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Recently a friend on Facebook asked this question and there were some interesting answers, I thought I would share mine here on my blog.

When I think of God’s relation to the damned I have to give way to Edwards because he has such a firm grasp on the issue. I don’t know if anyone could ever say it better. I recommend reading the Justice of God in the damnation of sinners at the following link http://​www.jonathan-edwards.org/​Justice.html but here are some brief excerpts I pulled from it that could be helpful when thinking of how God takes “Pleasure” in all things he does. Edwards writes:

God is in debt to none; and if he gives to some that he is not in debt to, because it is his pleasure, that does not bring him into debt to others. It alters not the case as to you, whether others have it, or have it not: you do not deserve damnation the less, than if mercy never had been bestowed on any at all. Matthew 20:15. “Is thine eye evil, because mine is good?”

Edwards goes on to say

“It is meet that God should order all these things according to his own pleasure. By reason of his greatness and glory, by which he is infinitely above all, he is worthy to be sovereign, and that his pleasure should in all things take place.”

Deuteronomy 28:63 and Psalm 135:6-12 are pretty strong verses as well in regard to this question.

If I understand Edwards correctly (and the Bible as well) God does not take direct pleasure in the damnation of the sinner, nor does he work directly in the sinner to damn him as he does to save him. However, God does take pleasure in redemption and justice of sinners through his Son and is ultimately glorified in both.

This is where I think a covenant view of scripture gives us a clear perspective on redemption. It clearly is not about us as human beings as much as it is about the eternal covenant between God the Father and the Son. It only is about you in as much as Christ died for you and by that act of grace you can be saved. Saved from what? The damnation your sin places on you and the wrath of God it brings.

Christ did not come into the world to condemn it. Why? Because it is already condemned, but with Christ there is no condemnation. The question then seems wrongheaded from the start and should read Does God take pleasure in the salvation of the wicked? Thankfully we can answer yes, but not because of anything we do, but what Christ did for us.

Not too long ago there was a conversation between philosopher William Lane Craig and cognitive scientist and Atheist Michael Payton on the Michael Coren show. This was more like a round table discussion then a debate and allowed for more of a dialogue. I know that Payton never really had a chance here since he was really out of his league, but I wanted to post this specifically because it shows how Atheists have to twist themselves into a pretzel in order to rationalize themselves around God.

Most of the time it is the anti-intellectual Christian that gets put in front of the camera while people like Bill Maher take them apart. However when you sit in front of someone like Craig it becomes very clear that the Atheist can only produce attacks and questions against Theism and most of the time can’t even produce a clear argument against the existence of God.

As I finish a study on postmodernism it is all the more evident to me that even the most articulate and intelligent person is a victim of this dangerous but seemingly prevailing movement in our culture. When we as a people began to abandon God for humanism and reason in the enlightenment, and then followed that up with abandoning the pursuit of truth, we now find ourselves swimming in a sea of relativism that we will eventually drown in. There are certainly times where Payton seems like he is drowning in this discussion as he attempts to explain things like morality in his worldview where there is no object moral standard.

There is a new book out by a Pastor friend of mine named John Samson called Twelve What Abouts: Answering Common Objections Concerning God’s Sovereignty in Election. Now I don’t review a lot of books here, only the books that I have read and thought others can benefit from. The mature Christian reader who may be a Calvinist or Arminian might be asking themselves, “Why do I need to read another book on this topic when there are many out there that I have already read, and so many that I haven’t”? Likewise there might be others that feel they don’t understand a lot of the deep teachings of the Bible and shy away from what they see as complicated issues. Still others might say that this issue is not important in my walk with God and I will leave topics like this to the Theologians to fight over. Finally, you might just be someone who goes to church on Sunday and takes what is said on issues like these and doesn’t question it, or sadly, maybe you go to church and topics like this are not even brought up. Well if this fits you, or if there are other reason why you think you don’t want to read a book on this topic such as you don’t have time etc. I encourage you to pick this one up and read it.

Let me tell you a little about the book and myself, then I will make the case for the above statement. Pastor Samson comes from a background much like mine although he is from England and I was born here in America. He was raised in church as was I and our early church experiences were very similar. We even both dreamed of becoming professional soccer players. Yes I call it soccer, and even John does now, leaving the language of his mother country behind where they call it “football”, which seems like a much better term for the game myself, but I digress.

Being raised in church John and I were subjected to many church traditions. We had a good understanding of the Bible and like many others thought that what was presented was not only the truth, but that there was no other interpretation or truth that was a Biblical option. Personally, I had questions about things such as premillennial dispensationalism back then, even though I didn’t know those terms, as well as the creation account and others. Most of the people in my church had no idea what to say about these issues, and they were rarely talked about. In my own mind I thought I knew the basics but was confused on many items that there seemed to be no answers to and this did not sit well with me.

