Silence and Solitude

Are You Afraid of the Dark

When I was a kid, Nickelodeon used to have a show entitled “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” These episodes can actually be accessed via Amazon Prime and I would be lying to say that I haven’t watched some of them recently. As I have watched some of the episodes into my adult life, I cannot believe that I used to watch that show as a kid. That show is terrifying. I remember watching the show as a kid and can vividly remember some of the episodes that left me with fear, even to this day. I can say the phrase “I am cold” in a high pitched, child’s voice, and it still sends chills down my spine thinking about that episode (ask my little bro, as kids we used to bring fear into his life with that one phrase).

While this show has absolutely nothing to do with this blog post, I do want to pose a similar set of questions: Are you afraid of silence? Are you afraid of solitude? We live in a  loud, noisy, busy society. Everyone always has access to you because you have a phone attached to your hip. The days when you had to call someone on a land line and if they weren’t home you had no way to get in touch with them are over. It’s almost hard to remember because it has been so long, but consider the fact that my Mom would leave and go to the grocery store when I was a kid and we had no way to contact her unless we called the grocery store!! Was she even at the grocery store?!

Because of social media, television, cell phones, the internet, the radio, spotify, Facebook and the million other things that are going on in all of our lives, we rarely have anytime for silence and solitude. Part of the reason for this is because we live in fear of silence and solitude. Culture has conditioned us to always want to know what is going on. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have engrained within us that we are missing something if we do not know what all of our friends ate for dinner, or when they went shopping, or who broke up with who. Because of this, our minds cannot handle a day “cut off from the world.”

But why would anyone want to be quiet and be by themselves. Maybe because it is good for your soul? Maybe because it will enable spiritual growth and conform you more into the image of Christ? Maybe slowing down and being quiet before the Lord and stilling our minds is actually something that can enable us to hear from God? When you talk to someone, it is difficult for you to hear them when you are constantly talking. Maybe silence and solitude is exactly what we Christians need.

Don Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines For The Christian Life (purchase here Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life) has a chapter on Silence and Solitude that has really challenged me. I have been teaching through the book on Wednesday nights in our Adult Bible study and I do not live a life that regularly practices the Spiritual Discipline of silence and solitude. While I do not regularly practice this, Whitney makes  a strong case that this should be a regular part of all of our lives. He gives many different biblical reasons for why we should be still before the Lord in seeking Him, seeking HIs Will, and desiring to hear from Him. But more importantly than this, He begins with the life of Christ. Jesus’s life was characterized by times He would seclude Himself for times of silence and solitude. He understood the value of escaping the craziness of society at times and being still before the Father.

As I have been challenged within the pages of the book, I challenge you as well. Do not just be silent and have a time of solitude just to do it, it must have a purpose. If you practice this without a spiritual purpose, then you are just sitting in silence and accomplishing nothing. The purpose might be to hear from God, it might be to pray, it might just be to listen. But take some time throughout the day to still your heart before the Lord. Take some time to seclude yourself from your cell phone, or from something else that may be hindering you from stilling your mind before God and be silent before the Lord. I am going to try to improve this practice in my own life as I see a biblical mandate as well as a benefit in cutting off my brain for a time. It will be tough, but I’m going to give it a try! Deep down, I think I am afraid of silence!!! But we all have to face our fears.

“God Presented Him as a Propitiation”

raiders of the lost ark

I recently reviewed a book entitled The Glory of the Atonement: Biblical, Theological, and Practical Perspectives (purchase the book here: The Glory of the Atonement: Biblical, Theological & Practical Perspectives)

The topic under review is the atonement and the nature of the work of Christ in the sacrifice he made on the cross. For Carson, it was a substitutionary death in which Christ stood in the place of His people and absorbed the wrath of God on their behalf. A hinge point within the chapter surrounds verse 25 of the text involving the Greek term hilasterion, which can be either translated as “expiation – the cleansing or wiping away of sins” or “propitiation – the appeasement or satisfaction of God’s wrath.” The reasoning behind a careful word study and the proper translation within the context is the reality that one’s understanding of the atonement can be shaped by inserting either of these two words and can be turned one of the two ways.

