Friday, June 29, 2007
For Whom Did Christ Die? IC The Atonement’s Result
I began this series by introducing the question: "For Whom Did Christ Die?" Then I looked at the purpose and the nature of Christ's death. This week, we finish examining the atonement itself by understanding its result.

C. The Atonement’s Result

What happens when the salvation Christ provides is applied to his people? The Apostle Paul answers in Romans 8:31-34.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

This passage provides tremendous insight into the extent of Christ’s atonement. First, the Father gave the Son “for us all,” for those referenced in the previous verses (vv. 28-30), for the predestined and called people of God. Second, since the Son has been given up for this elect people, they can have confidence in their salvation because God saves them perfectly. No charges or condemnation can be claimed against them. Third, Christ’s death—and subsequent resurrection—brings his chosen people ongoing intercession. James White comments, “Since the Father is the one who justifies, who then can condemn? Once the divine sentence has been uttered, there can be no appeal to a higher court. This is why there can be no condemnation of those who are in Christ Jesus, for the number of those in Him is identical with the number of the elect.”[1] All those for whom Christ died cannot be condemned—they are in him. White continues, “Can Christ Jesus bring a charge of condemnation against them? Certainly not, for He died and rose again and sits at the right hand of God, ‘who also intercedes’ for whom? For us. Who is the ‘us’? The elect of God.”[2]

Jesus explains this intercession for his people in his high priestly prayer. “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. . . . I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them” (John 17:6, 9-10). Loraine Boettner explains the Old Testament background and significance to Christ’s prayer:

There is also a parallel to be noticed between the high priest of ancient Israel and Christ who is our high priest; for the former, we are told, was a type of the latter. On the great day of atonement the high priest offered sacrifices for the sins of the twelve tribes of Israel. He interceded for them and for them only. Likewise, Christ prayed not for the world but for His people. The intercession of the high priest secured for the Israelite blessings from which all other peoples were excluded; and the intercession of Christ, which also is limited but of a much higher order, shall certainly be efficacious in the highest sense, for Him the Father hears always.[3]

Christ intercedes for his people. This intercession is directly connected to his atoning work on the cross. Since this intercession is the application of Christ’s atoning death, then it follows that his sacrificial death is limited to those whom the Father has given him. For whom did Christ die? He died for the elect.

[1]James R. White, The Potter’s Freedom (Amityville, NY: Calvary, 2000), 238.
[2]Ibid.
[3]Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1932), 158-159.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007
The Gospel Coalition
The Gospel Coalition web site has been launched! I have already added it to my links and look forward to regularly utilizing its resources. You'll want to check it out as well!

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007
The Albert Mohler Program on Mormonism
Yesterday's Albert Mohler Program was devoted to answering the question: "Are Mormons Christians?" While I was not able to listen to the radio show live or to call in, I found the discussion helpful. Check it out!

During the program, Mohler said that he will begin a debate on the same question with Orson Scott Card (a Mormon) over at the popular spirituality web site Beliefnet. When I see the dialog begin, I'll try to post a link to it.

UPDATE: The "blogalogue" between Mohler and Card has now begun: "Are Mormons Christian?"

(HT: Arthur Sido)

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Gerald McDermott Responds
Earlier this month, I wrote a post on an article at the Christianity Today site: "Christianity Today, Mormonism, and Compromise." Yesterday, one of the co-authors of the CT article responded. The following is his comment, followed by my thoughts:
This is Gerald McDermott, the evangelical theologian some of you think has embraced heresy by sugegsting that the Mormon Jesus and the classical Christian Jesus are one and the same. The point of our op-ed in CT online was to say that, when considering presidential candidates, we are voting for a president, not a theologian. And that plenty of other presidents have had wacky theologies. On the LDS and Jesus, it is a fact that the Mormon view of Jesus is better than the Jehovah's Witness view, which is fully Arian. They do indeed believe Jesus is fully God--altho, as some of you have rightly said, their Jesus was not always God. He "grew" into God. If you read my statement in context, you will see that I let stand uncorrected the evangelical [correct!] accusations that Mormons add to revelation and assert that humans are of the same species as Jesus and can someday attain his status. I also add that Mormons reject key Christian doctrines such as the Trinity and creatio ex nihilo. If you read our forthcoming book (Claiming Christ), you will see that in every chapter I make it clear that the LDS Jesus is not the Jesus of classic orthodoxy. Gerald McDermott
Dr. McDermott, I appreciate your sincere desire to clear up the confusion that has resulted in the wake of the CT article that you co-authored. I am especially glad to hear you say that you clearly differentiate the LDS Jesus from the orthodox (and biblical) Jesus in your upcoming book with Robert Millet. I plan on buying and reading Claiming Christ when it comes out.

