On the Nature of Divine Election

Patrick Schreiner has a put together a good synopsis of the arguments put forward by Brian Abasciano (corporate emphasis/conditional election) and Tom Schreiner (individual emphasis/unconditional election) here.

He includes the two opposing articles (Abasciano’s article is a response to Schreiner’s work some ten years before, and Schreiner’s article is a response to Abasciano’s response).  I want to highly suggest you reading them both.  They will stretch your mind, and that is good.  And depending upon what side of the debate you are on at present, I would encourage you to a cool frame and tempered, teachable disposition in reading the article that exegetes and argues contrary to your position.  As Piper has said, “it is more important to learn what they are saying than to hear what you want to hear” (paraphrase).

I will tell you, also, that after reading them both, I still land somewhat predictably and unhesitatingly with Schreiner’s position.  I won’t bother you with my own thoughts beyond that.  Just read the articles and we can talk later.  And, p.s., I don’t think this is a peripheral issue!

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God Desires All To Be Saved, and Grants Repentance To Some, by John Piper

Simplicity can be both good and bad.  When preaching or teaching or conducting family devotions or discipleship, biblical simplicity is an admirable goal.  But simplicity is a problem when it is used to justify theological laziness or, along the same lines, we discover a verse that we intend to make our pet because it singularly defends our theological position, and we are quite unwilling to give an ear to verses that are not contrary but balancing.  Such verses or passages are in the Bible to make us think, to challenge the mind, to balance our theological or traditional bend.  In other words, biblical simplicity often involves hard labor in the biblical text.  And often times it involves balancing one apparently clear verse with another that seems to be contrary but isn’t.  They are meant to level one another until the bubble of truth stands in the middle.  They interpret one another, though one is usually master of the two.  A good example of this is found in Piper’s exegesis and interpretation of 1 Timothy 2.4 in light of 2 Timothy 2.25:

Put two texts together, and see what you see.

“God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth(eis epignōsin alētheias)” (1 Timothy 2:4).

“God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth (eis epignōsin alētheias)” (2 Timothy 2:25).

Go here for his textual labors and the theological interpretation that follows.  Bad theology, even if honestly affirmed, is usually incomplete theology; an unwillingness to do what Piper does here.

Let’s Get Our Theological Priorities Straight, by Luke Stamps

Get your priorities straight. This is true in the realm of Christian doctrine, just as it is anywhere else in life. Doctrinal prioritization has a strong pedigree. Jesus himself placed priority on the two great commandments: love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). The apostle Paul placed priority on the gospel proclamation of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection—the message he considered to be “of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3). And so all theologians must prioritize. Certain doctrines have greater significance than others for the whole of Christian theology. The deity of Christ is more consequential for the Christian faith than the timing of the millennium. The latter is still important, but it is not “of first importance,” to borrow the apostle’s phrase.

A good, thought-provoking read.  Go here.

What is it “to praise the glory of his grace”?

Charles Hodge answers:

‘The glory of grace’ is the divine excellence of that attribute manifested as an object of admiration.  The glory of God is the manifested excellence of God, and the glory of any one of his attributes is the manifestation of that attribute as an object of praise.  The design of redemption, therefore, is to exhibit the grace of God in such a conspicuous manner as to fill all hearts with wonder and all lips with praise.

Charles Hodge, Ephesians, Geneva Series of Commentaries, Banner, pg. 14-15.  Commenting on Ephesians 1.6.

Churches Today Do Not Have This Effect

Jesus’s teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day.  However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect.  The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones.  We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people.  The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church.  That can only mean one thing.  If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.  If our churches aren’t appealing to younger brothers, they must be more full of elder brothers than we’d like to think.

Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, 15-16.

A Must Watch Sermon on 1 Corinthians 1.26-31

By John Piper.  Some have quipped, even in the seminary classroom, how Piper has but one sermon.  Well, that may be true, but I can’t for the life of me see anything wrong with that one sermon.  For that one sermon, I believe, approaches the content and joy of that one sermon and song that we will be hearing in glory forever, and I do not think that we will ever tire of hearing it then and there.  Why should we tire of hearing foretastes of it here and now.  A mighty sermon indeed.

A Lecture on Regeneration

Posted under “Other Writings” tab above.

From the introduction:

Last week I mentioned that I doubted whether there were any more important doctrines to recover, know and experience than the doctrines of God, Christ, depravity, and regeneration.  That was confirmed again this week in a lecture by Adam Greenway, when he identified the lack of a robust knowledge of sin as one of the great depravities in the contemporary evangelical church.  Wherever there is little knowledge of sin, there will be little thankfulness for the reality of the new birth; when one does not acknowledge that he is or has been dead, then he will rob himself of the knowledge of the fullness of God’s mercy and love in granting spiritual life.  This is captured poetically in Charles Wesley’s hymn of 1738, “And Can it Be That I Should Gain,” where he bids us sing, “Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature’s night; thine eye diffused a quickening ray – I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; my chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee; my chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.”  Where there is no biblical understanding of the new birth, there is only a shallow Christendom, the shell of true Christianity – religiosity with not an ounce of divine life.  This morning, we want to recover this biblical doctrine of regeneration, or the new birth, and become grounded in it, for the vitality of our own souls, for the health of this church body, for an evangelical distinctiveness from the world, and for the glory of the God who in mercy makes the dead to live.

Regeneration Confessed and Defined. “Regeneration is a change of heart, wrought by the Holy Spirit, who gives life to those dead in trespasses and sins, enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the Word of God, and renewing their whole nature, so that they love and practice holiness.  It is a work of God’s free and special grace alone.”  “God effects a change which is radical and all-pervasive, a change which cannot be explained in terms of any combination, permutation, or accumulation of human resources, a change which is nothing less than a new creation by him who calls the things that be not as though they were, who spake and it was done, who commanded and it stood fast.  This, in a word, is regeneration” (Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, 96).  What is it that makes the difference between, “every intention of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil continually” and “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When shall I come and appear before God,” but God’s monergistic work of regeneration that changes the heart which has not loved God for one second to one which is filled with new throbs of love for God.  Regeneration is nothing less than the onset of new spiritual life, freeing the mind, the heart, and the will to love God and walk in holiness.  Thus, the sinner who receives the new birth is called a new creature.