RefCon 2016 | “Engaging Worldviews”w/ Bill Dennison

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Engaging Worldviews: DFW Reformation Conference 2016 | Register Today!

 

Friday, October 28 and Saturday, October 29 at Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church (OPC)

Join us this year as we engage the worldviews which compete for the position of absolute authority in our lives. Human reason, personal experience, nature itself and subjective opinion all claim supremacy over what we believe.

  • Human reason has placed the Christian God and his revelation on trial.
  • “Unless I experience something for myself, it cannot be necessarily true for me.”
  • If God is removed from the creation, then where do humans turn? By using their reason and experience often they will turn to Nature as their absolute guide in life.
  • “That’s just your opinion!” Opinion  has become the sign of relativism in our society since everyone’s opinion has equal value.

How do Christians respond to such pervasive subjective authorities surrounding us each day? How do Christians respond to the sovereign status of Nature and its confusing message in our day? In this world of relativism, do Christians have a basis for the truth of their assertions?

Reform your worldview as we commemorate the 499th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Conference Schedule

Friday 7:00 PM–“My Mind is Absolute; my Experience is Absolute”

Saturday 9:30 AM–“Nature is Absolute”

Saturday 11:00 AM–“My Opinion is Absolute”

bill-dennisonSpeaker: Dr. William D. Dennison, Ph.D.

Dr. Bill Dennison is an ordained minister in the OPC’s Presbytery of the Southeast, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies atCovenant College, author of In Defense of the Eschaton: Essays in Reformed Apologetics (Wipf and Stock, 2015), A Christian Approach to Interdisciplinary Studies (Wipf and Stock, 1985) and other books, contributor to still other books, not to mention numerous journal articles.

The Captain’s Eight Theses: On the Biblical Basis for Infant Baptism


1. Israel is the Church–the Church is Israel.

2. God commanded Israel to circumcise their households (believers, their children and anyone else of any status in the household). 

3. Divine Commands remain in place if they are never rescinded. 

4. Israel, by the plan of God, was a mixed multitude of believers whose circumcision signified the circumcision of their hearts (their faith and repentance), and unbelievers whose circumcision was a constant reminder to them of their need to circumcise their hearts (to repent and believe).

5. In Christ, the sign of circumcision–the sign and seal of faith (Romans 4:11)–was changed to baptism (see how the one is identified with the other in Colossians 2:11-12), and this sign continued to be given not only to individuals, but also to households in the New Testament. 

6. The command to apply the sign and seal of faith to households is nowhere rescinded in the New Testament; therefore, the command remains in force. 

7. For this reason, it is biblical to baptize the infant children of believers before they make a profession of faith. 

8. In conclusion, the Bible teaches Christians to baptize their children with a view to raising them to repent and believe in the providential timing of the Lord. 

National Tragedy and Repentance

Where is God during catastrophic events like the 9/11 attack? He’s calling sinners to tepent.

The Misadventures of Captain Headknowledge

On September 11, 2001, four airliners were hijacked by Islamo-fascist terrorists, and two of them were piloted into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing 2,479 people. Tragedies such as this ofen move people to reflect and ask questions like, “Where is God when bad things happen to good people?” or “What can we learn from a tragedy such as this?”

In Luke 13:4-5, Jesus says, “Or those eighteen on whom the tower of Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

What do we learn from a tragedy like the unexpected death of the eighteen in Siloam or the almost 2,500 in New York City? Are we to ask what sins did they commit to deserve such…

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The New Perspective on Paul

Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church Library

NT Wright N.T. Wright, leading proponent of the New Perspective on Paul. HT: Pastor John Keller Blog

On Sunday, January 31, 2016, Pastor Joe Troutman introduced to the adult Sunday School class the recent theological movement among some modern liberal theologians called the New Perspective on Paul and how it pertains to the doctrine of justification.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.(Romans 5:1-2 ESV)

Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith–just as Abraham “believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness”? (Galatians 3:5-6)

Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q&A #33:

