Welcome to the online home of Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer.

Tim Challies

Challies on FacebookChallies on Twitter

February 2005

February 17, 2005

Thanks to all who participated in the giveaway of The Reformation Study Bible (ESV) and The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul.

Unfortunately, as with the previous giveaways, there can be only two winners. Before I announce their names, I would like to let you know that Monergismbooks.com, which co-sponsored this giveaway, has once again offered a great discount to all contest participants who purchase The Reformation Study Bible (ESV). This Bible is already available from Monergismbooks at a price lower than you will find in your local bookstore and even lower than what Amazon offers, but now the deal has been sweetened even further. You’ll have to visit the site to read about it! The deal will not last long, so don’t dawdle!

I am also pleased to say that on March 7th I will announce the next giveaway. The details are not fully in place yet, but it will once again feature an autographed copy of a great book and, in all likelihood, another great item.

And now, without any further ado, I will announce the winners of this month’s prize. As always, they were chosen by a random drawing of all the participants. They are:

Amy Henry
Ryan Hanlon

Congratulations to Amy and Ryan. I have contacted each of you seperately and the Bible and book will be shipped as soon as I receive your information.

As for everyone else, thank you for your participation. Hang in there until March 7th when I will send information about the next giveaway.

And before I close, I would like to extend a personal word of thanks for participating in these giveaways. Enough people are participating now that authors, stores and publishers are beginning to take notice. This can only be a good thing, as I have been asked by many of these people if they would be able to co-sponsor a future giveaway. This ensures that there will be a steady stream of great items available to you!

And now…why not visit Monergismbooks and give him your support!

February 16, 2005

Yesterday I finished off two new site designs for a couple of Christian bloggers. As part of their package (far and away the least exciting part of the package, I’m sure), they get one official shout-out from my site! So here goes…

First up is Noidlebrain.com, home to Colin Rowley. Colin is a kindred spirit and someone I enjoyed getting to know during the time I worked on his site. He wanted me to work with those LOUD colors, and I found it quite a treat since I am accustomed to working with such soft, muted colors. On the whole I am quite happy with the final result, though the three column design does leave a small content area for articles. However, that small complaint aside, I think the design is a success. And more importantly, Colin is pleased.

The second site is Mine & Thine, home of Christine. She is quite new to the blogging scene, so I have yet to see what her blog will become. I decided to try a whole new look for this site, and am pleased with the results. The color scheme is different, yet works, and the layout is quite unlike any other site I have designed.

I have a couple of similar projects underway and will post about them here when they are fit for public consumption. And yes, I am always looking for more work. If you are interested in having your site redesigned, don’t hesitate to contact me. I charge less than you might think!

February 16, 2005

This post comes from within the Feedback Files. The Feedback Files are the questions I receive from readers via the Contact page. I thought it would be informative to open some of these questions and answers to the community.

Recently a self-professed “Baby Calvinist” wrote to ask, “If a person is “a child of wrath” from birth due to Adam’s sin and unable to choose God because of Adam’s sin, how is he responsible for his actions if he was born this way (and has no ability of his own to choose God)? … If Christ didn’t die for all men, yet all men were condemned for one sin (and by that sin, thereafter, unable to choose good), how is it just of God to condemn all men if they are “determined” to be sinful by the action of Adam?”

This is one of those questions that could be answered in a few short lines, many sermons, or in a few great volumes. I will attempt to strike a middle ground, and hope to answer it satisfactorily, but without going into laborious detail.

It is first important to realize that there is a unity in the human race. Acts 17:26 tells us that “he [God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth.” Some of the older translations read “he made from one blood every nation of mankind.” (emphasis mine) Thus all of us are descendents of the one man and we have inhereted his humanity and his attributes. Unfortunately, we have also inhereted his sin.

