Friday, June 30, 2006

Tackling Dispensationalism III

According to the New Scofield Bible, a dispensation is, “A period of time during which man is tested in respect to his obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God.” Dispensationalists see seven such periods of time, dispensations in which God deals differently with his people. These dispensations are innocence, conscience, government, promise, law, grace, and tribulation. Following these are the millennial kingdom and the eternal state. It is not my purpose to expound dispensationalism in these posts, but I list these periods of time to underline this assertion: Dispensationalism is complicated.

Granted, life is complicated. History is complicated. Getting the most out of Scripture requires work, thought and discipline. Even learning games is complicated (I played crib recently, but I still don’t really get it). However, I do not believe that understanding God’s ways with man has to be so difficult.

We have embraced a helpful discipleship tool, The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus. As the title indicates, it is based on the account of Jesus with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus found in Luke 24. It is simple, it is profound, it is biblical and it has been well received by new Christians and searchers in our church. The organization Good Seed takes no particular eschatological stand, but their take on biblical interpretation lines up very well with my own. The emphasis is on God as Creator/Owner of all that He has made, pervasive human sinfulness since the Fall and God’s Promised Deliverer.

God’s revelation unfolds over time, little by little. This covenant was hidden in the past, is revealed through the preaching of the Gospel, and will be fully experienced when we see Christ face-to-face. Each of these aspects deserves a separate blog post.  Let me leave you with three passages from the ESV as a teaser:

Rom 16:25-27:  Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith-- to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Gal 3:17-18: This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

1 Peter 1:10-12:  Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

Extended Warranties?

I outlined a series, I say, a series of D-ism posts today, but I’m going to throw a consumer dilemma out there for your input.

I bought a new laptop at Staples in March of ’05. I bought another new laptop on Wednesday. In between, I had dealings with their repair and extended warranty departments. I had never purchased an extended warranty for anything before, but with the mobile and somewhat delicate nature of laptops, I thought I’d give it a shot, particularly for only $169. I don’t know if I received adequate service or not. What I did get was a whole lot better than nothing, but I wonder what my readers think.

I was about three months beyond the normal one-year warranty when I found out that my machine was “un-repairable” (after they had it for four weeks). The in house department that deals with such things told me that I could have a merchandise card to buy a new laptop. With tax and extended warranty, my laptop came to almost exactly $1000 last year. They are sending me an in-store credit for about $690. I bought a new machine this week for 899, plus tax, plus another 2-year in-house warranty, so, about $1100. I was happy with my old computer (other than the recent problem that sidelined it) and I had no desire to pay $400 + to get another laptop. I’m not a complainer, but should I take the trouble to argue for a few more bucks? At the very least, I should be able to transfer some of my old extended service plan to my new laptop (I didn’t think of that in the store).

I don’t like raising a stink, and I don’t think I was ill treated, but I want to be a good steward with my church’s money. Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated as I am new to this business.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Chart

Oh ya, we’ve got to have one of these too. I almost forgot.

Tackling Dispensationalism, Part II

From the Bible Institutes that grew out of Fundamentalism of the early 20th Century to the “Left Behind” series, dispensationalism has become the dominant form of end-times belief among Western Christians. It seems that if Christians know anything about eschatology, it is some form of dispensationalism. Many people that I’ve met don’t even know that there are other options.

There are varieties of dispensationalism, from C.I. Schofield (1843-1921) and his study Bible to the Progressive Dispensationalism of Dallas Theological Seminary. I’m not going to try to sort out all the various combinations and variations – go Google if you’re curious. I’m going to pick on the popular level, old-fashioned dispensationalism.

Up front, let me say that I am an amillennialist …. Mostly. I do have some reservations with classic amillenialism, as I do with all systems, but I would gladly identify with the descriptions of amillenialism presented by Anthony Hoekema and Kim Riddlebarger. I do, however, have a greater understanding of and appreciation for a Reformed postmillennialism, particularly since reading Puritan Hope by Iain Murray and an article in Modern Reformation on Old Princeton eschatology (the article does not appear to be available any longer).

Part of the reason that I am a Fellowship Baptist is that this association is one of the few that officially has room for me. If you do a search of the major denominations in Canada, you will find that the affirmations of faith of almost all evangelical groups have at least a premillennial clause if not overt dispensationalism in their statements. I’ve had leaders from the Evangelical Free, for example, say, “Oh, that’s okay, you don’t have to agree with all of our eschatology,” but I’m not comfortable with fudging my agreement with affirmations of faith. AWANA is another example. I have to register a caveat if I’m going to sign their statement.

