Fascinating look at how vulnerable web sites and web applications are and how they became so insecure.
Fascinating look at how vulnerable web sites and web applications are and how they became so insecure.
As we can see, according to this at least, the Earth’s climate is indeed warming. No one has questioned that. This is an indisputable fact. Yet, is it caused by man’s pollution, or way more dramatic forces, such as oceanic temperature fluctuations in combination with increases in solar energy output from the sun? I believe it would be the latter as fast as this is occurring. But I’m no climatologist. Yet oddly, that is what most meteorologists and climatologists will tell you. So shouldn’t we be spending federal money on preventing the effects of this unpreventable climatological warming instead of trying to cut these so-called green-house gases? Seems reasonable to me.
A recent, thorough study of the American religious landscape conducted by the Pew Forum indicates that around 57% of self-labeled evangelicals now believe Jesus is not the only way to eternal life. This and other studies are showing the exact same thing: evangelicalism as a whole has lost, or is in the process of losing the Gospel as what makes it distinguishable from other “Christian” groups. This is saddening.
But it is no wonder when you have leaders, pastors and theologians in evangelicalism itself outright denying something that lies at the heart of the Gospel: the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross in behalf of sinners. Yes, evangelicals are beginning to deny this now! This excellent book, written by Steve Jeffery, Mike Ovey, and Andrew Sach is a very welcomed, thoughtful, timely and Biblically engaging response to those very people in showing them they are defying the Scriptures as well as historically what the church, its fathers and its doctors, have believed concerning this.
Just to give a short synopsis of the book, the first three chapters give a good thorough definition of what the doctrine is saying, the Biblical background of it from both the Old and New Testaments with a plethora of citations and explanations of the texts, and finally bringing all of this together into a theological framework in defense of the doctrine, respectively. All of this helps us understand the depths of how far God had to go in Christ in taking our sin upon Himself, taking the wrath in Himself that was due to us for that sin, and how we gain His righteousness through that work, by faith. Essentially, through faith and trust in Him, Christ takes our eternal punishment, in our place, and in return we get His reward for His work and toil! Unfathomable!
The fourth chapter then deals with the pastoral implications which I won’t go into as much here. In helping gain a better grasp of what Christians have believed historically concerning penal substitution, the fifth chapter outlines from church history, chronologically, what those who have gone before us said pertaining to this wonderful truth.
And that’s all just Part I.
All of Part 2 deals with answering the modern day critics who state that penal substitution is unbiblical, defies good modern-day common sense, and defies logic/reason. Many critics are making the old theologically liberal argument that penal substitution makes God the Father out to be a child abuser of His Son if He willingly sent Him to the cross to bear the wrath that was due to us. Unbelievable. How do we answer these people and the many other awful accusations of this wonderful truth? This book is a great place to start to know exactly how to do that.
This is was a wonderful read and a great resource to keep going back to in the future. The clear thinking, counter-arguments and Scriptural citations on the matter are so plentiful that it is really hard to negate the reality of this truth. In addition, though I initially thought this was going to be a high-level argumentation for penal substitution, I found it to be quite an easy read and not that difficult to keep up with at all. It’s one of those books that the authors are so smart, they can not only comprehend the most difficult theology, but can then take that theology and make it easily understandable for the average lay person.
In the future, unless God in His mercy and intervenes, turning evangelicals hearts’ back to Him again, this doctrine will continue to be lambasted as outdated, primitive, and downright offensive. We must be ready for the attacks on the heart of the Gospel, unfortunately, within many of our churches now. Believe me, it is coming. If theologians, pastors, and teachers are beginning to say these things now, it is only a matter of time before their cunning and deceitful arguments filter down into the thinking of the average person.
We must stand up for the Gospel now, in all of its difficult and soul-cutting truths, for the sake of the glory of God. Penal substitution is just one of these truths. In fact, it is a linchpin doctrine upon which our salvation rests, because how is it we can be saved unless God’s justice against our wrong-doing was satisfied by Christ bearing our burden in Himself on the tree?