At the same time, I do not know how you can maintain: "On the LDS and Jesus, it is a fact that the Mormon view of Jesus is better than the Jehovah's Witness view, which is fully Arian. They do indeed believe Jesus is fully God." While I have no problem insisting upon the defectiveness of the JW Jesus, the LDS Jesus is no less defective. The LDS do not believe that Jesus is fully God--if we are defining God consistently. The only way one could maintain that the Mormons believe that Jesus is fully God is by committing the fallacy of equivocation, for the God we refer to is nothing like the God of Mormon doctrine. The word "God" is not some nebulous, abstract notion. God has revealed what divinity is to us.

Essentially, the LDS church redefines "God" when they apply it to Jesus. And in this case, they are no different from the JWs. Both refuse to accept Jesus as the eternal, immutable, omnipotent, omniscient God. Both are distortions of our one, true Trinitarian God. As you have stated, the LDS Jesus is not the Jesus of classic orthodoxy. He is a false Jesus--an imaginary Jesus who cannot save.

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Monday, June 25, 2007
Finally Free
As far as I am concerned, Nicole Nordeman is one of the best artists in Christian music today. A new video based on one of her songs is making its way around the web, and for good reason. Nordeman eloquently sings about the freedom we have in Christ. Check it out and see what you think:

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Friday, June 22, 2007
For Whom Did Christ Die? IB The Atonement’s Nature
I began this series by introducing the question: "For Whom Did Christ Die?" Then I examined the purpose of Christ's death. Now let us think through the nature of his atonement.

B. The Atonement’s Nature

If the purpose of Christ’s death is salvation for his people, then what does this salvation include? In other words, what did his atonement accomplish? The Bible uses four key words to reveal the nature of Christ’s atoning work: redemption, propitiation, reconciliation, and substitution.

Redemption. Ephesians 1:7 specifically ties the death of Christ to the redemption of believers. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” The Apostle Paul expands on this truth when writing to the church of Colossae. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). Michael Horton provides an informative definition. “Redemption means ‘to buy back,’ to ‘return to one’s possession by payment of a price.’ You were kidnapped and held hostage by sin. But if you are a believer, Christ paid the ransom price for you to be freed so you could become his possession.”[1] The atonement frees believers from slavery.

Propitiation. The Bible also refers to the atonement as a propitiation. Paul states, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Rom 3:23-25a). Horton explains this concept as well: “Propitiation refers to the breaking away of the enmity and hostility that keeps God at odds with us. Propitiation removes God’s wrath.”[2] How? Because Christ has taken it on our behalf.

Reconciliation. Additionally, Scripture reveals Christ’s death as bringing reconciliation. Paul says, “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Rom 5:9-10). Horton summarizes, “‘To render no longer opposed’ is the definition of reconciliation. . . . People who are reconciled are made friends. And Jesus said that he would lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).”[3] Believers are at peace with God through Christ’s death.

Substitution. Furthermore, Christ became the substitute of his people in the atonement. Paul declares, “For our sake he [God] made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). Substitution is at the very heart of the atonement, and is clearly seen throughout the Bible. Horton explains, “The concept of substitution is found throughout Scripture as the act of one who suffers vicariously, or in the place of another. . . . You were the criminal, but Christ stepped in and took your place. Because he took your place, you will not have to take it [the punishment you deserve].”[4] Christ took his peoples’ wrath and they are given his perfect righteousness.

Through Jesus substituting himself for his people, his death redeemed them, took the wrath of God which they deserved, and reconciled them with God. The nature of the atonement itself secures all of these wonderful realities.

