Genesis and History

Article by Director Thomas Purifoy Jr.: Six Reasons Reformed Christians Should Embrace Six-Day Creation (original source here)

When ‘Is Genesis History?’ opened in theaters last year, we had no idea it would be the top-grossing Christian documentary for 2017. We were even more surprised when our distributor said it was bringing it back to theaters on Feb 22, 2018, for an Anniversary Event.

Why did this film resonate so much with audiences? Perhaps it demonstrated that it’s intellectually reasonable for Christians to embrace 6-day creation.

By ‘6-day creation,’ I’m referring not just to one’s view of Genesis 1, but to an entire chronology of historical events. These include the immediate creation of everything in six normal days, a Fall that brought corruption and death into the universe, and a global Flood that destroyed the world. I recognize that among some Reformed Christians this is not a popular view of history. Instead, some have adopted the framework hypothesis, analogical days, or the cosmic-temple model to interpret Genesis 1.

They then accept the conventional chronology of universal history. This includes the slow formation of everything over billions of years starting with a Big Bang, the corruption, and death of trillions of creatures before the arrival of Adam and Eve, a Fall that introduced death only to mankind, and a local flood during the days of Noah.

I realize that intelligent and godly Reformed Christians hold to this model of Earth history. Nevertheless, many seem unaware of the actual events they must inevitably adopt when affirming a 13.8 billion-year-old universe. After all, one cannot extend history for billions of years without attaching new events to it. Those events have theological consequences. This is why Reformed thinkers like Geerhardus Vos, Louis Berkhof, and D. Martin Lloyd-Jones embraced 6-day creation. They understood it is the events included in 6-day creation that are essential for Christian theology.

Here are six theological reasons worth considering:

1. God’s Goodness Must Be Reflected in the Original Creation
Ligon Duncan observed in an interview for ‘The Gospel Coalition’ that affirming the goodness of the original creation is non-negotiable. As the Westminster Confession states, the goodness of the original creation is the manifestation of the glory of God’s own goodness. (WCF 4.1)

What does that goodness look like? It is full of life-giving power and bounty. This is what we see in Genesis 1. God pronounces His original creation ‘good’ and ‘very good.’ It was a world of plenty and beauty without animal carnivory (Gen 1:30) and without corruption and death (Rom 8:21).

Yet this picture of an artistically-designed, beautiful world only fits within the chronology of 6-day creation. If one adopts the conventional chronology, one must accept that the Earth was absent from the universe for its first 9 billion years. After a galactic cooling event, the Earth slowly formed through billions of years of uninhabitable environments. God eventually created the first complex marine life, then progressively created or evolved different types of organisms. These experienced death and massive extinction events that led to the destruction of trillions of living creatures. All this happened long before the appearance of Adam and Eve.

I realize that some Christians may not be interested in these sorts of details. Yet anyone who chooses to accept an old universe implicitly accepts the historical events that go with it. It is a history filled with lifelessness and death, not the goodness of God.

2. Adam’s Sin Resulted in Universal Corruption and Death
According to the conventional chronology, corruption has always been a part of the universe. This can be seen in the fossil record which supposedly represents 540 million years of animal suffering and death. It provides snapshots of a world often full of thorns and thistles. Continue reading

How to Find the Will of God

Article by R. C. Sproul: What Is the Will of God for My Life?

This excerpt is taken from the book “Everyone’s a Theologian”.

What does the Bible say about God’s leading? It says that if we acknowledge God in all our ways, He will direct our paths (Prov. 3:5–6). We are encouraged by Scripture to learn the will of God for our lives, and we do so by focusing our attention not on the decretive will of God but on the preceptive will of God. If you want to know God’s will for your life, the Bible tells you: “This is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:3). So when people wonder whether to take a job in Cleveland or in San Francisco, or whether to marry Jane or Martha, they should study closely the preceptive will of God. They should study the law of God to learn the principles by which they are to live their lives from day to day.

The psalmist writes, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:1–2). The godly man’s delight is in the preceptive will of God, and one so focused will be like “a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season” (v. 3). The ungodly, however, are not like that but “are like chaff that the wind drives away” (v. 4).