Q…

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“Christianity and Its Discontents”: Carl Trueman’s Day-Higginbotham Lecture Series

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Dr. Carl Trueman speaks in Williams Reception Hall at the Naylor Student Center at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, hosts the Day-Higginbotham Lectures each year. “…[E]stablished by an endowment fund in 1965 donated by Mrs. Edwin M. Reardon, III as a memorial to the late Paul Clanton Higginbotham and to Mr. and Mrs. Riley Day, Mrs. Reardon’s parents.” In 2014, when Southwestern Seminary President Dr. Paige Patterson introduced Carl Trueman (Paul Wooley Chair of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) who preached on Elijah in a chapel service (see my post on that), Patterson said while he generally “has no use for Calvinists,” he does appreciate Carl Trueman’s work as “a critic of the culture.” The lectures Dr. Trueman delivered at the 2016 Day-Higginbothm Lectures certainly demonstrate what Patterson appreciates most about him.

In his introduction to the second lecture, Dr. Trueman explains that his denomination, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, is known more for the “spirituality of the church”, rather than for “engaging the culture,” and that social commentary has not always been his focus, but that the rapid change in modern American culture toward the LGBTQ movement is a case of “the culture engaging the church,” making it a moral issue which stands to trigger important changes in the way the Christian church relates to the issues of sexual identity politics in the years to come.

The title for Trueman’s series of lectures is “Christiantiy and Its Discontents,” a title which alludes to Sigmund Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents. He also cited much from another early twentieth century philosopher, Wilhelm Reich, and Trueman shows how much of what both writers thought about issues related to sexual identity so many decades ago is bearing fruit in today’s rapid change of attitudes about the definition of marriage and more recently with the issue of transgenderism. He also recommends Phillip Rieff’s book Triumph of the Therapeutic, now available in it’s 50th anniversary 2016 edition (couldn’t find a link to it, but here’s its 40th anniversary edition).

Dr. Trueman opened his first lecture on Thursday morning with a reading of Genesis 2:15-25, focusing on verse 24:

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:15-25 ESV)

In his second lecture Thursday night, Trueman explained that verse 24 was not a sentimental or emotional description of human sexuality, but that it focuses on the way sexuality serves as a social rite of passage to adulthood in the ancient world, and continued to do so even in the peasant societies of the late medieval and early modern eras of Western civilization, evidenced by the fact that marriage was consummated in the view of witnesses, if not put on public display as a means of making this formal relationship a matter of public record, so far from being some form of voyeurism.

Trueman helps us understand that when Christians argue that what it is they are against is homosexual activity, the broader culture still insists on seeing it as an attack on the very psychological identity of a segment of society, and therefore the Christian’s words fall on deaf ears at best, and are taken as a form of political oppression at worst. We aren’t conceding the presuppositions of the world, therefore the world rejects our attempts to explain our rejection of homosexual behavior.

Trueman discusses pornography, explaining that it is a perennial problem which has existed for as long as humans have had the capacity to convey images of sexuality, but that it’s recent sharp increase in accessibility by everyone who has internet access is unprecedented in history and is now the #1 pastoral problem in the Christian church, even seeing a sharp increase in usage among females.

I was unable to take down a precise outline of Dr. Trueman’s remarks, but the above is an introduction to the issues he describes as currently changing the modern world and challenging the Christian church.

Your Life is the Worship of Christ (John 1:1-18)

The Word Became Flesh

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

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. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

(John 1:1-18 ESV)

Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church Library

William Dennison Dr. Bill Dennison, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Covenant College and Visiting Professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Northwest Theological Seminary.

On Sunday, December 20, 2015, Dr. Bill Dennison preached “Your Life is the Worship of Christ” from John 1:1-18. The following is an edited transcript of Dr. Dennison’s sermon.

The prologue to the Gospel of John (John 1:1-18) is one of the most famous passages in the Bible. This passage contains the famous proof texts for the deity (1-2) and the pre-existence of Jesus Christ. The Nicene Creed echoes that Jesus Christ is co-eternal with the Father. The ninth verse proclaims Jesus as the Light of the world. Jesus comes to his own, and his own do not receive him (v. 11), but those who do receive him are given the right to become the children of God (v. 12).

