Consequences

The following post is written by Rev. Jim Witteveen.

When Christians seek to harmonize evolutionary theory with the Christian faith, I believe they may often be motivated by a sincere but misguided idea that acceptance of current scientific theories is necessary in order for the church, and the gospel message that the church proclaims, to remain relevant in our culture.

Rejecting evolutionary theory as contrary to Scripture, some say, places an unnecessary stumbling block before unbelievers. What really matters is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and not details about origins, or arguments about the creation week, or debates about whether or not Adam was descended from someone (or something) else. Some say that this discussion is a waste of time – that we should be spending our time and effort on being more “missional,” and not arguing about these issues. Others say that when we reject the current scientific understanding of the origin and development of the universe, we are creating barriers and excluding people from the Church who may hold to these beliefs, or struggle with them.

However, I believe that these Christians don’t really understand how dangerous the waters that they are entering are. Rather than accommodating such opinions, we need to provide strong warnings against them.

Here’s another quote from “The Bible And Evolution” by Richard D. Phillips which speaks with great wisdom to this issue:

God Adam and You“Peter Enns has written, ‘Some behaviours that Christians have thought of as sinful are understood in an evolutionary scheme as means of ensuring survival – for example, the aggression and dominance associated with “survival of the fittest” and sexual promiscuity to perpetuate one’s gene pool.’

Enns is right, and his candour should be appreciated. Evolution cannot be grafted onto the structure of biblical Christianity, but replaces it with a different structure, a different ethic, a different story of salvation, and a different religion altogether.

I strongly doubt that most Christians who urge an embrace of evolution, or at least its tolerance, envision so staggering a loss as a result. They see a gain: no longer would Christians have to be considered anti-science ostriches with our heads in the sand… no longer would we be categorically excluded from the possibility of dialogue in the market square of secular society. No longer would we be a cult of obscurantists who refuse to accept what everyone else knows. No longer would we argue matters that seem so far removed from the good news of forgiveness through a loving Saviour. With the credibility of our tolerant consideration of evolution, we would gain an opportunity to discuss Jesus as the loving Saviour. Do we realize the folly of this reasoning?…

The logic of the gospel we seek to present is one that belongs to the story of Adam as the special image bearer of God, who brought sin and death into the world by transgression. Moreover, the events of Christ’s life that we proclaim are as unacceptable to the postmodern worldview as the special creation of Adam. We would be holding forth the doctrines of a Bible that we have already subjected to the higher authority of secularist dogma and scientific claims, neither of which will tolerate Christ’s atoning death and bodily resurrection. In short, by the folly of our desire to escape the persecution of a world that does not tolerate God’s Word, we have ourselves abandoned the history taught in the Bible, which alone can support the story of the Christian message, the gospel of Jesus as the Saviour for our sins. How little is the gain and how catastrophic must be the loss to a Christianity that capitulates to a narrative that is in its very essence designed to replace the teaching of God’s Word regarding everything in our world.”

If you are a member of the Canadian & American Reformed Churches you likely know about the proposed revision to the Belgic Confession article 14 by Classis Ontario West. If not read it here:  Proposal Regarding BC Article 14

This is the proposed change:

We believe that God created the human race by making and forming Adam from dust (Gen. 2:7) and Eve from Adam’s side (Gen.2:21-22). They were created as the first two humans and the biological ancestors of all other humans. There were no pre-Adamites, whether human or hominid. God made and formed Adam after his own image…[the rest of the text remains as currently adopted.]

My initial reaction to this was to stay away. Far away.  The last time I got in the middle of this issue, I felt like Gumby being drawn and quartered.

But I have received a number of questions asking what I think about the proposal. One person asks, “Isn’t Belgic Confession Article 14 Sufficient?”

Before I write anything, I qualify my statements by saying that I am a layperson. I am not a scientist, a pastor, or a theologian.  I will comment on the actual proposed revision, but I will refrain from commenting on the body of the proposal.

To put it simply:

I agree with the clarification per se, but I am not convinced that the confession needs to be changed. I do believe that there needs to be a statement on the issues facing the Church, presently, within the Reformed and Evangelical world. One of the big ticket items being the issue of origins as it pertains to theistic evolution, specifically, with regard to the special creation of Adam and death prior to the fall. That is, whether or not Adam descended from “pre-adamites.”  This is the big issue for me in the whole evolution debate.  The Gospel stands or falls on whether or not death entered the human race through Adam’s sin.

