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etherealmatter
09 February 2010 @ 10:16 am
My Brother,

As I prepare for my move to the East Coast, I am faced with a most sad duty - to leave the church I love and find a new one in the land to which our Lord has called me. Being a father of 3 very young children, this brings about a peculiar dilemma for our family. You will be familiar with it, as we have discussed it much in our time of fellowship and scriptural study.

The question at hand is: should what I do about the baptism of my children be the criteria I use to search for a new church? To this question, I propose there is no objectively correct answer. I affirm strongly that any who have a solid conviction on the issue of baptism should find a church that administers the sacrament according to their conscience, as it would be wrong to do what they perceive to be sin, as far as I understand the principle behind what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10 (I realize this in itself is an entire conversation I do not wish to expand on for the time being).  If a paedobaptist feels strongly about the issue, they should seek out only churches that affirm infant baptism. If a believer-baptist feels strongly, they should do the same in regards to their conscience on the matter. 

However, there are others who are not as strongly convicted on the issue, I being one of them. I have studied it for years, have openly considered both sides of the argument, have discussed the matter with knowledgeable & wise men on both sides, and have read several books on the issue. Still, I have no strong conviction on either side. I do have a strong conviction on a covenantal view of theology, and would avoid any dispensational view of baptism altogether. I do affirm the importance of being part of a confessional church, and even more, one that confesses a specific method of administering the sign of entrance into the covenant community. I do believe that baptism is a sign and seal of a persons entrance into the covenant community, as circumcision was the sign of membership in the old covenant community. However, I do not see clearly wether or not children are given entrance into the covenant community at birth, or at confession.  I believe that not all who have the sign are numbered among the elect. I believe that it is a better covenant, as all nations are welcome into it, both male and female, slave and free, Jew or Gentile. However, I don't believe "better covenant" forces a meaning that all children are included. I am left with an unsatisfying conclusion from both sides to this unanswered question: Does the new covenant community contain those who confess Christ and their children, or just those who confess Christ?

I will continue to study the issue, and pray for clarity on the matter. I do hope to one day come to a clear understanding of what scripture says on this issue. In the meantime, what is a father of three young children to do when he seeking out a covenantal, confessional church? Fortunately, to this question I have a definitive answer. 

It is clear to me in scripture that the duty of administering the sacraments is charged to the church, not the parents. We see the apostles baptizing, not calling for the parents to come and perform the task. It is also clear to me that it is my duty to submit to the authority of the church as far as they do not directly call for my disobedience to Christ. Therefore, on matters that I am unclear on, it is my duty to submit to the church's confessional method and interpretation. Since I am not clear on either side of the issue, I will find the church that I believe is most consistent with scripture on the issues of which I am convinced, and not use the issues on which I am not as a criteria. I will humbly submit to whatever they call me to do. If in the providence of God, I end up at a Presbyterian church, I will have my children baptized. If I end up at an ARBCA church, I will not. Currently, I am under the authority if a Baptist church, and therefore am obedient to the 2nd LBC's prescription for baptism, however If the Lord draws me to a church that adheres to the WCF or 3 Forms,  I will submit and have our children baptized. 

My brother, consider your submission to the church a reflection of your submission to Christ, and do not take lightly your exceptions to their confessions. 
 
 
etherealmatter
13 August 2009 @ 09:12 pm
My Brother,

I fear you may have been mislead. While I understand the source of your misdirection, I ask that you thoughtfully consider your unexpected mix-up.

While reading 1 Corinthians Chapters 1 and 2, you were well instructed by Paul to find your identity in Christ, not in the wisdom of men. In reading this, you surmised the following: anyone who describes themselves as a "Calvinist" is sharing in the guilt of what those in Corinth are doing to provoke Paul's rebuke. I am grieved to find you have so hastily come to such a conclusion. I understand that teachers for whom you have much respect have brought you to this conclusion by their understanding of the same. But I warn you that if you isolate your ideas to their influence only, you are guilty of the very thing for which you accuse Calvinists. If you desire to be obedient to the scriptures, it would behoove you to consider the other side. As Solomon writes in Proverbs 18:17 "the one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes to examine him". 

