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April 30, 2009

Today’s post comes courtesy of my good friend Ryan who offers some reflections on glorifying God through life’s trials. He wrote this article yesterday.


I am writing this from the waiting area at the Trillium Hospital in Toronto, while my beautiful wife is undergoing a procedure to help bring closure to the miscarriage we first learned about last week. While this isn’t our first miscarriage, it is the first since the healthy births of our two children, and was an unwelcome and unexpected shock.

In contrast to the joys of learning that you’re being blessed with a new baby, when you can’t wait to tell everyone you meet (strangers or friends!), learning that your child has died in the womb leaves you with the unfortunate and awkward task of notifying your family and friends of your loss. As with the joyful announcement, the news is first passed to your close family and friends - in our case, a few church elders and family - and then repeated to ever-widening circles.

The range of reactions is quite broad, and probably worth a whole post of its own. Some people cry with you, some engage in heartfelt conversation based on their own experience, some display anger, while others look uncomfortable and try to avoid further discussion. I’ve found the reaction offered by a person when confronted with bad news to be very telling about their own beliefs.

Outside of our immediate family, church family and friends, we also had to inform our friends on an online forum operated by my company. It’s a cozy group of about 4,000 people from a niche industry and has been in existence for nearly 7 years. Over that time many of us have grown close, even when we rarely meet in person. A few weeks earlier I had joyfully announced that we were expecting, after dutifully waiting through the customary first 10 weeks of pregnancy in silence “in case anything goes wrong” during that early time.

When news of our miscarriage broke on the forum, we were quickly offered dozens of messages of encouragement promising prayers, good thoughts and positive energy sent into the cosmic consciousness (whatever that means !?). Surprisingly, one friend posted a strongly worded message accusing the “supposed protector” of being a fraudulent god, not keeping up his responsibilities and unjustly abusing “good people.” The author concluded his post by asserting that if there is a “dark side” then he was on it, casting aside his faith.

By God’s grace, I was able to answer out of our sorrow encouraging our friend to trust in Almighty God.

Please don’t despair - we are not! In fact we’re taking great comfort in God’s care for our family. When our situation was in question, we prayed hard that God may save our child. When it became evident that this was not His will, we made the choice to trust in His sovereignty. As Job says, “Will we accept blessings from His hand, but not troubles?”

Remember, God never promised anyone a life of peace or rest on this earth. While we are in the fallen creation, life will be difficult -all the more so for those who follow Christ against the current of this world. But we also have the “peace that passes understanding” given by the Spirit. 

Every moment we live is a blessing, every child - even for the shortest time - reminds us of the God who gives life, and will lead us to life incorruptible.

My dear wife also replied:

I know that things such as these are hard for us to understand, but God is always good. I know it, trust it and cling to it in times like these. My God loves me and will never forsake me. 

God was gracious enough to take this little one home to himself. I can’t think of a better place for my child to be, but with the Saviour and creator.

My hope is in Him who created me. 

I pray that you would not harden you heart to the clear truth of the gospel. 

Much love to all,

Since that time, we have received more thank yous that I ever could have imagined, from believers who felt encouraged, emboldened or even rebuked by our public defense of God’s sovereignty and our declaration of faith in His goodness. By request, our message was also posted to my blog, used as an example in a recent sermon, and now you’re reading this on the world’s most popular Christian blog. I don’t say this to boast or claim for even the briefest second that I am anything worth commenting on - other than that the work of God in our family may be glorified and that His name might receive praise.

I know my heart - I know my pride, my self-justification, my propensity for anger. I know how I would have reacted to our miscarriage without the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Both Janis and I have commented repeatedly about the profound sense of peace we have experienced even through our tears and sadness. We have been blessed by the amazing love of Jesus’ people, as our church united around us in love and so many entered into our sorrow and shared our tears. This is remarkable love that gives testimony to the power of Jesus and that we are His.

