A Biblical Notion of Justice

‘You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor.”

(Lev. 19:15 ESV)

If you recall a few months ago, I made the case that sin is not only personal but is also structural and systemic. Then I gave a summary analysis of Critical Race Theory, a theory that I argued is contrary to a biblical notion of justice. As I promised, I want to share with you a biblical notion of justice, a notion that refutes CRT.

Distinguished Dutch Reformed theologian, Herman Bavinck, argues that there are three basic demands of biblical justice that is reiterated over and over again in the Old Covenant dispensation:

(1) the guilty person may by no means be considered innocent (Deu. 25:1; Prov. 17:15; 24:24; Isa. 5:23; (2) the righteous may not be condemned (Exod. 23:7; Deut. 25:1; Pss. 31:18; 34:21; 37:12; 94:21; Prov 17:15; Isa 5:23); and (3) the rights of the poor, the oppressed, the day laborers, the widow, and the orphan especially may not be perverted but, on the contrary, must be uplifted for their protection and support (Exod. 22:21f.; Deut. 23:6; 24:14, 17; Prov. 22:22; Jer. 5:28; 22:3, 16; Ezek. 22:29; Zech.7:10).[1]  

Bavinck says that these three demands of justice are grounded “…in the fact that God is the God of justice and righteousness, who upholds the rights of the poor and the afflicted, the widow and the orphan.”[2]

There is much to say, but there are two things I want to emphasize. First, a biblical notion of justice is grounded in God: i.e., true justice is what God demands; and true justice is based on God’s righteous standards, that is the Ten Commandments. Second, God demands that the “rights” of the poor and the afflicted, the widow and the orphan be upheld. Who are the poor and afflicted, the widow and the orphan? In the Old Testament these were the “oppressed,” oppressed not because of their condition, but because of their condition people in power tended to take advantage of them. In other words, the poor are not oppressed by virtue of being poor; on the contrary, the poor are usually oppressed because they are poor. When you are poor, people who are not poor can easily take advantage of you.

What the poor as widow, orphan, and sojourner had in common was a precarious social status. In the case of the widowed and the orphaned it was the death of a husband or father; in the case of the sojourner, it was social and political dislocation due to her or his alien status of not belonging. The concern for these groups was not poverty per se as absolute poverty, but oppression. What I mean is that economic poverty, in the sense of a lack of subsistence, was par for the course in the ancient world of the Old Testament. However, if one were economically disadvantaged due to any one of these categories, then one was liable to oppression; that is, the wealthy— with their political clout and connections (social and political and economic capital)— could (and would) use their advantages over-and-against those with no such social capital. The plight of which the Old Testament most often speaks is not the plight of hunger or lack of shelter; it is their inability to maintain their rights, so that it is possible for others to oppress them. The rights that the widow and the orphan had was a right to her husband’s and a right to his/her father’s resources. The widow had certain “independent legal rights” that a married woman did not have. Case in point, the gleaning laws mandated that what was left in the fields were to be left to the sojourner. Also, because the widow and the orphan lacked sufficient “muscle power,” and the resident alien lacked equal opportunity, certain provisions were legislated: e.g., the gleaning of the fields; every three years a tithe was brought to the local town; and every seven years the land was left uncultivated so that the poor could harvest whatever grew on it.

This biblical notion of justice is contrary to CRT and other secular/pagan notions of justice. In what ways? Let me give you two: first, regarding CRT there is no notion of God; God is not the foundation of justice and righteousness. CRT rejects traditional authority. However, Scripture teaches us that all authority is on loan from God: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1 ESV). CRT and other secular/pagan notions of justice reject this. Second, regarding CRT in its notion of “intersectionality” if you are poor, a woman, a person of color etc., then your minority condition or status by definition means you are oppressed. And by definition if you are not in any one of these minority conditions or statuses you are the oppressor; you are the problem. This too is contrary to a biblical notion of justice. A biblical notion of justice looks to the rights of the poor, the widow, the orphan, etc. being protected and supported. In short, a biblical notion of  “social justice” looks to the equity of law (equity meaning what the Westminster divines meant by General Principle), that is to say no matter your condition or status in life—e.g., rich or poor, male of female, black or white, etc.—everyone has an equal, impartial standing before the law. As Moses says: “You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor” (Lev 1:15 ESV).

In conclusion, both the poor and the mighty are to be treated the same under the law; both the poor and the mighty are to judged by the same standard under the law. CRT teaches the opposite: the poor and oppressed are given preference over the mighty. That’s just as unjust as the mighty given preference over the poor and oppressed. We live in the times of a pendulum shift: we have gone from the injustice of the mighty being preferred over the oppressed (e.g., Jim Crow of previous generations) to the oppressed being preferred over the mighty (e.g., CRT’s notion of justice). A biblical notion of justice rejects both of these forms of injustice. In short, impartial or equitable judgment is a major facet of a biblical notion of justice.  


[1]. Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, v. 3 (Grand Rapids: Backer Academics 2008), 162.  

[2]. Ibid.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The First Christmas Promise

 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

What is the meaning of Christmas? Christmas is about the birth of Jesus! The birth of Jesus Christ (what we culturally know as Christmas) is one of the most important doctrines of the Christian faith and one of the most important events in salvation history. Sceptics will ask “If the birth of Jesus is one of the most important events in history, then why is it only mentioned in the gospels, and in only two of the gospels: viz., Matthew and Luke and only in the first two chapters, never to be mentioned again? If the birth of Jesus is so important, shouldn’t it be referenced throughout Scripture?” It’s true that the birth narrative is only recorded in the first two chapters of the gospels of Matthew and Luke . However, we would be misguided to think that Matthew and Luke are the only two places that the birth of Jesus is alluded to in Scripture. Case in point is Genesis. That’s right! The first reference to Christmas is in Genesis. Genesis 3:15 is a Christmas promise of Christ’s victory at the Cross. Genesis 3:15 is the promise of a Deliverer who would be the promised offspring in the godly line of Eve.

The birth of Jesus was the partial fulfillment of Genesis 3:15. What do I mean? When Jesus was born it was a fight to the finish between Satan and Jesus. Satan knew very well, in part, the general meaning of the prophesy. He knew that Jesus came to crush his head (win the war) and that at best all he was predicted to do was to bruise Jesus’ heel (win the battle). Satan, I’m sure, said “Nonsense! I’m going to crush his head before he can crush mine.” So as soon as the eternal Son of God became a little helpless baby in the manger, Satan said, “Finally, I got him! Finally, God is within my grasp.” We all know the story of this conflict. King Herod the Great (one of the spiritual offspring of Satan) lashed out at Jesus, doing Satan’s bidding. Herod’s demonic enmity resulted in the murder of all male children ranging from the ages of two and under. God warned Mary and Joseph of Herod’s infanticide, and they were able to escape to Egypt. 

