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July 2012

July 31, 2012

This is the eighth installment in a series on theological terms. See previous posts on the terms theology, Trinity, creation, man, Fall, common grace, and sin.

First and foremost, righteousness is an attribute of God: “For the LORD is righteous” (Psalm 11:7). The fact that God is righteous means that he “always acts in accordance with what is right and is himself the final standard of what is right” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology). Righteousness is a statement about God’s moral nature and it means that he never does wrong. More than that, God’s righteousness means that he cannot do wrong.

For man, righteousness is a measure of morality just as it is for God, but man has no part in defining what is right. Man is righteous only as much as his morality, expressed in desires, thoughts, and deeds, conforms to that of God’s. Where he differs with God, he is unrighteous.

Scripture is clear that because Adam’s sin has corrupted every man, “none is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10; cf. Psalm 14:1-3). But it is also clear that Jesus Christ lived a perfectly righteous life and died for our sins in order to free us from our punishment and credit us with his own righteousness—the righteousness of God (see 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21). This is the gospel.

July 31, 2012

Yesterday I began to look at Michael Pearl’s To Train Up a Child (click here to read it). My interest in this book is based in part on its popularity and in part on the way in which it very clearly highlights how faulty foundational beliefs will lead to faulty actions. In the first part of the review I showed that Pearl advocates a particular method of training children and that he distinguishes this training from discipline. Today I want to show you that much of his technique flows out of his denial of a key Christian doctrine.

The Innocent Child

Pearl denies the doctrine of original sin and thus believes that children have no need to be justified and, further, until they are older cannot be justified. This puts him radically at odds with the vast majority of Evangelical Christians. Let me show you what he denies and what he believes in its place.

As Pearl lays the groundwork for the book, he says that his training is a reflection of the way God trains his people. He goes to the Garden of Eden and says that this was God’s training ground for humanity. “When God wanted to ‘train’ his first two children not to touch, He did not place the forbidden object out of their reach. Instead, He placed the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ in ‘the midst of the garden’ (Gen. 3:3).” He teaches that the tree was located in the middle of the garden so that it would be a constant temptation; with more visibility would come more opportunity for training by temptation. It was a “moral factory” meant to produce character.

It was the language of “training ground” along with some other scattered words and phrases that made me begin to wonder what Pearl believes about the spiritual state of children. I visited his web site’s “What We Believe” section to find important clarifying information. There he says,

We believe that man was created in the span of a twenty-four hour period. He was created perfect physically and constitutionally, including the moral and spiritual essence. Man, though complete and entire, wanting nothing, was, in his innocence, without character. The tree of knowledge of good and evil, a moral testing ground, was, in the wisdom of God, the perfect opportunity for spiritual development. The natural constitution of man (desire for food, etc.) became the basis for temptation. In the eating of the tree, the willful and direct disobedience to God resulted in legal estrangement from God and precipitated the curse of death on Adam and all his descendants.

He holds, then, that Adam and Eve were created sinless but with unformed character. The purpose of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was to test them and provide them a context for spiritual development. The statement of faith goes on to say this: “When a descendant of Adam reaches a level of moral understanding (sometime in his youth) he becomes fully, personally accountable to God and has sin imputed to him, resulting in the peril of eternal damnation” and later, “When man reaches his state of moral accountability, and, by virtue of his personal transgression, becomes blameworthy, his only hope is a work of grace by God alone.”

This brings all kinds of clarity to his training technique. He believes that children are born sinless and unformed just as Adam and Eve were. Their younger years are a context for spiritual development that allows the parents to train them for when they become personally accountable to God somewhere around their early teens. Any “bad” things they do in these early years are not actually sinful since they are not truly opposed to God. They are still bad, but only as measured against a standard lower than God’s. Supposing that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was placed in the Garden as a test that would provide Adam and Eve a context for spiritual development, and seeing that they fell after facing a temptation that appealed to their natural constitution, he encourages parents to do the very same thing, to create a moral testing ground and to face children with what most naturally appeals to them.

July 31, 2012

The Church - The Kindle version of Mark Dever’s recent book The Church is on sale for just $1.99. This deal won’t last long, so you know what to do. You may also want to take a look at Biblical Authority by James Draper.