It’s been said that we don’t pray to change things, we pray to change us. Prayer draws us closer to God, and we pray most effectively when we pray His will, especially as it is revealed in the scriptures. We have truly felt that “peace that passes understanding” even as we recalled God’s recorded faithfulness to the barren, helpless, sorrowful and humble throughout the Bible. Looking back on the past year I can see how God has been preparing us for this moment: sermon series on joy from Galatians and active faith from James last summer; series from Mark Driscoll on doctrine, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes that elevate my view from the temporary in this life to the God eternal; our pastor’s illuminating study of Jesus’ ministry and love in John; and a seemingly randomly selected sermon on glorifying God through trials from John 17 heard just 2 days before the loss of our child.

We serve an awesome God, and I’m amazingly blessed to know Him. When unbelievers claim it’s “unfair” for God to take our child, I can say it’s truly unfair for me even to be drawing breath as a sinful rebel against the holy God. Yet that God didn’t spare His own perfect Son, sending Jesus to die in my place. If the loss of our baby can be used to bring glory to that God in our lives then so be it, and may God be ever praised.

February 16, 2009

Greg Koukl is setting out on a blog tour to support his new book Tactics (you can read my review of it right here). I agreed to participate, asking one question of my own and asking one question on behalf of another person. Here is what we asked and how Greg answered.

There are many “traditional” apologetic manuals available to us, perhaps the foremost of which is Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Such books seem to speak to a modern more than postmodern kind of mind. Do such books still have their place today?

I realize that the prevailing worldview among young people is a kind of reflexive postmodern relativism. They are very skeptical about truth claims and the kind of “rationality” that moderns have used to justify views that have led to oppression. But that is only a part of the story, the small part.

There is something else that is almost always missed with challenges like this one. Bad worldviews, even if deeply believed, cannot undo reality. God has given every human being the ability to know truth about their world. Our convictions as Christians include that God exists, that this is His world, and that man is made in His image. That’s the rest of the story. If we are right, then reality turns out to be structured in a very specific way and no unbeliever can escape it. Reality becomes our ally, even with postmoderns.

Note these comments from the Tactics chapter on “Taking the Roof Off.”

When I was a young Christian, I read Francis Schaeffer’s The God Who Is There. Schaeffer argues that Christians have a powerful ally in the war of ideas: reality. Whenever someone tries to deny the truth, reality ultimately betrays him… Although culture shifts, human nature remains the same. Ideas change, but reality does not….

Every person who rejects the truth of “the God who is there” is caught between the way he says the world is and the way the world actually is. This dissonance, what Schaeffer called the “point of tension,” is what makes Taking the Roof Off so effective. Any person who denies the truth of God’s world lives in contradiction. He says one thing, yet deep down he knows the truth….

Regardless of our ideological impulses [e.g., postmodernism], deep inside each of us is a common-sense realist. Those who are not are either dead, in an institution, or sleeping in cardboard boxes under the freeway. Knowing this gives us a tremendous advantage. The key to dealing with moral relativism, for example, is realizing that for all the adamant affirmations, no one really believes it, and for a good reason: If you start with relativism, reality does not make sense.

Unless a person is truly pathological, he cannot escape these truths even if he tries. His language and his behavior will always betray his deepest beliefs about the world. Emotions, prejudice, and bull-headedness may cause him to deny what would otherwise be obvious except when he is defending his ideological turf. But when his guard is down, every person understands that the basic structure of the world is the way the Bible says it is., at least in the broad strokes. Simply put, reason and rationality still matter, even to the postmodernist regardless of his claims to the contrary.

Recent studies (in addition to our own anecdotal experience at STR) bears this out. For example, sociologist Christian Smith in his book Soul Searching reveals that one of the primary reasons students abandon their Christian convictions is because of “some version of intellectual skepticism or disbelief.”  Some typical responses: ”It didn’t make any sense anymore,” “Some stuff is too far-fetched for me to believe,” “I think scientifically and there is no real proof,” and, “Too many questions that can’t be answered.” 

There is no good reason, then, to abandon our apologetics or our appeal to careful thinking. The content of the older offerings is still good, I think, especially Schaeffer, who makes a singular contribution and was remarkably prescient in anticipating the challenges of the 21st century. I would tend to favor newer books, though, because of updated scholarship and, in many cases, a tone that is more readable or more sensitive to the prevailing intellectual ethos. I’m thinking especially of something like Thinking about God (Ganssle), or anything that Lee Strobel has written in apologetics, though there is a plethora of good works now available.

