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Shadows of Divine Things

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Location: Texas, United States

This site is devoted to theological and philosophical investigations of the spiritual meanings of life, current events, music, spiritual growth, nature, and learning to be attuned to listening to the 'language of God.' The name of this blog comes from one of Jonathan Edwards's journals which he called 'Shadows of Divine Things,' and later renamed 'Images of Divine Things.' As a Christian I am continously on a spiritual journey to grow more into the image of Christ, to understand what it means to be crucified with Christ. To seek the truths of the Christian Faith is of upmost importance, and to know that any truths that are found outside of Christianity are present there because they ultimately point to God. I have an M.A. in theology and apologetics and I completed one year of graduate studies in Philosophy at Marquette University.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Those Crazy Animals!!

Just to take a break from all the serious theological posts. Here are some crazy things that animals have recently been caught doing (click on each to enlarge pic)

Finally, after several months of breaking and entering this kitty was caught red-handed sneaking out of a local neighborhood home with a load of "kitty snacks."

The pic below pretty much speaks for itself.

That is one tough gato!

She's not a very chipper cheerleader, is she?

After a grueling three hour audition, Winston the hamster is slated to tour with the Rolling Stones in the Summer of 2006.

And finally the picture below says it all . . .

Monday, January 30, 2006

Quote of the Week

"Since scripture is something derivative, it must be understood from the essential nature of the Church, which is the eschatological and irreversable permanence of Jesus Christ in history."

-- Karl Rahner

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Task of Theology

I love theology. However, I do not love theology simply for the sake of theology. Rather, I love theology because it directs me to the triune God, to the gospel, to the resurrection of Jesus, to the things of God. Theology is a means, if you will, to the proclamation of the gospel, to the understanding of the triune God; it stems from the Scriptures and should always turn back to the Scriptures: like a perfect circle. The gospel has always been discourse or proclamation. It was initially proclaimed, long before it was written down. Therefore, theology is also discourse since its source is the gospel. That is why theology can never be done in a vacuum, it must be discussed, it must be prayed, and it must be proclaimed.

I wanted here to provide some quotes about theology and the task of theology by some of the greatest theologians to ever take up pen and write theology. These quotes come from men who had very different backgrounds, upbringings, and quite different educational backgrounds. However, in and through all these diversities you can see a common thread at work in their thought. With that in mind, here is what some of the great thinkers had to say about theology:

“Now the seed and imitation (mimēma) of something which is given on the basis of a person’s capacity to receive it is quite different from that thing itself, of which the communication and imitation are received according to the grace of God.”
– Justin Martyr


“The task which is laid upon theology, and which it should and can fulfill, is its service in the Church, to the Lord of the Church. It has its definite function in the Church’s liturgy, that is, in various phases of the Church’s expression; in every reverend proclamation of the gospel, or in every proclaiming reverence, in which the church listens and attends to God.”
- Karl Barth

“Theology is taught by God, teaches God, and leads to him.”
-Thomas Aquinas

“True theology is divided into: (1) infinite and uncreated, which is God’s essential knowledge of himself in which he alone is at the same time the object known (epistēton), the knowledge (epistēmōn), and the knower (epistēmē), and that which he decreed to reveal to us concerning himself which is commonly called archetypal; and (2) finite created, which is the image and ectype of the infinite and archetypal (viz., the ideas which creatures possess concerning God and divine things, taking form from that supreme knowledge and communicated to intelligent creatures, either by hypostatical union with the soul of Christ [ whence arises “the theology of union”]; or by beatific vision to the angels and saints who walk by sight, not by faith, which is called “theology of vision”; or by revelation, which is made to travelers [viz., those who have not yet reached the goal and is called “the theology of revelation”] or the stadium.
- Francis Turretin

“Systematic theology uses the method of correlation. It has always done so, sometimes more, sometimes less, consciously, and must do so consciously and outspokenly, especially if the apologetic point of view is to prevail. The method of correlation explains the contents of the Christian faith through existential questions and theological answers in mutual interdependence.”
- Paul Tillich

“True theology has, therefore, for its essence, truth divine as revealed by the will of God; for its content, light, and power is not only fully worthy of complete trust, but rather can be stated to be totally and completely self-authenticating. No one can speak or feel worthily about God, or about divine matters, unless he is aided by God, and neither does anyone know God except by His own self-revelation through God the Son.”
- John Owen

“Theology is to take for its rule the specific character by which the gospel is the gospel and not some other sort of discourse; theology must be thinking that guards the proclamation
in this authenticity.”
- Robert W. Jenson

“The truths of divinity are superlative excellency, and are worthy that all should make a business of endeavoring to grow in the knowledge of them. They are as much above those things which are treated of in other sciences, as heaven is above the earth. God himself, the eternal Three in one, is the chief object of this science; and next Jesus Christ, as God-man and Mediator, and the glorious work of redemption, the most glorious work that ever was wrought: then the great things of the heavenly world, the glorious and eternal inheritance purchased by Christ, and promised in the gospel; the work of the Holy Spirit of God on the hearts of men: are duty to God, and the way in which we ourselves may become like angels, and like God himself in our measure. All these are objects of this science.
- Jonathan Edwards

Friday, January 27, 2006

John Calvin’s Theology (Part Eight) – Christ as Prophet, King and Priest

In my estimation this is certainly the most interesting aspect of Calvin’s Christology. Calvin asserts that the “office which he [Jesus] receives from the Father will consist of three parts.” In these three parts, prophet, king and priest Calvin declares that the bridge is built between the old covenant of law and the new covenant of grace. Moreover, it is in this aspect of Calvin’s Christology where Calvin becomes most Reformed and Protestant.

