Sola Scriptura - the Rule of Faith

Thoughts on Westminster Confession of Faith, articles I.9-10, which you can find here.

Our final appeal in debating and interpreting the Bible is to the original text.  We interpret Scripture by Scripture.  The highest standard and rule we have is the Bible, not the church or our reason.  This is a weakness we have today.  When we run into a question or problem in the Bible, our tendency is to consult our study Bible, or favorite online teacher, or commentary, or book, or the church fathers, etc.  These can help, but the ultimate authority on the Bible is the Bible.  If the Bible is hard to understand on Levitical laws and sacrifices, there are other places that more clearly explain what it was all about (Hebrews).  If we aren’t sure if a character in a story is doing the right thing, there are verses elsewhere that teach ethically if he is being faithful or not.

The confession makes a side comment that the meaning of Scripture is singular, not manifold.  This was a rejection of the medieval system of finding four meanings in every text.  Some misinterpret this and assert that there is only one application of any text, or only one right way to articulate and summarize a text.  No, there is one basic sense of the passage, which can (and should) be stated variously, and applied in several ways.

The confession is often enlightening when you take out all the subordinate clauses.  “The supreme judge… [is] the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.”  Note the pointer not to the Bible ultimately, not even to Jesus, ultimately, but to the Spirit, whom Jesus has poured out upon us to lead us into all truth.

The Clarity and Purity of Scripture

Thoughts on Westminster Confession of Faith, articles I.7-8, which you can find here.

Some parts of the Bible are hard to understand or obscure.  But you don’t have to be a scholar or genius to understand its main message of salvation through Jesus Christ.  We can put the Bible into the hands of the average man on the street, with confidence that they will be able to understand it.   You don’t have to know Greek and Hebrew or have a seminary degree.  This is called (ironically) the perspicuity or clarity of Scripture.  Ironic, because few know what perspicuous means, so it is NOT clear!

Speaking of Greek and Hebrew, the Bible in the original languages is inspired and inerrant.  Translations are not infallible, but they should be done so people can have the Word in their own language.  The original texts are preserved in their “essential purity” as A.A. Hodge puts it.  There are variants in the many texts we have, so some scribal errors have slipped in along the way, but nothing major or that can’t be sorted out to know what God has told us.

Vote Tomorrow

Just a quick note before the primary tomorrow.

God calls us to vote.
On one level, I understand the bumper sticker: "Don't vote.  It only encourages them."
But that is a joke looking to the vanity and ambition of politicians.  When our government asks for our voice into its governance, it is poor stewardship at the least to refuse.

Trump is not a legitimate candidate for a Christian.
He has a pro-abortion record, is arrogant, an adulterer, a big donor to Democrats and the Clintons, and has few specific proposals.  The list could go on and on.

Voters have a voice but are not sovereign.
Especially in election season we tend to believe the myth that all power in this country rests with the people.  "We the people," right?  At this stage in the campaign season, though, it becomes painfully obvious that the number of candidates determines a lot.  As long as Trump has 4 candidates to run against he will win.  In unity there is strength.  The choice given the people determines a lot.

Donors and candidates and polls are significant, but not sovereign.
Many tend to throw up their hands at this point in the race, being sick of it all, and assert with disgust that the big money and smoke-filled back rooms of the political parties decide it all, anyway.  So why pay attention - why vote?  I don't grant the premise.  Big money and maneuvering does affect a lot.  But don't forget Haman and Ahithophel and Judas and other movers and shakers who thought events were in their hands, when they are really in God's.

God is in control.
Jeremiah 18:6 - “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says Yahweh. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!"
This is true of every nation, as well as of the church of God.

Isaiah 40:23 -    He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless.

Earthly leaders are still needed
Asserting that God is in control is no excuse to walk away from politics.
The opinion headline in my local paper yesterday was "Trump is No Savior."
Some have called Rubio the savior of the Republican party.
Rubio's response?  There's only one savior: Jesus Christ.
Now, it is wrong to look for a savior in politics.  At the same time, if something is wrong with the plumbing, you call a plumber.  We see much wrong in our politics, so we need political leaders at the helm to fix it.  They are God's instrument and servant for doing justice in the nations.

