Covenant Theology: Covenant of Redemption [Reformation Month 2020]

Covenant Theology: Covenant of Redemption [Reformation Month 2020]

I chose to cover this part first because it was technically the first covenant, depending on how you see it. This is one covenant that O. Palmer Robertson doesn’t see as a covenant (which I will explain in a bit), so I am leaning more on Louis Berkhof’s systematic theology for more information on it. The excerpt I am utilizing can be found for free to read on Monergism’s website (linked below) and I’ll include a link for the whole thing. Berkhof’s systematic theology is my husband’s absolute favorite, so if you’re looking for one, this can be a great one. I have the kindle version, so I can’t give page numbers for where I’m reading It’s worth noting that Dr. Joel Beeke also came out with a systematic theology recently, but with it being so new, neither of us has read it. That said, it could make a great gift for the reformed theology nerds in your life (or yourself).

Links: https://amzn.to/3KPN8aL, https://amzn.to/34z8BFi, http://bit.ly/berkofCOR

What is the Covenant of Redemption?

Louis Berkhof defines the Covenant of Redemption as “the agreement that was made between the Father, giving the Son as Head and Redeemer of the elect, and the Son, voluntarily taking the place of those whom the Father had given Him.” It is also referred to as the pactum salutis, which is Latin for the agreement of salvation and is said to have taken place before the foundations of the world.

Disputation

There are many reformed theologians that do not acknowledge the Covenant of Redemption as its own covenant. Some believe it is part of the Covenant of Grace, some believe that the scriptural precedent for it taking place is shoddy at best, and still others believe it doesn’t fall into the category of a covenant because it’s just between the members of the trinity and they consider a covenant to be between God and man.

Berkof actually sees the Covenant of Redemption as part of the Covenant of Grace and he explains it this way:

The counsel of redemption is the eternal prototype of the historical covenant of grace. This accounts for the fact that many combine the two into a single covenant. The former is eternal, that is, from eternity, and the latter, temporal in the sense that it is realized in time. The former is a compact between the Father and the Son as the Surety and Head of the elect, while the latter is a compact between the triune God and the elect sinner in the Surety.

I could be sympathetic to this idea, but I, like Dr. Duncan, see the Covenant of Grace as a separate entity involving God and man and being established with Adam in the promise of the seed of the woman and having a common thread throughout scripture, which I will get into more in a few days.

Interestingly, Berkhof’s systematic has an excellent defense of the scriptural precedent of the Covenant of Redemption:

  1. Scripture clearly points to the fact that the plan of redemption was included in the eternal decree or counsel of God, Eph. 1:4 ff.; 3:11; II Thess. 2:13; II Tim. 1:9; Jas. 2:5; I Pet. 1:2, etc. Now we find that in the economy of redemption there is, in a sense, a division of labor: the Father is the originator, the Son the executor, and the Holy Spirit the applier. This can only be the result of a voluntary agreement among the persons of the Trinity, so that their internal relations assume the form of a covenant life. In fact, it is exactly in the trinitarian life that we find the archetype of the historical covenants, a covenant in the proper and fullest sense of the word, the parties meeting on a footing of equality, a true suntheke.

 

  1. There are passages of Scripture which not only point to the fact that the plan of God for the salvation of sinners was eternal, Eph. 1:4; 3:9,11, but also indicate that it was of the nature of a covenant. Christ speaks of promises made to Him before his advent, and repeatedly refers to a commission which He had received from the Father, John 5:30,43; 6:38-40; 17:4-12. And in Rom. 5:12-21 and I Cor. 15:22 He is clearly regarded as a representative head, that is, as the head of a covenant.

 

  1. Wherever we have the essential elements of a covenant, namely, contracting parties, a promise or promises, and a condition, there we have a covenant. In Ps. 2:7-9 the parties are mentioned and a promise is indicated. The Messianic character of this passage is guaranteed by Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5; 5:5. Again, in Ps. 40:7-9, also attested as Messianic by the New Testament (Heb. 10:5-7), the Messiah expresses His readiness to do the Father’s will in becoming a sacrifice for sin. Christ repeatedly speaks of a task which the Father has entrusted to Him, John 6:38,39; 10:18; 17:4. The statement in Luke 22:29 is particularly significant: “I appoint unto you a kingdom, even as my Father appointed unto me.” The verb used here is diatithemi, the word from which diatheke is derived, which means to appoint by will, testament or covenant. Moreover, in John 17:5 Christ claims a reward, and in John 17:6,9,24 (cf. also Phil. 2:9-11) He refers to His people and His future glory as a reward given Him by the Father.