[1]Michael Horton, Putting Amazing Back into Grace: Who Does What in Salvation? (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 139.
[2]Ibid, 139.
[3]Ibid, 139-140.
[4]Ibid, 140.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007
Norman Geisler, the Local Church, and the Supreme Court of Texas
Norman Geisler has written a good response to the decision of the Supreme Court of Texas on the controversial case between the Local Church cult and Harvest House Publishers: "The Local Church Cult and the Supreme Court of Texas: A Big Victory for the Counter-Cult Movement."

Here is Geisler's outline:

I. The Victory Won
II. Lessons to be Learned
III. A Major Mistake

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Ed Stetzer Challenging Southern Baptists
I really appreciate the ministry of Ed Stetzer, newly named director of LifeWay Research. He gave a great challenge last week at the annual Southern Baptist Convention. Now you can watch the video online. Take the time to watch--you won't be disappointed!

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Why I Love Spurgeon 1
As many of you know, I love C. H. Spurgeon. God used him mightily during his life of ministry and continues to bless the body of Christ through Spurgeon's work today. One of my regular practices is listening to his sermons "re-preached" on my MP3 player, and over the weekend I listened to "God's Will and Man's Will." This sermon is another great example of why I am so edified by Spurgeon. Here is an excerpt where he forcefully counters those opposed to Calvinism:



According to their theory—that salvation depends upon our own will— you have first of all this difficulty to meet, that you have made the purpose of God in the great plan of salvation entirely contingent. You have then put an "if" upon everything. Christ may die, but it is not certain according to that theory that he will redeem a great multitude; nay, not certain that he will redeem any, since the efficacy of the redemption according to that plan, rests not in its own intrinsic power, but in the will of man accepting that redemption. Hence if man be, as we aver he always is, if he be a bond-slave as to his will, and will not yield to the invitation of God's grace, then in such a case the atonement of Christ would be valueless, useless, and altogether in vain, for not a soul would be saved by it; and even when souls are saved by it, according to that theory, the efficacy, I say, lies not in the blood itself, but in the will of man which gives it efficacy. Redemption is therefore made contingent; the cross shakes, the blood falls powerless on the ground, and atonement is a matter of perhaps. There is a heaven provided, but there may no souls who will ever come there if their coming is to be of themselves. There is a fountain filled with blood, but there may be none who will ever wash in it unless divine purpose and power shall constrain them to come. You may look at any one promise of grace, but you cannot say over it, "This is the sure mercy of David;" for there is an "if," and a "but;" a "perhaps," and a "peradventure." In fact, the reigns are gone out of God's hands; the linch-pin is taken away from the wheels of the creation; you have left the whole economy of grace and mercy to be the gathering together of fortuitous atoms impelled by man's own will, and what may become of it at the end nobody can know. We cannot tell on that theory whether God will be gloried or sin will triumph. Oh! how happy are we when come back to the old fashioned doctrines, and cast our anchor where it can get its grip in the eternal purpose and counsel of God, who worketh all things to the good pleasure of his will.

Then another difficulty comes in; not only is everything made contingent, but it does seem to us as if man were thus made to be the supreme being in the universe. According to the freewill scheme the Lord intends good, but he must win like a lackey on his own creature to know what his intention is; God willeth good and would do it, but he cannot, because he has an unwilling man who will not have God's good thing carried into effect. What do ye, sirs, but drag the Eternal from his throne, and lift up into it that fallen creature, man: for man, according to that theory nods, and his nod is destiny. You must have a destiny somewhere; it must either be as God wills or as man wills . If it be as God wills, then Jehovah sits as sovereign upon his throne of glory, and all hosts obey him, and the world is safe; if not God, then you put man there, to say. "I will" or "I will not; if I will it I will enter heaven; if I will it I will despise the grace of God; if I will it I will conquer the Holy Sprit, for I am stronger than God, and stronger than omnipotence; if I will it I will make the blood of Christ of no effect, for I am mightier than that blood, mightier than the blood of the Son of God himself; though God make his purpose, yet will I laugh at his purpose; it shall be my purpose that shall make his purpose stand, or make it fall." Why, sirs, if this be not Atheism, it is idolatry; it is putting man where God should be, and I shrink with solemn awe and horror from that doctrine which makes the grandest of God's works—the salvation of man—to be dependent upon the will of his creature whether it shall be accomplished or not. Glory I can and must in my text in its fullest sense. "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy."