This book is a great place to start really understanding this timeless, Biblical truth and re-examining your own personal understanding of it even. In addition, if you really want to understand the apologetic defense against many of these arguments, this book is a must read. Regardless of where you are coming from, it will be well worth your time and help focus and concentrate you on the center-piece of our faith: Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
“When in doubt, the government will bail you out.” That seems to be a motto that is increasing in our society. And now it seems to have moved into our national government’s thinking as well. $300 Billion have now been approved by the Senate to bail people out of houses they couldn’t afford to start with. From the wise financial decisions of house-hungry consumers who enviously want to live in uptown Wherever, coupled with the deceitful financial practices of lenders approving loans they know the customer cannot afford based upon a simple formula (called the debt-to-income ratio), this mess has now resulted.
Yes, I feel sorry (in the merciful sense) for anyone who loses their house because they cannot afford the payment, even because of (possibly) bad decisions they made in getting to that point, though of course there are many exceptions. This is just not a good deal and as a sinful person looking at other people suffering, I feel sorry for them, and wish them the best. But should we be forced to pay for others’ bad decisions with our own tax dollars in the form of a $300 Billion bail out package? How is this not socialism, the redistribution of American income to bail out people who, for the most part, made bad financial decisions? This is a very unhealthy pattern of thinking that is seemingly more and more prevalent in our society, and now has reached the upper echelon’s of the government.
Consumers greedily pursue something through whatever means (in this case adjustable rate mortgages, which apparently they don’t even understand how they work before signing the papers, clearly), they get it, then can’t afford it, and then expect all of us, through the redistribution of wealth, to bail them out. Well, thanks to our fine politicians and their wise foresight, the consumers got their wish: $300 Billion. It still has a veto threat by Bush which is good. So it’s not sure. But just the fact that it has passed the Senate is telling about our leaders’ thinking on the matter.
Senator Chris Dodd is quoted in this article as saying that this legislation will “allow us to begin to put a tourniquet on the hemorrhaging of foreclosures in this country.” And in all honesty, right now, in the short term, it will probably solve some issues pertaining to the foreclosures. Maybe. Maybe not. But making this kind of legislation on a consistent basis is creating a way of dealing with (might I say, self-inflicted) disastrous situations that is very unsettling to our democracy, not merely the economy, though of course that is of great concern as well.
If the government is paying for your goods and services increasingly (now they are talking about nationalizing oil fields to be able to control the ebb and flow of the markets’ supply and demand), does it not follow the government can then demand of you, the citizen, certain things it could not have otherwise? I mean if they are paying your way, don’t you owe them something in return?
Socialism just doesn’t work in the long-run and impoverishes nations. I’m not sure exactly why it’s trendy and cool to be for socialism, because the very same people are also for humanitarian efforts, yet socialism defeats those very humanitarian efforts. It is almost like there’s a severe intellectual disconnect for some people with the theory of socialism and the resulting facts that have come out of it as an ideology.
How many case-in-point examples do we need in the world, both at the present time and from history, that it is a failed economic theory? North Korea? Cuba? Venezuela? The former USSR? Vietnam? Belarus? Myanmar? Burma? Do we really want to implement policies that have not worked so well historically in other countries? I’m just not understanding all of this. But once again, for believers in Christ, our hope is not in this world but in the one Christ has established and secured for us by His blood. That is a hope that will not shift with the winds of change in this country.
Many from conservative and liberal camps are proposing two different ideas for our current energy conundrum: we either need to (from the conservative camp primarily) increase our domestic drilling and current output, or we need to (from the liberal camp primarily) create new sources of renewable energy so that we can become less dependent upon foreign oil, decrease “greenhouse gases,” and overall lower pollution (which I’m all for getting rid of nasty fumes, by the way).