Yelp Reviews - This is a brilliant little video that highlights the absurdity of life in this modern, digital world where we take seriously the ability to review everything we do and experience. Here a professional actor simply reads a review, but does it beautifully.

A Merciful God - This is a powerful post that was written in the aftermath of the shootings in Colorado. It was written by someone who was in the theatre.

How to Watch the Olympics - John Piper doing what he does: “The good Brit C. S. Lewis (who’d be happy to see London host the games) would call it ‘transposition’—taking in the Olympic games, engaging and entertaining as they are, and seeing through them, and beyond them, to the ultimate realities to which they point in God’s created world, spring-loaded at every turn to teach us about redemption.”

Loving the God Who Takes Your Child - A mother and father proclaim their trust in the Lord and his purposes even while they mourn the loss of their infant son.

Reading for the New Calvinist - Keith Mathison suggests ten books and one letter every new Calvinist ought to read.

Paranal Observatory - This is quite an amazing little movie. Just look at the volume of stars in the sky!

The light of human reason differs little from darkness. —John Calvin

July 30, 2012

To Train Up a Child Michael PearlWhat if I told you that there is a parenting technique you can follow that will give you “a renewed vision for your family—no more raised voices, no contention, no bad attitudes, fewer spankings, a cheerful atmosphere in the home, and total obedience from your children?” And what if I told you that this technique “always works with every child?” And what if I added that this technique comes with God’s own seal of approval because it is “the same technique God uses to train His children?” Such are the claims of Michael Pearl in To Train Up a Child, a book that is well on its way to selling its one millionth copy.

Let me tell you why I am reviewing this book. After I recently wrote a two-part review of Debi Pearl’s Created To Be His Help Meet I received repeated requests to take a look at To Train Up A Child, written by her husband Michael. The people who wrote to me told me of the impact the book has had on their lives and on their churches. They also told me how many copies it had sold and how many are in the hands of people who read this web site. In light of all of this, I determined that it would be wise for me to have some knowledge of it.

As I read the book, I found it a fascinating illustration of the reality that what we believe will necessarily impact what we do and how we do it. In this case, it shows that what we believe to be true about children will inevitably shape the way we “train them up.” It concerned me to see that many people follow Michael Pearl’s technique even though they believe very different things from what he believes. It is for these people in particular that I write my review. I write it not to condemn you, but to provoke you to consider what Pearl really believes about children and how this has shaped his book and your children.

There are several key claims and teachings of this book that merit a closer look. I will move through them in what I hope is a logical and helpful way. Today I will do some background work and tomorrow I will try to bring it all to a helpful conclusion.

Training Versus Discipline

Critical to the book is a distinction between training and discipline. The book’s title and purpose are derived from the well-known words of Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Pearl explains the importance and context of this word train: “Train up—not beat up. Train up—not discipline up. Train up—not educate up. Train up—not ‘positive affirmation’ up.” Training is the most often missed element in child rearing. A child needs more than ‘obedience training,’ but without first training him, discipline is insufficient.”

This is not a book about the reactive discipline of disobedient children, though this is present as a related, secondary theme. Rather, it is a book about a kind of proactive training that heads off disobedience and thus negates the need for discipline. Pearl says, “Training is not discipline. Discipline is the ‘damage control’ part of training, but is insufficient in itself to effect proper behavior.”

July 30, 2012

After a week of ignoring and avoiding all things digital, I’m back online. I didn’t keep up with blogs or other web sites while I was away, so went through hundreds of archived posts yesterday looking to catch up a little bit. Here are some of the highlights:

Lies About Chick-Fil-A - Having been away I am just catching up on the whole Chick-Fil-A controversy. Denny Burk’s little article is helpful in pointing out two lies being repeated in the press.

5 Myths About Reformed Theology - Michael Horton: “Calvinists can be pains in the neck. I should know—I’ve been one myself on occasion. Yet, it is a terrific irony that a theology that so exalts God and lays human beings low before his majesty and grace should be championed sometimes with a spirit that contradicts it.”

RefNet Radio - Be sure to check out RefNet, Ligonier Ministries’ new 24-hour Internet radio featuring preaching and teaching.

