A Heavenly Vision – Our Hope of Seeing the Face of God

The April 2020 issue of Tabletalk carries the theme of “Misunderstood Doctrines,” and considers such truths as Sola Scriptura, Limited Atonement, Predestination and Human Actions, and Paedobaptism (infant), among others.

Burk Parsons, the editor, includes these comments in introducing the issue:

The proper study of doctrine is not easy. It takes time, a lot of hard work, and much prayer. For those reasons, many people don’t study doctrine. Others don’t study doctrine because they think it is just for professionals, and even some pastors don’t study doctrine because they think it is just for scholars. Still, there are others who don’t study doctrine because they are indifferent to it. They are content with being fed milk and knowing only the basics of the faith, but they are largely apathetic to pursuing the doctrinal meat of the faith.

I find it hard to tolerate this kind of indifference in myself and in other Christians. Indifference when it comes to what we believe is deplorable, for how can we be indifferent to those vital truths that can save or damn our souls? As one Puritan pastor said, “Indifference is the mother of heresy.” If we become indifferent about doctrine, we will soon become indifferent about Scripture and eventually indifferent about God. [“Indifference to Doctrine”]

The featured articles are worth reading (I found the one on Limited Atonement by Jonathan Gibson to be excellent!), but the one I wish to highlight this Saturday evening is one that appears in the back of the issue. It is written by Stafford Carson for the rubric “Heart Aflame” and is titled “A Heavenly Vision.” It seems especially relevant for these times. And as we anticipate the Lord’s Day tomorrow, we have a foretaste of what he describes and calls us to hope for.

I give here an extended quotation, but find the rest at the link provided here.

There is only One who shows us the Father, and in Him we see His glory, “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14; see also 6:46). The glory of the gospel is that the invisible God makes Himself visible to us in Jesus Christ. Having tasted His grace and truth, we desire to view that face in all its majestic glory and attractive radiance.

Recent theological reflection on eschatology has not given prominence to this hope of seeing the face of God. The emphasis has been on the renewal of creation rather than on understanding Christian hope as “going to heaven when we die.” For many people, the climax of redemptive history consists merely in our resurrected bodies and the renewal of the earth. Little is made of our hope of standing in the presence of God and beholding the face of God first in heaven and then in the new creation.

Without denying that more earthly understanding of the glory to come, rightly maintaining a heavenly perspective is crucial to our Christian devotion and discipleship now. The psalmist prays,

One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. (Ps. 27:4)

Of all the matters for which David sought the Lord, here is his first priority, his “one thing”: to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.

The priorities of our lives are transformed by this desire to see the face of God. As a result of our fallen nature, we once lived “in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind” (Eph. 2:3). But now we are called to consider our “spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (1:3), to be filled with “all the fullness of God” (3:19), with “the fullness of him who fills all in all” (1:23). Maintaining that eternal focus means that our loves and desires here and now have been recalibrated (4:1–3). Consider John Owen’s words:

The constant contemplation of the glory of Christ will give rest, satisfaction, and complacency unto the souls of them who are exercised therein. Our minds are apt to be filled with a multitude of perplexed thoughts;—fears, cares, dangers, distresses, passions, and lusts, do make various impressions on the minds of men, filling them with disorder, darkness, and confusion. But where the soul is fixed in its thoughts and contemplations on this glorious object, it will be brought into and kept in a holy, serene, spiritual frame. For “to be spiritually-minded is life and peace.” A defect herein makes many of us strangers unto a heavenly life, and to live beneath the spiritual refreshments and satisfactions that the gospel does tender unto us.

The psalmist realizes that one day he will fall asleep in death. But that will not be the end of his story or his experience. He will awake and will be satisfied with seeing God’s face and in being fully transformed into the likeness of his Savior. The face of God will not destroy him or annihilate him; it will satisfy him. All his longings, desires, and hopes will be fulfilled. If this life is one of unfulfilled longings and unmet desires, then that will not be true of the life to come. Then we will say: “This is it. This is what I have longed for and desired all my life. I need nothing more.”

