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Tim Challies

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September 2004

September 30, 2004

I am quite often asked why I would care to devote so much time and effort to the defense of a Reformed view of Christianity. A few days ago, for example, I received an email asking if it really matters what we believe on the issue of open theism. After all, either way we are worshipping God and what we happen to believe about Him and His attributes doesn’t change Him. He stays the same regardless of what mere humans believe about Him.

I believe, as evidenced by much of the writing I have done on this site, that a proper view of God is important. As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say that a proper view of God is of the utmost importance. There is a movement afoot that seeks to reduce God so that His attributes more closely resemble our own. Those parts of God that trouble us or make us uncomfortable are changed to be more human.

Open theism is one example of a system of doctrine that has done this very thing. Because the human mind is incapable of truly understanding what God’s omniscience entails and because the understanding we are capable of troubles our minds, this understanding of God has been changed. God no longer knows everything, but rather knows only what He wants to know. This reduces God to a spectator in our lives, for He knows only what the consequences of our actions will be, not which actions we will take. The doctrine of God’s omniscience, which ought to be a source of great comfort for the believer, but is also terrifying in its consequences, is made more palatable to the human mind.

I am reminded of a quote by A.W. Pink who said words that are as applicable to this century as they were to last: “The ‘god’ of this twentieth century no more resembles the Supreme Sovereign of Holy Writ than does the dim flickering of a candle the glory of the midday sun.” We have shaped God to a form that suits us. I believe the root of this is simply that we define God in our own terms, as a reflection of humanity, rather than defining us as a reflection Him. Luther saw this problem in his own day and said “your thoughts of God are too human.” We cannot understand and define God in mere human terms.

It is critical, then, that we understand God as He has revealed Himself. Read these words of Charles Spurgeon:

Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing will so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity. Would you lose your sorrow? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of sorrow and grief; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead.

These men understood that a proper, biblical view of God is of great importance. When we worship the ‘god’ of our own age, the ‘god’ we have shaped in our own image, we miss out on worshipping the Sovereign, Holy God of the Bible.

September 30, 2004

I’m going to be straight with you: I did not finish this book. Generally I will not review a book until I have read it from cover-to-cover, but in this case I just couldn’t do it. I got about two thirds of the way through and had to call it quits. It wasn’t that the book was so heretical I just couldn’t take it anymore (though there were a few theological problems) and it wasn’t that it was poorly written. The foremost problem with this book, and the one that finally caused me just to put it down, is the author’s (David Edwards) sense of humor.

The author has a very immature, sarcastic sense of humor and he seems to feel the need to put it on display on every page. You can open the book to almost any page and find some dumb comment that is supposed to be funny. I’ll give a few examples:

…the object of playing the game, of course, is winning (unless you’re the Dallas Cowboys).

What is born is something you’re still trying to make sense of (like those recurring monthly VISA charges and the Ab Doer in your closet that really doesn’t).

September 29, 2004

It has been too long since I posted some recommended reading from other blogs and Web sites. I will remedy this today. You are free to understand this post as being an indication that I am busy writing my first week’s “lesson” for Cutting It Straight and am also engaged in moving my site to a new server. That and I’m busy. And a bit lazy today. You get the idea.

Dead Man Blogging tells us that Old Dead Guys Are Dumb. If you’re looking for a laugh you can check out his compilation of photos that beg the question of Who Do You Want To Vote For? Of course the preceding question assumes American citizenship.

On a slightly less-spiritual topic, Doug at Coffeeswirls is providing weekly recaps of the weekend’s NFL action. You can read his thoughts on week two here.

Matt Hall has accepted my request for an article and has written about the differences in understandings on communion between Luther, Calvin and Zwingli. Check it out here.

JollyBlogger has announced the first ever Carnival of the Reformation which should interest any Reformed bloggers out there.

I read many blogs every day, but only recently have taken an interest in photoblogs, mostly because my brother-in-law has started one. So if you want something different to do every day, why not check out a daily photo.

September 28, 2004

It seems I absolutely have to move this site to a new server this weekend. While it may not sound like that big of a deal, let me assure you that it is. Moving the site, the forums, databases and so on without losing any information is quite the daunting task. And what’s more, I really don’t want to miss a day of posting and break my Cal Ripken-like streak! My trial runs of moving everything have not been too encouraging to this point.

So, hopefully everything will go smoothly. If you notice things looking a bit odd over the weekend you will know why. If you happen to be a database and/or Movabletype guru let me know as I may have a question or two for you!

September 28, 2004

I believe our churches need to be seeker sensitive. There, I said it! And not just a little bit seeker sensitive either. I believe they should be wholly, entirely given over to the idea of seeker sensitivity, for this is the highest calling of a church.

Hear me out.

Seeker sensitivity in our day seems to be associated with shallowness in doctrine, in worship and even in Christian disciplines. We see churches packed to the rafters with people who have sought out and found entertainment in the church but the people show little evidence of any true life change. We see sermons that are no longer based on the Bible and address little more than people’s perceived felt needs. We hear songs that have little depth and substance and sound more like commercial jingles than songs that honor and praise a holy God. We see the most radical versions of these churches offering oil changes during the services and drive-in churches – doing anything to get people to listen to the message. They build an audience devoted to entertainment. We see the message being lost in the presentation. And this is what we call seeker sensitive today.

But that is not it. That is not the Biblical definition of seeker sensitivity.

