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Thursday
Sep022010

Amyraldianism, Infralapsarianism, Supralapsarianism and Gaelic welcomes

Strange combination, yes?

I'm currently doing a cross-stitch picture which has the words Cead mile failte, which is a Gaelic welcome, "A thousand welcomes," I believe.  I was working on it this afternoon while I listened to a lecture by Derek Thomas regarding views of election.  Those three views, which have to do with the decrees of God, were the subject material.

I wouldn't say that I understood everything completely.  I don't know as if I have thought about the logical order of the decress of God enough to understand even remotely.   I was concentrating enough so that I had to pick out a few stitches at one point, but this material isn't easy to grasp.  Thomas even said at one point to the students to take a deep breath and drop into the "depths" of the topic.  I tried to the best of my limited capacity to do so.

After I was done this activity, I got a telephone call from my best friend.  She had received her Christian Book Distributors catalogue, and was looking at the "For Women" section.  She called to tell me that she thinks that in order to be taken seriously as a Christian woman, I needed to have big hair and perfect teeth.  She was no doubt referring to the pictures of women like Beth Moore and Stormie Omartian who come equipped with such virtues.  I will never have big hair; it just isn't made to be "big."  And as for the perfect teeth, well, maybe.  Anyway, I laughed.  But I understood her point.  The content of a lot of women's bible studies is often overly practical without a proper theological foundation.  I tried to think of how the topic material of Dr. Thomas's lecture could contribute to my relations with people, or my feelings of self-esteem, or my contentment.  I don't think the line of connection between the decrees of God and practical Christian living is simple, and I don't study those things so that I can be a better person or gain some kind of therapeutic experience.

So, why do I do it?

Well, I do it because when I study things like that, and probe the depths of God, I come away seeing Him as bigger than ever.  I confront the reality that while God is so incomprehensible, at the same time, He allows me to know Him, albeit incompletely.   I do it, because the more I study theology, the more I realize I have so much more to learn.

Many women's bible studies tell me how to live.  There's nothing wrong with giving counsel to women, to teach them how to apply biblical principles.  I would just rather spend my time learning about God and allowing the Spirit to change me as my mind and heart become changed rather than following a list of suggestions.  The more I study theology, the deeper my understanding of Scripture becomes; the more closely I read it and try and understand it.  I would rather learn about who God is, contemplate what my response as a Christian ought to be, and allow the general gospel principles to instruct me day by day.  Any specific instruction God has for me as a woman can be discerned as I read His Word and apply simple truths such as obedience and submission.  Honestly, I think living the life of a godly woman is far less complicated than some of the books out there make it seem.  Really, it's a matter of obedience and accepting that God is sovereign.  It's hard, that's for sure, but it's fairly simple.

Ultimately, whether I am supra, infra, or whatever, does not matter when it comes to having been converted.  I have been converted; I believe that Jesus Christ is the only way I may gain access to God.  But what does matter is that I grow in knowledge and understanding.  I don't need another list of things to do.  I need to know God more, and the bible study that focuses more on what I must do than it does on who He is, the more I will find it lacking.

Thursday
Sep022010

Need some assistance from my fellow blogging friends ... 

... all two or three of you who regularly read here...

Hubby and I will be taking some time in the near future to make a road trip; a fairly long one to visit family.

I was looking for some good fiction recommendations for the ride.  I like reading fiction on the road, so any suggestions would be welcome.  Not just the old classics, but if you have some modern writers as well, I'd love to hear!!

Wednesday
Sep012010

Warfield Wednesday

B.B. Warfield discusses the presence of the Spirit of God in the Old Testament.  The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is completed in in the New Testament, but its beginning is found in Genesis.  Warfield discusses three activities of the Spirit in the Old Testament.

In the first lines of Scripture, we find what Warfield calls the "cosmical spirit."  By this, he means the creative force of the Spirit of God.  He pauses to consider the phrase, "the Spirit of God was brooding upon the face of the waters."  The Spirit of God is the "principal of cosmical processes." 

The Spirit of God, in a word, appears at the very opening of the Bible as God immanent; and, as such, is set over against God the transcendent.

Next, Warfield discusses the Spirit as the "theocratic spirit," which is the Spirit's activity with creation after the fall, specifically, in establishing the Kingdom of God, and bringing God's people toward the plan He has established for them.  This manifests itself predominantly in prophecy.  The gift of prophecy is never seen as something within the man, but rather as being poured out upon man.  The Spirit may be immanent, but the unity of the Godhead remains, and the transcendent nature of God still applies.  The Spirit is given, not conjured up from within.

Finally, Warfield discusses the "individual spirit," which is his relation to the individual soul.  Warfield calls it the "Spirit of grace."  The Spirit upholds and guides the soul and governs it in all aspects of its life.