If you want to know which job to take, you have to master the principles. As you do, you will discover that it is God’s will that you make a sober analysis of your gifts and talents. Then you are to consider whether a particular job is in keeping with your gifts; if it is not, you should not accept it. In that case, the will of God is that you look for a different job. The will of God is also that you match your vocation—your calling—with a job opportunity, and that requires a lot more work than using a Ouija board. It means applying the law of God to all the various things in life.

When it comes to deciding whom to marry, you look at everything Scripture says with respect to God’s blessing on marriage. Having done that, you might discover that there are several prospects who meet the biblical requirements. So which one do you marry? The answer to that is easy: whichever one you want to marry. As long as the one you choose falls within the parameters of the preceptive will of God, you have complete liberty to act according to whatever pleases you, and you do not need to lose any sleep wondering whether you are outside the hidden or decretive will of God. First, you cannot be outside the decretive will of God. Second, the only way you are going to know the hidden will of God for you today is to wait until tomorrow, and tomorrow will make it clear to you because you can look back on the past and know that whatever happened in the past is the outworking of the hidden will of God. In other words, we only know God’s hidden will after the fact. We usually want to know the will of God in terms of the future, whereas the emphasis in Scripture is on the will of God for us in the present, and that has to do with His commands.

“The secret things” belong to God, not to us. “The secret things” are not our business because they are not our property; they are His. However, God has taken some of the secret plans of His mind and removed the secrecy, and such things do belong to us. He has taken the veil away. This is what we call revelation. A revelation is a disclosure of that which once was hidden.

The knowledge that is ours through revelation properly belongs to God, but God has given it to us. That is what Moses was saying in Deuteronomy 29:29. The secret things belong to God, but that which He has revealed belongs to us, and not only to us but to our children. God has been pleased to reveal certain things to us, and we have the unspeakable blessing of sharing those things with our children and others. The priority of passing that knowledge on to our children is one of the main emphases in Deuteronomy. God’s revealed will is given in and through His preceptive will, and this revelation is given that we might be obedient.

As I said earlier, many people ask me how they can know the will of God for their lives, but rarely does anyone ask me how he can know the law of God. People do not ask because they know how to understand the law of God—they find it in the Bible. They can study the law of God in order to know it. The more difficult question is how we can do the law of God. Some are concerned about that, but not too many. Most people who inquire about the will of God are seeking knowledge of the future, which is closed. If you want to know the will of God in terms of what God authorizes, what God is pleased with, and what God will bless you for, again, the answer is found in His preceptive will, the law, which is clear.

Abiding in Christ

Article: What Does it Mean to Abide in Christ? by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson (original source here)

The exhortation to “abide” has been frequently misunderstood, as though it were a special, mystical, and indefinable experience. But Jesus makes clear that it actually involves a number of concrete realities.

First, union with our Lord depends on His grace. Of course we are actively and personally united to Christ by faith (John 14:12). But faith itself is rooted in the activity of God. It is the Father who, as the divine Gardener, has grafted us into Christ. It is Christ, by His Word, who has cleansed us to fit us for union with Himself (15:3). All is sovereign, all is of grace.

Second, union with Christ means being obedient to Him. Abiding involves our response to the teaching of Jesus: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you …” (John 15:7a). Paul echoes this idea in Colossians 3:16, where he writes, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,” a statement closely related to his parallel exhortation in Ephesians 5:18: “be filled with the Spirit.”

In a nutshell, abiding in Christ means allowing His Word to fill our minds, direct our wills, and transform our affections. In other words, our relationship to Christ is intimately connected to what we do with our Bibles! Then, of course, as Christ’s Word dwells in us and the Spirit fills us, we will begin to pray in a way consistent with the will of God and discover the truth of our Lord’s often misapplied promise: “You will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7b).

Third, Christ underlines a further principle, “Abide in My love” (15:9), and states very clearly what this implies: the believer rests his or her life on the love of Christ (the love of the One who lays down His life for His friends, v. 13).