Let us examine those who describe themselves as "Calvinists". "Calvinist" is more times than not a label put onto people who hold to the "Doctrines of Grace", that God has numbered His elect according to His good pleasure before the foundations of the earth, because in a fallen condition man will not freely choose God. The people of this belief are persuaded of this not because of Calvin, but because of Scripture. It so happens that Calvin agrees with them, and due to their agreement, and respect for the teacher, they tolerate the label. They don't like to label themselves, but are so labeled by others. Do these "Calvinists" place Calvin above scripture? Most certainly not. You will find them heartily stating their firm belief in "Sola Scriptura" - scripture alone is their authority - not Calvin. Do these allow Calvin to "filter" the scriptures for them? Most certainly not. Most have never read Calvin's Institutes, and do not spend their Bible reading time with a Calvin commentary open. Calvin himself put his life on the line daily by opposing a system of religion that said men had to filter God's word - namely the Roman Catholic Church. If you doubt this in the least, you would do well to read through Calvin's Institutes, chapters 6-9 to see Calvin's passionate and well thought-out arguments. I think you will find yourself in impressive agreement with his Biblical assessment of the matter. So for Calvinists, It seems their name-sake was willing to sacrifice his own life in opposition of the principle for which they are now being accused. Ironic, isn't it?

Now I ask you to examine yourself. Have you judged a group of people because of their label without understanding their belief? It would be simplistic to write off "Calvinists" because the name suggests that they are "of Calvin", and therefore fall under the rebuke of Paul, but it would be incorrect and unloving. No good Calvinist will put Calvin above Christ. Have you talked to any Calvinists, and discussed this matter? Have you inspected what Calvin taught, to see if it lines up with scripture? Condemning the teachings and beliefs of a preacher of God's word is a weighty thing to do if in fact they are not a heretic. Have you been very careful and prayed thoughtfully about your judgements prior to executing them? If you have not, then your judgements are in haste, and in disobedience to the Scriptures. Yes, and what more, but the same Scriptures to which you accuse "Calvinists" of being disobedient. To avoid hypocrisy then, it would be most obedient to attend to this question prior to coming down too hard on these. I pray you do this for your good, for unity of God's people, but most of all for the Glory of God, that his own do not quarrel amongst each other. 

I go now to a warning. These who stir you up against your Calvinist brothers, who warn you to "stay away" from their ilk, all the while guilty of labeling them as such; are they not to be inspected themselves? Do you question their teachings as you do Calvin's? You should examine both. Paul tell us to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling". We should be fearful and careful about what we believe, and who influences us. It is a dangerous thing to be under the influence of a movement that discourages interest in opposing view-points, and inspection of their own. Proverbs 18:1-2 tells us "Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire, he breaks out against all sound judgement. A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only expresses his own opinion". Those who do not allow for critiques and inquiries, and only make known their own views are dangerous (and fools), and should not be followed. Those who are willing to be examined are secure in their belief if correct, and are willing to repent if shown to be in error; they have no need to feel threatened.

The greatest irony is that those who advise you to avoid "Calvinists" because they are following the teaching of men and not of Christ are, by doing so, advising you to follow the teaching of men by following their advise. This is the unexpected mix-up: that in accusing, they become the accused. Romans 2:1b "For in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the same things". Beware of this dangerous, fertile soil for cults. When a movement advises to you avoid all with whom they disagree, when they assert that they have the only real understanding of scripture and that all others are to be viewed with suspicion, when they call their own "distinctives" (SIC) noting less than the pure Word of God, they start walking down the path to cult status.

