Tuesday, August 31

God's Holiness

Writing about God's attributes isn't an easy thing, but of all the attributes of God that I've written about, this one has been the most difficult, because it's been hard to get a handle on what God's holiness really is. I'm not sure it's even right to think of it in the same way we think of the other attributes of God, since it doesn't seems to be one among the others, but rather, the overarching attribute: the one that describes all of what God is.

From what I can tell, it's the attribute of God mentioned most often in scripture and the only one triply emphasised.

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!

This triple emphasis comes twice--as quoted above from Isaiah 6:3, and once again in Revelation 4:8.

That God is holy tells us, first of all, that he is the "one and only." He is completely separate from everything else that is. He is transcendent (or other), and distinct from all else in a way that makes him superior to all the rest. There is nothing that rivals him, for he is in a class by himself far above everything else that exists.

Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?

(Exodus 15:11 ESV)

There is none holy like the Lord;
there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.

(1 Samuel 2:2 ESV)

God is alone in his holiness. His holiness is closely associated with his glory and his majesty, and his holiness means that he must be held in singular esteem. God's holiness is the grounds for the commands to have no other gods before him, to worship and serve only him, and to treat his name with unique reverence. His holiness is equivalent, in a way, to his deity, his godness. It is what makes him the God, the one whose "name alone is excellent."

Also included within God's holiness is his moral perfection. God is set apart from all else in his purity; in fact, he is the measure of purity. Out of his holiness comes his necessary abhorrence of all moral imperfection. Habakuk tells us that God's purity makes him unable to look on wickedness with approval, and Psalm 24 tells us that only those who are similarly pure may stand in the presence of our holy God.

Isaiah, then, had exactly the right response when he was brought face to face with the holiness of the Lord.
And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!" (Isaiah 6:5 ESV).
Here is a man who grasped the "deep trouble" factor of God's holiness! Not one of us can remain standing in the presence of our holy God, because we all fall far short of his glory. Our God is a consuming fire—consuming sin and sinners—because he is holy.

It's a scary thing, isn't it? And the proper response to God's holiness is real fear. This sort of fear isn't a bad thing, for it's fruits are good. Real fear of our holy God is the beginning of true wisdom. It is a fountain of life turning us away from the snares of death (Proverbs 14:27). It is because we fear God's holy response to our unholiness that we throw ourselves on his mercy. It is because we fear God that we understand the true value of what Christ has done for us by saving us from God's holy judgment against our sin.

Our knowledge of God's holiness is a driving force in our sanctification. Reverance for God motivates us to turn away from evil (Proverbs 16:6). It is out of our reverence for a holy God that we submit to him in obedience and conduct ourselves circumspectly before him. Those of us who are his are called to be holy as he is holy. We are called be holy in our behavior so we can be like the One who called us (1 Peter 1:15-17).

Of course, since God alone is holy, the holiness that we are called to show in our conduct is never our own intrinsic holiness, but holiness derived from the only Holy One. The wholly separate God separates us to himself by making us like him: holy as he is holy.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)
And why does he make us holy? So that we may proclaim the excellencies of the only Holy One, the one in a class by himself far above all others. So that we may give him the glory due unto his holy name.

"Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!"

(Rev. 4:8 ESV)


Getting Ready For Winter

We got a new axe over the weekend, and suddenly, chopping wood is the activity of choice round here.

That, and taking photos of each other chopping wood.

Monday, August 30

No More Wishbook Dogfights

When I went out to the front stoop to hang my laundry this afternoon, there was a brand new Wish Book in a clear plastic cover lying on the top step. Yep, it's already Christmas catalog time. Just a few years back, there would have been an immediate family tussle over who got to peek at the Wish Book toy section first, but today, my Wish Book sits on the kitchen table, still in its package. It isn't that they don't know it's here, because I made a loud announcement of its arrival; it's that they aren't interested. Can you believe it? The years of treasuring the Wish Book--the years of poring over the toy section, circling and initialling desired gifts--are past.

The magical Wish Book has become just another piece of junk mail.

Quiz Answers, Question 3

Yet another installment of the answers for this quiz. We're now at question 3:
3. Concerning the foreknowledge of God: Calvinists believe
  • a. it has intentional will behind it.
  • b. it is exactly the same thing as foresight.
  • c. it is inconsistent with real human choice.
  • d. it means God can't really interact with us in time.
  • e. a and c.
  • f. none of the above.
The correct anwer is "a. it has intentional will behind it." Looking more carefully at this question, I think it might have been better if I had said something like this: Concerning God's foreknowledge as it is defined in scripture: Calvinist's believe..., because most of us use the word "foreknowledge" in common usage to mean simply "foresight", even though we understand that scripturally it means much more than that. Calvinists believe that the word "foreknowledge" as used in scripture refers to something more than simply looking down through time and seeing what would happen, but carries with the idea of intentional choice. So, when Paul writes in Romans 11 that "God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew", he is not saying simply that God knew ahead of time that the Israelites would be his people, but that he chose them to be his people.

For variety, I'm using the London Baptist Confession 1689 for evidence of the Calvinistic postion. If you are a stickler for WCF, I'll let you in on a secret: the LBC and the WCF say exactly the same thing in this section. From Chapter 3 of the London Baptist Confession of 1689, Articles 1 and 2:
God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established; in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree.

Although God knoweth whatsoever may or can come to pass, upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed anything, because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.
That last paragraph speaks to the correct answer to this question. The reason God decrees (or wills) something is not because he sees that it's going to happen, but rather it's the other way around: God's decrees (or his will) stands behind his foreknowledge.

The last two wrong answers are things that open thiests in particular--and also some others who argue against Calvinism--maintain is the logical result of the Calvinist's view on God's foreknowledge, but Calvinists hold that real human choice and God's real interaction with his creation are compatible with their view of God's foreknowledge. Notice in the above quote from the LBC it says that God's decreeing everything that comes to pass does not do violence "to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established..." Human will and the liberty of second causes (or real human choice) remain within the Calvinistic system.

God also continues to interact within time by working to
uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence.... (LBC, Chapter 5, Article 1)
God is constantly active within his creation to bring about what he has already planned for it.

Sunday, August 29

A Sunday To Contemplate Our Solid Rock

[Today's hymn and sermon have been posted later than usual due to Blogger's quirkiness].

Studying the immutability of God has me thinking a bit about the solidness of the hope we have in Christ, so that's the theme for this Sunday's hymn and sermon.
My Hope Is Built
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus Name.


On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
---Music by William Bradbury. [Listen]
---Words by Edward Mote. From Edward Mote's own account of the writing of this hymn:
One morning it came into my mind as I went to labour, to write an hymn on the 'Gracious Experience of a Christian.' As I went up Holborn I had the chorus,

'On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.'

In the day I had four first verses complete, and wrote them off. On the Sabbath following I met brother King as I came out of Lisle Street Meeting-who informed me that his wife was very ill, and asked me to call and see her. I had an early tea, and called afterwards. He said that it was his usual custom to sing a hymn, read a portion, and engage in prayer, before he went to meeting. He looked for his hymnbook but could find it nowhere. I said, 'I have some verses in my pocket; if he liked, we would sing them.' We did, and his wife enjoyed them so much, that after service he asked me, as a favour, to leave a copy of them for his wife. I went home, and by the fireside composed the last two verses, wrote the whole off, and took them to sister King. -As these verses so met the dying woman's case, my attention to them was the more arrested, and I had a thousand printed for distribution.

The featured sermon is also on the sure hope we have in Christ. It is the sermon preached by John Piper on September 16, 2001, shortly after the September 11th strikes against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and so it speaks to the vulnerability felt after that catastrophic event, and the foundation of our hope even while in such turmoil. The text for the sermon is Romans 8:35-39.
...the way I want to strengthen your hope this morning is not by glossing over how utterly vulnerable we are in our earthly existence, or by deflecting your attention away from the Biblical truth that God's judgments fall on believer and unbeliever alike - purifying in some cases and punishing in other cases, depending on whether we repent and make Christ our Treasure instead of the idols of this world. I want to stare those realities of vulnerability and judgment square in the face with you and give you real, solid, Biblical hope. Not just hopeful feelings based on naive notions of earthly stability or escape from painful, purifying, disciplinary judgments.

So then, what is this hope and what is the basis for it? I'll give you my answer, and then show you where I got it from the Word of God.

  • Our hope is that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ, not suffering and not even death.