Warfield answers a question that naturally follows from his discussion, and that is, "If the Spirit of God was active in the Old Testament, why does it need to be poured out on the Day of Pentecost?"  Warfield answers it by pointing out that the old dispensation is a prepatory one.  The Old Testament reveals the prepatory acts by God in anticipation of the Messiah:

The old dispensation was a prepatory one and must be strictly conceived as such.  What spiritual blessings came to it were by way of prelibation.  They were many and various.  The Spirit worked in Providence no less universally then than now... But the object of the whole dispensation was only to prepare for the ourpouring of the Spirit upon all flesh.

I really liked how Warfield concluded his discussion about this principle:

The  Church, to use a figure of Isaiah's, was then like a pent-in stream; it is now like that pent-in stream with the barriers broken down and the Spirit of the Lord driving it.  It was He who preserved it in being when it was pent in.  It is He who is now driving on its gathered floods till it shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.  In one word, that was a day in which the Spirit restrained His power.  Now the great day of the Spirit is come.

Tuesday
Aug312010

Joy in the hardship

In Iain Murray's book Revival and Revivalism, he gives an account of some of the men who were among the first graduates of what was to become Princeton University.  A few of these men, upon finishing their education, made their way into western Pennsylvania to establish churches.  One of these men, John McMillan arrived in the area in 1778 and would remain there until his death in 1883.  His account reminds me very much of what it must be like for men and women today going into countries which are less industrialized than much of the Western World:

When I came to this country, the cabin in which I was to live was raised, but there was no roof on it, nor chimney nor floor in it; the people, however, were very kind, assisted me in preparing my house, and on the 16th of December, I moved into it:  but we had neither bedstead, nor table, nor chairs, nor stool, nor bucket.  All these things we had to leave behind us:  there being no waggon road ag that time over the mountains we could bring nothing with us but what was carred on pack horses.  We placed two boxes on each other, which served us for a table, and two kegs served for seats; and having committed ourselves to God in family worship, we spread a bed on the floor, and slept soundly till morning.  The next day, a neighbour coming to my assistance, we made a table and a stool, and in a little time had everything comfortable about us.  Sometimes, indeed, we had no bread for weeks together; but we had plenty of pumpkins, and potatoes, and all the necessaries of life; and as for luxuries, we were not much concerned about them.  We enjoyed health, the Gospel and its ordinances, and pious friends:  we were in the place where we believed God would have us to be, and we did not doubt but that He would provide for us everthing necessary.

Murray points out that the conditions here were indeed harsh.  There were no mills to grind flour and no roads to bring in goods across the mountains.  The threat of Indian attacks was something dealt with regularly.  There were no buildings for church meetings, and homes were log homes, made without floors or framing or nails.  For many years, church services were held inside military forts because of the threat of attack from Indians.  Murray also points out that the wives of men like McMillan worked alongside their husbands:

Another fact is too important to go unmentioned.  It is that the wives of these men were no less in stature as Christians than their husbands.  These were women not raised in the backwoods but educated and accustomed to the established communities in the East.  We can well believe that it was only 'uncommon piety' that enabled them to survive the hardship and loneliness, the early death of children, the fear of the frontier, and all else that became a par of their daily lives.

Murray points out that these women did more than survive, but rather flourished; as did the spread of the gospel, because it was in this environment that much revival was seen through the preaching of the gospel by men like John McMillan.  One cannot help but see how very often the greatest blessings of God are seen in severe hardship.  These men and women lived and worked in an environment that is really unknown today in North America.  I was talking with a friend recently about the fact that we are able to keep in touch with our children when they leave home for school.  We have such a wealth of devices to communicate; telephone, e-mail, cellphones, Skype.  The wife of John McMillan probably had a family and she left that family, and who knows whether she saw them ever again, or communicated with them much.  As a mother, I don't realize how blessed I am to have the freedom to know about the lives of my children as they get older and move away. 

Monday
Aug302010

Who needs things of the world, when this is our God?

I had a linguistics professor in university who regularly referred to English as the "mongrel" language, because of its nature as a mish mash of Greek, Latin, French, Germanic roots.  He always had a rather disparaging attitude toward English, but at the same time recognized how good use of it could produce great things.

I was reminded of that this morning as I read the first two sections in Chapter 2 of the Westminster Confession.  This is a good use of English.  Those noble divines who hammered out the confession produced a document that uses English quite well.  I love the way God is described here.  It just leaves one reminded of how great He truly is, and how everything else pales in comparison:

I. There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will, for His own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him; and withal, most just, and terrible in His judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.

II. God has all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of Himself; and is alone in and unto Himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which He has made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting His own glory in, by, unto, and upon them. He is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things; and has most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them whatsoever Himself pleases. In His sight all things are open and manifest, His knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to Him contingent, or uncertain. He is most holy in all His counsels, in all His works, and in all His commands. To Him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience He is pleased to require of them.

One could spend a great deal of time just pondering what these descriptives mean, and she would find herself occupied for quite a while.

And for those who want to see Scripture proofs, click here.