My brother, in concern for unity, purity, peace, and truth, I urge you to consider your thoughts and affiliations. I am always open to your inspections, to your examinations and inquiries. If I am shown to be incorrect, I will repent. If I do not know, I will admit it. If my understanding of Scripture is correct, then to God be the glory for His ability to make truth known to such a worm. Will you endeavor with me in this spirit? I embrace all as brothers and sisters in Christ who embrace the true gospel. Presbyterian, Baptist, Lutheran, Reformed, Etc... we are all one in Christ not by our understanding of secondary issues, but by our unity on the essentials. I will refuse any division over anything less than Gospel, and I urge you with the deepest pleading on behalf of Christ's love for His bride to join with me in this. Turn from divisive advice. Turn from judgement without understanding.
 
 
etherealmatter
03 August 2009 @ 10:14 pm
My Brother,

In the days of Jeremiah the prophet, the Lord announced His complain against His Covenant people.
I tremble for the Church as I read these words:

Ch.5 V.30-31
An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land:
The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their own direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?
 
What is to come of those who preach a false gospel? What will come of those who rule according to their own understanding? What of the churches who embrace these men? What will befall the lips that have uttered "God has a wonderful plan for you" in place of gospel? What end is there for the one who directs their congregation towards free will above God's sovereign providence? What security can the people find when they love lies and deception?

What will these do when the end comes? I pray God will call them to repentance. I pray we do not repeat the mistakes of congregation of Israel, saying "peace, peace" when there is no peace. Contend earnestly for the pure, simple, and true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Pray diligently for the false prophets and self directed leaders. Plead with God for the conversion of souls of those in the congregation that love to have it so. If you know anything of the wrath of God, tremble for the end to come for those who do not repent. Weep for the church.

The church in America needs missionaries. Pray with me that the Lord will send forth servants to preach unedited truth, through which we will experience repentance and revival not seen since Edwards and Whitfield. What praises to the Lord would rise up in the land! No politician, no scheme of man, no marketing ploy or best selling book will change us, but a revival, a (true) outpouring of the Spirit will have an impact that changes everything. Imagine walking down your street, to the sounds of entire households singing songs of praise to our Lord. Imagine men on bended knee during their lunch breaks. Imagine idle chatter being abandoned for discussion of the word. Imagine hospitals, prisons, orphanages, schools (gasp!), being filled with earnest and humble evangelists, preaching and praying for the conversion of the lowly.

Let our righteous indignation turn to Godly fear and blissful hope! Consider what the Lord can do to the straw and to the gold.



 
 
etherealmatter
23 July 2009 @ 04:01 pm
My friend Stumbler, I'm posting a transcript of our discussion so you can reference it in the future.

Apologist: What is hindering you from pursuing God in Christ?

Stumbler: I don't understand why God will not eliminate evil, if He can.

A: A higher power unable to do anything about evil is therefore subject to it, and in being subject to evil, it is lesser than it. Therefore anything we call "God" cannot be helpless against evil in it's very essence. Do we then agree that if He is God, then He can most certainly eliminate evil?

S: Yes, I can agree to that. But this then disproves a god exists, as evil exists, and nothing has eliminated it.

A: What evil do you suggest be removed?

S: Evil is everywhere. People die in car accidents, children are abused. You don't have to look far to see injustice and oppression.

A: Would you consider robbery evil? I'd like to use that as an example.

S: Yes, we can use that.

A: Robbery is caused by envy, greed, and lack of self restraint. In demanding that God eliminate evil, you will have to eliminate anyone who is envious, greedy, and lacks self restraint if He is to remove robbery. We embody each of these characteristics to an extent. Therefore God will have to eliminate us.

S: That is an extreme conclusion, I've never robbed anyone. God should be able to determine who will use evil to hurt others, and stop them, leaving good people to enjoy life without evil.

A: Can good people enjoy life with injustice, poverty, and oppression? Or would those be evils you want God to eliminate?

S: Yes, those are more of what I'm talking about. I can't believe in God if He allows those things.

A: Let's inspect your standard of judgement. You cannot deny that the "small" evil you've done has hurt others. For example, our greed as consumers, and demand for lower prices lends to the injustice of hazardous working conditions and poverty. Although we don't employ these people, or create their work environments, we sponsor their employers by purchasing their goods. Their oppression is a result of our collective demands.

