Calvin – One cause of doctrine that is perverted and depraved

“Some honest teachers may receive support from the public treasury; but as we have said, when any one is drawn aside by lucre, he must necessarily pervert and deprave all purity of doctrine.”

John Calvin
Commentaries On Daniel — pg. 128

Sometimes I wonder if the problems of the pulpit today in how it has perverted and depraved all purity of doctrine stems from ministers being drawn aside by lucre. When you connect a guys livelihood with a prophetic role it takes an unusual chap to choose to stick with the prophetic voice at the risk of losing his livelihood. How many ministers trim their message for fear of offending Daddy Warbucks? How many ministers understand that large segments of American culture simply won’t tolerate certain of God’s convictions and so preach accordingly, steering away from those subjects that American culture can’t stand? It is not a wonder that in the Old Testament God repeatedly raised up a prophetic voice out of the middle of nowhere to challenge the institutional priestly class who had perverted and depraved all purity of doctrine. Further, it is not a wonder that often these prophetic voices were people of no repute — sheepherders like Amos, or desert dwellers like John The Baptist. God often reached outside the mainstream in order to find somebody who hadn’t been corrupted by the desire for lucre.

Does love for money, prestige, and fame keep us ministers from giving the unvarnished truths? Are we compromising the message because we have come to think of our congregations or denominations as the source of our incomes as opposed to only one channel among many that God — the true source — can provide? Are we thinking more about our retirement and our future financial stability when we speak then we are thinking about being in the presence of God when we speak?

God keep us from perverting and depraving all purity of doctrine because we don’t have the confidence He can provide water from stone and bread from birds.

It’s A Strange Madness….Oh What A Strange Madness

There has settled upon our Culture ecclesiological and sociological, that which can only be designated as a Strange Madness. This is bizarre in itself since madness is frequently associated with rage or frenzied behavior but in the times that we have been given our madness is perfectly ‘rational,’ and so attended with calmness and certain aplomb extraordinaire. We are not just affected with madness but we are mad and proud of it. Like the Emperor who has no clothes we are impressed with how beautiful our madness wears.

The evidence for madness is ubiquitous. The fact that we can’t or don’t recognize it only testifies that we ourselves have gotten used to the Looney bin of our times and so likewise are infected with madness. Remember, on the island of the insane only the sane are considered insane.Ours is rapidly becoming the island of the insane. In no particular order I enter in the following evidence for the sheer strange madness in which we find ourselves partakers. Madness displays itself in the million plus children our mad culture offers up to our Moloch gods of convenience and affordablity. We have read of our children put through the abortion fires in order to retain a desired comfort level and now smitten by the prevalent strange madness whom of us have wept for both their lost life and our lost innocence and ours?

Every year millions of parents turn their precious 5 year olds over to strangers driving long yellow cylindrical means of transportation crammed full with other disease carrying miscreants of varying ages and dysfunctional backgrounds who are going to introduce their 5 year olds to the most flowery language and the most vile habits. The parents who are involved in this strange madness calmly wave goodbye to their children convinced that they are doing the only sane thing. Only a mad person would think that turning their 5 year old over to perfect strangers would be a sane thing to do. From there their 5 year olds are shipped off to our culturally sophisticated and refined concentration camps euphemistically referred to as schools. There Johnny and Susie will begin the long process of being catechized into a belief system that more often then not is just the opposite of what Johnny and Susie’s folks confess to be true. But the oddness of this doesn’t matter since the strange madness has a firm grip.

Another evidence of the strange madness that has descended on us like a shroud is how we drug our children. Since 1990 the production of Ritalin is up 700% and some studies suggest that as many as 20% of America’s school children are popping Ritalin like an earlier generation of children popped sugar candy from the Pez dispenser. Studies likewise suggest that 3 to 4 times as many little boys are popping pills as their little girl counterparts. Do the math and figure out where that puts the percentage for little boys. Nobody knows for sure what popping Ritalin long-term does to a child and yet here we are pushing pills like they were condoms. Madness I tell you …. only madness accounts for this. Now consider on top of this that none of this snuck up on anybody. We are mad in the face of the warnings of guys like Aldous Huxley who told us all about Ritalin (Soma) over 50 years ago and yet we plunge calmly head first into our madness.

