Wednesday, July 13, 2011

True Calvinism is the Gospel

True Calvinism is the Lordship of Christ and sovereignty of God over all things, not just salvation, 5-points, otherwise known as "TULIP". Now, please don't get me wrong, Calvinism is about salvation, but it is so much more! Its not just salvation of individuals but the salvation of the entire world. What does that mean? I love the way Doug Wilson says this: The gospel has two-prongs:

1. We can be reconciled because Jesus Christ, the Son of God has come, was crucified, dead and buried under Pontius Pilate, risen on the third day and ascended to the right hand of His Father. That means....

2. Christ is Lord - if He is not Lord/King over all the nations, He is not Lord over any nation and therefore not Lord over any individual and therefore we are still in our sins. But thankfully, this is not true! Christ is Lord! He has conquered sin and death and has dealt the crushing blow of victory over the devil.

That is the gospel and if you don't have both prongs, you've got a truncated "gospel." That two-pronged explanation is Calvinism pure and simple. A diamond is a simple thing with many facets. The Christian Faith is like that: simple, yet complex. Jesus told the disciples on the road to Emmaus that all the things written back there in the OT were written about Him! Everything is pointing to Jesus, including the promises made to Abraham. Calvinism is nothing more than the biblical teaching of the Gospel as it appears it its many glorious facets.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Quote From A.W. Pink on the Sovereignty of God

“The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.His government is exercised over inanimate matter, over the brute beasts, over the children of men, over angels good and devil, and over Satan himself. No revolving of a world, no shining of a star, no storm, no movement of a creature, no actions of men, no errands of angels, no deeds of the Devil — nothing in all the vast universe can come to pass otherwise than God has eternally purposed. Here is a foundation for faith. Here is a resting place for the intellect. Here is an anchor for the soul, both sure and steadfast. It is not blind fate, unbridled evil, man or Devil, but the Lord Almighty who is ruling the world, ruling it according to His own good pleasure and for His own eternal glory.” - A.W. Pink

Friday, June 24, 2011

New Jerusalem - Coming Down

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." Revelation 21:1-2 (ESV)

What - or who is the New Jerusalem? If she is not the church - then who is she? That one prepared as a bride adorned for her Husband....? I take a postmillennial view in the sense I see the church as being the heart of the Kingdom of God and the gospel spreading to and throughout the nations much like the way yeast infiltrates a lump of dough. Take note: this does not come about by the power of man like some magical "utopia" but happens by the power of God through His Spirit.

Like blood flowing in and throughout the body, so the church is the heart of the kingdom. Granted, the new heavens and new earth came in principle with the incarnation/cross/resurrection of Christ but the influence is spreading (coming down) like leaven in the loaf. As C.S. Lewis said, aliens have invaded enemy occupied territory and the results are nothing less than world domination.

That conquering message of the gospel of the love God through Jesus Christ has been spreading for 2000 years now and the outworking of it cannot be stopped. Christ said he will build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against her. How is she built? Through the proclamation of the gospel which is the foundation established by the prophets and the Apostles - Christ being the chief Cornerstone.

Jesus used the metaphor of a mustard seed in Luke 13 and in Matt. 13, "It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”

The Kingdom is the new Jerusalem, coming down and infiltrating the entire world until the knowledge of the Lord covers the earth like the water covers the sea. It's that stone cut from the mountain by no human hand, which although small, wound up destroying all other kingdoms, mentioned in Daniel chapter 2. It's the proclamation of the Kingdom of Christ - the gospel. It's the entire theme of God's Word and history! The church, the new Jerusalem, as I said before, she is the heart of the kingdom and through her the kingdom spreads by word and sacrament.