Carson understands the gravity of this one term, as we all should, and points the readers attention to the term hilasterion within the Septuagint (LXX). He links the term with the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant in which he writes, “the cover of the ark of the covenant over which Yahweh appeared not eh Day of Atonement and on which sacrificial blood was poured” (129).One other occurrence within the New Testament exists in the book of Hebrews in which it clearly refers to the mercy seat. In addition to this reference, the LXX references this term twenty-seven times, twenty-one of which are directly related to the mercy seat. Carson asserts, “It follows, then, that Paul is presenting Jesus as the ultimate ‘mercy seat,’ the ultimate place of atonement, and, derivatively, the ultimate sacrifice” (129).

So what does this mean? This means that God has satisfied His wrath with the ultimate sacrifice of blood through His Son Jesus Christ. This means that God is both the subject and object of propitiation as Christ’s blood has satisfied the the Old Testament sacrificial system and he has absorbed the wrath of the Father on our behalf. This means that the New Covenant of Christ’s blood has appeased God’s wrath and turned it aside from His people for all of eternity. This means that those who repent of their sin and are saved by grace through faith will not have to absorb that wrath as it has been absorbed by Christ.

Carson adds gasoline to the flame of penal substitutionary atonement by inserting the nature of hilasterion as it is viewed through the lens of the Old Testament sacrificial system and the atonement narrative. Understanding its placement in the whole of Scripture and the history behind the mercy seat adds a new dimension to the writings of Paul within this passage. One cannot merely dismiss the validity of Carson’s argument based upon the consistency of the term used throughout the LXX possessing an overwhelming commonality in translation. By making this connecting point, the authors point to the Old Covenant and the system revolving around animal sacrifice has been fulfilled through human sacrifice by the initiation and propitiation of God the Father through God the Son Jesus Christ. This idea offers strong biblical and historical support for the nature of penal substitutionary atonement.

Book Review: Simon Gathercole, Defending Substitution

Gathercole Defending Substitution graphic

Gathercole, Simon. Defending Substitution: An Essay on Atonement in Paul. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015. 128 pages. Paperback, $15.20.

To Purchase, Click Below:

Defending Substitution: An Essay on Atonement in Paul (Acadia Studies in Bible and Theology)

Simon Gathercole serves as Reader in New Testament Studies at the University of Cambridge, as well as the Directory of Studies in Theology at Fitzwilliam College. In addition to his positions at the listed institutions, he is frequently called upon as a guest lecturer and speaker in numerous academic settings. Gathercole possesses degrees in Classics and Theology from Cambridge. To further his theological studies, Gathercole also studied at the University of Tübingen and the Jewish Theological Seminary. His areas of expertise revolve around Pauline studies and Christology. He has authored a variety of books and essays including The Gospel of Thomas: Introduction and Commentary and The Pre-existent Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.[1]

For Simon Gathercole, the substitutionary atonement of Christ is of the utmost importance. Understanding the importance of the topic provides insight to the reader concerning the background from which the author writes. While context is key, Gathercole also places great emphasis upon defining terms. Before venturing into the bulk of his defense for substitutionary atonement, the author thought it necessary to briefly outline an extensive definition. The substitutionary standpoint the author advocates is simply defined, “that when Christ died bearing our sins or guilt or punishment, he did so in our place and instead of us” (17). Another important note of information contained within the introduction is the author’s decision to draw a distinction, yet togetherness, between substitution, penalty, representation, propitiation, and satisfaction. Closing the introduction, Gathercole offers a brief synopsis of the common arguments against substitutionary atonement from some well-known thinkers and philosophers. While not extensive, this offers insight into some predominant thoughts against the doctrine as the author prepares to make his defense.