Why is dispensationalism so popular? If I may engage in a bit of psychological speculation, I believe the motivation for the development of the dispensational scheme is the centuries-old tension between the sense of imminence of the return of Christ in the New Testament and the time constraints for particular prophecies to be fulfilled. With a two-stage return of Christ – the rapture and the Second Coming – these tensions are relieved for some. This tension of “any time, but not until” is real, and it has been a confusing aspect of end-times teaching for Christians over the years, and a source of scorn among non-believers (which we should expect, anyway).

I believe that a better way to relieve this tension is to understand some of the prophecies as being fulfilled earlier rather than later. That is, the destruction of the temple by the Romans in 70 AD. What is the “generation” of Matthew 24, for example? This view that much of NT prophecy was fulfilled in the past is called preterism. This position does not convince me enough for me to adopt the label, but there are some good insights here (in partial preterism, that is, not the full version – that is another story altogether).  Lest you think this is a way-out there, fringe view, see R.C. Sproul’s The Last Days According to Jesus. Also take a look at older commentaries on passages such as Daniel 9 or Matthew 24. Scholars before 1948, and particularly before the 19th Century, were not afraid to speak of the prophetic significance of 70 AD.

I realize that I’ve bit off a lot here. I might be chewing for some time, off and on. For my impatient readers, here is a list of things that bother me about dispensationalism:
  • An apparent bias towards using the Old Testament to interpret the New, in spite of what the Apostles have to say about shadow vs. reality (Colossians 2:17, let alone the book of Hebrews).

  • A selectively literal hermeneutic. I’m sure dispensationalists are very tired of this charge, but there it is.

  • Too sharp of a discontinuity between Israel and the Church (however, I believe that classical Reformed Covenantal theology over emphasizes the continuity – I’m a hard guy to please).

  • The idea that the church age is a parenthesis in God’s scheme of history. I am aware that my dispensational friends with a high view of sovereignty would say that God planned all this, but it still sounds pretty “plan B” to me.

  • The idea of a new temple with memorial sacrifices is not consistent with the finality of Christ’s sacrifice and the “obsolete” nature of the Old Covenant (Hebrews 8). It’s pretty gross too. I think God likes animals.

  • How can people become Christians in the tribulation if the church (and the Holy Spirit, by some accounts) is withdrawn into Heaven at that time?

  • Political blinders regarding Israel. Not so much the whole Israeli / Palestinian thing (I root for the modern democracy, mostly), but the fact that Israel is a secular state, not “almost Christian.”

  • A tendency by dispensational teachers to focus so much on Israel and the millennium that present and future (eternal) aspects of prophecy are overlooked, particularly as they apply to the church.

I could go on. Have I raised any blood pressure yet? I will explain myself on these points in future posts.

Tackling Dispensationalism – Part I

I have been promising some personal reflections on why I am not a Dispensationalist. I am working on it. It is much easier to have a discussion in person with someone than it is to post criticisms of such a popular and beloved system on a blog. I do not want to be unfair or mean-spirited, but I do want to clearly state my concerns. I don’t want to make enemies, but I do want to promote critical thought.

I must make a disclaimer that I appreciate people from a variety of eschatological views. Some of my favourite authors and speakers do not agree on end times views and I am more than okay with that.

Part of the reason that I have hesitated to jump into my personal critique of Dispensationalism is that I thought it was important to provide some background on Dispensationalism and millennial views in general. I have done studies on Eschatology in my church over the years, but I just haven’t had the time to edit them for a blog post. If you need some background on this topic, please see the article, Charles H. Spurgeon and Eschatology at The Spurgeon Archive and read the article on Dispensationalism. This will save me a lot of work. Thanks.

My first real post will be up shortly.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

We're Back

Actually, we arrived home at about supper time last night, but between getting ready for the service this morning, two services, a potluck and a hospital visit today I haven't had much chance to blog.

It was great being a part of the quick-build team in Raymond. Juanita put together a PowerPoint presentation with the photos we took this week. She did a great job. I took a couple of pictures from that show what the church looked like this morning:

We're sorry that I didn't find pulpit supply for this morning as it would have been great to have been at the celebration service. Next time!

The quick build did get some media attention. The local paper did a good article and Global news from Lethbridge did a feature. The reporter interviewed me, but it was cut from the final feature. Maybe I don't do a good interview. Maybe it was all those plugs for "New Lumps" and my comment that the Oilers will get 'er done next year.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Quick Post from the Raymond, AB Library

Hi folks! We're going hammer and tongs down here. It's amazing to see a building go up so quickly. Check out the church's website at - they have a project photos page.