Satan came back again and again and again throughout his public ministry. Finally, Satan had whittled down Jesus’ support, so much so that the spiritual offspring of Satan was greater in number than the offspring of the godly, so great that even Jesus’ inner circle abandoned him. In fact, Satan had one of his spiritual offspring operating as a double agent: Judas Iscariot. At the right moment Satan stirred Judas to betray Jesus. And Finally, Satan had him right where he wanted him. Things unfolded according to Satan’s plan: arrested by night, trial before a kangaroo courts (one by night and the other by day). He was then flogged; he was sentenced to death. He was forced to walk to Golgotha where he would die, forced to carry his own cross (an instrument of torture and death); they nailed him to that rugged cross; and there he died. It finally looked as though Satan had won the war, that he in fact had crushed the head of Jesus. But something happened; on the third day Satan realized that he hadn’t crushed the head of Jesus (the promised deliverer). He realized that he had only bruised Jesus’ heel, that he had not defeated Jesus once and for all, crushing his head via the cross. Satan realized that the death of Jesus on the cross was just a bruising for Jesus, while it was a crushing defeat for him. John Gerstner wrote this about Satan’s momentary triumph:

“Satan was majestically triumphant in this battle. He nailed Jesus to the cross. The prime object of all his striving through all the ages was achieved. But he had failed. For the prophecy which has said that he would indeed bruise the seed of the woman has also said that his head would be crushed by Christ’s heel. Thus, while Satan was celebrating his triumph in battle over the Son of God, the full weight of the Atonement accomplished by the Crucifixion came down on him, and he realized that all this time, so far from successfully battling against the Almighty, he had actually been carrying out the purpose of an all-wise God.”

Beloved, this is the gift of the first promise of Christmas way back in the Garden of Eden. That gift was the gift of salvation secured at the cross. At the cross Jesus defeated Satan, crushing his head, while only bruising his heal: that is, at the cross Jesus won the war of redemption by losing the battle through crucifixion! 

Christmas is not about gifts, and food, and parties, and Hallmark cards and movies. Christmas is about a promise kept long ago in the Garden of Eden, a promise to save us “from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.” A promise of “glad tidings of comfort and joy.” If you have not trusted Jesus as your Lord and savior—if you have not trusted in Jesus as Adam and Eve, and as all of the other godly offspring have throughout sacred history— I bid you to do so now! Amen! 

In Christ

Carl

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Critical Race Theory: An Empty Philosophy

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ (1 Col. 2:8 ESV).

Paul (in Col 2:8) warns us against “empty philosophies” that take people captive. Case in point, last time, I broached the subject of “structural or systemic sin” that dominates our cultural conversation from News headlines, political commentators, and political activists. I asked, as Christians, what are we to make of all of this “social justice” talk? Is structural or systemic sin real or Marxist ideology? Last time I made the case that sin is structural and systemic. However, much of what we hear today about social justice isn’t formed and informed by a biblical notion of justice. What we hear today is contrary to Scripture. What’s contrary to Scripture?  Marxist ideology under the rubric of “Critical Race Theory” is contrary to Scripture. What is Critical Race Theory (CRT)? CRT is a secular metanarrative that seeks to explain all of reality apart from God. A metanarrative is a theory that gives a wide-ranging interpretation to events and experiences based on universal truth. A metanarrative is a worldview that tells us about human origin, human meaning, human morality, and human destiny. In the case of CRT it provides a postmodern metanarrative or worldview that seeks to replace the metanarrative or worldview of Scripture.  

There are generally five pillars of CRT: oppressive hierarchies, ever-present racism, non-traditional morality, anti-free markets (anti-capitalism), and social revolution. The first pillar is oppressive hierarchy. A hierarchy is simply a chain of command; there is always someone in authority above us. CRT teaches the higher you go in the chain of command the more oppressive ascending authority becomes. The necessary implication is that all authority is evil and oppressive. In short, the first pillar is the CRT’s doctrine of authority. The second pillar is ever present (i.e., ubiquitous) racism. Racism is the original sin of CRT; racism is the worst of all oppressive hierarchies; racism is both universal and systemic. The “White (male)” systems are inherently oppressive of minorities of all kinds. In short, the second pillar is CRT’s doctrine of man. The third pillar is non-traditional family. CRT believes that the nuclear family is a threat to society. If you go to the organization Black Lives Matters’ website (not the slogan; we all agree that all lives of black people matter.), they unambiguously state that the nuclear family must be dismantled, that heterosexuality is oppressive. CRT teaches that “heteronormativity” (that is heterosexuality is the normal and normative mode of sexuality) is an expression of oppressive hierarchy in the family. This is why CRT pushes for the disintegration of the nuclear family. In short, the third pillar is CRT’s doctrine of morality. The fourth pillar is anti-free markets. CRT teaches that the free-market is one of the most heinous forms of oppression. Pitting the “haves” and the “have- nots” is a classical Marxist way to express “oppression.” In short, the fourth pillar is CRT’s doctrine of economics. The fifth pillar is social revolution. Social revolution is the method by which one dismantles authority, racism, the family, morality, and free-markets. And one of the methods of social revolution is violence. CRT justifies violence as an acceptable means for social change.  In short, the fifth pillar is CRT’s doctrine of social change.

Next time I’ll share with you how CRT is contrary to Scripture and the Christian faith. But in conclusion, for now I merely want you to be aware of what CRT is about. CRT has long ago taken over the minds of academics across disciples from law to liberation theology. What’s different today is that it’s becoming mainstream, that it’s being pushed, for example, in certain progressive government school districts via the 1619 Project. The 1619 Project curriculum basically teaches our children that America was founded on evil, that our Founders were oppressive racists, that America must undergo a social revolution, a “fundamental change” must take place by any means. (Sound familiar?) Let me be very clear: peaceful protest is a civic virtue!! What was done to George Floyd was a travesty, a great miscarriage of justice! However, rioting and burning and looting are not civic virtues but vices! As Christians, we must be aware of this counterfeit notion of justice and empty philosophy of CRT vs. the biblical notion of justice. Next time, I’ll share with you the biblical notion of justice.

In Christ

Carl

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

In Sin My Mother Conceived Me.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.
(Psalm 51 ESV)

We hear a lot these days in our cultural conversations the terminology of “structural or systemic sin” from News headlines, political commentators, and political activists. As Christians, what are we to make of this? Is structural or systemic sin real or Marxist ideology? The short of the answer is both yes and no.
Sin is first and foremost personal. King David, as he confesses his personal transgressions of adultery and murder in Psalm 51, also acknowledges the radical nature of his sinfulness. David was born a sinner, conceived in sin and brought forth in iniquity in his mother’s womb. David is saying that he was a sinner, not because he sinned; David sinned, because he was a sinner. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says it this way:

Q25. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate into which man fell?

A. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of that righteousness wherein he was created, and the corruption of his nature, whereby he is utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite unto all that is spiritually good, and wholly inclined to all evil, and that continually; which is commonly called original sin, and from which do proceed all actual transgressions.

What both Scripture teaches and the Westminster divines reiterate is that man was created righteous, but because of Adam’s first sin, man fell from his original righteousness, making him both guilty of Adam’s first sin and making him corrupt. When the divines say that all of humanity is guilty of Adam’s sin, they are speaking of the doctrine of Imputed Unrighteousness. One of the Scriptures the divines used as a proof-text is from Romans 5:12, 19:

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. … For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Imputed Unrighteousness means that even though you and I did not personally commit Adam’s transgression (i.e., we did not partake of the fruit offered by Satan), we are nonetheless guilty of Adam’s transgression, treated as though we had done it. And not only are we guilty of Adam’s sin, we are also personally corrupted because of Adam’s sin; this personal corruption is called Original Sin where we are “wholly inclined to all evil….from which do precede all actual transgressions.” In short, each and every sinner is held responsible for his or her own personal sin and will give an account of that sin on the Day of Judgment. This is bad news, but there is good news. The good news is that God has accomplished salvation through Jesus on the cross. On the cross, our sins were imputed to Jesus (Jesus was treated as though he committed our sins, judged for our sins), and Jesus’ perfect righteousness was imputed to us by faith, and faith alone. That’s the good news of the kingdom of God: we are forgiven and set free from the penalty of sin.
This is the personal notion of sin in relation to the gospel taught in Scripture. However, related to the personal is the social: sin is also pervasive within social structures and social systems. When we sin we not only sin personally, but also corporately. Personal sin pervades every sphere of human life and society. Sin (like cancer) metastasizes, spreading to everything we touch in human life and society; laws, politics, policies, customs, ideologies, etc.—everything is corrupted by sin. The Bible calls this institutionalization and routinization of sin the World or this present Age. A good example of the structural and systemic notion of sin is abortion. The murder of a baby in the mother’s womb not only involves the personal sins of the mother and the abortion doctor, but also the corporate and structural sins of institutions and larger systems such as Planned Parenthood, the legal decision of Roe v. Wade, etc.  Sinful systems in the past were Antebellum Slavery, Jim Crow,  the Indian Removal Act, etc. As Al Mohler says, “The relationship between individual sin and structural sin is thus reciprocal. Individual sin eventually takes structural form. The structures then both facilitate and rationalize ongoing and expanding individual sin.” In short, personal sin and corporate sin feed upon each other. Scripture calls this evil tandem the world and the flesh.
In conclusion, the biblical notion of structural or systemic sin is real. We, the church, must speak against evil in all its forms, both personally and structurally. On judgment Day, Jesus too will destroy both the world and all sinful flesh, but until then we must proclaim the gospel. The gospel is the only answer to sin. Next month, I will discuss the unbiblical notions of structural or systemic sin that is rampant in our culture and on our news today, and relate this to the truth of the gospel.
In Christ
Carl

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

COVID19

fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

(Isa 41:10 ESV)

How do we trust God when fear is a greater pandemic than COVID19? How does the Spirit of God’s power, love, and self-control overcome the fear of our age (Zeitgeist)? I want to give you three words of encouragement, the same words of encouragement that the company of pastors, led by John Calvin in the midst of the Black Plague, gave to those who were on their sickbeds, dying from the Black Plague!
1. Death does not have power over the Christian.
The first thing to remember is that the power of death over the Christian has been taken away. The power of death is the fear of death that the devil holds over man. The author of Hebrews says, “ 14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Heb 2:14-15 ESV). Jesus’ death destroyed Satan’s power of death which is our fear over death. This is why Paul could say “To live is Christ, but to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21). And we can say the same thing. Take courage in this, that even in a worst-case scenario, like contracting COVID19, you and I have nothing to fear! The best is yet to come when the “roll is called up yonder!”
2. Remember the message of the gospel of grace: confess your sins and flee to the mercies of God
Scripture teaches that the greatest existential threat to man is not a plague, or virus, or cancer, or natural disasters, etc. The greatest existential threat is sin and its effects on humanity. At most all COVID19 can do is destroy our bodies. Jesus said don’t fear that. What should we fear? Jesus’ warning is this: “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mat 10:28 ESV). The cure for the spiritual disease of sin is the gospel. God sent his Son into the world to save us from sin and sin’s wages. Through faith in Jesus we receive mercy, righteousness, and eternal life. In order to receive this gift, we must repent of our sins and trust in Jesus where we are safe in His arms.
3. God protects, loves, cares, and watches over His people
Revelation teaches us that throughout history— i.e., between the first coming of Christ to His second coming—God sends judgments: 9 They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed1 the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory. (Rev 16:9 ESV). The purpose of these judgments is to warn sinful man of the impending Day of the Lord. On that Day (when Jesus returns) there will be a total destruction of this “evil age.” This will be the end of human history (this present age) and the beginning of the “age to come,” of the New Heavens and Earth. What we see in Revelation is God’s patience and long suffering: His slow, incremental increasing of judgment. Each vision (seven in all) is a snapshot or picture of God’s judgments on every generation until Jesus returns for The Judgment, called the Day of the Lord! What does this mean for our world today? It means that our world is under God’s judgment, that COVID19 is God’s wakeup call (a trumpet) for sinful mankind to repent before it’s too late. Eschatologically speaking, COVID19 (like all plagues, diseases, natural disasters, etc.) is a warning! But, alas, the world (as it says in Revelation) will not repent and give God glory. The question for us, the Church, is how do we fit into all of this? Revelation was written to address that question. Revelation’s basic message is that God is in control, that the Lamb of God is victorious, that the wicked will not repent and glorify God, but will continue to curse God who has power over these plagues (including COVID1). However, in the midst of all of this we, the Church, are protected, loved, and cared by God, that God is watching over us!
Dear Christian, remember that death does not have power over you; remember the gospel of grace; and remember God is in charge; He’s protecting you, loving you, caring for you, and watching over you in the midst of this global pandemic! As the prophet Isaiah says, Fear not!
In Christ
Carl

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

I Am The Life

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (Joh 14:6 ESV)

 