Another piece of evidence is how we have allowed ourselves to be dumbed down. We live among a people who find Dr. Phil to be insightful and who listen to John Tesh who promises to give us “intelligence for our lives.” We have become strangers to all things literary choosing instead to saturate ourselves in “reality TV.” We are captivated and mesmerized by the shallow and vapid speeches of Barack Obama while we feverishly pass e-mails to one another that he wants the old coke song to be our National Anthem. We don’t read books. We don’t listen to lectures. We don’t listen to a piece of music that lasts more then 4 minutes. We are so stupid that we can’t even convince ourselves that killing an alive person in the womb is murder.

More evidence? The one institution that is supposed to be the warning beacon against madness is itself mad beyond healing. The visible Church is mad. While the Church should be raising the prophetic voice against the omnipresent madness she is busy figuring out how to best provide the circuses necessary to keep the madness amused. There was a time when the Church was more interested in exposing the madness instead of making people comfortable in and with it. No more. The Church is more interested in learning the techniques of appealing to madness. The Church surveys groups of mad people to find out what the mad people want and then it gives it to them in spades. What else can this be but madness? The Church has forgotten her Desert God and in her strange madness has introduced a seeker sensitive, user friendly Baal. It is madness I tell you … madness.

More evidence of madness in the Church is the ministerial corps. Ministers are always supposed to be one part desert prophet. They are to be more comfortable in Camel hair shirts then Brooks Brothers suits and their hard diet of locust and honey bespeaks the hard truth they are called to speak. There has always been in them the angularity of the God they serve. Unfortunately though the strange madness that we live in has shattered all that. Ministers are largely one part Madonna, one part Bill Gates, one part “stand up comic”, and one part Joel Osteen. They, of all people, are the best adjusted to the mad times we live in. Where is the weeping prophet pastor? Where is the prophet pastor brokenheartedly pronouncing woe on this madness? Where is the prophet pastor who wears himself out beseeching God in His wrath to remember mercy? I fear that kind of pastor has been amalgamated and castrated by the strange madness. Is he no more?

Madness reigns. Where shall we stop? Is it sane to work six months of the year for the Federal Government to support it in taxation as it actively seeks to destroy the foundations upon which this country was based? Foundations some of us still believe. Is it sane to gather 15 and 16 year old boys and girls into one small classroom and begin to give them the details of sex? Is it sane for Fortune 500 companies to gather their employees together to indoctrinate them with politically correct sensitivity training? Is it sane for the Universities to orient their incoming freshman with radical Feminism and Buggery? Is it sane for Churches to conduct inter-religious faith services so everyone can pray to the same “god”? Is it sane for Christians to support exporting a secular humanism Empire while that same Empire wants to destroy their faith? Is it sane to support political parties and their candidates who by their actions and policies have shown themselves desirous of wanting to destroy Christianity?

No, none of it is sane and yet it is accepted … accepted calmly, and rationally as if it is all the most normal thing in the world and if anybody rises to scream ruddy murder about the strange madness of it all it is that person who is fitted and sized for a straight jacket.

What are we to do? If those of us who see the madness don’t find a way to cope we will ourselves eventually go mad. Even with coping mechanisms though there is no doubt that we will not be able to avoid at least a touch of legitimate madness. Why should anyone expect to retain his or her sanity when constantly exposed to this strange madness? Given the times it would be most unhealthy to stay completely sane. So … What are we to do?

Well we could follow the great satirist of recent times. Men like Mencken, Muggeridge and Chesterton made a living out of skewering the madness they were gifted to see. We could insulate ourselves somewhat from the times by mocking the madness. Secondly, we could view ourselves as moviegoers who are laughing at the incredible irony and unintended satire that permeate our times. By doing so we make it all the madness somewhat objective to us and are able to convince ourselves that like a movie it isn’t really true. I think some of this is necessary in order to cope. If one can’t laugh at the tragedy of it all one will die brokenhearted. Thirdly, we must give God no rest. We must pray and when we are done we must pray more. We must be confident in light of this madness that our God reigns. All of this madness is in one way or another serving His purposes. If I were not confident of that and if I were not confident of His ability to bring Reformation and Awakening I could not avoid genuine honest to goodness madness since it is but a short step from broken heartedness to madness.