So please, trust God with our nation, and go vote wisely.

Distorting Biblical Submission // Early Church Worship

Piper teaches 6 things biblical submission is not.

Justin Taylor outlines a second century church worship service.

World magazine chimes in on unbiblical headship in marriage - some good specifics here to think about.


Church Follows Jesus as Prophet, Priest and King

Recently I attended a series of talks by Jeff Meyers, and wanted to share some of the content with you.

Jesus Christ is our prophet, priest and king.  The Westminster Shorter Catechism summarizes this nicely in its questions 23-26.  Jim Jordan and Jeff Meyers apply this idea in helpful ways.  God means for us to grow in our relationship with Him, from priest, to king to prophet.

In the priest phase, we learn the basic rules of access to God.  This is right; that is wrong.  Don’t eat that; eat this.  Do the sacrifice this way.  The lips of a priest should preserve knowledge (Malachi 2:7).  Know the law and word of God so you can do what it says.  We are learning the ropes as apprentices.

In the king phase, we need wisdom to apply the word in new situations that the law doesn’t directly address.  What Bible verse do you go to, when two women each claim the living baby as theirs, the dead baby as the other lady’s, and there is no third witness?  As an observer of human nature, Solomon could judge rightly.  We are working and ruling as responsible stewards – rulers of our domain under the King of kings.

In the prophet phase, we intercede - and even argue - with God for people.  God welcomes this, taking us into His counsels as we pray.  Abraham interceded for Sodom, Amos intercedes for Israel (chpt. 7).  When Jesus calls His disciples friends instead of servants in the upper room, He then calls on them to ask the Father for what they want (John 15:13-16).  We are consulting and mentoring others, and before God we make petitions and informed arguments to bring in His Kingdom.

This is a big-picture paradigm, not meant to fit all the details exactly, or be strictly chronological.  It isn’t that we leave the priest phase, and stop worrying about right and wrong when we move to rule.  But there are added dimensions of responsibility.

This paradigm is at work in many ways.
Abraham acts as priest when he builds altars in Genesis 12, as a king when he rescues Lot in chapter 14, and as a prophet when he intercedes for Sodom in chapter 18 (also see 20:7).  In the history of Israel, they first receive the law (priest), then have kings, then become interceders for the world (prophets, Daniel, Esther).  In our careers, we first get the education and book learning (priest), then get a job (king) and later mentor others with the job (prophet).

The church’s mission also follows this pattern.
  • Priests bring others to God in the right way.  The church teaches and evangelizes the world to come to God through Jesus, the spotless sacrifice.
  • Kings use their wealth, power and passion to build up their people.  The church uses her resources to do the same.  Don’t amass these for yourself.  Deuteronomy 17:14-17 tells the king not to amass gold (wealth), horses (power), or wives (passion).  Instead, steward them to give to and equip others.
  • Prophets intercede for the world, and so does the church.  We vastly underestimate our calling to pray for others, and the effect of prayer on ourselves and actual events.

There are some biblical connections or interpretations that Jordan makes that are a stretch or just off base, but this is a really helpful paradigm overall, for seeing the mission of the church in the world.


Living with CS Lewis // No Trump // Sermons

This interview with Walter Hooper is great.  Hooper talks about going to the bathroom when first visiting him at his home after drinking too much tea, the old curtains, attending the Inklings, etc.  Hooper is a key reason we have so many of Lewis' writings published and available.

Short argument against Donald Trump from a Repub.  His success is seriously shaking my general optimism towards mainstream conservative, Republican and Christian voters, who are falling for him.  It isn't just the Courts and Congress whose minds and moral compass are being blinded and confounded - it's Christians and conservatives.

Here are my sermons.  I just uploaded the last 3 months or so.


But for God's Grace // Worshiping Same God as Muslims? // Lord of Rings Music

Tim Challies critiques the attitude behind the phrase, "There but for the grace of God go I."