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Monday, June 18, 2007
Critical Thinking and Christianity
I disagree with theologian Richard Mouw in different areas, sometimes significantly. But his latest blog post is a gem: "Critical Thinking." You really should read the whole entry. His conclusion?

Steve Evans once wrote a little book on existentialism with the intriguing title Despair: a Moment or a Way of Life? That poses the options nicely. Is critical thinking about religion a moment or a way of life? I cherish it as a moment, as a necessary exercise that at least some of us ought to engage in periodically. But to make it a way of life—that is what postmodernism at its worst is all about.

This has important implications for theological education. Are we educating men and women to be critical thinkers? Well, yes, of course. But the critical thinking thing must be a moment—a necessary exercise—in the service of a larger process. And the larger goal is not simply to produce critical thinkers, but to equip persons who are faithful to the truth of the gospel. Some of us must engage in critical thinking in order to be effective in encouraging God’s people to be faithful, both to the biblical message and to all that is good and worthy in the Christian traditions that we have received.

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Friday, June 15, 2007
For Whom Did Christ Die? IA - The Atonement’s Purpose
Last week, I began my series on Jesus Christ's atonement by introducing the controversy over its extent. This week, we begin to examine his atonement by seeking to understand its purpose.

I. Examining the Atonement

A. The Atonement’s Purpose

What did Christ intend to accomplish by his death? His name itself summarizes the purpose of his atoning work. In announcing his birth an angel of the Lord said, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21). Jesus’ name reveals several essential truths about his purpose: 1) he brings salvation, 2) his salvation is for his people, and 3) his salvation delivers them from their sins. Therefore, Jesus Christ has a specific chosen people for whom he came to save.

God’s people were predestined to be the beneficiaries of Christ’s death. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian church: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world. . . . In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph 1:3-4a, 7a). Christ’s death was always intended to redeem a chosen people. Elsewhere, Paul cautioned to the Ephesian church elders: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Christ obtained a people through his sacrificial death on the cross.

Nevertheless, the salvation he brought is Trinitarian, involving the Father, himself, and the Holy Spirit. The Father gives a chosen people to his Son to save, the Son saves these elect ones, and the Holy Spirit applies this salvation to them. Jesus himself explained this intratrinitarian work. “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:37-39). James White explains,

The will of the Father for the Son . . . is that He (the Son) should lose nothing of all that the Father has given to Him; rather, the Son is charged with the responsibility of raising up at the last day all those who have been given to Him. This is His task, His duty, His act of obedience to the Father. . . . In short, the Son is charged with securing not simply the possibility of salvation for God’s elect, but, positively, with actually saving completely those who are the objects of God’s saving grace.[1]

All the Father gives to Christ will be saved by him and raised on the last day. The security of their eternal life is found in the very nature of God himself as the Trinity. Christ’s death actually and fully saves his people from their sins.

[1]James White, Drawn by the Father: A Study of John 6:35-45 (Southbridge, MA: Crowne, 1991), 37-38.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007
The Nicene Council
Don't forget to check out the new Nicene Council site. Formerly the Apologetics Group, this organization releases and sells a lot of great material for Christians at good prices. Would you like to know more (including why they changed their name)? See their "About Us" page.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007
For Whom Did Christ Die? Other Reading
I start posting a weekly series answering the question "For Whom Did Christ Die?", and this week the Resurgence site adds an article by Tom Wells titled . . . "For Whom Did Christ Die?"

OK, so the question is common. In any case, Wells article is helpful. Check it out as supplimental reading as I continue my series (obviously, there will be some overlap in our presentations). Wells and I may not agree on the interpretation of certain biblical passages, but we both come to the same conclusion:

Words like Redemption, Reconciliation and Propitiation, when applied to the death of Christ, show that His death was for His people and not for every person who ever lived. Does that seem threatening? It need not. What we all must remember is that everyone who puts His trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will be saved. No one will ever believe, only to find that there is no Atonement for him or her.

The death of Christ is as broad as the category of believer. Beyond that it would do no good anyway. If Christ died for those who will never believe, His death would not help them in any fashion. It would only add to their condemnation. But Christ died for all who would ever believe. They, and no others, receive the benefit of the death He died for them.