Should this further clarification be added to the Belgic Confession by the Canadian Reformed Churches? Maybe I am a purist, but, I would make the argument mentioned in paragraph 3 of the proposal – that is, that the way article 14 currently reads is sufficient. Let’s read the first paragraph of BC Article 14:

We believe that God created man of dust from the ground and He made and formed him after His own image and likeness, good, righteous, and holy. His will could conform to the will of God in every respect. But, when man was in this high position, he did not appreciate it nor did he value his excellency. He gave ear to the words of the devil and willfully subjected himself to sin and consequently to death and the curse. For he transgressed the commandment of life which he had received; by his sin he broke away from God, who was his true life; he corrupted his whole nature. By all this he made himself liable to physical and spiritual death.

Let’s read the last sentence. “By all this he made himself liable to physical and spiritual death.” If Adam descended from monkeys, or apes, or hominid creatures, then death was already in our blood. What that means is, that if Adam’s ancestors died, then Adam would not be “liable” for death since death already existed. How could he be liable for something that he did not cause? This removes, for me, the possibility of pre-adamic ancestors.

Ok, now let’s read the first sentence. “We believe that God created man of dust from the ground and He made and formed him after His own image and likeness, good, righteous, and holy.” That is pretty cut and dried isn’t it? I have heard the arguments for theistic evolution, but let me ask as simple question. Does God change?  Does he change his mind? In the first article of the Belgic Confession we confess that God is immutable. To be immutable means to be unchanging over time. Let me ask another question, considering that God is immutable, would He create man in his own image, call it good, and then allow death and mutations to occur over millions of years to create Adam? Which is it?  Either He created Adam Good, or he didn’t and instead used death and mutation to get him to that state of goodness mentioned in Genesis.

Some may ask…What is so bad about death before Adam? Simply, we confess that death is the price of sin, and death entered in through Adam’s sin. If death existed before Adam, that is, if Adam had parents or grandparents who died before the fall, then he was not liable for it, as we confess. If Adam is not liable for death, then we do not need the sacrifice of Jesus. If we do not need the sacrifice of Jesus…well, like I said, the Gospel stands or falls on this point.

In my mind Belgic Confession Article 14 is currently sufficient to refute theistic evolution. I believe that it already, adequately, teaches that Adam was a special creation, that he did not come out of the womb of a pre-adamic hominid creature

I know the drafters of the overture intend to glorify God and protect the flock. There is no doubt in my mind of that, and I appreciate their concern and the passion that went into drafting it. If I can be so bold to say as a layperson, I am concerned about changing the Belgic Confession as our little denomination has it.  The drafters of the proposal state,

“We believe that this proposed change is a clarification, rather than a major change.”

It is true, that it is a simple clarification, but my concern is that by changing the confession, and being a confessional church, we separate ourselves just a little more from other confessionally reformed churches. We’ll have our own little confession for the Canadian Reformed Churches and the other Reformed Churches will have their own.  If the proposal is approved, my hope is that the confession does not change without at least consultation with our sister churches. Ultimately, I wonder if creating an additional document, like the Walloon Articles mentioned in the proposal (8b), to clarify an origins position would be a viable option?  Make it binding for ministers if it is deemed necessary.

I have avoided commenting on the body of the proposal itself and instead focused only on the actual proposed revision. Feel free to read the following links for more commentary on the body of the proposal:

The Proposal from Classis Ontario West Proposal Regarding BC Article 14
Arnold Sikkema’s Response to Allegations Contained in the Proposal: I Am Not A Theistic Evolutionist.
Nelson Kloosterman’s Response to the Proposal: Making A Dirty Splash In a Little Puddle.
Bill DeJong’s Response to the Proposal:Amendments to the Belgic Confession?

Anyway.  These are my thoughts from my small and sinful brain on the matter. In the end God is faithful.  May he be glorified in this process whatever the outcome.

I will do my best to read and approve any comments on the blog, but no guarantees… I am on vacation after today :)  See you when I get back in April!

 

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It was a week before Christmas 2014. I sat on a threadbare green couch, an obvious relic from the 1970’s. The office was bright and inviting, despite the cold draft in that old church building. I ran my finger along the frayed edge of a faded green cushion. My voice broke as I choked on my words, “I just feel hopeless.  I don’t understand it…” 

Numb and unfeeling, in a pit of darkness and despair…I could not understand why I felt that way.

It made no sense.

I mean really, let’s be honest. I was living the “American dream.”  I have a great life by most standards. I have a decent job. A beautiful wife. Amazing kids. A new baby. A great marriage. A relationship with my saviour. I was involved in Church life. We were recently financially debt free. We had a plan in place to finish my degree and then head off to seminary, and we were even talking about mission work.  There are always the usual tensions in life, but for the most part, everything was looking up for us.  Life was good.

How could I possibly be suffering depression?