Kevin DeYoung asks a series of good questions in reply to, "Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?"

Howard Shore's soundtrack for Lord of the Rings reflects well the story.  If you know some music theory and like the movies, this'll be right up your alley.


A Gruesome Custom

After a sermon on Genesis 15:7-18

Here at the Lord’s Table we have the New Testament version of Abram’s bloodpath.  How shall we know God will keep His promises to us that He kept at the cross?  The answer is what it was for Abram:  God spoke the promises again, and He gave a sign pointing to blood.  

The bloodpath pointed to the death of the covenant breaker.  Jesus took that on for us as He bled and died on the cross.  The bloodpath said God would die if He or we broke the covenant.  Well, we broke the covenant, so blood was required.  It was paid at the cross, and Jesus gave us this ritual to remember it.  “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” 


On Lent

This is late, but better late than never.

Call to Confess our Sins, 2/14/2016

Today is the first Sunday in Lent, which began last Wednesday.  Lent is the 40 days before Easter, not counting Sundays, when the focus is the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus, His obedience and self-denial as our spotless substitute sacrifice.  The gospels give us this account of the temptation of Christ, right at the beginning of His ministry, right after His baptism, to emphasize this.  Jesus came to do what we were supposed to do: renounce the devil and his works, turn from sin to God.

Lent can easily become focused on what we do for God, what we give up, and many reject Lent because of this.  We are not Lent fanatics here, but if we keep our main focus on what Jesus did for us, it is a helpful season indeed.  

The main thing about Christmas is what God did for us in the Incarnation of Christ.  And we give each other presents, too.  The main thing about Lent is what God did for us in the obedience and sufferings of Christ.  And we consider how we could be following Christ more closely in obedience and self-denial, too.  

Not with superficial fasts that trivialize God’s call to put off the old man of sin.  Not with a morbid, nazel-gazing worm theology that doesn’t look to Jesus Christ our Savior.  But looking to the word as we always do as our rule of faith and life.


Theology Q & A: The Sufficiency of Scripture

Thoughts on Westminster Confession of Faith, article I.6, which you can find here.

The revelation of God in Scripture is complete.  It doesn’t give specifics on everything, but the principles given apply to everything.  There is no inspired technical manual on aircraft mechanics, but there is instruction on how to work in any calling or career (Colossians 3:17, 22-25).

Some things are not explicitly taught in Scripture, but can be inferred from it.  An example might be that wives and citizens ought not submit to their husbands and magistrates when asked to oppose God.  We see this in story form in Abigail going behind Nabal’s back, and the apostles telling the temple leadership they must obey God rather than men.  But the principles aren’t laid out in instructive form.  We often need to infer from events in the Bible whether this is model behavior or not, using the clearer parts of Scripture to do so.

We must be careful not to add to Scripture.  Some cults do this literally, but many Christians do it functionally by giving their favorite teachers more weight than the Bible, or chasing the leading of the Spirit more than heeding Scripture.  Jesus corrected the Pharisees for “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9).  We need the Spirit’s illumination to read and understand and profit from Scripture, but we do not need or expect new revelation from the Spirit beyond Scripture.  Illumination by the Spirit is not same as inspiration.

Although the Bible addresses everything in principle, it does leave us to the wisdom we find in creation when we get down to the details on many things.  There is no detailed schematic for how big a church should be, what kind of building to have, how long a worship service should last, how the leadership should be structured.  This in no way threatens the idea of the sufficiency of Scripture.  The Bible gives us “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).


Ted Cruz and Home-schooling

The tiff over Cruz's bill to give homeschoolers the opportunity to have an eduational savings account reveals some philosophical differences of emphasis among Christian homeschoolers.

American Vision (AV) opposes it, as the camel's nose in the tent of federal regulation and tyranny.

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) supports it, (check out their recent interview with Cruz here) as a way of giving home-schoolers the same benefits offered to public- or private-schoolers.

