Monday, December 26

Getting Your Theology On Track

Generally speaking, I'm a C. S. Lewis fan. I'm willing to overlook a few disagreements I have with his theology because of the clarity of his writing.

There is, however, a book of his I didn't like at all, and that's A Grief Observed. I read it twice after my husband died, and neither time did it resonate with me in any way. Honestly, I just couldn't fathom a man as smart a C. S. Lewis being brought to such a place of doubt by the death of someone he loved. I wondered what idea he'd had of God that something like his wife's suffering and death would pull the rug out from under his faith. How did he think God worked in the world?

That's why I enjoyed reading this post at Triablogue. The whole post is good, but here's the paragraph that I believe is crucial:
It is important to get your theology on track before disaster strikes. It won’t spare you heartache. But it will spare you gratuitous heartache, and it will hasten the healing process.

In what I can only believe was God's providential preparation, in the years right before my husband's cancer diagnosis, the two of us together had come to a much fuller understanding of a few things about God: that he was present and working in every bit of the universe all the time; that he always had right reasons for everything he did even though we might not (and probably wouldn't) understand them; and that suffering and death, filtered through his almighty hands, become chosen means by which he accomplishes good things.

When the cancer diagnosis with its grim prognosis was announced, my first thought--really and truly--was, "Aha! So that's why we learned all that! So we could go through this." We had no crisis of faith because we had already come to an understanding of God as a God who sometimes chooses suffering and death as the best way to accomplish his good and right purpose. Instead of being something confusing to us, this illness made sense from the get-go, because we already had a theological framework with a cubbyhole for difficult suffering.

I had a friend in Bible college who went on to have a child who was severely handicapped, and then, on top of it all, was horribly burned when his clothes caught fire on a burner in the kitchen. She wrote a book (out of print now) that explained the understanding about God that she and her husband had come to as a result of their child's suffering. Some of the answers they'd been given when they questioned pastors and relatives about God's role in their child's suffering were what I consider to be orthodox and satisfying answers, but they found them unsatisfactory. Over time, they came to understand, she said, that for the most part God just lets the universe run without intervening in things. Thinking of God that way was the way out of their crisis of faith--it allowed them to keep loving God and stop seeing him as cruel for not stepping in and keeping their child safe. Even though I hadn't yet had much suffering of my own, I couldn't see this as a very satisfying answer. How could someone trust a God with a hands off policy in his creation?

Another person who went to the same Bible college I did, and whose family attended the same church ours did for a while, became one of the more well-known proponents of open theism. He mentions his brother's death in a motor cycle accident as one of the things that eventually led him to his view of God as a God who does not know the future choices of human beings, a God who was willing to take risks to allow autonomy in his creatures. I have the same question about the open theist's God: How could I trust him?

What's my point with these stories? These are examples of people whose crisis of faith following tragedy led them to less than orthodox views of God. It often works this way, I think, when people have no firm theology of God's relationship to human suffering before a crisis strikes. It's hard to come to see God as a God who knowingly works good things through suffering when we're in the midst of it.

If you've already come to love a God you understand to be purposefully working in all things--even the tragic ones--for his good purposes, then you keep on loving and trusting him when real tragedy strikes you. And more than that: You cling to him as the only sort of God that could be a rock for you in difficult times. That you weren't spared suffering doesn't throw you for a loop, because you expected that somewhere, sometime, you would have your share of it as God conforms you to the likeness of his son.

You still suffer, of course, but you suffer with God as a firm comfort rather than an uninterested overseer or decided risk taker. You still have Someone to hold fast to.

Saturday, December 24

Separated at Birth?

You betcha, according to the face recognition technology at Try it out for yourself. HT to World Magazine Blog.

Friday, December 23

Round the Sphere Again

The Christmas Edition

  • Rey has the Christmas Edition of the Christian Carnival up at The Bible Archive.

  • Even at Christmas, there are those who suffer because of conflict. Read up on the situation in Darfur at Allthings2all: Spotlight on Darfur 3: The Christmas Edition.

  • Need a little more merriment? Read about The Night the Llama Peed in Church, told by Bob of gratitude & hoopla

  • I'm not sure how much more I'll be posting until the new year. Things are busy right now, and after Christmas I'm off to Vancouver/Seattle for a few days. In case you don't hear from me again until the new year, know that I pray you have a joyful celebration of Christ's birth.

    Thursday, December 22

    And Yet More Incarnation Quotes

    You'll find quotes from Irenaeus and Thomas Watson posted at Theologica.

    Favorite Ornaments 4

    One year--I'm guessing 20 years ago--I went on a felt ornament making kick. The little rocking horses are my favorites, but I also made polar bears and lions and teddy bears.

    Chris shows us his artistic talents in a photo of a beautiful advent wreath he made.