What are the attitudinal and spiritual preparations one must do before using apologetic “tactics” in conversations with unbelievers? — Ryan, Littleton, CO

First, using tactics is not an advanced enterprise suitable only for trained professionals. There are no “attitudinal and spiritual preparations” one must go through before using tactics. In fact, when I do my basic talk on the Columbo tactic (the foundational tactic for the book’s game plan), I introduce it like this: “In the next 45 minutes, I am going to give you a game plan that will allow you to interact with confidence in any conversation, no matter how little you know or how aggressive or powerful or educated the other person may be.”

However, there are some “spiritual and attitudinal” perspectives it is helpful to keep in mind in order to be effective using tactics. First is this warning I include in chapter one:

There is a danger I want you to be aware of, so I need to pause and make an important clarification. Tactics are not manipulative tricks or slick ruses. They are not clever ploys to embarrass other people and force them to submit to your point of view. They are not meant to belittle or humiliate those who disagree so you can gain notches in your spiritual belt.

I offer this warning for [a reason]….These tactics are powerful and can be abused. It’s not difficult to make someone look silly when you master these techniques. A tactical approach can quickly show people how foolish some of their ideas are. Therefore, you must be careful not to use your tactics merely to assault others.

My goal, rather, is to find clever ways to exploit someone’s bad thinking for the purpose of guiding her to truth, yet remaining gracious and charitable at the same time. My aim is to manage, not manipulate; to control, not coerce; to finesse, not fight. I want the same for you.

There is another perspective that is important to keep in mind. It has to do with the role we play in the process of influencing others for the Gospel, versus the role God plays.

Note this from chapter two:

Without the work of the Spirit, no argument—no matter how persuasive—will be effective. But neither will any act of love, or any simple presentation of the Gospel. Add the Spirit, though, and the equation changes dramatically.

Here’s the key principle: Without God’s work, nothing else works. But with God’s work, many things work. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, love persuades. By the power of God, the Gospel transforms. And with Jesus at work, arguments convince. God is happy to use each of these methods.

Understanding this truth makes our job as ambassadors much easier. We can be confident that every time we engage, we have an ally. Our job is to communicate the Gospel as clearly, graciously, and persuasively as possible. God’s job is to take it from there. We may plant the seeds or water the saplings, but God causes whatever increase comes from our efforts.

We are not in this alone. Yes, each of us has an important role to play, but all the pressure is on the Lord. Sharing the Gospel is our task, but it’s God’s problem.

I like to call this principle “100% God and 100% man.” I am wholly responsible for my side of the ledger, and God is entirely responsible for His. I focus on being faithful, but I trust God to be effective. Some will respond and some will not. The results are His concern, not mine. This lifts a tremendous burden from my shoulders.

February 02, 2009

You Can LeadRay Comfort is setting out on a blog tour to support his new book You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence but You Can’t Make him Think. Knowing that many of the readers of this site are admirer’s of Comfort, I decided to participate. I solicited questions from readers and here is one that Comfort was eager to respond to.

I often respond to the questions/arguments posed by atheists not so much because I think I can convince them they’re wrong, but because of the undecided people who might be the audience. If atheists claim they are well grounded in reason and logic, and no one stands to oppose them, I’m thinking huge numbers of people will assume that Christians concede the argument. I want people on the fence to know that there are well reasoned, rational arguments in favor of theology. How much time and energy do you think we should spend responding to atheistic claims?

I have preached open air (soapbox style) over 5,000 times. This is different from the doomsday street-corner folks that yell at passersby. I try and engage people in healthy discourse.

If you have ever been in a good open air meeting, you will know that at times there’s a sense of excitement, as people ask genuine questions about Christianity. In those situations you often have what is called a “heckler.” He is usually a colorful character who is upset. He is loud and somewhat aggressive. He is the one who attracts the crowd (who’s going to gather around to hear a boring preacher?). It is his presence that holds the crowd long enough for me to share the gospel. While I am directing myself at the heckler, I am also speaking to the crowd.