Nuggets From Daniel 2

In Nebuchadnezzar’s court there was a old order whose influence was predominant (sorcerers, astrologers, magicians Chaldeans). This old order is being eclipsed by a new order bringing a new influence. (Daniel, Hananiah, Azariah, Mishael)

The difference in these two orders is significant

Whereas under the old order the attempt was to gain insight into the future by manipulating the unseen world, insight into the future in the new order would be a matter of God’s gracious revelation.

Whereas the old order was signified by death (Nebuchadnezzar’s threat to kill em all) the new order is signified by the presence of protection of life for all (24).

Whereas in the old order it is thought that the King is sovereign, in the new order God is clearly sovereign over the King.

God brought His people into Babylonian captivity but it begins to become a question as to whom has actually captured whom.

Here, in Daniel 2, Daniel is a picture of Christ the high Prophet. Just as Daniel made known God’s mind to Nebuchadnezzar so Christ made and makes the mind of God known to His people. Just as Daniel’s wisdom was a means of deliverance for God’s people so the wisdom of Jesus is the means of deliverance for God’s people (cmp. I Cor. 1:30). Just as Daniel was the revelation of God to Nebuchadnezzar so Jesus is the revelation of God to His Kingly people today. And just as there was safety from the King’s wrath only in the revelation of Daniel so there remains safety from the King’s wrath only in the revelation of Jesus.

Old Friends

Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, in the last few weeks I have heard from a couple old friends I haven’t heard from since I graduated from college in 1982. It was interesting catching up and finding out just a tiny bit about what has happened to them since 1982.

One of my friends works for (I’m not making this up) Hustler magazine now. Another of my friends works for a well known denomination at a kind of middle management level responsible for a missions aspect of the denomination. (In order to understand some comparisons I am going to make in this post you’ll have to read my previous post.)

After some reflection I decided that maybe there wasn’t much difference between those two occupations. They both are trying to evangelize people. The first one uses the lure of artificial women while the second one uses the lure of an artificial Jesus. They both are trying to build the Kingdoms of their respective bosses. The first one is building kingdoms for Larry Flynt. The second one is build kingdoms for Humanistic “Christianity.” They both are involved in businesses that excel in the lost of innocence. The first excels in the loss of sexual innocence while the second excels in the loss of spiritual innocence. Finally, the end effect of both is to create cynicism among their thoughtful converts. The first will find eventual cynicism about all things sexual in his thoughtful converts while the other will find eventual cynicism about all things spiritual in his thoughtful converts.

It is interesting but I find myself more concerned for the soul of my friend working for the Church then I am for the soul of my friend working for Larry Flynt. My friend working for Hustler is in a business that is far easier to see through the emptiness and charade of what it offers, and thus he is far more likely, humanly speaking, to come to the end of his pursuits and himself. My other friend working for the Church and saturated in a Church growth mentality is involved in a giant con game that works so well because everyone involved are “true believers” thinking they are doing the “Lord’s work.” He is far less likely to come to the end of himself and to see the emptiness and charade of what it pretends to offer.

Pray for my friends that they might know the delight of being captivated by the beauty, goodness, and truth that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

A Non Covenantal Theologian vs. A Covenantal Theologian

“I believe that there is timeless moral law in the Old Covenant, and that it passes over (so to speak) from Old to New. There was also time bound laws (ceremonial law, civil law, etc.) that don’t pass over. Our guide to defining what passes over — what is or isn’t moral law — is the New Testament.”

Where is the clear Scriptural teaching that divide Scripture up this way? Surely we can agree that Scripture clearly forbids the passing over of the those ceremonial laws dealing with redemption but even here we still believe that God still requires the shedding of blood. The final shedding of blood by the Lord Christ unto redemption fulfills all the proleptic blood shedding before Christ. While the ‘blood of bulls to take away sin’ is no longer required, the shedding of blood has not been done away with for without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. Listen to what Greg Bahnsen has to say on this;

