Thursday, December 13, 2012

Hark! The Herald Christians Sing

Go on up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”
Isaiah 40:9

Christmas caroling is arguably the greatest of the Christmas traditions, and, regrettably, one of the least practiced. In the last two years we have gone caroling several times in December, usually on which seem to be the coldest nights of the month. In fact, we went caroling within a week of moving to Colorado. The way we have done it follows a pretty basic procedure. One family usually hosts it, and everyone invited meets at their house. We then go out, either in hay-ride fashion or in cars, going to neighboring houses (the houses are usually too far apart to walk from house to house, especially in the cold and wind). At each house we sing two or so carols, the amount usually depending on how cold the inhabitants are getting standing at the door. Some standards we usually sing are "Joy to the World," "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen," "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," and "Silent Night." We usually leave singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," singing the figgy pudding verses after we get out of ear shot. 

This tradition seems to be in everyone's consciousness. Everyone "knows" that this is supposed to happen, at least in the movies or the books. But yet few people actually do it. This is probably because our culture emphasizes listening to music more than singing it, and the Christian music that most people sing would require a moveable rock band to go door to door. But I digress...

What other tradition can you think of that has real people singing to their real neighbors solid and robust hymns of the victory and authority of Jesus Christ? When else do even unbelievers welcome the sight of people singing,
"Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing"
What a light this is among the hopeless, dark, depersonalized, lonely, and lost world we live in! How different this is from the groups of little zombies and firefighters looking for candy! How great a contrast to the earbud culture of individualistic escapism! And these carols are not only some of the most victorious and hope-filled hymns we have, but are also usually 150-250 years old, with rich harmonies and flow, some even going back to Medieval times. They have been pressed into the fading conscienceness of Christendom and it's high time we let people know that their beauty and hope is as true as ever. Let us proclaim the praises of our God who took on flesh, the Savior of the nations, the Light to the Gentiles, Jesus the Christ.

I sit here typing this at our kitchen counter waiting for the return of the carolers. Several families from church in the Elizabeth area are driving around, caroling for each others' neighbors in a long train of vans. They will end up here and this house will be full of joyous commotion. I had to stay home this time because my recent cold took out my singing voice for today. I sit here remembering that the colds and flus that frequent this time of year give us even more reason to celebrate and proclaim our Savior's birth. Our sicknesses are part of the curse that came upon our world because of our sin, but Christ came as the Lord who healed the sick. Indeed,
"No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found."
He took on our nature, kept the law for us, died on the cross for our sin, and then rose to new life, therefore death and sickness will not win! We are the ones with hope. The ungodly are those who are imprisoned by sin and death. They get sick and don't have a substantial reason why getting better is better. Let us not keep this hope to ourselves. Get out there and sing!

Good Christian men, rejoice, with heart and soul and voice;
Give ye heed to what we say: News! News! Jesus Christ is born today;
Ox and ass before Him bow; and He is in the manger now.
Christ is born today! Christ is born today!

Good Christian men, rejoice, with heart and soul and voice;
Now ye hear of endless bliss: Joy! Joy! Jesus Christ was born for this!
He has opened the heavenly door, and man is blest forevermore.
Christ was born for this! Christ was born for this!

Good Christian men, rejoice, with heart and soul and voice;
Now ye need not fear the grave: Peace! Peace! Jesus Christ was born to save!
Calls you one and calls you all, to gain His everlasting hall.
Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save!

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Joy of the Light

See the house of days gone by, decked out in greenery fine 
The cold, sharp wind about it rolls with specks of glimmer and shine 
Outside is quiet, only the wind, and trees that are moved to and fro’ 
Stir gently the stillness that lays all around the valley now covered in snow 

Inside there is merriment, laughter, and joy–the sound of the fiddle and flute– 
The lads and the lasses are dancing a jig, their tongues and feet are not mute 
The companions of work, of worship and thought, they now enjoy what they’ve won 
Relationships firm, founded on time, now exalted through music and fun 

Oh praise the Lord Christ! He re-made us to show this joyful and most loving way 
Who, when we were in darkness, came as the Light and delivered us unto His day 
Though days be dark, sharp, windy, and cold, we dare not submit to their gloom! 
We strike up a tune and go gallantly forth, proclaiming Him ris’n from the tomb! 

Thus the darkest of days 
Will submit to this praise 
And become the sunrise of morn! 

The darkness takes flight 
This day, our delight! 
For Christ the world’s Savior is born!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Guilt

Guilt is a universal problem of mankind. Except for the grace of God, man is in rebellion to God and cannot completely escape His wrath. Everything man does and everywhere man goes he runs into God's creation and providence. The question for man is how he will deal with his guilt.

Various cultures and religions have dealt with the problem in diverse ways. Some try imputing the guilt of sin to other men, creatures, the environment, and evolutionary processes. Some try to atone for the guilt of sin themselves by self-mutilation, asceticism, suicide, and the like. Some try to atone for the sin by good works. Some try penance to priests. Some try to atone for sin by action, apology, and education by the state. Some try to ignore it and distract themselves with materialism. Still others try to escape the reality of guilt and God's world through fantasy, virtual worlds, computer games, certain music, etc... Many people try combinations of the above attempts, and there are no doubt many others, but through all of these human attempts the guilt remains. Man cannot free himself from his sin and is miserable. Stress and hopelessness eventually prevail, with good reason, for real future judgement awaits.

True life, both in time and eternity, can only be received when we have our guilt taken away and we are reunited with our Creator God. Thus, by ourselves we are doomed to death. But thanks be to God! He is gracious and sent His Son, Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully man, to take His people's sins upon Himself. He gave Himself as the only, perfect, and complete sacrifice for us and our guilt. By faith in Him we received this forgiveness and true life to the fullness. No longer are we consumed in atoning for our sins. No more do we have reason to be stressed or hopeless. Instead we believe in Christ's work for us and live a life of joy, peace, and righteousness in the Holy Spirit, a life filled with purpose and meaning.

It is true that trials may come and our doubts may arise, but not only may we rely on the Holy Spirit's power to overcome by our faith, but God has also given us help through one another. If you are cast down or doubting, confess to and pray for one another (James 5:16) and use the gifts of the body of Christ.

"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God." -Romans 5:1-2

"Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." -Hebrews 10:19-25

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Deadly Fruit of Darwinism

The following quote is taken from Robert L. Dabney's article, "The Influence of False Philosophies Upon Character and Conduct" (1896):
"The old saw, "Extremes meet," was never truer than it is of pantheism and atheism. The latter says: 'There is no God at all'; the former: 'Everything is God.' But the moral results of both are closely akin. In this, my indictment includes genuine Darwinism; for there is now no doubt that Dr. Darwin, like his most consistent pupils, Haeckel, Buchner, etc., believed that the doctrine ought to exclude both spirit and God. Their logic is consistent; for if all teleology is banished out of nature, and if that in man which thinks, feels, and wills is but an evolution of brute impulses, inherent in sensorial matter, there is no spiritual substance. We must have materialistic monism. Then every moral restraint arising out of the expectation of future responsibility, rewards, and punishments, is utterly swept away. Why should men conclude anything but. "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die?" To borrow Carlyle's rough phrasing: 'If mine is a pig's destiny, why may I not hold this 'pig philosophy'?' Again, if I am but an animal refined by evolution, I am entitled to live an animal life. Why not? The leaders in this and the sensualistic philosophy may themselves be restrained by their habits of mental culture, social discretion and personal refinement (for which they are indebted to reflex Christian influences); but the herd of common mortals are not cultured and refined, and in them the doctrine will bear its deadly fruit."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Faith and Good Works

I have been reading through The Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin for the second time and just finished the third chapter of the third book, which especially is excellent. It is entitled, "Regeneration By Faith. Of Repentance." Here is one quote from it,

"...for repentance being properly understood it will better appear how a man is justified freely by faith alone, and yet that holiness of life, real holiness, as it is called, is inseparable from the free imputation of righteousness, viz. that we are not without good works, and yet that we are accounted righteous without works." (3.3.1)

In other words, we are justified by faith alone, which faith is not alone in the person justified. This is basic to life in Christ's kingdom. Without justification by faith alone, we have no peace or joy. Without holiness of life coming with that faith, we have no righteousness. 

"For the kingdom of God is…a matter…of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." ~Romans 14:17

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Importance of the Visible Church

The organized, visible Church is looked down upon by most people today. Especially in America, individualism has infiltrated our thinking, and the Church has suffered for it. While this is not a new problem for us, recent years have seen a greater move from fracturing the Church to simply leaving it. The younger generations especially are seeing the hypocrisy of the Church and want nothing to do with it. It is considered a burden and a waste of time. In some respects they are right. The Church is in a sad state today. Nevertheless, it is not going to get any better by our abandoning of it. The Bible puts a great deal of importance upon the Church, including its visible aspects, and must have its reasons for doing so. When we see it for what it truly is, it is clear that the visible Church is vitally important and should be enthusiastically embraced by the believer.