That’s what’s happening on my blog (“Atheist Central”) where we have more than one nasty “heckler.” They give the blog the life it needs to keep people coming back. But there’s a crowd listening (the blog gets emailed out daily). That’s why I am pleased to have atheists there. As a fisher of men, I don’t mind admitting that I bait them with some attractive morsel, and they usually bite. Most of them have said that they are closed to the gospel, but the others who are on the sidelines may have an open mind. Those are the ones to whom I am speaking—unsaved fence-sitters.

For your interest, here is an example of a colorful heckler:

However, when I witness one-to-one to a professing atheist, I am careful to take the time to patiently answer his questions, but not go down rabbit trails. I pray for God’s help daily, because I have a clear agenda—to go through the Ten Commandments to bring the knowledge of sin, then bring the remedy of the gospel and the necessity of faith and repentance. The time and energy I spend on him is dependent on whether or not I discern sincerity on his part.

You can find out more about Ray Comfort and his ministry at livingwaters.com.

January 22, 2009

This is a guest post from John Ensor.


Today I join hundreds of thousands in Washington, D.C., in the annual March for Life to publicly lament the death of 50 million preborn children and to pray for the day when abortion becomes unthinkable.

In doing so, I acknowledge the resistance, even offense, taken by many by asserting that abortion is the moral issue of our day. I am familiar with the claim that asserts equal concern for poverty, global warming, aids prevention, war, and more. All of these appear to me worth researching and debating, as iron sharpens iron, as to the various causes and possible solutions.

But abortion is not on par. I remember how and when I came to this conclusion. It was the week of February 12, 1990, as marked on the Newsweek magazine I was reading. Kim Flodin, in an article on why she did not counter-march for abortion rights, wrote, “I was pregnant, I carried two unborn children and I chose, for completely selfish reasons, to deny them life so that I could better my own” (My Turn).

There it was: a momentary lapse into honest concrete language about abortion from an advocate. No ancient Baal worshiper could have described the reasons for their child sacrifice better. I was stunned that it had to be stated so plainly for me to grasp the preeminent evil of it. It is not one issue among equal concerns. Abortion is our postmodern version of child sacrifice for the Me Generation. As such, it is an incomprehensible and unthinkable evil.

Unthinkable is the best word to describe it because that is the way God describes it. “The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah saying, … “They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination” (Jeremiah 32:35; cf. 7:31, 19:5).

Among the many ways we offend God, the greatest offense are the shedding of innocent blood and idolatry. These two come together in child sacrifice. At the outset, God taught Israel to be shocked and repulsed by its practice among other cultures. “You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods” (Deuteronomy 12:31). The word even here rings remarkably close in meaning to unthinkable or something that “did not enter into my mind.”

Some years ago, a woman named Suzanne came to me while I was setting up a pregnancy-help clinic in Boston. She said, “If I have the abortion, I will have more money to spend on my other two children.” I asked, “What do you think your children would say if they knew you were doing this so that they could have cable TV and other stuff?” She said, “Well, I’ll ask them.” Then and there I knew the baby would live. Abortion is unthinkable to children—incomprehensible, horrific, something that would never enter their minds to do. Sure enough, the children were aghast at the thought. “We want the baby,” they reassured her. Some months later, after the baby arrived, I heard her share her story. She said she was embarrassed to think back on her earlier state of mind. She had joined the circle of those who think abortion unthinkable.

Sanctity of Human Life Week is like Good Friday—a sobering time to stare unflinchingly past the ho-hum of abortion as a common practice; to grieve, lament, and morn; then to take up our cross and humbly obey God’s call to “prosper” the cause of the fatherless and “defend the rights of the needy” (Jeremiah 5:28). In this context, that means becoming cross-bearers for child-bearers.


John Ensor is the Vice President of Heartbeat International and author of Answering the Call: Saving Innocent Lives, One Woman At a Time .

