Thursday, May 31, 2012

Building on the Solid Rock Blog

My very dear, sincere, and faithful friend and partner in the work of preaching the Gospel of the Christ on the streets of our city has started a new blog called Building on the Solid Rock.

Fred and I engage in the work of street evangelism, prayer and theological discussion weekly. We don't agree on everything, but I can tell you that I have observed an exceedingly rare trait in him: a desire to know what is true. While he is a great friend, it is this desire that I find most admirable of him. Please visit his blog and encourage him.

The Potter's Freedom

I started reading James White's The Potter's Freedom last night on my Kindle. I'm working on a "First Impressions" article, but here are a few quick thoughts. I've never read anything by Mr. White before. I've never listened to him preach. I've never listened to him debate. I've only known him by reputation.

I've heard he is a fierce debater, and that some people find him to be very rude in his interaction with those who disagree with him on whatever topic. The Potter's Freedom was recommended to me by a very dear friend, who seems to hold Mr. White in high regard.

So far I find the book needlessly combative, insulting and manipulative. I'm not the least bit surprised to find such from a hard 5 Point Calvinist. I've discussed this behaviour at Lou's In Defense of the Gospel blog in an article entitled Calvinism, Religion and Worldliness and I've seen this behaviour demonstrated here ad nauseum. The one exception to this behaviour is the conversation I was blessed to have with a husband & wife couple with respect to the TULIP doctrine of Total Inability.

After doing that article on Total Inability my dear friend Fred suggested that I read White's book. Having previously disregarded the book I decided to read it. In the months since then I've been trying to purchase The Potter's Freedom on Kindle and have been unable to find it. Yesterday, I searched again and found it easily. Perhaps my inability to find it was the Potter showing me the folly of believing I had decided to read a book?

Depending on how exhausting this book is to read I intend on blogging my impressions as I go. For the record I believe that Mr. White's target, Norm Geisler and his work Chosen But Free puts forth a reasonable, plausible, reasonably Biblically defensible position which is very close that which I would hold. I have a higher view of God's sovereignty than what I think Mr. White allows for in his thinking. I guess I will find out as I read. However, based on what I've read so far I don't expect the book to be convincing, I expect it to be infuriating. So far as I've read, the author commits everything he complains about Geisler doing and claims near infallibility of the authors of the Reformed movement. Mr. White is a skilled debater. Being able to facilitate a "win" in a debate is a far cry from holding, and being able to explain and defend a true position.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The First Wrong Jesus

Parsing of Genesis 4:1
Gen 4:1
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the Lord.”
This passage sits in the Inspired Text early on and seemingly almost as far from the drama of Israel's rejection of Messiah as is nearly possible. So that we may be tempted not to be looking for Him there. Yet at the time when Eve was exclaiming this about her son Cain, God's first promise of Messiah had just been given. It was recent; she had just believed the first lie, helped to create the first religion, tasted the first fear, heard the first condemnation, seen the first death and heard the first promise to man. Gen 3:1-22 While we may read Genesis today with some thoughts of it being disconnected distant history, Eve was living it.

Gen 3:14-15
So the Lord God said to the serpent: 
“Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life.
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her SeedHe shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

The curse that the LORD God Almighty put on Satan included a promise of Messiah coming from the seed of the woman.  I'm not sure if the powerful fear of the moment of Gen 3:14-15 is often, or even ever discussed at pulpits. I've never heard it preached on, and have never heard anyone bring up the topic. Can you imagine, yourself, being witness to God Almighty berating and cursing Satan right in front of you? This crafty serpent who would make himself out to be like God, being berated like a disobedient school child. This one who you had just believed could help you become like God yourself. Can you imagine hearing the unwavering curses coming out of the mouth of God? Terrifying, and as sure as any promise He has ever given since!

As discussed in The Gospel(s) Adam Believed, these two really heard the promise of Gen 3:15.  So when Eve conceived a child, and had a man child whom she called Cain, she made the exclamation of Gen 4:1.

Hebrew is a very interesting, and flexible language as far as I can tell. It is able to convey much more information than English can but it also has some variability when it comes to interpretation. We need to be careful how we translate languages, and how we interpret the resulting text. Eve's statement is generally translated "I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord" or "from the Lord" or something like that. However it is seemingly perfectly valid to translate it this way:
"I have acquired a man; the LORD." 
This translation aids in the presentation of this article, but even the more popular translation makes the point. If you look at the parsing of Gen 4:1 in the image above you will find that either translation is apparently valid. She either thought Cain was the Lord, or she thought that he had come from God as He had just promised.

Yet if we continue reading Gen 4:1-15 we find out that Cain was not at all like the Messiah. He was a murder. This demonstrates that he is nothing like Messiah. 1Jn 3:10-12

So what's my point? 

