A great inventor is to make bread without flour, and he is preparing the plan of a house which is to have no foundations. Wonderful! Isn’t it?  We are no longer to eat grapes as they come from the vines—they are so old-fashioned: we are to have them after they have been squeezed in a patent press, and have been fashioned into cakes of mathematical shape.  We should not be at all surprised to hear that our steam-boats are all a mistake, and have become things of the past, being in fact superseded by electrified table-cloths, which each man withdraws from his dining-table, spreads on the top of the water, and then uses as an instantaneously-prepared raft, which he steers with his knife and fork.  When this comes about, we shall still be found sticking to the unchanged and unchangeable Word of God.  There will be no new God, nor a new devil, and we shall never have a new Savior, nor a new atonement: why should we then be either attracted or alarmed by the error and nonsense which everywhere plead for a hearing because they are new?  What is their newness to us; we are not children, nor frequenters of playhouses?  Truly, to such a new toy or a new play has immense attractions; but men care less about the age of a thing than about its intrinsic value.  To suppose that theology can be new is to imagine that the Lord himself is of yesterday.  A doctrine which is said to have lately become true must of necessity be a lie.  Falsehood has no beard, but truth is hoary with an age immeasurable.  The old gospel is the only gospel.  Pity is our only feeling towards those young preachers who cry, “See my new theology,” in just the same spirit as little Mary says, ‘See my pretty new frock.’

(Charles Spurgeon, “New Theology,” The Sword and the Trowel, 1887)

Spurgeon’s View on New Theology

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Doctrinal Discernment

Today’s culture elevates tolerance to the point of being the standard by which to measure one’s integrity within society.  What has been defined as acceptable and tolerable is moral and ethical.  Laws must be amended, added, or removed in accordance with tolerance.  This perspective has worked its way into the church over the last century or more.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy raged like a wildfire throughout the United States.  Denominations split in two.  Seminaries were birthed to carry on the gospel training of ministers.  For example, both Westminster Theological Seminary and Dallas Theological Seminary grew out of their founders’ commitment to the gospel contained in the word.  The public school system planted the seeds for marginalizing and removing the voice of Evangelicalism or those espousing Orthodox Christian beliefs from its camp.

J. Gresham Machen and J. Oliver Buswell rose to prominence during the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy.  They fought alongside each other to preserve the integrity of the scriptures and the church’s gospel witness.  Machen and Buswell founded seminaries and denominations with those two goals in mind.  For Machen and Buswell, the gospel meant everything. It served as the foundation of Orthodox Christianity.  Machen wrote an excellent book on this subject called Christianity and Liberalism from 1923.

Fast forward to our current day and this video clip…Pastor-scholar Mark Dever gives a clear and concise rundown of the gospel as the way to filter out bad theology.  Dever’s words are sorely needed for today’s church, which seems to have leaders and laity unwilling to exercise doctrinal discernment in their own lives and in the life of their church.  Tolerance is their excuse.  The New Testament is replete with warnings about false teachers and their false teaching.  Methinks the call is to be like the Bereans in the book of Acts.

A Prudent Wife

Good morning readers and followers…it has been exactly one week since my last post.  Feel free to call me lazy or a slacker, but part of me wanted to rest, too.  Writing requires something more than the impulse to write, especially when it comes to a blog like mine.  Now, I may not have written a blog post, but I still kept writing.  One of my daily practices is to journal my thoughts.  I find that this stirs the pot and keeps things fresh.  During my morning time yesterday and today, the following passages stuck with me:

“An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones”  (Proverbs 12:4, ESV).

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord”  (Prov. 18:22, ESV).

“House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord”  (Prov. 19:14, ESV).

Some might take issue with the fact that I left out the Prov. 31 passage.  I cherish it through and through, but I wanted to focus on the above three scriptures.  There is a part of me that prefers to avoid the known or the common.  For me, Prov. 31 represents both what is known and common and deservedly so, but there are other passages that convey the same truth.  This blog entry is my attempt to shed light on the lesser known in order to raise awareness.

