Archive for August, 2009
My friend, Andy Naselli (research asst. to D.A. Carson), has put together a few very helpful resources on the thorny topic, “Do We Have a Free Will?”:
- MP3 (1 hour and 45 minutes including Q&A)
- Handout (7-page PDF)
- Condensed Essay (4-page PDF, which Reformation 21 reprinted today)
His basic outline is this:
- What is “free will”?
- What have noteworthy theologians thought about “free will”?
- What are biblical and theological reasons for “compatibilism”?
- How does “free will” relate to the origin of both sin and conversion?
- Concluding Applications on the Free-Will Debate
- Recommended Reading
He gives the following theses to summarize the biblical teaching:
- The Bible never says that humans are free in the sense that they are autonomously able to make decisions that are not caused by anything.
- God is absolutely sovereign.
- Humans are morally responsible, which requires that they be free.
- God’s absolute sovereignty and human freedom and responsibility are simultaneously true.
- The Bible condemns some people for acts not done with a libertarian free will.
- God is omniscient (e.g., he predicts future events).
- God breathed out Scripture through humans without violating their personalities.
- God enables Christians to persevere: Christians work because God works.
- God himself does not have a free will in the libertarian sense.
- God’s people do not have free wills in heaven in the libertarian sense.
That’s just a quick overview. I highly recommend taking the time to work through some or all of Andy’s material. Some terms (like compatibilism or libertarian freedom) might be new to you or seem unnecessarily technical, but they are often a part of any thoughtful discussion of this issue, and Andy introduces and explains such technical terms gently and clearly.
In the second service on Sunday, I mentioned that I would post some book recommendations on prayer for those wanting to dig deeper in the direction of what we learned from Luke 11:1-13. Although the below is more than just a few books, I have been particularly influenced and helped by each of these to me, and so I recommend them all highly. Martin Luther’s A Simple Way to Pray is a classic work on prayer. He initially wrote it for his barber, who had asked Luther for guidance on how to pray. Luther encourages reading Scripture and then praying along the same lines as the Scripture. This is a very short book, but well worth the read. Slightly longer, but still a quick read, is J.I. Packer’s Praying the Lord’s Prayer. Packer explains the Lord’s Prayer from a more historical perspective, taking into account the teaching of many of the older theologians. However, the book never drags and Packer, as usual, does a great job of updating the best of the Reformers and Puritans. The Soul of Prayer, by P.T. Forsyth, is another relatively short work. Although the language can be a bit complicated, the book is still very helpful because it deals with common questions about prayer and retains a devotional feel.
Slightly longer is the study of evangelical spirituality by Donald Bloesch, called The Struggle of Prayer. This book compares the theology and practice of Martin Luther, Richard Sibbes (Puritan), and P.T. Forsyth. This book includes a study of the more mystical tradition within Christianity and distinguishes what is biblical from what should be avoided.
D.A. Carson’s book, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, is an incredibly helpful study of the prayers in Paul’s epistles (Romans – Philemon). This is a book that we’ve “pushed” many times before at DSC, and many in the church could testify to how this book helped — even changed — the way they pray and think about prayer. In addition the several chapters on Paul’s prayers, it also has a whole chapter on practical advice on how we can become more genuine and pursue more growth in our prayer life.
Three other books can be mentioned more quickly, in no particular order: Praying, by J.I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom; a new book, A Praying Life, by Paul Miller; and, the book that I mentioned specifically at the end of the service, The Heart of Prayer, by Jerram Barrs. Remember, Jerram Barrs will be coming to DSC to do a seminar on prayer and evangelism on November 14-15, so we’ll have copies of this book at the DSC Resource Center for the near future.
Another thoughtful and pastoral post today from Kevin DeYoung. Here’s a sample:
The Bible is a big book and there’s a lot in there. So the Bible says a lot about the poor, about marriage, about children, about evangelism, about missions, about justice; it says a lot about a lot. Almost anyone can make a case that their thing should be the main thing or at least one of the most important things. But what often happens in churches (or church movements) is that the person with the “thing” thinks everyone else should devote their lives to the “thing” too. So churches squabble over limited resources, and people feel an abiding sense of guilt over not caring enough or doing enough about the ten other things that other people in the church care about more than they do.
Take the time and go read the rest. I think it is a very needed word, to pastors and parishioners alike.
Mark Driscoll recently preached at Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral. The video is now online, and will also air on tomorrow’s Hour of Power broadcast. I haven’t watched the sermon yet, but it’s sure to be interesting!
MH: Dr. Schuller, how could the cross as you write, “sanctify the ego trip,” and make us proud, in the light of passages that say, “I hate pride and arrogance (Prov. 8:13), “Pride goes before destruction” (Prov. 16:18),”The Lord detests all the proud” (Prov. 16:5), “Do not be proud”(Rom. 12:16), “Love does not boast it is not proud” (1Cor 13:4). In fact Paul warns Timothy that in the last days men “will be lovers of themselves” (2Tim 3:2). Why should we as Christian ministers, myself included, why should we do anything to encourage people to become “lovers of themselves” if Paul in fact warned others that that would be the state of godlessness in the last days?
RS: I hope you don’t preach this, I hope you don’t preach this!