Apart from the introduction and conclusion, the work consists of three sections: Exegetical Challenges to Substitution, “Christ Died for Our Sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3), and The Vicarious Death of Christ and Classical Parallels (Rom. 5:6-8). Addressing exegetical challenges to the viewpoint that Gathercole is proposing, he inspects three differing concepts that have been offered throughout the years. The approach he takes is helpful as he gives a summary of the position, followed by a evaluation of the perspective and an assessment of the issues. A primary aspect of the chapter involves what Gathercole refers to as “The Omission or Downplaying of ‘Sins’” (47). For the writer, the three perspectives he presents in regard to the atonement are guilty of “downplaying sins, that is, individual transgressions” (47). As Gathercole notes, the deficient views presented “neglect a crucial factor in Paul’s conception of the atonement, that is, that Paul sees Christ’s death as dealing with sins plural. Sins – individual infractions of the divine will – are frequently mentioned in Paul, and yet one finds them frequently marginalized in scholarship” (48). Gathercole employs a detailed chart mapping out the singular instances to sin in contrast to the plural instances within the writings of Paul. The plural use opposed to the singular use of “sins” holds tremendous importance for Gathercole. He suggests “to explicate the atonement overridingly in terms of victory over Sin as a power is one-sided” (50). He notes that Paul refers to the human plight in terms of sins, transgressions, and trespasses, and so it is no surprise to see reference to Christ’s death as dealing with these – even summarizing his gospel this way” (50).

In the next section of the work, the author’s purpose is to draw the reader’s attention to a Scriptural defense of substitution. Gathercole dominates the section by addressing First Corinthians 15:3, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures” and reads it in light of the influence of Isaiah 53. Commenting upon the comparison of the two passages, Gathercole adds, “there is virtually a scholarly consensus now that Paul’s letters were influenced by Isaiah 53 in their depictions of Jesus’s atoning death” (64). Adding another chart to the work, Gathercole inserts another to examine the Greek word order of First Corinthains 15 and Isaiah 53. With the idea of “sins” being a driving force of his theological disposition, the author quickly explains the construction of hamartia, the word Paul interjects for “sins,” is used six times in the Greek translation of Isaiah 53. Noting that the Old Testament model, for which Isaiah would have been familiar, carries the connotation that “sins” lead to death. Building upon this idea, Gathercole begins to diverge into substitutionary atonement as seen in Isaiah 53 and supported by First Corinthians 15. In doing so, the author views the Old Testament understanding of a vicarious death, concluding “in the premonitions of Isaiah 53, there is precedent for the miraculous salvation of others taking place through God’s bringing the consequences of the sins of others onto an innocent individual. In this way, Christ dies both in consequence of the transgressions of others and in order to deal with those infractions of the divine will” (79).

The final portion of the work looks historically into the language that Paul uses in Romans 5 in regard to Christ dying on behalf of others. As Gathercole seeks to uncover, the language is not unique in nature, but is seemingly common within ancient Greek non-Christian literature. Upon review of differing English translations of Romans 5:6-8, Gathercole includes that the death of Christ Paul is alluding to “is death for another individual that is involved – dying for a (singular) righteous or good person” (90). With this being the case, Gathercole asserts a variety of Greek stories that use the same language to address a vicarious death. He points out views that involve love for one another and friendship; all leading to the idea of a person dying for another and what might constitute such an action. One may question Gathercole’s methods in seeking non-biblical Greek literature in order to enforce Paul’s writing in Romans. For Gathercole, the idea is not merely to draw comparisons to the ancient Greek literature, but to point out differences. In his conclusion drawn from the examination of the Greek writings and the writings of Paul, he notes, “in the case of Christ, however, his death does not conform to any existing philosophical norm. In Romans 5, Christ’s death creates a friendship where there had been enmity” (106). Within the Greek literature, one must have had an existing love and affection before justifying death for another individual. Whereas with Christ, he stood in the place of his enemies in order to make them friends.