The darkness overwhelmed me, but there was no substance to it, no object, no reason…and I began to think that maybe I was a little bit crazy. The last time I was in a place this dark was many years prior. I ended up on the wrong road, headed in the wrong direction, and crashed head on into the 18 wheeler of life…and it was my own fault that I ended up there.

My first round with depression started when my dad was diagnosed with cancer about 14 years ago. After his death I slowly descended into a persistent major depression that lasted many years. It was progressive in nature, getting worse over time. After a couple years, it got really, really bad; the darkest of the darkness started shortly after moving to Chilliwack. People would tell me that I was dark and moody. Often I heard things like, “Cheer up, grumpy pants.”  People often poked fun at how much I drank at family get togethers…but no one ever told me I was depressed or that I needed help.

Perhaps no one knew, I mean, I had no idea.

The depression took a heavy toll on me.  By the end of it, I was a wreck in many different ways. Physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually…  Within a few years I had all but completely isolated myself from everyone, including family and church. I had lost contact with all of my childhood friends, and I even isolated from my wife.  I was looking to sinful things to numb the pain, which made the depression worse.  It was a viscious cycle.

6273794148_3c1d2fe7c5_zEventually God pulled me out and brought me to repentance and restored to me the joy of salvation (but that is long story you can read about elsewhere.)

Long story short…back then, it made sense why I was depressed. My dad died and I had turned my back on God and embraced sin, and He had removed His favour from me.

This time…why?

There was no unconfessed sin that I could discern. There was no turning my back on God. There was no cause for the depression that made any sense. I began to have feelings of doubt, not that God existed, but about His love for me. It hurts to admit that I ever doubted God’s love, but it was not unconfessed – I confessed it in brutal honesty as I screamed at Him in angry and furious prayer.

As I sat on that old green couch, my counsellor looked pitifully at me and began to recount to me the promises of God. Biblical platitudes about King David’s depression in the Psalms of Lament. How God’s Grace is sufficient for me. All I heard was stuff I already knew.

I know that.

I KNOW THAT!!!!

I stared blankly at the faded coffee stain on the sofa and whispered…**I know all that.** BUT WHY  DOESN’T HIS GRACE **FEEL** SUFFICIENT FOR ME? When I can’t see him…I can’t feel him? Why do I feel this way? Does he really love me?  Why this darkness? Why now?

I wrestled with that…a lot.

The funny thing is, that I have told people exactly what my counsellour had just told me.   I knew that I was looking at myself, and my feelings, and my despair and that I needed to look to God and his promises.  I knew it intellectually, and I theologically understood that He loved me but it did not seem to help me in that time of despair. I felt lost. I can tell you the reason for suffering, Biblically. I could tell you of the covenants and sovereignty and redemption and sanctification, but none of it seemed to help me at that time.

I had to wrestle.

I had to wrestle with the darkness.

I had to wrestle with my doubt about His love for me, with this monster called depression. I learned that sometimes, depression just doesn’t need to have a reason to be there. I learned that sometimes it is ok question God. Why? God? Why are you letting this happen?  Why are you letting me me live in darkness?Those are ok questions. King David asked them. Other giants of the faith also wrestled with them –  Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, and many, many more.

John Calvin said,

“Surely, while we teach that faith ought to be certain and assured, we cannot imagine any certainty that is not tinged with doubt, or any assurance that is not assailed by some anxiety.” Institutes 3.2.17

“For unbelief is so deeply rooted in our hearts, and we are so inclined to it, that not without hard struggle is each one able to persuade himself of what all confess with the mouth: namely, that God is faithful.” Institutes 3.2.15

What we often tend to miss, the point that Calvin is making here, is that doubt, while not a good thing, is nonetheless a part of our faith experience. We are of the sinful flesh and our fallen human nature cannot fully grasp the amazing goodness of God in the midst of pain and suffering and brokenness. So don’t beat yourself up over it.

jacob-wrestling-with-the-angel-1659I have wrestled long and hard with it.

I have even tried wrestling with God. Unlike Jacob, God did not permit me to prevail against Him…however, just like with Jacob, God showed me great mercy. I struggled hard, and after a while He broke me.  He touched my hip and I collapsed. I gave in, but not without hearing his blessing. And I can say with Calvin, “God is faithful.”

He has for the most part lifted the depression from me, and for that I am thankful.  Each time I have gone through it, The Lord in His faithfulness has pulled me out.

Some say they are stronger for going through depression and coming out the other side.

Not me.