That spread of yeast through the bread, or the bride coming down from heaven, in one sense has only just begun. In other words, I tend to see us as being still in the very early stages of church history - Acts Chapter 29 or possibly 30, if you will. Again, I'm not dogmatic on this, but this explains a bit of my understanding of that passage in Revelation 21.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Everything's Enchanted

There is no need to build a false dichotomy between the physical and spiritual. We can make a distinction between those two without falling into dualism. A naturalistic worldview will only acknowledge the material. But when people say the world is"enchanted" I understand that to mean spiritual. And in one sense, the entire material world is infused with the spiritual. This is, after all, a physical world made by God who is Spirit

Again, I believe everything is enchanted...including that big rock that appears in the sky that some people call the "moon." I'm not pagan but the moon is anything but a cold, lifeless rock orbiting the earth. God, put it there to teach us something about authority.

"And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars." Genesis 1:16

"Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” Genesis 37:9

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Wide Window - A Series of Unfortunate Events Book 3

Read this one to my 7-year old daughter with a few edits. It was okay but not quite as good as the first two. The Baudelaire siblings are entrusted to the care of one Aunt Josephine, a worry-wart in the third degree. A sinister pirate-like character by the name Captain Sham shows up, romancing the nervous Aunt but the children suspect him of being guilty of a little dastardly devilry. Could it be "you know who?" Ah! The tattoo of the eye on his left ankle will give away his identity, but wait --Captain Sham has a wooden peg-leg. What gives?

The plot on this one was slightly thin but the dialog was deliciously fun and a blast to act out. I love to make Count Olaf sound sinister and it's very easy to do! He's such a nasty bird!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Shaming the Devil: Essays in Truthtelling - Book Review

Another fantastic collection of moral essays from Professor Alan Jacobs! In this volume he covers topics such as the benefits of Christians reading W.H. Auden, a critique of Phillip Pullman and his twisted interpretation of Milton's Paradise Lost, (His Dark Materials) and finally a collection of essays on using computers and being challenged to understand just exactly what we "do" when we use those rascally machines. Jacobs pays attention life in the details and I appreciate his honesty

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Silver Chair-Chronicles of Narnia: Book Review

In C.S. Lewis's The Silver Chair (The Chronicles of Narnia, Full-Color Collector's Edition) Jill Pole and Eustace Scrubb are called into Narnia by Aslan the Lion a.k.a. King of Narnia to be involved in an important mission. Jill is given four signs to remember but throughout the story, she acts like a "lunatic" and loses control of her mind by forgetting. She and Eustace set out on an journey through Narnia which eventually will lead them to the Underworld where they hope to find and release the captive Prince Rilian, son of King Caspian, (the same "Caspian" from Voyage of the Dawn Treader). Many adventures are experienced along the way as they, fly with owls, meet up with giants and one of Lewis's most beloved characters; a Marsh-Wiggle by the name of Puddleglum. Lots of "silver" stuff in this book. The resurrection of a certain person at the end was amazing! (I'm not telling who...) The Silver Chair was, all in all- very "moonish," and I loved it! especially this full color illustrated edition.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Code of the Woosters-Book Review

"The snail is on the wing and the lark is on the thorn-" or is it the other way around? Hijinks and blackmail with Wooster, Jeeves and company!

In The Code of the Woosters, Bertie Wooster has been summoned by his Aunt Dahlia to Totleigh Towers, a country manner owned by a former judge. Wooster's task? Nab a cow-shaped creamer--from the judge! who already suspects Wooster of "foul play." Also, while at Totleigh Towers, Wooster attempts to mend several love spats between couples. Can he be the instrument of reconciliatory "love?" or will he end up in the "chokey" for the accusation of pinching a police officer's helmet? Will Jeeves save the day once again? Will Bertie be able to hold to the "Code of the Woosters?"

