The Good God and the “Problem” of Evil

no-other-macarthur-2017In chapter three of his recent book None Other: Discovering the God of the Bible (Reformation trust, 2017), John Macarthur presents the biblical reply to the perennial question of how the good and powerful God of the Christian faith. relates to all the evil, pain, and suffering in the world.

He points out that there are many proposed answers (as well as outright attacks against God) to this question – the question known in theology as “theodicy”: “a defense of God’s righteousness in light of the reality that evil exists in the world He created” (p.51).

At one point he critiques the view most popular among evangelicals today – autonomy. His thoughts are worth sharing here:

…Autonomous theodicy teaches that the cause of evil is the abuse of creaturely free will. This is a very sentimental approach. It begins with the assumption that God would never willingly ordain evil; He would not decree a plan for His creation that unleashes so much misery into His universe. They also imagine, evidently, that human free will trumps everything else on God’s scale of values, so they often suggest that God had to allow for the possibility of evil in order to protect His creatures’ highly prized autonomy. The idea is sometimes articulated this way: ‘God wants you to love Him all on your own, not because He made you love Him.” A God who would willingly permit evil or sovereignly choose whom to save is a God whom some people just can’t live with, so they reinvent Him to reflect their own priorities – which in this case means an emphasis on the nobility and value of their own free will that frankly is found nowhere in the Bible (pp.52-53).

We’ll return to more from this important chapter at a later time, but I hope you can already see the direction Macarthur is going. As he states at the beginning of the chapter,

The existence of evil is not an issue that should put Christians on their heels. The answer to why God allows evil in the world is in the Bible. We can know it, we can thoroughly embrace it, and we can enjoy it. It’s not an inadequate answer, either. It fully accounts for God’s benevolence, His omnipotence, His holiness, and His wisdom. And it exalts His glory. In fact, the answer to the problem of evil begins and ends with God and His glory (p.50).

We’ll see more of that biblical answer next time.

Why Do We Attend Corporate Worship?

Another fine article in this month’s Tabletalk is found in the back. There, under the rubric “For the Church,” Jared Wilson has some fresh thoughts on “Attending Corporate Worship.”

Acknowledging at the outset that there are many good reasons for being in the Lord’s house for worship on Sunday (including the fact that God commands it!), Wilson gives four (4) reasons for gathering with our brothers and sisters each week for corporate worship:

  • As an encouragement to others
  • As an act of self-crucifixion
  • As a witness to your neighbors
  • As a foretaste of heaven

Let’s “break open” that second one and consider his thoughts on that point:

As an Act of Self-Crucifixion

Your church attendance is a rebellion against your sense of self-sovereignty. Oh, I know that sometimes the sermon is a little (or a lot) longer than you’d like, the songs aren’t quite to your taste, the people are too shy to welcome you properly or so exuberantly friendly that you feel overwhelmed. I know sometimes there are a million things you’d do differently if you were in charge. So just think how sanctifying going to church must be!

The gathering of the diverse and divinely empowered saints is a community organized in part to stifle the selfish human desire for autonomy. In a world where we encounter so much that caters to our sense of self-sovereignty, going to church can be a way of taking up our cross—not our will be done, but the Father’s, not our interests be first, but our brothers’—and in that regard, it is extremely helpful to our growth in Christlikeness.

Good thoughts as we prepare to meet the Lord and His redeemed tomorrow. May we begin already now to crucify our old man and put on our new man in Christ, so that our worship will be God-focused and not self-centered.

For the rest of his points, visit the link below.

Source: Attending Corporate Worship

Barbara Bush Leaves Legacy of Championing Literacy


Photo courtesy of the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

This past Tuesday one of our former first ladies (U. S. president George H. W. Bush’s wife) passed away, and one of Barbara Bush’s significant legacies was that of being a champion of literacy.

An oft-quoted phrase of “America’s grandma” is this one:

The American Dream is about equal opportunity for everyone who works hard. If we don’t give everyone the ability to simply read and write, then we aren’t giving everyone an equal chance to succeed.