John 4 contains a fascinating dialogue between Jesus and a Samaritan woman – a woman that Jesus’ own disciples were shocked that he would even speak to. Having surprised her by recounting some of her own life story, Jesus began to teach her about the true nature of worship. He then said “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”

Perhaps the King James renders this a little more clearly. It says “The hour is coming – yea, has already arrived!” God’s kingdom is both future and present. While we await the perfect consummation following the Lord’s return, even now we can be true worshippers, for the kingdom has already arrived. Even today we can worship God in spirit and truth. We worship in spirit because we are no longer tied to a specific physical location as the center of our worship. Before the time of Jesus’ incarnation, worship was centered in Jerusalem, but today we are free to worship anywhere. And second, we worship in truth when we worship God based on the clear teachings of His Word. We must worship God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture and using the methods He has revealed in His Word. Thus worshipping in spirit and in truth is worship that involves the whole heart and is in harmony with God’s revealed truth.

And now we get to the heart of seeker sensitivity. “…they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.” Who is the seeker? None but God! Romans 3:11 tells us that “there is no one who seeks after God.” Our worship, then, is to be sensitive to the seeker: the One who seeks us. The Father is actively seeking those who worship Him in spirit and truth, for these are the kind of seekers the Father desires.

If God Himself is the one seeking worshippers, will He go where worship is shallow and meaningless? Will He associate Himself with those who are more concerned with pandering to the world than in truly honoring God; with entertaining the goats rather than feeding the sheep? No! Got will seek and will find those who worship Him the way He desires to be worshipped.

Seeker sensitive worship, then, is worship that honors the Father. It is worship that involves spirit and truth. It encourages us to worship with our whole hearts and encourages us to worship in the ways God has revealed in His Word. Truth is at its very heart and there is no room in seeker sensitive worship for anything less than the best. It seeks to honor God, not entertain men. There is no room for shallowness or of pandering to the needs of those who hate God. Seeker sensitive worship must be deep, wonderful and laced with God’s truth.

So let our worship seek to honor the Seeker. Let us build churches that are sensitive to the One who we are to glorify. He is to be our audience: an audience of One.

September 27, 2004

If you read this site on a regular basis, you’ll know I have been doing some research on the topic of what happens to children who die before they can hear or accept the gospel. I first wrote about this here. This is an issue almost every Christian faces at some point during his pilgrimage and one for which there is no easy answer. Surveying the writings of the great Christians of the past or present will produce no clear consensus.

Before I begin I will ask you to excuse my brevity. This article weighs in at nearly 2000 words, which though not terribly long, is already too long for Internet standards. If it gets much longer than that people simply won�t read it! Therefore this discussion merely touches on many topics that could be written about at length. Perhaps in the future I will give this topic a more thorough treatment.

The predominant views found amongst believers are:

All children who die in infancy are saved.

September 26, 2004

Here, once again, are my weekly ramblings, restored to their rightful day of the week. This is a chance for me to address all the topics I wanted to write about during the week but couldn’t make into a whole article.

Today the pope denounced the imbalance of wealth that exists between the world’s rich and poor. He is well-qualified to speak about such things since he heads the richest organization in the world. The wealth of the Vatican is beyond measuring, but must extend into the hundreds of billions or more likely into the trillions of dollars. He could gain just a little bit of credibility if he had said that they were going to donate the proceeds from the sale of a couple of statues or paintings, or maybe donate the proceeds from the sale of some of the millions of acres of land they own just here in Ontario. But no, we know that won’t happen. The pope can denounce the imbalance all he wants, but until he starts to be part of the solution rather than the cause of much of the problem, his words count for nothing. Of course he compounds his sin by asking God to help those who are “most tried by the unfair distribution of wealth that God destines for all his children” when he, himself, could address this problem better than anyone in the world.

I have owned J.I. Packer’s book Knowing God for several years now and have never stopped to read it…until yesterday. I knew it was going to be a good one and am not surprised to find that after the first few chapters it is just an excellent book. Between that and Putting Amazing Back Into Grace I could have back-to-back winners here!

For the past four Sundays my church has been meeting in the local AMC Theatre since all the other buildings in town were either booked or were too expensive. While it has been a new experience, it has generally been a good one. Where I was concerned that it would drastically change the look and feel of the church, I think it has actually been a good thing for us. Immediately outside the doors of the cinema we are in as a cafe area with tables and chairs, and people begin to arrive early to sit and yack with their friends. The sense of community, which I feared would be lost, has actually increased. And the acoustics in that theatre are really good which makes doing the music a joy!

That’s all I’ve got for today! Enjoy the rest of your Lord’s Day and we’ll see you back here tomorrow.

September 25, 2004

Putting Amazing Back Into Grace is the first book I have read by Michael Horton. It will certainly not be my last. On the cover of the book J.I. Packer declares the book “a breaktaking workout” and his praise is justified. This book points us back to the Reformation and ultimately to the Bible itself as the source of an amazing grace that much of modern Christianity seems to have lost. He presents timeless truths as being as relevant to us today as they were when they were first discovered.

Horton redraws the standard TULIP acronym using modern terms. Total Depravity becomes Rebels Without A Cause, Unconditional Election becomes Grace Before Time, Limited Atonement becomes Mission Accomplished, Irresistible Grace becomes Intoxicating Grace and Perseverance of The Saints becomes No Lost Causes. While the terms may have changed, the truth behind each is defended and, perhaps best of all, made relevant to life. More than a theological treatise, this book contains an element of intense practicality where Horton shows how these doctrines are relevant to everyday life.