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Can Free Will Explain the Conversion of Sinners?

A guest post by Scott Christensen

How many times have you heard someone say, “I chose Christ of my own free will”? In many Evangelical circles such a notion is so self-evident as to be proverbial. “Well, of course we must exercise our free will in order to be saved!” So goes the conventional wisdom. Christians sling the phrase free will about with the same ease Tom Brady throws footballs to Rob Gronkowski. But do most really have any idea what they mean when embracing the notions that stand behind these overwrought words? Free will is part of the stock parlance of Arminian theology, and those who employ it with a little sophistication mean something like that which is advanced by philosophers known as libertarianism. And no, we are not talking about Gary Johnson! On the other hand, Calvinists have usually disparaged the use of the term, avoiding it like the scourge of Black Death. But of course Arminianism and its many step-children believe that Calvinism puts the grip of death upon the freedom and responsibility of human beings. In their mind, the dreaded Calvinists would have all humans beings consigned to a vast kingdom of droids.

Is this true?

Thu, 11/03/2016 - 07:54 -- john_hendryx

Do Christians Want to Impose a Theocracy?

One recurring comment I read from secularists at threads on websites like NPR is how Christians should be forbidden from imposing their religion on the rest of society by voting for laws in accordance with their convictions and conscience. ... yet ironically these same people seem perfectly content to impose their own view and laws on the rest of society which are in accord with their own convictions and conscience. Ask them how they know their view is right and true and you get hemming and hawing because they know deep down that their their own convictions are by faith alone. There is nothing objective or scientific about their views yet they proceed as if they were .... a convenient justification for a monopoly on power - an imposition of a kind of secular theocracy, as it were.

Take the issue of abortion, for instance. According to this kind of secularist logic, it is well and fine for secularists to use the democratic process their own subjective unscientific views about their nature of human beings on Americans with their pro-abortion laws, but Christians, because they are "religious", should not be allowed to fight for the right of human beings to live, or else they would be violating separation of church and state. Folks, we live in a Democratic republic. If we can, by the grace of God, persuade 50.1% of the people to vote for biblical laws, that is the will of the people. Outlawing abortion should be our goal.  To achieve our goals we are using the same legal methods as everyone else. Someone's laws are going to be imposed, even in a democratic republic. So to decry that Christians cannot theocratically impose their views is an attempt to silence a whole portion of the population when secularists are doing the very same thing they accuse their philosophical opponents of. 

Wed, 11/02/2016 - 14:22 -- john_hendryx

Moral Constructivism vs. Divine Command Theory

The following are some excerpts from a conversation I was having online with a friend who embraces a theory called moral constructivism.  It began after I posted the following quote by John Calvin.

"We shall never be clothed with the righteousness of Christ except we first know assuredly we have no righteousness of our own." ~ John Calvin

Visitor: To me, it is a fact of free human reason that there will be different interpretations of what moral obligations we are under. That doesn't mean that there aren't basic moral values which guide our reason. These moral values are a part of human reason. Moral constructivism is not the same as moral relativism.

Tue, 11/01/2016 - 13:45 -- john_hendryx

This Year's Vitally Important 500th Anniversary

A guest post by Jason A. Van Bemmel

I love church history. Like most leaders in the Reformed Protestant tradition, I'm excited about next year's 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Whether you are Protestant or not, this is an important milestone in the history of the world and one for which you should be thankful. But that's next year.

Mon, 10/31/2016 - 16:15 -- john_hendryx

Lectures on Preaching

Dr. Mark Dever, Senior Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D. C., speaking at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky

1. The Symbol and Significance of Preaching

2. The Use of Preaching

3. The Art of Preaching

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Thu, 10/27/2016 - 14:14 -- john_hendryx

Resources for Studying the Law and the Gospel

Adapted from Jon English Lee

A proper understanding of the relationship between the law and the gospel is crucial for any minister hoping to be effective in his preaching and counseling. Indeed, a flawed understanding of the relationship between law and gospel leads to all sorts of problems:

Errors in this doctrine have spawned dispensationalism, theonomy, the New Perspective on Paul, hypercovenantalism, legalism, antinomianism, shallow evangelism, shallower sanctification, worship errors and unbiblical mysticism.

