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Meditations on Catechism #1

How does our chief end end up being the glory of God? For centuries prior to the Reformation, layman and clergy alike sought to glorify God through the sacred duty of worship. Whether it was on a monastic fashion or gathering at church, worship was only worship if it were in reference to spiritual activity.

The Reformation completely tore apart this isolationist rationale by demonstrating that life itself whether in private or in public is worship. True believers do not need to find shelter to worship and glorify God, they now by God’s grace are enabled to glorify Him through word and deed in or outside the church.

So, what is our chief end? Our chief end is to be converted and live for God in all areas of life enjoying every moment of it and delighting in Him for all eternity.

Michael Savage the Theologian? Correcting terminologies…

aboutmichael_savage.jpg Instead of the usual “HELLO INFIDELS” introduction, Michael Savage, host of the “Savage Nation,” began his popular talk show program by boasting in the success of his most recent book: The Enemy Within. Believe it or not, good ol’ Savage is ahead of Clinton’s Memoir in many big cities in the country. It is really no big surprise that Clinton’s 950-page self-pitying, self-congratulatory tome is not reaching all the expectations that the former president thought it would. To top it off, the New York Times wrote a scathing review denouncing Clinton’s book as ” poorly written,” and “written in a hurry.” In yesterday’s post, Matt Drudge reported at least ten different cities in which the book seems to be in dire straits. It is not that My Life has not sold copies, in fact, it has even broken some records, but these records are not what were expected.

Michael Savage dealt with a few other, uh, let’s say “touchy issues.” He denounced, without any moment’s hesitation that Saudi terrorists are “sub-human.” “They are inferior to you and I,” he screamed. Now, let me see if I can be subtly theological without spoiling my political post. While our hatred towards terrorist actions (such as the recent beheading of two Americans and a South Korean) is justifiable, there is one fundamental presupposition we must carry amidst conflict or war (such as the one we are in right now); this presupposition is that all men are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-28).

It is indeed difficult to conceive how such savages can so calmly and seemingly without any remorse cut one’s throat and still be called human, but the Scriptures still put all men in one category. Your heart and my heart cries for justice; we long to see these men punished as severely as their victims. We are infuriated with the extent of their religiosity and radical commitment to annihilate all that looks, sounds, and tastes Western. At the same time, we confuse categories by calling them “sub-human,” as if by putting them in a separate group we restore our own goodness or our innocence. To quote an unpopular verse, ” all our actions are as filthy garments.”

Of course, our actions are not as theirs, but our hearts are. It is corrupted and despicably depraved. We are still in need of cleansing, still in need of purification, we are still as wicked savages killing each other with our minds and seeking justice with our own hands.

So, should we seek justice? Yes. Are terrorists sub-human? No. But in what ways can we tie these two truths? Let me suggest that the imprecatory Psalms are one way. Yes, they are for God’s people and are to be sung, prayed, and read by God’s people. Secondly, we cishmaelite_prayer_gallery.jpgan pray that human justice will prevail and that they will be punished accordingly. And finally, we can keep bad people in the same category as “civilized society” (as some call the west). There is no such category as “sub-human.” All men are lost, whether be American or Saudi  until Christ by His Spirit conquers the hearts of men. In the end, our hope is that God’s justice, which has passed over us because of His love, may be applied to those whom He hates (Psalms 5:5).

A Brief Response to a Friend on Limited Atonement…

You quoted Romans 5:18 in order to prove that my understanding of certain words are selective. Perhaps what follows may help to solidify my exegesis, thereby providing a defense of the Reformed faith.

Here is the verse as you quoted:

Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon ALL men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon ALL men unto justification of life.

First,  notice how “justification” (dikaiwmatos) is used in the text. The correct exegesis of this verse is answered in its context beginning with verse 1 in chapter 5. Paul is addressing the elect when he says: “Therefore having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here, justification has been applied to a certain people and they are having peace with God. The Westminster defines justification as:

an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone (WSC Q33).

These whom Paul addresses have by God’s grace believed in God’s covenant promises and experienced salvation through the gospel as Abraham did in the Old Testament (see chapter 4). Justification is applied to a people, not made possible to a people.