The Church is not a voluntary society created by men but is created and maintained by Christ its Head. As the Head of the Church, Christ organizes and directs its workings. He sets up its government in His word, and it cannot operate apart from His commands; it is subject to Christ in everything (Eph. 5:23-24). The place of the Church cannot be taken by any other institution, but it has been given certain authority that it wields on behalf of its Head. Moreover, Christ not only organizes the Church, but also gives it life and ability. As Paul explains,
“we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:15-16).
This body which is mentioned here is visible, with pastors and baptism (Eph. 4:5, 11). It is Christ that gives His Spirit to His people so that they may believe in Him and minister to one another. This union that the Church has with Christ is not merely theoretical, but real and living. “An organic and Spirit-produced relationship exists between Christ and His Church, more intimate than that of a husband and wife, and more complete than that of the head and the body” (Morecraft, 382). How dare we think lightly of the Church when Christ nourishes it with this special care? If we are to be built up in love, we must be in the Church, because the Church is where Christ gives life and growth.

Not only is Christ the Head of the Church, but the Church is His body. If we have union with our Head, we must have communion with His body. We are renewed by Christ into this communion. Our gifts, which are given by the one Holy Spirit, are meant for the body. They have little or no use besides. As a church we are “the body of Christ” and are each “individually members of it” (1 Cor. 12:27). We all need one another. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you’” (1 Cor. 12:21). These gifts covers all sorts of needs, spiritual and material. To abandon this body of visible believers is an amputation of Christ’s body. Instead we ought to use the gifts that Christ has purchased for us by His humiliation and ascension (Eph. 4:8-9). When we use what Christ has given us in the Church, then the body will be “joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped” (Eph. 4:16). It is when we are equipped by the gifts of the visible leadership that Christ has ordained in the Church, that we will “attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:12-13).

This visible leadership of the Church is instituted by God with real authority and power. The elders of the church have a duty to teach and preach the Word and guard it from falsehood. We are not left completely to ourselves to learn God’s Word, but have been given the ministry of the Church to teach us. Right after describing the officers of the Church, Paul declares that the Church is “a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). He also exhorts Titus to “teach what accords with sound doctrine” and to “exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you” (Titus 2:1, 15). The elders of the Church in council also have valuable authority. In Acts 15 the Jerusalem council takes up a problem and renders a decision, one that was reached by the council and “the Holy Spirit” and lays down a “burden” upon the Church. The preaching of the Church is also vital. It is in the preaching of those sent by Christ for that purpose that Christ is heard (Rom. 10:14-16). Preaching is the “power of God” to those who are being saved, and God is pleased to save those who believe through preaching (1 Cor. 1:18, 21). Christ calls specific men to preach His Word. He started with the Apostles (Mark 3:14, 2 Tim. 1:11), and continues to call preachers for, and by, His Church in our time (1 Tim. 4:11-16, 2 Tim. 1:6, 2:2). While the individual Christian does benefit much from his own study of Scripture, he ought not ignore God’s ordained preachers and teachers of His Word, through whom God works in His people.

The elders of the Church also have authority concerning the sacraments of the Church. The Church’s mission of discipleship is not only accomplished by teaching, but also by baptizing (Matt. 28:19). This Christ-ordained baptism is very connected to the visible aspect of the Church because we are baptized into a body of visible believers (1 Cor. 12:12). When Peter says in Acts 2:38, “Repent and be baptized every one of you...and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” we not only see that baptism is commanded, but also that baptism is connected with this “gift of the Holy Spirit.” As we have discussed above, the Spirit unifies us to Christ and His redemption and thus also to Christ’s people, His Church. Thus the close connection between “one body and one Spirit” and “one baptism” (Eph. 4:4-5). And not only is baptism a bond of union with Christ and His Church, but the Lord’s Supper is as well.
“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor. 10:16-17).
Our communion with Christ in the Lord’s Supper is affected by our relations with others in the Church (1 Cor. 11:17-34). Thus the Church has a duty to guard the Lord’s Supper against those who would corrupt the Church. If a church does not judge and purge the evil person from itself and its communion, Christ will judge that church (1 Cor. 5, 11:31-32). The Church has authority from Christ to define the membership of Christ’s body, out of which there is no ordinary forgiveness (Matt. 16:19, 18:17-20, John 20:21-23). And to voluntarily seek Christ apart from His visible people and communion is to excommunicate one’s self. As The Catechism of the Church of Geneva says concerning the sacraments of the Church,
“M. Were any one to despise the use of them, in what light should it be regarded? S. As an indirect denial of Christ. Assuredly such a person, inasmuch as he deigns not to confess himself a Christian, deserves not to be classed among Christians” (Q. 363). 

With this discussion of the importance of the Church it is easy to become too inwardly focused. The Church is not important merely for the sake of Church members, but also for the sake of the world. Its visible purity and unity is not only for avoiding the judgement of Christ, but also so that it might be a bright light to the world. Christ prayed to the Father that those who believe in Him may be one “so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20). Because Christ is the light for the Gentiles (Luke 2:32), so also is His people, that they “may bring salvation to the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47). As prophesied in Isaiah 2:1-5, the nations will learn the ways and law of the Lord from the Church and will walk by its light (Rev. 21:24). From the Church we will see “the whole Word of God going out as the universal principle of righteousness, encouraging prosperity and peace in the world” (Gentry, Lecture 5). While we each ought to faithfully serve God and bear witness to the gospel, we do that as individuals and families who are members of the Church and who bear good witness, in part, by loving one another as the Church.

When considering the “Great Commission” of Matthew 28:18-20 we ought to pay attention to the thing upon which Christ bases the commission: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore...” In Christ’s resurrection and ascension, the Father “put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church” (Eph. 1:22). All things, then, are subservient to Christ and His purposes. He cares for His Church and directs all things for its good and the good of its members. His enemies and the enemies of His Church shall be shattered (Ps. 2, 110). It is the Church that Christ said He would build and “the gates of hell shall not prevail against” (Matt. 16:18). This is also how Christ ends the Great Commission, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). Because Christ has all authority, and because He will not abandon us, we may work in hope of victory for Christ and His Church and Kingdom. “With the power and authority of Christ the King behind the command, and with the outcome resting in His hands, ultimate failure is not possible” (Mathison, 116). Why would one not embrace the Church when Christ’s universal authority over the world is for its sake and victory?

The Church in its visible manifestation is dear to the believer. As 1 John 4:20 points out, how can any man love God whom he has not seen if he does not love his brother whom he has seen? It cannot be. Because we love Christ, we love the Church He died for. We love the Church because it is Christ’s body. We love the Church because it is where Christ has established His Word and sacraments, by which, through the Spirit’s work, we are bound tightly to Him and His people. We love the Church because we understand that its purpose is beyond itself. It seeks the dominion of Christ’s Kingdom in all areas of life, in all the world, and in this mission Christ promises protection and victory. As John Calvin said concerning the “visible church,”
“let us learn, from her single title of Mother, how useful, nay, how necessary the knowledge of her is, since there is no other means of entering into life unless she conceive us in the womb and give us birth, unless she nourish us at her breasts, and, in short, keep us under her charge and government, until, divested of mortal flesh, we become like the angels” (Institutes, 674).
Thus may we live in constant union with Christ and His Church, always seeking the Church’s good and building up one another in love. May we hold on to one another with tenacity and fervor. May we ever submit to one another, not letting difficulties and trials separate us, but ever growing up together in Christ.