The name Christ, Calvin asserts, refers to those three offices. Calvin teaches that under the Law, prophets, priests, as well as kings were anointed with holy oil. Jesus fulfills all three offices since the Holy Spirit is clearly seen as anointing Jesus and heralding Him as a witness to His Father’s grace through these three offices.

Calvin asserts that God supplied an uninterrupted succession of prophets and doctrines through the old covenant, prophets which led up to the time of Jesus; Jesus, of course fulfilling those prophecies regarding Himself. As Prophet, Jesus carried further the doctrines of grace to God’s people and fulfilled the Law necessary to provide that grace for God’s people.

As King, Jesus heralds the Kingdom of God and declared that those who wish to enter this Kingdom must believe and repent. This Kingdom, of which Jesus is King, is the Church which consists of the whole body of believers. Calvin affirms this when he declares, “There can be no doubt that God here promises that he will be, by the hand of his Son, the eternal governor and defender of the Church.” Therefore, Jesus is the eternal King of God’s people.

As Priest, Calvin asserts that Jesus is our mediator, and no other is needed. Moreover, Jesus is a mediator who is without taint or blemish; a perfect mediator. In order for one to be priest, under the Law of the priesthood, one must enter the sanctuary (the Holy of Holies) with blood. Calvin declares, “For even under the Law of the priesthood it was forbidden to enter the sanctuary without blood, to teach the worshipper that however the priest might interpose to deprecate, God could not propitiate without the expiation of sin.” Therefore, the only one who could perform and fulfill such an act in all perfection and full satisfaction to God the Father, was Christ, the High Priest, King and Prophet of His people.

[Stay tuned . . . more to come! We now turn our attention to Calvin's Soteriology]

Thursday, January 26, 2006

If You Read this, Please Pray for Me

At 1:30 p.m. U.S. central time I have a huge interview for the position of Director of General Education for a community colloge in my area. This has actually been about a ten month wait for the school to get its ducks in a row for this position.

I was actually hired last June but the job fell through the cracks. So, they just called me again yesterday and said they are now ready to go through the hiring process and get all my transcripts, etc. I am a little hesitant about all this since I have been told this before and nothing happened, but due to the circumstances that they explained to me and the time frame in which all this has taken place, I think I might actually get hired. This would be huge since I would be able to teach again. So . . . please pray for me if you read this before 1:30 p.m. U.S. central time. As I write this post it is actually around 9:00 a.m. U.S. central time.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Do You Agree?

Recently, while doing some research I ran into this quote:

"An atheist who lives by love is saved by his faith in the God whose existence (under that name) he denies." - - William Temple (1881-1944)

Do you agree? Why or why not?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture

InterVarsity Press recently sent me a mailer in the post to “join” (for lack of a better term) a continuous mailer program, sort of like a book club. What happens is I purchase the first commentary (which is the Gospel of Mark), get a free book with the commentary, for the low introductory price of $9.99 (plus S&H), and every two to three months they send me another commentary in the set.

Actually, looking over the literature that IVP sent, the commentary set looked really cool! Let me give you some details:

First, it is a commentary set of the Old and New Testaments (and the Apocrypha which is forthcoming) build around the exegesis of the Patristic Church Fathers.

Second, the set is edited by Thomas C. Oden (who is known for Patristic Church history and theology) and Christopher A. Hall.

Third, besides the fact that there is no other commentary set like this, what it does is save a tremendous amount of time in pouring through the Early Church Fathers to find text references and comments about individual books of the Bible since here they are collected into each volume in a verse by verse commentary.

Fourth, the researchers/contributors for these volumes are quite remarkable (those being the early Church Fathers, of course). Moreover, the set is endorsed by some of the well known scholars. People such as J.I. Packer, Richard John Neuhaus, David F. Wells, Avery Cardinal Dulles, Timothy George, Elizabeth Achtemeier, Haddon Robinson, and Bruce Metzger give praises and recommendations to the volumes.

So, I actually sent the response card in and ordered the first volume and the free book. I have actually received the first volume, Mark, and intend to use this commentary to do a study over the next few weeks through the Gospel of Mark. The commentary is structured like most other commentaries in that it goes through the text verse by verse. The difference is that this commentary is built around the thoughts of dozens upon dozens of men like Augustine, Athanasius, Clement of Alexandria, Cyril, Ignatius, and many others. There is actually a biographical sketch of every Church Father that was used in the entire set at the back of this edition along with a timeline of writers of the Patristic Period, both are very helpful. The research for this set is remarkable as well. Every available source one would need to draw from the Patristic Church Fathers was utilized (the research abbreviation section is just under two pages).

Needless to say I am excited about this set and can’t wait to get all the subsequent volumes; especially since I love Patristic Church history so much. Below are some Amazon links to the two books I received so you can check them out (or order them for yourself if you like). The first link box is the commentary, the second link box is the free book IVP sent with the commentary.

[Personally, I think InterVarsity Press should pay me for this great plug, huh? But then again, I did provide several Amazon links . . . hmmmm . . . maybe I should get royalties from both!]

Quote of the Week

"With all the sciences that stir the head and heart, theology is the fairest. It is the closest to human reality."

--Karl Barth

Monday, January 23, 2006

John Calvin’s Theology (Part Seven) – The Two Natures of Christ: Vere Homo, Vere Deus (part 2)

“When it is said that the Word was made flesh, we must not understand it as if he were either changed into flesh, or confusedly intermingled with flesh, but that he made choice of the Virgin’s womb as a temple in which he might dwell. He who was the Son of God became Son of man, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person. For we maintain, that the divinity was so conjoined and united with the humanity, that the entire properties of each nature remain entire, and yet the two natures constitute only one Christ.”

