Archive for March, 2012

Omnicompetent: You and I Are Not

Here is a great paragraph from Michael Horton regarding why church tradition is not all bad, the larger Christian conversation can be very helpful, and the banal mantra, “No creed  but Christ; no book but the Bible,” is not all that helpful.

“Creeds, confessions, a good systematic theology can all help us to see the limitations of our own narrow range of ideas, presuppositions, experiences, and longings. We must rid ourselves of the notion that it matters little what others have said in their reading of Scripture through the ages, since we are just reading the Bible. So, too, of course, were those others who have gone before us. The choice is not between following ‘mere men’ and Scripture directly; it’s a choice between interpreting Scripture with the larger church rather than thinking of ourselves as omnicompetent. It is a sign of humility when we are able to conclude that we, like the Ethiopian eunuch, are hampered by our own blind spots. ‘So Philip ran to him [the Ethiopian], and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him… Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture [Isa. 53:7-8], preached Jesus to him’ (Acts 8:30-31, 35 NKJV). Instead of pretending to start from scratch, join the conversation already in progress since Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” From Michael Horton, A Better Way: Rediscovering the Drama of God-Centered Worship.

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Carl Trueman on Apple

This post requires four qualifications right up front (which may mean I should rethink clicking publish).

First, to keep at bay the potential responses that I am just an Apple hater trying to make what I don’t like sinful, I will say right up front, “I like and use Apple products a lot.”

Second, the issue is not limited to Apple products, or even techno-gadgets.

Third, this is not a call for smashing your gadgets with a hammer and returning to sticky notes, steno pads, and Franklin Covey binders. Although, if you feel so moved, I would like to help because smashing stuff with hammers is fun.

Fourth, it is not necessarily sinful to have, or even like, gadgets.

With that said, this article by Carl Trueman on the Reformation21 blog raises a great question, “To what degree do we look to things other than Christ for relief (or at least distraction) from our condition and need?” Karl Marx declared, “[Religion] is the opium of the people;” Carl Trueman points at gadgets (probably as a typical example) as the modern opium and says we’re basically acting like a bunch of junkies.

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How does the Christian relate to the Law?

Coming out of our Wednesday School study there were a number of questions being asked that can be summarized as follows, “How does the Christian relate to the Law?”

There are essentially three answers:

1. Legalism – We keep the law to gain some favor from God. This favor can be construed as justification or as some temporal blessing in this life. The former is saying, “Because I am good, God saves me.” This is patently false. No one is justified by works of the law. The latter is saying, “Because I am good, God blesses me” (makes me rich or successful or happy or whatever). This is also patently false. We simply cannot earn God’s favor either eternally in the form justification or temporally in the form of “blessing”.

2. Antinomianism – We need not keep the law at all. We have been freed from the Law in Christ, and it therefore has nothing to say to us. This is antinomianism and fails to make sense of either Scripture or life. It is clear in Scripture that murder is wrong for all people, even those in Christ. This is a law. You should keep it and not reject it. Antinomians take statements in which Paul is dealing with pursuing justification through the law (most often from books like Romans and Galatians), and applies them too broadly.

3. Biblical Christianity – The New Testament takes a more nuanced approach to the law that says you cannot earn God’s favor by keeping the law, but you can glorify him by loving him and obeying his commands. You cannot be one of God’s people by keeping the law, but because you are one of God’s people by grace through faith in Christ, obey. Paul says in Ephesians 2.8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (ESV). We are all familiar with this. Paul then goes on to say in Ephesians 2.10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” So, clearly there is some concept in Christianity of a “good work”, and God has defined them. So, what are they? Are they not just keeping the law. Well, yes and no. Historically, we have distinguished between the moral, the civil, and the ceremonial laws of the Mosaic Covenant. In one sense, the civil and ceremonial laws are particular applications of the moral law for the people of Israel as the existed as this ancient theocracy. Therefore, while these particular applications don’t make sense for us today, the moral law that underlies the civil and ceremonial and is summed up in the ten commandments still serves as a guide for holy living, what Calvin called the third use of the law. This is why Jesus expounds the ten commandments in the Sermon on the Mount and God tells Peter to eat unclean food in Acts 10.

If you are interested in further reading on this issue I recommend this article by Rev. Richard Phillips and this article by Dr. Richard Alderson. If you are interested in a lengthier treatment of the ten commandments and the Christian life, I recommend, The Law of Perfect Freedom by Michael Horton and How Jesus Transforms the Ten Commandments by Ed Clowney.

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