One day, as John explains, he was challenged with Biblical truth that for the first time in years made him question his traditions and gave answers to some of the more difficult questions. For me there was a time I backed away from my set of traditions and went on a journey to find the truth and the answers that had evaded me up to that point. Both of us ended up in the same place after years of searching and study.

From that perspective, John has written a book confronting some of these question regarding election. Sure they are common topics that have been dealt with before such as free will, predestination, the foreknowledge of God, and reprobation, but typically they are found in difficult to read theologically based books with hundreds of pages and big words. The motivation behind the other books also differs in that they might be technical in nature, or simply written to prove that one side is right while the other is wrong. This is a very concise book with very short chapters, and while there might be some words the reader is not familiar with from time to time, Pastor Samson tries to explain them so they can be understood. He drives right at the verses in question and attempts to use sound exegesis in a fair and Biblical manner without getting too lengthy or theologically deep.

The best thing about the book though is the motivation behind it. Pastor Samson explains his personal story and how he arrived at the place where he was sent on a “surprising journey”. Unlike me, John didn’t purposely set out on his journey because of problems he had with his traditions and questions about his beliefs. In fact he was a preacher and felt quite comfortable with where he was. However once he understood the truth of scripture clearly the Bible blossomed like never before, and he saw just how much he had missed given the box of traditions that had in a way put up barriers to his knowledge and understanding of scripture.

Now he wants to share some of those things with you. Not because he wants to win an argument, but because he wants you to experience the power of the Gospel and God’s word in a more powerful way that he, by God’s grace, has been able to. The best part is that he does it in a way that is easy to read and has a personal touch where he reaches out to the reader in a way that is not found in other books on the topic. However, just because it is easy to read and short does not mean that it is short on doctrine and Biblical passages. These are found on nearly every page as John attempts to stay as close to the original languages as he can and interpret scripture with scripture.

I challenge and encourage you to take a short time and read this book while trying your best to put your traditional views aside and keep an open mind. You may be surprised at where it takes you, and be careful, you might find yourself starting down a journey that John and I have been on for many years that regardless of where you ultimately end up, will most definitely result in you growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord which is what all of us are to do.

For those of you that like this book, or actually prefer a more in depth study of issues like these I recommend The Potters Freedom by Dr. James White from which Pastor Samson quotes from time to time in this book.

You can purchase the book electronically here or paperback here.

God Bless

These Have no Root

My devotions pick random verses each morning and evening, but sometimes it is amazing how random verses can speak to the current topics of the day. My recent posts have been about Lectio Divina and the abuse of the 4th point regarding contemplation by the emergent movement that caters to the postmodern culture. Then I find myself reading Luke 8:13-16 and I had to smile a little bit due to the irony of it. In other times I might have gone in a different direction with the text, but the application was quite evident this time.

This passage of course is set in the context of Jesus telling his disciples the parable of the sower. In the verses leading up to this passage He explains to them that they have been given the ability to see the truth in the parable where others have not. It is evident in scripture that God must reveal truth before man is able to receive it. I started wondering if people that claim to hear Jesus speak to them really do. It isn’t my judgement call to make, who am I to know what people are experiencing? Maybe the people at the 2012 Passion Conference that were told Jesus spoke to them and raised their hands to confirm really did hear him?

Thankfully it is not up to me to make the judgement call, I think the Bible itself is pretty clear on this subject and the passage in Luke can help us.

The seed is the Word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. As for that in the good soil, they are those who hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.

I like Spurgeons remarks on the passage

To receive the word in the ear is one thing, and to receive Jesus into the soul is quite another; superficial feeling is often joined to inward hardness of the heart, and a lively impression of the word is not always a lasting one.

I think that we have to be very careful in how we “hear” the Word of the Lord, not because I say so, but because the Bible itself does. Does the word when heard bear fruit with patience in an honest and good heart? Is there anything superficial about it that creates pride in the heart? I hope that everyone would examine themselves when claims are made that the “voice of God has been heard” and make sure that Biblically it is so.

John Piper is a great preacher and thinker whom I have learned a great deal from. He also seems to be on a mission of inclusivity that has caused him a great deal of trouble in the recent past. The latest issue connected to his name is the issue of Lectio Divina.

On his website Piper endorses this as a method of prayers and Bible study. So what is all the fuss about? Most have no idea what the words Lectio Divina mean, just like the majority of people at the 2012 passion conference didn’t know what they were doing. However I have seen this sort of thing increase in certain churches recently and it does need to be addressed because of how it is being used and who is driving it. As the reader will see, I think that the real problem here is not that Piper is engaging in some Catholic/mystical form of worship and prayer, but that he is engaged with people that are without drawing a dividing line for those that follow him and others.

First we need to understand what Lectio Divina is and where it came from, then see what it has turned into and how it changed.

