I am very grateful for the upcoming documentary by Stephen McCaskell about Martin Luther that will seek to tell a balanced story about the man who was imperfect in many ways, but was used by God to spark what we know as the Protestant Reformation. Watch the trailer and preorder your copy of LUTHER (order your copy here).
Should We Baptize the Dead? — “Baptism demonstrates and symbolically reenacts our spiritual death, burial, and resurrection in Christ. But it does not save anyone.”
Legalism and Assurance — John MacArthur explains that, “Scripture contains great and glorious promises for the believer who struggles with sin in this life. And quite simply, we need to take God at His word and believe those promises because they hinge not on what we do, but on what God has already done.”
$5 Friday: Ethics, Truth, & the Atonement — Some good book options from Ligonier for only…$5.
Dispel the Myths About Down Syndrome — “World Down Syndrome Day was started to dispel myths about the disorder. Down syndrome itself is complicated, and as a “spectrum disorder,” each person with Down syndrome (and thus, their families) will experience it in different ways. Some people with Down syndrome will grow and experience a certain level of independence as adults; most will require help and supervision for their entire lives. Many also will experience significant, lifelong health complications. Some are sassy and engaging and bold. Some can’t speak at all. Some have families and churches who love and cherish them. Some are bullied every day in their communities and schools.”
Churches, Get a Calvinist Pastor! — Tom Nettles writes, “If pulpit committees and churches would look below the façade of scare-tactic accusations and warnings being rolled out like taffy at the Mississippi State Fair, they would discover something healthy and very desirable in the men and the message preached by those against whom they are warned. No one wants a nasty confrontation between church and pastor that leads to a confused and often divided congregation and a battered pastor and his family. These are charitable warnings. Some congregations, however, might desire to consider why Baptists for so long guarded their confessional Calvinism with great care and endured many storms undergirded by that foundation. They might consider that opening themselves to embrace that which is truly “traditional” could elevate the sense of the divine presence of grace in their lives.”
Princeton Seminary Cancels Award to Tim Keller After LGBT Complaint — “A week after disgruntled Princeton Theological Seminary alumni complained that Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, should not receive the school’s Kuyper Prize because of his church’s position on the ordination of women and LGBT individuals, the seminary decided Wednesday not to give the award this year.”
Visualize the Bible in a Whole New Way — Visual tools in Logos Bible Software add great elements for teaching and studying God’s Word.
Paul Washer Recovering After his Recent Heart Attack — After suffering a heart attack on Monday night, Paul Washer has been in the hospital recovering under the care of doctors. He is making good progress and is scheduled to be released soon.
**Lots of good news re: tests, scans, and x-rays from yesterday. Everything looks good! He’s looking forward to being home in a few days.
— Paul Washer (@paulwasher) March 22, 2017
Michael Kruger to Speak at G3 2018 — The G3 Conference announced on Thursday that Michael Kruger will be speaking in their 2018 conference next January. Reserve your seat (G3Conference.com).
— G3 Conference (@G3Conference) March 23, 2017
Theology Word of the Week: God
God, the object, as revealed in Scripture, of the church s confession, worship and service.
1. The identity of God
The Christian view of God comes from the biblical revelation, in which mankind’s maker appears as mankind’s redeemer, unchangeably and unchallengeably sovereign in creation, providence and grace. Since he is not open to direct observation, a meaningful account of him can only be given by indicating at each point his relation to ourselves and the world we know. Scripture does this, setting an example that this article will follow.
a. The names of God. In mainstream Christian usage, ‘God’ (capital ‘G’) functions as a proper noun; that is, it is a personal name, belonging to one being only, which draws into itself all the thoughts that the biblical names and descriptions of God express.
The main names of God in the OT, all proclaiming aspects of his nature and his link with mankind, are these:
i. El, Eloah, Elohim (Eng. ‘God’, following ho theos in lxx), El Elyon (‘God most high’). These names convey the thought of a transcendent being, superhumanly strong, and with inexhaustible life in himself, one on whom everything that is not himself depends.
ii. Adonay (‘Lord’; kyrios in lxx). This means one who rules over everything external to him.
iii. Yahweh (‘the Lord’ in av(kjv), rv, rsv, niv, following ho kyrios in lxx), Yahweh Sebaoth (‘Lord of [heavenly, angelic] hosts’). ‘Yahweh’ is God’s personal name for himself, by which his people were to invoke him as the Lord who had taken them into covenant with himself in order to do them good. When God first stated this name to Moses at the burning bush, he explained it as meaning ‘I am what I am’, or perhaps most accurately ‘I will be what I will be’. This was a declaration of independent, self-determining existence (Ex. 3:14–15). Later God ‘proclaimed’—that is, expounded—‘the name of the Lord’ as follows: ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means dear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation’ (Ex. 34:6–7, rsv). Thus in sum ‘Yahweh’ carries the thought of a marvellously kind and patient, though also awesomely stern, commitment to the covenant people as the path chosen by the self-sustaining, self-renewing being whom the theophany of the burning bush depicted.