---------

Calvin, John The Catechism of the Church of Geneva. http://www.reformed.org/documents/calvin/geneva_catachism/geneva_catachism.html
Calvin, John Institutes of the Christian Religion. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2008.
Gentry, Dr. Kenneth. “Lecture 05” SYS 106 Christian Doctrine III. Lakeland, FL: Whitefield,
2008.
Mathison, Keith A. Postmillennialism. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 1999.
Morecraft, Dr. Joseph C. Authentic Christianity, Vol. 2. Powder Springs, GA: Minkoff Family; American Vision, 2009.
The Holy Bible (ESV). Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

David Balfour

To my knowledge Robert Louis Stevenson was an apostate who left his solid Christian upbringing, but in some of his writings his good upbringing came out. The following passage is from his book, David Balfour, the sequel to Kidnapped. It's been a little while since I've read it, but this passage has stuck out to me as a good reminder of the responsibilities of life that one must learn to embrace. In the story, David Balfour, age 17 and in danger of execution for reputed treason, is contemplating marrying a certain girl, but then thinks thus,
"I wondered at myself that I could dwell on such considerations in that time of my peril and disgrace; and when I remembered my youth I was ashamed. I had my studies to complete; I had to be called into some useful business; I had yet to take my part of service in a place where all must serve; I had yet to learn, and know, and prove myself a man; and I had so much sense as blush that I should be already tempted with these further-on and holier delights and duties. My education spoke home to me sharply; I was never brought up on sugar biscuits but on the hard food of the truth. I knew that he was quite unfit to be a husband who was not prepared to be a father also; and for a boy like me to play the father was a mere derision." (p. 72)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

John Owen on God's Relation to Rulers and Kingdoms

"If once it comes to that, that you shall say you have nothing to do with religion as rulers of the nation, God will quickly manifest that he hath nothing to do with you as rulers of the nation....The rejection of the gospel by any people or nation to whom it is tendered, is always attended with the certain and inevitable destruction of that people or nation; which, sooner or later, shall, without any help or deliverance, be brought upon them by the revenging hand of Christ...Hence, when Christ is tendered in the gospel, the judges and rulers of the nations are exhorted to obedience to him, upon pain of being destroyed upon the refusal thereof, Ps. ii. 12. And we have the experience of all ages, ever since the day that the gospel began to be propagated in the world. The quarrel of it was revenged on the Jews by the Romans, — upon the Romans by the Goths, Vandals, and innumerable barbarous nations; and the vengeance due to the anti-Christian world is at hand, even at the door. The Lord will certainly make good his promise to the utmost, that the kingdom and nations which will not serve the church, even that kingdom and those nations shall utterly perish, Isa. lx. 12."

-John Owen 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Puritanism and Music

Something I read recently that I found to be very good is an article in The Journal for Christian Reconstruction - Volume 6 - Number 2 titled "Puritanism and Music." You can read it online here: http://chalcedon.edu/research/publications/the-journal-for-christian-reconstruction-volume-6-number-2/ (it is on page 139). It goes through the history of the Puritans' view and practice of, and contribution to, music and art in general (including dance), and worship music specifically. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Benjamin Franklin On the Age of the Earth

Here is something interesting concerning the the age of the earth. This is taken from the title page for the first issue of Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanack:

An
ALMANACK
For the Year of Christ
1733, 

Being the First After LEAP YEAR 
And makes since the Creation 

By the Account of the Eastern Greeks   7241 Years
By the Latin Church                              6932 Years
By the Computation of W.W.                5742 Years
By the Roman Chronology                    5682 Years
By the Jewish Rabbies                           5494 Years

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Kingship of Christ

Jesus Christ has been viewed in many ways over the centuries. His redemptive work has been known among men since man’s fall into sin, and since the days of Calvin it has been customary to speak of the offices of Christ as mediator as prophet, priest, and king. Different men and theological traditions have often emphasized different offices, and modern evangelicalism often emphasizes the priestly role of Christ. While each has great importance, and while they all do work together, the kingship of Christ is often only given lip-service or wrongly conceived. Jesus Christ is king, and His kingship, when rightly conceived, is a great encouragement and motivation for believers.

When we speak of Christ’s kingship we do not mean His dominion from all eternity that He has as God, but we mean His kingship that He has as mediator. From eternity God has covenantally planned salvation for His people, each member of the Trinity working in a different way. Part of this eternal plan of salvation is that Jesus is promised a kingdom by the Father for the salvation of His people. This kingdom of Christ has been prepared for us from the foundation of the world (Matt. 25:34) and has been assigned to Christ by the Father so that Christ might assign it to us (Luke 22:29). While His kingship was typified and prophesied in the Old Testament, it is specifically granted to Him by the Father as part of His exaltation after His accomplishment of redemption for us on earth (Phil. 2:8-11, Matt. 28:18, Rev. 5). Because this kingdom is founded in God’s promise to His Son (Ps. 2) it is not an earthly kingdom. This kingdom does not originate with earthly rulers or the like; it is “not of this world” (John 18:36). Instead it is the kingdom belonging to Heaven, to God, to Christ.

Christ has been given this kingdom for His people’s sake. Christ’s priestly work is closely related to His kingly work. As priest He accomplishes redemption by atoning for our sins and fulfilling the requirements of the law for us. As king He is reconciling all things to Himself by subjecting everything under Him, by judging the wicked and applying salvation in its fullness to His people (Ps. 110, Col. 1:20, 1 Cor. 15:20-28). Atonement for sin is not an end in itself, but because of Man’s sin it is necessary for man’s restoration in Christ to His creational role under God. Thus His atonement is done with the purpose of creating us anew in Christ Jesus for the purpose of “good works” (Eph. 2:10). In Daniel 7 an awesome picture is given where the Ancient of Days is in judgement over the kingdoms of men and the Son of Man comes and receives from Him a kingdom which the saints possess, and in which they are justified. This kingdom is given to the Son so that “all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him” (Dan. 7:14, emphasis added). In other words, "The goal of atonement, of redemption, is the rule of God over a kingdom wholly subject to the law of the covenant, and joyfully so....Without the dimension of law, life is denied the meaning and purpose of re-birth." (Rushdoony, 73)

The way Jesus Christ administers His kingdom is powerful and effective. He starts on the inside by subduing our hearts by the Holy Spirit. In this manner we are born again and lovingly submit our whole persons to the will of God. This happens definitively and progressively in life as the Spirit regenerates us and sanctifies us by His sword, the Word of God (Eph. 6:17). Those who have not been born of the Spirit cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5). By this authority He bestows saving grace upon His people (Acts 5:31). In response to the salvation that the Spirit applies to us, and by His power, we love God and manifest our new nature. Thus the kingdom is said to be what the Spirit manifests in us, i.e. “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). Christ also governs His kingdom by exercising His universal authority by chastening and defending His people and judging His and our enemies. All people must side with or against Christ’s kingdom and there are awesome consequences enforced by Christ attending this alinement, both in history and in the final, eternal judgement. Those who remain in rebellion against Christ will be broken with a rod of iron, but those who serve the LORD with fear and take refuge in Christ will be blessed (Ps. 2).

Christ’s kingly rule is rooted in the hearts of believers, but it is by no means limited to it. The visible church is very important to the kingdom. The leaders of the church have been given the “keys of the kingdom” to rule the visible church, and by them Christ visibly rules His people (Matt. 16:19, see also Matt. 18:15-20). The church is the visible organization of His kingdom as it is His people gathered, renewed, and unified in the Spirit, and as the Spirit builds it up in giving it various gifts for the mutual upbuilding of the whole (1 Cor. 12), including church government (Eph. 4:1-16). The kingdom also extends beyond the church and is the “new condition of things which results from the application of the principles of the kingdom of God” (Manual, 207). In 1 Corinthians 15 it is said that all things will be subjected to Christ the King. This includes nations, cultures, kings, economics, etc. In short, all of life will be subjected to Christ and His law (Matt. 28:18-20). “The Kingdom may be said to be a broader concept than the Church, because it aims at nothing less than the complete control of all the manifestations of life. It represents the dominion of God in every sphere of human endeavor" (Systematic Theology, 570). To live otherwise, in any endeavor, is to live that much in rebellion to Christ.

This doctrine of Christ’s kingship has great import concerning the nature of the gospel. When we believe in Christ and His redemptive work for us, we then believe in Him as Lord and King. “Unconditional surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ is of the essence of saving faith” (Morecraft, 164-165). It is when we believe in the “Lord Jesus” and that “Jesus is Lord” that we “shall be saved” (Acts 16:31, Rom. 10:9). To have faith in Jesus but not to submit to Him in good works is to have a dead faith (James 2:17). “The Biblical concept of saving faith has the basic ingredient of a disposition to obey Jesus” (Morecraft, 166). Thus our lives are lived by this faith in King Jesus in loving submission to His law. This gives meaning to everything we do and creates a constant dependance upon Christ’s redemptive power for our lives. This means that the gospel will exercise great effect upon societies as the kingdom grows like leaven in the lump (Matt. 13:33). Our great commission given to us by Christ, based on Christ’s kingly authority over all, is that we might disciple all nations, teaching them to submit to His commands (Matt. 28:18-20). We are called to manifest Christ’s reign in our civilizations and cultures as we bring all things in submission to the Lord. If our kings, nations, and cultures submit to Christ they will be blessed, otherwise they will be obliterated.

This brings us to the consideration of the kingdom’s growth on earth. Since this kingdom is Christ’s and since He governs all things, blessing His kingdom and judging His enemies, this kingdom “is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:14). Like the rock in Daniel 2, the kingdom will shatter the kingdoms of man and will fill the earth. Like the field in Matthew 13 the world will become the kingdom (Matt. 13:38, 41). This gives us great hope amid the wickedness of our day. Although we know that we are engaged in a conflict and that we will always have “weeds” who will rebel against the Lord’s Anointed, we can work in the confidence that Christ is on our side and will give us the victory. His enemies will be defeated in history and eternity and we who serve the Lord in faith will be blessed now and forever. This ought to give us great boldness. Christ has all that we need and will never abandon us. We ought to go forth and preach His Word, knowing that this is what His subjects are called to do and that the success of our labors is in Christ’s hand.