 

  1. There are two Old Testament passages which connect up the idea of the covenant immediately with the Messiah, namely, Ps. 89:3, which is based on II Sam. 7:12-14, and is proved to be a Messianic passage by Heb. 1:5; and Isa. 42:6, where the person referred to is the Servant of the Lord. The connection clearly shows that this Servant is not merely Israel. Moreover, there are passages in which the Messiah speaks of God as His God, thus using covenant language, namely, Ps. 22:1, 2, and Ps. 40:8.

 

To address the third objection of the use of covenant, I think that is more of a semantical difference than a scriptural one, though interestingly, O. Palmer Robertson refers to the Covenant of Redemption as an “administration” of the Covenant of Grace and calls the Covenant of Grace the Covenant of Redemption, on the grounds that a covenant is between God and man.

That said, it is worth noting that the Westminster Standards only recognize two covenants: the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace. Keach’s catechism also only recognizes two covenants. The reason for that is likely due to not wanting to get too deep into minutiae and a desire to be moderately ecumenical so that more reformers would affirm it. To be truly reformed in covenant theology, you need at least 2 main overarching covenants. In the words of Dr. Duncan, “once you have a bicovenantal structure, you are committed to penal substitutionary atonement,” which I hope to discuss soonish through the lens of a theological errors week on atonement heresies.

Importance

Even if you don’t believe the covenant of redemption is a covenant, the concept of having a “counsel of redemption” or whatever terminology suits what you’re thinking of, there is still a scriptural precedent for God planning Jesus’ sacrifice ahead of time. Everything that has ever happened and everything that will ever happen is all part of God’s Plan A. Not only is Jesus’ sacrifice not a Plan B, but the church itself isn’t a Plan B. This was a huge game changer for me, as someone who grew up dispensational, I had always been taught that at the fall, God decided to send Jesus, but when Jews rejected him, the church became his backup plan. I know this is not something that all dispensationalists believe, but it is something that many do believe and teach. But to deny that God in eternity past planned Jesus’ sacrifice is already separating ourselves from the truth of the doctrines of grace.

Resources on the Covenant of Redemption:

**I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.**

Covenant Theology: What is Covenant Theology? [Reformation Month 2020]

Covenant Theology: What is Covenant Theology? [Reformation Month 2020]

Most of the content that I will be covering this week will be coming from Dr. J. Ligon Duncan’s Covenant Theology lectures from Reformed Theological Seminary. They are completely free on iTunesU and also on RTS’ website and I’ll link to that below. A lot of what Dr. Duncan covered in his lectures comes from O. Palmer Robertson’s Christ of the Covenants, which I will also link below. These works are very thorough and are excellent assets for if you want to learn more, you can just consider this a primer on covenant theology. I will warn that Robertson’s book is very intellectual and I am honestly not sure that I would recommend it to someone who is newer to reformed theology because it might be too much in the beginning while you’re trying to learn other stuff. That said, preparing for these posts has given me the opportunity to listen to Dr. Duncan’s lectures for the second time and I think that if you are newer to reformed theology, I would probably stick to the first section for the beginning and then move on to the more advanced content when you feel more comfortable.

Links: https://amzn.to/3hUQf4v, https://bit.ly/3hz5ON7, https://bit.ly/33HvAL8 

I will give full disclosure to the newbies who may not know me, I am going to be covering this from a paedobaptist perspective. This means that I (and my church, and most of historic reformed Christianity) affirm infant baptism. I am going to cover the differences between credobaptist covenant theology and paedobaptist covenant theology the best I can on Friday, but there is enough overlap between the two that the other days will be coming from a baseline paedo perspective. That said, I am not trying to “turn” credos to become paedobaptists, though I obviously wouldn’t be mad if that happened lol. While I am always open to you asking me questions, if you are in a reformed church and have questions, remember that you can and should also ask your pastor for their thoughts, as well. This group can be great for online fellowship and learning, but it’s no replacement for the church and you should always read things you see online alongside scripture so you can discern the truth.

What is it?

