Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Future of the Human Race: From Ice Age to Ice Cream

I will die of a heart attack. Odds are, it will be sometime in my fifties, but Lord willing, this may not be the case. Heart disease runs on both sides of my family: my father died of a heart attack at 56, his father at 53, my mother had a stroke at 40. Other than being a little looney from time to time, she is still alive and the stroke has not impeded her quality of life. Therefore, as an attempt of some preventative maintenance and after much prodding from my loving wife (who continually reminds me that she does not want to be stuck here in this world with a mountain of debt and kids to put through college once I am dead an gone), I visited the doctor a few months ago to check the systems to make sure that they are still on go. This visit and family history resulted in a homework list from my physician prior if I desire to impart some health on my soon to be failing heart. The short list of five lifestyle changes were:

1. No fried foods. This one was not that tragic to Kimberly and me as we seek to avoid these things anyway, except for the occasion Chick-Fil-A fried chicken sandwich. We have since figured that there is not much else good on the menu of those cow haters. I digress…

2. Red meat not more than once per week. Speaking of cow haters...again, not that big of deal since we like chicken and vegetables and other things that promote…eh…movement from within.

3. No trans fat. If what I read about this stuff is true – NO PROBLEM! This is the stuff that widow makers are made of! Clogged arteries, here we come!

4. Exercise one hour per day. A little more difficult as I am not prone to physical exertion by any stretch of the imagination, but at least a goal to strive towards. Kimberly and I enjoy walking together in our neighborhood (she probably more than I) and this is a practice from which anyone can benefit.

The fifth item on the list, however, was a little more difficult. It meant giving up something that I truly cherished, treasured, and looked forward to on a daily basis. It was something that was so synonymous with the identity of Kimberly and I together that whenever people would give us a gift it would be a gift certificate to enjoy this. As wedding gifts, many individuals chose to bless us with accessories to enjoy this scrumptious treat and two (maybe three, I can’t remember) even gave us the ability to produce this ourselves. Kimberly says that her thighs suffered for it, but we still loved the practice nonetheless.

5. No ice cream.

Ohhhhh the horrors!! Are you sure? Can it possibly be?!?! Anything but that! Take my left arm, and replace it with an ice-cream scooping prosthetic!!! You can take my dreams, but not my creams!! Ahhh the humanity!

Alas, it was true. Ice Cream is another delight that can be deadly. It is a widow maker in itself as somehow something so yummy can be so bad for you all at the same time. I guess I’ll have to chock this one to the goodness of God vs the existence of evil and the sovereignty of God vs the free will of man as something that I may never fully understand on this side of eternity! Is ice cream in heaven non-fat, soy, or yogurt? Is there even anything fattening in heaven at all? Regardless, I can’t have it here.

Until now.

My wife just read this and said “what?!?!” If she will keep reading, she may come to an understanding that ice cream is indeed, not only a healthy decision to make, but the propagation of the human race and our family bloodline may depend on its consumption. And since I do not want to be responsible for the destruction of humanity because of my own desires, then I should probably submit to the reality that my ice cream consumption is depending on me!

This may seem like a lot of pressure to put on one individual, but here’s the scoop: The Harvard School of Public Health released a study yesterday finding that “women who ate two or more low-fat dairy products a day were nearly twice as likely to have trouble conceiving because of lack of ovulation than women who ate less than one serving of such foods a week. Conversely, women who ate at least one fatty dairy food a day were 27 percent less likely to have this problem.” There you have it, the future of the human race is completely dependent on our consumption of the forbidden cream - at least the coming of the next Armstrong generation. True, this refers to women’s dietary habits, but shouldn’t I, as a loving husband, want to support my wife in her endeavors to bring a little bundle of joy into life? Absolutely! Therefore, I am declaring the ice cream fast officially over after three months in progress. Not so fast, says my wife. I can tell that this is going to be a rocky road.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Smith and Spears: The Sagas Soar

So, the news is riddled with the debacles of Anna Nicole Smith and 90% of the males in the western hemisphere vying for a potential spot at her money…uh…I mean…her baby…whatever. In light of the fact that this story has dominated all major news services over the passing weeks, I wonder if Super Bowl advertisers are questioning the decision to pony up $1 million for a 30 second spot during the big game when it appears as though the same blurb on any of the news networks might have been a bit more profitable.