The School Library Journal today (April 20) had a nice tribute to her work on behalf of this cause, pointing to her special foundation and to her authorship of two children’s books written from the perspective of family dogs. Here is part of the tribute:

When former first lady Barbara Bush died on Tuesday, literacy lost a great champion.

During her time in the White House, she created the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy and also helped push for the National Literacy Act, which was passed by her husband, President George H.W. Bush, in 1991. Her daughter-in-law, former teacher and librarian and first lady Laura Bush, also made literacy one of her public causes.

“I think my Ganny would have wanted us to remember her by picking up a book and reading to our child, grandchild, or finding an opinion different then our own,” Jeb Bush, Jr. tweeted.

Barbara Bush wrote two children’s books: C. Fred’s Story and Millie’s Book, both from the perspective of the family dogs. (According to the book covers, she “edited” C. Fred’s Story, and Millie’s Book was dictated to her.)

Bush also authored two memoirs. In an interview with NPR, her former editor, Lisa Drew, said that beyond being remembered as the wife of one president and mother of another, it was her passion and commitment to literacy that will be her legacy.

To read about Mrs. Bush’s work for literacy in America, visit the link below or visit the link to her foundation given in the quote above.

Source: Barbara Bush Leaves Legacy of Championing Literacy | School Library Journal

Published in: on April 20, 2018 at 8:55 PM  Leave a Comment  

Exciting Reformation (and Church History) Book News! “Here We Stand” is Here!

Today for our Thursday history feature we highlight some exciting new Reformation book news, along with a children’s/young people’s church history book.

HereWeStand-Cammenga-2018

At the top of the list is a special book hot off the press that was delivered earlier this afternoon. RFPA managing editor Alex Kalsbeek stopped in at seminary and brought with him freshly printed (and fresh-smelling!) copies of the RFPA’s latest publication Here We Stand: Commemorating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation (cf. cover photo above).

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The book is special because it is the fruit of the PRC Seminary’s October 2017 Reformation 500th Conference. The contents of the book are the expanded speeches given at that conference, the topics of which you will see on the flyer above. Three of our professors have contributions to the book (Profs. R. Cammenga, R. Dykstra, and B. Gritters), and the entire book is edited by Prof. Cammenga. The publisher gives this description on its website:

The great sixteenth-century church Reformation was so significant an event that virtually every church today is affected by that history, as well as its reforms in doctrine and life. This book demonstrates the impact of that historic event by focusing on a few aspects of the Reformation, including the crucial issues of justification by faith alone, the authority of scripture, and proper worship. This book also covers two lesser-known, yet significant aspects of the Reformation that began in 1517: the unique development of the Reformation in the Lowlands and the reformers’ response to the “radical reformation.”

The chapters included in this book are written by: Prof. Ronald L. Cammenga (editor), Rev. David Torlach, Prof. Barrett L. Gritters, Rev. Martyn McGeown, Prof. Russell Dykstra, and Rev. Steven Key.

While the 500th anniversary of the great Reformation of the sixteenth century may be over, your reading about it does not have to stop, and it ought not end with 2017. Be sure you  add this title to your Reformation reading list for 2018, and for years to come. You may obtain the title by visiting the RFPA website or visiting the Seminary bookstore. Or, become a RFPA book club member and receive all the new titles automatically – at a 35% discount!

RefWorship-2018

The second new Reformation book you ought to have on your radar for reading (and purchase – cf. the deal below!) is Reformation Worship: Liturgies from the Past for the Present, edited by Jonathan Gibson and Mark Earngey (New Growth Press, 2018). The publisher provides this summary of the book:

Twenty-six liturgies, including historical introductions that provide fresh analysis into their origins, are invaluable tools for pastors and worship leaders as they seek to craft public worship services in the great tradition of the early Reformers.

Christians learn to worship from the generations of God’s people who have worshipped before them. We sing psalms, because thousands of years ago, God’s people sang them. Five hundred years ago, the leaders of the Reformation transformed Christian worship by encouraging the active participation and understanding of the individual worshiper. Christian worship today is built on this foundation. Jonathan Gibson and Mark Earngey have made worship resources from the Reformation era accessible by compiling the most comprehensive collection of liturgies from that era into newly translated modern English from the original German, Dutch, French, Latin, and early English.

