White Horse Inn Blog

Know what you believe and why you believe it

We Love Pastors!

One of the best parts of our 2013 White Horse Inn Weekend was interacting with pastors who have “boots on the ground” in churches all across the country. It was a pleasure sitting next to them, hearing their stories about the real work of personal and ecclesial reformation, and being encouraged by the way they use and promote White Horse Inn resources. We realize, however, that the cost of the Weekend might be beyond the reach of many pastors. So, we’re pleased to announce our “Pastor’s Special” for the 2014 White Horse Inn Weekend.

When you enter the promotional code, “PASTOR,” on the registration page for the 2014 Weekend, you will see a discount that covers the entire registration fee of $329. You can apply the discount to the “Conference Only” registration and attend for free or the “Conference with Meals” registration and only pay for the special meals that we will have with one another during our three days in Vail.

If you love your pastors and have the means to get them to Vail, Colorado, please encourage them to register today using the special promotional code, “PASTOR.” There are only a limited number of these free registrations. Hotel reservations are NOT included in the registration fee, but our conference venue, the Vail Marriott, is offering us a special rate of $199 per night.

Send your pastor to the White Horse Inn Weekend! I’m pretty sure that you’ll be the real beneficiary upon his return.

WHI-1197 | The Book of Job, Part 3

On this program, we’ll wrap up our three-part series through the book of Job by looking at that wonderful expression of faith in which Job declares, “I know that my redeemer lives.” How does this hope in the future redeeming work of the Messiah comfort Job during his distress? How can a recovery of this Christ-centered focus help us when we suffer? We’ll consider questions like this as we conclude our miniseries on Job.

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PROGRAM AUDIO


Click here to access the audio file directly

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

A Place for Weakness
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How Long O Lord?
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Get 15% Off the New Logos Reformed Package

Our friends at Logos have announced a new package for their digital library, which they are calling the “Reformed Base Package.” If you use the White Horse Inn partner page, you can get 15% off! We’ve taken a peek and it looks to be packed with great resources–some of which haven’t yet been available either as stand alone titles or in other packages.

There are more than 1,100 titles included in the Platinum package! Here are a few of the key resources that stood out to us:

Commentaries
Calvin’s Commentaries (46 vols.)
Crossway Classic Commentaries (25 vols.)
Preaching the Word Commentaries (26 vols.)

Church History
Early Church Fathers Protestant Edition (37 vols.) (edited by Philip Schaff)
History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century (5 vols.)
History of the Reformation in Europe in the Time of Calvin (8 vols.)

Theology
Institutes of the Christian Religion (2 vols.)
Tracts and Treatises of John Calvin (8 vols.)
The Works of John Owen (24 vols.) (Includes Owen’s 8 vol. commentary on Hebrews)
The Works of Charles Hodge (29 vos.)
B. B. Warfield Collection (20 vols.)
Select Works of Geerhardus Vos (14 vols.)
The only English translation of Vos’ Reformed Dogmatics (5 vols.)
Louis Berkhof Collection (15 vols.)

There are five levels of pricing available:

Reformed Starter
Price: $294.95
Print value ~ $3,700

Reformed Bronze
Price: $629.95
Print value ~ $8,100

Reformed Silver
Price: $999.95
Print value ~ $13,000

Reformed Gold
Price: $1,549.95
Print value ~ $21,000

Reformed Platinum
Price: $2,149.95
Print value ~ $30,000

If you’re not familiar with Logos, check out a few videos that detail the value of their features here.

The new Reformed Package is available for the first time today! Remember, if you order through the White Horse Inn partner page, you’ll get 15% off!

What Really Drives the Christian Life?

Especially as Americans, we are often given to over-simplification. We like bumper stickers and sound bites. Problem is, sound bites get forwarded, linked, tagged, “liked,” and tweeted. And then the “aha!” moment passes as quickly as it struck.

Even confessional folks have slogans. I’m quite sure that mainline Lutheran theologian Gerhard Forde didn’t intend “Sanctification is getting used to your justification” as a slogan. The place where I first saw it was in Christian Spirituality: Five Views on Sanctification, edited by Donald Alexander. There is a lot that Professor Forde says before and after this sentence. Nevertheless, in my view at least, it’s all making the same point in different ways.

Sinclair Ferguson contributed the Reformed chapter in that volume. Not surprisingly, his chapter is distinctly Reformed. Yet what becomes intriguing is the way in which Forde and Ferguson become obvious allies over against other approaches to sanctification in the remainder of the book.