Nonetheless, in light of the phenomenon of news coverage that this has spurred, here is a statement I do not think that I would have ever made before: Thank God for Brittney Spears. While moms and dads (or at least potential candidacy for fatherhood) are squabbling over the body of the deceased and the rights to the fruits of her wealth…uh…I mean…fruits of her womb, on comes Ms. Spears to deflect the media’s attention to sport her new do, but it probably should be more affectionately as her hair don’t.

And in case you haven’t heard, this recent development in the saga of Spears’ life has sent shockwaves around the globe. So moved by her display of self-deprecation, men in Manilla, Phillippines began a riot in support of her decision as well.

(For the real story, although not as interesting, click here and go to #3.)

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Sums of My Thoughts

Since I recognize that there is probably nothing that I say, or will say, that is purely original in thought, I always find it heartening to read of others who are gifted with the eloquence to articulate my convictions. When I come across passages like these, I say to myself, “That’s it! That’s exactly what I have wanted to say! Why didn’t I say this before?!?!” And thus, I submit to you some great quotes from my reading over the last few weeks that have stirred up my spirit and have been a good summation of my thoughts.

On Preaching and Pastoral Ministry…
“Can we speak about the misery of human depravity and the wonder of sovereign grace, without being deeply moved by such tremendous realities? Has the development of our heads so shriveled our hearts as to render us suspicious of genuine emotion? […] But our preaching is a travesty if it lacks an earnest pleading with men to receive an all-sufficient Christ, freely offered to all who come. The truths of Calvinism are not barriers which must be surmounted before the gospel can be preached, but a platform from which to preach more powerfully. It is precisely because grace is sovereign and free that we can urge it passionately – because the redemption purchased by Christ is complete and certain that we can commend it so glowingly – because God has so chosen some out of His mere good pleasure that we can preach confidently. If we are to stand in the line of Biblical, Reformed preachers, we will take note of this element in [Richard] Baxter’s preaching.

“This then is the Richard Baxter of Kidderminster. A preacher who laboured to make plain the truth of God, who spoke from a burning heart as he pleaded with his people to close with Christ. A pastor who knew his sheep by name, who spoke to them personally about the great concerns of their souls.”

Edward Donnelly. Introduction to Dying Thoughts by Richard Baxter. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2004. xiv, xv, xviii-xix

On the Centrality of the Word of God in our Worship…
“Worship is impossible without a knowledge of the truth…[T]he more we come to know Him, the more we shall realize that He is worthy of our devotion. For to worship is to praise God’s name, to glory in Who and What He is in the splendor of His being and works…Since worship is always a response to the truth of God we perceive, it is supremely the Word of God (His self-revelation) which evokes worship in God. Therefore the Bible has an indispensable place in both public and private worship…Only when God speaks through His Word, making Himself known in the greatness of His glory and grace, do the congregation truly bow down and worship.”

John Stott. Understanding the Bible (Expanded Edition). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan 1972 (rptd 1999). p211.

On the Faithful Proclamation of the Gospel in Preaching Ministry…
“We are not encouraged [in the Scriptures] to forsake our sin by having our senses amused or our preferences coddled. The Gospel is inherently and irreducibly confrontational. It cuts against our perceived righteousness and self-sufficiency, demanding that we forsake cherished sin and trust in someone else to justify us.”

Mark Dever. The Deliberate Church: Building Your Ministry on the Gospel. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005. p55.