You see the ceremonial law prescribed the necessity of blood for atonement (Lv. 17:11) and accordingly when Christ made atonement for our sins once for all, ‘it was therefore necessary’ that he shed His blood for us (Heb. 9:22-24); the OT redemptive system called for a Passover lamb to be sacrificed, and Christ is that lamb for us (I Cor. 5:17, I Pt. 1:19). The ceremonial law separated Israel from the nations by requiring a separation to be drawn between clean and unclean meats and prohibiting the unequal yoking of animals; in the NT the outward shadow form of such laws has been surpassed — the spreading of the Redeemed community to the Gentiles renders all meats clean (Acts 10), and the sacrifice of Christ has put the system of ordinances which separated the Jews and Gentiles out of kilter (Eph. 2:11-20) – BUT their basic requirement (the eternal principle we might say) of holy separation from the unclean world of unbelief is still confirmed and in force (I Cor. 6:14-7:1). The ceremonial law is therefore confirmed forever in and by Christ, even though not kept in its shadow form by NT believers.

(Bret continues),

So, the outward form has changed but the requirement for blood, or holiness has not been removed (cmp. Heb. 10:1-18), and so the emphasis falls on a covenantal continuity that realizes distinctions and not a covenantal discontinuity that manufactures differences. Likewise none of the Moral law {(a)Covenant (b)Case} has been decommissioned though some of its outward form may have been altered. This is where the idea of general equity enters into the discussion. For example, we may not build fences around rooftops but applying the principle of the case law as it incarnated the 6th commandment we may very well see scripture requiring building a fence around a swimming pool.

So we conclude that Jesus has forever confirmed the Covenantal Law of God. How could he not, given the fact that God’s Covenantal Law was only the eternal reflection of His character? Jesus affirms the Covenantal Law both in their summary expressions (Decalogue) as well as their case law applications and following our Lord we likewise affirm the case law applications as we implement their general equity.

The law was never to be a means by which an individual obtains righteousness, but it has always been a standard by which we measure righteousness, and this is as true now as it was in the Old Covenant.

However, even though there is only one plan of redemption, the New Covenant is certainly different from the Old Covenant.

(Bret responds,)

Not anymore different then my 6-year-old son would be from the same son when he is 19. They are distinct but without being different. In the progress of growth my son is still my son though maturity may make him look different. It is just so with the one Covenant of grace in its various expressions.

They are not just the same guy wearing two different hats, as if we were applying a modalistic approach to the covenants.

(Bret responds,)

Isn’t it odd that I was thinking of the same type of analogy for dispensational like approach except that I would reach for the idea that such dispensational approaches do to the covenant what tritheism does to the trinity? Even in the analogy you use you presuppose that the two covenants are really two different guys wearing different hats. This is explicit overwhelming discontinuity on your part.

Just as there is one God but the Persons are not mere “modes” of His existence, so also there is only one plan of redemption, but the Old and New Covenant are not mere “versions” of each other. A modalistic view of the covenants is a bad thing.

(Bret responds),

And no covenant theologian worth is salt would ever embrace such a modalistic notion.

The two covenants are often set in contrast to each other — by the Apostle Paul in many places (Galatians, parts of 2 Corinthians) and the book of Hebrews in particular.

(Bret responds),

In Hebrews what is set in contrast throughout is the ceremonial expression of the law that those people were tempted to going back to embrace with the fulfillment of that ceremonial law in Christ. The Moral law in its covenant and case expressions is NEVER contrasted with some kind of NT law. Consider in Hebrews 8 for example where in the new covenant God says He will write His LAWS on their heart. What laws could those be except God’s covenantal law since there was no Canon yet where God’s new NT laws could be found? So in Hebrews the distinction isn’t between a new and different Covenantal law vs. an old decrepit covenantal law but rather the distinction is between a new empowerment with respect to the one same covenantal law.

You’ll notice in Hebrews that whenever there is a mention of a different law it is invariably connected with the ceremonial aspect of the law. That is where the contrast lies.
In Galatians the Apostle is not denigrating the Law except as it was wrongly used as a ladder to climb into God’s presence or where it is still being posited as something, in its ceremonial expression, that the Gentiles are required to keep. A quick look at Galatians 5:19-21 reveals that the covenantal Law of God is still in force. Now couple this with the inspired testimony of Paul in Romans that the Law is Holy Just and good not to mention the esteeming of the Law in Romans 7 and it is difficult to see how a case can be made that God’s covenantal Law is eclipsed in the Renewed and Better covenant.

