Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Pope, Global Warming, and Homosexuality

"The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less," [Pope] Benedict told scores of prelates gathered in the Vatican's Clementine Hall.

"What’s needed is something like a ‘human ecology,’ understood in the right sense. It’s not simply an outdated metaphysics if the Church speaks of the nature of the human person as man and woman, and asks that this order of creation be respected." [1]

I do not know whether to laugh, cry, or say amen to the above quotes. It is good to know that the Roman Catholics are following the Scriptures in condemning homosexuality. However, I wonder is the Pope comparing homosexuality to destroying the environment because he is attempting to communicate the horribleness of sin to a culture which has little understanding of sin and believes environmental destruction is the cardinal sin. Or, does the Pope really believe that destroying the environment is comparable to the sin of homosexuality? Either way the effect is the same biblical truth has been compromised. The Pope has altered biblical truths to communicate to the culture, or the Roman Church has caved to the culture.

Certainly, everyone would agree that we should be good stewards of the blessings God has given us, including our planet. However, to equate homosexuality and environmental irresponsibility seems to trivialize the sinfulness of homosexuality.

Sexual immorality in general and homosexuality in particular are pointed out in Scripture as exceptionally sinful because they are sins against one's own body (1 Cor. 6:18). God calls homosexuality an abomination and in the Old Testament economy death was the punishment [2] (Lev. 20:13). No where in Scripture will one find such condemnation of polluting the environment. Clearly, there is no biblical warrant for equating environmental issues and homosexuality. Homosexuality is absolutely more sinful than polluting our environment.

While believers need to clearly articulate biblical concepts to a biblically illiterate culture, we must communicate in a way that does not alter the message. In addition, the church must never compromise biblical truth to get along with the culture. What the Bible condemns as sin, we must condemn as sin even if our culture calls it good. Let us be faithful to God and his holy Word.

Pastor Jeremy Lee

Twining Baptist Church

[1] story available @,2933,471426,00.html

[2] The gospel is universal as such many of the laws that were for the nation of Israel are no longer directly applicable such as the death penalty for homosexuality. My point here is not that we should institute the death penalty for homosexuality but to point out that it was one of the few sins punished by death. Since the punishment is more severe, the sin is more severe.


"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:5-11 NKJV).

I have been thinking lately about the birth of Jesus as it is recorded in the Gospels. Luke records in his gospel the words of Elizabeth the soon to be mother of John the Baptist v. 43-44 chapter 1. "And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy" (ESV).

Here are the familiar words of the “Christmas story.” "And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn" (Luke 2:7). In verse 8 there were shepherds watching their flocks, an angel came to them telling them news that would bring great joy to all people. Verse 11 says "for unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior who is Christ the Lord." Verse 13 "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly hosts praising God and saying. 'GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST AND ON EARTH PEACE AMONG THOSE WITH WHOM HE IS PLEASED.'” (ESV)

Christmas: “X-Mas”, (do you remember the ranting over the term X-Mas in years past?) Trees, gifts, food, plays, manger scenes, candle lightings in churches and the plays using the scriptures above, Luke chapter 2. We never learned much about He who was born. He was the son of Mary, the carpenters son, the baby in the manger, this is as good as it gets. In days gone by there was outrage about the use of “X-Mas” in place of Christmas, no outrage for the lack of telling who this baby was however.

Elizabeth knew who this baby was, she called him “my Lord”, John the Baptist in the womb knew who this baby was “he leaped for joy” in the womb of Elizabeth.

Isaiah, had he lived at the time of Christ would have know who He was.

"And one cried to another and said: 'Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!' And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. So I said: 'Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts.' Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: 'Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away,
And your sin purged.'" ( Isa. 6:4-7 NJKV)

Isaiah knew Him who purged his sins.

Remember God is, God, the Son, the Holy Spirit, they are one, when we mention Jesus we are talking about God, Old Testament references to God include Jesus and Holy Spirit.

As stated in the Athanasian Creed Lines 13-16:

“And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; And yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;”

In Matthew 2:16, Herod kills all the male children in Bethlehem two years old and younger attempting to kill the baby Jesus who has fled to Egypt, his parents being warned in a dream to flee. These little babies knew who this baby was; one commentator remarked “they gave their life so He may give them eternal life.” This was (hopefully this isn’t a stretch) their worship. These babies I believe knew who He was.