    I bet you've got your own favorite ornament or two. Describe your ornament or photograph it and I'll link in these Favorite Ornaments posts. Just give me the URL in the comments or by email.

    Wednesday, December 21

    Incarnation Quotes Continued

    I've added one from John Frame at Theologica.

    I'm collecting scriptural quotes on the incarnation over there as well. I hope you'll (and by that I mean every single one of you!) contribute.

    I've got oil boiling in the kitchen for those of you who don't participate.

    Called According to Paul: 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14

    An explanation of this series of posts can be found here. You'll find the previous five posts in the series listed under Current Series in the sidebar.

    In this post, the verses under inspection are 2 Thessalonians 2:13 and 14.
    But we ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters, loved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. He called you to this salvation through our gospel, so that you may possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (NET)
    What is there to learn about the way Paul uses the word call from this passage? I'm going to start in verse 14, since that's where the word call is found, and work backwards from there.

    • In this case the call is to salvation, and it comes through the preaching of the gospel. Some of the earlier passages we looked at seemed to suggest that the call to salvation was the work of the Spirit, since it was a call with divine power behind it. And in this passage too, in verse 13, we see that salvation comes through the Spirit's work. However, here in verse 14, we see that the powerful call of the Spirit to salvation works in conjunction with (or through) the preaching of the gospel.

    • The purpose of the call is "so that you may possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." In other words, God has called these Thessalonians to salvation so that the character and nature of the Lord Jesus Christ would be displayed in them. We've seen previously that this salvation call is a call to holiness, and the idea is similar here.

    • This call is associated closely with God's choice: God "chose you...for salvation" and then "called you to this salvation." God's choice precedes God's call. God's call works out in time what God's choice established "from the beginning." * We've already seen the grounding of the call to salvation in a choice made before time in 2 Timothy 1:9.

    • This calling is also associated with God's love. It comes to "brethren loved by the Lord." Romans 1 has a similar association of the call with God's love.

    Does it seem like these are starting to be repetitive? That's good, because it shows that we're getting at the way Paul tended to use the word call--the particular nuances he gave to it, and the things he associated it with it--over and over again. We're beginning to develop an understanding of the usual meaning Paul gives to this word when he uses it in regards to God's calling.

    What do you see that I missed? What can you see in this passage about the meaning of the word called when it is used by Paul in regards to the call of God?

    *Yes, I know there's a textual variant here. It either reads "as a first fruit" or "from the beginning". For more explanation, read note 27 here in the NET translational notes.

    Tuesday, December 20

    Longest Night and Winter Solstice Calculations

    The exact time of the solstice is 12:35 PM PST tomorrow afternoon. (That's 18:35 UTC.) I think that makes tomorrow night the longest night of the year for us, but you can correct me on that if you know better than I do.

    If you live in Alaska, however, tonight will be the longest night, since the solstice time for Alaskans is 11:35 AM, 25 minutes before noon, rather than 35 minutes after it, like ours is. Not that either of us would notice much difference, since the longest night is only 5 seconds or so longer than the preceding one or the one following.

    However, no matter where you live in North America, tomorrow, December 21, is the date of the solstice. There are probably people in other parts of the world whose solstice day is the 20th, or maybe even the 22nd. You figure it out--I'm all tuckered out from doing my own time zone solstice math.[Update: Okay, I figured it out. (Now you see how obsessive I really am!) From about China eastward to the International Date Line (Zones F-M on the map), the solstice date is the 22nd. No one has it on the 20th this year, although some years that happens, but not often. It looks like 2008 is the next time the solstice will occur on the 20th, and only in a few time zones out in the Pacific.] And of course, for those in the southern hemisphere, it's the time of the longest day rather than the longest night.

    Our sunrise tomorrow will be at 10:09 AM PST and sunset will be at 3:47 PM PST, giving us a whopping 5 hours and 38 minutes of daylight, and 18 hours and 22 minutes of night.

    If you punch in your own zip code, airport code, or city at the Weather Underground, you can find out your own sunset and sunrise stats for the winter soltice. Here are the times for my town. [Update: You'll find them here, too, along with the weather report for the next few days. Thanks to StatGuy for pointing to this page.]

    And don't tell me this stuff isn't fascinating!

    (Off subject: Has anyone else accidently banned themselves from their own comments? Yep, when I tried to post a comment, I got this message: "Banned by webmaster. Your comments will not be added.")

    Christian Carnival Reminder

    Entries for this week's Christian Carnival are due by tonight (December 20) at midnight EST. Submit your entry to ChristianCarnival [ATT] gmail [DOTT] com. Include
    • The name of your blog
    • The URL of your blog
    • The title of your post
    • The URL of your post
    • A short description of the post
    • The trackback link if you have one
    Then look for your entry in tomorrow's (December 21) carnival at The Bible Archive.