S: I try not to purchase things that will oppress others. Sometimes you cannot know whether or not the funds you use are going to sponsor oppression. You can't call it evil if done out of ignorance, it's only evil for people to intentionally oppress others.

A: Consider two errors you're making. First, you are setting the standard for how God should judge evil. You are creating objective criteria for judging what is, and what is not evil. If God is a higher power, He should not be subject to your standard of judgement. In demanding God follow your standard of judgement, you make yourself dictator of God. If you are above God, He is not the "higher power", you are.

Your second error is to assume that only harm caused against other people is evil. If God is a higher power, then acting against Him is far greater than acting against your peers. Therefore any act of evil we perform is more grievous in that it is against God, not people. This means that there are no "good" people, because all people have acted against God.

S: So you're saying that to God everyone is evil.

A: That's what scripture says. And if we follow your standard, God will be obligated to eliminate everyone.

S: Then you've given me a different reason to avoid God. If what you're saying is true, God either has to allow evil or destroy everyone. Either way, I don't see this as appealing.

A: Again, please inspect the standard by which you judge what is appealing. You are again demanding God live to your standard in order to view Him as "higher power". To remind you, if the "higher power" is subject to your demands, then it's lower then you, therefore not being "higher". It's a catch-22. You cannot have both.

S: So you admit that embracing the idea of God is contradictory in nature, and irrational.

A: Not at all. You've assumed that there is no solution. You've completely ignored all of the other characteristics that a "higher power" embodies. Patience, mercy, kindness for example. You are correct in stating that everyone is evil, and you are also correct to imply that all should be judged. These are essential to knowing God. But you have yet to acknowledge God's patience. God has not judged all sin yet because He has extended patience to all who live. However, this patience has an end, as evidenced in the fact that all die. When we die, God will exact judgement in order to maintain His perfection, as you yourself recognized that it would be wrong to tolerate evil. But God is merciful, and has devised a way to allow for His perfect judgement, and yet spare us. He transfers His judgement due to us upon Christ. Therefore if one found in Christ, their judgement has already been absorbed.

S: God then is still unjust for giving Christ payment due for us.

A: Again, I hope you see your assumptions desire no solution. Christ is God, and is therefore an integral part of the plan. Christ willingly and voluntarily accepts our payment. This is love. All who come to Christ will receive shelter. If you have no desire for Christ, you reject His shelter. This is justice, that you not only get what you deserve, but what you demand.

S: I just can't see how all of this makes any sense. Your desire is to see a solution, mine is to not see one. Either way, we pursue and believe our own desires.

A: I agree, we pursue our strongest inclination. Are you inclined to helplessness, pointlessness, and death? Because I think we've both seen that you're reasoning pursues that end. If you are not inclined to these things, why do you reason for them? You find yourself not wanting to pursue God in Christ. Have you asked God to give you a desire for Christ? Have you diligently, desperately sought mercy, and found none? I know the answer is no because I've witnessed your skeptical reasoning and assumptions in our discussion. God has declared that all who seek will find. If you turn away from your own reasoning, and plead to Him for mercy to see Christ, you can be sure that He will reveal Him to you. You cannot see now, but vision is available.
 
 
etherealmatter
28 October 2007 @ 11:36 pm
Dear Brother,
As I've studied Luke 6: 1-11, it's clear that these passages deal with Christ and the Sabbath. Is this an issue of the validity of the Sabbath, or how it is to be observed?

To answer clearly, we need to look no further than the text at hand. The clear arguement here between our Lord and the Pharasies is not "should the Sabbath be observed", but they way in which it should be observed. Both are operating on the same principle that the Sabbath is valid. If they weren't, there would be no arguement, nor an illustration. Only a dismissal.

Before going further, we should take heed of our presupposed thoughts of the sabbath, so as not to take lightly the law of God. Instituted by God at creation (and on the seventh day He rested), further explained in the 10 commandments (reason given - for in six days the Lord created, but rested on the seventh), and perfected now for us here in the life of Christ (the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath), the sabbath cannot be dismissed easilly by any good student of the Word.