Lectio Divina means “Divine Reading” and it is an ancient practice that dates back to the first century as far back as Origen and Augustine himself. This practice was not just reading the Bible by skimming the pages but combining prayer, thought and reflection on the passages through slow, careful study. Obviously Augustine benefited greatly from this practice as both Catholics and Protestants alike point to him as one of the greatest minds in the history of Christianity.

We can understand what people between the 1rst and 12th centuries meant when they talked about reflection or “reading and praying” on the scriptures. For example St. Gregory talked about contemplation in the 6th century as “knowledge of God impregnated with love” and “resting in he gift of God”. From what I read contemplation and reflection did not strip itself of knowledge or the Biblical text in any way. Reading, praying, and resting in the knowledge and word of God was a given for Christians of this time.

In the 12th century a monk Guigo formulated this practice into 4 steps based on 4 rungs of a ladder that man can use to reach God. It is primarily this version of the Lectio Divina that you hear denominations and others referring to which is unfortunate. The Reformation put a halt to most of this in the Protestant world as “Sola Scriptura” brought people back to a “Bible Alone” mindset. Now with the rise of postmodernism we have seen this rise again with an emphasis on the 4th point of contemplation that fits with the culture. Here we find a very subjective, pious and often mystic form of contemplation that is not at all found in the writings of St. Augustine or others prior to the 12th century. It is dangerous because it takes the person outside of the Scriptures as they wait for God to speak directly to them through the Holy Spirit.

In my view, John Piper knows better then this. I have read his books as well and there is nothing like this form of contemplative extra-biblical thinking in it at all. In fact in his book “Think”, which is that latest one I have read, he confronts postmodernism, subjective thinking, and anti-intellectualism. This does not sound like a guy who spends his time waiting for the Spirit to put his imagination to work.

Yet there he is on the stage with people who are most definitely caught up in this mystical world of God-speak. He reads the Bible and tells people to then listen for Christ’s words. I have no doubt that he means listen to them from the scripture and gain your knowledge that way, if not then he has contradicted his own writings and articulated beliefs. However that is not all his stage partners did. Listen to Louis Giglio close out the readings after John Piper, Beth Moore, and others were finished reading.

This is the kind of language that is pious and disturbing. It tells the people out in the audience that God is speaking to them, and if they don’t hear it and raise their hand then they are less then the person next to them that did. There was no preparation or serious study that led to a deeper knowledge of the scripture that I know Piper wants people to have. It is an appeal to emotion and extra-biblical feelings that is nothing like what Piper or his contemporaries support or write about.

So here is the problem. It is not that Piper is joining the emergent movement, or that it discounts all of the great preaching and teaching he does like some in the reformed faith have charged him with. It is that Piper does not repudiate a practice that he has to know is not Biblical. Even later on his website as I referred to above he reinforces Lectio Divina with this description for the 4th contemplative point.

Contemplatio (contemplation). For the most of us, this will be the most difficult part, since it consists of silence and yieldedness in the presence of God. Comtemplation is the fruit of the dialogue of the first three elements; it is the communion that is born out of our reception of divine truth in our minds and hearts.

This is not what Giglio presented at the conference but Piper has nothing to say about it.

With all do respect to Piper who I have learned a great deal from, he seems to be on a mission to bring all forms of faith together by participating in events like these, sitting down with Rick Warren, and not drawing the lines where they are needed. This causes great confusion with his own flock and others that listen to him that now think that in order to be spiritual they have to hear the voice of God after reading a passage at a conference. He does a disservice to those he disciples by not calling these things out, but instead propping them up in the name of friendship.

This is not an attempt to bash John Piper, there is enough of that going on, but if he is going to continue down this road of “finding common ground” then he needs to point out the areas where the ground is not so common and repudiate error and false teaching when he interacts with it. Anything less then that is irresponsible on his part.

My devotions in 2012 will be done with the help of one of my heroes Charles Spurgeon who was a reformed Baptist much like myself. I will try and post as many of my thoughts as possible which hopefully is a lot more then I did in 2011. Call it a New Years resolution if you will, but I dislike those type of cliche’s so I will not say it..

The first reading of the New Year comes from Joshua 5:12 which reads:

And the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they are of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.

This is a great passage for New Years day. The Israelites spent almost a normal life span for the time wandering in the wilderness totally reliant on God. Even the food was provided by God in the form of manna in order to sustain them. However most of those that started out of Egypt did not make it. The reason for this was primarily their lack of faith when times got tough. However in God’s grace he did not let them die or refuse to let anyone into the promised land. Many of the next generation made it as well as those who were faithful. In this passage those people have made it and their reliance on the manna is no longer needed. They “ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year”

Many of us will experience different years in 2012. Some are “in the wilderness” experiencing trials. Others are going to experience a year of blessing where they are “eating the fruit” of their faith. Finally there will be those who pass on into the eternal rest that has been promised to all those who die in Christ.