Each time I go through it, I realize just how weak I really am. I need him more and more. It is always Him. It is all about Him.  Perhaps he permitted me to experience depression to keep me in line. To destroy pride?  To train me for something?  Charles Spurgeon said of his own depression:

“The cloud is black before it breaks, and overshadows before it yields its deluge of mercy. Depression has now become to me as a prophet in rough clothing, a John the Baptist, heralding the nearer coming of my Lord’s richer benison. So have far better men found it. The scouring of the vessel has fitted it for the Master’s use. Immersion in suffering has preceded the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Fasting gives an appetite for the banquet. The Lord is revealed in the backside of the desert, while his servant keepeth the sheep and waits in solitary awe. The wilderness is the way to Canaan. The low valley leads to the towering mountain. Defeat prepares for victory.” ~Charles Spurgeon, The Minister’s Fainting Fits, Lectures to My Students, Lecture XI, 1856.

I was defeated.  But Jesus wasn’t.

I was in a dark valley.  But Jesus is bringing me to the mountain top.

In the end the victory is His.

He is faithful, even when I just want to wrestle with Him.

And despite me, and even when it feels like it isn’t, His grace really is sufficient for me.

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” The Apostle Paul, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

In the overcrowded waiting room sat a young mom with a couple of her boys. They were around 4 and 10 years old. Mom looked a little pale, and was in obvious pain…and her two boys looked as bored and restless as kids can get when sitting around for hours on end. The younger, typically, kept pestering the older with questions and uncontainable energy while the older drew on a pad of paper…or tried to anyway.

Finally the older one just snapped, and yelled at his little brother to stop bugging him.

The little one began sobbing.

A scene that no doubt plays out in waiting rooms everywhere…

The entire waiting room fell silent and all eyes were on this poor young mom. Obviously in pain, mom gently lifted the upset younger boy into her lap, and took her older boy’s hand, gently took the pen away, and looked him straight in the eyes and calmly asked, “What is the fruit of the spirit?”

He quietly began reciting Galatians 5:22-23, and as he passed by the word, “patience,” she asked him, “Were you patient with your brother?”

Then she went on to validate the older boy’s feelings and acknowledged the boredom and frustration that he was experiencing, and then she explained how his impatience was sinful and that there was forgiveness in Jesus. The older pouted as all kids do when they are wrong and know it…with a bit of an attitude he asked the younger to forgive him. They hugged, I am not sure either meant it, but they started drawing together on that little pad of paper and giggles ensued.

A little old lady walked over and gave all three of them a candy. And said, “Some days are hard. But you’ll be fine. You know where your strength comes from. God bless you.”

I just smiled.  We just have no idea where or how God will work. Perhaps a seed was planted in that waiting room.

Then I wondered how I would have handled my kids in that situation…would I have raised my voice? Hushed them? Pulled out my phone and let them play video games? Probably all three. Would I have pointed to the gospel in a crowded hospital waiting room? I hope I do now.

Good job mom.

SDG

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The earliest fond memory I have of my dad is of him sitting on my bed next to me, strumming his guitar and singing, “A Boy Named Sue.” I still distinctly remember the phrase, the way my dad sang it – just like Johnny Cash: “We crashed through the wall and into the street, kicking and a’ gouging in the mud and the blood and beer…”

Yeah…

I agree…

It really is not such a great song to sing to a 5 year old, but I still cherish those times with my dad.  The bonding moments were few and far between with my father, who was as conflicted as Cash and the characters that he often sang about. 

But the fact remains, that I remember with fondness, the times when he did give me affection. And this one sticks out vividly in my mind.

CaptureSo I make it a point to have at least one bonding moment with each of my kids everyday.  It doesn’t have to be something extravagant.  It doesn’t always have to be a daddy date with Pirate Paks at White Spot Restaurant.  (Mmm I want a BC burger…)  It can be as simple as sitting on the bed and strumming your guitar, or going in the backyard and blowing bubbles,  sitting on the floor and laughing and having a good time. It can be as simple as stopping what you are doing for 5 minutes to listen to your child tell a joke, or tell you about something he learned that day – we are so busy that we often miss out on the little moments.  They are excited about new things, and when we delight in what they delight in, we create lasting positive memories for them.

Lately, Meagan and Kaitlyn love it when I make up stories for them.  I have been regailing them with the fanciful story of “The Rabbit.”

“There was a Rabbit named Rose, who lived in a hole in the ground. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a rabbit-hole, and that means carrots…”

Ok it is just a retelling of the Hobbit, with a rabbit named Rose, a wizard named Olaf ( who happens to also be a snowman), and a bunch of puppies, who head out to meet the pretty dragon Leela who has taken over the carrot and dog food stash. Along the way they meet a vast assortment of colourful characters.

The girls love it. 

They squeal with delight at each twist in the story, laugh at the antics of the puppies, and they even help come up with new characters and plot twists. It has been goping on for months now, and it takes just 5 or 10 minutes a couple times per week.  