This is how John Calvin begins the fourteenth chapter of his Institutes, and this is the heart of Calvin’s Christology. Calvin taught that Christ was distinctively two natures, one divine and one human; however, these two natures were such that they both constitute one Christ. We know distinctions between Christ’s natures as they apply to that particular nature of Christ in the Scriptures. In other words, Calvin details those passages in the New Testament which apply only to the divine nature, those passages which apply only to the human nature and those passages which apply to both. All play an integral part in our understanding the two natures and the one Christ. To not understand the distinctions and how they are conjoined, Calvin would say, is to end in some form of heretical view; in other words, to disregard one over the other, or to ignore them both and their unity within the one Christ ends in heresy.

Much of Calvin’s Christology in the Institutes is a response to a certain teacher in his day whom Calvin called “the fatal monster.” This teacher/theologian was Michael Servetus. Without going into detail, it should be noted that Servetus’s Christology ended in a form of Nestorianism, dividing the two natures of Christ and denying, in one way or the other, that the two natures of Christ were unified in one person (you can read Calvin’s response in chapter 14 of the Institutes). Calvin confirms the traditional teaching of the union of Christ’s natures by using the example from history of Christ’s hypostatic union. The hypostatic union is a historically orthodox teaching to denote the union of the two natures of Christ in one person.

Once Calvin has established his view of Christ’s natures he then begins to make application. Here is, I think, where Calvin’s Christology becomes very interesting, but moreover, where his view becomes quite “reformed.” And most Reformers, in his day and those who followed up to the present day, hold to this aspect of Calvin’s Christology regardless of the Reformed tradition in which they reside (i.e. Baptist, Presbyterian, etc.).

[Stay tuned . . . more to come!]

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Voting Results, Suggestions, and Changes

I wanted to extend my gratitude to those of you who participated in voting for my blog, offering suggestions, and extending your kind remarks. A special "thanks" needs to go out to a one "Very Anonymous (definitely not Chris Tilling)," I honestly wondered if my blog was better than some of the phone books I have read in the past, your comments clenched it for me! :-)

As you can see I have taken many of your suggestions. First, I have changed my sidebar and removed the suggested book list with the boxed links to Amazon. I agree with Ben Myers and think that those were slowing down the loading time of my blog. Also, in the same order, I have removed the list, with the same Amazon boxes, of those books I am currently reading. This list would change too frequently and is just too much of a pain to keep current.

Instead (second), I have created a new category in my sidebar exclusively for my Amazon book reviews. You will find it just below "Book Shopping" and just above "Places to Go." Also, in the future I will try to post snapshots/quick reviews of certain books I am reading, and provide you with a link to the book at Amazon (this will, from now on, be in a posted format).

I want to extend a big thank you to both Doug Beaumont and David Piske, between these two friends and a lot of tweeking, keyboard smashing, and hair pulling, I finally got a page header that I like.

As for future posts, due to some suggestions and my love for this thinker, I will post a mini series (similiar to the Calvin series) on Jonathan Edwards. He has had a huge impact on my thinking both theological and philosophical, therefore, in the future I will attempt to delineate some of his thought.

Once again, I appreciate all your comments and suggestions. Theology and philosophy cannot be done in a vacuum, so please feel free to comment on any of my posts, I love the exchange and have learned a lot from each of your own blogs. It amazes me that we can all connect in this day and age via this medium of the internet despite the fact that many of us are thousands of miles away from one another, in different lands and countries, and otherwise may have never met. May God richly bless each of you in your studies, ministries, and your daily walk to understand our Lord and Savior more deeply and closely.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

John Calvin’s Theology (Part Six) – The Two Natures of Christ (part 1)

Calvin’s starting point within his Christological theology is mankind. This seems strange but Calvin in fact begins his Christology in view of man’s need; albeit, we will come back to this issue when we make a full circle in this portion of Calvin’s theology, since Calvin’s Christology and his soteriology are very closely connected.

Let’s first examine Calvin’s view of the two natures of Christ. Calvin held to a very orthodox view of Christ’s natures. As opposed to the Manichees and Marcionites, Calvin taught that Christ took on flesh (a body) while maintaining his nature as God. Thus, Christ had two natures, one human and one divine. Calvin affirmed, with the council of Nicaea, that Christ is fully God and fully man, and with the Patristic Fathers in declaring Christ is born in the likeness of sinful flesh. This simply means there is no difference between Christ’s body and ours.

Moreover, the body of Christ was the same nature as our body only without sin. Calvin confirms this when he declares, “If his [Christ’s] body were not the same nature with ours, there could be no soundness in the argument which Paul pursues with so much earnestness—If Christ is risen, we shall rise also; if we rise not, neither hath Christ risen.” Calvin also emphasizes this point by declaring that in the Hebrew idiom ‘Son of man’ means a true man. Thus, it makes perfect sense that Christ would retain the idiom of his own tongue and call himself the Son of man.

However, Calvin does claim that Christ’s flesh (body) is different from ours only in that it was sanctified in Mary’s womb and born without sin. He refers to Genesis 3:15 for support of this, “. . . the seed of the woman will bruise the head of the serpent.” Therefore, Christ has no earthly father since the seed of sin is carried into mankind (all people) via Adam and not Eve. This is not to say that Eve was without sin after she committed her first sin, but to confirm that Christ is virgin born and thus born without an earthly father and therefore without sin.

Calvin has much more to say about this issue and thus we will continue in this same line of thought in the next post (part 2), and go into more detail.

[Stay tuned . . . more to come!]