John Piper writes, “The problem with the human race is not most deeply that everybody does various kinds of sins—those sins are real, they are huge and they are enough to condemn us. Paul is very concerned about them. But the deepest problem is that behind all our depravity and all our guilt and all our sinning, there is a deep mysterious connection with Adam whose sin became our sin and whose judgment became our judgment.” (“Adam, Christ, and Justification: Part I”)

Let’s now try to come to an understanding of how Adam’s sin effected the human race. This is one of the topics Paul addresses in Romans 5, a chapter that deals primarily with justification by faith. We will begin with verses 12 - 14 of that chapter. “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned — for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.” Read those words once more, for they are difficult to understand. This is something of an awkward construct, for Paul begins a thought in verse 12, and does not conclude it until verse 18. Verses 13 through 17 are parenthetical, yet still crucial to the argument he is building.

We learn from these verses that sin came into the world through one man, and we know this to be Adam. We learn also that death entered the world through sin and that death spread to all men because all men sinned. The meaning of these last words has been in dispute throughout the history of the church. Somehow we need to reconcile the fact that when Adam sinned, every human being also sinned, even though they were not yet in existence. From the moment of Adam’s sin, God regarded the human race as sinful. This is the meaning of verses 13 and 14, for Paul tells us that even before the Law was given, men still died. Thus before God gave the Law to Moses, men were already counted guilty by God on the basis of their forefather’s sin. This is further reinforced in verses 18 and 19 which read “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”

We see that Adam was more than the father of the human race, but was also the representative head of the human race. God had determined this from before the time Adam sinned. Thus Adam’s actions directly effected us. Consider the metaphor of the President of a nation. When the President of the United States declared war on Japan on December 8, 1941, every citizen of the nation was also at war with Japan. Acting as the head of all those who he represented, the President made a decision that effected each one of them. It is, of course, an imperfect analogy, but sheds some light on how one man can represent others. Adam made the decision to wage war against God, and this affected every aspect of his being.

Just as our physical bodies are descended from Adam, so the same is true with our souls. A child is not given a perfect, sinless soul at the moment of conception, but rather inherets an already sinful soul from his parents and ultimately, from Adam. So when we read in Genesis that Adam “fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth” we know that Adam’s likeness included a sinful body and a sinful soul. Just as Adam had sinned in the whole man, both body and soul, so Seth inhereted that sinful body and soul.

There is a term here we ought to define. To impute is to “attribute or credit to” or, said otherwise, “attribute (responsibility or fault) to a cause or source.” Adam, acting as our representative, sinned on our behalf and his sin was then imputed to us - held on our account. Hodge writes, “Such was the relation, natural and federal, between him [Adam] and his posterity, that his act was putatively their act. That is, it was the judicial ground or reason why death passed on all men. In other words, they were regarded and treated as sinners on account of his sin.” Thus Adam’s sin is regarded as our own. When Adam sinned, we sinned and are justifiably considered condemned in God’s eyes because of this sin.

Naturally, there are many objections against this view. I will outline two responses we can make against these objections:

First, anyone who protests that this is unfair has already committed a multitude of sins, proving his own sinfulness. God does not place an innocent man under Adam’s sin against his will. It is his own sins that will form the primary basis for his condemnation. Romans 2:6 tells us that God “will render to each one according to his works.” Similarly, Colossians 3:25 says, “… the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.”

Second, if we deny that men can be declared guilty on the basis of one man’s sin, we will have difficulty with the parallel between Adam and Christ, who is called the Second Adam. “As one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” Adam stood as the representative head of the human race and sinned, but God sent His Son to stand as the second representative head and through Him provided salvation. We are counted guilty through Adam’s sin, but Christ, standing as the representative head of all who would believe in Him, obeyed God and now God counts us as righteous. To return to the word “impute,” we can now have Christ’s righteousness imputed to us, removing the sin of Adam.