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Monday, June 11, 2007
Mormonism in the News
Two new articles paint somewhat different pictures of the growing public presence of Mormonism. The first came out yesterday by Reuters news: "Mormons in the spotlight." Here is its introduction:

After more than a century on the fringe of America's consciousness, Mormons are riding a wave of media attention and public scrutiny -- and say they welcome the chance to set a few things straight.

From Mitt Romney's bid to become the first Mormon in the White House to Public Broadcasting Service's four-hour documentary on Mormonism in May and a Hollywood movie opening this month focusing on one of Mormon history's darkest episodes, the once-isolated religion is moving into the open.

"We welcome it," Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a member of the Presidency of the Seventy, a church leadership body, said of the sudden attention.

"To the extent that attention can be informative as opposed to pejorative and there's a sincere interest and honest curiosity, I think that's positive," he said.

But look at today's story in the New York Times: "Romney’s Run Has Mormons Wary of Scrutiny." How does it begin?

In this wide valley where the twin spires of the Mormon temple dominate the landscape and some neighborhoods have a Mormon chapel every few blocks, Mitt Romney’s bid for president is both a proud sign of progress and a cause of trepidation.

Many Mormons here are rooting for Mr. Romney, a fellow church member whose success in business, Adonis looks and wholesome family tableau seem to them to present the ideal face of Mormonism to the world. Among the Republican front-runners, Mr. Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, recently was the leader in campaign fund-raising; his candidacy is, for many Mormons, a historic moment of arrival.

“He represents the best of what the church can produce,” said Kenneth W. Godfrey, 73, a historian of Mormonism and of this valley about 80 miles north of church headquarters in Salt Lake City.

But even for the many Mormons who support Mr. Romney, the moment is fraught with anxiety because his candidacy is bringing intense scrutiny to their church, and could exacerbate longstanding bigotry.

I assume they are both telling the truth from somewhat different perspectives. Mormons want to be understood, but they also don't want to be alienated. How will you as a Christian respond?

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Sunday, June 10, 2007
Because I Love My Wife. . .
Because I love my wife, I am posting an obligatory link to a Joyful Days blog entry: "Look!! Books!!" Since my wife doesn't have a blog but really wants to win some free books, I am posting the link on her behalf. Apparently, she can win five Christian fiction books (not my cup of tea!) by participating in a series of reviews.

So, for what it's worth, here's a post for the one I love.

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Saturday, June 09, 2007
Hating the Prosperity Gospel
Some of you may have already seen this, but every Christian needs to hear these words from John Piper:

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Friday, June 08, 2007
For Whom Did Christ Die? Introduction
They [many divines] believe in an atonement made for every body; but then, their atonement is just this. They believe that Judas was atoned for just as much as Peter; they believe that the damned in hell were as much an object of Jesus Christ's satisfaction as the saved in heaven. . . . Now, such an atonement I despise—I reject it. I may be called Antinomian or Calvinist for preaching a limited atonement; but I had rather believe a limited atonement that is efficacious for all men for whom it was intended, than an universal atonement that is not efficacious for anybody, except the will of man be joined with it. . . . Oh! glorious doctrine! I would wish to die preaching it! What better testimony can we bear to the love and faithfulness of God than the testimony of a substitution eminently satisfactory for all them that believe on Christ?[1]

These words were preached by the 19th century Baptist pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Clearly recognizing the importance of properly answering the controversial question “For whom did Christ die?,” Spurgeon defended the doctrinal position normally called “limited atonement.” This view understands Christ’s redeeming death to be for his chosen people alone. Jesus’ atoning work was not universally made for every individual; it was made specifically for his own people. He strenuously argued against the opposite position, usually labeled “unlimited atonement.” Those holding this view maintain that Christ died for all of humanity. His atoning work makes salvation possible for every person, but it only comes to those who believe in him. Was Spurgeon correct in his denunciation of unlimited atonement?

Christians must turn to Scripture to discern the extent of Christ’s death. And when one takes all biblical teaching into account, he or she should recognize that Spurgeon was indeed right. Limited atonement is a precious truth revealed in the Word of God. By examining the atonement’s purpose, nature, and result, believers will see that the Bible is not silent on the atonement’s extent. Christ died for his people. This truth needs to be contrasted with the belief that Christ died for all people equally. Additionally, objections must be considered. Nevertheless, in this weekly series of posts we will see that the sufficiency and efficacy of Christ’s death prove the doctrine of limited atonement.