On the Community of Christ’s Sheep…
“But that night [while in prison] was a good night to me; I have had but few better; I longed for the company of some of God’s people. That I might have imparted unto them what God had showed me. Christ was a precious Christ to my soul that night; I could scarce lie in my bed for joy, and peace, and triumph through Christ.”

John Bunyan. Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1666ca (rptd 1948). 107-108.

“Men, on the most elementary level, you do not have to go to church to be a Christian. You do not have to go home to be married either. But in both cases, if you do not, you will have a very poor relationship.”

R. Kent Hughes. Disciplines of a Godly Man (10th Anniversary Edition). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2001. p175.

On Living the Christian’s Life…
“Who is adequate for living the Christian life? Not one of us. The fact of the matter is we cannot live the Christian Life, and God has never asked us to live it. He has asked that He might live that life through us.”

J. Vernon McGee. I and II Kings. La Verne, CA: El Camino Press, 1976. p30.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

The Apostle Paul, Under the Inspiration of The Holy Spirit. Galatians 2:20 ESV

On Preaching, Ministry, and the Measure of Effectiveness…
“Words and actions are transient things, and being once past, are nothing; but the effects of them on an immortal soul may be endless. All the sermons that I have preached are nothing now; but the grace of God on sanctified souls is the beginning of eternal life […] When I die, the gospel dies not, the church dies not, the praised of God die not, the world dies not, but perhaps it will grow better and those prayers be answered which seemed to be lost; and perhaps some of the seed I have sown will spring up when I am dead.”

Richard Baxter. Dying Thoughts. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1683 (rptd 2004). p11, 55.

This final quote is one that I desire to have read at my funeral. What an epitaph for a life that was lived for the by the grace of God for the sake of His name and the sake of His gospel. Looking forward, I only hope to live up to the measure that I might have always placed Christ as preeminent over all things, that I was faithful to His calling, His gospel, and His people.

“To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The Apostle Paul, Under the Inspiration of The Holy Spirit. 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 ESV

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Do You Smoke Grass?

[Editor’s comment: This title and subsequent messages are not to be discerned as advocating for the legalization of any illicit drug that is not monitored and regulated by the FDA. There are many mind-altering and physically damaging substances (many which are legal) that have been used to the demise of many families and communities (this author included) and it is not my intention to make light of the great perils of our society. “Grass” and “Smoke” are merely used as a figurative expression of paronomasia (a pun, or play on words) to conjoin two dissimilar ideas or actions with vocabulary that is fitting with the verbose lexicon of our vernacular. And being that we are Easily-A-Muse, it may also be sequestered to the musings of an idiosyncratic individual who is simply easily amused by the slapstick wit that seems to propagate within the bounds of his cranial lobe. Please post any commentary that you may proffer below or you may elect to sophisticate your statements by scripting to]

A true story of have a chili dinner can really turn the heat up...

3rd Annual Daytona Party and Chili Cookoff

6 cans of kidney beans
2 cans of black beans
4 cans corn
6 cans of diced tomatoes
4 lbs venison hamburger
2 pounds of hot venison sausage:
= $50

velveeta cheese
2lbs of hot venison sausage:

A frantic call to 911 at 12:45 to let them know that the fire you started in your fire pit has ignited:
your yard
your neighbor’s yard
your neighbor’s house
your other neighbor’s yard and smoked his house
and another neighbor’s yard
and another neighbor’s yard
all to start the party off with a bang:


(Hi, I Smoked Grass This Weekend)

(that is NOT snow on the ground)

(Someone Else Smoked My Grass This Weekend)

(And in case you were wondering, the grass is NOT greener on the other side)

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Christ-Centered Songs for FREE Download

I received an e-mail earlier today from Great Worship Songs indicating that they had some free songs for download. Typically, I promptly delete these e-mails because I am distracted and I have little time to peruse whatever it is that they may offer. I am definitely not the go-to person when it comes to being hip on the music scene. (I wanted to be a wrapper remember?)

