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WHI-1163 | Dogma, Part 1

Posted by on in 2013 Show Archive
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Many Christians in our day avoid the study of theology in favor of more practical concerns. Dogma, they say, is for eggheads who wish to put God in a box. On the contrary, we argue on this program, knowing who God is and what he has done is the basis of Christian experience. We will discuss the impossibility of having a personal relationship with God if we don't know anything about him.Many Christians in our day avoid the study of theology in favor of more practical concerns. Dogma, they say, is for eggheads who wish to put God in a box. On the contrary, we argue on this program, knowing who God is and what he has done is the basis of Christian experience. We will discuss the impossibility of having a personal relationship with God if we don't know anything about him.


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  • Guest - Bill

    Paul, the moment that my sin was taken away when I placed my whole trust in Jesus full satisfaction of everything the law requires of me I felt like a burden disappeared. I was elated and to use John Wesley's terminology it is as if my heart was suddenly warmed. I was moved to the core, I was thankful to God for the precious work of his Son that saved me from my sin. All of a sudden everything in the gospel made sense and the scripture was opened to me. This happened on August 31, 2005 while reading Romans 3 to 5 in front of a lake in Northern British Columbia. I wish I had written more details, like the exact verse of Romans when the holy spirit converted me and the exact time this happened. It was effortless on my part, I had read Romans (or better the whole new testament) like 4 or 5 times before, but God chose a specific time and place for my conversion where His Son through the holy spirit revealed himself as My Saviour to me.

    I can't imagine anybody that is converted while an adult that will not have the exact same experience as I did, as John Wesley did, as John Bunyan did when he was walking in the forest and felt that all chains fell off when he saw that his salvation depended on Christ (Christ's righteousness) who is in heaven sitting at the right hand of the father and not on his own righteousness.

    Although I have sympathy for what you describe, let it be clear that when we trust in Christ for salvation our emotions are moved to the core and it's impossible for any christian to tell me that they didn't feel this. If they didn't maybe they are not a christian at all. The puritans taught the same, if you can't tell us about your conversion, chances are you were never converted.

    Now I was raised in a non-christian home and I was 40 years old at the time of conversion. Although I believed that Jesus was the Son of God and rose from the dead when I was a teenager from reading the book of Matthew from a bible that a missionary left at home. I made a personal decision for Christ in my 30's and chose to be baptized at an evangelical church, God did not reveal my salvation until I was 40 years old.

    The only reason a christian would not know the date of his New Birth is because he didn't write it down. This is why it's so important to keep a log of our conversion date as Augustine, Wesley, John Bunyan, and I did. Because we care about our date of birth, we care about our wedding anniversary date, but the date of our new birth is so much more important. As a matter of fact after writing this I think I'm planning to celebrate every year from now on August 31 as the anniversary of my New Birth.

    Now with regard to children of believers like you mentioned, even if they are baptized, baptism saves them while they are children incapable of comprehending the gospel. However they need to make a profession of faith at some point, and also there has to be a point when they realize they are not under the law but they are under grace, this is their conversion experience that even the children of believers will have. Now I'm sure there are exceptions (like John the Baptist) who received the holy spirit while he was still in the womb, but for most people it is as David taught in the Psalms, "in sin my mother conceived me" and there is a point where a christian is born again when he loses all hope in being able to please God with his own works and relies solely on Christ's work on the cross. This is the New Birth, and is a powerful experience that shakes your emotions, and every christian has had this experience whether they recorded the date and know it or whether they didn't record the date and now they don't know what date they were born again.

    The puritans would completely agree with what I just wrote. They utterly rejected a dead orthodoxy where somebody makes a profession of faith which is like the faith of the devils that James speaks about.

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  • Guest - Bill

    And also let me be clear that what evangelicalism today teaches as conversion has nothing to do with a conversion. Case in point I made a decision for Christ, prayed the sinner's prayer, and followed up with baptism in my early 30's. I was pronounced saved by the pastor. But none of what I did was of any avail. God chose and effected my conversion many years later when I was 40 years old. And it had nothing to do with my decision to be a follower of Christ or my decision of being baptized, both preceded my new birth which was solely God's decision to reveal himself to me His Son as my sole savior regardless that my best works never measured up to God's perfect moral standard.

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  • Bill
    I can’t imagine anybody that is converted while an adult that will not have the exact same experience as I did, as John Wesley did, as John Bunyan did when he was walking in the forest and felt that all chains fell off when he saw that his salvation depended on Christ (Christ’s righteousness) who is in heaven sitting at the right hand of the father and not on his own righteousness.

    Beware of trusting your imagination too much:

    But, as it is written,
        “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
            nor the heart of man imagined,
        what God has prepared for those who love him”

    While on the one hand, this refers to Jesus Christ, I would not be so quick to say that "we now understand everything and our imaginations can be trusted completely".

    Bill, not everyone is like you. Not everyone experiences life exactly like you. Not everyone was saved exactly like you. Not everyone experienced their salvation exactly like you. Please, please, please stop assuming people are similar to you in ways they are not.

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  • Paul Swift
    Who can deny that this is a wonderful summary of the biblical pattern?

    I can and do. John Owen's emphasis is wrong. It's as if he focuses almost entirely on pre- and during- conversion, and very little post-conversion. As a contrast, see:

    Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

    The emphasis here is not on sin—sin is, in an important sense, a distraction! Now, lest I be in danger of downplaying the "sinfulness of sin", as it were: sin is terrible. It wreaks havoc on human beings and the world. Failure to pay it the requisite attention would be as bad as a scientist trying to do experiments without ensuring his instruments are actually working and calibrated. But a scientist's life is not about fixing his instruments and continuously calibrating them! Indeed, this is a distraction for the scientist. His real focus is on doing science. Paul uses the metaphor of running a race and running it to win:

    Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

    It is very clear that Paul knows he needs to address the sin in his life. But that isn't the focus! Just like a scientist needs to verify his instruments are working order, Paul ensures his body is in working order (disciplined).