Growing up, this was the text used to show all the chidren in Sunday School that we are freed from the bond of Sabbath observance, and that those who still honor the one in seven are Pharasitical. Being older, I now know that there are many other texts that address the harmony of law and gospel, but tonight I'm only going to address this text. let the issue of the Sabbath be debated as it will, this text in no way has anything to do with Christ eliminating the validity of the law.

Take into account the follwing:
Christ was born under the law: Gal. 4:4-5.
Christ was here not to eliminate the law, but to keep it perfectly. Matt. 5:17-20.
Christ had a high view of the law, and did not disregard it in any of His words. John 14:9-10.

Christ is our righteousness. He kept the law for us. If He did not keep the 4th commandment, then we do not have anyone who has perfect kept the law for us. If Christ disregards God's law, we are not saved. Even if (although I disgree with this) Christ was to eliminate the need for a Sabbath after his resurrection by apostolic proclimation, while alive on earth He was obligated to keep it. Remember, Christ was under the old covenant. If Christ is here in Luke doing away with a law of God, He is working against the purpose for which He was sent, which was to KEEP these laws FOR US.

Also, note not half a chapter before this, how Christ honors the ceremonial law of showing oneself to the preist after healing. Luke 5:14. If He honors a ceremonial law that has clearly passed away (we have no preists to show ourselves), how much more is He going to honor God's sabbath?

Christ's concern for His day is such that He liberates it from legalism. Look at the both stories, V1-5 & 6-11. Both illustrate important points. First, that as God allowed the man after His own heart - David, King of Judah - to eat the bread in the temple on the Sabbath and still be innocent, so all who perform what is necessary are not guilty of breaking any law of God, no matter what the law of the Pharasies stated. Second, not only are we free to do what is necessary, but we also are to be doing what is good (in this case healing). God had never forbid any act of necessity on the Sabbath, nor any good act of service to man. If He had, then here Christ would have sinned - and by sinning, eliminated Himself from being our Redeemer.

Christ, being Lord of the sabbath, is perfectly able to explain to us exactly how we should observe the Laws of God. His entire life is for us an example to immitate; indeed one of our great benefits of adoption is the encouragement to immiate Christ. Just as we would not want our enemies immitating us, neither does God delight in the wicked taking His name upon them in vain. However, we not only can, but are encouraged to immitate our Lord, and how can we do so if He does not set the example. But in His mercy, He here, and in many places, does perfectly.

Brother, the four gospels are rich with Christ's example of how to serve God. Do not look to them for excuses to sin, but for instruction on how to find the most joy in our service to Him. Heed the proclimation of Christ, that He is Lord of the Sabbath, and therefore only He can propperly show us how we are to honor His day. No law of man can add to the perfection of God's laws. No restriction can help more than the example of our Jesus.

Follow the example of Christ, and nothing more. To ignore His examples are less than faith, to add to His commands are to usurp His Lordship.


Now, as you decide for yourself how you will serve your King, ask yourself the following:
Would Christ, knowing that soon the Sabbath would be done away with, spend such time instructing us how to observe this day? Would he spend any time at all on it?
Would the Spirit have included it in the Word if it were soon to be unnecssary?
And finally, why would the Apostles shortly thereafter then proclaim this day to be unnecessary, knowing full well of Christ's example here?
These verses are the context in which we should be reading all new testament treatment of the Sabbath, and these questions should be answered with great satisfaction before we firmly take our stand on the issue at hand.

My Brother, I pray that we all are daily being more conformed to the image of our Saviour, and that your faith should find itself complete in Him.
 