Eve had believed God. She was trusting Him to do what He said He would do. Even still though, instead of looking for the Messiah that God proclaimed, would provide and would identify she choose one of her own. On the surface she had the right motives, even the right quality of faith. She merely had the wrong object. She had the wrong Jesus.

Today as we evangelize the World we must be careful that our preaching, and our Gospel, only allows for ONE Jesus, the true Jesus of the Scriptures. This is why we must always, and only, preach the Gospel that Scripture declares. Not a Gospel that seems to line up with God's abilities, desires, intents and whatnot as we understand them. Because Eve did that. She believed God, and thought she saw Him fulfilling His promise but she was wrong.

The Gospel that the Scriptures declare, 1Cor 15:1-11, leaves room for only ONE Jesus EVER in all History. It is the answer to the only problem that God is dealing with Sinners about. Jn 16:5-11 It leaves room for only one response: assurance. Rom 4:1-25; Gen 15:6

There is one Jesus who saves. Don't preach another. 2Co 11:4 Don't leave room for the people you have influence over to believe in another. 1Cor 1:20-25 If your gospel could possibly lead someone to believe in another Jesus, your gospel is not THE Gospel.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

God's Rube Goldberg Machine

Welcome to this first ever guest authored article at OMW!

Please welcome Pete Chadwell of the TRoutMac blog and engage him in conversation on this controversial yet important topic. Thanks!

You don't have to dig very deep into Christianity to bump into this age-old controversy regarding God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. One school of thought will object (to varying degrees) to the idea that man has any free choice at all because, so they say, to imagine that man can make genuine free choices is to throw God's sovereignty under the bus. In order to affirm God's sovereignty, we must deny that humans have free will.

I have a way to "test" this notion. I don't aim to prove here that man has free will, though I have very good reasons to think that he does. But I do intend to demonstrate an irony: That denying human free will for the sake of preserving God's sovereignty can be seen to diminish God's sovereignty.

Before we do that, I think it's necessary to consider carefully what it means to say that man was created "in the image of God." In my research I have encountered various ways of expressing this idea, but the Christian Q & A web site ( begins to sum it all up with this:
"Having the “image” or “likeness” of God means, in the simplest terms, that we were made to resemble God."
But, the article goes on to explain that this "resemblance" isn't intended to be visual, but rather relates in some way to God's attributes. And an article at Answers In Genesis echoes this general sentiment:
"God endues man with some of his divine attributes, thereby separating and making him different from the beasts."
I don't anticipate the need to defend God's attributes here… most Christians seem pretty committed to the idea that God has attributes such as perfect righteousness, sovereignty, justice, omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, immutability and so on. And few Christians would object to the notion that these attributes are unlimited in their capacity and scope. There's an absolute or infinite quality about God's attributes. And I think it's pretty clear to most folks, particularly Christians, that man's attributes, though they might correspond to God's attributes, are far from unlimited.

The conclusion I've reached is this: To be "made in the image of God" means that God chose to give man versions of God's own attributes that are finite or limited in some crucial way.

The article at also had this to say, which lends itself nicely to the analogy we're going to explore related to God's sovereignty and man's choice.
"Anytime someone invents a machine, writes a book, paints a landscape, enjoys a symphony, calculates a sum, or names a pet, he or she is proclaiming the fact that we are made in God’s image."
I'm particularly interested in the "invents a machine" portion of that sentence… you'll see why shortly.

Next, we have to examine and come to an understanding of the word "sovereignty". I've seen the idea of sovereignty expressed in different ways, but I'm going to argue that they all have a common thread having to do with the ability to make decisions which are not determined or influenced by any outside entity. Certainly, sovereignty relates to authority. A person who is in authority has the right to make decisions which affect those whom he has been given authority over. You can see the word "reign" in "sovereignty," and we can easily relate this to the reign of a king, or even the reigns of a horse. As long as the rider of the horse is holding the reigns, it is he who decides where the horse is going to go. He is, in this context, "sovereign" over the horse.

Here are a couple of characterizations of "sovereignty" that I discovered, each of which relate to making decisions independent of any outside influence:
"Supreme and independent power or authority in government as possessed or claimed by a state or community."
"Supreme authority within a territory"
Well, alright… both of these definitions rely on the word "authority." So let's take a second to examine how that word is defined:
"The power to determine, adjudicate, or otherwise settle issues or disputes; jurisdiction; the right to control, command, or determine."
Can you see how words like "determine," "adjudicate," and phrases like "settle issues or disputes" relate to decision making?

