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Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

Escape of Lot from Sodom

Escape of Lot from Sodom by Mattheus Merian (1593-1650)

From time to time I’ve written in this space about the collapse of Western Civilization that we so going on around us all on a daily basis. And in this author’s opinion, there is perhaps no better illustration of this collapse than the rise of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender (LGBT) movement over the last several decades.

I make this observation as a Christian, and those who do not believe the Bible may be tempted to dismiss my view as personal bias. But interestingly enough, at least one prominent lesbian scholar is in agreement with this view. As this 2015 article from cnsnews.com notes, “Best-selling feminist author, social critic and self-described “transgender being” Camille Paglia said in an interview last month that the rise of transgenderism in the West is a symptom of decadence and cultural collapse.”

Paglia is quoted in the article saying, “Nothing…better defines the decadence of the West to the jihadists than our toleration of open homosexuality and this transgender mania now.”

The article continues, “Paglia went on to talk about her book Sexual Personae and how the emergence of transgenderism signifies the end of Western culture. ‘Now I am concerned about this…In fact, my study of history in Sexual Personae, I’m always talking about the late phases of culture.’

‘I was always drawn to late or decadent phases of culture. Oscar Wile is one of the great exponents of that in the late 19th century. He’s one of my strongest influences from my earliest years. An I found in my study that history is cyclic, and everywhere in the world you find this pattern in ancient times: that as a culture begins to decline, you have an efflorescence of transgender phenomena. That is a symptom of cultural collapse.’

‘So rather than people singing the praises of humanitarian liberalism that allows all of these transgender possibilities to appear and to be encouraged, I would be concerned about how Western culture is defining itself to the world.’ ”

These are good comments by Paglia.  In fact, what this feminist lesbian has to say about homosexuality and transgender mania is, quite remarkably, much closer to the mind of Christ, and far more interesting, than what falls from the lips of many supposed ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ when they speak on these subjects.

The wide-spread acceptance of homosexuality and other deviant behaviors in the West is a flashing red warning signal that our civilization is in deep trouble. It’s so obvious that even a feminist lesbian scholar is able to see the problem. But for all that, there are many who name the name of Christ who are either unable or unwilling to grasp this simple and obvious truth.

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John Robbins“Many people in relatively orthodox churches are confused about sanctification,” wrote John Robbins in the forward to Gordon Clark’s book Sanctification.

And not only is there a great deal of confusion about sanctification, but the errors people make on this doctrine place them in two broad categories: mystics and workers.

Mystics, as Robbins points out, are those who say of sanctification, “Let go and let God.” They tend to be Charismatics. On the other hand, the workers think that justification is by grace but sanctification is by works. Such persons tend to be Reformed.

Neither of these approaches to sanctification is Biblical.

Before talking about what sanctification is, Robbins notes that salvation, “from start to finish, from election to glorification, from eternity to eternity, is all of grace.”

Robbins notes that justification – God’s declaring us legally righteous and pardoning all our sins – is by grace alone, through faith alone apart from any works. Further, justification is wholly outside us. It is a work that God has done for us by imputing – to impute means to ascribe or to reckon – Christ’s perfect righteousness to us. Justification is not a work done in us.

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John RobbinsThe following sermon was preached by John Robbins at Reformation Chapel in Unicoi Tennessee. Last week I featured part one of this sermon.  Today, I present part two. To read part one, please click here. The transcription is my own.

– Steve Matthews

Well, Luke continues in verse five,

Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how he spoke to you while he was still in Galilee.’

Well, these women are terrified. These men suddenly appear, and the women are terrified. Luke says they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth. And the angels speak to them and say, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”

This reminds you of the opening chapter of Acts, where Luke is telling about the apostles watching Jesus being assumed into heaven. And two men again appear, maybe the same two angels, and speak to the apostles, and they say, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here staring up into heaven?” They ask them a question again. And here the angels ask the women, “Why do you seek the living among the dead. And then they tell them, “He is not here, but is risen. Remember how he spoke to you.” And this makes it clear about the important of words. See, we’re told in the first chapter of John that the Word preceded the visible creation, that everything that was created was preceded by the Word. The Word comes first, the Logos comes first. And many people get everything backwards, they think events, or history, or creation come first, rather than the Word.

But notice here no one witnesses the resurrection event. And what the women receive are words from the angels. They’re told specifically, “He is not here. He is risen. He is living. He’s not among the dead.” And then the angels remind them of Jesus’ own words that he spoke while he was still with him. Their faith rests on the testimony of Jesus and the testimony of the angels. The women did not see the resurrection event, but they received these words from Christ and from the angels.

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John Robbins

John W. Robbins

The following sermon was preached by John Robbins at Reformation Chapel in Unicoi Tennessee. Please click here to read part two.  The transcription is my own.

-Steve Matthews

And now Luke moves on in his narrative to the resurrection. Then he begins by saying it happened on the first day of the week. And there’s a Jewish idiom here, it’s the first of the Sabbaths. And it’s a phrase that appears in the Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1 and Luke 24:1, it’s called the first day of the Sabbaths or the first of the Sabbaths. From now on this will be the important day. This is what John calls the Lord’s Day. This is why we meet on Sunday and not on Saturday, because this has taken on the characteristics of the most important day of the week. This is the day that Jesus rises from the dead.

“Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning,” Luke says, “they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb brining the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb.” Christ had dies on the sixth day of the week, on Friday, he was in paradise that day and the entire next day, and then early in the morning on the first day of the week he rises from the dead.