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Top Ten (10) Most Important Men of Christianity

In the spirit of the “top lists” at Faith and Theology, I wanted to provide my “top list” of the ten most important and influential men in Christian history. My criteria for this list included:

A) What they wrote (or what was written about them) changed the hearts and mind of those who read them

B) What they did/wrote altered the Church’s thinking and history itself

C) Their theological/philosophical writings developed a trend in the thoughts and writings of those who followed them.

D) They still have a strong influence today in the lives of people and history

Here is my top ten (10) list of the most important men of Christianity (in historical chronological order):

1. Jesus of Nazareth
2. The Apostle Paul
3. Athanasius
4. Augustine of Hippo
5. Thomas Aquinas
6. Martin Luther
7. John Calvin
8. Thomas Cranmer
9. Karl Barth
10. C.S. Lewis

Any thoughts on these, or do have any you think, perhaps, should have made the list?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Quote of the Week

"Among all the human pursuits the pursuit of wisdom is more perfect, more noble, more useful and more full of joy."

-- Saint Thomas Aquinas

John Calvin’s Theology (Part Five) – The Human Condition: How Did Adam’s Sin Affect the Human Race?

Calvin taught that Adam’s sin had a serious affect on the state of the entire human race. Because of the first sin of our Parents, Calvin declares that sin has ever since had dominion on human kind; but in what ways?

Calvin states, “Having seen that the dominion of sin, ever since the first man was brought under it, not only extends to the whole race, but has complete possession of every soul, it now remains to consider more closely, whether, from the period of being thus enslaved, we have been deprived of all liberty; and if any still remains, how far its power extends.” However, Calvin taught that human liberty was not the only thing affected by Adam’s sin. Calvin also believed that the human mind, human uprightness (or righteousness) and every other aspect of our being was affected by Adam’s sin.

According to Calvin we can simply observe and see how man is now slothful, arrogant, prone to erroneous thinking, and enslaved by our appetites and desires. Therefore, the mind, the soul, and the body are duly affected by Adam’s sin.

Post fall, Calvin believed the facilities or faculties of the mind (i.e. reason, appetite and will) which work in conjunction with the soul have been corrupted to such a degree, without special grace, man cannot perform good works. Now, by “special grace” Calvin means that work of God in an individual to change the individual’s disposition. While Calvin believes that the fall of mankind certainly did not eliminate human freedom (i.e. liberty), the fall did, nonetheless, affect it in such a way that human freedom is now very limited. Calvin supports this by declaring, “All this being admitted, it will be beyond dispute that free will does not enable any man to perform good works, unless he is assisted by grace; indeed, the special grace which the elect alone receive through regeneration.”

So, for Calvin, post fall, mankind’s freedom is not eliminated. Man is still free to choose, and does freely choose. However, man cannot choose that which is good (i.e. God) without the special grace of God. Moreover, the noetic effects of sin are such that man is no longer able to think the thoughts of God, and the human mind is now prone to error. Sin also has affected the soul and its appetites in relation to the mind, since prior to the fall man only desired God, now man desires all sorts of impurities and lusts. In short, the fall, according to Calvin, affected mankind’s reason, appetites, will, and liberty, to such an extent that it takes an act of God in the individual to alter this sinful disposition and change these faculties (or facilities).

[Stay tuned . . . more to come . . . we will now turn our attention to Calvin’s Christology]

Sunday, January 15, 2006

What Do You Think?

So what do you all think? A friend of mind, Doug Beaumont of IrContent, designed a new header image for me. I have been trying myself, with no success at all, to create a header that had a "shadow" behind it to help 'highlight', so to speak, the name of my blog.

Well, over the weekend Doug created the image and sent it to me and with his help (I'm a "newbie" to html/xhtml codes and such) I got the image positioned and sized in the header.

So, what do you think? I like it a lot and just wanted to extend a big "thank you" to Doug for all his help.

Friday, January 13, 2006

A Good Synopsis/Review of "The Way to Nicaea"

David Wright at Nelmezzo has been writing a synopsis/review of John Behr's work "The Way to Nicaea."

He has posted six (6) articles and at the beginning of these latest articles he provides an outline with the links of all his previous posts in this series. This is very helpful for those who have not read any of the previous posts.

His posts on this work have been very informative, thought provoking and have made me want to buy the book and read it myself.

If you have time go check out this series, it well worth the time spent and David is doing a fine job presenting the work. Thank you much for this series David.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

What's Going on in "Blogland"

Alvin Kimel has written an excellent article over at Pontifications (A Catholic blog site) about Matthew McMahon comments regarding N.T. Wright which appeared on the Puritain Board back in December.

While I have enjoyed some of the articles on McMahon's web site titled A Puritan's Mind, when I actually read McMahon's comments about Wright on the Puritain Board I was stunned that he could so easily, quickly, and unashamedly conclude that Wright was a heresiarch (an 'arch heretic', in other words, the worst kind of heretic). While I can see why McMahon might disagree with Wright's conclusions, to call Wright a heresiarch seems a bit extreme and perhaps hasty and uncharitable. Moreover, if you go and read his comments, it is certainly not McMahon's job to determine whether Wright will burn in hell.

Kimel provides some very telling quotes from some of Wright's works regarding Wright's views on Justification and goes on to describe other things about Wright's works, McMahon's declaration about Wright, etc. Go read it for yourself, the article is well written and informative.

Also, Alastair over at Adversaria has added his two cents to the dialogue - albeit I think what he said was at least worth a dime :-) - and brought a few other points to the surface.

While I do consider myself a staunch Reformer (hence my series on John Calvin), I can't help but agree with Alastair when he declares, "But when did the Reformation confessions or the views of Luther and Calvin achieve irreformable status?" I too often see Reformed thinkers (both scholars and laity) treat Luther and Calvin as if their words are infallible and anyone who disagrees with them is anathema. Brothers and sisters, this simply should not be.

