The Fall Was Not A New Creation: Bavinck On Nature, Sex, And Socialism by Blake Blount

bavinck_creation_continuity.png

“In all these issues Reformed theology was able to make such sound judgments because it was deeply imbued with the idea that Adam did not yet enjoy the highest level of blessedness. Sin undoubtedly has cosmic significance. As is evident from the phenomenon of death, sin also impacts our physical existence and has brought the entire earth under the curse. Without sin the development of humanity and the history of the earth would have been very different—though still unimaginable. Still, on the other hand, the state of integrity cannot be equated with the state of glory. We may not draw conclusions from the former for the conditions of the latter. Isaiah 11:6 and 65:25 can no more be applied to the state of human life before the fall than Mark 12:25; Luke 20:36; and 1 Corinthians 6:13 (etc.). Though the form (forma) has changed, the matter (materia) of humankind, plant, animal, nature, and earth is the same before and after the fall. All the essential components existing today were present also before the fall. The distinctions and dissimilarities between men and women, parents and children, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends; the numerous institutions and relations in the life of society such as marriage, family, child rearing, and so forth; the alternation of day and night, workdays and the day of rest, labor and leisure, months and years; man’s dominion over the earth through science and art, and so forth—while all these things have undoubtedly been modified by sin and changed in appearance, they nevertheless have their active principle and foundation in creation, in the ordinances of God, and not in sin. Socialism and communism, also the socialism and communism of many Christian sects, are right in combating the appalling consequences of sin, especially also in the sphere of society. But these systems do not stop there; they also come into conflict with the nature of things, the creation ordinances, and therefore consistently take on, not a reformational, but a revolutionary character.”

From Reformed Dogmatics, Vol 2. ch. 13 on Human Destiny

Godliness Evidenced When Against The Stream: Richard Baxter by Shane Anderson

IMG_0038.JPG

I know law, and custom, and education, and friends, when they side with godliness, are a great advantage to it, by affording helps, and removing those impediments that might stick much with carnal minds. But truth is not your own, till it be received in its proper evidence; nor your faith divine, till you believe what you believe, because God is true who doth reveal it; nor are you the children of God, till you love him for himself; nor are you truly religious, till the truth and goodness of religion itself be the principal thing that maketh you religious. It helpeth much to discover a man's sincerity, when he is not only religious among the religious, but among the profane, and the enemies, and scorners, and persecutors of religion: and when a man doth not pray only in a praying family, but among the prayerless, and the deriders of fervent constant prayer: and when a man is heavenly among them that are earthly, and temperate among the intemperate and riotous, and holdeth the truth among those that reproach it and that hold the contrary: when a man is not carried only by a stream of company, or outward advantages, to his religion, nor avoideth sin for want of a temptation, but is religious though against the stream, and innocent when cast (unwillingly) upon temptations; and is godly where godliness is accounted singularity, hypocrisy, faction, humour, disobedience, or heresy; and will rather let go the reputation of his honesty, than his honesty itself. 

From Richard Baxter’s “Christian Directory”  http://a.co/0rbSMSd

It’s Easier To Get New Religion Than To Get A New Heart: A Warning From Baxter by Shane Anderson

IMG_5223.JPG

 “Either a religion made up of loose opinions, like the familists, ranters, libertines, and antinomians, and the Jesuits too much; or else made up of trifling formalities, and a great deal of bodily exercise, and stage actions, and compliments, as much of the popish devotion is: and a little will draw a carnal heart to believe a carnal doctrine. It is easier to get such a new religion, than a new heart. And then the devil tells them that now they are in the right way, and therefore they shall be saved. A great part of the world think their case is good, because they are of such or such a sect or party...”

If you’ve engaged in social media for long, you surely have seen at least some religious conversions and de-conversions. The modern context puts everything on display, making observations of human tendencies as easy as a click away. Even for the well-grounded Christian, it can be disconcerting to see someone falling into various doctrinal and practical sins. Or, it can be disappointing to see people stay in unbiblical churches, opinions, and practices when you hoped better for them. Particularly troubling is when someone seemed to know and love Christ and his Word, but later falls to a sect with a false gospel, false worship, false piety.

Sometimes the problem is less severe, at least outwardly. In our context, there are so many religious options that a person can simply find whatever degree of soundness they can tolerate and settle there, until they again are strongly challenged (by the Word or Providence) in the particulars of their own life before God. Then they simply move on again to somewhere that feels easier to the flesh.