Dr. Ligon Duncan defined covenant theology as the gospel set in the context of God’s eternal plan of communion with his people and an outworking in the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. It is both a hermeneutic and a blending of biblical theology and systematic theology. It is also the Bible’s way of explaining several important themes:

  1. The atonement
  2. Assurance
  3. The sacraments
  4. The way of setting forth and explaining the continuity of redemptive history
  5. The dynamic of God’s sovereignty and our responsibility in living the Christian life (law and gospel)

Covenant theology is an important paradigm to use as we read scripture because it helps us see the Old Testament as a Christian book. Dr. JI Packer said in the intro to The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man (written by Herman Witsius in 1990), “the gospel of God is not properly understood until it is viewed within a covenantal frame.” 

Link: https://bit.ly/2SyR0na, https://amzn.to/3Cx8MNJ

Biblical Theology & Systematic Theology

So, I have defined biblical theology and systematic theology in the reformation month glossary, but I do want to unpack this part a little bit so that it makes better sense. Biblical theology reads forward through scripture and understands how God operates chronologically across time. Systematic theology looks at the entire Bible to see what it says about a given topic. Systematic theology also takes what the Bible says on one topic and relates it to other topics.

The way this works together is covenant theology involves:

  • Exegesis
  • Taking a biblical theological survey over how a topic is treated throughout the entire Bible
  • Taking a look at historical theology and how the church has historically treated the text
  • Summarizing a topic
  • Relating it to other scripture
  • And bringing it all together

History and Definition of Covenants:

Many people think that covenant theology developed as a response to dispensationalism, but it actually predates dispensationalism by almost 300 years. While it was codified by Ulrich Zwingli during the reformation, Irenaeus outlined covenant theology in a very similar way to the way Robertson does and used the concept of the covenant to argue against Gnosticism in book 4 of Against Heresies. O. Palmer Robertson’s definition of a covenant is almost identical to how Irenaeus describes it, “a bond in blood sovereignly administered.”

Link: https://bit.ly/3iMVt06

Monergism’s website explains covenant theology as:

“Covenant Theology organizes biblical revelation around three unified but distinct covenants: the Covenant of Redemption, between the persons of the Trinity in eternity past, in which the Father promises to give a people to the Son as his inheritance, and the Son undertakes to redeem them; the Covenant of Works, which God enjoined upon Adam in the Garden, solemnly promising him eternal life if he passed the probationary test in the Garden of Eden (also, many covenant theologians see the covenant given on Mount Sinai as being in some sense a republication of the Covenant of Works); and finally, the Covenant of Grace, which God first entered into with Adam immediately after the Fall, when he promised to send a Seed of the woman, who would defeat the tempting serpent (Gen. 3:15). In the Covenant of Grace, God promises a champion to fulfill the broken Covenant of Works as a federal representative of his people, and so to earn its blessings on their behalf. All the later covenants of the bible, such as those which God confirmed to Noah, Abraham, David, and the New Covenant which promises to fulfill these prior covenants in the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, are all organically connected, essentially being different administrations of the one eternal Covenant of Grace, which build upon each other and are all brought to completion in the New Covenant which Christ inaugurated with his shed blood.”

Link: https://bit.ly/34JKVdk

Over the rest of the week, we will be taking a look at the Covenant of Redemption, the Covenant of Works, the Covenant of Grace, and then this will all culminate in how covenant theology shapes the way we see the sacraments as the means of grace.

**I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.**

Book Review: Like Our Father by Christina Fox

Book Review: Like Our Father by Christina Fox

Why is someone who is not a parent reviewing a parenting book? Great question, I would love to tell you. First of all, I love Christina Fox’s writing. Her book, A Holy Fear, was the first book I had ever reviewed for Theology Gals (link to the fb group review below). Second of all, I would actually love the ability to become a mom one day, but even if I don’t, I do have a niece and two nephews that I help babysit, as well as many other children in my life. Third of all, I just like to read lol. 

Link: https://bit.ly/TGaholyfear 

If you are familiar with Elyse Myers on TikTok or Instagram, that intro might be amusingly familiar to you.  But all of those things I’ve said above are true. This is actually the first parenting book I’ve read in my life, though I don’t expect it to be the last. I am part of the launch team for the book and I waited until the absolute last possible second to join because I wanted parents to have the first opportunity to join. That said, I think I might have an interesting voice to bring to the table as a nonparent, so I hope that you enjoy this review!

