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Psalm 19 September 29, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Law/Gospel, Psalms, Scripture.
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Psalm 19 (English Standard Version)

The Law of the LORD Is Perfect

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

7 The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the LORD is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the LORD are true,
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

This Psalm shows us how God’s creation displays his glory. Next we are shown God’s wisdom in his law. Yet we know that we cannot keep the law. The Psalm closes with a reminder that we need to call on God to keep us from sins. Only than can we be considered blameless. The Lord is truly our rock and redeemer.

Rushdoony: Law & Liberty September 23, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Book Reviews, Christian Reconstruction, R.J. Rushdoony, Theonomy.
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This book is made up of the transcripts of 32 radio addresses prepared by Rushdoony during the years of 1966 and 1967.  Each chapter is about 5 pages long and gives the reader a quick introduction to Rushdoony’s thoughts on a variety of subjects. Overall I found his insights quite intriguing and accurate.  Considering that they were written about 40 years ago it was kind of eerie how well they applied to our present circumstances.

As a father I really appreciated how Rushdoony focused on the family in several chapters. He shows the importance of the family in the Bible (ie laws to honor father and mother and against adultery) and points out how often actions by the state or non believers attack the institution. Liberty would be a second theme found often in the book. Liberty is seen as crucial to the Christian life as only in a free society are we free to serve our Lord.

I recommend this book if you’re a fan of Rushdoony or not. At a minimum it will get you thinking about the various topics covered. It will also acquaint you with some of the basic ideas behind the Christian Reconstruction movement.

It is available from the Chalcedon Foundation

Rushdoony & Sandlin: Infallibility and Interpretation September 17, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Andrew Sandlin, Apologetics, Book Reviews, R.J. Rushdoony.
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I picked up this book due to my interest in presuppositional apologetics. It sets out the defend infallibility from this perspective. In addition it examines some issues associated with infallibility and how we should interpret the Bible.

The first part of this book, written by Rushdoony, is a defense of Biblical infallibility from the presuppositional perspective.  We find in it that Biblical infallibility ultimately rests on how one views God.  If he is sovereign and cannot lie (as displayed in the Bible) then his word is obviously infallible.  Yes it is that simple.  It all lies in where trust is placed in man or God.  Rushdoony goes on to examine issues that occur when the Bible is not held as infallible.  He then critiques Meredith Kline’s position seeing him as mythologizing portions and placing ‘academics’ over scripture.  The last chapter in his section on infallibility examines Van Til’s view.

The second part of the book, written by Sandlin, deals with how to interpret the Bible.  To begin his case He states that the Bible is its own guide to interpretation (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  He then looks at two departures from interpreting the Bible according to the Bible, interpreting according to authority (the Pope, etc.) and personal opinion (this is what the passage means to me).  In this section he also explains how we cannot escape to some extent interpreting the Bible for ourselves, by relying on our presuppositions.  This makes it important that we identify what our presuppositions are so we can see their affect on interpretation.  This leads to the fact that it is important to rely on teachers and others for proper interpretation.

The next chapter examines how infallibility relates to interpretation. Here the author stresses the importance of taking the whole Bible as infallible or you end up undermining the concept.  He then points to the fact that we may see paradoxes (things that seem contradictory) in scripture but that we should expect this as creatures reading the creator. He then moves on to the theology of Biblical interpretation.  He states again that we must acknowledge that we come to scripture with presuppositions.  However, while we come with presuppositions this does not mean that the text does not have true meaning (as some post modernists may say).

As with teachers above, he mentions other ways to minimize the distortions that may be caused by incorrect presuppositions. The reformed confessions and historic creeds are given as guides with which we should frame our interpretation.  The confessions are compared to yield signs and the historic creeds as stop signs in interpretation.  Also noted is that Biblical theology is improving as we build upon the foundations of the Calvin and Luther as they in turn had built on Anselm and Origen. The most important part of this chapter is that Sandlin recognizes that the Holy Spirit, through our regeneration, changes our presuppositions and enables us to more properly interpret scripture. His final chapter focuses on the need to interpret the Bible in terms of covenant.  An interesting point he makes here is that the Old Testament is not the old covenant.  He sees the new covenant as faith and grace and the old as works righteousness and unbelief.  Therefore Old Testament believers like Abraham and David were part of the new covenant in that they lived by faith in God.  He also points out how we today can be part of the old covenant if we rely on our works.