The NT identifies the God who is Father of Jesus Christ and of Christians through Christ as the God of the OT, the only God there is (cf. 1 Cor. 8:5–6), and it sees the Christian salvation as the fulfilment of God’s OT promises. Thus it rules out in advance all dualisms that oppose the God, or the idea of God, which the OT sets forth, to the redeemer-God seen in and described by Jesus. ‘Father’ appears as the invocation of God that Jesus, who himself prayed to God as Father, prescribed for his disciples (cf. Mt. 6:9; 1 Pet. 1:17); ‘Lord’, used as in lxx to imply deity as well as dominion, becomes the regular term for characterizing, confessing and invoking the risen and enthroned Christ (Acts 2:36; 10:36; Rom. 10:9–13; 1 Cor. 8:6; 2 Cor. 12:8–10; Rev. 22:20; etc.); and the ‘name’ (singular) into which disciples of Jesus are to be baptized, as a sign of God’s committed salvific relationship to them and their responsive commitment to him, is the tripersonal name of three distinguishable though evidently inseparable agents, ‘the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit’ (Mt. 28:19). This is God’s ‘Christian name’, as Barth happily put it.
b. The concept of theism. Views of God of the Judaeo-Christian type are called theism to offset them from deism and pantheism, and monotheism to offset them from polytheism. Deism, first formulated in the 17th century, sees the cosmos as a closed system with its maker outside it and so denies God’s direct providential control of events and his miraculous creative intrusions into the ongoing life of the physical world-order. Pantheism, which goes back to pre-Christian Eastern religion, recognizes no creator-creature distinction, but sees everything, good and evil included, as a direct form or expression of God; so that as William Temple said, God minus the universe equals nought. (For theism, by contrast, God minus the universe equals God.) Polytheism, the constant form of the ancient near-Eastern and Graeco-Roman paganism which Scripture denounces, posits many supernatural beings limited by each other, none of whom is omnicompetent, so that worship must be spread and allegiance divided among them all, since we cannot know whose help we may need next. The biblical idea of God is thus diminished by deism, dissolved by pantheism, and debased by polytheism. Creation and control of the cosmos, and a beneficent disposition to rational creatures within it, are the essential tenets of theism in all its forms.
c. Trinitarianism. Distinctive to Christian theism is the belief that the personal creator is as truly three as he is one. Within the complex unity of his being, three personal centres of rational awareness eternally coinhere, interpenetrate, relate in mutual love, and cooperate in all divine actions. God is not only he but also they—Father, Son and Spirit, coequal and coeternal in power and glory though functioning in a set pattern whereby the Son obeys the Father and the Spirit subserves both. All statements about God in general or about the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit in particular, should be ‘cashed’ in Trinitarian terms, if something of their meaning is not to be lost. This form of belief, argued by Athanasius and the Cappadocian Fathers and stated in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed in the 4th century, and analysed in the so-called Athanasian Creed of the 5th–6th century (see Creeds), reflects the conviction that Jesus’ recorded teaching and attitudes with regard to the Father and the Spirit (cf. Jn. 14–16), and the pervasive triadic thought-forms whereby the NT regularly presents salvation as the joint work of the three persons together (cf., e.g., Rom. 3; 1 Cor. 12:3–6; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 1; 2 Thes. 2:13–14; 1 Pet. 1:2; Rev. 1:4–5), actually reveal God rather than obscuring him. Being unique, the Trinity is to us a mystery, that is, a matter of incomprehensible fact, and rationalistic thinkers and sects have often attacked the doctrine of God’s tripersonality on that account. But the implications of the NT material are too clear to be denied.
d. The language of belief. Human language is all that we have for worshipping, confessing and discussing God, and it is adequate; but it has to be systematically adapted for the purpose. Scripture itself unobtrusively exhibits this adaptation, for it regularly presents God as the super-person who made mankind in his image (see Image of God) and whose life, thoughts, attitudes and actions are basically comparable to our own, though they contrast with ours in being free both from the limitations of our creaturely finiteness and from the moral flaws that are part and parcel of our fallenness. The Bible’s narrative and descriptive language about God is thus used in a sense analogous to, though never quite identical with, the sense that the words would carry if used of humans, and the language of theology must self-consciously follow the Bible at this point. The ontological basis for this rule of thought and speech is what Thomas Aquinas called the analogy of being that exists between God and ourselves, i.e. the qualified similarity between his existence as creator and ours as creatures (see Analogy).
When Christianity moved out of Palestine into the wider Greek-speaking world, Christian spokesmen borrowed words from Hellenistic culture. Platonic, Aristotelian and Stoic thinkers saw the world as shaped somehow by a principle, in some sense divine, that was immaterial, impassive, immobile, immutable and timeless. Apologists and theologians took over this vocabulary to express the transcendence of God and the difference between him and man. Arguably these impersonal static Greek terms were a poor fit by biblical standards, but those who have used them from the 2nd to the 20th century have never let them obscure the fact that God is personal, active and very much alive.