It seems each group, respectively, pits one idea against the other as if they are opposed to each other. But why can’t we do both at the same time? One resolution solves the current short-term problem of domestic demand and oil speculators driving up the price of the commodity (based on the possibility of instability in the Middle East) and the other is the long-term solution to getting away from oil altogether, which I am for.
Different political groups dig in their heels against an opposing group just for the sake of the group, not for the sake of what logically makes sense to solve our problems. It’s that precise thinking that needs to change in this country. Yes, I have hang-ups with most liberal policies and cannot stand with them on most things. But there are some things that do logically make sense that we all need to be doing that conservatives and liberals both (as groups) seem to deny.
Yes, John McCain is a “conservative” advocate for the environment and defies the norm. I mean I sure wouldn’t consider him a true conservative because of some of his out of place policies. But regardless, he does at least seem to see both of these points very clearly: increase output now in the short term and begin implementing renewable energy infrastructure into the market for the future and security of this nation.
Excerpts from a sermon by John Piper entitled Battling the Unbelief of Anxiety located here: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibr … _Anxiety/.
Today’s text (Matthew 6:25-34) illustrates this with a specific evil condition of heart, namely, anxiety.
Stop for a moment and think how many different sinful actions and attitudes come from anxiety. Anxiety about finances can give rise to coveting and greed and hoarding and stealing. Anxiety about succeeding at some task can make you irritable and abrupt and surly. Anxiety about relationships can make you withdrawn and indifferent and uncaring about other people. Anxiety about how someone will respond to you can make you cover over the truth and lie about things. So if anxiety could be conquered, a lot of sins would be overcome.
But what is the root of anxiety? And how can it be severed? To answer that we go to our text in Matthew 6. Four times in this text Jesus says that we should not be anxious.
1. Verse 25: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life.”
2. Verse 27: “And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life?”
3. Verse 31: “Therefore do not be anxious.”
4. Verse 34: “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow.”
The verse that makes the root of anxiety explicit is verse 30: “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothes you, O men of little faith?” In other words Jesus says that the root of anxiety is lack of faith in our heavenly Father. As unbelief gets the upper hand in our hearts, one of the results is anxiety.
So when Hebrews says, “Take heed lest there be in you an evil heart of unbelief,” it includes this meaning: “Take heed lest there be in you an ANXIOUS heart of unbelief.” Anxiety is one of the evil conditions of the heart that comes from unbelief. Much anxiety, Jesus says, comes from little faith. …
So my response to the person who has to deal with feelings of anxiety every day is to say: that’s more or less normal. The issue is how you deal with them.
And the answer to that is: you deal with anxieties by battling unbelief. And you battle unbelief by meditating on God’s Word and asking for the help of his Spirit. The windshield wipers are the promises of God that clear away the mud of unbelief. And the windshield washer fluid is the help of the Holy Spirit.
Without the softening work of the Holy Spirit the wipers of the Word just scrape over the blinding clumps of unbelief. Both are necessary—the Spirit and the Word. We read the promises of God and we pray for the help of his Spirit. And as the windshield clears so we can see the welfare that God plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11), our belief grows strong and the swerving of anxiety smoothes out.
(with practical examples for combating them with Scriptural truths)
When I am anxious about some risky new venture or meeting, I battle unbelief with the promise: “Fear not for I am with you, be not dismayed for I am your God; I will help you, I will strengthen you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
When I am anxious about my ministry being useless and empty, I fight unbelief with the promise, “So shall my word that goes forth from my mouth; it will not come back to me empty but accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).
When I am anxious about being too weak to do my work, I battle unbelief with the promise of Christ, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9), and “As your days so shall your strength be” (Deuteronomy 33:25).
When I am anxious about decisions I have to make about the future, I battle unbelief with the promise, “I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8).
When I am anxious about facing opponents, I battle unbelief with the promise, “If God is for us who can be against us!” (Romans 8:31).