This love has been proved to us in the cross of Christ. We must never allow ourselves to drift from daily contemplation of the cross as the irrefutable demonstration of that love, or from dependence on the Spirit who sheds it abroad in our hearts (Rom. 5:5). Furthermore, remaining in Christ’s love comes to very concrete expression: simple obedience rendered to Him is the fruit and evidence of love for Him (John 15:10–14).

Finally, we are called, as part of the abiding process, to submit to the pruning knife of God in the providences by which He cuts away all disloyalty and sometimes all that is unimportant, in order that we might remain in Christ all the more wholeheartedly.

Charles Spurgeon – The Man

Article by Michael Reeves: 10 Things You Should Know about Charles Spurgeon (original source here)

1. His ministry began in the year of his conversion as a young man.
Spurgeon was raised in a Christian home, but was converted in 1850 at fifteen years old. Caught in a snowstorm, he took refuge in a small Primitive Methodist chapel in Colchester. After about ten minutes, with only twelve to fifteen people present, the preacher fixed his eyes on Spurgeon and spoke to him directly:

“Young man, you look very miserable.” Then, lifting up his hands, he shouted, “Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothin’ to do but to look and live.” Spurgeon later wrote, ‘Oh! I looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away.’ 1

The ‘Prince of Preachers’ was tricked into preaching his first sermon that same year. An older man had asked Spurgeon to go to the little village of Teversham the next evening, “for a young man was to preach there who was not much used to services, and very likely would be glad of company.” It was only the next day that he realized the ‘young man’ was himself.2

2. He was a man of hard work and huge influence.
He went on to preach in person up to thirteen times per week, gathered the largest church of his day, and could make himself heard in a crowd of twenty-three thousand people (without amplification). In print he published some eighteen million words, selling over fifty-six million copies of his sermons in nearly forty languages in his own lifetime.

3. He was self-consciously a theological and doctrinal preacher.
While Spurgeon is not known as a theologian as such, he was nevertheless a deeply theological thinker and his sermons were rich in doctrine, and dripping with knowledge of historical theology – especially the Puritans.

Some preachers seem to be afraid lest their sermons should be too rich in doctrine, and so injure the spiritual digestions of their hearers. The fear is superfluous. . . . This is not a theological age, and therefore it rails at sound doctrinal teaching, on the principle that ignorance despises wisdom. The glorious giants of the Puritan age fed on something better than the whipped creams and pastries which are now so much in vogue.3

4. He was pre-eminently a theologian and preacher of the cross.
Spurgeon’s was a cross-centered and cross-shaped theology, for the cross was “the hour” of Christ’s glorification (John 12:23–24), the place where Christ was and is exalted, the only message able to overturn the hearts of men and women otherwise enslaved to sin. Along with Isaiah 45:22, one of Spurgeon’s favorite Bible verses was John 12:32: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

He insisted on celebrating the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, and often broke bread during the week as well. He believed his preaching of the crucified Christ was the only reason why such great crowds were drawn to his church for so many years. Continue reading

Looming Debate Over SSA

By Rick Phillips (original source here)

These days, it seems that almost every week social media uncovers another eruption along the Presbyterian Church in America’s (PCA) volcanic fault line between social accommodation/compassion and biblical obedience. This week, a conference promoting strategies to address same sex attraction (SSA) has raised heads and provoked comment. This particular event seems to be a laudable attempt to balance the tension: while calling for a compassionate acceptance of SSA Christians it also makes clear statements in support of biblical marriage and takes a position against homosexual behavior that most people in our society would consider fundamentalist. Conservatives should therefore refrain from drawing the worst possible implications from what seems to be a thoughtful and responsible attempt to address this major cultural touchstone.

While avoiding hysterical division, we can at the same time note that a major question mark hangs over the normalization of SSA as a Christian category. It seems that there is a growing consensus in the PCA that we can and must distinguish between one’s sexual orientation and sinful desires. The alternative would seem to be that we tell men and women struggling with homosexuality that what they consider a part of who they are is sinful and (as some would have it) subject them to tortuous rehabilitation techniques that probably include electric shock. The bridge, therefore, between compassion and biblical fidelity is to embrace “gay in Christ” as a normal and wholesome category and then help our LGBTQ brothers and sisters live celibately with these desires.