Background on Christina:

Christina Fox is a licensed mental health counselor, public speaker, author, wife, and mom to two teenagers. She has been on the Theology Gals podcast 7 times to talk about the books she’s written (episodes linked below). In addition to Like Our Father and A Holy Fear ($2.99 on Kindle right now, first book link), she’s written A Heart Set Free, Closer Than a Sister, Sufficient Hope, Idols for a Mother’s Heart, and two children’s books (one releasing later this year). Christina lives in the Atlanta metro area and also coordinates the counseling ministry at her local church.

Podcast Episodes: https://bit.ly/3hGfXcS, https://bit.ly/3tyRQCJ, https://bit.ly/3722UwI, https://bit.ly/3ttydvM, https://bit.ly/3HUZcpj, https://bit.ly/3HIRC0T, https://bit.ly/3IKV3p4 

Book Links: https://amzn.to/3hAii9r, https://amzn.to/34ejKez, https://amzn.to/3KdAceg, https://amzn.to/3HCsYi9, https://amzn.to/35Sh72x, https://amzn.to/3KePHme, https://amzn.to/35Ren5d 

Book Overview:

This is very different from what I would expect from a parenting book; however, not particularly different from what I would expect from Christina. I say this because this book is what I would call a theology of parenting, it’s not a step by step how to guide. Like Our Father takes a look at what it means for God to be our Father and how that can inform and model parenting for us. Naturally, Christina starts off talking about the fall and what it means for us to be made in God’s image with a thorough gospel presentation. On page 25, she writes:

Just as God sent Moses to rescue His people from Pharaoh, He sent a Redeemer to rescue us from sin. Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, left the royal halls of heaven and came down to earth. He took on human flesh and fulfilled the promise God made to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15 to bruise the head of Satan. He came to defeat sin by living the life we could not live and dying the death we deserved. Through faith in who Jesus is and what He has done for us, we are set free from sin and are made new so that we can live our lives for the glory of God.

Christina repeats that later in the book on page 166 as a perfect chiasm (a chiasm is when a story or book starts the way it ends, a writing version of a palindrome, like the name Hannah) and reminder in the conclusion. She also elaborates on page 26:

Because we are image bearers, we image God to those around us. We reflect Him to others as we do what He does and as we display His character in our lives. And who do we see most often in our day to day life? Our children.

Like Our Father also goes beyond looking at who God is, but also looks at who we are as people and in Christ. We call God our Father because He is our Father, we are adopted into His family as His children. On page 34, Christina states it as, “Being a Christian means becoming sons and daughters of God.” This is a really important paradigm to keep in mind when we look at our own children.

One of the things I appreciate most about Like Our Father is how much Christina emphasizes a solid theological understanding of God. An example of this can be found on page 35, where she writes:

God the Father, through the life and death of the Son, and by the Spirit’s regenerating work in our hearts, adopted us as His children so that we would join in the love and fellowship the Trinity has experienced together for all eternity.

How beautiful is that statement! This is what I mean when I say this book is a theology of parenting. From this premise, we begin to look at how our children’s needs can even point us to God. One of my favorite chapters is chapter 3, God is Consistent. In this chapter, Christina talks about how important routines can be to children (something I definitely related to when I was a child and I still find comfort in routines today as an adult). But because God is consistent, this means that we can trust God and that really opened my eyes to a different way of thinking about giving children routines. A child’s desire and need for routines points to a God of order and consistency. On page 50, Christina phrases it as, “While we can never be perfectly consistent and while we will fail, intentionally or unintentionally, as God’s image bearers, we glorify Him when we create structure and order.” Yet, she doesn’t belabor this point in such a way to guilt parents for their imperfections, she constantly gives grace, later saying on page 55, “Think of consistent parenting not as a rule that is impossible to keep, but as an opportunity to show your children who God is.”

Another thing I appreciated about Like Our Father is that Christina really uses a law gospel approach to parenting. There’s definite moments of pointing to the first use of the law to remind us of God’s goodness and our sinfulness, but there’s also an aspect of the freedom we have in Christ to not take parenting standards as an additional justifying law. Additionally, Christina also gives encouragement to remember that it’s really God who changes our hearts and conforms us to Christ (which means He also does this in our children). On page 79, she states it as, “We are not only saved by His grace, we are trained by His grace.” As an outsider to the mommy wars, one thing I’ve noticed is that people tend to make their parenting preferences as the end all be all. And while yes, there’s definitely ways to do things poorly or wrong, I think that people need to have grace in some of the differences that aren’t so black and white. If you seek to glorify God with your parenting choices, you’ve already got the most important part of the battle underway.