To ignore or minimize Christ’s kingship is to minimize the gospel. This is not a dry doctrine but is one from which “faith derives manifold advantages” (Calvin, 336). It gives us confidence in a secure eternal salvation. By it faith discerns Christ’s power, “on which depend our strength, might, resources, and triumph over hell” (Calvin, 336). Seeing that we have so great a king and protector we can fear none but Him and follow Him against the very gates of Hell. No earthly power can overcome our king. Because of our union with our king, we reign with Him (Rev 5:10). Whether our enemies be our sinful flesh, the world, or Satan, they are being defeated by our king and by us (Gal. 5:24, 1 John 5:4, Rom. 16:20). We may thus continue to pray that God’s kingdom would continue to come to earth in its fullness and that His glory would shine throughout the earth in the work of His saints. We may continue to look forward to the great consummation of the kingdom at the end of time when the kingdom will be purified and God will be all in all.

-----

Berkhof, Louis Manual of Christian Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1933.
Berkhof, Louis Systematic Theology. Edinburgh, UK, Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1958. 
Calvin, John Institutes of the Christian Religion. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2008.
Morecraft, Dr. Joseph C. Authentic Christianity, Powder Springs, GA: Minkoff Family;
American Vision, 2009.
Rushdoony, Rousas John The Institutes of Biblical Law. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and
Reformed Publishing, 1973.
The Holy Bible (ESV). Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

John Calvin on Christ's Kingdom

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion (Book 2, Chapter 16, Section 16) John Calvin lays out the nature of Christ's kingdom in his discussion of Christ's ascension into Heaven and sitting at the right hand of God the Father. Not only does he explain it, but he does because "from this doctrine faith derives manifold advantages." The three aspects he teaches that faith perceives in Christ's kingship are the following.

"First, it perceives that the Lord, by his ascension to heaven, has opened up the access to the heavenly kingdom, which Adam had shut. For having entered it in our flesh, as it were in our name, it follows, as the Apostle says, that we are in a manner now seated in heavenly places, not entertaining a mere hope of heaven, but possessing it in our head." His exaltation and glorification shows the accomplishment of redemption, and because of our covenantal connection to Jesus, our salvation is already accomplished. We possess the kingdom of heaven now.

Secondly, faith perceives that his present reign is with great advantage to us in our relationship with God. He "constantly appears as our advocate and intercessor in the presence of the Father; directs attention to his own righteousness, so as to turn it away from our sins; so reconciles him to us, as by his intercession to pave for us a way of access to his throne." This seems to me more like His priestly role, but it is good to note that His work as king is to redeem His kingdom and reconcile it to God. In His current reign at the right hand of the Father He not only is king, but prophet and priest as well, and these offices coordinate with one another.

Thirdly, faith discerns Christ's present power, "on which depend our strength, might, resources, and triumph over hell, 'When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive,' (Eph. 4:8)." There are two parts to this aspect of Christ's reign. First is His reign in believers by His Spirit, "Spoiling his foes, he gave gifts to his people, and daily loads them with spiritual riches. He thus occupies his exalted seat, that thence transferring his virtue unto us, he may quicken us to spiritual life, sanctify us by his Spirit, and adorn his Church with various graces" It is this aspect that Romans 14:17 speaks of when it says that the kingdom of God is a matter of "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." Wherever this new life in the Spirit is present, Christ's kingdom is manifest. This includes not only the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-26), but also gifts of the Spirit such as church leadership (Eph. 4:11). Second is His reign over all for the sake of His church, where he does "by his protection preserve it [the Church] safe from all harm, and by the strength of his hand curb the enemies raging against his cross and our salvation." All things are under Christ's feet, He has all authority in heaven and earth, and He guides the course of history in chastening and defending His people and judging His and our enemies (Eph. 1:22; Matt. 28:18-20; Psalm 2, 110; 1 Cor. 15:24-28).

Thus Calvin says, "Such is the true nature of the kingdom, such the power which the Father has conferred upon him, until he arrive to complete the last act by judging the quick and the dead." Praise God! 

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Biblical Case Against Abortion

A little while back I posted some quotes from several early church fathers where they clearly condemned abortion. I also expounded on one of those quotes on my food blog. Here I want to make the biblical case against abortion.

While the Bible does not explicitly deal with abortion, it does condemn the murder of human people and recognizes unborn children as such, seeing continuity between before and after birth.

1. The Bible condemns murder, and does so because man is made in the image of God:

"You shall not murder."
(Exodus 20:13)

"Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image."
(Genesis 9:6)

2. The Bible presents unborn children as people having individual relationships with God (sometimes with personal faith), and with each other:

"...and Rebekah his wife conceived. The children struggled together within her, and she said, 'If it is thus, why is this happening to me?' So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her,
'Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
the older shall serve the younger.'
When her days to give birth were completed, behold, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau. Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding Esau's heel, so his name was called Jacob."
(Genesis 25:21b-26)

"On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother's womb you have been my God."
(Psalm 22:10)

"Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me."
(Psalm 51:5)

"Upon you I have leaned from before my birth;
you are he who took me from my mother's womb.
My praise is continually of you."
(Psalm 71:6)

"...he [John] will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb."
(Luke 1:15)

"And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit...'For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.'"
(Luke 1:41, 44)

3. Because unborn children are thus human persons with souls, the law of God provides legal protection of unborn children:

"When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman's husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe."
(Exodus 21:22-25)

In this passage even the non-intentional causing of a premature birth without injury involved is punished with a fine. If there is injury caused, then there should be civil punishment fitting to the damage (life for life, etc...). Obviously the intentional practice of causing the death of the unborn child would be very strictly punished according to biblical law. (Some argue that the harm referred to is harm to the woman and that a miscarriage is being discussed. But the word for miscarriage is not used here, nor do the words used indicate such a meaning, and the harm is not specified to the woman, but harm to either woman or child seems to be meant. But even if they are right, the passage still shows that in an accidental case of causing miscarriage (i.e. manslaughter) there is a fine. If it was an intentional causing of the death of the unborn child, more than a fine would be expected as the civil penalty.)

4. Other considerations include:

God makes and cares for the unborn baby in a personal way (e.g. Psalms 139:13-16).

The person of Jesus Christ took on human nature (added to his person) and lived His human life from conception onwards (Matthew 1:18-23, Luke 1:31-35).


Thus, the unborn child is a human person, and the child being unborn does not exempt the intentional killing of the unborn child from being murder, which is contrary to God's law and is sin. It should be resisted by individuals, families, churches, and civil governments, with their proper authority, lest our land continue to be defiled by this sin.

5. One more point. Killing children, born and unborn, is not only a sin, but a judgement upon a people:

"Samaria shall bear her guilt,
because she has rebelled against her God;
they shall fall by the sword;
their little ones shall be dashed in pieces,
and their pregnant women ripped open."
(Hosea 13:16)

See also: Deuteronomy 28:53-57, Isaiah 13:16, Nahum 3:10, Psalm 137:8-9

Thus, not only ought we to oppose abortion, but we also ought to repent of our sins, and of our nation's sins, relying on God's grace and salvation.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Coming of Christ and History

(Reflections on last Lord's Day sermon at our church)

The people who walked in darkness 
 have seen a great light; 
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, 
on them has light shone 
You have multiplied the nation; 
you have increased its joy; 
they rejoice before you 
as with joy at the harvest, 
as they are glad when they divide the spoil... 
For to us a child is born, 
to us a son is given; 
and the government shall be upon his shoulder, 
and his name shall be called 
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, 
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 
Of the increase of his government and of peace 
there will be no end, 
on the throne of David and over his kingdom, 
to establish it and to uphold it 
with justice and with righteousness 
from this time forth and forevermore. 
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. 
(Isaiah 9:2-3, 6-7) 

There are certain similarities between different parts of history because it is still the same world, governed by the same God, but something happened that fundamentally changed the flow of history. This change was the coming of Christ.

Before Christ, the nations walked in the "times of ignorance" (Acts 17:30) and Israel struggled constantly in their tiny corner of the world to maintain some semblance of godliness for a few years before going into the next round of judgement. The Holy Spirit had not been poured out in abundance and it was pretty dark. All sorts of pagan practices were common, even among the "civilized" Greek and Romans, and sometimes even among the Israelites.