One problem with this love-motivated strategy is that it collapses under the weight of Scripture. The biblical argument in favor of SSA acceptance goes like this: we always distinguish between desire and temptation. A heterosexual may sinlessly experience an attraction to a member of the opposite sex without giving in to lust. The same must therefore be the case for a homosexual. The orientation is not necessarily sinful, while the desire represents a temptation to be avoided. The key issue is behavior: does the person (heterosexual or homosexual) give in to temptation and commit the sin?

A first criticism of this approach will note that it fails to apply the Bible’s vastly different approach to homosexuality versus heterosexuality, only one of which can ever be sinless. But the major problem is that the Bible does not distinguish between orientation and desire, while instead categorizing desire as temptation. Biblically, temptation is the outward circumstance that prompts desire into sin. But desire for sin itself is an expression of our sinful nature. Bible-believing churches take this approach to virtually every sin other than homosexuality (it is often pointed out that we would never take the pro-SSA approach to racism, for instance). A biblically accurate approach to homosexuality must therefore be congruent with our understanding of sin in general.

One key text is James 1:14-15: “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” Notice that James does not equate desire and temptation but distinguishes them. Desire is the inward disposition toward a given sin. As James sees it, the key issue is not temptation but desire: until desire is sanctified by the grace of Christ, temptation is going to produce sinful behavior. Epithumia, the Greek word translated as “desire” identifies an inward impulse and almost always has a sinful connotation (see Rom. 7:7-8, Gal. 5:17, Col. 3:5, and 1 Thess. 4:5). Therefore, to isolate orientation from sinful desire in simply contrary to Scripture. Continue reading

Catechism Modification

Q: What is the fourth commandment?
A: The fourth commandment is, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Ex. 20:8)

Q: What does the Sabbath signify?
A: The Sabbath was given to the nation of Israel as a remembrance that God gave them rest by bringing them out of slavery in Egypt (Deut. 5:12-15), and as a sign of the Mosaic covenant between God and Israel (Exo. 31:16-17), and as a type and shadow of the rest that has come in salvation through Jesus Christ (Col. 2:16-17) and that will come in the final state (Rev. 21:3-4). Jesus Christ is our Sabbath rest, having given us peace with God (Heb. 4:9-11).

(Eric Bryant)

A. W. Pink – The Person

Article: A. W. Pink: glorifying God by disobeying Him?
by Dan Phillips (original source here)

I realize that A. W. Pink is a hero and beloved saint to many. His books, particularly The Sovereignty of God, have been very helpful for decades.

For my part, I’ve never been a huge fan. I’ve tried reading him, and generally been defeated by his verbosity or his fanciful exegesis. I’ve other books that do a better job of what he tries to do, so they take up my time instead of Pink.

HSAT, I’m reading through a book called Bible Interpreters of the Twentieth Century: A Selection of Evangelical Voices, edited by Elwell and Weaver. The chapter I just finished was devoted to A. W. Pink.

From a whole-Bible, sufficient-Scripture perspective, it’s not a particularly happy story after the opening bits. Pink had been a Theosophist, but was soundly converted whilst in the middle of his activities, and instantly preached Christ in a Theosophical meeting at which he was to be a speaker.

But after that, Pink’s life goes south in a number of ways. He eschews any kind of apprenticeship or training, too devoted to himself and his own endeavors. This will yield mixed fruit: the intensity of his studies will indeed give Pink some good material to give away. However, this isolation is constantly and roundly warned against in Scripture, which commends instead humble exposure to the reproof and counsel of others (e.g. Prov. 10:17; 12:1; 13:18; 15:5, 10, 31-32; 18:1-2; etc.). As anyone who reads and believes the Bible could have predicted, baleful effects followed foolish choices.

Pink attempts to pastor, but ends up careening from location to location to location. Pink prefers talking to people from a great distance (i.e. writing), and ends up devoted to that activity solely, in complete isolation from any personal contact with Christ’s church or the means of grace. Which brings me to set these two passages in contrast.