One of the most helpful parts of the book for me to hopefully keep in mind for later is the explanation between discipline and punishment. Christina explains that discipline is training for righteousness and it’s not punitive. She also says, “This means our discipline is not about us and expressing our anger. It is not about getting even with our child” (page 106). A big takeaway is also pointing to the fact that we should show the fruit of the Spirit to our children.

Conclusions & Rating:

This book was by far my favorite book that I’ve reviewed this week. Like Our Father was accessible and approachable. It is not gender specific, so it’s something you can go through with your husband or as a small group Bible study of parents. The book is saturated with scripture and really good for new parents, seasoned parents, and even hopeful parents.

Christina’s wisdom and insightful questions would also make this helpful for those who are newer to the faith or didn’t have a solidly Christian or healthy family upbringing. On a personal note, my parents divorced when I was 5 and my husband and I have been married about 4.5 years. Over the last 4 years, I’ve been unpacking a lot of the things I unconsciously absorbed that were likely not healthy and affected my marriage. So coming to this book, I realized I probably had similar concerns with raising children. That’s part of the reason Like Our Father was highly beneficial for me. I know I don’t have perfect parents, but I do have a perfect Father in heaven and if we are blessed with children, I know that He would love them better than we do and that I can trust that He will take care of their needs as He takes care of mine. So of course, this book gets 5 stars out of 5, but also a really big thank you to Christina Fox for writing it.

Link to Amazon: https://amzn.to/3sGGkFS 

Link to Publisher: https://bit.ly/3vB57gF

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Book Reviews: One Faith No Longer by George Yancey and Ashley Quosigk

Book Reviews: One Faith No Longer by George Yancey and Ashley Quosigk

I want to start this post with a little bit of background information on myself. I grew up in a very conservative SBC church. When I went to college, I was confronted with ideas that I hadn’t heard of, both in classes and from friends. I truly wasn’t equipped for the conversations I had and became theologically liberal, affirming gay marriage, becoming pro choice, and joining a local United Methodist Church. My freshman year, I was also a pre-law major. I had left that major because I felt that I could be more effective for social change working through non profit organizations than in law (and also I hated it). I bring these things up as context for my interest in One Faith No Longer (OFNL), but also to give context for some of the things I’m going to talk about this year.

Often when we discuss the ideas of who would qualify as a conservative or progressive, there’s not a set standard definition. There’s also often red herrings and ad hominem attacks. People make value judgements towards those that disagree with them. As I work through this review and many of the posts that are to come, I want to engage in these conversations fairly and honestly, something I think is often lost as people focus more on scoring points than glorifying God in their interactions with people they disagree with.

Background on George & Ashlee:

George Yancey is an author and professor of sociology at Baylor University. He’s written several books, including Beyond Racial Gridlock, Hostile Environment (2cv on the cover), and Beyond Racial Division, which is set to release March 8 (definitely plan on reading this one, let me know in the comments if you want me to review it), all linked below. By the definition he gives in this book, George Yancey would consider himself a conservative Christian.

Links: https://amzn.to/3LSeEp5, https://amzn.to/3H6GjiFhttps://amzn.to/3sVK0T9 (Hostile Environment)

Ashlee Quosigk is also a conservative Christian by the book’s definition. Additionally, she is a visitation scholar of the Department of Religion at the University of Georgia. She’s written a book called American Evangelicals and Muslims.

Book Overview:

The thesis of One Faith No Longer is that progressive Christianity and conservative Christianity are becoming so different that they should, could, and potentially will be considered separate religions. An additional goal is stated on page 5:

Our aim is to show both how theologically progressive and conservative Christians define their social and political priorities and how those definitions differ from each other. We also examine how differing social and political aspirations emerge from these theological discussions.

I do want to mention that if you are the kind of person who skips the introduction of a book, you absolutely do not want to pass through this one, it is full of information that helps set up the rest of the book for you.