Parenthetically, Wayne Grudem provides a third response, but seems to give it little credence. He suggests the view that any other human would also have sinned had he been in Adam’s place. However, the Bible does not explicitly state this and by Grudem’s own admission, “it does not seem to be a conclusive argument, for it assumes too much about what would or would not happen.” (Systematic Theology, page 495)

So now we turn back to the original question of how it is that God can condemn all men on the basis of one man’s action. Or said otherwise, how can He hold our sins against us when we are so predisposed to sin that we are unable not to sin? As we have seen, Adam’s sin is our own as fully as it was his. Yet this is not something we should regret or despise. Rather, we ought to embrace this, for if this is true, so it is true that Christ stands as our representative and is able and willing to impute His righteousness to our account. There is nothing to be gained in objecting to the imputation of Adam’s guilt, but everything to be gained in accepting it. As G.I. Williamson says, “Explain it, or explain it not, as we may, it remains true. It is also a fact that there is no salvation for such sinners as we are, except by the word of Jesus Christ as the representative of His people.” (The Shorter Catechism Volume 1)

February 15, 2005

Monergism.com is one of the most valuble resources on the Internet. John Hendryx, whom I have come to know well over the past several months, has a true servant’s heart and has created just an incredible site. It is one I turn to often when I need to do theological research or even devotional reading.

John announced today that he is contemplating a Monergism Conference. “This would not be a conference about Monergism the website, but monergism, the biblical truth of grace alone and regeneration of the Holy Spirit apart from any human cooperation. I would seek to highlight this conference with worthy speakers. I am excited by the thought of doing such a thing but would love to hear your input and wonder how many of you would be interested in attending such a conference. It would be a conference focused on the Third Person of the Trinity and His work in bringing glory to the Eternal Son of God. That is, about the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing people to salvation in uniting us to Christ. Many long time visitors of Monergism.com might be interested in such a conference and I trust would be interested in encouraging the attendance of friends who remain skeptical.”

John is looking for input from the Internet community on whether such a conference would be welcome and whether you would be interested in attending. So please, read his letter and send him an email letting him know if this is something you would be interested in attending.

February 15, 2005

Having collected Christian music since the early nineties, I have amassed a very extensive collection. A couple of years ago I began moving it all to my computer and now have some 5,200 songs in MP3 format. This respresents the bulk of the collection with the exception of sixty or eighty cassettes. I have some of the best and worst of Christian music. I have albums that have won grammies and albums that have been sent to me just because people couldn’t believe music that bad was even possible and wished to share it with me! Strangely, though, over the past months I have grown increasingly tired of my music. Though I certainly hope this is not the case, is it possible that I am growing out of rock music? This is something my parents told me would happen some day. I do think they were motivated in telling me this by a desire to have me spend my money on more worthwhile pursuits than spending it all on albums. It could also just be owing to the fact that I have not spent much money on music in recent months and my collection is growing a tad stale, but with the sheer quantity of music I have at my disposal, it shouldn’t ever be stale!

Last week, on a whim, I purchased Hymns Triumphant, volumes 1 and 2 from iTunes. Together the albums total almost 60 tracks (either full songs or pieces of songs) and the albums clock in at over 2 hours. The music is performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, one of the best orchestras in the world, and the vocals are performed by the Amen Choir. When I was young my mother had the first of these albums, and she listened to it often, so listening to it now is a trip down memory lane. I love the hymns, and though I was raised on a steady musical diet of hymns, I think my love for them goes much deeper than mere nostalgia.

For the past few days I have listened to these albums almost exclusively. The more I listen to them, the more I find myself in awe of the power and beauty of these songs. I find myself homesick for hymns! In recent years, many churches, including my own, have pulled back from hymns, believing them to be irrelevant to our culture, and hence to the church. While we still sing them occasionally, they are supplemental rather than staples of our musical diet.

It seems to me that the average hymn is somehow much more grand and more beautiful than the average worship song (and of course there are exceptions). Perhaps it is that over the past several hundred years, the church has effectively weeded out the worst of the hymns - those that had poor content or poor music. Maybe this is why music of the past seems more consistently beautiful than contemporary music. There must be some sort of Darwinian survival of the fittest happening in Christian music, for I know that when I listen to these hymns, I am consistently moved to tears and, even better, moved to worship.