When I am anxious about being sick, I battle unbelief with the promise that “tribulation works patience, and patience approvedness, and approvedness hope, and hope does not make us ashamed” (Romans 5:3–5).
When I am anxious about getting old, I battle unbelief with the promise, “Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save” (Isaiah 46:4).
When I am anxious about dying, I battle unbelief with the promise that “none of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself; if we live we live to the Lord and if we die we die to the Lord. So whether we live or die we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and rose again: that he might be Lord both of the dead and the living” (Romans 14:9–11).
When I am anxious that I may make shipwreck of faith and fall away from God, I battle unbelief with the promise, “He who began a good work in you will complete it unto the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:6). “He who calls you is faithful. He will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). “He is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
This is a clear, in-depth look at someone’s thinking concerning abortion, though by no means is this a blanket picture for all who have had one. It’s amazing to me that societies in the world who we, in our narcissistic, “cultured,” sophisticated, technologically savvy, Western mindset deem as coming from the old world of thinking (traditional societies), would themselves condemn this sort of behavior as barbaric and morally reprehensible (which it is). I’m not negating the fact that the situation itself is unbelievably emotionally difficult to deal with. I cannot imagine. This negates none of that. But here is the mother’s response as to why she would have one of her own children slaughtered in the womb: “Deciding to terminate at eight weeks was just utterly horrible [and I agree, but then she says] but I couldn’t cope with the anguish of losing another baby.”
“She couldn’t cope with it.” That’s the part I want to focus on. And remember, I am not making light the fact that she has lost children. That is an unbelievable pain that I cannot fathom, especially in light of my son, Grayson. That would tear me apart. Regardless, her focus is not on the child and its well-being (possibly saving it through surgery or what ever and relying on an all-powerful God to provide their deepest needs regardless of the outcome), but the mother’s feelings are supreme, rationalizing the killing of her child. Her feelings are her god, dictating the slaughter of her own child. The slaughter of her own child. Just let that sink in. How is this any different than the child sacrifices to Baal in the Old Testament? The only difference is the “religion” is taken out of it and it’s a secular deed done in the service of the parents because of their inwardly bent focus and exaltation of themselves and their ultimate feelings, instead of self-sacrificially focusing on the well-being of the child who they themselves brought into this world and should take responsibility for.
Miraculously, the baby survived and she felt it kicking again after the abortion. But what was her initial response? Joy? Relief that her awful deed had not been accomplished because of the morally depraved nature of her sin? No. Anger! She was ticked the hospital had failed in the act of killing her child. No remorse, no repentance. It’s like paying a hit man to kill a person that may be a big inconvenience to you and they failed in their endeavor. How is this any different than that, really? Does anyone not see how unbelievably backward this is? It just makes my stomach turn to see our society heartily approve these acts, as if we’re morally upright and correct in doing so. It is the logic of Romans 1 in full bloom. “Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:32).
Then I like the doctors’ response in the article, that this couples’ situation is quite common (meaning the Lord is merciful in sparing people from killing their own children). “‘Women that have early terminations in weeks six, seven and eight, many times the pregnancy is so small that doctors miss removing the baby … The danger is that the failed attempt can damage the baby [well yeah, maybe it shouldn’t be done to start with?]. That is why these patients who get early terminations need follow-ups.'” In other words, after an abortion during these time-frames, go back for a follow-up “abortion” just to make sure you have really killed it off, because it may have been injured from the first attempt and still be alive, but severely wounded. Unbelievable.
The thinking on this is just so twisted, yet for many in our society, it’s just the way it is, a received, presuppositional doctrine of sorts. The manner in which the doctor speaks makes it sound as if the life being killed is so meaningless, even at that early stage of development, that you just need to make sure “the problem” is taken care of then before it grows and becomes an even larger problem. It’s just painted with nice, politically correct language, so as to make it seem like it’s a good, healthy practice. It’s defiled, depraved and reprehensible.