And the two foundations for this hope are the death of Jesus and the sovereignty of God.
  • Our Savior and King, Jesus Christ, died and rose again to bear our sins, become our curse, endure our condemnation, remove our guilt, and secure our everlasting joy in the presence of the all-satisfying God.
  • And the sovereignty of God over all persons and events guarantees that what Jesus Christ bought for us by his own blood will infallibly become our inheritance.
On the foundation of our hope in Christ's death for us:
The first answer is the death of Jesus in our place. Look at verse 32: "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" The basis of our hope that God will freely give us all we need to satisfied in him forever is that he did not spare his own Son, but gave him for us all. He gave him. For us. God did this. And he did it for us. And verse 32 says that death is the foundation of our hope that he will give us everything that we need to be satisfied in him forever.

I say it like that - he will give us everything we need to be satisfied in the love of God forever - because what becomes clear in verse 35 is that the sovereignty of God does not guarantee our escape from suffering. It does not guarantee that we won't be in a hijacked plane or in a World Trade Center - or that we won't drink the poisoned water or breathe the deadly gas. "Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" These words cover virtually every kind of possible calamity. Distress and peril are broad, general words for dangers of all kinds. Christians are vulnerable to all of them. If your hope is to escape them, your hope is unfounded.

And I don't want to give you unfounded hope this morning. But founded hope. The Christian hope is not that we escape these things, but that they cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ.

You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.

(Isaiah 26:3,4 ESV)


Saturday, August 28

Weekend Reading Recommendations

Another busy Saturday, without much time for blogging, but I have gathered together a few links to posts that are all related in some way to work, labour, calling, service, or vocation--on doing our jobs.

Jeri of Sober Minded makes some good points about the priorities of women who are married. She writes:
So I came to understand that when you marry--and marriage is a good thing, and God-given, and the best thing for most of us--you are "allowed" (expected!) by the Lord to change in your pursuits of former interests (yes, even those God-given gifts and talents!) to the extent you must, in order to properly devote yourself to your family and the care of your household.
If you want to know how she comes to that conclusion, you'll have to read the article.

Next, Texas Bill (I wonder if he minds when I call him that...) of Minas Tirith posts notes from a talk given by Darwin Jordan, the senior pastor of his church, concerning work. One of the things Bill learned was this:
any good work that we're doing glorifies God because it imitates him
So when I made applesauce, I was doing the work of providing for my family, imitating God's work of provision. Somehow, it becomes a little more fun to do my work when I think of it that way.

Then the Jollyblogger has two related posts on the subject of service (or work), and just what exactly the role of someone who has his job ought to be.
...the New Testament pattern is not that the people support the pastor's ministry, it is that the pastor support the ministry of the people. The pastor is the equipper, the people are the ministers, according to Ephesians 4.
Good stuff.

And last, Tim Challies writes about what "dignified labour" really is. From Tim:
Dignfied labour is labour done for the Lord. Giving an honest day's work, whether it is as a a pastor, a homemaker, a labourer or a youth worker in a detention centre is as dignified as one can be. Being a good employee and honoring God through your work - that is God's recipe for dignity, success and joyfulness.

Now, just for fun, I've got a recommendation for reading on a whole nuther subject. The Crusty Curmudgeon writes on the Church of the Holy Horseshoe. Yes, the conversation he refers to really does exist on the Baptist Board. I saw it there myself yesterday, and the Curmudgeous One has taken the idea that started the whole discussion to it's illogical conclusion. Read it!

Friday, August 27

Contemplating Queries

A few weeks ago I started keeping a list of the search engine queries that lead people to this site. Lately, the majority of searches referring here have been "olympic medal table." Last Sunday was the peak day for that particular search, with somewhere around sixty hits coming from people looking for an olympic medal table. On some search engines, I have been the number three result for that search, above the more official sites.

I still get a few hits a week from searches for "Ole and Lena jokes". If you're versed in Ole and Lena jokes, you'll know that many of them are quite naughty--blonde jokes are really just Ole and Lena jokes redone for nonscandinavians--so I wonder what the searchers think when they are directed here.

Just this morning someone came here as a result of this search: "HOW DO I KNOW WHEN A CHURCH IS TOO LEGALISTIC". That one puzzled me, because I can't remember ever writing anything at all about legalism and churches. That's right up there in my list of topics I'm just not very interested in, along with the emerging church and thumb twiddling. The article referred to as a result of that query was Everything I Know About Parenting I Learned From The Mennonites. I haven't figured out yet exactly what that piece has to do with legalism, unless loving your babies is legalistic.

The strangest recent search was for "mess". What is someone looking for when they type "mess" into a search engine? Are they thinking mess as in "mess hall"? Or mess as in the general state of my kitchen?

And what about the person who just types the letter "g" into that little search box? Why? Do they mean "g" string or "g" note or "g" whiz? My first thought was that they had started to type a word that had "g" as the initial letter and accidently hit the search button too soon, but since they were making their way down through the results they got, I can only assume that "g" was their intended search. And why in the world did google lead the "g" searcher to me? Not to a specific article, either, but to the main page?

Quite a few hits come from searches for "potty training" or "potty training advice". I've actually learned a lot from looking through the other pages that particular search refers to. Did you know there is actually a potty training web ring? Mostly what I've learned is that there is a flabbergasting number of potty training products: musical (or "tinkling") potty chairs; travel potty chairs; cushion seated potty chairs; little ladders for reaching the big toilet; potty training dolls, books, and videos; glow in the dark strips for your toilet so it can be found in the dark and accurately used " without missing and creating unwanted mess". (Is "unwanted mess" redundant? Is "mess" ever wanted? I guess it must be, since someone came here looking for it.) How did I managed to get my four trained without any purchases except new and exciting big kid underwear?

I could go on, but I won't. If you've got a blog, what searches lead to your site?

Quiz Answers, Question 2

Last week I posted a little quiz and promised answers. So far I've only posted answers to question 1, but now I'd like to make my way through question 2. So here's the question:
2. Calvinists believe that the Holy Spirit
  • a. is always irresistible.
  • b. can sometimes move people to sin.
  • c. is always irresistible for the elect.
  • d. is the only being doing any work at all in the sanctification of the elect.
  • e. b, c, and d.
  • f. none of the above.
The answer is "f. none of the above". Irresistible grace deals specifically with the effectual call of the Spirit to salvation. This work of the Spirit will never be resisted; however, at other times, the promptings of the Spirit may be resisted, both in the elect and non-elect. Two quotes from the Westminster Confession:
IV. Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved... (Chapter X, Article IV)
II. This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.

III. In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail; yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome; and so, the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (Chapter XIII, Articles II and III)
The first quote deals specifically with the non-elect, who never come to Christ, but still may have some "common operations of the Spirit". The scripture references given in support of the first quote (Matthew 13:20-21, Hebrews 6:4-5) would make it seem that these "common operations of the Spirit" may include an enlightening of sorts to the truth of the gospel, which is then resisted.

The second quote has to do with the sanctification of the elect, and suggests that in the work of sanctification, the tugs of the flesh sometimes overcome the promptings of the indwelling Spirit, so that even the regenerated elect sometimes resist the Spirit.

These quotes show why answers a. and c. are wrong. The second quote is probably enough to show answer d. to be wrong as well, indicating, as it does, the cooperation of the Spirit and the regenerate person in sanctification. As to wrong answer b.:
IV. The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men.... yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin (Chapter V, Article IV).
No sin, then, according to the Westminster Confession, can ever be said to have been done at the moving of the Holy Spirit.

Remember that the point of this quiz was to show that certain doctrines being attributed to Calvinism (that Calvinists believed that the Holy Spirit was always irresistible, for instance, or that Calvinists believed that God was the agent of sin) were actually misrepresentations of Calvinism. This is the reason for the appeal for proof to the Westminster Confession and other like documents, for they would be considered systematic formulations of Calvinist belief. It may be true that certain people who call themselves Calvinist (and perhaps rightly so) disagree with these documents on certain points, but they nevertheless give us a general idea of what most Calvinists believe, particularly in the area of soteriology.


Thursday, August 26

August 26, 1745

That would be 259 years ago today. Here's missionary David Brainerd's journal entry for that date:

Preached to my people from John vi. 51-55. After I had discoursed some time, I addressed those in particular who entertained hopes that they were "passed from death to life." Opened to them the persevering nature of those consolations Christ gives his people, and which I trusted he had bestowed upon some in that assembly; showed them that such have already the "beginnings of eternal life," (ver. 54.) and that their heaven shall speedily be completed, &c.

