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Religion

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If there’s one thing to which human history overwhelmingly testifies, it is that we are fervently religious creatures. Among the rocks and rubble of human cultures throughout the millennia is evidence of the pursuit of spiritual things. As humanity, we have exerted extraordinary effort into the worship of figures such as Ra, Gaia, Dazhbog, Zeus, Aphrodite, Shiva, Vishnu, Izanagi, Izanami, Ahura Mazda, and gods of our own understanding. We’ve worshiped rocks, stars, trees, comfort, the dead, the living, and even ourselves. The world has seen her brahmins, caliphs, Siddartha Gautamas, and Joseph Smiths. We are natural-born worshipers.

And you’ve probably heard it said before. “When it comes down to it, most of the world religions are pretty much the same.” But is that true? For example, Judaism, Mormonism, Islam, and Christianity; they propose a problem with the world, a solution, and the worship of a deity. Other religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Shinto, Rastafarianism, Wiccan, and Neo-Paganism feature categorically similar threads.

Nevertheless, while many of the world’s religions have similar features, biblical Christianity differs radically from them all. There are a handful of things which put it in a category of its own. Without understanding these differences, we cannot properly comprehend Christianity.

Here are three major differences between Christianity and other religions:

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benny-hinn-prayer“But I’m telling you, I saw it! I was there and it really happened.”

Often miracle claims are brought before us. Fairly regularly, I hear of things like local, impromptu, evangelistic, healing events during which individuals were approached at random, prayed over, and healed of some various physical ailment. The claim might be followed by an individual testifying sincerely that it happened or a video documenting the healing miracle as undeniable proof that the pain departed, the crutches dropped, or the oppression lifted. Excitement erupts. God is at work. The Spirit is moving. It’s a God thing. How could it not be?

But is it? How should we respond to these things? After all, well-meaning and sincere professing Christians saw it and documented it, so how could it be denied? Why wouldn’t the Holy Spirit want to do that? And doesn’t that mean that the Spirit wants to use us in such ways?

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JusticeAwhile ago, I posted some selections of Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” As it happens, three weeks ago was the 275th anniversary of the greatest sermon preached on American soil. If you haven’t read that post, I would invite you to read what I’ve called America’s greatest sermon for America’s greatest need, extraordinarily relevant for our nation today.

Sermons and teaching like that represented in Edwards’ sermon tends to generate several objections, including the notion that it is unjust for God to punish those who die in their sins for eternity in hell. I want to respond to that objection today.

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“Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight—we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.”
– 2 Corinthians 5:6–8 –

“Therefore” points us back to Paul’s thoughts, where he celebrated the truth that even if his earthly tent was torn down—even the constant opposition, conflict, and persecution that results from his ministry results in losing his life—he was absolutely certain that God would one day raise him from the dead in a glorified body (2 Cor 5:1–5). And he could be that certain because God Himself had given him a pledge—an earnest—the down payment of the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit in his heart, guaranteeing that God will one day deliver all the fullness of Paul’s heavenly inheritance (2 Cor 5:5).

The Pledge of the Spirit

The consequence of that Spirit-guaranteed assurance of a resurrection body is “good courage.” Verse 6: “Therefore, being always of good courage.” And then again in verse 8: “We are of good courage, I say.” The word means to be boldly and confidently courageous. Whether the beatings and stonings and imprisonments that would come as a result of preaching the Gospel to the lost, or the distrust and the false accusations and the heartache of broken relationships that would come as a result of ministering to the church—he could face any circumstance with courage and confidence.

And as we lay our lives down in the service of Christ and His church, so can we. There is so much strength and courage to be drawn from the reality that the Holy Spirit of God Himself is dwelling in us, fighting sin in us, warring against the flesh in us, and will one day raise our mortal body from the dead into conformity with the body of Christ’s glory. As long as that Spirit dwells in you, and guides you and leads you into holiness, and empowers you for ministry, you need never despair in the midst of your labors. You can be always of good courage. One commentator said, “The good courage that animates the [believers] is as permanent and serene as the Spirit dwelling within” (Hughes, 175). The Father’s pledge of the Spirit in our hearts is cause for fearless sacrificial ministry.

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The last two weeks have witnessed the break out of a civil war between complementarian Trinitarians. One side affirms the eternal functional subordination of the Son (EFS), while the other side affirms only the economic subordination of the son (classical or non-EFS). Put more simply, one side argues that the Son has eternally submitted to the Father, while the other side asserts that the Son only submits to the Father in history.