All three verses apply to my lovely wife, Charity.  I do see her more and more as an excellent wife who will not bring shame and rottenness.  She possesses moral strength that far surpasses anything that I have seen in a woman.  This is one of the main reasons that I married her.  It seems to me that Charity fits the description of Prov. 12:4 to a tee.  A king wears a crown to symbolize his authority and power.  Solomon applies that image of kingship to a husband who has an excellent wife.  Yours truly applies this verse to his wife.  She represents my authority and power through her excellent character.

If I am honest with myself, I take no credit for marrying Charity.  Both Prov. 18:22 and 19:14 demand that I acknowledge the real reason for having Charity in my life.  The Lord brought her to me.  He arranged events in such a way for me to notice Charity.  In the process of dating and courting her, the Holy Spirit kept opening my eyes to the fact that he was behind it all.  From my perspective, I made a real choice in choosing her rather than some other woman; however, behind my decision stood the Lord, who I knew had his eyes on me.  I have found a good thing in Charity, but most importantly, God has extended his favor to me.

When I reflect upon my singleness prior to meeting Charity, I am struck by a few things.  First, I made a list of qualities that I wanted in a future mate.  My buddy, Eric Grant, encouraged me to do this several years ago while he and I split a two bedroom apartment on the Westside of Los Angeles.  I liked the list and used it to govern who I dated.  At some point, I lowered my standards in order to go out on more dates.  This leads to my second point.  My God gave me a wife who exceeded the list rather than meeting it.

On some level, I could say that writing my list of qualities for a future mate was a waste of time.  The truth is that it was a list far below what God wanted for me and even what I wanted in a wife.  Writing the list put me in a position to see God’s best in contrast to what I thought was best.  I will end with this verse: Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change”  (James 1:17, ESV).

From Strength to Strength

Webster’s Dictionary defines the term sojourner as a person who resides temporarily in a place.  From my point-of-view, it describes the Christ follower’s life in this present age to a tee.  According to the Apostle Paul, the believer’s citizenship is in heaven where our Savior dwells until the end of the age.  At that time, Christ will glorify the redeemed with new bodies while renewing the cosmos (Romans 8:19-21 & Philippians 3:20-21, ESV).  Believers dwell in temporary bodies on a temporary earth as both are destined to pass away (Matthew 24:35, ESV).  This begs the question about the believer’s purpose in life and the church as a whole.  Where does a Christian’s and the church’s meaning come from in light of a transient existence?  I want to examine the following text from the Psalter:

“5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the Valley of Baca
    they make it a place of springs;
    the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
    each one appears before God in Zion” (Psalm 84:5-7, ESV). 

Allow me to set the context of these three verses.  The Psalmist declares in the first two verses of this passage that God’s presence and temple are the best places to be for his people.  In verses three and four, he observes how God’s presence sustains the tiny sparrow with glorious provision.  Jesus alludes to this Psalm in the sermon on the mount where our Savior admonishes the crowd to trust the Father, who provides for the birds of the air (Matt. 6:26, ESV).  Later on in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus exhorts his disciples to persevere through persecution by trusting in the Father, who knows when a sparrow falls to the ground (Matt. 10:29-31, ESV).  This highlights the value that the Father places upon his people; consequently, the Psalmist declares a blessing for all those who dwell in the Father’s house (Psalm 84:4, ESV).  Therein lies the source of the believer’s and the church’s meaning or purpose.

Because the Psalmist paints in clear terms the benefits of God’s presence, it only makes sense for the writer to declare another blessing and an illustration of it.  The writer notes two important points for those who are blessed in the fifth verse: first, God’s people place their strength in him, and second, their way of life, or highways, lead to Zion where the Father dwells.  The bride of Christ must draw life from her bridegroom, who is her Lord and Savior.  This means that she must dwell or live in God’s presence, which requires a lifestyle of obedience and worship.  The church exists because her bridegroom gave himself wholly and without equivocation for the grand work of redeeming and glorifying her (Ephesians 5:26-27, ESV).  Christ is both the means and the end for the lives of believers and the church.  The Messiah’s strength becomes his people’s strength.