I am hopeful that my children will have “mud and the blood and the beer” memories of our time together.  Memories that are ingrained in them of the positive times we spent together. I just pray that the memories are made more frequently than mine were, and the content is a little more happy, and a little less “Man in Black.”

Take the time to make these memories with your kids. 

Bond. 

Engage.

Show them love.

Johnny Cash would have been 83 today, had he not been called out of this life. I won’t post “A Boy Named Sue” on the blog, since there are a couple off colour words in it. So here is, “The Man Comes Around.”  One of my faves.

 

 

 

Dad Advice: Act Like a Family Dog

Posted: February 26, 2015 in Family Issues

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When I get home after work at about 5pm, I have been out of the house for about 12 hours.  The day is just about done, and I am tired, sometimes I am stressed with the days events. I just want to relax and unwind, and often my prayer as I open the front door is less of, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,” and more of, “Please make things the way I want (calm & organized…) so I can have serenity.”

I am learning…slowly

Anyway
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Often, when I cross the threshold of the home, it is like entering into a swirling vortex of chaos. It is the “witching hour” after all.  Dinner is cooking, the baby is crying, and the girls are running around the house like a tornado leaving  a path of pink,  glittery, destruction in their wake. Everyone is hungry and cranky…and sometimes it has been delegated to me to address some misbehaviour that the pink, glittery tornadoes have committed, or perhaps there is something that needs fixing, or some other thing requires my attention.

I can just imagine my wife saying, as the baby is crying, and the girls are fighting in a cloud of glitter:

“Just wait til you father gets home!”

Being tired after a long day, it is so easy to just act on impulse and yell at the kids, or discipline in anger. Or plop down on the couch and simply ignore it. But the Bible is very clear that both of those responses are wrong. Biblical discipline is, ultimately, not meant as mere behaviour modification, but as a means of showing the gospel of Jesus in action.  And the Bible tells us not to do it in anger or with indifference, but with care and pointing to Christ.

Something I have learned is that when I walk in the door at 5pm, it is actually the beginning of the day, not the end. Even though I am tired, I have not been with my family all day.  They have not seen me at all, and how I first engage with them in those first five minutes is going to set the tone for the whole home for the rest of the evening. So the first thing I do when I get home, before anything else, is act like a family dog. 

That’s right….I act like a family dog.  Not a guard dog.  Not a fighting dog…a family dog…

What does a family dog do when the family arrives home?  He is happy and excited to see everyone and he runs around and greets everyone.

So I run around and greet everyone.

I wag my tail.

I put on a smile.

I kiss my wife, grab my kids and toss them in the air, hug them, and then once I have expressed affection to each person…when they know that daddy is not an ogre…then I deal with the misbehaviour, or fix the broken pipe, or deal with whatever issue there is.  That sets the tone for the evening. Not only is it good for the family.  It is good for me as well, as it puts me in a proper frame of mind for any discipline, as well as for dinner and family devotions.

No, guys, I don’t have any biblical texts to back me up on acting like a family dog.  But it does tell us to not rebuke in anger, and really, it takes a mere 5 minutes to show a little affection and greet everyone when we walk in the door.

What do you have to lose?

Feel free to try it.

It is not always easy, sometimes I forget…but it really does make a positive difference.

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One Christian Dad discourages all dads from greeting their families in *exactly* same way dogs greet each other…ahem…please don’t do that.

Confronting Sin

Posted: February 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

This life is messy and broken. And doing life with other messy and broken sinners is, not surprisingly, even more painfully messy and broken. But that is no excuse to hide from the challenges. That is no excuse to run away from relationships that have become difficult. The Christian Life is not Facebook. We don’t simply “unfriend” a fellow believer when we have been wronged. Even when you want to slam the door and not look back, Jesus says, “I forgave you.”

Any time an oimagesffense results in a broken relationship within the congregation, as difficult as it is to do, confrontation must occur. Not mean spirited or vengeful confrontation. But a genuine seeking of justice and a loving restoration of what was broken. Both the sin and the broken relationship must be confronted, and reconciliation must be sought.

I mean, that is what Jesus did. Isn’t it?

He could have turned around and slammed the door. How often do we add to our debt against him? He, of all people, has the right to sit behind a keyboard and hit “unfriend”, and ignore us.

But he doesn’t.

He persisted.

Relentlessly pursuing us.

Loving us.

Forgiving us.