And it is no wonder Christianity is fading in the West: people’s hearts are becoming so hard because of the approval of sins like this, their consciences are being seared. How can they hear the message of redemption while giving hearty approval to things on this level of depravity? Now of course I believe that the Holy Spirit can overcome even the hardest of hearts and create that which is not there. But there can come a point even with the Lord where He just might frighteningly say, “Have it your way,” and give our society over to it’s lustful, selfish, greedy, soul-damning sins.
As a result, we would become unraveled morally, politically, socially, in every way if that happened. All the Lord has to do is lift His hand of restraint and we would fall headlong toward the worst forms of a depravity. It is His sheer mercy and grace we are allowed to stand at all even at this moment for the message we say to His face through committing acts like this.
Praise God that in His mercy He spared this couple from the emotional, moral, and psychological turmoil and scars of slaughtering one of their own children, even a child with a possible life-threatening disease. And I am glad she is delighted with her child now. But at the end of the article, it says, “Another scan a week later confirmed the baby also had kidney problems, but doctors told the couple the baby was likely to survive, so they decided he deserved another chance at life.” Unbelievable. “Well, I guess we can give him another chance,” basically. It seems even then, despite the Lord’s favor and mercy on them, they still don’t get it. There’s still room in the their thinking and thus their future for another child to come which has a similar disease, and they would have the same thing done.
Child-slaughter, infanticide, abortion, it’s all the same in the eyes of the Lord. Where does this stop? At what point do we say something is just flat out wrong, and upon what basis do we say it’s wrong? How much longer before the line gets pushed further and further back, to where we approve of baby-killings, toddler killings, mentally-retarded child killings, all in the name of love for the individual?
Well, actually, some of those things are happening now. Without a moral bedrock, a timeless foundation upon which to stand (the Scriptures), there is no telling how far a culture will stray from the ways of the Lord. It’s only a matter of time before things unravel, unless the Lord mercifully intervenes. May we call out to Him for the cleansing and healing of our land.
This is primarily why I cannot vote for a Democrat, because they give hearty legal and moral approval, granting wide access to these acts. If a group approves of something this morally depraved, how can I trust them to make other decisions for the good of the country when their moral compass is this twisted and off kilter? And despite the fact I am thrilled race relations have now reached the point in this country to where we can have an African American run for President (praise God!), I cannot vote for Obama, because he himself approves of one of the worst forms of abortion: Live Birth Abortions. Just check out this past entry: http://www.davidwesterfield.net/index.p … 112-005217
This was a recent interaction I had with a great friend of mine who is Reformed in his theology, but sees some flaws within the Reformed movement and is concerned with claiming that as a belief system. I agree with the assessments of the flaws within many who claim the “Reformed” title (not all of the Reformed, but some of them), but I do not necessarily agree with the conclusions.
The main thing I want to emphasize before starting this interaction is that those who claim Reformed theology are not without their faults, big faults; I mean, they are sinners after all, saved by grace, myself included. Many are arrogant, filled with head-knowledge just for the sake of head-knowledge, all the while not applying it to their own souls, but just so they can “defeat” their opponents. Theology for the sake of pride? That sounds anti-Gospel to me. You can just see the vitriol that drips on some of the Reformed forums. Sometimes I just can’t read them because they are so frustrating, because ultimately, they are maligning Christ and the Gospel itself through their Pharisaical arrogance. But unfortunately, those are the people many see as the “face” of the Reformed, while in reality, they are in the minority of those who are actually historically Reformed.
Theology, that is, knowledge about God from the Scriptures, that does not result in the humility of the sinner before Christ and His work on our behalf, is of no use. As Paul said, “knowledge puffs up,” if it is not coupled with an active, humble pursuit of Christ as a sinner saved by grace. The attitude of the arrogantly Reformed that results of not putting theology into practice is a big turn-off to a lot of people on the outside looking in. Theology is meant for doxology (Biblical truth is meant for the glory of God). Orthodoxy should result in orthopraxy (right believing and thinking should result in right practice and living).