[1]C. H. Spurgeon, “The Death of Christ,” in vol. 4 of The New Park Street Pulpit.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Scripture and Reason
What is the relationship between Scripture and reason? John MacArthur has a brief but helpful answer to this question over at Pulpit Magazine: "Scripture and Plain Reason." His reply?

Scripture isn’t antithetical to sound, rational wisdom, though many today imagine otherwise. Reason is no substitute for Scripture, of course, but when good reason and sound logic are kept subject to the authority of Scripture, they are in no way a threat to the truth. On the contrary, the application of sound, logical thinking to the truth of Scripture is a key aspect of the formula for discernment.

Contrary to what a lot of people these days assume, discernment is not a mystical or intuitive ability to know the truth as if by magic. It is the skill of understanding, interpreting, and applying truth accurately. Discernment is a cognitive act. Therefore no one who spurns right doctrine or sound reason can be truly discerning.

Authentic spiritual discernment must begin with Scripture-revealed truth. Without a firm grounding in divine revelation, human reason always degenerates into skepticism (a denial that anything can be known for certain), rationalism (the theory that reason is a source of truth), secularism (an approach to life that purposely excludes God), or any number of other anti-Christian philosophies.

When Scripture condemns human wisdom (1 Cor. 3:19), it is not denouncing logic and reason per se, but humanistic ideology divorced from the divinely-revealed truth of God’s Word. In other words, reason apart from the Word of God leads inevitably to unsound ideas, but reason subjected to the Word of God is at the heart of wise spiritual discernment.

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Encouraging Update from Christianity Today
Kudos to Keith Walker from Evidence Ministries!

After Christianity Today posted a troubling article on Mormonism, Keith wrote a letter to the editor which was also posted on his blog: "Christianity Today Misrepresents Mormonism." His letter led to a response by Madison Trammel, Associate Editor of CT, and Keith humbly replied to her e-mail: "Christianity Today Responds To My E-mail."

Why do I bother posting all of this background material? Because Trammel responded again with an encouraging e-mail: "Christianity Today Admits Mistake In 'Mitt's Mormonism and the "Evangelical Vote"' Article." Here is her message:

Keith,

Thanks for writing back. Your points are well-taken -- indeed, upon further reflection, I agree with you that the article's foray into Mormon doctrine was an unnecessary, and ultimately unhelpful, diversion from the article's main point. Please check back at our website in the next week or so. I'm hoping we'll be able to pull together a good response article that outlines Mormon-Christian theological differences.

Sincerely,
Madison


Thank you Madison and CT! I look forward to this response article and agree with Keith as he concludes:
I don't know about you, but I see this as a victory. I am encouraged that they are concerned about the issue and plan on making a distinction between Mormonism and Christianity in a future article. I eagerly await the piece and will pray that any confusion the original article produced will be cleared up. PRAISE THE LORD!

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Renowned Missiologist on Brian McLaren and Emergent
Paul Carden recently brought to my attention an important article on Brian McLaren and his Emergent cohorts by a renowned evangelical missiologist: David J. Hesselgrave, "Brian McLaren's Contextualization of the Gospel," Evangelical Missions Quarterly (January 2007): 92-100. The article can be read online by subscribing to EMQ. Hesselgrave contrasts McLaren's view of mission, believing, belonging, and becoming with the evangelical faith commitments of the Interdenominational Foreign Missions Association (IFMA). It is well-worth the read! Here is the article's conclusion:



McLaren and his colleagues are convinced that the future of the Church and missions does not rest on the kind of faith articulated be modern churches and missions, including conservative ones. Rather, it rests on resisting "modernism" and accommodating postmodernism by recovering "the faith articulated by the common consensus of the ancient Church" as they conceive it. But if partially right on some counts, both he and they are profoundly wrong on others. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, both liberals/modernists and conservatives/fundamentalists (and then evangelicals) attempted what can be thought of as "contextualizations" of the Christian gospel for modern (Western) culture. The former did it by accommodating traditional faith to modern culture. The latter did it by maintaining and restating biblical faith for modern culture.

McLaren and his colleagues are essentially right in concluding that both contextualizations were culturally-conditioned because all contextualizations are culturally-conditioned by definition. They are also partially right in concluding that the gospel preached in Eastern and other cultures was often quite "Western" and under-contextualized.