Philosopher Herbert Fingarette, while musing about death, said that “In my arrogance, I thought that I could conquer death with logic. But now I know that I only used logic to suppress my fear of death.” Dr. Fingarette lived and mused his way through most of his 97 years of life that death was nothing to fear, that he could muster enough arguments as a buffer to blunt the fear of death! It was only now at his dark stage of twilight, that is while the dusk of death was falling rapidly, that Dr. Fingarette realized his arguments were only a defense mechanism to suppress his fear of death. Fingarette had good reason to fear death. The Bible teaches that the fear of death has real power over our lives, a power that subjects us to “lifelong slavery.” The tragedy of Fingarette is that it wasn’t until he was near his end that he realized his human “logic” only served to numb him from the fear of death. It didn’t conquer his fear of death as he arrogantly thought all those years in his “ivory tower.” Because of that, he treated the most important existential issue in all of life with an escapist attitude! This escapist attitude contemplated that “since life is short, let’s just enjoy it!” The power of death does that: it has the power of dread and it has the power to create an escapist attitude to avoid such dread. But either way, dread is real! Who has this power of dread over humanity? Scripture says the devil: 14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise apartook of the same things, that bthrough death he might cdestroy dthe one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who athrough fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Heb 2:14-15 ESV)

But the good news is that Jesus destroyed the power of Satan who has the power of death. How? Jesus’ death on the cross destroyed death and the power of death which is the power of dread! When Jesus says that he is the “life,” that’s what he meant: that is to say, he’s the only way that can deliver man from the power of dread; He’s the only truth (Fingarette’s logic) that can deliver man from the power of dread! All the other ways and truths that man uses to deliver him from the power of dread are arrogant, merely ivory tower approaches of escapism doomed to fail in this age and in the age to come.

As I write this, we are all hearing the tragic news about Kobi Bryant and his untimely death as a young and extremely accomplished man. Our prayers go out to his family and friends, as well as others whose family members died in the helicopter crash. Whether we live a long full life like Dr. Fingarette, or our life is cut short like Mr. Bryant, may we prepare for a long eternity after this life! However, there is only one way to prepare: in Christ alone, through Christ alone, and by Christ alone!

In Christ,

Carl    

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Small World Where God Matters

Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. (Rev 14:1 ESV)

 

We live in a big world where God doesn’t matter, where bigger is better, power is impactful, and influence is all that matters. This sort of thinking can easily permeate the church and seep into our psyche, distorting our view and expectations of God. Recently I read a blog from a pastor, pastor Mark Loughridge. He said this:

“We live is a world where size matters. But God wants us to live in a small world where He matters. Consider Naaman’s maid…. Healing and salvation came to a pagan warlord because of 10 words. That’s all that is recorded, a nameless girl, with ten words—impacting eternity…. The power of God can inhabit smallness just as easy as vastness. Ten words, from a small nobody. World changing.”

This is true, true regarding not only smallness but also weakness. When we consider Revelation 14, we notice a contrast. The contrast between the Beasts of Revelation 13 vis-a-viz the Lamb of Revelation 14. The Beasts represent the sum total of all political and military power, as well as false apostate religious systems that are against Christ and his Church in this present/temporal evil age, an age that is under the power of Satan (the Red Dragon) who is the god of this present evil world/age. Compare this to the Lamb (who is Jesus) who is currently ruling and reigning in heaven (Mount Zion) in the eternal age to come with the 144,000 (which are all the elect saints of God). There is much we can ask of this text. However, there is one question I want us to ponder: why isn’t Jesus depicted as a lion? In Revelation 5:5, Jesus is depicted as the “Lion of the tribe of Judah.” Why is Jesus depicted as a sacrificial Lamb as opposed to a powerful reigning Lion? In part, it’s because Jesus reigns in weakness. That is to say, through the weakness of the cross Jesus conquered and was triumphant over the Dragon and his cronies (the Beasts).

Let this permeate and seep into our minds. Paradoxically, smallness and weakness are the ways of God. God can do (and does) great things through ordinary people like you and me. In this present evil age unbelievers live in a big world where God doesn’t matter. However, as pilgrims in this evil age we long for heaven, for the age to come. In the meantime, let us live in a small world where God does matter!

In Christ

Pastor Carl

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Regulative Principle and the Lord’s Day

Regulative Principle of Worship

What is the Regulative Principle of Worship, and what is its relationship to the Lord’s Day? The regulative principle is “the theory of church government and worship that not only church doctrine but church practice must be based on clear Scriptural warrant.”[1] The Westminster Confession says:

The light of nature shows that there is a God, who has lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and does good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture (Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 21: Section 1).

 

Both of these definitions hinge upon Scripture. Scripture alone is what regulates true worship of God. One will notice that this principle is an application of Sola Scriptura. During the 16th century Reformation, all Protestants affirmed Sola Scriptura, that the bible, and not the Church, was the sole standard and authority upon which the Christian faith ought to be based upon. Like Rome, the Reformers too affirmed the notion of Apostolic Succession. The different between the two was (and is today) that for Rome said Succession stops at the feet of the Pope and his bishops. The Reformers correctly understood that said Succession stops at the feet of Scripture which is the teachings of the apostles and prophets. All bible believing Protestants today affirm that the bible alone is authoritative, inerrant, infallible, and the complete revelation of the will of God for His Church. However, while all such Protestants affirm Sola Scriptura as it is applied to theology—i.e. the Person and Work of Christ, the Atonement, the attributes of God, the Trinity, etc.—what divides Protestants today is what divided the Reformers of yesterday: that is applying Sola Scriptura to both polity and worship as well. The Lutheran wing of the Reformation (taking its lead from Luther) accepted anything in worship that was not prohibited in the Bible. This principle is known as the “normative principle.”  The normative principle does not restrict the elements of worship to what the bible prescribes alone but opens up and makes more room for man-made elements and rituals to be employed in worship.  In short, the normative principle is permissive: what God has not prohibited is permitted. In contrast to this permissive principle is the restrictive nature of the regulative principle. Simply put, “whatever is commanded in Scripture is required, and that whatever is not commanded is forbidden.”[2]  It’s restrictive because if God ‘s Word has not commanded it via explicit command or by example, then it is not permitted. These are two different principles employed with two different regulations for worship. The former is regulated in part by Scripture and in large part by the norm of human prudence; the latter is regulated in toto by Scripture. The regulative principle is a subset of the Sola Scriptura: i.e. nothing is to be added to regulate worship, including human prudence.