But at this point we face a problem, because although we might understand that God's attributes are infinite and ours are finite, we seem to be unable to grasp things like infinity and eternity. As humans, we are locked inside the finite and while we can assent to the idea of the infinite, our minds cannot get control of such an idea. So how can we understand what unlimited or infinite sovereignty looks like? Well, I would suggest that we can't. But we can understand man's sovereignty… we're all too familiar with its limitations. So it seems to me that we could use that knowledge to help us understand God's sovereignty, because if we know what man's sovereignty is, then we know what God's sovereignty is not. God's sovereignty has to be qualitatively superior to ours. If it turned out that our view of God's sovereignty ended up being qualitatively equivalent to man's, then we'd have reason to think we had it wrong. Does that seem fair?

So, I have an illustration regarding God's sovereignty and man's freedom which, I think, helps us to examine and assess our own view of God's sovereignty.

In the mid-1900's there was a cartoonist named Rube Goldberg. He became famous for cartoons that depicted wildly complicated contraptions that performed very simple tasks. Today, engineering students frequently enter Rube Goldberg machine contests or have assignments to build Rube Goldberg machines as an excellent exercise in creativity and a general engineering challenge.

If you want to waste some time over at YouTube, just type "Rube Goldberg machine" into the search field. You will be treated to hundreds of videos of amazing and clever contraptions, painstakingly designed… some occupying multiple rooms in a house. It boggles the mind to think about how much time and effort went into these things. And being Rube Goldberg machines, the end game for each machine is comically easy and should not have required so much effort. One machine I viewed poured a bowl of cereal. Another crushed a grape. There are easier ways to pour a bowl of cereal or crush a grape. But Rube Goldberg machines are really created for everything but efficiency… their creators know there are easier ways; but Rube Goldberg machines are all about being creative and taking the road less traveled.

The creator of a Rube Goldberg machine, having been made in the image of God, is expressing God's attributes, albeit in a finite way, and one of them is sovereignty. That is, he or she makes decisions--and has the proper authority to make these decisions--about what the final objective will be, how the cascade of events will be initiated, how each segment of the machine will accomplish work towards the final objective, how the laws of physics and chemistry will be exploited to accomplish that final objective, etc. The creator of a Rube Goldberg machine is making decision after decision as the machine takes shape. He or she rules over the machine they are creating.

And yet, their sovereignty is limited. Because for one thing, the creator of a Rube Goldberg machine didn't create the laws of physics and chemistry, nor did they create atoms and molecules that make up all of the component parts of the machine. But when it comes to carefully selecting the various component parts for a given machine, isn't it interesting that nobody ever uses any kind of living creature in their machine? I mean, why not use a cat, for example? I have an idea as to why this isn't done: You see, a cat has a mind of its own--a will, and it's highly unlikely that the cat will cooperate with the creator's plan for the machine. On the other hand, inanimate objects like ramps, levers, balls and dominoes are entirely predictable and can be relied upon (once placed in the proper arrangement) to contribute to the function of the machine.

Could God herd cats?
Suppose that I build a Rube Goldberg machine, with all the usual ramps, levers, dominoes, pulleys, counterweights and so on, but in this machine, I choose to employ a cat. You know, maybe there's a surface for the cat to stand on, and maybe a box with a plate of tuna inside. The plate rests on a spring-loaded gizmo and at a crucial point in the chain of events, a door would slide open giving the cat access to the tuna, he would eat the tuna, the reduced weight would unload the spring, the support would rise up and trip a lever that knocks down a row of dominoes and on it goes…

But wait… that's only what I intend to happen. Suppose at that crucial moment as the machine does its thing, the cat decides it needs to visit the litter box. Or cough up a hairball? See, even though I'm the creator of this machine and even though I have a kind of "sovereignty" over the machine, I cannot accommodate the free and unpredictable actions of a cat in the function of the machine. Because of this, as you survey various Rube Goldberg machines posted at YouTube, you aren't likely to find any that use elements such as a cat, elements with anything like free will. Our sovereignty is limited in that way.

Now, Rube Goldberg machines can take various forms… actually the only thing that distinguishes a Rube Goldberg machine from any other is that efficiency and simplicity are not among the objectives for a Rube Goldberg machine. But any machine operates the same way… there is an end-goal, an objective, and there are component parts which contribute to that final objective. In his 1996 book "Darwin's Black Box," Michael Behe devoted a whole chapter to the discussion of a biochemical machine found in mammals known as the blood clotting cascade… except this isn't a "machine" in the usual sense, but rather a complex chain of chemical reactions at the molecular level. The chapter was titled "Rube Goldberg in the Blood."