P.G. Wodehouse's books are so humorous, I feel like I have to read portions aloud to my wife! (Imagine me chasing her around the house, "but you've got to listen to this!) This book is very funny and man--the plot on this one is tight!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Planet Narnia by Michael Ward: Book Review

A most remarkable and very fine book by any standard! Michael Ward, chaplain of theological imagination at Oxford University makes a good argument for a "heavenly" pattern within C.S. Lewis's Narniad. Each book corresponds to a different planet--in a classic medieval sense. Ward goes so far as to create a new term to describe Lewis's technique of hiding these things: He calls the form of a hidden Enjoyment, "Donegality." (Drawn from the actual seaside town of Donegal, Ireland where Lewis visited as a child). Ward is no conspiracy theorist either! It is evident he has done his homework when compiling this work and his scholarship and love of Lewis comes through. Ward follows a repeated pattern with each chapter by exploring planetary themes of all 7 books. Early in each chapter, he shows how Lewis interacted with a particular Planet in his work outside the Narniad; drawing largely from Lewis' early poem The Planets, The Discarded Image, and the Space Trilogy. He then shows how the planetary themes play themselves out in each of the Narnia Chronicles. At the end of each chapter, Ward examines the poiema (things made) and logos (things taught) in all 7 stories as it relates to the each respective planet and shows how a pagan concept such as astrology can fit within the framework of a Christian world view. This book should be read after one is WELL acquainted with the Narnia stories but if you do love them (as I do) you'll be blown out of your seat and into blue heaven! By Jove!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

C.S. Lewis Phenomenon: Donegality

Michael Ward, in his book Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis invents a a new phrase in order to describe Lewis's way of drawing the reader into something unaware; a phenomenon Ward calls "Donegality." Ward derives the name from Donegal, Ireland, a favorite place of Lewis's to visit as a young boy. The concept means something like getting caught in the trap of an artist. Sometimes a writer will have a secret agenda within his art and the reader will get caught up into it unexpectedly but simultaneously, the reader will delight in that "trap." Lewis's short essay Meditation in a Tool Shed on getting caught in a sunbeam is a fine introduction to what Ward means by Donegality. Lewis was a master at this sort of thing as evidenced here by this quote from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Take notice of how the narrator draws the reader in by asking the question at the end.

Next day they began marching eastward down the side of the great river. And the next day after that, at about teatime, they reached the mouth. The castle of Cair Paravel on its little hill towered up above them; before them were the sands, with rocks and little pools of salt water, and seaweed, and the smell of the sea and long miles of blueish-green waves breaking forever and ever on the beach. And oh, the cry of the seagulls! Have you heard it? Can you remember?

And then contrast the above quote with Lewis's words from his autobiography Surprised by Joy on visiting Donegal, as a child. Concerning the waves on the beach he said...

"...the wave, the monstrous, emerald, deafening waves, are always the winner, and it is at once a joke, a terror and a joy to look over your shoulder and see (too late) one breaker of such subline proportions that you would have avoided him had you known he was coming. But they gather themselves up, pre-eminent above their fellows, as suddenly and unpredictably as a revolution."

Of course the whole thought of all these things is being "caught up" in something much bigger than ourselves and relishing in the Enjoyment of it! It's all jolly good, Jovial, even!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sir Gawain & the Green Knight

[Today, guest blogger Lorien Griffith, age 7 is filling in for her dad as he is home sick with a cold. These are her words.]

My Synopsis of the Story
It was Christmas Time at Camelot. King Arthur's duty was the giving of a feast. Before they ate, someone had to tell King Arthur a story. But no one had a story to tell.

Just then a great big, green, knight showed up! He challenged someone to chop off his head but in a year and a day he would get to chop off their head.

Arthur was brave enough to do it but his nephew Gawain did it instead. He chopped off the head of the giant but his body still lived! It went over and picked up it's head and rode off on his green horse and reminded them of the wager. He would be found at a place called The Green Chapel in a year and day.

The seasons came and went and Gawain was not very excited about going to fulfill his promise. And the people did not want him to go.

He started off on his journey and some geese led him. Along the way, he met some people that were mean and he fought a dragon and an ogre but his worst enemy was the freezing cold!

After going through a dangerous swamp, he and his horse Gringolet find a shiny castle. The people there were very nice. He thought the lady was pretty.

Gawain made a deal with the king of the house: If Gawain took care of the King's wife while the king went hunting, the king would bring Gawain something to eat from out in the woods. In exchange Gawain was to give the king whatever came his way at the house.

So the men of the house go out for a hunt and kill many deer.