…and He demands that we do the same for those whom we worship with. According to Luke 17:3 and Matthew 5:23-24, both the sinner and the one sinned against have a divine responsibility to seek reconciliation. And if Jesus doesn’t turn His striped back on us, then there is never a good excuse for believers who worship in the same congregation to refuse to pursue reconciliation of a broken relationship. Unless of course, all the steps in Mathew18:15-20 have been exhausted, which would result in the excommunication of the sinner from the Church. But excommunication should never be our goal.

So when a brother sins against you…

Grab a shovel and dig in.

Confront sin.

Forgive sin.

Encourage.

Support.

Seek the good of your brother.

Pray…often.

Remember that even though we are broken and messy and sinful people, worshipping with other broken and messy and sinful people, we have a saviour who isn’t. We have a saviour who forgave us so we could be more like him. So use his shovel. And His strength. Pray often. And don’t let the broken messiness get you down, look at Jesus. He is all we need.

Why Does He Let Me Sin At All?

Posted: February 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

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Veronica asks:

Hey Ryan, I have a question about how we think about sanctification. It occurred to me today and I can’t think where to begin looking for the answer, although I suspect it’s somewhere in our confessions. Question: since the Holy Spirit working in me is the only reason I do anything good, and is not any doing of my own, why doesn’t he always work in me? I know that the answer must be that he is always working in me, but how is that possible since that would seem to imply that I can overpower his work in me. For example, in a day I might do a number of things considered good that can only be attributed to the Holy Spirit working in me. So, what about the rest of the day when I was able to ignore the Holy Spirit and sin anyway. If God chooses to overpower my base nature sometimes, why does he let me sin at all?

First I want to say that I love your question!  I often have struggled with similar questions. I have also asked myself, “If I am dead to sin…why do I keep sinning?”  or If God is sovereign, why does he permit me to sin? I think that is essentially what you are asking as well.  We know that we are redeemed by Jesus Christ.  We know that we have been given the Holy Spirit.  Yet we still sin. We are grieved that we grieve God.  We know that He could make us perfect now, so why doesn’t he?

Your question reminds me of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:14-25:

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.  For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,  but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Here we read an account of Paul in great conflict with himself, much the same as the question you asked.  And I have asked, and I am sure that every believer in history has asked.  Who has not asked it…Why can’t I stop sinning?  I hate it, but I keep doing it.  Why isn’t God working in me faster? And remember that this is not some unbeliever, or some baby Christian new convert, but the Apostle Paul. He loves God and His law and wants to obey it, but is pulled away by the sin that remains in him.

In verse 14 Paul says he is, “of the flesh, sold to sin.”

What?

Wait a minute..

Only a mere chapter earlier in Romans 6, he says we should count ourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ. And just a chapter later in Romans 8 he says, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”  And from this text in Chapter 8 we can plainly see that if we are “in the flesh” we are unregenerate, that is, we do not have the spirit of God living in us.

But Paul says in chapter 7 that he is of the flesh.

So what is the difference between “in” and “of?”…those two words make a world of difference.  Simply saying that you are “of the flesh”, means that you are a sinner.  Saying  that you are “in the flesh” means that you are an unregenerate sinner.

Subtle difference.  But significant.

What about the phrase, “sold under sin?”  Well that does not mean the sin we currently commit, but the original sin that plunged humanity from grace under Adam.  We are sold under sin because Adam sinned. He was our head, and when he sinned he essentially sold us into slavery.

But then…

Jesus.

Jesus came and paid the price and redeemed us.  Now, for those who believe, we are no longer slaves to sin.

We need to distinguish between the activity of committing sin and the dominion or reign of sin.   While we will never be free of the presence of sin in this life,  its dominion can, and must be destroyed if we are believers. For instance, an unregenerate person may be a slave to a sexual addiction.  He is under the dominion of sin; he is a slave to sin.  When he is regenerated by the Holy Spirit and redeemed by Christ, he is freed from the dominion of sin, that is, his sin no longer rules him, he is no longer a slave to it.  However, while he has a new love of Christ, and the Holy Spirit living in him, and now sees God’s holy law as good… his body is still sinful. He is still “of the flesh”. The old sins will still appeal to his flesh, but now he has the power of Christ to fight against it.

This is where the doctrine of sanctification comes in.

We can make a distinction between two types of sanctification. Definitive and progressive.  Without going too deep…Definitive sanctification is at the moment of salvation.  When you are regenerated, you are definitely sanctified.  You are definitely set apart and made holy because of Christ.  Progressive sanctification is the Holy Spirit’s work over the course of our lives in bringing us to Christlike-ness.  It will only be complete at the time we are glorified.  Both are completely works of God in us, however we are not to be passive in our progressive sanctification, we are to be active participants in it, seeking to wage war on our sin, and seeking to grow in love.  As Jerry Bridges says,

Progressive sanctification is not a partnership with the Spirit in the sense that we each – the believer and the Holy Spirit – do our respective tasks. Rather, we work as He enables us to work. His work lies behind all our work and makes our work possible.

