Friday, April 30, 2010

Election and The Intra-Trinitarian Covenant

"I have manifested Your name to the people whom You gave Me out of the world. Yours they were, and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they know that everything that You have given Me is from You. For I have given them the words that You gave Me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from You; and they have believed that You sent Me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. All Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them."
- John 17:6-10

Catholic teaching and its Arminian handmaiden hold that the predestination taught in the Bible, something taught so clearly that they do not even deny it, is based on something foreseen in the elect. That is, God has foreseen their faith, and thereby elected them to salvation. This inversion of cause and effect is comparable to a teacher who assigns grades at the beginning of the term on the basis of the work that his students will do during the course of the year.

In contrast, the passage above makes plain that election isn't primarily an issue of the individual believer, but rather an element of the eternal relationship of the Persons of the Trinity. It is this covenant within the Trinity that has traditionally been called the covenant of redemption or covenant of peace. We aren't elect in a free-standing sense, but rather elect particularly in Christ. We see the same truth in John 10:28-29. In return, the Second Person is promised glory over all things (Hebrews 2, especially verse 9).

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Baptism as a Sign of the Covenant in the Westminster Confession

"Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church, but also of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life."
- Westminster Confession of Faith XXVIII:1

Paedobaptists, especially Presbyterians, fall midway between two other views of the sacraments among Evangelicals. On one end are those who claim that baptism isn't required for salvation - which is certainly true - and is, therefore, unimportant - which is not true. On the other are the credobaptists who hold that baptism can be a sign only of the conversion which has already happened. Along with all traditional Presbyterians, I believe that both of those views are wrong.

Against the first, the first paragraph of the confession finishes with this sentence: "Which sacrament is, by Christs's own appointment, to be continued until the end of the world." The ground for this claim is Matthew 28:19-20, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." If that passage doesn't require baptizing until the Second Coming, then neither can it require making disciples, nor can it promise the empowering presence of Christ among His people until that time.

On the other hand, credobaptists claim that baptism can only be a sign of something that has already occurred in the believer. Yet, I am sure that they do not follow that logic in the rest of life. Do the Golden Arches of McDonalds only have significance to someone who has already eaten? Of course not! They are an encouragement to the hungry, "Here is satisfaction for your need!" In the same way, the baptism of the child of believing parents is a sign throughout his life that cleansing of the heart is found in the washing of the blood of Christ. I have dealt with the question of infant baptism elsewhere (such as here), so I won't address it here.

Baptist critics of the baptism of infants before their conversion are wrong, on both logical and biblical grounds. I don't want Presbyterians to fall back on defending tradition, a Papist error, but rather to stand their ground for being right!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Proverbs 25:4-5, God's Prescription for Governmental Ethics

"Take away the dross from the silver,
and the smith has material for a vessel;
take away the wicked from the presence of the king,
and his throne will be established in righteousness."

Even though government has supposedly been policing itself with ethics laws, both the current president and his predecessor have been bogged down in ethics charges.

I would suggest that those laws themselves are a big part of the problem.

Notice in the passage above that the end goal is for the throne to be established in righteousness. That presupposes that the incumbent on that throne is himself a righteous man. Then the proverb gives advice intended to prevent his being corrupted by bad advisers. Of course, if the incumbent is instead a corrupt man, then a corrupting influence becomes moot. And there is no law or mass of laws that can enforce the choosing of a righteous president. In fact, the enforcing of "ethics" laws by corrupt government authority should be seen as an obvious oxymoron.

That brings us to the next level of the problem. We have a republican political system, under which the people indirectly choose the one who occupies our national throne. If the people are corrupt, then, humanly-speaking, they can only choose corrupt leaders. Thus, the hope for righteousness at the top of the political order, apart from the miraculous intervention of God, lies in restoring righteousness to the American character. The threat of the law may impose conformity to "ethics" from the top, but ethics in the heart must bubble up from the bottom.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Tax Rhetoric Trap

This is another article from my pastor, the Rev. Dr. Allen Church.

The Tax Rhetoric Trap
by the Rev. Dr. Allen Church

I still tell my kids to always watch their enemies and always, always, always watch their friends. Here is an example as to why.

My conservative TV friends are quickly walking into a political trap. Recently among the talking heads there has been much ranting and raving about how Americans who make $50,000 (with two children) or less do not have to pay income taxes. It is proposed that this leaves them without skin in the game and therefore they will continue to support big government spending programs.

Imagine how many of the liberals will play this: "You know, you conservative guys have finally hit on something. We do need a broader tax base! What a great idea! Let's do it! It is only fair, and besides it will help fund public policy! Its time to get tough. We can face the music together and ram the new income (and Value Added ?) tax applications right through the electorate. Who said bi-partisanship was dead?"

And so Big Gov liberals and Big Gov conservatives find the love, again.

Here is the rub folks. Citizens who receive $50,000 or less in government benefits or salary are rarely going to change their views about taxes just because they are made to pay income taxes. After all, their taxes make a round trip back to their own pockets. The taxes may irritate but they will not change political perspective.

The real issue is the number of people working for the government, getting government benefits, and the always growing government expenditures. More taxes, even in the effort to be "fair", only beget more taxes and more spending. If you live with a drunk you have to get the alcohol out of the house. If you buy it for him you are only fueling the problem. Big Gov is the drunk. Worse still, he is a very powerful, humorless, and often mean drunk. The word "moderation" is not in his vocabulary.

The income tax started as a winners and losers game. It was sold on the basis of taxing the income of the rich just a little. And you know the rest of the story. But the fact remains that everybody pays taxes, including the poor (at the very least through the inflation tax). Just not everyone pays income taxes. The fact that the income tax monster is missing some crumbs is not our most pressing challenge. And besides, the income tax is inherently unfair just by its existence. It is a slave tax. It cannot be made fair.

The real problem? Its the spending, baby. It's the spending! Solve that problem and getting rid of the income tax for the above 50K folks gets easier. Now we do need taxes to run our country, but we do not need taxes at a level that empowers our country to run us. Runaway taxation combined with runaway spending is a disaster cocktail fitting for an unrepentant drunk on a power trip. A wreck is bound to happen.

Simple message and changing the metaphor again: Beware of the fairness game when you are already in the cage with the tiger. Fairness to the tiger is when you refuse to scream and writhe while he eats you. Asking him to eat someone else as well will not solve your problem.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Christ Alone Our Righteousness

"My mouth will tell of Your righteous acts,
of Your deeds of salvation all the day,
for their number is past my knowledge.
With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come;
I will remind them of Your righteousness, Yours alone."
- Psalm 71:15-16

A recent poll showed that most American professing Christians, whether Catholic or Protestant, believe that salvation is based partly on works. I would suggest that this is because of the insidious Pelagian influence inherent in the Arminianism that dominates American evangelicalism.

Good works certainly aren't the basis of the salvation as revealed in Scripture. In the anonymous Psalm referenced here, the writer boasts not at all in his own righteousness, but rather that of his divine Redeemer alone. The Prophet Isaiah agreed, comparing his own righteousness to a woman's menstrual rag (Is. 64:6).

The Apostle Paul, too, repudiated his own righteousness, grasping hold of Christ's righteousness alone. Look at Philippians 3:8-9, "For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith." And Romans 5:19, "For as by one man's [i.e., Adam's] disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's [i.e., Christ's] obedience the many will be made
righteous." Or what of I Corinthians 1:30-31, "[God] is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, 'Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord'," that is, not in himself. And a little later, in II Corinthians 5:21, "For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."

Finally, heed Paul's warning, in Romans 10:3, "Being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness." It's an either-or thing. If you are looking to your own good works, your own righteousness, to earn you a pass to eternal life, then you have missed the train. That is the biblical Gospel. If you look at all to your own works to justify you, then you don't understand the righteousness of God and have not received the righteousness that comes only by faith. You are lost, unless you repent.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Leviticus 19:35-36a, How the Government Pillages the Poor

"You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measures of length or weight or quantity. You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin."

In giving His law to Israel, Jehovah showed great concern that no one would rob his neighbor through the manipulation of weights and measures. That same standard is repeated in several places in Proverbs, such as Prov. 11:1, "A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight."

While the emphasis of these verses is justice, they have a profound impact on economics. By increasing the expenses of the producer and decreasing the expenses of the consumer of a commodity vis-a-vis the true market, the producer is impoverished and his commodity disappears from the market. "Hurray!" some would say, "Death to the profit-making businessman!" But that is a statement of economic ignorance. Afterall, labor is a commodity, meaning that the worker is himself a producer.

In our country, the dollar was pegged at twenty to the ounce of gold, up to the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt. That means that a dollar in 1840 had the same value as a dollar in 1910. Then Roosevelt lowered that value to 35 dollars to the ounce of gold. Then the peg to gold was permanently eliminated completely by Richard Nixon. Now, the value of the dollar hovers around one thousand to the ounce of gold. In other words, the government has inflated the money supply to such an extent that the dollar has lost ninety-eight percent of its pre-Roosevelt value. Now that dollar from 1840 or 1910 is fifty times as valuable as the dollar in 2010! The government has manipulated that standard to its own advantage. How so? The government is never a producer, whether of goods or labor. It is only a consumer, and is thus on the profit-making end of that manipulation.

How does this pillage the poor? Wages are generally inflated along with prices. However, savings, having been accumulated at the old value but spent at the new, shrivel under inflation. Has the family been setting aside a portion of its income toward the purchase of a home? Those savings shrink with each passing day. Saving money for the education of the next generation? Again, runs away like water. Set aside a portion for one's old age? Dust in the wind.

Even as politicians profess their safeguarding of the poor, they have violated the laws and principles of the justice of God. In obedience to God's Word, we must demand that government restore just weights. We must demand that government cease the pillaging of the poor for the profit of the government treasury. That can only happen with the re-establishing of the gold standard for the dollar.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Satisfying Religion of Hypocrites

"Behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart. She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home; now in the street, now in the market, and at every corner she lies in wait. She seizes him and kisses him, and with bold face she says to him, "I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows; so now I have come out to meet you, to seek you eagerly, and I have found you. I have spread my couch with coverings, colored linens from Egyptian linen; I have
perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love till morning; let us delight ourselves with love. For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he took a bag of money with him; at full moon he will come home."
- Proverbs 7:10-20

The father of this narrative is directing his remarks to his son, to beware of the immoral woman. However, I want to concentrate on what we see of the woman.

Her opening remarks to the naive young man regard her spiritual activities. To paraphrase, she tells him that she has gone to church, sung in the choir, so she has extra brownie points stored up with God. "Why don't we," she asks, "invest my extra credit in a little messin' around?"

Isn't this a sickness that infects so much of American evangelicalism? A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor cited a survey in which only 19 percent of self-described "born-again Christians" agreed with the statement that a person is not saved by good works. Given that the popish doctrine of justification has conquered eighty percent of evangelicals, one should hardly be shocked when one of those evangelicals claims that his spiritual activities on Sunday leaves him free to live as a pagan the rest of the week!

Such a person reads this proverb without a shiver because he sees himself as the innocent young man. I put to you that God sees him as the whore.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Proverbs 31:8, Speak Up for the Silent Innocent

"Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute."

I would quickly concede that this verse has a wide application, referring to all who are powerless, such as women (in many countries), the poor, the disabled. There are many segments of our society who are crushed under the heels of the powerful and connected. But there is one in particular on my mind...

The unborn are not only relatively powerless, but rather are utterly unable to speak up on their own behalf. Their slaughter continues every day, with no unborn voice raised in protest. Only we with a voice can claim justice for them, whether in political action, through programs such as crisis pregnancy centers, or even by the adoption of surviving babies.

That last thought leads to another principle in Proverbs 12:7: "The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous will stand." As unbelievers either abort themselves into extinction, or even turn their children over to believing families, they will gradually disappear from the earth, while the godly increase and replace them.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Proverbs 31:6-7, No Christian Drinks Alcohol, Right?

"Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more."

We all know the church activists who work to oppose referenda on selling alcohol. And most of us experience that shiver in the gut when we see Christians with a beer or glass of wine or beer, because we know they aren't supposed to do that.

But that intestinal shiver comes from tradition, not the Bible. In fact, as we see above, we are commanded to offer an alcoholic beverage to him who is suffering emotionally. Evidently, God hasn't read the temperance brochure.