The regulative principle adds a double filter, to filter out idolatry in worship. What do I mean? Case in point, is the Roman Catholic Mass. The normative principle can’t filter out the idolatry of Mass. Nowhere in Scripture does it prohibit Mass. Based upon the permissive nature of the normative principle there is no justification for excluding Mass. What then was Luther’s justification for restricting Mass? Horton Davies says:

If men were justified by their faith in the righteousness of Christ, accepting his sacrifice as the all-sufficient guarantee for the pardon of their sins, then all practices motivated by a belief in justification by works had to disappear. Such practices included attending the Mass as a good work and going on religious pilgrimages.[3]

Luther grounds his exclusion of the celebration of Mass based upon the doctrine of Christ’s once and for all sacrifice. The Author of Hebrews teaches very clearly that Mass contradicts the once and for all sacrifice of Christ. He says, “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,” (Heb 10:12 ESV). This is in part why Mass is excluded from true worship. Sola Scriptura— instantiated in the doctrine of the once and for all sacrifice of Christ— precludes Mass. The Reformed wing of the Reformation also utilized Sola Scriptura instantiated via doctrine to filter idolatry. However, the Reformers had a second filter: i.e. Sola Scriptura instantiated via regulative principle of worship. Mass is a man-made tradition; it is not commanded in Scripture. In fact, the regulative principle is the first and best defense against idolatry. What I mean is this: there are more steps that have to be taken with the former to come to the realization that Mass is excluded from true worship—i.e. one must first understand the nature of the Atonement; secondly, understand the nature of Mass; thirdly, conclude by deduction that the Mass is excluded. With the latter there are just two basic steps:  does Scripture command the observance of Mass? If not, then Mass is excluded. Not only does the regulative principle, a sort of Occam’s Razor, simplifies truth but provides a first line of defense against convoluted arguments at the practical level of worship. This applies mutatis mutandis to the liturgical season of Lent. The Lutheran wing of the Reformation took a different approach to liturgical calendar reform.[4] Old notes that the Lutheran calendar “represented a moderate reform.”[5]  What made it a moderate reform was that Lutheranism provided an alternative; instead of providing a covenant of works framework to the seasons—e.g. instead of Advent and Lent being a means of justification by works—the Lutheran wing framed Advent, Lent, Good Friday , etc. within the covenant of grace lone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, making the celebration Christocentric.[6] In contrast to the Lutheran wing was the Continental Reformers in Strasbourg. They rejected Lent and Advent because they were “…basically ascetic and penitential” in their orientation.[7] In contrast to the Continental Reformed wing was the Anglo-Saxon, Puritan wing —e.g. during Cromwell which included Congregational, Baptist, and Presbyterian—that rejected the liturgical seasons in toto.[8] What explains the differences? The Lutheran wing’s reform was based exclusively on Sola Scriptura regarding doctrine, while embracing the normative principle for worship. The Continental Reformed wing embraced a modified regulative principle. They correctly rejected liturgical seasons; they understood that such ceremonial and liturgical seasons ended with the Old Testament church, that such ceremonies and seasons of the Old Covenant church were not transposed into the register of ceremonies and seasons in the new covenant church. They also correctly understood that at their root, Advent and Lent were ascetic and penitential, that they were means of grace and works in tandem. Unlike the Lutheran wing, they did not seem to think that transforming Advent and Lent from a humanistic to a Christocentric bent was even a possibility. However, Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost were worthy endeavors. They chose them “because they were understood to mark the essential stages in the history of salvation,” naming them “evangelical feasts.”[9] They opted for evangelical feasts vis-à-vis liturgical seasons or calendar.  This is why I call the Continental wing’s application of the regulative principle “modified.” They agreed that liturgical seasons/calendars are nowhere found in Scripture. In fact, very early on a calendar was established: “the weekly observance of the resurrection on the Lord’s Day.” This they understood to be the only “season” celebrated weekly. However, they modified the regulative principle in that they did add to the weekly calendar of the Lord’s Day a seasonal calendar not commanded in Scripture, and they were the five evangelical feast days. This is like the High Sabbaths of ancient Israel. Just as you had the seven feasts or the High Sabbaths/Assemblies of Passover, Pentecost, etc. of Leviticus 23, likewise you have added onto the Lord’s Day other “evangelical feasts.” A strict adherence of the regulative principle precludes such, though well meaning, accretions. Just as with Mass, the Occam’s Razor of the regulative principle precludes the addition of evangelical feasts onto the Lord’s Day. Every Lord’s Day is an evangelical feast, celebrating Christ’s birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, gift of the Holy Spirit, and His sure return! This reasoning is what separated the Anglo-Saxon, Puritan, Presbyterian wing from not only the Lutheran wing, but also the Continental wing of the Reformation.  The difference between the Continental Reformed and Puritan-Presbyterian Reformed is that the former was less consistent; the latter more consistent. I say less consistent, because there is no positive command instituting holy-days as a dominical ordinance equal to and/or in addition to the Lord’s Day.

Before I say more about the Lord’s Day and its relationship to the regulative principle, let me say more about the biblical justification of the regulative principle. This is important for us to consider. It seems self-evident that the regulative principle, though not explicitly stated, is (as the Westminster divines noted) a good and necessary consequence deduced from Scripture. R.J. Gore denies this. He contends that the regulative principle is an unworkable and unscriptural view of worship, that it’s unique to the Puritans. He says, “All that has preceded has been helpful in determining that the regulative principle of worship, as formulated by the Puritans and adopted by the divines at the Westminster Assembly, is unworkable. More importantly, it is simply not the teaching of Scripture.”[10] One of his main arguments against the regulative principle is synagogue worship. He states that Jesus attended the synagogue worship and that synagogue worship is not prescribed in the Old Testament, that it was a later development. Yet, Jesus countenance this practice of worship not prescribed in Scripture. Therefore, the Puritan regulative principle is just that: a Puritan innovation.[11] T. David Gordon cites Josephus’ description of synagogue practice and says that such practices of reading and prayers in “synagogue was not worship but study.”[12]Gordon notes that pious Jews attended synagogue to deepen their understanding of Torah, along with prayer and scholarly study. It’s more along the lines analogous to “…a Christian study center or seminar …. There was no pledge of divine presence at the synagogue…no atonement was made there; and Israelites were not called to meet God there.”[13] I agree with Gordon, that synagogue practices are a moot point. When it comes to worship, Scripture regulates such practices. However, when it comes to the synagogue, Christian study centers, seminaries, etc.— custom regulates such voluntary practices.