You asked about our confessions. The Canons of Dordt in the 5th head of doctrine certainly speaks to this… (read the entire thing it is fantastic):

Article 1 : Those whom God according to His purpose calls into the fellowship of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and regenerates by His Holy Spirit, He certainly sets free from the dominion and slavery of sin, but not entirely in this life from the flesh and the body of sin.

Article 2: Therefore daily sins of weakness spring up and defects cling to even the best works of the saints. These are for them a constant reason to humble themselves before God, to flee to the crucified Christ, to put the flesh to death more and more through the Spirit of prayer and by holy exercises of godliness, and to long and strive for the goal of perfection until at last, delivered from this body of death, they reign with the Lamb of God in heaven.

A believer cannot live in sin, he cannot be under the dominion of sin.  He can fall into sin, because he is still “of the flesh”… But it grieves his heart that he has offended a holy God.  Unlike the unbeliever, he finds no lasting pleasure in his sin, rather sin is a burden.  The unbeliever does not feel the burden of sin, just like a corpse cannot feel the weight of dirt upon his grave.  But when a person is regenerated, made alive in Christ, he notices the dirt.  He hates the dirt.  He will do anything to get out of the dirt, and while the Holy Spirit is lifting him out of the dirt, he is not going to just sit there, he will do whatever he can. Ultimately realizing that he cannot get out on his own, so he clings to the grace of God with the sure hope that God will bring him home and wash the dirt away for good.

To close I will quote Herman Bavinck from Reformed Dogmatics where he addresses the why of sin and evil:

“For even when God wants there to be evil, he only wants it in a way that is holy: though using it, he never commits it. And for that reason, he has also allowed sin in his creation. He would not have tolerated it had he not been able to govern it in an absolute holy and sovereign manner. He would not have put up with it if he were not God, the Holy and Omnipotent One. But being God, he did not fear its existence and power. He willed it so that in it and against it he might bring to light his divine attributes. If he had not allowed it to exist, there would always have been a rationale for the idea that he was not in all his attributes superior to a power whose possibility was inherent in creation itself. For all rational creatures, as creatures, as finite, limited, changeable beings, have the possibility of apostatizing. But God, because he is God, never feared the way of freedom, the reality of sin, the eruption of wickedness, or the power of Satan. So, both in its origin and its development, God always exercises his rule over sin. He does not force it, nor does he block it with violence but rather allows it to reach its full dynamic potential. He remains king yet still gives it free reign in his kingdom. He allows it to have everything– his world, his creatures, even his Anointed– for evils cannot exist without goods. He allows it to use all that is his; he gives it opportunity to show what it can do in order, in the end, as King of kings, to leave the theater of battle. For sin is of such a nature that it destroys itself by the very freedom granted it; it dies of its own diseases; it dooms itself to death. At the apex of its power, it is, by the cross alone, publicly shown up in its powerlessness (Col. 2:15).” Reformed Dogmatics, Volume III, Chapter 1, p. 64

Anyway, I hope that helps.  As I read it back, there is SO much more to be said. If you want to investigate further, check out the following list:

Remainders of Indwelling Sin in Unbelievers By John Owen

Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen

Mortification of Sin by John Owen

Notes on the Canons of Dordt by Rev. Clarence Bouwman

Reformed Dogmatics Volume 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ. by Herman Bavinck (Amazon link)

Systematic Theology. by Louis Berkhof

This link will bring you to many, many, free theological type books, perfect for a theology nerd like me. Enjoy.

Easy “Love.”

Posted: February 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

“I think I am just gonna go home and pornhub it…”

Me: “Whoa! What?”

Him: “Yeah, I am a bit wound up. I need to release some tension…gonna pornhub it. Just me and my netbook…”

Pornhub it.

That was part of a conversation I had with a coworker.  After chatting with him for a bit, it was apparent that it is “normal” to use pornography. “Everyone does it.,” he claimed.  He had absolutely no problem with it.  Not only that, he had no problem with letting me know all about it, what site he likes, and…and then I cut him off….

When I tried to tell him about the exploitation of women, the rewiring of men’s brains, porn induced erectile dysfunction, and the rape culture propagated by porn, he just laughed, “Dude chill. It’s normal now.  Sure it’s not ideal, but what else are we supposed to do if we can’t find a chick to hook up with…?  It’s easy…”

And there it is.  It’s easy.

Hook up culture.  Easy.

Porn culture.  Easy.

Rape culture. Easy

Abortion.  Easy.

Is this really “normal” now?  Judging from the giant ad in Times Square in New York that was erected a couple months ago:

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I would say so.  