One topic in this passage that…

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Pietism, the Enlightenment and Liberal Theology

Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church Library

Friedrich Schleiermacher Friedrich Schleiermacher, Father of Modern Theology. (HT: Wikipedia)

On Sunday, December 6, 2015, Elder Wayne Wylie led a discussion on Pietism, the Enlightenment, and Liberal Theology.

Pietism was a movement reacting against dead orthodoxy. It emphasized one’s experience in his relationship with Christ at the expense of the primacy of the doctrinal and propositional confession of the church in general. (Read more about Pietism at Britannica.com)

The Enlightenment was a secular movement among eighteenth century philosophy which emphasized the priority of human reason in the search for truth about the world, rejecting the value of biblical revelation. (Read more about the Enlightenment at Wikipedia.org)

Modern, or Liberal, theology developed under the influence of Pietists who attempted to reconcile and reinterpret Christianity in light of the philosophical and scientific views which developed during the Enlightenment. (Read more about Liberal Theology at Britannica.com)

Listen…

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Positivity Trumps Pauline Truth

Trump Religion

Donald Trump, “Presbyterian” Positive Thinker? (Picture by Thomas Fluharty)

The January 25, 2016 issue of the Weekly Standard profiles “The Religion of Trump: Will evangelicals balk at pulling the lever for him?” In this article, Weekly Standard executive editor Terry Eastman reports that Trump calls himself a Presbyterian, appealing to his family’s long-time association with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Eastman reveals, however, that Trump personally attends Marble Collegiate Church every Christmas, Easter and “whenever he can.” Marble Collegiate is a congregation of the Dutch Reformed communion known as the Reformed Church in America (RCA).For 52 years, it was pastored by a man who had become a household name during my childhood in the 70’s, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.

Peale’s claim to fame was his best-selling The Power of Positive Thinking (Prentice Hall Press, 1952; Touchstone, 2003). In 1945, Peale co-founded Guideposts Magazine with his wife Ruth Stafford Peale, a well-known magazine that is still in circulation and online. Fellow RCA minister, the late Dr. Robert H. Schuller, whose services at the Crystal Cathedral (now Christ Cathedral Catholic Church) were televised for decades on The Hour of Power, took the baton from Norman Vincent Peale to build his own ministry-empire on the power of positive thinking. In 1992, Dr. Schuller was interviewed on The White Horse Inn radio show, in which he had what proved to be a revealing and therefore necessarily contentious exchange with Dr. Michael S. Horton, a minister is the conservative Dutch Reformed denomination called the United Reformed Church of North America, on why he preaches positivity like Jesus did, rather than a negative message against sin the way Paul did (read excerpts here).

This positive-thinking distortion to the Reformed Faith is appreciated and affirmed by the infamous “prosperity gospel” televangelists in the Word of Faith movement like Paula White, who, along with a group of fellow televangelists laid hands on Trump, “believing for” success for his campaign. While the prosperity gospel of the Word of Faith movement descends from charismatic faith healer Kenneth Hagin (see A Different Gospelthrough Kenneth Copeland to more popular and less obnoxiously money-fixated speakers like Joel Osteen, John Hagee, T.D. Jakes and Joyce Meyer, the Word of Faith movement bears an unmistakable family resemblance to the mainline positive thinking doctrines of Peale and Schuller. I used to watch the love fest between Robert Schuller and Trinity Broadcasting Network founders Paul and Jan Crouch on a regular basis in the late 1980’s.

In those days, Bible believing Christians used to affirm their orthodoxy, or at least their fundamentalism, and disassociate themselves from the American-made heresy of positive thinking with a play on words coined by Adlai Stevenson in 1952 in response to Peale’s criticism of his bid for President (HT: David Stokes): “I find Paul appealing, and Peale appalling!” This slogan calls for a modern re-popularization among Christians, in light of the candidacy of Donald Trump. The problem is that today, so many who consider themselves “Bible believers” are too biblically illiterate and thus uninformed on the false doctrine of positive thinking to know what’s so appalling about Peale and company, much less what’s so appealing about Paul.