Just because there is only one eternal plan of redemption doesn’t mean that Moses’ Covenant is the same as the New Covenant. They are two covenants, and the latter supplants the former.

(Bret responds),

No, the latter does not supplant the former. The latter fulfills the former. Between those two ideas is a vast chasm that no man can cross.

Let me ask you Jack Baptist, do you really think that in the Mosaic covenant the faithful Jews were supposed to be saved by the Mosaic Law apart from the anticipated work of Christ?

This principle of covenantal contrast seems to be something that traditional covenant theologians are very loath to acknowledge, for some reason I still don’t understand.

(Bret responds),

But even using the word ‘contrast’ suggest that the emphasis should fall on discontinuity, and of course we would insist that the emphasis must fall on proper continuity and proper discontinuity and so would complain that dispensational theologians, whether they are traditional Dallas Theological Seminary types, or Progressive Dispensationalists, or Bullingerites, or New Covenant Theology types do profound mischievousness to the unity of God’s unbroken Word.

There seems to be a stubborn theological colorblindness on this subject among covenant theologians. They use the eternal to efface or erase real points of historical change. This habit of denying historical and doctrinal differences between the covenants comes off to me as quasi-Platonist.

(Bret responds),

“You certainly realize that we might say the same thing of your school only in reverse. Indeed we might hurl the same accusation of Platonism at Dispensationalists as they are forever making this incredible distinction between the New Covenant being more ‘Spiritual’ while the Old Covenant is more earthly… and EVERYONE KNOWS HOW SUPERIOR THE SPIRITUAL IS OVER THE CARNAL, and Non-Spiritual.

For instance, the idea that Moses’ Covenant ended seems to throw them for a loop, and they immediately begin shouting about “antinomianism”, even though there’s nothing antinomian about saying that Moses’ Covenant ended — as long as you acknowledge that there is moral law in the New Testament.

(Bret responds),

But the Moral Law hasn’t ended (cmp. Mt. 5:17f) though it was fulfilled and comes to us now through the hands of Christ. Through His hands that law is a greater terror to sinners then it was in the Mosaic covenant and a greater guide to righteousness to the covenant elect then it was in the Mosaic covenant.

Let me ask you Jack Baptist… where do you find the NT moral law? How did God change as it pertains to the law between the two covenants? Is God nicer in this covenant? Is He sterner? Why would His law need to change? Was there something imperfect about God’s law in the previous covenant? Would fault with God’s law imply fault with God? Should we not preach Psalms 1, 19, or 119 as they esteem the Law, teaching our people, that such reverence to the Law was only fit for the old and worst covenant?

There are so many questions left unanswered in your approach Jack.

In that sense, there are many dispensationalists who indeed are antinomians, because they (ridiculously) deny the existence of moral law in the New Testament. But saying (as I do) that obeying moral law as it is given in its New Covenant context, is part of what it means to be a Christian, makes me not an antinomian.

(Bret responds), What troubles a covenant theologian though is what looks like subjectivism in your system. Whereas God clearly gives His Covenant law in the Old covenant what I have seen is a subjective hunting and choosing for some idea of covenantal law in the New Testament among Dispensationalists since there isn’t one text where that Law is laid out in the New Testament Scriptures such as one finds in Exodus 20. Also, you have the problem with a lack of specificity in this dispensational schematic. The New Testament (as only one example) never says incest is sin. Do you believe it is sin? How can you believe it to be sin given the fact that your New Testament Law nowhere forbids incest? Now, I have no doubt you would say that incest is sin but given your approach I see you only having a subjective authority when you insist that it is sin. Finally, in the end Christ clearly said that he did not come to destroy the Law.

There is only one eternal plan of redemption, from beginning to end, though the amount of detailed information increased as the centuries of Scriptural revelation moved forward. The Mosaic Covenant, even though it couldn’t justify, still served the plan of saving grace by defining God’s holiness more exactly, bringing in a sharper conviction of sin, and prefiguring/illustrating the atoning work of Christ through the priestly system.

(Bret responds),

Were there no justified people who lived under the Mosaic covenant? If there were justified people who lived under the Mosaic covenant were they justified apart from or outside the context of the Mosaic covenant?