First:

He labored faithfully for his remaining twelve years of life, writing and producing the periodical while he lived in virtual isolation, not even attending a local church. He justified this behavior by explaining that the admonition not to neglect the assembling of ourselves together does not mean that the sheep of Christ should attend a place where the goats predominate or where their attendance would sanction that which is dishonoring to Christ. On Sundays he spent his time pastoring his flock of faithful readers by writing letters answering their questions concerning the Bible and theology. Would-be visitors who had traveled great distances to Stornoway were discouraged as they were usually turned away, not being allowed to see him. The townspeople knew little about him, except that each day at a certain hour he took a walk through the town.
[Elwell, W. A., & Weaver, J. D. (1999). Bible interpreters of the twentieth century: A selection of evangelical voices (138). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.]

Second:

Pink also believed in, practiced, and preached holiness of life, including sacrificial living for his Lord. He longed to do the will of God, whatever it might be. He searched and searched, prayed and prayed, waited and waited to learn the will of God, and finally surrendered to do what was unmistakably God’s will—the use of his pen. [Ibid., 140.]

These passages in juxtaposition give us an opportunity to consider what I’ve hammered on again and again, just about every place I have a chance.

Consider:

The second passage tells us Pink was holy, and committed to “sacrificial living for his Lord,” doing the will of God heroically, surrendering to “what was unmistakably God’s will—the use of his pen.” But the first passage had told us that Pink had no time for pursuing the second most important thing in the universe according to Jesus: love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:36-40).

Now, like all religious people, Pink worked out what the biographer calls a “justification,” which as always is nothing but a rationalization. And the biographer gives Pink a pass, because he was such a splendid writer. So because of Pink’s (and the biographer’s) writing, Christians are once again urged to the fiction that one can seek and do the “will of God” in direct and continued disobedience to the Word of God.

Get enough ‘notes from God,’ and pretty soon you can’t see what’s right in front of youBecause the second passage is utter nonsense, to a Biblical Christian. Disobeying God’s direct, unambiguous and insistent commands to be personally in community, under the oversight of elders, is not “holiness of life,” and it is not “sacrificial living for the Lord.” It is indulgent and arrogant living for oneself. It is someone who didn’t seem, in any way, to “get” what it means to live and think like a slave.

In fact, mark the first passage. Not only was Pink too good to associate with imperfect saints (where he is not in charge and running things his way); he would not even accept visitors. Pink must have imagined that he had some mystical exemption from Romans 12:13, Hebrews 13:2, and 1 Peter 4:9 as well as the previously-noted commands. And while he wrote very critically and insistently upon evangelism, and how everyone else was doing it wrong, “The townspeople knew little about him, except that each day at a certain hour he took a walk through the town.” So according to this, Pink “practiced holiness” by neither actually obeying the Word of God, nor even through practicing what he literarily preached.

Instead, here once again this ugly specter of a mystical, individual will of God that in fact trumps the written Word of God rears its devastating head. The writer is content that God had a will for Pink that trumped the revealed will He inscripturated for all saints at all times and in all places. God’s inerrant and unchanging and living Word is packed with “one-anothers” to be lived in the fellowship of the local church; but to A. W. Pink, we are given to think that He whispered, “Not you, Arthur. I want you to disobey what I told everyone else to do and stay at home, isolated and distant, practicing none of the graces of the Spirit, lecturing others about their responsibility. You just write; and in your writings, urge others to the obedience and holiness from which I am hereby excusing you.”

So you see, like many who have tried to ply their wares in our metas, Pink imagined he had a “note from God” excusing him for actually obeying those commands God addressed to lesser beings. And the biographer apparently confirms that note.

Goodness, all these ‘notes from God’ are getting hard to keep track of!

You want to say Pink wrote some helpful things? If you say so. You want to tell me he’s a model of Christian holiness and sacrificial living and integrity?

Yeah, I don’t think so. In walking after Christ I constantly struggle (cf. Gal. 5:17ff.), I too frequently fail, I am at unceasing war with my own inconsistencies and inadequacies. The human knack for rationalization is an ever-present risk and fear.

The last thing I need held up for emulation is a man who found a way to avoid that whole struggle by pious-sounding excuses.

How about you?