Contrary to Gore, both Calvin and the Puritans held to the regulative principle. However, do we have biblical justification for the regulative principle? Are there biblical texts that evince the regulative principle? One among many texts that demonstrate this is Exodus 20:4-6. We read:

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands1 of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exo 20:4-6 ESV)

The Westminster divines correctly understood that the second commandment deals with right worship: worshiping the one true God correctly. The Second Commandment opposes all forms of self-willed worship, not only through the form of an idol. Although crass idolatry a la carved images were the most extreme form of idolatry in antiquity, there are more subtle forms of idolatry today which includes anything introduced in worship that comes from the hands or minds of man. In large part, this is the basic meaning of the command “You shall not make.” This precludes all human invention in divine worship. In other words, if God has not commanded it, then man is restricted from doing it!  The Second Commandment is the regulative principle of worship made explicit. Another passage of Scripture is Leviticus 10:1-3. We read:

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered cunauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them.  And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.  Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said, ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.'” And Aaron held his peace. (Lev 10:1-3 ESV)

This text displays God’s zeal for his own glory, especially regarding the way that He is worshiped. What was Nadab and Abihu’s sin that caused such anger and retribution from the Lord? They took upon themselves to offer up “unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not authorized.” They were not judged for doing what God forbid them to do (normative principle), but for doing what God did not command them to do (regulative principle). They had no warrant or power of discretion to offer up fire they deemed “helpful.” In short, they were consumed by the wrath of God for violating the regulative principle of worship. The human fire they offered was just as practical as divine fire: both could burn incense. The only difference was the former was not of divine command, while the latter was of divine command. There are numerous other passages of Scripture, but these two are more than sufficient to provide evidence for the categorical and unequivocal biblical justification for the regulative principle of worship in general, but now let me turn in particular to the the Lord’s Day and its relationship to the regulative principle.

 

The Lord’s Day

 

Broadly speaking, when it comes to the notion of the Lord’s Day there are four dominant views. Christopher Donato’s Perspectives on the Sabbath presents the four most common views: the Seventh-day Adventist, the Sabbatarian, the Fulfillment, and the Lutheran views.[14] Out of the four, the Sabbatarian view or the Christian Sabbath view is the historic teaching of the Reformed tradition. The Confession teaches:

As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in his Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, he has particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week: and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s Day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath (Westminster Confession Chapter 21: Section 7).

Though there is no explicit command changing the appointed day of the Sabbath from last day of the week to the first day of the week, there is an implicit command. Hebrews 10:24 commands corporate worship. Believers are also required to assemble for worship on the first day of the week by apostolic example (Acts 2:20), and by apostolic endorsement (1 Cor 16:2). Why is the Lord’s Day required? To answer this, we will have to go back to the original purpose and the nature of the Sabbath.

Joseph Pipa explains that God’s original intent was for all of mankind.[15] As Pipa says, when God blessed the day of the Sabbath, that “…by blessing the day God made the day a blessing for man.”[16] Pipa argues from Isaiah 58:13-14 that the said purpose of the Sabbath as a Creation ordinance promised three things: “intimate communion with God, spiritual victory, and practical enjoyment of his privileges.”[17] Pipa argues that these promises are not only for the Old Testament church, but also for the New Testament church. However, these promises are conditional. The condition is to keep the Sabbath.  The prophet Isaiah says,

If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure1 on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; (Isa 58:13 ESV)

God does not oppose pleasure, says Pipa. God opposes lesser pleasures in favor of greater pleasures in store for us on the Sabbath. In short, to remember the Sabbath means not doing one’s own work, not seeking one’s own pleasure, and not speaking one’s own words—these instantiate what it means to keep the Sabbath.[18] Desisting from one’s own work does not mean that works of piety or necessity[19] (Matt. 12:1-8) or works of mercy[20] (Matt 12:9-14) are precluded. To the contrary—not pursuing normal business as we do during the week does not mean we are not to pursue works of piety, necessity, and mercy as our Lord taught. We are to rest as a spiritual vocation. One will ask, what is the focus of the Sabbath? Is it rest or worship? Meredith Kline argues that the focus is rest and secondarily worship. John Frame, who was a student of Kline’s in the 1960s, recalls that Kline taught a modified Sabbatarianism. Frame explains the following:

In his earlier years, he questioned the position … that God designed the Sabbath mainly for worship, not for rest. In [other] views, Sabbath (or Sunday) rest is primarily a means of preparing for worship. But in Scripture itself, rest is a far more prominent element of Sabbath celebration. One may even say that the essence of Sabbath (from Shabbat, “to cease, desist, rest”) is rest. Genesis 2:3 describes God’s rest. It does not mention worship, of course, since God is not a worshiper, but the supreme object of worship. The fourth commandment tells Israel to cease work, without mentioning worship explicitly (though to keep a day “holy” is certainly an act of worship). God typically judges Sabbath breakers (as in Num. 15:32-36), not for failing to worship on the Sabbath, but for doing inappropriate work. Similarly, Jesus’ argument with the Pharisees was not over Sabbath worship, but over Sabbath work (as Matt. 12:1-8). So, the early Kline finds the essence of Sabbath in rest, rather than worship. Of course, when we rest from our weekly labors in honor of God, it is an especially appropriate time for worship, and Kline is well aware of the biblical emphasis on Sabbath worship …. But he is unpersuaded of the Westminster standards’ view that the day is to be spent entirely in public and private worship, together with deeds of necessity and mercy. Plain physical rest, like a long nap (what the Westminster Divines may well have considered “idleness”: see WLC, 119), is also appropriate, as is noncommercial recreation, such as taking walks, swimming, biking, or neighborhood games (contrary to the prohibition of “recreations” in WLC, 119).[21]

Later, Kline departed from the Sabbatian view by confining the Sabbath to the cultic sphere.[22] However, his accent on rest, as opposed to worship, is well founded. Case in point, we find with regard to the Sabbath a charitable concern of giving rest to the alien so that they may be refreshed (Ex 23:12; cf. Deut 5:14). Though resident aliens were not allowed to worship, they were charged to obey the Sabbath command to rest on the Sabbath. The reason for this is that physical rest points to spiritual rest. The structure of physical rest God had for ancient Israel, as it does for modern man, surely includes a social dimension. As Pipa says,

A greater portion of industrial activity, however, could shut down on the Lord’s Day. What would be the economical and environmental benefits if they did? Think of the extended life-span of expensive machinery, fewer repairs, and less pollution in the air and water….as God teaches us how to structure His day socially, He includes those outside the church.[23]

