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).”

Catholicity, Orthodoxy, and Lordship