The Literary Labors of the Reverend Matthew Poole: Volume 2

I (Michael) have been working with Dr. Steven Dilday for a while now on The Matthew Poole Project. As of yesterday, Volume 2 of The Literary Labors of the Reverend Matthew Poole has been published. You can get a copy here: The Literary Labors of the Reverend Matthew Poole: Volume 2: Blasphemer Slaine with the Sword of the Spirit by Steven Dilday (Paperback) – Lulu

From the back cover:

John Bidle’s “XII Arguments Drawn out of the Scripture; wherein the commonly Received Opinion, Touching the Deity of the Holy Spirit, Is clearly and fully Refuted” (1647) was answered by several Reformed theologians and scholars, both continental and British. These responses were full, demonstrative, and clear; but they were written largely for academics. It fell to a young parish minister, Matthew Poole, not yet thirty years of age, to provide a concise and popular response, for the edification of the common man. Poole’s “Blasphemer Slaine with the Sword of the Spirit” remains one of the best popular defenses of the Deity of the Holy Spirit in the English language.

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On Philosophy and Personal Opinions

For about a semester and a half I was a philosophy major. I was actually pretty close to a philosophy minor (I had either 12 or 15 credits of philosophy… I can’t remember), but that’s beside the point. There were two chief reasons that I got out of that major and ventured elsewhere. The first reason was, the other philosophy majors drove me crazy. Don’t get me wrong, they were probably the nicest people on campus, but they were seemingly incapable of having a single conversation about anything other than philosophy. Secondly, it occurred to me that the whole goal of philosophy, even Christian philosophy, was to answer the questions of life without consulting Scripture.

Image

(Aristotle, borrowed from his Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristotle)

Now, to be fair, I do appreciate things from the philosophical realm. The laws of logic are an invaluable tool for thinking clearly. However, it seems to me that those with backgrounds in philosophy are so afraid to make a truth claim that they’ve abandoned all hope of certainty. Of course, this is essentially the story they tell, while their actions prove that they indeed hold to certainty in almost every area of life.

This brings me to my point. Increasingly, I’ve seen more and more people condemning others for saying “You’re wrong”. They base this on philosophical grounds that you base all conclusions off of evidence, and though you can have 99.99999999999999999% certainty, you can never have 100% certainty on any issue. One particular way this manifested itself to me recently was in a facebook discussion group, in which I made the claim (quite bluntly, and truly I might add) that credobaptists are wrong about baptism. Initially, the fellow and myself had an irenic discussion about my beliefs, but I didn’t retract anything. Finally, he got angry at me (as best I can tell, he tried to get kicked out of the group), and told me that I had no right to tell someone they’re wrong, but that if I disagreed with someone I should tell them that I “think” they’re wrong. He emphasized very much that I could disagree, but I had to preface myself each time with “I think”.

More recently, Kurt Jaros said the same thing about James White’s review of him on the Dividing Line (http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=5477). Jaros argued that White shouldn’t have said his (White’s) view is the biblical one. Instead, Jaros believes that “it is one thing to say that you think your view is the correct one.  That’s fine…”, (http://realclearapologetics.com/blogs/tkjaros/a-response-to-james-whites-review/) but he seems to think that making a truth claim is not appropriate when others think that they hold to the truth. Again, the argument seems to be that we should always preface ourselves with the words, “I think”. Now, this is not a critique of Kurt Jaros, I don’t know much about the man, but I’m fairly certain we would disagree on a host of theological issues other than apologetic methodology.

Now back to the point. I fully understand that one should not be dogmatic about every opinion he holds; he must be open to the fact that he could indeed be wrong about a number of things. I have been through this in my own life, being raised an Arminian baptist, transforming into a dispensational Calvinistic baptist, evolving into a particular baptist, and finally (by God’s grace) becoming a Presbyterian. At every point I was sure I was correct, and right now I’m extremely sure.

Discussion, debate, exchanging ideas; these are all good things. Further, knowing that you can be wrong on any given issue is also an important truth. However, if one makes a claim, it’s obviously his own opinion. I do not understand why some philosophers want to insist that one preface his opinion to let people know that it’s his opinion. Then, maybe I’ve missed something; after all, I changed my philosophy major, maybe too early. In any case, it seems to me that those with a philosophical background should be able to decipher what an opinion actually is without the preface.

I think I’m Michael Seal, and I’m fairly convinced that’s my opinion.