    You'll find more complete information on the Christian Carnival here.

    Another Incarnation Quote

    I posted a new one at Theologica this morning. This one is from A. W. Tozer.

    Favorite Ornaments 3

    This little Santa lived in my husband's home when he was young. It's one of those toddler toys that is weighted in the bottom so when it's pushed over it springs back upright again. It makes a jingling noise when it's wiggled.

    I love his bright colours, but I think he'd be a lot cuter if he hadn't just seen a ghost.

    What do you think Blogotional John's favorite ornaments would be? Look and see! And while we're on the subject, try this out. HT to Ian.

    Update: Sal has pictures of three right here.

    Isn't this fun? Got favorite ornaments? Describe your ornament or photograph it and I'll link in these Favorite Ornaments posts. Just give me the URL in the comments or by email.

    Monday, December 19

    Incarnation Quotes

    I've posted two more of them at Theologica: From Athanasius and Thomas Goodwin.

    What are the decrees of God?

    God's decrees are the wise, free, and holy acts of the counsel of his will,[1] whereby, from all eternity, he hath, for his own glory, unchangeably foreordained: Whatsoever comes to pass in time,[2] especially concerning angels and men.
    1. Eph. 1:11
      In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will...
      Rom. 9:14-15, 18
      What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

      So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
      Rom. 11:33
      Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

    2. Eph. 1:4, 11
      ...even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him....

      In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will...
      Rom. 9:22-23
      What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory...
      Psa. 33:11
      The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
      the plans of his heart to all generations.

    Question 12, Westminster Larger Catechism.
    Scripture quoted from the ESV.

    Favorite Ornaments 2

    This little dove was painted by oldest son when he was four. My husband cut a couple of shapes--doves and reindeer--for the kids to paint. Oldest daughter painted most of them (I'll feature one of her reindeer another day), and youngest son painted both sides of this one and then grew bored with this Christmas craft project.

    I've always thought the little dove was quite sophisticated in its decoration.

    Update:Violet shows us her family's creche.

    Update 2: Kim posts a photo of cute little reindeer made by her father.

    Got favorite ornaments? Describe them or photograph them and I'll link in these Favorite Ornaments posts. Just give me the URL in the comments or by email.

    Sunday, December 18

    Sunday's Hymn

    One of the great hymn writer Charles Wesley's hymns:
    Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

    Hark! The herald angels sing*,
    “Glory to the newborn King;
    Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
    God and sinners reconciled!”
    Joyful, all ye nations rise,
    Join the triumph of the skies;
    With th’angelic host proclaim,
    “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

    Hark! the herald angels sing,
    “Glory to the newborn King!”

    Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
    Christ the everlasting Lord;
    Late in time, behold Him come,
    Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
    Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
    Hail th’incarnate Deity,
    Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
    Jesus our Emmanuel.

    Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
    Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
    Light and life to all He brings,
    Ris’n with healing in His wings.
    Mild He lays His glory by,
    Born that man no more may die.
    Born to raise the sons of earth,
    Born to give them second birth.

    Come, Desire of nations, come,
    Fix in us Thy humble home;
    Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
    Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
    Now display Thy saving power,
    Ruined nature now restore;
    Now in mystic union join
    Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.

    Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
    Stamp Thine image in its place:
    Second Adam from above,
    Reinstate us in Thy love.
    Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
    Thee, the Life, the inner man:
    O, to all Thyself impart,
    Formed in each believing heart.


    *Wesley's original first line was "Hark, how all the welkin rings." Never heard of welkin? It means the sky or the heavens or the place where God lives. Which line do you prefer? I'm wishing he's stayed with welkin. It has a nice sound and we'd avoid all those jokes about the angel Harold.

    Saturday, December 17

    Favorite Ornaments 1

    Sallie's showing her ornaments, so I thought I'd share a few of my favorites, too.

    This is our top of the tree angel. It was made by youngest daughter when she was in grade 2. It came to us just in time to replace oldest daughter's exquisitely crafted toilet paper roll snowman, which had been lost in the tragic puppy chewing incident of 1990.

    The sons pretend to despise this ornament, and every year they threaten to feed it to the dog, too. The only thing that keeps them from carrying out their threats is that they'd be responsible for constructing another top-of-the-tree stunner to replace it.

    Update: Carla has birds, birds, and more birds on her tree because she and her husband are birders.

    Kim of Hiraeth posts pictures of some of her precious child produced ornaments.

    Got favorite ornaments? Describe them or photograph them and I'll link in these Favorite Ornaments posts. Just give me the URL in the comments or by email.

    How doth it appear that the Son and the Holy Ghost are God equal with the Father?