What’s so “Appalling About Peale”?

Norman Vincent Peale

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993). pinterest.com

The positive thinking teachings of Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller, along with the Word of Faith theology of Hagin, Copeland, Jakes, Osteen and Meyer, focus on techniques for attracting success or prosperity to oneself, believing material prosperity to be as much the believer’s right as his spiritual “prosperity” in terms of peace with God by faith in Christ and spiritual growth in grace according to the Word of God with a view to bearing the fruit of the Spirit. Hank Hanegraaff, writing in Christianity in Crisis, characterizes this as “desiring what’s on the Master’s table, rather than the Master Himself.”

In the introduction to The Power of Positive Thinking, Peale points to the successful experimentation in his positive thinking techniques which he demonstrated during his ministry at the church which Trump now occasionally visits:

How can I be so certain that the practice of these principles will produce such results? The answer is simply that for many years in the Marble Collegiate Church in New York City we have taught a system of creative living based on spiritual techniques, carefully noting its operation in the lives of hundreds of people. It is no speculative series of extravagant assertions that I make, for these principles have worked so efficiently for so long a period of time that they are now firmly established as documented and demonstrable truth. The system outlined is a perfected and amazing method of successful living. (Peale, Power of Positive Thinking; Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1952, 1956; N.V.Peale, 1980; Fireside, 2003. Introduction, page xii.)

The closest I come to a thumb-nail sketch of Norman Vincent Peale’s power of positive thinking is drawn by Steven Hein on his website, EQI.org:

1. Picture yourself as succeeding.

2. Whenever a negative thought comes to mind, deliberately voice a positive thought to cancel it out.

3. Do not build up obstacles in your imagination. Instead tear them down by tearing them apart

4. Do not compare yourself to others.

5. Get a competent counselor to help you understand why you do what you do. Learn the origin of your inferiority and self-doubt feelings which often begin in childhood. Self-knowledge leads to a cure.

6. Practice self-affirmations, for example, Yes, I can. or I can do all things through belief in myself [sic]

7. List all the things you have going for you.

It’s not hard to see why billionaire casino tycoon and television personality, Donald Trump, would be attracted to the man-centered techniques of Norman Vincent Peale which view emotional, physical and fiscal success as a sign of spiritual vitality that are the results of pseudo-spiritual practices that amount to self-hypnosis according to some, and New Age occultism according to others.

What’s so “Appealing About Paul”?

Meme Not THAT Kind of Pres

Princeton Seminary New Testament Scholar, Dr. J. Gresham Machen, defrocked by the PCUSA for forming a rival missions board to avoid supporting modernists who denied the fundamentals of the faith.

Contrary to this, the Apostle Paul taught and exemplified a life that majored on contentment regardless of one’s bottom line:

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians‬ 4:11).

The final sentence of this passage of Scripture draws a stark contrast with Peale’s man-centered paraphrase of it in step #6 of his techniques, as described above.

Paul decried those who taught that gain is godly, as do the positive thinking disciples of Peale, and instructed his son in the faith to separate from them:

“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” (1 Timothy‬ ‭6:3-11)

The appealing doctrine of Paul follows the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, who, as God the Son had every right to hold onto his eternal power and glory he shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit in heaven, yet condescended to give it all up, taking on a human nature to suffer the deprivations of human poverty and suffering, calling his followers to take up their crosses of suffering as well. Paul writes in his great passage on the grace of giving, ““For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭8:9‬) Paul meant this to be taken in the exclusively spiritual sense of forgiveness of sin and inheriting the Kingdom of God (which is not of this world).