I am simply unable to listen to “All Hail The Power Of Jesus’ Name” without breaking into chills. The beauty of the words, combined with the orchestra and the choir singing forth God’s praise in full throat is almost too much - it is very nearly too much beauty for me to comprehend. When I hear this same choir sing “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today” I feel like I have stepped right into heaven and am listening to the heavenly choirs sing forth their never-ending praise to God.

Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once, upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss, Alleluia!

When the choir follows the strings up and down, finally rising to a trimphant Alleluia! I marvel at the way that the hymn writer was able to open paradise just a little bit.

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened paradise, Alleluia!

I am left to marvel. What, short of a glimpse of heaven, could cause mere men to write such heartfelt words? What, short of coming face-to-face with Christ Himself, could inspire men to create such beauty? I guess the simple fact remains that this is exactly what happened. These men saw glimpses of heaven and came face-to-face with their Savior through the Scriptures. They became aware of their own depravity and were left in awe of the perfect, unsurpassed greatness of the Savior. God gifted them in special ways to record what they learned and experienced, and these have become the treasures of the church of Christ.

Now I know that God examines the heart, and to Him the heart is far more important than the music or even the words. After all, even the most beautiful words can be sung by an unbelieving person, and from an unsaved heart even beautiful words have no real significance to that person. Yet somehow these hymns seem to transcend the choruses and worship songs of our day. Somehow they seem to be just a little bit closer to something. Perhaps it is that they seem to somehow capture the majesty of worship in a way choruses cannot. Perhaps it is that they are usually easier to sing and are created specifically for corporate worship. I can’t say. I know that when I picture in my mind the great throng of worshippers before Christ’s throne, they are singing songs of such beauty that even the grandest hymn cannot do them justice. But perhaps these hymns comes as close as sinful hearts can create and sinful ears can be priveleged to hear.

February 14, 2005

This morning I spent a good bit of time reading through some of my old journal entries. Sadly my journalling has tailed off as my blogging has increased. This is sad because journalling was an important spiritual discipline for me. While I often wrote about the same things I write about on this site, journalling was an opportunity to be more personal - to write things that I suppose only God and I will ever know. It is often interesting to go back and read entries from two, three, five or more years ago. In one old notebook I even found the rough notes I made for my wedding speech. And flipping back a few pages, I found some things I had written almost ten years ago now, when I was well, ten years younger! Some of these things make me wonder at my own youthful wisdom, and some make me laugh out loud at my youthful folly. One thing I know for sure is that we should all be glad that I gave up on writing poetry. Oh me, oh my!

I can see that many of the journal entries I wrote eventually turned into articles on this site. There was one in particular that jumped out at me this morning, probably because of other reading I did this morning. Carla was writing about her husband’s fascination with the ugly side of “Christianity,” represented by men like Jack Van Impe and Peter Popoff, and said “Is it any wonder the world looks at Christianity and laughs? These guys are downright embarassing.” Over the weekend I received several emails that expressed the same feelings - embarrassment about so many of the men and women that people outside the church believe are our representatives as Christians. As a Christian it is, of course, easy to disassociate myself from Van Impe and the too-many scheisters like Popoff, but those outside the church often do not.

In my journal I had written about a study we were doing in our small group Bible study about the prophet Daniel. We were looking at him as an example of one who stood strong in his convictions. When commanded to cease worshipping God, he never considered disobeying God. Instead, he pressed on with his routine of praying three times each day. He knew there would be fearsome consequences, yet trusted that obeying God was preferable to any punishment he could face at the hands of men. You can read the story, known to children around the world as “Daniel in the Lion’s Den” in Daniel chapter 5.

Studying Daniel made me think of another section of the Bible that had been on my mind recently. Romans 2:24 reads, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” This passage refers to behavior among the Jewish people of Rome during Paul’s days. These people had turned their backs on God and sunk into every type of ungodly behavior. I found it a sobering thought that people who do not know God can blaspheme His name because of my behavior. What a responsibility it is to be a light to the world and to live in a way that is consistent with the Scriptures.