But they are profoundly wrong in following the lead of twentieth century liberals when they insist on accommodating postmodernism by resisting biblical authority and replacing the biblical gospel with another gospel of whatever derivation. The postmodernism of McLaren and the Emergent Church movement represents a radical over-contextualization and is destined to fail both the Church and missions in the twenty-first century just as surely as the modernism of Higher Criticism and the Social Gospel failed the Church and missions in the twentieth century. In the end, the biblical gospel--and only the biblical gospel--will prevail.

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Monday, June 04, 2007
Christianity Today, Mormonism, and Compromise
I stopped regularly reading Christianity Today several years ago. Why? Because it almost completely lacks any substance and shows perilously little discernment in its pages. The magazine seems to have become little more than cursory reporting and articles on the latest developments and fads in whatever someone labels "Christian." I don't need a sanitized Oprah magazine, and I can keep up-to-date with excellent worldview-based reporting from WORLD magazine.

Why should I go on a brief harangue about CT? Because its web site recently posted the article: "Mitt's Mormonism and the 'Evangelical Vote': Can conservative Protestants vote for a member of what they consider a cult?" This article is co-written by Robert Millet (a Mormon) and Gerald McDermott (an evangelical). As most of you know, I don't mind evangelicals discussing whether or not they can vote for a Mormon for President. But these words simply cannot go without a response:

Besides, Mormon beliefs are not as un-evangelical as most evangelicals think. Unlike Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons hold firmly to the deity of Christ. For Latter-Day Saints, Jesus is not only the Son of God but also God the Son. Evangelical pollster George Barna found in 2001 that while only 33 percent of American Catholics, Lutherans, and Methodists agreed that Jesus was "without sin," Mormons were among the "most likely" to say that Jesus was sinless.

Most evangelicals would also be surprised to learn that the Book of Mormon contains passages that teach salvation by the merits and grace of Christ ("There is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and race of the Holy Messiah" 2 Nephi 2:8) and others that require personal trust in Christ for salvation, such as 1 Nephi 10:4-6: "All mankind were in a lost and in a fallen state, and ever would be save they should rely on this Redeemer."

This article justifiably caused James White to go into apoplexy. He has produced a great response properly titled "Evangelical Apostasy." Make sure to read both posts: Part 1 and Part 2. Sharon Lindbloom at the Mormon Coffee blog also wrote a brief, helpful response with "Really -- What is Mormonism? Most Evangelicals Would Be Surprised."

With replies like these, I really have nothing to add. But I wholeheartedly agree with Roger Overton when he says:

There is too much ecumenism today at the expense of clear understanding of differences in fundamental beliefs. If we as Christians are not explicitly clear to our non-Christian Roman Catholic and Mormon friends that what their churches teach is a false gospel, then we are not truly their friends and are simply condemning them with a smile (as Piper puts it). If we are to be faithful to our call as Christ's followers and ambassadors to this world, we must live with a renewed boldness and submission to God's Word. And the fewer differences we see between Mormon beliefs, the Roman Catholic Church and Evangelicalism, the more fervently we should reject Evangelicalism as an abomination.

Strong words? Absolutely! Still, they are true and need to be heard. If this is the kind of superficial and deceptive dialogue that I have to look forward to when reading Millet and McDermott's upcoming book on Christ, then I will honestly be wasting my time.

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Friday, June 01, 2007
Book Announcement: Claiming Christ
Here's a controversial new book due out later this year: Claiming Christ: A Mormon-Evangelical Debate by Gerald R. McDermott and Robert L. Millet. A kind of follow-up to Craig L. Blomberg and Stephen E. Robinson's How Wide the Divide: A Mormon and an Evangelical in Conversation, I'm not sure what to expect from this project.

I have read McDermott's God's Rivals: Why Has God Allowed Different Religions? and Millet's A Different Jesus? The Christ of the Latter Day Saints. I was extremely disappointed with both of them. Therefore, it is with some hesitancy that I will take up their combined dialogue and read it when it comes out. At the same time, I recognize this work's importance in contemporary evangelical and Mormon discussion, so it will be important to critically engage.