The structure of the liturgies, language, and rhythm continue to communicate the gospel in word and sacrament today. They provide a deep sense of God’s call to worship and an appreciation for the Reformers as, first and foremost, men who wanted to help God’s people worship. This book will also be of great interest to theological scholars and students who wish to understand early Reformation leaders. A useful tool for individuals, Reformation Worship, can be used as a powerful devotional to guide daily prayer and reflection.

By providing a connection to Reformation worship, Gibson and Earngey hope that through their work readers will experience what John Calvin described to be the purpose of all church worship: “To what end is the preaching of the Word, the sacraments, the holy congregations themselves, and indeed the whole external government of the church, except that we may be united to God?”

This fresh title is currently available at a 50% discount from the publisher as well as from Westminster Bookstore.

CFP_Gods Timeline Cover_LRG.jpg

Finally, a brand new title I ordered for myself (that is, for our home library and for our grandchildren in particular) but think I will also add to the seminary library is a wonderful summary of church history in graphic form. The book is God’s Timeline: The Big Book of Church History, produced by Linda Finlayson and published by CF4K (Christian Focus, children’s division, 2018).

While produced with children and young people in view, the colorful book of timelines and charts (16 timelines and 1 pull-out timeline poster) is sure to be of use to and appreciated by all age groups. I fell in love with it the minute I opened it up (visit the publisher’s page to see sample pages). Here is the description found on their site:

With colour illustrations, pictures, and pull–out timelines, this history book brings the church throughout the ages to life! Learn about the Early, Medieval and Missionary church, passing through key events such as the Council of Nicea and the Reformation – right through to the present day. Find out about the people God used and the impact they had on those around them – including us today!

With a retail price of $15.99 the hardcover book is a bargain. But you may also find it for sale on Christianbook.com for $11.99 (25% off). By all means add this book to your family and church library!

“Apart from Jesus Christ we cannot know the meaning of our life or of our death, of God or of ourselves.” ~ B. Pascal

pascal-life-after-death

181. Without Christ man can only be sinful and wretched. With Christ man is freed from sin and wretchedness. For in him is all our virtue and happiness. Apart from him there can only be vice, wretchedness, error, darkness, death, and despair.

182. Not only do we know God only through Jesus Christ, but we know ourselves only through Jesus Christ. We know life and death only through Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus Christ we cannot know the meaning of our life or of our death, of God or of ourselves. Without Scripture, whose only object is to proclaim Christ, we know nothing, and we can see nothing but obscurity and confusion in the nature of God and in nature itself.

Mind-on-fire-pascalBlaise Pascal (1623-1662) in his Pensees (Christian apology, that is, defense of the Christian faith) as found in the anthology of his writings The Mind on Fire, part of the “Classics of Faith and Devotion” series published by Multnomah Press (1989), edited by James M. Houston, with an introduction by Os Guinness.

This quotation is taken from section XV titled “The Corruption of Human Nature,” p.153.

Does God Call You to Be a Teacher or a Minister? ~ Prof. R. Dykstra, April 15, 2018 Standard Bearer

sb-logo-rfpaThe latest issue of the Reformed magazine, the Standard Bearer, is now out (April 15, 2018), and once again it is packed with edifying content.

In this issue are articles by Rev. M. DeVries on Ps.61:2 (a meditation), by D. Doezema on the vision of Ezekiel in chapter 16, by Prof. R. Cammenga on the sufficiency of Scripture, by Rev. R. Kleyn on remembering the Lord’s Day (the 4th commandment as taught by the Heidelberg Catechism), by Rev. J. Laning on the believer’s heavenly life in Christ alone, and by Rev. J. Mahtani on our calling to relate to other Christians who belong to the universal (catholic) church of Christ.

