Why Study Doctrine? To Worship Our God – Rev. B. Huizinga, March 15, 2018 “Standard Bearer”


The latest issue of the Standard Bearer is now available (March 15, 2018) and among its edifying articles is the second installment of Rev. Brian Huizinga’s little series titled “Why?” penned for the rubric “Taking Heed to the Doctrine.”

In these articles he is answering the question, ‘Why take heed to doctrine?” That is, as Reformed Christians who confess to believe the truths contained in the Word of God and summarized in the Reformed confessions, “why hold on to and pay attention to this doctrine?”

To this question he gives a six-pronged answer, the third of which we reference in this post. That third reply is “worship: because doctrine of the foundation for worship.” Here’s more of what he has to say about this reason for embracing sound doctrine:

The goal of all things is the worship of God. The redeemed church exists for God’s glory. Unlike the reprobate wicked whom God uses to glorify Himself in spite of their hatred for Him, and unlike the brute creation which gives glory to God without conscious awareness of it, believers in the church have an intellectual understanding of God by faith and willingly, consciously, and joyfully extol Him from the heart. But how can we arrive at an understanding of our covenant God apart from a careful study of His revelation to us in the doctrines (teachings) of the Bible? We must worship God in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24); therefore, doctrinal knowledge is a sine qua non for worship.

To put it differently, doctrine exists for the purpose of doxology and is necessary for doxology even as the foundation exists for the house and is necessary for the house. No doctrine means no doxology, and false doctrine tends to idolatry. We take heed to doctrine so that we might rightly know and then fittingly praise our God. 

…When a congregation of believing sinners is brought to stand under the shadow of the cross and see the eternal, unchangeable, particular, saving love of God through a faithfully explained, sensibly applied and dynamically delivered exposition of Scripture by a preacher who cries, “Behold your God!” hearts come alive in fruitful worship.

Who exclaims in doxology, “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God…for of Him and through Him and to Him are all things to whom be glory forever, Amen!” (Rom. 11:33-36), but that blessed Jewish or Grecian soul that has sat spellbound at the feet of the holy apostle listening to him explain with careful doctrinal precision the righteousness of God that is revealed from faith to faith?

Who sings in doxology, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever, Amen!” (I Tim. 1:17), but that humble speck of dust who has first given himself to serious contemplation of the loaded doctrinal statement, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief,” (I Tim. 1:15) and made it his own?

Who cries in doxology, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of thy glory!” (Is. 6:3) and cries so loudly that the posts of the doors move (Is. 6:4), but that creature, heavenly or other, who has stood in the immediate presence of the enthroned God?

We take heed to doctrine. Why? It is the foundation of our worship. The church must take heed to sound doctrine, for only the foundation of sound doctrine – Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone – makes possible a fitly framed building of doxology to God. Orthodoxy! Orthodoxy not for the sake of orthodoxy; orthodoxy for the sake of doxology.

Precious food for our souls as we live in these doctrinally parched times. May our thirst for God lead us to hunger for His truth, so that we break forth in praise to Him.

Theologians Who Love the Scriptures – K. Kapic

little-book-theologians-kapicIn the final chapter of his edifying little book, A Little Book for New Theologians (and those not so new), Kelly Kapic ends his study of theology and worship with a wonderful chapter titled “Love of Scripture.”

Here he fittingly shows us the place the inscripturated Word of God must have in our lives as the people of God, whether we are trained theologians or amateur ones. One of his closing points is this:

We must never forget that the purpose of the words is to draw us to the Word and thus into the embrace of the triune God. As people who grow to cherish and delight in the sacred writings, we must never forget their fundamental purpose: that we might know the true God and respond to him in repentance and faith, being drawn into communion with him. Strangely – but not surprisingly to any of us who end up professionally handling the Scriptures on a daily basis – there is always the danger to make the Scriptures an end in and of themselves.

And then the author relates the story of Jesus’ “heated discussion” with the Jews over his authority in connection with his practices on the sabbath day (John 5). He ends up admonishing them concerning the truth that the Scriptures (Moses and the entire OT) pointed to Him and, therefore, they ought to have believed on Him (cf. Jn.5:39-40). Whereupon Kapic concludes with application to ourselves:

Jesus here reminds us that the words of Scripture are alive, not because they are intrinsically magical but because by God’s Spirit they reveal the living Word and draw us to the triune God. To study the words but never encounter the Word is not to miss something. It is to miss everything! Studying the Bible alone, therefore, does not make one a good theologian.

What then? This:

The sacred Scriptures are sacred because, by God’s Spirit, these chosen means reveal God to us and draw us to himself. Here our idols are smashed and our worship is directed to the Creator Lord whose beauty and love is always worthy of our praise. If the Scriptures do not take us to a fuller and richer worship of the triune God, then we have missed the purpose of the written Word. But empowered by God’s Spirit and with a genuine thirst to receive his grace and know his mind, we can search the Scriptures like the Bereans, confident that here the Word is revealed once for all; here is the means by which we can know and live to God, and by this source we can test the claims made about him (Acts 17:11). [pp.117-119]

Shall we make that our deliberate and distinctive purpose as we study theology in the light of God’s holy Word?

“This, then, is the Christ that Jesus would have us know…: One who came to die.” – W. Wangerin, Jr.

Christian, come and look closely: it is when Jesus is humiliated, most seeming weak, bound and despised and alone and defeated that he finally answers the question, ‘Are you the Christ?’

Now, for the record, yes: I am.

It is only in incontrovertible powerlessness that he finally links himself with power: ‘And you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of power.’ Because any display of messianic power is far, far in the future – in his and in ours together, on the last day. The last day of the world, not today!

This, then, is the Christ that Jesus would have us know and accept [receive] and (O Christian!) reflect:

One who came to die.

One who, in the assessment of this age, failed – an embarrassment, a folly, a stumbling block. An offense!

One crucified.

Here in the world, the Christ and his followers hang ever on a cross. The cross is foremost, because a faithless world cannot see past it to the Resurrection.

And even for the faithful the cross must always be first, because the Resurrection is only as real (both in history and in our hearts) as the death is real.

What then of our big churches, Christian? What of our bigger parking lots, our rich coffers, our present power to change laws in the land, our political clout, our glory for Christ, our triumphant and thundering glory for Christ?It is excluded! All of it. It befits no Christian, for it was rejected by Jesus.

If ever we persuade the world (or ourselves) that we have a hero in our Christ, then we have lied. Or else we are deceived, having accepted the standards of this world.

He came to die beneath the world’s iniquity. The world, therefore, can only look down on him whom it defeated – down in hatred until it repents; then it is the world no more.

Likewise, the world will look down on us – down in contempt until it elevates the Christ it sees in us; but then it won’t be our enemy any more, will it?

Reliving-passion-Wangerin-1992Drawn from Walter Wangerin, Jr.’s Reliving the Passion; Meditations on the Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus as Recorded in Mark (Zondervan, 1992). This is found in his meditation on Mark 14:61-62, pp.82-83.

“Open Book” – Hear R.C. Sproul Talk about His Books and Their Impact

How about sitting in on a “chat” with the late R.C. Sproul and listening to him talk about significant books from his personal library that have impacted him and his work?

A dream? No, a dream come true! Thanks to Ligonier Ministries and Steven Nichols, you can now hear such “library chats” through a new weekly podcast called “Open Book.” What a fabulous idea!

The first one was introduced yesterday (Of course, I listened right away – and the first featured book will surprise you!), and it is a eight-and-a-half minute treasure.

Below you will find the link to the podcast. Here is how it is introduced in the email I received:

Which books influenced R.C. Sproul’s life and ministry? Open Book is a new weekly podcast about the power of books and the people they’ve shaped. In season one, host Stephen Nichols shares never-before-heard moments with R.C. Sproul in his home library. Episode one is now available.

We hope you’ll join us each Thursday as we hear amazing stories and insights that R.C. Sproul gleaned from the books on his shelf. Listen on iTunes, Google Play, RefNet, Spotify, TuneIn, Stitcher, RSS, or by visiting OpenBookPodcast.com.

Source: Open Book with Stephen Nichols

Ordinary Callings: Cultural Transformation or Loving Service ? M. Horton

ordinary-MHorton-2014The above is the heading of a section of Michael Horton’s book Or-di-nary (see details below), in which he contrasts the gospel’s call to “ordinary” Christian service in the church and in the world, based on Christ’s saving work for believers and the Holy Spirit’s work in them, with the popular idea of transforming society or culture.

Here are a few of his significant thoughts (He makes five of them):

First, the call to radical transformation of society can easily distract faith’s gaze from Christ and focus it on ourselves. Such people hold that the gospel has to be something more than the good news concerning Christ’s victory. It has to expand to include our good works rather than to create the faith that bears the fruit of good works. The church has to be something more than the place where God humbles himself, serving sinners with his redeeming grace. It has to be the home base for our activism, more than being the site of God’s activity from which we are sent and scattered like salt into the world.

…Far too many people hold that it’s not who we are that determines what we do, but what we do that determines who we are. Community service becomes something more than believers simply loving their neighbors through their ordinary callings in the world. It becomes part of the church’s missionary task. It’s not what we hear and receive, but what we are and do that gives us a sense of identity and purpose. We need something more than the gospel to trust in – or at least the gospel has to be something more than the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for sinners Apparently, Jesus got the ball rolling, but we are his partners in redeeming the world.

Instead of following the example of John the Baptist, who pointed away from himself to ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29), we offer our own lives and transformations as the good news. But this is to deny the gospel and therefore to cut off the power of true godliness and neighbor love at its root.

And in his next point he makes this solid point:

Second, radical views of cultural transformation actually harm our callings in this world. The most basic problem is that it reverses the direction of God’s gift giving.  According to Scripture, God gives us life, redeems us, justifies us, and renews us. He does this by his Spirit, through the gospel – not just in the beginning, but throughout our lives. Hearing this gospel, from Genesis to Revelation, is the means by which the Spirit creates faith in our hearts. United to Christ, our faith immediately begins to bear the fruit of evangelical repentance and good works. We offer these not to God for reimbursement, but to our neighbors for their good. If we reverse this flow of gifts, nobody wins. God is offended by our presumption that we could add something more to the perfect salvation he has won for us in his Son. We are therefore on the losing side of the bargain, and our neighbors are too, since our works are directed to God on our behalf rather than to our neighbor on God’s behalf.

Taken from chapter 8 of Michael Horton’s Or-di-nary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan, 2014), which I am currently making my way through. The chapter is strikingly titled “We Don’t Need Another Hero.” The paragraphs I have quoted are found on pp.155-57.

” In the night of gravest human treachery he gave the gift of himself. …This is grace.” – W. Wangerin, Jr.

…The love of Jesus is utterly unaccountable – except that he is God and God is love. It has no cause in us. It reacts to, or repays, or rewards just nothing in us. It is beyond human measure, beyond human comprehension. It takes my breath away.

For when did Jesus choose to give us the supernal, enduring gift of his presence, …his dear communing with us [he is referring to the Lord’s Supper]? When we were worthy of the gift, good people indeed? Hardly. It was precisely when we were most unworthy. When our wickedness was directed particularly at him.

Listen, children: it was to the insolent and the hateful that he gave his gift of personal love.

…With the apostle Paul the pastor repeats: ‘The Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread.’ Oh, let that pastor murmur those words, ‘the same night,’ with awe. For who among us can hear them just before receiving the gift of Christ’s intimacy and not be overcome with wonder, stunned at such astonishing love? The context qualifies that love. The time defines it. And ever and ever again, these words remind us of the times: ‘The same night in which he was betrayed’

…Then! That same night! When absolutely nothing recommended us. When ‘we were enemies.’ Enemies! In the night when his people betrayed him – the night of intensest enmity – the dear Lord Jesus said, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, poured out for many.’ Then! Can we comprehend the joining of two such extremes, the good and the evil together? In the night of gravest human treachery he gave the gift of himself. And the giving has never ceased.

…But in that same night he remembered our need. In that same night he provided the sacrament which would forever contain his grace and touch his comfort into us.

Oh, this is a love past human expectation. This is beyond all human deserving. This, therefore, is a love so celestial that it shall endure long and longer than we do.

This is grace.

Reliving-passion-Wangerin-1992Drawn from Walter Wangerin, Jr.’s Reliving the Passion; Meditations on the Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus as Recorded in Mark (Zondervan, 1992). This is found in his meditation on Mark 14:22-25, pp.54-55.

The God who makes His people “incapable of having any other object except Himself.” – B. Pascal

Mind-on-fire-pascalThe Christian’s God does not merely consist of a God who is the Author of mathematical truths and the order of the elements. That is the notion of the heathen and the Epicureans. He isn’t merely a God who extends his provident care over life and property so that men are granted a happy span of years if they worship him. That is the attitude of the Jews.

But the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God of the Christians, is a God of love and consolation. He is a God who fills the soul and heart of those he possesses. He is a God who makes them aware inwardly of their wretchedness while revealing his infinite mercy. He is a God who unites himself with them in the depths of their being. He is One who fills them with humility, joy, confidence, and love. Indeed, he is One who makes them incapable of having any other object except himself.

All those who seek God apart from Christ, and who go no further than the observations of nature, either find no light to satisfy them or find no way of knowing and serving God without a mediator, unless they are seduced by either atheism or deism. Both are equally abhorrent to Christian faith.

Blaise 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 XIV titled “The Transition from Human Knowledge to Knowing God” (pp.149-150), picking up where we left off last time. I plan to post such portions of the Pensees throughout this year.

Theology for the Church (Those people in the pew are important!) – K. Kapic

little-book-theologians-kapic“In addition to bringing praise to God [the first and primary purpose of theology, according to the author], the purpose of theology is to support the proclamation of the Word and the life of the church. It is a great danger to neglect the corporate gathering of God’s people (Heb 10:23-25). Here we gather for baptism and the Lord’s Supper, for here are God’s self-identified people.

Theologians with advanced degrees must beware of a pompousness that would dismiss their brothers and sisters in the pew. More than others, we are required to listen to, learn from and incorporate their faithful reflections into our living theology. This does not mean uncritical acceptance, but it does mean genuinely treating those who walk with God as our fellow pilgrims. These saints often see what we missed or neglected. They can instinctively detect error missed by those who are sometimes isolated in their studies.

Right after the apostle Paul challenges his readers to ‘renew their minds,’ he calls for sober judgment and a valuing of all believers. This means not thinking too highly of oneself but recognizing that there is one body with many members, and consequently it takes the whole to function properly (Rom 12:1-8; cf. Phil 2:1-5).

Along similar lines, Charles Hodge encourages theologians to look to the flock of God for help discerning truth.

Go with your new opinions to the aged children of God who have spent years in close communion with the Father of lights. Propose to them your novel doctrines, should they shock their feelings, depend upon it, they are false and dangerous. The approbation of an experienced Christian of any purely religious opinion is worth more than that of any merely learned theologian upon earth.

We do ourselves and God no favor by neglecting the faithful, whether they are living or dead. Those in the pew should not lord their instincts over their pastors and theologians, but neither should such leaders neglect the wisdom in the pew.

Taken from chapter 9, “Tradition and Community” in Kelly Kapic’s A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology (IVP Academic, 2012), pp.103-04.

Published in: on February 27, 2018 at 10:16 PM  Leave a Comment  

Doing Theology to the Glory of God

TT-Feb-2018Today I did some final reading of the main articles in the February 2018 Tabletalk. The theme this month, as we pointed out earlier this month, is “Doing Theology,” a favorite subject and activity of Ligonier’s founder, Dr. R. C. Sproul, who passed away late last year.