OFNL primarily focuses on American Christianity, which is important to recognize because many of the dynamics discussed in this book are specific to America. There’s also an emphasis that the conversation is directed primarily towards theological conservatives and progressives, though it does have implications on the political views of said groups. OFNL defines conservative Christians as those who have a strong emphasis on “God-given absolutes,” including biblical inerrancy and exclusive truth claims. Conservatives are also “less concern[ed] with systemic societal improvement and more focus[ed] on individual sins” (page 30).  On the other hand, progressive Christians value inclusivity and acceptance. There is a lower emphasis on “theological conformity” and evangelism, while valuing the importance of social justice and societal change (pages 32-34). 

On page 12, Yancey and Quosigk outline the methods for their research, citing data collected from American National Election Studies (ANES), which is a probability survey that is done during presidential and midterm elections. They also looked to a variety of blogs from differing perspectives and performed interviews with over 70 evangelicals from differing perspectives. These resources provide insight to how conservatives and progressives believe about themselves and each other. This isn’t just about what people think, but also looks at how and why people think the way that they do.

Yancey and Quosigk take the time to walk through the history of evangelicalism and how we got here in the first place, making sure to include the modernist and fundementalist debates of the 1920s. While looking at current disagreements, they touch on the inerrancy of scripture, abortion, immigration, and views of Islam. In each of these sections, the arguments of conservatives tended to be theologically based, even when their views were more politically liberal. On page 109, Yancey and Quosigk expound:

The majority of our interviewees in our conservative Christian example were categorized as politically right leaning. However, our research also finds that conservative Christians are becoming increasingly unhappy with the Republican Party, citing corruption and abandonment of conservative and founding principles of small government within a Judeo-Christian framework. … Our research also shows that conservative Christians are very likely to defend their political affiliations by also citing their faith. … Often conservative Christians see others as being more motivated by theology, seeing the world through a religious lens. For example, when it comes to the issue of Islamic terrorism, many conservative Christians believe that the root of the problem lies in the religion of Islam, as opposed to other political or social causes.

This is contrasted with progressive arguments that often come from a more experience and politically shaped perspective, even when they hold to a view that is more politically conservative, like being pro life. On pages 66 and 67, Yancey and Quosigk point to arguments made that showed “concern for women,” including arguments concerned with “prenatal care, low socioeconomic status, minority women, or other help for women facing an unplanned pregnancy.” They also note that progressive Christians’ “disagreement with other progressives is presented as a contrasting way to present their shared values and not a disagreement with the overarching values themselves.”

Because of the differing “why” to these goals (even when the goals are the same), Yancey and Quosigk argue that the differences put progressive and conservative Christians at odds with one another to the degree that the differences are irreconcilable, partly due to unwillingness to work together (largely on the side of theological progressives, which their research supports) and also due to the theological differences also being core differences. An example cited on page 196 is regarding beliefs in Jesus:

But even within the beliefs that are assumed to be central to Christianity, the opinions of Christians can dramatically vary. For example, it can be argued that there is no tenet more central to Christianity than the belief in Jesus. But are Christians linked together because of their beliefs in Jesus? And what exactly do they believe about Jesus? Conservative Christians tend to envision him as having the qualities of a deity. While some progressive Christians openly acknowledge Jesus as God, others see him as an exemplary model for how a human should live rather than focusing on any divine characteristics. There are even Christians who challenge the idea that Jesus even existed.

With this in mind, Yancey and Quosigk point to a potential split because of differing (sometimes contradictory) goals and an unwillingness to work together. Though, they do say on page 197 that a split is unlikely unless there becomes a new way to categorize progressives and conservatives.

Conclusions & Rating:

OFNL is exceptionally well written and thorough. Every ounce of nuance that could be afforded has been afforded and I don’t know if I’ve ever read a book that has given as much good faith to opposing sides as this one has. Yancey and Quosigk are very direct and don’t use labels pejoratively. There’s no sense of superiority complex, it’s truly just delivering and analyzing facts.

While I largely agree with a lot of the content, I do wish that they had touched on LGBT issues and women’s ordination because I see those as more hot button topics today. Though I understand that the differences in those issues are more theologically based than politically and this book does focus primarily on the intersection of faith and politics. 

OFNL gives a lot of great food for thought and is quite insightful. I truly feel like I grew as a person and intellectually while reading it, so in that way, I know the authors accomplished their goals. It also gave me a positive affinity for being considered a conservative Christian after the last few years have left me feeling a little ideologically homeless at times.