Yeah sure, it was taken down within a couple days, but enough people thought it was ok to let it happen.  How long before something like this is allowed to stay? It seems that America has bought into the lie of the devil. Our Children are now being blatantly exposed to pornography.  What does a parent tell their 7 year old who asks, “Daddy what is pornhub?”

I shudder to think…

Pornography, once a dark secret kept in a shoe box under the mattress of the social outcast that no one dared talk about, is now not only readily available, it is celebrated by “upstanding” people like my coworker. It makes sense, though, doesn’t it?  In a culture of easy sex on demand, why shouldn’t we be able to view this stuff?

And the crazy thing about all this? The real kicker? While people sit in front of their computers coveting, lusting and rewiring their brains to an obscene addiction without even realizing it, the most searched for word according to porn hub is not what most people would think it would be.  It is not some obscene and nasty word that guys are looking for.  Those looking at porn are not necessarily looking for kiddie porn, or other nasty, vile things, although it can, and often does, lead to that stuff…what they are looking for is actually what we are created to long for.

Love.

Love is the most searched for word in pornography.  This is totally insane. These men are destroying their brains, their marriages, their lives… looking for love.  How sad and twisted is that? The painfully sickening irony about the giant ad that Pornhub put up in Times square is that it changed the lyrics of the famous song, from “love” to “hand”…when everyone is looking for love.

We were created to love. 

We are commanded to love.

The Bible tells us that. This world needs love.  That is obvious. They are looking for it.  There is something missing deep inside them and they know it, they can feel it. It is a hollowness that needs to be filled. They long for love, but they do not know what love looks like. We have it. God is love. And yet we search in all the wrong places.  Only Jesus Christ can offer us the Love each of us so desparately needs. And only God in Jesus Christ can offer us freedom from sin and temptation, including lust, porn, adultery and other sexual sin.

Sadly, Christians aren’t immune.  More than 45% of Christians admit that pornography is a major problem in their home. An anonymous survey conducted by Pastors.com reported that 54% of pastors admitted viewing porn within the last year. And it’s not just guys! In an online newsletter, 34% of female readers of Today’s Christian Woman admitted to intentionally accessing Internet porn. It was noted that 1 out of every 6 women who read Today’s Christian Woman say they struggle with addiction to pornography.  These numbers are all from a decade ago.  Porn is even more prevalent now. It is so easy.

Please.

Stop.

Stop “pornhubbing it.”  Stop looking for “love” on line. Cut it off. Porn is death.  Sexual sin is death. Adultery is death. These things will rot your soul, and destroy your marriages and families. Flee from sexual immorality.  Flee from sin.  Flee into the open arms of Jesus.

We are all looking for love. 

So look to Him. 

He is Love.

 

 

Yesterday, I read the article,  “Ten Things We Should Get Angry About Before Yoga Pants”  by Ashley Dickens, and I saw it reposted about 20 times on social media.  As I read it, I thought the writer saying that Veronica Partridge  is wrong about leggings when there are other bigger things out there.  Going to Partridge’s defence, I commented on one of the posts on Facebook taking issue with the article:

I take issue with this article. It supposes that God turns a blind eye to holiness. We are are called to bring the gospel to a dying world. And the entire point of the gospel is just that – holiness. <About 500 more words in here about our sin, redemtption, Jesus active obedience and holiness> I absolutely agree that we ought to support the poor, the widowed and the orphaned, James tells us that is true religion. But Jesus tells us to be holy as he is holy.

I commented hastily, as only I can. I do think that evangelical Christianity in general has lost something of holiness, but Ashley Dickens was not attacking Veronica Partridge, or holiness, or her personal decision to not wear leggings or yoga pants, rather it was addressing those who were rallying around her article as a war cry to abolish yoga pants.

I appreciate Veronica Partridge’s article, and her personal decision to honour God and her husband, by not wearing the fabric equivalent of spray paint on her bum.  However I do agree that the war on yoga pants and leggings is kind of ridiculous, when we consider what else is going on in the world. While I hate leggings, I am capable of not looking when the spray painted ladies walk by.  I hope the fad ends soon.  I also appreciate Ashley Dickens article.  Both have a place in Christian discourse, since God gives us all different passions and gifts.

Anyway, to the point of this post:

I went into this article assuming that it would be an attack on Veronica Partridge, and that is what I read because I was looking for it – preconceived notions are nasty things. I have removed my comment, but this is a public apology to all who read it, the people who messaged me, and especially to my sister in law Andrea who posted the article on which I commented, and to Ashley Dickens the author of the article.  Her article is not supposing that God turns a blind eye to holiness.