Secondly, Paul continues his case in chapter five by declaring that those who are justified receive the benefits of redemption, that is, peace with God, access by faith and joy in the hope of God’s glory (vs.1-6).

Thirdly, you mentioned: “Your picking and choosing which verses mean “all” as in “all” and which verses mean “all” as in “some” namely those which further your argument for Calvinism.” This is false since my proposition is that context indicates the meaning of a word. In verse 15, Paul says that the gift of Jesus Christ abounded to “MANY.” It is an interesting passage since if Paul desired to prove your point he would have said “ALL.” Now, in verse 18 Paul says, “through one man’s offense judgment came to all men (here we have no problem in affirming the universal judgment poured upon all mankind), resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.”

This is a fascinating description of redemption applied; hence, it deserves a few observations. A) Verse 18 confirms the universal judgment that must be poured upon men because of Adam’s sin. As the saying goes: “In Adam’s fall we died all.” B) Jesus described the”one Man” performing a righteous act. When Jesus’ acts are described as “Righteous” we can safely infer perfection. That is, his sacrifice was righteous and efficacious. Why? Because it “came to all men.” It did not remain as an ethereal, abstract, theoretical possibility. It was actually applied to all men, and as a result, they were justified unto life (they were converted; united with Christ). C) Notice “eis dikaiosin zoes,” meaning for the purpose of or for the result of justification. Would you still understand the “all men” of this latter part as referring to all people in the universe?

Fourthly, you stated:

Since you’re making the argument that Justification is not available to all men, then I would think that the second word “all” in this verse must be taken as “some” therefore you would also have to take the first “all” to mean some and admit that not all men have sinned and are condemned through Adam’s sin.

Notice your first statement and its fallacy. You said: “Since you’re making the argument that Justification is not available to all men…” The text says nothing about Justification being available. It says, it came to all men, resulting in justification unto life. Notice it does not say: ” It came to all men so that they may choose if they want it or not, hence resulting in justification unto life.” Your interpretation is impossible since it assumes one thing, but is contradicted in the text itself.

Finally, your interpretation is dangerous since this text is often used by Universalists to prove that all men will be saved. In fact, listen to the words of inclusivist John Sanders:

God’s intention is to save the human race, not a pathetic little segment of it. The Scriptures says: ‘Just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men’ (Romans 5:18).

This is Dr. Sander’s clear conclusion: If it brings life unto all men, then all men will be saved.

You fail because you read “all men” to refer to all without exception. By taking this interpretation you add into the text and deny the context that affirms that justification is not a possibility but an actuality to a certain people, not all mankind. Also, according to verse one, Paul is addressing the believers who have been justified, so “all men” refers to all believers. Furthermore, notice how “pantwn” and “pollon” (all and many respectively) are used differently in their contexts. To prove this, read the following verse. Verse 19 reads: “For as by one man’s disobedience “many” were made sinners, so also by One man’s obedience “many” will be made righteous.” As you can see, the following verse from the one you quoted provides an example of this dual usage. I am sure you are not willing to propose that only “many” are fallen. But this is exactly what verse 19 says. So on the basis of the text we conclude that “many” indicates that all man are fallen not a few. Again, it is defined according to its context.

I look forward continuing our dialogue.
Soli Deo gloria,
U.T. Brito

John Newton’s rebuke

“And I am afraid there are Calvinists, who, while they account it a proof of their humility that they are willing in words to debase the creature, and to give all the glory of salvation to the Lord, yet know not what manner of spirit they are of. Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit. Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines, as well as upon works; and the man may have a heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with unorthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace.”*

Perhaps this rebuke should cause most of us who unashamedly call ourselves “Calvinists” to tremble. We have at times ( and I guilty of it) elevated ourselves so high, that instead of exalting the doctrines of God’s Grace we have made it a stepping stone for the enhancement of our intellect, pride, and even, our self-righteousness.

We lose the beauty and majesty of grace when we reduce it to mere abstract theological jargon used to bring glory to ourselves. Remember Paul says that we are the “weak vessels” that bring a great message, not a great vessel that brings a weak message. The message of Grace is lost when presented by one who shows no grace. Sadly, most of us Calvinists have done just that. We have turned our focus on ourselves, our logic, and our abilities instead of stooping low to reveal the giver of Grace.