In this quotation from Baxter’s Christian Directory he warns of two kinds of sects that appeal to this sort: on one side are those that are of “loose opinions” (what I call “free range”) and on the other side are those that excel in man-made religious activities (exotic liturgies, false worship, special works or missions, and extras of all sorts.) So then, as you see if you are observant and wise, times have not changed! These great Scylla and Charybdis still wreck many souls. As Baxter says, “It is easier to get such a new religion, than a new heart.”

10 Godly Expectations For Husbands & Fathers by Shane Anderson

IMG_5195.JPG

At the start of a new year, it is a seasonable time to re-evaluate ourselves in our calling as husbands and fathers. In light of this opportunity, Pastor Uriesou Brito of Providence Church CREC of Pensacola, Florida offers “Ten Straightforward Godly Expectations for Husbands/Fathers in 2019.” He’s graciously allowed them to be shared here:

  1. It doesn't matter how many times I say it, it needs to be repeated until it pierces the Christian masculine soul: Under normal circumstances, church is not optional. It is God's fourth commandment requirement of you. Men, if you allow your wife or other circumstances dictate your faithfulness to worship God with his people, you are weak and need to be rebuked.
  2. Your children (to borrow Peterson's language) will grow to be annoying to you if you do not invest in them now. Love. Care. Spend time. Read. Play. Hug. Kiss. Instruct. You won't be annoyed with your future children when you invest in the present.
  3. Don't just "date night your wife," but kiss her, love her, write to her, romance her, cook for her, and make her job at home as easy as possible by making yourself useful. If you don't know what that looks like, ask her. She will tell you.
  4. Family devotions are either too boring or non-existent in the home. Secret: make them short and participatory. Men, most of you are not pastors and don't play one on TV. Don't  play preacher to your kids. They will resent you.
  5. Read. If you don't read at least 3-5 books in a year, you're a poor leader in the home. "But I don't like to read!" Then get yourself an audible subscription and have at it.
  6. Pray like a man. "But I don't have a habit of praying for me or my family." Then get a copy of the "Valley of Vision" or Evelyn Underhill's "Prayer Book" on amazon. And read those and learn how to pray by reading people's prayers.
  7. Serve your church. "But I work odd hours and only have a few hours to spend with my family on the weekends." That's irrelevant. If your church has set-up to do, or if they have widows and shut-ins in need, or a host of things, there will always be time for service. And if you are concerned about not spending enough time with your kids, take them with you to serve. I guarantee you your family time in service will be doubly as profitable as just about anything you can do together.
  8. Sing God's songs together. "But I can't sing." Ever heard of youtube? Contemporary, psalms, hymns or whatever, it's all there. No more excuses, gents. Gather around dinner with a few printouts and sing something.
  9. Get together with other men. "But my wife says I am not allowed to go out at nights with my friends." Tell her it will make you a better husband if you spend time with other godly saints. Don't isolate your masculinity. On the other hand, if you don't extend the favor to your wife, you're an idiot that needs gentle but a firm rebuke.
  10. Watch good movies together. Quit isolating your styles from others in the household. A little here and there is okay, but when you have adult kids watching one thing, you watching something else and your spouse watching something else frequently, you have isolated the family from an exercise that may build healthy bonds and provide a forum for interesting conversations.

Men, don't waste your leadership!

They Live On Earth But Their Citizenship Is In Heaven: The Epistle to Diognetus by Shane Anderson

The Epistle to Diognetus is an early, apologetically oriented, Christian writing (c. 150-250 AD). It survived into the modern era by only one manuscript that eventually was destroyed in the Franco-Prussian War. You can find the text online in many places, one of which is here: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/diognetus-roberts.html

The letter feels quite familiar to modern Christians and contains some beautifully written sections. This one describes the place of the Christian Church in the world: 

IMG_5138.JPG

For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

Always In Christ Alone: Baxter On Sanctification by Shane Anderson

IMG_5129.JPG

I am continuing slowly through Richard Baxter’s monumental Directory and am sharing various ideas and quotations I have found particularly encouraging. Immediately preceding this quotation, he has been challenging the person who wants to please God to rid himself of any thought of self-merit or deserved acceptance before God in anything but Jesus Christ. Conversion and the beginnings of new life are only in and by Christ, but so it the way of sanctification and ultimate victory:  

 Alas! without Christ,

we know not how to live an hour;

nor can have hope or peace in any thing we have or do;

nor look with comfort either upward or downward, to God, or the creature;

nor think without terrors of our sins, of God, or of the life to come.