I no sooner began to discourse in this strain, but the dear Christians in the congregation began to be melted with affection to, and desire of, the enjoyment of Christ, and of a state of perfect purity. They wept affectionately, and yet joyfully, and their tears and sobs discovered brokenness of heart, and yet were attended with real comfort and sweetness; so that this was a tender, affectionate, humble, delightful melting, and appeared to be the genuine effect of a Spirit of adoption, and very far from that spirit of bondage that they not long since laboured under. The influence seemed to spread from these through the whole assembly, and there quickly appeared a wonderful concern among them. Many who had not yet found Christ as an all-sufficient Saviour, were surprisingly engaged in seeking after him. It was indeed a lovely and very desirable assembly. Their number was now about ninety-five persons, old and young, and almost all affected either with joy in Christ Jesus, or with utmost concern to obtain an interest in him.

Being fully convinced it was now my duty to take a journey far back to the Indians on Susquehannah river, (it being now a proper season of the year to find them generally at home,) after having spent some hours in public and private discourses with my people, I told them, that I must now leave them for the present, and go to their brethren far remote, and preach to them; that I wanted the Spirit of God should go with me, without whom nothing could be done to any good purpose among the Indians--as they themselves had opportunity to see, and observe, by the barrenness of our meetings at some times, when there was much pains taken to affect and awaken sinners, and yet to little or no purpose--and asked them, if they could not be willing to spend the remainder of the day in prayer for me, that God would go with me, and succeed my endeavours for the conversion of those poor souls. They cheerfully complied with the motion, and soon after I left them (the sun being then about an hour and a half high at night) they began, and continued praying all night,) till break of day, or very near, never mistrusting, they tell me, till they went out and viewed the stars, and saw the morning-star a considerable height, that it was later than common bed-time. Thus eager and unwearied were they in their devotions! A remarkable night it was, attended, as my interpreter tells me, with a powerful influence upon those who were yet under concern, as well as those that had received comfort.

There were, I trust, this day two distressed souls brought to the enjoyment of solid comfort in him, in whom the weary find rest.--It was likewise remarkable, that this day an old Indian, who has all his days been an obstinate idolater, was brought to give up his rattles (which they use for music in their idolatrous feasts and dances) to the other Indians, who quickly destroyed them; and this without any attempt of mine in the affair, I having said nothing to him about it; so that it seemed it was nothing but just the power of God's word, without any particular application to this sin, that produced this effect. Thus God has begun, thus he has hitherto surprisingly carried on a work of grace amongst these Indians. May the glory be ascribed to him, who is the sole Author of it!

[David Brainerd was a missionary to the Indians of some of the northeastern areas of what is now the United States.]

Wednesday, August 25

Neither Here Nor There

Tomorrow will be the lastest BlogSwap, so make sure you come round to see what's up. [Update: No BlogSwap this week. It's been postponed.]

It's been busy in this household. Nothing particularly important going on, just lots to do as summer winds up.

It's beginning to be fall here, and I noticed today that most of the leaves on the trees in the bush around my house are yellow. The mayday tree in the yard is already dropping leaves, so even my yard has an autumn look. The nights are cooler, too, but so far there has been no frost, mostly because there has been either smoke in the air, or clouds. Yes, we are still being plagued on and off by stinky smoke from this summer's forest fires.

Yesterday when I checked the salmon numbers at the fish ladder, there had been 1824 through the dam. The numbers are dropping off now, but no matter what the final number is, this will have been a really good year for them. The record return years are somewhere around 2000, and this year's return is pretty close to that. Several of the males have come through with noses that are really mangled, and they haven't figured out why yet, but it may have something to do with the high water levels in the river.

Youngest son is doing volleyball training camp all week. Six hours of volleyball every day. He is so sore that he gets in and out of the car rather gingerly, and then spends his evenings parked on the couch, immobile except for the frequent trips to the fridge. I suppose that just when his body gets used to all that volleyball, the camp will be over. Next Wednesday, school will start for him, so this is a good way to get him back in the swing of earlier bed times and earlier rising.

The pooch loves peas, and she spends a lot of time in the garden next to the pea netting, picking peas and eating them, pods and all. She looks rather cow-like as she crunches. We have so many peas that it doesn't really matter if she indulges herself, but I don't like it when she steals the ones I've already picked from out of the container. She likes potatoes, too, and will dig one up and toss it around with her mouth for a while, throwing it up and catching it if she can. Eventually, she'll eat it, but only after she's tired of playing with it.

By now, I suppose you're wondering if this post has a point. No, it doesn't. It's just an aimless meandering thing. I'm allowed one of those now and then, I think.

And now the pea picking dog and I are off on our daily constitutional.

The Christian Carnival, It Is!

Patriot Paradox gives us this week's Christian Carnival. Go check it out.


Tuesday, August 24

God's Immutability

It's a big word--immutability--that simply means that God doesn't change. There is constancy about him, a steadfast unchangeability that applies to who he is and what he does. One of my favorite passages of scripture is from Hebrews 6, and this text points to a couple of ways in which our God is immutable:
In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. (Hebrews 6:17,18 NASB)
God's purpose, or his counsel--the plan he is carrying out in creation--is unchangeable. If God determines that He will do something, then it will certainly be done. We have this text, along with others, that tell us that this is so.

It seems reasonable, too, that God's plans are immutable. God's plans can't be like my plans, which are subject to change because of unforeseen circumstances, like plumbing disasters, for instance, or even unpredictable feelings, like tiredness or crankiness. All of the sorts of things that make my plans subject to change don't apply to an all-knowing, all-present, all-powerful God.

This text grounds the immutability of God's counsel in something else: the impossibility of God's promise changing or his oath being rescinded. His promise and his oath are immutable because it is impossible for God to lie. That God cannot lie points us to the unchanging nature of his character--a character that remains constantly truthful. His promises are certain, and he does as he vows; for he has always been truthful, he is always truthful and he will always be truthful, because of his immutable character.

There are many other places in scripture that point to this steadfastness of character that belongs to God. James 1:13 tells us that God can't be tempted with evil, nor does he ever tempt anyone with evil. His constant righteousness makes these things impossible for him. Isaiah 40 tells us that God can't be taught anything, so we know that his knowledge is complete and unchanging. His mercy can be counted on to be enduringly consistent as well, according to Psalm 107:1.

Just as it seems reasonable that God's counsel is immutable, it seems reasonable that His character is changeless, too. God is what he is in a complete way--a perfect way. To change would imply increase or decrease, growth or loss, improvement or corruption. All these things seem incompatible with completeness or perfection.

We need to be careful, though, that when we think of God as immutable, we don't think of him as inactive or completely unfeeling. His character and his plans are unchanging, yet he is not simply sitting back to watch those perfect plans unfold, but is working constantly within creation to bring them into being. And while it seems certain that he does not feel emotions in exactly the same way we do, we still need to take seriously the statements of scripture that show him manifesting love or joy or anger or wrath. These feelings, rather than showing that God is changeable, show the unchangeableness of God's character. He consistently takes pleasure in righteousness, and on the other hand, he is consistently displeased with sin. This constant character assures us that when we change our attitude and actions, his attitude and actions directed toward us are different than they were. That God always loves righteousness and always hates unrighteousness means that the attitudes and actions of God that we experience are different when we are obedient than they are when we sin.

What does it mean for us that our God is immutable? The biggest benefit to us, I think, is that an immutable God is one who can be trusted. His promises are kept with certainty. In the Hebrew 6 passage quoted at the start of this post, it tells us that if we've taken our refuge in God, his immutability gives us strong encouragement to hold on to what is promised to us. Because our God is unchanging, both in his counsel and his character, the hope we have is an "an anchor of the soul, a {hope} both sure and steadfast."

We may think of hope as something elusive, like a rising helium balloon--something that bobs in the wind, dancing away from us just beyond our grasp--but the hope we have in God is not something fleeting. It's no balloon, but an anchor, because God is like an anchor. Or a rock. He can be counted on to be forever as he is, and to do forever what he says. Out of his steadfast character and standing counsel comes his complete faithfulness.

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

(Lamentations 3:21-23 ESV)


Monday, August 23

Judging Fiasco

I haven't commented much on the Olympics. I'm a bit of a cynic about the whole Olympic thing, so nothing really surprises or upsets me. Until now.

I know a little bit about gymnastics judging. One of my daughters was a gymnast, and I've been to enough gymnastics competitions to know how the scoring is done, how subjective the judging is, and that there will always be scores I question. So mostly, I have no trouble just defer to the wisdom of the judges when it comes to the scoring, because I understand that they notice things I don't, and know things I don't.