Regarding the importance properly understanding the law and the gospel, Charles Bridges once wrote in his excellent work The Christian Ministry that:

The mark of a minister “approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed,” is, that he “rightly divides the word of truth.” …This revelation is divided into two parts—the Law and the Gospel—essentially distinct form each other; though so intimately connected, that an accurate knowledge of neither can be obtained without the other.”[2]

Because such a proper understanding is so important, and because there is such a lack of teaching on the subject in both seminaries and in many churches, below I have compiled a list of resources for those seeking to grow in this area. If you have others to suggest, please list them in the comment section. Happy Reading!

Law/Gospel Resources:

Tue, 10/25/2016 - 17:21 -- john_hendryx

Why Don't Christians Follow Old Testament "rules" Such as Abstaining from Shrimp?

Visitor: Some people quote Old Testament "rules" about some things while they sit there on the Sabbath eating shrimp while wearing blended fiber clothes that cover a cute tattoo of an American flag. All of those things being forbidden by the same book they're using to condemn something else.....

Response: Forbidding the eating of shrimp was one directive for the Jews to be set apart from the unclean Gentiles as God's holy people. Jesus fulfilled the law and now He includes Gentiles, incorporating them into God's kingdom as well. When Jesus was crucified all that separated Jew and Gentile was done away with including these theocratic laws to separate them from Gentiles (Ephesians 2:11-20). Gentiles are accepted now in Christ, having been formerly unclean .... recall Peter's vision on his rooftop seeing the sheets of animals come down (Acts 10:9-16) which God said he could now eat ... because God was showing him that He now accepted Gentiles coming into the kingdom. God declared “What God has made clean, do not call common.” (Acts 10:15). So understood properly there is very good reason these practices were changed. Gentiles were unclean and are now included among Abraham's offspring because of Christ (Acts 9:28; Galatians 3:29). Without understanding this background to your statement it just sounds like some arbitrary change of law. But It actually has deep significance for the New Covenant which the Old Testament itself promised all along (Genesis 22:18; Ezek 36:26) God did not change. This was his redemptive plan through the whole bible from the beginning.

Mon, 10/17/2016 - 19:56 -- john_hendryx

A Vision for Biblical Literacy in the Next Generation

by David and Sally Michael

Here are is an exhortation from David and Sally Michael from their conference message, “A Vision for Biblical Literacy in the Next Generation”: (MP3)

Exposure to the whole counsel of God is vital, but children must also be taught to rightly understand the Word. Our children and young people need the same prodding that Paul gave to his spiritual son:

2 Timothy 2:15—Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

In a postmodern culture where it is acceptable to define your own truth, children must realize that truth is not “what a Bible verse means to me,” but rather that truth is found in discovering the author’s original intent interpreted in light of the whole message of the Bible, leading to the God-given meaning of the text. Therefore, we must guide the next generation to be students of the Word who have the necessary tools to interpret Scripture correctly, as Paul did for Timothy:

2 Timothy 2:7—Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

Start with simple questions about texts as children are young, and give them more tools as they mature. This is in direct opposition to what is happening in our culture as we move from a language-based system of learning to an image base.

It will be very difficult for children to become serious students of the Word if they are used to a steady diet of sound bite technology. Over exposure to sound bite technology will reap a crop of students who are incapable of serious, careful Bible study, who will not be equipped and competent for every good work.

Wed, 10/12/2016 - 13:34 -- john_hendryx

Fathers, Catechize Your Children

On the use of catechisms for teaching children bible doctrine in the home, here is an outstanding article for parents: “The Importance and Practice of Catechism: Fathers-Instruct Your Childrenby Dr. Kim Riddlebarger. He concludes his article with these practical reminders:

First, be consistent. The best way to learn a catechism is simply to keep at it! Take “the tortoise” and not “the hare” approach. You cannot teach your child a lengthy catechism in a couple of weeks! But over time—if you keep at ityou’ll be amazed at how much children will remember and comprehend.

Second, be creative. One of the greatest obstacles to catechism is boredom. Simply reading the question and then expecting your children to recite the memorized answer is no fun for them, and they’ll come to hate the whole idea. Go ahead and stress memorization, but whenever you can, relate the catechism to the Scriptures. Most catechisms give Scripture proofs. And if you discuss the question and answer with your kids, and then relate the catechism to real life situations, current events or to movies and TV, your kids will get the sense that theology is of great value in navigating their way through life…

Third, don’t panic. Many people tell me that they are new to this and there is always the pressure to make up for lost time. Go slow. Quality time is always better than rushed and tense sessions where the kids are tired and the parents are frustrated. Do what you can when you can and have realistic expectations. Even a small amount of catechesis is better than no catechesis.

Mon, 10/10/2016 - 14:36 -- john_hendryx

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