“There is great danger to hear, read, and converse, in an unfeeling and unsuitable manner on the them of human inability. There is a danger of mistaking, or drawing inferences, from this doctrine, respecting man’s weakness to holy things.
We ought to be on our guard, lest we think that man’s inability makes him excusable in his sin, or in neglecting his duties and the great salvation. By his inability he does not become unaccountable to God. the Lord’s authority to demand obedience from man, and man’s obligation to obey his Maker, are the same. Our disobedience is not less sinful because we are naturally sinners; and our vileness is not less evil because of our strong opposition to be holy. Let us beware lest we imagine that it is not sinful for us to be sinners. We should also beware of the thought that, as man is unable to change his nature, he is therefore excusable in living in his sin. It is no excuse whatever to him, neither does it lessen his fault at all, for he delights in his sin, and hates to be kept from it. He does not like to live a godly life, nor to be made willing and able. He contends with his Maker, opposes His Spirit, and rejects His invitations. Genesis 6:3, Acts 7:51, Proverbs 1:24-25.
We ought to take care, on the other hand, lest, by proving that it is not the lack of members, senses, or faculties that accounts for man’s inability to act in a spiritual manner, we should set forth that weakness as something small, and that man may remove it by some endeavor of his own; or that ministers may overcome it by strong reasons, solemn, alarming, threatenings, and winning, captivating invitations; and thereby disregard and lose sight of the truth respecting the Spirit’s work in man’s salvation. There is danger lest ministers and people should fail in observing the need of the Holy Ghost working by his grace and infinite strength in man’s salvation. There is as much need of His applying it, as of the Son’s accomplishing it, as already observed. There is room to fear that preachers and hearers grieve the Holy Spirit by losing sight of this; and are, consequently, left destitute of his powerful influences and operations, because they do not seriously consider, nor humbly acknowledge, the necessity of the Spirit working powerfully by the ministry of the Word for man’s salvation.”
On The Moral Inability of Man — pg. 366-367
John Elias — Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Minister
“Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia”
C. S. Lewis
The Silver Chair
I love Lewis. The Silver Chair is my favorite book in the Narnia Series. Having said all that this quote has forever driven me nuts because it strikes me as something more an existentialist would say when contemplating the meaninglessness of life then something a Christian would say. A true blue existentialist believes that life has no meaning except the meaning he gives it and even though he knows it has no meaning it is an act of existential courage to act as if it does have meaning. Lewis seems quite neo-orthodox with this quote.
First, I have never been able to understand how made up things could ever seem more important than real things. Now made up things might be more comforting than real things but only an insane person would say a made up thing seems more important than a real thing. Standing by a play world that is known as a play world over against the real world is something that you find frequently from people in a nut house, and I don’t think it does any favors to Christianity to suggest to people that a Christianity that isn’t true would be preferred over a world without Christ that is true. If Christianity and Jesus isn’t true then let us join Nietzsche’s ubermensch and be done with it. If only in this life we have hope in Christ we are of all men to be pitied.
Second being on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan is likewise just plain stupid. If there isn’t any Aslan then there isn’t a Aslan’s side to be on.
The reason this quote came to mind again is because recently I was in a setting where somebody was suggesting that it didn’t matter whether the miracles of the Bible were true since all that really mattered is that, historically, people have believed them to be true. The suggestion was that, as ministers, we shouldn’t worry about the truth or not truth of the miracle accounts, since to do so would be indicative of enlightenment thinking. Rather we should lose the enlightenment category hangups and just emphasize that these stories were the myths that guided the people in Scriptures and they should be the myths that guide us.
Please accept my apologies but I can’t do this. It makes no more sense to say I am going to stand by Aslan even if there is no Aslan to stand by then it does to say that I am going to believe (and act as if) the miracles are true even if the miracles aren’t true. Further, it is quite important whether or not they actually happened or not, because if they didn’t happen then we would be people following cleverly devised tales. I can make up and follow my own tales just as easily as I can follow somebody else’s tales.