In any case, here is the book's description:

Some have predicted that Mormonism will be the third-largest faith in America by the middle of the twenty-first century, yet confusion abounds regarding what Mormons actually believe, especially about Jesus. Do Mormon beliefs and evangelical Christian beliefs differ significantly, or are their views similar enough to be considered the same faith? Can Mormon and evangelical believers learn from one another and even work together?

In Claiming Christ, respected scholars Gerald McDermott, an evangelical, and Robert Millet, a Mormon, engage in a back-and-forth exchange comparing evangelical and Mormon views on one of the most significant issues dividing and uniting the two faiths: the identity of Jesus. Throughout the conversation they exhibit genuine respect for one another, seeking to clear up misconceptions and find common ground even as they dig deeply into each faith's texts and traditions. The result is a fair, thoroughly researched analysis that will be a valuable resource for pastors, students in college and seminary apologetics courses, and lay Mormon and evangelical believers seeking to understand the differences and similarities in how Mormons and evangelicals view Jesus.

You can also read the introduction online (in PDF format).

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Dialogue with Non-Christians
In thinking about such issues as evangelism, apologetics, missions, and Christianity's relationship to other religions, I ran across an older but excellent and informative article: I. Howard Marshall, "Dialogue with Non-Christians in the New Testament," Evangelical Review of Theology (16): 28-47. Unfortunately, this article does not appear to be online. Nevertheless, it is essential reading for all Christians interested in sharing the gospel with others. It begins where we all should start in working through these issues--God's Word. While I'd love to post the whole article (but am equally sure that I cannot!), below is the introduction to whet your appetite. Hopefully it will serve as a "hook," leading you to find a copy and read it in its entirety.




The place of dialogue with non-Christians in relation to the evangelistic task of the church has received renewed attention recently in the pages of the Evangelical Review of Theology. It is clear that some Christians regard dialogue as an important form of witness, and think that the church's evangelistic task should be carried on by means of dialogue as well as by proclamation.

We may roughly contrast the two possible approaches as follows. In proclamation the evangelist (X) has a message (G--the gospel) which he communicates to his hearer (Y) as something which is to be accepted or rejected; the evangelist himself has received this unchanging message, and he communicates it virtually without change. In dialogue, however, the message is not something which the evangelist already possesses in normative form. Rather he must enter into discussion with his hearer, both participants contributing to the dialogue and thus together reaching an understanding of the gospel.

A. PROCLAMATION
G ---> X ---> Y

B. DIALOGUE
X ---> G <--- Y

The question which is posed by juxtaposing these two types of approach is whether the Christian message is something 'given' to the evangelist which is passed on unchanged to the potential convert, or whether the truth of the gospel is something that emerges in the course of dialogue. Obviously the issues are not as sharp as this in practice. Any evangelist must shape his proclamation to the situation and character of the hearer; it is no use speaking in German to somebody who only understands Tamil, and illustrations and concepts must be chosen which will be intelligible to the hearer. Similarly, even in a situation of dialogue the evangelist will have some understanding of the gospel, even if his understanding of it may undergo radical alteration in the course of dialogue. Nevertheless, it is still necessary to ask whether the essential content of the gospel is something 'given' to the evangelist or can undergo radical alteration in a common search for truth along with a non-Christian.

It is surely essential that in discussing this matter we have a clear understanding of what is meant by 'dialogue' in the New testament and determine whether it was practised as a means of evangelism. We shall look first at the meaning of the Greek verbs which suggest the idea of dialogue, and this will involve us in a study of the church's evangelism as portrayed in Acts. From there we shall turn back to the synoptic gospels [Matthew, Mark, and Luke] to see whether the dialogue form can be found there, and then we shall move forward to see whether Paul's letters reflect the use of dialogue, and finally we shall consider the Gospel of John as a source for dialogue. The essay will close with some brief conclusions.

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Said At Southern Seminary Day
Today has been designated "Said At Southern Seminary Day" by the revamped Said At Southern blog. I have enjoyed this site and appreciate all of the blogs brought together from those involved with the seminary.

As a recent alum, I should be featured in the "Alumni Said" section soon. Regardless, check out why The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is one of the greatest evangelical institutions in our country today!

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About Me

Name:
John

I am a former Mormon who has been saved by Jesus Christ. Now I am a missionary involved with the Africa Center for Apologetics Research (ACFAR). I seek to live in light of Paul's words: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21 ESV)

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