    The scriptures manifest that the Son and the Holy Ghost are God equal with the Father, ascribing unto them such names,[1] attributes,[2] works,[3] and worship,[4] as are proper to God only.
    1. Isa. 6:3, 5, 8
      And one called to another and said:

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

      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!”

      And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

      John 12:41
      Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.
      Acts 5:3-4
      But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”
      Acts 28:25
      And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet...
      I John 5:20
      And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

    2. John 1:1
      In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
      John 2:24-25*
      But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.
      Isa. 9:6
      For to us a child is born,
      to us a son is given;
      and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
      and his name shall be called
      Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
      Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
      I Cor. 2:10-11
      ...these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

    3. Col. 1:16
      For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
      Gen. 1:2
      The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

    4. Matt. 28:19
      Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...
      II Cor. 13:14
      The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
    Westminster Larger Catechism, Question 11.

    *Of course those who believe that omniscience was one of the attributes of God that Jesus voluntarily chose not to access in order to live life as a human being (like Bruce Ware does), see this verse as showing, not what Jesus knew from his attribute of omniscience, but what he knew through the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Friday, December 16

    Round the Sphere Again

    The busy person's edition.

  • The 100th Christian Carnival can be found at

  • Joe Carter thinks everyone needs a creation myth!

  • I just posted two quotes on the incarnation at Theologica:

    the first from Bruce Ware;
    the other from Scott McClare.

  • Update: The lastest news on Augustine.
  • |

    Thursday, December 15


  • From Wandering Spirit Kennels we have Founder.

  • Kim of The Upward Call has Sally the beagle. I should know his name, but I don't. Good thing this is an updatable post...hint, hint.... Update: Kim posts a picture of the dog and cat together.

  • Phil has a beagle, too. His name is Wrigley, and you'll find his picture at the bottom of the main page.

  • Kim of Hiraeth has two of these: Eve and Ivy.

  • And of course, there's Taffy, my golden retriever.

  • Updates: Chris of Limited Thinking has old man Nixon.

  • Julana of Life in the Slow Lane has a beagle, too: Rosey.

  • Linda's (of Soli Deo Gloria) family has this sweet thing.

  • Sal of Stand Up And Walk has Casey and Winnie, sisters in Christmas crime.

    Have you posted something about your dog? Send me a link to a photo or story and I'll include him/her/it in my dogspotting list.
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    Called According to Paul: Romans 1:1-7

    An explanation of this series of posts can be found here. You'll find the previous four posts in the series here, here, here and here.

    The passage under inspection in this post is the introductory or greeting paragraph from Paul's letter to the Romans. The word "called" is used three times--once referring to Paul himself, and in the other two cases, referring to certain believers.
    Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

    To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:

    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (ESV)

  • In the first verse, Paul says that he has been called to be an apostle. We saw him say this very same thing in 1 Corinthians 1. This usage of the word carries a strong sense of a summons or appointment, and this sense is made even stronger by the following phrase: "set apart for the gospel of God." This call is an appointment to a particular office or role, and it sets Paul apart from other followers of Christ.

  • In verse 6, Paul says that the Gentile people he is called to bring the obedience of faith (or the gospel) to includes the specific believers in Rome that he is writing this letter to, and they are the ones "who are called to belong to Jesus Christ." This calling is a summons into something as well--into the group of people who belongs to Christ. (In I Corinthians 1:9 the idea is similar.)

  • In verse 7, we see the close association between being loved by God and being called by him. This calling results from God's love for particular people. It is because they are loved by God that they are called to be saints. The calling is to something--to be saints, or to be holy. This, too, is a calling that sets people apart.

    Once again, I'll ask what you see that I missed. What can you see in this passage about the meaning of the word called when it is used by Paul in regards to the call of God? What does your magnifying glass detect?
  • |

    Wednesday, December 14

    Sixteen Years Ago

    tonight I was in the hospital waiting to give birth to youngest son. Nothing much was happening. I was only there because at my afternoon appointment the doctor determined that everything was ready to go, and since I tended to have my babies really fast once the contractions started, she wanted me to go home, grab my things and get right to the hospital.

    I wasn't very obedient. I took a detour to watch my other children in the school Christmas program.

    Youngest son was born at 10:30 pm after 45 minutes of labour. He showed up three weeks early and weighed 7lbs., 4 oz.--the smallest of my four babies.

    He is now the tallest one in the family. Funny how that works, isn't it?

    Curliest hair, too.

    I'm a Hairy Trendsetter....

    or maybe just a hairy trendsetter wannabe.

    Here's the commentary:
    As Tumnus you may be a bit timid and shy. But you are conscientious, caring and friendly and respected by your friends. You hope to set a new trend with your cool beard.

    Seen all over the place lately, but most recently at Allthings2all.