Here is the baby Jesus,

"[God Himself] who made Himself no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men, and being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. He is exalted, and given a name above every name. Every knee shall bow to Jesus, in the heavens, on the earth and under the earth. Everyone would confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:6-11).

Here is Jesus He is the Lord of hosts, the Lord God Almighty: "And one cried to another and said: 'Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!'" (Isa. 6:3 NKJV)

"The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: 'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!'" (Rev. 4:8 NKJV)

Christmas isn’t about X-Mas, food, trees, lights, candles etc. Christmas is the time to worship the King of Kings who became man; He came to be wounded, bruised and stricken for us: "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed" (Isa. 53:5 NKJV).

My friend if you can live without a sense of the Lord’s presence and are satisfied with mere outward Christianity, you are lost in your sins. Don’t be deceived. Jesus must be more than a baby in a manger. He must be your Lord and Savior, the Lord of hosts He Is.

"For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him" (Heb. 2:2, 3 NKJV)

Ken Clouse

Monday, December 22, 2008

Jonathan Edward's Work Available Online

Many of the readers of this blog may have already heard this announcement from other sources, but a new treat is available online for Reformed-minded folk.

Yale University has for some time been engaged in the Jonathan Edwards project--an attempt to bring the majority of Edwards writings into print. While a wonderful resource, the price tag of this multi-volume series (well over 25 volumes) has proven prohibitive (generally over $100 per book).

In a rare move, the Jonathan Edwards Center has endeavored to put all of Edward's works online in a searchable format. Of particular value for preachers is his sermons and the notes from his blank bible.

This is an excellent resource that should be added to your Favorites list immediately.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

ESV Bibles & Cambrdige Craftmanship

The acclaimed English Standard Version is now available in quality Cambridge bindings. Looks like more editions/options are also on their way.

Click on this link for a better look at the picture.

As with all Cambridge products, the prices are high--but what a wonderful treasure!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Preaching Hell to Postmoderns

Have you ever found it challenging to speak about hell? I recently ran across a wonderful article by Tim Keller on this very subject. He urges the necessity of preaching this message, despite its unpopularity. Keller writes,

"The loss of the doctrine of hell and judgment and the holiness of God does irreparable damage to our deepest comforts—our understanding of God's grace and love and of our human dignity and value to him. To preach the good news, we must preach the bad.

Yet he also maintains
that two different groups--traditionalists & postmoderns--"hear" hell-language very differently. He urges pastors to take our hearers' starting points into consideration as we preach about eternal torment. This is an excellent document with wise advice on how to discuss the reality of Hell in a postmodern age.

Tim Keller on Preaching about Hell.

More info on Keller with links to other articles.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Doctrines of Grace - Total Depavity


Sometime ago I was invited to speak at a college-age Christian retreat. My discussion had nothing to do with Calvinism, but during one the breaks several college students invited me to participate in a ‘round-table’ discussion. They had several theological/biblical questions they wanted to discuss. As I sat down, a young lady jumped right to the point, “I hear you’re a Calvinist. How can you believe that sinners can’t choose God?” I smiled and gently said, “Where did you hear that? Calvinists do believe people choose God.” Quite intelligently, she replied, “But you don’t believe people choose God by their own ability”. “That’s right”, I said, “because without God’s intervention how can something that is evil ever choose a good God?” I continued to ask her questions: “Do you believe all people are born sinners?” Yes. “Do you believe sin makes us an enemy of God?” Yes. “Do you believe sin affects our hearts, souls, bodies, and minds? Yes. “Do you believe sin makes us unable to save ourselves? Yes. “Do you believe it makes us unwilling to be saved?” Well, not always. I think many people recognize their sinfulness and turn to God. I replied, “Therein lies your problem, you rightly recognize the reality of depravity, but not its totality.”

The spectre of Pelagius still haunts the majority of Christendom. Radical Pelagianism denies the inherent evil of mankind. It claims whatever effects sin may have had, many exist for who salvation is not necessary. Even if someone has fallen into sin, they are both able and (many times) willing to save themselves.

While orthodoxy has rightly claimed such a teaching heretical, Roman Catholicism and much of contemporary Evangelicalism has never fully moved away from this idea. All Christian groups today teach the reality of depravity—that doctrine which states that mankind is born into sin and separation from God. Our hearts are inclined to evil and at enmity with the Lord. They strongly disagree with Pelagius’ assertion that human beings are able to save themselves, but they agree with him that many are willing to be saved.