Being a Discerning Listener of the Preaching

expository-listening-ramey-2010It has been a few months since we posted from the book on listening carefully to the preaching of God’s Word. Let’s return to Expository Listening tonight by looking at some thoughts from the next chapter.

…In other words, like their evil master Satan, the appearance of false teachers is deceiving. They disguise themselves as true shepherds, pastors, teachers, elders, and leaders in the church.

If a hungry, ferocious wolf jumps the fence into a flock of sheep, all of them will notice and scatter. But if he walks through the gate impersonating a shepherd, it will be difficult for the sheep to tell it is a wolf. The only way the sheep can discern whether he is a shepherd or a wolf is by listening to his voice. Jesus said [here Ramey quotes John 10:2-5].

As one of Christ’s sheep, you need to have your ears trained to differentiate between the voice of a true shepherd and the voice of a stranger so you know whom to follow and whom to follow after. You must be able to recognize wolves when you hear them since they are disguised as Christian preachers and teachers, Christian authors, Christian counselors, Christian singers, etc., who are being used by Satan to deceive and devour Christ’s flock. It is both sad and scary that so many Christians today are naively following the voices of strangers and being led astray from the truth of God’s Word.

At this point the author shows how the same threats were found in Paul’s day and how he wrote to Timothy to instruct him in how to deal with these false teachers:

Paul urged Timothy to silence these false teachers by upholding the biblical truths they were seeking to undermine. In verses 3-11 of Paul’s first letter to the young pastor Timothy, he explains how to sift them out. What’s needed is a careful evaluation of the basis of their teaching, the result of their teaching, the focus of their teaching, and especially the gospel they are teaching. These are questions you can apply to any teacher you come across.

And these are the questions as he phrases them in the book:

  • Is their teaching based on the Word of God? Is it consistent with what the Scripture says?
  • Does their teaching produce growth in godliness? Is it unifying and edifying to the body of Christ?
  • Do they humbly seek to honor God and help others? Is it free of charge and free from financial appeal?
  • What is their gospel message? Do they explain it clearly and correctly? Is it works-based or God-glorifying grace?

Taken from chapter 5 of Ken Ramey’s book, Expository Listening: A Handbook for Hearing and Doing God’s Word , (Kress Biblical Resources, 2010). This chapter treats Paul’s instruction to Timothy in 1 Tim.1:3-7 and is titled “The Discerning Listener” (pp.69ff.).

Important admonitions and applications for all of us who hear the Word and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Shall we be more aware of our calling to be discerning listeners?

Grace Worthy to Be Defined and Defended

Canons_of_Dort-1619The stereotype of old confessions like the Canons of Dort is that they take the theology of God’s Word and make it shrink-wrapped, freeze-dried, and boxed-up. Or, if we can mix metaphors, theologizing becomes nothing more than dissecting a dead frog.

But what if another analogy is more appropriate? What if the truth we are talking about is not cold and dead, but very much alive? What if, instead of thinking about dissecting a frog, you think about defining or defending your child? If someone mistook your child for someone else, or if someone ran off with your child, you would care very much about definitions. You would want people to know the name of your child. It wouldn’t be enough to just say, ‘I’m looking for a cute kid out there. Just bring me one.’ You would be precise about her name, her height, her hair, her eyes, and her voice. You would provide a careful definition of your child. Likewise, if someone misunderstood your child or attacked your child, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to defend him? Of course you would, because your child is precious.

And so it is with the truth of the God’s Word. Before the Synod of Dort conducted its business, each member took a solemn oath saying that ‘I will only aim at the glory of God, the peace of the Church, and especially the preservation of the purity of doctrine. They ended with a prayer: ‘So help me, my Savior, Jesus Christ! I beseech him to assist me by his Holy Spirit.’ The delegates at Dort were joyfully serious about the doctrine of the church.

Do we care as much about defining and defending grace?

…At their very heart, the Canons of Dort are about the nature of grace – supernatural, uniliateral, sovereign, effecting, redeeming, resurrecting grace, with all of its angularity, all of its offense to human pride, and all of its comfort for the weary soul. That’s what Dort wanted to settle. That’s what they were jealous to protect. Some words are worth the most careful definitions, just as some truths are too precious not to defend.

grace-defined-defended-deyoung-2019Taken from the “Introduction” of the newest book on the Synod and Canons of Dort in connection with her 400th anniversary. This is Kevin DeYoung’s Grace Defined and Defended: What a 400-Year-Old Confession Teaches Us About Sin, Salvation, and the Sovereignty of God (Crossway, 2019), pp.24-25.

I have a review copy from Crossway available for a serious reader who is willing to do a review for the Standard Bearer. I have also purchased a copy for the PRC seminary library.

 

The Origin and Presence of False Teaching – April 2018 “Tabletalk”

A week into the new month of April, we are due to take a glance at the latest issue of Tabletalk magazine.

The April issue has the timely subject of “False Teaching” as its focus, with four main articles on it: the one in the heading to this post (which we will get to in a few lines); “False Teaching and Out There and In Here” (by Sean M. Lucas), “False Teaching and the Peace and Purity of the Church” (by Eric Landry), and “Teaching the Truth” (by John Macarthur).

Burk Parsons  introduces this important subject with his editorial “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing,” from which we quote this portion:

False teachers creep into the church not because they look like false teachers but because they look like angels. They disguise themselves just as their master Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. When false teachers attempt to creep into the church, they typically don’t look like wolves because they wear sheep costumes and use some of the same language that the sheep use. They regularly quote Scripture, and they are often able to quote more Scripture than the average Christian. False teachers are not always argumentative or divisive; often they are some of the nicest people we know. They usually creep in not with scowls on their faces but with big smiles. They don’t normally creep into churches and teach obvious heresies and falsehoods; they usually subtly question the truth and teach partial truths, and they are not always identified by what they actually teach but by what they leave out of their teaching. They often speak of Jesus, salvation, the gospel, and faith, but they twist the words and concepts of Scripture to fit their own versions of the truth, which is no truth at all. They typically don’t attempt to creep into churches where the Word of God is preached boldly and passionately, in season and out of season, and where the people are eager for the sound preaching of Scripture and are growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Rather, they usually target those churches where people are indifferent to doctrine and apathetic about the preaching of the Word of God.

Those chilling words (they should send chills down our spines!) set the stage for the serious, informative articles that follow. The one we headline tonight is “The Origins and Presence of False Teaching” by Fred Greco, senior pastor of Christ Church (PCA) in Katy, Texas. I reference two places in his considerable article on the subject – one at the beginning and one at the end.

At the beginning of the article Greco makes a powerful point about not ignoring the seriousness of false teaching, no matter how sound our church is and we are as members. Hear him out on this point:

False teaching is a real threat to the church. False teaching is not a threat only in certain circumstances, or only in churches with certain governmental structures, or only in certain places and cultures in the world. We must recognize it as a threat because the Bible continually warns us that it is a threat.

And then after quoting several Scriptures proving this, he writes further:

The Bible’s testimony about false teaching should make it clear that we are not invulnerable to this threat. When we are tempted to think we are beyond such threats because we have it all together, we will do well to remember the Apostle Paul’s warning to the Corinthian church, which thought it was beyond the errors that had sprung up during the days of Old Testament Israel: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). If doctrinal aberrations can spring up in churches that were nurtured with the teachings of the Apostles, what makes us think we are immune? Paul had to warn the Galatians about false teaching on the central doctrine of the faith—how man is justified before God—when the generation of disciples that were taught directly by Jesus was still walking the earth. How, then, can we afford to be complacent?

Subsequently, Greco makes good points about how false teaching can enter the church: “the desire for new teaching;” “overreaction to error;” and “the desire to avoid criticism.” But with that he also points out why false doctrine “takes root,” directing us to three things: “lack of Bible knowledge and discernment among the people;” “failure to hold people accountable for their false teaching;” (in other words, a lack of discipline) and a lack in the leadership of the church.

It is that last point that we reference in our second quote from this article:

There is a third contributor to the advance of false teaching in the church, and it is related to leadership. Even when the people of God are eager to study His Word and the church is prepared to exercise discipline, false teaching can flourish when the leadership of the church is ill prepared and poorly trained. The lower we set our standards for training pastors and elders for the ministry, the less prepared they will be to recognize false teaching. Pastors and elders who are untrained in historical theology will miss the reappearance of ancient false teaching in modern clothing. Those who have not been trained well in the Bible, its languages, and principles of its sound interpretation may fall prey to novel teachings that seem to explain away problems or contradictions. To combat false teaching, the church needs pastors, elders, and teachers who are both willing and able to confront falsehood (Titus 2:8; 1 Peter 2:15).

That too should give us reason to pause and ponder the state of our church(es) and of ourselves personally. Are we and am I prepared to detect and refute false teaching when it comes at us?

Yes, only by grace, through Christ, but also using the means He gives us by that same powerful grace.

By all means read the rest of the article at the link below, as well as the others on the subject on this month’s issue. They will help you whet your sword and raise your shield for the fiery darts that are sure to come.

Source: The Origin and Presence of False Teaching

A Rare Book on the Synod of Dordt, 1621

Last month we began to highlight the 400th anniversary of the “great” Synod of Dordt (1618-1619), which begins this year and will extend into next year. In our initial post we simply called attention to some general things.

In this post I want to begin to call attention to some of the special books we have in the PRC Seminary library on the Synod and its work, including, of course, books on the Canons of Dordt, which set forth the distinctive doctrines of the Reformed faith over against the Arminianism that the Synod was called to contend against (This latter type books we will feature at a later time.).

20180322_125819

One of those special books is found in our rare book case and is a 1621 edition of the Acts of the Synod of Dordt (cf. outside binding above and title page with familiar drawing of the delegates below).

20180322_125047.jpg

Yes, you read that correctly – a 1621 edition – printed only two years after the Synod had ended. As you may guess, this work is in Dutch and in old script, which can make it difficult to read.

20180322_125627.jpg

But, you can certainly make out some of the words, especially on those pages where the various delegates are mentioned from the states and provinces in the Netherlands (cf. pages above and below). Those of us in West Michigan will recognize these provinces because they also are towns found nearby – Drenthe, Overisel, Zeeland, Holland (north and south), Graafschap, Zutphen.

You may notice that the names and the descriptions of the men are Latinized (that is, stated in Latin), which was the language of the church at that time yet.

20180322_125609

The page below shows some familiar names at the end of a section of addressing the articles of the Remonstrants (Arminians).

20180322_125154.jpg

That’s it for now – although I might add that a “new” article on the Synod of Dordt has been added to the PRC website“Our Debt to Dordt” – by one of our current professors, Ronald L. Cammenga. Be sure to read that for more information and inspiration on how Dordt impacts us today.

The Presbyterian Philosopher: Gordon H. Clark (4)

presby-philosoper-clark-douma-2017It has been a few months since we considered the new biography by Douglas J. Douma on Gordon H. Clark, titled The Presbyterian Philosopher: The Authorized Biography of Gordon H. Clark (Wipf & Stock, 2017. 292 pp.). Today let’s return to it, looking at chapter 3 – “Gordon Clark and the Formation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.”

In this chapter Douma traces the great theological battles that took place in the Presbyterian Church in the USA (PCUSA) in the early part of the 20th century, the fundamentalist-modernist battles that were going on in all the major Protestant denominations.

This battle in the PCUSA would lead to the departure of sound Presbyterian defenders of the Westminster Confession such as J. Gresham Machen, H. McAllister Griffiths, Murray F. Thompson, as well as Clark himself in the 1930s. Led by Machen, these defenders of the Presbyterian faith would begin a new seminary – Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS) in Philadelphia, and a new denomination (first named the Presbyterian Church in America [PCA]), which would become known as the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC).

Early in that fundamentalist-modernist controversy in the PCUSA Clark would speak to the fundamental issue, the inerrancy of holy Scripture. Douma addresses that in his own words as well as those of Clark:

When the Auburn Affirmation first appeared in print [the modernist statement adopted in 1924 in response to the five fundamentals adopted by the conservatives in 1923], Clark was an undergraduate senior at the University of Pennsylvania and a ruling elder in the PCUSA. Though Clark opposed the Affirmation from the moment he read it, he only attacked it in print ten years later in an article that redubbed it the ‘Auburn Heresy’ and described it as a ‘vicious attack on the Word of God.’ Clark knew the Auburn Affirmation challenged a critical doctrine of Christianity: the inerrancy of Scripture. In his view, it was absurd to argue that the doctrine of inerrancy impaired or weakened the biblical message. [Something the modernists claimed.] In fact, it was contradiction, he thought, to say that something truly inspired by God also contained error. On this point Clark wrote, ‘If [the signers of the Affirmation] say that they believe the Bible is the Word of God, and at the same time claim that the Bible contains error, it follows, does it not, that they call God a liar, since He has spoken falsely?’ Ultimately for Clark, the Auburn Affirmation was a sign that the modernists had ‘excommunicated the orthodox.’ This, he felt, necessitated action on the part of the fundamentalists to recover the orthodoxy of the church. [pp26-27].

The rest of the history of the formation of the OPC and its early struggles, especially after the sudden death of Machen in early 1937, make for fascinating reading. Part of that early struggle involved the significant Clark – VanTil controversy, into which Herman Hoeksema would enter because it involved the doctrine of common grace vs. particular grace. Douma has more on this later in the book, but mentions the beginning of it in this chapter.

Clark and His Correspondents: Selected Letters of Gordon H. ClarkI might also mention that Douma has also contributed to a second volume on Gordon Clark, this one focusing on his correspondence: Clark and His Correspondents: Selected Letters of Gordon H. Clark. For more information on that title and to purchase it (I ordered two copies today, one for the seminary library and one for the bookstore), visit this website.

The Value of the Reformed Confessions on Justification by Faith Alone

In his most recent book, Gospel Truth of Justification: Proclaimed, Defended, Developed, David J. Engelsma makes appeal at the outset to the distinctive Reformed confessions on the doctrine of justification – and with good reason, as he himself explains in chapter five.

In defense of the historic biblical doctrine over against the heresies of Rome, Arminianism, the New Perspective on Paul, and the Federal Vision, the Reformed creeds have great value. Here is one reason, as the author explains:

One reason is that for some two thousand years the Spirit of truth has guided the Christian church into a clear understanding of most of the cardinal doctrines of scripture. The ecumenical and Reformation confessions are the outstanding products of that divine guidance. The Reformed confessions, which address the truth of justification specifically and at length, have been a blessing on Reformed churches and Christians for nearly half a millennium. Especially in circumstances of controversy over justification, the Reformed churches must avail themselves of the Spirit’s work in the churches in the past [p.66].

And there is more. Engelsma gives another reason why he begins with the confessions:

Yet another reason for beginning an examination of the doctrine of justification with a study of the Reformed confessions, especially in controversy, is that the confessions enable the members of the congregations to judge the teachings of their officebearers. Every false teacher claims, loudly, even indignantly, to be teaching the truth. Invariably, he couches his false doctrine in careful, clever, deceptive, and biblical language. Like the serpent in the garden of Eden, he is subtle. As the Dutch proverb puts it, in the heretic Satan does not come noisily in wooden shoes, but stealthily in slippers. As scripture puts it, Satan’s ministers transform themselves as ‘ministers of righteousness,’ just as ‘Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light’ (2 Cor.11:14-15). Usually, the heretic manifests himself as a jovial, friendly, loving, sweet Christian besides.

Without the confessions, the members of the Reformed churches are virtually at the mercy of the false teachers and their spiritual master. With the confessions, the Reformed laity are able to discern and withstand heretical teachings [p.71].

To this the author adds yet one more reason for the value of creeds in this battle for the gospel truth of justification:

There is still another reason that a defense of justification by faith alone against its contemporary assailants within the Reformed churches does well to begin with a consideration of the Reformed confessions. This reason concerns a benefit of the confessions that is often overlooked. The confessions contain succinct but thorough and penetrating analysis of many of the false doctrines that trouble the Reformed church throughout the ages. As the fruit of the profound study of specially gifted and godly Reformed theologians, in the case of the Canons of Dordt and the Westminster standards the fruit of the deliberations of large bodies of extraordinary servants of Jesus Christ, and the fruit of the special guidance of the church by the Spirit of Christ, the confessions lay bare the essential errors of perennial heresies.

This exposure of false doctrines is of great help to Reformed churches and Christians. Heretics are always deceptive, as Jesus warned in Matthew 24:11….

The confessions cut through all the deception, ambiguity, and verbiage of the heresies, as well as through the heretics’ claims of fidelity and piety, to the fundamental errors. The confessions make the errors plain not only to learned theologians, but also to every member of the church – man, woman, and child [pp74-75].

Here, then, are further reasons for us to know and study our Reformed creedal heritage. Do you know what the Reformed confessions say on justification, the heart of the gospel of our salvation in Jesus Christ?

The State of Theology – Ligonier

tt-dec-2016This month’s Tabletalk includes  an interview with Ligonier Ministries’ Chris Larson and Stephen Nichols about the 2016 survey Ligonier did on the “state of theology” in America.

It is a revealing study, as you might imagine. It is designed to be useful for churches and ministries, and I believe it ought to be looked at by the PRC as well. If we are going to do outreach and missions in this country, we have to know where people are at theologically in this time.

If you have not heard of this report before, you will want to read this interview and then visit the special website on the survey that was conducted.

Below is a portion of the interview; find the rest at the Ligonier link beneath the quote.

Tabletalk: Why did Ligonier do the State of Theology survey?

Stephen Nichols: One of the cardinal rules of giving a speech is “Know your audience.” Back in 2014, we partnered with LifeWay Research to conduct a survey of the theological beliefs of three thousand Americans. We decided to undertake the survey again in 2016 and expand the visualization of the data into a new website, TheStateOfTheology.com. Our ultimate purpose for this survey is to help churches, Christian ministries, and Christians live as the body of Christ in our place and in our time.

Chris Larson: Dr. Sproul has said often, “Everyone’s a theologian.” And the point he is making is that everyone has an opinion on theological matters, but not all opinions are created equal. Some are right, some are not. This study demonstrates the stunning gap in theological precision and awareness throughout our nation. We are a ministry that seeks to serve the church by providing helpful resources that God’s people can use as they grow as disciples of Jesus Christ. This ongoing survey can be used to focus our aim as Christians as we proclaim the light of God’s truth to a darkened world. We believe it is essential to know the core beliefs of Americans and share those findings freely with pastors and church leaders.

One of the most significant questions in the survey concerned beliefs about Jesus Christ. This is what the men say on that:

A third question involves the identity of Christ. Actually, we can look at two questions and see some significant theological confusion. When asked if Jesus is truly God and has a divine nature and if Jesus is truly man and has a human nature, a strong majority of 62 percent agree. Six out of 10 Americans think Jesus is the God-man. Yet, consider this. When asked if Jesus is the first being created by God, 53 percent agree. This is a contradiction. To say Jesus is created by God is to deny His divine nature and to deny that He is truly God. To say that Jesus is the first created being is actually to repeat a heresy that echoes through the early centuries of the church, the heresy of Arianism. The answers to this question reveal that this old heresy is still prevalent. When put over and against the question that asks if Jesus is truly God, this question also reveals how confused Americans are on essential issue of the identity of Christ. “Who do you say that I am?” was a question Jesus Himself asked. We must point people to the right answer.

Source: The State of Theology by Various Teachers

Apostate: The Men Who Destroyed the Christian West (review article) – creation.com

This interesting review of a significant book by Kevin Swanson (image on the left) grabbed my attention today when I received my Creation.com email summary of available articles online.

Though essentially a critique of Charles Darwin and the influence of his magnum opus On the Origin of Species (1859) on modern society, Swanson shows how this work with its defense of an atheistic worldview had a profound effect on other literary giants in the 19th and 20th centuries. And what is striking is that all of these men who are mentioned came from a Christian background – including John Dewey, Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, and John Steinbeck. Hence, the title of the book.

You will benefit from this review. It is thought-provoking and helpful in making connections to the state of our present society. And perhaps it may lead you to want to read the full book too. 🙂

Below are the opening paragraphs of Jerry Bergman’s review. Follow the link at the end of the post to read all of it. Information on the book may be found here.

The fact that Christianity has lost an enormous amount of cultural influence in Australia, Western Europe, and America is without dispute. In fact, Christians have lost ground in every cultural area of leadership and influence in Europe, America, and Australia since around 1700. What is also without dispute is that we can trace this decline through a number of key scientists, philosophers, writers, and other public figures. Apostate documents how and why the decline and fall of Western Christian civilization occurred. It is specifically the story of several influential men whom Swanson calls apostates. Swanson’s concern is for the young, noting as evidence that “the Southern Baptist denomination reports … a full 88% of children raised in Christian families leave the church as soon as they leave home” (p. 254).

The luminaries covered included Rousseau, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, John Dewey, Mark Twain and, of course, Charles Darwin, the topic of chapter ten. All of these men of renown had a significant impact on our Western culture. Most of them were born into a Christian family, but rejected this worldview and, instead, put their faith in a worldview called secularism (p. 1). Their influence was first felt in the universities and, eventually, in the public schools and the mass culture. Western society has moved far away from teaching “In Adam’s fall, we sinned all” in the 18th century New England Primer to Heather has Two Mommies (1989) and, finally, to the modern hostility against Christianity that Swanson documents.

Source: Apostate The Men Who Destroyed the Christian West review – creation.com

The Prayers of J. Calvin (23)

Praying with calvin- JeremiahOn this Lord’s Day we continue our posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014 and now in 2015 – last on August 9), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979). Today we post a brief section from his twenty-second lecture and the prayer that concludes it.

This lecture covers Jeremiah 5:25-31, which includes Calvin’s commentary on 25: “Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withholden good things from you.”

Here is part of his application of this passage to the church in his day and to us:

…We throw heaven and earth into confusion by our sins. For were we in right order as to our obedience to God, doubtless all the elements [of creation] would be conformable, and we should thus observe in the world an angelic harmony. But as our lusts tumultuate against God; nay, as we stir up war daily, and provoke him by our pride, perverseness, and obstinacy, it must needs be, that all things, above and below, should be in disorder, that the heavens should at one time appear cloudy, and that continuous rains should at another time destroy the produce of the earth, and that nothing should be unmixed and unstained in the world. This confusion then, in all the elements, is to be ascribed to our sins: and this is what is meant by the Prophet. Though indeed the reproof was then addressed to the Jews, we may yet gather hence a lesson of general instruction (p.301).

And here is the prayer of Calvin that follows this lecture:

Grant, Almighty God, that since we have been hitherto extremely deaf to thy many exhortations, and also to those threatenings by which thou hast sharply stimulated us to repentance, – O grant, that this perverseness may not always remain in us, but that we may at length submit to thee, not only for a short time, but continually, so that we may to the end devote ourselves wholly to thee, and thus glorify thy name, that we may at last become partakers of that glory, which has been procured for us by the blood of thy only-begotten Son. – Amen (p.312).