Too bad about the Oilers, but they can hold their heads high, it was fun while it lasted.

I've got to get back to work!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Game 7 on Monday!

Shutout for Jussi, another game winner for Fernando (plus three insurance goals). What a game!

Carolina is good. The Oilers can't let down the intensity at all, but they've proven they play very well with their backs to the wall. They're still facing elimination on Monday, but so are the Hurricanes!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

What’s Going On

This is my version of a “This is where I am right now” post – just a few newsy items with limited appeal, likely.
  • We are going to Raymond, Alberta next week for a Fellowship Baptist “Quick Build” project. Raymond is way down south in Mormon country, about 8 hours from here. The little church there has a concrete pad ready for a group of Baptists from all over the place to build upon. The goal is to have it to lockup by the end of the week, JW style (we do make provision for windows, however). My wife will be the head cook and my son and I will lend our considerable construction skills to the project (snort, chortle) and my daughters will be assisting with the dining duties. Needless to say, my already sparse blogging will be handicapped further from the 19th to the 24th.

  • My notebook computer has been in the shop for over two weeks now. The screen would go blank on me randomly. Of course the shop can’t duplicate my problem (it’s some unwritten rule of repair shops), but hopefully they’ll get ‘r done soon. Being one computer short around here is a real hardship (oh, I’m so soft).

  • We got ourselves a Chevy. I didn’t admit to Garry that we only had two Toyotas. Now I can look him in the eye if I ever meet him in person (missed my chance at Together for the Gospel, apparently). It’s not a ’66 Chevelle, sadly, but it’s a nice vehicle. A ’99 Suburban is not an Old Chevy by our reckoning (we don’t buy new vehicles). We’re thankful to have more room and the 4x4 will be welcome when the snow flies. Anyone looking for a ’92 Previa with lots of kms?

  • As I mentioned in my last post, I had to miss the last Oilers game due to a church meeting. The more I hear about that game, the more it sounds like it was a bad one to miss (ya, poor baby, I know). Today I went for coffee with a fellow who offered his TV for Saturday night’s game. He has a humungous LCD with HD (CBC broadcasts the games in HD). Then he remembered that he’s moving this weekend and likely won’t have the satellite hooked up by then. Oh well, we shall see (maybe I’ll hear it online again instead). Monday night is game 7 (right? right?) and we’ll be in Raymond. Out of the 50 people there, someone will host a game seven viewing party surely! Hopefully.

  • I do have some ideas for more serious posts. After the Raymond trip we’ll be more in summer mode, so hopefully I’ll have time to blog more (and hopefully have my laptop back).

  • I haven’t done a controversial post, oh, ever, so I’m thinking of doing “Why I’m Not a Dispensationalist.” I’m leaning towards a psychological angle, you know, how I was emotionally disturbed by watching “A Thief in the Night” when I was ten, or something.

  • It’s time to update and organize my blog. I have to add at least Kim and Rebecca to my blogroll and update my picture. And I have to organize the garage too.

  • It’s time for another “links” post. There’s lots of good stuff out there in the Reformed Baptist (or maybe not Baptist but should be Baptist), Gospel-centered, thoughtful corner of the blogosphere. However, I’m done for tonight.

We’ve Got Ourselves a Series!

How ‘bout them Oilers! Pisani, short-handed in overtime! I missed seeing the game, we had a quarterly meeting at the church tonight (we had a quorum, which either shows the dedication of the church members or the lack of hope in the Oilers). Right after the meeting, a couple of guys went into the office and hit “refresh” on the Oilers home page (which I left up before the meeting) and announced the results.

And, yes, it was a good meeting. I love our church!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Approach, My Soul, The Mercy Seat

At the Indelible Grace Music Resource page, they have this quote from Martin Luther to read before reading / singing this hymn. It is a great quote, particularly when read with the hymn:

“You should tell the devil “Just by telling me that I am a miserable, great sinner you are placing a sword and a weapon into my hand with which I can decisively overcome you; yea, with your own weapon I can kill and floor you. For if you tell me that I am a poor sinner, I, on the other hand, can tell you that Christ dies for sinners and is their Intercessor… You remind me of the boundless, great faithfulness and benefaction of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The burden of my sins and all the trouble and misery that were to oppress me eternally He very gladly took upon His shoulders and suffered the bitter death on the cross for them. To Him I direct you. You may accuse and condemn Him. Let me rest in peace, for on His shoulders, not on mine, lie all my sins and the sins of all the world.” Martin Luther

Approach, my soul, the mercy seat,
Where Jesus answers prayer;
There humbly fall before His feet,
For none can perish there.
Thy promise is my only plea,
With this I venture nigh;
Thou callest burdened souls to Thee,
And such, O Lord, am I.