Anyway, just to give you some food for thought, or perhaps make you throw up (whichever the case may be) I wanted to post these articles here so you could see them in case you haven't already.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A Test Of Faith - A WSJ Article

I am curious what you all think about this article which was recently published in the Wall Street Journal.

I was first made aware of the article from the Sacra Doctrina blogspot. It is very interesting. Should Christian/religious schools stick to their "Statements of Faith" even if perhaps the teacher is willing to agree to it, but the teacher's allegiance is to a different denomination or crosses Protestant/Catholic bounderies? What say you to this?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

John Calvin’s Theology (Part Four) – The Human Condition: Why Did Adam Sin?

If you will recall from my previous post titled John Calvin’s Theology (Part Three) – The Human Condition. I ended the post by asking these two questions; what then caused Adam to sin (granting he was not corrupt to begin with), and how did Adam’s sin actually effect Adam and all those who proceed from him? Calvin actually begins the second book in his Institutes by attempting to answer these two questions. In this post, we will focus only on the first question and save the second question for a subsequent post (since there is too much in both questions to handle in a single post).

Calvin declares to his reader that it is necessary “to attend to the peculiar nature of the sin which produced Adam’s fall, and provoked God to inflict such fearful vengeance on the whole of the human race.” Apparently, during Calvin’s day, and just prior to Calvin’s day, a view about the cause of Adam’s fall which was called “sensual intemperance” was being circulated. Essentially, this view held that Adam and Eve committed the “first sin” due to a desire to have the one fruit they were told not to partake of. Calvin calls this view “childish” because, as Calvin declares, “The sum and substance of all virtues could not consist in abstinence from a single fruit amid a general abundance of every delicacy that could be desired, the earth, with happy fertility, yielding not only abundance, but also endless variety.” In other words, Adam and Eve had the whole earth and all that was there for them in all its overwhelming variety. Thus, for Calvin, he believes the issue goes much deeper than mere “sensual intemperance.”

Calvin taught that when God commanded Adam and Eve to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil this was in fact a trial of their obedience to God. Our First Parent’s observing this law would in fact, Calvin declares, prove their willing submission to the actual command of God. Therefore, when they disobeyed, this was a demonstration of a lack of contentment with their lot in the context of this command. At this point, Calvin turns to Saint Augustine for support that this lack of contentment was lost in the sin of pride. Calvin agrees with Augustine that pride was the beginning of all evil because, as Calvin declares, “. . . had not man’s ambition carried him higher than he was permitted, he might have continued in his first estate.”

However, Calvin declares that while Augustine is correct, there must surely be more. Where did this pride come from? This is where Calvin’s study of the law prior to his becoming a theologian has a serious effect on his thinking in these issues. Calvin delineates that there are two factors involved in the fall. The first of these factors is the command of God and the second of these factors is the devil (or serpent). Calvin describes, “When, by the subtlety of the devil, the woman faithlessly abandoned the command of God, her fall obviously had its origins in disobedience.” Thus, there was the factor of the law and the factor of an external temptation via the serpent.

So Calvin would and does declare that Adam and Eve sinned because, first, man revolted against the authority of God, second, man allowed himself to be ensnared by the wiles of the devil, and third, because man also despised the truth and turned to lies. Calvin sums up this section by declaring, “Hence infidelity was at the root of the revolt. From infidelity, again, sprang ambition and pride, together with ingratitude; because Adam, by longing for more than was allotted him, manifested contempt for the great liberality with which God had enriched him” (empahsis mine). But, how did this first sin committed by Adam and Eve (our First Parents) affect the rest of mankind? In other words, what was the end result of their sin?

[Stay tuned . . . more to come!]

Monday, January 09, 2006

Quote of the Week

Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

-- Pedro Arrupe

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Please Pray For John Piper

Below is a letter that Dr. John Piper presented to his congregation and is now posted at Desiring God Ministries. I post this to make everyone aware of what is going on with Dr. Piper and to ask each of you to pray for his health and recovery. This letter is evidence of how much an amazing servant of God John Piper truly is.

John Piper and Cancer
January 6, 2006

Dear Friends,
I hope this letter will encourage your prayer, strengthen your hope, and minister peace. I am writing with the blessing of the Council of Elders of Bethlehem Baptist Church to help you receive the news about my prostate cancer.

At my annual urological exam on Wednesday, December 21, the doctor felt an abnormality in the prostate and suggested a biopsy. He called the next day with the following facts: 1) cancer cells were found in two of the ten samples and the estimate is that perhaps 5% of the gland is affected; 2) my PSA count was 1.6, which is good (below 4 is normal); 3) the Gleason score is 6 (signaling that the cancer is not aggressive). These three facts incline the doctor to think that it is unlikely that the cancer has spread beyond the prostate, and that it is possible with successful treatment to be cancer-free.

Before going with my wife, Noël, to consult in person with the doctor on December 29 about treatment options, I shared this news with the Bethlehem staff on Tuesday morning, December 27, and with the elders that evening. Both groups prayed over me for healing and for wisdom in the treatment choices that lie before us. These were sweet times before the throne of grace with much-loved colleagues.

All things considered, Noël and I believe that I should pursue the treatment called radical prostatectomy, which means the surgical removal of the prostate. We would ask you to pray that the surgery be completely successful in the removal of all cancer and freedom from possible side effects.

With the approval of Bethlehem’s executive staff and elder leadership, we are planning surgery in February. The recovery time is about three weeks before returning to a slow work pace, and six weeks to be back to all normal activities.

This news has, of course, been good for me. The most dangerous thing in the world is the sin of self-reliance and the stupor of worldliness. The news of cancer has a wonderfully blasting effect on both. I thank God for that. The times with Christ in these days have been unusually sweet.

For example, is there anything greater to hear and believe in the bottom of your heart than this: “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10)?

God has designed this trial for my good and for your good. You can see this in 2 Corinthians 1:9, “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” And in 2 Corinthians 1:4-6, “He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God . . . If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation.”

So I am praying: “Lord, for your great glory, 1) don’t let me miss any of the sanctifying blessings that you have for me in this experience; 2) don’t let the people of Bethlehem miss any of the sanctifying blessings that you have for us in this; 3) grant that the surgery be successful in removing cancer and sparing important nerves; 4) grant that this light and momentary trial would work to spread a passion for you supremacy for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ; 5) may Noël and all close to me be given great peace—and all of this through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen.” I hope God will lead you to pray in a similar way.

With deep confidence that

“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting. The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Corinthians 15:54-57

Pastor John

With Sam Crabtree, Lead Pastor for Life TrainingKenny Stokes, Lead Pastor for SpreadingTim Johnson, Chairman of the Council of EldersRoss Anderson, MD, Bethlehem Elder

Are you a Heretic?

You scored as Chalcedon compliant. You are Chalcedon compliant. Congratulations, you're not a heretic. You believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man and like us in every respect, apart from sin. Officially approved in 451.

Chalcedon compliant




























Are you a heretic?
created with QuizFarm.com

Interesting quiz, however, I am concerned with the fact that I have some small form of Monophysitism in my theology. How could I be Chalcedon compliant and yet hold to some semblance of Monophysitism? There were two questions that were worded such that may have caused me to pull more toward this view - so I answered in the middle (indicating uncertainty)

Oh well, somebody shoot me now and put me out of my Monophysitistic misery : -)

Friday, January 06, 2006

John Calvin’s Theology (Part Three) – The Human Condition

With regard to the human condition, Calvin believed that it was necessary to have a balanced view of the state of mankind before the fall and after the fall. To focus on the condition of mankind after the fall and disregard the state of mankind before the fall could lead an individual who was actually contemplating these issues to a misunderstanding of God’s role and man’s role in the creation and fall of mankind. Calvin confirms this by declaring, “. . . before we descend to the miserable condition into which man has fallen, it is of importance to consider what he was at first. For there is need of caution, lest we attend only to the natural ills of man, and thereby seem to ascribe them to the Author of nature.”

Therefore, about the pre-fall condition of mankind, Calvin declared, “[I]n this upright state, man possessed freedom of will, by which, if he chose, he was able to obtain eternal life.” Essentially what Calvin is declaring in this remark is that if Adam decided to abstain from sin (decided not to sin) he certainly could have done so. Adam’s condition was such that he had total libertarian freedom (the ability to do otherwise). For Calvin, Adam’s will was “pliable” (this is the actual language Calvin uses) in either direction and because of this Adam “had not received constancy to preserve, that he so easily fell.” However, Adam had total freedom of choice to decide between good and evil, and in Adam’s mind and will there was “the highest rectitude” and all Adam’s “parts” (faculties) were “duly framed to obedience” until a decision was made which corrupted all such good properties (faculties).

Calvin’s language is difficult here and one must often times read and then re-read Calvin to make sure a full understanding is obtained. In simplest terms, Calvin is describing that the human condition upon God’s direct creation of mankind (i.e. Adam and Eve) is created such that via the soul of Adam/Eve God’s image is demonstrated. In this demonstration there can be no corruption if God is to call mankind (i.e. Adam/Eve) good. Thus, Calvin delineates Adam’s uncorrupt nature as we have seen above.

It is important to note that Calvin believed that Adam had the capacity to sin and to not sin, but having such a capacity did in no way mean that there was any corruption in Adam prior to committing sin. I realize that this opens up a Pandora’s Box of questions but keep in mind that my intent in these postings is to get you to actually take up Calvin’s works and read them. So, these questions remain, what then caused Adam to sin (granting he was not corrupt to begin with), and how did Adam’s sin actually effect Adam and all those who proceed from him? This will be the focus in the following posts on Calvin’s view of the human condition.

[Nota Bene: The best places to read Calvin’s thought on these issues is in his Institutes (bk. 1; ch. 2; bk 2, ch. 1-5); also in his work titled Defensio sanae et orthodoxae doctrinae de servitude et liberatione humani arbitrii adversus calumnias Alberti Pighii Campensis (Defense of the Sound and Orthodox Doctrine of the Bondage and Liberation of the Human Will, against the Misrepresentations of Albert Pighius of Kampen – don’t just love these old titles?); and his commentaries on scriptural texts which would deal with these issues directly]

[Stay tuned . . . more to come]

Thursday, January 05, 2006

I've Been Tagged. . .

. . . not labeled, not called a certain name, but "tagged" by David Wright at Nelmezzo

Here is my "tag" task:

I am suppose to answer these four questions:

1. What did you want to be when you grew up (WYGU) while you were a kid?

2. What did you want to be WYGU when you graduated from High School?

3. What (if anything) is your college degree in? (overachievers: feel free to add Graduate degrees)

4. What do you do for a living now?

Here are my answers:

1) Anything but an adult. No joke . . . I can recall as a kid wanting to stay a kid because I observed that adults had to work, pay bills, etc. and I did not have to do any of that. Boy, was that short lived.

2) A Rock Star! I was already in a hard rock band in high school and I wanted to be a famous rock star. Boy, was that short lived.