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Sinners and Saints

We here at The Bearded Presbyterian have a firm belief in the Sacrament of paedobaptism. We both come from baptist backgrounds, and have made our way to confessional, reformed truth. So here is a link to the Sinners and Saints Radio 2.0 programs, where the hosts take John MacArthur to task concerning his attacks on paedobaptism. I have recommended these programs to many in the past, and would give them to anyone seriously studying the issue. I will happily point any baptist to these programs with no reservation whatsoever. The credobaptist position cannot hold water biblically, theologically, or historically. Enjoy: http://pilgrimagetogeneva.com/2012/11/04/john-macarthur-attacks-infant-baptism-mp3-links-updated/

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Using the Catechism for Discipline.

When I decided to start this blog, I figured that for the most part I’d just be posting parts of research papers and other seminary assignments. However, it has become clear to me that such posts would only interest a few, and also, even broken up into pieces, each post would be really long. As blogs are supposed to be short and to the point, I’m going to still try to post some research, but it will take time for me to condense a 20 page research paper into a few paragraphs. This being the case, I’m going to try to post one blog a week in order to keep some interest in the blog, and also to keep my mind engaged.

This brings me to the point of this particular blog: the usefulness of catechesis in disciplining children. Being raised in muck and mire of American evangelicalism, I am aware that many evangelicals seem to think that creeds and confessions are of little value, or downright worthless. I have often heard the tired old cliché, “No creed but Christ,” chanted like a mantra. Many evangelicals seem to believe that creeds, confessions, and catechisms are for Romanists, but as Protestants (I use this term very loosely concerning the average evangelical), they have Scripture Alone… which necessarily means that they have their own interpretation of Scripture. Alone. Perhaps at some later point I will write more thoroughly on the importance of the reformed confessions, but that is not my goal for today.

As a parent with three young children, I find catechesis an invaluable resource for discipling, as well as disciplining my young children. For discipleship purposes, the importance of the catechism is fairly obvious (I hope); to help my children come to understand the basics of the Christian faith. However, using the catechism for discipline may be a little more difficult concept for some.

As a Presbyterian, my confession of preference is Westminster. Thus, the Westminster Shorter Catechism (http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html?mainframe=http://www.reformed.org/documents/WSC_frames.html) is what I use to teach my children. I have three children with ages ranging from five years to three months. We have been catechizing my boys on and off for about two years. Our progress is not what we had hoped for, but with my schedule (Working 3rd shift, going to seminary in the mornings, trying to sleep during the day… etc.), as well as the general busyness that my wife has as a stay at home mom, we have not always been as faithful as we should in catechesis. I won’t say how many questions the boys know, but suffice to say that it’s much fewer than I had hoped it would be at this point. Even so, we still sometimes overhear them quizzing each other on catechism questions, and such is a great encouragement. Further, with the advent of the MP3, we can also have the kids listen to the catechism even when we’re not able to sit and read it to them (MP3 recordings of the Westminster Shorter Catechism available here: http://www.rpts.edu/WSC.php), and again, I’ll say that it is very encouraging when my young children ask me to turn on the recordings for them.

Now, back to the point of this post. My children know the Law (that would be THE Law, the Decalogue, otherwise known as the Ten Commandments); not only is it written on their hearts, but we have taught it to them from Exodus 20 (they are also aware that Law-keeping will never save them, and that only trusting Christ will. They know the three uses of the Law better than the average evangelical). They understand their sin, generally even while they’re committing it. So where does the catechism come in? I’ll assume that many of the readers are somewhat familiar with the WSC, but for those who aren’t, the first question and answer in the catechism are:

Q: What is the chief end of man?

A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

No matter why my children need discipline, I always start out by asking them, “What is the chief end of man?” These days, they always answer correctly, though in the past, when they’ve been especially angry, they said things like, “to NOT glorify God, and NOT enjoy him forever.” Of course, I never let them get away with it, because they knew the correct answer, and I wasn’t going to let them distract me or get under my skin.

So, after asking them and receiving the correct answer–again, it doesn’t matter what the situation is–I press them hard. “Well son, was it glorifying to God for you to disobey your mother?” “Was beating up your brother something that helped you to enjoy God today?” Had they only remembered the catechism, or remembered it and not ignored it, they would not be in the situation.