It is our highest aim to proclaim a doctrine that so diminishes us, as to make us look insignificant to the rest of humanity. And it is our highest aim to make God look so significant and glorious so as to make him the desire of nations. Let us not turn the purpose of Calvinism on its head by missing the goal.
* The Works of John Newton (quoted on pg. 30 of “Reformed is not Enough” by Douglas Wilson.

Wanna See “Saved?”

There has been some significant changes in Hollywood’s agenda in the last few years, but one agenda that is still overwhelmingly prevalent is their Anti-Christian sentiments. Since the success of “The Passion of the Christ,” directors have found new motivation to espouse their secular world views through the most effective means in our society – THE SCREEN!

In case you are wondering about the new Summer release “Saved,” well, I have good news and bad news. Let’s start with the good news. I actually think it will be good if you go and see it. Well, perhaps not what you would expect from a conservative Presbyterian, but let me explain why this is so. The Christian community has been in a tremendous disadvantage in the last few decades. We have practically lost the cultural war not due to lack of intelligence, but due to lack of information. Our churches are devoid of cultural thinking, and here, I believe, we have gone the wrong way.

Christianity, while not embracing the world’s philosophy, must analyze it carefully and at times even meticulously. What is the result? The result will be a group of informed believers armed with the power of God through the authority of His Word and informed enough to debate the issues of the day, better yet, to debate the current thought process of secularism. At least one thing we know for sure: the secular agenda is always transparent.

Now for the bad news. All your fears are really true. The movie is an affront to the authentic Christian message. It portrays the gospel’s message as feeble and useless. Granted, that is their intention. Though utterly perplexing and frustrating at times, this mockery of the faith opens the human heart and finds nothing but filth–the stuff our actions look like (Isaiah 64:6). Perhaps the movie, though shocking, may cause some of us to see the hypocrisy in our lives and abandon our old ways, repent, and renew our trust in the saving gospel of Christ.

A note: I would not recommend this movie for any children. Parents need to know the level of maturity of their own children. There is one sex scene in the movie, and pervasive talk about abortion.

For another great review of the movie, see Brian Godawa’s excellent analysis.

The Beauty of the Law

Exodus 34:6-8

6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.

Moses’ task took on great importance as he ascended into the heights of the mountain. There he would deliver to his Lord the two tablets that would seal the covenant God was to make with Israel. In his ascension to Mount Sinai, the Lord himself descended to meet the needs of an obstinate people. Though some would wonder how the needs of a people could be met by establishing laws, it is here in this magnificent event where grace would shine in greater light. The law itself would be a guide to all peoples of the earth. They would submit to the law of God and worship Him because of His law. Far from a forceful and legalistic duty, the peoples of the earth would worship their Lord out of gratitude and covenant loyalty.

The law did not only become their code for right living, but their code for right standing. This standing they had obtained by the gracious and merciful God who had delivered them from spiritual and physical bondage. As the shining sun of creation, the law would become a shining sign to a brilliant future reality. Jesus Christ, the exact image of God, condescended to take upon him human flesh and bring to fullness the law. In Him we abide; in him the law is not burdensome. Because of Christ, we bow our heads to the earth and worship and meditate on His law day and night (Psalm 119:15).

An Alternative to Democracy

The voice of the people or the voice of God? Contrary to popular enlightened American thinking, vox populi is not the voice of Theos. Believe it or not, it was never intended to be. Society was to be governed by God, not by man. Of course, man will forever be an instrument in the purposes of God in redeeming His people and bringing about peace, righteousness, and judgment upon the nations.

It was the rebellion of the children of Israel and their disobedience to God’s Covenant faithfulness that led them to seek for a finite human to rule over them rather than an infinite God to guide them. Israel’s failure is not similar but identical to the church’s failure today. It is important to notice that God’s intention in the Older and New Covenant is that not only His people, but all– both Jew and Gentile– follow his rule and authority. The right of rulership is already established. The King of Kings has assumed His righteous throne. He is seated at the right hand of the Father and the Father has promised to give unto him an inheritance – the nations (Psalm 2). His kingdom comes because of His own merit, not by popular vote. In the words of St.Paul: “He shall reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet (I Cor. 15:25).”