Simon Gathercole has constructed a work that is rich theologically, biblically, and historically. His working propositions on substitutionary atonement are well written and defended, proving his work to be indicative of his convictions and ability to discern the Bible. From a biblical position, Gathercole’s focus is primarily upon the works of Paul in First Corinthians 15 and Romans 5, compared with the language of Isaiah 53 and the historical perspective of vicarious death through extra-biblical Greek literature. A major biblical insight regarding the language of Corinthians and Isaiah revolves around the idea of Jesus dying for “sins” (plural). Instituting a language chart of the Greek translation of Isaiah 53 and First Corinthians 15:3, the author enforces the point he is attempting to make in his defense of substitution. For Gathercole, to omit the notion that Christ died for “sin” and not “sins” removes a crucial aspect of the atonement. If atonement by way of substitution is the biblical model, it is imperative that a right understanding of “individual infractions” against a Holy God be rightly understood. The author offers helpful insight into the history of Israel, Isaiah’s understanding of atonement, and the similarities of Paul’s language as influenced by Isaiah’s in his understanding of substitutionary atonement.

A major strength of the book is its brevity and precision. While a theologian might compile volumes on the topic of the atonement, Gathercole has successfully pieced together a shorter, precise exploration of the substitution persepctive. Another great strength in addition to its brevity and precision involves its readability. While Gathercole has proven himself to be a distinguished theologian and professor, one of his purposes within the work is the building up of the church. An academician by trade, Gathercole still exhibits his love for the church and its building up through theological education. With this being the case, the book can serve both as a theological resource within academic circles, but also a source a practitioner might enjoy. If one were to point out a weakness of the book, one might be difficult to identify. However, for the sake of critique one weakness might be the lack of address of other primary theories of atonement. With the debate being so broad, multiple theories do exist. While Gathercole addresses three in the opening section of the work, the ones noted may not be universally known. In seeking to defend substitutionary atonement against other leading positions, he may have addressed the moral influence theory or the ransom theory, as these hold “more weight” within theological circles.

Given the nature and content of the work that Simon Gathercole has put forth in the realm of substitutionary atonement, it is one that cannot be looked over. As he asserts within the opening of the work, the atonement debate has been going on for quite some time and has had shifts in the theological understanding of the atonement within recent decades. Gathercole’s book Defending Substitution is a necessary resource for anyone desiring to expand his or her knowledge of the topic. In addition, it is written from an evangelical point of view, which allows it to be ready devotionally where other theological works may fall short. The Christian can read Gathercole’s work and become enamored by the glory of God and the magnitude of what took place on the cross of Christ. It is the recommendation of this review that Gathercole’s work be considered anytime a person is seeking further information and understanding in regard to the atonement of Christ.

[1] University of Cambridge, “Dr. Simon Gathercole,” accessed September 14, 2017, http://divinity.cam.ac.uk.

Courage To Pray

courage

Do you ever find yourself lacking the courage to pray? This may sound silly, but it is a reality for most normal Christians that live in a fallen world. Often we get bogged down in the hustle and bustle of life that we fail to pray. Maybe we have been struggling with sin and giving way to temptation that has led us to think that God is angry with us or we cannot approach Him because of what we have been involved in. Maybe we do not know how to pray or what to pray, therefore we do not pray at all. I am sure that if we put our heads together, the list of things that discourage us from prayer would be quite lengthy.

But are these legitimate reasons? Should we allow life circumstances, sin, or any other instance discourage us from prayer if we have been reconciled to God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? The answer is quite simple: no. In 1 Chronicles 17, God is making a covenant with King David that Davids house will live on forever. God is telling David that He will build this great house, ultimately alluding to the Messiah, which is Jesus Christ. At the end of the chapter, David is responding to the Lord in prayer and he voices two sentences to God that caught my eye. 1 Chronicles 17:25, “For you, my God, have revealed to you servant that you will build a house for him. Therefore your servant has found courage to pray before you.” At some point, we can rightly assume, David lacked courage to pray. Up until God established the house of David and the covenant promise of a lasting kingdom, the Kingdom of God, David was seemingly discouraged in his pursuit of God through prayer. So if you find yourself discouraged in your prayers, you are in good company.

However, something changed for David. God’s covenant promise with David communicated the grace, mercy, and love of God toward David and his people, giving David a lasting understanding that the faithful God of the universe will be faithful to His covenant promise with David. Because of this covenant promise, David knew that God was for him, not against him, and he could approach the Holy God in prayer with courage. You may say, “I get it. David was a man after God’s own heart. David had a covenant promise established with him by God. But that is David, not me.”

Believer, what you need to know is that you have a covenant promise established with you through the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ. You can have courage to pray because God is for you not against you. If you have repented of your sin and placed your faith in Christ, you are a covenant people, set aside for a covenant keeping God, who welcomes all of His blood bought children to His throne in prayer anytime. Hebrews 4:14-16, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Do not miss this. Because of what God has done for us in Christ Jesus, He welcomes us to the throne of grace in prayer, not with timidity, but boldly. This means that we can have courage in our prayers. And guess what….it is not based upon anything that you have done but solely based upon the grace, mercy, and good pleasure of God. You do not earn this right, it was earned for you by Christ Jesus. This means that you and I can have courage when we pray. This means that even when we are exercising our depraved stupidity and giving way to sin, we are still welcomed at the throne of grace to “find grace to help in time of need.” How mind blowing is this?

“Well….I just don’t know what to pray…I’ve had a bad day…or I am in a spiritual dry season…” It continues to get better. As Jesus sympathizes with us in our weakness, He is well aware of our discouragement and our times of need. He is well aware that dry seasons exist and we do not always know how or what to pray. But God has not abandoned us in this. Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” We do not always know what to pray because we are weak and frail. It is okay for us to admit that we are weak. It is okay for us to admit that we do not have it all together. It is okay for us to admit that we do not know what to pray. Why? Because that is where grace meets us. Even when we do not know how to pray as we ought the Spirit of the living God, the Third Person of the Trinity, intercedes on our behalf with groanings too deep for words. This means that He prays in a way that you and I cannot pray and He does this when we are clueless on how and what to pray. Amazing.

Child of God courageously approach the throne of Grace. Just as God built the house of David and established His Kingdom giving David the courage to pray, He has done the same for you in Christ Jesus and expects us to have the courage to pray because He gladly welcomes His children into HIs throne room. Exercise this right, do not neglect it, and be encouraged by the love found in our great God.

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

I have postponed commenting on the tragedy in Las Vegas for two reasons: First, so many people jumped on this tragedy responding emotionally and posting emotionally charged blogs and thoughts online in order to push their own agenda in regard to political issues. Second, I wanted to check my own heart and respond reasonably and not out of emotion because this event has rocked all of us to the core in our desire to understand how such a thing could happen. Thus, my desire is not to push a political agenda within my response. While incidents such as this provoke debates about gun control and governmental legislation, most of the arguments divide people on further issues that will probably never be resolved and the last thing our nation needs is more division. My thoughts naturally gravitate toward something much deeper than any modern law. At the root of the tragedy in Vegas is not the debate over gun control, it is beyond any political debate in history.

To begin, I think that I was shaken by that incident more than I have been in a while. The reality of the statement I just made is shocking to me. It seems that every other day stories about tragedy are headlining the news and I feel that to a degree I have become callous to the evil that exists in the world. However, something about the reality of this one man killing so many people in such quick time struck me deeper than many other incidents that I have seen scrolling across headlines.

Even in this moment, I have the tendency to place Stephen Paddock (the shooter) into a category of evil that is beyond our earthly comprehension. We naturally ask the question, “how could someone do something so horrible?” On the surface, the answer does leave us baffled. We ask the same questions about some of the most “evil” people in all of history. How could Hitler extinguish so many Jews? However, the spiritual answer to the question is one of greater depth. How could someone do something so horrible? The answer is simply sin.

Stephen Paddock seemingly gave no evidence that he would carry out something so horrible as a mass murder. Sure, he may have drank a little too much and gambled more than he should, but other than that all of the reports that I have seen are nothing less than confusing because he did not give the the typical signs of someone that would do such of a thing. But, there is one thing that lies within Stephen Paddock that our news media fails to see, sin.

Stephen Paddock was born dead in his trespasses and sins. Ephesians 2:1-3, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of the world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (ESV). Paddock was doing nothing but acting directly in accordance with his nature. Because of sin, we should not be surprised when someone carries out an act as heinous as the one that he performed. While we should be grieved and while we should not approve of such behavior, the reality that someone would do something so horrible is the very evidence that we live in a fallen world and sin still reigns in the hearts of many until the return of King Jesus.

But keep in mind one important reality, the difference between Stephen Paddock and ourselves may not be so far off. As Paddock was born dead in his trespasses and sins, so are all of us. We may look at this situation and think, “I would never do something so terrible. I have never murdered anyone. I have never stolen anything. I can’t be as bad as this guy. I’m a pretty good person.” While culture might agree with this line of thinking and say, “you are right, you are not that bad of a person,” Scripture says otherwise. Scripture contends that you and I are the same person as Stephen Paddock within the eyes of God. Scripture indicates that we share the same standing before a High and Holy God which is condemned, enemies, and guilty. Apart of the grace and mercy of God we stand in unity with Stephen Paddock.

While this is naturally the case, this is not the supreme verdict declared upon us all because of Christ. Paul goes on to say in Ephesians 2:4-9, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (ESV). Keep in mind where salvation comes from. It is a “gift from God.” Paul says that your salvation has nothing to do with you. It has nothing to do with your goodness, or how good of a person you are, or how many good works you have done. It is strictly a gift given to you based upon God’s good pleasure. It is given to you despite the fact that you possess the same sinful nature as Stephen Paddock. It is given by grace and mercy despite your own depravity.

So when you think about Las Vegas, when you think about Stephen Paddock, when you think about this tragic event, grieve and pray for these families effected. Pray God might use these undesirable circumstances for His glory and the exaltation of Christ. But also thank our Great God for your salvation. Thank God that He rescued you from a life that could have resulted in the very same thing. Thank God that despite your wicked heart and hostility towards Him, by grace you have been saved through faith, not of your own doing, but based upon what has been gifted you in Christ.

JBTM_14-2_Fall_2017

The following link will take you to the Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry. The Fall 2017 edition contains articles written in commemoration of  New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Centennial Celebration. Contained is a book review that I have written on Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention. I hope you enjoy. My review begins on page 104.

http://baptistcenter.net/journals/JBTM_14-2_Fall_2017.pdf

The Importance of October

95 Theses

October is a month of high importance for people across the world whether they realize it or not. It is the month my first child was born! (J/K) While it is the month that my first child was born, this is not what would be of high importance for most people, although it definitely is for me. Historically, October is the month in which has been credited with the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther, a German monk, nailed a collection of writings most commonly known as The 95 Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany.

These writings of Luther were intended to begin a conversation between the Catholic Church and himself in regard to many of the practices being employed as a means of salvation, and his questioning them as unbiblical. What is interesting about Luther and his relationship with the Catholic Church, he never sought to overthrow the church or begin a movement like the Protestant Reformation. Luther had a deep affection for the Catholic Church, being a good Catholic himself, and his attempt was to see it reformed in order to align more precisely with Scripture. However, this did not go as Luther had planned and the Reformation had begun.

Throughout the years, we have accredited the Protestant Reformation predominantly to Luther. While credit should be given where credit is due, Luther was not alone in his endeavors in seeking a biblical church and biblical church theology. Luther did a tremendous work, but Luther lit the fire of which many men after him would fan the flame. Men such as John Calvin, John Hus, William Tyndale, and Huldrych Zwingli to name a few. In addition to these men, hundreds of others through the years stood upon the tenets of the Reformation and are continuing to stand upon these tenets today. So what exactly are the tenets of the Reformation that are so important?