But, as I say in this response to my friend, you cannot look at a system of theology and conclude the system itself is wrong based upon the stupid, arrogant decisions of a loud minority who claim it. You must look at what the system itself is saying about the Gospel, look at it’s heroes themselves, and check what it is saying against the Scriptures, with all diligence. So without further ado, I’ll give his initial comments to me, and then my reply.
“John Owen, John Calvin and John Piper aren’t the final authorities on scripture though. I would be very careful following Christianity even from a reformed theological preacher such as the ones i mentioned. Even Paul pointed to the gospel, not to reformed theology. All Paul was doing was helping churches get back on the path to the truth in Christ. I don’t think he was meaning for this reformation to take such a huge stance in Christianity. Why not just say the gospel instead of reformed? It’s important to see these teachers as sinful human ‘equals’ meaning sinners such as ourselves. Seeing them as the tellers of perfect truth can make their weaknesses become our own. For that matter, why let any person who wasn’t apart of the original Bible such a huge stance such as Calvin. I think he has a bigger place in the Bible than say Timothy and Calvin wasn’t even in the Bible.”
Understand that as I go through some of your contentions with Reformed theology (or rather the modern Reformed movement) in this email (which I’m a little confused about where this came from), I’m not coming at you with theological “guns ablazin'” (with a mean spirit or something 🙂 I’m simply engaging some of your arguments honestly with responses to them. I agree with many of your assessments and others not so much. So in no way does this have to be a “heated” (i.e. emotional) engagement. So don’t take it as such.
We’re both men who can debate ideas and still love each other as brothers in Christ, praise God! People can debate ideas without it becoming personal, that’s where things have gone bad with others in debating, they malign the person, instead of engaging the ideas (i.e. “You’re so stupid so as to believe that”). That helps no one.
Just understand that I respond with these things because I love you and care about you and desire to see you pursue Christ on the straight and narrow path, not the twisted, crooked, wide one of the world that many are going down. I believe you are on the correct path spiritually more than ever, but we must always be on guard against deceptive ideas that can come in and slowly take us off track. That is how Satan works to keep our eyes off Christ, by giving us ideas that seem plausible, but in reality, take us down a road slowly but surely that moves us off the center-piece of our faith, that is Christ. With all that said …
“John Owen, John Calvin and John Piper aren’t the final authorities on scripture though.”
I agree, they are definitely not final authorities, I never said they were, nor have any of the historically Reformed. But they are nevertheless authorities, articulating what we believe to be the Biblical positions of Scripture. Will you ignore their teaching simply because they are not the final authority? As a great friend of mine has said before (paraphrasing), “You can go and stare at a great painting for hours and glean a lot of depth into what was being conveyed in the image. And you definitely should do that on a regular basis so that you can be changed by it! Yet there are people who have devoted their entire lives to understanding the painting; the lighting, the shadows, the depth perception, the colors, the mood, things I would never have really paid attention to unless someone explained it to me. So it is with the Scriptures, theology and church history. There is a great wealth of knowledge given to us by people both today and that are now gone, who loved Scripture and wanted others to see its truth, because in it is the beauty and power of Christ in the Gospel.”
Sola Scriptura states that Scripture Alone is the final infallible authority for the life, faith and practice of the church. You owe that statement to the Reformation. It wasn’t even an idea in the history of the church until the 16th century because of the Roman Catholics snuffing out the witness of Scripture. That is a Reformed idea itself and is the basis for all other debating on theological topics. But the doctrine as stated above does not negate the fact that there are church authorities, both individual and corporate, who speak on matters of theology throughout church history. This is actually a classic modern day Arminian argument against Calvinism and Reformation theology oddly enough and it is still null, void and baseless, because we have never said they were final; Jesus is final. That is actually the one thing that attracted me to Reformed theology to begin with: that it pointed to the truth of Christ, the Gospel, just like you said before that we should be doing. Reformation theology, in its summed up essence, is the recovery of the Biblical Gospel, as opposed to all the others that are out there that are blatantly heretical and soul-damning.