But when Christ came, with His life, death, and resurrection, He established His kingdom. Notice we call the time after Christ "A.D.," Anno Domini (In the year of our Lord), not simply "after Christ." These years after Christ belong to Him in a special way: they are the years of His reign. In the verses above, along with the many rich prophecies in the Bible, we see that with the coming of Christ comes a fundamental change in the course of history. No longer will the people walk in darkness. From this time of Christ's coming, His kingdom of justice, righteousness, peace, and joy will be established (sound like Romans 14:17?). It is certain because the zeal of the LORD has purposed this. No one else can establish this kind of a kingdom. Attempts to do this without God (i.e. United Nations) are doomed to fail.

There are some things that happened in the times of ignorance that simply will not happen again because Christ's kingdom is on the move and the world is being saved by Him (John 3:17). Never again will the world be the same. We have already been immensely influenced by the Gospel as it has spread throughout the world. While there might be an occasional report of human sacrifice today, there are no Aztec temples covered in the blood of the masses. While we have our political troubles, we are doing better than the chosen people of ancient Israel did! At least our leaders aren't putting their children into the fire. Books have been written trying to chronicle the amazing influence Christianity and the Bible have had on the world, such as one I am reading now, The Book That Made Your World by Vishal Mangalwadi. As the Bible comes to the nations, those nations are being discipled. Scenarios like The Hunger Games don't seem to take into account that Christ is on the throne, and to think that He would allow such scenarios shows a lack of faith. There might be very tough times ahead, full of battles and persecutions, but there will always be hope of Christ's victory present.

This kingdom will not only endure through all ages, but its increase will have no end. It will not stop growing. Not even today! While we don't know everything about the future, we know that Greece and Rome are dead, Hitler is dead, Darwin and Marx are dying, and the world is observing the bankruptcy of rebellion against God and the death it produces. Nietzsche does not rule the world. Jesus does, and His zeal will continue to increase His kingdom. The future holds amazing things for us and I'm excited about it.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Strangers and Exiles on the Earth

Some would have us avoid involvement in events here on earth, except for "getting people saved" and perhaps doing stuff for the church. They say that everything else is not that important and does not need to be redeemed and restored to Biblical standards because we are supposed to be "strangers and exiles on the earth." That we are strangers and exiles is true. See Hebrews 11:13-16:
"These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city."
So yes, we look with great expectation to Heaven, but then look at what these strangers and exiles did on earth. Verses 33-34:
"...who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight."
Let us hold fast to our faith in God and His promises and conquer some kingdoms!


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Land Promise

And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God. ~Genesis 17:8

And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.
~Galatians 3:29

For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. ~Romans 4:13

The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
~Psalm 2:7-8

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. ~Matthew 5:5

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going...For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God....But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
~Hebrews 11:8,10,16

Did you all catch that? Christian will agree that God promised Abraham the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession, but then disagree about what that means today. Well, in Galatians 3:29 we see that if we are Christ's (those with faith, those who have been baptized, Gal. 3:26-27) then we are Abraham's offspring and heirs of the promises that God gave to Abraham (including the land). Then in Romans 4:13 we see that what was promised was not just Canaan, but the whole world (and is received by the "righteousness of faith"). There are many other verses that confirm this, such as Psalms 2:7-8, Matthew 5:5, etc... And finally we see in Hebrews 11:8,10,16 that it is not only a redeemed earth that we will inherit, but Heaven as well. 

There is so much more to this land promise of Gen. 17:8 than a little plot of land in Palestine! The whole earth is promised to us, and indeed Heaven is promised. Christ's Kingdom is filling the earth (Dan. 2:35), and truly has, and will have, "dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth!" (Ps. 72:8).

Friday, July 20, 2012

Singing in Family Worship

Taken from Thoughts on Family Worship (1847) by Pastor James W. Alexander,

"The use of psalmody in domestic worship, tends to the improvement of this part of divine service in public. We may push the art and exquisite harmony of choirs, or select companies, to any degree of advancement, however high, yet the great end will not be attained, until we secure the united voices of the whole congregation...We believe that the revival of psalmody in the house, would contribute to train voices for the sanctuary. In order to have this effect, it should not be left to take care of itself, or be executed in a careless, random way. Some pains should be taken to select suitable tunes, and to make every member of the household familiar with them...[T]he daily exercise itself is a school of music; and we have never known a family in which it was common, that did not attain to some excellence in this department....It would be a peculiar pleasure to the writer of these lines, if he could know that he had succeeded in bringing the vocal praise of God into the daily worship of even a single household...It is mournful to think, that a service which was so precious to our ancestors, and which they made sacrifices to enjoy, even when under the sword of persecution, should die out of many Christian families in these days of peace, when there is no lack of worldly rejoicings."


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Home Education

"Basic to the calling of every child is to be a member of a family. Virtually all children will some day become husbands and wives, and fathers or mothers. The statist school is destructive of this calling. Its attempts to meet the need are essentially external and mechanical, i.e., home economics courses, sex education, and the like. But the essential training for family life is family life and a family-oriented school and society. It means Biblical education. It means discipline, and training in godly relationships."

~ R.J. Rushdoony (from The Institutes of Biblical Law, page 184)


Friday, July 13, 2012

A Poem for Graduation

So I have now officially "graduated" from "high school" homeschool (as of June 30th). While there are more important milestones in life, this one being somewhat artificial, I am glad for the opportunity to take a look at where I have been and where I am going. Here is a poem that I wrote for the occasion trying to express some of my vision for my life. 

Beyond the Windy Plains 

Lo, beyond the windy plains with tumbleweeds and space 
There is a land that I call home, to me a special place
'Tis not because of fame or wealth that its call I still hear 
But 'tis because its need and strife I feel a falling tear 

There are many lands both far and wide that give a lonesome call 
This land is not the only one that feels the dreadful Fall
But I am one, I cannot do but this to serve God now
Than one man's work by His dear grace, in finite space to plow 

But who am I, that I do think to do so great a work?
I am but a poor sinner, weak, and dangers 'round me lurk 
What if in trying to do kind help, I think I stand, but fall? 
What if by trying to do great things I bring down greater gall? 

But is this life? to never do because the fear of sin? 
Should not I fear almighty God, and in His name begin? 
Ah, here is hope, for with this fear we see our faith's sound rest 
And with this faith we hold to God who leads us through the test 

So if I'm with God, and He with me, I shall not fear to plan 
To do a loving pastor's share in guiding erring man
To love my own dear family, to serve and lead and fight
For Christ's covenant and kingly crown, for honor and for right! 

I see around our dinner board, the olive plants and vine 
How happy see I these treasures dear, what blessed joy in mine! 
My Rose of Sharon brightly beams hospitable grace and duty 
With godly wisdom and her love, our house does shine with beauty 

And there the "simple" parish church, my beloved and my flock 
'Tis not simple to those that know, it's people reel and rock
I am no better, 'tis God will save her, through many a stormy sea 
She'll continue to rise, come back again and make the Devil flee 

And in the light of Christ's loved bride the peoples all will walk 
And our own county, city, street, will of Lord Jesus talk 
Whether friend or foe, man or fool, the wise or wicked one 
They all must face the news we bring, to stand before the Son 

This and more, my vision, dream, is what in faith I take 
For my calling and duty near, for this my goal I make 
Oh that God would wrought in us for Him a greater zeal, 
Love that comes from a pure heart, His Spirit as our seal! 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Happy Inconsistency

"The instrumentalities of the family are chosen and ordained of God as the most efficient of all means of grace—more truly and efficaciously means of saving grace than all the other ordinances of the church. To family piety are given the best promises of the gospel, under the new, as well as under the old dispensation. How, then, should a wise God do otherwise than consecrate the Christian family, and ordain that the believing parents shall sanctify the children? Hence, the very foundation of all parental fidelity to children's souls is to be laid in the conscientious, solemn, and hearty adoption of the very duties and promises which God seals in the covenant of infant baptism. It is pleasing to think that many Christians who refuse the sacrament do, with a happy inconsistency, embrace the duties and seek the blessing. But God gives all his people the truths and promises, along with the edifying seal. Let us hold fast to both."
~R.L. Dabney (from Parental Responsibilities, 1879)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Family in the Old Testament

The family is one of the most neglected pieces of modern society, even in much of modern Christianity. As much as people talk of “family values,” our families are a weak semblance of what they used to be. The civil sphere has progressively taken power and responsibility from the family, and the church has often taught theology and practice that promotes the individual to the detriment of the family and eventually to the church as well. While the New Testament gives many directions concerning the family (e.g. Eph. 5:22-6:9), many people miss the large foundation that the Old Testament lays for any discussion of the family. The family is woven throughout the fabric of the Old Testament, and to ignore the family is to miss an important part of how God works His redemption. 