While numerous theological truths emerged from the Protestant Reformation, many hang their hat on five truths that sum up the dominant theology. They are known as the 5 Solas: Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), Sola Gratia (Grace Alone), Sola Fide (Faith Alone), Solus Christus (Christ Alone) and Soli Deo Gloria (God’s Glory Alone). These 5 Solas are dominant themes throughout the Reformation and should stand as dominant themes within the modern Protestant Church, or any church for that matter.

It is the idea that Scripture Alone is our sole source of authority. God has spoken through His word and the church does not stand over Scripture, Scripture stands over the church. Scripture is sufficient for every man in their pursuit of God and is to be followed in every area of life. Salvation is then by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Nothing outside of the gospel is needed in order to secure one’s salvation. Ephesians 2:1-10 is clear in regard to man’s salvation as God makes man alive by grace through faith in Christ. The Catholic Church is inundated with ways of obtaining salvation outside of the gospel. It is not the gospel plus something that saves, it is the gospel plus nothing. Then, all of this is for God’s Glory Alone. Everything in life is for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” You exist for the glory of God. Whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, you exist for God’s glory as everything else in all of creation exists for God’s Glory.

This is only a brief survey of the Protestant Reformation. I encourage everyone to further their studies of the Reformation and dive into the rich history that comprises all of us that are not Catholic. It is by God’s grace that He has brought us to where we are today and we stand upon the foundation of men like the Reformers as we carry on their legacy in the Lord’s Church for His glory and His glory alone.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Consider Holiness

Lamb-slain

I have been reading various works on the atonement for the “Work of Christ” seminar that I am currently enrolled in for school. Many different ideas in regard to the nature of the atonement exist. The one of which I subscribe is Penal Substitutionary Atonement. Yet, in my reading of the other processes of thought on the atonement, one that sticks out to me I am referring to as a liberal view of atonement.

The argumentation against Penal Substitutionary Atonement that sticks out in my mind is held by a number of feminist theologians and it suggests that Jesus’s death on the cross should be viewed as “divine child abuse” (J.C. Brown, “Divine Child Abuse,” Daughters of Sarah 18, no. 3 (1992): 28). This idea paints God out to be a blood thirsty, hateful entity, that poured out wrath on His innocent Son for no reason at all. Many postmoderns would question how anyone could love a God like this?

With this at the forefront of my mind and in my thoughts, I was driving my two daughters to school and my youngest daughter wanted to listen to a song that we sing at church entitle “Jesus, Thank You” (Listen here). The song is about the atonement. A line in the song states, “Your blood has washed away my sin, Jesus thank you. The Father’s wrath completely satisfied, Jesus thank you.” As I listened to this song, I began to think through the words that were being sung. They were words about blood. Listening to the lyrics I began to think that this song is seemingly morbid as a blood sacrifice is being made in order to appease the wrath of God. To an outsider, or non-Christian, this language might cause some problems.

But what the liberal and postmodern theologians are doing is gauging their position based upon their own subjective, modern ideas of who God is and how God should act. Very few times will you encounter a person holding a position such as this enforcing their perspective with the whole counsel of God, or even a small portion of Scripture.

What is being forgotten in the midst of this debate is the holiness of God. Considering the depths of what it took to atone for the sins of God’s people, we cannot look past the holiness of God if we truly desire to understand the atonement. The blood sacrifice is a direct result of the relationship that God’s holiness shares with sin. God’s holiness is, in the most severe sense, opposed to sin. If we keep this at the forefront of our minds, while the Penal Substitutionary Atonement might seem extreme, the holiness of God demanded the sacrifice.

It is possible to spend the next two years posting about the nature of the atonement and what I have put forth in this short essay, but we do not have the time for that. The takeaway from this for all of us is the relationship that we have with God before Christ. Our relationship with God before Christ is marked by wrath. We are by nature enemies of God, children of destruction. Now, because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, we are adopted into His family as His children, coheirs with Christ to an eternal inheritance as Christ stood in our place as our substitute and absorbed the wrath of God for us. “Full atonement can it be, Hallelujah! What a Savior.”