“I would be very careful following Christianity even from a reformed theological preacher such as the ones I mentioned.”
Really? Why? Where did this come from? So who will you learn from and follow as a mentor? The Lord uses teachers (people that are more spiritually mature and have studied the Scriptures and are more spiritually knowledgeable than us) to bring things to light you (and I) otherwise would not have seen on your (my) own. To ignore the teaching of those who have gone before you, who put in a lifetime worth of work to faithfully understand what the Scriptures have said to us, is just foolish in all honesty. This goes for anyone who would ignore great teachers of the faith. This is the very thing some people in our society say and we can see how much good it is doing them in their faith. The result is a soul-less evangelicalism that is bright and flashy on the outside and dying on the inside. They are stagnate in their pursuit because they will not listen to anyone who is smarter and wiser than they are, like mules being forced to drink from a clear bubbling brook.
So you don’t believe Reformed preachers are articulating the correct, Biblical position of theology and would not learn from them over against other camps of theology? Reformed theology as a system is not infallible (no one ever said it was, and if they have can you cite it?). But I do believe it is the closest Biblical articulation of what the Scriptures have said. I’m going to be honest: this sounds like you are defending some position or system of theology, yet not stating what that position or system is. And believe me: everyone has a system of theology, even if they deny it, because that in itself is a system of theology. In fact, that is much of the church’s framework/system: anti-intellectualism. They approach the Scriptures as if it’s just plain and simple. And it is in one sense, and then absolutely difficult and complex in another. The Gospel is so simple a child can understand and yet so deep that it takes a life-time to unfold it’s glories. It is both unbelievably simple and unbelievably complex at the same time.
Regardless, many in our culture will say, “All you need is Jesus.” Yet when you ask them, “Who is Jesus? Why did He come?” The answers you will receive back are an articulation of a particular theological position, particularly evangelical and protestant. “Well, He’s the Son of God, God become man, who died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead that we might be saved.” My response: “Well, others say Jesus is just a historical figure who should just be modeled and looked up to, who is now dead and gone.” Their response? “Well, I disagree with them about that.” My response: “That’s a theological position.” This is why theology matters: it is unavoidable. The question then is not do you have theology or not, because everyone does. The question is do you have good theology or bad theology? I believe that Reformed theology is the most correct out of all other systems, because all other systems are not nearly as Christ-centered as it is.
“Even Paul pointed to the gospel, not to reformed theology.”
Yes, that is true. Reformed theology though is itself the recovery of … the Gospel. This is a null argument purported mostly by Arminians to try and refute Calvinism and Reformed theology (not at all saying you are an Arminian, but they use that same argument). An honest Reformed position never says that Paul was “Reformed.” That’s absurd, because the chronological order of history itself does not allow for this (i.e. Paul lived in the first century, the Reformation began in the 16th century).
Spurgeon said in his Defense of Calvinism http://www.spurgeon.org/calvinis.htm, “The old truth that Calvin preached, that Augustine preached, that Paul preached, is the truth that I must preach to-day, or else be false to my conscience and my God.” That truth is that God saves sinners through Christ. That is a summed up articulation of Reformed theology, over-simplifid, but still at the heart of it. Yes it’s just Biblical, but many who say they believe the Bible deny this very statement by adding things to or taking away from it, which in turn makes it a false gospel. That statement, that God saves sinners through Christ, is absolutely a Pauline understanding, yet Augustine (in the 3rd and 4th centuries) and Calvin (during the Reformation) both reiterated that very truth and expounded upon it later in history because of errors that kept progressing and needed to be dealt with, and it was spoken under different labels over time, but it is still the same truth. The Gospel. Only by God’s doing through Christ can man be saved.