“Much of the Bible’s teaching goes back to the way we are made; it goes back to creation itself” (Eerdmans’ Handbook, 61), and at the creation of the world we immediately see the importance of the family. “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18). The only thing “not good” in Eden was that Adam was alone. So God created Eve as his wife and formed the first married couple. This laid the foundation for the family and the rest of human relationships. Adam and Eve, like all married couples to follow, became one flesh, reflecting the Triune God as several, but one. They were equal in importance and different in role, creating a balanced structure for society.

This marriage of Adam and Eve was not made as an end in itself, but as a “God-appointed means to a God-appointed end” (Morecraft, 621). This end was that of godly work, dominion, fruitfulness, and worship. God created them (man and woman) to be God’s image and to “have dominion...over all the earth,” to be “fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:26, 28). Eve was made as a helper fit for Adam, Adam’s task which needed help being to work and keep the garden and to keep God’s law of not eating the forbidden fruit (Gen. 2:15-18). These were responsibilities that came with God’s covenant relationship with Adam and Eve, Adam bearing the primary responsibility and Eve helping him in this task. Thus the family was designed as the basic economic, cultural, and religious unit, necessary for the well-being of these areas.

But this state of things did not continue. The breakdown of this covenant started with a breakdown of the family. Eve was approached by the serpent, which she was supposed to be subduing. Adam neglected His responsibility by not doing anything when Eve was being tempted, even though he “was with her” (Gen. 3:6), and was led by Eve into this sin. Thus they sinned against God in whose image they were made. All creational order was reversed and the family was at the heart of it. After Adam, families continued to fall into sin together. The family of Cain became wicked, rejecting redemption, leading to the judgment of the flood. The house of Eli had iniquity because of the sins of the sons (1 Sam. 3:13-14). Certain dynasties of the kings of Israel were specially noted for their sins, such as the house of Jereboam or of Omri.

Not only do we see families sin together in the Old Testament, but they are cursed together as well. Because of Adam’s sin, his family and descendants whom he represented covenantally also fell into sin together. The curse found in Genesis 3:16-19 curses the family and its dominion work. The woman shall have pain in bearing children, man and woman shall have marital strife, their work shall be much harder, and they will die. Immediately after this we see Adam and Eve’s family cursed with sin as Cain kills his brother Abel. Throughout the rest of Scripture we see not only Adam’s sin effect men, but each family suffers as a unit for it own sin also (e.g. Jer. 23:34, Daniel 6:24). Especially vivid is the episode of Achan, where first all Israel is punished with defeat for his great sin, and then he and his children and belongings are stoned and burned together by the order of God. The LORD declares that he is “a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me” (Deut. 5:9).

This would be a depressing view of the family if this was all, but there is more. Not only is the family together in sin and judgement, but it is together in redemption as well. “God’s creational orderings for marriage and the family have continuing significance in the purposes of redemption...by a method in conformity with creation, God accomplishes his purposes of redemption” (Robertson, 79). Right amidst the curse following the fall into sin there is a covenantal promise that God will preserve a godly offspring with its representative (“he”) that will crush the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). When that godly offspring begins to intermarry with the ungodly family of Cain (Hendriksen, 87), God makes His covenant with Noah and his family, saving them from the judgment of the flood, promising future protection and life, and re-giving the dominion mandate to them (Gen. 6-9). Later God makes His covenant with Abraham and his family, determining to save them and be their God, giving them the sign of circumcision as a sign and seal of the covenant (Gen. 17). Years later God reaffirms His covenant with the family of Israel, the households of Israel forming an important part (e.g. Deut 12:6-7). In the Passover, Israel is saved by families, a lamb for a household (Exod. 12:3). All of Israel’s children are included in the covenant (Deut 29:10-15). And when God makes His covenant with King David, He includes David’s offspring and house in the promise (2 Sam. 7:12, 29). In these covenants you can “see the family in God's plan and purpose. You see that with God, our children matter” (Scott, 3).

During the time of these covenants, the promise contained in them includes the restoration of the family from the curse. The man who fears the LORD shall be blessed by a wife like a fruitful vine and children like olive shoots (Ps. 128:3-4). His offspring will be mighty and will be his reward and blessing (Ps. 122:2; 127:3, 5). The womb will be blessed (Deut. 7:14, 28:4), and the work the family does will be blessed as well (Deut. 28:1-14). The family will rejoice, eat, teach, make clothing, in short, they will do culture together before the Lord (Deut 6:7, 14:26; Prov. 31:10-31). Throughout these covenants the family is being renewed back into its original economic, cultural, and religious tasks under the direction and blessing of God. The family has a calling of dominion to fulfill and the fall of man has not altered this calling, but it has made God’s regenerating work necessary (Rushdoony, 163). “From the very outset, God intends by the covenant of redemption to realize for man those blessings originally defaulted under the covenant of creation” (Robertson, 91).

This is in the Old Testament and some would restrict this importance of the family to it, thinking that somehow the New Testament is more individualistic. But the New Testament (i.e. the New Covenant) is the consummation of the Old Covenant(s). The family is being renewed in redemption and the New Covenant brings even greater renewal, not less. One of the last prophecies made in the Old Testament proclaims that with the coming of Elijah the hearts of the fathers and the children will be turned to each other (Mal. 4:6), being fulfilled in the coming of John the Baptist (Luke 1:17). Thus,
“the duty of parental fidelity is equally prominent in both dispensations. The old terminates with it; the new opens with it. This is the connecting link between both; it is the hinge in which they meet and combine with each other. How plain it is that God regards it as prime practical importance for man’s salvation!” (Dabney, 677).
The promise to Abraham was that the families of the earth shall be blessed through Christ (Gen. 12:3, Gal. 3:16, 29). When God proclaims the news of the New Covenant which He will make with Israel in Jeremiah 31 he says that He “will be the God of all the clans of Israel” (vs. 1), and He will not cast off their offspring (vs. 37), Israel being Christians, and their offspring and families being Christian offspring and families (Gal. 3, Eph. 2:11-22). The promise of salvation is to believers and their children and households (Acts 2:38, 16:31). Thus in New Testament times families continue to be renewed into the image of Christ and take on their God-given roles, with even more power to do so than in the Old Testament.

And so we see that the family is not merely a nice thing to have around but is basic to the plan of creation, fall, and redemption. It has jobs to do, and although sins has corrupted and torn apart the family, God’s gracious redemption is restoring families back to their place under God doing His work. Let us each one look to our own place and station in our families and seek to live with new life in that capacity, walking according to Christ’s saving power and love. May our families be, as families, Christ’s disciples, baptized in the name of the Triune God, and observing all that Christ has commanded. Let us see our families taking again their rightful place in society as guardians of Christian economics, culture, and worship, teaching these things to their children when they sit in their houses, walk by the way, lie down, and rise (Deut. 6:7). And as the family is restored to godliness may we see the state and church also find their proper places. As we see the blessings of the godly family we will see the prosperity of Jerusalem. “Peace upon Israel!” (Ps. 128:6).


----------
Dabney, Robert L. Discussions Vol 1. Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1982.
Eerdmans’ Handbook to the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1973.
Hendriksen, William Survey of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1995.
The Holy Bible (ESV). Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003.
Morecraft, Dr. Joseph C. Authentic Christianity. Powder Springs, GA: Minkoff Family; American Vision, 2009.
Robertson, O. Palmer The Christ of the Covenants. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1980.
Rushdoony, Rousas John The Institutes of Biblical Law. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1973.
Scott, Dr. Jack B. “Lecture 3: Genesis 12-24” OTS105 Old Testament Survey. Lakeland, FL: Whitefield, 2008.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Early Church Fathers on Abortion

You might remember me posting the quote from the Didache (c. 100-200 A. D.) "Do not murder a child by abortion or kill a new-born infant." Well here are a few more quotes from fellow Christians who wrote 1,800-1,900 years ago on the subject of abortion.

The Epistle of Barnabas 19:5, (80-120 A.D.), in declaring the way of life, says "Thou shalt love thy neighbor more than thine own soul. Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion, nor again shalt thou kill it when it is born. Thou shalt not withhold thy hand from thy son or daughter, but from their youth thou shalt teach them the fear of God."

Clement (190 A.D.) in The Paedagogus, Book 2, Chapter 10 "Our whole life can go on in observation of the laws of nature, if we gain dominion over our desires from the beginning and if we do not kill, by various means of a perverse art, the human offspring, born according to the designs of divine providence; for these women who, in order to hide their immorality, use abortive drugs which expel the matter completely dead, abort at the same time their human feelings." Clement also in describing the main themes of the Christian community says, "Abortion is killing human life that is under God’s care, design and providence."

Tertullian (160-240 A.D) writes in The Apology, Chapter 9: "In our case, murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to the birth. That is a man which is going to be one; you have the fruit already in the seed."