Resolve, therefore, that as true converts,

you are wholly to live upon Jesus Christ,

and to do all that you do by his Spirit and strength;

and to expect all your acceptance with God upon his account.

A Cheerful & Constant Use Of The Means & Helps Appointed By God: Richard Baxter by Shane Anderson

I’ve recently begun reading Baxter’s monumental  “A Christian Directory, Or A Sum Of Practical Theology And Cases Of Consience.”  In this post I provide a quotation of a brief section in which he next lays out the road map of spiritual growth. He describes the means God gives and we must use to progress spiritually. I hope it will be a help to you, and may the Lord provide you with each of these means and the grace of His Spirit to use them cheerfully and constantly!

Read More

If You Aren’t The Victim by Shane Anderson

IMG_4053.JPG

  “...Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16

If you aren't the victim, you are the perpetrator. Or so they say.

What is it with kids (men, women, actual kids, and uniquely-self-identified individuals) these days? Well, sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning say that we are in the midst of a transition of moral cultures, from a society that used to be honor based, then was dignity based, to one which is victim based.

In an honor-based society, people were obligated to maintain their reputation through direct, forceful responses to insults or slights. Think duels and such. In a dignity based culture, people maintain their dignity by ignoring insults and slights, “rising above them” and then using the force of government or other authorities to step in if things get crazy. But in a victimhood culture, the first one to cross the victimhood finish line wins! Slights and insults are to be uncovered, their naked wickedness publicly exposed and then assaulted through “empowered victims” who “are given a voice” and “a seat at the table” where they can use power to eradicate “systemic injustices.”

The implications for educational environments are already being seen. During my first undergraduate and graduate studies (1993-2001), I did not experience this approach. I reentered the education environment in 2008 for graduate studies in nursing, and I’m working on my second nursing degree now (update: finished in 2016! Now I’m a nurse practitioner in family medicine—Whoop!). At both a major private university and two public universities, I have personally witnessed the massive inroads this way of thinking has made. “Safe spaces” are being created for the student who is “triggered” by an “uncomfortable discussion.” Special educational plans are being developed for students individually, so that their special specialness is never slighted and always celebrated. Aggrievement processes and sensitivity discussions occupy a large percentage of lecture content. And “I don’t feel safe” isn’t about being mugged or raped, it’s about being “attacked” verbally, which sometimes means simply overhearing something you don’t like.

As others have noted, a victimhood culture creates perpetual conflict: drama, inefficiency, perpetual discussion and litigation.

Where does this leave us as Christians? Here are a few modest proposals for navigating this new cultural morass.

  1. Be wise.
    As people around us (and we ourselves) are influenced by this way of thinking, notice it, discern when it is happening, and watch your step. Perpetual fighting, visits to HR, social media shaming, and lawsuits are in your future. So pay attention, think, be careful: “The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.” Proverbs 14:8

  2. Don’t let this nonsense infiltrate the church.
    I have already begun to witness both within the churches and its governments the sad drift toward this approach. Is the aggrieved to be listened to more because he or she (or ze?) is more “hurt” than the one they accuse? Are we to parse the words of others to find hidden oppressive meanings and subtle “attacks” against us or whomever we are choosing to “give a voice?” Do we foster a “brokenness” culture in our churches where being a “beautiful mess” is lauded? Unless we see that this victimhood culture approach is a substitute for biblical living, we will begin to co-opt this foolish way in our lives and congregations.

Follow the Ten Commandments.
“The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul” Psalm 19:7 The way of wisdom is expressed perfectly in God’s law, and it is a light to our feet so we will sufficiently know how to live in this world. The days are evil, but the way of the righteous will prosper.

How do the Ten Commandments provide an alternative to the victimhood culture? Primarily they do this by rightly orienting all of our relationships under the saving kingship of the Triune God. Because He is our Savior in Christ, we now have the true and living God over us as our only “end game.” Our finish line is not dominance over others, by the means honor cultures, dignity cultures, or victimhood cultures offer. Our finish line is the full maturity of the complete man in Jesus Christ. The Ten Commandments lived out in faith, hope, and love point the way forward. If we believe this and are buoyed up in hope by God’s promises given to that way of life, we will navigate this cultural change just fine.

 

 

(originally posted at Torrey Gazette November 2015)

Wisdom And Authority: A Response to Brad Littlejohn by Michael Spangler

In a recent article, “What’s So Bad about ‘Worldview’?”, Dr. Brad Littlejohn, president of the Davenant Institute, speaks seriously about some serious issues in Christian thought. He discusses the weakness of the term “worldview” and offers as a replacement the term “wisdom,” which he defines as “the soul’s attunement to the order of reality.”