But I do know that something stinks in the judging in the men's gymnastics at this Olympics: making errors in starting scores, not taking mandatory deductions for falls, changing scores in response to crowd outrage, and giving out just plain ridiculous scores. These are supposed to be the best judges there are. How can they foul up like this? The only two reasons I can come up with for this sort of mess is incompetency or corruption.

I shall be kind and go with incompetency as the most likely cause, but how does that happen when the Olympics ought to have the toppest notchest judges around?

For the most part, I think those who should have had medals won them, but they didn't get them in the right way--through judging that is clean, fair, more or less mistake free, and not influenced by anything outside the athlete's performance. Is there anyone who wants to try to convince me that this is what those medal winners got?

The Christian Carnival For This Week

....will be held at Patriot Paradox.
If you have a blog, this will be agreat way to get read, and possibly pick up readers in the process or highlight your favorite post from the past week.

To enter is simple. First, you post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are political (or otherwise) in nature from a Christian point of view. Secondly please send only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival. Then, do the following:

email me at

Provide the following:

Title of your Blog
URL of your Blog
Title of your post
URL linking to that post
Description of the post

Cut off date is Tuesday night at midnight EST (but late comers welcome
up until 1 pm Wednesday EST.
C'mon all you bloggers, go through your last week's posts and find a suitable one to enter. The more entries, the better the carnival is.

Quiz Answers, Question 1

Friday I posted a little quiz, promising to post answers as well. The best way to do this, I think, is to go through the quiz question by question and explain what I think is the correct answer and why. In the process I hope to respond to the comments from the quibblers on that post. (I love quibblers!) And remember, there are probably going to be Calvinists who disagree with me on some of these, but I do think that the answers I give would be the majority Calvinist postition.

Here's the first question:
1. Calvinists believe people are sent to hell because
  • a. God delights in the death of the wicked.
  • b. God is just.
  • c. God didn't love them.
  • d. God didn't choose them for salvation.
  • e. b, c, and d.
  • f. none of the above.
The correct answer is "b. God is just." Calvinists believe that the cause of people going to hell is their own unbelief and sin taken together with God's just--or absolutely excruciatingly correct--response to that sin. Since "the wages of sin is death," death is what is rightfully earned by sinners and a just God must necessarily dole out what is rightfully earned.

The simplist answer for me to have given for this question would have been that men are condemned "because they sin", but I had used that answer in a previous quiz, and "because God is just" is just a little twist on that same response.

Here's from the Synod of Dort, First Main Point of Doctrine, Article 15, as backup. Speaking of the reprobate--or all those who will never be saved:
God....made the following decision: ...... to condemn and eternally punish them (having been left in their own ways and under his just judgment), not only for their unbelief but also for all their other sins, in order to display his justice. And this is the decision of reprobation, which does not at all make God the author of sin (a blasphemous thought!) but rather its fearful, irreproachable, just judge and avenger.
As to the wrong answers:

That "a. God delights in the death of the wicked" is directly opposed to the scriptural statement that God doesn't delight in their death, so I'm hoping no one will argue that it would be the correct response. Of course, there is some level on which the expression of his wrath pleases him, because it is the right response to sin. Nevertheless, even in the sense that this statement might be true--that it please God to give sin its due--it wouldn't be the cause of people's damnation, which is always--in scripture, and in the confessions, too--given as their own sin.

I'm trying to think of an example from our life experience that might make this point clearer. My first thought was to use a legal example--like a sentence given for a crime, and pointing out that it is the one who commits the crime who is the direct cause of his own punishment, and while this is true, I think we may have trouble always seeing it that way. So let's go in the opposite direction, and think of a reward given for good work, rather than evil. Consider a mother who tells her children that those who clean their rooms get cookies. Mom is probably happy to give out cookies, but whether she is or not is irrelevant to the cause of the child receiving one. The child who receives a cookie does so because they earn it through the work of tidying, not because their mother is the happy cookie doler.

Let's consider "c. God didn't love them." The majority of Calvinists would agree that the benevolency of God toward both the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:44, 45) is rightly called "love". God provides good things for all the inhabitants of the earth from his love. There are a few Calvinists who don't think there is any sense in which God loves those who remain forever in their sin, but even then, they don't think that His lack of love for them is what causes their damnation, but rather that damnation is caused by sin.

The last wrong answer for this question is "d. God didn't choose them for salvation." A few Calvinists do think that God's decision not to choose someone is causative for their damnation, but the majority do not. Most would believe that those who are condemned are simply left "in the common misery into which, by their own fault, they have plunged themselves." (Synod of Dort, First Main Point of Doctrine, Article 15)

I'll get to the other questions as I find time. I've got an article on God's immutability that I want to finish up and post tomorrow, and another BlogSwap entry due this week as well, so it'll be here when it's here.

In the meantime, any quibbling is welcome.

Sunday, August 22

A Sunday To Love Jesus

O How I Love Jesus
There is a Name I love to hear,
I love to sing its worth;
It sounds like music in my ear,
The sweetest Name on earth.


O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
Because He first loved me!

It tells me of a Savior's love,
Who died to set me free;
It tells me of His precious blood,
The sinner's perfect plea.

It tells me of a Father's smile
Beaming upon His child;
It cheers me through this little while,
Through desert, waste, and wild.

It tells me what my Father hath
In store for every day,
And though I tread a darksome path,
Yields sunshine all the way.

It tells of One whose loving heart
Can feel my deepest woe;
Who in each sorrow bears
A part that none can bear below.

It bids my trembling heart rejoice.
It dries each rising tear.
It tells me, in a "still small voice,"
To trust and never fear.

Jesus, the Name I love so well,
The Name I love to hear:
No saint on earth its worth can tell,
No heart conceive how dear.

This Name shall shed its fragrance still
Along this thorny road,
Shall sweetly smooth the rugged hill
That leads me up to God.

And there with all the blood-bought throng,
From sin and sorrow free,
I'll sing the new eternal song
Of Jesus' love for me.
Words by Frederick Whitfield, from the Cyber Hymnal.

Today's featured sermon is one by John Broadus, one of the Southern Baptist founders, and a chaplain in Lee's army during the American Civil War. It's a sermon on Loving Jesus Christ. The text is from John 21:15:

Jesus saith to Simon Peter: Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him: Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him: Feed my lambs.

From the concusion of the sermon:
How should we show our love to him so well as by doing good to his people? Prove your love to the Saviour by doing good to your fellow Christians. Judge them kindly, O ye Christian people, by all your own conscious weaknesses and all your stumblings, judge them kindly, and when they are weak, help them along. Doing this in love for the Lord you shall learn to love him more. That also is illustrated in the experience of ordinary life. Why, I could find you in this great city of yours a thousand examples. I could show you tomorrow evening as the day draws to its close some humble home where if you and I should go and stand and look in through the open window as the dusk came down, we should see a quiet woman approaching middle age busy with household tasks. Her cheeks are shrunken from their youthful beauty, and her complexion is faded a little. She lives in poverty and knows full well what is meant by the hard times of which we are all now speaking. But as we look in through the window she seems not sad, she seems to enjoy what she is doing. She is preparing the evening meal with toil-worn hands for the husband that is coming, and the thought of him, how it sweetens her labor--to be doing this for him, how tender it makes her heart. Presently she begins to sing and breaks off in the middle of a line, and there comes to her faded cheek a new freshness and there is a new light in her woman's eye. They used to sing that song together, when the world and they were young. Ah! love's service is pleasant service, and what we do out of love makes us love them more. This is one of the sweetest conditions of our earthly life, and it applies with all its fullness and richness to the Lord Jesus Christ. When we are doing something out of love for him we love him better. Sacrifice, self-denial, act powerfully upon the love that prompts them. That is true not only of great things but also of little things. If you stir yourself from sloth and go to the Sunday school to teach for love of the Redeemer, it will always make you love him better. If you turn away from the social gathering that is not necessary, or from some place of amusement, to go to the evening prayer meeting, it will make you love him more. If you seek out the poor and try to do them good because they are Jesus Christ's poor, you will love Jesus Christ more. If in these trying days you deny your-self gratification's though they are within your means and you would have a right to indulge in them, that you may have more to give to the thousand Christian enterprises that are struggling for existence, then your sacrifice and your self-denial will intensify your love for Christ. Whatever you do, whatever you deny yourself, out of love, it will strengthen the love that prompts it.