There is also an editorial by Prof. R. Dykstra, part of a mini-series he is doing on the idea of Christian vocation. This particular article hones in on two very special callings God gives to some of His people – that of Christian school teacher and that of gospel minister. In addressing the need for young people to face the questions, “Does God call me to teach in a Christian school? Does God call me to preach the gospel?” Prof. Dykstra points them to four spiritual qualifications and to three natural abilities they ought to find in themselves as they face God’s call.

Tonight we post a portion of his editorial, focusing in on two of the four spiritual qualifications he mentions. It is our prayer that this editorial will stir up serious consideration of these gifts and of God’s call to these special labors in His church and kingdom.

Second, prospective teachers and preacher must find in themselves a genuine love for God’s people, particularly the youth. This brotherly love enjoined on all Christians truly desires the good of God’s people, and truly desires to help them as he is able. Do you have this yearning to give your time, abilities, and heart – to give yourself –  for the good of sinful saints? Then perhaps you have the call to be a teacher or a minister.

Closely related, since both teaching and ministry are positions of service, the desire to serve must also be part of your spiritual makeup. Self-promotion has no place in these vocations. The proud must stay far away. Despite what you might imagine, God does not need you, no matter how gifted you may be. Ultimately, under God’s judgment, the proud will fail, for God’s people cannot abide such pride, and God will not tolerate it. A desire to serve, coupled with humility and meekness, these are the spiritual virtues found in godly, effective, beloved teachers and ministers.

“The Psalter impregnated the life of early Christianity.” ~ D. Bonhoeffer

Psalms-prayer-book-BonhoefferIn many churches the Psalms are read or sung every Sunday, or even daily, in succession. These churches have preserved a priceless treasure, for only with daily use does one appropriate this divine prayerbook.

…Therefore, wherever we no longer pray the Psalms in our churches, we must take up the Psalter [the book of Psalms] that much more in our daily morning and evening prayers, reading and praying together at least several Psalms every day so that we succeed in reading through this book a number of times each year, getting into it deeper and deeper. We ought also not to select Psalms at our own discretion, thinking that we know better what we ought to pray than does God himself. To do that is to dishonor the prayerbook of the Bible.

In the ancient church it was not unusual to memorize ‘the entire David.’ In one of the eastern churches this was a prerequisite for the pastoral office. The church father St. Jerome says that one heard the Psalms being sung in the fields and gardens in his time. The Psalter impregnated the life of early Christianity. Yet more important than all of this is the fact that Jesus died on the cross with the words of the Psalter on his lips.

It is at this point that the author makes that powerful point I quoted when we began this series on his book: “Whenever the Psalter is abandoned, an incomparable treasure vanishes from the Christian church. With its recovery will come unsuspected power.”

Quoted from Psalms, The Prayer Book of the Bible by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Augsburg, 1974), a translation of Das Gebetbuch der Bibel (the 8th ed. published in Germany in 1966). These thoughts are found in the fifth section, “Congregational Worship and the Psalms” (pp.25-26).

No Heros, Just Ordinary People

ordinary-MHorton-2014…Ordinary lives have an ordinary impact that is beautiful in its own right. The choice has to be made, hardly earth-shattering at the moment, between ignoring a child’s complaint or taking her to the doctor. By choosing the latter, the busy mother saved her daughter’s life.

Less catastrophic but no less dangerous is the choice to do something big when something small is exactly what’s called for in the moment. The habit of reading stories to children at bedtime is often tedious. Family and private devotions can be tedious as well. So too can daily homework be a chore for students, along with grading for teachers. Making rounds is often tedious for doctors and nurses. yet daily faithfulness to these callings – more accurately, to God and the neighbors he has called us to serve – is precisely what enriches life.

We don’t need another hero. We need a Savior, who possessed ‘no form or majesty that we should look at him,’ and yet bore our sins (Isa 53:2-3). In fact, we need to be saved from our own hero worship, whether of ourselves or others. Jesus Christ never disappoints us because he is not simply someone to look up to because of his achievements, but is someone to trust because everything that he achieved was for us. And we need a communion of saints he has chosen and redeemed with us and for us. We need ordinary believers of every generation, race, and socioeconomic background to whom we’re united by baptism to one Lord and one faith by one Spirit. We simply need ordinary pastors to deliver the word of life and its sacraments faithfully, elders to guide us to maturity, and deacons to help keep the temporal gifts circulating in the body.