    Tuesday, December 13

    Aslan Doesn't Walk on All Fours

    One of the rules of good biblical exegesis is not to force the stories in Christ's parables to walk on all fours, because a parable isn't meant to be understood that way. Why, then, do some insist on making every detail of the fictional story found in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe represent a precise doctrinal truth?

    It's a story, for goodness sake! It has parallels to the Christian story, and it's supposed to have parallels, but it's supposed to point you to the real story, not be the real story. And every detail is not intended to be teaching exact and thorough theological truth, so it's silly to examine the the story as if it were a systematic theology textbook.

    I have problems with some of C. S. Lewis's theology as presented in his nonfiction writing. Sometimes I'm bowled over by his simple yet profound explanation of a particular truth, and other times I wonder how such a brilliant thinker could hold on to such goofy ideas. Taking Lewis's nonfiction writing and doing a point by point examination of his theology as he presents it there is fair game, but examining a story in that way is not.

    A story is a story is a story. Don't make Aslan walk on all fours.

    Christian Carnival Reminder

    Entries for this week's Christian Carnival, the 100th Carnival, are due by tonight (December 13) at midnight EST. Submit your entry to ChristianCarnival [ATT] gmail [DOTT] com. Include
    • The name of your blog
    • The URL of your blog
    • The title of your post
    • The URL of your post
    • A short description of the post
    • The trackback link if you have one
    Then look for your entry in tomorrow's (December 14) carnival at Nick Queen is the one who started the Christian Carnival, so it's quite appropriate that he is hosting the 100th one.

    You'll find more complete information on the Christian Carnival here.

    A June-December Comparison

    This photo was taken down by the airport last summer--June 6, to be exact--at 11:00 pm.

    This photo was taken down by the airport some time last week at 1:00 pm or so. You will notice there is no snow in either picture.

    We had a snowfall on Sunday, so right now there is a covering on the ground. The forecast is for +5C* by Friday, so what little we have is in jeopardy.

    *That's 41F, for the Celsius impaired. To get the equivalent Farenheit temp from a Celsius temp, take the degrees Celsius (5) and multiply it by 9/5 (or 1.8). In this case I used the fraction, since even a fraction impaired person can do 5 * 9/5 in their head, right? Then add that number (9) to 32 and you get the Farenheit equivalent (41). Piece of cake!

    (And for those to whom I had announced that my camera was caput, it seems the problem was not with my camera, but with a whole box of 40 batteries from Superstore.)

    Monday, December 12

    1646 WCF vs. 1689 LBCF

    You can keep your bungee jumping and paragliding. This is the sort of thing that I find exciting: A Tabular Comparison of the 1646 WCF and the 1689 LBCF.

    An example with the differences italicised:
    WCF - Chapter II: Of God and of the Holy Trinity

    1. There is but one only living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for his won glory, most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withal most just and terrible in his judgments; hating all sin; and who will by no means clear the guilty.

    LBCF — Chapter II: Of God and of the Holy Trinity

    1. The Lord our God is but one only living and true God; whose subsistence is in and of himself, infinite in being and perfection; whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but himself; a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; who is immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, every way infinite, most holy, most wise, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him, and withal most just and terrible in his judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.

    Hat tip goes to Still Reforming.

    Sunday, December 11

    Sunday's Hymn: Angels From The Realms of Glory

    Angels from the realms of glory,
    Wing your flight o'er all the earth;
    Ye who sang creation's story
    Now proclaim Messiah's birth.

    Come and worship, come and worship,
    Worship Christ, the newborn King.

    Shepherds, in the field abiding,
    Watching o'er your flocks by night,
    God with us is now residing;
    Yonder shines the infant light:

    Sages, leave your contemplations,
    Brighter visions beam afar;
    Seek the great Desire of nations;
    Ye have seen His natal star.

    Saints, before the altar bending,
    Watching long in hope and fear;
    Suddenly the Lord, descending,
    In His temple shall appear.

    All creation, join in praising
    God, the Father, Spirit, Son,
    Evermore your voices raising
    To th'eternal Three in One.

    ---James Montgomery (Listen)

    Friday, December 9

    For Virginia

    who writes:
    Yes, we as Christians know that the New Testament is infallible because God wrote it. But what if you read that to a non-believer, who doesn't believe in God? That doesn't mean anything to them. If that's the only proof we can offer to them, we aren't going to convince them of the Bible's authorship. I wish someone would just give me a good argument to share with non-believers about why the Bible is true.

    You've got it exactly right. The belief in the truth of scripture is built upon the belief that there is a truthful God who reveals himself to us, and because he is perfectly truthful, what he reveals can be trusted to be the truth. So you believe your Bible because you believe in God. You believe in Christ, too, and you can see in the historical account of Christ's life that he considered the scriptures to be authoritative and trustworthy.