For the non-covenant resident aliens, Sabbath rest was merely physical rest with mere social implications. However, for the people of God Sabbath rest pointed beyond to spiritual rest. As it was for the Old Testament church, it is now for the New Testament church— resting is a covenant sign of grace.[24] As Pipa says, “All true Sabbath-keeping begins by our actively resting in God alone for our salvation.”[25] In short, the Sabbath is both a redemptive and creation ordinance, both promising eternal-life. Before the Fall, the promise of eternal life was under the covenant of works. Adam was promised eternal life, suspended on the condition of perfect obedience. If Adam had not fallen into sin, he would have entered into that eternal rest without passing through death. As Pipa says, “God, by resting on the seventh day, pictured the promise rest; so his rest was a type of our eternal rest.”[26] In short, before the Fall under the covenant of works the Sabbath promised eternal life conditioned by Adam’s obedience; after the Fall the Sabbath pledged eternal life, pledged and provided by Christ, the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:45-49). Piper says,

For the Israelites the Sabbath sign pointed in two directions: backwards, reminding them of God as Creator who after the Fall had promised salvation through a Redeemer; and forwards, reminding them that they were to wait in faith for the promised Savior.[27]

As our Confession affirms, because the Sabbath pointed forward to the redeeming work of the Messiah the only change that took place regarding the Decalogue was not the obligation to rest one day out of seven. That obligation is unchanged. It’s unchanged because of the correct understanding that the Decalogue (including the fourth commandment) summarizes the moral law, an eternal and transcended moral norm based in the very character of God. Thomas Shepard argues that the fourth commandment is a moral law, not just positive. He argues that the fourth commandment is “a law more strictly and specially moral, which concerns the manner of all men…may be thus described; viz., it is such a law, which is therefore commanded, because it is good, and is not therefore good merely because it is commanded.”[28] In short, a rightly ordered society is first based upon that which is morally or inherently good and right.[29] This means the fourth commandment is first and foremost a moral law of rest, viz., one day out of seven. What makes it moral is God. God is the moral exemplar. Just as God worked six days, man is to work (i.e., the Dominion Mandate) six days. And just as God rested on the seventh day, man is to rest (i.e. the Sabbath) on the seventh day.

Some have argued that the Sabbath is not a moral law, because of the New Testament shift from last day of the week to the first day of the week, from the Sabbath to the Christian Sabbath or Lord’s Day. Case in point is Craig Blomberg. He says,

The view that the Sabbath is binding on Christians rests on no explicit text in the NT or early Christian literature. It is surpassingly strange that a supposedly central Christian religious duty depends on the interpretation of an OT text. Rather than seeing a continuing validity of the Sabbath, which was changed from Saturday to Sunday, whether legitimately by the apostles in the first century or illegitimately by the church in the second (or by Constantine in the fourth), it is better to see the Sabbath command as a part of the superseded Mosaic institution and the Lord’s day as a different type of day, a day of assembly and worship.[30]

Blomberg argues that the Sabbath command is part of the Mosaic institution superseded, superseded along with the Temple, sacrifices, the priesthood, etc., that it’s part of the ceremonial law, types and shadows given to the Old Testament church to point to and terminates with Christ. Pipa accuses Blomberg of spiritualizing the Sabbath. He says,

Furthermore, at the end of the day, Dr. Blomberg has so spiritualized the Sabbath commandment that he leaves no biblical warrant for weekly worship and basically is antinomian when is comes to the regulation of public worship or it’s requirement for the saints of God.[31]

I won’t speak to the issue of antinomianism. (I do not believe Blomberg is antinomian when it comes to the regulation of public worship). However, I do see the merit of the accusation that Blomberg spiritualizes the Sabbath. He spiritualizes the Sabbath by relegating it to a type and shadow. Who is correct—Shepard or Blomberg? Martin correctly observes that there were “ceremonial aspects of Sabbath observance specified in the larger body of the Law of Moses.”[32] But this is true of the third commandment. Case in point is Leviticus 22:17-30. Profaning the holy name of God (which is a moral violation of the third commandment) has attached to it temporary, provisional, ceremonial prohibitions and a requirement. What are these? The forbidding of offering blemished animals; forbidding offering an animal less than eight days old; forbidding offering a mother and her young on the same day; and requiring thanks offerings to be eaten on the same day that it’s offered—these are discrete positive/ceremonial laws attached to the moral law of the third commandment. Violating these seemingly discrete ceremonial laws instantiates the violation of the third commandment (e.g., Lev. 22:31-33). The same is true for ceremonial regulations regarding the fourth commandment.[33] As previously quoted from the Confession, what is ceremonial or provisional about the fourth commandment is not the “appointed one day out of seven,” but the “last day of the week being abolished.” Martin says, “Indeed, unless the fourth commandment is a moral precept, there is simply no accounting for its presence in the Decalogue.”[34] In short, as Murray notes,

…the fourth commandment itself is an element of that basic law which was distinguished from all else in the Mosaic revelation by being inscribed on two tables of stone. The fourth commandment belongs to all that is distinctive and characteristic of that summary of human obligation set forth in the Decalogue. It would require the most conclusive evidence to establish the thesis that the fourth commandment is in a different category from the other nine…. a position equal to that of the fifth or the seventh or the tenth.[35]

Pipa’s accusation that Blomberg spiritualizes the fourth commandment is well founded and such spiritualization of the whole of the fourth commandment is an unfounded assertion of the Futurist perspective of the Sabbath.

However, what about the change of the Sabbath from the last day of the week to the first day of the week, i.e. the Christian Sabbath or Lord’s Day? Some contend that there is nothing in the New Testament that prescribes or even suggests that Sunday was the day chosen to commemorate our Lord’s resurrection.[36] It is true that there is no biblical command to change the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week.[37] But that does not mean that the day was not changed. As Martin notes, nowhere in Scripture is there an explicit command establishing the office of deacon; yet, later in the life of the church this ministry was a standing office (cf. 1 Tim. 3:8-13).[38] The same goes for the change of day. There is no explicit command, but there is precedent set by the apostolic church, a precedent which established the rule for generations of Christians. How else are we to make sense out of the author of Hebrews’ assertion that “there remains a keeping of a Sabbath for the people of God” (Heb. 4:9)? What weekly Sabbath? The only weekly Sabbath evinced in the Apostolic church is the Lord’s Day!

 

End Notes

[1] Alan Cairns, Dictionary of Theological Terms, First ed., s.v. “Regulative Principle of Worship.”

[2] Frank J. Smith, “What Is Worship,” in Worship in the Presence of God, 2nd ed, ed. Frank J. Smith and David C. Lachman (Fellsmere: Reformation Media and Press, 2006), 17.

[3] Horton Davies, The Worship of the English Puritans (Morgan: Soli Deo Gloria, 1997), 15.

[4] Hughes Oliphant Old, Worship: Reformed According to Scripture, 2nd ed (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 28. More will be said on this subject below.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., 29.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] R.J. Gore., Covenantal Worship: Reconsidering the Puritan Regulative Principle (Phillipsburg, N.J: Presbyterian And Reformed, 2002), 199.