 
 
etherealmatter
24 October 2007 @ 08:52 pm
Nothing hit me all at once, but it was a rapid growth of feeling none the less. In a matter of moments I was overwhelmed by sorrow. I had been laying on the couch, sleeping or trying to sleep, and an uneasiness had fallen over me. Every time I woke up in between small naps the feeling was greater than the time I was awake before. I sat up finally, thinking of what a depth of sorrow had overcome me, and I was perplexed as to why. Was it the movie I had been watching? Was it the several looming deadlines? Was it the prospect of leaving all friends, family and church behind? Was it illness? My brother, I tell you it was none of these. I would have said it was guilt, but it was not that, although I can say now that it was brought on by weeks, months, maybe years of guilt that I had not dealt with.
Would this episode be wisked away with a notion such as "who can know the mystery of a man's own emotions"? Indeed not! They are not like lions lurking in the depths of the mind, up to errands which we know nothing about. They are on the surface of our thoughts, and we can name each as we experience them. A man must by necessity be in command of each emotion, and beyond that, each passion. He chooses only what is his greatest will. No man has ever made a choice that violated this will. Man's emotions are results of this will, so he is also in command of these as well. Somtimes his emotions and passions are only the will of the mind, which is not carried out for the greater restraining will of not wanting to suffer consequenses. In this conflict of will, I had found myself becoming less restrained.
Having ruled out an inexplicable hidden emotion, a dangerous excuse to continue on one's ill-fated path, I now started to face what had produced this sorrow. It was my disobedience. During this great time of depression, I was admitting sin, and attempting to contain the sin by reasoning with myself why these sins were no gratifying. I would tell myself over and over why God would not want me to do these things, and the benefits there was to be had by keeping these laws instead of violating them. None of this reasoning had really kept me from returing to my sin like a dog to vomit. I had not been made sorrowfull by my reasoning, nor by guilt itself. No self or man inspired motive had been able to stop an escalating problem of increased disobedience. I could not fix myself.
My brother, can you now see the great mercy in our Father God, who, by His Holy Spirit, and in the midst of my sin and attempts to right my own ship, grabbed me up from my downward spiral and perplexed me to the point of helplessness? I heard no voices, but His message is more clear and tangible than any verbal coversation I've had. As of this moment, it still weighs upon my chest. My King has brought me face to face with this: I am disobedient to Him, and I must no longer disobey. Praise the King of Glory who takes such a mixed up mess of a man and makes clear in a moment his only dilema. My Father, more able, more admirable, more wise than all had reminded me that I was His, and I must not behave otherwise.
I asked myself, why would I ever want to serve anything less than the Almighty King? Gentle in His sovereignty, gracious with His might, He did not destroy all good things he had previously given me in order to bring me to my knees. He simply spoke to my spirit the most simple idea. Oh my soul, praise His wisdom, which helped me from the darkness of my own futility! If I were to perish now, and was to hear my own eulogy, would I be satisfied with the most fantastic of earthly accomplishments? If I were to have forwarded the cause of art, would I be impressed with myself? If I were to have seduced a nation of women, whould I feel significant? If I were to have written music that inspired generations, would I have found importance? If I were to write a library of prose, dissertations, and the great American novel, would I be the man of whom I dreamed to be? I was delighed to care not for any of this, but only find my heart stirred by the prospect of someone saying this about me: "He served His King with delight, he found joy in his Father's laws, and his love for Christ was only exceeded by his hope in the same".
My brother, "see what manner of the love the Father has given unto us that we could be called the sons of God"! Consider the love you desire to have for your children and know that this was given to you only as a reflection of the love our Father has for us! Consider the devotion you desire to give to your wife and know that you experience this desire only as an illustration of the devotion our King the Christ, has for us! This love and devotion you wish you could perfect has already been perfected, and is freely given to us as gifts! As I am guiding my son through infantcy, so my Father is guiding me. I must yeild to Him in all things, of both body and mind. The sorrow, the dissappointment, the confusion, and the frustration all disappear when I listen to, and obey my merciful God.
May you never take lightly these words my brother. The answer to all of your problems are simple. Listen to your Father and His Son. Obey His commands, for they give you peace and joy. Do not let those two words lightly pass you by. Peace is available to you, and Joy is yours for the having! Be encouraged to know the King of Creation has secured your peace and your joy, and trust in Him alone for them both. In this you will find lasting satisfaction. "Not the efforts of your hands can fufill His law's commands. Could your zeal no respite know, could your tears forever flow - all for sin will not atone. He will save, and Him alone."