    But you can't make that argument to someone who doesn't believe in God. You can't make any argument at all for the authority or truthfulness of Scripture to someone who doesn't believe in God, because you've got no agreed upon foundation for you to build your argument on.

    So you can't start with the authority of scripture. You've got to start way down below that, at the very bottom. You've got to argue first of all for the existence of a God.

    See, you are smart enough--smart enough to see the problem with answering "because the Bible says so" to an athiest. That's something a lot of people don't understand.

    You're smart enough, too, I'm betting, to see that arguing for the existence of God isn't a piece of cake, either. It's not the sort of thing that can be tackled in a blog post. You can find books, though, although off the top of my head I can't think of any to recommend. Maybe some readers will have suggestions.

    You wanted an easier answer, though, didn't you?

    [Update: Violet adds her two cents.'

    Round the Sphere Again

  • The 99th Christian Carnival can be found at Attention Span.
    ...our theme of the week is "Famous 99's in History!" Now before you go wandering off convinced that this week's host is mostly insane, let me remind you that 99 is an important number throughout history and it remains so in contemporary thought. To prove my point, our entries this week will be grouped according to some of the most famous 99s in our culture. Some are recent. Others are ancient. But all share a respect for the largest two-digit number.

  • For your weekly dose of theology, try this: The Necessity v. The Sufficiency of Grace by Pastor John Samson from Reformation Theology.

  • Marla discovered that one of the winners of a Blogs of Beauty Awards is a Mormon, and she issues a call for more discernment. She's absolutely right!

    Her remarks seem to have upset some people, so she's had to explain her motives, too.
    Contest or no contest--as much as it is possible--we have a responsibility to know the worldviews of those whose words we partake of and pass on to others. Not so we can condemn them, but so that when people call themselves Christians, we don't just automatically align ourselves with them.

    ...I'm a gatekeeper. Naturally the people on the other side of the gate aren't going to like me because my job is to keep people out whose allegiance is to a false god. I do that because I love the people on the inside and don't want them to be led astray, wounded and left for dead
    (I'll have to admit that I didn't vote in the awards. I just didn't have time to make my way through all the nominees that were unfamiliar to me, so I thought I oughtn't vote.)

    Update: From another gatekeeper:
    Mormon doctrine corrupts the very essence of biblical truth and the gospel itself, trading the simplicity of the apostolic gospel for a different message.

  • The Upward Call gives you a little peek into the collective Canadian psyche: Ever wonder why Canada has a reputation for being non-violent?

  • The cat's out of the bag...or maybe the back's just off the wardrobe at Allthings2all.

  • Update 2: Tamara explains in the comments why her dog is named Paxil:
    I didn't name her Paxil. Paxil came to me as an 8 year old. Her original owner is a dog musher/psychologist. Her entire litter is named after anti-depressants! It's an appropriate name for her, she'll lick the frown right off your face. Hard to stay cranky when you're being licked to bits.
    Check out her photo of the pets' stockings hung by the window.

  • I know you'll all want one of these:

    Christmas Elf Name

    My Christmas Elf Name is
    Get your Christmas Elf Name at

    HT to Ian.
  • |

    What are the personal properties of the three persons in the Godhead?

    It is proper to the Father to beget the Son,[1] and to the Son to be begotten of the Father,[2] and to the Holy Ghost to proceed from the Father and the Son from all eternity.[3]
    1. Heb. 1:5-6, 8
      For to which of the angels did God ever say,

      “You are my Son,
      today I have begotten you”?

      Or again,

      “I will be to him a father,
      and he shall be to me a son”?

      And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,

      “Let all God's angels worship him.”

      But of the Son he says,

      “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.

    2. John 1:14, 18
      And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

      No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.

    3. John 15:26
      But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.
      Gal. 4:6
      And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

    Westminster Larger Catechism, Question 10. Scripture quoted from the ESV.

    Thursday, December 8

    Called According to Paul, 2 Timothy 1:9

    An explanation of this series of posts can be found here. You'll find the previous three posts in the series here, here and here.

    Next up, let's look at Paul's use of the word called in 2 Timothy 1:9:
    ... God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.... (ESV)

    Some scholars think this verse and the one following are part of an early Christian hymn. The language and thought are not different from what Paul writes elsewhere, however, so if it's a hymn, maybe it's one that Paul wrote. If it is a hymn, and he included it in his writing, then at the very least he would have approved of what is written in it.

    Here's what I notice about the call in this verse:

  • Once again it is closely associated with salvation. (See the previous posts in this series on 1 Corinthians 1 and 1 Corinthian 7.)

  • The call is to something--to a holy calling. Here again is the idea of appointment or assignment. (See the two posts linked above for other appointment uses.) Those who are called or saved are not only called from a life of sin, but to a life of holiness.