This brought me back about 650 years to Daniel. Had Daniel backed down and ceased worshipping God, or even if he had partially backed down and made his worship private, the name of God would have been blasphemed by the Persians. They would have seen Daniel as a man who was afraid to stand for his convictions. But Daniel did not back down. He stood firm and rather than being blasphemed, the name of God was exalted by the Gentiles. In Daniel 5:26 - 27 we read the proclamation of the Persian king:

“For He is the living God and enduring forever,
And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed,
And His dominion will be forever.
He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders
In heaven and on earth,
Who has also delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.”

Here was a man, a Gentile and an unbeliever, who praised God for His greatness. He was driven to this proclamation because of the wondrous work God performed in rescuing Daniel. It goes without saying that had Daniel allowed himself to be intimidated and had he refused to stand strong for his convictions, the king would never have praised God. Rather His holy name would have been blasphemed.

In Romans, Paul provides the solution to those who cause others to blaspheme God’s name. “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.” We could as easily say today that “A Christian is one inwardly.” A man who has a television program and a ministry and reads from the Bible a lot, may not be a Christian inwardly and may not have the Spirit within.

What an honor and what a great responsibility it is to call ourselves by the name of our Savior and to be His ambassadors on earth! As Christians we bear the name of Christ. Through our example - through our lives - God’s name can be praised and God’s name can be blasphemed. What a fearful thing it must be one who not only blasphemes God’s name, but through evil and careless words and actions, causes other people to blaspheme His holy name! The judgment facing those who cause others to blaspheme God’s name must be fearsome. “ ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:30-31) So we must live a life that consistently brings praise and glory to our Lord, that His name may be honored in and through us.

February 13, 2005

I assume that almost no one reading this needs to be persuaded to attend church. Beyond your good habit of church attendance, however, how do you decide what else you should or should not do on Sunday?

When it comes to making such decisions, I understand there to be three major views among Christians, One is the Christian Sabbath view. This view says that the Fourth Commandment - “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy…” (Exodus 20:8-11) - is a perpetual, moral law of God and remains intact under the New Covenant. Instead of a Saturday Sabbath as in the Old Covenant, Christians observe the Sabbath on Sunday in commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Except for the ceremonial aspects of the Jewish Sabbath, all other Sabbath laws should be embraced by Christians today, just as much as any of the other Ten Commandments.

The Lord’s Day View points to texts like Colossians 2:16-17 and Hebrews 4:9-10, arguing that the Sabbath was “a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” (Colossians 2:17). Like the Day of Atonement, the Sabbath pointed to Christ. Jesus Christ is the true Sabbath, And when we rest from (that is, stop relying upon) our good works as the way to be right with God, and rest by faith in the finished work of Christ on our behalf, we “keep the Sabbath” (or rather, Christ keeps it perfectly for us). Among those who take this view is a wide range of perspectives on what - in addition to public worship - it means to observe the Lord’s Day.

However, most Christians apparently prefer a third position. I call it the Oblivious view. In other words, these believers go to church, but beyond that they’ve never considered whether the Bible has anything to say about what else they should or shouldn’t do on Sunday. They make their decisions about these things based far more upon cultural influences than upon the Bible or anything else. The “culture” that influences their actions may be their church culture or the general culture, but the primary influence is culture nonetheless. If just about everyone in their church commonly shops for groceries or goes to the mall on Sunday afternoon, then they will probably feel comfortable doing the same things themselves. And if most everyone in the culture at large seems to be watching football on Sunday, then they won’t think twice about turning on the game after Sunday dinner.

I want to encourage you to base your decisions about your Lord’s Days activities - whatever they may be - more intentionally upon the Bible. That’s what a Christian really wants to do in everything, isn’t it? It’s also closer to true spirituality to acknowledge the authority of Scripture over how you spend your Sunday. Study the issue, be persuaded in your own mind, and then act accordingly. Believe that it’s always more blessed by God and glorifying to God to choose to live biblically.