3) I have a B.A. in Theatre/English, an M.A. in Apologetics/Theology, and one whole year of a Ph.d. in philosophy. I also studied Latin at UNC, and Marquette University. However, to add to this, I was a researcher and and writer while in seminary and wrote three chapters to Josh McDowell's book New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (my only claim to fame - had to throw that in since becoming a "rock star" never happened)

4) I work for my dad. He owns a natural gas investment company. However, I intend, God willing, to go back to school and finish my Ph.d. - and then a little later, become a rock star! :-)

[Just out of curiosity, for those of you reading this post, let me hear some of your answers]

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

John Calvin’s Theology (Part Two) - The Knowledge of God as Creator and as Redeemer

Calvin believed and taught that there were two forms of knowledge about God. The first of these Calvin called natural knowledge. This is a knowledge that is innate to every person and demonstrates to every person that there is, in fact, a creator God. The second of these Calvin called saving knowledge (or pure and clear knowledge). This is a knowledge that is not innate but rather is demonstrated to the individual through the works of God, the works of Christ, and the works of the Holy Spirit.

Both forms of knowledge, however, are given by God; natural knowledge is given by God through His creation, while pure and clear knowledge (saving knowledge) is given directly by God to the individual. Regarding natural knowledge Calvin declares, “[T]hat there exists in the human mind, and indeed by natural instinct, some sense of Deity, we hold to be beyond dispute, since God himself, to prevent any man from pretending ignorance, has endued all men with some idea of his Godhead, the memory of which he constantly renews and occasionally enlarges, that all to a man, being aware that there is a God, and that he is their Maker, may be condemned by their conscience when they neither worship him nor consecrate their lives to his service.”

Regarding the saving knowledge Calvin believed this was indeed a work of God. No man through natural knowledge could come to a saving knowledge. In other words, the natural knowledge that each person has is enough knowledge to condemn the person but not enough to bring the person to a saving knowledge (interestingly this is also the view of St. Thomas Aquinas. In fact, Calvin delineates his doctrine of this issue in an almost identical fashion as Aquinas did three centuries before him).

The pure and clear knowledge of God (saving knowledge) Calvin believed was suppressed by our corrupt nature. Calvin confirms this by declaring, “But though we are deficient in natural powers which might enable us to rise to a pure and clear knowledge of God, still, as the dullness which prevents us is within, there is no room for excuse.” What is needed here is a divine work of God in an individual. The human condition, for Calvin, was such that by its very corruption, no one could come to a saving knowledge of God. With this in mind, let’s turn our attention now to Calvin’s view of the human condition.

[Nota Bene: Ben Myers in the comments section of a previous post has declared, “For an accurate general picture of Calvin, I reckon it's also vital to read some of his commentaries and expository sermons, since he devoted the vast majority of his time and effort to exegesis, not to theology. Even the Institutes was really written as a handbook to help readers of Calvin's commentaries.” I would like to confirm wholeheartedly what Ben has declared. I failed to mention Calvin’s commentaries in the lists of works I previously provided for Calvin. Since Calvin’s commentaries are the bulk of his work, it is necessary for one to read those in order to gain a better grasp of Calvin’s overall thought. Thank you for the comment Ben.]

[Stay tuned . . . more to come]

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

John Calvin’s Theology (Part One) - The Knowledge of God as Creator and as Redeemer

Calvin opens his Institutes by declaring, “Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” Calvin believed that these two forms of knowledge were so closely tied together it is difficult to know where the one begins and the other ends. What he means by this is that we cannot know ourselves in any depth without knowing God. However, everyone knows God in some sense regardless of our fallen condition. Thus, knowledge of God as creator and knowledge of God as redeemer is intrinsic to each of us.

Calvin taught that mankind’s fallen condition in no way thwarted mankind from a knowledge of God. Rather, Calvin declares, “. . . our feelings of ignorance, vanity, want, weakness, in short, depravity and corruption, reminds us that in the Lord, and none but He, dwell the true light of wisdom, solid virtue, exuberant goodness.” However, due to the fall, man can never attain to a true self-knowledge until he contemplates “the face of God” and by doing so looks into himself. And this is why Calvin declares that these two forms of knowledge are so closely related.

Surely Calvin does not teach that all we merely need to do is look into ourselves and by doing this we will gain knowledge of God. Certainly not! This is why Calvin begins the Institutes in this manner, in order to establish the character of God and the character of man and how these two relate (i.e. via certain knowledge).

Calvin, in this same section goes on to state that mankind’s corruption is so great that our innate pride keeps us from truly understanding our vileness, folly, and impurity, but it in no way keeps us from understanding who God actually is. In short, Calvin opens his Institutes by describing that man has knowledge of God but due to the fall man is shortsighted and sees only his own self in such a way that he at once elevates himself to a status of demigod. It is not until man contemplates God in all His glory that he fully understands himself and his own corruption. But how can man possibly do this when his sole focus is on himself?

[Stay tuned . . . more to come]

New Year's Eve Party (2005)

Here are some pics of the New Years Eve party at our house. This is one crazy group of people! We had a blast that evening.

This is me getting us all started playing Jenga.

For those of you who might not know what Jenga is, it is a game where a group of wooden blocks are stacked on top of each other and each player has to pull one block out of the stack without knocking the whole thing over.

This is my wife and she did quite well at Jenga that night (unlike myself).

Ok, here is David (the pic below), who now claims to be Jenga ruler of all the universe (he did not knock any blocks over that evening). However, I think Jana (Clint's wife) would argue with him over that title, since she too did not knock any blocks over that whole evening. This is David concentrating real hard on keeping the blocks from falling . . . notice the hand gently being used to hold the blocks steady (we call this cheating) :-)

Once we were all thoroughly tired of hearing David and Jana praise themselves for their astute Jenga skills and how much they whipped up on the rest of us, we all moved on to playing cards.