MH: What, the texts?
RS: No, what you just spoke into the microphone right now. I hope you don’t because you could do a lot of damage to a lot of beautiful people. But maybe if you preach it, maybe you will demonstrate your knowledge of human relationships and maybe you’ll demonstrate a sensitivity of caring about these pathetic, pathetic people that are so lost in pain and suffering because of their sinful condition, and I think you’d want to save them. I think you’d want to bring them to Jesus. And so if you preach that text, oh man, I sure hope you give it the kind of interpretation that I do or, I’ll tell you, you’ll drive them farther away and they’ll be madder than hell at you and they’ll turn the Bible off, and they’ll switch you off, and they’ll turn on the rock music and Madonna. Just because it’s in the Bible doesn’t mean you should preach it. And if you do, you have to say, “Who’s listening to me? Will they understand? And will the love of Jesus come through my words and through my message; through my personality. Will it come through my spirit? Will I come across as a humble person or will I come across as a person who’s kind of mean and know-it-all: I’ve got the answers and when people like Schuller come along, they’re heretics! Be careful, it is so difficult to preach some of those texts and not come across as lacking humility…
You can read the rest of it here.
This Sunday we come to Luke 11:1-13, which includes Luke’s account of the Lord’s Prayer. In preparation for our corporate worship, read the Scripture passage and then ponder a few of the relevant (and so well-worded!) sections of the Heidelberg Catechism (1576):
Q & A 117
Q. How does God want us to pray so that he will listen to us?
A. First, we must pray from the heart to no other than the one true God, who has revealed himself in his Word, asking for everything he has commanded us to ask for.
Second, we must acknowledge our need and misery, hiding nothing, and humble ourselves in his majestic presence.
Third, we must rest on this unshakable foundation: even though we do not deserve it, God will surely listen to our prayer because of Christ our Lord. That is what he promised us in his Word.
Q & A 122
Q. What does the first request [of the Lord’s Prayer] mean?
A. “Hallowed be your name” means, Help us to really know you, to bless, worship, and praise you for all your works and for all that shines forth from them: your almighty power, wisdom, kindness, justice, mercy, and truth.
And it means, help us to direct all our living—what we think, say, and do—so that your name will never be blasphemed because of us but always honored and praised.
Q & A 123
Q. What does the second request [of the Lord’s Prayer] mean?
A. “Your kingdom come” means, Rule us by your Word and Spirit in such a way that more and more we submit to you. Keep your church strong, and add to it. Destroy the devil’s work; destroy every force which revolts against you and every conspiracy against your Word. Do this until your kingdom is so complete and perfect, that in it you are all in all.
Warfield explains that our only hope is outside of ourselves. Our hope is not in our works, and it is also not in our faith. Our hope is in Christ alone, and that is faith!
Sometimes we are told that Justification by Faith is “out of date.” That would be a pity, if it were true. What it would mean would be that the way of salvation was closed and “no thoroughfare” nailed up over the barriers. There is no justification for sinful men except by faith. The works of a sinful man will, of course, be as sinful as he is, and nothing but condemnation can be built upon them. Where can he get works upon which he can found his hope of justification, except from Another? His hope of Justification, remember – that is, of being pronounced righteous by God. Can God pronounce him righteous except on the ground of works that are righteous? Where can a sinful man get works that are righteous? Surely, not from himself; for, he is a sinner, and all his works as sinful as he is. He must go out of himself, then, to find works which he can offer to God as righteous. And where will he find such works except in Christ? Or how will he make them his own except by faith in Christ?
Justification by Faith, we see, is not to be set in contradiction to justification by Works. It is set in contradiction only to justification by our Own Works. It is justification by Christ’s Works. The whole question, accordingly, is whether we can hope to be received into God’s favor on the ground of what we do ourselves, or only on the ground of what Christ does for us…. Justification by Faith means, that is to say, that we look to Christ and him alone for salvation, and come to God pleading Christ’s death and righteousness as the ground of our hope to be received into his favor. If Justification by Faith is out of date, that means, then, that salvation by Christ is out of date. …
Justification by Faith does not mean, then, salvation by believing instead of by doing right. It means pleading the merits of Christ before the throne of grace instead of our own merits.
In Selected Shorter Writings, vol. 1, pp. 283-84.
HT: Darryl Hart
A couple of Sundays ago, in a message on Mary on Martha in Luke 10, I noted how one of the most remarkable things in the story — not to us today, but to its first-century readers — is the way Jesus commended Mary’s choice to sit in the living room and learn…like only a male disciple would have done. I said, that might have been no small part of Martha’s objection, in fact: her sister was acting more like a man (learning) than a women (cooking). But Jesus’ blessing of Mary’s “better” choice was a bold corrective to the first-century Jewish conceptions of gender roles. He was intent to show, not only the priority of “sitting at his feet,” but also the equal place for men and women in redemption, discipleship, worship, etc. Men and woman have different designs for the home and the church, but they do not have different degrees of access to Jesus.
John Piper recently noted the same thing from a different passage: “they marveled that He was talking to a woman” (John 4:27). Here’s the link to a seven minute video of him explaining the verse. Good stuff!