But let me close as the Lord himself closed the conversation. After telling Simon Peter what he must do out of love for him, he said, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee; When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not." Dimly, and yet plainly, it meant that he should be crucified. And was that all that the loving Lord had to promise as a reward for a man who professed that he did love him? Thou lovest me, then serve me faithfully, and for so doing, When thou art old thou shalt be crucified. It looks strange. "This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God." Ah! that sheds light on it; a man that loves the Lord Jesus Christ is a man that means to live so as to glorify God. He promised Simon Peter a death of suffering and outward shame, but in that death he should glorify God.

My brethren, we live in a world of failures. How many businessmen in this city fail sometime or other. We live in a time of failures. Everything in this world is in danger of failing except one thing: a man who is really living to glorify God-that man will not fail, that end will be accomplished. It may not be in the way you had fancied or preferred, but in the way which he sees to be more for your good and more for his glory. You wanted to glorify him in a long life crowded with useful deeds; he may appoint that you shall glorify him by an early death. You wanted to glorify him with ample means, which you would scatter far abroad with holy love; he may want you to bear poverty with dignity. You thought you would glorify him in a life of health and strength, doing good in the world; and he may have thought to try you amid the sufferings of a sickbed. It is not for a laborer in the vineyard to choose himself where he will work, but only to work where he is placed. We know not what awaits us, but if in simplicity and godly sincerity, in such calling and circumstances as providence assigns us, we do make it our aim to glorify God, then whatever crashes and falls around us, life will not be failure, but will show our love and glorify our Saviour!

Friday, August 20

What a Day!

Not a bad one, just a busy one. Garage sales, and school shopping, and vegie picking and blanching and freezing, with a bit of a plumbing emergency thrown in for good measure. And let's not forget the sticky rhubarb juice in my hair incident, either. (Just don't ask how that happened. It's one of those impossible to explain things.)

It's 10:40 PM, I just finished the supper dishes, and I'm finally sitting down to blog. I've posted something every single day since April (I think that's right, but please don't go checking!), and it would be a shame to break that record because of a rather ordinary day, however full it was. So before I head off to bed, let me point you to some good reading from the bloggery.

Interested in Christology? You might like this: A Thought on the Holy Incarnate Word, Part 1 from Brandon of Siris.

How about the craft of writing? You will find good things here: Notes on Craft from J. Mark Bertrand.

If you've been reading my posts about God's attributes and open theism, you might enjoy reading this post by the Parableman on Prosblogian. He's taken an argument I started and developed it.

Now, it's way past my bedtime, so that's where I'm headed.

A Little Quiz

Sometime last year I made this little quiz (in poll form) to post on the Baptist Board, and I thought you might enjoy it, too. Shortly before I posted this quiz, several participants on the board had read Dave Hunt's book What Love Is This? Calvinism's Misrepresentation of God, so they had come prepared to trounce the Calvinists. The only problem was that thanks to the misinformation in that book, what they thought Calvinists believed wasn't what any of the Calvinists on the Baptist Board actually believed, and wasn't what any Calvinists I've ever known actually believed.

Most of the discussions had a similar progression, and I use the word progression lightly here. An argument against what was thought to be Calvinism, but was really a sort of pseudocalvinism would be put forward. Several Calvinists would respond and claim that they didn't actually believe what it was that was being argued against. Then the Dave Hunt readers would claim that then these Calvinists weren't real Calvinists, and the Calvinist would claim that they were indeed real Calvinists, and they ought to know. Several pages of "No, you're not!" and then "Yes, I am!" would follow. You get the picture.

This quiz was just my little attempt to dispel some of the misconceptions about what Calvinists believe. The purpose of it wasn't to change minds but to clarify what the Calvinist stance actually was so that the silly "You believe this!", "No I don't!" dialogue might stop. Most of the wrong answers come directly from the misconceptions about Calvinism being put forth at that time, but some are just misconceptions I'd seen at some point over the years. A few of the wrong answers might be things that a few Calvinists believe to be true, but the majority would reject.

The fifth question was to sort through what the quiz takers actually believed on the subject of election, so it's a poll type question with no right or wrong answers. The last question was intended to inject a little silliness into a forum that had become more than a little strained, although the first two answers didn't arise out of thin air, but are exaggerations of accusations that had already been made. And if I remember things right, I had to cut question 6 from the quiz when I posted it, because the answers were too long. The actual thread seems to have been purged from the BB archives, so I can't check.

With that longer-than-intended introduction out of the way, here's the quiz. Have fun.

Second Quiz on Calvinism

Do you have misconceptions about what it is Calvinists believe? Take this short quiz, and in a week you can find out how accurate your understanding of Calvinism is. Choose the answer that you feel best represents the Calvinistic answer to each question below. Okay, ready?

1. Calvinists believe people are sent to hell because
  • a. God delights in the death of the wicked.
  • b. God is just.
  • c. God didn't love them.
  • d. God didn't choose them for salvation.
  • e. b, c, and d.
  • f. none of the above.

2. Calvinists believe that the Holy Spirit
  • a. is always irresistible.
  • b. can sometimes move people to sin.
  • c. is always irresistible for the elect.
  • d. is the only being doing any work at all in the sanctification of the elect.
  • e. b, c, and d.
  • f. none of the above.

3. Concerning the foreknowledge of God: Calvinists believe
  • a. it has intentional will behind it.
  • b. it is exactly the same thing as foresight.
  • c. it is inconsistent with real human choice.
  • d. it means God can't really interact with us in time.
  • e. a and c.
  • f. none of the above.

4. Calvinist believe that in their natural state, people are unable to repent and believe because
  • a. they are opposed to God.
  • b. God works within them to keep them from repenting and believing.
  • c. they are just puppets doing what God programmed them to do.
  • d. the gospel seems foolish to them.
  • e. a and d.
  • f. all of the above.

5. I consider this statement to be accurate concerning my own personal view of election to salvation:
  • a. Election to salvation is unconditional.
  • b. Election to salvation is conditioned on foreseen faith.
  • c. People are elected to salvation after they believe.
  • d. There is no such thing as election to salvation.
  • e. I have not yet decided what my personal view of election is.
  • f. I would love to answer this question, but I have no idea what any of those statements mean.

6. I consider myself to be
  • a. someone who believes everything John Calvin wrote because it isn't just coincidence that his initials are JC.
  • b. someone who looks with distrust upon anything John Calvin wrote because it's clear to me that he was an undercover agent for the Roman Catholic Church.
  • c. a sceptic, so I don't believe anything anyone wrote.
  • d. someone who has just as good a sense of humour as anyone, but these are serious issues and joviality is inappropriate.
  • e. someone who thinks humour is more properly spelled humor.
  • f. someone who knows that the word humour is really, truly, positively spelled with two U's, and Webster was a rebellious twit bucking the rightful authority of the British spelling police.

If you've got questions about which answers are correct, let me know and I'll post answers. Someplace I've got an answer key that has quotes from various Calvinistic confessions, canons, etc. as evidence of the correctness of the answer key. Perhaps I can find that, too.

Misbehaving Blogger

Blogger is acting up this morning, not letting me into the drafts of pieces already written so that I can finish one up and post it. So, I'm off to run errands and pick raspberries, and in the meantime, here's a little quote from G. K. Chesteron on the proper place of nonsense:
For there are two ways of dealing with nonsense in this world. One way is to put nonsense in the right place; as when people put nonsense into nursery rhymes. The other is to put nonsense in the wrong place; as when they put it into educational addresses, psychological criticisms, and complaints against nursery rhymes or other normal amusements of mankind.

---From Child Psychology and Nonsense

Thursday, August 19

How Could This Happen?

I've removed this post. Some of the information that I based my conclusions on was gleaned from sources that, although published, should not have been. I saw no other way around this but to take the whole post down.

From George Herbert


LORD, with what care hast thou begirt us round!
Parents first season us: then schoolmasters
Deliver us to laws; They send us bound
To rules of reason, holy messengers,

Pulpits and sundayes, sorrow dogging sinne,
Afflictions sorted, anguish of all sizes,
Fine nets and stratagems to catch us in,
Bibles laid open, millions of surprises,

Blessings beforehand, tyes of gratefulnesse,
The sound of glorie ringing in our eares;
Without, our shame; within, our consciences;
Angels and grace, eternall hopes and fears.

Yet all these fences and their whole aray
One cunning bosome-sinne blows quite away.