Hippolytus of Rome (222 A.D.) in The Refutation of All Heresies Book 9, Chapter 7 says, "Women, reputed believers, began to resort to drugs for producing sterility, and to gird themselves round, so to expel what was being conceived on account of their not wishing to have a child either by a slave or by any paltry fellow, for the sake of their family and excessive wealth. Behold, into how great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by inculcating adultery and murder at the same time!"


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Righteousness, Peace, and Joy in the Holy Spirit

"For the kingdom of God is…a matter…of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." ~Romans 14:17

I mentioned this verse in my post on Christ's Kingdom and I would like to expand upon it a little. One way to define the Kingdom of God is God reigning in our hearts by the application of Christ's saving work by the Holy Spirit. Thus the fruits of the Holy Spirit (in this verse boiled down to righteousness, peace, and joy) are the manifestations of the Kingdom. This is a package deal. With the Kingdom you get righteousness, peace, and joy, not one of the above. With only one (or two) the others are defective. 

Some might focus on righteousness to the exclusion of peace and joy. They might be very learned on how to apply God's law to all of life and very enthusiastic about submitting the world around them to God's standard, but they then cause church and family splits by a lack of forgiveness and patience and never rejoice over the blessings that we can enjoy but always focusing on what is wrong and what we are going to do about it. Of course this is not really righteousness.

Others might focus on peace to the exclusion of righteousness and joy. They say things like "doctrine divides" and call for everyone to set aside their differences and "coexist." They end up with a society that tolerates all kinds of wickedness and is without real unity to rejoice over. At best, they merely coexist (though sin will not even allow that); at worst, they all die from unrestrained sin. Of course this is not really peace.

And others might focus on joy to the exclusion of righteousness and peace. They are the happy-go-lucky libertines that can't stand peacefulness or righteousness. "Dude, who cares about being righteous, we're under grace. It's party time!" Well, God cares about righteousness, and this reminds me of the people who "sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play” and 23,000 of whom were killed in one day (1 Cor. 10:7-8). And thus the peace that they might dread is the peace of standing before a God that condemns them, so they must distract themselves with more entertainment. Of course this is not really joy.

It is very interesting to see what Galatians 5:19-21 says are the "works of the flesh" (opposed to the fruits of the Spirit): sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, (i.e. against righteousness) enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, (i.e. against peace) drunkenness, orgies, (i.e. against joy) and things like these. And Paul warns the Galatians, as he warned them before, "that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." Of course, unpeacefulness and joylessness is unrighteous, and triple vice versa.

And so the answer is to manifest all three traits. If we see that we lack one of these things, then we should stop and reconsider what we are doing as what we are building might not be the Kingdom. Note that it is not to have none of them, but it is to have all of them, exceedingly. Apathy and lukewarmness is not an option. We must strive to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called (Eph. 4:1). Let us have the righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees (Matt. 5:20), the peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7), and the joy that causes us to sing on our beds (Ps. 149:5). Of course this is only possible with Holy Spirit, and so let us pay very close attention to the Word of God, the sacraments, prayer, etc... and thus let us live for Christ's Kingdom.
"The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." ~Romans 13:12-14

Thursday, June 7, 2012

John Calvin on Singing and the Glory of God

From the Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin,

"Hence it is perfectly clear that neither words nor singing (if used in prayer) are of the least consequence, or avail one iota with God, unless they proceed from deep feeling in the heart...Still we do not condemn words or singing, but rather greatly commend them, provided the feeling of the mind goes along with them. For in this way the thought of God is kept alive on our minds, which, from their fickle and versatile nature, soon relax, and are distracted by various objects, unless various means are used to support them. Besides, since the glory of God ought in a manner to be displayed in each part of our body, the special service to which the tongue should be devoted is that of singing and speaking, inasmuch as it has been expressly created to declare and proclaim the praise of God. This employment of the tongue is chiefly in the public services which are performed in the meeting of the saints. In this way the God whom we serve in one spirit and one faith, we glorify together as it were with one voice and one mouth; and that openly, so that each may in turn receive the confession of his brother’s faith, and be invited and incited to imitate it." (Book 3, Chapter 30, Section 31, emphasis added)

Every part of our bodies ought to display the glory of God! God has redeemed us and we are His, thus we should offer all that we are to the glory of God.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

What is "Christ's Kingdom"?

"For the kingdom of God is…a matter…of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Romans 14:17)

I have recently realized that I have had this blog titled "For Christ's Kingdom!" for almost two years without ever really defining what this means. So here I will try to lay a foundation for doing this. It is very hard to summarize, but I hope this helps.

Christ's Kingdom is also called by other names, such as the "kingdom of heaven" and the "kingdom of God," that emphasize some aspect of the Kingdom, such as its source, the God in Heaven. It is called Christ's Kingdom to show His authority that He has been given to reconcile and redeem this kingdom to God. As Joe Morecraft has said, "This mediatorial kingdom was given to Christ in order to secure and apply the salvation of His people and to administer all the promises of the covenant of grace" (Authentic Christianity, vol. II, page 136). As God, Christ has always had sovereignty over all creation, but as our Redeemer He comes specially to put this sinful world into subjection to God. Thus the end of redemption is subjection. As R.J. Rushdoony has said, "The goal of atonement, of redemption, is the rule of God over a kingdom wholly subject to the law of the covenant, and joyfully so....Without the dimension of law, life is denied the meaning and purpose of re-birth."(Institutes of Biblical Law, page 73) See Revelation 5, 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, Colossians 1:15-20, etc…

This Kingdom is not "from this world" (John 18:36), meaning that it does not derive its power from this world but from Heaven (thus it is called the Kingdom of Heaven). This Kingdom comes by the giving of the kingdom by the Father to the Son on the basis of His redemptive work, and is applied to us by the work of the Holy Spirit. Thus the Kingdom is a matter of "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:17), in other words, the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:21-24). This Spirit works primarily by the Word of God (Eph. 6:17). Thus we advance Christ's Kingdom primarily by proclaiming God's Word, as well as the right use of the sacraments, prayer, etc…, relying on the Spirit's work in applying Christ's saving work, and manifesting the fruits of the Spirit in everything we do.

It is good to add that the visible Church has a vitally important (may we say, central?) role in the Kingdom (for example, its ministers hold the keys of the Kingdom, Matt. 16:19), although the Kingdom is not limited to the visible Church. As Louis Berkhof says,
"The visible Church may certainly be said to belong to the Kingdom, to be a part of the Kingdom, and even to be the most important visible embodiment of the forces of the Kingdom…In so far as the visible Church is instrumental in the establishment and extension of the Kingdom, it is, of course, subordinate to this as a means to an end. The Kingdom may be said to be a broader concept than the Church, because it aims at nothing less than the complete control of all the manifestations of life. It represents the dominion of God in every sphere of human endeavor." (Systematic Theology, page 570)
As for its extent and growth, look at the dream and interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2:31-45, especially with regard to the rock. The rock is the kingdom that God will set up in the days of the kings of the iron and clay (i.e. the emperors of Rome). It will shatter the kingdoms of man and will fill the earth. It will never be destroyed. The New Testament parables also tell of this irresistible growth and eventual universal impact (i.e. Matt. 13:31-33). And in the parables of the wheat and weeds (i.e. wheat and tares) in Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43, the field is the world at the beginning (vs. 38) and the wheat that is sown is the sons of the kingdom (vs. 38). The weeds will mix with the kingdom until the final judgement when the kingdom will be completely refined (13:41-43). But by the end, the field (that the wheat and weeds are taken from) is already the Kingdom (13:41).

For Christ's Kingdom!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Goal of Atonement

"The goal of atonement, of redemption, is the rule of God over a kingdom wholly subject to the law of the covenant, and joyfully so....Without the dimension of law, life is denied the meaning and purpose of re-birth." ~R.J. Rushdoony

Saturday, May 12, 2012

John Calvin on the Gospel

(Quotes taken from Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion)

“By the Gospel, I understand the clear manifestation of the mystery of Christ. I confess, indeed, that inasmuch as the term Gospel is applied by Paul to the doctrine of faith (1 Tim. 4:6), it includes all the promises by which God reconciles men to himself, and which occur throughout the Law. For Paul there opposes faith to those terrors which vex and torment the conscience when salvation is sought by means of works. Hence it follows that Gospel, taken in a large sense, comprehends the evidences of mercy and paternal favor which God bestowed on the Patriarchs. Still, by way of excellence, it is applied to the promulgation of the grace manifested in Christ.” (2.9.2)

“Paul, after calling the Gospel “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth,” shortly after adds, that it was “witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,” (Rom. 1:16; 3:21). And in the end of the same Epistle, though he describes “the preaching of Jesus Christ” as “the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began,” he modifies the expression by adding, that it is “now made manifest” “by the scriptures of the prophets,” (Rom. 16:25, 26). Hence we infer, that when the whole Law is spoken of, the Gospel differs from it only in respect of clearness of manifestation.” (2.9.4)

“The sum of the Gospel is, not without good reason, made to consist in repentance and forgiveness of sins; and, therefore, where these two heads are omitted, any discussion concerning faith will be meager and defective, and indeed almost useless.” (3.3.1)

“Hence Paul designates faith as the obedience which is given to the Gospel (Rom. 1:5); and writing to the Philippians, he commends them for the obedience of faith (Phil. 2:17). For faith includes not merely the knowledge that God is, but also, nay chiefly, a perception of his will toward us.” (3.2.6)

“Moreover if it is true, and nothing can be more certain, than that a complete summary of the Gospel is included under these two heads—viz. repentance and the remission of sins, do we not see that the Lord justifies his people freely, and at the same time renews them to true holiness by the sanctification of his Spirit?” (3.3.19)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Books Update

And it's time for another book update! I love reading and I love it when I can share what I have been reading with others. Here is my attempt to briefly summarize my reading since January or so.