Everything hangs on the objective truth of the Scriptures. If the Miracle accounts aren’t true then the whole thing unravels and if the whole thing unravels, I’m warning you now, you don’t want to be around me because I promise you that I will be consistent with what it all means if those Miracles aren’t true.
I have some CRC people who read this site. Which stands to reasons since I am an ordained minister in the CRC. I have cross posted (something I very seldom do) a post here from another CRC pastor who was a delegate to the CRC Synod this year. The reason I cross posted it is that I wanted this news to come from somebody else, since I suspect that sometimes this chicken little isn’t heard because he screams so much. I have put in bold relief some points that I think need to be emphasized.
Since I reported late last night I’m reporting early today. The big topic of the day (all day in fact) has been our relationship to the Protestant Churches of the Netherlands. For many out there you may say, “Why would that be a big deal??” Well, there is a huge historical connection between the CRC and the PCN (which was formerly the GKN, our “mother” denomination, so to speak). Anyway, the Inter-church Relations Committee was asking that we establish full ecclesiastical fellowship with the PCN. When it was the GKN (which merged with two other denominations to form the PCN) we restricted our relationship because they began ordaining practicing homosexuals and there are some questions on how they view Christ. Now, under the CRC’s new ecumenical charter which promotes broader and less restricted relationships, the IRC would like those restrictions removed.
With underlying practices such as those, you can imagine there was a ton of debate. That began in the Advisory Committee as they ended up with both a majority and minority report basically as follows:
* Majority Report: enter into full ecclesiastical fellowship with the PCN
* Minority Report: enter into a relationship of dialogue with the PCN
Full ecclesiastical fellowship is a deeper relationship which allows for fellowship at the Lord’s Supper together and exchange of pulpits. Dialogue means just that – a talking relationship. So do we overlook these differences in the spirit of Christian unity or do we continue to send the message we’ve been sending them that their practice is sinful – but we’re willing to maintain contact in the hopes that God’s Word will prevail in the future.
Over the course of the debate, it came out from a poll done in the Netherlands that 14% of the pastors in the PCN consider themselves atheist or agnostic. Yes, you read that right. (Further,)39% of PCN pastors cannot deny the statement that God is a figment of human thought… eek!
But it was also reported that the percentage of atheist pastors is going down and the number of orthodox pastors is rising – so God is bringing some hope there… Praise the Lord!
Procedurally, there were a couple of recommendations. The first was to declare the restricted relationship with the GKN moot in respect to the PCN because it was in effect a new denomination. That passed – so we didn’t have any officially relationship with the PCN. Next the majority report to establish full fellowship was tabled almost immediately and the minority report taken up. That was debated for a long time but then defeated by less that 10 votes. The majority report was taken off the table and discussed for quite a while again, but that was also defeated, but by a little more than 10 votes. So back to the drawing board – and for a few hours today we have no relationship with the PCN – the committee is meeting to come up with a third option – however, our new ecumenical charter doesn’t have a third option… so what’ll they come up with next???
More than the specific relationship to this church is what does this mean for the CRC. Does hopping in bed with the PCN give defacto credence to homosexual practice and loose Christology?? Or is it our opportunity to be a witness to them? I guess if we look back on the 20 or 30 years of strained relationship we’ve had – trying to be a witness to them – have we had more effect on them for orthodoxy or they on us for liberalism? An unrestricted relationship would only give us more of the same.
On top of that, what does our relationship with them convey to our local congregations?? To other denominations (the fraternal delegates from the CRC in Nigeria were fairly vocal about this in the gallery)… to our communities?? Lots of implications.
I won’t go through all the debates, but the parallel I drew was to I Corinthians 5:9-13.
“I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”
If that doesn’t speak here, it doesn’t speak anywhere. Of course, we speak the truth in love… but we still speak the truth. But does God’s Word mean that much to these kind of debates?? By now you know my answer to that question… maybe I should make that a motion on the floor to see what Synod thinks. More later….