And yet, with Ferguson, I have a mixed response to Forde’s statement, especially as it has become a widely-used slogan. It’s certainly an important part of what Scripture says about sanctification, right? Through the gospel the Spirit gives us faith, and that faith in Christ bears the fruit of love and good works. The more that we hear the objective accomplishment of Jesus Christ for us, the greater our heart swells with joy and love for God and neighbor. If it’s nothing less than “getting used to our justification,” sanctification is also something more than this aspect. God’s marvelous work of sanctifying us can’t be reduced to a single thesis, much less a slogan.

By the way, even more conservative/confessional Lutherans have offered a similar critique. For example, the Rev. John F. Brug of Wisconsin Synod says that Forde’s presentation doesn’t quite represent confessional Lutheran teaching. Pastor Brug offers a series of his own theses, supported by numerous scriptural passages.

  • “True Lutheran teaching emphasizes the importance and necessity of sanctification, Christian living, and good works in the life of every Christian.”
  • It “emphasizes the distinction of justification from sanctification.”
  • “It clearly distinguishes the roles of the law and the gospel in sanctification.”
  • “Lutheran teaching emphasizes the priority of the means of grace as the tools God uses in producing sanctification in the lives of his people.” These means are preaching, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. “Nevertheless, in our preaching and teaching we should also refer to other means which God may use in a secondary way to strengthen and encourage us in our sanctification. Foremost among these is prayer.” Prayer is not a “means of grace” because it is our activity toward God. Yet prayer is indispensable to our growth in Christ.
  • “Lutheran teaching of sanctification emphasizes God’s power, rather than human effort, as the source of sanctification.”
  • “Lutheran teaching, nevertheless, emphasizes also the importance and necessity of our cooperation and effort in our sanctification. Unlike Christ’s work in justification, the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification does not substitute for our efforts.” He adds (again, with key passages), “Scripture often admonishes us to be eager participants in Christian living. Sometimes it does this with general admonitions…. At other times it encourages zeal or dedication in specific acts of sanctification…. Although the Holy Spirit is the creator of our faith, he does not believe for us. In the same way though God is the source of our sanctification, he does not do our good works for us.”
  • “Lutheran teaching of sanctification also warns of the struggle and difficulty that every Christian will face in sanctification.”
  • It “recognizes the sanctification will never be perfect in this life” and… we are to “thank God for progress in sanctification and commend Christians for the gains that have been made. A Lutheran preacher assures his people that God is pleased with the works which they do as a result of their faith… A Lutheran preacher should not hesitate to praise and commend Christians for the good works which he sees in their lives.”
  • “Lutheran teaching of sanctification urges people never to rest on their laurels, but to keep striving to advance.”
  • “Lutheran teaching of sanctification keeps believers’ eyes on the goals of sanctification. Present goals are the glory of God, assurance of faith for ourselves, testimony to others, and help to others.”
    (http://www.wlsessays.net/files/BrugLutheran.pdf)

Pastor Brug then contrasts this view with other positions. He offers traditional Lutheran critiques of the Reformed position. Nevertheless, he recognizes that Lutheran and Reformed confessions are allied in opposition to other approaches. “Often trends that are decried as ‘Reformed’ influences on Lutheran theology are not ‘Reformed,’ but Wesleyan/Arminian.  In fact, of all of the views commonly held in American Evangelicalism, the Reformed view of sanctification is closest to the scriptural teaching. Generally, it is more orthodox than the view of heterodox Lutheranism.” Pastor Brug especially appreciates Sinclair Ferguson’s presentation in Christian Spirituality. “At least the response of Ferguson, the Reformed spokesman, refers to ‘Dr. Forde’s edition of the Lutheran teaching.’”

Reductionistic sloganeering happens on the Reformed side, too. Part of the story—indeed, a major part of it—can become the whole story. Sometimes we’ve employed the structure of the Heidelberg Catechism—Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude—as if it said everything.  “Grace is the essence of theology,” said Berkouwer, “and gratitude is the essence of ethics.” Get the gospel and everything else falls into place. If you understand the indicatives, the imperatives will make sense. The Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q. 35) defines sanctification as “the work of God’s free grace.” Similarly, John Murray wisely exhorts,

It is imperative that we realize our complete dependence upon the Holy Spirit. We must not forget, of course, that our activity is enlisted to the fullest extent in the process of sanctification. But we must not rely upon our own strength of resolution or purpose. It is when we are weak that we are strong. It is by grace that we are being saved as surely as by grace we have been saved. If we are not keenly sensitive to our own helplessness, then we can make the means of sanctification the minister of self-righteousness and pride and thus defeat the end of sanctification. We must rely not upon the means of sanctification but upon the God of all grace. Self-confident moralism promotes pride, and sanctification promotes humility and contrition (John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, 147).

Again, this is entirely true and it needs to be said—again and again—because we are living in an age of “moralistic, therapeutic deism.” Besides, Jesus said this first, as did Paul (Rom 12:1-2). Our default setting is to think that we need the gospel for justification and then turn sanctification into a fear-and-anxiety-driven enterprise.