  • Here, as in 1 Corinthians 1, the call is based in God's will or purpose or choice.

  • It is also based in God's grace. Because God is gracious, he wills or chooses to call those whom he calls. This goes right along with the statement that the call does not come to us because of (or based on) our works. Grace (at least in the way Paul uses the word) stands over against human works. If something comes to us based on our works, then it cannot come as a result of God's grace.

  • This grace from which God's call comes is given before the beginning of time. God's call, then, originates in God's precreation plan. The gracious choice to call was made "before the ages began."

  • Even though the gracious choice to call was made before time, it is nonetheless grounded in the temporal saving work of Christ. It is because Christ appeared in time (v. 10) to be publicly displayed on the cross (Romans 3:25) that God's gracious choice to call could be made in eternity past.

    As always, these posts are a work in progress, so I welcome additional observations or corrections. What does your magnifying glass detect?
  • |

    Wednesday, December 7

    About That Lovely Graphic In The Sidebar

    This blog won an award last night: Best Biblical Exhortation in the Blogs of Beauty Awards. Woohoo! (Is that proper decorum?) You'll find a list of all the finalists and winners here.

    Can you imagine how much work it was overseeing that? 800+ voters! Make sure you thank Sallie of Two Talent Living for doing all she's done.

    There is also going to be a Carnival of Beauty starting (I think) next week. First topic? Giving.

    Tuesday, December 6

    Christian Carnival Reminder

    Don't forget that tonight (December 6), midnight EST, is the deadline for entries to this week's Christian Carnival. Submit your entry to ChristianCarnival [ATT] gmail [DOTT] com. Include
    • The name of your blog
    • The URL of your blog
    • The title of your post
    • The URL of your post
    • A short description of the post
    • The trackback link if you have one
    Then look for your entry in tomorrow's (December 7) carnival at Attention Span. You'll find more complete information on the Christian Carnival here.

    Pray for Rey

    Rey, a frequent commentor here, and master of the Bible Archive, was hospitalized due to a seizure. Pray for Rey, and also for his wife and two little ones.

    Update: Rey has posted more about what's been going on with him. Continue to pray for him and his family.

    Monday, December 5

    Fun and Easy No Work Argumentation

    I didn't invent these tactics, but I have observed them in practice.
    1. Declare that that the viewpoint you are arguing against is contradictory. Don't worry about needing to show the contradiction. Just claiming that it's there is enough.
    2. Kick and scream and cry that the person you are arguing against is meaner than you are, therefore you are right. (Okay, I know kicking and screaming is hard work, but at least it's not brain work. And it's certainly good fun.)
    3. If someone actually engages some of your argument point by point, dismiss it as a diatribe.
    4. If the person you are arguing against makes a statement that has the word but or however in it, ignore anything following those words. An unqualified statement is much easier to refute than a qualified one. Why make more work for yourself by considering any qualifications?
    5. Allege that person disagreeing with you only believes as they do because they were brought up in a rich (or poor or middle class or educated or Baptist or Presbyterian or lutefisk-eating) family.
    6. This one is a variation of no. 5. Learn to use this phrase: "Your view is, of course, the traditional [insert name of group here (Christian, Baptist, conservative, lutefisk-eating, etc.)] one." That doesn't seem like enough? What you don't know is that this phrase really means "You only believe that way because all good sheep everywhere/the hopelessly old-fashioned always have."
    7. If you've tried suggestions 1-6, yet your opponent is still trying to engage you in the discussion and/or it looks like you are losing the argument, play the unity card. You know: "I could win this argument with my hands tied behind my back, but let's not divide the country/the church/the party/the Sons of Norway over it."

    How many persons are there in the Godhead?

    There be three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one true, eternal God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory; although distinguished by their personal properties.[1]
    1. Matt. 3:16-17
      And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,  and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son,  with whom I am well pleased.”

      Matthew 28:19
      Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...
      II Cor. 13:14
      The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
      John 10:30
      I and the Father are one.
    Westminster Larger Catechism, Question 9. Scripture quoted from the ESV.

    Sunday, December 4

    Sunday's Hymn: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

    Come, Thou long expected Jesus
    Born to set Thy people free;
    From our fears and sins release us,
    Let us find our rest in Thee.
    Israel's Strength and Consolation,
    Hope of all the earth Thou art;
    Dear Desire of every nation,
    Joy of every longing heart.

    Born Thy people to deliver,
    Born a child and yet a King,
    Born to reign in us forever,
    Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
    By Thine own eternal Spirit
    Rule in all our hearts alone;
    By Thine all sufficient merit,
    Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

    ---Words by Charles Wesley. (Listen.)