Disciplining children is a part of life for every parent. However, as Christian parents we cannot simply view discipline as behavior modification; there has to be a bigger goal. What can I teach my son when he has decided to destroy his brother’s favorite toy? How about when he directly disobeyed his parents by not staying in bed, but instead going to the bathroom and flushing a new bar of soap and an entire roll of toilet paper down the toilet (true story…)? It always comes back to his standing before God, and obedience to the Law that God has given. How does a small child glorify God and enjoy him forever? As a child, he does this by obeying his parents and loving his brother and sister. If he loved his brother, he wouldn’t have beat him up or destroyed his toys. While even an unregenerate man can modify the behavior of his child, we have to keep eternity in view. It’s not enough for my children to be kind to each other because it’s the right thing to do; it is important for them because the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. The important thing is not to make a child feel bad that hurt the feelings, or physically hurt a family member or friend; the important thing is to point him to what he already knows about the Triune God of the universe and how that impacts his life. If he knows that his only goal in life should be to glorify God and enjoy him in everything he does, then he will want to do just that. Without such knowledge, discipline in a Christian home is no different than discipline anywhere else. We teach our children to obey our law so that they will obey the Law. And when they obey the Law they glorify the heavenly Father.

Note: I hope it is clear that we do not teach a works based righteousness. This post concerns using the catechism in discipline, not bringing the gospel to covenant children. The Law and the catechism are useful in discussing the gospel with young children, but in no way do we teach or promote a works-based righteousness.

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Where Is God Now? A Short Response In Two Parts (Part 2)

“I left because I couldn’t swallow a God who would allow me to suffer, and condone such suffering in the world around me.” These words came from a friend of mine during a conversation on theodicy (the unbelief in God in light of human suffering). It’s no doubt a tough question to deal with, because none of us like to suffer, and we do what we can to avoid suffering by natural instinct. My friend’s question was simply an echo of a Western culture’s idea of what life (and for the purposes of this conversation, the Christian life) should look like. Suffering and pain implies the non-existence of God, or at least the non-existence of a good God, and invalidates the Christian message. Those who are living for such a righteous cause shouldn’t suffer at all, should they?

The problem is, in asking this question, not only do we project our larger ideas of what seems good onto God (I am a good and loving person, and I would not let innocent babies die, therefore God must not be good and loving), but we assume that suffering itself has no relation to Christianity. If we are truly serving a God who is all powerful, if we truly are “…more than conquerors through Him who loved us…”, then we should not be subject to suffering, pain and misfortune. However, the apostle Paul makes it clear in every letter he penned that suffering was not just a possibility as a follower of the risen Christ; it was to be expected.

Dr. Bob Yarbrough seems to agree, stating: “Christians are called to be servants–of God, of one another, of their spouses and other family members, of friends, of the world at large…Jesus’ call to serve is also, probably too frequently for our liking, a call to suffer.”  No one likes to suffer; and, there should be no disagreement that suffering and pain are not naturally a part of the created order. It exists because of human sinfulness; it wasn’t created ex nihilo. It is a pollution of original intent, a shattering of the peace and prosperity that was meant for mankind (see Genesis 3). In spite of our “best efforts”, pain and suffering became a part of life when the created rebelled against the Creator. Things were thrown off kilter, and the balance and harmony inherent in creation shifted. It was from that very moment that man could no longer maintain his status of dominion and rule over the Earth. Death was now an ugly shadow over the light of eternity, and all that belonged to it. In short, we were no longer strangers to suffering. And indeed, Jesus did not present Himself aloof to suffering, nor did He suggest that those who followed Him were above such. As a matter of fact, Jesus gives a warning to a couple of men who wished to follow him in Matthew.  The encounter bears significant weight in the testimony of who Christ was and what it meant to follow the path of righteousness.

“Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

It might initially come as some stark contrast to who we expect Jesus to be (as I’m sure it did for some who heard it). After all, have we ever heard the Gospel presented in such a way to a new believer? “Come to Christ, He welcomes you and beckons you to Himself, but before you do, be warned–this is going to hurt. You are going to suffer.” I wonder how many would follow Christ when presented with that sort of Gospel call? The passage never tells us whether or not the two men Christ warned followed Him; it is left to our imagination. I certainly wonder when I read this passage. Did they? Would I come traipsing after this Savior who warned me of intense suffering to come?

Would you?