This is a pic of Jana (Clint's wife) and Kasha setting up the card game. Carie, David's wife is just barely in the pic on the far left. (I can't remember the name of the card game we played. Come to think of it, I never could remember the rules of the game as we were playing either, perhaps that is why I came in dead last and lost this game too)

Well, as the evening wore on and I was getting tired of losing at everything we played . . . David snapped this pic of me and Clint. As you can see I am getting giddy by this time of night and I think Clint is actually contemplating something illegal.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.

-- John Calvin

John Calvin’s Calvinism

Calvin’s theology is one that is distinctly “Reformed” and quite rich in its content. Many thinkers and theologians since the days of Calvin have written numerous volumes in an attempt to delineate Calvin’s theology. However, as one nineteenth century Calvinist scholar describes, “No servant of Christ, probably since the days of the Apostles and of the Gospel witnesses of their century, has been more grossly misrepresented or more maliciously maligned than the faithful, fearless and beloved Calvin.” (Henry Cole, 1855).

If Cole is correct, which in many respects I believe he is (especially today), then it seems incumbent upon both professional theologians and lay theologians alike to pay closer attention to what Calvin himself is actually espousing. Too often I read contemporary works that deal with John Calvin’s theology only to discover that the author’s research includes secondary works (works about Calvin or Calvin’s thought) about Calvin and no primary works (actual works by Calvin) are used. There is nothing actually wrong with consulting other theologians about John Calvin’s theology (and anyone else’s for that matter). But to do this at the expense of consulting the actual works of John Calvin (and anyone else’s for that matter) can be and often is detrimental to the end result of attempting to understand Calvin (and anyone else for that matter). The point is if we want to really understand what Calvin taught, we should begin with the works of John Calvin.

It is to this end that I will attempt to cover certain doctrines from Calvin’s work over a lengthy period of time and post them here for all to read. Let me declare upfront that I am not attempting in any fashion to exhaust Calvin’s theology. This medium (i.e. blogging) could never actually allow such a task, since it seems that by definition, blogging is simply logging thoughts in short formats so others can read and respond. However, I am hoping that the short ‘reviews’ or descriptions of Calvin’s theology which I will post here will serve a twofold purpose. First, I hope it will cause you the reader to take up Calvin’s actual works and read them. Second, I hope that it will cause you the reader to react by responding to my posts which will spark discussion among other readers here. And that these discussions will cause you, the reader, to take up Calvin’s actual works and read them. In short, purchase Calvin’s actual works and read them, since it is by doing that that you will gain a better understanding of Calvin’s Calvinism.

So pull up a chair, grab your favorite beverage, smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, and let’s discuss Calvin’s theology from Calvin himself.

Be patient with me in this series since it may in fact extend over several weeks or possibly months of posting. The theological issues of John Calvin that I intend to discuss are as follows:

1) The knowledge of God as creator and God as redeemer.
2) The human condition
3) Calvin’s Christology
4) Calvin’s Soteriology
5) Calvin’s Ecclesiology

Each of these issues will probably require multiple posts so you can see why this series may take some time. While I will be using several different works by Calvin, the main thrust of my posts will stem from Calvin’s magnum opus titled The Institutes of the Christian Religion. The translation I prefer of the Institutes is Henry Beveridge’s, so it will be the one I employ.

I wanted to provide a reading list of some of the works by Calvin that I have enjoyed reading over the years, so here it is (please post in the comments section any other works by John Calvin that I failed to list but that you would recommend):

1) The Institutes of the Christian Religion (The Battles’ translation is pretty standard today, but I recommend Beveridge’s translation)

2) The Bondage and Liberation of the Will (translated by G. I. Davies)

3) Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God (translated by J.K.S. Reid)

4) A Reformation Debate (this is simply a translation of the exchange via letters between Calvin and Jacopo Sadoleto; edited by John C. Olin. You can also find this in John Dillenberger’s collection titled John Calvin: Selections from His Writings)

5) Calvin’s Calvinism: Treatises on the Predestination of God & the Secret Providence of God translated by Henry Cole. This is a two works in one book. Cole translates two of Calvin’s treatises which up to that day, 1850’s, had never been translated into English).

These are a few to get you started. Once again please post any recommendations of other works in the comments section. I hope you enjoy and benefit from this series.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Noted Events from 2005

Happy New Year Everyone! Here are a few significant things my wife and I enjoyed from 2005:

1) Biggest Event: We bought our first house.

2) Next Biggest Event: We gained a new niece to our family.

3) Praises: We finally found a new Church Home (Grace Community Presbyterian, PCA).

4) Sad Events: I turned 40 (yuk!)

5) New Creative Event: I started this blog!

6) Best Entertainment: Seeing the broadway musical, Wicked! (We caught it on tour here in Dallas - it was fantastic)

7) Travel: We only traveled once this year - to Minnesota for Christmas.

8) Necessary Event: I added about 100 to 200 new titles to my library :-)

9) A Needed Change: I changed jobs, which was a much needed move.

______________ Intended Goals for 2006 __________________

1) Read more books!

2) Review more books at Amazon (I have actually slipped in the rankings quite a bit).

3) Improve on my blog subjects - man, is that ever needed : - )

4) Add more books to my library (I hope my wife doesn't read this!)

5) Read more Robert Jenson, Karl Barth, and Jaroslav Pelikan (wait, that would fall into the read more books category from #1) Ok . . . . . . . read more books!

6) Actually go to California . . . we have never been and we have family that live there . . . so we need to head west for a vacation this year.

Ok, enough of this . . . We want to wish everyone a very happy and blessed New Year.

Thank you all for reading my meager little blog!