The Apostle to the Gentiles assumed that the first thing to do in a crisis of church discipline is to remind the Corinthians of the full power and extent of the gospel. When a church forgets this and reacts to over-simplification, it does not to “preach the whole counsel of God,” but submerges the core motivation for Christian living in a sea of contradictory messages. After all, both legalists and moralists downplay the seriousness of the law and the expansiveness of the gospel. In Romans 6, Paul answers the charge of antinomianism by explaining that the gospel is the answer not only to sin’s condemnation but to its dominion as well.

It is certainly true that Scripture—specifically, the New Testament—exposes us to a multiplicity of reasons and motives for growth in Christ. Nevertheless, some motives are more obviously “core” in the NT than others, and the good news of who we are in Christ is always the major driving force in the Christian life. For example, we are not to be driven by fear of a judge, but by the favor of a Father (2 Tim 1:7).

The problem, then, is not making the gospel the source and gratitude the primary motive for the pursuit of godly living. Rather, it is reducing the gospel to one of its gifts.  There is no divine gift greater than justification. We never “get over” or “move beyond” the wonder of that gift we have in Christ. Or at least we shouldn’t.

And yet I wonder if we are forgetting sometimes that regeneration, adoption, and sanctification are part of that same gift that we receive when Christ himself is the Gift par excellence. That’s the way Paul handles the charge of antinomianism in Romans 6, after celebrating and explaining our justification by Christ’s imputed righteousness. He doesn’t take back or tone down anything that he has said before. Rather, he says, “Wait, but that’s not all!  If you share in Christ, you are a beneficiary of regeneration as well as justification.” In other words, it’s more gospel!

Of particular concern, in my view, is the way in which the marvelous doctrine of glorification has fallen off of our radar in recent decades. It used to be a major doctrine in Reformed treatments of sanctification. Our motivation for the Christian life is anchored in what Christ has accomplished outside of us in history. But it is also anchored in the Spirit’s act of uniting us to Christ here and now, so that we are actually made beneficiaries of these blessings. Still, we haven’t taken in the whole vista until we recognize that the future glorification of the saints penetrates our lives here and now. We are driven by the gospel, with justification at its heart, but the gospel is more than justification.

So sanctification is not just getting used to your sanctification, but to your election, regeneration, adoption, suffering, and the hope of glory. Sanctification is a lifetime of getting used to God as a Father rather than a Judge, the law as a friend rather than an enemy, the new creation as a reality that makes us uncomfortable in this passing evil age, the Spirit as the indwelling presence of God that not only comforts and assures us but keeps us longing for the “more” up ahead.  Those who are united to Christ himself will become increasingly restless until they share in the glory of their Risen King.

WHI-1196 | The Book of Job, Part 2

Continuing the overview of Job, we’ll consider the various claims to health, wealth, and happiness made by Job’s counselors. What’s wrong with this approach and how should this influence the way we think about suffering in the Christian life? How do we deal with the fact that there is so much pain and misery in the world-and perhaps even in our own lives? What happens to our faith when having “our best life now” seems to elude us at every turn?

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PROGRAM AUDIO


Click here to access the audio file directly

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

A Place for Weakness
Michael Horton
Job
Tremper Longman
Glorious Ruin
Tullian Tchividjian

RECOMMENDED AUDIO

Al Mohler on Horton’s “Pilgrim Theology”

Al Mohler wrote up a series of reviews on books that were released in 2013 for Preaching.com and included Michael Horton’s Pilgrim Theology:

MichaelHorton, Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples (Zondervan, 2013)

In this new book, Michael Horton provides a unique service that should be appreciated by every preacher. He previously wrote a massive and worthy systematic theology, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way (Zondervan, 2011). Two years later, he has come out with Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples. Why two books? The answer presents us with a dilemma. Would we really want to read the shorter version of a massively important book?

Oddly enough, the answer is often an honest yes. Actually, this two-book project by Horton represents the kind of gift to the church that should serve as a model for others. Preachers are aware of the temptation to start a massive and worthy volume only to discover the demands and interruptions of ministry often make the completion of that book very difficult. Many preachers have expressed the need for a more accessible approach that could fit within the actual reading practices of a disciplined preaching minister.

So, here’s good news: Every preacher should have the time and opportunity to read Pilgrim Theology and benefit from this powerful distillation of Horton’s very important theological work.

More good news in this volume: Horton not only believes theology is anything but a dry and abstract intellectual discipline, but he proves the vitality and relevance of theology for the Christian life. After all, he has written these works as guides for pilgrims, not as literary monuments.

