Thoughts of a Country Preacher

The Monday morning ruminations of a pastor.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A few thoughts on all things political

Yesterday I enjoyed a Memorial Day of fishing, canoeing, and a little grass cutting. Now I am playing catch up to prepare for Sunday & our VBS next week. But until then I thought I would post a modest thought I have been kicking around.

Just a few moments ago, I got a call from the Republican National Committee, looking for my church’s previous pastor hoping he would renew his membership for a mere $65. I told them that he wasn’t here & I wasn’t interested, so they asked what I thought about the Republican frontrunners so far – I told her that I’ve yet to see anyone to get excited about & that was the end of that.

Six or eight years ago I would have loved a call like that. I was an English major at Mizzou looking forward to Law School & a political carreer. But with my call to the pastorate all that changed & I have been fairly apolitical ever since – honestly I have been pretty disgusted with politics ever since.

As I am finding that our conventions are getting more and more polarized, that discouragement has expanded to include ecclesiastical politics.

In my beloved home state of Missouri, lines are being drawn. A group called "Save Our Convention" met in St. Louis (yes, I was there) to talk about how Project 1000 was playing kingmaker with the convention. Their solution was to start nominating a different slate of nominees and slugging it out. I’m all for a good honest horserace in convention politics, and I agree that our state’s leadership should be drawn from a wide range of Missouri Baptists, I also think that the tactics this group is going to use would be dangerous even in times of peace. Given the state of turmoil in Missouri, such tactics may only serve to destroy the convention. And I am discouraged.

On a national level, San Antonio is shaping up to be quite interesting (see Bart Barber’s latest on this). At the moment, I am applying for a Ph. D., and in the off chance that I’m accepted, my vacation time will be spent doing class work, not allowing me to attend San Antonio (or really anything else for the next 5 years). In this whole mess I find myself in an odd position. I personally agree with the IMB’s new guidelines, though I also agree that theological minutia shouldn’t take center stage on the national level. I believe it wise to be tolerant of bible believing Christians, though I also believe that anyone widening the tent to the point to let in Jimmy Carter has gone off the reservation. I believe that Trustees should be trusted to set guidelines for their particular organization beyond what messengers have specifically stated. I also believe that this should be done carefully, within the framework of oversight from the convention at large. Really, no matter what happens there, some one is going to cry foul & say that they’re really speaking for the mainstream in the convention (even though they really aren’t). And thus, I am discouraged (and just a little glad I have to miss San Antonio).

So what should I do? I am remaining apolitical. I am going to keep pastoring my church, and we are going to do it according to God’s way here. And if anyone has a problem with what we do or how we do it, it will remain just that – their problem.

Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Danger of Pride

This week will be a very busy week in my world, so for this week's post, I would like to offer you a few thoughts on pride from John Piper.

The Lord Alone Will Be ExaltedMaking War on Pride
By John Piper January 7, 1999

During our staff days of prayer and planning, one of our focuses in prayer was to wage war on pride. For help, we looked at God's attitude toward pride, the nature of pride and the remedy for pride. We are aware that our hearts are deceitful and that we must be relentlessly vigilant in the fight against pride.


God is opposed to human pride and will eventually bring it all down.

For the LORD of hosts will have a day of reckoning against everyone who is proud and lofty, and against everyone who is lifted up, that he may be abased. And it will be against all the cedars of Lebanon that are lofty and lifted up, against all the oaks of Bashan, against all the lofty mountains, against all the hills that are lifted up, against every high tower, against every fortified wall, against all the ships of Tarshish, and against all the beautiful craft. And the pride of man will be humbled, and the loftiness of men will be abased, and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day. (Isaiah 2:12-17)


One part of pride is taking credit yourself for what God does.

I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the pomp of his haughtiness. For he has said, "By the power of my hand and by my wisdom I did this, For I have understanding." Is the axe to boast itself over the one who chops with it? Is the saw to exalt itself over the one who wields it? That would be like a club wielding those who lift it, or like a rod lifting him who is not wood. (Isaiah 10:12-15)


Take to heart that all you have is a gift of free grace.

For who regards you as superior? And what do you have that you did not receive? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Corinthians 4:7)

Trust God to exalt you in due time.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time. (1 Peter 5:6)

Remember that the true and full revelation of God comes only to the humble.

At that time Jesus answered and said, "I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You hid these things from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to babes. (Matthew 11:25)
Realize that entering the kingdom depends on humility.

Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3-4).

Rest in the truth that all things are already yours in Christ.

So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God. (1 Corinthians 3:21-23)

Pray with us that 1999 will be a year of humble self-forgetfulness as we see and savor the greatness of God.

Pastor John

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Can General Revelation Ever Be Salvific in its Effect? Conclusion

Just some concluding thoughts on the topic for the past several weeks.

Can general revelation lead one to salvation? Though many of us may wish otherwise, the evidence we have available to us says no, it cannot. For this reason, we as evangelicals must continue in the missionary spirit began by William Carey so long ago. We must take the special revelation of the Gospel of Christ to all nations, for that gospel alone can bring the unevangelized into a saving relationship with Christ.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Can General Revelation Ever Be Salvific in its Effect? Part 4

Last week, we discussed my particular position on this issue. As one can imagine, my answer is not accepted by all. So this week I would like to look and and examine objections that others may raise to my position.

