White Horse Inn Blog

Know what you believe and why you believe it

Whom does Jesus love?

This gem is from William Still’s The Work of the Pastor (Rutherford House, 2001) and can be found on pages 54 and 55 of that edition of this invaluable work.

On one occasion I had a hint from one of our senior boys that a certain young student had been floored, humbled, and at last would be coming to see me. I was glad because he had been with us eighteen months and although he had not got on very well academically, any time we had been in conversation, even in my home he always said–sitting primly on the edge of a chair–that he was getting on well.  He was such a pious little fellow, cocky, bouncy and facile: I found him a bit of a humbug and used to long for him to go. Well, my senior boy, who is near his age, cracked him open one day, and he collapsed in a heap and admitted how miserable he was, and how afraid he was that he would be cast off if he admitted it. I said to him, ‘This cocky act of yours did not deceive. I don’t assume that everybody on the face of the earth is “Getting on fine, thank you”, and all they have to do in life is to put other people right. So that the more you gave yourself airs, the more sure I was that you were a fraud, acting a part. And you were so unattractive like that. Don’t you know that sinners are the only kind of men Jesus can love? Remember how he sent the Pharisees packing until only the woman taken in adultery was left standing with him? I don’t believe you thought you would be cast off if you admitted you were a nasty little mess inside. You were just trying to make yourself believe that you were that rather wonderful image you tried to project.’

WHI-1058 | Conversations with Tullian Tchividjian & Thabiti Anyabwile

On this edition, Michael Horton talks with Tullian Tchividjian, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The conversation centers on Tullian’s forthcoming book, Jesus + Nothing = Everything. Later, Michael Horton talks with Thabiti Anyabwile, author of The Gospel for Muslims and The Decline of African American Theology: From Biblical Faith to Cultural Captivity. Thabiti is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands.

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Being under the Word with Carson, Keller, and Piper

The fine folks over at The Gospel Coalition have released another video discussing various aspects of ministry and the church. In this video D.A. Carson, John Piper, and Tim Keller discuss the Christian’s relationship to God’s Word, especially pastors.

Biblical Authority in an Age of Uncertainty from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Christianity and Politics, Progressive Style

Guest-Post by Brian Lee, pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Washington, DC (which worships in Teddy Roosevelts church).

It is amazing how quickly we forget that the confusion of Christianity with politics has happened on both sides of the political spectrum.

Theodore Roosevelt broke from the Republican Party in 1912 to form a third, Progressive Party for his presidential run — the so-called “Bull Moose Party,” so named because Roosevelt said he felt like a “bull moose” after bolting the Republicans. Sporting red bandanas (symbolizing the rise of the proletariat) and viewed as radicals by establishment Democrats and Republicans, the Progressives gathered for their nominating convention in Chicago in August 1912.

The convention was a historic event in American politics, marking the first time a candidate appeared at his own nominating convention. But perhaps most remarkable was its religious fervor, well detailed in Edmund Morris’s Colonel Roosevelt. The New York Times reporter wrote, “It was not a convention at all; it was an assemblage of religious enthusiasts.”

As Roosevelt mounted the stage preparing to speak, he led the assembly in the singing of “Onward, Christian Soldiers” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Roosevelt’s address was entitled, “A Confession of Faith,” and it closed with a motto he had already invoked at the Republican convention weeks earlier, “We stand at Armaggedon, and we battle for the Lord.” As Morris notes, “If Progressivism was, as more and more critics were suggesting, a religion, it needed its mantras.” A tumult ensued — “enthusiasm turned to ecstasy” — and ten thousand voices sang Roosevelt’s name to the tune of “Maryland, my Maryland.”

The convention closed with the singing of the Doxology.

Basic Apologetics: How can Jesus be the only way?

William Cwirla (LCMS): At issue is the “scandal of particularity,” that Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the life, and that “no one comes to the Father except by him” (John 14:6). Statements like these would be hubris at best, insanity at worst, except for the fact that Jesus died on a cross and bodily rose from the dead.

This is why the Apostle Paul makes the bodily resurrection of Jesus as an historic fact the lynchpin of his apologetic. “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). If Jesus did not rise bodily from the dead, we could not be sure of any of his claims or the claims of his apostles. They could easily be the work of madmen or ambitious religious zealots. The bodily resurrection of Jesus, an historic fact established by the testimony of eyewitnesses who saw him, touched him, heard him, ate with him, validates Jesus’ claim to be the way, the truth, and the life.

The Buddha didn’t rise from the dead; Mohammed didn’t rise from the dead. No one else but Jesus died and rose. This means we have to take all of his claims seriously, or we will be living in denial of a plain fact of history.