November 07, 2008

Guest blog by Andrew Lindsey

Congregational singing: “I Love to Tell the Story”

The speaker from each of the five points was on the panel. Dr. Patterson had to leave so that his alternate, Dr. Malcolm Yarnell took his place for Total depravity.
Dr. Vines announced that he would like to have at least one Calvinist and one non-Calvinist address each one of the five points.

Panelist #1:
Dr. John Voight (sp?) pastor from Rome, GA and author of The False God of Calvinism: Did I understand Dr. Patterson correctly to say that he affirmed Total depravity to the point that this depravity will not be removed until we are in heaven?

Yarnell: Dr. Patterson’s view, as I understand it, is that we are all effaced by sin.

Dr. Voight: Depravity is that we are moving away from God, are we still moving away from God after we are redeemed?

Yarnell: Our sin nature is dead, but there is a struggle. It’s like a chicken running around with its head cut off. This means that there is a battle, which is sanctification.

Michael Smith from Rome, GA: Dr. Patterson referenced Ephesians 2, which talks about spiritual death, but then he transitioned to physical examples; can we differentiate between spiritual and physical death?

Yarnell: We should be shooting for a Monist position- I find it difficult to separate our spirit from our body, and to talk about the spirit being dead within a live spiritual body. Adam and Eve did immediately die spiritually, and their bodies died later. I don’t think that in Ephesians 2 when Paul talked about people being spiritually dead and yet doing things, he was trying to explain a distinction between the spirit and the body… If we believe that a human being is inactive in his sinful state, then we do not have to talk about his will, the will does not exist. Dr. Patterson and I do not believe that Scripture talks about people in this way.

Panelist #2:
[Did not catch name]: If a person believes that they’re saved by Jesus, but believes that there might be other paths to heaven, could that person be saved?

Land: I don’t know what that has to do with election, but I’ll try to answer it. We have in our minds, even as saved people, departmentalized attitude structures. The idea that there may be salvation apart from Christ is a very serious departure from Scripture, but my default position is Romans 10:9, and if someone has confessed Jesus as Lord and believes in their heart concerning the resurrection- and we do need to talk about what these things mean- I believe that they are saved even if wrong on other important issues.

Jason Sturkey (sp?) pastor from South Carolina: Romans 9 speaks of vessels of wrath and nations are comprised of individuals, how can you say that no-one is
Land: Eternal salvation is not in play in Romans 9-11. Objections of the Jews are anticipated, and nations are in view. What has helped me is the distinction between Abrahamic election, which is a corporate election to covenant people status, rather than salvific election.

David Hagan, a non-Calvinist from Rehobath Baptist Church: Are we saved by faith?
Land: We are not saved by our faith, [I hate to admit that I missed the rest of this response- Andrew].

Panelist #3:
[Did not catch name] from Oakwood Baptist Church: Can we say that Christ did not die for Hitler?
Allen: Christ died for all, including Adolf Hitler. Christ’s death is extrensically (sp?) sufficient for the sins of the whole world. The Limited atonement position is that there is nothing salvific in Christ’s death for the non-elect.

Brian Jolly, layman from Baptist church in Gainesville, GA: Could you give a brief response to the double payment argument?
Allen: Neither Calvin nor Scripture uses the double payment argument. The double payment argument fails to differentiate between commercial payment and penal debt (Dabney, A.A. Hodge, Charles Hodge and others note this). In a commercial debt, such is a payment at a restaurant, accepting double-payment is unjust. In a legal debt a moral element is involved. Say there were six men in prison and a king says, ‘My son will pay your debt, and you will be released on the condition that you join the army.’ The son pays the penal debt, but there may be some unwilling to join the army, and the king is not unjust for not releasing those prisoners. Many other Calvinists
[Keathley added that this objection is legal and not Scriptural and that the objection has been answered by the Supreme Court in a case where President Andrew Jackson pardoned a man sentenced for death, but this man refused the pardon, and the Court ruled that a pardon refused is no pardon at all.]