The book also includes three appendices.  The first deals with sola scriptura, showing what it is and isn’t.  He then look at the advantages and problems with the redemptive-historical method, showing that while it can give great insight but it misses much by applying to limited of a scope to the Bible.  The inerrancy if the original autographs is the topic of the third appendix.  Here he shows how this apologetical argument is deficient because it denies the sovereignty of God in providentially preserving his word.

A helpful and thought provoking book. It’s just under 100 pages and each of the writers has a clear and easy to understand style. The sovereignty of God and our need to submit and trust him are the key presuppositional themes that are built upon. I benefited from and recommend this book.

It is available from the Chalcedon Foundation.

I versus God September 16, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Antithesis, Blog Spotting.
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Tim Challies uses the recent news regarding Christian singer Ray Boltz (I’ve never heard of him) to examine of the antithesis between the believer’s and non-believer’s world views. He lays out his main point in these two paragraphs:

There are essentially two ways that humans can understand the world. The first way is the way we all understand the world until the Holy Spirit intervenes in our lives and gives us new eyes to see. This worldview is I-centered. I am the center of my own universe and the arbiter of all truth. I may not vocalize things in just this way and may not even think them quite like this, but it is ultimately what I believe. I believe that I am capable of looking at the world and understanding the way it works—who God is, who I am, the relationship between us, and so on.

The other way of seeing the world is God-centered. Here I acknowledge God as the center of all that exists and the arbiter of all truth. Everything that is true and everything that is knowable has its source in Him. Thus I can only interpret the world properly by rightly acknowledging God. This is, obviously, the biblical worldview. It is God who tells me who He is, God who tells me who I am and God who declares the terms of the relationship between us.

Here is the central antithesis, the point from which all other departures in world view originate, it is either God or myself who is the center.

Doriani: James – Reformed Expository Commentary September 12, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Book Reviews, Daniel Doriani, James, Reformed Expository Commentary.
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I will have to admit this is the first commentary I’ve ever read.  I know a 30 something, life long Christian not having read a commentary is shocking…. OK maybe its just more of a sad statement of the state of current Christianity in the US, but that being said it will not be the last.  This particular volume was very insightful and easy to read. I’ve been interested in James after hearing our pastor peach through the book and thinking about what it means to live a Christian life.

One of the big issues with James, for us Reformed types anyways, is that the book seems to teach salvation by works and not faith, the opposite of Paul.  Doriani however fleshes out the gospel in James pointing to “mercy triumphs over judgment” (2:12), “the Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (5:11) and “God …gives grace to the humble” (4:6).  These passages show that James expects the believer to rely on God and not their works. James obviously speaks about works but Doriani explains that we should see faith leading to salvation and then to good works.

He also points out the many similarities between the book and Old Testament wisdom literature.  It is also shown how James also uses the poetic chiasm (1-2-3-3-2-1) pattern at points to build his case.  In all he does a great job of tying all of James’ points together into a coherent whole.

I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.  I half expected it to read like a text book but that was not the case.  This book was extremely helpful in forming my understanding of James.  It is both a challenging and hopeful book showing us how we should live but never letting us forget that “God …gives grace to the humble”. (4:6)

In closing I have to include this quote:

“James says there is an antithesis, a choice between two ways of life: a way of selfish ambition and a way of purity and peace (3:13-18). We can be a friend of God or a friend of the world (4:4). We can be proud or humbled, and repentant. Jesus says, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11;18:14)”

It is available from Reformation Heritage Books

Morality is Personal Again September 12, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Antithesis, Blog Spotting.
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HP used to use the slogan ‘The Computer is Personal Again’ touting the many customizations and configurations available on their PC’s.  Anyone could purchase a PC that was exactly what they wanted or needed.  It seems that some people have the same idea about morality.