---George Herbert, 1593-1633

Wednesday, August 18

Christian Carnival 31

It's been a busy day here, so I'm just getting around to linking to this week's Carnival now. I probably won't have time to read anything much until tomorrow, but why don't you head over there ahead of me and check things out? It's at Parableman, and it has a Kansas theme. I'm an old fogey, so the only Kansas I know is the state, but I really liked the words to the song associated with my entry. Math and poetry and God's sovereignty all in one. You can't get better than that.

Peach Cobbler

Younger son and I canned peaches yesterday. He scalded the peaches while I slipped the skins off. I was waiting for the heat wave to subside before I boiled big pots of water in the kitchen, but those peaches just kept on ripening. So yesterday was the day, heat and all.

Oldest son snapped this picture of me just after the peaches were finished. Can you tell what I'm doing?

I like to pretend that I'm not interested in my stats, but there's the picture to prove otherwise.

The leaves are beginning to change color. We noticed this last night when youngest son and dog and I took a hike along the Chadburn Lake trails. Autumn is on its way, even though this heat wave makes it seem like it's still midsummer.

Last time I checked the returning salmon stats, there had been over 1400 of them through the dam already, with somewhere around 100 still arriving each day. When all is said and done--or all have spawned and died, if you prefer--this will have been a good run for the chinook.

For those of you who are interested in the landcruiser restoration project that's happening in my garage, here is a photo of the now nearly restored cruiser.

His dad would be proud, don't you think?

Tuesday, August 17

God's Power

For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. (Romans 1:20 NET)

Although there are statements about God's power throughout scripture, we don't need the revelation of scripture to know of it, for creation itself is a clear witness of to the power of God. Every person who views creation knows that its origin was at the hand of an unfathomably powerful God, and anyone who denies this is doing so by suppressing knowledge that they already have. Every single person knows, deep down somewhere, that there is a God who possesses eternal power, and they are choosing, on some level, to fool themselves into believing otherwise.

And not only did God create the world by His power, we know from scripture that the created order is maintained "by the word of his power (Hebrews 1)." The universe keeps on existing and keeps on functioning due to the constant exertion of the power of God. God spoke the universe into existence and he speaks its continued existence.

That God is omnipotent means that he has the power to execute his will. The statement from Psalm 115 that tells us that God does whatever he pleases is a statement about God's omnipotence. So is the statement in Ephesians 1 that tells us that God works all things after the counsel of His will. What God decides to do comes about with certainty because he has the power to accomplish whatever he wills.

If God desired, he could do more than he actually does. His power would permit him to raise up children of Abraham from stones, but God chooses not to work that way (Matthew 3). He had the power to free Jesus from the multitude that took him, for Jesus tells us that he could have called upon the Father, and he would have sent more than twelve legions of angels to rescue him (Matthew 26:53), but God's will was to accomplish something else—something that had already been declared in scripture (Matthew 26:54).

That God is omnipotent doesn't mean that he can do absolutely anything at all. We are told that God cannot lie, he cannot sin, and he cannot deny himself. What keeps him from doing those things, however, is not lack of power, but steadfastness of character. It is God's constant righteousness, not a shortage of power, that determines that certain actions will never be taken by him.

Absolutely everyone knows God's power through the witness of creation, but those of us who belong to him have another witness of his power. We know "what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe" (Ephesians 1:19ff). The unsurpassable power that called Lazarus from the tomb and raised Jesus from the dead has also "called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).

This means that we have no excuses. We cannot claim weakness, for while it is true that we are weak, the same power that raised Jesus dwells within us. The power of the resurrection is ours for our sanctification. It is by the work of the One who accomplishes all that He wills that we are becoming righteous, and it is through the power of the One who accomplishes all that he pleases that we are overwhelming conquerors in all these things. We have no excuse to not do the works of our salvation, for it is this omnipotent God who is working in us, "both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).

God's "power toward us who believe" means that we have security despite our weaknesses. The God who spoke the universe into existence, who sustains it by his word, who raised Christ from the dead, and who is always, ever working all things according to the counsel of his will, keeps us by his power. The God of all ability is on our side. Who can stand against us?

...neither death nor life,
nor angels nor principalities nor powers,
nor things present nor things to come,
nor height nor depth,
nor any other created thing,
shall be able to separate us from the love of God
which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:38,39)

The limitlessness of God's power is one more reason for us to trust in him.



Monday, August 16

I'm So Late

....posting the info for this week's Christian Carnival.
Christian Carnival XXXI....

The next Christian Carnival will be hosted here at Parableman next Wednesday. It's a great way to get recognition for your blog. Submit your best post from the past week (i.e. since the time of post submissions for the previous Christian Carnival) on a Christian-related theme (including politics but only if it's close enough to being an issue relevant to Christianity). We've been getting enough submissions lately that we can afford to deny people's submissions if they're not Christian-related or not from within the last week.

Then submit the following information:

Blog name
Blog URL
post name
post URL
trackback URL for your post if you would like a trackback
brief description of post

Send your submission to jrpierce@syr.edu and make sure your subject makes it clear that this is for the Christian Carnival, or it will be deleted as junk mail.
Look through your posts. Find something. Enter it.

I Believe In....The Communion of Saints

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. (Ephesians 2:19-21 ESV)

"The glorious company of the apostles praise thee,
The goodly fellowship of the prophets praise thee,
The noble army of martyrs praise thee,
The holy church throughout all the world doth acknowledge thee..."
---The Te Deum Laudamus

I. All saints that are united to Jesus Christ their head, by his Spirit and by faith, have fellowship with him in his graces, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory: and, being united to one another in love, they have communion in each other's gifts and graces, and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, as to conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outward man.

II. Saints by profession, are bound to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, and in performing such other spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification; as also in relieving each other in outward things, according to their several abilities and necessities. Which communion, as God offereth opportunity, is to be extended unto all those who, in every place, call upon the name of the Lord Jesus.

---The Westminster Confession, Chapter 26. Of the Communion of the Saints.

From A Divine Cordial by Thomas Watson:
Do they love God, who hate them that are like God? Do they love Christ's person, who are filled with a spirit of revenge against His people? How can that wife be said to love her husband, who tears his picture? Surely Judas and Julian are not yet dead, their spirit yet lives in the world. Who are guilty but the innocent! What greater crime than holiness, if the devil may be one of the grand jury! Wicked men seem to bear great reverence to the saints departed; they canonize dead saints, but persecute living. In vain do men stand up at the creed, and tell the world they believe in God, when they abominate one of the articles of the creed, namely, the communion of saints. Surely, there is not a greater sign of a man ripe for hell, than this, not only to lack grace, but to hate it.

But you have come to Mount Zion,
the city of the living God,
the heavenly Jerusalem,
and to myriads of angels,
to the assembly and congregation of the firstborn, who are enrolled in heaven,
and to God, the judge of all,
and to the spirits of the righteous, who have been made perfect,
and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant,
and to the sprinkled blood that speaks of something better than Abel's does.

(Hebrews 12:22-24 NET)

But who is able to complete the roster of the saints? To them we owe a debt of gratitude too great to comprehend: prophet and apostle, martyr and reformer, scholar and translator, hymnist and composer, teacher and evangelist, not to mention ten thousand times ten thousand simple-hearted and anonymous souls who kept the flame of pure religion alive even in those times when the faith of our fathers was burning but dimly all over the world.

They belong to us, all of them, and we belong to them. They and we and all redeemed men and women of whatever age or clime are included in the universal fellowship of Christ, and together compose 'a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people,' who enjoy a common but blessed communion of saints.

---from Man the Dwelling Place of God, by Aidan W. Tozer

We all--believer now present worldwide, together with those who are already in the company of the redeemed in heaven and those believers who are yet to come--belong to each other. All together we are becoming a building, contributing collectively to the construction a dwelling place for God. The lives of the apostles and prophets form the foundation, and each generation of believers adds to the structure, building what must be a skyscraper by now. We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us, knowing that what we are doing would be nothing without what they have already done, and that those who come after us--our children and their children--will continue to build up this abiding place for God.

I believe in....the communion of the saints.