    This can also be seen by Jesus' first public statement:

    From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

    Repent, for there is this awesome thing I want you to take part in. To put too much focus on sin is akin to the doctor focusing on diagnosing and treatment, but without much direction or attention paid to what happens when I leave the hospital? To ward off possible retorts: I'm not advocating caricatured versions of Wesleyan perfectionism.

    Finally, it could be argued that John Owen does indeed have the kind of emphasis that I have outlined. I might be convinced of this. But I do see an awful lot of emphasis, from the WHI folks as well as contemporary American Christianity, on how utterly sinful we are. It's almost as if we don't have that heart of flesh that Ezekiel taught about... (!)

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  • Guest - Paul Swift

    Luke,

    The quote I posted was by J.I. Packer, not John Owen; Packer's long introduction (Introductory Essay to The Death of Death in the Death of Christ) to Owen's book stands not only as one of the twentieth century's mountain-top expositions of Reformed soteriology, but also one of the least polemic, most accessible, tenderest and sweetest of the same ever written.

    Luke, I'm afraid you simply missed Packer's point--and thereby mine. The single posted paragraph intentionally addresses only--in your words--"pre- and during- conversion, and very little post-conversion". He has since written a very great deal about post-conversion, but not here; it falls in his Essay at the point when the hypothetical Arminian challenges the Calvinist with "what is a person to do to know he has moved from death to life"? I have no issues with your exegesis of Hebrews 12; but regeneration, not sanctification, is the topic.

    To your final paragraph: the WHI is not a church, but the locus of a conversation intended--largely--to restore biblical truth and life to contemporary evangelicalism. Were it the former, it would be compelled to address the whole counsel of God. As a group of similarly-minded friends talking, however, the focus can be on whatever the group desires. As a listener for nearly 20 years, my dimming memory recalls two huge recurring themes around which that conversation has swirled: the rank Pelagianism which has become a modern American virtue, and the resistance of much evangelical preaching to oppose the same with the full sweetness of the gospel of Christ revealed in the doctrines of grace.

    Programs devoted to the former theme will necessarily emphasize "how utterly sinful we are". I suggest that the only way to apply that charge equally to contemporary American Christianity is precisely because of the widespread Pelagian misapprehension of sin comprising primarily or exclusively sinful behavior rather than what remains apart from Christ an ineradicable condition of heart. Failure to make that distinction not only drives a wedge between the apostolic and contemporary gospels, it provides an excellent reason for highlighting instances of the failure, both to guard sheep and make sure the unsaved will more clearly the truth--a concern at the heart of this particular program.

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  • Paul Swift
    Luke, I’m afraid you simply missed Packer’s point–and thereby mine. The single posted paragraph intentionally addresses only–in your words–”pre- and during- conversion, and very little post-conversion”. He has since written a very great deal about post-conversion, but not here; it falls in his Essay at the point when the hypothetical Arminian challenges the Calvinist with “what is a person to do to know he has moved from death to life”? I have no issues with your exegesis of Hebrews 12; but regeneration, not sanctification, is the topic.

    I was specifically responding to your statement, "Who can deny that this is a wonderful summary of the biblical pattern?" I said that this is part of "the pattern". Perhaps I should have asked, "What biblical pattern?"

    Paul Swift
    To your final paragraph: the WHI is not a church, but the locus of a conversation intended–largely–to restore biblical truth and life to contemporary evangelicalism.

    I do not understand how one can "restore... life", without focusing quite a lot on what the Christian life is mostly about. The WHI complain about people who focus on their own lives, and yet don't we believe that God has wonderful plans for each person's life—where some of those plans are custom-fit to that person, a la Ephesians 2:10? The WHI is awfully quick to slap on the label of 'Pelagianism'; I wonder if their quickness is really obedience to:

    I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

    Are they being gentle? Certainly some people are Pelagians, but Horton et al love to use a pretty broad brush. Is this really the way to achieve the goal that you and the WHI folks—and I would include myself, if that goal is "the healing of the American church"—to go about it as the WHI folks are going about it? You say they're not a church; I agree. But they have a stated mission. What I'm asking is this: are they really choosing an excellent route for accomplishing that mission? I really don't think so.

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  • Guest - Barbara Guest

    There is someone in every "crowd" that has to disagree and to proceed ... at length ... why they disagree. It doesn't seem they are really trying to get clarification or to simply make a statement of their beliefs. It seems more that they are trying to get their "air time" and to prove how infallibly right they are. It gets really old. Take what was said or written and ... if you must, say what you believe ... then move along. You don't have to agree.

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  • Guest - matt

    Wow, that song is just dreadful. It's a prime example of a Jesus is my boyfriend song. The music is pedestrian as well. I'm sure he means well. But it doesn't belong in worship at all. Just stick to the Psalter please.

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  • Guest - Paul Swift

    Barbara Guest,

    Sound words, well stated. The practical choices you present are a proper result of the fact that virtual commentary among strangers is simply not subject to the church discipline protocol we are commanded to follow among people we know--in private, before witnesses, before elders, before the church. Rather, it is by definition public from the outset, and the alternatives you present are an fitting application of the plenteous admonitions we are given about our public speech--for which, thank you.

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  • All,

    May I ask what was sinful about what I posted? I feel like I am being passive aggressively rebuked.

    Barbara,

    If you don't like that I disagreed with the WHI, then I am in awe that you think I shouldn't post here. If you think I was too wordy, will agree. That being said, your comments do not seem to build up; they merely seem to tear down. Did you plan on edifying me in any way? I cannot see any evidence of this.

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