Bowed down beneath a load of sin,
By Satan sorely pressed,
By war without and fears within,
I come to Thee for rest.
Be Thou my Shield and hiding Place,
That, sheltered by Thy side,
I may my fierce accuser face,
And tell him Thou hast died!

O wondrous love! to bleed and die,
To bear the cross and shame,
That guilty sinners, such as I,
Might plead Thy gracious Name.

“Poor tempest-toss├Ęd soul, be still;
My promised grace receive”;
’Tis Jesus speaks—I must, I will,
I can, I do believe.

John Newton (1725-1807)
Well Done, Oilers!

The guys did get their act together, but it was a grinding game. I hope they can break out and have some fun the next game!

Way to go Jussi, particularly! I'm sure the team will play with more confidence in front of him in on Monday.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Defining Worship

Worship is a comprehensive subject for the believer. Everything we do ought to be done for the glory of God. John Piper even tells us How to Drink Orange Juice to the Glory of God.   To underline the gravity of this joyful purpose and occupation of the Christian, consider Romans 1:20-21. Because God has made Himself known in creation, He expects to be honoured and thanked by His creatures.

The crafters of the Westminster Shorter Catechism understood this. Question one is, “What is the chief end of man?” Answer: “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever” (note John Piper’s modification from the beginning of Desiring God: we glorify God BY enjoying Him forever).

When we try to define worship, this WSC definition of man’s chief end is a good place to start because it puts the “duty” factor in perspective. Worshipping God is a duty – God expects His creatures to worship Him – but it is a delightful duty, a joy and a great honor. In fact, without the element of joy, worship is not worship – it is empty and meaningless.

So then, how should we define “worship?”

  • English root = to ascribe worth: To admit to God that God is worthy. To worship is to say to God, “You are the greatest – studying who you are and praising you is worth my time and energy.” There must be a “knowing God” focus in worship. There is a danger in trying to understand biblical concepts merely by English definitions, however.

  • In both Hebrew and Greek, the most common words translated “worship” mean to prostrate ones self before another. This posture is a humble recognition of one who is vastly superior, like subjects of great Ancient Near Eastern kings. Bow, kneel, and fall; all of these actions point to a submission to and recognition of greatness.

Worship, being such a comprehensive topic, is difficult to define. Though there are many, many definitions out there, I will give three, beginning with a long, complicated definition, move to one that is a little shorter and more poetic, and then finish with a very simple definition:
  • “Worship is the proper response of all moral, sentient beings to God, ascribing all honour and worth to their Creator-God precisely because he is worthy, delightfully so. This side of the Fall, human worship of God properly responds to the redemptive provisions that God has graciously made. While all true worship is God-centred, Christian worship is no less Christ-centred. Empowered by the Spirit and in line with the stipulations of the New Covenant, it manifests itself in all our living, finding its impulse in the gospel, which restores our relationship with our Redeemer-God and therefore also with our fellow image-bearers, our co-worshippers. Such worship therefore manifests itself both in adoration and in action, both in the individual believer and in corporate worship, which is worship offered up in the context of a body of believers, who strive to align all the forms of their devout ascription of all worth to God with the panoply of New Covenant mandates and examples that bring fulfillment to the glories of the antecedent revelation and anticipate the consummation.” – D.A. Carson in Worship by the Book.

  • “Worship is the submission of all of our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness, nourishment of mind by His truth, purifying of imagination by His beauty, opening of the heart to His love, and submission of will to His purpose. And all this gathered up in adoration is the greatest of human expressions of which we are capable." – Bishop William Temple

  • “Worship is the believer’s response to the known work and worth of God.” – I picked this up somewhere along the way.

I put the most complicated definition first because, though the last simple definition is appealing, it is not adequate to describe Christian worship. The God we worship is not the God of the Mormons or Muslims or a god of our own making, He is the One True God, ultimately revealed to sinners in the person of Jesus Christ. He must be worshipped in the way He has established.