Today I read the final article on this theme, “The Goal of Doing Theology” by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson. It too is a fine contribution to the subject, as Ferguson shows us plainly from the Word of God that we are called to do theology with one main purpose in view: the glory of our God – soli Deo gloria!

I’ve pulled a few of his thoughts together from the online version, which you may reference above to read the entire article. It will be to your profit to do so, even if you think you are not a theologian. Because, remember, as “R.C” liked to remind us, “everyone’s a theologian.”

…Theology is a joyful and glorious activity because it is ultimately about the glory and joy of our God. Its goal is that of the angels, indeed, of God Himself: this combination of glorifying and enjoying God, which is to the unbeliever the ultimate contradiction but for Christians the discovery of our destiny.

From there, Ferguson takes us to the letters of the apostle Paul, in particular, to Romans. Here is part of what he says about Paul’s perspective in this letter:

Next to the Lord Jesus, no one has embodied what this means more fully than the Apostle Paul. His thirteen letters (totaling a mere seventy pages in the Bible on my desk) turn out to be heavier than a man can lift, so densely packed are they with theology in all its forms. And the style? Soli Deo gloria.

Sit down for an hour with a concordance and look up the verses in Paul’s letters that contain the words “glory” and “glorify.” It will leave you breathless, at least metaphorically. The glory of God is the magnetic pole of his thinking. He had seen it in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). And those who have seen this glory can never be satisfied unless they taste more of it, and think more clearly about it. Like a young man who has seen a “glory” in a young woman (1 Cor. 11:7), we long to know more, to meditate lovingly, and to describe eloquently. Theology is simply eloquence about God, called forth by His glory.

And, speaking about that marvelous section of Romans, chapters 9-11, he writes this:

These three chapters, then, are perhaps the headiest theology anywhere to be found in Paul’s letters. But what they reveal is that the doctrines of creation (from Him), providence (through Him), redemption (by Him), and final consummation (to Him) all are shaped by this one great end: the glory of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

From this Ferguson draws this fitting conclusion:

…There is a grandeur to this perspective because it makes sense of cosmic reality; it humbles and exalts us; it leads us to our true “end.” In Thomas Aquinas’ summary, theology teaches God, is taught by God, and leads to God. What more can we ask for if indeed the chief end of both men and angels is “to glorify God and to enjoy him forever”?

Is that the controlling purpose and the driving principle of all our theologizing? If not, it is not worth anything – not for the here nor for the hereafter.

The Christian Apologetic toward New Atheism and Its Attack on God

PassionateIntellectbookScientific atheists often challenge Christians to prove the existence of God, as if Christians understand God to be an object within the world – such as an additional moon orbiting the planet Mars, a new species of newt or an invisible unicorn. Perhaps they think Christians imagine God to be like an Olympian deity, sitting on the top of Mount Olympus, waiting patiently to be discovered. Of course, for the Christian, God is not an ‘entity’ alongside other entities in the world but rather the source, ground and explanation of all that exists. God is the creator of all things, not a member of this class of things.

…What a word means needs to be determined by the way it is used. Dawkins [Richard, the avowed “new” atheist and ardent opponent of the Christian faith] understands one thing by the word God, and I understand something quite different. The new atheism conducts its polemic against a notion of God that bears little resemblance to that of Christianity. Christians will not find their faith shaken by evidence or arguments that make assumptions they do not share and consider to be completely wrong. The atheist ‘critique’ of Christianity at this point amounts to little more than a circular argument concerning the internal consistence of atheism, rather than a considered engagement with what Christians believe about God.

Taken from Chapter 7, “The Natural Sciences” pp.110-11), in Alister McGrath’s book The Passionate Intellect: Christian Faith and the Discipleship of the Mind (IVP, 2010), a book I picked for review a few years ago and have picked up again to continue reading.