It is not my goal to promote a presidential candidate. It is my goal to teach Christians to be discerning about what is and is not biblical. The modern doctrine of prosperity and positive thinking is not biblical. That’s why the gospel preached by Trump’s church is appalling. The teaching of Paul, our great Christian example, who eschewed prosperity for its own sake in this temporary life to gain an eternal life of reigning with Christ on the right hand of the Father, is much more appealing.

The Great Star Wars Awakening (Spoiler-free)

IMG_1303I watched Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens on Saturday of its record-breaking opening weekend. Since late last November, when the first teaser trailer was released, I had been following as many of the details of the production of the film as I could–from the early shots of the animatronic alien creatures to the construction of the Millennium Falcon and Harrison Ford’s injury on the set to the first script read-through by the cast, where the new ensemble of unknown actors took the baton from original trilogy stars Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill. This process aroused the Star Wars fanboy in me to the degree of my spending $300 on twelve original Kenner action figures including the very valuable “Blue Snaggletooth” and “Big Head” Han Solo.

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Original Kenner Star Wars action figures

As we learned in the first full Episode VII trailer, the Force likewise undergoes an awakening in that mythological galaxy far, far away setting the stage for a revival of the conflict between the light and dark sides of George Lucas’s literary device representing the universal instinct of human religiosity, which John Calvin called the sensus divinitatis. While Lucas’s Force features the earmarks of Eastern mysticism, Lucas was less interested in promoting Eastern mysticism to his Western audiences than he was in merely representing the spiritual and supernatural side of human existence in the form of his modern “Science Fantasy” genre. The bottom line for the Sparknotes on Star Wars Episodes IV-VI is that “the Force is a rather vague entity, serving primarily as a vocabulary for good and evil and as a way to explain the ‘magical’ powers of the Jedi.” This revival, or “Awakening” of the Force in Star Wars, Episode VII occasions our return to the theater for the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back in 1980.

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George Lucas directs Carrie Fisher and Peter Cushing on the set of Star Wars: A New Hope

It has been that long, I say, because this movie comes on the heels of Lucas’s decision to sell Lucasfilm and the rights to the Star Wars franchise to Disney. In the intervening years between Empire and Force Awakens was a dark time of Lucas introducing less than endearing characters like the Ewoks and Jar Jar Binks in films featuring Lucas’s less than stellar writing and directing. Don’t get me wrong—George Lucas is a revolutionary filmmaker, but it is due to his hitting upon a great idea for a modern space age fairy tale and some groundbreaking developments in the art and science of special effects. But in my humble opinion, this is where Lucas’s strengths end. For this reason, I think it is good that Lucas has once and for all handed off his legendary franchise to the media giant that has mastered the art of producing high quality fairy tales for the big screen. As you may know, The Empire Strikes Back excelled for a similar reason. Lucas wanted his series to take off, so he knew the sequel to A New Hope had to be really, really good. Tapping Lawrence Kasdan to write the screenplay and film school instructor, Irvin Kershner to direct, George Lucas hit upon the formula for a well-made Star Wars film post his 1977 magnum opus: get someone else to write and direct. So, for this year’s The Force Awakens, Kasdan returns to co-write the screenplay with the next Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, who also agreed to direct. The quality of the resulting film reflects the wisdom of Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy’s choice of writers and director.

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Animatronic spacehog on the set of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

J.J. Abrams was the right pick to revive the Star Wars franchise. In this film, he seems to have done what made his Star Trek (2009) reboot work. In that film, Abrams gathered the perfect cast to mirror the first generation crew of the starship Enterprise, and planted lots of nostalgic references to classic Star Trek tropes, breathing new life into the rival sci-fi classic. This must be the reason Spielberg recommended Abrams to Kennedy, who then pursued him for the job. Not only is The Force Awakens the seventh episode in the series, but in many ways, it is arguably a reboot of A New Hope. Without spoiling the film for you latecomers giving place to the teeming masses you think camped outside the world’s theaters for days before the December 18th opening (not so much), The Force Awakens parallels the first Star Wars in many ways. Himself a fan since age 11, Abrams knew that what the die hard audience wanted was a return to the “used universe” look and feel of A New Hope, building props and sets the old fashioned way, keeping his use of computer generated images to a minimum, along with Abrams’s infamous lens flare habit. I counted two, maybe three such incidents of lens flare.