And so we come to the heart of a question that plagues those who follow Christ (more frequently in the post-modern, Western mindset): Does being ‘more than conquerors’ mean that we suffer less, or more? Paul seems to answer this in his letter to the church at Phillipi, by presenting the example of the suffering servant:

“…being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

We can also see, upon reading the book of Acts, that those who spread the Gospel aren’t met with welcome hugs and shouts of praise, but with pain, ridicule, criminal charges, death sentences, etc. Whether it be the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7, the persecution of Paul through imprisonment and torture, or the death of Peter by crucifixion, it is clear from the outset that carrying the message of Christ and his resurrection is bad for our physical health. At times it can be hard for us, in a society which is fairly lenient when it comes to the freedom of presenting our religions publicly, to qualify any hardship that we go through as suffering; especially when we see such heinous suffering on behalf of Christians in other parts of the world. But a proper understanding of suffering, particularly in the Christian life, seems to suggest that the why’s of pain and suffering are not so much outcries against God’s goodness, but lamentation over the absolute injustice of suffering itself. Author Thomas Long puts it this way:

“When we voice protest over the evil and suffering we encounter in life…we engage in…[a] profound form of prayer. Prayer…is a part of our ongoing relationship with God…in ways we do not understand and cannot articulate, God allows our cries…desperate appeals…and protests…to be gathered up into God’s actions in the world.”

We see this same sort of cry from the Psalmist; and it is a cry that is as old as humanity itself. But Paul understood, even as he penned the words from a prison cell, that “…in all these things we are more than conquerors…”; in famine, in persecution, in distress, in hardship, in nakedness. We are not conquerors because we rise above such suffering; no, we are conquerors because we endure, through the strength of Him who faced suffering and death for us, so that we might be called sons and daughters of the living God. We are not slaves of a God who sits aloof to our suffering; no, we strive for obedience to a God who has poured Himself out for us. As Dorothy Sayers once wrote: “Whatever the answer to the problem of evil, one thing is certain: God took his own medicine.”

Soli Deo Gloria.

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A Confessional Statement Concerning Covenant Theology Versus Dispensationalism

The following is part of an assignment that I submitted to Dr. Gerald Bilkes for his OT 142 class. Dr. Bilkes is easily the least known of the PRTS faculty, as he is the only one without a blog. Anyway, this assignment is laid out in a confessional formula; it’s not Westminster, it’s me.

Article 1
The Hermeneutical Question

WE AFFIRM that the very structure of Scripture is covenantal.

WE AFFIRM that all of God’s relationships with men are based on covenants.

WE AFFIRM that there are two distinct covenants in Scripture, the covenant of works, and the covenant of grace.

WE AFFIRM that the covenant of works, as such, was given to man in the Garden of Eden, and is binding upon all men who have ever lived.

WE AFFIRM that the covenant of grace, which was given first to Adam after he was expelled from Eden, and most prominently given in the Abrahamic covenant, is revealed with more clarity in each covenant administration (Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, New, etc.).

WE AFFIRM that the New Testament must interpret the Old Testament.

WE AFFIRM that Scripture is not always to be understood in a strictly literal fashion.

WE AFFIRM that when Scripture is interpreted in a non-literal fashion, it must only be done where the context demands, or where the New Testament authors, and Christ himself did so.

WE DENY that dispensationalism is the result of a plain, literal interpretation of Scripture.

WE DENY that the Old Testament must be interpreted apart from what the New Testament has revealed.

WE DENY that the dispensationalist can interpret Scripture consistently.

WE DENY the validity of the dispensational attempts to trace dispensationalism to early church premillennialism.

Article 2
Israel and the Church

WE AFFIRM that true Israel is and always has been a community set apart to covenant with God.

WE AFFIRM that the church, as a covenant community, began in the Garden of Eden.

WE AFFIRM that those who broke the covenant in Old Testament Israel were to be put out from amongst the people.

WE AFFIRM that national Israel was a true expression of the church in the Old Testament.

WE AFFIRM that the Abrahamic covenant is fulfilled in Christ and his church.

WE AFFIRM that there is neither Jew nor Greek; there are only the regenerate and the reprobate.

WE DENY that the kingdom of God is an ethnic kingdom.

WE DENY that Israel and the church are two entirely distinct groups to whom God made different promises.

WE DENY that modern day political Israel is in covenant with God.

WE DENY that the Abrahamic covenant will be fulfilled at some future point in the ethnic descendents of Abraham in the modern nation of Israel.

Article 3
Practical Implications

WE AFFIRM that the church is only rightly understood when the continuity of the covenant of grace is rightly understood.

WE AFFIRM that dispensational theology impoverishes preaching.

WE AFFIRM that God has one program for believers of all ages, and that all of the covenantal promises apply to that one group, namely, the church of God.

WE DENY that if one is a Christian he must necessarily support the political decisions of the modern nation of Israel.

WE DENY the assertion that covenant theology is in any way racist, or bigoted toward ethnic Hebrews.

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Free Berkhof

Get Berkhof’s Systematic Theology for free.

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