Books I have Read Recently:

The Greatness of the Great Commission by Ken Gentry
This book goes through the giving of the "Great Commission" (Matt. 28:16-20) in a very detailed way, showing its comprehensive nature. It is a great book dismantling dispensational/pietistic views of "soul saving" that don't really effect one's life and culture. Gives a good foundation for viewing Christ's redemption as saving the soul, body, person, life, culture, nations, etc... It especially focuses on the four alls of that passage: "All authority," "all nations," "all that I have commanded," and all times ("I am with you always, to the end of the age").

The Christ of the Covenants by O. Palmer Robertson
This book I read for the Wednesday night study that our church does mainly for training future church leaders. This book is the classic book on covenant theology done in the last hundred years. I think that the two most important doctrines for us to master in our day are the doctrines of the Trinity and of Covenant. The idea of covenant pervades and structures Scripture and history. It is the way God relates to man, and thus forms a central importance in creation, providence, and redemption. Because of covenant theology we can see the consistency between redemption in the Old and New Testaments, instead of seeing God dealing with sinners in separate ways in history. I think I benefited a little more from Joe Morecraft, Louis Berkhof, and Kevin Swanson than from Robertson on the subject of covenant theology, but it was still a good book laying out God's covenant relationship with His people throughout biblical history (and Morecraft and Swanson have drawn much from this book as well).

The Bible & War in America: A biblical view of an American obsession and steps to recover liberty
by Joel McDurmon
This is a short book on a very important topic in our day. It lays out a biblical view of war and military (especially using Deut. 17:14-20, 20:1-20, and 1 Sam. 8), then shows through American history the decline of the biblical view, and then shows the steps needed to recover a more biblical system in our day. I wish it was longer and more expanded in some parts. But I think the book is very needed in our day where Christianity is so mixed up with militaristic imperialism. 

Why I Believe God by Cornelius Van Til
This is the first thing written by Van Til that I have read (although I have read quite a bit that was heavily influenced by him and about him). Much of his writing involves heavy thinking, but this is a pretty simple paper written in a conversational style where he is talking to an unbeliever about why he believes God. You can read it here: http://www.reformed.org/apologetics/index.html?mainframe=/apologetics/why_I_believe_cvt.html

Born-Again Dirt: Farming to the Glory of God by Noah Sanders
This book cultivates a biblical vision for agriculture. The author, Noah Sanders, was interviewed on Generations Radio here: Farmer Boy 2012. We read much of the book out-loud on our way back from the Family Economics Conference where Noah spoke. When reading it I was struck with the many similarities with my book, even though I believe he read my book after he wrote his (and vice versa). I like it where he recognizes faults in both conventional farming and the alternative/organic farming, seeking solid biblical principles for farming. Another great thing about the book is Noah's humility in his writing, which I think I could learn from. A very practical book, whether you are a full time farmer or a gardener.

Federal Theology by John Girardeau
A small book written by Girardeau in 1881 defending "federal theology" (i.e. covenant theology, federal coming from the Latin word for covenant). He is mainly concerned with Christ's sacrifice and its application to us, especially against the Arminian view of salvation. Very good at comparing Adam's covenant headship and Christ's covenant headship.

Books I am reading:

In History:

Union 1812 by Langguth
A book on the War of 1812 that I got at the battle of Tippecanoe last year. It spends almost half the book talking about the time before the war started, which makes it hard since you feel like you are reading a really long introduction. Some of the bias of the author makes me unsatisfied with it, but it still has good information that I can use to piece together the history of this war and is pretty well written. After I'm done with this book I'll probably continue to look for "the book" I'd recommend to people interested in studying the war, but will still be glad I read.

Southern Presbyterian Leaders by Henry Alexander White
This book, written in 1911, covers the history of Southern Presbyterians from 1683 to 1911. It does a good job of piecing together this history and the accomplishments of Southern Presbyterians, although it doesn't get as deep as I would like, as it is more of a broad overview than a detailed examination of someone's life. I quoted from it here. You can read it on Google Books here.

In Theology/Philosophy: 

Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof
I am reading this book for our church's Wednesday night meetings. I like Berkhof's clear and organized style that makes it relatively easy to read. Sometimes it feels a little too precise, and it's not as beautiful as Calvin's Institutes, but for the most part it is a great systematic theology. I especially like the part on the covenant. Right now we are going through the ordo salutis (i.e. the order of salvation).

Study Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith by G.I. Williamson
Again, this is for the Wednesday night meetings. It goes through the Westminster Confession of Faith, explaining it in simple writing. A classic work on the WCF that has been used by many to understand Biblical/Reformed/Presbyterian doctrine. I actually met the author at our presbytery last month and enjoyed talking to him. This June will be the 60th anniversary of his being ordained as a minister of the gospel.

Early Christian Doctrines by J.N.D. Kelly
Again, this is for the Wednesday night thing (there is a lot of reading for this). Of course, saying that doesn't mean the that I don't like these books; on the contrary, I love the opportunity to read all these books. This book teaches the early church's doctrines (from the Apostles to Chalcedon). A very well researched examination of the various debates and teachings during this time. Pastor Swanson really is inspiring a love for the early church fathers in these meetings, as they really help us see what the fundamentals have been over time.

Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin
This I am reading for Shepherd Center, and reading it for the second time (the first was in 2009). We are going through the exposition of the moral law now. A classic work of Christianity, and one that I enjoy reading. Not merely is it a systematic theology, but it is also concerned with real practice and piety.

Institutes of Biblical Law by R.J. Rushdoony
This is probably one of the most important books written in the last one hundred years. We are reading this also for Shepherd Center (Pastor Buehner is teaching it). If you are not familiar with R.J. Rushdoony you should become familiar soon. He lived from 1916-2001 and had a huge influence on the following movements (in no particular order): presuppositional apologetics, creation science, Christian schools, homeschooling, theonomy, reformed and calvinistic theology, post-millenial eschatology, the "Christian Right," providential history, etc... If you have ever been influenced by ministries like Vision Forum, Generations with Vision, or American Vision, you probably have been influenced by this man. Even folks like Michelle Bachman and Rick Perry have acknowledged being influenced by Rushdoony. And he's the kind of guy that folks either really love or really hate. This book is considered his greatest work and contains an exposition of the Ten Commandments and many of their applications to life today.

The One and the Many by R.J. Rushdoony
Also by Rushdoony, I had been waiting to read this book for a while. You might have noticed me using the idea of the Christian "the One and the Many" before, and that was because I had read the first chapter before and had heard the idea taught by others. This book does go beyond "the One and the Many" into a history of philosophy from ancient Egypt to the present, especially noticing the effects of philosophy (Christian or otherwise) on social and political order. Takes some thinking, but a worthwhile read.

Joy at the End of the Tether by Douglas Wilson
I have just started reading this and am looking forward to it. It is a commentary on the book of Ecclesiastes, which has been a favorite book-of-the-Bible of mine for at least six years. I knew I wanted to read it after Joe Morecraft told me that he thought highly of it (although he has problems with some other things Wilson has written). 

Authentic Christianity: An Exposition of the Theology and Ethics of the Westminster Larger Catechism, Volume II by Joseph Morecraft
And I'm still trying to get through Pastor Morecraft's five volume commentary on the Westminster Larger Catechism. I have been slowing down, not because it's hard reading (I find it very easy to read), but because of the other books (above) that have a higher short-term priority.

Despite the evidence to the contrary, I don't really like reading many books at the same time. But I do like reading lots of books, and this is what happens. Hopefully I will be able to whittle this list down to a reasonable size soon. I hope you all are reading good books as well, and if you have read any particularly good books recently, tell me in the comments.