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The Traditionalist Classic House Number TRN5-BL

Predestination is, and has been, a hot topic in the church.

In the Westminster Confession of Faith it’s defined as follows: “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established (3.1).” In 3:2, the Confession states, “Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions, yet hath He not decreed anything because He foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such circumstances.”

We see the doctrine of predestination not only mentioned, but taught explicitly, in a number of passages of God’s Word: Psalm 139:16; Acts 2:23; 4:27; 13:48; Romans 8:29-30; 9:23; 1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:5, 11; 2:10.

Here are five good books on the subject of predestination and it’s narrower aspect, election:

  1. Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul (Tyndale, 1986). This is the most readable treatment of the doctrine available.
  2. The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination by Loraine Boettner (Presbyterian & Reformed, 1932). This is the classic statement and defense of predestination and Calvinism as a whole.
  3. The Plan of Salvation by B.B. Warfield (Eerdman’s, 1942). A shorter treatment, but excellent nonetheless.
  4. The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23 by John Piper (Baker, 1983). If I’m not mistaken, this was Piper’s doctoral thesis.
  5. Chosen for Life: An Introductory Study of the Doctrine of Election by Sam Storms (Baker, 2000).

There are certainly more books that deal with predestination as it relates to salvation and also God’s providence in general, but any of these five would be good to start with, Enjoy!

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“The words of a wise man are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd” (Ecclesiastes 12:11).

It’s been awhile, but here are some articles and ideas that were of interest of me and hope they will be to you, too.

If you’re of a certain age, you remember the iconic photo of the “Napalm Girl.” A young naked Vietnamese girl running down a road after being sprayed with napalm. Her name is Kim Phuc Phan Thi and she writes an article for Christianity Today about how those bombs led her to Christ. It’s a great story!

Jordan Standridge has written a response to a question a boy named Emanuele asked Pope Francis. He wanted to know if his father–an atheist–will be in heaven. From The Cripplegate, Standridge wrote “What Pope Francis Should Have Said to Emanuele.” It’s very good and has a clear presentation of the gospel.

What is joy and can we regularly experience it as Christians? Ligonier Ministries has posted an article by R.C. Sproul that answers that question.

Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church in Atlanta, Georgia, thinks Christians should “unhinge” themselves from the Old Testament. Is he right? Gary Demar  doesn’t think so (I don’t either). Here’s Demar’s response. Stanley has been on the trajectory toward apostasy for some time now, and it’s sad to see.

Please remember to pray for Andrew Brunson, an American pastor who has been imprisoned by the Turkish government for nearly two years. Read about it here.

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And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20).

“Make disciples” is the one and only command in Jesus’ Great Commission to His church (“go,” by the way is not a command – it’s assumed). How we make disciples can be summed up in three letters – E. B. and C. – taken from the Great Commission itself.

The letter E stands for evangelism. Making disciples, as we go, has to begin with proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world. The letter B stands for baptism. When people respond positively to the gospel and believe in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation, they’re to be baptized. So what about the letter C?

The letter C stands for catechism. I know, I know! Many evangelical Christians (especially those in non-denominational Bible churches, charismatic churches, and other non-Confessional Protestants) don’t know much about catechisms. If they do, they sometimes have an almost allergic reaction. But what Jesus says near the end of the Great Commission speaks directly to the purpose of a catechism.

A catechism teaches the basic doctrines of the faith in a question and answer format. That’s a tremendous way to teach a believer “to observe all that” Jesus commanded them.

In 2017, Crossway published The New City Catechism which is designed to accomplish just that – the discipling of believers in Christ. It contains 52 questions and answers that are meant to be memorized, recited, and learned by heart. The questions and answers are simple and understandable in an easy to read format. There are illustrations, Scripture proofs, and even answers that can be shortened in order to be more easily memorized by younger children. Importantly, helpful instructions are also provided.

Here’s the first question and answer: “What is our only hope in life and death?” “That we are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and in death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.”

I highly recommend The New City Catechism as a tool in the making of disciples – not just others, but yourself. Get it, read through it, and begin to memorize the questions and answers. You’ll be glad you did and you’ll grow as a result of it.

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The hour was dark – very dark for the British Empire and the rest of the world – as Nazi Germany was on a seemingly unstoppable march toward world domination. Winston Churchill, however, shone brightly in contrast.

Darkest Hour tells the story of Churchill’s appointment as Prime Minister through the rescue at Dunkirk and his “We shall never surrender” speech to Parliament. With the exception of one scene (Winston riding the Tube in the Underground), the movie is historically accurate. Gary Oldman was fantastic in his portrayal of Churchill. He obviously studied the Prime Minister’s mannerisms and speech patterns. The makeup artists deserve some kind of reward for transforming Oldman into Churchill – unless his name was on the credits, you may not have known it was him.

Darkest Hour presents Churchill’s admirable qualities quite clearly. As an admirer and student of Churchill, I’m well aware of his less than admirable qualities as well (which were seen in the movie, too). He was flawed, just like all of us.

Churchill provided the courage needed to fight against, and ultimately defeat along with the Allies, the Axis powers. Providentially, Churchill was the right man for the right time. Churchill harnessed the power of words to motivate, inspire, and lead the free world in the battle against evil that was World War II. He was a needed counterbalance to Adolf Hitler, who also used words to advance his cause. Viscount Halifax, an opponent of Churchill in many ways, said of Churchill that he “mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.” Indeed he did.

There are lessons for us to learn from Britain’s experience in World War II. Courage is always needed whatever our time or place, but it is always in short supply. It’s the rarest of virtues. Words are powerful: they turned the tide in World War II; they were used by God to create all things – visible and invisible; they turned the world upside down as the early Christians preached the gospel; and they changed the world in the Reformation as Bible preaching thundered from from pulpit all over Europe.

I highly recommend Darkest Hour. It’s a movie my Dad, who was a “Churchillophile” (if I may coin a word), would have liked.

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I like recommending books to people, but they have to be good books. As someone has said, “Life is too short to waste on bad theology.” There are times when a short answer will suffice, but not always. Good books can help us go deeper into a subject and give perspectives we may lack.

Basic Christianity, by John Stott, is one of those good books that takes us deeper and gives an in-depth explanation of what Christianity is and isn’t. Originally published in 1958 (and since updated), it has become a classic. The book serves an as introduction to Christianity for the inquirer and a good reminder for Christians who want to brush up on the basics.

Who is Jesus? Stott answers the question by focusing on the claims, character, and resurrection of Jesus in part one. Part two deals with man’s need – the fact and nature of sin, and the consequences of sin. The third part of the book answers the question of the work of Christ. What He did is explained through His death and the salvation it brings to sinful man. In the fourth part, Stott explains man’s response to what Christ has done: counting the cost, reaching a decision, and being a Christian.

This is a good, well-written book. It also fits another of my criteria – it’s under two hundred pages. (That’s not a hard and fast rule, but the vast majority of books don’t need to go beyond two hundred pages.) Read Basic Christianity yourself and give away copies. You’ll be glad you did!

 

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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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Here are few good links to articles that will make you think. Enjoy!

The Apostate’s Creed by Jared Wilson.

Eric Davis tells us why we can’t forgive ourselves.

How Don Whitney started reading the Bible every day and why it’s important.

James Anderson answers the question “What is a worldview?”

 

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