AV's view of home-schooling is motivated by keeping the government out of our lives absolutely and at all costs.  HSLDA's view is motivated by giving home-schoolers the same rights and privileges as anyone else in our political system.

Cruz says he wants no role for the federal government in education.  He'd abolish the Department as president.  Yet he supports this bill.  You can see Cruz as inconsistent in this if you want, but it's really incrementalism of the legit variety, in my book.  Politicians work on two different level at the same time: the long range goals driven by the values you hold, and the laws in place and how you can realistically get them changed.

This is an issue over which faithful Christians do not need to choose sides.  Our media these days trains us to pick sides and fight over every last thing, but there is no need here.  It's very dirty politics to use this bill to turn the heart of Cruz' base against him.  Of course, we'll all have a primary vote to cast, but to reject Cruz over this would be poor political prioritizing.

Some home-schoolers in my state use a religious exemption, entitling them to report virtually nothing to the state about their education of their children.  This is the American Vision mentality: we're home-schooling partly to keep the guvmint out of our family.  Others use a more standard approach and report some things annually.  This is more characteristic of the HSLDA folks.  Either option is legitimate, in my book.  The AV approach can too harshly lambast this latter group and Cruz for working in the public square for the benefit of home-schoolers.  HSLDA, on the other hand, can be too naive to the pitfalls involved with its pursuit of getting a place at the political table for home-schoolers.


Unhealthy Churches // Average Churches // Trump, Again

Signs of an unhealthy church - Kevin DeYoung - very good!

Don't be embarrassed by your small and ordinary church.
Excellent - Erik Raymond

Doug Wilson is good on Trump's relationship with the GOP.


Theology Q & A: The Bible as Inspired Rule

Thoughts on Westminster Confession of Faith, article I.2-3, which you can find here.

Where do we find God’s written revelation?

The words God gave us from Him are in the Old and New Testament of the Christian Bible.  For now, the confession just asserts this.  Later it will get into the “Who says?” question.

The Bible is inspired by God.  That means it says what God meant it to say.  Every word is from Him.  Jesus spoke of every jot and tittle standing firm (Matthew 5:19).  While God let the personalities of human authors speak, He did not let erroneous assumptions or customs slip into the text.  We want to think that when the Bible says something we don’t like.  Moses didn’t know about the age of the earth, or he wouldn’t have written about six-day creation.  He didn’t know about political freedom and equality or he wouldn’t have written about a form of slavery being okay.  Paul didn’t know about gender equality or he wouldn’t have written about wives submitting to husbands.  Paul didn’t know about loving and committed homosexual relationships or he wouldn’t have written of same sex behavior as a perversion.  All these assume God let mistakes slip into the Scriptures.  He did not.

The Old Testament claims inspiration for itself at many points: “Thus saith the Lord.”  “And God spoke all these words.”  The New Testament puts itself on the same level as the Old in 2 Peter 3:16 and 1 Timothy 5:18.  “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God…”  (2 Timothy 3:16).

By what standard are we to judge truth?  These 66 books – what we call the canon (measuring rod) of Scripture.  The Apocrypha is not a part of this authoritative standard, as has been claimed by some.  Some of it is edifying, some is good history, and some of it is rather silly.  But there is no apostolic or prophetic claim or assumption to be God’s Word in it.

So the Bible is our rule of faith and life.  We find there what we must believe about God and how we must live before God.  This follows if the Bible is God’s inspired communication to us.  It isn’t advice or helpful stories; our Creator has spoken to His people with a redeeming and saving purpose.


Theological Q & A: General and Special Revelation

Thoughts on Westminster Confession of Faith, article I.1, which you can find here.

If you’re going to start talking about God, where do you start?  These days most people seem to start with their feelings or their faith experience.  “To me, God is…”  is common.  For the men who wrote the Westminster Confession of Faith, you have to start with the Bible.  Before you can assert anything about God, you have to have a reliable source.  Each person deceived in his sin and error believes he is a reliable source, but no human being is.  We had better find truth outside of ourselves, for the “divine spark” within each person isn’t cutting it.

Before we delve into the Bible, you have to back up one more step and ask, “Is there anywhere else God has revealed Himself?”  And there is.  Everything we see in the world is a revealing of God in some way.  People are made in His image (Genesis 1:27).  “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1).  The mountains, clouds and galaxies show His power and majesty.  The beehives and bacteria show His complex and intricate designs.  Without any Bible at all, we have no excuse for rejecting God as our Creator on the basis of this information.  And we do reject Him.  We stand condemned before the Bible even comes into the picture.

But God wanted to redeem and save us, so He spoke again.

He spoke in various ways in the past (Hebrews 1:1-3) – through prophets, dreams, visions and writers like Moses, Samuel and the Chronicler.

He wanted to reveal Himself.  Knowledge of God was obscured and even lost from Adam’s generation on.  Men called on God by His name Yahweh in the third generation (Genesis 4:26), but when Israel was in Egypt it seems they did not know God by this name (Exodus 6:3).  God wanted to make Himself known, and what He did for the people He was saving (Exodus 3:13-14).  Especially what He has done in Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the complete and final revealing of God.  Words and dreams that came before don’t hold a candle to seeing God in the face of Jesus.

God wanted to declare His will to His people.  As the Creator, He wanted to tell His creation how things were supposed to go in the world.  We lost this when we sinned, and got crazy ideas in our heads about how we could live, instead.  We need to be told how to live, or we go off the rails.  The Bible gives us clear instructions.  This preserves the truth when we would forget and neglect it.  It is a pillar against our corruption, and a comfort when we are unsure or lost.

So after Jesus came, God committed His revelation to writing, and stopped using other means.  This emphasized the importance of Jesus, and of the apostles who recorded His life and work.  Scripture is necessary for salvation, for it reveals who and what we are to believe.  It is a light shining in a dark place (2 Peter 1:19).

So creation and nature reveals God on one level.  It is enough to condemn us, so that there is no innocent native anywhere who has never heard the Gospel or seen a Bible.  Creation doesn’t give us enough to go on to believe in.  So we need the Bible.

A.A. Hodge points to three errors refuted by this.
1.  Rationalism – the assertion that there is no revelation of God we have to go on.  It’s up to us to assemble truth ourselves from our own resources.
2.  Deism – God may be there, and set up the world, but we figure out the rest on our own.  This is almost the same problem as the first one.
3.  Biblicism – the assertion that only the Bible gives us knowledge of God.  What we see in nature is too obscure to be of any use.

If we don’t start with the Bible, our whole study of God is on the wrong track from the start.


Theology Q & A: the Authority of Scripture

Thoughts on Westminster Confession of Faith, article I.4-5, which you can find here.

The Bible doesn’t get its authority from man’s proofs or the church’s authority, but from God who authored it.  There are all kinds of dangers here.  When our favorite online preacher becomes too big in our influence, we might believe the Bible because of his assuring tone and words.  If we are history buffs, we might believe the Bible because an archaeological find confirms Hezekiah really existed.  The confession has an eye on the Roman Catholic assertion that the Church gives the Bible its authority, by its declaration that these texts are Scripture.  No, it’s the other way around.  The Bible gives the Church its authority to speak.  When John the Baptist pointed out Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God,” John was not giving Jesus his authority.  John only recognized Jesus as already having authority, apart from him.  So it is with the Church pointing to the Bible.

There is plenty of evidence right in the Bible of its truth and authority.
The unity of design by 40 different authors writing over a span of 1500 years.
The heavenliness of matter and majesty of style (see Genesis 1 and Isaiah 40 for examples).
What it teaches is self-evidently true (see Romans 1-2).

But only the Holy Spirit can fully persuade us of the Bible’s truth and authority (1 Corinthians 2:10, 14).  The book of Acts gives us a glimpse of this a few times – that the Lord opens hearts to receive truth (Acts 16:14; 13:48).

This isn’t to endorse a “just me and my Bible” approach to the Christian life.  This attitude says, why listen to anyone, if the Spirit is the ultimate source?  No, we need the church’s witness and teaching about the Bible to grow in the Lord.  Proofs and evidence further reinforce the authority of Scripture.  But they are not the foundation of its authority.


Two Gentlemen of Verona

The Two Gentlemen of VeronaThe Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of Shakespeare's earliest plays, it covers lots of themes he stuck with throughout his career.

The tension between friendship and love is shown at the very beginning, as friends part so one can go pursue his love. Switches of identity, the crazy things love makes you do, and getting through obstacles to obtain your love, also play major roles.

The climactic scene shows a lover protecting his beloved from a threatening friend, but then forgiving that penitent friend. His protection also changes the father's resistance to him.

A classic love tale and good introduction to Shakespeare.

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Aunts Aren't Gentlemen

Aunts Aren't Gentlemen (Jeeves, #15)Aunts Aren't Gentlemen by P.G. Wodehouse

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I haven’t read Wodehouse in a while, and he doesn’t disappoint. The fools and schemers that clutter Bertie Wooster’s life constantly implicate him, and require his resourceful valet Jeeves to extricate him.

In this episode, a bit unique in how full it is of physical and violent threatenings (or I'd just forgotten), Bertie’s Aunt schemes to fix a horse race by stealing a cat and hiding it at Bertie’s cottage.

The way Wodehouse weaves colorful metaphors, Biblical and literary allusions into sentences referring to the most banal of events is truly magical. He delights the reader and instructs the writer throughout.

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Killer Angels

The Killer AngelsThe Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve read very few Civil War re-tellings, historical or fictionalized. Shaara gets inside the head of various military leaders on both sides. In this way he vividly describes battles, and the choices made personally that shaped the battle of Gettysburg. Shaara’s terse writing style was a bit overdone, but fits the “men-of-action-thinking” theme.

The theme in the title comes as two union soldiers consider the meaning of this warfare. Man is a killer angel. He has the dignity of being made in the image of God, yet wreaks such havoc and devastation on the earth as seen at Gettysburg. Chamberlain, the northern colonel, is a post-Christian, Enlightenment college professor, who ruminates existientially on the clash of his transcendental ideals with the combat he has seen. General Lee prays to God for his men and their families. As a good historian, Shaara doesn’t keep it simple like that, though. Another southern general has become bitter toward God after the death of his children, for example.

I enjoyed most the depictions of Lee (weary, decisive, knows his generals), and the few spots where each side says why they are fighting. Confederate prisoners tell Union soldiers they fight for their “rats.” The misunderstanding of the dialect signifies a greater misunderstanding – the north doesn’t get this at all. The south is violating black rights – how can they be concerned for their own? The north is fighting to put down rebellion, preserve the union, and to a limited point to free slaves. But the north’s treatment of a black man they come across is highly significant: they are kind and treat him medically, but then have nowhere to send him and nothing to give him - they just abandon him.

There are several themes of contrast between north and south like that. One more is how each relates to the soil. Lee reaches down and touches the ground and thinks of it as Pennsylvanian and foreign. He is now the invader. When Chamberlain considers Pennsylvania ground, it’s no different to him than Maine – war and man are the same anywhere. He is an industrial and modern man, not of the Old World, provincial and rural south.

Shaara evenly shows the strength and weakness of each side of the army. The North is strong and shows courage at times in Chamberlain’s bayonet charge. But they are inept and not as motivated as the South. The Confederacy is highly motivated to preserve their way of life from the invader, but their flamboyant generals don’t coordinate well after Stonewall Jackson passes from the scene.

Overall, an excellent read to understand both the military maneuvers and motivations of the men.

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Perelandra (Space Trilogy, #2)Perelandra by C.S. Lewis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What would it be like to visit another planet created by God that had experienced no fall and knew nothing of sin? Perelandra is a marvelous tale that tries to imagine this. Lewis explores what it is like to be tempted but not sin. Weston, the devil character, has moved from being a humanist progressivist in the first book of the series, to more of a nihilist in this one. Satan appears to possess him off and on, to tempt the first lady of the planet, while Ransom tries to help her resist him. This is the heart of the book. Lewis is incorporating some Screwtape Letters themes here. Part of temptation is imagining sinning without consequence.


Ransom was sent to Perelandra to ward off evil, and he succeeds in his mission. The final scene of angels, mankind and creatures all gathered together is glorious – one of Lewis’ best passages anywhere. Lewis asserts standard Medieval hierarchy throughout, and especially here at the end. The lady of the planet is greater than he is, the king greater than her. At the end Ransom kneels before them and says,

“Do not move away, do not raise me up. I have never before seen a man or a woman. I have lived all my life among shadows and broken images. Oh, my Father and my Mother, my Lord and my Lady, do not move, do not answer me yet. My own father and mother I have never seen. Take me for your son. We have been alone in my world for a great time.”

The book is full of landscape description, which I found tedious reading aloud to my kids. I saw an interview with Michael Ward explaining this. Giving the distinct atmosphere of the place is part of what makes the literary work. It still seemed Lewis doesn’t do scenery as well – kind of clunky. But it’s worth it for all the insight Lewis gives into the nature of evil, humanity, ransom, and creation.

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The Taming of the Shrew

The Taming of the ShrewThe Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.”
Proverbs 31:30.

I’ve set myself the crazy task of reading all of Shakespeare’s works in 2016.
This was the second play I read. I’m also making sense of it using Peter Leithart’s “Brightest Heaven of Invention.”

How do we change? The introduction of the play suggests one way. People treat us a certain way, and we begin to act that way, even if it isn’t us on the inside. The clothes make the man. We rise to the occasion people present to us. Hortensio gives us a second way we change, in how he woos Bianca. He uses soft and soothing words. Study and work as it’s agreeable to your stomach. Don’t beat yourself up, but study using the method that feels helpful. Petruchio’s treatment of Kate is the third method of change. He is stern and full of round rebukes. He shows her her own abuse of others by mistreating her. He gives her no food unless she says thank you for it. The stomach is made to serve virtue, instead of hoping virtue arises as you give the stomach what it wants.

Shakespeare advocates the third approach. It is the way to tame the shrew of sin in all of us (mortification). You can’t be tame with the subtle serpent. Treat him roughly, kill him and be done with it.

At the end, there is an Esther scene which proves this third approach works best. At a banquet, three men bet on whose wife will come from the other room when they call. Only Kate comes obediently, and then she gets the others to come, too. We realize that fair Bianca, whose virtue looked great next to Kate’s shrew-ness at the beginning, has always been rather selfish on the inside.

The last speech by Kate is a marvel. She lectures the other two wives on how their husbands are their lords. They need to be submissive for all the work they do for them. She offers to put her hand under Petruchio’s foot, but he calls for her to kiss him instead. Submission leads to peace and exaltation.

I’m sure The Taming of the Shrew is highly uncomfortable to modern ears. Who would treat a wife this way, or let a husband treat her like this? I think this is meant as part of the literary shock and fun. Shakespeare is pointing to the jarring realities of husbands and wives disagreeing strongly with each other, and sinning against each other, but still having to live together for the rest of their lives. And he is using the sensitive areas of courtship and marriage as a display case for showing how people are best “tamed.” The shock of a husband withholding food from a wife, as a parent would from a child, makes the point that selfish shrews will make marriage a hell on earth if it isn’t fixed. Kate should have been tamed earlier in life.

But better late than never, right?

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Theology Q & A: Monergism

What is Monergism?

Monergism is a word that comes straight from Greek, and means "one working," as opposed to more than one contributing to doing something.  The beginning of our salvation, our coming alive spiritually, usually called regeneration, is monergistic.  God revives us by His Spirit.  We do not contribute to this in any way.  When Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb, Lazarus wasn't pushing on the door trying to get out.  God alone worked life into him by that call.  Because of this, God gets all the glory in our salvation.

Justification can also be described as monergistic.  God provides the righteousness and sacrifice of Jesus as the ground for our forgiving our sins, grants us faith to trust Jesus, and then declares us righteous in His sight.

After this beginning, there is synergistic activity - both God and us working.  The work we must do is to believe in Jesus, accept the truth about sinful ourselves as shown in the Bible, and strive to live a godly life from then on.

Many evangelicals want to bring our work of believing at the beginning of the process.  "Believe and you will be born again," they say.  They usually do this out of a good motive to emphasize the importance of our acting, our believing and committing our life to Christ.  But it's still putting faith in the wrong place.  You can't believe until you're alive, and we are spiritually dead before God makes us live.

Again, we need to affirm this so God gets all the glory in saving us.  If it's my decision that makes the difference, then I can claim credit for being saved.  Even though you're trusting Jesus to do all the saving, you can compare yourself favorably with unbelievers.  And your decision is the difference, not God's grace.  Monergism keeps us away from this.  Any gift we have, including our faith in Jesus, is because of God graciously giving it to us.


Theology Q & A: Justification

What does it mean to be justified by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone?

This saying is attributed to Martin Luther, and both halves of it are true.  But usually folks lean one way or another on this, causing no end of theological controversy.  In one camp are the “faith alone” folks and in the other camp are the “faith isn’t alone” folks.

Faith alone
God justifies us, declares us righteous in His sight, without considering our works at all.  Like the thief on the cross, or Mary Magdalene, you never have to worry that awful things you have done, or good things you’ve not done, jeopardize your salvation, as long as you are trusting Jesus Christ to atone for your sins at the cross.  God doesn’t care how much damage you’ve done by your sins, if you are truly trusting His provided sacrifice to pay for your sins.  Works do not enter the equation in any way.  To call your faithfulness your faith in this justification equation is dangerous and starts to sound like justification by works.  In this regard, we want to keep a strict separation between our trust, however faltering, and our life which remains sinful.  Do not put any trust or hope in your life of integrity.  Any obedience you have is downstream from God justifying and changing you before.

Faith isn’t alone
The way we and others see our faith is by our works.  This is the point in James 2:14 and following.  We show our faith by our works, but we don’t earn our justification by our works.  We should be diligent to make our calling and election sure, to do good works which God created us before to do.  If we say we believe, but never act like a Christian, it’s a hollow profession that will not justify.  We can reach a point where we are so unfaithful in the present, that it discredits our profession of faith before God.  God makes this determination at the end of your life, as shown in Matthew 7:21-23.  You can’t rely on a profession of faith in the past or present to save you, if your heart is far from God and you are living as you want without regard for God.

Suspicion abounds; affirm the truth

Both of the above paragraphs are true.  But some will emphasize the first and suspect the “faith isn’t alone” camp of legalism.  Others stress the second and suspect the “faith alone” camp of antinomianism.  If you are worried about this in someone, just check that they believe both sides.  If they do, don’t sweat it too much that they emphasize the other camp.  Teachers should hit both of these about equally in their teaching.


Liar, Lunatic, ???, Lord // Teachable Teachers // Perseverance

Justin Taylor examines the "Liar, Lunatic or Lord" argument.  Turns out there's another (wrong) option....

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RC Sproul reminds teachers to be teachable.  Great reminder, personally!

Doug Wilson asserts that we can have the gift now, of persevering in the future.
Solid bulwark for assurance of faith, and doctrinal tendencies to reject the perseverance of the saints.

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Cage-Stage Calvinism // Good Music // Menial but Meaningful

This is a funny short article about "cage-stage" Calvinism.
Folks recently persuaded of the doctrines of sovereign grace need to read this!

Country music criticized 600 years ago, already.
"Music am I, who grieve, weeping, 
to see my sweet perfect workings abandoned
In favor of country songs by amorous minds,
because ignorance is a vice common to all men
good is cast aside and froth seized upon."
Francesco Landini (1397)

Give a listen, here.

On being faithful in the menial day-to-day stuff.
Only 2 screens long.
"Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God." (Jim Elliot)

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