Willing to Believe

I’ve just finished R.C. Sproul’s Willing to Believe: The Controversy over Free Will, a clear and balanced presentation of the different views that Christians hold on Free Will. Sproul, of course, prefers the Reformed view, and at a number of places he tries to answer the objections posed by other views. But his critique of other views is I think fair and courteous. A good and enlightening book, whichever side of the divide you belong. Here’s his conclusion:

How we view our fallen condition, then, has radical implications for how we understand both the nature and necessity of regeneration as it relates to faith. This in turn greatly influences how we understand the biblical doctrine of election… [Those] who believe that the fallen sinner retains the capacity to choose what he desires but is enslaved by these desires, rest their confidence in the knowledge that salvation is of the Lord and those whom the Son makes free are free indeed.

Manton on the Angels

The subject of angels is a mysterious one, but one thing we know: Scripture teaches that they are charged with the care of God’s people: “The angel of the Lord encampeth about them that fear him.” (Ps. 34:7). Here’s a summary of what Thomas Manton, a 17th century puritan, has to say about the role of angels in caring for God’s people in his Commentary on Jude:

1. It is certain that the angels had a great care about the people of God in ancient times.

2. The ministry of angels is not wholly ceased.

3. The proper object of their ministry and care are the children of God.

4. The ministry of angels is over all the children of God, without exception.

5. No angels are excepted from being employed in the ministry of caring for God’s children.

6. Every single believer has his proper and alloted angel to attend him from his birth to his death – although this is disputable.

7. There is an assurance of a guardianship and tutelage from angels (Ps. 91:11).

8. This tutelage is from their first conception in the womb till the translation of body and soul into glory.

9. This tutelage is ever administered according to God’s pleasure … their employment is to attend us, and serve us, according to the Lord’s direction.

Faith is Grace and Duty

Is faith a gift of God or a duty of man? It is both, as Hugh Martin explains in one of his sermons (see Christ for us):

Grace on his part, faith on your part: your faith in the sense that it comes from your believing heart, but his faith in that it is wrought by his Spirit there and prompted by his Word there.

I’m reminded by what a certain man once said to Jesus: “Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief.” So, on the one hand, faith is a responsibility we ourselves exercise; on the other hand, we acknowledge that Jesus is the source and sustainer of our faith, i.e., the author and finisher of our faith.

John Calvin and Missions

Many people think that  a Calvinist missionary is an oxymoron. Well, in behalf of my fellow “evangelistic electionists”, check this out:

The Genevan Church Planting Explosion

After they had such wonderful theological training and missiological experience, many of the Christians returned to their cultures once persecution subsided. The result was an explosion of contending, contextualizing, and church planting, which is the logical result of the first two works. In fact, in France there were only five underground Protestant Churches in 1555, but by 1562, 2,150 churches were planted, with some three million people in them. Furthermore, some of the churches were megachurches, with anywhere from four to nine thousand people in attendance.

Additionally, Calvin sent church planting missionaries to Italy, the Netherlands, Hungary, Poland, and the free imperial city-states in the Rhineland. The Atlantic Ocean was even crossed by church planting missionaries Calvin sent to South America and what is today Brazil

via Calvin on Missiology & Church Planting | TheResurgence.

God is Sovereign, Man is Responsible

I believe in predestination, yea, even in its very jots and tittles. I believe that the path of a single grain of dust in the March wind is ordained and settled by a decree which cannot be violated; that every word and thought of man, every flittering of a sparrow’s wing, every flight of a fly … that everything, in fact is foreknown and foreordained. But I do equally believe in the free agency of man, that man acts as he wills, especially in moral operations – choosing the evil with a will that is unbiased by anything that comes from God, biased only by his own depravity of heart and the perverseness of his habits; choosing the right too, with perfect freedom, though secretly guided and led by the Holy Spirit … I believe that man is as accountable as if there were no destiny whatever … Where these two truths meet I do not know, nor do I want to know. They do not puzzle me, since I have given up my mind to believing them both.

(Charles Spurgeon, quoted in Iain Murray’s Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism)

What If I’m Not Elect?

“‘I’m afraid I am not elect.’ Oh! dear souls, do not trouble yourselves about that; if you believe in your Christ you are elect; whosoever puts himself on the mercy of Jesus, and who has nothing at all tonight, shall have mercy if he come for it.”

— Charles Spurgeon, quoted in Iain Murray’s Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism

Who Limits the Atonement?

I gave a lecture earlier this evening to a group of almost 50 college students on the doctrine of limited atonement. I was very encouraged by the fact that these young people (only in their teens) were very much interested in reformed theology. The response was warm, but not surprisingly it seems number of them found some of the things I talked about difficult to accept. Someone even asked whether one could still be a Christian and not believe in limited atonement. I answered, “Yes.” Anyway, the term limited atonement is unfortunate. I prefer the term particular redemption. But, come to think of it, who actually limits the atonement? John Murray explains:

Whether the expression “limited atonement” is good or not we must reckon with the fact that unless we believe in the final restoration of all men we cannot have an unlimited atonement. If we universalize the extent we limit the efficacy. If some of those for whom atonement was made and redemption wrought perish eternally, then the atonement is not itself efficacious. It is this alternative that the proponents of universal atonement must face. They have a “limited” atonement and limited in respect of that which impinges upon its essential character. We shall have none of it. The doctrine of “limited atonement” which we maintain is the doctrine which limits the atonement to those who are heirs of eternal life, to the elect. That limitation insures its efficacy and conserves its essential character as efficient and effective redemption…

The atonement is efficacious substitution.

(John Murray, Redemption: Accomplished and Applied, emphasis added)

Limited Atonement and Evangelism

I’ve been invited to lecture tonight to a group of college students on limited atonement. It’s really amazing and very encouraging to see this interest on the part of young people to know more about reformed theology on their own initiative.  Here are some excerpts from Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God:

We must not present the saving work of Christ apart from His Person. Evangelistic preachers and personal workers have sometimes been known to make this mistake. In their concern to focus attention on the atoning death of Christ, as the sole sufficient ground on which sinners may be accepted with God, they have expounded the summons to saving faith in these terms: ‘Believe that Christ died for your sins’… [But what] the New Testament calls for is faith in (en) or into (eis) or upon (epi) Christ Himself – the placing of our trust in the living Saviour, who died for sins. The object of saving faith is thus not, strictly speaking, the atonement, but the Lord Jesus Christ, who made atonement… [The] persons to whom the benefits of Christ’s death belong are just those who trust His Person, and believe, not upon his saving death simply, but upon Him, the living Saviour. ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,’ said Paul. ‘Come unto me . . . and I will give you rest, said our Lord….

[The] question about the extent of the atonement . . . has no bearing on the content of the evangelistic message at this particular point… For preaching the gospel . . . means inviting sinners to come to Jesus Christ, the living Saviour, who, by virtue of his atoning death, is able to forgive and save all those who put their trust in Him. What has to be said about the cross when preaching the gospel is simply that Christ’s death is the ground on which Christ’s forgiveness is given. And this is all that has to be said. The question of the designed extent of the atonement does not come into the story at all.

The fact is that the New Testament never calls on any man to repent on the ground that Christ died specifically and particularly for him. The basis on which the New Testament invites sinners to put faith in Christ is simply that they need Him, and that He offers Himself to them, and that those who received him are promised all the benefits that His death secured for His people. What is universal and all-inclusive in the New Testament is the invitation to faith, and the promise of salvation to all who believe…

… The gospel is, ‘believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for sins, and now offers you Himself as your Saviour.’ This is the message which we are to take to the world. We have no business to ask them to put faith in any view of the extent of the atonement; our job is to point them to the living Christ, and summon them to trust in Him.”

The New Calvinism

There seems to be a resurgence of interest in Calvinism in the USA. I think it has reached even the Philippines and Bacolod City. Many young Christians I know are familiar with John Piper and John MacArthur. DYVS airs messages by both Piper and MacArthur and other Reformed preachers such as Alister Begg. As far as I know Jurem Ramos seems to be the most notable Reformed preacher we have in the Philippines. Click HERE to read about the New Calvinism.