A few comments from Bret
1.) One must keep in mind that the three denominations in the Netherlands that merged to form the new denomination (PCN) each individually before the merger affirmed homosexuality in one way or another. Does a new denomination that is comprised from three denominations that affirmed homosexuality in one way or another end up not affirming it, itself?
2.) One wonders if the putative increase of ‘orthodox’ ministers in the PCN is anecdotal. Is there hard evidence that shows this?
3.) Note it was the bureaucracy of the CRC (inter-church relations) that asked for fraternal relations with the PCN. What does that tell us?
4.)Note also it was the majority report from the bureaucrats (advisory committee) that recommended full ecclesiastic fellowship with the PCN.
postscript — The 2008 Synod dealt with this issue by asking their bureaucratic structure (the one that gave the majority report recommendation to restore full ecclesiastical fellowship) to see if it could come up with a relationship that is not full ecclesiastical fellowship but is more than what is referred to as “churches in dialogue.”
The motion that passed on Thursday afternoon comes out of a desire of the CRC “to develop and maintain a relationship with the PCN that … does not obscure the seriousness of the issues that led to restrictions being placed on the GKN prior to formation of the PCN – issues that appear to continue today in the PCN,” says the IRC’s recommendation.
Below is an exchange with a chap I’ve known for quite some time who lives in the Mid-Michigan area. He is pentecostal and ana-baptist. There are a great number of these kinds of people in Mid-Michigan. The two of us, for a few weeks, tried to do a Bible study together along with other men from Mid-Michigan but they didn’t like the Reformed faith while others of us, though trying, weren’t to hip on their pentecostal, ana-baptist explanations of texts. I have kicked myself and prayed often about my failure to get through to this group. The Lord Christ caused our paths to cross again so perhaps the Lord Christ intends to keep the conversation going, though it still doesn’t look like it is going to go anywhere.
Thanks for the link to your web-site, unfortunately it’s far too intellectual for a simple man like me.
Well, the simple can at least aspire to be more intellectual and work to that end. As a simple man myself that is what I have always tried to practice and it is what I’ve tried to teach my simple children to practice.
I don’t aspire to be more intellectual, but rather less. I aspire to have the Lord impart Godly wisdom which is easily entreated. Knowledge and intellectualism are dangerously seductive, and lead many astray, “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
My Lord and Master was criticized for not being learned and yet exemplified Love, Truth and Wisdom such that no “learned” man could answer anything. My pursuit is the Love of Truth, and Jesus said that He is the Truth. So if I pick up knowledge and understanding along the way to the knowledge of the Truth, so be it, but they will never be the things I seek after nor love.
* The god you make is the god you must defend;
* the God that made you needs no defense.
Let’s see… we agree that each of us consider ourselves simple men.
We each agree that we need to pursue truth.
Now, mind telling me how we simple men pursue truth apart from the intellect? Does truth come in through our pores? Does the Holy Spirit give us knowledge, understanding, and wisdom apart from the faculty of the mind that God created to absorb those things? Does the Holy Spirit just kind of pour knowledge, understanding, and wisdom in us the way I pour gravy over my mashed potatoes?
The Holy Scriptures teach, ‘above all, get understanding.’ Now I freely concede that is not the exact same thing as ‘be intellectual’ but one can not get understanding, or gain wisdom apart from the intellect. Also, I fully agree that intellectual men can be worthless pagans but it is not their intelligence, nor the amount of what they know that render them pagan but rather because they seek to keep their knowledge in defiance of the God of the Bible and His Christ. This is where their intelligence really reveals its ignorance since nothing can be truly known without presupposing the God of the Bible.
Also, Pete, you might want to be careful about drawing to many parallels between you and ‘your master.’ He had the advantage of being Divine. You don’t.
Scripture teaches we are to ‘be transformed according to the renewing of our minds.’ We are to have ‘this mind in us which was also in Christ Jesus.’ We are to ‘take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.’ That is every thought Pete, not excluding the intellectual thoughts. We are to Love God with all our MIND.