Well, suppose we look at God's plan for history as a kind of giant Rube Goldberg machine. It has an objective and it has component parts, but in this case, a large number of the component parts in this machine are PEOPLE. God uses these component parts to accomplish His final objective. And with God as the creator of this machine, we know He created everything in the machine… all of the component parts. And as creator of this giant Rube Goldberg machine, we know He has sovereignty over it. But this is where we can, perhaps, learn something about God's sovereignty compared with man's sovereignty. Again, we know our own sovereignty inside and out. We live within its limitations daily. And we know that if our view of God's sovereignty is correct, He will not be subject to those same kinds of limitations. So, since there are a large number of Christians who firmly believe that God's sovereignty and human free will are mutually exclusive, consider this question carefully:

If we think it's impossible for God to be sovereign over a machine made of component parts which have free will, then isn't the sovereignty we're ascribing to God qualitatively equivalent to our own sovereignty?

My view of God's sovereignty is that it is qualitatively superior to man's, and to use our metaphor here, that means that He could choose to make a giant Rube Goldberg machine, give all of the component parts genuine free will, and still expect His objective to be met. But to say that man can't have free will because it would compromise God's sovereignty is to think of God's sovereignty as being no better than man's.

Again, this illustration is not intended to prove that man has free will. It is only intended to demonstrate that affirming genuine free will in man does not translate to a low view of God's sovereignty and actually can be seen as being consistent with a very high view of God's sovereignty. In other words, there doesn't need to be any tension between God's sovereignty and man's choice if we have a high view of God's sovereignty and especially if we also take into account God's other attributes such as omniscience and omnipotence.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Heresy Hunting Begins at Home

I have to admit sometimes it is hard to test my own theology as strongly as I might test someone else's. This is especially true when it comes to doctrines which one rejects. Isn't it easy to find the time and energy to rip apart someone else's view? You can admit it, I bet you're a lot like me in this way.

You know what though? Heresy springs up where there is no one watching. Who's watching your theology? Who's watching mine?

A few months ago someone called me a "Heresy Hunter!" because I did not agree with the gospel the man was preaching, and also his systematic theology of choice. Shortly after that I got hooked up with a couple of guys who thought it was a good thing to be called a "Heresy Hunter!" well that is until I found out what gospel they hold to.

I'm hoping that for the first time ever at OMW I'll be posting an article by a guest author. While the author and I are in almost complete agreement (I say almost because he or I may not be aware of something) I have been challenging his view on the Sovereignty of God as though I disagree with him. He will be posting an article that has great potential to be helpful. However, while I think the content is accurate and true, I could very well be wrong about that.

Almost everything posted at OMW is open for discussion. This blog is primarily about where I'm at, and what I'm learning. That's no excuse for me to post error however. As I've been considering how the guest author might feel about how I've been challenging him, I've decided that first and foremost: HERESY HUNTING BEGINS AT HOME!

I almost always vigorously test my own theology. I consistently throw out anything that is determined to be false in any way. This upcoming article is exciting to me because it is the first time I've had a guest author, but it is also exciting because we're going to be tackling a HOT topic and I think the author has some very helpful things to say.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Joseph as a OT Picture of Christ

Brian at the Words of this Life blog is discussing Joseph being a picture of Christ in the Old Testament.

Check out "Joseph a Prophetic Portrait of Christ: Part 1", Part 2, and Part 3.

Could God Heard Cats?

There are a few different views of God's Sovereignty among professing Christians. For some professors, anything other than Hard Determinism (every action, reaction & decision is determined by God) is nothing but Open Theism.

I'm working with another Brother on an article in which we will consider if God could build a Rube Goldberg machine with wild cats instead of items which only do one thing. Could God heard cats? We'll try to find out soon!


Wednesday, May 02, 2012

An Amazing Week Already

Canon 70-200 2.8L
The week started with me being a bit uneasy about how we had not heard back from those preparing our taxes, which in Canada must be submitted by April 30th. That unease was overtaken by joy when we found out that not only was the fee for preparation much lower than we expected, but the return was also much larger than we could have expected.  I've decided to open a business with the money from the return.

I'm currently looking to purchase a used Canon 70-200 2.8L lens. Tonight I answered an online add for one and it turns out that the seller is the son of a good friend (and Brother in the Lord) of mine. I suspect that unless I find something wrong with the lens that I will purchase it tomorrow (err... later today as it is about 1am right now).

During a moment of online research for discussion happening at the weekly Evangelism prayer group I received an email telling me that there 's an honorarium waiting for me from the Jesus to the Nations conference I played in March. Cool beans! Yet, I was more excited to hear from a good friend I had been thinking about earlier in the day. Can't wait to go see him!

Finally, tonight the partner that the Lord has paired me with in the work of spreading the Gospel on the streets of our city and I had an amazing time of testimony sharing. I shared with him things that I'd be fearful to tell most anyone else, and he also shared. Together we praised God for His faithfulness, mercy, grace and sovereignty! If you are a man who isn't getting together with other men to pray then I truly feel you need to change that. God does flat-out amazing things when men humble themselves to pray together.