One of the biggest takeaways I have from OFNL is the importance of asking good questions when you’re talking to someone about your faith (even a fellow Christian). We shouldn’t be quick to label other people as woke, feminist, misogynist, bigot, etc. We should let people self identify what they are and read them charitably. It is more work to do that, but it’s also more honest and if you work from a place of honesty and understanding a common baseline, it’s easier to move past that into more winsome conversations. We can be winsome without compromising on the truth or our integrity.

Due to all of these things and more, I can happily give this book 5 stars out of 5. If you want to get an introduction to the book, I will link 2 pieces from the Gospel Coalition below that discuss One Faith No Longer, one is from George Yancey and the other is a review written by Trevin Wax. George Yancey also did an insightful interview with Dr. Sean McDowell that I’ll link below as well!

Links: https://bit.ly/34Uy9Ne, https://bit.ly/3InBvXL, https://bit.ly/3h1e0rc 

Link to Amazon: https://amzn.to/3LS4Ifh 

Link to Publisher: https://bit.ly/3JHzO7t

This review was also posted at https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4273742177

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Preservation of the Saints

Preservation of the Saints

I want to start this off by saying that perseverance or preservation of the saints is not the same thing as eternal security or once saved, always saved. Matt Slick has a really great explanation about the differences between the 3 and I will link that below for you so you could see more from it. I also wanted to note that I waited until today to add resources that cover Calvinism as a whole to a post. The reason for that is I didn’t want to get ahead of myself by putting these resources up potentially too early. I’m going to have it divided up into podcasts, books, and articles. There are more resources and Bible verses to support Calvinism than what I have put in these posts, but I hope these have facilitated some good study!

Link: https://bit.ly/3jMtlfc 

What is it?

So, the P in TULIP actually has two different meanings that are used interchangeably, perseverance of the saints (most common) and preservation of the saints. You can see here that I tend to use preservation, I like it because it reads more that God is preserving/keeping you; whereas, perseverance gives more of an indication that there’s action on our part. That said, both are perfectly valid ways to read the P and I think both are needed. Preservation of the saints is the doctrine that if we are truly one of the elect, we cannot lose our salvation and that “he who started a good work in you will see it through to the day of completion” (Philippians 1:6).

But doesn’t this just give us license to sin?

There’s 2 main routes that are taken in objections to preservation of the saints. The more scriptural argument against preservation of the saints is largely based on a passage in Hebrews (5:20-6:11) that warns against falling against the faith (it’s not the only one that talks about it, this is just the most glaring). This passage is actually a great lesson in paying attention to the context of what’s written. It is written to condemn and warn about apostasy, which still happens, even if God already knows who the elect are. We have to understand going in that there’s two things working simultaneously together in this passage. The first is that God knows things we don’t know and has ordained things we can’t know until they’ve already happened. And like yesterday’s post dealing with the effectual call, we cannot know who the elect are, but we can encourage those that are part of the visible church to stay strong in the faith and have courage (and call them to repentance and remind them not to fall away). If you actually continue into verse 12, the writer says that they don’t want us to become lazy, “but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised” (ESV). 

Later on in Hebrews (ch 7), the writer also acknowledges the permanent state of those who are in Christ, saying:

Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

This is also a good time to give a reminder that the epistles are letters that were read all in one sitting and not broken up into chapters and verses, so when the church was hearing this, they did hear the full context, which is a call to piety and obedience, even as Christians.

The less scriptural objection, but so much more damning, is the pushback that if preservation is true, we do not need to obey because God will continue to give grace. To that, I say in the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 6, by no means.

Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

I want to be super clear on this point because I have gotten pushback on multiple posts of mine calling me an antinomian because people did not give me the opportunity to elaborate my points when I say that obedience is not salvific. It is not. Our obedience will not bring us salvation, only God will do that. And God has more grace than we could ever exhaust for when we do inevitably sin. But this does not mean that we do not need to obey and it does not mean that we should not obey. The last week of this month, we’ll be taking a look at the law gospel distinction and how it plays a role in our lives, so I don’t want to leave you with an incomplete picture of the reality of the Christian life.

So to the person who genuinely asks why a Christian’s life should look different after becoming regenerate, I have a question that I want to ask back with as much grace as I could possibly have. Why would a Christian want to sin?