Defining Religious Liberty Down - Ross Douthat makes some important points regarding religious liberty in the US and beyond.

Thinking Out Loud in Public - Sean Lucas describes blogging exactly as I have many times: as thinking out loud in public. He points out some of the dangers and challenges. 

Ten Years Later - Russell Moore: “Ten years ago today, my wife and I walked out of a Russian orphanage with two little one year-old boys. Suddenly, for the first time, I was a father and she was a mother. Suddenly, little Maxim was ‘Benjamin Jacob Moore’ and little Sergei was ‘Timothy Russell Moore.’ Everything changed, for all of us, for life.”

The greatest joy of a Christian is to give joy to Christ. —C.H. Spurgeon

July 29, 2012

In his much-praised book Killing Calvinism, Greg Dutcher writes about the tendency many Calvinists may have to be more enamored by their theology than by God himself. I suppose this may be a temptation for those who adhere to any faith or any system of theology, but it does seem particularly prevalent among Calvinists. At the close of a chapter he offers this helpful prayer:

Mighty God,

Thank you for giving me eyes, ears, memory, and intellect. You have enabled me to see the wonder of your sovereign mercy throughout your Word. Had you not chosen me, I would not be your child. Had you not loved me first, never would I have loved you at all.

May I never be more enamored with the theology that helps me see these things clearly than with seeing you. Forgive me for the times when I have made my understanding of you and your saving ways an idol rather than an aid.

When others see me, may they see a person completely captivated by your glory and humbled by your mercy.

For Jesus’ sake, amen.

July 28, 2012

In her book A Place of Quiet Rest, Nancy Leigh DeMoss includes several chapters on prayer. In a chapter titled “The Privilege of Prayer” she discusses a period of prayerlessness in her life and her growing conviction that she had to get to the root of it. “As God opened my eyes to this matter of prayerlessness, I asked Him to let me see it from His point of view. Here is what I wrote in my journal one day when God first began to deal with my heart.” She does not attempt to provide a doctrine of prayer or prayerlessness as much as a reflection on what prayerlessness means in her own life. I found it very helpful.

Here is what she says:

I am convicted that prayerlessness …

  • is a sin against God (1 Samuel 12:23).
  • is direct disobedience to the command of Christ (“watch and pray,” Matthew 26:41).
  • is direct disobedience to the Word of God (“pray without ceasing,” 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
  • makes me vulnerable to temptation (“watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation,” Matthew 26:41).
  • expresses independence—no need for God.
  • gives place to the Enemy and makes me vulnerable to his schemes (Ephesians 6:10-20; Daniel 10).
  • results in powerlessness.
  • limts (and defines) my relationship with God.
  • hinders me from knowing His will, His priorities, His direction.
  • forces me to operate in the realm of the natural (what I can do) versus the supernatural (what He can do).
  • leaves me weak, harried, and hassled.
  • is rooted in pride, self-sufficiency, laziness, and lack of discipline.
  • reveals a lack of real burden and compassion for others.

July 27, 2012

Free Stuff Fridays
This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by Kress Biblical Resources, a publisher that exists “ to provide solid, biblical resources for those who have set their hearts to study God’s Word, to practice it, and to teach it.” They are offering up five prize packages and each package will consist of the following books:

Pursuit of Prodigals is a helpful little book that serves as a short primer on the importance and practice of church discipline.

For nineteen hundred years, the Church practiced the discipline and restoration of prodigals, but in the last fifty years, it has been replaced by apathy, fear, and tolerance. This brief primer is prayerfully offered as an appeal to return to this distinctive, as well as to instruct and encourage shepherds who are textually bound and not so faint of heart. After all, should we not fear most the day of our accounting before the Chief Shepherd? In Pursuit of Prodigals was written as a call to faithful shepherds and for the edification of the Church.

Again, there are five prize packages to win, so you probably ought to go ahead and enter. If you would like to purchase In Pursuit of Prodigals, you can do so at 25% from Friday until Monday. Click here to take advantage.

Giveaway Rules: You may only enter the draw once. Simply fill out your name and email address to enter the draw. As soon as the winners have been chosen, all names and addresses will be immediately and permanently erased. Winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes Saturday at noon.