestorm sparked by the incident in Wittenburg in 1517. Dance, sing, and give thanks for God’s providential work through the German monk.
We’re turning our attention to chapter four in the confession this week, the chapter on creation. You might say it’s the most relevant chapter in the confession currently–in light of present, rather heated, discourse on origins, both without and within the church. Within the church, the debate revolves around these questions: did God superintend the origin and development of all things, or did He start a process which then progressed on its own without need of further divine intervention–or is there some other option somewhere between those two?
These are far from insignificant questions. Definitive answers may remain always at a distance, but finding a reasonable answer is certainly a credible pursuit. Continue reading
Perhaps the time Sunday left you with more questions than answers about the extent to which God is sovereign over the affairs of people. We live with a hope in an unseen hand guidingand directing our every move, but we sometimes feel like we’re walking a quite unsupervised path. Can God really know all things and direct all things in such a way that we don’t become mere puppets in some play?
Kevin De Young, whose blog I heartily recommend you bookmarking, takes a few moments to summarize (with greater alacrity than I did last week) how God exercises sovereign control over a reality in which human beings retain a kind of freedom to exert their wills. He handles the matter deftly in a winsome way–complete with Eggo waffles!
Even if you feel like it’s a futile enterprise to try to get even a basic sense of His sovereignty, this brief essay will help you at least understand the contours of the debate.
and if you’re interest is stoked by those words, here’s a few more from him on the subject.
This week we’ll consider what the Confession has to say about the eternal decree of God–that is, to what extent is God sovereign over the affairs of history (specifically with respect to salvation in this chapter). We’ll find that there is no limit to that sovereignty, which at first glance might seem problematic–especially for people like us who prefer to think of destinies as more in our hands than someone else’s.
Therefore it might do us all good to “warm up” by reading Romans 9 before we gather Sunday (or Wednesday). Paul lays out several of the themes WCF III addresses. He also demonstrates the kind of attitude one must adopt in handling these doctrines–like what section 8 in this chapter refers to as “prudence and care.”
So have a look at Romans 9 in advance. Ponder it’s teaching. Consider the implications for life and ministry. Especially consider it’s implications for how you think of your own salvation.
Oh, and pray.
In Chapter II of the Confession, the Westminster Divines took no time to present a reasonable case for the existence of God, not because the issue was unimportant to them, but because they’d been tasked specifically to provide instruction to the Church as to what the Scriptures principally taught. Had they been given the subsidiary task of delivering an apologetic for those who remained skeptical of God, I trust they would’ve displayed admirable acumen in making that case.
Doug Wilson and Christopher Hitchens have been engaged in a traveling debate over the existence of God for some time now, a documentary of which was just released over the weekend. (say, what if we held a viewing and discussion some evening? Would you be interested?) Wilson is the pastor in Moscow, Idaho. Hitchens is, as you probably know, one of those referred to as the New Atheists, or in some circles, the militant atheists. As for an excerpt of Wilson’s defense of belief in God, consider this wry comment:
I]f the universe is what the atheist maintains it is, then this determines what sort of account we must give for the nature of everything — and this includes the atheist’s
thought processes, ethical convictions, and aesthetic appreciations. If you were to shake up two bottles of pop and place them on a table to fizz over, you could not fill up an auditorium with people who came to watch them debate. This is because they are not debating; they Continue reading
In our discussion yesterday about having a clear sense of God in the inevitable moments of profound anguish, I mentioned a comment from Tim Keller in his book, The Reason for God. It dealt with how we negotiate our trust in the sovereign will of God (which, as we heard from the Confession, is in accordance “with His own counsel” (Ch II, Sec. 1) and operates “according to His good pleasure” (sec. 2)). Negotiate in the sense of remaining confident in His sovereign will when it feels an awful lot like there’s no rhyme or reason for the suffering. Here’s the quote:
If you have a God great and transcendent enough to be mad at because He hasn’t stopped evil and suffering in the world, then you have (at the same moment) a God great and
transcendent enough to have good reasons for allowing it to continue that you can’t know. Indeed, you can’t have it both ways.
Is it a consolation to know that there may be reasons for your ordeal that you can’t know? Perhaps in the sense that you don’t have to conclude that your faith in His goodness was misplaced, or that this entire experience has no redemptive value–whether present or future. It doesn’t remove the pain but it does allow you to face it differently, knowing that the God who is the “foundation of all being” (Sec. 2) has not been aloof or careless, but rather at work in ways beyond your comprehension.
“Behind a frowning providence hides a smiling face,” the hymn sings. It is an act of faith to trust in that all-encompassing purpose and plan of God when the world seems to be spinning out of control, but it is an act significantly enabled by the Spirit of God. That is why we cry to Him when the pain becomes unmanageable. We were not meant to bear these burdens without Him.
Penn Jillette, of Penn and Teller, the performance duo that defies categorization (are they magicians? are they comedians?), is well-known for his incredulity at things religious. He and his sidekick Raymond Teller (think modern day incarnation of the silent Harpo Marx) have well documented antipathy to the Christian faith, particularly the authority of the Bible. (I’d send you to the link on youtube with their “comments” about it, but I think it might not pass the filter on your server.)
Anyhow, hat-tip to Kevin De Young who harvests this quote from a recent book by Kevin Harney. It’s a comment from Jillette about an encounter he had with someone trying to evangelize him with the Gospel.
This last week we’ve been immersing ourselves in what the Divines had to say about Scripture. I suspect we’ve all found ourselves hemming and hawing at least once when pressed on why we trust the Scriptures. We may have even cultivated a habit of avoiding the matter altogether. Perhaps Jillette’s comments below will serve to exorcise the ambivalence you might feel to having “a ready defense” (I Peter 3:16). Perhaps it will cataylze us all to begin the preparation of that defense with a rationale for our trust in the Bible.
He said, “I’m a businessman. I’m sane; I’m not crazy.” And he looked me right in the eye and did all this. And it was really wonderful. I believe he knew that I was an atheist.
But he was not defensive and he looked me right in the eyes and he was truly complimentary. It did not seem like empty flattery. He was really kind, and nice, and sane, and looked me in the eyes and talked to me. Then he gave me this Bible. Continue reading