Read More

Bavinck: The Unanimous Opinion Of The Reformed Regarding Covenant Children by Shane Anderson

IMG_0433.JPG

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics Volume 4, p. 56 

“Reformed theologians unanimously agreed on the following points:

  1. That the benefits of the covenant of grace were usually distributed by God in connection with the means of grace; hence regeneration is in connection with the Word;
  2. That God, however, is not bound to these means, and hence he could also take an unusual route and regenerate and save especially young children without the Word;
  3. That he, as a rule, worked that way in the case of children of believers who were taken by death before reaching the age of discretion;
  4. That the baptized children of believers who were part of the life of the congregation had to be considered elect and regenerate until the contrary was evident from what they said and did; and
  5. That this however, was a judgment of charity, which must indeed be the rule for our attitude toward these children but cannot claim to be infallible.

On the other hand, from the very beginning there was disagreement over whether the children of believers, to the extent that they were elect, were regenerated already before, or in, or only after baptism.  Some—like Martyr, a Lasco, Dathenus, Alting, Witsius, Voetius, Mastricht—tended to favor the first view.  But the majority—Calvin, Beza, Musculus, Ursinus, de Bres, Acronius, Cloppenburg, Walaeus, Maccovius, Bucanus, Turretin, Heidegger, and others—left the question undecided.”

Zealous For Good Works: What Are Good Works (part 3)? by Shane Anderson

You have been recreated by the grace of the Spirit in Jesus Christ to live for God in the doing of good deeds—living in a way that pleases him. All objections and excuses must fade away in light of this truth, and we must be convinced that as Christ came to do the Father’s will, so he leads us forward in life as his new creation to do the same. Good works manifest the love of God to him and our neighbors. Good works are the imitation of Christ by the Spirit. 

Read More

Free Resource Focus: “Free Daily Bible Study” by Shane Anderson

Resource: “Free Daily Bible Study” 

Where:https://freedailybiblestudy.com/

What: An easy to used daily Bible Study and podcast that goes through the Bible one chapter at a time, following the M’Cheyen reading plan. It is simple in expression but theologically sound. You can subscribe via email or follow along on the blog, reading one chapter of the Bible at a time, or the whole M’Cheyen plan.

Read More

Zealous For Good Works: What Are Good Works (part 2)? by Shane Anderson

In light of some recent online controversy surrounding the place of good works in the lives of Christians, I am engaged in this series of posts with the aim of encouraging zealousness (rather than mere theological debate) for good works. In the previous post, I began to discuss what we mean by “good works” by attempting to clear out some misconceptions. This post turns in a more positive direction, seeking to answer the question more directly—soon enough we will be on to examining excerpts from historic Reformed preaching and writing.

But first, what are good works?

Read More

When The Truth Sounds Like Heresy: Piper and A. W. Pink On The Need For Repentance by Shane Anderson

I was struck then by A. W. Pink’s old explanation of the necessity of repentance. In the passage below he shows his concern over similar problems that Piper and representatives of the historic Reformed tradition are addressing: the necessity of sanctification, repentance, and good works is a pressing need for our lawless day, but some in our own circles not only sound an uncertain sound, they actually often actively fight against these biblical and necessary emphases. 

Read More

Mark Jones on Justification and Sanctification: Updated 10/2017 by Shane Anderson

Updated October 19, 2017: This is an index of some of Mark Jones’ excellent posts on justification, sanctification, good works, merit, and future judgment. These posts address aspects of these doctrines in light of current controversies, past wisdom, and confessional standards.

Read More

Bavinck: God’s Threats Against Believers Are Means Of Them Persevering by Shane Anderson

Herman Bavinck outlines the passages where Christians are warned and threatened against falling away, and are called to persevere in Christ, his word, and his love. Bavinck argues that these threats are used by God to motivate the willing perseverence, a perseverence that he has guaranteed in our regeneration and is not undermined by these threats.

Read More

Union With Christ In the Westminster Shorter Catechism by Andy Schreiber

There is much debate over whether we are to view union with Christ or justification as having a logical (even if not strictly chronological) priority in salvation.

While this post certainly will not settle that debate, I thought that it might at least prove helpful to briefly examine what the Westminster Shorter Catechism has to say about the subject. It is my contention that the Shorter Catechism is abundantly clear when it comes to spelling out for us which comes first (i.e. logical priority), union with Christ or justification.

Read More