The readers of this volume will find it to be a very helpful and well-organized approach to Christian doctrine—and to be an ongoing discussion with so many of the people and issues driving our contemporary conversations. Furthermore, Horton demonstrates a very substantial engagement with Scripture and the biblical narrative. Every preacher—every pilgrim—will find much health in this volume.

To read his reviews of other great books that were released in 2013, click here.

The End Times Are Finally Here!

Kim Riddlebarger responds to the latest end times nuttiness over at the Riddleblog. Here’s a preview:

But there are two significant problems with this approach to Ezekiel 38-39.  First, as Edwin Yamauchi (a noted evangelical archaeologist and historian) has pointed out in his book, Foes from the Northern Frontier:  Invading Hordes from the Russian Steppes (Baker, 1983), this identification is based upon a number of unsubstantiated assumptions.  For one thing, Gog and Magog cannot be directly tied to the Scythians.  Yamauchi believes that their identity is not certain at all.  Furthermore, he contends that Meshech and Tubal cannot be tied to Moscow or Tobolsk in any sense.  He believes these are references to ancient Assyria which did invade Israel from the north.  This means that Ezekiel is speaking of Israel’s immediate future when writing his prophecy (an Assyrian invasion from the north), which also prefigures an end-time event.

How do we know that to be the case?  If you follow the basic hermeneutical principle that the New Testament interprets the Old Testament (something dispensationalists are not willing to admit when it comes to interpreting biblical prophecy), then in Revelation 20:8-9, John speaks of Gog and Magog as symbolic of the nations of the earth, gathering together to make war on the saints (the church).

Read the rest here.

The Week That Changed History

It’s a week that changed history: the week that began with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and ended with the birthday of the new creation.  Our Lord’s entire life—indeed, the whole Bible—is riveted to the events that unfold in these days.  A new book by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Justin Taylor walks us through this week with terrific effect.  The title is The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived.

The authors’ combined skills of New Testament scholarship and faithful story-telling are put to great use in this riveting account.   It is a great resource for personal or family devotions, but it also makes a terrific gift for friends and family who need to hear the greatest story ever told.  At a time of the year when the historical details of the Gospels’ accounts are subjected to critique by the media, this book is a rare gem.

Repent of Lent? No!

Over at The Federalist, Todd Peperkorn, a Lutheran minister, is engaged in a point/counterpoint discussion on Lent with Reformed pastor, Brian Lee. Rev. Peperkorn’s main point is that in an age of information inundation, we need the opportunity to focus less on many things in order to focus more on one thing: the person and work of Christ. Here’s a preview:

Historically, there are three practices associated with Lent: Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving or works of mercy. It is a time when Christians mourn over their sin (called repentance) and learn again to trust in their Savior, Jesus Christ. Just like you don’t only go to a doctor once, in the same way a Christian can benefit from a “checkup” on their faith, to remind them who they are as baptized children of God.

In connection with this, Lent can be a time of great focus for the Christian. Our culture is inundated with input. As I sit here writing this on my iPad, I am watching my son do his homework, listening to another child crying, checking Facebook on my phone, all while drinking a Diet Coke at McDonald’s. Sometimes it’s a wonder we can think at all!

But in order to focus more on one thing, one must also learn to focus less on other things. In our secular culture, we can see this with the rise of minimalism in everything from apps on our phone to architectural design to how we lay out our kitchens. Great design leads to simplicity, not complexity. And because our lives are increasingly complex, something has to change in order for us to get out of the continual spin cycle of life. While these ideas are often held up as Buddist in our day, they really belong to the Christian tradition just as much.

 Read the rest here. Read the counterpoint here.

Repent of Lent? Yes!

Over at The Federalist, Reformed pastor Brian Lee (longtime contributor to Modern Reformation) is engaged in a conversation with Todd Peperkorn, a Lutheran minister, over the propriety of Lent. Dr. Lee’s article says that some “spiritual disciples” (especially those not commanded in Scripture) can cause more damage than good. Here’s a preview:

Lost amid the ashes and sausages, King cakes and shrove pancakes — can’t forget about the pancakes — is Zwingli’s deeper concern about the nature of Christian sanctification. As a cradle Catholic whose done the ashes, and a former evangelical whose fasted to the point of fainting, at this point in my life I find myself increasingly concerned that Lenten abstinence, obligatory or not, can in fact be bad for one’s soul.

Note that I am not a Puritan who is opposed to all observance of the church calendar, nor do I deny the value of learning practical piety from Christian tradition. With Zwingli, I affirm the Christian’s freedom to fast, or not to fast, and thus obligatory observance of Rome and the East remains beyond the Protestant pale. Yet I believe that this tradition — the spiritual discipline of seasonal fasting and abstinence — is more often than not detrimental to our faith.

Read the rest here. Read the counterpoint argument here.

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