Thomas Dickerson from Atlanta, a former PCA memeber and former Reformed Baptist who feels that there was no power in his experience in Reformed circles, and that he was not saved when he was Reformed: What will the Southern Baptist Convention do about Calvinism?
Allen: The Southern Baptist Convention by virtue of our ecclesiology cannot dictate from the top down what to do about Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention. What we can do is what we’re doing here and what Building Bridges did, which was a good thing. It would be a mistake for the SBC to tell all Calvinists to “get out of dodge,” it would also be wrong to have Calvinism as a Convention cause. The last thing that we need is for the Convention to become a Calvinist Convention, or to get rid of all Calvinists. This issue is not going away

Panelist #4
Al Andrews, layman from Macon, GA: What are your thoughts about a church staff with both Calvinists and non-Calvinists where there is tension?
Lemke: We probably need to do a lot better job in viewing potential staff members to make sure they are a good fit for our congregation. One thing that some have experienced is where someone is dishonest in direct questions about there beliefs. We need to be more careful

Panelist #5:
Todd Burroughs, a “Calvinist”: A comment and a question: a) I do not think that it has been clearly stated that Calvinists do not believe in determinism. b) How do we know that we believe?
Keathley: a) Read Jonathan Edwards, Bruce Ware, Frame and others- Calvinists do teach determinism. b) I know when I put my faith in this chair. Faith is something very basic and simple. I do believe that faith is a gift.
Burroughs: Why don’t you have confidence in a person who joins a church and then does not live like a Christian for 40 years before he dies?
Keathley: There is a volitional aspect to trust, that’s why I said “trust” and not simply believe. James does warn us about faith as a mere mental assent, but works in James are not the basis of assurance, they are from an assured faith.

Final question:
Mike Chambers, pastor from North Carolina: At what point are we not iron sharpening iron, but caught in the mire that keeps us from evangelism?

Yarnell: I want you to notice how Dr. Vines structures this Conference. We had five of the finest Southern Baptist theologians; we started and ended with gospel preachers. We need to focus on preaching the Word.

Dr. Emir Caner was announced.

November 07, 2008

Guest blog by Andrew Lindsey

Dr. Vines announced that he asked Dr. Stanley to share how he has proclaimed the gospel throughout the world through In Touch Ministries.

Dr. Charles Stanley:

“I’m just called to do one thing, and that’s to preach the gospel as far and as wide as God lets me.”

The church has one mission. Great Commission texts quoted from the gospels and Acts.

In many preaching magazines the emphasis is “making great leaders” rather than prayer and the Holy Spirit.

It is our job to preach the gospel, and God will grow the church as He wishes.

[Dr. Stanley related his personal testimony of being saved as a young child.]

“The message that the world is looking for is a message of assurance that our God is a God of love.”

Example of a letter from a woman in Iran who sent a letter requesting information about our God in love, rather than her God who terrified her.

The world needs Jesus.

We have a war coming a worldwide enemy in Islam, there are 80 thousand Muslims in Atlanta alone, and they hate the message that salvation is in Jesus alone.

The world is listening and the world is watching ministries in America.

[Dr. Stanley spoke of a time when God spoke to his spirit through the text of the Great Commission, which led him to a vision of taking the gospel to the world using means such as short-wave radio.]

[Dr. Stanley related the history of In Touch Ministries. This story was fascinating, but the narrative did not lend itself to taking many notes. The In Touch story can be found HERE.]

A few things that were said:
“There’s no way to lose obeying God… whatever God tells you to do, just do it, and then trust Him.”
“Today, as of yesterday’s figures, one billion four hundred million people” around the world can watch In Touch on television. “God did that.” Dr. Stanley related several remarkable ways that God gave access and funding for In Touch to be broadcast around the world.
“I’m always looking for another way to get the gospel to somebody.”
This is the first generation that has the capacity to reach everybody on the face of this earth with the gospel.
“All these theological things we’ve heard of are a vital part of our belief system and God equips us with these things not to keep, but to share.”
God wants us “with a sense of righteous inadequacy” so He can do through us things we never dreamed of.
“One of my favorite phrases is ‘obey God, watch Him work,’ because He’s going to.”
“God doesn’t give us beliefs to be happy with, he gives us beliefs to serve Him.”

November 07, 2008

Guest blog by Andrew Lindsey

Prayer by Phil Roberts.