I chronicle the beginning of the civil war here, providing context for the rest of this article in which I detail the on-going debate during June 11th to June 21st. During this period, the war intensifies. On June 13th Lewis Ayres and Michel Barnes, reputable patristic scholars, weigh-in on the Trinitarian debate, assaulting the position of Ware and Grudem (EFS). The patristic hammer weakens the EFS side, but they counterattack on the 14th and 20th. Continue Reading…

I’ve been asked by several people to explain the current Trinity debate in a way that someone without seminary training can understand. In other words, no Latin allowed.  I want to do that today because I sense a frustration in many people that read blogs but feel left behind. So here is my attempt to simplify the issues (in 200 words!) so that you read the Scriptures with these categories in your mind.

As I understand things, there are basically three views in dispute (with thanks to Dr. Michael Svigel for this chart explaining them):

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Over the last two weeks, Christian blogs have been ablaze with debates about the Trinity. These debates have centered on how the Son relates to the Father. One side argues that how the Son submits to the Father in history is the same way God the Father relates to the God the Son in eternity. The other side argues that the way the Son submits to the Father in history is not the way God the Son relates to the Father in eternity.

The first position goes by at least three names: eternal function subordination (EFS), eternal relational subordination (ERS), or eternal relational authority-submission (ERAS). More specifically, it argues that the way the Son differs from the Father by submitting, while the Father to the Son by exerting authority. This relationship is how these two members of Trinity differ in eternity.

For EFS proponents, the submission of the Son does not indicate any inferiority between two essentially. Actually, submission is an honorable role that does not require an ontological difference between the Father and Son. Further, this analogy between the Father and Son makes sense of human relations, relations between husband (authority) and wife (submission). 1 Corinthians 11:3 provides justification for this position: “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” Continue Reading…

TrinityAs the debate over eternal functional subordination continues in the various corners of the blogosphere, Jesse entered the fray yesterday, responding to Goligher’s (one, two) and Trueman’s original posts. He argued for a functional subordination in eternity past primarily on the basis that the divine plan of salvation takes place before the incarnation. And the Son, in agreeing to come as mankind’s Mediator, necessarily places Himself in subjection to the Father’s will. As I was interacting with Jesse’s post, I began writing a comment in response. Before too long, that comment was blog-post length, so I thought I’d just give it its own post. He graciously agreed.

I still think it’s premature for me to take a hard stance in either direction yet, because I think good questions still need to be answered by both sides, and especially by Grudem and Ware, but also by the non-EFSers as well. (My M.O. has just been to argue with whomever I’m talking to at the moment, no matter which position they take, until somebody satisfies my questions and objections.) Really excellent posts from Darren SumnerMark Jones, and Matthew Barrett have moved the discussion forward in what I think are helpful ways. If we keep pushing one another, respectfully and graciously, as brothers, I think the potential is there for some sort of agreement. As it stands now, I think I’m leaning toward the non-EFS side, while it seems Jesse may be leaning in the other direction. But, for reasons I hope this post will explain, I think what non-EFSers are most concerned to safeguard isn’t so much that we don’t call the Son’s decision to undertake His saving mission “submission” or “obedience,” but rather that we don’t say that there is authority and submission within the inner life (ad intra) of the Trinity. At the very least, those are where my concerns lie.

In this post, Jesse’s words from yesterday are in italics, while my responses follow. It does read less like a regular blog post and more like a long blog comment, because, well, that’s what it is. I hope it’s helpful to you anyway.

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rbmw

In 1991 John Piper and Wayne Grudem edited what is one of the most influential and significant books of that decade: Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood. The book’s goal was to show that egalitarianism—the idea that men and women should not have any role differences in marriage or in church—is unbiblical. Instead, Christians should embrace complementarianism–the idea that God designed the sexes to complement each other through different roles in both marriage and church life.

Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood dismantled egalitarianism for a generation of evangelicals. Grudem and Piper used a barrage of arguments, hunted down obscure Greek words, and built an air-tight case that men and women are of equal worth/value/dignity/honor, but have different roles. Continue Reading…

Here is my attempt at a very brief summary of the current debate or discussion surrounding the eternal functional subordination (EFS) of the Son to the Father.

Number 1We all know the incarnate Son submits to the Father, but is His submission something that extends to His eternal role/relationship as Son? Is the Son subordinate to the Father from all eternity? Is there authority and submission within the inner life of the Trinity, even before creation and redemption?

2Proponents of EFS say yes. Opponents say no.

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