Key elements:
  • Worship is what human beings are created for, our greatest and highest occupation

  • Worship is a response to God, our Creator and Sovereign Master

  • Worship delights in the person and work of God

  • Worship is only possible for sinful man because God has reconciled a people to Himself. Sin slammed the door on worship; God opened it again at great cost to Himself by sending His one and only Son to die for sinners.

  • True worship works itself out in how we live throughout the week, not just on Sunday at a “worship service”

  • Worship finds its highest expression in the congregation of God’s people gathered for worship

  • Worship must be rooted in the truth about God, revealed by God Himself

  • True Worship is empowered by the Holy Spirit, who convicts us of sin and points us to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Even though worship ought to be an “all of life” occupation of every Christian, it bears reflection as a topic on its own. Worship begins with God’s initiative in revelation. Our response in repentance, faith and obedience is a work of God’s grace. God does not need our worship, but in His kindness and mercy, we may “enjoy Him forever” to His glory.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Pathetic ...

I'm not a bandwagon hopper, so I'm still an Oilers fan, but they'd better get their act together in Edmonton on Saturday.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Let There Be ...

I attended a workshop at our regional convention on Friday and a quote I heard has had me thinking ever since. My thoughts have nothing to do with the workshop and the quote is out of context (since when has that ever stopped a blogger?).

The quote is, “Words do not create anything, they only describe things that already exist.” These words came from a judge, apparently. This may be true in the legal context in which he was speaking (that’s another debate altogether), but it is certainly not true regarding the Word of God.

God is verbal. At creation, God used words to create the universe out of nothing (Genesis 1, see also Hebrews 11:3). The first four words of the Bible, “In the beginning God …” tell us that God was eternally present before anything material that we know came to be. It was through the agency of His own words that everything was created.

The Apostle John specifies that the Word that created was Jesus Christ Himself (John 1:1-3). This does not lessen the mystery of God’s powerful Word, but amplifies the astonishing power of that Word and makes the remote, transcendent act of creation personal and imminent.

The Bible exists because God is verbal. Revelation is all about God condescending to communicate to His creatures – the particular creatures that are created in His image and are thus verbal as well. The Bible wouldn’t exist if God didn’t value words. God’s call, commands, blessings, curses and promises are all in the form of words. This may seem incredible obvious, but if we survey the contemporary evangelical landscape, can it be said that we still value words as we should as God’s people?

The ultimate expression of God’s Word in revelation, as in creation, is Jesus Christ:
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high… (Hebrews 1:1-3, ESV).

Christ is not yesterday’s Word, He is today’s Word and the Word forever. “He upholds all things by the word of his power” and “in him, all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17). Doesn’t this emphasis on the power of the Word of God in Christ just cry for further exploration? Shouldn’t we desire to know more of Christ’s person, work and teaching? The whole Bible is about Jesus. It is His Word, by Him (see the “Spirit of Christ” in 1 Peter 1:11, for example) and for His glory. Reflection on this fact ought to make biblical study urgent for Christians!

God has promised that His Word will produce results. Isaiah 55:10-11 and Romans 1:16-17 are classic passages in this regard, for good reason. Justification and Sanctification do not happen in a vacuum, they happen by the work of the Spirit applying the truth of God’s Word to supernatural effect.

There is so much more that could be said (I haven’t even mentioned Hebrews 4:12-13). I hope these few thoughts start a trajectory of deeper thinking regarding the incredible power of God’s Word for those whom the Holy Spirit has already begun a work of convicting and teaching.

Do words merely describe? Not for God! They create, regenerate dead sinners, solicit praise and service and, ultimately, give eternal life. We cannot separate the power of God’s Word from the personal work of the Holy Spirit, but neither can we separate the Holy Spirit’s work from the agency of the Word of God.

As I have thought about these things, I’ve been convicted about my light attitude towards the Bible lately. If you are in this boat, take the advice of Hosea 14:2: “Take words with you and return to the Lord.”

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Don't Want to Post

I must have a bad attitude. It's my blog and I don't want to do a post. I should do a Sunday hymn, but I'm a little late and a more than a little lazy.

Our family was away at our regional association's convention in Red Deer for a few days and today was busy at the church. We had our first annual newcomers' lunch today which went well, I think, and did the first sessions of a Da Vinci Code DVD at the evening service.

Convention went well, save for the sudden bug infestation in the hotel room on Friday night and the subsequent midnight "bug out" (we got a couple of new rooms in exchange for our crawling suite).

I may post more tomorrow. I have lots of ideas, but not much energy.