What often lies behind this question is failure to apprehend the paradox that salvation in Christ is both inclusive and exclusive at the same time, and so people charge God with being “unfair.” Jesus is the inclusive Savior of the world, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, who drew all into his death when he was lifted up on the cross. “He is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). At the same time, Jesus is exclusively the Savior of the world; the world has no other Savior because the world has no other death that atones for sin.

Michael Brown (URC): The Bible is very clear about the exclusivity of Christianity. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The apostles subsequently preached this same message: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). But this is precisely what many people in our culture find so scandalous and offensive about Christianity. An objector will often ask, “But isn’t God pleased with the person who lives a good, moral life and sincerely tries to do what is right even if he doesn’t come to God through Jesus Christ? What happens to that person when he dies?”

The answer, according to Scripture, is very simple: the person who truly lives a good and moral life does not need to come to God through Christ at all. A good person is in no danger of God’s judgment and needs no Savior. He has nothing to worry about; when he dies he will go directly to heaven on his own merit.

But the question is not what happens to good people when they die; rather, the question is: What happens to guilty people when they die? The problem is that the standard of goodness and morality is not our own, but God’s, and he demands perfection! Says Paul in Romans 2:13: “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law.” This is something that only Christ has achieved. No one except Jesus has lived a good and moral life that is acceptable to God. This is Paul’s whole argument in Romans 1:18-3:20, namely, that everyone has sinned against God and the whole world is under his wrath. Thus, there are no good people. Our own righteous deeds are not good enough for a holy God who must, by his very nature, demand a righteousness as good as his own. This is what makes Christ the only way to salvation: he is the only true doer of the law. He is the only one who has kept the law perfectly, satisfying all its demands for those who believe (see Rom. 8:1-4).

Still, one might object: But if Jesus is the only way, what about the natives in the deep jungles of South America who have never heard of Jesus? How can God judge people for rejecting Jesus if they have never heard of Jesus?

Again, the biblical answer is rather simple. God will not and cannot punish someone for rejecting Christ who has never heard of Christ. That would be unjust and there is no injustice in God. A person is not condemned for rejecting Jesus of whom they have never heard. Rather, they are condemned for rejecting the Father who has made himself clear to the whole world (see Rom. 1:19-20).

WHI-1057 | The Great Commission & The Great Commandment

Sometimes we confuse the Great Commission (making disciples through the gospel) with the Great Commandment (serving our neighbors through loving works), as if the official mission of the church is the same as the individual Christian’s many obligations in the world. If Christians are called to citizenship, social justice, and good works in the world, does this mean that the calling of the church as an institution is to transform the kingdoms of this age? This special edition of the White Horse Inn was recorded live at The Gospel Coalition in Chicago, and features special guest Julius Kim, associate professor of practical theology at Westminster Seminary California.

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Cate-what? Horton on Recovering Catechesis

Mike Horton was recently a guest on Issues, Etc. to discuss his recent Modern Reformation article “Trees or Tumbleweeds” which stresses the need for churches to recover the neglected practice of catechesis.

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Basic Apologetics: “I think all paths lead to God”

William Cwirla (LCMS): When people say things like that, I always like to ask, “On what basis do you think that? What evidence can you put forward that this statement is true?”

It is true that all religious paths, save one, lead to the same place, but that place isn’t God. All religions, save one, hold that you must work your way to God, whether by your creeds, your conduct, or your worship. This is essentially the religion of the Law, something that all religions, save one, have in common.

The statement presupposes that we are on a search for God, much like a hiking trip through the mountains, and whether we take the high road or the low, we will all ultimately wind up in the same place. Buddhism essentially works this way, and even a surprising number of Christians have been caught up into believing this notion that all paths lead to God as long as you sincerely follow your chosen path.

The path is not ours to define but God’s. Jesus pointed out that the way to destruction is broad, and no one has trouble finding that road, while the way to life is exceedingly narrow, and those who find it are few (Matt. 7:13-14). Christianity is the only religion that is really a non-religion, in the sense that we don’t work to God but God comes all the way to us. “But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4-6). God in Christ does it all.

The narrow door Jesus was speaking of is the narrow door of his own death. We would not seek this door on our own, much less find it. Who in their right minds would construct a religion out of an all-sufficient, all-atoning sacrificial death of the Son of God in which the sinner is justified before God? To the wisdom of the world, this is utter nonsense, not to mention bad for morality in general. That’s why from start to finish, God must do the work of salvation for us. We would not have it this way on our own.