Meanwhile back at the house, Gawain gets kissed by the lady.

The king returns and gives many deer to the Gawain and all Gawain can give is a kiss!

Late that night they agree to do the same thing the next day.

The next day the king goes on another hunt and kills a giant, old, mean boar.

Once again, the lady and Gawain kiss but Gawain does not think this is a good idea because he loves the king too and does not want to hurt him.

The king brings back the dead boar and they have a big party and this time Gawain gives the king two kisses!

Gawain now wants to go because he does not want to get in trouble with the lady.

The king says it would be best to stay and play the game, just one more time.

The next day the king goes fox hunting and again Gawain is tempted by the lady. This time she gives him a supposedly magic green belt which will keep him safe. She wants Gawain to keep it a secret from the king.

The king bring Gawain a fox and Gawain gives him three kisses this time but does not tell him about the belt.

The house has a feast in honor of Gawain's going away but he is troubled by a mysterious old woman who watches him.

The next day Gawain rides out with his horse Gringolet and a guide.

The guide leads them to a green hill and warns him of danger.

The Green Knight shows up and Gawain offers him his neck as promised a year and a day ago.

The Green Knight teases him by acting like he is going to chop off his head two times. On the third time he nicks him but spares his life.

The Green Knight at this time reveals that he and the king are actually the same man! He had been testing Gawain's loyalty back at the castle and Gawain passed the test because Gawain had kept the belt only so he could continue to live.

Gawain and Gringolet begin their journey home.

When they return to Camelot, Gawain is welcomed as a hero.

What I Thought of the Book
I thought it was good story and I would recommend it. Some of the pictures in the book were revolting because they showed tons of blood. My favorite part was at the end when I found out the Green Knight and the King were the same man!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Visit to Vanity Fair: Moral Essays on the Present Age

In A Visit to Vanity Fair: Moral Essays on the Present Age, Alan Jacobs tackles themes big and diminutive in this somewhat wildly eclectic collection. Jacobs is an English professor at Wheaton College and his love of the language and it's impact upon our culture shines.

Although, only a tiny bit disjointed (it is an eclectic collection after all!), each essay flows with charity and humility from one subject to the next. Jacobs finds a lot to talk about in such a short book! From the possibility of--along with the pros and cons of ebooks (this book was written in 2001 prior to the creation of the Amazon Kindle) to the virtues of Harry Potter and the proper use of, I mean technology, Professor Jacobs uses his keen eye of the world and quick wit to engage creatively with moral questions and offers a cultural critique of the 21st Century from a Christian perspective. I especially appreciated his discussion of Bob Dylan and his classic record Blood on the Tracks.

Jacobs is obviously a fan of C.S. Lewis and W.H. Auden as those two writers are prominently quoted and referred to in almost every chapter.

Apparently, Jacobs has put together several collections of essays. He's obviously a gifted man when it comes to observation. In an attempt at a bit of self-deprecating humor in the essay on the "Lives of Essayists," Jacobs suggests that "if an essay is anything, it is the discourse of an inexpert." However, I would suggest Alan Jacobs is one of those sorts of writers who could write about virtually anything and transform it into something appealing by virtue of his insight and articulation! In my opinion Jacobs is one of the finest American writers out there and I'm looking forward to reading more books by him soon....stay tuned!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Book of Lost Things-Book Review

The Book of Lost Things--a coming of age tale by John Connolly, begins in war torn England during the 1940's. 12-year old David's mother has succumbed to death at the end of a long term illness. Young David grieves her passing with an overwhelming sadness.

Before too long his father has remarried and and a new step-baby brother has arrived. As conflict arises within the family, David begins to see and experience strange things at their new country home--old books whisper to one another and a crooked man slips past David's bedroom window at night.

An event happens in the backyard which transports David into another realm where he engages in several perilous adventures on his way to see a king who supposedly has the means to help him get back home. Some on David's path help him toward the goal of regaining what was lost and assist him in understanding that which he has not lost but was there all along. Others are bent upon destroying David. The crooked man also shows up in the other world and attempts to make David an "offer he cannot refuse."