When the Father’s strength empowers his people, they are able to walk through emotional and spiritual valleys with victory.  Let me develop this a little more.  The Psalmist writes the following in verse six: As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs” (Psalm 84:6, ESV).  In the original Hebrew, Baca means weeping or sorrow.  Over the course of their lives, God’s people face trials and suffering of all types.  There is no if about suffering for the people of God.  Based on Psalm eighty-four’s context, the highway of righteousness leads God’s people right into the valley of sorrow before arriving at Zion.  Once in the valley, the people of God turn this desert region into a spring.  Life returns to this sunken valley.  How does this happen?  Because God’s people dwell in his presence, they take on his life-giving character; consequently, God’s life flows out of his people and into the surrounding area.  

Rounding out the text is the seventh verse, which indicates the spiritual progression of God’s people.  The Psalmist writes that these sojourners of God go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion (Psalm 84:7, ESV).   In this life, the Christian is to grow in Christ, which impacts his character (2 Peter 1:3-11, ESV).  All spiritual growth hinges upon dwelling in the Father’s presence.  He is the source of life.  This means that entrusting oneself to the Lord opens up the heart to receive his strength.  For the sake of argument, one might view this as the first level of strength in the Lord.  The next level comes from acting upon that which the Lord has given me by virtue of being in his presence.  It does not matter if God’s people travel through the valley of sorrow.  The Father’s joy and strength flows out of his people even stronger and brighter due to the tough circumstances.  What is even more amazing is that the reward for such a spiritual journey is seeing God where he dwells (Psalm 84:7b, ESV).  That will be a glorious day.                    

Dealing with Presumed Biblical Contradictions

Three years ago, the Gospel Coalition held a regional conference called Clarus, which had been titled, “Scripture: God Speaks.”  During the Q&A time, New Testament pastor-scholar, Greg Beale, answered a question about supposed contradictions in the bible.  He gave the best answer that I have ever come across on this subject.  For many believers in Christ, the bible contains errors or contradictions, which render it less than trustworthy in their eyes.  There are many respected pastor-scholars in Evangelical seminaries throughout the US and the world, who advance the notion that the bible contains unsolvable contradictions.  This remains one of the most common objections to the truthfulness or inerrancy of scripture.

One of my younger brothers introduced me to the writings of Arthur W. Pink or A.W. Pink.  He traveled throughout the UK and the US as a preacher.  For most of his life, Pink and his writing output remained a thing of the past.  Over the last two decades, there has been a resurgence in the modern church with respect to Reformed theology, and in particular, the Reformed view of salvation.  This modern revival of Reformation teaching has lead to the discovery of the works of Pink.  I am about to begin his book titled, The Attributes of God, the source of the quote below this paragraph.  Few writers today match Pink’s ability to state with clarity the difference between  a book knowledge about God and the knowledge of God that transforms dead souls into living ones in Christ.

“The foundation of all true knowledge of God must be a clear mental apprehension of His perfections as revealed in Holy Scripture. An unknown God can neither be trusted, served, nor worshipped. In this booklet an effort has been made to set forth some of the principal perfections of the Divine character. If the reader is to truly profit from his perusal of the pages that follow, he needs to definitely and earnestly beseech God to bless them to him, to apply His Truth to the conscience and heart, so that his life will be transformed thereby.

“Something more than a theoretical knowledge of God is needed by us. God is only truly known in the soul as we yield ourselves to Him, submit to His authority, and regulate all the details of our lives by His holy precepts and commandments.  ‘Then shall we know, if we follow on (in the path of obedience) to know the Lord’ (Hosea 6:3).  ‘If any man will do His will, he shall know’ (John 7:17).  ‘The people that do know their God shall be strong'” (Dan. 11:32).

(Arthur W. Pink, Preface, The Attributes of God, 1923)

Knowing God vs Knowing About God