One thing which surprised me about the show was that, despite the many links to the original trilogy scattered throughout the film, I did not find myself overwhelmed with emotion. I’m a sentimental guy, so I was disappointed by this. I don’t fault the film, though, for this may be due more to the fact that I’ve been watching the production very closely all year, so there were fewer surprises for me, other than some of those spoilerific elements of the film which I cannot yet discuss openly. I was happy with the fact that the awkward dialogue and acting so prominent in the prequels was absent in this first installment of the sequel trilogy. Lucasfilm at last has awakened to the fact that George Lucas’s great ideas must be complemented by equally good writing and directing.

I Am the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:17-27)

“Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.””
‭‭John‬ ‭11:17-27‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church Library

Podcast Art JohnOn Sunday, November 22, 2015, Pastor Joe Troutman preached “I am the Resurrection and the Life” from John 11:17-27.

Faith in Jesus Christ takes away our fear of death because he’s the one who raises the dead back to life.

1. Four Days Dead—For the glory of God, it must be undeniable that Lazarus was raised by the power of Christ.

2. Misunderestimation—Despite Martha’s grief, she expresses her faith that Jesus would have healed Lazarus if Jesus had been with them. Martha mistakenly thinks there are limits to Jesus’s ability to raise Lazarus from death.

3. Greater Than Expectation—Not only will God raise all on the Last Day, not only can Jesus raise a man from death who is dead four days, but he can raise one to eternal spiritual life today as well.

Listen to “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:17-27)

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“The Road to Hell is Paved with Adverbs”

Recommended Reading

 I’ve done a little reading on writing in the past couple of years. The most humorous and memorable advice I received regarded the overuse of adverbs in one’s writing. Stephen King attributes the use of adverbs to the fear that the writer has failed to communicate well enough in the context of his adverb-riddled composition. “The road to hell is paved with adverbs,” writes King. Elmore Leonard writes that a character in one of his books speaks of writing historical romances “full of rape and adverbs.” These writers don’t place an absolute prohibition on all adverbs, but encourage avoidance of their use as frequently as possible😉

Some of my friends who have done extensive reading in didactic Christian literature have no doubt encountered the word “Christianly.” For example, Harry Blamires writes in The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think?: “…there is no…field of discourse in which writers are reflecting christianly on the modern world and modern man.”

This usage has always annoyed me, but now that I’m more informed on the liability of adverbs, the “little knowledge” I’ve gained threatens to make me dangerous. Would it not be better to say “as a Christian,” or “like a Christian,” “in a Christian way,” or “from a Christian perspective”?

For the record, I found myself rewriting three sentences in order to practice what I preach. Friends don’t let friends use adverbs. My hope is that this advice will help Christian writers practice their vocation–or in my case, avocation–in a more Christian way.

By Grace Through Faith (Galatians 2:15-21)

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

(Galatians 2:15-21 ESV)

Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church Library

IMG_0686 Pastor Joe Troutman preaching at San Antonio Reformed on June 21, 2015. HT: Billie Moody

On Sunday, November 15, 2015, Pastor Joe Troutman preached “By Grace Through Faith” from Galatians 2:15-21.

You are justified in God’s sight not because of what you have done, but only by what Christ has done for you, and imputed to you by God’s free grace.

1. By God’s Free Grace—It doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, all are justified by grace through faith in Christ. Justification is, in God’s Court, your being declared righteous. If our righteousness is filthy rags, then justification by God is a gift.

2. He Pardons All Our Sins—In the case of your standing before the Lord, it is impossible to plead innocence. If you only ever committed the least sin, you stand condemned by the Law, because it is holy, good…

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Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism and the Decline of Conciliar Orthodoxy

The term Massilianism is derived from the city of Marseilles, France, where in the early to mid-fifth century, John Cassian first wrote attempting a mediating view between the extremes of the Pelagian denial of original sin and assertion of the primacy of the human will in salvation and the Augustinian priorty of grace in irresistibly regenerating and redeeming the elect. Numerous other writers followed in his efforts for a similar synthesis until the errors were condemned by the second Council of Orange. Centuries later, scholastic theologians would term the system Semi-Pelagianism.

Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church Library

Pelagius HT: Wikipedia

On Sunday, November 15, 2015, Elder Wayne Wylie lead a discussion on the heresies of Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism, and the decline of conciliar orthodoxy.

Pelagianism—A teaching, originating in the late fourth century, which stresses man’s ability to take the initial steps toward salvation by his own efforts, apart from special grace. Belief that original sin did not taint human nature and that mortal will is still capable of choosing good or evil with Divine aid (from class handout).

The class discussed Pelagius’ first principle that man is able to obey God’s commands, and that Adam sinned only for himself, not humankind. This was followed by a discussion of the orthodox doctrine of original sin (See Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 6).

Next, Semi-Pelagianism was defined, and it was explained that this heresy persists in various forms to the present.

Semi-Pelagianism or Massilianism—Semi-Pelagianism involved…

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For God’s Glory, and for Our Good (John 11:1-16)

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

(John 11:1-16 ESV)

Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church Library

Sermons JohnOn Sunday, November 8, 2015, Pastor Joe Troutman preached “For God’s Glory and For Our Good” from John 11:1-16.

Lazarus’s deliverance from death was, and your salvation from eternal damnation is, accomplished by Jesus Christ for the glory of the Triune God.

1. Expression of Love—Because of his love for Mary, Martha and Lazarus, Jesus stayed two days longer upon reports that Lazarus was ill. They benefited more by his delay than if he had healed Lazarus immediately.

2. Walking in the Day—Jesus knows there’s no safer plae for him to be than right where the Father planned for him to be. The divine nature of Jesus knows his Father’s secret will. There was still time for Jesus to work.

3. For Your Sake, For God’s Glory—Jesus wants his disciples to have true faith in him. His delay in going to Lazarus was for their…

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Pneumatomachianism and the Definition of Chalcedon

“The decision of Nicaea related primarily only to the esssential deity of Christ. But in the wider range of the Arian controversies the deity of the Holy Ghost, which stands and falls with the deity of the Son, was indirectly involved. The church always, indeed, connected faith in the Holy Spirit with faith in the Father and the Son, but considered the doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit as only an appendix to the doctrine concerning the Father and the Son, until the logical progress brought it to lay equal emphasis on the deity and personality of the Holy Ghost, and to place him with the Father and Son as an element of equal claim in the Trinity.

“The Arians made the Holy Ghost the first creature of the Son, and as subordinate to the Son as the Son to the Father. The Arian trinity was therefore not a trinity immanent and eternal, but arising in time and in descending grades, consisting of the uncreated God and two created demi-gods. The Semi-Arians here, as elsewhere, approached the orthodox doctrine, but rejected the consubstantiality, and asserted the creation, of the Spirit. Thus especially Macedonius, a moderate Semi-Arian, whom the Arian court-party had driven from the episcopal chair of Constantinople. From him the adherents of the false doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit, were, after 362, called Macedonians; also Pneumatomachi, and Tropici.” (Schaff, Philip; History of the Christian Church, volume 3; 1996, Hendrickson Publishers; pages 663-664.)

Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church Library

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On Sunday, November 8, 2015, the Adult Sunday School lesson introduced Pneumatomachianism and the Definition of Chalcedon.

The class discussed the eternality of the Holy Spirit in light of the fact that he “proceeds from the Father and the Son.” Then, Pneumatomachianism was introduced, and how this ancient heresy led to the insertion by the Western catholic church of the so-called “filioque clause” into the Nicene Creed, which reads, “…And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.”

Pneumatomachians–While accepting the divinity of Jesus Christ as affirmed at Nicea in AD 325, they denied that of the Holy Spirit which they saw as a creation of the Son, and…

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