Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Justification By Faith...Alone?

Justification is the article by which the church stands or falls.
~attributed to Martin Luther 

Christian theological discussions and debates quite often boil down to this: The doctrine of salvation by grace alone through faith alone (aka “justification by faith”). Unfortunately, many such dialogues produce more heat than light (thus evidencing that we are certainly saved by grace alone). 

To illustrate: How are the following sentiments helpful? 

Is Arminianism a damnable heresy? Yes. . . . Are pastors who teach Arminianism damnable heretics who are not Christians and who will certainly go to hell? Ultimately, this is up to God to decide . . . It would seem to be very difficult, if not impossible, to be trusting in Jesus Christ alone if you hold to [Arminian doctrine].

The false Gospel of the TULIP turns the Good News of Christ into a bad news. . . . The TULIP gospel does not say that God loved the world. So it is a false gospel. . . . The TULIP gospel which comes to you in the form of 'Doctrines of Grace' is indeed a very ungracious Gospel . . . the TULIP gospel of calvinism [sic] is a false gospel.

Should we automatically anathematize those who understand the doctrine of justification by faith somewhat differently from us? I don’t think we should—not if we truly believe the doctrine. 

(For those whose heads remain unexploded, let me explain.) 

There is a difference between the doctrine of justification by faith alone and being justified by faith alone. But I fear we commonly fail to make this distinction. As soon as we begin to interject our “yeah buts” into the conversation, we are in danger of conflating the two. 

Yeah…he says he believes in Jesus BUT he denies free-will…his “god” is the devil of Calvinism 

Or, 

Yeah…she says she’s saved by grace alone BUT she thinks her faith preceded her “regeneration.”  

Consider. Is repentance from sin and trust in the Christ of scripture—that He was the divine, sinless Son of God incarnate who died for sinners and rose again from the dead—sufficient to save?  

Are we in fact saved by faith alone?  

Please understand this is not a call to a minimalist view of faith. Nor is it my intention to downplay the importance of doctrine or to compromise theological distinctives. I am simply contending that if we are indeed justified by faith alone, we should not damn those who repent of sins and believe in Jesus Christ as their only Lord and Savior on the sole basis of doctrinal disagreement or imprecision. 

It’s not doctrine alone, but faith alone.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

2013 In The Books

I’ve seen some folks catalogue the most influential books they’ve ever read. Less ambitiously, I’d like to share a list of influential books I read in 2013—one for each month and in no particular order. 

Obviously, this list in no way serves as an affirmation of all the things contained in the works; but it does enumerate books which shaped, enlivened, informed, challenged, or reinforced my thinking in the past year. 

1. “The Descent of Man,” Charles Darwin 

2. “The Real Lincoln,” Thomas DeLorenzo 

3. “Intellectuals and Race,” Thomas Sowell 

4. “The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology,” Pascal Denault 

5. “Strange Fire,” John MacArthur 

6. “Seven Days That Divide the World,” John Lennox 

7. “The Same Sex Controversy,” James White 

8. “C.S. Lewis—A Life,” Alister McGrath 

9. “Toward a Truly Free Market,” John Medaille 

10. “Galileo Goes To Jail—And Other Myths About Science and Religion,” ed. Ronald Numbers 

11. “Inspiration and Incarnation,” Peter Enns 

12. “Faith Has Its Reasons,” Kenneth Boa and Robert Bowman, Jr.  

The above books, and all books, should be read in conjunction with and through the lens of God’s holy word, The Bible. As I like to advise (much to the chagrin of some of my readers): Eat the meat and spit out the bones. 

Read carefully, my friends.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Good Little Parrots


When Albert Einstein was making the rounds of the speaker's circuit, he usually found himself eagerly longing to get back to his laboratory work. One night as they were driving to yet another rubber-chicken dinner, Einstein mentioned to his chauffeur (a man who somewhat resembled Einstein in looks & manner) that he was tired of speechmaking.  

"I have an idea, boss," his chauffeur said. "I've heard you give this speech so many times. I'll bet I could give it for you." Einstein laughed loudly and said, "Why not? Let's do it!"  

When they arrived at the dinner, Einstein donned the chauffeur's cap and jacket and sat in the back of the room. The chauffeur gave a beautiful rendition of Einstein's speech and even answered a few questions expertly.  

Then a supremely pompous professor asked an extremely esoteric question about anti-matter formation, digressing here and there to let everyone in the audience know that he was nobody's fool. Without missing a beat, the chauffeur fixed the professor with a steely stare and said, "Sir, the answer to that question is so simple that I will let my chauffeur, who is sitting in the back, answer it for me."

The above story is pure fiction, but it humorously demonstrates the serious difference between genuine knowledge and rote learning (a process using routine without full attention or comprehension, mechanical or unthinking repetition, the use of memory with little intelligence).  

In our tale, the chauffer—using only his mental powers of recall—flawlessly spoke about things of which he had no true understanding. His “lecture” was merely rote repetition. 

We see this sort of thing all of the time; people parroting lines and phrases with no real depth of thought or reason, mindless echo chambers in a culture of slogans and snippets. 

When will the robotic jabbering end?  

Do you remember being in school and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance? How much thought went into the daily intonation? It was nothing but rote repetition. What if we were to apply this methodology to all “learning”? 

I fear to a large extent we are doing just that—following a paradigm of rote education. That is, we are training students to pass “multiple guess” tests where they simply regurgitate “right” answers which require little or no right thinking. Our goal is to mass-produce good little parrots, not critical thinkers. 

And why do you suppose this is?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Blessed Assurance


Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble (2Peter 1:10).  

I had a gentleman come to me some years ago in doubt of his salvation. "What if I'm not good enough, sincere, enough, etc…?”   

I said to him: "The focus of everything you've said thus far is yourself. But where should you look for salvation—to yourself or to Christ? Do you believe Jesus was good enough? Do you believe He died for your sins? Do you believe the Father accepted the life and sacrifice of His Son? Do you believe Jesus actually rose from the dead?" 

He replied, "Yes, I believe all of these things." 

And I answered, "Then why doubt your salvation? You have a perfect Savior who perfectly saves. He can lose no one who has been given to Him by the Father. Your assurance of your salvation is in your Savior." 

My brother came doubting but left assured.  

Thankfully, dear reader, our great salvation isn't predicated upon our behavior or even our fallible sense of assurance; but on Jesus’ blood and righteousness. So, believe the precious promise of God in Christ and be encouraged, 

He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews7:25).