Monday, May 26, 2008

Free Will Again

I am reminded of Martin Luther's book, "The Bondage of the Will". The unconverted person has free will, but only in the selection of what sin they will commit next. Everything they do is in rebellion against God. Even "good" acts are carried out for the wrong motive (fame, reputation, guilt, etc.). When it comes to the important act, coming to salvation, their will is completely constrained (in bondage).

That is, until they hear the Gospel proclaimed - Romans 10:14:
"How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?"
Once you have heard the Gospel proclaimed (anyone who proclaims the Gospel is a "preacher" in this sense), you must respond rightly. The right response is to repent (turn from sin) and trust in the perfect life of Jesus and His death which paid the price of sin - and His resurrection which showed Him approved of God, and which proves we can have new life.

This response is not a "work". There is nothing exceptional about us that makes us respond rightly. It would seem their is a certain amount of humility required, but every unconverted person has a large amount of pride. The logical thing to do is rightly respond, but more logical folk are no more likely to respond; that is, my right response is in no way due to the fact that I am smarter than anyone else.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Hardness of Heart

I've been invited to a Bible study (on the Revelation to John) held by a local Seventh Day Adventist church. I didn't know much about Adventists until the last year or so. I did gain respect for them after reading Ronald Numbers' book.

Their theology is basically post-trib/pre-mil Baptist. And they are very dedicated to Saturday worship.

Occasionally, the 30,000 denomination statistic comes up (a number which, I believe, counts independent and non-denominational churches each as their own denomination...). I am reminded of something Todd Friel says. Jesus (Matthew 19:8, etc.) said that God allowed divorce because of the hardness of people's hearts. Does God allow denominationalism because of the hardness of our hearts?

I've been reading repeatedly through the book of Romans. And every time I hit chapter 14, I am reminded of this again. Solid Christians must restrict their freedom on the behalf of those who are weaker. The weak and the strong in faith should not judge one another. Let everyone keep these minor issues private to himself.

Hold fast to the essentials, give grace otherwise.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Cold, Distant Father

I was invited to a local Muslim open house today. It's the first time I've gotten to proclaim the Gospel in question form (during the Q&A):

"What is sin?" (breaking God's law)

"Is God just? That is, does God demand payment for sin?"

"What can we give God?" (how can we make the payment)

"Have you heard, that Jesus Christ died to pay the price for our sins?"

Any time the Gospel is proclaimed, that is a good day. I also gained an interesting insight into Muslim theology:

"Does the Koran say 'God is love'?" No, but we love each other in the way God would desire, and in that -- and our good deeds -- hope to win his approval.

And there it is.

Allah, the cold and distant father. Who shows no love. And the hard working, unloved children -- desperately laboring to win his approval, some sign of love.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Witness Report

Today there was a festival in a nearby town. Our church rented a stall, and set up what we call the "Discover Hope" table. We offer a selection of tracts and Christian pamphlets for free to all passers by.

It started out raining, and we were worried we would have to cancel. But, praise God, the rain broke and we had a good day overall.

We gave out a lot of tracts to passers-by, and had many people come up to the table. We also had an argumentative older man debate with us for several minutes.

Interesting passer-by for the day, "Is this one of those 'end of the world' things?" Me: "No, well, you have to be ready..." "It's your world coming to an end!! Not mine!!" Ok, then...

I also got a chance to visit some of the other booths and have some good conversations. I talked with some very friendly Muslims. I was surprised at the candor they had when I asked them "Do you have assurance [of eternal life when you die]?". "No" was their answer!

I also talked for a while with a group of pro-choice activists. They were, uh, "angry".

My last conversation was with two Mormons. There is something strange going on with the Mormons. They are pushing more on their image as "regular Christians". When I asked about all the usual Mormon heresies, they denied them. They claimed salvation by faith alone, without works. They attested to the eternality of Jesus. Very odd. I didn't know what to say. I guess if their prophet tells them to adopt orthodox Christian doctrines, they will become Christians. I am hopeful, but still wary...

Monday, May 5, 2008

Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy

Catching up on my Blog and Mablog reading, I saw this gem:
"Don't pin his words to a poster board like a row of
dead but orthodox butterflies."
Not being a "covenanter", I don't understand all the issues in this "Auburn Avenue" business. But I am thankful my church is non-denominational.