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Archive for July, 2017

oliphant_covenantal_apologetics

K. Scott Oliphant, in his book Covenantal Apologetics: Principles & Practice in Defense of Our Faith, has given us both an introduction to and a fresh understanding of Cornelius Van Til’s presuppositional apologetics.

The most popular form of apologetics (defending the faith) today is what is known as Evidentialism. In other words, we defend the truthfulness of Christianity by presenting evidence for God’s existence, His creation of the universe, the historical and literal resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the inspiration and authority of Scripture. Covenantal apologetics, on the other hand focuses its attention on the underlying assumptions we all have as fallen human beings, and then proceed from that point (while not denying the importance of evidences).

God relates to human beings on the basis of covenants. The Westminster Confession of Faith 7.1, says “The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto Him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of Him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension of God’s part, which He has been pleased to express by way of covenant.” God condescends to deal with us despite our sin, and He does it by means of covenants which are solely based on His grace and mercy.

Covenantal apologetics is based on several foundational truths. The faith we’re defending  must begin with, and necessarily include, the triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), who condescends to create and to redeem. Human beings (made in the image and likeness of God) are all in a covenant relationship with God. All people know the true God (see Rom. 1). Those who are and remain in Adam suppress the truth that they know, while those who are in Christ see the truth for what it is. The suppression of truth, however like depravity, is total but not absolute. Three basic concepts should be understood and presupposed as being true: the authority of Scripture (there has to be a final word), a sense of the divine (and a knowledge of Him) in every human being, and God’s common grace in every human being.

There is some deep water in spots, but Oliphant makes his case in a way that’s understandable. Covenantal Apologetics has changed the way I think about apologetics, including wanting to read more of Van Til.

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Just as all the glitters is not gold, so all that goes by the name “worship” isn’t worship.

In Matthew 2:1-11, the magi come to worship the One who was born the King of the Jews. They had searched for Him and were led to Him by God’s providential use of the star. When they found Him, they worshiped.

King Herod, however, proclaimed his desire to worship, too. His real intent became clear in verse 13: “Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him” (which was carried out in verses 14 through 23).

True worship focuses on the Lord and responds to Him, in this case with rejoicing and the giving of gifts. False worship is self-focused, self-interested, and ultimately seeks to suppress and destroy the God who alone is worthy of worship.

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Andree Seu is consistently good in her writing and consistently convicting. “Being in Hate” appeared recently in World magazine. Let him who has ears, hear. Or, you might say, if the shoe fits, wear it.

You have heard of being in love. Have you heard of being in hate? People who are in love generally know they are in love. People who are in hate, not so.

People in love are emotional and realize it. People in hate think they have never been so rational.

We speak of being in love as a state. One can often identify the onset of the condition (and sometimes the expiration of it). We say of a starry-eyed couple, “They are in love.” It is an acknowledgment that something real has overtaken their brains.

There is no comparable common expression for people in hate, because few acknowledge that hate is mind-altering.

But it is. Scripture gives a host of examples. Here we learn that hate invades the mind of its practitioner in very particular ways. Cain hated his brother, and it was suicidal. God tries to rescue him by posing searching questions: “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? … sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:6-7). Cain will not have it. As Screwtape observes, “There is always something they insist on keeping, even at the price of misery”(C.S. Lewis).

So consumed with hatred for the children of Israel is Pharaoh that he destroys his own country trying to harm them, crying, “Victory!” as he staggers, mud-splattered, son-bereft, and half insane, among the wreckage. His descent from reason to bestiality alarms even the royal court, who had joined him at first but disembarked from obsession a few exits earlier when they discerned the hand of God: “Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?” (Exodus 10:7).

Haman’s hatred led him to a noose of his own making (Esther). Absalom was not the same man right after Tamar’s rape as two years later, when hate had bored like a cankerworm into his soul. It issued in the murder of his brother Amnon—with Absalom’s own royal aspirations also the casualty (2 Samuel 13).

People who are in hate don’t know what they have lost. What they have lost is their very humanity. Micro-choice by micro-choice it seeps away—like Pinocchio and his friends, who begin to sprout donkey ears, a tail, and hideous guffaws unawares, as the wages of debauchery; like the depraved man of whom the Scripture says, “gray hairs are sprinkled upon him, and he knows it not” (Hosea 7:9). He imagines himself to be still his old vigorous self—physically, mentally, and spiritually. But he is deluded. He thinks of hate, “I got this!” Hate says of him, “I got this!”