The actual churches we know are often the most difficult places in the world, especially if we are creative, ambitious, and drawn toward novelty. The patient discipline of belonging to a community (preferably, the same local community) over a long period of time is difficult for those of us born after 1964. Church growth analysts often tell us that ‘brand loyalty’ is a thing of the past and that churches will just have to catch up with that fact…. We have Corinth written all over us.

…Contentment comes from knowing that the body of Christ is far greater than any of its members by itself. Even Christ considers himself incomplete until his whole body shares in his risen glory.

With that realization, what seemed like boring routine with boring people may actually take on a different aspect. Like a vast field, we are growing together into a harvest whose glory will only appear fully at the end of the age.

Taken from chapter 8 of Michael Horton’s Or-di-nar-y: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan, 2014), which I continue to read with great benefit. The chapter is strikingly titled “We Don’t Need Another Hero.” The paragraphs I have quoted are found on pp.165-67. Next time we will go into chapter 9, “God’s ecosystem.”

Time for Cubs Baseball! A Tough April So Far

ChicagoCubsPic

Now that college basketball season is over, we can turn our attention to American’s great pastime – baseball! Specifically, Chicago Cubs baseball!

After starting the season with away games (Florida, among other places – good idea!), the Cubs returned to Wrigley Field for the first time in the new season this week. Monday was supposed to be their home opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but conditions were not so great, as you can see.

Cubs-snow-April-2018-2

April baseball in the northern cities can be brutal, but that doesn’t mean the players and fans can’t have fun, as the next two images prove (also taken at Wrigley on Monday.

Cubs-snow-April-2018-1

Cubs-snow-April-2018-3

But Tuesday, April 10, the Cubs opener went on! But the Bucs (Pirates) spoiled that by winning 8-5. The Cubbies rebounded the next day, winning big, 13-5. On Thursday, the Pirates triumphed again, 6-1, a game played in 70 degree (F) weather. Crazy, I know, but that’s baseball in April.

Today the 2016 World champions (who can forget?!) lost again, this time to the Atlanta Braves 4-0, ending the day with a 6-7 record so far in the young season. We will not lose hope so early in the year; we have great expectations for this team once again. So, on we go.

And in spite of the slow start and poor hitting, we did have a bright spot this week. Young second baseman Javier Baez had two two-homer games, prompting a fine bullpen dance for the first time in 2018. Enjoy the video of the belt and the jig!

Published in: on April 13, 2018 at 10:17 PM  Leave a Comment  

Two centuries of treasures in the Harvard Law School Library

Harvard Law School in Cambridge.

Compliments of “I Love Libraries” (part of the ALA), we have this recent focus on the amazing library collection of the Harvard Law School. So, for our Thursday history/archives feature, let’s take a look at this library and its collections.

“I Love Libraries” gave this summary of the library and its holdings:

Over the past 200 years, Harvard Law School (MA) has built a collection of primary and secondary law unsurpassed by any other academic law library in the world. In 1868, the library, then on the first floor of Dane Hall, was managed by a single librarian and contained 15,000 volumes. Today, the library, a centerpiece of the law school campus, houses more than 2 million items.For much of its history, the library’s mission has included actively collecting, preserving and making freely available materials that are in danger of being lost to time or cultural conflict. The library has served as a repository for the papers, photographs and community ephemera that document the school’s history and traditions.

Part of the special collections includes rare books and early manuscripts according to this part of the website: “The Rare Books & Early Manuscripts collection contains over 100,000 printed books, pamphlets, broadsides and other material, with imprints between the fifteenth and twentieth centuries.” One of those works is pictured below – a rare illuminated law book.

For more on this unique and beautiful library and its wonderful law collections, visit the link below or the Harvard Law Library one above.

Source: Two centuries of treasures in the Harvard Law School Library | I Love Libraries