Do you believe that Paul spoke about election? Predestination? Effectual calling? Grace alone? (Rhetorical, because I know you do) These are terms used (some of which are in Scripture, others are not) to articulate giant, great, divine ideas about salvation. The term “Trinity” is not in the Scriptures either, yet the idea is clearly there. So will you throw that out as a received orthodox doctrine (necessary to be believed by the church) that heroes of the faith in the early church died for? So also it is with Reformed theology. The term contains within it a whole understanding of what the Scriptures have said to us, namely that the whole point of the Scriptures is the exaltation of Christ (that itself is a Reformed position that I know you personally hold concerning the Scriptures). By no means is it ultimate, but it is definitely authoritative and I believe very Biblical, as I would think you would agree with as well.
“Why not just say the gospel instead of reformed?”
Here is why: Because every “Christian” group, even heretical one’s who are unbelievers in fact, say they have the one Gospel-truth as well. Who do we believe? Which gospel is true? To answer your question, we don’t have that luxury basically, because there are so many false gospels out there, it’s frightening. The Catholic church says the same thing, “no, we have the true Gospel, anyone outside of us stands condemned.” Unfortunately, you have to distinguish what Gospel you are talking about now, and in order to do that you must use labels, faith-definitions. Paul himself said to be very leery of “gospels” other than the one you first received. Take the Galatians for example. That whole book is a refutation of a false gospel being spoken there that was deceiving its church body.
Our culture denies faith labels and definitions, yet they have historically been utilized since the history of the church to distinguish different ideas. The Reformed gospel, as opposed to the Catholic “gospel,” says something totally different. Same as the Arminian gospel, the Mormon “gospel,” the Jehovah’s Witness’ “gospel,” and so on. We need to be very careful about the Gospel truth we have received, that we protect it and hold onto it with everything we have. Yes, I agree with you that I would prefer to just say the Gospel without using any kind of labels to distinguish what we’re saying, but we live in a super-confused culture who doesn’t know its right from its left and so you need distinctions from other faiths, even within Christianity. I wrote about faith labels and distinctions in this blog entry http://www.davidwesterfield.net/index.p … 530-005706 recently, and it may help clarify some of these points. We live in one unbelievably confused culture who are putting forth just absurd ideas, even within the church.
“It’s important to see these teachers as sinful human ‘equals’ meaning sinners such as ourselves.”
Yes it is. And never should we say they are final, sinless individuals. That’s absurd, and never have I said they weren’t sinners. That would be anti-Scriptural (Romans 3?). Some people who claim the “Reformed” name do say that (implicitly), and honestly, people like that do not have the true Reformed spirit of honest humility and Christ-following about them. Regardless, I do esteem pastors and theologians of the Reformed tradition as better truth-sayers than other teachers and listen to them over others any day. But at the same time, that also doesn’t mean that some things cannot be gleaned from other Gospel-rooted faith traditions. We just have to take what they say with a (sometimes giant) grain of salt.
“Seeing them as the tellers of perfect truth can make their weaknesses become our own.”
I absolutely agree! In addition, I would also go on to say that those who view other fallible men as the final authority (who I will call the Arrogantly Reformed) are not consistent with Historic Reformed theology itself. John Calvin (if you’ll allow me to quote him on this 🙂 said that the life of the Christian should be marked by three things: humility, humility and humility. I agree. That’s what the life of someone following Christ should look like. Humble. Yet many of the so-called Reformed lack this to a great degree and it is sad, because this is supposed to be the mark of the Reformed to begin with: humble pursuit of Christ. If we believe in unconditional election (that God chose us for salvation based on the freedom of His grace, that His loving choice wasn’t rooted in us to begin with) how in the world can we boast, even in our correct theology? Is correct understanding and truth not itself a gift of of the cross of Christ? All boasting is evil. The Reformed would do well to take James’ advice on this, maybe apply it to their lives.