Nonetheless, these two songs were available for FREE Download (at least for a limited time). If you are not a registered member all you must do is supply an e-mail address to create login account. You will have the option of being removed from the mailing list, and to my knowledge, I have not received any spam because of them. But the day I do...well, I’ll probably just delete them.

I submit these two songs for your review because they first possess Christ-centered lyrics and secondly they express many of the desires of my heart. And thus, they are Sums of My Thoughts. Enjoy!

There Is None Like You (Sovereign Lord)
(By Abel/Cates/Pierce)

Verse 1
You turn, sorrow into peace, despair into belief,
Hallelujah, You will never change.
You turn, darkness into light, blindness into sight,
Hallelujah, You will never change.

You’re everything we need, we declare you King!

There is none like You, Sovereign Lord,
There is none like You.
You make all things new, Sovereign Lord,
There is none like You.

Verse 2
You Breathe, life into my soul, making new the old.
Hallelujah, You will never change.
You Breathe, words of truth to me, love so rescuing
Hallelujah, You will never change.

You’re everything we need
All creation sings

© Copyright 2006 Bridge Building, a division of Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing; dba / 45DegreesMusic (BMI) / New Spring, a division of Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing; dba / Upper Cates Music (ASCAP) / Administered by BMG Music Publishing; licensing through Music Services / Popular Purple Publishing (BMI). All rights reserved. Used by permission.

With All My Heart
(By Chad Cates, Bebo Norman, Stephen Sharp)

Verse 1
With all my heart
I want to love You Lord
With all my heart
I want to serve You
With every day that passes by I want to leave a mark
I want to love You with all my heart

Verse 2
With all my soul
I want to love You Lord
With all my soul
I want to serve You
With every feeling You give to make me whole
I want to love You with all my soul

You are worthy of every breath I breathe
You are holy, oh beyond compare
Lord, I wanna be an offering
And live the words from this simple prayer

Verse 3
With all my strength
I want to love You Lord
With all my strength
I want to serve You
With every step I take and every choice I make
I want to love You with all my strength

With every thought I find stirring deep inside
I want to love You with all my mind

Verse 4
With all my life
I wanna love you Lord
With all my life
I wanna serve you
With all my heart, my soul, strength and mind
I want to love You with all my life

© New Spring (ASCAP), a division of Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing. / Upper Cates Music (ASCAP) (all rights OBO Upper Cates Music administered by New Spring.) / Appstreet Music (ASCAP) (all rights OBO of Appstreet Music administered by New Spring) / Stephen Sharp publishing designee. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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"I Give It All" - Devotional Thoughts on 1 Chronicles 21

To set the stage, King David had just acted foolishly by calling for a census of the people Israel. This census was not called for by God or one of the priest or prophets who spoke for Him, but by David himself and this in itself was sinful (cf. Num 1:2ff; 4:21ff; Ex 30:11ff). It would appear from the context given in 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 that this census was driven militarily. David commanded Joab, the commander of his army, to conduct the numbering process (as opposed to one of his secretaries) and coupled with Joab’s report of “men who drew the sword” (1 Chr 21:5) this inclination is most likely true. By virtue of the Law that was given to Moses long before the establishment of the monarchy in Israel, a future king would have been required to physically write out a copy of the Book of the Law for himself:

"And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.” (Deut 17:18-20)
Joab also must have been aware of the dangers of calling for a census when the people were not ritually prepared (Ex 30:11-16) as he pleaded of David “Why should [the census] be a cause of guilt for Israel?” (1 Chr 21:3d). But David rebelled against the command of the Lord and thus fell victim to the gracious discipline of the Lord.

After the Lord had relented from the calamity that he was bringing upon the people of Israel and even stayed the hand of the Angel of the Lord from destroying Jerusalem, He sent a message to Gad who spoke to David with authority from on high. We pick up the narrative here:

1Chr 21 18 Now the angel of the LORD had commanded Gad to say to David that David should go up and raise an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. 19 So David went up at Gad's word, which he had spoken in the name of the LORD. 20 Now Ornan was threshing wheat. He turned and saw the angel, and his four sons who were with him hid themselves. 21 As David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David and went out from the threshing floor and paid homage to David with his face to the ground. 22 And David said to Ornan, "Give me the site of the threshing floor that I may build on it an altar to the LORD-give it to me at its full price-that the plague may be averted from the people." 23 Then Ornan said to David, "Take it, and let my lord the king do what seems good to him. See, I give the oxen for burnt offerings and the threshing sledges for the wood and the wheat for a grain offering; I give it all."

When asked for his threshing floor, the instrument that was used to procure his livelihood, Ornan says “I give it all.” David had only asked for the site of the threshing floor which we later see was the site of Solomon’s temple (1 Chr 22:1) but Ornan says “I give it all.” He offers his oxen as an offering, the wood of the threshing sledges to be used as kindling for the burnt offering and even the wheat to be used as a grain offering. “I give it all.” Ornan clings to nothing, rather, he dedicates all to the Lord and for His purpose.

The attitude of Ornan stands in sharp contrast to that of King David. David, by calling for the census to take inventory of the king’s wealth and military prowess he was concerned with his own priorities. David, measuring the weight of silver and gold and other precious stones and counting the number of men who would willingly lay down their lives for the king, only sought to serve himself. Ornan said “I give it all” while David was saying “I want it all.” David neglected the great truth that it was the Lord who gave him the victories over other nations (1 Chr 18:6, 13). David forgot that it was the Lord who brought Israel into the land in the first place (Josh 1:1-9). David disregarded the reality “that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD's” (1 Sam 17:47). David lost sight of the fact that the true treasure of Israel was to be found in the certainty they were a people who were chosen, not on behalf of their own righteousness but because of God’s great mercy (Deut 9:5; Dan 9:18-19) who had the privilege of being called by His name (1 Chr 17:21).

David said, “I want it all” and thus brought pestilence and judgment on the nation of Israel. Ornan said “I give it all” and found himself in the great delight of the Lord. It must be stated that the Lord will discipline those whom He loves (Pro 12:1; Heb 12:6) and therefore, the discipline that David found himself in should be seen as act of God’s mercy and grace even though it came in the form of destruction. It could have been worse. The Lord will discipline for the purposes of His glory those whom He has chosen to take great delight in, but this is not a cause for licentiousness so that grace may abound all the more (Rom 6:1ff). He will gain glory either way, for His ultimate purpose will always be achieved, but our heart’s cry should be to glorify God in our obedience to His revealed will prior to His gaining glory as a result of our sinfulness.

I want to be like Ornan. I want to say “Lord, I give it all. Take all that I have and all that I am for the purposes of Your glory so that ‘in me, as the foremost [of sinners], Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life’ (1 Tim 1:16).” But, the truth is that my depravity leads me so far away from this reality. I cling to so many things. I embrace so much of this world and what it appears to offer as a satisfaction for my soul. I have often sung the words “I surrender all, all to Thee my Blessed Saviour, I surrender all” and have never been able to say with absolute conviction that I indeed live this way. I want to, but thus far have been unable to do so.

Father, thank You for calling me unto Yourself and for uniting me with a peculiar people who are called by Your name. Please grant me the desire to want nothing other than for Your glory, Your name, and Your renown to be spread among the nations (Is 26:8). Please grant me the desire to say “I give it all” and to trust that You will be all that I ever need. I know that this is only possible when I come to the truth that I have been crucified with You so that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives within me (Gal 2:20). Make this the true cry of my heart. Cause me to willingly sing of Your grace that calls me to surrender. Let me not boast in the accomplishment of my surrender, but only in the cross of Jesus Christ that enables such a surrender to be possible. It is for the sake of Christ’s name I pray, Amen and Amen.

I Surrender All by J.W. Van Deventer

1. All to Jesus I surrender;
all to him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust him,
in his presence daily live.

I surrender all, I surrender all,
all to thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

2. All to Jesus I surrender;
humbly at his feet I bow,
worldly pleasures all forsaken;
take me, Jesus, take me now.

3. All to Jesus I surrender;
make me, Savior, wholly thine;
fill me with thy love and power;
truly know that thou art mine.

4. All to Jesus I surrender;
Lord, I give myself to thee;
fill me with thy love and power;
let thy blessing fall on me.

5. All to Jesus I surrender;
now I feel the sacred flame.
O the joy of full salvation!
Glory, glory, to his name!

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Water Baptism

I don't watch many movies...but this one is Easily Amuse!

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Book Review - Getting the Gospel Right by Cornelis P. Venema

Getting the Gospel Right: Assessing the Reformation and New Perspectives on Paul
By Cornelis P. Venema
Banner of Truth Trust, 2006
Category: Theology
ISBN: 085151927x
92 pages plus preface and advertisements
$6.00 MSRP

In one form or another, the topic of the “New Perspectives on Paul” came up over a short period of time and I realized that I do not have much to contribute to the conversation being that I am uninformed as to what the “new perspective” entails. Some folks claim that this is a “raging debate” among evangelical Christians and others portend a much subtler affinity to the contest. Largely, this debate exists among scholars of New Testament and Systematic Theology at the seminary level as I have not seen many pastors seeking to challenge either view from the pulpit. However, just because I have not been exposed to the arguments in a preaching setting does not mean that they are not out there somewhere. All this said, I am thankful that I picked up Dr. Venema’s little ditty which is a MUCH condensed version of his then forthcoming book and since published Gospel of Free Acceptance in Christ: An Assessment of the Reformation and the New Perspectives on Paul, also published by the Banner of Truth. (Oh, hello there Steve!)

Dr. Cornelis P. Venema is the president of Mid-America Reformed Seminary in Dyer, IN and also serves as the professor of systematic theology. Given the name of the seminary that he leads, you can imagine that he believes in the “classic Protestant view” which he says that believers are “justified before God by grace alone (sola gratia) on account of the work of Christ alone (sola Christo), and this free justification becomes theirs by faith alone (sola fide)” (7). The remainder of Getting the Gospel Right is thus a brief explanation of the reformation perspective on justification, an overview of three of the leading “new perspective” theories, and finally a refutation of the new perspective based on a literal, grammatical, historical form of exegesis. In short, the New Perspective is the idea that when Paul wrote concerning the law he was referring to what it means to be a part of the community, not necessarily a refutation of the legalistic Judaism that was ruling the day (as the classical Protestant reformation view holds). This may seem to be an issue of semantics, but what is at stake is a true understanding of what the gospel is and is not and what in fact makes it “good news.”

Venema offers a brief explanation of the three “sola” statements that characterized the reformation’s perspective on justification during which he offers that “the Reformers [Luther and Calvin specifically]regarded the question of justification not as one question among many, but as the religious question, the paramount question in life and death” (10). Thus, the way that we answer and define what justification is and is not has bearing on the totality of our Christianity; and, according to the reformers (whom with which I would agree) is an indication as to whether or not we are indeed a Christian at all.

Venema then attempts to sum up the contributions of EP Sanders, JDG Dunn, and NT Wright to the new perspective theory acknowledging that they are considered to be experts in this field and collectively have helped the new perspectives to take shape.

According to Venema, Sanders believes that the reformation view wrongly understands Second Temple Judaism as a legalistic religion whereas he points to writings that indicate the Second Temple Judaism “was fundamentally a religion of grace” (28). Dr. Venema then poses this question: “If Judaism was not a legalistic religion, what are we to make of Paul’s vigorous arguments against claims to find favour with God on the basis of works?” (29). Venema then explains that Sanders offers the idea that Paul saw Christ as the solution to the human sinful condition (which He is) and he then formulated his doctrine of the law to conform to the notion that Christ was the fulfillment of the law and therefore, Savior of the world. I need to read Sanders firsthand before I can truly make a judgment on this, but if Venema represents him accurately, this would be contrary to the idea that the human condition is sinful, the law reveals man’s inability to conform to it requirements, and therefore, man is in need of a savior because he cannot save himself.

Venema then offers an overview of the works of James DG Dunn who, similar to Sanders, believes that the reformers did not have a proper understanding of Paul’s relationship with Judaism. Dunn brings this further, however, by stating “that Paul was objecting to Jewish exclusivism and not legalism” (33). In other words, Dunn understands Paul to condemn “the ‘works of the law’ to exclude Gentiles from membership in the covenant community” (33). Basically, Gentiles were “unable” to perform the works of the law because they did not have the Law in their background and the Jews were seeking to keep the Gentiles out of the covenant community because of their lack of skill or knowledge of the law.

NT Wright, Bishop for the Church of England, is the final proponent of the New Perspectives that Dr. Venema takes issue with

.“One of the unfortunate features of the Reformation and of much evangelical thinkng, according to Wright, is that they reduce the gospel to ‘a message about “how one gets saved”, in an individual and ahistorical sense’[…and] the basic message of Paul’s gospel focuses upon the lordship of Jesus Christ […] Rather than the salvation of individual sinners, the theme of Christ’s lordship is the primary focus of Paul’s preaching” (39, 40, 41).
The prevailing idea of Wright’s view on the New Perspectives, according to Venema, is that the phrase “righteousness of God” refers to “his covenantal faithfulness in action” (43). Further, “[Wright] maintains that the Reformation’s idea of the imparting of God’s righteousness to believers makes no sense” (43). Venema then quotes Wright as saying, “Righteousness is not an object, a substance or a gas which can be passed across the courtroom” (43). Justification is then, according to Wright, “about who belongs to the number of God’s covenant people” (46). Again, if Venema represents Wright accurately, I would need to disagree with the Bishop in that justification is represented throughout the new testament as a legal declaration of right standing (or at least the need to be) in front of God. This justification is only achieved through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ who then imputes His righteousness to those who call upon Him for the salvation of their souls. This imputation should not be understood to deal with the inward qualities of an individual, but of the legal standing only. Sanctification confronts the inward change that is to be wrought by the Holy Spirit after regeneration while justification is solely to be thought of in terms of legality. Yes, in a sense, it does result in “who belongs” for those who have not been justified do not “belong” to the community of believers, but the doctrine of justification must first be considered in light of its soteriological function (salvation) before its ecclesiological (church).

Dr. Venema sums up his understanding of the gospel of grace by sharing a concise statement of Biblical truth that resonated within my spirit to the sounds of joy:
“Against the background of the Old Testamen idea of God’s righteousness, the apostle Paul is affirming that the gospel of Jesus Christ reveals God’s judicial action in securing the righteous status of his people before him. What is remarkable about the gospel of God’s righteousness in Christ is that God has, in the Person and work of His Son, entered into judgment on behalf of the ungodly (Rom 4:5). All who receive the free gift of right standing with God on the basis of the work of Christ, are beneficiaries of God’s righteousness. They are freed from condemnation and accepted by God, the Judge. God’s righteousness reveals His covenant faithfulness to secure His people’s salvation, to be sure. But it especially reveals God’s powerful intervention in His own court to grant a righteous status to believers on the basis of Christ’s work on their behalf” (73-74).
As stated before, this is a wonderful example of Biblical, gospel truth and I would do well to read this little passage every day!

Getting the Gospel Right is a good introduction into the concepts of the New Perspectives on Paul and I hope to read more this year. I have not personally read any contribution by Sanders, Dunn, or Wright and therefore have only attempted to offer the manner in which Dr. Venema has represented these scholars.

For another review on this same title visit David Booth.
Also, for an interesting Q&A concerning NT Wright visit here.
Or Read a review approved by Banner of Truth

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