[11] Ibid., pp.100-110.

[12] Ibid., Pp.100-110. T. David Gordon, “The Westminster Assembly’s Unworkable And Unscriptural View Of Worship?,” Westminster Theological Journal 65, (2003, January 01): 346-46.

[13] Ibid., 347.

[14] Skip MacCarty et al, Perspectives On The Sabbath, ed. Christopher John Donato (Nashville, TN: B&​h Publishing Group, 2011), Pp. 1-8.

[15] Joseph A. Pipa, The Lord’s Day, 5th ed (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 2018).

[16] Ibid., 33.

[17] Ibid., 16.

[18] Ibid., Pp.,19-22.

[19] Ibid., Pp.,19-22/​Robert Paul Martin, The Christian Sabbath: Its Redemptive-Historical Foundation, Present Obligation, and Practical Observance (Montville, New Jersey: Trinity Pulpit Press, 2015), 191-200.

[20] Ibid., Pp., 201-222.

[21] John Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life (Phillipsburg, NJ: P &​ R, 2008), 523-524.

[22] Meredith G. Kline, Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview (Eugene, OR: Wipf And Stock, 2006).

[23] Pipa, The Lord’s Day, Pp., 49-50.

[24] Ibid., 53.

[25] Ibid., 23.

[26] Ibid., 31.

[27] Ibid., 59.

[28] Thomas Shepherd, The Works of Thomas Shepherd, Theses Sabbaticae, (Boston: Doctrinal Track And Book Society, 1853), 3: 29-30.

[29] Nicholas Wolterstorff, Justice: Rights and Wrongs, ed. First Edition (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2010). Wolterstorff argues that particular rights are primarily subjective, rather objective. The latter’s locus of conceptualization centers around objective “justice qua right order;” the former revolves around the idea of subjectivity: “justice qua inherent rights,” i.e., rights that inhere within humans qua humans. Basically, he argues that there are only two ways to understand primary justice: justice qua right order or justice qua inherent rights. Wolterstorff makes a convincing counter-narrative over-and-against the secular regime’s grand narrative. Contrary to the grand narrative—a narrative that recounts the story of the origin of justice qua inherent rights as a product of Nominalism, or the Enlightenment— Wolterstorff advances another story. He makes the case that justice qua inherent rights is not the product of the Enlightenment or even a product of Nominalism, but ultimately a product of the Biblical Judeo-Christian tradition, that is, both the Old and New Testaments. Wolterstorff’s argument exposes the weakness of the secular regime’s narrative (secular protagonists) and anti-secular regime’s narrative (antagonists of rights). Wolterstorff’s argument nullifies the intellectual main stream’s argument, wrenching the moral discourse of justice qua inherent rights from the exclusive purview of secularists and those who dismiss rights in favor for justice qua right order instead.

 

[30] Skip MacCarty et al, Perspectives On The Sabbath, Pp. 351-52.

[31] Ibid., 387.

[32] Martin, The Christian Sabbath, pg. 97.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid., 101.

[35] John Murray, The Collective Writings of John Murray, vol. 1, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1976), p. 207.

[36] Samuele Bacchiocchi, “How It Came About: From Saturday To Sunday,” Biblical Archeology Review 4, no. 3 (1978): 32.

[37] Martin, The Christian Sabbath, 273.

[38] Ibid., 274.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Love Hopes All Things

Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things

(1Cor 13:6-7ESV)

 

We have all seen what has happened at the conclusion of the annual March for Life in Washington DC., where a short video clip was posted on line to the internet, seemingly showing a group of white teenagers from a Catholic High school from Kentucky who had attended the March for Life rally, mocking, provoking, and teasing a Native American man as he beats his drum and chants his prayers. Initially the narrative was that these boys accosted this Native American man. Why? Based on what? The boys were white, teenagers, pro-lifers, Catholics, and supporters of the president (evidence by their Make America Great Again hats). However, when a video is later released showing that in fact the boys were the victims— that the Native American Man and a third party (“Black Hebrews” shouting profanities) were the ones that confronted the boys and verbally abused them, that these boys were accosted by adults— then the narrative flipped. Many pundits admitted their error and rush to judgement, while others doubled down with the original narrative. Tuesday on the View Whoopi Goldberg said:

 “Many people admitted they made snap judgments before these other facts came in. But is it that we just instantly say that’s what it is based on what we see in that moment and then have to walk stuff back when it turns out we’re wrong? Why is that? Why do we keep making the same mistake?”

Goldberg is asking an honest question and good question. Why is that? Why do we assume the worse in people? There is a psychological phenomenon called “confirmation bias.” In an article from Psychology Today entitled “Wishful Thinking” it defines confirmation bias this way:

“Confirmation bias occurs from the direct influence of desire on beliefs. When people would like a certain idea/concept to be true, they end up believing it to be true. They are motivated by wishful thinking. This error leads the individual to stop gathering information when the evidence gathered so far confirms the views (prejudices) one would like to be true.”

There is a big difference between what we like to be true and what is true. What we like to be true is based on the bias of love of self. In contradistinction, what is true is based on the bias of love of God and neighbor. The former is the judgement of prejudice, hate, and judgmentalism that comes in many forms: e.g., racism, ageism, anti-Semitism, male-chauvinism, feminism, etc. The latter is right judgment based on love. This is what the apostle Paul means when he refers to the judgment of love, love that “believes all things.” Theologians call this the “judgement of charity.” The judgment of charity gives people the benefit of the doubt. Contrary to confirmation bias, judgement of charity celebrates the truth, doesn’t make quick judgments (i.e., quick to hear the facts first and slow to speak on the facts, e.g., James 1:9), and doesn’t think the worse of people, but thinks the best, the best unless, and only unless, the facts do not confirm one’s bias of love. The reason why we assume the worse in people, and are quick to judge, is because of our bias of hate toward the other and love of self (and others like us). In short, it’s because we are sinners; it’s because humanity is radically corrupt. Confirmation bias is just one aspect of our radically corrupt nature.

But the good news is that there is a cure for this sin, like all other sins. The cure is the gospel. Not only does Jesus forgive us of our confirmation biases, but Jesus also purges and purifiers us of our confirmation biases with the truth of the gospel. The truth is this: if Jesus could love without his personal biases (being a Jew) distorting how he viewed other people (Gentiles), then can we not also commit our ways to Christ’s way? Unlike Jesus whose personal biases were never sinful, our biases, on the other hand, are corrupted by sin. In this life we will never totally be free of our false judgements of prejudice, hate, and judgmentalism, but by the grace of God we can fight against this temptation, knowing love “hopes all things.”

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized