September, 2013 Archive

textingwhiledriving1

There’s no theology in today’s post, just a down-to-earth, run-of-the-mill rant.

Well, maybe I could bring in something from Solomon’s wisdom literature to apply. But that’s not the point of this post.

When I use the phrase “texting and driving,” chances are the majority of readers will admit to having done this behavior at some point in the past. Studies show that approximately 50% of the readers of this post text while driving. 77% of you think you can do it safely.

I’ll confess, there was a time in my young and foolish life where I too texted while driving. In fact, you might say I was one of the worst of offenders as I have at times had multiple electronic distractions on in my car at one time. Stupid, stupid Ben. Sometimes, I still fall into the trap of looking at my phone when I’m not at a full stop.

For the last 8 months, I’ve had a new job that has added a significant amount of time to my daily commute. By significant I mean that I used to walk to work in under 10 minutes, now it takes me about 35 minutes to drive each way.

It is a daily occurrence for me to hit a traffic snare caused by an accident. Now, I get it, they’re called “accidents” for a reason – but I don’t think that term can apply when we’re just being stupid. When we herp-a-derp and drive, bad things happen.

Texting and driving is the biggest offense of stupid “herp-a-derp” of our time. Seriously, are the numbers not enough to scare us away from doing it? Studies show that at least 23% of all accidents are caused by texting and driving. Other studies show that 18% of fatal accidents involved driver distraction.

If I told you that you had a 23% chance of getting into a serious accident and possibly death from doing ANYTHING else, would you do it? I would even give up meat and cheese if statistics showed I was 23% more likely to go to the ER from eathing them! If a large percentage like this is enough to make you give up other behaviours, then why not texting and driving?

I would really like to get to work 77% of the time without seeing an accident. I’d also like for you not to die. So please, for the sake of my road rage and the longevity of your life,

STOP TEXTING AND DRIVING.

FromTheVaultFinal

I had previously allowed Charles Spurgeon to make an appearance and speak on predestination and election. I figured it was only fair to now hear from the great John Wesley, to hear the other side of the story.

—–

SERMON 128
FREE GRACE
(Preached at Bristol, in the year 1740)

To The Reader:
Nothing but the strongest conviction, not only that what is here advanced is “the truth as it is in Jesus,” but also that I am indispensably obliged to declare this truth to all the world, could have induced me openly to oppose the sentiments of those whom I esteem for their work’s sake: At whose feet may I be found in the day of the Lord Jesus!
Should any believe it his duty to reply hereto, I have only one request to make, — Let whatsoever you do, be done inherently, in love, and in the spirit of meekness. Let your very disputing show that you have “put on, as the elect of God, bowel of mercies, gentleness, longsuffering; “that even according to this time it may be said, “See how these Christians love one another!”
Whereas a pamphlet entitled, “Free Grace Indeed,” has been published against this Sermon; this is to inform the publisher, that I cannot answer his tract till he appears to be more in earnest. For I dare not speak of “the deep things of God” in the spirit of a prize-fighter or a stage-player.

“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how

  shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”

—–

1. How freely does God love the world! While we were yet sinners, “Christ died for the ungodly.” While we were “dead in our sin,” God “spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all.” And how freely with him does he “give us all things!” Verily, FREE GRACE is all in all!

2. The grace or love of God, whence cometh our salvation, is FREE IN ALL, and FREE FOR ALL.

3. First. It is free in all to whom it is given. It does not depend on any power or merit in man; no, not in any degree, neither in whole, nor in part. It does not in anywise depend either on the good works or righteousness of the receiver; not on anything he has done, or anything he is. It does not depend on his endeavors. It does not depend on his good tempers, or good desires, or good purposes and intentions; for all these flow from the free grace of God; they are the streams only, not the fountain. They are the fruits of free grace, and not the root. They are not the cause, but the effects of it. Whatsoever good is in man, or is done by man, God is the author and doer of it. Thus is his grace free in all; that is, no way depending on any power or merit in man, but on God alone, who freely gave us his own Son, and “with him freely giveth us all things.

4. But it is free for ALL, as well as IN ALL. To this some have answered, “No: It is free only for those whom God hath ordained to life; and they are but a little flock. The greater part of God hath ordained to death; and it is not free for them. Them God hateth; and, therefore, before they were born, decreed they should die eternally. And this he absolutely decreed; because so was his good pleasure; because it was his sovereign will. Accordingly, they are born for this, — to be destroyed body and soul in hell. And they grow up under the irrevocable curse of God, without any possibility of redemption; for what grace God gives. he gives only for this, to increase, not prevent, their damnation.”

5. This that decree of predestination. But methinks I hear one say, “This is not the predestination which I hold: I hold only the election of grace. What I believe is not more than this, — that God,, before the foundation of the world, did elect a certain number of men to be justified, sanctified, and glorified. Now, all these will be saved, and none else; for the rest of mankind God leaves to themselves: So they follow the imaginations of their own hearts, which are only evil continually, and, waxing worse and worse, are at length justly punished with everlasting destruction.”

6. Is this all the predestination which you hold? Consider; perhaps this is not all. Do not you believe God ordained them to this very thing” If so, you believe the whole degree; you hold predestination in the full sense which has been above described. But it may be you think you do not. Do not you then believe, God hardens the hearts of them that perish: Do not you believe, he (literally) hardened Pharaoh’s heart; and that for this end he raised him up, or created him? Why, this amounts to just the same thing. If you believe Pharaoh, or any one man upon earth, was created for this end, — to be damned, — you hold all that has been said of predestination. And there is no need you should add, that God seconds his degree, which is supposed unchangeable and irresistible, by hardening the hearts of those vessels of wrath whom that decree had before fitted for destruction.

7. Well, but it may be you do not believe even this; you do not hold any decree of reprobation; you do not think God decrees any man to be damned, not hardens, irresistibly fits him, for damnation; you only say, “God eternally decreed, that all being dead in sin, he would say to some of the dry bones, Live, and to others he would not; that, consequently, these should be made alive, and those abide in death, — these should glorify God by their salvation, and those by their destruction.”

8. Is not this what you mean by the election of grace? If it be, I would ask one or two question: Are any who are not thus elected saved? or were any, from the foundation of the world? Is it possible any man should be saved unless he be thus elected? If you say, “No,” you are but where you was; you are not got one hair’s breadth farther; you still believe, that, in consequence of an unchangeable, irresistible decree of God, the greater part of mankind abide in death, without any possibility of redemption; inasmuch as none can save them but God, and he will not save them. You believe he hath absolutely decreed not to save them; and what is this but decreeing to damn them? It is, in effect, neither more not less; it comes to the same thing; for if you are dead, and altogether unable to make yourself alive, then, if God has absolutely decreed he will make only others alive, and not you, he hath absolutely decreed your everlasting death; you are absolutely consigned to damnation. So then, though you use softer words than some, you mean the self-same thing; and God’s decree concerning the election of grace, according to your account of it, amounts to neither more not less than what others call God’s decree of reprobation.

10. But if this be so, then is all preaching vain. It is needless to them that are elected; for they, whether with preaching or without, will infallibly be saved. Therefore, the end of preaching — to save should — is void with regard to them; and it is useless to them that are not elected, for they cannot possibly be saved: They, whether with preaching or without, will infallibly be damned. The end of preaching is therefore void with regard to them likewise; so that in either case our preaching is vain, as you hearing is also vain.

17. Again: How uncomfortable a thought is this, that thousands and millions of men, without any preceding offense or fault of theirs, were unchangeably doomed to everlasting burnings! How peculiarly uncomfortable must it be to those who have put on Christ! to those who, being filled with bowels of mercy, tenderness, and compassion, could even “wish themselves accursed for their brethren’s sake!”

18. Fourthly. This uncomfortable doctrine directly tends to destroy our zeal for good works. And this it does, First, as it naturally tends (according to what was observed before) to destroy our love to the greater part of mankind, namely, the evil and unthankful. For whatever lessens our love, must go far lessen our desire to do them good. This it does, Secondly, as it cuts off one of the strongest motives to all acts of bodily mercy, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and the like, — viz., the hope of saving their souls from death. For what avails it to relieve their temporal wants, who are just dropping into eternal fire? “Well; but run and snatch them as brands out of the fire.: Nay, this you suppose impossible. They were appointed thereunto, you say, from eternity, before they had done either good or evil. you believe it is the will of God they should die. And “who hath resisted his will?” But you say you do not know whether these are elected or not. What then? If you know they are the one or the other, — that they are either elected or not elected, — all your labour is void and vain. In either case, your advice, reproof, or exhortation is as needless and useless as our preaching. It is needless to them that are elected; for they will infallibly be saved without it. It is useless to them that are not elected; for with or without it they will infallibly be damned; therefore you cannot consistently with your principles take any pains about their salvation. Consequently, those principles directly tend to destroy you zeal for good works; for all good works; but particularly for the greatest of all, the saving of souls from death.

24. This premised, let it be observed, that this doctrine represents our blessed Lord, “Jesus Christ the righteous,” “the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth,” as an hypocrite, a deceiver of the people, a man void of common sincerity. For it cannot be denied, that he everywhere speaks as if he was willing that all men should be saved. Therefore, to say he was not willing that all men should be saved, is to represent him as a mere hypocrite and dissembler. It cannot be denied that the gracious words which came out of his mouth are full of invitations to all sinners. To say, then, he did not intend to save all sinners, is to represent him as a gross deceiver of the people. You cannot deny that he says, “Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden.” If, then, you say he calls those that cannot come; those whom he knows to be unable to come; those whom he can make able to come, but will not; how is it possible to describe greater insincerity? You represent him as mocking his helpless creatures, by offering what he never intends to give. You describe him as saying on thing, and meaning another; as pretending the love which his had not. Him, in “whose mouth was no guile,” you make full of deceit, void of common sincerity; — then especially, when, drawing nigh the city, He wept over it, and said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, — and ye would not;” ethelesakai ouk ethelesate. Now, if you say, they would, but he would not, you represent him (which who could hear?) as weeping crocodiles’ tears; weeping over the prey which himself had doomed to destruction!

25. Such blasphemy this, as one would think might make the ears of a Christian to tingle! But there is yet more behind; for just as it honours the Son, so doth this doctrine honour the Father. It destroys all his attributes at once: It overturns both his justice, mercy, and truth; yea, it represents the most holy God as worse than the devil, as both more false, more cruel, and more unjust. More false; because the devil, liar as he is, hath never said, “He willeth all men to be saved:” More unjust; because the devil cannot, if he would, be guilty of such injustice as you ascribe to God, when you say that God condemned millions of souls to everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels, for continuing in sin, which, for want of that grace he will not give them, they cannot avoid: And more cruel; because that unhappy spirit “seeketh rest and findeth none;” so that his own restless misery is a kind of temptation to him to tempt others. But God resteth in his high and holy place; so that to suppose him, of his own mere motion, of his pure will and pleasure, happy as he is, to doom his creatures, whether they will or no, to endless misery, is to impute such cruelty to him as we cannot impute even to the great enemy of God and man. It is to represent the high God (he that hath ears to hear let him hear!) as more cruel, false, and unjust than the devil!

SolaWednesdayFinal

1) Book Review: Killing Jesus

Killing Jesus is another account that will be here for a while and then disappear and be forgotten. In the meantime, it will take Jesus out of the realm of fantasy and place him squarely in history, but even as it does that, it will neglect to tell why his life, his crucifixion, his resurrection are of eternal significance, a matter of his life and death and our own.

Woopedy doo. An attempt to “historicize” Jesus as a non-religious figure. Coming from the Religious Right.”

2) As Lambs in the Midst of Wolves

Over the weekend, enemies of Christ made themselves apparent by attacking his followers. One of the attacks was carried out by the Islamist terrorist group Al-Shabaab, in a Nairobi mall. The attackers killed at least 62 people, injuring 175. Witnesses say they let Muslims go free before they began shooting people. The other attack occurred at the hands of two suicide bombers in a Pakistani church of 500. 81 were killed, and 120 are wounded. The terrorist group that claimed responsibility for the attack is a “splinter group” of the Pakistani Taliban.

How are believers supposed to respond to such violent opposition? From 1 Peter, let me suggest six godly reactions.

3) Isaiah’s Upcoming Mission Trip

Isaiah is probably the only seven-year-old who loves to watch sermons on his iPad. One of his favorites is the John Piper video podcast. He’ll pull them up all by himself and just sit there and watch them over and over again. One day I asked him why he liked to watch sermons so much, and he just smiled and said “happy.”

4) Can I Tell You About My Friend Jesus?

Here are the tweets about my friend Jesus. I hope he is your friend too.

I recently had the pleasure of taking a summer class on Church History and Philosophy with Dr. Stephen Nichols, respected professor at Lancaster Bible College and now a teaching fellow at Ligonier Ministries. The course required that I spend the better part of five days in a classroom with Dr. Nichols, and he made the experience a real joy. I was thrilled then when I found out he had a book coming out shortly after the course on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I knew immediately this was a book I had to read.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a very interesting and polemical figure in church history. Progressive Christianity wants to claim him in their camp because of his focus on social issues and social injustice. Conservatives want to claim him because of his rock-like dependence on prayer, Scripture and the authority of Christ over our lives. The mistake we often make is trying to interpret Bonhoeffer as a 21st Century Evangelical. He was neither “progressive” nor “conservative” by our definition of the words. I am confident, were he alive today, that he would have criticisms for both camps.

For those not familiar with Bonhoeffer, a brief background is in order. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a young German theologian who lived prior to and during the Nazi regime under Hitler. Bonhoeffer was first known for standing up against the German national church, which became a supporter of Hitler and his anti-semitism. Bonhoeffer and those like him branched off and started what became known as the Confessing Church. “These ministers and their parishes would swear allegiance to Christ – who was not Aryan – and not surrender the church to be captive to the political ideology of the Nazi Party” (pg. 33).

Later, Bonhoeffer became head of an underground seminary in Germany. He saw many of its graduates captured and killed under the Nazi regime. During this time, he wrote many now-classic books that define many principles for our time. These books include The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together, possibly the two most influential works on discipleship and christian community to our church today, respectively.

Bonhoeffer was arrested for his (debatable) involvement in a failed plot to assassinate Hitler. In 1943, just a few monthsdb after being engaged, he was arrested and imprisoned at Tegel. In 1944 he was transferred to the Gestapo prison in Berlin. He was martyred shortly before the war was ended.

In his book Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life, Dr. Nichols shows us why exactly Bonhoeffer is relevant to us today. This is not an annotated biography by any stretch. Rather, it is a survey of his theology given in Bonhoeffer’s context to help us understand why Dietrich is “worth meeting.”

He (Bonhoeffer) demands our attention – not like the tantrums of a two-year-old, but like the quiet, trusted voice of a wise friend…Bonhoeffer so well understood how to live because he so well understood the cross on which Christ died. Bonhoeffer also grasped the all-encompassing implications of the cross for human existence. He lived from the cross for the world. This is why he’s worth meeting (pgs. 22-23).

Praise

Dr. Nichols’ writing style is perfect for capturing a survey of Bonhoeffer’s theology. A master in history and reformed thought himself, Dr. Nichols knew the best way to lay out the text for the reader.

Beginning in Chapter 2, Nichols takes the reader through a survey of Bonhoeffer’s christology and ecclesiology. It is said that Bonhoeffer had a “Christo-ecclesiology”, that is, Bonhoeffer had both christology and ecclesiology at the center of his thought. It is upon this foundation that the reader will come to understand Bonhoeffer in a better light.

Nichols then takes the reader through a journey on Bonhoeffers doctrine of scripture, his thoughts on prayer, Bonhoeffer’s thoughts on thinking and living theologically, “Worldliness”, freedom camouflaged as service and sacrifice, and finally love.

I was very pleased to find that Dr. Nichols includes much thought into Bonhoeffer’s philosophy on seminary life and theological education. As a seminary student myself, it was fascinating to read of how Bonhoeffer ran his seminary ( playing soccer and going on long walks with his students, among other things). Bonhoeffer had a clear view on how theological education must be in service to the church, and must be lived out in life. These pages are a great reminder and read for any seminary student.

In addition, Dr. Nichols does not merely tell us what Bonhoeffer thought. Rather, Dr. Nichols includes application and his own thoughts for how Bonhoeffer’s theology should apply to our lives today. These little quips, while not often, were great to read and I loved finding these nuggets of wisdom. A couple of my favorites include:

  • The church is not a hippy commune or hipster club. The sooner we come face-to-face with the disillusionment with others and the disillusionment with ourselves, Bonhoeffer adds, the better off we and the church are. There is a realism here that we should appreciate, and a realism that, once grasped, goes a long way in sustaining true and genuine community in the church (pg. 69).
  • The first commitment (of Bonhoeffer) is what has been said already, that theology is in the service of the church. The second commitment is that theology must be lived out…The church as a whole and individual Christians suffer when we pit theology and spirituality or matters of Christian living against each other. We thrive when they work together (pg. 117).

What I loved most about this book was the way Dr. Nichols really makes the reader feel like he is reading Bonhoeffer in his context, and not just a book about Bonhoeffer. Dr. Nichols achieves this not only in his mastery over the historical events of Bonhoeffer’s life, but also in including a plethora of quotes from Dietrich himself. It was these many quotes that made Bonhoeffer come alive for me and helped me to understand who he was as a person, not just as a church figure. Some of my favorite Bonhoeffer quotes from the book include:

  • I think we’re going to have an exceptionally good Christmas. The very fact that every outward circumstance precludes our making provision for it will show whether we can be content with what is truly essential. I used to be very fond of thinking up and buying presents, but now that we have nothing to give, the gift God gave us in the birth of Christ will seem all the more glorious; the emptier our hands, the better we understand what Luther meant by his dying words: “We are beggars, its true.” (pg. 30)
  • We must not first ask what they (the Psalms) have to do with us, but what they have to do with Jesus Christ (pg. 108).
  • We are not judges of God’s Word in the Bible; instead, the Bible is given to us so that through it we may submit ourselves to Christ’s judgement (pg. 87).
  • In Jesus we have come to know the kindliness of the Father. In the name of the Son of God, we may call God our Father (pg. 107).
  • He who denies his neighbor the service of praying for him denies him the service of a Christian (pg. 111).
  • A seminary in which numerous students openly laugh during a public lecture because they find it amusing when a passage on sin and forgiveness from Luther’s On the Bondage of the Will is cited has obviously, despite its many advantages, forgotten what Christian theology in its very essence stands for (pg. 122)
  • May God give (faith) to us daily. And I do not mean the faith which flees the world, but the one that endures the world and which loves and remains true to the world in spite of all the suffering which it contains for us. Our marriage shall be a yes to God’s earth; it shall strengthen our courage to act and accomplish something on the earth. I fear that Christians who stand with only one leg upon earth also stand with only one leg in heaven.

The reader of this review should note how clearly quotable this book is, which is a sign of how much I enjoyed the text. It is a struggle not to quote the whole thing.

Criticisms

If I had to pick one thing to interact with Dr. Nichols on in this text, its that one of his greatest strengths may be a crack into a weakness. While I appreciate all of what Dr. Nichols wrote, many critics might point to how much he includes thoughts from Reformed writers such as Luther or Calvin and claim that Nichols is assuming Bonhoeffer belongs in their camp. While I do not believe this is what Dr. Nichols is trying to do, Bonhoeffer is one of these polemical figures in Church history that people want to force us to take sides on. While I think Dr. Nichols does a sufficient job at interpreting Bonhoeffer in his proper context, others might think he is jumping to conclusions as to where Bonhoeffer fits theologically.

Conclusion

Bonhoeffer has much to say to the church of 2013. As I stated earlier, I do not think Bonhoeffer would pick any side in the current debate of progressive vs. conservative Christianity. Particularly in the American church, Bonhoeffer would have much to say to us today. In particular, I think Bonhoeffer would cringe over how little our church is marked by suffering. I don’t just mean physical or emotional suffering, but a suffering that marks us as truly different from the world, a suffering that shows that we really believe what we preach on Sunday.  As he said of Union Theological Seminary in 1929, I believe he would also say of the American church today: “There is no theology here” (pg. 122-123).

Dr. Nichols really knocked this book out of the park by showing us how Dietrich Bonhoeffer is important and relevant to us today. Bonhoeffer is not merely a historical martyr and church figure, but he is a profound theologian and example of living out a serious committed Christian faith in light of insurmountable odds.

Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life is a book I would recommend and strongly encourage every Christian to get their hands on. It may be one of the most influential books you’ll read this year.