If sin has truly distorted every dimension of the human person, it must have also affected our wills (what we want) and our minds (what & how we think). In other words, we do not desire God, we do not want God, and we will not allow our minds to turn us toward God. There is no such thing as the ‘noble pagan’ who, of his own power, recognizes his sinfulness and cries out to God for assistance.
Certainly pagans do cry out to God, but it is by God’s power alone that this is possible.

Both Arminians and Calvinists recognize the reality of depravity, but only Calvinists recognize its totality.

Update: Thanks to those who noticed the error in the post graphic (which referred to the 5 solas). It's a sad day when a Reformed pastor can't tell his solas from his Tulips. LOL.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Celebrating Christmas with the Puritans

For some time now I have been an avid reader of Puritan literature. Their reformed understanding of Scripture was deeply held and sincerely lived out for the glory of God. Yet today the Puritans are considered "killjoys" and prudes because of their negative stance towards entertainment.

The issue of Christmas was particularly troublesome for the Puritans. They objected to the holiday for several reasons. First of all, it has no biblical mandate. Firmly adhering to the Regulative Principle in regards to worship, the Puritans recognized this celebration was not ordained by Christ and therefore maintained it should not be part of our Christian worship. Second, Christmas contradicts the historical record as Christ certainly wasn't born on December 25th. Third, the holiday has pagan roots. The Catholic Church had invented Christmas to compete with the ancient Roman festival honoring the bull-god Mithras. Its pagan roots was clearly evident by the fact that most only gave lip-service to Christ and instead used the holiday for self-indulgent revelry. Fourth, it reminded them of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, which they were trying to escape. Fifth, the holiday celebration usually included drinking, excessive feasting, and playing games - all things which the Puritans understood as being antithetical to true worship. One such tradition, "wassailing" occasionally turned violent. The custom entailed people of a lower economic class visiting wealthier community members and begging, or demanding, food and drink in return for toasts to their hosts' health. If a host refused, things could occasionally turn violent (and even if it didn't, the custom would most certainly end in drunkenness).

Yet today conservative Christmas are the most vocal advocates of Christmas. We hear repeated refrains to "put Christ back into Christmas". Isn't it odd that faithful Christians of one century would almost universally oppose Christmas while those of another would unanimously promote it? Pity the poor pastor today who would dare to challenge celebrating this merry-making holiday.

Personally, I find the Puritan's arguments convincing. Don't misunderstand--my family still celebrates Christmas. Three days ago we set up the Christmas tree and took our yearly trip to a little outlet store where each of our three children picked out an ornament. We purchase a gift for each of kids and a few more for the entire family. On Christmas day we will gather for a gigantic feast and spend much of the day as a family. I just paid 20 bucks to the local Boy Scouts troup for a wreath to hang on the garage.

Yet, I cannot shake the Puritan viewpoint. It's too logical and too biblical to be simply ignored. The fact is that Christmas was and is a pagan holiday. In my own sketch of church history I cannot find a period in which Christmas was ever truly celebrated (universally) as a day of faithful worship to the King of kings. It was always tainted with self-indulgence and debauchery.

For the past few years we have celebrated Christmas with the Puritans. By that I mean that my wife and I consciously make the effort to mimimalize ourselves and maximize Christ. Each child receives only one present, which we open on Christmas eve (keep in mind that we cannot control the grandparents, so the kids usually receive more). The day of Christmas is reserved soley for Christ. In the morning we assemble at the "family altar" for prayer, worship, bible reading. At the meal we spend most of our conversation talking about Christ. Here we ask the children questions from the catechism and inquire what they have been learning about Jesus from Sunday school. We explore ways to make Christ the center of our lives in a variety of areas. In the evening, we assemble together again for worship and a sermonette that covers the Gospel story (creation-fall-redemption).

To be honest, neither the Puritans nor most contemporary Christians would approve of what we do as a family for Christmas. But the reason for disagreement is very illuminating: many Christians would object that we have taken the fun out of the holiday. The Puritans would object that we risk displacing Christ by having any fun at all.

We have chosen a middle path--but if forced, I would side with the Puritans.

- Josh Gelatt

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sproul Interviews Ben Stein

Sproul Interviews Ben Stein:

"What a great interview. Watch until the end. You'll enjoy the praise Stein heaps on our own R.C. Sproul. Bahnsen may have passed on, but R.C. is still on duty. Let's always pray for him."

This is a worthy post even if it is not from me personally.

Ken Clouse
Glennie, Mi.