In the final, drawing room scene of the 2001 movie Conspiracy about the fateful Wannsee Conference of Jan. 20, 1942, that produced the “final solution” for the problem of European Jewry, Gen. Reinhard Heydrich relates to two other SS officers a story told him by Friedrich Kritzinger during the break:

There was a man who loved his mother fiercely but hated his father. The mother had always been kind, but the father had been cruel. When his mother died, at the funeral the man tried to cry but could not. The father lived much longer, but when he finally withered away at an old age, the man was inconsolable.

“I don’t understand,” said one of the officers. “No?” said Heydrich. “The man had been driven all his life by hatred. When the mother died, that was a loss. When the father died—when the hate had lost its object—then the man’s life was empty, over. … That was Kritzinger’s warning.” “What? That we should not hate the Israelites?” “No, that it should not so fill our lives that when they are gone we have nothing left to live for.”

Our politics in America have become hate-driven. But there will be a cost for those who practice it: “Whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:11).

This is no analogy or metaphor, but the actual condition of the person “in hate.” It robs the sight of him who wields it.

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As I begin reading the sordid history of the kings of Israel and Judah in my yearly Bible read-through, I’m struck by one big thought: We need a king who’s good – one we can count on and one we can follow.

That doesn’t describe the vast majority of kings in the ten northern tribes called Israel or the two southern tribes called Judah. Out of a total of forty kings – twenty in both Israel and Judah – only eight followed the Lord. The history of the divided kingdom is bleak. How that must have disappointed and discouraged a good number of Jews (not all, of course). “Can’t we just have a good king, and not one of these losers?”

But one of God’s purposes, among many, was to teach the Jews not to put their hope, trust, and confidence in earthly kings, rulers, and leaders. (I think there’s a lesson here for us, too!) Human beings, even if they know the Lord and follow Him, are fallen and sinful. They’ll disappoint us. The kings were also used by God to whet the appetite for a perfect king – one who would rule with perfect justice and righteousness.

If you understand the overall flow of the Bible, you know that there is a King who fits the description of the perfect King – One who came once and will someday return. That King is Jesus Christ! He’s the King we’ve been waiting for. He’s the King we need! He’s the King who is God, can be counted on, and followed. All of the kings of Israel and Judah, whether good or bad, look forward to Jesus Christ – the King of kings and Lord of lords!

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This morning I had the privilege of preaching on Philippians 1:18b-26. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: The gospel advances whether we live or die, and when we live, Jesus Christ is the hub around which everything else revolves.

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September 3rd, 2017 will be my last day as Pastor of Cross Creek Bible Church. I announced it to the church about a month ago, but thought I’d give it a slightly wider audience here.

I have a strong sense that God is calling me into a ministry that focuses more on teaching and training. We don’t know what God has in store for us or where we’ll be next. We do know, without a doubt, that we can trust God to guide and provide for us.  I’m looking at schools, organizations, or staff positions in churches which would give me the ability and opportunity to teach and train.

It’s been an honor and privilege to serve as pastor at Cross Creek. Karen and I have nothing but love and affection for the congregation and leadership of the church. The Lord has used them to sharpen, encourage, challenge, and strengthen us, for which we’re incredibly grateful. We’re sad and, at the same time, excited about what God has for us in the next chapter of our lives.

If you would, please pray for Cross Creek during the transition to a new pastor. And if you would, please for Karen and me – that God would guide and provide, and that we wouldn’t be anxious or fearful. Thank you!

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Coming Home

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The story is told of a missionary couple returning home after fifty years on a foreign field. They had faithfully served the Lord, raised their children, and made disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, but now it was time to return from the field.

As they disembarked from the ocean liner after their journey across the ocean, they noticed thousands upon thousands of people waiting at the dock. It turned out that a well-known celebrity had made the trip with them, and was greeted by throngs of adoring fans.

The missionary husband saw the welcome the celebrity received and said to his wife, “It’d sure be nice if we got that kind of reception when we got home.” Aware of the disappointment in his voice, his wife said, “Honey, we’re not home yet.”

No, they weren’t home yet. Neither are we. They, like we as believers in Jesus Christ, will be home when we hear the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Jesus told His disciples, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3).

Home is to be in the presence of the Triune God forever, and the reception will be out of this world!

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