Active Theology

Here we go again….. As with most people that have blogs, I have failed to maintain mine over the last couple of years. A variety of factors might be mentioned as to why I have not successfully been a “blogger,” but we do not have the time to discern all of my failed attempts to be a writer on the internet. Regardless, I am going to give it another shot.

You might notice that this site is no longer andymbaker.wordpress.com, but now has a new domain name activetheology.com. For quite some time, I have been wrestling with the idea of starting my own “personal” website, with my own “personal” domain name in hopes that it might be more helpful in fulfilling my overall intended purpose. The heading “Active Theology” conveys my hearts desire for all of those that operate under the heading of “Christian.”

In my theological studies, and in my experience as a Pastor, I have constantly come to grips with the reality that a lot of people have not been equipped with good theology and doctrine from God’s Word. Part of the reason I have come to this conclusion is accompanied by the way that beliefs are carried out. I think that good theology and good doctrine will by nature be practiced within one’s everyday life. With that being said, theology and doctrine is not just something that we study in order to develop a bigger brain, or know fancy words, or be able to argue this theological point over another, we study theology because it helps us to know God better and in knowing God better it helps us to love our neighbor’s better, i.e. our theology becomes active.

So, my hope of this site now launching once more is to convey a variety of things to my 2  readers (my wife and her mother). This will be accomplished through individual posts, guest posts, book reviews, cultural engagement, and anything else I think I might want to interject in between. By God’s Grace I can stick with it and communicate truth in a way that impacts all of our lives.

A Weak Culture Leads To A Weak Church

Skinny Guy Workout

I think that it is safe to say that we live in a weak culture. What I mean by weak culture is very simple; one cannot speak up against anything in our culture without being condemned and labeled as someone that is spewing hate or discrimination. Because of this, very few will confront anyone with any issues as most are afraid of confrontation. Not only are they afraid of confrontation, confrontation has been ruled out in our weak culture and deemed as a hate crime. We can no longer say this is wrong or that is wrong because we are being discriminating, and with this being the case we must let grown men go into women’s bathrooms with little girls, lest we be guilty of discriminating against them if we say that can’t. This is truly absurd.

So that’s the culture. The culture is weak. The culture says that you cannot say no. Thus, with this type of weak culture, there is no ground floor to the immorality that awaits. There can be no crime, there can be no laws, there can be no code of morality, because our culture is weak and to say otherwise would be discriminating to who someone truly is and what they believe.

But, if we are not careful, our culture will infiltrate the church. What I would actually submit to you is that the culture has infiltrated the church. We have weak churches. Our churches have become nothing more than an extension of the culture. We do not want to preach sermons that harp on sin too much because people will get upset or it will hurt their feelings. We do not want to hold people to personal holiness as Scripture calls us to because we do not want to hurt their feelings or say that they are wrong in one aspect or another. Church discipline has become  a foreign concept within God’s Church because we want to avoid confrontation at all cost, lest we become guilty of hurting someone’s feelings and driving them away. With this being the case in the majority of American Churches today, we have unconsciously thrown out the Word of God and made it a nice book that we can pick and choose what to believe. For example, when it comes to church discipline, it is as if our churches have looked at those passages and said, “well this is one particular way to do it, but we aren’t going to do it at all.” I am sure that Jesus and Paul were only making suggestions to the church and not actually putting forth a prescription for God’s people to follow…..right?

So Christian what will it be? Will we continue to have churches that are nothing more than quasi-moral reflections of our weak culture, or will be cease to be weak and do what the Bible says and stand upon God’s Word, holding people to a life of personal holiness, correcting where correction is needed, extending grace where grace is needed, getting back to the church discipline that God laid out within His Word and see Him truly bless His church as His church commits to remain faithful to His Word? We have a lot of people on church rolls that go to hell everyday, in large part because the church has failed to do what the Lord has called the church to do. Should we tell them? Or should we just let them burn? Weakness would say, well we do not want them to get upset. Scripture would affirm what Charles Spurgeon would say, “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”