    Saturday, December 3

    In The Fullness of Time

    In eternity past, prior to his first creative command, God had a plan for the history of his creation. At the very centre of his plan was His own Son, foreordained to redeem humankind from the ruinous results of sin. That God’s own Son would come as Redeemer was at the heart of God’s purposeful will--the plan that he invariably works in all things to accomplish. It was a glorious plan, but a plan not yet revealed, and a plan not yet unfolded in history.

    Piece by piece God’s word revealed his purpose, and piece by piece his command brought it to pass. We have a hint of God’s redemptive plan in the curse of the serpent: “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” The plan is there, too, in God’s promise to Abraham: “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

    Piece by piece God’s word revealed his purpose, and piece by piece his command brought it to pass: In Noah, in Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph, in Moses and the children of Israel, in the giving of the Law--a law that held people captive rather than freeing them. These all were pieces of the plan, showing the need for deliverance and pointing forward toward the Deliverer to come.

    Piece by piece God’s word revealed his purpose, and piece by piece his command brought it to pass: In the prophets of old who spoke, not according to their own will, but according to God’s plan, carried along by the disclosing work of the Holy Spirit, and moved by him to record those prophecies for us. God’s perfect plan raised up Isaiah, who prophesied of a virgin who will conceive a son whose name will be “God is with us.” God’s Spirit set Jeremiah apart from his mother’s womb to be a prophet to the nations, to reveal the coming new covenant when God’s law would be written on his people’s hearts. These prophets, too, were pieces of the plan, teaching God's people to expect the day when their Redeemer would come.

    Piece by piece God’s word revealed his purpose, and piece by piece his command brought it to pass: Until the right time according to his purposeful plan, until the counsel of his will called for the fulfillment of his promise, until it was the perfect time for everything to change.

    The captives longed for their freedom. All things were in place. It was the fullness of time.

    Another Quirky Hymn

    Here's one that really shows us it's historical and cultural setting. It's a hymn about temperance from Presbyterian pastor Edwin Hatfield:
    'Tis Thine Alone, Almighty Name

    'Tis Thine alone, almighty Name,
    To raise the dead to life,
    The lost inebriate to reclaim
    From passion's fearful strife.

    What ruin hath intemperance wrought
    How widely roll its waves!
    How many myriads hath it brought
    To fill dishonored graves!

    And see, O Lord, what numbers still
    Are maddened by the bowl,
    Led captive at the tyrant's will
    In bondage, heart and soul.

    Stretch forth Thy hand, O God, our King
    And break the galling chain;
    Deliverance to the captive bring,
    And end the usurper's reign.

    The cause of temperance is Thine own;
    Our plans and efforts bless;
    We trust, O Lord, in Thee alone
    To crown them with success.
    So when's the last time you sang a song with the word inebriate in it at your church?

    Friday, December 2

    What Those Hardy Sled Dogs Do


    Thursday, December 1

    Round the Sphere Again

  • The Christian Carnival has gone to the dogs at Cadmusings.

    Lack of interest in confessional Christianity is nothing new. Among the most fascinating figures of the 18th century is Robert Robinson (1735-1790), at one time clear in his confessional identity as a Calvinistic Baptist and the author of the well-known hymn "Come, Thou Fount of every blessing." Yet, by the end of his life, it was said of him:

    "[Robinson] hath his own opinions of the nature of God, and Christ, and man, and the decrees, and so on..."

  • He Lives has an argument for Biblical Inerrancy. Go check it out.

  • Real Clear Theology has an interesting post on how the early Christians viewed the historicity of scripture.
    The earliest Christians spoke of the contents of the gospels as historical accounts, and the earliest enemies of Christianity responded to the religion in a manner that suggests that they interpreted the gospels in the same way...

  • The Pyromaniac tells us what worldliness really is. Have I confessed here yet that I didn't go to my first movie until I was eighteen? This had to do with the people my family lived among rather than my parent's own view of the morality of movies. So I'm well acquainted with those whose whole battle against worldliness consists of "Do not taste; do not handle."


  • Purgatorio has....I dunno....I guess like all Purgatorio posts you have to see it for yourself.

  • Chris has started a weekly Wednesday feature: An album review. I'm pretty sure he knows something about this stuff, so his opinion is worth checking out.

  • Update: I forgot to draw your attention to the discussion and additions from readers on all three of the Called According to Paul posts: 1 Corinthians 1, 1 Corinthians 7, Romans 4:17.
  • |

    Are there more Gods than one?

    There is but one only, the living and true God.[1]
    1. Deut. 6:4
      Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
    2. I Cor. 8:4,6
      Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that "an idol has no real existence," and that "there is no God but one." ....yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
    3. Jer. 10:10
      But the Lord is the true God;
      he is the living God and the everlasting King.
      At his wrath the earth quakes,
      and the nations cannot endure his indignation.

    Westminster Larger Catechism, Question 8. Scripture quoted from the ESV.