2. The being of God
The ‘attributes’ of God—that is, the qualities that may truly be ascribed to him—concern either his way of existing as compared with ours, or his moral character as shown by his words and deeds. The main points in historic Bible-based, time-tested Christian theism with regard to the way in which God exists are these:
a. God is self-existent, self-sufficient and self-sustaining. God does not have it in him, either in purpose or in power, to stop existing; he exists necessarily, with no need of help and support from us (cf. Acts 17:23–25). This is his aseity, the quality of having life in and from himself.
b. God is simple (that is, totally integrated), perfect and immutable. These words affirm that he is wholly and entirely involved in everything that he is and does, and that his nature, goals, plans and ways of acting do not change, either for the better (being perfect, he cannot become better) or for the worse. His immutability is not the changelessness of an eternally frozen pose, but the moral consistency that holds him to his own principles of action and leads him to deal differently with those who change their own behaviour towards him (cf. Ps. 18:24–27).
c. God is infinite, bodiless (a spirit), omnipresent, omniscient, and eternal. These words affirm that God is not bound by any of the limitations of space or time that apply to us, his creatures, in our present body-anchored existence. He is always present everywhere, though invisibly and imperceptibly, and is at every moment cognizant of all that ever was, is, or shall be. Individual theists have denied that God knows the future, but this imposes on him an unbiblical limitation and is thus eccentric.
d. God is purposeful, all-powerful, and sovereign in relation to his world. He has a plan for the history of the universe, and in executing it he governs and controls all created realities. Without violating the nature of things, and without at any stage infringing upon human free agency, God acts in, with and through his creatures so as to do everything that he wishes to do exactly as he wishes to do it. By this overruling action, despite human disobedience and Satanic obstruction, he achieves his pre-set goals. Some question the reality of the eternal decree (that is, decision) whereby God has foreordained everything that comes to pass, but this also imposes an unbiblical limitation on such texts as Eph. 1:11, and it too must be judged eccentric.
e. God is both transcendent over, and immanent in, his world. These 19th-century words express the thought that on the one hand God is distinct from his world, does not need it, and exceeds the grasp of any created intelligence that is found in it (a truth sometimes expressed by speaking of the mystery and incomprehensibility of God); while on the other hand he permeates the world in sustaining creative power, shaping and steering it in a way that keeps it on its planned course. Process theology jettisons transcendence and so stresses the immanence of God and his struggling involvement in the supposedly evolving cosmos that he himself becomes finite and evolving too; but this is yet another unbiblical oddity.
f. God is impassible. This means, not that God is impassive and unfeeling (a frequent misunderstanding), but that no created beings can inflict pain, suffering and distress on him at their own will. In so far as God enters into suffering and grief (which Scripture’s many anthropopathisms, plus the fact of the cross, show that he does), it is by his own deliberate decision; he is never his creatures’ hapless victim. The Christian mainstream has construed impassibility as meaning not that God is a stranger to joy and delight, but rather that his joy is permanent, clouded by no involuntary pain.
3. The character of God
Character is personal moral nature revealed in action. In God’s dealings with mankind his character is fully displayed, supremely in the incarnate Son: God is Jesus-like, for Jesus is God in the flesh. Concerning God’s character the key statements appear to be these:
a. God is holy love. The essence of all love is giving prompted by goodwill, with joy in the recipient’s benefit. The statement, ‘God is love’ (agapē, 1 Jn. 4:8) is explained in context as meaning that God gave his Son as a sacrifice to quench his wrath against human sins and so bring believers life. Agapē is the regular NT word for love that gives even to the unlovely and undeserving. Behind the statement, however, must be held to lie the Johannine conviction that love is the abiding quality of inter-Trinitarian relations (cf. Jn. 5:20; 14:31). Both internally and externally, therefore, giving in order to make the recipient great must be understood as the moral shape of the Triune God’s life.
But God is also ‘the holy one’ (some 50 references), and holiness (purity, hatred of moral evil, and inner compulsion to show judicial anger against it) always qualifies the divine love. The need for retributive judgment on our sins through Christ’s cross (‘the measure and the pledge of love’, cf. Jn. 3:16; Rom. 5:8), as a basis for the free gift of justification and forgiveness (see Guilt and Forgiveness), is rooted in this fact, and so is the requirement of holiness in the justified (Rom. 6; 2 Cor. 6:14–7:1; 1 Thes. 4:3–7; Heb. 12:14; 1 Pet. 1:15–16).
b. God is moral perfection. God’s revealed ways with mankind render him not only awesome but also adorable by reason of his truthfulness, faithfulness, grace, mercy, loving-kindness, patience, constancy, wisdom, justice, goodness, and generosity—all of which find exercise as functions of his love to believers, as well as in his sustained dominion over a rebel world which he governs with both goodness and severity. For the display of these glorious qualities God is worthy of endless praise, and right-minded study of God’s moral character will always end in doxol. 
- Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 274–277.