Sunday, August 15

Samuel Rutherford Sunday

Today let's consider another of the great pastors of Scottish Presbyterianism, Samuel Rutherford. One of the things Rutherford is known for is the collection of letters he wrote to the members of his congregation in Anwoth when he was banished from them for writing a book that was contrary to the doctrine of the authorities of the Church of Scotland. The sermon excerpt for today is taken from The Weeping Mary at the Sepulchre.
Thank God for any good thing that thou hast, and that thou art kept in a good estate. They never kent [knew] Christ's help well who put man in such a tutor's hand as free-will, to be kept by it; who say that Christ has conquershed [acquired] salvation to all, and when He has conquershed [acquired] it, He puts it in the hand of free-will to be disposed of as it pleases, to keep or not to keep it. This is to make Christ a fool merchant, and not to take accompt [account] whether it be misspent or not; but Christ is not so. He knows what shall become of all whom He has bought. You know it is evermore the happiness of the weaker to depend upon the stronger. So it is the happiness of the poor soul to depend upon Christ and upon free grace. The happiness of the ship stands in that to have a good pilot; the happiness of the lost weak sheep depends on a good shepherd to seek it in again, and to keep it from the enemies thereof; the happiness of the weak, witless orphans depends in a good, wise tutor. Even so the happiness of lost and tint [perishing] souls depend on this, to lippen [trust] to Christ and His strength for their salvation, and not to such a changing tutor as their free-will is.
Can you guess from this little quote from the sermon the nature of the disagreement for which his ministry was taken from him?

This Sunday's hymn is not written by Samuel Rutherford, but by Anne R. Cousin two hundred years after Rutherford's time. It is based on Rutherford's reported last words and on excerpts from his letters.
The Sands of Time Are Sinking
The sands of time are sinking, the dawn of heaven breaks;
The summer morn I've sighed for--the fair, sweet morn awakes:
Dark, dark hath been the midnight, but dayspring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel's land.

O Christ, He is the fountain, the deep, sweet well of love!
The streams of earth I've tasted more deep I'll drink above:
There to an ocean fullness His mercy doth expand,
And glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel's land.

Oh! Well it is forever, Oh! well forevermore,
My nest hung in no forest of all this death doomed shore:
Yea, let the vain world vanish, as from the ship the strand,
While glory--glory dwelleth in Immanuel's land.

There the Red Rose of Sharon unfolds its heartsome bloom
And fills the air of heaven with ravishing perfume:
Oh! To behold it blossom, while by its fragrance fanned
Where glory--glory dwelleth in Immanuel's land.

The King there in His beauty, without a veil is seen:
It were a well spent journey, though seven deaths lay between:
The Lamb with His fair army, doth on Mount Zion stand,
And glory--glory dwelleth in Immanuel's land.

Oft in yon sea beat prison My Lord and I held tryst,
For Anwoth was not heaven, and preaching was not Christ:
And aye, my murkiest storm cloud was by a rainbow spanned,
Caught from the glory dwelling in Immanuel's land.

But that He built a Heaven of His surpassing love,
A little new Jerusalem, like to the one above,
"Lord take me over the water" hath been my loud demand,
Take me to my love's own country, unto Immanuel's land.

But flowers need nights cool darkness, the moonlight and the dew;
So Christ, from one who loved it, His shining oft withdrew:
And then, for cause of absence my troubled soul I scanned
But glory shadeless shineth in Immanuel's land.

The little birds of Anwoth, I used to count them blessed,
Now, beside happier altars I go to build my nest:
Over these there broods no silence, no graves around them stand,
For glory, deathless, dwelleth in Immanuel's land.

Fair Anwoth by the Solway, to me thou still art dear,
Even from the verge of heaven, I drop for thee a tear.
Oh! If one soul from Anwoth meet me at God's right hand,
My heaven will be two heavens, In Immanuel's land.

I've wrestled on towards Heaven, against storm and wind and tide,
Now, like a weary traveler that leaneth on his guide,
Amid the shades of evening, while sinks life's lingering sand,
I hail the glory dawning from Immanuel's land.

Deep waters crossed life's pathway, the hedge of thorns was sharp;
Now, these lie all behind me Oh! for a well tuned harp!
Oh! To join hallelujah with yon triumphant band,
Who sing where glory dwelleth in Immanuel's land.

With mercy and with judgment my web of time He wove,
And aye, the dews of sorrow were lustered with His love;
I'll bless the hand that guided, I'll bless the heart that planned
When throned where glory dwelleth in Immanuel's land.

Soon shall the cup of glory wash down earth's bitterest woes,
Soon shall the desert briar break into Eden's rose;
The curse shall change to blessing the name on earth that's banned
Be graven on the white stone in Immanuel's land.

O I am my Beloved's and my Beloved's mine!
He brings a poor vile sinner into His "house of wine."
I stand upon His merit--I know no other stand,
Not even where glory dwelleth in Immanuel's land.

I shall sleep sound in Jesus, filled with His likeness rise,
To love and to adore Him, to see Him with these eyes:
'Tween me and resurrection but Paradise doth stand;
Then--then for glory dwelling in Immanuel's land.

The Bride eyes not her garment, but her dear Bridegroom's face;
I will not gaze at glory but on my King of grace.
Not at the crown He giveth but on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory of Immanuel's land.

I have borne scorn and hatred, I have borne wrong and shame,
Earth's proud ones have reproached me for Christ's thrice blessed Name:
Where God His seal set fairest they've stamped the foulest brand,
But judgment shines like noonday in Immanuel's land.

They've summoned me before them, but there I may not come,
My Lord says "Come up hither," My Lord says "Welcome home!"
My King, at His white throne, my presence doth command
Where glory--glory dwelleth in Immanuel's land.
This is one of the men whose shoulders we stand on in the communion of the saints.

Saturday, August 14

Saturday's Fun Roundup: SawStop Videos and More

My sons find these SawStop videos fascinating.

I suppose it's better than losing a finger, but it still looks like it would hurt! And bleed. I prefer to look at stuff like this, although I can't guarantee it won't give you a headache. I'd like to attribute this one, but once again I bookmarked it, but can't remember where I found it.

If you prefer heartwarming to hotdog slicing and migraine triggering, try this story from Real Live Preacher.

Counting Salmon

Just a little update with more recent numbers. Thursday night there had been 1061 salmon through the fish ladder, and 96 of those had come through on Thursday.

One Good Book to Read Aloud

I've been sorting through all the juvenile fiction we own. We have lots, and my youngest is fourteen now and more interested in adult history books and biographies, so there's really no need to have all those kids books on the bookshelves. I've been going through them all, keeping the ones that are especially good, and putting the ordinary ones in boxes or bags to donate somewhere. So I've been doing a lot of thinking about kids books and all the books I've read to my kids throughout the years.

Did you ever notice that you that some books are a lot more difficult to read out loud than others? If you read through the Chronicles of Narnia aloud, starting with The Magicians Nephew, which is the first one in the chronological story, but the last one Lewis wrote, and then you move on to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which is the next in the chronological story, but the very first one Lewis wrote, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe will seem difficult to read out loud in comparison to The Magician's Nephew. Not that it's really difficult, but the words don't roll off the tongue in the same way those in The Magician's Nephew do.

What this means, I suppose, is that C. S. Lewis became a better writer in the process of writing that series. The better a writer is, the more what he writes take on the natural cadence of speech. And when a book is being read out loud, that good writing is especially important. I've started reading books to my children, books that probably had good stories, and then let them die because the language just didn't roll for me. The writing made the reading choppy and dull.

Looking through all those books reminded me of a few that are read-aloud gems--those that have the kind of language that makes just about anyone sound like an expressive reader--and I thought I might start featuring some of those good ones here. I'll write about them one at a time, I figure, whenever I can fit a little blurb in here at the blog, starting with the ones that might be less well-known.

Up first is Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes. Amazon gives the appropriate ages for this book as 9-12, but I read it to my youngest son when he was only in grade 1 or so, and it was perfect for him. The book is longer (306 pages) and much more detailed than most 7-year-olds would read on their own, but it is quite suitable, I think, to be read to a child of that age. It's a little detective story--and we all know how much children like detective stories; but this one is notable among children's mysteries because it's well-written, and while the language is easy enough for a child to understand, it's also sophisticated enough to move them along a bit in their understanding of language. Here's a sample passage from the first chapter:
It was a Friday evening and Jerry and Rachel had been sitting, reading, on the little upstairs veranda of their tall house. Rachel had The Secret Garden from the library, and Jerry had on of the Altsheler books, and neither one of these books was and "I" book. They both always opened a book eagerly and suspiciously looking first to see whether or not it was and "I" book. If it were they would put it aside, not reading it until there was absolutely nothing else. Then, at last, they would read it. But, being and "I" book, it had to be awfully good for them to like it. Only a few, Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, and Swiss Family Robinson, for example, survived the hard "I" test. These were among their best beloved in spite of the obvious handicap.