There are three main objections that opposing positions would raise to my position. The first of these objections would come from what I call the "Particular Revelation" position. Those that hold to this position would oppose my conclusion that general revelation exists, and that it is possible to uncover basic truths through it. Karl Barth distrusted the concept of general revelation because it was divorced from divine revelation, and relied on flawed human reason. This position would argue that nothing could be learned from general revelation because man’s fall has erased the image of God from creation, thus totally separating God from man. This position’s supporters, such as Barth, would argue that the only valid revelation we should consider is the incarnation of the Word of God in Jesus Christ.

The other objections I will consider both come from the Pluralist and Evangelical Inclusivist camps. Both of the following objections focus upon people who have had no access to Christ, and yet are still considered "saved" or, reconciled to God. The first of these objections examine the relationship between God and the premessianic patriarchs. In chapter eleven of his book, the author of Hebrews lists many Hebrew patriarchs who died without ever knowing Christ, and yet were reconciled to God. These "faithful without Christ" include Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and even Sara. It is argued that these people were justified by God because of their faith in general, not because of their specific faith in Christ. This argument hinges on verse thirteen which asserts that they all "died in faith without recieving the promises." Those that raise this argument state that the final phrase of this verse indicates that the patriarchs never had an epistemological understanding of Christ, and yet were saved, thus proving that an epistemological knowledge of Christ is not necessary for salvation. Many who would raise this objection believe that those who have never heard the Gospel of Christ are in the same situation as the premessianic patriarchs. Similarly, they contend that the same thing that brought salvation to the patriarchs (honest faith/devotion) can bring salvation to the "man on the island."

The second argument raised by the Pluralistic/Inclusivist camp is much more practical in nature than the previous objection. Inclusivists are often quick to point out that nearly every Christian body believes that infants and the mentally incompetent are automatically included in God’s plan of redemption. Inclusivists argue that to keep our beliefs consistent, we must also believe that the "man on the island," that is, those who have never heard the gospel, are also included in God’s redemptive work.

The first of these objections, raised by the "Particular Revelation" camp, is fairly easy to answer. The main proposition of the "Particular Revelation" camp, that the image of God has been erased from creation is incorrect. Evidence of this can be found in chapter nine of the book of Genesis. In Genesis 9:6, God commands that whoever sheds a man’s blood must be put to death. Following this command, God then gives a reason for it, because in the image of God He made man. Essentially, God is telling us that it is wrong to kill because we still carry His image, despite the fall. While it is true that the image we carry may have been effaced by sin, it is quite clear that it has not been erased by sin.

The next objection, raised by the Pluralist/Inclusivist camps, is somewhat harder to answer. Initially, they contend that the "man on the island," that is, those who have never heard the Gospel of Christ, are in the same position as the Old Testament patriarchs, and thus can be reconciled to God in the same manner that the patriarchs were. However, as before, this objection does not hold up against the weight of the scriptural evidence. To answer their objection, we should look again at the same passage of scripture that they turn to, Hebrews eleven. It is true that the Old Testament patriarchs did not have an epistemological understanding of the Christ in the same way that we do today. However, verse thirteen is very explicit in saying that they welcomed them (the promises) from a distance. While they did not have the same understanding of Christ that we do thanks to further revelation, they did have faith in a coming messiah, which God had promised to them. Their faith stands as a testament in that they looked to the fulfillment of the promises of God to the very end, and though they did not see it in this life, it was something that they still found. Furthermore, the inclusivist assumes that the patriarchs in this passage were saved merely because of their devout faith. But the faith of these patriarchs was not derived from the natural world around them, it was derived from the special revelation of God to them. Therefore, there is a disconnect between the "man on the island" and the Old Testament patriarchs, and at this point their analogy begins to break down.

The final objection I will answer, that we must accept the unevangelized as a part of God’s redemptive plan for the same reason we accept infants and the mentally incompetent, is perhaps the hardest objection to answer. In fact, as I began mulling over this objection, I began to find myself giving ground to the inclusivist’s argument, and wondered if I should give their position a little more credence. Nearly all Evangelical Christians, including Southern Baptists, hold that children who die in infancy will be saved through the work of Christ, the only question that remains is exactly how this is done. The inclusivist would argue that by their very nature, infants cannot have an epistemological understanding of Christ, and thus are saved apart from divine revelation.

In a strictly naturalistic setting, this would be a very good argument. However, we must remember that divine revelation, by its very nature, is supernatural. Based upon my reading of Luke 1:41, I would contend that God does reach out to infants, and reveals Himself to them on an epistemological level. This is evident in the unborn John the Baptist’s reaction to being in the presence of Jesus, which in verse 44 is described as "leaping for joy." Thus, the inclusivist is incorrect in assuming that infant children and the mentally incompetent are saved outside of the framework of divine revelation, as this personal revelation of Himself to them is in fact a form of special revelation. (See my post "When a Baby Dies," Monday, March 19, 2007).

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