The preceding article was “borrowed” (ie plagarized) from Simplify Your Spiritual Life by Don Whitney. Don is an occasional reader of this site so I hope he just happens to miss this one! If he does read it, I hope to mollify him by expressing to others that this is an excellent book and one you really ought to purchase.

I have expressed in the past that I still have trouble deciding what I believe about Sunday. I was raised in the Sabbath view but now attend a church where those who are deliberate about studying the issue arrive at the Lord’s Day view, but as in most churches, I suspect most have never even realized there was an issue to study! I appreciated Don’s counsel in this chapter which tells us that ignorance is never pleasing to God. We all owe it to Him and to ourselves and our families to study the issue and arrive at a Biblical conclusion.

May the Lord of the Sabbath bless you on this Lord’s Day, and may you not be oblivious to His blessings.

February 12, 2005

I still remember the day I bought my very first CD player. I had been saving my pennies and dimes for some time and convinced my father to drive me to Future Shop, which is Canada’s answer to Best Buy. Just a couple of days before my previous stereo had gone up in a flash of smoke and flame, and I had no intention of going more than a couple of days without music. And so it was that I bought myself a new stereo, complete with CD player. Of course I didn’t own a single CD, but the next day I remedied that. I made the treck to the local Christian bookstore and purchased Great Lengths by PFR (aka Pray For Rain) - my very first CD.

Since that time PFR has been one of my favorite bands. Having heard Great Lengths I soon purchased their two previous albums and enjoyed every song. It was a couple of years later that I began my own painting company, and I remember carving time out of each day for a good couple of weeks to head to the Christian bookstore to see if their latest album, Them had arrived. That soon because one of my all-time favorite albums and I must have listened to it every day for months. It was with great sadness that I learned it was to be their last studio album. The following year they released a best-of and retrospective album called The Late, Great PFR. I was sad. Fortunately, a couple of years later, Steve Taylor brought the band out of retirement to record a song for a compilation album. They had such fun that they decided to reunite. In 2001 they released Disappear, an album I thought was great, but which slipped under most people’s radars. They disbanded once more. And then in 2004 they got together for one week to record three news songs and to re-record some of their old favorites. The result of that week-long session is The Bookhouse Recordings. Generally the band has moved in an acoustic direction, which will disappoint those of us who primarily like our music loud. Fortunately, the band is so talented that the true fans would still listen to them if they decided to do nothing but acapella.

This latest album kicks off with a new version of “Pray For Rain.” This has always been a great song, but the updated version is even better. It is just loud enough, has some great new guitar work, but maintains the flavor of the band’s first hit. I was not as crazy about the remixed “Great Lengths,” which, though interesting, does not eclipse the original. “Wonder Why” receives a slightly more acoustic treatment, leaving it with a big and hollow sound, but Hanson’s vocals shine through as they did on the original. “Anything” becomes a piano-driven ballad and “That Kind of Love” from Goldie’s Last Day sounds very similar to the original, maintaining the strong harmonies. The album works towards the end with “Dying Man,” a remix featuring a strong bass intro, and winding up with a version sounding very similar to the original (which is not a bad thing). The album closes with “Last Breath,” a song about life coming to an end. It is quieter and slower-paced than the original, which seemed almost frantic in pace.

The album also features three new tracks. “In The Middle” is an acoustic, jazzy song that adds a different dimension to the album. “Home” is an outstanding, folky song that is the best of the new recordings. “A Prayer For Beslan,” inspired by the acts of terrorism in that town, was a surprise. Because of the name and subject matter, I expected it to be a ballad, but instead it is edgy, loud and a little bit strange. I does not seem to fit the feel of the album very well, but takes the band to some uncharted territory.

As with PFR’s previous three recordings, we really have no idea if this is the last we will hear of them. Based on this album, I certainly hope they carry on, as it seems they still have much to offer.