The children had read for a long time, but it had grown dark. Now they were just sitting quietly, thinking, and watching the bats and bugs hurl themselves against the tall streetlamp which had suddenly come on....
Makes you want to read it, doesn't it?

I looked at all the reviews on Amazon, and Ginger Pye seems to be liked well enough by the children who reviewed it, although the one parent reviewing it had this criticism:
There is a tiny amount of religion in the book, and the little girl prays to god[sic] for the dog to come home. Going to church is viewed positively by the author. As an agnostic, it bothered me a little.
If you're reading this blog, I doubt that's going to bother you. But if it will, don't say you weren't warned.

Friday, August 13

BlogSwap 4: Freedom

It's BlogSwap Friday again, so we have a post done by a guest blogger--the one and only Tulipgirl, whose blog is linked below. You will also find her link in my blogroll, because she's my favorite on one subject dear to my heart: mothering.

Little Soldier
Little soldier, little child
You're still too young to know,
The impact of the battlefield
Or how its memory lingers so.

Playing war is now a game,
Its truth you can't conceive
Should you defend, until its end
Our freedom to believe.

In God, in man, in liberty
With rights for one and all,
Little soldier, little child,
That day you'll stand as tall.

Written by Maureen Kuehne
Copyright 2003

Check out TulipGirl's blog at TulipGirl.com.

My entry will be posted on Joe Missionary.

To view the rest of this week's entries, click here.

Would you like to BlogSwap? For more information visit Challies.com.


Thursday, August 12

God's Omnipresence and Open Theology

Yes, the I am still on the open theology and God's attributes kick, even though I haven't had time to do much deep thinking on the subject lately. So let's look at the latest attribute discussed here--God's omnipresence--and see how it relates to open theism.

Do open theists claim to believe in God's omnipresence? Yes they do. They believe that God is in all spaces. Depending on how you view the relationship between God's eternity and his omnipresence, you might see a problem with this. If you think that God's eternity means that he inhabits all future spaces as well as present and past spaces, then you are going to argue that a God who doesn't (or can't) know the future, can't inhabit future spaces, and therefore cannot be omnipresent. And you might be right in arguing that, but I'm not sure what God's relationship to future spaces is. I can't really wrap my mind around this enough to get any sort of clear--or even fuzzy--picture of how it must be, so I'm choosing not to wade into those waters.

I still have some thoughts on the subject though, and those thoughts have more to do with what a belief in God's omnipresence might do to the open theistic system. There are a couple of reasons given by open theists as to why they don't believe God knows the future. They are, of course, going to argue that they don't believe God knows the future because of what Scripture says. I don't think this is quite right. It is true that they can pull a few verses out to support their ideas about God's relationship to the future, but I think an objective look at things will show that the foundation for their ideas is not so much scriptural, as it is philosophical. Scripture can be found to argue both positions as to God's knowledge of the future, and probably there is more scripture arguing God's knowledge of the future than there is that seems to argue against it. Something other than scripture is the deciding factor for them, and this--when you dig down to the foundation--is quite simply that a God who can't peer forward into what hasn't happened yet works better with their system.

The problem is that they seem to come to the table with the presupposition that God's knowledge is determinative--that God's knowing something will happen compels it to occur. This is a problem for them in two ways. First of all, if their presupposition is true, then human beings don't have free choice, and CAN'T have free choice, as long as God knows what their future choices will be. If God's knowledge is determinative, and God knows that I'm going to choose to sleep in tomorrow, then I'm not free to get up at 6:45AM when my alarm goes off. To get up early, in their system, would no longer be a true option for me if God knew I would choose to sleep in. And since human freedom is a very important value in the open theist system--in fact, it's the basis, as far as they are concerned, for human responsibility--God's foreknowledge has got to be set aside in order to preserve human freedom. God cannot have knowledge of our future choices, as an open theist sees it, in a system where human beings are held accountable for their choices. To use my alarm clock example, if God knew beforehand that I would angrily press the snooze button, then I couldn't rightly be held accountable for my laziness, because the other choice--to hop cheerily out of bed and get on with my day--wouldn't have been an real option for me.

What I am really trying to get to, in a not all that direct sort of way, is the second problem this presupposition gives them: the other side of this same coin. If God's knowledge is determinative, then the responsibility for tragedies and accidents and all sorts of evil things could be laid at the feet of a God with perfect knowledge of the future. I have an acquaintance who has written books supporting open theism, and he says (at least he used to) that a family tragedy was the catalyst for him searching out a different sort of view of God than the traditional one. He could not trust a God who would know ahead of time that this tragic accident would happen, and not prevent it from happening. As far as this man could see things, if God knew the accident would happen, then God purposefully chose to allow it, and even more--he determined it. The blame, therefore, would sit on God's shoulders.

So here's what I'm thinking about all of this. Even if we throw out God's omniscience, but keep him all-present and all-powerful, we still have the same problem with God being able to prevent any accident, but sometimes choosing not to. In any accident, or even any other sort of evil event, there are a least a few nanoseconds before it actually occurs when anyone who's there (at least anyone with any thinking power at all) can see things are heading toward a bad end. The nasty occurrence could still, at this point, be prevented by anyone there who is all-powerful. And an omnipresent God would be there. All of his power would be available in every point of space. A car could always be stopped by his outstretched hand before it reached the side of the road. If an open theist sees God as responsible for what he knows will happen, but chooses not to prevent, then an omnipresent and all-powerful God would be just as responsible as an omniscient one, wouldn't he?

The only difference between the two scenarios--the one with an omniscient God, and the other with a God who is not omniscient, but still all-present and all-powerful--is that in the first, God's determination of an event takes place a long, long, time before that event occurs; and in the second, his determination take place only minutes or seconds or even nanoseconds before the event occurs. God still determines what will happen--if you buy the open theist's God's knowledge is determinative presupposition, doesn't he?

Nifty Olympic Medal Table

Scroll down my sidebar a bit. See that nice blue box for recording Olympic medals by country? You can have one, too. Click on the link underneath the table for instructions.

I think I discovered this first at Ian's place, but I'm not entirely certain, and my desk is much too messy to find my source notes.

Wednesday, August 11

It's Wednesday...

....so it must be the Christian Carnival. Head over to Beyond the Rim and read.

Particularly noteworthy:

Reformation at Minas Tirith. This is an encouraging little piece that assures us that God uses not-so-perfect people--even much-worse-than-perfect people to accomplish good things.

Sirus's post on the Trinity. Really good stuff, really thoughtful stuff, on a really interesting subject.

The Parableman has a well-thought-out post on lying. (I know that writing Parableman and well-thought-out in a single sentence is ridiculously redundant, but so be it.) I'm not sure I agree 100% with what he writes--I just don't know, because it's such a difficult subject, and one I've not spent a lot of time considering--but the article certainly made me think.

And from My Domestic Church, on a topic dear to my heart, we have an article defending stay at home mothering as a legitimate and good choice.

Now, I'm off to watch the Twins roust Seattle....I hope. We're big fans, but we almost never have the games televised here, so it's a big deal for us when they are. Unfortunately, we've had somewhere around 4 games televised so far this year, and the Twins've lost the first three. Apparently my shouting encouragement toward the screen doesn't help as much as one might think....

Catching Up

Yesterday we put Brianna on the plane to Calgary, and she's off on her growing up and moving out adventure. She was having second thoughts at the last, wishing she had opted to move to Vancouver, where her older sister lives, and where her older brother will be come September. She has two good friends that moved with her, and I'm sure things will be okay. (And if they're not, she can just move home again, I guess.)

Youngest son's best friend Sam left this morning for a couple of weeks in Halifax. Yep, that's right--his sister and his best friend, all at once, and he's wondering how he's going to entertain himself. I've got chores for him, I tell him. For some reason, that's not considered a helpful suggestion. He'll be okay, though. He's got volleyball camp coming up next week, I think, and school starts before long.

Today is a rainy day, something we haven't had many of this summer. The beautiful sunny weather we had up until today was causing the forest fire situation to turn worse again, so the rain is an especially good thing. The nice weather also meant that all the things in the garden were ripening at once. We love fresh vegies, but there is a limit to the amount even vegie lovers can eat. I'm hoping the cooler wet weather will slow things down a bit, and I can leave few heads of broccoli and cauliflower there without harvesting them yet.

Boxes of peaches are cheap this week, so I'm hoping to get some and can them. We love home canned peaches, and they're fairly simple to do. (Not as simple as canning apricots, though, which I did a couple of weeks ago.)

That's enough of a ramble, and I'm off to accomplish something or other. Hopefully.