Readers experience the vantage point from a touchingly candid 12-year old's perspective. Although some parts are dark and even terrifying the story is told with tenderness and honesty. As with all really good fairy tales, The Book of Lost Things deals with death, abuse and redemption. There are a few brutal scenes and although not graphic--I would not recommend this for a young child to read. But for many of us who have have "lost things" in our youth--even things which may have been taken or ripped from us by cruel hands and caused great pain--this is a story of bravery, moral courage, redemption and is ultimately about hope for tomorrow and that is something we all need!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Christ's Kingdom is Spreading

In Romans 4:13 the Apostle Paul interprets a key event which happened in the book of Genesis when he says "For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith." [emphasis mine] Therefore God's covenant promises to Abraham were not limited to one single spot of land over in the Middle East but the entire world! I would go so far as to say the entire universe or the created realm was promised to Abraham and his Offspring.

And who is Abraham's Offspring anyway? It is none other than Christ himself. Paul explains this clearly in Galatians 3:16 "Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ." So Jesus is not only the Offspring of Abraham, which would make Him the True Israel but He is also the New Adam, the New Moses and the New Temple. In other words, there has been a whole New Creation afoot and it has been spreading sense the time of Jesus! The coming of the Son of God into the world as the long promised Messiah and the ascension of the Son of Man to be seated at the right hand of the Father not only fulfilled the promises made to Abraham but also inaugurated the Kingdom of God and the eternal covenant.

Christ's Kingdom is ruled and reigned by Him from His glorious throne in heaven. It is the impetus for His kingdom on earth. All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Him. Jesus taught us to pray like this: "your Kingdom come...your will be done..., where? "on earth as it is in heaven!" The driving force or the stimulus of the transformation of this lowly place or earthly kingdom is the heavenly kingdom in other words the New Jerusalem or Zion. In principle, the Kingdom is already here and has been here for 2000 years but the application of redemption is not just for individuals but has implications for the entire world; Christ came to be the Savior of the world! His Kingdom is spreading and cannot be stopped. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Book Review of the Passionate Intellect by Alister McGrath

Atheism is a bankrupt and intellectually dishonest worldview. So explains Christian apologist/theologian, British intellectual, former chemist and all around critical thinker Alister MacGrath. Actually, according to McGrath, 21st century Atheism, espoused by such proponents as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris is nothing more than a vain attempt to move intelligent thought back into a very narrow and truncated version of the 19th century age of the Enlightenment.

McGrath's book, subtitled The Christian Faith and Discipleship of the Mind, calls for Christians to be passionately engaged with the world God created, intellectually as well as imaginatively.

I particularly enjoyed the first half of the book which dealt with the Christian imagination. McGrath does a wonderful job of showing how George Herbert interacted with Christian doctrine through poetry and encourages Christians to find similar ways to engage the culture through creativity.

In the second half of the book McGrath interacts with Charles Darwin and his famous book Origins, exploring some of the faulty conclusions of evolutionary theory. McGrath also engages with some leading atheists of our day and their erroneous "god of the gaps" theories. He also talks about his own journey of faith which began as an atheist at Oxford University in Great Britain as he kept running into road blocks trying to understand the world through "naturalistic" eyes.

My favorite quote of the book came from Voltaire of all people: "Superstition is to religion what astrology is to astronomy; the mad daughter of a wise mother."

McGrath's book is a very accessible introduction to Christian apologetics and theology for thoughtful people who want to be honest about their presuppositions. It is also a passionate call for Christians to use the brains, gifts and talents God has given them, not just to process things rationally but to be engage with God and Christian doctrine through the imagination as well. McGrath joins a long list of authors and Christian thinkers who are encouraging Christians to have a fully-integrated biblical worldview which would include the arts, science, government and philosophy, etc. In other words a fully-orbed Christian/biblical worldview. I highly recommend this book as a welcome addition to that conversation.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Review of Beowulf

Blood, guts, destruction, bravery and all glory and honor to God Almighty, lumped into one little package! My daughter and I loved Beowulf by Michael Murporgo which is actually a retelling of the classic epic poem in a children's book format, complete with full color illustrations.