Scriptural Support for Preservation of the Saints:

  • Matthew 7
  • Hebrews 1:3, 7:25
  • Philippians 1:6, 29
  • John 6:28-29, 38-40; 10:27-29
  • Colossians 1:17
  • Nehemiah 9:6
  • 1 Corinthians 8:6
  • Ephesians 4:6
  • Isaiah 41:10
  • 1 John 2:19

John Calvin Speaks About it in the Institutes:

  • Book 3, Chapter 2, Section 40
  • Book 3, Chapter 14, Section 6-9

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Irresistible Grace

Irresistible Grace

The next two days are actually among my favorites, partly because I love talking about God’s grace, but also because I like to talk about regeneration and what that means in the life of a believer (also why I looooove talking about covenant theology and the law gospel distinction). 

What is it?

Irresistible grace is the doctrine that teaches that when the Spirit of God is sent to change a person’s heart, that person cannot resist the change (A Puritan’s Mind link at the bottom). This is not to say that God is trying to fit square pegs into round holes. RC Sproul describes it as, “at the time of one’s choosing, God removes all obstacles a person has from hearing the gospel.”

The PRCA overview at the bottom also writes it as this:

You understand what the term “irresistible” emphasizes. Do not think that irresistible grace is some sort of blind force which simply drags the struggling, rebellious sinner into heaven against his will — as a policeman might drag a rebellious prisoner to jail. The grace of God is not such a power that compels to enter into heaven those who would not.

That God’s grace is irresistible emphasizes the idea that not only does grace bring His people to glory, but it prepares them for this glory and works within them the desire to enter into glory. Grace is irresistible in the sense that by it the knee is bent which otherwise would not bend; the heart is softened that otherwise is hard as stone. Nor is there anything which can prevent the accomplishment of that purpose of God to save His people by His grace.”

Moreover, they argue that you cannot hold to total depravity without also holding to irresistible grace and I think that’s a really important distinction to make. Again, if we are completely dead, we cannot make ourselves alive, so God will have to be the one who wakes us up and removes all obstacles for life in order for us to truly live.

But we also know that Matthew 22:14 says that many are called and few are chosen. 

But what about evangelism?

So this actually involves more deeply the idea of an effectual call and the idea of a general call, which I’ve talked about a couple of times previously. The general call is the call that goes out to everyone by the  sharing of the gospel. The effectual call is when the Holy Spirit works in the heart of the elect to bring them to him. In Humble Calvinism, J. A. Medders describes it as, “when the Spirit goes to work, he brings you to the place where you agree.”

There’s an extent where the effectual call should be something that any Christian who evangelizes should see. You could have an answer for every question and be as gracious as can be, but someone would still be blind to the truth of the gospel and their eyes just would not open. Even if you spend any length of time watching Ray Comfort videos (which I definitely do a lot of honestly lol), you see this seasoned pro going patiently and thoroughly through a gospel presentation and not everyone listens to even him. That’s not his fault. He is fulfilling the Great Commission by going out and evangelizing and hoping that some would hear the call to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, knowing full well that it is God that saves and opens someone’s eyes.

But since God already knows who’s his and some people can hear the gospel and completely reject it, why even bother evangelizing? Well for one, Jesus put no restrictions on evangelism in the Great Commission. God commanding us to do something is really the only reason we need to do it. Even aside from that, it’s not like people walk around with neon signs above their heads saying “elect” and “reprobate.” We don’t know who is called, so we are doing the will of the Father by evangelizing, even imperfectly. And more than that, this should give us comfort and confidence because if the Holy Spirit is the one who changes hearts, we don’t have to worry about getting the words completely right or knowing all of the answers to all the questions. We just do something and God will do the rest. 

Scriptural Support for Irresistible Grace:

  • Psalm 110:3
  • John 6:37-39, 44; 10:1-30; 17:2
  • Acts 7, 9:6, 16
  • 1 Corinthians 15:10
  • Revelation 13:8, 17:8
  • Ephesians 1:19-20, 2:8-10
  • 2 Timothy 1:9-10
  • Romans 8: 29-30

John Calvin Speaks About it in the Institutes:

  • Book 3, Chapter 3, Section 1
  • He also wrote on it in his commentary on John, particularly in chapter 6

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