Luke says these women, and they’re named in the previous chapter, they go very early in the morning. John says in John 20 verse 1 that they leave when it is still dark, yet dark. And some people have, again, tried to make contradictions in the Bible by saying the various evangelists say well it was at dawn, and John says it was while it was still dark, and another Gospel says it was when the sun was rising. Well, these women had to travel. And they left when it was still dark and when they got there the sun had risen. And it’s very easy. If people would just think about what’s going on in these narratives, all these so-called contradictions and problems would disappear. The women can’t transport themselves like they do on Star Trek from one place to another instantaneously. It takes a while for them to travel, to get together, to pack up their spices and to arrive at the tomb. And so you would expect a variation between the time they leave to the time they arrive there. Which is what the four narratives say.

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For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.

Romans 1:20

John Robbins

If you’ve ever read a book or heard a lecture on Christian apologetics, there’s a good chance Romans 1:19-20 were brought up. Perhaps these verses were cited as proof that all men know God, so that no one could claim ignorance of God on judgment day. That, of course, is true. Responsibility is based on knowledge, and since God has revealed himself to all men, all men are accountable to him.

Bible commentators, as well as the authors of the Westminster Confession, have identified two ways in which God reveals himself to men: general revelation and special revelation.

Special revelation is identical with the 66 books of the Bible. The Scriptures are God’s written, propositional revelation, which principally teach us, “What man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man,” in the words of the Shorter Catechism.

But what about general revelation? Just what is it that is meant by this term? The most common answer is that general revelation is identical with nature. We are told that when men look to the heavens and see the stars, or cast their eyes upon the majestic mountains they behold God’s attributes and, to that extent, know him and are therefore rightfully held responsible by him, even if they have never so much as heard the name of Jesus Christ.

Here’s one example of this line of reasoning.

Paul stresses the reality and universality of divine revelation, which is perpetual (“since the creation,” v.20) and perspicuous (“clearly seen,” v.20). Divine invisibility, eternity, and power are all expressed in and through the created order…The invisible God is revealed through the visible medium of creation. This revelation is manifest; it is not obscured but clearly seen (New Geneva Study Bible).

The commentators manifestly argue that one can reason from visible creation to an invisible God, but does this really make sense? On one hand, such an argument is appealing to Christians. We believe in God and rightfully want others to share that belief. But simply because we like the conclusion of an argument does not mean that it is a good argument. This is the case even if the conclusion of argument – that there is an immortal, invisible all wise God who created and sustains the world – is true.

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Billy Graham

The body of Rev. Billy Graham, who died February 21 at age 99, lies in the Capitol Rotunda as President Donald Trump, officials and dignitaries pay tribute to America’s most famous evangelist, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018, in Washington.  (J. Scott Applewhite / The Associated Press) 

In the second year of Joash the son of Jehoahaz, king of Israel, Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, became king…And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, yet not like his father David (2 Kings 14:1, 3).

Judge not, lest you be judged! How many times have Christians had that verse flung in their face when discussing some point of doctrine, usually with an unbeliever. This verse, wielded as if some all conquering shut down argument, seems to be the only passage of Scripture that many people know.

Now if Jesus actually meant what these people seem to think he meant – that all judgment of every sort by anyone is always wrong – ironically they also condemn themselves, for by speaking as they do they are judging Christians and telling them they are wrong to find fault with the words or actions of another.

But Jesus did not mean to condemn all judgment. He intended to condemn unrighteous judgment, that is to say, judgment by the wrong standard. This can be seen elsewhere in Scripture where Christ told his followers to “judge with righteous judgment.”

Further, in writing to Timothy the Apostle Paul advised his younger colleague that, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for,” among other things, “reproof [and] for correction.” That is to say, Scripture is to be used to judge the actions and the words of men.

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The Annunciation_Fra Angelico_15th c.

The Annunciation, Fra Angelico, 15th cen.

 

One of the many reasons I have long admired the work of John Robbins was his insistence on holding, and skill at handling, question and answer sessions after his talks.

As brilliant as his lectures were, some of his best recorded comments came in the discussions that he had with audience members after he was finished speaking.

A few years ago, Tom Juodaitis was kind enough to send me recordings of a number of sermons preached by Dr. Robbins at Reformation Chapel in Unicoi, TN.

Among the sermons was a two part series on John 3:1-17. At the end of part 2, there is a discussion among Dr. Robbins, an individual whose identity I don’t know, and Tom Juodaitis concerning the incarnation.

In this discussion, Dr. Robbins explains Gordon Clark’s teaching on the incarnation. Clarks mature thinking on this subject is found in the final book he wrote just before his death in 1985, The Incarnation. Clark’s work was at the time, and continues to be, controversial. For at its heart is the idea that Jesus of Nazareth is not, as is commonly taught, one person in two natures, but two persons in one individual, one a divine person and the other a human person.

This really shouldn’t be controversial. Just recently I heard a preacher say, correctly I would add, that Jesus is 100 percent God and 100 percent man. If this is the case, and it is, then we are logically driven to the same conclusion Clark reached.

Yet many people are offended at Clark’s thought, dismissing it as Nestorianism while ignoring the logical force of his argument.

John Robbins was one theologian was persuaded by Clark’s argument and had no problem saying so. In the discussion below, Dr. Robbins is at his best, brilliantly, simply and persuasively summarizing Clark’s argument.

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