Dr. Ken Keathley:

2 Timothy 1:12.

2 components of assurance:
1. Certainty that one is saved.
2. Certainty that one in a state of grace will remain in this state.

What is the basis of assurance?
3 components:
1. Present certainty
a. Denied by Council of Trent, Canon 15, which says present certainty only comes through special revelation. (John Calvin pointed to the Bible as special revelation granting assurance.)
b. The Reformers taught that assurance is of the essence of saving faith. All who come to faith have assurance in the moment of their salvation, even if there are subsequent doubts.
c. However, certain doctrines of the Reformers undermine this assurance
i. The distinction between the revealed and hidden will in God.
ii. The doctrine of Limited atonement.
iii. The doctrine of temporary faith given to the non-elect.
d. The Puritans believed that assurance was logically deduced:
i. Whether the Puritans followed or deviated from Calvin is debatable
ii. The Puritans based assurance on sanctification
iii. The Puritans had great anxiety concerning their assurance
iv. The Puritans had a strong doctrine of temporary faith
- Conference-goers were shown on PowerPoint William Perkins’ detailed chart from The Golden Chain, in which the reprobate are given false faith, only discernible from genuine faith after life.
-Perkins almost drove his congregants “nuts”- to the point of near-suicide- with questioning their own salvation; Bunyan’s Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners is a miserable book, with Bunyan struggling for years on the question of his salvation.

The use of logical syllogisms:
1. The practical syllogism: If effectual grace is manifested in me, then I am one of the elect.
2. The mystical syllogism: If I experience inward confirmation in the spirit, then I am saved.

The Puritans based assurance on sanctification, rather than on justification.

Augustine and the Arminians taught that apostasy is possible; one may be saved and later lost.

Karl Barth taught that apostasy is impossible through an implicit universalism.

Calvinist and Dispensationalist view is once saved, always saved:
1. Grace Evangelical Society
a. Ignores or explains away warning passages
b. Encourages laxity in Christian commitment
c. Gives false comfort to false believers
2. Demarest teaches that good works are a test of genuineness
a. Example of Peter and Judas
b. Warning passages given to discern between true and false believers

Mediating views: Apostacy is genuinely threatened but not possible.
Dr. Tom Schreiner and A.B. Canneday teach that perseverance is the means by which we are saved. These warnings do not merely threaten believers with loss of rewards, but threaten Hell. The warning passages, however, only speak of conceivable, but not actual consequences. The threats of damnation produce assurance and confidence: they are signposts along the way as the believer runs the marathon of faith. Schreiner and Canneday say that perseverance is the basis of justification.
Critique of this view:
1. In 1 Corinthians 9:27, was Paul concerned he may go to Hell? (If so, this does undermine our assurance.)
2. Just how conceivable is the believer’s apostasy?
3. In their model, what happens to those who don’t persevere?
4. Are they not setting up the same problem that the Puritans dealt with?
5. How is this view not works-based salvation?
Quote from Schreiner:
“Yes, works are necessary to be saved. No this is not works righteousness, for the works are hardly meritorious.”
This is not close to Trent, this is Trent.

A modest proposal:
1. The only basis for assurance is the objective work of Christ.
a. Any model that begins with Christ but ends with man is doomed to failure.
b. Christ and Him alone is the basis for assurance.
2. Assurance is the essence of saving faith.
a. Works provide warrant, but not a basis for assurance. Works are the buttress, but Christ and His work are the foundation.
c. Assurance is analogous to how a Christian knows that God loves him even in times of suffering; the Christian may not feel loved, but the Bible reveals that God does love.
3. Saving faith perseveres or remains until the day when it gives way to sight.
a. Perseverance should be viewed more as a promise than a requirement
b. Faith necessarily leads to good works
c. Indifference concerning godliness is more of a “red flag” than weakness in godliness
d. The indwelling Holy Spirit assures that there is no such thing as a happy backslider
4. There are rewards to gain or lose subsequent to faith
5. Assurance comes from Christ alone.

November 07, 2008

Guest blog by Andrew Lindsey

Mark Lamprecht is also live-blogging this Conference, and is catching some statements that I miss. Read his posts HERE.