No matter where you are on the journey as a Christian you can experience peace and live a purposeful life, not because of anything you do, but because of the grace of God.

So here goes another cliche, but I don’t mind this one as much, by the grace of God go I in 2012.

Happy New Year

I liked “The Hitch”, I really did. He was articulate, intelligent and honest with a charming swagger that drew you in. He was courageous as well in his bold fight against totalitarianism that even led him to turn against some of his socialist friends who he saw as far too accepting of dictators, and far too compromising on issues for political gain. Personally I like people who are thinkers, they don’t run with the crowd because they hear something that sounds good. Critical thinking is something that is sorely lacking today in all areas of life. We want to label people quickly and assume we know everything about them by that label. Hitchens was someone that would not be labeled, telling you what he thought no matter the consequence or the label he might defy by his words.

Unfortunately he was influenced early on by a “Trotsky lite-Marxist” worldview that led him down a path of socialism and leftist leanings. In true Hitch style though he was able to break from the left when they did not live up to their teachings. He bonded with the left on their attack against Stalin and against the moral outrages of Hitler. He ended up with a hatred for the “totalitarian” that transcended politics and when the left did not adhere to this he broke with them, even to the extent of supporting George W. Bush and the war on terror.

He was not shy in taking his hatred of totalitarianism to it’s ultimate conclusion of hating what he saw as the ultimate totalitarian in God himself, referring to Heaven as a “Celestial North Korea”. There was so much suffering in the world that a God who was in control of such a world was diabolical to Hitchens, and even worse then Hitler as I heard him say on more then one occasion in debates against Christians.

Hitchens had read his Bible as he had read so many books. By his own admission he read many things quickly instead of only a few selections in depth. This allowed him to speak intelligently on a wide array of subjects but he was an expert in no one area with possible exception being literary critique. He knew enough to make him dangerous and this was definitely the case in regard to the “Abraham Religions” as he called Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. When he combined his cursory reading of the Bible with his Trotsky type worldview he went down a terrible path of hatred for all people or beings that might attempt to take away what Hitchens idea of individual freedom was.

Many people fake a belief in God to make themselves feel better. Others take an agnostic position of convenience to say that there just isn’t any proof or maybe they would believe. Hitchens would have none of this proclaiming that he would never worship a “vicious tyrant” such as the God of the Bible who was no better then Kim Jong Il.

I admire Hitchens for this. I am sad that he has passed without truly seeing God for who he is, but he was honest about his feelings as I believe all people who do not believe in God should be. They should hate God too instead of pretending to love him like so many do, or making up their own God that makes them feel warm and fuzzy inside. Hitchens cursory reading of the Bible was probably more then many Christians have done, so he knew what God had said and didn’t try to form God into something he liked. He hated God for who he thought God was and was not shy about proclaiming this.

Self proclaimed Christians want to talk about God on Sunday’s because they are told he had a wonderful plan for their lives and that He loves them. Then they want to forget about this God and have their freedom to do whatever they want to do the rest of the week. Hitchens would have had no part of this either. To him God was an omniscient and sovereign being that claimed to know his thoughts and his final outcome and therefore limit his freedom to act apart from that. He knew what that meant and he hated it as he should as a non-believer.

You see guys like Hitchens borrow from Christianity while they are proclaiming their hatred for it. Hitchens used his God given gifts to formulate a concept of morality that only a humanist could. A set of moral laws with no moral law giver. Purposeful lives in a purposeless world. He thought that having pure freedom to make our own morality and purpose was much better then having that defined by a transcendent being. However this is foolish as the Bible says it is when a man says to himself “There is no God” It is foolish because man is finite and can’t see past the present. If we make up our own morality then what is good today might be bad tomorrow. It would take a sovereign God to be able to see all of time for what it is to turn bad things for good. Hitchens could not see past himself to realize that without God there is no transcendent “good” and therefore holding Kim Jong Il to a standard of morality is impossible.

Christopher Hitchens brought much good to us, something the reader might be shocked to hear. He told us to think about what we believe in a time where many Christians and people in general don’t. He challenged the worldviews of others instead of letting them rest. He demanded that one have intelligent answers to questions of God and morality.

However he hated God.

His hatred of God was the bad part of Hitchens that flowed out of him like water breaking from a compromised dam. His thinking was backward in regard to God because his humanism sought to achieve precedence over everything. God was the supreme dictator that attempted to rule over man in what could only be evil as a slave owner is to the slave. However Hitchens missed who God is and because of this he missed who he was. His hatred for God blinded him from the true nature of God which is good and his humanism told him that man was really better then he was. Therefore God was the evil tyrant holding back man from what was possible.

Mr. Hitchens showed us how a brilliant mind blinded from the things of God operates. That our intellectual capacity to understand who God is does not rely on our own understanding but on God’s revealing to us.