As with everything else in Christianity, it all hangs on the death and resurrection of Jesus. While it is theoretically possible that there are other ways for a sinner to stand justified before God, God has not revealed any. Instead, he sent his only begotten Son who claimed to be the only way to the Father (John 14:6). On its own, that might be an outrageous example of hubris on the part of Jesus. But then, he’s the only One who died and rose bodily from the dead. We’re going to have to take his word on that one.

Jason Stellman (PCA): Well, in a certain sense it is true that all paths lead to God. The Bible teaches that all people, great and small, rich and poor, will stand before their Maker. The problem isn’t getting to God, it’s being accepted by him.

Many today feel that God will happily receive all who stand before him with a smile and a warm hug (R. C. Sproul jokingly calls this view “Justification by Death”). But if we take a few moments to consider who this God is, it becomes necessary to reevaluate our position and question our confidence.

Let’s use the realm of civic justice as an illustration. Suppose there were a judge in a certain town who was known for being an accepting, gregarious fellow in private, and his magnanimous personality spilled over into his work. So when thieves, murderers, and kidnappers stand before him, he just can’t help but love them and let them off with a small slap on the wrist. If this were to happen over and over, the town would rise up and demand justice, wouldn’t they? And rightly so. We all have an inherent sense of right and wrong (which really flares up when we’re the ones wronged!) which tells us that criminals should be punished.

But whatever sense of justice and fairness we share as humans beings is there because we have been made in God’s image. If we think evil should be punished, how much more true is this when we consider God and his standards, his holiness, and his judgment? God is infinitely more pure, just, and offended at sin than we, and therefore his very nature demands that sinners be punished for their actions.

The good news, of course, is that God is also infinitely more gracious and merciful than we, and for this reason he has sent his Son into the world to walk in our shoes, live the life we have failed to live, and die the death that our sins demand. So though it is true that “all paths lead to God,” it is also true that only one of those paths leads to forgiveness and blessing. All others lead to eternal destruction.

From Modern Reformation (March/April 2006): Does God Believe in Atheists?

Chandler, Horton, and Keller on How to Disagree

Our friends at the Gospel Coalition are releasing videos they shot at their recent conference. Mike Horton was a guest for a few of these discussions. In this video, Mike talks with Matt Chandler (pastor of the Village Church) and Tim Keller (pastor of Redeemer PCA) about godly disagreement. Whether you are a scholar whose work has been savaged by an unscrupulous critic or just a normal Joe who is at loggerheads with a brother or sister in Christ, you’ll benefit from the wisdom here.

Chandler, Horton, Keller on How to Disagree from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

How Jesus fulfills the Ten Commandments

From Pastor Wade Butler’s The Procession of God, a resource from our friends at New Reformation Press.

The Jews call the 10 Commandments the 10 Words. The 10 Words reflect the future tense. You shall not. You SHALL not. If we put the right emphasis on the words, we see the 10 Words which God wrote on stone to Moses were also predictions of how Jesus would act.

That is why Jesus said He came to fulfill the Law. One fulfills a prediction, one keeps a Law. And although Jesus kept the Laws, He also fulfilled them. When God wrote the 10 Words, the people were at the base of Mount Sinai worshiping a golden calf. Despite that, God wrote a description of Jesus, the child of Abraham. He said of Jesus:

  • You shall have no other Gods – and Jesus didn’t. He insisted that He and the Father were one.
  • And you shall not make any graven images – Jesus didn’t need to. He was the image of the invisible Creator.
  • You shall remember the Sabbath Day – Jesus was dead over the Sabbath and didn’t move a muscle. His heart didn’t beat. He did no work. He didn’t decay for the Father would not allow Him to see corruption.
  • You shall honor your Father and Mother – He honored them both by dying for the Father and taking care of His mother, even while on the cross.
  • You shall not murder – Instead, He gave His life a ransom for many to stop the murderer Satan.
  • You shall not commit adultery – Instead He created a Bride from the blood and water from His side.
  • You shall not steal – He had no place to lay His head and constantly gave all He had to those lost and wandering.
  • You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor – No, He told the truth, but His neighbors all managed to bear false witness against Him.
  • You shall not covet your neighbor’s house – He owned the whole creation, yet did not covet it. He loved it and was willing to die to set it free. He did not want it as His own; he wanted it free to want Him and Him alone.
  • You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife – He didn’t need a neighbor’s wife. He created a new wife for Himself from the blood and water from his side. The whole creation was to be the Bride of Christ with which He would and did become one flesh through the miracle of becoming flesh and the marvel of Theosis…
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