If you're not familiar with the story, it's told in three parts: Beowulf, a mighty hero, is called in to save the day. An evil fiend had been brutally terrorizing folks in a mead hall in a nearby kingdom. What's a "mead-hall?" It's something like a local pub where citizens get together and have a pint or two and talk about the good ol' days. Beowulf kills the creature Grendel, barehanded. But before the victory gets back into full swing again at the mead-hall, trouble brews once more out on the moors. Evidently, Grendel, the defeated foul foe, had a mother and now Beowulf's got to get rid of her as well. She is sea hag-like and just as wicked as junior. Beowulf goes to her evil under water lair, which is guarded by several diabolical sea-serpents and brutally cleans Grendel's mother's clock with a mighty sword. In the third act, Beowulf has gone back to his homeland a hero and becomes king after the passing of his father. Years later a vicious dragon is awakened after someone does something really stupid, (*warning: never steal gold from a sleeping dragon) and Beowulf must save his own people from the dragon's venomous fire. I won't tell you the outcome but it's extraordinarily exciting!

The illustrations in this children's story book are as brutal as the descriptive language which make it all the better! No watered-down "Walt Disney-ish" reprogramming here, so reader beware! Beowulf, is a true hero who actually fights and kills monsters with his bare hands and it ain't pretty...But it's good!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Review of The Well at the World's End: a tale

Messeemeth as though William Morris' The well at the world's end, a tale may be one of those books one might either loveth or hateth. I, loved it! Although it is hard not to like a book which has a character named "Gandolf" and which predates Tolkien's work by close to 100 years! The book is also chock full of archaic expressions, i.e. forsooth, meseems, betwixt, etc. If reading such fanciful language is a turn off to you, run far, far away, and very fast. Actually, even if you are into it, digesting those old words takes a while to get used to but that's part of the charm. Besides, the book is so long, (more about that in a bit), those words will soon begin to seem like old hat. What's it about? Here's the plot: Young knight goes in search of adventure far from home, encounters lots of dangers in a variety of perilous woods, (a lot of talk about a group called "The Men of the Dry Tree"....I never quite figured it out), meets the love of his life, she's murdered, he seeks revenge (sort of), becomes very sad, falls in love again, the two are married, they continue their quest which is to drink from the WELL a the WORLD'S END. (It's all part of the plan, you see). They do and come back and the Shire ain't what it used to be, (whoops, wrong story)...Anyway, you get the point. On their way back home, after drinking from the WELL at the WORLD'S END, Ralph of Upmeads, (our brave young hero), and the dainty Ursala, conquer all their enemies. She and he are crowned the new queen and king and live happily every after. A simple tale, right? Yes! but Morris took his time spelling out the details. I can see the length of a book like this turning some people off. But the glory of it is in the telling of the tale. And "glory" forsooth! 119 chapters and 800 pages. Forsooth, indeed!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hunger Games Book Review

I'm generally a fan of dystopic and post apocalyptic novels so I was intrigued when I heard of this story of a teenage girl living in a futuristic North America under tyrannical rule who gets put into a tight jam with difficult choices to make. But as soon as I finished the last page of The Hunger Games: Book 1 by Suzanne Collins, I immediately had to turn to William Morris' The well at the world's end, a tale in order to cleanse myself of such defilement! I admit however the action in the "arena" was quite intense and kept me glued to my Kindle. However,the whole "makeup" scenes with flames painted on her fingernails, and the kissing scenes with the "bread boy" etc. were just "icky!" (Maybe, I've just forgotten what it was like to be a teenager). There were several places I would consider "page turners" but by the end, I was ultimately disappointed. The characters were like cardboard cut-outs to me and I felt zero emotion for them. No, I cannot understand the popularity. Harry Potter, where are you when we need you? I think I'll wait for the movie in order to find out what happens, rather than read the next two volumes.