Dan Phillips from the Pyromaniacs blog posts an article on Down’s syndrome and abortion. In it he links to an article in which Canadian Doctors worry that Sarah Palin’s example of having a child with Down’s syndrome could lead to more children with the disease not being aborted.  In a line from the article a Doctor says:

“We’re coming down to a moral decision and we all know moral decisions are personal decisions.”

At that point hasn’t objective morality just left the building? Can said Dr. even believe that morality exists, hasn’t the whole concept just been reduced to personal opinion? The sad thing though is that the non-believer has nothing on which to base an objective moral standard. So from that world view it is accurate.

9 The wise men shall be put to shame;
they shall be dismayed and taken;
behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD,
so what wisdom is in them? (Jeremiah 8:9 ESV)

The antithesis then is that the Christian has God’s word as his standard, not personal opinion.

Machen: Education, Christianity and the State September 11, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Book Reviews, Christian Education, Christian Parenting, J. Gresham Machen.
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This book is a collection of articles and addresses by Machen on various topics of education, the state and how Christianity relates. They are all quite interesting even though there is some repetition due to the fact that he spoke on the same subject (the establishment of a Federal Department of Education) to different audiences. Despite the fact that the book is composed of separate compositions it flows well and keeps you interested in mining more of his thoughts on the subjects addressed.

The first essay ‘Faith and Knowledge’ lays the premise for the rest of the book- that Christianity is not anti-intellectual and the separation of knowledge and faith has been disastrous.  After all as he points out how can you have faith in something or someone that you know little to nothing about? The Christian religion is based on facts not feelings or philosophies. Since knowledge is crucial to the Christian faith education and, by default of our society, government’s involvement in educating our children are issues the Christian should address.

‘The Importance of Christian Scholarship’, which follows, was probably my favorite address in the book.  It discusses the importance of scholarship in three areas; evangelism, defense of the faith and building up the church. It again builds the case for why Christians should be concerned about education.

The third chapter is a brief discussion of ‘Christianity and Culture’.  Machen here calls for integration of faith and culture not a withdrawal.  Here is a great quote laying out the main point

“Instead of destroying the arts and sciences or being indifferent to them, let us cultivate them with all the enthusiasm of the veriest humanist, but at the same time consecrate then to the service of God.”

What better environment for cultivating this enthusiasm while consecrating these endeavors to God than a Christian school?  While I appreciated his analysis of situations in the book I was really hoping for a bit more of a blueprint for how Machen envisioned Christian education occurring.  Obviously Westminster served to address his vision of seminary education, but what should we expect for our young children?

Here’s another interesting quote from the chapter (I just like it because Machen really sounds like a reconstructionalist here):

“The Christian cannot be satisfied so long as any human activity is either opposed to or out of all connection with Christianity.  Christianity must pervade not merely all nations, but also all of human thought”

In other chapters Machen explains the need for the Christian school as a way to preserve liberty and propagate the faith.  One of the essays is even titled ‘The Christian School: The Hope for America’. Some may find it interesting that Machen does not want prayer or Bible teaching in the public school as he believes that the truth would be distorted.  He also does not want the public schools to teach morality as he sees that morality can only be based on God’s truth.  He has some good points there.

As mentioned earlier quite a few chapters deal with his opposition the establishment of a Federal Department of Education.  It is particularly interesting to read the actual transcript of his testimony before the House and Senate.  He sees this department as a threat to our liberties and also fears that the standardization of education will be disastrous.

In the final address Machen lays out his purpose and plan for Westminster Seminary.

This is a great book for exploring Reformed thought on the social issue of education. This is the first book by Machen I have read but will definitely put his classic ‘Christianity and Liberalism’ on my to read list.

It is available from Reformation Heritage Books.

Antithesis at Walgreens September 8, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Antithesis.
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In this post ‘Living Dangerously…at Walgreens: What can our Purchases at a Pharmacy Tell us About our Theology?’ Hank @ Lawn Gospel (HT: The Thirsty Theologian) ask us to think about birth control and what it could say about our world view.

If we affirm that Scripture is God’s Word, to God’s people, for all time – then we are bound by that confession to affirm that children must ALWAYS be valued as gifts to be received, rather than burdens to be refused (until we deem fit).

All I can say is ‘convicting’.