Frankly you are inhibiting your sanctification by seeking to place a false dichotomy between love of Jesus and love of knowledge. Jesus is King over all knowledge. If and when I learn anything it is because it comes from Him and it is His knowledge because He is Lord over it. It is precisely because of my Love for Jesus and my conviction that He is Lord over all knowledge that I seek to KNOW Him and make him known.
Quit with your pursuit of experience and come to know Jesus and love God with all your mind. God gives no extra brownie points of holiness to anyone for purposely being stupid just as he gives no extra brownie points for holiness to anyone for thinking that God will love them more if they are smarter.
Pete, the church is in desperate need for people who will once again love God with all their minds. That doesn’t mean that everyone needs to be a Rocket scientist but it does mean that from the pew to the pulpit all must seek to know what they believe and why they believe it and what they don’t believe and why they don’t believe it, as it applies to every area of life that they traverse. The church needs, perhaps more then any other time, intellects that approach the intellect of the Apostle Paul. Instead to many of our churches play to the lowest common denominator of base experience and reasonless emotion.
Finally, I fully agree that the intellect can become an idol. Perhaps this is what you mean by ‘intellectualism.’ Do you fully admit that the emotions or experience can become an idol so we end up with ‘experientialism’?
Well, I’m sure I’ve just confirmed, in your mind, my alleged arrogance. So be it. I am content to be considered a fool because I insist that people should be smart for Jesus.
I pray God that neither of us will fall to idols.
Recently, I wrote about some unique ways that Churches were seeking to draw people to their services. If you will recall I drew attention to local services that included a ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ sing-along Good Friday service as well as Lottery Easter Sunday at a local Pentecostal Church. This week I learned that another Church in another State did a ‘U2’ Good Friday sing-along service, and our local pentecostal Church once again held its Easter Raffle.
However, the big news about how to build a Church comes from the Lutheran Missouri Synod denomination this morning. It seems that some bureaucratic Lutheran got the idea of giving 25,000.00 to a program where billboards were used to help grow an area Lutheran Missouri Synod Church. These billboards were hot red in color (you know… the color of the devil) and all were signed by Satan himself. They had messages like (I’m not making this up) ‘JeffersonHills Church Sucks,’ and ‘Boycott JeffersonHills Church,’ and other witty, ‘that will cause them to flock to the Church’ maxims.
Now, as anybody recalls these are just a play off the earlier billboard signs that had the signature of God affixed to them with other brilliant statements coming from God like, ‘Loved the Wedding, Invite me to the marriage,’ and ‘As my apprentice you’re never fired.’
What I want to know is if we are going to make billboards quoting these beings why don’t we make billboards with actual quotes?
We could have God saying on a billboard
“I hate workers of iniquity” — God
“I made Him who knew no sin to be sin for sinners.” — God
There is plenty of room on a billboard for those quotes.
All of these cutesy billboards, all of these Holy services dressed in unholy sing-along garb, and all of this church growth stuff is geared for people who will never be disciples via the means offered by Church growth gurus. Even the Grand Guru of Church Growth finally admitted that,
“Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn’t helping people that much.” Bill Hybels
Further, these church growth ideas are produced by people who never have been nor ever likely will be disciples of Christ. Disciples of Christ don’t come up with humanistic sociological techniques to grow Christ’s Church.
Ever since Seminary when I was first exposed to this bilge, I’ve been asking one question that has never been answered.
How is it that a set of techniques that could as equally grow the 1st Church of Satan as it does the 1st Church of Christ be theologically neutral in what it does?
Is the only difference that we Christians have good intentions while those people at the 1st church of Satan don’t?
Let’s face it, when using humanistic church growth methods succeed in ‘growing’ a Church and are pursued in conjunction with an emasculating of the Gospel message (and the two usually go together) the result is not a Church but a ‘hangout’ where people can go to find dates and get some occasional good advice from the relevant talk.
This Church growth stuff lowered my GPA in Seminary because I wouldn’t buy into it then and it still makes me ill today.